Saturday, January 4, 2014

Variable star observing

I got interested in variable stars almost three years ago, but have nor done much about it until recently. Right now I am working to build up my list of stars to monitor. some nights that works out well. I find my target variables easily enough. Other nights prove to be more difficult. Right now I have targeted about 50 stars I want to observe. So far I am monitoring just 13 of them.

I am a visual observer (id = smik) for the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO). The AAVSO has excellent information for new observers, as well as a mentor program. I have been fortunate to have Tim Crawford, Arch Cape Observatory, as my mentor. Here are my current variable star targets:

Friday, December 6, 2013

St. George Astronomy Group

The St. George Astronomy Group was created a week ago. It is an informal association of amateur astronomers in St. George, Ivins, and other nearby communities in southwest Utah.

The group was formed to:
  • Exchange ideas and foster fellowship among people with an interest in astronomy;
  • host public star parties, and
  • Promote proper lighting and dark skies over southwest Utah. 
There are no officers, dues, or formal meetings. Membership is open to anyone who wishes to actively participate in hosting star parties and working for dark skies over St. George.

People who wish to know about the group's public activities can join our mailing list by sending an email, or check the Calendar.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Night sky surveys - SW Utah

The St. George Astronomy Group ( is planning to conduct night sky surveys in 2014 to seek International Dark-Sky Association certification in a couple of communities in SW Utah. We need two pieces of equipment: A Unihedron Sky Quality Meter and a fish-eye 180 degree lens that will fit a Nikon D80 DSLR camera (or could we use your camera). Please contact me if you have either of these items and are willing to share them in early 2014, or better yet, participate in the survey. Thank you.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A cure for Zenith neck

Note: The following post was originally posted on January 2, 2012 but I added new information today in the comments as a result of communications with Vic Maris at Stellarvue.

I like the finderscope Meade includes on the LX200, but my neck and back disagree. Not only disagree, they finally rebelled a couple weeks ago while I was zeroing in on the Pleiades almost directly above my head.

So I ordered the Stellarvue F50-2 9x50mm Deluxe Finder scope from Oceanside Photo & Telescope (OPT) because it has a diagonal with a rotating back, so you can easily look through the eyepiece, whether your telescope is aimed at objects near the horizon or straight up, simply by loosening the rotator locking screw to adjust the eyepiece to the angle you want. All that stops it from rotating a full 360 degrees is my optical tube.

Support staff at OPT said my current Meade mounting rings will work with the Stellarvue finder. They were right, saving that expense. That doesn't happen often.

Also, the Stellarvue finder comes with a 1.25" 23mm eyepiece with reticle, but no illuminator. You have to buy the illuminator seperately... or not.

I have had a Meade 9mm eyepiece with illuminate reticle for a couple of years, but don't use it much due to its narrow true field of view in my telescope. I was happy to find that its illuminator screwed into the new Stellarvue reticle eyepiece and works perfectly.

So now I have two reticle eyepieces with different powers and fields of view that can share an illuminator. And, because the Stellarvue finder accepts other 1.25" eyepieces, I can use its 23mm reticle eyepiece on my telescope as well.

Here are my "first" impressions based on two nights of observations.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Is it bad karma between Windows 7 Professional and my LX200?

This is a follow-up to my post a couple of weeks ago. I was having problems connecting my HP notebook to my Meade LX200 so I could run AstroPlanner and SkyX Professional software.

Well... not really a "problem".... more than a problem: It just wasn't working. I won't repeat all the steps I took to try to find a solution, but you can read about them here: Problem connecting Meade LX200 to a computer

Since the last post, I received the Keyspan USB serial adapter. It works fine on my old computer running Windows XP. But the new adapter doesn't help my problem with my Windows 7 Professional notebook. Three adapters (Keyspan, Meade, Gigaware); no success.

So far I have eliminated the following possible culprits: bad RS232 port on the telescope; bad RS232 cable, bad or incorrectly wired RS232/Serial adapter; and bad USB serial adapter. I doubt my windows 7 notebook has a bad USB port (I tried all three).

That leaves just one possible reason for the problem: Windows 7 Professional does not like something, whether it is the cables, adapters, or telescope.