Sunday, September 19, 2021

Celestron AVX Product Review, Part 3

Friday night, the 17th, I intended to be out through dawn, the sky being clear, albeit with a nearly full Moon. However, after some frustration, I took it all down and brought it all in at 23:30. This morning, I went through the user manual again. I relied on the PDF editor to locate places in the hardcopy to make my own notes. I am a little smarter now. 

While working in the dark and wanting to actually view things, I have not always recorded the operations as I would if I were getting paid to write their user manual. This morning, I set it up (without telescope or counter-weight) to run through the menuing. 


It is easy to crash the software. 

  • I attempted to run a simple two-star alignment. 
  • I missed the second star in the menu, pressed Back too long, and found myself at Select First Star again. 
  • So, as I was already pretty close to Vega, I pressed Enter and Align. 
  • The mount stood on its head while it wrapped up the Declination cord and jammed one of the mount knobs into the Latitude knob as I furiously loosened screws. I should have just cut the power, of course. (Something like this happened the second time out, also, though it was not as dramatic. See the second review linked below.) 
  • Writing this, and checking my work, the same thing happened again twice. Fortunately, I was ready to flip the switch to Off. Also, fortunately, no instrument was mounted or it would have been a head crash, as when a robot manipulator bashes its own base. The lesson here is the same as it was in 1991: Always stand at the E-Stop when running the robot. 
  • And that is a design flaw here: The paddle has no Emergency Stop, no power cut-off.

Getting my facts straight to write this,
I found another interesting problem.
The documentation is wrong about the key pad.
 More to point, though,
the design of the user interface lacks consistency
because it lacks conceptual integration.
If the engineering were conceptually integrated,
 these contradictions would not exist.
 It is why as a technical writer
I rely heavily on Ayn Rand's theory
of objectivist epistemology
to inform the design process.

Running the test was easy because the mount has no internal power. The EEPROM (programmable memory) holds the last settings only. This morning, the onboard computer thought that this was still the night of the 17th. So, it was easy to program in 21:44:44 hours and today’s date. Considering the utility and cost of a wristwatch battery, I can only regard this as a major engineering oversight. 


I did verify an undocumented feature. Holding the Back key clears the current menu (sometimes).


I found that accidentally on the night of the 16th 20:21 hrs. I had three stars in the alignment but could not find a good fourth star in the Menu. So, I was stuck in menuland, pressing Back and Back and Back and not finding a good target until I accidentally held the key a little longer. Oh! Ah! It is not in the documentation that you can do that.


As noted, I do not know the faux Arabic names of the stars. Loving languages (see here), I can tell myself that Rasalgethi and Rasalhague are the heads of something or someone and Denebalgedi and Denebola are tails. The burden  remains with me to learn them as I learned Zubenelgenubi and Zubenalschemali because I am a Scorpio. Just to note: The Object Info database does have the common name and the Graeco-Latin designation as the two line header for each target in the Star Catalog. So, that will help with the learning.

Also, the documentation does clearly explain the difference between the Four (4) key Identify and the Zero (0) key Object Info. That was my problem the other night and a problem I recorded earlier. I lined up on a brighter star near along the ecliptic, pressed either Identify or Object Info and then Enter and nothing happened. So, I pressed Back and Enter and the telescope took off for the first item in the list, Achird (Eta Cassiopeia). 




Documentation is Specification 

Objectified: A Documentary About Design 

Celestron AVX Mount Product Review Part 1 

Celestron AVX Mount Product Review Part 2 


Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Social Stratification in the Academy

When I was completing my master’s in 2010, at home we were watching Battlestar Galactica on DVD. We viewed the episode “Dirty Hands.” (Wikipedia here. IMDB here. Battlestar Wikiclone here.). Before class started, I mentioned it to the professor, that in a society that was breaking down, children were inheriting the work of their parents. His daughter and I had been in the same freshman class and now she was completing her doctorate. Just to note: one summer, I carried 24 credits, 12 each at two different schools, two classes in each of two summer mini-semesters. But I could not work fast enough. She was going to inherit her job before I could earn mine. The professor said that it was common in universities now.

