Saturday, July 19, 2014

Just a reminder....

With the crap going on in the world the last few days, just remember one small thing...

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Pier hole digging.

Truck not needed. 
Progress on the observatory is moving along slowly.  I finally close on the sale of my old house in Renton and got a nice check which went directly to the bank.  I'm still wondering if the new owner even opened the door to that "shed" in the backyard and saw that his mower will have to park next to that pier in the shed?  :-)
I have plenty of funding now to put into this new project.  Lately, I have been slowly digging through our very rocky yard to get down a few feet for the pier foundation.  Not too hard to do, but I keep running into large rocks that need to be dug around and pulled out.  Originally, I was going to put in a 12 inch sonotube for the mounting, but looking at the firmness of the surrounding hole I may just fill it with cement and put in a welded base with the threaded mounting screws.  I'll think about that more as I go along.
Pier hole digging.
Yes, that pathetic tree still needs to move.  We have had very hot weather into the 90s lately and the tree is drooping now, and it's just too hot to work on this.
Yesterday we went to Home Depot and bought some 12 foot pieces of wood to build the outer form for the cement slab.  Traci was sure we could use my car, so I kind of reluctantly agreed to try it.  She was right, anytime you put a little red flag on the end of something you can make anything fit in a Toyota!  I do miss having a truck though.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Foundation is dug out (almost!)

Digging the hole in the ground for the Astroshack foundation was delayed last weekend by some hangar painting work - and we just had too many heavy showers passing through that I would have been digging mud.
I did some more work tonight and dug out the foundation area down to the gravel level under the backyard.  The yard was basically a filled in area years ago when the house was built, and I think I'll have some tough digging for the pier ahead.  I hit a lot of rocks about 8 inches down so at least I'll have a solid "bedrock" to construct on and not have it sink into the ground or anything!
The tree will move soon, I just need Traci to move that since she's a skilled gardener and I can only grow weeds.
I'm thinking of doing a cement slab maybe 10 inches thick.  I have to start some drawing soon to figure out the next steps once digging is done.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

RNT vs. S36 Astro-shack sky comparisons

Today I used the Observer Pro app on my iPhone to plot out the local horizon at the new location for the observatory.  This is a really cool iPhone program that really helps a lot with imaging certain objects in our cloudy skies and helps plan out imaging.  Try it if you have a smartphone!
So I used the software to trace out my new horizon.  I compared it with the old location at Renton, you can really see that I had a crappy northern view since I had a big fir tree blocking that part of the sky.
Renton Astro-Shack horizon
Crest Airpark Astro-Shack horizon
Sure, I could see most things I wanted to view or image, but I would often have to wait until certain parts of the year.  Even with circumpolar objects (M81 and M82 for example) I was limited by this tree in the way.
So, now we move over the the new location at S34 (this is the airport code for Crest Airpark) and I take a plot of the horizon here.   As you can see, I have a LOT more sky to play with here!
Crest Astro-Shack is just on the
border between bad and better.
I have a lot more sky to play with here, a good horizon in all directions.  I'll have a nice shot in the summer months toward all the neat gassy nebula stuff in Sagittarius which will just clear those tall trees to the south with no problem.
Next, we move on to the light pollution improvement.  When in Renton, I had sucky light pollution from the city down the hill as well as light from Seattle about 7 miles to the Northwest.
Amazingly, I was able to still get through this crap with a CLS filter on my camera.
Renton.  Red zone light pollution.
Here at the location for the Crest Astro-shack, we are on the border between the red and the green area.  Location is just to the left side of the runway in this image.  I do notice a big improvem
ent when looking up at night.  I actually see about 103 stars vs. 75 stars at Renton! (yeah, exaggerating - just a little bit).  Milky Way hasn't been seen yet here, but I'll keep searching.  I do see stars between stars here tough, so that is promising.   So far living out here in the sticks surrounded by an occasional redneck isn't too bad.
(click the images for full size as always)

Friday, June 20, 2014

Let the digging begin.

I always see these goofy photos and videos on the news of politicians "working" when doing a groundbreaking ceremony for some fancy new building - or in the case of Seattle this insanity called the "viaduct tunnel".  I won't get into that!
I couldn't get any famous astronomers to come over and break ground with a golden shovel, so I just simply started cutting out the 11 x 11 foot square.
The turf in the yard isn't very deep, and there is a layer of rock underneath.  I'm sure this is going to be a painful process, but gotta do it.
That tree in the middle is a peach tree with some small peaches that don't seem to grow very big. That will soon be dug up and  moved someplace else in the yard.  
After the square is cut, the next thing to do is dig a hole in the middle for the pier.  I have some ideas on how to do the pier this time.  Mostly with a steel pipe bolted down to a deep foundation of some type. More on that later, and more photos as work continues.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Astro-shack ver. 2.0 (Crest Airpark Astro-shack)

