My Telescopes

I got my first telescope during the Christmas of 1979. It was a spindly little 40mm reflector from Sears and it came with just one eyepiece. It’s wobbly little wooden legs and plastic mount could barely keep the optical tube steady long enough to get a decent peek, but I managed to use that scope to explore the wonderfully cratered surface of the Moon, to see the moons of Jupiter and bask in the splendour of the rings of Saturn. That scope opened the world of astronomy to me. [More]

XEphem Astronomy Program

One of my favourite astronomy programs is called XEphem by Elwood Downey. It is a wonderful Unix/Linux application that not only shows you the night sky down but also a wealth of information regarding the planets and other sky objects. I have the purchased version which comes on 3 CD-ROMs. Since I run a super lean version of Arch Linux, I found there are a few things that I need to have installed before installing XEphem. [More]

Testing Optics

I actually wrote this article a long time ago - probably around the year 2000 - but I think it outlines some basics of testing optics that, at the very least, will help you discern whether you have an optical problem or not with your telescope (and/or eyepieces). Enjoy! [More]

Buddhism Basics

A long time ago (it doesn't matter when), somebody (it doesn't matter who) had an epiphany and realized that there was a better way to deal with the anxiety, stress and suffering that each of us face in our daily lives. This person came up with a simple plan to achieve this goal. [More]

Messier Marathon

Once every year at the vernal equinox, all 110 of Messier's deep sky objects are visible during the course of one entire night. In the northern hemisphere, the date usually falls in late March. This is a grueling test of an astronomer's knowledge of his telescope and the sky. Your going to need a 6 inch or larger telescope and some sky charts to find your way around. [More]

Astronomy Code

So one day I decided that I wanted to write my own astronomy program to make sky charts and to plot deep sky objects. The process seemed simple enough: take the celestial coordinates of whatever object interests you (say, the star Deneb in the constellation Cygnus), convert it to x/y pixels for your screen and then plot it! And, actually, it pretty much is that straight forward. [More]

Observing Targets

You've got a nice crisp, clear night. You've hauled your equipment to your favourite dark sky site and you're all set for a few hours of observing. What are you going to look at? Astronomers often arm themselves with catalogues such as the Messier List, the Herschel 400 or even the New General Catalog. Astronomy software provides access to these lists and more at your fingertips. For me, I like to have a list of objects that I've either observed, or would like to observe. This is that list! [More]

Astronomy Log: 2019003

So for the first time in ages it was: (a) clear, (b) not freezing, (c) open grassy spots in the yard. I therefore hauled my Meade 2080 into the yard and set it up. It was still fairly breezy and at -2°C it wasn't exactly balmy. However I hadn't been out in ages, so I was excited to finally get back out under the stars. It was a very short session, however, as the breeze made observing quite uncomfortable and the seeing simply wasn't worth sticking it out for. [More]

Astronomy Log: 2019002

My youngest son informed me that the only two remaining planets on his "Astronomy bucket list" are Neptune and Uranus. I noticed in the morning that the Clear Sky Chart was showing that the seeing tonight was supposed to be good, and it was going to be clear. So I suggested we bundle up, load our car up with our scopes (he has an 8" Dob) and head out to a field north west of town to see if we could bag these two planets (along with a few others). [More]

Astronomy Log: 2019001

This is my first log entry on my website - I hope to have many more in the future! Tonight was the first decently clear sky since the new year, and it was also my first opportunity to try out my Astronomik UHC filter that I got for Christmas. I decided that my best option would be to put the f/6.3 focal reducer on my 8" SCT and use my widest angle eyepiece (a Meade 24.5mm SWA that has a 65° field of view). I grabbed all my gear and shuffled out into our small backyard and set up out of the glare of the street lights, the neighbour’s lights and the lights from my own house. [More]