Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Armature Astronomy: Tools for Viewing Venus and Jupiter. Plus Pics of the Moon

I've been doing a lot of Stargazing over the last month or so, and thought that I would share some of the interesting things that I have been doing with my blog readers who have a thirst for scientific things or who just like looking up at the night and early morning sky.

As I posted earlier I got the stargazing bug when I was a kid after my mother bought me a cheap telescope.  And I have kind of continued looking up at the stars and trying to do it without breaking the bank.

I also spent some time in the US Navy where I learned to navigate using the stars.  That was fun and amazing.  Words don't really describe how it feels to fix your position, out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, by looking up at the stars.  At that moment, you realize that with the right amount of knowledge, you can never really be lost.

And it also gave me a respect for the sailors and astronomers of the past who figured out all the details of how to do it.  And they did it with out many of the modern tools that we use today.

So what have I been checking out so far this month.  Well one of the coolest things I've been doing is observing the planets Venus and Jupiter (Read about it).  Not only have I been checking them out in the predawn morning as in the video below.  But to my surprise I have made some observations after sun rise during the day light hours.  

So let me run down the tools that I have been using and tell you about the adventure that I had getting what I wanted.  The goal was to get a few pieces of quality equipment, and not break the bank.

The first purchase that I made was a pair of Celestron SkyMaster Giant 15x70 Binoculars with Tripod Adapter.  Sad to say but that purchase did not work out so well.  There was a problem with the binoculars, and I returned them.  I also picked up the Vista Explorer 60-Inch Lightweight Tripod with Tripod Bag to go along with them.

After reading Binocular Highlights: 99 Celestial Sights for Binocular Users (Sky & Telescope Stargazing) by Gary Seronik I decided that the giant binoculars might not be my best first buy.  I did get to use the 15x70s and agree with Mr. Seronik that the bigger binoculars are too heavy and tiring to use.  Also the restricted field of view make them more difficult for someone like me to use.

So based on that I purchased a pair of Bushnell Falcon 10x50 Wide Angle Binoculars (Black).  I would like to write that this purchase went off without any problems, but that is not how the ball bounced.  The first pair that I got were so misaligned that I was seeing double images.  Several of the websites that I visited to see I could find a quick fix, explained that the binoculars were out of collimation.  And in the case even if I had tried to adjust them myself, there was no way to do it.  So I had to send them back for another pair.

My next purchase, which turned out to be a neat little telescope the Celestron 21024-A FirstScope Telescope with Accessory Kit.  I can not say enough good things about this wonderful little device.  It is easy to use, it came with many cool accessories, and the price was just right.

I started off thinking that this little telescope would be a toy, because of the price.  But I was blown away by the views of Venus, Jupiter (and four of it's moons) and the Earth's moon.  I have just begun to explore some of the constellations, but can see that this telescope will give me many great views of the stars for some time to come.

I'm going to end this post by sharing a few photos that I took with my cellphone through the telescope.  They are for the most part not that good, the fun of it all was just trying to do it.

Just in case you need more information, you can look all the items mentioned above by clicking the links below and researching them at


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