It's been a while since I posted anything here.  Just been extremely busy buying a new house, fixing up the old house, moving, moving more stuff, then moving even more stuff.  Eleven years can really make a big pile of crap!
Pile 'o dome parts.
It was a bittersweet afternoon when I pulled the dome off the Highlands Astro-shack and loaded the parts in the truck to move. The new location is about 14 miles southeast and has much better skies.  Still not super dark, but a big improvement.
First task was to clean up the dome parts.  I had 2 years of Renton "fallout" on the dome and had to give it a good scrubbing.  Also, there was some tar gunk on it that I never was able to remove before.  I worked on that some more with a heat gun, Goof Off, oven cleaner and lot of scraping.  It came off ok finally, but left a brown stain on the flange.  I cleaned it up well, put some primer and paint on the parts and it looks as good as new now.
Painting the parts to make them pretty. 
I have done a little observing with the 17.5 inch "clown cannon" Dob.  It's so much easier to move around on the pavement than rolling it around the old and very lumpy backyard lawn!   I took a moon shot with my iPhone.
Scrubbing the dome. 
I then assembled (just finger tight) the dome parts in the hangar to line up all the holes.  I met some new neighbors across the taxiway who were finally able to ask "what is that?!" after seeing it sitting there for a while.
Open the pod bay doors Hal.
The next thing to do is to figure out where to put the observatory.  I already picked out a part of the backyard where it will go.  Light from neighbors isn't much of a problem her, so I don't have to worry about that again.  I just have to watch out for visiting Cessnas that may have wings swinging over the fence when pivoting around on the ramp.  I measured 6.5 feet from the fence which seems about right.
"Catadioptric" telecope mount?
I'm planning on a
smaller, lower, and more efficient observatory this time where I'll avoid all  (or most?) of the mistakes I did before on the old Astro-shack.  This one will be 10x10 feet, walls about 5 feet high with the dome on top.  I'll have a lower cement pier just under floor level, and then have a metal pipe/pier type of thing on top for the scope.  I'm still looking into how to do that.  
Next....drawings of ideas.

Not bad for a cell phone!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Curiosity does some planet imaging.

Just another one of those amazing images that make you stop and think of the tiny blue dot we stand on.  Curiosity turned its camera toward the sunset and captured a bright "star" in the sky.
That star is US! Everyone we know, will know, used to know, everything in history that happened, dinosaurs, wars, disasters, even a few football games (now that will really make the Superbowl look like nothing!), and everything else.  All on that tiny dot.  The moon is visible also in the image, over 40 years ago humans traveled to that other tiny dot just below the brighter one - never any farther than that.  But then we see this photo taken from our rover sitting on Mars looking up the night sky.
Just another one of those photos that will make your brain go *ping!*.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Fresh craters on Mars.

The advantage of having spacecraft orbiting planets all the time is evident when the MRO orbiter finds new craters on the surface.  This is a fresh crater that formed recently, it's about 100 feet in diameter and has a "splatter" that goes out 9 miles!
Cool stuff.  Definitely a lot smaller than the rock that hit Russia a year ago.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Supernova in M82.

Again, a long time since posting new stuff.  But that's life as a Seattle astronomer as usual.  We got lucky again and had some clear skies for a few nights after SN2014J (the fancy name for a supernova) which blew up 11.4 billion years ago in M82.  Kind of cool, another one of those relatively bright Messier galaxies which are well known.   The star which blew up pretty much outshined everything else in the galaxy.  When I pointed the telescope at it, I could clearly see the star in just a 4 second exposure in my Starshoot autoguiding camera on the Orion 80ED.  It would have even been a good guide star if I wanted to use it.
The next night I just took a photo of an old favorite - M42.  It was up a lot earlier than the supernova, so I didn't gather more images of it.  The galaxy didn't clear my backyard tree until after 12:30am.

Friday, October 11, 2013

If the moon was in same orbit at the ISS.

Totally fictitious of course, but kind of a neat animation showing what it would look at if the moon was in the same orbital altitude as the International Space Station.  If the moon was really put this close, I think it would be well inside the Roche Limit and would be torn apart and turn into a ring similar to
Saturn's though.
Just imagine the daily solar and lunar eclipses, horrible light pollution and really messy tides!

Lost another of the original Seven.

Sadly, yesterday we lost another one of our space pioneer heroes. Scott Carpenter died from complications from a stroke, he was 88 years old. I'm glad to say that I did have a chance to meet him a couple times and do have his autograph in my collection. Scott was the 4th American in space and the 2nd to orbit the earth after John Glenn's shortened orbital flight (heat shield scare if you didn't know).

Scott was also the first to land way off course - about 250 miles - due to timing on the retro-rocket firing, but obviously he was found and it was a happy ending. He never flew in space again due to some reasons, but I'll let you read about that on the link below!

Now we just have John Glenn left of the original 7. He was the first American to orbit...and now the last of the Mercury astronauts. I always thought these pre-shuttle guys were all the best of the best, true heroes that we just don't seem to have anymore these days. Who will the next generation of space hero be?
  Godspeed Scott!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Russian SUV equivalent to a ride in the Soyuz.

I think this is a series of car commercials for a Russian car company.  Pretty funny stuff!  I'm sure the car they are selling has a lot more room in it than the Soyuz - at least they don't have to sit with their knees up a their chins!