Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Zodiac revealed.

The ancients probably knew about this sky porn. No doubt while guarding their sheep... 'nuff said!
And then modern man (read: christianity) prudently covered it up.

But now- Now, I finally buy a telescope and THIS NASTY TRUTH is revealed to me:

 OK.  As soon as the weather warms up, and there isn't a foot of snow on the ground, my dob and I are gonna go out and look for this.. um,   sword.  Yes, sword! That's it!
Do parents know about this?

Late-night addendum: here is Stellarium's view of the above cartoon:
   ORION'S BELT   Warning! May contain adult content!
I can almost hear Orion now... "Hey. Artemis! Wanna see my (heh heh) Great Nebula?"
Presumably that's when she nailed him with the scorpion.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

February 22nd. First looks (at the night sky)

Just before sunset, I noticed Venus quite bright in the Western sky, so the dob was finally moved outside.
The (new) crescent moon was just setting, and it was initially used to align my spotter scope.
Wow! Even a thin crescent half-hidden between tree branches, and craters could STILL be distinctly seen  on that little sliver of moon!
The scope was then moved up to Venus, and once it was located in the main, this was used this to tune the spotter scope a bit further.
By now it was dark and freezing. But before carrying the stuff inside, I moved it up a just a bit further to Jupiter. As soon as Jupiter was in the spotter, I looked in the main scope and saw it! The whole big disk.   As well, four little objects nearby, all on the same side of Jupiter.
I thought at first that this must be some sort of diffraction or glare on the still-untuned telescope, but once I came indoors, and fired up my Stellarium(1) -  it was quickly determined that the objects were actually four of Jupiter's moons - Io, Callisto, Europa and Ganymede.
 Not bad for my initial 30 minutes playing with a telescope in the freezing cold.

(1)- A great FREE program to identify and locate stars and planets (as well as artificial satellites) in the heavens. Particularly if you live in the country, and are intrigued by that bright object you suddenly noticed in the western sky.
Got a big monitor? You'll be amazed.
Stellarium is supported by Windows, Linux and Mac.
Oh- did we mention it was free? (note that it's a 50 meg download)

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Telescope Chronicles (cont'd)

Ahh, Sunday evening- I finally got around to unpacking and assembling the various parts of the Dob. With my nearby laptop playing this  video of suggested assembly instructions, it was quite straightforward. Hell, I even set up a camera and did some recording of my progress, just for posterity's sake.

The embarrassing assembly proceedings may be viewed at

The telescope was supplied with a laser collimator as well.  This also doubles as a cat toy! (just don't shine it in their eyes.)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Preamble: Feb 9th, 2012

About two weeks ago, I finally bit the bullet and bought a telescope. I've always wanted one, ever since I was a teenager, more than half a century ago.
Over the years I'd looked at various models and prices, (including even building one myself; even grinding the mirror!) but could somehow never justify the purchase and/or time-  either because I
  • -lived in the city (Montreal) and the there was too much light pollution,
  • -Lived in the country, but was now married with kids (can't justify several hundred $$ on THIS shit!
  • - Traveling between city and country took up enough of my time!
  • - Retired- gee, can't afford to spend my hard-earned pension on THIS crap!
Excuses, excuses... But life is short, so WTF.  Buy it. Credit-card. Worry about paying it off later!
The model I chose, after much internet investigation, was an  8" Zhumell Dobsonian  (we cognoscenti refer to it as a  "Dob" (Explanation here) Made in China (isn't everything these days?)
As the Zhumell brand was not available in Canada, I had to purchase it through the USA- Chateaugay NY, 15 KM from me.)
This is where the fun begins: 
FedEx would not ship to a USPS box, so I had the telescope (in three boxes!) sent to a house address there- A friend of a Friend. Let's call him "Virgil".
After picking it up at Virgil's and loading the boxes into my small car (ICE EVERYWHERE! It's been a weird winter!), I set off home towards the Canadian border.
At Canada Customs:
At Canada customs, I dutifully declared it, and the border agents asked its value. As well they wanted PROOF of the value- an invoice of some sort.
After opening all three boxes, we determined that the only invoice was the one online in my e-mail. They absolutely refused to let this big shipment into Canada, and told me to turn around and take these boxes back to the US, until I could supply them with an invoice of some sort. So...
Back to Virgil's! 
After 10 minutes of wrestling with the three now-opened boxes and cramming them back into my sub-compact car, I set off, back to Virgil's in Chateaugay, hoping to store them on his porch until I could go home and somehow print the invoice in my Email (I do not have a printer**)
Arriving at Virgil's and knocking on their door, the first thing I spotted was a  PC!
 - "Umm,,, could I borrow your PC for a couple of minutes?"
 - "Sure!  No problem!"
So I quickly logged on to my Gmail, found the relevant invoice and printed it! (Luckily Virgil's family, as civilized folk, had a printer)
Canada Customs again. 
So, now with invoice in hand, I drove back to the border and triumphantly waved the invoice in their faces.
This time however, there were other people in the office, declaring goods. And on top of this, I was told the ubiquitous story: "Sorry! our computers are down".
Geez, they weren't down whe I was first there 40 minutes previously!
So it was another 45 minutes or so, before they finally calculated the tax on my  goods by hand, and I paid it. By debit card- at least THAT machine was working!
 So that's it. Now the telescope parts sit in my car, on an extremely icy driveway, 100 feet from the house.  Why didn't I wait until April to buy this thing...?
More later.

**My computer printer ran out of ink two months ago, and rather than buy another rip-off ink cartridge, I gave the printer away. I have been railing against idiotic and superfluous "printing" for 20+ years. OK, so I'm a tree-hugger.