Category Archives: Astronomy and Space

2019 Spring and Summer Plans

In our last post, we jumped ahead to what we were planning for in September and October of this year with our trip to the United Kingdom and Ireland.  After quite a bit of trip routing, we are ready to reveal our spring and summer plans!

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Like these pelicans along the shore, we will soon line up with everyone else and fly northward.  Once we get to Jacksonville, we are turning westward for a journey to the Grand Canyon and the surrounding area.  It will be a very busy slate. Look for a spring full of posts about that trip.  We have three months before we have to be back in Michigan to start our volunteer gigs at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.  We will be there for two months before heading overseas for a month.  And after that???

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Well, the fact that I installed a flagpole sleeve in the ground at our site in Florida, I guess that’s a pretty good indication of where we will be next winter!  We’ve really come to love it here.  Good friends, good weather and…

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…rocket launches!  This particular launch was the Crew Dragon demonstration mission that SpaceX sent to the International Space Station last week.  The capsule safely returned on Friday about 200 miles off the coast.  Future splashdowns will be within 25 miles of shore, so we should be able to get some photos of them parachuting down.

And an update on our genealogy work:  Diana is finding a plethora of information on her roots that will ensure that we have plenty of places to visit when we get overseas.  She has been able to go way, way back in her lineage.  On my search, I’m currently working between my sixth and tenth great grandparents on my dad’s side.  To let you know how involved that is, every one of us have 256 sixth great-grandparents.  By the time you get to your tenth great-grandparents, that number balloons to 4096 people!  Thanks to the Catholic church records in Canada, there is a record of most every one of mine.  And I know that there are several hints waiting to take me beyond that level.  Time will tell what I find on my mom’s German side.

We’ve also found time to have fun with our friends in the area.

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We checked out the St Katherine’s Greek Festival one day with Fred and Bonnie.  It was fun to see the dancers doing traditional Greek dances in their costumes.

We also met our friends Jim and Sue, who were down from Alton, Illinois to see their son Jake pitch for Fontbonne University.

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He didn’t end up pitching that afternoon, but he did start today.  He got the win, and the team is 10-0 on the year so far.

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The four of us rented a nice home on Airbnb which worked out extremely well.  What a great time!

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So as our time winds down for the year in Melbourne Beach, be sure to keep an eye out for our upcoming posts as we head west.  Until next time, safe and happy travels to all!

 

 

 

Exploring New Vistas

Ever since Diana and I were young, we’ve had a keen interest in outer space.  As is evident with many of our blog posts, we are drawn towards anything NASA or SpaceX is doing, and we love checking out the night sky.  Our positions as interpretive hosts at Prineville Reservoir State Park in Oregon last summer introduced us to the worlds beyond our solar system, in the fact that we had a 16″ deep space Dobsonian telescope to use and share with guests.  As our time there was winding down, we knew there was probably going to be a telescope purchase in our future.

The reality of the situation is that we are full-time RVers.  We had become used to some pretty amazing images through the eyepiece of that 16″ diameter telescope.  With the physical constraints of available storage space, we knew we weren’t going to be able to haul a 6 foot tall Dobsonian scope around with us.  Would we be happy with anything smaller?  Enter my cousin John.

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His classification as an amateur astronomer is somewhat of a misnomer, as he is a wealth of knowledge on the subject of nighttime stargazing.  He is a member of the University Lowbrow Astronomers, a group of 90 or so amateurs that is associated with the University of Michigan. He also worked for Rider’s Hobby Shops for many years, so he knows what would suit our needs.  His suggestion was a Celestron 8″ Schmidt-Cassegrain Reflector.  Through the use of concave and convex mirrors, the size of the scope is greatly reduced.

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And here it is!  It’s actually much smaller than it looks, as the black portion at the end of the scope is a flexible dew shield.  It helps keep the glass at the end of the unit from collecting dew from the night air, in addition to cutting down on light coming in from the neighborhood.  Setup is easy, taking us about 10 minutes from placing the tripod to being fully aligned and ready to go.

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Once everything is set up for the location we are in, a catalog of available objects to view is automatically stored in the hand controller.  From there, it’s a matter of pushing a few buttons for the scope to find a star or planet.  And if that isn’t cool enough, it tracks the objects as the Earth rotates.  Oh, yeah…. 🙂

In Oregon, we found that the best part of viewing the night sky was being able to share it with others.  In the week or so since we bought it, we have had several neighbors stop by to take a peek in the evening.  Melbourne Beach isn’t exactly the darkest place around, but we’ve been able to see the Moon, a faint Andromeda Galaxy, and a stunning Orion Nebula.  The first and last ones are crowd pleasers. In the early morning, Jupiter, Mars and Saturn are in full view.  Eventually, we will get a mount to take some photos of what we are observing.  I was able to take a couple of handheld shots with my iPhone, which is fairly tough to do.

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Here is an out-of-focus Saturn.  It is much sharper in the eyepiece.

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Same thing with Jupiter and two of its largest moons.  With the filters that came with the package, we could actually see the Great Red Spot.

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The easiest thing to snap an iPhone photo of through an eyepiece is the Moon.  There is enough detail for the phone to focus on, making for a fairly decent image.  This was taken Friday, February 23.  In this photo is almost all of man’s lunar exploration history.

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I’ve drawn the approximate landing sites of the Apollo missions on the photo, just for reference.  Apollo 12 and 14 are just beyond the terminator (shadow). No telescope on Earth is strong enough to see the actual Apollo hardware, but NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has secured some neat images of them.  That darker spot between Apollo 11 and 17 is the Sea of Tranquility.

As we get more proficient with the scope, we will share more images.  More importantly, as we meet up with people on the road, we will be able to host star parties! Here’s hoping for clear skies to explore some amazing vistas!