Tuesday, January 15, 2008

New Astronomy Equipment Means Cloudy Skies

It's that time again... time when budding and experienced astronomers alike have a bunch of new equipment that they're dying to test out. This time, however, corresponds directly with the time when skies are most likely to be cloudy... winter.

If you're like me, you have recently acquired some new astronomy equipment. Be it a telescope, eyepiece, filter, camera, or other such attachment. You're dying to get out and see what it can do under the darkest of skies. Winter, in some respects, is an ideal time to observe. It gets dark really early and stays dark until mid morning. However, a number of things need to line up before you can take advantage of this long dark spell. First and foremost, skies are far more likely to be cloudy in the winter than they are in the summer... or any other time of year for that matter. Secondly, even when skies are clear, this tends to lead to winters second draw back... its just plain cold in the winter. Sometimes, really cold.

So, what's an astronomer to do? Well, rest up :) Seriously. I've missed a couple of the few clear nights because I was simply too tired to head outside for the evening. You definitely want to make sure that this happens as rarely as possible. Additionally, update your list of online resources :) Sometimes, we need to get our astro-fix vicariously. Skies are always clear... somewhere. Someone is always feeling well rested and able to get out. Following is a list of a handful of sites that I like to visit whenever I need to have the itch scratched:
Astronomy Picture of The Day
Gemini Observatory
Robert Gendler
Al Kelly
Another thing you might want to do is become active in your community's planning process. Light pollution is spreading rapidly and there are fewer and fewer dark sky locations to be found. Some people have to drive more than a day to get under truly dark skies. This is simply unacceptable. Checkout www.TheLightingPolice.com for some truly bad examples of outdoor lighting. The Lighting Police are working to reduce light pollution one bad installation at a time. If astronomers won't work to protect our night skies, who will?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Astrophotography Resource

Just came across a cool new site devoted to astrophotography. Entitled, "Adventures in Astrophotography", the site takes you through one man's quest to become a real live astrophotographer. If you've ever taken images of the night sky, you know that this is not trivial. Low light levels and moving targets are not imaging targets for the faint of heart.

Here's an example of a pair of faint galaxies swiped from the site (it's ok, i'm providing a link)

Anyway, check out this great astrophotography resource (www.AdventuresInAstrophotography.com) when you can.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


MoonriseThis morning provided what just may have been the most spectacular moonrise of all time.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Meteors, Comets and Deep Sky Treasure

This weekend marked the peak of the annual Orionid Meteor Shower... and what a peak it was. Timed to coincide with the October new moon, weekend skies were crisp and clear. Checkout this sweet shot by Brian Jolley. He's got an Orionid meteor streaking directly beneath Comet Swan. Wow!
Along with these solar system visitors were a large number of deep sky treats. The Hercules Star Cluster, The Ring Nebula, The Eskimo Nebula, etc. It was an absolutely wonderful night under the stars. And... to top things off, instead of camping, we ended up crashing at a friends very cushy "cabin". Thanks Tom!

Monday, September 18, 2006

More Great Astronomy Resources

I came across the Von Braun Astronomical Society website the other day. They have a ton of really good astronomy resources on their site. I really like the way groups link to each other to provide users with an incredible array of resources all within a site. This group goes back to the mid-1950s when a local high school student made contact with Wernher von Braun. He formed the society and received significant input from von Braun and his colleagues. More information about the group can be found online at www.vbas.org

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Meteor Shower Peaks Friday Morning

The annual Delta Aquarid Meteor Shower peaks in the wee hours this coming Friday morning. Skywatchers under clear, dark skies can see as many as 10-15 meteors per hour. Checkout Spaceweather.com for more details.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Astronomy Blogs

I've had the good fortune to stumble upon some high quality astronomy blogs lately. Its just amazing the number of folks who are passionate about astronomy. I think it is one of the coolest things you can do... setup on a clear night under some seriously dark skies. I just think its great to find some other like minded individuals out there.
On the Astronomy News side of the house, there is Tom's Astro Blog (www.tomsastroblog.com). Almost like clock work, Tom manages to find something truly interesting to write about. Observing events, Hubble Space Telescope discoveries, you name it. Tom seems to really be dialed in on these kinds of things. He recently wrote an article about light pollution. That's certainly a topic that readers of this site are familiar with. He covered the waste, the loss of the night sky, and all the usual stuff. What I enjoyed most, was the solutions that he offered. You can now buy outdoor lighting from a great new company, Starry Night Lights. This company sells nothing but ordinance compliant, night sky friendly outdoor lighting products. What a concept, huh? Put the light on the ground where its needed... and nowhere else. Duh! How'd we miss that one for 5 decades?
Another very cool astronomy blog is called The HobbySpace (www.hobbyspace.com). Here, you'll find a wide variety of astronomy related news, events and information. I think their tag line is very cool.... "Space For All". No doubt... the greatest outdoors. Kind of like the universe is your backyard.
Anyway.. when you get a moment.. be sure to pay a visit to these guys... I'm sure you'll bookmark them and check in regularly.