From the National Radio Astronomy Observatory:

Nine Children of NRAO Staff Among Recipients of 2021 AUI Scholarship

AUI [Associated Universities, Inc.] has selected the recipients of its 2021 AUI Scholarship, who each will be awarded a $3,500 renewable scholarship ($14,000 over four years to each scholar) to support their academic careers. Fourteen outstanding high school seniors were selected based on their academic achievement, community involvement, and leadership skills. 


Funded by AUI, the scholarship program recognizes the achievements of the children of full and part-time employees of AUI and its affiliated centers, and assists them with the ongoing costs of collegiate education. Recipients of this year’s award come from across AUI’s affiliated centers, including the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), Green Bank Observatory (GBO), and AUI.


The AUI Scholarship program is conducted by International Scholarship and Tuition Services, Inc.


Back in 1967, in a high school history class, I learned that at the turn of the century then, one easy generalization about America was “Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations.” Working class parents give their children all the advantages they can. The children become professionals, teachers, doctors, railroad executives, or steamship entrepreneurs. Then outcomes being what they are, the children might not maintain that status as they lack the attributes that made their parents and grandparents successful. Our teacher warned us that this was eroding, that America was developing a ruling class similar to Europe’s and England’s in particular. 


Previously on Necessary Facts

The Cure for a Failing Empire

The Roots of Poverty 

Sociology: A Defense and a Call for Reform 

The Pretense of Sociology 

Aging in America: Alternatives to Government Policies


Monday, September 13, 2021

Celestron AVX Mount Review (Part 2)

So far, after four nights, I am something less than sanguine. The smart drive mount works well enough, given some problems noted below. I have about 20 more pages of user manual to understand. That said, after the first engagements over four nights, the Celestron AVX go-to mount did the job after some angst and uncertainty. The "Information" and "Identify" buttons do make this a teaching tool, like an interactive planetarium with the actual sky above you right now as you see it. Tracking works well. I finally had the opportunity to sit in a chair and look at Jupiter for long minutes without having to turn a cable control knob. Not much happens quickly in the sky, but the rotation of Jupiter is one of them. 

I need to learn the faux Arabic names of the stars - Caph for beta Cassiopeia, Mirfak for alpha Persei, etc., etc. Some I know: Betelgeuse, Rigel, Deneb, maybe a dozen easy ones, on top of other common names such as Antares and Polaris. However, here the entire database of Named Stars does not allow inputs such as delta Scorp. You can, indeed, choose epsilon Lyrae or eta Cassiopeia and many others from the list of Double Stars. 

Celestron AVX Mount and Tripod 
Explore Scientific 102 mm
f/6.47 Achromatic refractor

With a computerized telescope, I am reminded of Jurassic Park: All the problems of a major zoo and a major theme park. Here, you have two servo controlled motors and a warehouse of information databases, and all of it under the same menuing on a telephone style keypad, going back to the overhead crane come-along paddles of the 1970s. The UI/UX (user interface/user experience) people make their best guess and you learn the system they deliver.


The mount and tripod do thread up well. The mount pre-locks into place with two screws that meet on a flange. They call it "fine setting for azimuth" but it puts the mount in place for the central shaft screw that (1) secures the mount to the tripod and (2) secures the leg brace and accessory plate.

 My other experiences included two large (8-inch and a 10-inch) Meade catadioptric telescopes. Integrated with the lens tubes as units, the mounts were difficult to set into the tripod. Getting the threaded rod into its threaded receptacle was a risky chore because I had to be careful not to lose control of the 35-lb telescope while tilting it and rocking it back and forth atop with one hand to find the engagement with the other while crouched below.

 I have taken this apart and set it up four times now and it always goes together easily. (A couple of years ago, I replaced the thermostat in my Civic and the one-hour job took eight over two days with two installs to get it right. So, I'm a tough test for mechanical procedures.)


