Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Publicity for Seattle's Space Shuttle.

I just came across an article and a photo of the Space Needle in support of getting a shuttle here in Seattle next year.   2 more flights of the shuttle are left (maybe 3?) and Discovery is sitting on the pad right now in Florida getting ready for it's final trip.  After that, Discovery will be given to the Smithsonian, and the other 2 shuttles will be up for grabs.  I find out that 21 museums are fighting for a shuttle.  Seattle has a very good chance, since we have the 2nd best flight museum in the country, and a 10,000 foot runway to land the 747 on when NASA delivers our shuttle next year. 
Today the Museum of Flight has raised a flag on the Space Needle to support the Space Shuttle and hopefully encourage NASA picking us as one of the lucky museums.  See link to article.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

T-shirt for space geeks.

I saw this on Emily's blog on the Planetary Society's web site - she always finds all the coolest stuff!  It's a t-shirt with 23 robotic and human space exploration missions.  I just had to have one, so my order is in and the shirt is on it's way.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Restoration of a 60s vintage telescope

I've spent the last week and a half in my basement working on some old junk that I had lying around for a little too long.
The telescope is a Criterion RV-6 that was donated to our club a few years back.  I got a good deal on mirror re-coating about 2 years ago, and had the mirror sent in to Optic Wave Labs for restoration.  The mirror came back looking pretty much new.  It sat in the box for a long time.
I had the idea of turning the old scope int a Dobsonian, but then started taking apart the mount and figured I better see what I can do with that before I mess up this classic old device.
Secondary parts before paint
I took everything apart, sanded, primed and repainted the hardware and the telescope tube. I found some really pretty brass under the tarnish of the focuser.  I had to do some work on the clutch between the RA axis and motor in the scope.  It used a ring of cork between the gears so you can just shove the scope around and let the clutch provide the holding friction once it's stopped.  Kind of a clever idea!  I took a couple tries, and finally used some gasget material from the auto parts store since all the cork I found was too thick.  Everything was taken apart and cleaned up. 
The tube is blue and fits
I got the mount all put together again, and it looks pretty nice.  The tube was repainted and put back together, but I have to shamefully admit that I made a horrible mistake.  The mirror had a small smudge on it, and I wiped it with a soft cloth, but something happened and I smeared off some of the coating.  I nearly cried.  It was along the edge, and I put a lot of time into it already, so I just continued.  I installed all the optics, collimated the best as I could without using a fancy laser tool, and took it out and pointed at the moon in daylight.  Not bad, but I'll see what happens after dark.
Pointed at the moon.
 Lucky me, it was actually clear for a couple nights and tried it out on the moon and Jupiter.
Pretty and functional
Stunning!!  I'm so impressed with the view this thing gives.  Jupiter was sharp, details in the clouds could easily be seen, and the moons appeared as small disks.  Some "x" shaped glare around the bright planet from the secondary support, but that's expected.
Despite being as old as me, I'm very pleased with how this telescope performs.  I'll have to put a webcam on it and see how well it can image Jupiter now that it's at opposition.  Want to see a view?  Come to our next club star party - if we ever manage to have one that isn't a "star party cancellation" which is more common in the last few years.

I hate these finders, but it does work
The last thing a photon sees
Motor plugged in and tracking the moon
$194 was a lot of money back then

InOTMN - September 18

This is a new public outreach program that I just found out is starting tomorrow night, and will be a yearly event.  International Observe the Moon Night.  Basically, a lunar star party.  The moon is just past 1st quarter so there is plenty of detail that can be seen on the surface and as most astronomers know - the terminator with the long shadows!
Looks like a fun evening, but I don't have plans for our club for obvious reasons...

First light with new autoguiding camera.

Our lousy "summer", if you can call it that continues with what we have been calling "Septober" with the lack of summer weather - or skies for that matter.
M27 with 7 exposures
I received the new Orion Starshoot autoguiding camera last week, and only had to wait a couple days for some skies that I won't call clear, but hazy with stars visible.  I had to give the camera a try though!
Of course the cloud curse, attacked Windows XP on the observatory computer so it became USB challenged and refused to see the imaging camera.  Some computer shuffling, cussing, and a few hours of work, I got something limped together that is functional, but not pretty.
M33 with 4 exposures
Anyway, I'm pretty happy with the performance of the guider.  I have it on the Orion 80ED and imaging with the 12" Meade with the f/6.3 reducer on it.  I'll have some more work on the error correction, but it's looking much better than the old Meade DSI camera!  The stars aren't perfectly round yet, but much better.
Now I just wait again for the skies to be seen again....

Monday, September 6, 2010

Watch out for the cloud curse you Seattle astronomers....

We know that anytime money is spent on astronomical optics or gear, when you open the box, you let the clouds out.  The more you spend, the more clouds are compressed into that box.  So if a 12" LX200 is bought, there are months of non-visible night sky crammed in there.
I'm trying something new with my autoguiding setup.  I just bought an Orion Starshoot autoguider from a guy on classified.  I was just over $200, so I'm expecting to try this thing out by....April maybe? 
My idea is to use a lightweight (reduced flexure) finder scope with the new guide camera.  Hoping I can retire the Meade DSI as a guider and go to something more specifically designed for this use. 
I'll share my progress when I can.  Until then, I watch for holes in the clouds.

Shuttle tribute posters.

So what is your favorite space shuttle?  With the retirement of the shuttles coming up in 2 or maybe 3 more flights, we'll have nothing manned from KSC after that.  Don't get me started on that right now!
NASA has published some really snazzy posters of our shuttle fleet.  The photo of the shuttle with highlights of their finest missions and all the mission patches around the shuttle. 
Here is the Discovery poster.  Can you figure out the significance of the 2 shaded looking missions in the middle?