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Posts Made By: Jim Nelson

October 15, 2003 12:22 PM Forum: Equipment Talk

Re: Stellarvue AT1010 sale

Posted By Jim Nelson

I saw's a bargain, but I'm not sure how to justify the purchase to the spouse. Hmmmm....Gotta work on that...

February 5, 2004 07:33 PM Forum: Equipment Talk

Buying direct vs. from dealer

Posted By Jim Nelson

For some manufacturers - Discovery and Stellarvue come to mind - you can buy direct from the equipment maker, OR you can buy their products from a number of online dealers. For Discovery I believe the online dealers only act to take orders, and the scopes ship from the factory; for Stellarvue dealers actually seem to have stock.

Is there any advantage to a) the buyer or b) the manufacturer to buy through a middleman?

February 27, 2004 10:31 AM Forum: Deep Sky Observing

I can't believe it - clear skies!

Posted By Jim Nelson

I can't believe it - the Clear Sky Clock calls for cloudless, clear, steady skies for SE Michigan, AND the temperature is actually going to stay in the double digits!

Gosh, I hope I remember what my scope looks like...maybe it's that black tube in the corner...

AND I think I can check off my final Messier tonight - m93. Not that hard of an object, but for some reason never got around to it, and this Winter hasn't provided much opportunity.

I did get out a couple of nights ago actually, but had to settle for staying in my light-polluted yard, and concentrated on the planets. BUT I was absolutely astonished at how nice of a view a 6 inch scope can give of M42 even from the center of a small city with streetlights shining all around. The outer arcs were of course completely lost, but there was still more detail visible in the central region than I see in most objects from a dark site.

I'm starting to babble now...I'm getting excited...

March 9, 2004 12:13 PM Forum: Deep Sky Observing

The Ultra Deep Field - weird galaxy...?

Posted By Jim Nelson

That's a link to the big version of the Astronomy Picture of the Day's version of the new, very cool, Ultra Deep Field photo... Near the top, just left of center, there are three fairly obvious, fairly large galaxies in a row, sort of like Orion's Belt.

Take a close look at the right one, closest to center.

If you can handle the "Massive File", check out the larger scale image:

(click on the "full resolution link", then pick one of the *very large* files that show full resolution - these may pose a problem for some computers).

It's more clear at full resolution, but doesn't that look like a double image of the same galaxy, superimposed but shifted? Same colors, two orange nuclei visible, etc.?

Is this two very similar galaxies lined up? One very unusual galaxy?

April 15, 2004 11:09 AM Forum: Deep Sky Observing

Winter's last Hurrah, Spring Galaxies

Posted By Jim Nelson

Got my best deep-sky observing session in, oh, 5 months or so last night. Went out to Lake Hudson, SE Michigan's "dark sky preserve", along with 2 other hardy mid-week observers including Forums regular Doug Scobel, with his cool, tricked-out 13 inch dob. Hi Doug!

Me, I had my plain vanilla 6 inch dob. I spent the evening hurriedly grabbing some winter-time objects before they're gone for the year, then moved to galaxy-mode, before getting abruptly cut-off shortly after midnight by clouds. Still, the observing was pretty good until then.

A couple of highlights:

NGC1907: the little companion cluster to M38 in Auriga. M38 itself seemed richer and prettier than I remember, but 1907 was a real treat. I think I've completely overlooked it in the past, but shame on me! At low power, it was a granular little ball, but at higher powers it resolved pretty well - and, dang! that's one tight, rich little cluster. At 171x, trying to map out the stars was little like mapping fireflies in a field - there's lots of 'em, but they disappear when you look directly at them. A few brighter stars were easy to map, but the combination of number, proximity, and faintness was exhausting to map out but charming to look at. In Doug's scope it looked brighter and better resolved, but lacked the firefly effect.

M105 and companions...: How could M105 get discovered and NOT neighboring NGC3384 at the same time? Nearly equal in brightness and only 7' away? That's interesting, but I knew there were actually 2 NGC neighbors to 105...and I may have seen it, forming a compact triangle with the other 2, near a distinctive row of three faint stars - but it was only a bare hint. I started sketching the field, and placed the hint of a wisp of smudge where I remembered seeing it a couple of times, but I was frustrated when I couldn't see it anymore.

Then I looked up...wispy clouds. 10 Minutes later, and I was decisively shut down for the night. I look forward to REALLY confirming that smudge the next good, clear night; NGC 3389 is listed as 12 magnitude, which would easily be the faintest galaxy I've seen. I'll keep eating my carrots.

