Thursday, April 27, 2017

Into Darkness

A gloriously-clear morning here in the Gulf of Aden. The Milky Way with it's knotty star-clouds and open clusters contrasting with the darkness of sinuous dust lanes that both obscure and define our view of our home galaxy, To the south, Sagittarius and Scorpius stand high revealing the mysteries of the "other" circumpolar skies to be seen beneath them. Jupiter rules the western horizon while in the east rises Pegasus and his captive rider; beneath the clearly-visible disk of the voluptuous Andromeda Galaxy a round spot of haze can be seen; Triangulum's own great galaxy poses for the naked eye.

There are treasures to be harvested here in the vistas to be seen from my sea-going observatory, so far from shore and the bright lights of cities and industry. Here, I can stand on deck, feel the vibration of engines far below, hear the whisper of water rushing along our vessel's sides, and, without strain, reach out with my fingertips to brush the heavens above.

I think I'm going to enjoy this cruise.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

A Ten Dolla' Telescope

G'Day everyone, and say "hello" to my latest little telescope restoration project! I picked this Bushnell 60mm optical tube assembly up on Ebay for a mere $10 and have spent a sizeable portion of my off-time over the past three weeks cleaning it inside and out, removing and disposing of the useless "yoke" mounting that came attached to it, and filing-in the holes in the tube with pop-rivets. THEN I dug up an old mini-eq mounting and placed the tube assembly on it, replaced the .965" eyepieces with some decent quality 1.25" EPs that the human eye can actually see through, and scrounged in my parts-bin for an Orion V-Block filter (kills fringes dead!)...and voila! Meet "Mariner", the first table-top equatorially-mounted f13 refractor telescope that I for one have ever seen!
My Ebay purchase...such a deal.
 A star--diminutive but impressively portable AND steady--is born.

Last night--cloudy but not impossibly so--was "first light" for this little mutant beast, and as guinea pig I selected one of our young officers, Daniel Murphy, to put Mariner through its paces. After a few minutes' instruction on care and feeding Daniel was in control--checking out the Moon, Jupiter and Arcturus. His verdict; not too shabby! I tend to agree.
Mr. Murphy watches the Moon rise.
 On a serious note, small telescopes like this vintage (mid-'70s) Bushnell are usually maligned by experienced observers, but with a little modification they can become quite capable star-gazing tools. I started out with a 'scope much like this one, and was fortunate to have knowledgeable observers at hand to teach me how to get the most out of my new instrument. Good eyepieces, a solid, versatile mounting, and a decent finder can turn that "department store" telescope into a a pretty impressive observing machine!
Mariner on the Bridge...Appropriate, no?
 As for little Mariner, I'm sure I can find him a good home... eventually. I want to play a little, first!