Saturday, February 11, 2017

Feb. 10 and 11, 2017

It's a milestone day!  My first true astro post...

Feb. 10 brought a penumbral lunar eclipse at moonrise.  Since my eastern horizon is rather blocked by tall trees, I waited until I could see the moon well enough to see if the Earth's shadow was visible. Unfortunately, I couldn't see any chance in lunar brightness from the time I began watching and the time the eclipse was predicted to end, which was around 6:45 pm.  But in my defense, I have old eyes and the moon was very bright.

Several hours later, I grabbed the binoculars and went outside to look for Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková.  I had a good idea of where the comet would reside in Hercules and went to the south side of a storage shed on the property where I live.  I tucked myself into the slim shadow of the building and scanned the area below the keystone.  I didn't see 45P, nor did I see anything which looked greenish to my eye.

Once again, the bright moon interfered with what I wanted to do.

I did briefly consider bringing out the camera and tripod, but it would have been difficult to set the tripod in a spot I could frame the image based on several factors...the moonlight, the snow still on the ground and the proximity of the building to about the only place I could setup.

Snow depth is falling finally, and should open my regular observing area soon.  I don't have great sky views here, but I do have a north-northwest to east view of the night sky, and a sliver of a southern sky.  But I do have a nice view above me.

Not sure when my next update will occur, but I do want to give the ETX-125 a maiden voyage.  I spent a few hours this afternoon mating my Lenovo laptop with both the Meade scopes.  I had to order another USB-to-Serial adapter and it arrived in today's mail.  After loading the drivers for the adapter, I made all the connections and was able to control the scopes from the computer on most of the astro programs I have on the computer.  I didn't test the setup on all of them, as I will only be using the Meade Autostar Suite program and C2A to control the scopes.

Well, that is all for today.  Clear skies and no moon, y'all!

The Beginning

What is Ashrunner's Skies?

The simple answer is that it is an astronomy blog I have started.

The not-so-simple answer is that it is a blog where I will talk about my adventures in Astronomy.

I know there are probably thousands of astronomy blogs on the internet...and the majority will be better than this blog for the most part.

I started this blog as a way to keep me interested in what I see in the night skies.  When there isn't a lot of snow on the ground and the temperature is above 20F and I have nothing better to do, I will be outside watching the night sky, photographing meteors in the night sky, or peering through a telescope at the night sky.

I have always loved the night sky.  When I was 14 or 15 (give me a break...I'm 65 now), I developed an interest in astronomy.  For Christmas that year, Santa brought me a 6 inch reflecting telescope on a German equatorial mount.  As soon as I could, I dragged the scope to my backyard in south suburban Chicago and looked through the eyepiece.  I didn't point the scope anywhere in particular, I just pointed it up at the sky.  When I looked through the eyepiece, I was amazed that I was seeing a lot more stars than I could see with my eyes alone.  I was hooked.

A year or so later, my father read about a public star party at an address near where we lived.  On the night of the star party, he dropped me off and began to mingle with the gathering people.  I learned a lot of interesting things that night, looked through some really good telescopes and met a number of people who would become good friends.

The star party that evening was hosted by the Lowell Astronomical Society of Burbank, Ill.  One of the people I met was president of the society and he invited me to join...and I did.  I remained a member of the society until I joined the U.S. Air Force.  I stayed in the Air Force for more than 20 years and although my interest in astronomy remained, I never had a telescope...binoculars...yes, but no telescope.  Even after I retired, I couldn't afford a decent telescope (my 6 inch reflector disappeared four or five years after I entered the military).

But that as all changed.  After retiring from the military, I began nature photography.  I don't make a living at it, but through time and the assistance of a friend, I have acquired a good camera and several excellent lenses.  I have used the camera mostly to photograph the sky during meteor showers, but I will also occasionally photograph a random part of the sky hoping for a beautiful sporadic meteor.

Along with the camera (it is a Canon EOS DSLR) I have two telescopes.  Both are small scopes, but are of excellent quality.  One is the Meade ETX-80 Observer, an 80 mm f/5 refractor telescope.  I have owned this scope for about two years and have used it to view the moon, Jupiter, Saturn and Venus mostly.  I have also looked at the Pleiades star cluster and the nearby Beehive cluster.  Both are beautiful sights in the fast f/5 scope.

Most recently, I took delivery of another telescope...the Meade ETX-125 Observer which is a 127 mm f/15 Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope.  I have yet to view anything through it as the night sky has not cooperated since the scope arrived on my doorstep.  If the optics on the new scope are as good as those on the ETX-80, I'll be very happy.

I also have several cameras which connect to my telescopes.  I hope to be doing some astrophotography in the coming days.  And as I learn the trade, I'll post to this blog for those who read Ashrunner's Skies.

Stay tuned for clear skies!