Summer Packing List

1 05 2017

Milky Way, July 20, 2013
Luis Argerich / CC BY-NC 2.0

The star party season is almost upon us. This summer is doubly (triply) exciting because of the total solar eclipse in August. I’ve got two packing lists going in my head, one for car trips (camping around New England, Cherry Springs Star Party), one for plane trips (Table Mountain Star Party, plus Oregon for the eclipse). If you have any ideas or see anything crucial that I missed (outside of regular camping/backpacking equipment, I’ve got that covered), feel free to contact me or leave a comment.

(Assume all items on camping list already in car, including chairs & cooler)
Alt-az tripod Celestron
8×42 binos
10×50 binos
15×70 binos
90-mm Meade refractor
Coronado PST
6× solar binos
5-inch reflector (swap out for 10-inch reflector if room, desire)
60-mm birding scope
Eclipse glasses?
Welding glass
Tarps (for ground, for covering scopes)
Eyepiece case w/filters
Observing stool
Observing table? think this through
SkyAtlas 2000.0
Jumbo Pocket Sky Atlas
Pocket Sky Atlas
Red lights
Observing notebooks (JR, Catherine)
Green laser (not for use at star party!)
Batteries (laser, telescope, flashlights, red-dot finder, fan)
collimation screwdriver
hex wrench
Birding notebook, book
Business cards
Big camera
Lens cleaner
Camera tripod (why not?)
Tin whistle
Basic tools
S&T issue
Laptop / Charger
Phone / Charger
Screen tent
Card table
S&T t-shirts
Print Bob’s nightscape advice
Charge camera batteries
Remote for camera

(Assume cabin rental, so no camping equipment needed in 2017)
Alt-az tripod
8×42 binos
10×5o binos?
15×7o binos
Lens cleaner
90-mm Mak (swap for Pronto in June?)
Coronado PST
6× solar binos
Welder’s glass
Eclipse glasses
Eyepieces/filters in Mak bag
Tarps (for ground, for covering scopes)
Jumbo Pocket Sky Atlas
Pocket Sky Atlas
Red lights
Observing notebooks (JR, Catherine)
Green laser (not for use at star party!)
Batteries (laser, telescope, flashlights, red-dot finder)
All observing equipment from Rosella’s house (chairs, table, etc.)
Birding notebook, birds of PNW book
Business cards
Tin whistle
More tools
S&T issue
Laptop / Charger
Phone / Charger

Equipment Updates

1 05 2017
Musty rusty DS-10

Meade DS-10, purchased c. 1983. 10-inch f/4.5 Newtonian reflector on an equatorial mount.

As you can see, I’m still grappling with the beast, only now it lives in Massachusetts, not Indiana.

On our last truly warm day before winter, I took a wire brush to the rust on the exposed parts of the equatorial mount. The rust was mostly confined to the balance-weight shaft, but I brushed off some chipping paint on the post as well, then painted all the exposed metal with anti-rust primer. (Except for the tripod feet, they’re already good as they are.) I’ve been waiting for another warm day to cover that primer with black paint, but since one hasn’t arrived, it looks like my mount has a case of the rust.

That’s a new Telrad, by the way.

I’ve been contemplating building a dob box using Stellafane’s instructions, but I left many of my power tools behind in Indiana and I don’t really have the space to build a box. Or the carpentry skills, really. Anyway, I’m also thinking about buying a custom dob mount instead of building one.

I’ve got a new motor to install (still), but since I don’t do any imaging, it seems like more trouble than it’s worth. What I am going to get done, though, is stripping the gunk out of the focuser and replacing it with … what … lithium, probably.

Backyard Observing

New equipment bins on observing table, Catherine setting up her refractor.

Our last observing session was mostly Saturn, but Catherine also did a lot of double-star sketching with her 90-mm refractor. I’ve been trying to figure out a better backyard workspace, but mostly that means subdividing the observing table for task grouping.