I had some problems. With Arcturus still above the tree line to my west, I chose that star for the first alignment and the telescope slued about a 90 degrees wrong northward and 90 degrees wrong in altitude. I powered down and waited. While it was unpowered, I checked north again. I use my cellphone aligned on the telescope. This is my backyard. I have been here ten years. I have recorded Polaris as a binary. I know north. But okay, I did it again, then powered up again. 


10 September 2025 hours- I chose Arcturus again and this time it went well. 

2027 hours -  The next star was Antares. While jogging the instrument to align the star in the field of view, the paddle stopped responding. So, I waited, and five minutes later (2032) I selected Antares again and the mount aligned near the star and I brought the star into the center of the field of view at higher magnification. 

2032- I chose Deneb for the 3rd star. 


[Went in for dinner and to sleep and woke up about 3:00 AM.]


11 Sept 2021 0320 hours. Checked star charts before setting up because I could not see many stars up that I know by name. 

0406  hours Aligned on Hamal (alpha Arietis) and Aldebaran, which was finally above the tree line to the east. 


Chose the Solar System key on the pad and selected Uranus. Used magnifications 38, 77, 82 and 165 from 17mm and then 8mm both with and without 2X Barlow to repeatedly check the field, jog the instrument, select Uranus again, and again jog the putative target to center. If there was a planet in there, you could not prove it by me. The target offered was granted steadier and more circular than a star, but not by much. I have seen stars like that, especially when close the Airy limit. It was not much bluer. 

The heaviest attachments:
a 40 mm Ploessl ocular
atop a 5X focal extender.
Total instrument weight is
below 14.3 lbs (6.5 kg).
The mount is rated at 30 lbs
and that is an occlusion.
(See Part 1.)

11 September 2021 2013 hours - Set up.

2050 hours - Aligned on Antares and Arcturus. No problems. Added Deneb and Nunki (now that I know which one is Nunki). 


2051 - Chose the Deep Space key on the pad and then selected Messier, and entered 013.

2055 - Messier 13 the Hercules Cluster observed with 14mm and 2x Barlow for 94x. This was a win for me because I have been unable to find it on my own by star-hopping. 

My intent here is to learn the locations of this and similar targets from the computerized go-to and then use a manual mount with a different telescope to find the target by star-hopping.

2105 - Messier 6, an object that I know.

2107 - Messier 7 - Ptolemy cluster well I know from previous sighting and manual tracking. It is a naked eye target.


12 September 09:19 hours.

Finishing this report. Last night after the 0100 AM session, I brought in  the ocular kit, the power pack and the hand control. I covered the mount with a plastic garbage bag and covered that with a cloth-like water-resistant shower curtain. Nominally, the ambient temperature was 10 degrees F above the dew point, but weather is local and I know from previous sessions that my backyard gets wetter sooner. Celestron warns that the power pack in particular is not waterproof, and I take that to mean that nothing else is, either. This morning, the porch was damp to the touch, but the mount and tripod were dry. I brought them in.


After setting up in the living room, I used a Phillips screwdriver and a hex wrench to re-tighten the Right Ascension and then loosen and reset the Declination lock latch. 


The forecast is for clouds and rain this week.




 Misconduct in Science and Research 

 20% of Scientists are Crooks

 Retraction Watch 

 Four Books About Bad Science 

 Junk Criminology as Pseudo-Science 

 Criminalistics: Science or Folkway?


Sunday, September 12, 2021

The Mercury Dime

When I first was given the opportunity to choose my own username on a mainframe computer (actually, a DEC VAX super-mini) in 1989, I asked for Mercury, the Roman messenger god, the patron of merchants (and pirates, it being sometimes hard to tell them apart). Likely inherited from the Etruscans, Mercury is associated with the Greek god Hermes and the Egyptian Thoth, and also, perhaps the Aztec Coyototl, the trickster who invented writing. 

I have been “Mercury” in one form or another on many systems since, and I have held my Gmail account, mike49mercury, for many years. It is true that 49 is my birth year, but to me 49 is the square of 7 for the Mercury 7 astronauts, having lost track of a mercury7 username some decades back. 


