Recent Posts

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Cool deal see you out there. Iím planning on being there by sunset to get in some moon and Jupiter observing.

Wolf
2
Regarding the weather forecast for tonight's Special Summer Saturn Observing event out at the Celery Fields, it appears that we'll likely have a lot of high, thin clouds - - but the odds of actually getting rained out are pretty slim.

Obviously, I'd much rather be able to tell you that there's a 100% chance of crystal-clear skies, dry air and temps in the low 70s, but this is the summer and those are few and far between here in Florida!

Unless something changes between now and late this afternoon, our event is a "go." And hopefully, we'll have a few really nice clear "holes" through which to observe tonight!

The event details, in case you missed them earlier:

Although Sidewalk Astronomy is currently on "summer hiatus" until September, I am pleased to announce that the Local Group of Deep Sky Observers will set up telescopes for a SPECIAL SATURN OBSERVING EVENT at the Celery Fields (6893 Palmer Blvd) in Sarasota on Saturday, June 23rd from 10:00 p.m. until midnight.
3
Although Sidewalk Astronomy is currently on "summer hiatus" until September, I am pleased to announce that the Local Group of Deep Sky Observers will set up telescopes for a

SPECIAL SATURN OBSERVING EVENT
at the
Celery Fields (6893 Palmer Blvd) in Sarasota on
Saturday, June 23rd
from 10:00 p.m. until midnight.


Due to Saturn's 29-year-long orbital period (that's how long it takes to make one trip around the Sun), we are now in the midst of a several-year span where the best viewing of the ringed planet is taking place during the summer months--when we don't offer public events.

This year, the best views of Saturn will occur in late June... so rather than let the opportunity to pass by, we're going to cross our fingers for clear skies and focus our equipment on this spectacular celestial body!

And as with all "Sidewalk Astronomy" events, it's FREE and weather-permitting.

But unlike our regular events, we are offering a "rain date." In case of inclement weather on June 23rd, the Saturn Observing Event will be held on Saturday, June 30th. (Also from 10:00 p.m. until midnight.)

Hope to see you out there!
4
Getting back to our topic, a word about portability and it's arch enemy, aperture fever. This is a very dangerous disease. It also can lead directly to dust collecting.

For many years I had been using an 11" SCT which strained the upper limits of portability for me. Finally as I hit my mid '60's that was that, and I moved back down to an 8" SCT which is ideal for me now. But OH how I miss those views from the 11". So please beware. If you do go overboard with aperture fever it is very hard to ever go back.
5
Thank you for the vote of confidence, Ed!   :D

I was pretty sure I could make really good money (or at least... decent money, quickly!) selling those scopes, but knowing what I knew, I couldn't look at myself in the mirror if I did! 
6
Hi Jonathan:
It was around that time they were parting ways with Galileo and Michael Whittmeyer. He was the guy with the long white hair and was fabulous on TV, but his products leaved much to be desired. He sold millions of $$$ worth of telescopes. The numbers were mind boggling.

You would have been excellent on air but it's hard to sell that crap when you understand how these things work. Whittmeyer was a marketing guy. I doubt he ever looked through one of his telescopes.
7
You mentioned the cheap refractors and reflectors which brings to mind something that really ground my gears one night. QVC had astronomy hour and they were pushing Galileo brand telescopes. 3" refractor and 4.5" reflector, about the same quality as the old Tascos. Then they were showng pictures taken by HST and telling people this is what they can see.  >:( Talk about false advertising and a lot of disappointed people at Christmas.

I've been suggesting scopes to people for close to 40 years now and though the options have expanded quite a bit, my basic advice has remained the same: get as much aperture as you can comfortably handle (and afford!), and assuming that you don't have lots of experience with telescope electronics, stick to a simple Alt-Az mounted scope that can be set up in seconds - - and couple it with a decent planetarium app or hard-copy celestial atlas.

It's funny that Wolf mentioned QVC (quoted above). Around 15 years or so ago, Home Shopping Network approached me about being their on-air sales-dude for a line of telescopes they were getting ready to roll out. They took me to lunch to get a feel for my personality, and gave me a bunch of equipment brochures to take home so I could brush up on all the details in advance of going on. (This wouldn't have been a full-time gig. More like a few hour-long shifts each month.)

Anyway, I took all the glossy brochures with their pretty Hubble pictures of planets and deep-sky objects home with me and realized that there was no way on Earth I could in good conscience, "talk nice" about this equipment!

Like Wolf said, what they offered was essentially inexpensive, potentially-wobbly garbage. I called up my contact at HSN and explained that unless they sold something I could stand behind, that I wasn't their guy.
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George mentions dust collectors. Probably the biggest dust collectors are the crappy $99 60mm refractors and the $199 4.5" reflectors, usually on almost impossible to understand (at least for beginners) EQ mounts. I agree that for $400 your best bet is a 6" or 8" manual Dob. $800 can get you a nice 6" SCT and $1200 can get you an 8" SCT.

I agree that no matter what route you take, a planetarium app for your phone or i Pad is a must have companion when you are out under the stars.

How about a good star atlas and a telrad? If you truly want to learn the sky, this is the way to go IMO.

As for scopes, I always tell people to start with a pair of 15X70 binoculars and a planisphere. Get a lounge chair, lay back and explore. You will start to learn the sky this way and not be out a ton of money if you or your kid looses interest. There is always time to buy bigger and better things as you become more experienced.

You mentioned the cheap refractors and reflectors which brings to mind something that really ground my gears one night. QVC had astronomy hour and they were pushing Galileo brand telescopes. 3" refractor and 4.5" reflector, about the same quality as the old Tascos. Then they were showng pictures taken by HST and telling people this is what they can see.  >:( Talk about false advertising and a lot of disappointed people at Christmas.

George mentioned location and yes this is a big influence. Bigger aperture outside of town is good, but here in the city that light bucket is gonna soak up a lot of light pollution versus a 4" refractor. I think, like was mentioned before, an 8" Dob is the best bang for the buck in town and out for a first scope. 2 eyepieces  (25mm and  8mm) and a 2x barlow would be a good beginning point. And like I said before, a star atlas and a telrad because while you are star hopping to your target you'll probably accidentally find 3 or 4 cool other things along the way.

Wolf.
9
George mentions dust collectors. Probably the biggest dust collectors are the crappy $99 60mm refractors and the $199 4.5" reflectors, usually on almost impossible to understand (at least for beginners) EQ mounts. I agree that for $400 your best bet is a 6" or 8" manual Dob. $800 can get you a nice 6" SCT and $1200 can get you an 8" SCT.

I agree that no matter what route you take, a planetarium app for your phone or i Pad is a must have companion when you are out under the stars.
10
I can tell my personal experience: a 3.5 inch inexpensive Mak on an inexpensive mount.   Cost was low and it whetted (?) my appetite.  I next went to a 4 inch manual refractor.  Much better views typically but still some difficulty navigating the sky.  However, it helped me learn the Sky in more detail.  Now I have an 8 inch SCT with Goto.   Much easier typically although setup is longer.  And of course, now I want much more aperture.  I recently recommended to a beginner to get a small refractor with shorter focal length to make it easier to find objects and with Goto to avoid frustration of hunting down what you are looking for.  I also told him to load Stellarium on his phone or get a star chart of some kind and actually study it a bit.  Lastly, make a plan before observing so you have found some targets before going out in the dark and just hunting without knowing what is available to see.  Although, if someone is doing that, binoculars are the best first choice; wide FOV and easy to scan the sky.  So, there is my 2 cents. 
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