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Monthly Archives: October 2008

31 Oct

Halloween is actually more than just costumes and candy. In terms of astronomy, Halloween (or actually about Nov4th or 5th, but Halloween to keep things simple), is a day that marks the halfway point between the fall equinox and the winter solstice. In other words, the sun is to its halfway point on its way from rising directly to the east on the fall equinox to rising in the southeast on the winter solstice. The observation and celebration of these halfway days for each season (four in all) date back to pre-Christian times. You won’t see anything unusual in a …

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30 Oct

One of the games some fellow astronomers and I used to play with our large astronomy club telescope was, “in search of”. We would purposely pick the faintest and most difficult object from a star atlas and then see if we could find it on our own, using only a star map. It challenged not only our navigating skills, but also our telescope observing skills. Only rarely, did we see the object in the telescope eyepiece on the first try. More often, it took many hours of patient observing and it was not uncommon to have to go back on …

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29 Oct

A question I get, now and then, is why pay more money for a Hastings triplet magnifier, when you can get the same thing cheaper with a Coddington magnifier. I explain that you do not get the same thing with a Coddington. A Hastings triplet is better corrected for color, making it the essential choice for applications where ture color rendition is vital. Best example is for grading gems and jewelry, but I have also sold these magnifiers for rock hounds, botanists, coin collectors and other users who want the best optics in a magnifier. A Coddington magnifier is definitely …

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28 Oct

How big is too big in a telescope? When it comes to performance, of course, bigger is usually better. When it comes to actually using a telescope, though, bigger is not always better. I know more than a few astronomers who purchased their dream giant telescope, only to see it collect dust. As a career woman, I understand why, too. You get home from a long day at work, look at that big telescope, think about how long it will take to just move it out into the yard and set up, then do it all over again at the …

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27 Oct

Had a chance to see (okay, drool all over) the new Leica digital cameras of the point and shoot variety, last week. That little Leica red ball on any Leica product is so tempting, despite the typical Leica price tag. When I first became interested in photography in a serious way, many years ago, there were no digital cameras, but a film Leica was my dream camera. No way could I ever afford a Leica camera with a family budget, back then. These new Leica digitals are by no means cheap, but who knows? One thing I do know is …

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23 Oct

Image stabilization technology is trickling down to ever lower priced point and shoot digital cameras and that is a good thing for consumers. Pocket size digital cameras are tough to steady, due to their very light weight and small dimensions and IS is especially helpful, here, to insure a sharp pic. Was a time when IS was offered only at the top of the digital camera point and shoot line, but now you can get it for under $200 with the Canon A590IS. Really no reason to miss out on this gigital camera feature, anymore.…

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22 Oct

With the big push in warblers behind us, now, I will be concentrating on incoming waterfowl as the weather turns colder. For this kind of work, I rely on a spotting scope. It’s just a matter of heading to a local reservoir, finding a good vantage point, and setting up the spotting scope. When migration is on, you can see many species of waterfowl, as well as grebes, gulls and other water birds from a single location and often from some amazing distances. That;s the beauty of a spotting scope. It’s not exactly strenuous activity, so I dress warmly and …

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21 Oct

Eastern birders don’t use spotting scopes as much as western birders, in part, because there’s not as much wide-open country here in the east, but also because eastern birders don’t have the tradition of spotting scope use. As a westerner, I used a spotting scope as much, or even more, than I did a binocular. Don’t have to head west, though, to put a spotting scope to good use. Plenty of opportunity to use a spotting scope, even around the Chicago area. I’ve checked Lake Michigan for shorebirds and gulls and local ponds and reservoirs for the same groups, not …

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20 Oct

People have been asking of late what that bright “star” is in the southwest sky just as it is getting dark. They seemed surprised to learn that it is not a star, but the planet Jupiter. Guess some of them are just noticing, now that it is getting dark earlier in the evening. I tell them to just take any binocular of 8x or more, even a compact binocular or birding binocular and they will see a small round globe with three or four star like dots alongside. Those dots are four or Jupiter’s largest moons, though you won’t always …

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15 Oct

Had a customer ask why he couldn’t use an imager like the Celestron NexImage or Meade DSI for snapshots during the day. I explained that, for one thing, an imager is not a camera. It cannot store images. That means you would also have to carry your laptop along in the field. Resolution is also far lower than a typical point and shoot digital and, of course, you give up flash, metering and all the other standard camera functions. Lastly, noise level would be unacceptable for use by day. A CCD imager is a great tool for astronomy, but not …

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