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Monthly Archives: January 2012

31 Jan

The best laid plans of mice and astronomy gals often goes astray. Okay, kind of corny, I know, but it is true when it comes to my big Obsession12.5” Dobsonian telescope. I love this telescope. It is a superb telescope. It leaves all my other telescopes in the dust when it comes to finding hard to detect, faint objects and everything it shows in the telescope eyepiece, it shows beautifully. It’s just that it is, well, a pain in the butt to use in the snow. It’s my baby.

If you are not familiar with Dobsonian telescopes, what makes a …

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30 Jan

The truth really is stranger than fiction and if you want to experience that, all you have to do is look through a telescope eyepiece or astronomy binoculars. New discoveries in astronomy occur almost daily and today’s news is already outdated by the time you hear it. The sky is filled with unexplained mysteries and many of them are actually visible in backyard telescopes. Space is the final frontier, according to those old Star Trek episodes. Okay, I don’t know about that, but it is one frontier of science that is accessible to non-scientists.

That sense of mystery is one…

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27 Jan

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, to be sure, but I’ve yet to meet someone that has not been impressed with the beauty of some of the objects I show them in myastronomy binoculars and telescopes. Whether it’s an alien moon landscape, an immense nebula of gas and dust or a glittering open cluster of stars, I always get plenty of oohs and ahs from my guests.

This sort of thing convinces me all the more that people go to all the trouble to choose the right telescope for aesthetic reasons as much as they do out of …

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27 Jan

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, to be sure, but I’ve yet to meet someone that has not been impressed with the beauty of some of the objects I show them in my astronomy binoculars and telescopes. Whether it’s an alien moon landscape, an immense nebula of gas and dust or a glittering open cluster of stars, I always get plenty of oohs and ahs from my guests.

This sort of thing convinces me all the more that people go to all the trouble to choose the right telescope for aesthetic reasons as much as they do out …

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26 Jan

In terms of how much magnification you can use, effectively, in a spotting scope, your geographic location is a factor.

Out in the great wide-open spaces of the western U.S., the skies are not cloudy all day, according to the song, anyway. There’s an element of truth to that, because the climate is drier and, in many areas, the air is also thinner due to the elevation. Drier, thinner air makes for better images in spotting scopes and also more usable images at higher magnifications. There were birdwatching days when I had the magnification on my birding spotting scope pegged…

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25 Jan

We searched for the northern lights in our cold, partly cloudy, northern Wisconsin skies on Tuesday night, but the lights failed to make an appearance, despite the forecast for an auroral display. That’s the way it goes when searching for the northern lights, though. Sometimes you see the lights, sometimes you don’t, even when the odds are in your favor.

The aurora borealis (northern lights) are just one of the many ways you can enjoy astronomy without the use of astronomy binoculars or telescopes. Naturally, if you want to see all there is to see in amateur astronomy, you will…

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24 Jan

At the risk of revealing my age, I can tell you that there was a time in the spotting scope world when 60 mm spotting scopes were standard fare and the big 80 mm and larger spotting scopes had yet to hit the market. Most of us birders did just fine with those smaller spotting scopes, by the way, but once those 80 mm birding spotting scopes appeared, the rush was on to the larger scopes.

Bigger spotting scopes are still in vogue in the birdwatching world, but a lot of us who hit the birding trails and carry a…

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23 Jan

Bill and I have taken up target shooting as an activity and, even in the heart of a north woods winter, we manage to get to the shooting range when the weather allows. Shooting really is a terrific activity for a couple.

For me, shooting rifles and, especially handguns, is old hat. For Bill, this is all new, so I get to teach and he gets to buy the guns and all the gun accessories. Hey, we make a great team!

One of the first surprises I got as a teacher was just how hard it can be for a …

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20 Jan

I’ve always had a thing for going light and small on my equipment choices, whether it be cars, fishing tackle, binoculars, spotting scopes, digital cameras and, definitely, telescopes.

Make no mistake, I do own a wonderful, fairly large telescope and I love it. There are times when you need the optical muscle of large aperture telescopes to get the job done. Come spring, for instance, I’ll be hunting faint galaxies and for that pursuit, the bigger the telescope, the better.

Still, nothing beats small three or four-inch high-grade refractor telescopes for image quality, wide-angle views in the telescope eyepiece and, …

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19 Jan

Okay, when it comes time to setup & use a telescope in, say, your backyard, just where should you set it? The seemingly obvious answer in terms of a physical location is where you can see the biggest expanse of the sky, but that may not actually be the best location. Other factors come into play and you sometimes have to get a bit creative to deal with them.

If you are in the suburbs or the city, street lights and/or your neighbor’s yard lights can make or break you when selecting a place to observe with your astronomy binoculars…

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