I’m trying to keep the equipment budget low. Managed to get away from NEAF 2017 having only spent $120, and $20 of that was on a t-shirt. The other $100 was for a Celesteron alt-az tripod. I really needed something heavier (more stable) for the 15×7o binos, as well as for the 90-mm Mak that I like to take camping. I’ve been using the PST on a lightweight photo tripod, so this is a definite upgrade for solar observing. It’s a bit of an overkill for our birding scope, but we took it out to the heron rookery at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord yesterday, and it was light enough that I didn’t mind carrying it up and down hills.

I’m working on this summer’s packing lists. More on that next.


Observing Sketch

15 04 2017

April 14, 2017, around 8:30 p.m. Diameter of Jupiter = 43 arcseconds. Meade DS-10 Newtonian refractor @ 35×. Image: JR

Observing Sketch

23 02 2017

Recreating Matt’s bino tour from the March 2017 issue of Sky & Telescope:

The “Fertile Crescent” region of Monoceros. 15×70 binos. February 22, 2017. Image: JR

Scenes from a Cruise Ship

11 02 2017

View from Norwegian Escape, 8 × 42 binos, February 9, 2017. Image: JR

Penumbral Eclipse, February 10, 2017. Image: JR

Charioteer’s Cross

6 01 2017

In the November 2016 issue of Sky & Telescope, Matt Wedel wrote about his observations of a crucifom asterism on the Auriga / Lynx border. I took a few minutes last week to sketch the field as seen with small binos (8 × 42s). I was unable to resolve any stars in NGC 2281, of course; it was more of a suggestion than anything when viewed with handhelds. My goal on our next clear night is to return to the view with the 12 × 70s on a tripod.

Sketch of Charioteer's Cross asterism

View of Psi (Ψ) Aurigae through 8 × 42 binoculars, 6.5° field of view. January 1, 2017. Image: JR

Neptune-Mars Conjunction

2 01 2017

January 1, 2017, around 8:30 p.m. Celestron Nexstar 130, Maynard, MA. Image: JR

New England Fall Astronomy Festival 2016

8 09 2016

NEFAFNEFAF is back! The New England Fall Astronomy Festival is this weekend, September 9 & 10 (Friday and Saturday) at the Durham campus of University of New Hampshire. This year’s special guest and keynote speaker is Dr. Seth Shostak (SETI). He’ll be talking to students and faculty on Friday, September 9th at 1:00 PM in the Strafford Room on the UNH-Durham campus and also giving the Keynote Address from 7:00-8:15 p.m. at the Main Tent at UNH Observatory.

There are tons of activities on the schedule for kids (building rockets!) this weekend, in addition to lectures from notable amateur and professional astronomers aimed at the adults in the crowd. Don’t miss the Saturday afternoon discussion panel with John Gianforte (The Sky Guy), Dr. David Kipping, Dr. Seth Shostak, Dr. Suzanne Young, and Dr. Harlan Spence. And stick around: S&T‘s Kelly Beatty will be talking about the 2017 total solar eclipse. 

On Friday night, Joel Harris will give a tour of the night sky for novice observers. Marc Stowbridge will be giving the Saturday night sky tour. I’ve been looking at the sky my entire life, and I still haven’t gotten tired of listening to/watching sky tours. The UNH Observatory will be open, so this is your chance to look through a 14-inch telescope.

I’m reprinting the full NEFAF schedule here, but you should check out the NEFAF facebook page for more details.

