Nightly News

June 11, 2017
Tonight, I officially began logging observations for certification from the Astronomical League. I began with C/2015 V2 Johnson, which was more difficult to find than on my May 26th observation. After that, I observed two globular clusters, M5 and M3. M5 was the more impressive of the two, showing sharp details outside of its core at 200x and even 400x magnification.

June 2, 2017
Took some videos of the Moon and Jupiter at 100X and 200X magnification with pretty good results.

June 1, 2017
I went over to my parents for the evening and viewed the Moon and Jupiter with my Mom, Dad and little sister, Abby. Clouds moved in making it hard to observe much later in the evening.

May 26, 2017
After setting up the telescope, Lauren and I traveled to the Roanoke Star for a nice evening. Upon returning, we happened to notice a fly over of the ISS and were able to track it with the telescope. We were able to make out the solar panels at 48x magnification. It was an impressive sight, that we tracked for a few minutes. Following this, we viewed Jupiter and Lauren was able to make out the disc of it’s moon, Ganymede at 400x magnification. The main event of the evening was hunting down Comet C/2015 V2 Johnson, which appeared as a slight blur. After this, I viewed some messier objects I had not previously seen, M59, M60 and M104, the Sombrero Galaxy.

May 1 & 2, 2017
Took out the 15×70 binoculars to view the Moon and Jupiter. The Moon, as always, is a beautiful site through binoculars and Jupiter was showing 3 moons easily with a hint of a cloud belt.

April 16, 2017
Lauren and I recently purchased a Mazda 3 Hatchback and I wanted to see how easy it was to transport the telescope around town. We packed it into the trunk and drove up the Blue Ridge Parkway just past the Roanoke Star. After set up, two park rangers stopped by to say hi and then Lauren and I took a couple views of Jupiter before some clouds came in.

March 4, 2017
Accompanied by my faithful four legged companion, Zoey, I went out for about 30 minutes and viewed the Orion Nebula and the Moon.

February 26, 2017
Traveled across town to visit RVAS member Bert Herald for a look at his set up for astrophotography. A write up with more details is posted for this date.

February 19, 2017
A warm winter has led to some beautiful nights. Lauren and I observed a crescent Venus, Mars and Uranus early in the evening. Later on that night, we viewed the Pleiades Star Cluster, Orion Nebula and Andromeda.

October 2, 2016
The Roanoke Valley Astronomical Society held their annual picnic at the Claytor Nature Study Center. After a fun evening Frank and Ray brought out their telescopes for some observing. Frank had a 10 inch dobsonian and Ray was using his 8 inch Celestron Ultima. Frank gave a nice star tour with his green laser pointer and we had some nice views of Saturn, the Hercules Cluster and the Ring Nebula.

September 9, 2016
After having some friends over to watch the first aired episode of Star Trek for the 50th anniversary we started a fire pit and took out the telescope for some views of Mars, Saturn and the Moon.

July 10 and 11, 2016: 10:45 pm-1:30 am
Nice night of observing some Deep Sky Objects along with a few planets. I will be doing a separate blog post on this night with more details.

June 26, 2016
Tested out a new iPhone adapter. It attached onto my eyepieces and the iPhone 6 fit well in the holder. I was only able to set it up and test the part briefly as cloud cover unexpectedly came in early in the evening. Once I get to test it and get some video and pics of the Moon and Planets I’ll do a review of the product.

June 17, 2016
Lauren and I, along with our good friend Cody, enjoyed a nice cool evening by the fire pit and afterwards took some time to view Jupiter, Mars and Saturn through the telescope. The rings of Saturn continue to be as impressive as I have ever seen them in my lifetime and Mars showed off some land features as well. It’s always nice to be able to take friends out to view some of these objects. I’m so used to seeing the planets that sometimes I take for granted how unique of an experience it can be for most people.

June 10, 2016
After visiting my parents for the weekend we took out a pair of 15×70 binoculars to view the Moon, Jupiter, Mars and Saturn. The Moon and Jupiter put on the best show at 70x magnification with the craters showing up incredibly sharp and the Galilean Moons of Jupiter appearing as bright pin points of light orbiting the massive planet. Mars showed off a slight copper color tint and Saturn’s rings were just barely distinguishable at the magnification.

