I tend to ramble, so my page does too. These buttons may help you find areas of interest.
|My story||telescopes||observing reports||equipment reviews/advice||observing list generator (DSOs)|
|astronomy club information||Astronomy links||dark sky site locator||Satellite locator||Video Astronomy and Pictures|
A few years ago, at a cub scout camp out, the person who was supposed to run the astronomy program failed to show up. I’d seen the ads for something called a Meade ETX 90/EC – a computer controlled telescope. Its computer was supposedly jammed with astronomical information. I thought, aw heck, I can do this. I’ll get the computer and it’ll run the show. I’ll just read the information off of the screen and run the talk. I guess I thought that we’d be seeing nebulae in color with that 3.5 inch scope.
That was more than 3 years ago and I still haven’t gotten the computer to work. I bought a Rigel Quickfinder, a type of reflex site that appears to project a red bulls-eye on the sky, and a star chart and began to hunt for things manually. This lasted about a year. But I began to learn my way around the night sky. The one thing that was nice about this set up is that it was light. I kept it assembled in the family room (much to my wife’s dismay) and took it out almost every clear night.
Still ignorant of the degree to which a dark sky can increase the visibility of objects, I decided that I needed a bigger scope. The 20" Obsession seemed about the right size, yet I wasn’t sure if I’d like a Dobsonian mounted telescope. I did not want to invest that much money in a big scope without knowing if I’d use it. I decided to buy a medium size Dob. So, for about what I’d paid for the ETX (not including the cost of the ETX’s tripod), I bought a 10" f5.6 Dob from Discovery Telescopes. It packs 6 times the light grasp of the ETX. All of a sudden I could see the ring nebula from my driveway and I became hooked on the deep sky. I spent about a year learning my way around the sky with my Telrad (like a Quickfinder but bulkier) and Sky Atlas 2000. After more than a year with the "Dob" I found myself packing it and all my observing stuff … observing chair, table, folding chair, star atlases), books, dew heaters, battery, eyepiece case, etc. … into the car and driving off into the wilds to a dark sky site.
Then I knew. I knew that it was time to order the Obsession. It packs 4 times the light grasp of the 10" Dob and 24 times the light grasp of the “mighty” ETX. Yes, my wife and friends laugh. If you order something called an Obsession, your friends may laugh too. (We were in a van coming back from a bike trip down Haleakala, the 10000 foot tall volcano on Maui (follow this link to the Haleakala crater cam) . I was talking telescopes with the two guys sharing the seat with me. When I said, "I ordered the Obsession." Everyone in the van burst out laughing.) Yet, I feel that it’s like car repair; things are easier if you have the right tool. I happen to think that a large telescope is the right tool for visual deep sky. And I’d proved to myself that I was crazy enough to use it.
Living in West Virginia, some of my friends hunt deer. I hunt deep space objects. I enjoy the hunt. I enjoy the satisfaction of locating a new object. From dark sky sites I enjoy standing around in the dark and looking at the wonders of the universe. The Obsession makes many of the faint and distant objects easier to see. And, often it allows you to see more detail and structure as well. What looks like a smudge in the 80mm refractor becomes a myriad of stars, pin points of light, so densely clustered in the center that they blend together, fading into discrete stars as one moves away from the center; then becoming more distant from one another at the objects periphery. Of course I’m thinking of Messier Object number 29, the magnitude 7.8 globular cluster in the constellation Lepus, the hare. This is the type of detail that you can see with the Obsession. And that makes the hunt more rewarding. Now not only can I track things down, but when I do - I can actually see them! This is not to say that you can’t see things with the 10”. No, you can see a lot. It is great for many Objects. But the big scope allows you to see many more objects and in much greater detail. Even though my threshold for taking out the 10” is lower then for the 20” (I can pack up the 10” and its gear in 5 min, it takes me 20 min – if I hump – to pack up the 20”. Set up time for the 10” is 5-10 min depending on if I align the tracking platform and how slowly I apply the dew heaters. The 20” takes 30-60 min to set up. Much of that time is getting it out of the car and built.). But, if I can get out early in the evening and stay out for 4-5 hours there is no question which scope I take. I take the Obsession. Why? Because you can see things.
