12/20/2012 4pm - Celestron 80mm Refractor - Seattle, WA - My sister, Nan, had brought them over before we all went
downtown to ride the Westlake Carousel and to look at the lights. So while we were waiting for the others to arrive I got to show my niece and nephew, Evelyn
and Finley, the moon through my 80mm refractor! After looking at the image at 50x, Finley said, "There are more craters at the bottom than the top!" I told him
that was a very good observation and showed a keen eye!
06/05/2012 2:30pm -6pm - Celestron 80 refractor - Seattle, WA - "There's a little black spot on the sun today" is the opening line in one of my favorite songs from
The Police, and today the weather cooperated just enough for me to see that little black spot! I had my telescopes each equipped with solar filters, got my laptops and cameras prepped
and tested, and asked for the day off from work: There was noooo way I was going to miss this rare transit of Venus. Then a week out I started watching the weather and it
didn't look good. Rainy and cloudy from Vancouver BC all the way east to Boisie, and south to San Francisco. If I was going to view this transit personally, I would have to fly/drive to
Salt Lake or maybe LA. My nephew, Blake, and his fiance, Caitlin were driving out from Iowa so I called them in the event that we might meet in Boisie, but the weather forecast was
for rain there as well. Sigh, things just weren't going to work out for me. But weather also changes for the better, so I decided to set up shop anyway and hope and pray for the best. I must
have looked funny with my laptop and telescopes under my green patio umbrella! I tried to get my ETX-90 telescope to align but with no reference stars, I was not feeling good about my
chances of using this scope. So I brought out my trusty Celestron 80mm refractor and I was glad I did. Around 2:30pm the rain stopped, the clouds began to lighten, and glorious
sunshine appeared for about 25 minutes! This was the opportunity I had been waiting for! Without the aid of my finderscope, I wasted several minutes trying to get my refractor
trained in on the sun. After some angonizing minutes I realized I still had my 2x barlow attached to my 25mm plossl eyepiece, which was narrowing my field of view considerably.
Once I removed the barlow, I finally zeroed in on the sun and I will never forget the distinct, perfectly round, little black spot that I saw! I quickly got out my little flip phone
and snapped a quick picture and a short video. At least I had some evidence of my success! I had e-mailed my family over the weekend to let them all know about this once (twice, actually)
in a lifetime event and invited them to come over to join me in my little transit party, but with the inclement weather and job schedules no one took me up on my offer. So I texted my picture
to my family to share in the good news and I called my grandmother in Denver, Nancy, to share with her. She and I both share a great love of astronomy. She was glad for the call and very happy
for me that I was able to view the transit. Earlier this year we toured Palomar together. It was great talking with family but I wanted to share this rare experience, so I ran inside and invited,
Tracy, the man who was putting up drywall in our upstairs and he came out and took a look and saw Venus also. The clouds came back a few minutes later and they only parted enough for a few
short glimpses afterwards. But I was very thankful for the views I did have considering how rainy it had been earlier in the day. In the evening, around 5:30pm, I brought my refractor down
to the sidewalk so I had a better view of the sun (should the clouds part again) and hoped to be able to share the view with neighbors or folks walking to the bus stop. One woman asked if
there was anything interesting to be seen. My enthusiasm probably came through because she shared that one of her earliest memories was of seeing the refection
of Venus in the water when she was at the beach with her family. She said she must have been three or four years old, but she vividly remembered how bright Venus was. The clouds never
parted so I wasn't able to show her the transit, but it was nice to stop and share celestial experiences with a total stanger. Stephen James O'Meara writes in the first chapter of his book,
The Caldwell Objects, a touching story of "how important the stars are to humanity". I most whole-heartedly agree!
08/11-12/2010 7:30pm -2am - Orion X10 dobsonian telescope - Table Mountain Star Party, Ellensburg, WA - I attended the TMSP with my co-workers, Dan Zittel, Rhonda Robbins, and Dan's friend Mike. I have been interested in
participating in this star party but it always fell on the same weekend as my family reunion, so I was very glad to see that this year it was in August instead of July! The location is high on a plateau north west of the town
of Ellensburg in central Washington. The forest service road is paved for all but the last mile or so. The location has dark skies for how easily it is to drive there. At dusk we viewed the moon, Venus, Saturn, and Mars. Once
it got darker we viewed binary stars, M57, M31, M13 and other globular clusters in Sagittarius, M51, and M45. The wind had picked up so the bigger telescopes were still under wraps, so we decided to just pull out the reclining
camp chairs and watch the Perseid Meteor Shower!
