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Posts Made By: Fred Lusk

November 9, 2015 09:22 PM Forum: Politics

Fired From A Red State Sub!

Posted By Fred Lusk

Here's a photo I took with my iPhone from CVA's regular observing site at Eastman Lake in Madera County, California (37°13'10"N, 119°57'58"W, elevation 600 feet). Time was 6:01 p.m.

Six of us were out there with our scopes taking advantage of excellent skies (for November). I first spotted the missile a couple minutes before I took this photo. It was just west of south and about 15 degrees above the horizon. Initially, it looked like a police helicopter in the distance, except that the "spotlight" was pointed behind it instead of down. The "cloud" the "spotlight" was illuminating looked like a patch of our normal wintertime Tule Fog. From our perspective, the trajectory appeared to start on a heading of roughly NW to NNW, then it curved to almost due west. From start to finish, it took perhaps ten to fifteen minutes to unfold, although we weren't really keeping track.

We guessed it was a missile launch from Vandenberg AFB, which we have seen before from Central California and that it was bright because it was high enough to catch the setting sun (on the ground, the sun had set about an hour earlier). We didn't guess a submarine.

As the missile got closer, the "cone cloud" got bigger and at some point the cloud seemed to separate from the missile and a new and larger "cone cloud" appeared. We guessed it might have been a second stage firing. The first cloud became a large, amorphous patch of light pollution covering parts of Sagittarius and Capricorn.

My last look in binoculars was akin to an artist's rendering of a black hole, with grey "beams" up and down and a dark grey "accretion disk."

We figured it would be hard to beat the missile sighting the rest of the night, but we toughed it out. smile I was at Eastman until about 1:30 working through my observing plan and catching the occasional Taurid meteor. Our skies were so good compared to most nights here that the Orion Nebula showed considerable detail in my 8" when it was just 10 degrees above the horizon and the OIII just made it better.

April 11, 2016 10:29 PM Forum: After Dark

Jupiter tonight 4/11/16

Posted By Fred Lusk


I'm not looking at Jupiter because today was a 12-hour day and I just finished dinner. sad

However, I fired up SkyTool3 and here is what is see: the four Galilean satellites on one side of Jupiter (I, E, C, G, in order from in to out) and the mag 7.3 star HD 95848 star on the other side. Amalthea is on the same of Jupiter as the star, but it's not far from the limb, so that's probably not what you're seeing. As far as distance, the star is a little farther from Jupiter than Callisto.

Fred Lusk

August 12, 2016 08:48 PM Forum: Sports

Anybody Watching the Olympics?

Posted By Fred Lusk

I love watching the Olympics, if for no other reason than having an excuse for not doing the dishes and other chores. :-) In fact, I'm watching the Olympics right now (Brazil-Australia women's soccer…and I don't even like soccer). The dinner dishes can wait until a commercial.

The first summer and winter Olympics I remember well are Mexico City and Grenoble in 1968 when I was 10. I saw some of Tokyo and Innsbruck in 1964, but those didn't leave much in the way of big memories.

In 1984, my wife and I were living in Southern California and we had the pleasure to attend water polo at Pepperdine University and basketball at the Forum (we saw the USA's last amateur team crush Uruguay). A co-worker and I took two clients to baseball (then a demonstration sport) at Dodger Stadium (USA against somebody).

I have a couple of tenuous personal links to the Olympics:
- My dad taught Chemistry at the high school my wife and I and our three kids graduated from. One of my dad's ex-students was in the Olympic trials for the 1972 games for pole vault, but didn't make the team.
- Snowboarder Andy Finch was a year ahead of my oldest daughter at the same school, but I don't know if she knew him or if he took my dad's class.
- A high school classmate was in the Olympic trials as a skier in the late 70s or early 80s (I can't remember which games or if it was for downhill or slalom). She was doing well until she crashed and broke something.
- The son of a high school classmate was on the US water polo team in London 2012 (Peter Varellas).
- The nephew of one of my wife's friends is on this year's US water polo team (Alex Obert).
- I have never once been invited to the Olympic trials. I guess Amateur Observing/SCT Class is NOT an Olympic sport.

October 30, 2016 03:40 PM Forum: Politics

This is very funny

Posted By Fred Lusk

Maybe it came from INSIDE the building.

March 1, 2017 11:05 PM Forum: How to make AstroMart BETTER!! My idea is.....


Posted By Fred Lusk

I suggest moving the Login button up the page so I don't have to scroll down to find it.

July 28, 2017 10:51 PM Forum: Equipment Talk

Observing Chair Query

Posted By Fred Lusk

I have one of these that I bought about 10 years ago and it's still going strong:

I weighs less than 10 pounds (IIRC) and it easily folds flat without disassembly. There is a small foot rest in front that doesn't stick out too far. Anyway, it's flat enough for me.

The rubber feet finally wore out, so I made new feet out of PVC pipe and these have lasted much better. The seat padding isn't very thick, but that allows it to fold flatter than a better padded Starbound. I only notice the padding is thin during a long observing session, but it can be remedied with a folded blanket or a small pillow.