May 13 & 14, 2016
Between 11:45 pm and 12:15 am Lauren and I took our first views of the Mars and Saturn for 2016. They had just risen high enough and were perched in between two trees. Initial views of them showed pretty good detail with how low they were in the sky. Saturn and her rings are always a beautiful show, with at least 4 Moons showing up tonight as well. The Cassini Divide was barely visible due to atmospheric turbulence. The highlight of the night however was Mars, which is close approaching it’s May 22 opposition with Earth. At 200x magnification while using a lunar filter, Mars showed sharp land features including Syrtis Major.

May, 8, 2016
I went out tonight, hoping for some views of Mars and Saturn but they were still too low on the horizon at 10:00 pm.  Earlier in the evening, I viewed the thin crescent moon. Later in the evening there were some impressive views of Jupiter at 200x and 400x magnification.

April 14, 2016
Around 10:00 pm I realized that I would have a perfect opportunity to take a picture of the ISS through the telescope. At 10:23:08 pm it would pass right through the Beehive Cluster. As I hurried out to set up, I found the Beehive cluster and was able get a sharp focus on the starfield, the only thing left to do was wait. Lauren came out at 10:20 and we prepared for the event, she would call out the time and I would be ready at the eyepiece. At 10:21 the space station appeared coming out of the North West and right before it reached the Beehive Cluster, it vanished. I didn’t understand what had happened, it just disappeared right before moving in front of the cluster. It turns out that it’s orbit made it lose the sunlight needed to reflect down onto the Earth about 2 minutes before it was to appear in the eyepiece. While it did pass in front of the Beehive Cluster, it had eclipsed so that there was nothing reflecting down for me to see in South West Virginia.

April 12, 2016
Tonight, I tried out the new Astromania 2x barlow lens and was impressed. I have no other barlow to compare it with, but for 15 dollars it pushed my telescope to 400x magnification views of the Moon and Jupiter. The atmosphere was turbulent, but it showed great promise in its first brief tests. At more traditional magnifications, I viewed two open clusters, M50 and M93. Attempts at viewing some galaxies and hunting down comet P/2010 V1 were unsuccessful due to the Moon.

April 5, 2016
Spent about an hour and hunted down some Messier Objects. At first the sky hadn’t darkened enough yet, but once it did these faint fuzzies popped into view. Also have some amazingly sharp looks at Jupiter at 120x and 200x magnification, pushed me to buy a 2x barlow lens.

March 29 and 30, 2016
Great nights of observing some Deep Sky Objects and the ISS. I will be writing up a blog post with more details.

March 22, 2016
Attempted to use the orange planetary filter to view Jupiter. I was able to get some sharp videos of the cloud belts and a nearby moon, Io. Had some difficulty color correcting the video in Registax 6 because of the planetary filter.

March 16, 2016
Jupiter and the Moon were the main targets tonight. Using my iPhone 6, I took several videos of them and used Registax 6 and Photoshop elements to stack, enhance and edit the video into detailed pictures of the Moon and Jupiter.

March 15, 2016
Having just finished “A Man on the Moon” I was interested in getting in some lunar viewing. I used a lunar filter to cut down on the glare and had some nice views at medium to high magnification. Also, took a peak at Orion’s Nebular and Jupiter.

February 29, 2016
On this relatively warm 40 degree night, I decided to use the Intelliscope Object Locator to take a guided tour of the winter sky. This feature has always impressed me with its simplicity and accuracy. With a simple two star alignment the telescope shows exactly where to move it to find some of the best views of the night. The Eskimo Nebula was a highlight of this tour. This light gray blob with a bright core showed up well even with the slightly light polluted sky of Roanoke. Next up, were the Castor Stars. Appearing as a single star in low magnification, they split into two distinct stars at 200X magnification. The night ended with Jupiter and some attempts at astrophotography. The gas giant was impressive as it slowly rose from the east and into view. Lauren first noticed the Great Red Spot in the upper cloud belt. I took some videos with the iPhone 6 and am going to attempt to photo-stack them, sometime soon.