10/04/2009 8:30pm -10pm - Orion X10 dobsonian telescope - Seattle front porch/back porch - I just received my Celestron 2" accessory kit this weekend (it had been on backorder since July) so I took
advantage of the clear weather and viewed Jupiter, the full moon, M32 Andromeda Galaxy, and M57 the ring nebula. In preparation for Friday's LCROSS impact with the moon,
I got familiar with the Cabeus crater. This is the location of where the probe will impact. The seeing wasn't great, but I found that with my new 2" 2x barlow, the 2"-1.25"
Orion adapter, my 1.25" 2x TeleVue barlow, and my 10mm Orion Plossl eyepiece with a Meade moon filter was the best combination for viewing this region. I will take some more looks later this week
as the moon wanes to see if the moon filter is still needed for Friday. I'm hoping to get a group of friends to go view Friday's impact at a co-worker's house in West Seattle.
It should provide a convenient, but darker location than where I am. After I got my eyepieces dialed in, I went back to my 2" eyepieces and viewed the Andromeda Galaxy. With the full moon and the
street lights I could barely make out the fuzzy cloud which is just the middle of the this massive galaxy. I turned my scope away from the full moon, and the street light and was amazed at all the stars I
could still see in the north and west. Motivated by the improved viewing I packed up and moved to my back yard. Here I spent about an hour locating and observing the Ring Nebula M57. I used my 26mm 2" eyepiece,
by 2x barlow, and my Orion SkyView anti light pollution filter. The filter definitely gave me better contrast! I still remember the first time I saw the Ring Nebula from our old apartment. It is very cool.
8/31/2003-9/1/2003 8:30pm -5:15am - Seattle front porch/back porch - I wanted to get some really good pictures of Mars, so I spent some time
earlier in the day fiddling around with my Autostar controller to learn how to get my telescope in Polar mode. Previously I have
only observed in Alt/Az mode. I finally figured it out, although I wasn't able to get the simple controller that came with my scope to track in Polar mode (
I removed the "A" screw from the back of the controller per the instructions, but to no avail) But the Autostar seemed to be working so around 8:20pm I noticed
the beautiful crescent moon just about to drop behind the trees to the south west. I got the telescope all set up and tracking, then
I called Kim out to take a look. We both looked at the moon and marveled at the beautiful surface filled with craters. Afterwards I pulled up shop and moved it all around
to the backyard where the house blocks the street lights. Here I did much battle with my Autostar, Windows 98, and the ETX 90 motors that decide to slew 40 degrees
in some random direction at inopportune moments. So I wasn't able to get even one stinking picture. Frustrated doesn't come close to describing what I experienced. But being an astronomer in Seattle does teach one
to deal with disappointments, so I just unplugged the @#$@#% Autostar, and tossed it across the yard. I then put the telescope back in Alt/Az position and viewed manually.
Ah, very nice. I saw my old favorite, the Ring Nebulae (M57), the Andomeda Galaxy (M31), then Saturn and the Pleiades (M45). A very nice way to end an otherwise frustrating
8/26-27/2003 12:25pm - 3:05am - Seattle backyard - August 27th, 2003, the closest that Mars will be to earth in my lifetime. Of course, I was in the backyard
looking through my telescope and taking pictures. The only problem was that the directory that I selected in the AstroCam software to save my pictures wasn't created so
all the pictures I took just went to the "bit bucket in the sky". And once I figured this out, the clouds came in and Mars was gone. I blew it. 60,000 years and I'm foiled by
stupid software that can't even check to see if a directory exists when it's taking pictures. So I went inside totally disgusted. But the next night it was clear again, and I was able to get
some decent pictures.
