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Monthly Archives: January 2011

31 Jan

We are having some friends visit, this coming weekend, and we’ve made plans to do some astronomy with both my astronomy binoculars and telescopes, since the moon will be new and that means dark skies and the ability to see some of the faint objects we want to see in the telescope eyepiece. With any luck at all, I may even be able to demonstrate some of my telescope observing tips for beginners in action.

Oh, I will need luck. I am a newcomer to the north woods in the winter and have quickly discovered that, yes, the skies are…

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28 Jan

Sometimes even those common birds at your bird feeder can be quite special. The Mourning Doves at my feeder are a good example. Doves are not generally thought of as hardy birds able to survive harsh north country winters; most in our area head for warmer climes on the first frosty nights in September. Nevertheless, I have had one or two hardy individuals at my bird feeders the last two winters.

Regardless, the Mourning Dove is a welcome addition to my winter birdwatching and they make a nice contrast to the generally much smaller birds that frequent my feeders in …

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27 Jan

Thanks to light pollution and smog, cities and suburbs are not the best choices for an astronomer to setup & use a telescope and, yet, that is precisely where you find most astronomers and telescopes, these days. For instance, the greater Chicago area has several very active astronomy clubs and a great many enthusiastic and passionate astronomers, despite the horrible light pollution. I know, because I lived there and belonged to a couple of astronomy clubs. Hats off to all my astronomy friends in the Chicago area for keeping amateur astronomy alive under some less than friendly skies.

I suspect…

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26 Jan

Knowing as much as I do about binoculars, telescopes, spotting scopes and even rifle scopes sometimes ruins a movie or book for me. It’s really hard for me to take a character, seriously, as either the ultimate hero or villain, when they drive ultra expensive and fast cars and show their prowess with the latest digital technology, then show up with a cheap binocular around their neck or a bargain basement riflescope on their weapon. And why can’t a guy or gal who lives in a luxury penthouse afford to buy a better telescope than the cheapest model you can …

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25 Jan

I have been sorely tempted, of late, to add another telescope eyepiece to my collection of telescope accessories. Like many astronomers who have been using telescopes for many years, I like telescope eyepieces as much as I do telescopes. In fact, I know one old pro who actually owns over sixty telescope eyepieces. No, I don’t have that many, but I do understand the attraction. There is nothing quite so satisfying as the view provided by an excellent telescope eyepiece.

In my early days behind the telescope, there was never enough money in the budget for those fabulous wide angle …

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24 Jan

I have a mild case of cabin fever after being stuck inside for over a week trying to shake a bad sinus infection. The almost daily dusting of snow, which makes for excellent cross country skiing conditions just adds to the temptation to escape from the house, but I know better than to aggravate an already nasty condition. So, here I sit, and try to make the best of some enforced indoor time.

Thank heavens for my bird feeders and the endless hours of birdwatching and digiscoping they provide. I can sit at my table, binoculars in one hand and…

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20 Jan

A computerized telescope should more correctly called a telescope on a computerized mount because the computer is actually on the telescope mount, not the telescope, though there are now some telescopes, such as the Meade LS that have sensors mounted on the telescope to send information to the computer. It’s really about the mount when it comes to computers, though, not the telescope, even though most folks just say computerized telescope.

I am the first to admit the usefulness of marrying computers and telescopes, whether we want to say computerized telescopes or computerized telescope mounts. In fact, computer or no…

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20 Jan

When people think telescopes they typically think refractor telescope. After all, refractors are the oldest telescope design, though, surprisingly, not the simplest telescopes to make. That distinction falls to reflector telescopes – it is easier to make the mirrors used in reflector telescopes than it is the lenses used in refractor telescopes. In fact, in recent times grinding and polishing your own mirror to make a reflector telescope was quite popular. So why did it take over a hundred years for the reflector to compete with the refractor?

The problem was the reflective surface needed to turn a figured piece…

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19 Jan

Small is beautiful, too, in digital cameras.

The shortcomings for point and shoot, small digital cameras makes for a long list and anyone who really knows digital cameras and digital camera lenses can tell you why small digital cameras are inferior to large digital cameras in some detail. I know I have explained it to more than one customer or friend. So, why do I use small digital cameras much more often than the big stuff, namely SLRs and digital SLR cameras? Am I guilty of saying one thing and doing another, photographically?

Of course not. The darn portability of…

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18 Jan

Do you remember your first birding spotting scope?

My first birding spotting scope was a small Bushnell Sentry 20×50 and I had no idea how to use the thing. I didn’t even have a tripod for it, but the spotting scope, by itself, was all I could afford; there was no money in the budget for extras like a tripod. I did see birds with that spotting scope, all the same, but it was a far cry from what I would be able to do with a spotting scope many years, later. As a birdwatching tool, that Bushnell Sentry was…

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