Here’s what my friend Jeff Ball had to say after we took the scope out for our club’s (OVAS) second annual Messier Marathon. Jeff said, "Unbelievable views of globulars and galaxies were had all night. I especially recall the view of M82 and M63. The dark blotches in the core of M82 were just like that in a photograph. M63 showed detail that I am used to seeing in a photograph. I believe at one time we had about 8 galaxies in the same field of view in the Virgo cluster. It was a challenge to figure out which one was the Messier object. " Yes, that is why I like a big scope. To me, the view is worth the effort of lugging the thing out. What’s a Messier marathon? Take the link and find out.
The picture at the right was taken by my good friend and astrophotographer Jeff Ball. He sent it with the following note:" I think this shot really looks a lot like the image in a scope like Rodger's. Hope you like it. This was taken from Greasy Ridge. " This was a 75 min exposure with a 5 inch scope. I think that the view is similar to what I noted 8/17/01 from Seneca Rocks (WV) using an OIII filter and a 22 mm Nagler EP. Its views like this that I crave. The big scope at a dark sky site delivers them. The Swan Nebula, it kind of looks like one, eh?
The picture of Jupiter to the left was taken by Jeff Ball with a Nikon Coolpix (900 something) through a 14mm Televue Radian with my 20” Obsession from Greasy Ridge, Ohio on 11-12-01. The scope was on a Tom Osypowski aluminum equatorial platform.
The following link goes to a few pictures of the new scope. These feature the kids, the scope and moi. The Obsession Pictures !
Follow this link to see my telescopes My Telescopes . I’d a dob lover so my scopes are biased in this regard. I have a 6", 10", and 20" dob as well as a 90mm ETX and a 80mm "Short Tube". The 20” is my primary deep space scope. The 10” is my planetary scope and also gets used for quick looks at home and public star gazes with the club. I got the 6” for teaching kids. It is my "kids get hands on experience" (and I don’t groan if it gets dropped – and it has been dropped) scope. The Short tube is a finder scope for the Obsession, but on a Televue Telepod it becomes a wide field of view scope of low power speed gazing. I haven’t had the heart to sell the ETX. It occasionally gets used as a solar scope or a travel scope – It’s been to Maui! If I could put it on the telpod head … Well, it does have good optics.
White light and H alpha observing are discussed on this new page - solar observing page
Though I should know better I've decided to try my hand at video astronomy, taking pictures through the telescope with a video camera. Mine is called the Stellacam EX, it is a Minitron camera with an attached control box. This combines a very light sensitive chip with the ability of the camera to add up to 128 frames (about 2 seconds) on the chip to boost the image brightness by a factor of 128 above the output of a chip that is 2-4x as sensitive as most others. Star clusters seem to show up well on the video screen. I've had less luck with nebulous objects. But by adding 300-100 frames I've been able to produce some images. The chip has a small field of view and "low" resolution relative to today's digital cameras.. I have images of the Sun, a few Planets and several Deep Space objects are in this Image gallery.
Why not visit Ed Ting’s beginner’s page? Ed Ting’s advice for beginner’s who are contemplating purchasing a telescope. This is one of my favorites. I think that Ed gives good advice. Or you could visit our astronomy clubs page called the OVAS beginner's advice page. . There are many links here. Check out Don Kemper's essay if you are thinking about the hobby.
Visit my light pollution page. light pollution page Or visit the OVAS Dark Sky page . As you get more into observing, one becomes more aware of “local light” and “sky glow” which are both manifestations of light pollution. This is what robs us of the ability to see the stars at night and forces me to drive far from home in order to seek conditions that are favorable for good deep sky observing.
This page is limited to things that I own or have used. Every one has their own opinion; these are mine. I can't say that mine are any good, they are just my opinions. Books and things
My observing reports page Just hit the link in the table to view each report. Each link in the table goes to my notes for that night's observing. The titles often focus on what type of object was observed or on what unusual event occurred. Around here that often involves skunks - I seem to attract them - it has gotten to be a bit of a joke. If I don't attract a skunk or sit on my glasses - well then it's just not been a good evening of observing. Keeping observing reports helps me remember what I’ve seen, lets me see how my observing style/skills have changed, and records the unexpected things that happen when one sets out into the night. I an lucky and observe with many instruments ranging from 50mm binoculars to a 20" reflecting telescope.
The Club I'm in - The Ohio Valley Astronomical Society
Why not visit Sky and Telescopes Web site. Their resources section features an astronomical directory to find Events and clubs in your area! Just follow this link. Sky and telescope magazines astronomy club finder
Web based satellite locator Use this site to find out when satellites, space stations and Shuttles are visible.