8/2/2003 2:25 - 3:05am - Seattle front porch - Tonight I watched the movie "Total Recall" which takes place on Mars, so afterwards I
set up the telescope and viewed Mars and took some pictures with my QuickCam and laptop. Again, my telescope was under the glare of three
bright street lights but I was still able to get this shot. Some clouds rolled in, so I decided to close up shop and head inside. I'm
looking forward to taking some pictures from some dark skies later this month.
7/22/2003 12:45 - 1:15am - Seattle front porch - Tonight I viewed Mars for the first time this summer. Even though my telescope was under the glare of three
bright street lights, I was able to view the southern polar ice cap and some faint shadowing. This brief viewing made me excited about what I'll be able to see
under dark skies! I made a quick sketch with a Paint program that is HERE.
7/7/2003 10:35pm - Seattle backyard - I bought a used Minolta X-370 SLR camera off eBay, and I ordered the corresponding camera adapter from Orion Telescopes,
so now I am actually doing astro-photography! Above is one of my first results. I am pleasanlty surprised by how well the photo came out considering that 1) I wasn't in really dark skies, 2) I was using color film, 3) I wasn't
using a shutter release cable, and 4) I had a significant light leak in my new (used) camera. I took the camera in and got the light leak fixed, I bought T-Max 400 black and white film, and I bought a shutter release cable
so I have high hopes for my 2nd round of pictures!
5/27/2003 12:30am-2am - Our Seattle backyard - Well, it was a warm clear Friday night so I set up shop in our backyard on our new
flagstone patio! I brought out a campin stool, my telescope, a cooler to set my binoculars and start chart on, and my 35mm SLR camera.
I recently given an Astrophotography book from my wife's grandmother as a b-day present so I'm now dabbling in film astro-photography.
I took my first shot of Cygnus, also known as the northern cross. I had Fuji 200 print film in my camera and I took a 1 second exposure
through my 28mm lens at f 3.3(?). I haven't found my shutter release cable, so I'm not able to use the "Bulb" setting to take longer exposures. :(
So I just aimed the camera on my tripod and used the timer setting to avoid shakes. I then turned west and took a picture of Ursa Major,
better known as the Big Dipper. I used the same settings on it. I'm turning the film in to be developed next week so
get to find out then how well it worked. I'm guessing that the stars will be very faint. But that's where my scanner and photo editing software
will come in handy! After taking these two photos I then became reaquainted with Lyra and the Ring Nebulae (M57). I used averted vision and the
viewing was at least as good as from our balcony at our old apartment. After viewing M57 for about 20 minutes, I turned my scope to a very
bright star below Vega. I looked it up in my charts and discovered that this beautiful star was Altair. I am very pleased to now have an unobstructed
view to the south now. There are sooooo many cool things to look at in the southern sky so I studied my charts and decided to make the
Dumbell Nebulae (M27) my first objective. I used my binoculars to work my way
east from Altair up to the star just next to M27. I then tried to do the same through my telescope, but I got lost! There are soooo many more
stars visible in my scope that the 3-4 magnitude stars in my binoculars become just another star in my telescope. So after about an hour of unsuccessful
searching, I got tired and decided to go inside to bed.
5/15/2003-9-11pm - Front porch of our house in Seattle - I almost missed the eclipse this evening because of the way Starry Night
displayed the moon. The software program showed that the moon was going to be below the horizon so I didn't bother watching it. Plus it
was typical spring weather in Seattle: windy and rainy. So I was very surprised when I looked out our front window and saw the partial moon
with a *very unusual* shadow on it! I quickly ran inside and grabbed my telescope and set it up on my front porch. The full eclipse had already
happened but there was still a third of the moon still covered in shadow. I took some afocal pictures with our cheap little digital camera, and
they turned out so-so. I posted them above.
5/1/2003 - 9:30-10:00pm, - Backyard of our new house in Seattle!- My wife and I moved into a new house a month ago, so my telescope
has been packed up for awhile. But tonight it was very clear and I couldn't pass up setting the telescope up and taking a look at Jupiter and Saturn.
I viewed them under 48x and 113x and they were both surprisingly clear considering that there are two very bright street lights on the sidewalk
in front of our house. But our backyard is relatively free of direct light pollution.
