Thursday, July 29, 2021


As a child, though I owned telescopes, most of my instrument viewing was with microscopes. I learned well that more power does not make a better view because you lose resolution. Soon, you are viewing your own floaties. This applies to telescopes. However,… Magnification is seldom wasted. To split a close pair of stars, you only need two small circles of light. 

Also, as it happens with a telescope, with low power, you get less contrast: the background is brighter. With more magnification, you get a deeper black where the points of light are not.


I accept the limitations of my instruments. The system must be balanced. My telescopes work best below 110X. My 70mm National Geographic refractor is an f/10 F=700 mm and the Explore Scientific First Light 102mm refractor is an f/6.47 F=660mm. So, for me (or them), the limits are the 6mm ocular or the 13mm with a 2X Barlow. And those are limits. Practically, I work between 20X and 80X, though, as noted above, when pursuing binary stars and similar objects, I accept the degraded resolution. 


Then, I found interesting advice at Ronald Stoyan’s “The Visual Astronomer” webpages (here: -- but not https secure and not updated recently). During the last Mars opposition in October 2020, he posted this: “Most people tend to use a power that still renders a “sharp” image. I would like to encourage to go further: Even if the image does not look as good and is a bit soft, and turbulence is destroying definition most of the time, your eye will be able to make out more fine detail in the milliseconds of calm air as when looking at the sharper image at lower power. This requires a certain amount of patience, in many cases you’ll have to wait several tens of minutes to get glimpses of fine detail. But it will pay off eventually. Actually, there is no such thing as “empty” or useless magnification. Discard all obsolete rules!”


And so I did. With a 5X focal extender coupled to a 2X Barlow, I used a 6mm ocular in my F/660 telescope and viewed Jupiter at 1100 power. I was also encouraged in that by Don Pensack who does a bit of writing himself. Helping me to find M4 in Scorpius (still not found), in a chat on The Sky Searchers website, he wrote: “Higher magnification is the obvious answer, but only once it is in the field. Worry more about the magnification than the amount of glass. You have to diminish the brightness by 10% or more before it's even noticeable in a lab environment (10% is only 0.1 magnitude), and a Barlow does not do that. If the field is darker, it's because of magnification, not the number of glass elements in the focuser.” I had been reluctant to use more ocular than necessary to view. While I personally prefer the wider view of a 17 mm ocular with a 2X Barlow, I would nod to the fact that the 8mm ocular delivers the same view with less interference. Last night, I abandoned my vitrophobia, and went full bore. 


I can’t say that I learned much about the planet. But it was an interesting experience. I also viewed Saturn. Again, it has looked better farther away. But it was an interesting experience. And it led to a personal discovery: I observed the globular cluster Messier 22 (NGC 6656) in Sagittarius. (At left from Sky & Telescope reduced to approximate actual experience at 500X with an Explore Scientific First Light 102mm refractor.)




The Andromeda Galaxy 

The Beehive Cluster 

Assign a Number to It Said Lord Kelvin 

Baader-Planetarium Micro-Guide Reticle 


Saturday, July 24, 2021

Remote Work Before Covid

Going through some boxes from the garage, I found this. You can tell from the PDA (personal digital assistant) in his hand, from the fax machine at his foot, the monitor and the camera that this is from 1995-2000. 

Ahead of the 237th conference of the American Astronomical Society this past January, they brought in a coach to deliver a presentation on how to work a virtual conference. In some ways, it is easier and better than a live conference. One basic reminder: Wear your half suit.

Even earlier, back before 1985, I got a handbook of software developers for one of the major firms. It was either for IBM or Digital Equipment Corporation. (I was working part-time and enrolled at Lansing Community College, which was a DEC VAX environment.) Many of the firms were small, one or two employees, with annual declared incomes of $100,000 (probably the minimum checkbox on a survey), and remote, in places like Idaho and Oregon. 


Engines of Creation 

Goofing to a Meltdown? 

