Tag Archives: Schmidt-cassegrain

For Sale In CNY – Meade Instruments 8″ LX90 EMC – $1000 or Best Offer

Greetings, fellow astrophiles!

This in from the CNYO Classifieds section. To provide a level of privacy to the seller, please send me an email directly to info@cnyo.org and I’ll make the connecting email to the seller in a reply email.

The Meade 8″ LX90 is the first full capability, computer-controlled 8″ Schmidt-Cassegrain ever offered in its price range. The LX90 Schmidt-Cassegrain is not only a high-resolution visual observing instrument but also is fully qualified for the more advanced areas of astronomy, including long-exposure CCD-imaging and astrophotography.

Special features of the 8″ LX90 include: (a) a die-cast-aluminum double-tine fork mount that rigidly supports the optical tube in all sky orientations; (b) worm gears of 4.9″-diameter on both telescope axes that permit smooth sidereal-rate tracking of celestial objects as well as precise guiding corrections during longexposure imaging; (c) a chromed-steel variable-height tripod that provides all the rigidity required in sensitive field applications — in fact, the same tripod as provided with the Meade 8″ LX200GPS.

Autostar Computer Controller: The LX90’s standard-equipment Autostar controller connects to the telescope’s control panel and permits an incredible array of telescope options:

• Automatic GO TO capability at 6.5°/sec on both axes, simultaneously, to 30,223 database objects, including: 13,235 deep-sky objects sorted by named objects; galaxies; diffuse nebulae; planetary nebulae; star clusters; including the complete Messier, Caldwell, IC, and NGC catalogs; 16,800 stars sorted by name, SAO catalog numbers, double and variable stars; the centroids of the 88 constellations; plus 200 memory locations for user-defined objects. 50 objects in the solar system: 8 major planets from Mercury to Pluto; the Moon; 26 asteroids; 15 comets; 50 Earth satellites, including the International Space Station and Hubble telescope

• Automatic GO TO capability to any object of known RA and Declination. Nine selectable slew speeds: 6.5°/sec, 3°/sec, and 1.5°/sec, plus 128x, 64x, 16x, 8x, 2x, and 1x sidereal. • Control of the telescope through your personal computer, using the RS-232 serial interface. (Requires optional #505 Connector Cable Set.)*

• Fast alignment of the telescope in either equatorial or altazimuth modes using any of three alignment functions, including the Meade-proprietary Easy Align.

• Unlike the hand controllers included with competing 5″ and 8″ SCT’s (and which require disassembly of the telescope electronics for memory upgrade), Autostar is fully upgradeable over the Internet: add the positions of new comets, update the positions of Earth satellites,even add new software as it becomes available.

CNYO Observers Log: Green Lakes State Park Solar Session (7 March 2015) and Monthly Baltimore Woods Session (13 March 2015)

Greetings fellow astrophiles,

A quick observing log combining two recent events hosted by Central New York’s own Bob Piekiel. As everyone who’s been local all winter knows, conditions were less than ideal for lots of observing. For those sessions that cloud cover (and snow) didn’t ruin, the Arctic Chill that hit CNY in the middle of February really did a number on even the most determined observers.

Solar Session – Green Lakes State Park – 7 March 2015

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Having put off and re-put off a solar observing session at Green Lakes State Park bus to lousy conditions, the powers that be wanted to go forward with a session on Saturday afternoon, March 7th. With H-alpha and Baader’ed scopes in tow, Bob (and I helping run the Baader’ed scope) hosted a session in the parking lot behind the main building at Green Lakes. Over the course of about 90 minutes, perhaps 10 good minutes of observing were had. Clear skies to the East couldn’t be coaxed to shift West and the upcoming mild snow storm that afternoon even provided some advanced warning. Still, about 10 people either showed specifically for the solar or made their way off the skiing path to take in a few sights of our nearest star.

2015march19_sunspots_1024_20150307The Sun itself wasn’t particularly busy that afternoon, with a major sunspot region having just fallen off the Sun’s edge, leaving a small speck of dark spots just within scopesight (see the March 7th image at right from NASA SOHO. Click for a larger view). As with all sessions, the observing was complemented by good introductory astronomy discussions and direction to the CNYO site for upcoming events (including upcoming solar sessions).