2/5/2003 - 5-5:45pm, 10pm -Seattle Balcony, It was a clear night and the moon was a beautiful sliver in the pre-dusk sky, so I got the telescope out
and did some observing. I also took some images, which I hope to process and post this week. After dinner I went out on our balcony and
looked at Jupiter at 48x, 96x, 113x, 208x, and 416x. I used my light blue filter which helped a bit, but I still couldn't discern much detail. It
still looked like a croquet ball.
12/26, 12/27, 12/28, 2002 - Wasilla, Alaska - I brought the telescope up to Alaska for Christmas and got to do some very cold observing under very
dark skies! I bundled up in everything I had: polypro, wool, down, balaclava, mittens and my toes and face were still very cold. My bare finger tips
actually stuck to the metal legs of my tripod, it was so cold! But I did get some pictures of Saturn, and we observed Jupiter, the double cluster, Andromeda Galaxy, the Pleiades,
M35, M36, M37, M38, Great Orion Nebula, and we even saw Venus one morning!
11/25/02 8pm-10pm - Seattle Balcony - Tonight it was fairly clear so I got to try out my new Meade 4mm and 6mm Plossl eyepieces. The local Ritz Camera stores were selling
both of these eyepieces plus a shorty 2x Barlow for $39.99. I couldn't pass up that deal! I already have TeleVue 2x Barlow, but its a long so I thought it would also be interesting
to compare the two. I knew that these eyepieces might overpower my small diameter ETX 90, but I was pleasantly surprised. I started off on Saturn and the seeing was so-so
with my 11mm TeleVue eyepiece. I put in the 4mm (312.5x)and it was really blurry I attributed some of this to the mount since I wasn't using my Deluxe mount. I replaced it with the
6mm and at 208 power, the image was much more stable. I went inside for a while then came out when the moon had risen. I started off with the 26mm eyepiece. WOW! I'm always
impressed with this eyepiece when observing the moon. I can see the entire moon and it is sooooo clear and sharpe. I then tried the 4mm and 6mm alternatively and the viewing was
better than I expected. I keep telling myself that I should reserve judgement until I get my telescope under truly dark skies, but since I do 99% of my viewing from my Seattle balcony,
it really doesn't matter what it can do "somewhere" else. I tried the new Meade 2x barlow and it seemed to work very well. I didn't really compare it with my TeleVue barlow. That test
will have to wait for another night. I finished up the evening with trying to resolve the Trapezium in the Great Orion Nebula. I thought I was doing
09/10/2002 10pm-2am - Seattle Balcony - While I was waiting for Saturn to rise I was playing around with the Autostar controller and I am finally
getting familiar with the "GOTO" functions. Every now and then it would slew to the desired object accurately which gives me the idea that I set it up
correctly, but then while it was tracking the motor would suddenly slew off in some random direction 20 degrees from where it was pointing. Argh! It was pretty frustrating. So I just went back and forth between easy to spot objects that I was already familiar with so I could get familiar with
its (erratic) behavior. I was curious to see how (if) the Autostar controller switched tracking speeds between deep sky objects and planets. I found mixed
results. It tracked Pleiades fairly well but then when tracking stars (Alpheratz, Almach) or planets (Saturn) it would track for a minute then slowly slew to the
right off the object. I will have to test it more but I believe that the motor has trouble slewing objects low on the horizon. When slewing from Saturn to Pleiades
it would move accurately to the right (RA) but it would be far too low (declination).
Anyway, after looking at Saturn for a while I saw in my star charts that the open star cluster, Gemini (M35), was about to rise and since I wanted to see a new object I waited around for it too. It was worth the wait! At 5.5 magnitude and under city lights it was fairly faint but considering that it is
2500-2700 Ly away it is pretty impressive!
09/03/2002 10:30pm - Seattle Balcony - WOW! I had quite a surprise as I was stargazing this evening. I had just finished looking at the Andromeda Galaxy,
when I noticed some clouds moving in from the north. They appeared unusual so I called Kim from inside to get her opinion and while we were both looking at
them we saw them shift and change. We were seeing the Aurora Borealis or the northern lights! Way Cool!!!! They put on an impressive show for about 10
minutes, then they went away. Or at least we couldn't see them any more. They were a very light green in color, and there was one main streak that projected
across the sky farther than the rest. We called Kim's parents in Alaska and had them go look outside, sure enough they could see them too.
