Friday, January 27, 2006


Thursday night I walked the dog about 9:00 and noticed how clear the sky was. As we walked, I also noticed how steady it was. Sure, there was a little twinkling down low, but overhead was really quite still.

"Cool," I thought. "I'll be able to try out the new two-speed focuser."

So I set up in the back yard, plugged the $2.00 SCT cooler in, and headed back inside to catch The Daily Show while the scope cooled off.

Thirty minutes later, I headed back outside to look at an entirely featureless night sky. We went from 0 to 100% cloud cover in just 40 minutes.

So you'll just have to imagine a really nice picture of Saturn here. Tonight's the opposition, so I'm a little bummed to be missing it. CSC says clear tomorrow night, but we're back to that 2/5 seeing. We'll see (or not).

Meanwhile, here's a picture I took today that turned out better than I expected. I can't tell you what it is, yet, but I think it's neat.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Saturn Rising

This would have looked better if I had waited another 3 hours. Or, three hours after I took this it could have been cloudy. You takes what you can gets. Seeing maybe 3/5--not all that bad, but some mid-level clouds forming.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

A Long Dry Spell

I've been heeding Dooce's advice about not blogging about work ("Be ye not so stupid."), so when you've had a week that was nothing but work, it doesn't leave much to say.

The astro front's been pretty quiet for a while now. It's either been cloudy, or clear with lousy seeing. Warm days and cold nights might be nice weather, but the rapidly dropping temps play havoc with picture-taking. It's also been surprisingly windy--which just stirs up more cedar pollen. Arrrgh.

I did acquire a new piece of gear--a William Optics crayford focuser. It's a nice piece of kit, but the purchasing experience left something to be desired. I wanted a two-speed focuser for imaging, and all of the pictures of the focuser on this page are of a two-speed unit. There's no text describing it one way or the other. Add it to the shopping cart brings you to a page with a picture of a single-speed unit, until you click the "click to enlarge" link.

Well, it turns out you will indeed receive a single-speed focuser. WO has a good return policy, and they were willing to let me exchange the single-speeed for a dual speed. I countered by asking for a deal on the two-speed upgrade they sell, and they agreed, so I'll wind up with what I wanted for a fair price. But man, what a hassle!

In other news, I've been following a discussion on Cloudy Nights about an inexpensive observatory dome. The name went through several revisions, and guys were posting logo ideas. Most of the submissions were, um, amateur, so I tossed a couple of ideas out as well. After all of the revisions, here's what we finally wound up with:

I'm not crazy about the star, but I think the final logo turned out pretty well. I gave it away--an agency would have charged $1,500. I think I should get a dome out of the deal, but I'm happy just to have the work recognized.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


I got Mom an iSight camera for Christmas to go with her Mac mini. I gotta say, sure Apple hypes their products (the famous Reality Distortion Field), but this thing works great. We may not have gotten our flying cars for the 21st century, but we got our picture phones.

Also, I don't know about the Winblows side of the world, but do you know how complicated it was to set up her Mac with high-speed internet? You gotta plug the thing in. I mean really, unless they get it a little more simple, I don't think this whole inter-web thingy is going to catch on.

Friday, January 13, 2006

A Punchline That's Just Waiting For A Joke

On CNN today: "Pamela Anderson calls for removal of Colonel's bust."

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

So-So Saturn & Mars

CSC said 3/5 for seeing, and that seems about right. A high-frequency vibration. Temps were falling pretty steadily all evening, too.

These were shot with the 2x barlow instead of the 2.5x PowerMate, so they're a shade smaller than usual.

Monday, January 09, 2006

South Mall

Click for full-size.

The original file for this 3-shot mosaic is 47 MB--nearly 300 dpi for just shy of 11x17. I think I need to print a poster.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

National Champions

Click for full size.

From the East Mall. It was a great big party atmosphere on campus--still.


Dam Mars

Down to 11 arcseconds. Through the eyepiece, Mars is little more than a small, bright disc.

I had camera/computer weirdness Friday--a herringbone interference pattern on the screen. I borrowed another, brand-new NexImage and saw the same thing, so it had to be something in the laptop. Tried it again last night in the driveway and everything was fine. All I can figure is that the iBook was cold, but it's been colder before, I think.

Speaking of last night in the driveway, the wind started blowing. And then it blew some more. And then a little more. The scope, mounted in alt-az and on the anti-vibe pads, was moving around so much I couldn't keep Saturn on the chip.

And the seeing during all this blusteryness? Probably 4/5. I can't win.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

M1, The Crab Nebula

Photographed from Mansfield Dam, Austin, Texas. Meade 10" LX200 @ f/6.3, Canon Digital Rebel XT, 29 x 30 seconds. Stretched & sharpened in Photoshop.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Holy crap! We won! This town is going to erupt.

I gotta go take a Xanex or something. Wow! National champions, baby!

Just Shut Up Already

Keith Jackson should just retire already. What a buffoon.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Happy New Year

We had a Dam good Friday night: good transparency, good seeing, and moderate temperatures. Most all of the regulars except Todd were there, and we had several visitors. I got to spend some time with a family looking to buy their first scope, and I hope they left less confused than they were when they got there.

I didn't set up to take any pictures--I haven't spent much time lately just looking through the eyepiece, so it was a nice change of pace. Besides, I was going to the Ranch the next day where the stars at night are big and bright.

And Saturday night at Linda's started out beautifully. Clear as a bell, and probably 4/5 seeing. I spent a little time tweaking the collimation on the LX200, then shot this image of Mars:

The breeze was blowing pretty good, but I hoped that it would die down as it got later. I came in to process the Mars shots (and have some champagne). I was planning on heading back out to try M1 (the Crab Nebula) with the Rebel, and was really looking forward to a new Saturn with the new collimation.

The wind was actually picking up when I went back out, and what the --? Fog? Yup. We were fully socked in. *sigh* At least I got a decent Mars.

And of course tonight's CSC calls for more of that 4/5 seeing, but there's no way I can stay up until 0200 and be functional at work tomorrow. It's just not fair, I tell ya!