January 30, 2016
With a small area cleared of snow on our driveway, I went out to get in some long overdue observing. I didn’t spend too much time outside, even though it was only in the upper 30’s. Most of my time was spent on the Orion Nebula, with it’s always visible blueish green tint. After that I did some star hoping trying to make out some dim nebulae, but was unable to from our skies in Roanoke.

August 2, 2015
Saw a nice fly over of the ISS around 9:20pm traveling Southwest to Northeast.

June 24, 2015
While viewing Saturn, I was able to get a nice shot of it through the eyepiece with the Cassini Divide being visible in the image.

May, 24, 2015
Got in some nice views of the Moon and Saturn. Use the iPhone to take some pictures of the Moon at 96x and 200x magnificatio.

May 8, 2015
Had some quick views of Jupiter and Venus and was able to take a picture of the Jupiter’s cloud belts with the iPhone.

January 19, 2015
The night started with some early views of Venus and Mercury around 6:00pm. Even though the scope had cooled for a good amount of time, there were still no details to be made of these two inner planets. About an hour later, Mars and Neptune were up. Of these two, Neptune took the show, tonight. This is not a planet that I get to see much of, so being able to view its small, but distinct, blue sphere was a nice treat. Comet Lovejoy, showed similar detail to the previous week’s observation with still no visible sign of a tail from my location. Going back out around 11:00pm led to some wonderful views of Jupiter with Lauren picking out the Great Red Spot. I tried out some astrophotography with my iPhone 6 tonight and had came out with some surprisingly good results, even showing the cloudy features of Orion’s Nebula.

January 10, 2015
Bundled up for a cold 27 degree night, I went out in search of Comet Lovejoy C/2004 Q2 and was amazed at how easy it was to spot. After gauging some star charts, I looked to the region of stars just above Orion and spotted Lovejoy with the naked eye. Through the telescope, it appeared as one of the brightest comets I have ever viewed with a slightly grayish green tent to it and a center mass that could be spotted anywhere from 32X to 200X magnification. Earlier in the evening, I was also able to get some wonderful sights of Venus and Mercury appearing close together just above the evening sunset. An airplane flew trough the field of view at one point and the telescope was experiencing a decent coma effect from not having enough time to cool down before use.

October 23, 2014
Went out right before sunset to get a quick view of the partial solar eclipse that occurred. Lauren and I had good views of it from higher up on our street and used my Solar Eclipse Glasses to view it. A few neighbors were walking by and took a turn at viewing it as well.

October 19, 2014
Took out the telescope in the early evening, attempting to see Comet Siding Spring pass by Mars. While we were unable to see the Comet, a few neighbors did stop by to take a peak at Mars, having heard about the Comet passing on the news. One neighbor had a young child who viewed Mars along with a few other random bright stars that were out in the early evening. It’s always nice to be able to introduce someone, particularly a child, to astronomy.

September 1, 2014
On this warm and humid labor day night, I enjoyed some quick views of the Moon, Saturn, Mars and Andromeda. The Moon was the highlight of the night with it’s shadowy craters and good but slightly hazy viewing at 100X and 200X magnification.

July 17, 2014
Went over to a fellow amateur astronomers house and was able to take a look at his Zhumell Z8 Dobsonian. An impressive telescope that gave us some nice views of Saturn. Around 10:15 pm a very bright shooting star flew over and broke into at least a half dozen visible pieces following a green tinted explosion. One of the most impressive meteor breakups I’ve ever scene, that was apparently visible up and down the east coast.

June 15, 2014
Lauren’s parents were in for Father’s Day and after a good time at the Salem Red Sox we came home and took out the telescopes for a little bit to show them around the sky. We started with Mars and Saturn before moving onto some more varied objects such as the Ring Nebula and globular cluster M92. They loved the views of Saturn and were surprised at how many satellites (3) we were able to see in just about 15 minutes worth of time.