I sold several articles about the Mercury dime to the American Numismatic Association, the Michigan State Numismatic Society, and others. It does echo the Roman denarius of the Republic with the wings on Liberty’s head modeling the raised face guards on the helmet of Roma. And for better or worse, the coin is in the neo-classical style that was ubiquitous during the gilded age of American aesthetics between the Civil War and the Great Depression. 

As a numismatist, I am a writer, not a collector.
But I can’t make this up from thin air.
So, I do visit coin stores in my town to chat and learn.
And I found this one for myself.
Very high grade examples like this are extremely common
from the war years 1940-1945
when these were struck in astronomical quantities. 

The wings on Liberty’s Phrygian cap (worn by a freed slave) represent freedom of thought. The reverse depicts the Roman fasces, a bundle of rods, the center rod an ax reflecting the absolute authority of the state. In ancient Rome, if found guilty of a felony, the prisoner would be beaten to death with the rods – unless granted the mercy of the ax. Perhaps the best way to resolve that seeming contradiction is to consider the words of the US Supreme Court (Reynolds vs. The United States) in affirming that polygamy is unlawful, regardless of sentiments in the Territory of Utah: You can believe whatever you want, but you cannot do whatever you want. 



Music Makes You Braver 

Numismatics: the Standard of Proof in Economics 

Forgery and Fraud in Numismatics 

Numismatic Truthseekers 


Friday, September 10, 2021

Product Review: Celestron AVX (“Advanced VX”) Mount and Tripod

This is an on-going project.  My summary opinion after three nights is that for the observer, this is a planetarium show. You press the button, it shows you a star. It does make viewing easier. You spend more time looking at things rather than looking for them. These computerized "go to" motorized mounts are intended for photographers. Astrophotography--not my hobby--is all the rage, having grown over the past generation to eclipse mere stargazing.  

The mount and tripod (just “mount” unless otherwise specified) arrived on Thursday, 2 September. However, I had a weekend project, contracting to edit a report for the Mayo Clinic. So, I put off setting it all up until Monday, the 6th. I also bought a battery for it, which arrived the day before and which I charged. I inspected the mount physically, and assembled it in my living room. I had to stop at the two-star alignment. 

I bought the mount to work with two lightweight refractors, 12 lbs and 17 lbs. I also have a heavier (22 lb: 10 kg) reflector that I can put on this for collimating the mirrors. However, that telescope is too heavy for this mount, even though it is rated at 30 lbs (14 kg). For one thing, it comes with a 10-lb counterweight. That is something that you have to keep in mind when you read sales specifications: you have to subtract the counterweights from the specifications or add them to the weight of your payload. The saleslady at the retailer Woodland Hills Camera and Telescope of Los Angeles warned me that with eyepiece and finder, the 22-lb telescope would be too much for the motors.


I found the instructions to be clearly written, but not easy to read and understand. The small type and run-on paragraphs save space, probably left over from the days of saving paper, but make reading difficult. 


My first adult telescope was a Celestron EQ-130 and I borrowed two larger instruments on German equatorial mounts from the local club. So, myself, I would start by aligning to North. I know from aviation that magnetic north is not true north and I know from astronomy that Polaris is 89 degrees and almost 16 minutes, but not at true north. You get close enough. The point here is that Alignment is on pages 14-16 but Polar alignment is on page 29. 


One item was missing. The chart and illustration did not indicate the RJ-11 input port for the declination control. I spent about 15 minutes searching, eventually with a flashlight. The port is behind the declination motor (of course) but hidden from view. All of the stamped surface labels are as flat black as the body they are on. Some of the RJ-11 auxiliary ports do have white press-on labels. 


8 September 2021

The next clear night was the 8th. I set up outside mindful of where I expected the neighbors’ yard lights to shine. As soon as I saw Vega and Antares (after 2007 hrs), I performed the two-star alignment as indicated. The menus will take some getting used to but at 2047 it was aligned. I selected the first Double Star target offered, 17 Cygni and sure enough, in the viewer was a classic double star.

