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No Go-To For Me

November 18, 2014

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seronikHandController

In his posting for November 10, 2014, Ken makes a compelling case for Go-To telescopes. Motorized tracking and more time spent observing instead of hunting are both appealing attributes. Yet for me, I prefer not to “go-to.”

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To Boldly Go-To . . . Or Not.

November 10, 2014

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The author poses beside a 20-inch truss-tube Dobsonian. Photo by Paul Greenhalgh, Fraser Valley Astronomers Society

Allowing the scope to slew around the sky would represent a major shift in my observing philosophy. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t mind hunting elusive celestial prey via star chart and finderscope. I think the hands-on approach strengthens my connection to the heavens.

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A Christmas Power Play

November 4, 2014

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seronikCanadianTire

As I write this, October has only one day left in it, yet the first Christmas flyers are already turning up in the mail. They seem to arrive earlier and earlier each year. And as many veteran stargazers know, Christmas is the silly season when it comes to mass-marketed telescopes.

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You Never Had It So Good…

October 28, 2014

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Advertised in the early 1970s as a "mechanical masterpiece"

for "discriminating observers," the Galoc eyepiece was remarkable for its time. But 

compared with today's offerings, its performance leaves a great deal to be desired.

Most telescopes in the “good ol’ days” came with simple Huygenian or (if you were lucky) Ramsden oculars. These were as basic as they come — two-element designs that made you feel like you were squinting down a long, dark tunnel to view your target. If you were well off, you might have Kellners (which at least had three lenses) or even orthoscopics (four elements!).

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Long-Gone Star Groups

October 16, 2014

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jamison102

Poor Musca, swatted around by celestial cartographers during the late 16th and early 17th centuries, no longer exists. A number of constellations – mainly smaller ones created over the last several centuries – have been deleted, their stars reassigned to adjacent groups. (The stars of Musca Borealis were given to Aries.) Today, 88 constellations are officially recognized by astronomers, but for centuries the number varied according to the unregulated whims of night sky observers and chart makers.

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Rebirth of a Small Telescope

October 2, 2014

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9893548_orig

Stationed next to me is an expensive Schmidt-Cassegrain reflecting telescope that looks about the same size as my Newtonian. The owner asks me how much my scope cost. He’s shocked when I tell him $60.00.

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Unboxing Day

September 11, 2014

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Christmas comes early — a box of astronomy goodies ready for enjoyment.

There’s also something slightly ritualistic about the whole unboxing process — a little ceremony each of us performs in our own way. Some approach it with reverence, carefully liberating each item from the packing material. Others proceed with excited recklessness, flinging bubble-wrap this way and that, eager to get their trembling hands on the prize.

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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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In Defense of the Supermoon

August 14, 2014

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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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Supermoon Silliness

August 8, 2014

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1-jpeg

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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