Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Solar Eclipse May 20

Finally an eclipse that favors the western states, although it'll be an annular event, meaning the moon is a little too far away to totally obscure the sun. The last total eclipse that I experienced was up in Oregon over thirty years ago. I'm going to lug the ten inch catadioptric with it's sun filter out to experience it and I hope to take some pictures of it.

My astronomical endeavors changed over the years although I never tire being under a clear night's sky. When I first started using optical equipment the most important thing to me was to test the limits of my abilities - catching Pluto, finding all Messier objects, locating 14th magnitude galaxies and so on. The Messier catalog was a piece of cake, actually. But sometimes I'd stay up most of the night trying for just a couple of targets.

That dedication waned for a number of reasons, mainly because I took it all to the limits of what types of equipment I had. I went to star parties to shmooze with other backyard astronomers and show noobies some stuff and even met the great John Dobson at one of them. There aren't many heroes in my life. Dobson is right at the top of my list.
It all changed again as things do. Rather than be clinical and technical behind the eyepieces I found it to be much more enjoyable to just relax and enjoy the night skies in different ways. Oh sure I loved all the old favorites - Jupiter with it's swirling moons, M31 the Andromeda galaxy (by the way the most distant non stellar object seen by the naked eye under not light polluted skies)

The big globulars and the ever changing moon. I started taking pictures a lot more of star trails and comets, also I enjoy sketching constellations and learning the names (mostly Arabic) of all the visible stars in the sky. My wife and I named all our cats after astronomical objects over the years except a stray male who adopted us three years ago who's called Moochie. But even though my passion's waned there's still the thrill of rare events like eclipses and occultations, asteroid fly-bys and especially Venus transiting the sun June 5. The next will be in 2117.

I think I'll just leave the telescope outside for a few weeks and go visit my buddies. By the way my big boy is nicknamed "hello darkness my old friend". What got me hooked was finding Saturn and it's ring when I was about ten years old, looking through a little 60 millimeter refractor.
I wish you could take a peek through my $500 40 millimeter lens. It would astonish and hook you immediately to backyard astronomy and make you take a baseball bat to unnecessary nighttime outdoor lights.

moon eclipsing the sun over Turkey from the ISS


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