At 2050, Albireo; at 2051 epsilon Lyrae and I increased the magnification to 165X (8mm with 2X Barlow) and verified the double-double. At 2106 M22 was questionable: I could see a patch, but I was not persuaded. However, it tracked to Jupiter and then Saturn easily enough. So, I turned to a tough problem, Messier 4 just west of Antares. I have never been able to locate it manually. I did not locate it this time, either. I pressed Deep Sky and up-down arrowed to Messier and entered 004 and the telescope slewed and stopped. But I did not see anything in the field of view. 


I could not figure out how to move the telescope manually. I kept hitting Back and tried the arrows, but it would not move. (On the shop floor we “jog” robots, but in astronomy “slue” telescopes which Celestron spells with the variant “slew.”) Anyway, I entered “No joy” for M4.


I also noted that the telescope was not perfectly aligned. That problem reappeared often over the next two nights. 


I went inside for dinner and at 2326 powered up again. I had to realign from the start. Two nights later, I still have not found how to store the settings. It does remember some of them, but not all. Again, I chose Vega and Antares and then added two more calibration stars, Albireo and Deneb. I also found the Menu button to change the displayed list of stars. 


Alternating the 17mm ocular (38.8X) and added 2X Barlow, I took the Sky Tour offered by the keypad. 

The first stop was Sigma Cassiopeia, but I did not know what I was looking at. It was just a starfield. The pair did not stand out for me. 


At 2332, I went to the Ring Nebula (Messier 57) and at 77.6x I noted it as “very faint but believeable.”


2339 – Double star Zeta Lyrae, check. 

2342 – Andromeda Galaxy (M31), check.

However, I had to jog the telescope into position. M31 was off to the far right. I apparently touched Back or something and I was able to slue the telescope to bring the object into the center of the field. At 77.6x M31 was very faint, which I attribute to the poor skies.


2348 – Omicron Capricorn, another binary, viewed with 13mm and 2X for 101.5x, but, again, I had to jog the instrument to bring the object into the center of the field of view.


I took everything down and brought it indoors. 


9 September 2021


In the morning, I took it all apart and put it all into its shipping cartons intending to find out what the returns policy is at Woodland Camera and Telescope. In the afternoon, I uncrated everything and set it up outdoors again. The second night went better.


1247 hrs – chose to compare M22 with M28 to verify my previous journal entries. (See “A Good Night Observing” from 1 August here. And I have an M22 coffee cup for the shoreline drive at Traverse City, Michigan). Also noted M54, M70, and M69 as targets moving east to west across the lower tier of Sagittarius.


I fought with the telescope over alignment and finally went in, got the old Twilight Mount, and recentered the finder scope by targeting Jupiter. From that point on, the problems were not with me. Alignment is a two-step process. You pick the target from the menu and slue to it, then jog the telescope to put the target in the center of the finder. Then you press Enter. Then in a fine-tuning mode, you center the target in the eyepiece field of view and press Align. That’s why I went in for the old mount. I wanted to be dead-nuts-on because it wasn’t going well from the start. 


At 2245 I ran a two-star alignment with Vega and Deneb and added Albireo and Altair. I suspect that these are all too close and the best alignment is with stars as far apart as possible. Oddly, I never see Polaris as a menu item. 


At 2257: The mount positioned the telescope at M54, M69, and M70.  All were ghosts, mere hints. From numismatics, I learned optimistic grading of coins, so I could almost accept these details, but I logged all three as No Joy, again, probably because of the poor seeing conditions.


I then tried M25 and M18 both in Sagittarius and both empty fields which I logged as No Joy. Again, I could not get the mount to release control of the paddle to me. So, I moved on and selected Messier 30 in Capricorn. It was faint but discernable. Next were M11 in Scutum and M27 in Sagitta. The open cluster M29 near the center of Cygnus was one I stumbled upon previously and was easy to accept.


M30 in Capricorn was just a starfield, not the globular cluster I expected. The positioning might have been off as it would prove to get worse. I selected M27 the Dumbbell Nebula but I am not sure that it was in the field of view. Similarly, Messier 11 the “Wild Duck” cluster in Scutum merited only a question ? mark in my notebook.


