Wednesday, November 30, 2011

R Leporis

I took my first visual variable star measurement of R LEP last night and was blown away by its deep red color. It was truly mesmerizing - I just wanted to keep staring at it. It was easy to see that it was dimmer than the 7.4 comp on the chart but R LEP was clearly all about R LEP.

That led me on a search to learn more about it, and found some great information posted by Jim Kaler, Professor emeritus of Astronomy at the Univeristy of Illinois [Link]. Here are some interesting tidbits from his article:

Monday, November 28, 2011


Tim Crawford analyzes variable stars from his Arch Cape Observatory in Oregon. He is very open, responsive, and enjoys sharing information and helping new observers get started.

Kevin McLin, director of the Global Telescope Network is very responsive and helpful in providing information about how to participate in astronomical research.

Mike Weasner, Cassiopeia Observatory, Oracle, Arizona. Mike is an exerienced amateur astronomer and author. His website provides a lot of useful information, and he has been very responsive to questions I have emailed him.

Attilla Danko, Clear Sky Chart. Attilla creates astronomers forecast charts. Each chart shows at a glance when, in the next 48 hours, we might expect clear and dark skies for one specific observing site. His website has charts for almost 4,000 locations across The United States and Canada.

A reading list

I am just beginning to delve into these books, so it will be a while before I post my comments. Feel free to suggest more reading material.

So You Want A Meade LX Telescope! by Lawrence Harris; Patrick Moore's Practical Astronomy Series. If, like me, you are a relative beginner and visual observer who uses your Meade LX 200 in alt/az mode, and don’t have an experienced mentor living nearby, you will likely find one or two dozen tips in this book that will help you. That made it worth buying for me. [See my review]

Celestial Sampler, by Sue French. I wasn't going to buy this until I read her most recent article in Sky & Telescope, because I thought I had more than enough to keep me busy for a few months (or decades). But her article provided the kind of information I was looking for, so now I've got more homework.

The Night Sky Observer's Guide (Vol 1 & 2), by Kepple & Sanner.

The Backyard Astronomer's Guide, by Dickerson & Dyer. I read most sections of the book the day I got it and found a lot of valuable information. Now I'm going through it again to learn more. It is a valuable reference, which the authors supplement with updated information on their website.

Astronomy - A visual Guide, by Mark Garlick. This is beautifully illustrated and I'm sure contains a lot of useful information. However my initial quick read didn't give me enough of the type of information I was looking for that I didn't already get from The Backyard Astronomer's Guide.

Quotes I like (related to astronomy)

"Mortal as I am, I know that I am born for a day. But when I follow at my pleasure the serried multitude of the stars in their circular course, my feet no longer touch the earth." Ptolemy

"Listen; there's a hell of a good universe next door: let's go." E. E. Cummings

"For I dipped into the Future, far as the human eye could see; saw the vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be." Tennyson

"There is just one thing I can promise you about the outer-space program: your tax dollar will go farther." Wernher von Braun

"How quickly do we grow accustomed to wonders. I am reminded of the Isaac Asimov story "Nightfall," about the planet where the stars were visible only once in a thousand years. So awesome was the sight that it drove men mad. We who can see the stars every night glance up casually at the cosmos and then quickly down again, searching for a Dairy Queen." Rober Ebert - Chicago Sun Times

"The meek shall inherit the Earth. And the rest of us will go to the stars." Omni Magazine

"Astronomy compels the soul to look upwards and leads us from this world to another." Plato

"The scientific theory I like best is that the rings of Saturn are composed entirely of lost airline luggage." Mark Russell

Light pollution

Here is the light pollution map for my site (in the green zone):

Sky conditions

My equipment

  • Binoculars: Nikon 7x35
  • Telescope: Meade LX200 ACF/GPS 10" SCT
  • Eyepieces: Meade 40mm 2"; Meade 26mm 1.25"; Hyperion modular 13mm 1.25"; Meade 9mm illuminated reticle; Meade 6.7mm 1.25" UWA; Meade 2x teleXtender
  • Filters: Celestron polarizers 1.25"; Lumicon 1.35" filters - UHC; neutral density 25; 80A blue; 56 green; 23A light red; 12 yellow
  • Camera: Orion StarShoot Deep Space video camera
  • Computer: HP Pavilion DM1 notebook
  • Software: AstroPlanner; TheSkyX Professional; RegiStax6
  • Mobility: JMI Wheely bars
  • Weather protection: TeleGizmos solar scope cover
  • Other: Orion imaging flip mirror; Orion 1.25" filter wheel; Telrad reflex sight; Bob's Knobs; Celestron night vision red LED flashlight, Keyspan USB/Serial adapter

Why did I start this blog?

This blog will share my amateur astronomy interests and observations so I can learn more by taking time to reflect on what I have seen.

In addition to enjoying the sights above as a tourist, I am fascinated with the behavior of variable stars and have begun my personal variable star observation program.

My "Red Mountain Observatory" consists of one telescope on wheels emerging from my garage on clear nights. It is located under clear southwestern skies at 37.17N and 113.66W in Ivins Utah, elevation 3,088 feet.