NEFAF Program Listing for Friday, September 9

1:00-2:15 PM: Dr. Seth Shostak Lecture (Strafford Room MUB-UNH)
4:00-6:00 PM: Special Reception for Dr. Shostak (tickets required) (Three Chimneys Inn)
7:00-8:15 PM: Keynote Address NEFAF Kick-Off (Main Tent UNH Observatory)
8:15 PM- ?: General Night Sky Observing (UNH Observatory & Surrounding Fields)
8:15-8:45 PM: Joel Harris (NHAS) Beginners’ Laser Pointer Sky Tour (UNH Observatory & Surrounding Fields)
9:00-9:30 PM: Joel Harris (NHAS) Beginners’ Laser Pointer Sky Tour (UNH Observatory & Surrounding Fields)

NEFAF Program Listing for Saturday, Sept 10, 2016

10:00 AM: NEFAF Gates Open
*Ramon’s Food & Coffee Cart Open Morning, Noon and Night
10:00-4:30 PM: Kids’ Hands On Science Activity Center (Main Tent)
10:00-6:30 PM: Search the NEFAF Universe for Clues! NEFAF AstroScavenger Hunt! Start your hunt in the Main Tent.
10:00-4:30 PM: Kids’ AstroGames Outside Game Venue (East of Observatory)
11:00-12:00 PM: NHAS Telescope Clinic – Care for neglected or uncooperative telescopes (NHAS Booth in the Main Tent)
10:00 AM: Raffle Ticket Sales Open – Front Gate, Main Tent near microphone and roving sales throughout the day!
10:00-6:30 PM: A Walk Through the Solar System (North Field)
11:00 AM: Safe Solar Observing (Observatory & just outside the NHAS Booth – Main Tent)
11:00-12:15 PM: Want to be a Rocketeer? Join a class to build and launch your own rocket! (Main Tent) (each of three classes is limited to 15; sign-up is required on site)
12:30-1:45 PM: Want to be a Rocketeer? Join a class to build and launch your own rocket! (Main Tent) (each of three classes is limited to 15; sign-up is required on site)
2:00-3:15 PM: Want to be a Rocketeer? Join a class to build and launch your own rocket! (Main Tent) (each of three classes is limited to 15; sign-up is required on site)
3:00 PM: Solar Oven Cook-Off! Whose solar oven design is best at cooking a snack? (Outside of Main Tent)


11:00 AM: Bob Villeux NHAS Rocks From Space!
12:00 PM: Jeff Baumgardner Boston University Everything you Wanted to Know About Telescopes
1:00 PM: Rich DeMidio NHAS About the New Hampshire Astronomical Society
1:30 PM: ASTRO PANEL Dr. David Kipping, Dr. Seth Shostak, Dr. Suzanne Young, Dr. Harlan Spence and John Gianforte
2:45 PM: J. Kelly Beatty Sky & Telescope Magazine Where and How to View the August 21, 2017 Total Solar Eclipse
3:45 PM: Dr. David Mattingly UNH, Physics Gravity Waves – What They Tell us About the Universe
4:35 PM: John Blackwell Phillips Exeter Academy A Look at LARGE Telescopes in Chile!
5:15 PM: RAFFLE DRAWINGS! (Outside Main Tent)
6:00 PM -?: Night Sky Observing (UNH Observatory and Surrounding Observing Areas)
7:30-8:00 PM: Marc Stowbridge (NHAS) Laser Pointer Sky Tour (Beginners’ Observatory Area)
9:00-9:30 PM: Marc Stowbridge (NHAS) Laser Pointer Sky Tour (Advanced Observatory Area)


  • New Hampshire Astronomical Society (NHAS)
  • University of New Hampshire Physics Department
  • Mount Washington Observatory (MWO)
  • McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center (M-SDC)
  • UNH Society of Black Engineers
  • University of New Hampshire Techcamp
  • Gloucester Area Astronomy Club (GAAC)

Beta Scorpii

17 06 2016

Beta Scorpii, June 26, 2016, Maynard, MA, 8×42 binoculars. Image: JR

Transit of Mercury

9 05 2016

The day started out a bit cool, with me running around the house trying to find a good spot to set up. Started on the front sidewalk, but soon moved to the backyard. Spent most of the day observing, punctuated with frisbee breaks. I wish I had sketched more carefully to capture the effects of Earth-Sun rotation.

Backyard. 130-mm reflector w/white light filter, Coronado PST.