If you like to look at objects outside of our solar system like I do, you want to get away from city lights to a dark part of the country. We (Jeff, Larry, Dave, Don and me) have spent a lot of time trying to find good sites in our area. Many of these sites are not well marked. Most are on public land and some are on private land. Regardless of which, if you use our sites then please treat them, their owners and us with respect. Directions to the sites that OVAS uses are found on the OVAS directions page, the dark sky sites are on the bottom 1/2 of the page.
To Find a good dark sky observing site near you by taking this link to Phil Harrington’s Dark Sky site locator. Got a site to share? Go here and let Phil know about it.
I like Deep Space objects so these sites are biased in this regard. Visit Sky and Telescope's observing page if you want to see what is up with regards to: the moon, the planets, the planets moons, comets, meteor showers, and asteroids. For information pertaining to Aurora, solar activity or meteor showers visit Space weather "dot com".
I recently discovered the Observing list generator at the NGC/IC project site. This web based program lets you search for deep space objects by constellation. You can search for all types of DSO’s or you can specify a specific type of DSO (ex: galaxy) to search for. You can specify limiting magnitudes. It’s free. The observing list generator is located at this link. It searches the NGC and IC catalogs.
This link goes to his seasonal selections of observing targets. This is presented in the form of a star chart. There are links at the bottom of the page for each season that go to his observing notes and his eyepiece sketches. (This makes my observing notes seem pathetic by comparison – I’m not worthy.) His site was picked as a "top 7 personal astronomy web sites" by Sky and Telescope. I agree!
Another S&T "top 7" pick, his site has graphical icons on a bar across the top of the page. Pick one say galaxies. You see a 4 column display. On the right click on a month, say January, and the site displays his picks for what is visible that month – with pictures – with comments of what type of telescope you’d need to see it – It’s home constellation, etc. You can click on the pictures for a better look – and it seems as though he’s planning on associating finder charts with each image (seems to be a work in progress). Oh, I am not worthy. No clunky 1 or 2 line print outs like in the IC/NCG observing list generator (which are more useful in the field), this is a graphics rich site that takes advantage of all the web has to offer to produce lists that are beautiful to behold. Highly recommended for the New to intermediate astronomer for object selection. Highly recommend to all for its glorious interface. (And above all references to both 20001 A Space Odyssey and Star Wars. If only the site was constructed from Krell Steel.) This site is "bonzer".
This is the link to the RASC lists . These are derived in part by Alan Dyer. The are intended as targets for those who’ve seen all 110 Messier objects. These are to objects chosen by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. With a name that classy, the objects have to be good! "Eh!"
Every month the the Sky Hound lists 5 targets (deep space objects - nebula , star clusters and the like) in the "in the eyepiece" section of his site. He also makes Sky Tools Observing Planning software, either can be found on his site. In addition he updates a list of naked eye visible and telescopically visible comets.
I'd just like to say that I spend more time working on the OVAS web site then my own site so there are more links there (on the OVAS links page) then here and these links may be old. If you find a "dead" link, E-mail me to let me know. If you know the new URL, so much the better!
The Hawaiian Astronomical Society
I think that this is a great site. There are pictures of many different objects, stories of the constellations, and much much more. If you have a fast connection and want to see the sights, this is as good a place as any. Much info. is to be garnered here.
The Ohio Valley Astronomical Society’s Web Page.
This is our local astronomy club’s web site. We Usually meet on the second Saturday of the Month in Larry Oyster’s Physics classroom at Huntington High School (5 PM winter or 7 PM summer). We observe at the Donald C. Martin Observatory after OVAS meetings on the second Saturday of every month except when its cloudy or raining or snowing … This winter the PUBLIC STAR GAZES are at 8:30 PM, but things change so check the details on the OVAS web site. The observatory is located on the right hand side of the road that leads up to Huntington High, about ¾ of the way to the school. More info on this is found further up this page. If you want to see Astronomy Pictures taken by our club members then by all means, do so.
These are sites of various amateur astronomers that I found of interest.
Adventures in Deep Space
This is full of challenging targets for the keen eyed observer with a monster scope.
The Planetary Nebula Observers page
Looking for small faint fuzzies to chase? You know, a large aperture telescope can get you hooked on planetary nebulae.
