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Monthly Archives: February 2009

25 Feb

In a former life, in places closer to my heart, out there in the great open spaces, spring was a time for so many varied outdoor activities. One activity I miss, dearly, in the spring is fishing. By now, back in some of the old familiar places, every fishing nut is climbing the walls, getting the gear laid out and making plans for open water, ahead. I feel very left out of this spring ritual, so I’ll just concentrate, as usual, on the spring activities that I can do around here, principally birding. The ritual of dusting my spotting scope …

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24 Feb

Comet Lulin is probably at its best, this week, as we approach new moon. At magnitude 5 plus, Comet Lulin should be visible in a binocular or low powered telescope, but finding and seeing Comet Lulin under my light polluted skies will be the real challenge. The good news is that Lulin will be close to the planet Saturn early this week, then closer to the bright star Regulus, later in the week, so Comet Lulin should be easy to locate if it is visible. That’s good news for me, since I can see both Saturn and Regulus as I …

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23 Feb

Choosing a telescope to buy may seem fairly straightforward, but it’s not. There is never a “best telescope” because there are too many different types of users, too many different types objects to see, too many types of obsering styles, too many types of oberving locations, too much personal preference, not too mention an incredible variety of telescope types and features over a vast range of prices. The best telescope for you is not always the best telescope for the next astronomer. Buying a telescope, then, is really a matter of decisions; in fact, a series of decisions. That’s why …

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18 Feb

Comets are x factor in amateur astronomy, meaning they are notoriously prone to doing the unexpected in terms of predicted brightness and even in terms of their appearance in the night sky. No wonder our ancestors viewed them with some trepidation. Comets must have surely upset their well-ordered ideas of the cosmos. So the big question, currently, is Comet Lulin. Look for Lulin in the late evening or early morning sky, later this month when the moon is new. Some predictions are for it to be visible to the naked eye, at least from a dark sky but we won’t …

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17 Feb

I have astigmatism, so I always wear glasses when looking through a telescope eyepiece to get maximum resolution. That’s fine, but anyone who does the same as me quickly learns a hard truth about many telescope eyepieces – a telescope with good eye relief for eyeglass wearers can be hard to find and the manufacturers of telescope eyepieces don’t make it easy for you when they sometimes fail to list this important telescope eyepiece spec. If you, too, wear eyeglasses when looking through a telescope, you have two options. First, you can add a barlow lens to a telescope eyepiece …

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16 Feb

I am very familiar with carbon fiber (a.k.a. graphite) as a material used in all sorts of sporting equipment. I used my first graphite fly rod in the late 80s and, more recently, have enjoyed the vibration dampening effects of carbon fiber in road bicycles. We are now seeing carbon fiber more and more in tripods and that same vibration dampening effect of carbon fiber used in bicycles is also a very useful feature in a tripod, which, after all, is all about eliminating vibrations. It is true that carbon fiber tripods also weight less than metal tripods, but the …

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12 Feb

I think that as most astronomers evolve, they change, somewhat, in their motivation. For sure, I play the astronomy “game” quite differently, these days, with either an astronomy binocular or a telescope. Like most beginners in my early days with a telescope, I lusted for an ever larger telescope to see ever more numbers of objects and ever more detail in those objects. As the years have gone by, however, I find myself pushing my observing skills to the limit with smaller telescopes, rather than simply opting for a larger telescope when I want to see more. It’s a game …

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11 Feb

I collect wildflowers. Don’t panic! I collect wildflowers by taking pics with a digital camera; I would never pick wildflowers, even if there were no laws against it. Serious wildflower photographers typically use SLR cameras, such as the Canon 40D with a top notch macro lens, such as the Canon f/3.5L Macro , but, unless you plan to print or publish, a small digital point and shoot that offers a macro mode, like the Canon SD880IS will do quite well and be much handier. I used an SLR camera for many years, but find the portability of a digital point …

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09 Feb

The warmer weather brought a lot of folks out to the parks in my area, this weekend, and the weather also got me a bit homesick for my Nebraska prairies. By late February, in central Nebraska, waterfowl begin to arrive in serious numbers and, for me, this was always the time I pulled out my spotting scope and get serious about using it. Here in the Chicago suburbs, spring birding is mostly about warblers and binoculars later in May and much less about waterfowl and spotting scopes early in the spring. Just to be stubborn or, perhaps for old-times sake, …

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09 Feb

Just for fun, I used a compact binocular on the moon last night to check craters and maria and, no surprise, the 10x compact binocular did just about as well as my much larger 10x astronomy binoculars. Let’s face it, the moon is plenty bright. So now you have no exuse if you’ve been wanting to start astronomy and have been wanting a big, large astronomy binocular…

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