08/30/2002 1am, 5:30am - Balcony of Seattle apartment. Since it was a Friday night, I stayed up late and took some pictures of the
Moon and Saturn. I started out looking at the Andromeda Galaxy (M31). I hadn't viewed Saturn in a few months, so it was wonderful to
see it again through my telescope! After viewing Saturn at 48x, 113x, and 227x, I moved over to the moon and viewed it for some time.
Since it was a clear night and the viewing was good, I set up to take some pictures with my QuickCam and laptop. I spent about 3 hours taking
pictures of Saturn and the moon. I'm getting more efficient at slewing while looking at the image via the QuickCam image. Afterwards I moved
over to Jupiter which was now up. I had already turned off the laptop, so I didn't take any pictures of it. I finished up with a quick look at the
Great Orion Nebula (M42).
08/14/2002 9pm,11pm,1am? - Tonight I was camping at a remote lake in the North Cascades near Mt Baker. I had thought
about packing in my ETX but I ended up just bringing a small pair of 8x25 binoculars. But under such dark skies, they
were all I needed. But it was good for me to get more familiar with the night sky just using the binoculars. I waited for
the summer sky to darken. It is so cool to watch the stars appear in the sky like tiny diamonds slowly growing in luster.
Finally becoming brilliant points of light. Once it was properly dark I quickly spotted the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), the
Ring Nebula (M57), the open star clusters M103 and M39, and 3 meteors! I also spotted a new object for me: The Triangulum
Galaxy (M33). I fell asleep but awoke a few hours later to see that the Pleides had risen. It took a few minutes for my
tired eyes to clear but it was worth it. The Milky Way was a vivid swath of white arching across the sky. It was amazingly
beautiful. There is nothing quite like it. Under such dark skies the vividness of these objects was increased 100 fold.
I've read that aperture is King but there's no replacing dark, dark, skies!
08/11/2002 9pm - I was too tired to drive out to my "dark sky location" so I just looked out from my balcony
to watch the Perseid meteor shower. Although I was in the city, I did see three very impressive meteors. They all left
brilliant trails as they streaked across the sky.
07/19/2002 9:30pm-11:00pm - Well I was out in the mountains but the moon was "waning gibbous", I believe so the skies weren't
quite as dark as I had hoped. I also didn't count on all the trees which limited my field of view to a sliver in the south towards the moon and
a small patch in the upper eastern sky. I focused in on M57 (Ring Nebula) and at 96x it was pretty impressive. This was the first time that
I've viewed it away from the city lights so I was thrilled. Since my view was so limited I had a tough time locating M39 but I finally found it.
M31 was behind the trees so I didn't have a chance to see it under the relatively dark skies....sniff sniff. But I am making plans to view
next month's (8/11) Perseid meteror shower from a wide open, dark sky location, so I hope to get my chance to see M31 in all it's glory then.
07/14/2002 10:30pm-1:00am - Tonight Kim and I viewed M103 and M31. I tried looking up M33 but I'm just too tired. M103 was fairly
easy to find from the Cassiopeia asterism. Just traverse left from Ruchbah. M31 is just a big cloud with all the light pollution from the city.
I'm hoping to get better views of it next weekend as I'll be out in the mountains...
06/11/2002 10:50pm - I viewed M39 last night! Very cool. Using my charts as well as Starry Night software, I drew a "connect the dots"
map from Deneb. I'm still having problems with my !#@$@#$ AutoStar "goto" device, so I just spotted it manually. It didn't
jump out at me, so I mapped it from two different "connect the dot" maps and verified them both. When I knew I was in the
right spot I looked through the eyepiece and mapped the "stars" I saw. Then I went back to my computer and magnified the
picture of M39 to compare my drawing to. Yep! That was it!!! Cool!!
11/18/2001 1:23am-3:28am - I stood on my balcony under clear skies in Seattle and was treated to an
awesome Leonid display. All told I counted 224 meteors in just over 2 hours of viewing. I can't imagine
what it must have been like to see these under really dark skies. Wow!!!