June 14, 2014
Went out with Lauren to view a number of objects on a cool and calm night. Going back to some summer favorites, we viewed the Double Double near Vega, the Ring Nebula and globular cluster M 92. After some failed attempts to see the North American Nebula we moved over to the main event, Saturn. Due to recently collimating the telescope (way over due) and having a night of extremely steady skies, Lauren and I witnessed the sharpest views of Saturn either of us had ever scene. The cassini divide, shadow of the rings on the planet, cloud belt and several moons were all visible in incredible detail at 200X magnification.

June 2, 2014
Went out for some quick binocular views of the Moon and saw a long fly over of the Space Station. Got a couple glimpses with the binoculars but couldn’t make out any details. The Moon looked very crisp at 15X magnification, even revealing a massive crater that was in the shaded part of it. Lauren and I switched over to Saturn and were impressed that the rings were still visible at the lower magnification.

June 1, 2014
After about 45 minutes of star hopping, disruptions from cloudy skies and failed attempts, I found Comet Panstarrs. It appeared as a small barely visible circular blur, with the best views coming around 100x magnification. Lower magnifications led to less impressive views because of light pollution washing it out. Following this, some quick views of Mars showed off some impressive land details.

May 24, 2014: 3:00am-3:25am
Around 12:49am I saw a shooting star through the telescope while viewing a galaxy. Later on in the night, after a great deal of hype from national news and astronomy websites, I woke up at 3:00am to go lay out in my front yard and view the recently discovered Camelopardalid Metoer Shower. 25 minutes later, I went back to bed after only seeing 3 meteors.

May 23, 2014
Tonight was slightly breezy which cut down on high powered views of Jupiter, Mars and Saturn, so I turned my attention to hunting down some deep sky objects. I calibrated the Computer Object Locator on my telescope and looked up some old favorites such as the Dumbbell and Ring Nebula. My new OIII filter came in handy helping out on contrast for the dumbbell nebula in particular. After that, I looked up some Messier objects I hadn’t viewed  and went to the Virgo Cluster to hunt down the Markarian Chain’s M84 and M86. They were somewhat difficult to make out but I verified that the blurry smudges were them from some good old fashioned star hoping and counting.

May 8, 2014
For my birthday, I received the Zhumell 12.5mm Planetary Eyepiece from my lovely wife. Tonight allowed me to do a first light with it on Jupiter, Mars and Saturn. The cloud belts on Jupiter were sharp through the new 12.5mm, providing 96X magnification. Io was transiting between Jupiter and the Sun displaying a pin prick of a dot on it’s cloudy surface. Mars look incredibly bright with a reddish copper color to it displaying it’s ice cap prominently. Lastly, Saturn came up into view around 11:00 pm and was a beautiful sight. The rings are tilted more than I have seen since I was a child in the 1990’s. The cassini divide was visible along with four of Saturn’s rings.

May 3, 2014: 11:09 pm
After getting home from a nice dinner at my parents house, I stepped out of the car and noticed a shooting star. It began as a dim object but then brightened significantly and broke apart into 2 or 3 pieces that could be made out before the meteor faded into the night sky.

April 1, 2014
After first attempting to find the dim comet 154/Brewington, I turned my attention to hunting down asteroid (2) Pallas. After a good deal of star hopping, I discovered my second asteroid, which coincidentally is the second largest asteroid in our Solar System.

March 22, 2014
Catching up on my Messier hunt, I observed M46, M47 and M48 tonight. Of these three, M46 stood out as the most spectacular. Even though it was fainter and more difficult to find than the others, it appeared as a beautifully dim field of hundreds of stars clustered together. Jupiter and it’s Great Red Spot along with the Pleiades star cluster ended out the night for Lauren and I.
Update: I went back out around 11:30 pm and discovered Mars was high enough to view. At 200X magnification, Mars was showing some incredible detail considering it’s low viewing position and a slight breeze. Syrtis Major along with another land feature and a polar ice cap were visible.

