Announcements

Just a few notes to show that I’m still here and still interested…

Still no images since September, but everything is set up for an imaging session the next clear weekend.

I have switched from the QSI683WSG-8 to an astro-modified Canon 450D DSLR. It’s been more than ten years since I shot with a DSLR so I don’t quite know what to expect. I know I’m losing the low noise of a cooled camera, and the sensitivity  of unfiltered luminance frames. This camera gets rid of the amp glow that plagued my original (300D) camera so that will help.

Made the trip to NEAF in Suffern, NY last weekend and had the usual great time. I enjoyed speaking to the usual folks and seeing the usual astro goodies. As in recent years, I failed to take photographs so I won’t be reporting on the show beyond that.

I have found something new to do on the cloudy and/or windy nights. I’m just getting set up for making homebrew beer. Got a couple of kegerators (keg refrigerators), along with some 5 gallon kegs. Also a boiling pot, fermentation buckets, and all the fiddly bits needed to make stuff to  go into the kegs. I even made the trip to the next county (the nearest homebrew store) and picked up fresh ingredients for my first 5 gallon batch.

Nothing really new here; no new images since September (and thus no new posts since September). It’s clear tonight but lots of Moon, pretty cold, and I don’t feel well so it’ll be another missed night. That said, I hate to permit the blog to stagnate for so long and decided to post something just to keep it alive. Going forward, I’ll try to come up with something worthwhile to post at least monthly. When the images are flowing, of course, it will be much more active than that. I am not claiming that this is the first such worthwhile post. It’s just an attempt to get things started.

It’s been a blast so far. From the anticipation of waiting for the new gear to arrive to the fun of setting it all up and grabbing the first images to the ongoing enjoyment of fairly steady use ever since, this project has provided plenty of fun for me. With any luck at all, it has also provided information to others.

 

Watch this space!

I refer to the terrific www.cloudynights.com website, the premier astronomy website with articles, reviews, classified ads, and a huge discussion board (about 77,000 members last time I checked!). Many folks will remember when we rolled out CN 2.0 to update the aging and difficult-to-maintain original software (in use on CN for over ten years). Thinking that folks wanted a new, modern look we didn’t make much effort to maintain the fit and feel of the original setup. There was a very substantial backlash and loads of complaints so it was rolled back to the original system while a more suitable replacement package was found, obtained, and configured. That’s been going on in the background ever since. Testers report a much more comfortable transition, with much of the original fit and feel maintained while still adding useful functionality.

It’s going to take time to transfer the huge databases (ten years worth of content) into the new structure – and, of course, any traffic added during the transition would just confuse things.

 

Here’s the plan. Some  inactive content is being converted right now while the old system continues to operate. The old system will go dark this weekend while the bulk of the conversion takes place.  Barring unforeseen complications, the new site should be up by Monday morning. Same URL, same usernames, same passwords. Just use your old account.

Got back late last night from the North East Astronomy Forum in Suffern, NY. As always, I had a great time interacting with the astronomy enthusiasts and checking out new and upcoming products. You’ll have to look elsewhere for photos, but here are a few of what I considered highlights:

Hercules imaging Newtonians in 20″, 16″, and 12″ at F/8. Cellular primaries, CF truss tubes. The 20″ weighs only 100 pounds! From Quebec.

http://www.telescopeshercules.com/

Rainbow astronomy had an inexpensive 12″ (I think; didn’t take notes) CDK and a sweet 80 pound capacity EQ mount (1500X slew speed!) to go with it. When I checked, only the GEM was on their site:

http://www.rainbowastro.com/

Skywatcher had the EQ8Pro (I guess these have been around in the other hemisphere, but it’s the first one I’ve seen) and the  AZ-EQ6 GT (same situation).

ca.skywatcher.com

Ioptron had the CEM60, which looked especially attractive to me.

Two of my favorite exhibitors weren’t there – Astronomics and Officina Stellare (so no RiDK or RH models over which to drool).

Folks visiting the Cloudy Nights website ( www.cloudynights.com ) will observe that the new system launched March 7 has been taken down. Unanticipated costs as well as unanticipated user resistance have forced a change of direction. The traffic from the new site is currently being rolled into the old database and the original CN will be back online in a day or two but will include the activities that took place on the new site. A change is still required and everything will be ported over into yet another revision in the next few weeks. This version should feel much more like the original website so less user resistance is expected.

 

I feel that I owe an apology to anyone who has been following this blog. I have posted on topics far from the original subject even though it is not structured to make reading topics separately very convenient. The “Categories” headings are the best tool available to deal with this so I hope folks will try to make use of those. The primary topic is still the LX850 mount and now that I have an OTA available for testing that will be come the secondary subject and I will add an appropriate category for the OTA and add existing OTA posts to that. There is also a relatively unrelated category of Astronomy Outreach which be used less frequently but will give me an opportunity to post on other astro topics. This post, for example, will be there as well as in a new “Announcements” category to be created. I hope that with a little organizational effort on my part I can make this site a little friendlier and perhaps more useful.

