SURPRISE! I am finally getting around to doing something that has been needed for a long time to keep us in touch — sending out a newsletter. Eventually I, or whoever takes up this task will settle onto a regular format and style — but for now, here goes . . .
We have been making some progress on the things that have been bugging us and holding us back from doing what we want to do as amateur astronomers. How about the following?
- Installing a better finder scope. The latter was constructed from a 4″ sewer pipe and a 3.5″ f/10 (or so) achromatic finder that was lying around the Physics Lab. It works well and should help us find objects in the sky much better.
- Balancing the telescope. The unbalance in certain positions has been annoying us for a while. I think we have finally got it set now and understand the balancing procedure better.
- Fixing the sidereal drive. The gears inside the Hearst 0.5 RPM synchronous motor had been stripped (about Sept of this year). We ordered a replacement motor (for about $100) and got it installed. The drive works fine now. Direct (guided or unguided) 35 mm photography at the Cassegrain focus should now be possible. (Bring your camera next time.) Promising objects are Jupiter, the Moon, the Orion nebula and various other star clusters. Wait till the next clear, dark night . . .
Next on the agenda is:
- The construction of a 4″ x 5″ camera that will allow us to take pictures about 3/4 of a degree wide. This would be great for star clusters such as the Pleiades, the Hyades, the Beehive, etc. It would also allow us to take a full-frame picture of the Moon. As it is now, you only get a fraction of the Moon on a 35 mm frame. A shutter for the Moon would have to be made, however, as short exposures (1/500 sec etc) are needed using fast film.
- A (hydrogen) film sensitizing tank — Jim Livingstone, a new member, has made inquiries about getting the gas we will need — it’s not too expensive and is readily available on special order. We will be constructing a chamber that will hook up to an existing vacuum system at the College and will accommodate plates up to 4×5 in size. (Film sensitization is necessary to overcome the so-called reciprocity failure occurring with the long exposures — 10 min to one hour — needed for astronomical photography.)
- The addition of a motorized drive in right ascension (left and right) for the ‘seek and set’ (s&s) speed. At present we have in operation both the s&s and guide (ultra slow) speeds for declination (up and down), and the guide speed in right ascension. This addition would make it possible to stand at the finder, holding the hand control, and have the motors move the telescope, centring the object. One could then I look through the eyepiece and centre the object without having to strain at pulling or pushing the massive telescope, often at awkward angles.
There are many other things that we have planned for the observatory — the building for example, could use some work — however, they will have to wait.
RECENT EVENTS AT TMO (Tabor Mtn Observatory)
- Oct 1/2? Roger Fox’s Grade 12 class from Duchess Park. About 40 people in all, including 3 of my own students.
- Oct 9/10 Our first club outing. Alan Pretty (and 2 guests), Keith Blaney, Kim Jenner, Eric Hoogstaten, John Crow, Faye Pollack, Jim Livingstone and myself were in attendance. Also there were about 30 cubs and parents there. A good time was had by all. Later, Kim (Clave) and Jim (Brandon) compared (argued over?) eyepieces.
- Oct 16/17 — Jennifer Smith’s Grade 5 class from Lakewood Elementary.
I myself was out last Saturday (Nov 8/9) to do my variables for the AAVSO. An icy wind conspired to freeze my fingers and nose, and fog up my glasses. Not too pleasant. It would have been much better inside the dome (I was outside). Incidentally, now that the cold weather has arrived, it is a good time to mention that I have purchased 20 L of kerosene which should keep the heater going for a while, making the warm room nice and toasty-warm. In addition, Kim said he would keep his propane heater up there for our use. So if one wears good winter clothing, stays inside the building, and makes use of the warm room occasionally, there should be nothing to fear from the cold weather. Winter can bring the really clear, steady nights…
WHAT’S GOING ON IN THE SKY
- Jupiter is still visible, reasonably high in the sky. On a clear night it is fantastic in the 24″ — you can see several bands clearly, plus — on occasion — the red spot.
- Mars, low in the southwest, is in the “blob stage”.
- The Orion Nebula rises about 9:00 these days and is a truly spectacular object in the 24″
- The Andromeda Galaxy, a binocular or even naked-eye object, is almost directly overhead these days.
- Vesta (asteroid 4) is visible in the constellation of Cetus.
- Mercury, which undergoes a (very rare) transit of the Sun Nov 13, is unfortunately only visible in Asia, Africa and eastern Europe then.
THURSDAY, Nov 20 in room 2-223 (Physics Lab) at 7:30. We will elect officers and have talk, possibly by Eric Hoogstraten on mirror and/or telescope mount making. We also hope to discuss this year’s programme and find out what you, the members, want. We would love to see you there!!!
Bob Nelson, President