The Pretense of Sociology 

Jerry Emanuelson's Algebraic Proof of Ricardo's Law of Association 

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

60 Years Ago: Gus Grisson and Liberty Bell 7

We were on vacation in Daytona Beach, but had to come home on the 20th. So, we did not see any of the launch, except, of course, on television.

Topps cards circa 1961-1962.

Tom Wolfe had a soft spot in his heart for "Gruff Gus" and the movie portrayal delivered much of that. 
Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin: Another Worthy 2nd Place


Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Observing With NASA: An Open Platform for Citizen Science

Messier 51: 
The Whirlpool
taken 28 June 2021
Processed 9 July 2021
I have no problem with failure. I do not like failing, but I am not afraid of it. As a child, I took Minnows swimming three times before I was a Fish and then a Flying Fish, and I am really comfortable in the water and under it. I took freshman calculus three times to get an A (F, C+, A) and freshman physics three times: C+, B+, A. I just like to get it all right no matter what it takes. And so, I signed up to use the remote citizen science telescopes from NASA in order to practice taking and processing astrophotography images.

The telescopes are a collaboration project with the Harvard Center for Astrophysics and are labeled “Observing With NASA” because it is as if you had your OWN telescope and camera in a dark sky location. Their website is here:


They provide online training via YouTube and also have downloadable PDFs to explain the same material. 


Jupiter: a little shaky

I found the lectures easy to understand. In fact, I like it as a model for how such videos should go. I just finished a project where the subject matter experts (SMEs) did not want to be bothered, so they made videos for me to watch, and it was pretty much a waste of their time and mine. These talks were all excellent, even though the results were often disappointing. 


On the one hand, this takes some finesse and I am still developing that. Like opening the nut on a threaded fastener without bruising a knuckle, finding the right balances for the scales requires more practice. 

Astrophotography and Me (January 5, 2020)

Astrophotography is a Lot Like Love (July 15, 2020)

Amateur Astrophotography is Baloney (April 17, 2021)

That being so, it remains that the unattended instruments are not always locked on their targets for whatever reasons. I requested images of Jupiter, Jupiter's moons, and our Moon. All of them had problems, the Jovians worst. Our Moon was not centered on both of my requests.


However, they do provide a long list of existing image captures for practicing with. And that’s a plus.

Gray scale of Blue filter. Red
and Green did not come out so good.

The telescopes are 6-inch (152.4 mm) Maksutov designs with focal length 560 mm (therefore f/3.47) with 5.25-inch (133.3 mm) correctors and 1.875 (1-7/8) inch (47.6 mm) diagonal mirrors, or about 31% center field interference. The cameras are charged couple devices (CCD) Kodak KAF 1400 (1000 x 1400 resolution). They have two magnification modes for 1-degree and ½ degree field of view (FOV) with 5.0 or 2.5 arc-seconds per pixel respectively. 


You can read all of the details here:

“MicroObservatory Net: A Network of Automated Remote Telescopes Dedicated to Educational Use,” by Philip M. Sadler, Roy R. Gould, P. Steven Leiker, Paul R. A. Antonucci, Robert Kimberk, Freeman S. Deutsch, Beth Hoffman, Mary Dussault, Adam Contos, Kenneth Brecher & Linda French; Journal of Science Education and Technology, volume 10, pages 39–55 (2001), Published: March 2001.

They say:


The Hercules Cluster M13 27 June 2021 
Many students have a deep interest in astronomy, but a limited opportunity to use telescopes to explore the heavens. The MicroObservatory Network of automated telescopes is designed to provide access to classroom teachers who wish their students to conduct projects over the World Wide Web. The intuitive interface makes it easy for even 10-year-olds to take pictures. Telescopes can be remotely pointed and focused: filters, field of view, and exposure times can be changed easily. Images are archived at the website, along with sample challenges and a user bulletin board, all of which encourage collaboration among schools. Wide geographic separation of instruments provides access to distant night skies during local daytime. Since “first light” in 1995, we have learned much about remote troubleshooting, designing for unattended use, and for acquiring the kinds of images that students desire. This network can be scaled up from its present capability of 240,000 images each year to provide telescope access for all US students with an interest in astronomy.

