Hello all… Welcome to my second Stargazing Report. Before I share a cool new astronomical story, I want to thank everyone for the great responses and e-mails after my first post on seeing galaxies. A slew of people emailed me with questions and comments, and a handful of tattooers contacted me saying they were interested in getting their own telescopes! That’s so COOL! You won’t regret it. This hobby blows my mind like nothing else and it’s great fun to share. (*Soon I may post a blog about my recent adventure with some friends at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk during the May 20th Annular Solar Eclipse where we observed what’s known as a “Ring of Fire”! We passed out solar glasses and allowed more than 200 people to see this magnificent solar event with us!)…
*And don’t forget that Venus transits the face of the sun at sunset on June 5th, an event which will not happen again until the year 2117!
A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a local fella recently retired from Delta Airlines who was moving to Florida by the end of the month. He was offering precisely the model of telescope I had been eyeballing at a very reasonable price, (since he didn’t have to pack and ship the item cross-country!). Having just sold a piece of art from my collection, I made immediate contact with the seller and drove out to see the scope and learn something about computer driven optics, fearing it was going to be too complicated for me to operate. Dick set up the scope and ran me through all the basics, giving me several hours of his time before ever even discussing the purchase price. What a super dude. (Thanks, Dick!). The next day I returned to negotiate the sale and left with not only the amazing Meade Lx200GPS 12″ telescope, but a truck-full of other gear thrown in for FREE.
The first week of owning the Lx200 offered little opportunity to set up and experiment due to overcast and stormy evenings, plus I was never able to properly align the telescope even once, (since I do not have a clear line of sight to Polaris, the north star, which would enable the onboard computer to do a virtually automatic alignment every night; I’m not so lucky!), but I was still able to observe the Moon, Mars and Saturn nearly 40%(!!) larger/clearer than through my older scope! (*NOTE: the 12″ Lx200 scope is 20% larger than the 10″ Dobsonian, so it gathers 40% MORE light! [Because of the Inverse Square Law]. Read why HERE.)
The next week I was out of town at an integral theory ThinkTank. In the interim I have been learning some set-up and observing tips from another amateur astronomer/tattooer, Markus Lenhard, who responded to my first stargazing post and has been a great help! (I hope we’ll have an astronomy post from him soon too.)
Since returning I have successfully aligned and operated the telescope on 2 of 3 attempts. It’s a complicated piece of human engineering and programming to learn, but once the alignment system is on point, it’s a marvel to behold! just select an object from the handheld controller and hit “Goto”; the telescope automatically slews to the object. And it also tracks the object as the Earth rotates, so no more having to tilt and swing the Dobsonian scope in order to keep an object in the eyepiece!
Because of its apparent visual magnitude I’ll show you one of my new favorite objects, M3: a globular cluster of over 500,000 stars located about 33,000 light years away from us. It’s approximately 180 light years in diameter…and absolutely spectacular to look at with my new scope! Breathtaking.
That’s it for this stargazing report!
PS: We’re working on locating a fellow astronomer (from the Orange County Astronomy Club) willing to bring a telescope to the Queen Mary for the Ink-N-Iron convention this coming weekend! Stop by the TAM booth to see if we found a solution and for viewing times on Friday or Saturday night. We’ll blow your minds! See ‘ya there!
NEW Stargazing Records:
*M104 Sombrero Gal, visual magnitude of 8.0, 29mly (million lightyears away)
M64 Black eye galaxy, 8.5, 24mly
M51 Whirlpool galaxy, 8.3, 27mly
*NGC6543 Cats eye nebula, 8.1, 3200ly
*M57, Ring Neb, 8.8, 1400ly
5/25/12: cord unplugged multiple times (FIX THIS!)
5/26/12: (**2star alignment process!!)
M63 sunflower galaxy, 8.6, 34mly
M64 Black eye galaxy, 8.5, 24mly
*M51 Whirlpool, 8.3, 27mly
M101 Pinwheel galaxy, 9.8, 22mly
*M53 Glob. Cluster, mag 7.6, 58kly
*M3 Glob, 6.9, 33kly
M102 Spindle Galaxy, 9.89, 48mly
NEXT on my list:
M81, 82 Bode’s Neb, 6.9, 12mly
M44, beehive cl, 3.09, 610ly