At 2341, I selected eta Cassiopeia from the menu and it was just plain wrong. I lined it up in the finder, jogged to it with the controller, and focused in nicely. When I selected it from the menu the telescope slued to some nearby place of lesser interest. 


At 2350, I chose Polaris from the menu and it was not in the field of view.


At 00:10 on 10 September, I jogged telescope to Polaris and tried a selection of higher magnifications to seek the binary companion. Even at 194X (17mm with 5x focal extender), I got a nice Airy disk, but no companion. This needs more aperture and I have recorded with an 8-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain borrowed from the local club.


00:30 I slued to a bright star in the high south, and pressed Identify and it was, indeed, Altair.


The weather brief put the dew point far below the 5:00 AM low temperature. So, I covered up the telescope, went indoors, and set my alarm for 02:30.


At 0251, I chose Uranus from the menu and was treated to an empty space with a few stars in the periphery, none of them bluish. So, I chose Jupiter. It missed completely, no mistake about that. Also, even though I left the telescope unattended for two hours, when I came back out, it was not in sleep mode. 


Writing this and searching through the PDF of the user manual, I found this gem:


The mount has a re-alignment feature which allows you to replace any of the original alignment stars with a new star or celestial object. This can be useful in several situations: • If you are observing over a period of a few hours, you may notice that your original two alignment stars have drifted towards the west considerably. (Remember that stars are moving at a rate of 15° every hour). Aligning on a new star that is in the eastern part of the sky will improve your pointing accuracy, especially on objects in that part of the sky.

 In other words, this is a feature, not a bug. I also found the Hibernate function. We are making progress. It will be clear again tonight and Saturday. 



Documentation is Specification 

Backyard Astronomy 

Redshift: Six Years With Astronomy 

An Online Class in Astrophysics 

(Not) Observing with NASA and Harvard

I have been trying to use the OWN: Observing with NASA remote telescopes. The productions have been uneven. Some go well. Others do not.

26 August 2021 04 09 12 hrs
Harvard Micro Observatory Amado, Arizona

Asked for M87 Elliptical Galaxy
Got The Virgo Cluster of Galaxies
(or something)
26 August 2021 00 45 32 hrs
Harvard Micro Observatory Cambridge (Mass) 



Observing with NASA: An Open Platform for Citizen Science 

Galileo and Saturn: Epistemology not Optics 

Monsters from the Id 

Nerd Nation: Natalie Portman, Danica McKellar, and Felicia Day 

Sacred Silver from the Roof of the World 

Friday, September 3, 2021

I Like Satellite Constellations

As an amateur astronomer, I am happy to see strings of satellites passing overhead in the night sky. They are the consequence of thoughtful foresight and careful planning. They express mentality, spirituality, and materiality. They are evidence of human intelligence in the universe. 


I have only seen them naked eye. Living about 10 miles from an international airport, I sometimes get jet aircraft passing through my telescope. Once, I was so deep in space that the plane made me flinch. Almost as often I also see meteors falling through in the field of view, and, of course, I catch them naked eye as I scan overhead for targets. Having been out maybe fifty times in the last two years, I also learned to appreciate naked eye views of deep space objects such as the Andromeda Galaxy, Ptolemy’s Nebula, and the Beehive Cluster. Of course, the Pleiades are as easy to locate as the Moon and planets. Knowledge and comprehension make the viewing interesting and important. Otherwise the lights in the sky could be the campfires of the gods. What astounds me is not just knowing what the natural objects are, but the fact that other humans put objects there as well. We are the sky gods of the ancients.

Starwalk dot space here

Some years back, I caught a late night talk show guest, a comedian, narrating about being on an airliner next to a woman who was on the skyphone, complaining to her friend back home that she had just had “the worst day of her life” because her flight had been delayed. I don’t remember his exact words, but it was on the order of this: “Here’s a woman talking to someone hundreds of miles away, while riding six miles above the Earth, close to the speed of sound, in perfect comfort, reclining on a couch, having the worst day of her life.”