April 30, 2004 03:17 PM Forum: Eyepieces

Re: Tell me why I should keep my TV 32mm plossl

Posted By Jim Nelson

Well, I keep a 30mm Ultima around even though I have a 24 Panoptic. There are maybe a few objects that look better in the 30 Ultima - some large, not-so-dense star clusters that benefit from the lower magnification. If for some reason I don't want to carry my expensive glass around I like having the more basic eyepiece available.

But, generally speaking, I believe the phrase "walks all over" is the appropriate cliche for the 24 Pan vs. any 30-35mm Plossl-class eyepiece. It's a pretty darn perfect eyepiece. I think that 15mm eye relief is an accurate representation while seeing the entire field of view. It feels like ideal eye relief to me - not too short, not too long. Maybe not for eye glasses, but I don't deal with those.

May 1, 2004 10:57 AM Forum: TeleVue

2.5x PM - why is it built like that?

Posted By Jim Nelson

I have a 2.5x Powermate. Super nice unit, superior to any barlow I've tried.

But why is it built like that? With the "field lens" projecting out, all by its lonesome, exposed to the harsh world? And the supplied cap is just barely deep enough to fit past the field lens onto the 1.25" barrel.

I can't imagine any optical reason that the 1.25" barrel couldn't be extended a little bit extra to better protect the field lens and to let a standard cap fit on more snugly.

July 24, 2004 07:03 AM Forum: Solar System Observing

Sun and the public

Posted By Jim Nelson

There's an enormous art fair in my town right now, which brings a huge amount of pedestrians past my front yard. So, I had a yard sale, which was very successful. But while I was out there I knew the sun was putting on a good show lately, so I set up my 6 inch dob w/solar filter, put a little sign up, and showed folks the huge sunspots.

It was a lot of fun, helped pass the time for me, and was a great way to do a little P.R. for astronomy.

One thing that suprised me was how many people were really fundamentally confused by what they saw - that the round disk was face of the sun, with surface markings. Oddly, I found that placing the solar disk so that one edge was just out of the field of view helped. Having the disk cut off, so that the "frame" was apparent, seemed to give people some context for interpreting what they saw. I'm not sure I understand this fully, but something interesting psychologically is going on.

And dang, those sure are some dramatic spots!

July 26, 2004 09:36 AM Forum: Solar System Observing

Shoemaker-Levy 9 and Jupiter...

Posted By Jim Nelson

No, you aren't in a time warp...

the Sky and Telescope website has an article called "Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9: A Decade Later", which at one point talks about Levy observing the planet visually with a 12 inch scope...

This collision event occured before I got back into observing myself, and I don't remember seeing anything other than HST photos of the event.

Does anyone have records of their own observations they'd like to share to commemorate this anniversary? Or at least know of web sites with amateur observations (photos, sketches, or written) of the event?

September 10, 2004 09:56 AM Forum: Deep Sky Observing

Dark Nebulae are fun!

Posted By Jim Nelson

The laws of nature were violated, and I had excellent skies last night even though I received 2 new pieces of astro equipment that day. One of them was a pair of Swift 8x42mm Ultralight binos (the other was a 5mm eyepiece that saw only a little use last night; intended for planets). My old 10x50s are just a little too cumbersome for me, so I thought I might use this little pair more often. Reviews were good, it was on sale (I think an updated version is coming out, so current stock is discounted). And dang, they were nice! Sharp and contrasty and easy to hold, I decidedly prefer them to my low-end Meade 10x50s (which aren't bad, but are heavier and are outclassed optically by these Swifts).

Anyway, with the new binos and the great skies at Lake Hudson in SE Michigan, I discovered a new observing pleasure - Dark Nebulae. I was amazed at how clearly visible some of these were last night in the binos. B142 near Altair was a beautiful dark streamer. B168, the dark nebulosity associated with the Cocoon Nebula, was almost as nice. B92/93, the two prominent dark nebulae associated with M24, were a little small to be distinct in the 8x binos, but switching to my scope at 50x (~1.35 degree field of view) displayed these nicely. They also share the same field with NGC6603, the tight little open cluster within M24. Funny how I've viewed M24 and NGC6603 a bunch of times in the past, but never noticed the prominent dark nebulae right there.

Which is why dark nebulae are fun. Visually, they're not something, they're the lack of something. It takes a certain perceptual shift to notice them, but once you see them, they're incredibly obvious and snap into view - suddenly "negative space" becomes "positive space". (Of course, dark/clear skies help immensely.)