December 1st, 2010

galaxy M51

Happy Book Publication to Me!

Years ago when I thought about what I'd do to as a present for publishing my first book, I wanted something that doesn't really interest me any more. So I've been thinking about it for a while and updated my desire to something that I would love, that I've wanted for a long time, and that's appropriate re: the book. A mondo-sized Dob!

Meet my new Meade Lightbridge 16" Dobsonian reflector. This is the simplest form of telescope to use: just point and shoot. No complicated computers that fail, no motors that fail, no nothing but the observer and the instrument and the sky. I imagine I'll eventually rig up a tracking system for easier view-sharing among friends, but as big as this is, its short focal ratio means magnification is only about half that of my GPS-powered 'scope (which is currently out of service, despite hours of effort in software and hardware troubleshooting), and thus images will remain in the field of view longer.

I've missed the lovely Orion 10" Dob that I sold when I bought my bells-and-whistles Schmidt-Cassegrain 'scope, but one doesn't just replace a telescope with one of the same size. And considering Dobs are much cheaper than SCTs, I decided to take the big leap up to 16 inches of light-gulping power! If you're a boat owner, you know what I mean, only it's two-inch-itis instead of two-foot-itis. On the practical side, it's about as big an instrument as I can carry around by myself - note that the truss-beams unscrew, and the tube lifts out of the base, making it really portable for its size.

EDIT: Oh, and I almost forgot to mention! Those of you who know me well are aware that I purchase almost nothing at full price. This 'scope is no exception - I got it for much off the retail price plus free shipping. The free shipping part is HUGE with something that weighs 150 pounds or so.

Snapped this shot a few minutes ago after I finished assembling it... can't wait to try it out later!

Next star party, y'all're invited.

space trooper

Thursday: NASA Announces Alien Discovery!

(Disclaimer: This announcement could be as mild as "New method for tracking Earth-sized planets established" or as wild as "ALIENS CONTACTED US! HOLY CRAP PEOPLE!")

There'll be a live news conference on NASA TV tomorrow (Thursday) at 11:00am Pacific / 1:00pm Central / 2:00pm East Coast time entitled, "News Conference on Astrobiology Discovery; Science Journal Has Embargoed Details Until 2 p.m. EST On Dec. 2."

Click the image to see more of Wayne Barlowe's Darwin IV aliens from his fantastic book, Expedition.

More info on the NASA website.

Did you read James Gunn's The Listeners? I'm just sayin'.