July 4th weekend!
We spent Thursday evening watching the stars in Indian River, Michigan with friends. Unfortunately we don't get a great view from their place so we were limited to seeing things pretty much above us. We did get some great views of M57, M13, M29 along with several other objects. We also got some good views of the waxing crescent as it set in the west.
Friday was more fun. We went to the park in town after the fireworks. Some strangers showed up for a while to see what the 20" scope could do. It was pretty great. We viewed all of the Messier objects that were up during the evening. We tried to view Mars but it was a little hazy. We were hoping for great views.
Saturday was even more fun. We got great views of the Moon for a few hours. I was amazed at how beautiful the moon really is. We found some maps in one of our books, which highlight different craters on the moon. So we spent a few hours trying to locate craters and other neat items on the moon. The night was about as clear as I've seen so far this summer. We ended up sitting out until about 4:30 in the morning. We finally got excellent views of Mars. We were able to see the southern polar ice cap, and surface features. I can't wait until the end of August when Mars is at it's closest distance to the earth in several tens of thousands of years.
This is what the gang does when it's cloudy at Indian River. Lorell & Alexa looking for teeny boppers on the water. They scared all the guys away.
July 4th, continued. A few of our friends we were visiting with in Indian River. Nancy is getting her first view through the 20" Obsession. We started viewing the moon just before sunset. It's amazing how beautiful the views are even during the daylight hours. Also pictured are Paul and Richard, our resident comedian.
Later on in the evening (10pm...ish) we got a few friends together for a picture with the 20" telescope. Pictured from right to left are Mark, Paul, Lisa, Heidi, Rachael, Richard, and Nancy. Missing are Lorrell, Whitney, Heidi, Breanne. They were busy watching "Every After". It wasn't dark enough for them. They really missed out on some awesome views of the moon.
July 18th & 19th. Another great time in Monroe. Richard and I set up the scope...as usual early in the evening. First we searched for a darker site but to no avail. After setting up the neighbors starting coming out of the woodwork. Our theme is truly, "the more the merrier". Nothing is better than lot's of people hanging out looking at stars. Friday we had about 15 people stopping by during the night. We stayed up until about 4. Saturday was fantastic. We had people stopping by all night and kept a little crowd of about 6 or 8 people throughout the night. We got some great views of Mars and the moon. We took pictures of the moon. Check them out and let us know what you think here. We were hoping to see Saturn but it still comes up at about dawn. Next month we will start getting good views of Saturn.
July 26th & July 27th. No, I don't need to say it. I've said it too many times. Nothing but awesome views here. Me & Richard met a few of his friends in Monroe and set up the telescope. We spent a good part of the evening viewing Mars. It's getting to be in a pretty good location earlier in the evening. We were a little worried last month because it was coming up so close to the horizon we didn't think we'd get good views. I was wrong. Mars was awesome in the 20" scope. I still can't believe that it will get even better this time next month. I'm thinking to run ad's in the local paper to drum up interest. I would love to have the community out peering through our mega-scope at Mars. Imagine never looking though a telescope and then finding a planet like Mars for the first time?! And next month and for the rest of the year we are going to start viewing Saturn! We have been waiting months for it to return to the night skies. A few weeks and it's all down hill, nothing but fun. We were a little bummed last weekend. We started putting the scope away around 3:30am and realized that the Pleaides were up. So we made a point to find them tonight. Talk about ooh's and aah's. They are so beautiful in a wide angle lens. Wow! If you are a current member or a newcomer, send us a line and give us some new ideas on how to get new faces out to one of our viewing sessions. Also, if you have nephews, nieces, friends, acquaintances, or passersby, get them out to our viewing site. We need new faces. In fact, starting September 1st we plan to host a minimum of 2 star-gatherings a month in addition to our regular viewing sessions (every clear night). This scope is just too exciting to let it sit indoors during clear skies!
Aug 1, 2, 3. We took the telescope 300 miles north to Indian River. The weather forecast said that it would be rainy all weekend. Boy were they right! We didn't even get a chance to uncover the scope. It literally rained all weekend. We didn't care though. I just received some new collimating tools so it gave me time to read up and figure out how to use them. Hey, the better the collimation, the better the views.
I have been so fortunate to have been given a glimpse of outer space when I was in 2nd grade. Since then I knew that it would be a love that would never die. Too bad relationships aren't like this. In any event, I get so excited to see kids take their first views through our telescope. Last week we were down in Monroe at Rich's. A half dozen kids came over during our viewing session to find out what we were doing. When Rich told them we were looking through a telescope, they started lining up to wait for a view. More than a few of them talked about "first view" and "I have to get a telescope for myself". What could be better than giving children their first true view of the heavens through a 20" telescope!
