Great “New and Improved” Astro Web Site

SkyNews.ca

Just a quick note to all my readers to check out the new and improved SkyNews.caweb site. I’m happy to say that I get to be the site’s editor and work with some of the best astronomy writers in the business, including Terence Dickinson, Alan Dyer, and Ken Hewitt-White, to name but three. One item I hope you’ll find of particular interest is my regular “This Week’s Sky” column, which will highlight the most interesting observing events over the coming seven days. Check in regularly and enjoy everything we have on offer!

Gary

Telescope Economics: To Build or To Buy?

Sam and scope

I built my 12.75-inch Dob for less than $700 — much less than a comparable commercially made scope would have cost. But is making your own scope always a money saving proposition? That’s what inquireing minds (canine or otherwise) want to know.

For diehard ATMs, building telescopes is a way of life. But for others, the decision about whether or not to make a scope often hinges on economics. Will I save money building my own? The question shows up regularly in on-line forums and in my e-mail box. Before the emergence of a large-scale commercial telescope industry, the answer was a definite “yes!” But with the current abundance of low-cost, imported Dobs, and the increasing expense (and scarcity) of telescope-making supplies, it’s reasonable to wonder if it’s still possible to save a few bucks by going the home-made route. The prevailing conventional wisdom says “no,” but my own experiences suggest the answer isn’t as cut and dried as that.
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How Blue is the Moon

Moon blue

Even though a “Blue Moon” doesn’t really look like this, it does attract a lot of attention.

Whenever there’s a second full Moon in a month, the phrase “Blue Moon” gets a real work out in the popular press and on-line. Interestingly, that definition of a Blue Moon is of surprisingly recent vintage. What’s more, it’s rooted in a mistake.
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A New Telescope-Making Book

Highe book cover

Any new telescope-making book is a big deal, but one that is both new and important is a huge deal. I believe that’s what we have here with the arrival of Albert Highe’s Portable Newtonian Telescopes. It’s a very satisfying, and detailed volume that covers a great deal of territory not explored in any other telescope-making book. What makes it “important,” in my view, is that it not only advances the state of the art, but also provides a wealth of information that will stand the test of time. Albert, and his publisher Willmann-Bell, are to be congratulated on producing such a fine and valuable addition to the ATM’s bookshelf.
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A Farewell to Summer

Cygnus

The Cygnus Milky Way photographed from Mt. Kobau.

This past summer I tried my hand at medium-format astrophotography for the first time. While digital imaging has largely eclipsed emulsion-based photography, old-school techniques and materials can still yield pleasing results. There’s just something about a black-and-white Milky Way photo that evokes the work of E. E. Barnard, much the same way that high-contrast landscape photography inevitably draws comparisons with Ansel Adams.
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Great Sunspots!

Sunspots

Sunspots, July 11, 2012, 1 p.m. PDT.

The most impressive bunch of sunspots in a long while recently slipped off the face of the Sun, but not before unleashing an X-class flare and triggering an auroral show visible even from southern Canada. Here’s hoping there’s more to come soon.

A Converted-StarBlast Travelscope

Converted StarBlast

This ultraportable telescope is ideal for outings in which stargazing is a “maybe” instead of a “definitely.”

Although I have a house full of telescopes, I still find myself dreaming up new ones that would be ideal for this or that situation. But that’s one of the real joys of learning to make telescopes — you can build instruments uniquely suited to a given application, limited only by your budget, skill, and imagination.
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Transit!

Venus transit

The transit begins and the weather is clear!

After a gloomy start to the day and an equally gloomy weather forecast, I had all but given up hope of seeing the transit of Venus. Oh well, I told myself, at least I got to see a bit of the 2004 event. And then, miracle of miracles, at midday the Sun broke through the clouds and by first contact, the sky was clear. Venus bit into the solar limb exactly on time, and all was right with the universe.
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S&T’s New Moon Globe

Moon globe

My copy of Sky&Telescope’s new Moon globe arrived recently and I’ve been enjoying it ever since. I have a special fondness for lunar cartography. I’m proud to say that I helped create both the Sky&Telescope Moon Map and Field Map of the Moon and I also got to serve as editor for Antonín Rükl’s classic Atlas of the Moon. But there’s one thing that these flat maps and even computer software can’t do very well — show you the entire Moon from any perspective quckly and easily.
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