Posts from June 2006

  • A Night Under The Stars

    It’s hard to believe tonight was the first night I’ve gone on an observing session since we moved into the house (and, in fact, probably long before…). Of course, I’ve taken the scope out to view the moon, or the odd planet, but those events hardly count. And with beautifully clear skies (albeit quite bright) and wonderful weather, I could hardly pass up such a wonderful opportunity.

    Of course, with Jupiter currently big and bright in the sky, it goes without saying that I started there. The Galilean Moons put on an lovely show tonight, with Calisto and Europa to one side, and Io and Ganymede to the other, forming a nice chain with the planet in the center. As for Jupiter itself, tonight had to be the finest seeing I’ve had of the gas giant, allowing me to view the atmospheric banding clearly. This, by itself, was worth the effort to lug my scope outside.

    With my appetite whetted, I decided to split one of the most famous multiple star systems in the sky: Mizar. This star forms the bend in the handle of the Big Dipper, and in a dark sky, it’s 4th magnitude companion Alcor can be seen with a good unaided eye. In my 4” scope, Mizar itself was easily split into it’s two components, Mizar A and the 4th magnitude Mizar B, forming a nice pairing. I just can’t believe I’ve never observed it before, or that it’s the first double I’ve split. Very lovely.

    Next, I decided to move on to some deep sky objects. Now, because of our northern latitude, and the fact that I chose to observe just a few days after the solstice, the sky is quite bright. As such, I chose the Hercules Cluster, aka M13, as my next target. This bright (magnitude 4.5) globular cluster is very prominent in the northern sky, which makes it all the more surprising that I hadn’t observed it before. In my eyepiece, it forms a surprisingly bright, fuzzy blob with ill-defined edges. Of course, my telescope isn’t powerful enough to resolve any member stars, but it’s still an impressive object to observe. Especially when one realizes it’s composed of several 100,000 stars…

    Lastly, with one deep sky object under my belt, I decided to go for another. This time, M39. This open cluster near Cygnus is remarkably large, easily filling my wide field, low mag eyepiece. It’s quite pretty, with many stars of varying brightness. A lovely object to observe.

    So, with that, my observing session was complete. However, I was given one last treat. Far off in the northern sky, high altitude clouds were reflecting light from the sun, which never really sets at this time of year. But, rather than red or orange, as is typical, these clouds appeared a ghostly blue. The resulting pattern looked like light refracting through a pool of water. Absolutely beautiful.

    As an aside, tonight was also the first night I had the opportunity to use my Palm for observing purposes. I gave Planetarium a whirl, and I gotta say, it was excellent! Having an easy-to-read starchart in my pocket is incredibly convenient, and with Night Mode, I can read the chart without needing a filtered flashlight. Fantastic! This is definitely a program I’m going to purchase.

  • The Deck is Done!

    Well, sort of. There’s still plenty of work to do, like installing railings, stairs, evening out edges, installing facia, and other such things, but the bulk of the work (framing and decking) is complete!

    Now, it’s been a while since my last update, and some people are really interested in seeing some pictures. So, I thought it about time to post a few shots of my work. First off, I have a couple photos showing the completed framing:

    As you can see, it turned out pretty well (thought not perfect… the right-most joist on the upper deck isn’t quite square with the rest of the frame). Truth be told, I think framing was the most enjoyable part. It’s not terribly tedious, but it really gives you a feel for what the final outcome is going to be like.

    Speaking of which, second, I have a couple shots of the completed deck. The first is an attempted overhead panorama. Unfortunately, the image is a bit warped, but it gives you a decent look at the final product:

    And lastly, an elevation shot, showing the deck in profile against the house:

    Not too bad, eh? Again, there are a few warts that I, having built the thing, are probably more likely to notice, and only one semi-major thing: it appears the lower deck shifted forward a bit during construction, and so the front beam and posts are leaning forward slightly:

    I suspect this is minor, so I’m not terribly worried about it, but worst case I can unscrew the joists, lift the deck (which isn’t has hard as you’d think), push the beam back, and rescrew.

    So there you have it! ‘course, now we need to find a way to actually use the 250+ square feet of deck we now have…