Full article from Springer for read-only here:


Ground Truth 

Physics for Astronomers: The Works of Steven Weinberg 

An Online Class in Astrophysics 

Turn Left at Orion 



Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Western Shoot-out: The Virginian versus Bonanza

We watch DVDs and do not subscribe to cable. We enjoyed some television drama from the 21st century such as Num3ersFireflyBones (earlier years), Grey’s Anatomy (earliest years), and Sherlock, and sometimes we return to an episode or two. We also dig back into classic TV. Most classic television does not meet current standards for writing. Those were simpler times. 

Working our way through the first season of The Virginian, we also tried a Bonanza compilation. Although it is touted as centering on moral dilemmas, Bonanza is slow on the draw. To be fair, as a 90-minute show, The Virginian had the long-range advantage for plot development and characterization. The plain truth is that that actors—James Drury, Doug McClure, Gary Clarke, and even Lee J. Cobb—were comfortable riding horses while the boys from the Ponderosa seldom dismounted smoothly though mounting usually went better. Much of The Virginian was shot outdoors with riding and roping in wide vistas, though the close-ups are often stage sets. (I believe, also, that they used some kind of movie screen background with overlays to blend close-up action supposedly taking place in the wilds.) Almost all of Bonanza was shot on a sound stage. The cowboys in The Virginian wear chaps because they work hard. We seldom see the Cartwrights work at all.

According to Wikipedia, citing “Bonanza Television Show – ONE” at, Bonanza “is known for presenting pressing moral dilemmas.” But that is the essence of all fiction from the romanticist school. Almost all TV drama and popular fiction in general centers on conflicts of values. Technically, a dilemma is not just any choice, but a pair of undesirable alternatives. That was seldom the core of a Bonanza drama, but, in fact, often the case in The Virginian. Although everything usually works out well enough for the better folks, life on the frontier is uncompromising and unforgiving. 


Back in the Saddle Again 

Firefly: Fact and Value Aboard Serenity 

When Old Technologies Were New

Ma Kiley: Railroad Telegrapher 

The Success of the WEIRD People 

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Virgin Galactic VX01 VX03

 A picture is worth a thousand words.

NASA-TV cut between its own feed and the press feed from Unity 22.
These are all sequential as presented by NASA.
Time and Altitude stamps show actuals.


Grace Slick / Pete Sears

The song "Hyperdrive" was used in the opening ceremonies of the 1976 World Science Fiction Convention, MidAmeriCon, in Kansas City, Missouri.


I never thought there were corners in time 

Till I was told to stand in one 

One straight line head on into the other 

Maybe standing in the corner looks like where it's got to come. 


But I pretend one wall is the past and one is the future 

And I just stand here like the present looking for a 

Good place to run 

Every fish that swims upstream now that's a catch 

Because the full mouth never wants to stop cooking. 


The map may be flat, the globe may be patched 

But the long line keeps right on hooking 

Circles in the ring of fire, where do you go 

On a night that is clear and warm? 

Oh where do you go? 


I never thought there were corners in time 

Till I was told to stand in one 

I've heard circles moving right through corners 

And they don't even know they've been around and around before 

Ringing, ringing against each other on a singing chain 

Like a flying magnet hyperdrive has never seen any reason 

To remain the same. 


Because I felt it I believe it 

Because there are things I've never seen that I believe 

So I'm going to place my face right in the triangle door 

Till I can move right on through instead of just standing here 

Looking at the floor. 


And if it rains again tonight, I can think light years ahead 

Or I could put myself back a thousand years ago 

As if I'd always been here before or as if I am still to be born 

I'm a slow loser, but I'm a fast learner 

That much I know 

Anyone can go 

That much I know 

Anyone can go 

That much I know 

Anyone can go.


Space is the Place: Come to the High Frontier 

The Virtues of Aviation Culture 

Armadillocon 41 Day 3 Part 1