August 9, 2017 10:58 PM Forum: Astro Binoculars

What binos will you be using for the eclipse?

Posted By Fred Lusk

I bought two pair of Celstron 10x25 EclipSmart binos for my wife and me. We're flying to see this eclipse, then extending the trip to Glacier/Waterton NPs, so we're packing light with respect to optics. My CPC-800 won't fit in the overhead bin.
:-) I also have a solar filter that fits three of my camera lenses and I am planning to do a wide-angle time lapse.

November 7, 2017 09:01 PM Forum: Equipment Talk

Portable Power Supply

Posted By Fred Lusk

I've had one of these for about 15 years:

I think Duracell sells the same thing under their name.

I replaced the internal battery about three years ago and it's going strong. When I bought mine, it was about $170, not $390, which is the current price on Amazon.

This unit has a capacity of 28 AH. For outlets, there is a cigarette lighter plug for 12VDC and three 120VAC outlets running through a very clean inverter (I needed clean power to run a CPAP and this unit will run mine for two nights with the humidifier off). You can also gang batteries together and I often add a 35 AH deep cycle in series.

The unit also has a radio and a light and can be used to jump start a vehicle. I only use the radio by accident smile but the light is handy sometimes.

If you don't need this much power, you may be able to find something smaller, but I don't have any info about smaller units.

September 10, 2018 11:29 PM Forum: Solar System Observing

Observing Pluto

Posted By Fred Lusk

I mostly observe from sites near Fresno in Central California, both on the floor of the San Joaquin Valley and in the nearby Sierra Nevada mountains.  In the summer (Pluto's current season), it is usually clear here for weeks, even months, on end.  It rarely rains in Fresno from about mid-April through mid-October.  It rains more often in the Sierra Nevada during this time due to "mountain weather" phenomena and  out-of-place tendrils from Arizona's monsoon season.

Our transparency here is mostly affected by smog/haze in the valley, smoke from forest fires (depends on the year…this year was bad due to the large Ferguson Fire near Yosemite National Park), and localized weather in the mountains.  Seeing is mostly affected by breezes/winds flowing turbulently over rugged terrain.

I have seen Pluto in my 8" SCT (Celestron CPC-800) from the valley floor and failed to see it in my 11" SCT (Celestron CPC-1100 Edge HD) in the mountains.  It all depends on conditions.  Regardless, a good finder chart is an absolute must.

The first time I saw Pluto was in 2008 with the 8" SCT during the best three nights of seeing/transparency I have ever experienced.  Our club has a primitive camping site/observing site near Courtright Reservoir (8200 feet) east of Fresno.  In 2008, Pluto was at magnitude 13.9 and I was able to visually ID stars using direct vision down to magnitude 15.4, which is nearly the theoretical limit for an 8" telescope at 200x.  Needless to say, Pluto was an easy pick since it was actually the brightest object in the field of view of my 10 mm Vixen Lanthanum eyepiece.  For that weekend, I made my finder charts using Cartes du Ciel, which is free.  I now use SkyTools 3 for most of my finder charts.

A couple years later, I saw Pluto with the 8" SCT from Eastman Lake north of Fresno (elevation 600'), but only after a rare summer rain to clear the air and only then using averted vision.  In my wife's 10" Orion dob, Pluto was at the limit of detection using direct vision.  Over the years, the 8" SCT has shown me Pluto only three more times:  once at Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park (elevation 7200 feet) and twice more at Courtright (including both times I found asteroid 163 Hilda, which was at about magnitude 13.8).  All three times, Pluto was just at the limit of detection using direct vision.  Several other attempts over the years failed due to my visual limiting magnitude being in the 12.5 to 13.5 range due to conditions.

I have had the 11" SCT for about a year and I have been relatively more successful in spotting Pluto with it due to the larger aperture.  I haven't tried for Pluto yet from Eastman Lake, but I have seen it several times from Glacier Point and Big Stump in King Canyon National Park (elevation 6500 feet).  I didn't get to Courtright this year due to smoke from the Ferguson Fire over the Perseid weekend.

The moral of the story is that, if you can get good seeing and transparency, Pluto should be easy in a 12" scope.

September 14, 2018 03:51 AM Forum: Solar System Observing

Observing Pluto

Posted By Fred Lusk


Congratulations.  I like observing challenges.

Next, I suggest you try G1, the brightest globular cluster in the Andromeda Galaxy.  It's magnitude 13.7, but it has some size (about 10" photographically), so its low surface brightness makes it a challenge.  I tried at least a dozen times over several years with the 8" SCT without success.  I even tried two nights in late August 2016 with a 7" AstroPhysics refractor at the Shooting Star Inn near Flagstaff (an astronomy B&B that is now "offline" due to the owners' retirement).  I always found most of the stars in the FOV I was targeting, but could never get quite deep enough for G1.  Then, on October 1, 2016, on a great night at Big Stump, I finally spotted it, first with averted vision then finally with direct vision.  My two tries with the 11" SCT failed due to poor conditions, but it's on the list for this fall.