Archive | August, 2014

For the Love of Focusers

August 26, 2014


This commercial Dobsonian telescope comes equipped with a very nice 2-

inch focuser that features a dual-speed, fine-focus adjustment.

In the many years I’ve spent using telescopes, I’ve probably handled several hundred different models. Some were a joy to use, others were a frustrating nightmare. Often, the difference came down to how easy or difficult it was to achieve sharp focus.

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100 Years of Stellar Evolution

August 25, 2014

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Hertzsprung-Russel diagram, courtesy European Southern Observatory (ESO)

The stars plotted on an HR diagram aren’t scattered randomly. Most lie along a band called the main sequence that runs from the lower-right (cool, dim) to the upper-left (hot, bright). Cool red giants and red supergiants form clumps in the upper-right corner, while hot white dwarfs scatter along the bottom-left.

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When Worlds Align

August 19, 2014


Venus and Jupiter make a handsome couple in the dawn sky over Victoria B.C. on August 18th, 2014. Photo by Gary Seronik.

The resulting view in my telescope was of Venus, an Earth-sized planet, looking way brighter than gigantic Jupiter, and yet far-off Jupiter appearing noticeably larger than Venus. I marvelled at the sight of two disparate planets three-quarters of a billion kilometres apart masquerading as neighbours. A fabulous illusion!

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Choosing Eyepieces: Four Big Numbers

August 18, 2014


Like munching on potato chips, it's hard to stop buying eyepieces after just one or two. The trick is to choose the ones that are the most useful.

If you assess eyepieces using the four numbers described below, you’ll at least have a fighting chance at making good choices.

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In Defense of the Supermoon

August 14, 2014


All full Moons are inspiring naked-eye sights. Photo courtesy Gary Seronik

At night, beach fires and fireworks are the main attractions. But on supermoon night, an impressively red lunar disc rising above the Atlantic ocean stole the show. Up and down the beach I could see the glowing screens of raised iPhones, and camera flashes firing futilely at the Moon.

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The Great Cluster – And Beyond

August 11, 2014


This image, taken by the Advanced Camera for Surveys on the Hubble Space Telescope, shows the core of the great globular cluster Messier 13 and provides an extraordinarily clear view of the hundreds of thousands of stars in the cluster, one of the brightest and best known in the sky.

Only half a degree northeast of M13 is the 11.6 magnitude galaxy NGC 6207. A 13th-magnitude foreground star is superimposed on this tiny smudge, giving us the illusion that a supernova has erupted inside the galaxy.

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Supermoon Silliness

August 8, 2014

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The full Moon nearest perigee, which repeats roughly every 13 months, is officially the biggest and brightest full Moon of the year. This perigee Moon, as astronomers call it, is hyped by the media as a “spectacular” supermoon. In truth, it’s a subtle celestial phenomenon. Any difference in size and luminosity among full Moons is virtually impossible to notice with our unaided eyes.

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The Kobau Quest

August 7, 2014


The Cygnus Milky Way as imaged by the author at the Mount Kobau Star Party

When I need to take a break from observing, I’ll wander the expansive star party site and check in on friends busy at their telescopes or quietly soak in the Kobau ambience. There’s something comforting about the sound of stargazers chatting quietly to one another while scoping the sky or taking photos.

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