March 9, 2014
The highlight of tonight would have to be the observation of a new supernova in M82. While this had been known of for the past few months, tonight was my first go at attempting to find it. Using the Computer Object Locator to get to M82 in our moderately light polluted skies, I observed and verified the supernova with online guides from various websites. The galaxy itself was quite dim with the supernova shinning through just off center of the main fuzzy mass I could make out of the galaxy’s inner core.  Lauren and I also enjoyed some beautifully sharp views of Jupiter and the Moon.

February 1, 2014: 3:35pm
Went out to randomly look at the Sun with my solar glasses and noticed a sunspot in the middle left portion. It appeared as a small black slice.

December 11, 2013: 6:30pm
Walked outside on our way to an advent service at Church, looked up and saw the ISS flying over.

December 1, 2013: Sunset and 10:00
Set up at sunset and had some great views of a crescent Venus. It’s been a couple years since I have seen Venus with it’s shadow and think it is by far the best time to observe our twin planet. Went back out around 10:00 and had the best views I can remember of Jupiter. A very calm atmosphere and the scope being cooled down allowed Lauren and I to view it with great detail at 120x and 200x magnification. We were able to make out 4 cloud belts and the Great Red Spot, which we hadn’t viewed since November of 2011. I played around with using the blue 28a color filter on Jupiter but still found the best views to be without.

November 3, 2013: Between 12:15 and 12:45
Enjoying a cool, but comfortable, night with a light breeze, Lauren and I viewed some of my favorite targets. We started with the Pleiades Star Cluster and Orion’s Nebula, before moving over to the highlight of the night, Jupiter. We could make out two or three of it’s cloud belts and four of Jupiter’s moons were visible, all located on one side of it. A great start to the winter sky. Next time, I’m sure it will be much colder!

September 3, 2013
Lauren and I went out for some quick views tonight of Saturn and Uranus, which Lauren viewed for the first time. After some good ole fashioned star hopping, it displayed as a small blue disc at 200X magnification.  We attempted to find Neptune but it was hidden behind a tree.

June 14, 2013
Went out with Lauren and her Mom to view the Moon and Saturn. Had not viewed Saturn since last year. The rings are tilted now more than I can remember them since I was a child. Great view of 5 or 6 moons along with the Cassini Divide clearly visible.

April 27, 2013
Had some nice views of Jupiter, Orion’s Nebula and the Moon tonight with Lauren.

November 28, 2012
Took out the binoculars for a quick view of the moon and Jupiter which were very close together, maybe about 5 degree apart.

November 21, 2012
Lauren and I took out the telescope to show some views to her parents who were visiting for Thanksgiving. We looked at the Moon, Jupiter and Orion’s Nebula.

November 10, 2012: Midnight
Went out with Lauren and viewed Jupiter and the Orion Nebula. Tried out some filters for both with limited success, but views were excellent thanks to very steady skies and cool temperatures in the low 40’s.

June 25, 2012: Around 10:00pm
Took the binoculars out with Lauren for some quick views of the Moon. Saw some great crater detail along the terminator.

June 19, 2012: Between 10:00 and 11:00pm
Very humid and warm night. I let the scope set out for about an hour and found it and my seat wet from humidity moisture. Views tonight of Saturn and Mars were exceptional and this was mainly due to the #21 orange planetary filter I was using. The Cassini Divide on Saturn looked razor sharp and its cloud belt popped out more than usual while using this filter. This planetary filter provided some of the best views of Saturn I have ever had, and that is including the fact that I had condensation on my eyepieces and filters from the humidity. I moved over to Mars after this and was very surprised to be able to make out not just its polar ice cap but also two dark defined land features. I can count on one hand how many times I have been able to make out land features on Mars, and this again was due to the #21 orange planetary filter.

June 15, 2012: Between 10:15 and 11:30pm
Knocked some messier targets off of my viewing list tonight. I was also able to try out the Zhumell UHC filter for the first time and was very pleased with the results. Without it, I could not see the Owl Nebula at all, because of light pollution. With it, the planetary nebula popped into view right where it was suppose to be. I’m looking forward to trying this filter out on the Orion Nebula later this year! I also used the XT8i’s object locator for the first time in a while, to help track down some more messier objects. It was very accurate and without it, I could not have located some of the the galaxies because of light pollution.

