Equipment review

I use an observatory hosting a C-14 Edge HD scope, and a portable TV101 on an iOptron EQ45 mount.

C14The C-14 is housed in a 10 x 8 foot shed, originally a Lowes shed with modified roof and internal 2×4 wall supports.

Not shown is an Orion 80mm guidescope with Orion Autoguider, and s run using PHD2 (, which is frankly phenomenal.

Various imaging options include an ST2000 XM cooled CCD camera, a modified Canon Ti5 (mod by Hap Griffin –


Aldebaran occultation Jan 19, 2016

Watch a bright star (Aldebaran) blink out behind the Moon tomorrow evening, Tuesday Jan 19. The event (called an occultation) occurs across the US east of the Rockies except for the southeast. Those north of a line from Houston to Savannah GA will see the star disappear. South of that line and the Moon misses.

Along a narrow track people with telescopes will see the star blink off and on as it’s hidden my mountains and reappears in valleys along the edge of the Moon (called a grazing occultation). One of my first observations of such an event was in the 1975-76 period using an 8″ Cooke refractor, and I saw more than 6 events.

With no scope, just head outside and watch the Moon from early evening, and at various times across the country (it depends on your location) you’ll see Aldebaran snap out of view. Binoculars will give you a great view. Set up a digital camera and record as video – even better get a reliable time signal recorded too.

The grazing occultation track is here:

Approximate disappearance times for some major cities (Go out a few minutes earlier and find the Moon): Atlanta 9:21pm E.S.T., Baton Rouge LA 8:16pm C.S.T., Boston MA 9:33pm E.S.T., Chicago IL 9:01pm C.S.T., Dallas TX 7:46pm C.S.T., Denver CO (dusk) 6:27pm M.S.T., Houston TX 8:02pm C.S.T., Kansas City MO 7:46pm C.S.T. Pittsburgh PA 9:18pm, E.S.T. Wichita KS 7:41pm, C.S.T.

Aldebaran graze track

Graze track of Jan 19th 2016 across Louisiana

Comet ISON photographed – Jan 2013

Comet C/2012 S1 Ison photographed by C14 telescope and SBIG 2000XM CCD camera, Stack of 9 30-second subframes.

Comet C/2012 S1 ISON photographed by C14 telescope and SBIG 2000XM CCD camera, Stack of 9 1-minute subframes.

This is a view of comet C/2012 S1 ISON, a comet that will be in the news at the end of 2013. Currently beyond the orbit of Jupiter, comet ISON is unusually bright at this distance. When it arrives at perihelion in December, grazing a few million miles from the Sun’s surface, some predictions have the brightness of this comet reaching that of the full moon, but in daylight (i.e. will have the appearance of a small bright white cloud against the blue sky).

The extreme predictions of ISON being a brilliant comet should be taken with significant caution. Comets are notoriously fickle objects. What to expect from this comet depends on your background. The general public pays attention to comets brighter than magnitude 1, and are in the evening sky. Meanwhile amateur astronomers are excited at any comet that exceeds the naked eye limit of magnitude +6 (that’s a hundred times fainter than magnitude +1). The perceived brightness of a comet also depends on the background sky.

A magnitude +1 comet in a dark sky is stunning, but in a twilight sky can be barely visible. SO when you read about comet ISON being near the brightness of the Full Moon, remind yourself that this will occur when the comet is a few degrees away from the Sun in a bright sky. However, if the comet turns out a few hundred times fainter than predictions, it will appear in the evening sky in December as a stunning object, but only assuming it does not break up as it rounds the Sun. If this breakup occurs, the brightness will be short-lived, but has the chance of providing a nice dust tail. For sure, amateur astronomers who are photographing the comet and observing in binoculars and wide-field telescopes will have a great time. If it will be a great public comet remains to be seen, but everyone’s hope are high. Only nature will reveal the reality of Comet ISON.






Moon, Venus, and Mercury meet at dawn

A lovely conjunction of the Moon and Venus, with Mercury near the treeline occurred during the early morning of December 11, 2012. The dark side of the Moon is illuminated by reflected sunlight from Earth, called Earthshine. This dawn view was taken from Valley Center, KS, using a tripod-mounted Canon 60D camera, one of a series taken to capture the magnificent scene. The faint star at upper left is Gamma Librae.

Early morning view of the crescent Moon near Venus, with Mercury lower down. Taken with a Canon 60D, 18-135mm lens.

Early morning view of the crescent Moon near Venus, with Mercury lower down. Taken with a Canon 60D, 18-135mm lens.