The Spyglass Network (SGN)

The Spyglass Network (SGN)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Look At All Of Them - A Short Story

‘Which do you like better, your planetarium, or your telescope?’

My Sis had asked the question peering into my eyes, and as usual I had no answer at hand.
‘I like them both’ ,said I, but she had a ready rebuttal। ‘The problem is‘, she intoned, ‘you can’t use them both at the same time, so one is always sitting!’ Somewhat taken aback by this revelation, without thinking I retorted, ‘oh yes I can, and I’ll show you!’ So eager was I to come up with some way on the spot to use them both, I dragged my little scope under the planetarium dome and switched on my ancient Spitz A2. Stars immediately sprang to life on the dome. But Sis was unimpressed. ‘I like your stars’ , stated she, ‘but your telescope is useless in here.’ ‘Oh no its not!’ , said I, and I swung it around and pointed it

toward a blank spot on the dome, off the tail of Leo, which was gleaming in the Spitz projected spring sky। ‘Just look in here, young lady!’ I said, realizing I had no plan, no way of winning the argument। I’d been stalling for time, and time was almost up I thought ruefully, as my sister bent down and peered into the eyepiece of my tiny spyglass, pointed toward the Realm of the Galaxies, or where it was in the real night sky। She murmured something and played with the focus a minute। And let out a gasp! ‘Look at them! Look at ALL of them!’ , she whispered, and I was afraid she’d gone too far this time, playing me for a fool, leading me on, calling my bluff। Nudging her aside though, I was startled to see, swimming in the eyepiece, innumerable faint wispy spiral pinwheels, gauzy lights in a dark blacker than ebony॥ Convinced she had been wrong, Sis kissed me on the cheek (which I hated) and simply said, ‘OK, you CAN use your telescope in the planetarium’, and out the door she went। I turned back to the eyepiece to look again, but whatever we had both seen was gone - now I saw only the smooth dome surface with a few projected out of focus stars। Dumbfounded, I spent several more minutes staring at the old Spitz projector, silently beaming out a thousand or more stars। Many years have passed since this occurrence under the dome, and it has never been repeated। But I smile to myself when I think back on it, especially when on that night long ago, just before I shut off the Spitz’s light - I will never be sure, it may have just been a momentary power interruption ॥

But I had the distinct impression that just for a split second, the old projector had winked at me …॥

Monday, January 23, 2012

Why I Like Small Scopes by Roger W. Gordon

My first telescope at age 11 in 1952 was a small 30x40 spotting scope, and like many budding amateurs I dreamed of owning a larger one. In 1956 I got a 2.4" refractor just in time for the Mars opposition, but it wasnt long until I wanted an even larger scope. In 1961, I got a 4" Unitron, and 1962 added a 6" Criterion reflector. Marriage occured in 1963, and our first home in 65. In that year I also obtained an 8" F7.5 reflector, and that is when my quest for alarger scopes came to a halt. It weighed over 160 lbs and thermal currents often ruined the images. A chore to set up and take down, I gradually lost interest in it and slowly started losing interest in the hobby.

A friend of mine in our club who worked for Questar came up and showed me his instrument. I marvelled at how much detail it showed, and in 66 I sold the 8" and bought a Questar. After that I gradually added more scopes, but never more than 6" aperture. As of today, I've owned more than 50 scopes, refractors, reflectors, and catadioptrics. Presently I have 16 scopes, all ranging from 2 to 4.5 inches aperture. They take up far less space than one or two large scopes, are easy to set up and use, have good to exclennet optics, and are less affected by seeing problems. Pennsylvania is not known for Arizona type skies either in clarity or steadiness. I enjoy using these scopes and sometimes have 2 or 3 set up at once for comparison.

I collect telescopes now. I look for older classic optics rather thannewer equipment. I have no wish or need to duplicate instruments already in proflific existence. I'm not a crowd follower. Almost all my scopes are altazimuth, and several have no slow motions. Only one, a 3.5" Questar, has a clock drive. I will never own a telescope that has computers or other modern electronics attached to it. I'm a visual observer because eyeball astronomy is first source information. CCDs and video photos are secondary source information. If I want secondary source info I'll open a magazine or buy a book etc. When I'm at the scope, I want the images being interpreted by my eye/brain system, and if I want to record what I see, I'll draw it. I prefer instruments that have a history behind them, not some flashy piece of often overpriced underperforming junk.