May 25 & 26, 2012
Lauren and I viewed Mars briefly, making out its polar ice cap, but spent most of our time on Saturn. The rings were tilted much more than when we last saw her a year or so ago. We could make out the Cassini divide as well as a partial shadow being cast by the rings on the planets surface. By far the best views of Saturn yet through the telescope!

December 25, 2011: Around 5:30-6:00pm
Went out to test the new meade planetary color filter set on Venus and Jupiter. Venus was low on the horizon and showed nothing more than a bright blur, giving little indication of the effectiveness of the filters. Jupiter on the other hand was high up in the sky and provided some pretty good views, even though it was a tad windy. Of the three filters we used, the blue filter worked best in improving the contrast, eliminating atmospheric turbulence and bringing out the two major cloud belts. I will be doing a more detailed review of this filter set in the coming weeks, once I have more observations with them on multiple targets. All in all, it was a nice short night of observing on a wonderful Christmas Day!

November 25-26, 2011: 5:30pm, 11:30pm & 12:45am
Lauren and I started out the evening with the second rock from the Sun, Venus. She was just barely visible over the roof of my house and quickly went out of view after only a few minutes. I couldn’t make out any shadow cast on Venus and with it low in the atmosphere its disc appeared as a hazy blur at 200x magnification. The highlight of the night however, came from Jupiter and the transit of its moon, Europa. The moon’s shadow appeared as a black pin-pricked dot pocked into the surface of Jupiter. Various times of observing, from 11:30am to 12:45am, showed the quick pace of Europa’s shadow as it moved from the far upper right to the far upper left of the planet.  Also in view tonight was the Great Red Spot. Lauren spotted this phenomenal storm and we watched as it trekked across the planets surface similar to the trajectory of Europa but at a lower position. It was incredible to see the rapid change of the Red Spot and Europa’s transit shadow on Jupiter over just an hour.

November 1, 2011: 8:30pm-9:00pm & 10:15pm-10:30pm
Had some amazing views of the Moon and Jupiter tonight. Started out by looking at the shadowy terminator of the Moon, always my favorite. Saw some amazing mountain features and highlights across this region with parts of it looking like powdery snow lightly dropped on the surface. I used the iPhone, for the first time, to take pictures and video producing some of the best pictures I’ve ever taken of the Moon. Moved on to Jupiter and saw some really fine detail in the clouds. I could easily make out three main belts and during times of ultra sharp views could see very fine layers of clouds in the upper half of the planet.

October 23, 2011: 11:15pm to 12:00pm
With clear skies and temperatures in the mid 40’s, Lauren and I viewed Jupiter through the Zhumell 6mm eyepiece at 200x magnification. Lauren made out three distinct cloud belts with four moons easily visible. After that we moved over to the Pleiades star cluster, Andromeda Galaxy and the double cluster with the Orion 32mm ultra wide lens. Before packing up to come in, I remembered that Uranus was visible tonight and we took a quick look at it. Uranus appeared as a very small dim blue disc at 200x magnification. Throughout the night, we saw 4 shooting stars, the first of which had a long burn out and a tail that streaked across the sky. These were probably leftovers from the Orionid meteor shower that peaked the night before.

August 28, 2011: 8:45pm to 9:45pm
Clear skies after part of Hurricane Irene swept through yesterday.  I viewed comet C/2009 P1 (otherwise known as Garrad). It appeared as a tight blurry ball from magnifications of 32X to 200X with no visible tale. After that, I moved over to Messier 101 where a supernova has recently been discovered. It is possible that I did see the nova as two stars appeared in view near the edges of the dim fuzzy galaxy. However, those could have been stars from our galaxy in the same line of sight.

August 11, 2011: Midnight to 1:00am
Partly cloudy night with the Moon washing out most of the sky, however it did show some interesting mountain peaks near it’s edges. Also, after a long hunt made more difficult by the Moon’s brightness, I found Neptune and could just barely make it out as a round disc for the first time using 200X magnification.

August 10, 2011: 10:00pm
Witnessed an occulation between the Moon and Pi Sagittari. Appeared as though the star had been turned off.

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