Archive for the ‘Astronomy Product Reviews’ Category

August observing report – What’s Up ?

Much like in this photo from 2004,  Members of Gove astronomers gathered at our Dhupma Rd site for an observing night on Sat 18th Aug 2012. Using a refracting telescope that is similar (but shorter focal length) than the one pictured, we took in some classic deep sky targets.

  • The first constellation visible on the night was, as is usual this time of the year, the bright stars of Alpha & Beta Centaurus. They point the way to the southern cross & this was our first target .
  • The sparkling stars of the aptly named Jewel Box adjacent to the blue/white star Beta Crux and its dim red companion Ruby Crux made a fine trio in the wide angle low power view offered with the combination of a 600mm Refractor and a 32mm pan-optic eyepiece. Giving a magnification of just 18.75x allowing all 3 targets to be easily seen.
  • With the obvious pairing of Mars, Saturn & Spica this was clearly our next target. The rings of Saturn being just visible at this low magnification.
  • The fully dark sky now beckoned us to look at the dim fuzzy ball that is Omega Centuri, the faintest object to the naked eye in Centaurus. However with the scope a  ball of 1000’s of stars is revealed as a fuzzy cotton ball. Just a hint of what through a larger aperture telescope, is a sparkling bowl of diamonds.
  • Pointing the little scope almost straight up to the Zenith revealed the dual star cluster’s & Nebulas of the Trifid & Lagoon nebulae in Sagittarius, again easily fitting in the field of view.
  • Some searching along the rich star field of the Milky Way revealed many star clusters and some interesting “asterisms” of stars making chain like patterns against the myriad of stars of the spiral arms of our grand galaxy.
  • Stretching the little scope to its limits I sought out the dim smoke ring of the well named Ring Nebula, a stellar remnant in the constellation of Lyra ‘The Harp”

Much of the night was spent relaxing in camp chairs looking at the glorious vista of the Milky Way stretched out before us. This time spent patiently looking at the clear night sky was rewarded several times with some spectacular Meteors. One of which was orange in colour and lasted for several seconds.

Its was great to see so many members of Gove Astronomers out under the night sky (about 20) several of whom are new members in the club. 

The next observing night for GAA will be on Saturday the 15th of September, with I hope by then our large aperture (18″) scope “Big Blue” back in action for an observing session up at the Gun Club, where we plan to establish a more permanent observatory for Gove Amateur Astronomers.

Red LED Solar Torch

A Red light is an essential accessory for astronomy, (also camping, boating, fish & other night navigation activities) allowing you to see, while preserving your night vision. White light will ruin your night vision, spoiling your view of the glorious velvet blackness of the night sky.

With solar recharging of the inbuilt battery, true Red LED’s, Tough ABS plastic shell and the convenience of being on your key ring, it will always be close at hand and ready to use. The perfect accessory to go with your Star Disk, Star Chart or Moon Chart.

Just $7.50 mailed to you anywhere in Australia.

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So why do we think the red LED Solar Torch is the best astronomy torch available ? After over 10 years of doing Astronomy nights using various red light torches, torches covered with brown paper or red cellophane, bike lights and other red LED lights requiring batteries, I finally sourced this great little Solar charging red LED torch. The inbuilt battery will last you for hundreds of astronomy nights. When the battery starts to run down and the light begins to fade, simply place in the sun for a few hours and you are good to go again. I have lost count of the hours wasted finding button batteries for other RED led key chain lights.   The NightSkySecrets red LED solar torch, solves all these problems and is shipped to you in all Australian states and territories for just $7.50 including postage.

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The Best Telescopes for Kids

Discovering astronomy with your first look through your first telescope at one of our major planets such as Saturn or Jupiter and even our very familiar moon is the beginning of a lifetime of pleasure, in discovering the wonders of the night sky. However if the first telescope you get is a standard tripod mounted refracting telescope (one using lenses not mirrors) as found in most department stores, the experience is usually one of frustration and disappointment instead.

It is very tempting I know, when you see the telescope for maybe $90 to $150 with claims of “Magnifies 600 times” or “See galaxies and nebulas” to think that this will delight your children. The reality is one of these telescopes will have a wobbly tripod that will not allow you to see anything at 60 times, much less 600. The aperture (that’s the diameter) of the lens will typically be 70 to 90 mm and this will never gather enough light to see faint and distant galaxies, most of which are millions of light years away.

So what can you do? Well, in my experience of almost 10 years of showing 1000’s of children and my own 3 kids around the night sky, the best way to start is in fact with a Star Disc, a red light and a pair of low powered binoculars. The reason is that for starters you will need to find something worthwhile to look at. A Star Disc will show you a few bright deep sky objects that are easily seem with binoculars on any given night. The red light will allow you to see the Star Disc without ruining you night vision. Your night vision takes at least 20 minutes away from white light to adapt to the darkness. A low powered pair of binoculars (EG: 8×50 – 8 times magnification and a 50mm lens) will show you many faint galaxies, nebulas and star clusters. A picnic blanket is a good idea to lay on as well. What a great way to get the family together!

Perhaps you have already done this and are ready to make the next step, and really want to get that telescope. What should you do? My experience and that of my astronomy peers from around Australia and across the world have shown me that the telescope that is (a) Quick to set up and pack up (b) Easy to use and (c) has preferably at least 200mm (8″) of aperture will get the most use and provide many years of observing pleasure. Not just for the kids but the whole family and many friends.

What does one of these telescopes look like? Well, it is not a refractor and it is not on a tripod. It is a Dobsonian mounted reflector. A reflector is much like the telescopes used in professional observatories (only much smaller!) Put in simple terms the telescope is mounted on a horizontal (azimuth) turntable close to ground level allowing you to move the telescope to all points of the compass and a vertical pivot point allowing you to move the telescope from the horizon to directly overhead (the zenith) through 90 degrees. The eyepiece (this does the magnifying) is in the side of the telescope tube at about 1.3 meters above the ground, an ideal height for kids. A 200mm (8″) Dobsonian is lightweight enough that a child of perhaps 10 years old can easily move and set it up in the park or backyard. Confused about what it looks like? Just imagine a cannon that spins around and can point straight up.

How much is one of these going to cost you? You may be thinking thousands of dollars. In fact, a 200mm Dobsonian can cost as little as $550 in Australia and a similar amount in the USA. So start into astronomy the fun and easy way and your Christmas present will live on for many years to come.