Generally, the communities of professional and amateur astronomers all are opposed to SpaceX Skylink satellite constellations. They all predict that left unfettered, these objects will impair if not destroy astronomy as a ground-based activity. I stand alone.

First of all, even if (big if) land-based observation became untenable, it would only be incentive to put telescopes farther out, orbiting Earth or orbiting the Sun out to the asteroid belt or the Oort cloud or wherever. Amateur astronomers already do as the professionals, operating their own remote observatories located in deserts and on mountains, working from the comfort of their home offices. See The Last Stargazers by Emily Levesque reviewed 5 March here. The times are long passed when astronomers sat at the eyepieces of remote telescopes to view the stars. For over a century, work has been increasingly automated. More to the point, is something of a natural process that the observatories built "outside" of London, Cambridge (Massachusetts), and other cities moved ever farther out.


But other people are not happy to see everything that travels overhead. They do complain about constellations of satellites. It might be understandable if they also complained about meteors. 

Society for Popular Astronomy: Stargazing for Everyone
Some Deep Sky
Post  by nigeljoslin ¬ยช Thu Sep 02, 2021 3:04 am
[quote=nigeljoslin post_id=119943 time=1630569843 user_id=3023]
Wheeled the 14 inch Dob out last night at about 22:30 under a beautiful, clear sky ...  

Sticking with galaxies, I shifted to Andromeda and viewed the majestic M31 and its companions. I noted with interest that in a time duration of less than one minute, three satellites passed through the field of view, a sign of the times. And then when I lifted my eye from the eyepiece, I saw a meteor heading towards Perseus. I saw two more meteors later; I didn't know there was a shower just now but looking on the net I see that the Aurigids were due to peak, debis from Comet Kiess, a `long period' period comet that comes to us from the Oort Cloud.
Best wishes, Nigel

Backyard astronomers often complain to each other that the viewing was not so good or even completely impossible because of the Moon. Anything more than a quarter Moon makes it difficult to distinguish deep sky objects such as remote galaxies. (We call them “faint fuizzies.”) At the annual astronomy club winter party last December, one of the members told of going to a star party at a government reserve park in Wyoming. The telescopes on the field were all huge, many larger than any government or university telescope of 100 years ago. Some needed their own travel trailers. At that event, Jupiter was considered light pollution. When the planet rose, its light obscured the faintest of the fuzzies. 

As seen by the
International Astronomical Union here

In fact, as for Jupiter, I have been told that if you get way far out from any lights and can put the edge of a tree between you and the disk of the planet, you can see its moons. On that basis, you have to wonder why no one ever saw them before. But, then, no one charted the Andromeda galaxy until Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi about 964 CE (on my blog here). 


My telescopes are modest. My primary instrument is a 102-mm refractor and I usually view best at about 20X to 80X. But even if I had Nigel’s 14-inch (355 mm) Dobsonian reflector, there would always be a bigger telescope somewhere else. Some hobbyists enjoy custom-made (bespoke) equipment, 24 inches or more, smaller than Keck or Cerro Paranal or for that matter Hubble. Eventually, NASA will launch its James Webb telescope. Others will follow. Telescopes will be built and placed even farther out. 

And it is important to keep in mind that optical instruments only receive a fraction of the electromagnetic spectrum. The universe vibrates at all wavelengths and some amateurs do have their own radio telescopes. But when radio telescopes were invented, commercial broadcast radio already existed. So, radio astronomers adjusted their equipment and their expectations to the reality of the environment.


I accept satellite constellations on the same basis that I accept the Moon and Jupiter and even general light pollution. I am fully cognizant of the fact that last year, when we were shut down because of Covid, my city skies were much clearer. It was a high price to pay for some convenience. The bottom line is that we cannot have skies as clear as our ancestors knew them and also have the instruments that reveal the deep details of those skies. 



The Audacity of Entrepreneurship  

Against Dark Skies 

Backyard Astronomy 

Jupiter-Saturn Conjunction 

Binary Star Project