Friday, February 26, 2010

Olympic Lump

My poor couch cushions have taken a beating these last few weeks with all the Olympic TV coverage and the higher sun angles washing light and heat into this small cabin. I just haven't done much lately. Coffee with Baileys, comfortable couch, warm sunlight, some curling, a little x-country skiing, a long nap followed by a meal, then repeat in the evening, this schedule would kill a normal man.

However, There is some observatory news.
Dan from Poly Dome called today. During my visit in January he had informed me that every so often they end up with a blemish in the manufacturing process and we could save some money if there was one in the spring run. Well it looks like we lucked out and we're going to get one! Nothing structural, he called it a bump and he will set it up and have it ready to pick up the end of March.
With that news it's time to build the 10x10 foot observatory. With the days getting warm enough to work in the storage building, I plan to build it on top of a set of heavy caster wheels so we can easily move it around the shop. It will be completely built, painted, dome installed and tested, then dismantled and trailered behind a 4 wheeler to the top of the hill in the spring.

Bad news from Meade
A Meade Technician informed Jim that his 6" telescope sent in for repairs a few weeks ago is not worth fixing. We are disappointed, and right now we have plans to replace it. This scope was going to be a star party special. He was told that the repair cost would be more then buying a new one and Jim had told then just to throw it away, but it's Mead's policy to return it. I was very glad to here it's coming back. Any salvageable parts will be saved and the telescope body will make a nice mail box or driveway marker sign for the observatory.
Well gotta go, cocoa water is ready, Bailey's is waiting and the Olympics are on.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Imaging Course at Thunder Bay Observatory

More Internet research produced this link to Thunder Bay Observatory there I found the header Astronomical Imaging Course Spring 2010. After reading over the course description off went an email to "astrorandy." This site could be just what we need, we have to learn it all, not only CCD imaging but observatory start up and shutdown, telescope setup and operation this site could even save us from damaging our scope during set up. Randy's reply email was very positive, he will get back to us as more people sign up and he seemed excited to hear about our observatory and also asked if we want to collaborate on projects. One project he suggested is the All Sky 24/7 sky cam, this system is used by mutable observatory's to triangulate objects to determine speed and direction. Jim and I had previously discussed getting involved in research,and our understanding is that a properly set up observatory flows data like water and the more people with access to this data the better.

Other then that, just more research and reading, Jim sent 1/2 the books my way so the highlighter and reading glasses are back at work. As a true beginner I have found Patrick Moore's Practical Astronomy Series to be very helpful.

I knew two thing about astronomy at the start of this project
1. Astronomer's do it
2. Look in the small end of the telescope

I have looked at the moon through a kids telescope on a wood tripod and have a few star charts in the pontoon boat where my wife and I actually at times think we know what were looking at, so with that little astronomy background I get a ton of information out of every book I pick up.

I also have started watching this Clear Sky Chart from the BWCA

You can view the full page at:
Clear Sky Chart
Legend Page
Spend some time on this page and it will show you how to read the chart. It also has some great links for stars and weather. You might also enjoy the Clear Sky Home Page, it's a very funny and informative read "run by those very cool guys at the Canadian Meteorological Center". We will sign up for our own Murmur Creek Observatory Clear Sky Chart later this spring.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Up the hill on snowshoes

It's a good thing I'm light on my feet (some say cat like) or the couple of feet of snow might have killed me. I slipped on my snowshoes and trudged to the top of the ridge for some photo's, a few GPS marks and some work with the Topographic Abney Level to determine line of sight in degrees above the horizon. This photo is looking south from the approximate observatory site, the ridge line in the distance is about a mile away, in the valley below sits Deer Yard Lake and just past that far ridge is lake Superior.

This second photo is looking north, the ridge line in the far background is over two miles away with Pike Lake and Murmur Creek in the valley below.

I'm very happy with the site. A few weeks back I was thinking about putting it lower down the hill so it would be closer to the house and cheaper all around in building cost. When I discussed this idea with Jim, he pointed out that observatory's belong on the top of a ridge not half way up, and in this case I think he's right. Jim also got the opportunity to see his telescope in person and have his own "Holey Shit!" moment. Now the size of the project is starting to sink in and I'm glad to say his commitment only seems to get stronger.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

My Brain Hurts

So far the learning curve for this project has been all over the board and it just jumped up from steep to straight up. I have spent some time over the last few days reading and highlighting in the 76 page Meade manual that came with the scope. Meade could have saved me a few highlighters by just printing the entire manual on orange paper, cause that's what it looks like now.

Before I headed back up north I couldn't resist unpacking the tripod for a look and wow is this thing huge! It was easy to see about 10 ways to pinch your fingers clean off your hand during setup. I had to see and get a feel for how comfortable I'd be with the mounted scope. Jim is coming up later this week and I know he would love to set up his new telescope but it just didn't make sense to bring it up here now. I'm glad I let it in the cities.

A few things I know for sure: the scope will have to be mounted on a equatorial wedge for photography; we will use the one star polar alignment and we have to learn celestial coordinates in right ascension and declination, for when we permanently mount our telescope. It's smart mount system and the mount will learn about, and then correct for any systematic pointing errors, regardless of the cause. So I'm thinking that last part means this telescope will get smarter the more we use it. Our bet is that in less then a year it turns into Hal from 2001, A Space Odyssey and tricks us into going outside and then won't let us back in the building.
Now you know way my brain hurts.

I'm still working on the heated building design, it's down to about 6 styles including a fancy storage build plan from Menard's. Pat and I would like something unique but it will also have to deal with heavy snow loads, have a door that is easy to shovel out and room enough to take off winter clothes. Jim and I will be up the hill later this week trying to finish the surveying and nail down the site, I will post photo's later, till then.
Happy winter from Deer Yard Lake.