For those keeping additional track, the Sun did provide quite a show over the past few days in the form of fantastic aurora after an X-class solar flare fired up ionization in our atmosphere. For those looking for a gallery of what everyone by Central New Yorkers (it seems) saw over this past St. Patrick’s Day, I encourage you to let google do the work for the following image search: solar storm st. patricks 2015.

Baltimore Woods Monthly Session – 13 March 2015

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A panorama from the Baltimore Woods Session start. Click for a larger view.

A decidedly more fruitful session was had in the thawing parking lot of Baltimore Woods on Friday, March 13th. This evening was also first light for 2015 of my 12.5” NMT Dob (Bob’s SCT having already seen action with a few observing sessions this year). The sky (mostly) did not disappoint! Jupiter and Venus were easy and excellent targets, Mars was at the horizon at session start but still observable (Uranus having slipped too low to see), and a dozen eager observers attended to take in the sights. The only real letdown for the evening was the persistent cloud cover that obstructed all of Orion throughout, giving only a few passing views of the Orion Nebula. To Jupiter, Venus, Mars, and the Orion Nebula (sort of), a very double-centric crowd were treated to views of the double cluster in Perseus, Alcor and Mizar in Ursa Major, and Castor (a sextuplet star system that resolves to a bright binary pair) and Pollux in Gemini. Cloud cover was just persistent and wide-ranging enough to make galaxy views all but impossible, making the whole session a real hopscotch survey of the brightest available at the time. After a solid 80 minutes of observing, we finally packed up with plans for the next sessions made.

For those wanting to check out one of Bob Piekiel’s many events this year, please see his calendar on the CNYO website. We hope to see you!

CNYO Observing Log: Star Search! At Green Lakes State Park, 26 July 2013

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The gathered crowd at Green Lakes.

July 26th saw the yearly return of Bob Piekiel, his 11″ Meade SCT, and 25x125mm Vixen Binoculars to Green Lakes State Park for his yearly “Star Search” observing session (original post HERE). Also in attendance were Ryan Goodson (representing CNYO and New Moon Telescopes with his fantastic 16″ Dobsonian) and myself (with “Ruby,” my equally fantastic 12.5″ NMT Dobsonian). I’ve been to Green Lakes many, many times over the last few decades, but I’ve never “seen” the place after sunset. I am pleased to report that CNY has an excellent piece of flat, maintained ground, low horizon, and reasonably dark sky just 20 minutes from downtown Syracuse – a place that I hope sees much more observing activity in the future.

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Local flora and fauna in the parking lot.

Ryan and I arrived around 8:00 p.m. to the sight of 40-or-so kids and adults huddled around a well-spaced campfire that doubled as a s’mores factory. Also in attendance were two caffeinated dogs and a few deer in the parking lot. The location of the session was just near the camping ground, with the parking lot and flat grounds centered in the google map below (a “right” and a “left,” a little meandering, and you’re there).


View Larger Map

The session started just after sunset with the identification of Venus in the Western sky as it began to settle behind trees. This served as an opportunity for everyone to see how the scopes work (and have them demonstrated so everyone knew where the eyepiece was later), to see the appearance of phase in this inferior planet (not to belittle Venus or Mercury – “inferior” refers to them being closer to the Sun than Earth. All other planets are “superior” to Earth in this respect, and we are one of Mars‘ inferior planets), and to see just what a thick, damp atmosphere does to bright pinpoints of light. In this case, the atmosphere acts like a prism, splitting the light from Venus slightly into subtle reds and blues on opposite sides the planet. Not a pretty view for an astronomer looking for sharp detail, but an excellent lesson in optics nonetheless.

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Bob (right) on Venus, Ryan (middle) discussing advanced optics design.