August 12, 2003
After literally weeks of cloudy weather we finally got a decent night of viewing. Guess what? You didn't miss anything last night. Rich and I decided not to set up the telescope because the Perseid meteor shower was going to peak. We sat outside with Heidi and Whitney for about two hours and counted 30 meteors. Then we hit the hay and got back up around 4 am and sat outside to see what we'd find.....one! Yep, that's it. The moon was the spoiler this year. Hopefully we'll have better luck next year. Great news though. The weather forecast predicts clear skies for the next 4 days! The moon is full but we don't mind. We're going to be looking at Mars and the moon tonight!! See ya tonight under the stars.
August 14, 2003
THE GREAT BLACK OUT OF 2003! Whatever?! We live a half hour from Detroit. It was a little hazy tonight but we figured we'd set the telescope up since most places in Michigan had no power. Talk about excited. I haven't seen the milky way galaxy in all it's splendor in this area since I was a kid. We really thought we'd be in for a treat. Unfortunately the haze was pretty bad. Added to that was the lights from Detroit. Yep, that's right. There must have been a lot of emergency generators running tonight because the light pollution from Detroit was enough to ruin any chances of getting a once in a lifetime view of truly dark skies from Rockwood. I guess the whole country would have to black out and every emergency generator run out of gas to get a truly "dark" sky here in Rockwood. We were bumming. The weather really hasn't cooperated over the past few weeks. Mars is upon us and we need some really clear skies. Cross your fingers.
August 19, 2003
If you don't view Mars through a 20" telescope in your lifetime....within the next week, you've missed the boat. I set the scope up last night and went to bed figuring to wake up at 2 in the morning to get a good view of Mars. My alarm didn't work and I didn't wake up until 4:30 in the morning. The mirrors were wet with dew. I was sure that Mars was out of the question. I was so wrong. I started with a modest 100 power just for fun. Although there was a halo around the planet because of all the condensation on the lens I was happily surprised to see that the planet was pretty clear. So I stepped up the power immediately to 1000 power. I can't even tell you how amazing the view was. The polar ice cap was beautiful. I could easily resolve all of the surface features, especially with the blue filter. Next week is the week. You have to come out and catch a glimpse of Mars!!
August 20, 2003 It's clear tonight but the humidity is just too bad for viewing. Hopefully we'll get clear weather this weekend. If you are still trying to decide on which type of telescope to buy, send me a line. I'll help you find the right telescope for your needs. In the meantime come out to a star party and use one of our scopes!
August 21, 2003 Another clear night. We need you to come out and view with us. What are you waiting for?
Observation notes: Let's start with M5 tonight. I started with a 32 mm lens and resolved about 50 stars, which filled about 3/4 for the fov. It is a very dense cluster. I then panned to M-10. It was a little dimmer than M5. I easily resolved several dozen stars. It's a beautiful open cluster. It has a lot of potential under dark skies. Then I was off to M-3, which is another very nice cluster. It was a little less bright but still worth looking at. How about M-2? Yep, saw it. It's a very dense cluster, which is also quite dim but still worth the view. M-13 is always a priceless gem regardless of the light pollution. The star field was full of stars. Very beautiful. M-14 is a very dim, compact cluster. This would be an excellent candidate for dark skies.
Panning to M-16 I found a very loose open cluster. It is a very beautiful, bright cluster. M-17 appears to be some type of nebulae. Will have to investigate more under dark skies. M-18/M-24 are very bright, open clusters. They are in a really neat area to view. There are literally stars everywhere. M-25 is also very open and very cool. There were several dozen stars in view. An excellent dark sky candidate. M-27, the dumbbell nebulae is always beautiful. It fills the field of view. A filter is really needed to get the color. M-28 is a dim globular. It is a very small, dense cluster. It must be a very distant cluster. M-39 is a GREAT open cluster using the wide angle lens. It is an excellent candidate for dark skies. Very bright! M-51 is impossible in light polluted skies. I could only see a faint haze. M-56 is an open cluster near Cygnus. It's pretty good to look at.
Mars? WOW! It's a bummer that there was so much haziness tonight on the horizon. Mars is huge in the field of view but the turbulence ruins any chance of good views at high powers tonight. I have a tough time seeing the ice cap. Hopefully I'll get a good crisp view the night of the 27th.
August 22, 2003. M1, 3, 5. All excellent tonight. I get so excited looking at globular clusters. If you haven't seen one through a large aperature telescope, you are really missing out.
M-11. WOW! It's almost like I made a new discovery. It is an absolutely beauty. It's easily more beautiful than M-13. It looks great at low power but at 16mm it is a fantastic gift of sparkling, open cluster. There is one bright star that sticks out over the others. It's a really cool sight.
M-15. Beautiful and bright tonight. A tightly packed cluster. M-16. Very open cluster. Wonderful. M-17 is a nice nebulae that needs to be viewed under dark skies. M-18 is a wide, wide open star field. It's very cool. I got my first glimpse of Mars tonight around 10:30. I wish it were farther up in the sky. It is beautiful at 550X. I'm going to do my best to get some photos this next week. M-20 & M-21 are both very wide open clusters of at least 50+ beautiful stars under low power. M-23 is also a very open, beautiful cluster as is M-25. I simply can't describe how wonderful the views are using this beautiful piece of equipment.