Bert’s Visual deep sky page
Dated. But talks about observing with a 6" Dob, which I think is a great starter scope. Not to big. Not to heavy. Enough light grasp to look at the deep sky (out side of our solar system). Not too expensive. Forgiving focal ratio on mirror makes introduction to collimation (aligning your telescopes two mirrors with the eyepiece) a little easier
Ed Ting’s Scope Reviews Site
Ed has reviewed many telescopes of all different types. His reviews are informative and often entertaining as well. He talks about telescopes, eyepieces, and other telescope related accessories.
Todd Gross’s page
Todd Gross is a weatherman. He also has reviewed many products. Many links here.
The Small Dob Web Site
This site is dedicated to Dobs in the 6-10" range. Some of my Observing reports with my 10" f5.6 Discovery Telescopes Dob reside here. When I first got into deep sky observing I spent many cloudy nights reading other peoples observing reports. This is a place to learn what you can see with the economical 6" to 10" Dobsonian telescope. Some say that the 6" dob is the "ideal' starter scope.
Jeff Ball’s Astrophotography web site
This is the site of one of my observing buddies. He posts his pictures here. In the past he worked with a 10" Meade LX 200, now he uses a 130mm Astrophysics refractor. I think that he does a nice job. Follow this link to see the glory of the heavens.
Ah, the 10" f5.6, this was my first real telescope with any aperture (light grasp). It is well made, rugged (it’s made cub scout tough), well blacked on the inside, yet came poorly documented. However a good mirror is the key to a reflecting telescope and they made me a good one. They keep expanding their product line.
The 20" f5.0 is a great scope. A friend compareed it to the microscope that he uses for brain surgery in the "OR" for ease of use.. If you want to see the universe, an Obsession will let you. Its well named, well made, looks great, has smooth fluid movements and is worth the weight (uh … wait … pun intended). The makers of large mirrors all appear to be back ordered by 6 - 12 months. Visit the web site, get the video, buy the telescope, see the Universe. But a warning, this is not a device for quick observing sessions but is excellent for those who wish to savor the sky yet lack the patience for long term astrophotography. The views of DSO’s from a darks sky site are amazing! Get a big dob and see what you’ve been missing. It’s a big universe, see more of it! Remember, when traveling light years, it’s best to go first class. I must warn you that it is heavy and a "beast" to set up. Dave K says 10 min set up but that is "BS". By the time you add a finder scope, dew heaters, equatorial platform, collimate the mirrors, and align the finders it is 30-60 min. Want a smaller system get his 15". It is the size of a 12.5" with 2x the light input! Want the most convenient for size? Get an 18". Most bang for buck? get a 20". Want more color/light? get a 25". 'nuff said.
This is a device which allows your dobsonian mounted telescope to track the earth’s rotation. It makes high power viewing a pleasure. With my 10" Dob the movements were a little stiff and viewing at 250 power or more was a pain. If you get a platform and align it well to celestial north and spend time adjusting the tracking speed it make for most enjoyable viewing at high power. This is a boon when Observing Saturn at 406x. It is also great at a star party or public star gaze. If the scope is tracking well and doesn’t get bumped, it allows me to stand around and talk rather than trying to constantly recenter the object. I believe that the Dobsonian mounted telescope on an equatorial platform is the easiest type of telescope to use (that is if you don’t need a computer to find the object for you). I have a compact platform for my 10". Tom O. does good work.
Howie Glatter’s Laser Collimator Page
This guy makes laser collimators in the bronx. They have to be tough. Enough said.
William Ferris and Richard Bartlett’s sites have links up the page. In the observing planning section. Both are exceptional. Take either this internal link to hop up the page to that section or take these direct links. William Ferris’s Cosmic Voyage. This is an excellent site that is packed full of information for the beginner and experienced astronomer alike. I like his section on Collimation. Richard Bartlett’s Starlore is an excellent site. If you want to see how I gush about it, take the internal link .
Eric Honeycutt’s page
A nice site from a deep sky observer who uses a Starmaster 22". There is a bit of Ford verses Chevy between Obsession and Starmaster owners, but look past this. All in all a nice site.
Jeff Bondono’s page A bit dated. But many, many links.
Mel Bartel’s page A serious and very technically minded guy. Into making and motorizing large telescopes.
Ray Cash’s page A deep sky observer who likes faint galaxies.
Frank Dubois’s page Another solar observer.
Steve Rismiller’s page Photographs of the sun. A solar observer.
Back or visit the OVAS links page