With the dogs corralled into nearby cars and Bob unable to shout louder than mezzo-piano for the session, I gave a brief introductory greeting around 9:00 p.m. that stressed the few important points we wish everyone going into a public observing session would know beforehand (but are happy to explain prior to observing through the scopes). These same points appear on one of the fold-out plaques we bring to each session:

1. If You Don’t See Something, Say Something!

During Mars’ 2003 closest-approach at Darling Hill Observatory, people waited in line for nearly an hour to catch a glimpse of Mars they wouldn’t have from Earth’s surface for quite some time to come. One woman looked quickly, then came down a bit put off by the poor sight she had waited so long to see. I snuck back up the ladder to find Mars nowhere in sight – the scope had moved off of Mars by some unseen event (it was dark after all). We put Mars back in, found the woman walking out of the observatory room, and escorted her right back up the ladder to a sight that was definitely worth the wait. Sidewalk astronomers are there for YOU, so ask questions, ask for clarification, make comments about the view, whatever it takes to make sure you don’t inadvertently miss a great sight.

2. Bright Lights = Bad Lights

Smart phones are the new bane of amateur astronomers, having taken over the role white-light flashlights once held. The first thing we tell people (and the first thing we re-tell late arrivals) is that the dark adaption of your vision is a sensitive and time-consuming thing. 15 to 20 minutes are required for your eyes to adjust to the dark enough to see more detail in the Night Sky (and any detail on the ground). One camera flash, one answered phone, one slip of the flashlight can set a whole group’s dark adaption back to square one. Whether by intention or accident, it is a disservice to other observers to set their observing back, so we always ask that people take extra care to spare attendees from bright lights. If your flashlight has a red mode, use it(!), as our vision is largely insensitive to red light (meaning no real dark re-adaption is necessary).

3. Dobsonians Move In A Stiff Breeze

One thing I’ve noticed among some young (younger than 10, that is) observers is a tendency to want to bring the view to them – which they do by dragging the eyepiece to their eye instead of walking up to see what the scope is focused on. We love the enthusiasm, but we don’t know what they’re seeing after they’re done moving! Because Dobsonians are designed to move very smoothly in all directions, we tell people that the best way to observe is to:

“Put your hands behind your back and walk up to the eyepiece.”

I see kids and adults do this after I mention it – and it works great.

4. Don’t Be Afraid Of The Eyepiece!

A final tendency I see among some new observers (especially with glasses) is to find a comfortable spot 2 or 3 inches from the eyepiece. And some young kids have it even worse as their parents try to hold their kid’s head near the eyepiece. No good! When I see someone doing either, I take over the observing, hand them my red flashlight, and show them just how to get that excellent view. Everyone’s done something new that they clearly didn’t know the procedure for. A bit of demonstration goes a long way (especially when you see the same person back in line for a new object and they walk up to the eyepiece – hands behind their back – like a pro).

An Education-First Session

The session itself ran quite smoothly for several hours, with Bob, Ryan, and I mostly sticking to easy-to-see objects. Another important aspect of a sidewalk astronomy or public viewing session is not to tax the new observer’s imagination by asking them to focus on dim, faint objects that might be totally invisible to someone who doesn’t know how averted vision works. Like an opening band trying to get their best material out in 30 minutes before the headliner, a session for new observers should emphasize big, bright objects where what you describe to them is obvious after a few seconds’ time. If you want to introduce new observers to a taste of everything, I recommend finding the best of each of the objects below to have at-the-ready and ready to describe (I include my choices with each for the Green Lakes session):

* (Hopefully) One PlanetVenus and Saturn
* One StarVega in Lyra
* One BinaryAlbireo in Cygnus
* One Open ClusterThe Double Cluster (Caldwell 14) in Perseus
* One Globular ClusterM13 in Hercules
* One NebulaM57, The Ring Nebula in a href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyra”>Lyra
* One GalaxyM31, The Andromeda Galaxy in Andromeda (but I started with M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy in Canes Venatici just off the bowl of the Big Dipper, to stall until Andromeda cleared the horizon)

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A 15-second exposure of the Big Dipper from the grounds.

I was fortunate to have as my last set of public observers two near-teenagers who were attentive enough to my description of Andromeda and the mechanics of Dobsonian motion that I let them take Ruby’s reigns to find M110, a satellite galaxy just outside of the field of view of M31 and M32 in my scope. After both Bob and the crowd took off for the evening, Ryan and I spent another 30 minutes or so observing (pulling out the Veil Nebula in Cygnus – and still near Fayetteville’s lights!), where we decided that Green Lakes is an excellent, reasonably dark sky location in Syracuse’s direct suburbs – a location we would very much like to make a more regular CNYO observing hotspot.