Wednesday, August 31, 2005


My very first Mars photo. Remember when I said I needed to get up earlier? I shot this at 4:30 this morning.

It's OK, but I think I can do better. I'm not sure how, though, using the afocal setup. I just can't seem to get a sharper focus. I'm using a Hartmann mask, so I'm fairly confident my focusing is about as good as I can get it with the stock focuser. Maybe it's the zoom level on the camera having to be so far in in order to get a decent image size. There's likely some field rotation--this is 20 frames @ 1 frame per 5 seconds, so it's nearly 2 minutes in alt-az. I'll try next with the wooden wedge, but not until I practice aligning it first.

More Politics

"We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the September 11th."
George W. Bush
Press Conference, September 17, 2003

"As we mark (the 60th anniversary of V-J Day), we are again a nation at war. Once again war came to our shores with a surprise attack that killed thousands in cold blood."
George W. Bush
Speech at Naval Air Station North Island, August 31, 2005

Tell me again why we're at war in Iraq? I thought Bin Laden was the culprit behind the surprise attack.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Dawn Patrol

Have I mentioned that the boy's bus comes way too early in the morning?

It's OK, because I'm getting to see some early morning sights that I'd otherwise miss. Mars was still nearly overhead at 6:30, and very crisp in the 6" dob. Here's a simulated view:

No polar cap at all.

And apparently I've been looking at the moon at the wrong time of the month, because holy crap! that's an amazing view of Aristarchus. I know, I've talked about it before, but wow--it looked almost as good as the picture. The weird part was the blue shadows, since the sky was so light.

I gotta start getting up earlier.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Dam Friday

I was surprised--I expected more people. Andy, Ralph, Jonathan, David, and some people I didn't meet down at the far end with a little ETX--and that was it. The sky started out poor, cleared a little, then started clouding up about 11:00.

We did have a whole bunch of kids with their parents. I had the laptop running Starry Night, and we looked at the Lagoon (M8), the Hercules Cluster (M13) and Albierio. All crowd pleasers in the 10". One little girl proclaimed that Pluto was her favorite planet, "because it's the smallest planet on Earth." When told that M13 is 25,000 light-years away, she asked "If you were an astronaut, is that where your tanks would run out?"

New object: Splinter Galaxy (NGC 5907). With such poor transparency, there wasn't much to see. A fuzzy line with no structure. Need to try again under darker, clearer skies.

The Type 6 13mm with the 6.3 focal reducer works out well on M13. Just about the right combination of FOV (40') and magnification (120x).

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Lights Out

I had a routine doctor's visit yesterday which ended up with a blood draw for lab work. After the tech finished, I was a little light-headed, but nothing serious. Until I stood up and the lights went out. "Why am I laying on the floor?"

I'm such a baby.

Meanwhile, why do we have to have such nice nights during the middle of the week when I can't stay out late? I laid out on the front yard and watched the stars come out--Vega, Arcturus, Antares ... People ask, "How do you know what that star is?" I never have a good answer for them. It's like looking at a map and knowing where Texas is.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


In their own words:

“We have high confidence that [the Iraqis] have weapons of mass destruction. That is what this war was about and it is about.”
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer
Press Briefing, 10 April 2003

"We owe them something. We will finish the task that they gave their lives for ..."
George W. Bush
Speech to Veterans of Foreign Wars on the subject of American military deaths, 22 August 2005

I just don't get it.

Monday, August 22, 2005


"It always make me think of fireworks going off."

"I don't know. It looks like a dandelion to me. Did you buy weed killer?"

Thursday, August 18, 2005


OK, so the view in the telescope doesn't look quite like this picture from Apollo 15, but I'm really enjoying this lunar feature. The rilles have caught my attention--they look just like dry river beds in the 6" Deep Space Hunter. They're much easier to spot than those up North in Alpine Valley.

This was one of the first places on the moon I ever really looked hard at, thanks to Richard. It was one night at the dam while I was using the C6-N, and the terminator was between Aristarchus and Herodotus.* Now, I know the moon is rotating, but it's awfully slow. So I was amazed to watch the terminator move up the crater wall of Herodotus over the course of the evening. Cool. That was the same night I discovered that a 5" APO blows a 6" Chinese newt out of the water. I'm not down on the small newt--heck, I bought another one--but it didn't take me long to discover its limits.

Day 3 of school, and you'd be amazed at the difference in the boy. We're out waiting for the bus this morning, and he's all happy and babbling. Bus pulls up, and he's off across the street, pulling Trudy along behind him. The steps on the bus are as high as little three-year-old legs can navigate, but he didn't slow down until he hit his seat. I went out and tapped on his window, and he gave me a huge grin.

Trudy & I had to drop his supplies off with his teacher, so we beat him to school. As we're leaving, he comes trucking around the corner at the far end of the hall, pulling his Nemo backpack behind--a boy on a mission. We ducked into the corner and hid, sort of, amazed at our happy child. Looks like this school thing isn't so bad after all.

*I don't really know all these names--I look them up. I'm not a total loonie, yet.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Yeah, I'm Talking About You

And by cool kids, I mean my buddy Coach Stupid. Be nice to him--he's had a hard day.

Meanwhile, it's the first day of school. The boy has delayed speech development, so it's off to Special Ed for him. This is a good thing. For one thing, we get a break on day care. He wasn't too sure about getting strapped into a seat on the bus, but seems no worse for the wear tonight.

Oh yeah, we were gonna blog astronomy. Two weeks ago was the Central Texas Star Party, or more accurately, the Central Texas Cloud and Humidity Party. Friday night was OK, but poor transparency and low clouds to the south made the session unremarkable. I met a couple of new folks, and was able to sneak a few peeks through a couple of 18"+ dobs. Turnout was lower than expected--we speculated that heavy rains in the area scared a lot of people away. Got my pin for finishing the small scope list. Couldn't have done it without goto, since you couldn't see half the stuff in the south to hop from.

Friday last was regular Dam Astronomers night and the Perseids. We actually had good seeing and transparency at the dam--a rarity these days. Saw several meteors, and a lot of smoke trails. I mistook the first one for a contrail, not having seen one before. A pretty fair turnout from the public, although one woman was a little upset that she wouldn't be able to see Mars for another 4 hours, and no, it wasn't going to be "as big as the moon."

But, speaking of the moon, I'm pretty sure I finally saw the rille in Alpine Valley. It could be another case of averted imagination, but I did see something. I'm still hoping for good seeing and solar angle to coincide. The hard part may be that angle thing, since the better time to view seems to be third-quarter. Every time I've looked out the window at 3:00 a.m. this summer, it's been wall-to-wall cloudy.

Saturday was Austin Under the Stars, and another exercise in frustration, as the evening started cloudy and never got better. Ian had a good time running all over the soccer field, stopping only to climb any stepladder he came to. He looked through an unattended small refractor, but seemed unimpressed. I didn't even bother to take a scope out.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Another Astronomy Blog

Why, you ask. Why does the world need the 13-millionth blog? Because, dear Internet, I thought it might be fun.

Besides, all the cool kids are doing it.