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Monthly Archives: April 2010

30 Apr

Magnification has much less to do with astronomy than beginners think. It is only natural to assume that magnification is what telescopes are all about, of course, and the typical beginner proceeds from there when it comes time to buy a telescope. This is a fundamentally wrong approach, though, since amateur astronomy is mostly about seeing faint objects; the objects we amateurs observe are, for the most part, large enough. They are difficult to see because they are so faint, not because they are small. In other words, magnification is NOT a reliable way to choose a telescope and using …

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29 Apr

Like most artistic types, I am addicted to color and patterns of colors. I suspect this is one of the many reasons I so enjoy watching birds, seeing wildflowers, rocks, minerals, sunsets and more. Of course, there are scientific reasons, primarily evolutionary reasons, for all those living colors in nature, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying them. Each and every color and even shades of the same color, all evoke a particular emotion in me; I live in a very varied emotional landscape, to be sure.

Spring color in the bird world is all about breeding and mating; those …

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28 Apr

Bill and I have been thinking ahead to retirement and, like many couples in our position, we are thinking about relocating to a more rural setting to escape the crime, traffic, congestion, noise and all the other ills of big city living. At one time, living in the Chicago suburbs, I would have been overjoyed to move to any rural area just to escape the city, but, now that I have a choice in where we can live, the task is much more difficult. I had no idea how difficult.

You see, I have become a bit greedy. I want…

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27 Apr

It’s no secret that I like to use a spotting scope and digital cameras to take pictures of birds. This combination is called digiscoping and it has become the most popular method of taking pics of birds for most of us birders, these days. Digiscoping has become so popular because it gives us access to more magnification than even the longest telephoto lenses with conventional camera equipment and also because digiscoping is so darn easy compared to using conventional equipment. Just point the spotting scope at a bird, center it in the field of view, hold a small digital point …

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26 Apr

People who have only known me in the last ten or fifteen years or so know me as a sometimes vegetarian, new age, tree-hugging old hippie chic, so it usually comes as a surprise to them to learn that there was a time when I did actually own guns and hunt and shoot. Yes, I really owned and used guns, right alongside cameras, spotting scopes, birding binoculars and telescopes in my younger days. Why not? I know many excellent birders who also hunt; I don’t consider hunting and birding to be mutually exclusive. No, I don’t hunt, anymore, and neither …

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23 Apr

Light pollution is a fact of life for so many amateur astronomers, these days. Lucky, indeed, is the astronomer with access to a truly dark sky. So what’s our typical urban or suburban astronomer to do about this tragic and, so often needless, loss of our dark night skies? Is there life for a backyard urban astronomer?

Yes, there is always some astronomy to be done even under the most light polluted night sky. For instance, light pollution is primarily a problem when trying to view faint star clusters, nebulae and galaxies. The key word here is faint; unless you…

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22 Apr

Are APO refractor telescopes the perfect telescope design? No, there is really no such thing as the perfect telescope design or even the best design – every design has its good and bad points – though some diehard refractor fans might argue the point. APO, by the way, is short-hand for apochromatic. This simply means that APO refractors use a special optical system or optical components to combat the number one shortcoming of standard refractor telescopes, namely that color fringing that appears around objects in bright light. That color fringing, called chromatic aberration, robs you of valuable resolution and optical …

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21 Apr

As a photographer who cut her photographic teeth on film cameras and high-end film cameras, at that, I still find it to be a bit miraculous that I use and carry digital cameras as much as I do. I could supply a dozen instances where a good film camera is still the better camera to use (and I probably have in other posts), but there is no arguing with the fact that I grab one of my digital cameras nearly every time I head out the door and I suspect it goes deeper than the advantage of digital camera features, …

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20 Apr

I’ve been having fun with my small telescope, this last week. The weather and the moon have been cooperating to give me relatively dark skies, so I have been putting the small refractor telescope to work on open clusters, for the most part, though I have taken a crack at some galaxies. The suburban, light polluted skies of Milwaukee, though, are not friendly when it comes to hunting galaxies. Open clusters, on the other hand, are much less affected by light pollution and if your small telescope has fine optics, as does my small telescope, open star clusters are truly …

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19 Apr

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To me, Violets are one of my favorite signs of spring. They seem to pop up out of nowhere along the trails and make me smile as I pedal on my way. Other things that start to pop up, here in Wisconsin, come spring are campers, specifically, pop up campers. (Okay, that was a corny segue, but I’m in a corny mood, this morning.)

Bill and I bought our camper, late last winter and only now have had the opportunity to pop it up and see how it all works. It made for an interesting Sunday evening, for sure. Overall,