Small scopes are not only more efficient in reaching theoretical resolution on a greater number of nights than larger ones, their guide setup time means more observing time and less setup/take down time. And small scopes, if of excellent optical quality, often outperform their larger brethren on mediocre seeing nights when used on the moon and planets. Another aspect of observign with small scopes I particuarly enjoy is proving the authorities wrong on various test objects - that is, seein them with less than the minimum aperture often quoted as necessary. Manufacturers often dont like to sell small scopes because they dont make as much profit on them. Consequently, small apertures are often downplayed to make more profit or higher comessions. Small scopes are also often downplayed for use in deep sky observing, but a look at the drawing doen by John Massas with a 4" f/14 refractor in The Messier Album (Mallas and Kreimer) will show more stars per field than will larger apertures due to the much wider field they cover. The same is true for certain wide angle binoculars.

Small scope sprovide enjoyment far out of proportion to their aperture. Going from naked eye to a 3" scope is a huge gain in what one can see. To obtain a comparable gain, one would have to go from a 3" to a 50" scope. One final thing about small scopes - remember the old saying. Good things come in small packages!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Season of Miracles by Terry Hauan

From 'Quarter Century', SGN Issue 25

What is a miracle? Webster says its an event or effect in the physical world beyond or out of the ordinary course of things... or an abnormal event brought about by a superhuman agency as a manifestation of its power. If we use that definition, then we are surrounded with a multitude of celestial objects and events that qualify as miraculous by almost any standards. We find for example a vast primeval universe of stars, preserved in their original colorand stare as they were millions of years ago. Why did they not decay back into the void? Why did their original color tones contain a rainbow of colors? Perhaps it is a miracle! And today, the starry universe stands as a natural wonder of that time period too long ago for most of us to comprehend.

Looking elsewhere in the starry universe, we see unusual galaxies and nebula which have required billions of years of evolution. Most notable perhaps is the Great Andromeda Galaxy. Armies of galaxies march proudly across seemingly endless space. Here too is a miracle, for the galaxies are unique to our eye. Two thousand years ago, while Jesus of Nazareth roamed the desert lands of the Mediterranean, the Anasazi Indians built still standing observatories and began a peaceful observing tradition that, in the face of modern technology, poignantly reveals the value of man working in harmony with the universe. And when one stands at the edge of a nebula, a starry nighttime miracle, and contemplates the universe and man, it is a humbling experience. Thus, the Christmas season just passed on Earth has special meaning to us. It is a time to pause and reflect upon the mysteries that surround us. It is the season of miracles.

I would wish that you might ponder these words as only my latest ongoing effort to understand the makeup of our universe and of all its marvelous occupants.

Too Long in the Planetarium

There is a condition that I have run into - it needs a name. It has no name however, but it goes like this .. I created my own stars in my planetarium. Several times in fact. A self contained celestial sphere, I've pointed it this way and that, I've lensed Orion, I've lassoed the Milky Way. I've immersed myself in different ways to project it, to accompany it with legends and music and backgrounds .. I've built skies of varying shapes and sizes. After one long day finishing up my latest planetarium one autumn night not too long ago, as I walked into the house, I glanced up. UP .. UP OUTSIDE .. what a concept What are those things up beyond my yard light I mused .. why, they are stars. The real stars. Had I forgotten them? To be honest, I had forgotten them. Given up on them. Used light pollution as an excuse, or cold, or old age. I had stopped long ago looking up. I had hit a wall in amateur astronomy (more on that later) and retreated inside, where everything was more under control. It hadnt always been this way. Once I avidly read astronomy magazines, networked with people and their telescopes. I never got anything big, always had a spyglass as I called it, but I knew how big the real heavens were. On that night last fall, I remember thinking just for a second - that Big Dippers all wrong - its too big . Then I caught myself. Like the guy in the movie Armageddon I had to remind myself - if you'll pardon the expression - its a bigass sky.Way bigger than I was giving it credit for. In other words, the universe had begun to revolve around ME. And that was wrong. Was I playing God in my own little theater? I hope not, I was hoping to teach and inspire. But I was forgetting my roots. I was forgetting the reason I was projecting stars in the first place. One might put it this way .. its the stars, stoopid. The real ones. So I found a weird little short focus refractor, the way I like to find things. Cheap! And I put in that old 16mm Konig eyepiece from University Optics, and I went out and saw that it was good. It was still good. So Ive been missing half the equation seemingly. A friend had even sent me a slide rule - maybe he was telling me something .. I needed to recalculate my trajectory a bit . Why not?

Two Years Later!

Conditions have finally alligned allowing a modest relaunch of SGN. No hurry!