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Monthly Archives: December 2011

30 Dec

I started target shooting in eighth grade, using iron sights – both peep sights and open sights – so shooting iron sights is second nature to me, especially, especially when shooting handguns. For sure, open sights and pistols go together, though I’ve done my share of handgunning with pistol scopes, too.

Been a while since I’ve done any shooting, then, over the summer, Bill and I were looking for another activity that we could share, together, so I suggested shooting. Didn’t take long before we had joined a local shooting range and acquired some handguns, some of which were as …

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29 Dec

If you’ve never used a spotting scope for your birdwatching, you may wonder why you went to all the bother and expense after that first mile of lugging spotting scope and tripod over your shoulder. Oh, yeah, it’s a lot more work carrying a birding spotting scope than birding binoculars.

Not to worry, though. One good day of birding with the spotting scope will make you think twice before leaving your scope at home. In fact, if you do a lot of birding in open country or at a marsh or lake or seashore, you may find yourself using the…

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28 Dec

How big a telescope can you carry without taking it apart?

Granted, this is not one of the usual telescope first questions that people ask when it comes time to choose the right telescope, but maybe it should be. Often as not, being able to pick up a telescope and tote it out the door in one trip makes the difference when you are debating whether or not to brave the cold on a winter’s night and do some astronomy.

Actually, we should include the telescope mount we are using into the equation. For instance, with my four-inch refractor telescope…

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27 Dec

My daughter recently bought a Canon Rebel and loves it. She’s a professional artist and art teacher and will be using this icon of digital cameras for her art. Like so many folks new to photography, she is a bit mystified about the basics of photography. What are f stops? What’s the deal with shutter speeds? What do all the numbers mean on camera lenses? Do I need a tripod?

Unfortunately, the instructions provided with todays’ digital cameras are long on explaining menu options, but very short on photography basics. Manufacturers assume you know those basics and go from there.…

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26 Dec

Now, anyone who knows anything about astronomy will tell you that it is optically a bad idea to stay indoors and try to do astronomy through a window. Windows function as another lens in the optical system and often not a very good lens, at that. Then, too, when you look through a window at an angle with binoculars or telescopes, you get some distortion and, the more severe the angle, the more severe the distortion. To make things worse, most of what we want to see in astronomy is at a fairly high angle in the sky.

That said, …

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22 Dec

One of the many things I like about astronomy, either with telescopes or astronomy binoculars, is the fact that you can make it as easy or hard as you want. On some nights, I like to take it a bit easy and stick with the easy to find, brighter celestial objects. More commonly, though, I tend to push things. I’m the type of gal that likes a challenge and the night sky has an endless supply of challenging objects for an astronomer.

Okay, what makes a particular object a challenge to see in the telescope eyepiece or binoculars? Several things.…

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21 Dec

So, you’ve worked hard to choose the right telescope and it’s on its way. You’ve done your homework on how to use telescopes and maybe even binoculars. You’ve also researched a list of objects you want to see in your new telescope, right away. Will I be able to find them? Will my new telescope be up to the task? What will these objects look like in the telescope eyepiece?

While it would be nice if there was a catalog that could accurately rate astronomical objects for ease of seeing or for their beauty, it’s just not going to happen. …

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20 Dec

One of the ways I’ve always celebrated the holidays is to get out and appreciate the wonders of the natural world. Just seems the right thing to do on holidays that celebrate peace and beauty and what could be more beautiful than, say, a Northern Cardinal in the birding binoculars or a magnificent open star cluster in the telescope eyepiece on a cold winter’s night?

Up here, in northern Wisconsin, cardinals are a rarity, but dark, cold winter skies filled with brilliant open star clusters we do have. As deep-sky objects go (deep-sky objects are objects beyond our solar system), …

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19 Dec

To someone who is not an astronomer, it might seem that we astronomers obsess about our telescopes, above all else. While, yes, we do carried away about our telescopes, our telescopes are not the only things on our minds. We also tend to go more than a little crazy about our telescope eyepieces. Labeling telescope eyepieces as mere telescope accessories doesn’t do them justice. They are not JUST an accessory.

People who are not astronomers or who are just getting started in astronomy don’t realize how important the telescope eyepiece is to the overall performance of a telescope. Cliche’ or …

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19 Dec

It just won’t seem like Christmas to me until I have a clear night and can setup & use a telescope under the stars. It’s a personal holiday tradition for me that goes back (okay, way back) to my college days when I bought my first telescope and kept it busy over the semester break. I still remember those cold, frosty nights at the telescope eyepiece to this day. What a relief it was not to have studies hanging over my head and all the time in the world to do my astronomy.

When the clouds rolled in over those…

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