10/28/2001 1:00am - Tonight was first light for my newly modified Connectix Color Quickcam. I borrowed
a laptop and went outside to take some pictures of Saturn and Jupiter. The images of them were so-so, but
what WAS kind of cool happened by chance. I mistakenly took a picture while the telescope was slewing
across Jupiter and two of its moons, Io and Ganymede, were captured in the image. Jupiter is just a big, bright, blur, but the moons
came out surprising well for a complete accident. The image can be seen HERE.
5/25/2001 12:00am - Just a quick session to show Kim the Ring Nebula. Located it within 5 minutes!
Kim saw it and was impressed.
5/23/2001 8:44pm-1:27am Balcony of apartment. Spent alot of time using Autostar and mapping and
familiarizing myself with the Vega constellation. With Steve's help I searched for the Ring Nebula
(M57?). After many hours of orienting, re-orienting, mapping, and looking through both the binoculars
and telescope I felt fairly confident that I had located the four stars that outline the diamond of
the Vega constellation. By this time my batteries were running down so I switched to manual mode and I
kept panning between the right most stars in Vega searching for M57. After several tangents (got bored
and frustrated) looking over at the N American Nebula, I went back to the two right most stars of Vega
and panned back and forth. I saw one star that I thought could be M57 but as I zoomed in I saw that it
was just a star, so I kept panning. Finally on one pass I noticed a fuzzy nothing that I had somehow
missed all this time and centered on it. My heart lept as I realized that this was the Ring Nebula!
5/20/2001 9:30-10:30pm Volunteer Park Seattle. Trying to see Mars. Too many nearby lights.
Great view west, though. Tried for Whirlpool (M51), but since it is at the Zenith, it's difficult to
locate, and focus. Kim located two neighboring stars near Vega.
4/3/2001 Our balcony, Seattle, Wash 7:10pm
Moon: excellent craters even though it was still light out
(moved to parking lot, looking east)
Moon: excellent craters : twightlight
(8:25pm PST, moved to parking lot, looking west)
Jupiter and 4 moons : Clear skies, as good if not better than 3/19
Saturn : Clear skies, as good if not better than 3/19
Couldn't locate Orion : too low on horizon
Viewed moon : several large craters with "mountains" in their center. Cool!
(9pm PST, Drove to Dental Lab, University of Washington, parking lot, looking west)
Jupiter and 4 moons : Clear skies, as good if not better than 3/19
Saturn : Clear skies, as good if not better than 3/19
(11:30pm - 1:30pm PST Seattle)
Moon: great contrast, craters were amazing
Spent most of the time looking around Big Dipper (Ursa Major) with a few interludes of Arcturus
when the clouds coverd Big Dipper. Continued to try to find Whirlpool (M51) Thought I spotted
it in binoculars (7x21), centered scope on it, but couldn't resolve it. Got lost several times,
had to back down to 48x power to re-locate it several times. Frustrating, but exciting. Looking
forward to viewing my first galaxy.
3/22/2001 Victorian Inn parking lot at Ouray, Colorado 11:pm MDT Power outage
Saturn and Jupiter had already set. Dark skies, but somewhat cloudy.
Tried viewing Whirlpool Galaxy (M51), no luck
3/20/2001 Victorian Inn parking lot at Ouray, Colorado 10:30pm MDT
Viewed Jupiter and 4 moons (48x, 96x, 113.6x, 227x) : Fuzzy
Viewed Saturn (48x, 96x, 113.6x, 227x) : Fuzzy
Viewed Orion Nebula (48x, 96x, 113.6x, 227x) : Fuzzy
3/19/2001 Englewood, Colorado. 9pm? MDT
Viewed Jupiter and 4 moons (48x, 96x, 113.6x, 227x) : Saw bands, clear
Viewed Saturn (48x, 96x, 113.6x, 227x) : Saw cassini division
Viewed Orion Nebula (48x, 96x, 113.6x, 227x) : Saw color
Viewed Pleides (48x, 96x, 113.6x, 227x) : Tons of stars!!!!
Looked for Andromeda, couldn't find it. Got disoriented.