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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Review: Fujinon Techno-Stabi Binoculars

Group shot

Although the Canon line of image-stabilized binoculars (reviewed here) is the most comprehensive, there are other manufacturers making similar products. The one that I most often get e-mail requests to evaluate are the Fujinon 14×40 Techno-Stabi binoculars. Little wonder — Fujinon is a highly regarded manufacturer popular with backyard astronomers.
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Centre-Dotting Your Scope’s Primary Mirror

Collimated scope

There’s no getting around the fact that collimating your reflector telescope (Dobsonian or otherwise) is much easier when the centre of the primary mirror is marked with a paper doughnut. Thankfully, these days a good number of commercially made telescopes come with their mirrors pre-marked. But if your scope isn’t so equipped, don’t worry — the procedure for adding a centre doughnut isn’t difficult. In fact, the hardest part might be convincing yourself that you can take out the primary mirror without inviting disaster.
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Collimation Tools: What You Need and What You Don’t

Collimation tools

Aligning the optics of your reflector telescope is crucial for optimal performance — all the more so if you have a telescope with a focal ratio of f/5 or less. A good tool can make the difference between successful collimation, and an exercise in frustration that encourages you to settle for “good enough.” But selecting the right tool can be more confusing than actually using it. On-line discussions offer a bewildering array of opinions and experiences — some of which posted by people who make and sell the products they (naturally enough) recommend. So what do you really need to collimate your scope?
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Telescope-Making Books: The Good, the Bad, and the Unnecessary

ATM books

Although the internet can be a wonderful resource for first-time telescope makers, it can also be a source of great frustration. No matter what the topic, it’s possible to find completely contradictory advice. Far more dependable are good ol’ fashioned books — especially those that have stood the test of time.
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Exploring Low-Power Limits


The old saying that less is more rings true for telescope magnification, but there are many factors to consider before choosing your ultimate wide-field eyepiece.

Low-magnification views of the night sky can be breathtaking. It’s only with low power that we can fully appreciate the splendor of the Pleiades, the foggy expanse of the Andromeda Galaxy, or the wispy filaments of the Veil Nebula. But if discussions on internet forums are anything to go by, there’s a lot of confusion out there about how magnification, field of view, and exit pupils relate to each other. And without understanding these factors, you might end up shortchanging your telescope’s low-power capabilities.
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How To Collimate An Astroscan


The Astroscan’s greatest strength is its bare-bones simplicity, which unfortunately also means it lacks adjustments for achieving optical alignment.

Edmund Scientific’s Astroscan has been around since 1976. Its enduring appeal is at least partly due to its no-muss-no-fuss simplicity. You plop it down in its base, put in an eyepiece, and you’re good to go. The optics come factory aligned, so you never have to worry about collimation. Unless, that is, the mirrors go out of alignment. And since the Astroscan doesn’t have adjustments to correct this malady, you’re stuck. But are you really? For the brave (or, perhaps foolhardy), there is a procedure you can perform that will put the scope’s optics back into alignment.
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Gary’s Top 10 Star Party Perks


Waiting for twilight’s end at the Table Mountain Star Party.

The summer star-party season is in full swing once again and it’s time to hit the road! As an editor for Sky & Telescope magazine, I’ve traveled to most major (and quite a few minor) star parties in North America. They’re fun events and tend to have a number of things in common. Here’s a rundown of my top ten star party perks.
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Telescope Making Diary: Week #1

Lance’s scope.

My dear fiend Lance Olkovick (a.k.a. Nanook of the North) observing Jupiter at dawn from Mt. Kobau with his 12½-inch f/5. The scope I’m building will be similar to this.

The nights are cooling down and the days becoming increasingly overcast and grey. That can mean only one thing: it’s Telescope Making Season again. And so, I’ve decided to tackle a project I’ve had in mind for some time now, namely, a rebuild of my 12¾-inch truss Dobsonian.
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