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Monthly Archives: March 2011

31 Mar

I’ve had a remarkable run of clear skies, lately, for astronomy. As a result, my astronomy binoculars and telescopes have seen use almost every night for the past week and a half. Outstanding! All that is about to change, according to the forecast, but I am not complaining. Anytime I can rack up so many hours looking through binocular or telescope eyepiece, I am one happy astronomer. This March has been my best month, ever, for astronomy since moving up here, last fall.

Most of my hours, this last month, were spent with a single instrument, my Nikon 10×70 Astroluxe,…

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30 Mar

I’m going to have a superb summer for astronomy! It’s been time to buy a telescope for longer than I care to admit and I have finally taken the plunge. My order for a custom Dobsonian telescope has been placed with a well known Wisconsin telescope maker.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my small APO refractor telescopes and my astronomy binoculars, but, now that I have a splendidly dark sky right out my back door, time to go with a big telescope, again, and do some hunting for all those deep-sky fuzzies. When it comes time to search for…

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29 Mar

Astronomy, either with telescopes or astronomy binoculars, requires a bag full of virtues. Patience is the first one that comes to mind and it goes hand in hand with persistence. “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” should be printed and packaged with every binocular and telescope sold. Courage is also a useful virtue, though a less obvious one, when it comes time to setup & use a telescope or uncase the binoculars.

Yes, it takes courage to brave polar temperatures or hordes of hungry mosquitoes just for the opportunity of looking through the telescope eyepiece. Cold weather…

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28 Mar

Here’s one of those telescope observing tips for beginners. If you want your telescope (or astronomy binoculars) to perform at their best, where is the best part of the sky to aim them? The answer is overhead rather than down low to the horizon. Why?

You are looking through the least amount of atmosphere as possible when you observe directly overhead and that allows you to see fainter objects in the telescope eyepiece. It also means you are less likely to have images ruined by atmospheric turbulence. Observing closer to the horizon means more atmosphere, less transparency and more turbulence.…

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25 Mar

With the moon now waning – the lit portion growing smaller – it is time for a closer look with telescopes or even binoculars. Contrary to what most people might think, the full moon is not a good time to be looking at the moon through a telescope eyepiece. Why? Not only is the moon uncomfortably bright when full, even in a small telescope, it is also produces too much glare and that glare washes out much of the detail we can see in telescopes. That’s why experienced lunar observers concentrate on the terminator, that border that separates the lit …

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24 Mar

With temperatures headed back below zero in my neighborhood, this week, I have had to put some of my enthusiasm for spring on hold for a bit. No point in getting too eager for spring birdwatching or breaking out favorites from my spring wardrobe, for instance. There is one spring activity, though, that is more constant, in that it does not come and go with swings in temperature and that is astronomy. Those spring constellations are up in the sky, waiting for my astronomy binoculars or telescopes, regardless of the temperature on a given night. Thus, I can look through …

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23 Mar

Like so many beginners, the first time I had to setup & use a telescope was something of a mystery. What were all these telescope accessories in the box? What was I supposed to do with them? Yes, telescopes came with instruction manuals, even back in the 70s, though they were a bit skimpy and generic, same as many telescope instruction manuals are to this day. The only difference is that when you buy a telescope, today, the instruction manual comes with a CD rather than a printed hardcopy.

So how do you use a telescope? I learned through a…

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22 Mar

You gotta love it. That’s how I manage to deal with constantly having to put my astronomy hold for lack of clear night skies. Simply put, I love astronomy with my astronomy binoculars or telescopes and those few glorious nights each month at the telescope eyepiece are enough to get me through those long stretches of cloudy night blues that we get here in northern Wisconsin. It’s much the same with other diehard astronomers I know. We are actually a patient lot, despite our tendency to moan and groan about those old cloudy night blues at times.

I suspect those…

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21 Mar

Spring and daylight saving time. I love the ever longer and increasingly warmer days as we coast toward summer. Who doesn’t? Our winters here in northern Wisconsin are long and often hard, so I welcome the change of season just like anyone else.

So, at the risk of sounding like an ingrate and a curmudgeon, I have to say that there is one thing I don’t like about these longer days and this shifting of the clock back and forth with the seasons. As an astronomer, longer days mean shorter nights and less time to use binoculars and telescopes. The…

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18 Mar

Given that this is our first spring in our new northern Wisconsin home, my binoculars and spotting scope are constantly pointed at the lake as we await ice-out and, hopefully, the arrival of migrating waterfowl.

Yes, I use both my birding binoculars and my birding spotting scope to keep an eye on the lake. They’re a team, you might say. A quick scan with my binoculars tells me there is something on the lake that needs a closer look, then the spotting scope goes into action to provide that closer look. This is typical of the way that most birdwatchers…

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