My other regret is that there are occasional extended “dark” periods here. Due to weather, health, or other distractions I sometimes don’t get into the observatory for months at a time (for example, right now). When that happens there frequently isn’t much to say here.I hope that folks don’t lose interest or give up on the site. I expect to become more active as weather improves and will be doing further long exposure mount testing, DSO imaging with the 12″ F/8 OTA, and some planetary imaging with the Meade OTA and a Nexstar 5. If that latter part goes really well I’ll be upgrading the camera for more serious planet work.

Now to the “Transitions” topic. Many who see this site were directed here by Cloudy Nights ( www.cloudynights.com ), arguably the premier astronomy discussion site (and the ONLY site in which I have mentioned this blog). I first joined in April 2003 so I’ve been around to see it grow and become the popular site it is. I’ve posted over 32,000 comments there, mostly in gear discussions. Users will, no doubt, have noticed that it went dark this morning. This was planned, and was announced as widely as practical but inevitably some will have missed the announcement. What is happening is that the site has outgrown the archaic software framework in which it was born and a new structure has been purchased and is being implemented. All existing discussion board structure and content is being transferred as I type this, and the new Cloudy Nights site will go active as soon as possible; perhaps even tomorrow.  It will look different and have new functions and some (including myself) will at first be uncomfortable with the changes. I remember how much traffic the Astromart discussion boards lost when they restructured a few years ago. I intend to go ahead and use the new site until it becomes familiar and comfortable, and I urge other users to give it a chance as well. The decision wasn’t lightly made, and it will substantially increase operating costs for our sponsor (Astronomics). It was done because it became necessary. The site had simply outgrown the existing structure and a replacement was required.

I’m not trying to keep up a blog on this trip, but some comments about it may be helpful to folks considering enrichment posts.

 

First, there have been a few hiccups – and not minor ones. They stem from this being the first normal sailing since its arrival in North America. They weren’t remedied as quickly as they should have been, which has affected me – but I am convinced that they won’t be repeated so future presenters shouldn’t have to worry about them. Example: they assigned me the second seating (which I prefer anyway) but then scheduled activities for me DURING THAT SEATING. Just a silly mistake but they took way too long to fix it and I missed a couple of dinners over it. Now folks who know me might say that I can afford to miss a few dinners – but folks who know me well know that I especially enjoy shipboard dining rooms. In all these years I have never before missed a dinner seating so it mattered to me.

 

Comments on speaking specifically on the Divina:

 

Internet access is provided at crew rate. That is unusual and if you use the internet much it is a big savings (it knocked $100 off my bill).

 

Most presentations are in the main showroom. This can be intimidating but don’t let it throw you. The good news is that they delivered a reasonably good audience, which helps. You can feel a bit silly standing on stage and looking at an empty 1500 seat house.

 

One talk was in a lounge – but a pretty big lounge. Not nearly so crowded as smaller lounges I’ve been in on other ships.

 

Divina staff prefer to use their own A/V hardware (even in the lounge) so just hand them a thumb drive with your Powerpoint slides. They’ll hand you a remote with laser pointer just like the one I use with my laptop.  In the lounges it is red and in the main showroom it is green (better for the large screen).

 

You’ll end up with more working time scheduled than on other ships because of the scheduled stargazing activities. I do them informally on every trip anyway, and this is better because they announce it (which provides a larger audience) and turn off local lights.

 

The spot they selected for stargazing is very good, but access to it isn’t obvious and I think a lot of folks didn’t find it. I’ll suggest that they provide a map to hand out.

 

Access to cruise director staff is better than I have ever experienced on other ships. Usually I meet with them the first day, hand them a topic list so they can publish them in the paper, and then if I’m lucky I’ll meet again on the last evening to talk about how things went. On Divina I speak to the assistant cruise director multiple times every day.

 

Unlike every other ship I’ve been on, they don’t publish the topic titles in the activities list for each day. I guess that means I can shuffle things around if I want to, but it doesn’t permit the passengers to decide whether a day’s topic is of particular interest to them until they arrive. I suspect this will change on future trips; I certainly plan to suggest it.

 

If you have cruised with the American cruise lines you will find subtle differences on the Italian-owned ships. The buffet is much smaller and has much less variety available. The same is true of the room service menu – there is a delivery charge added after 11:00pm. Sandwiches are free (as on American ships) but there is a charge for room service coffee except at breakfast time. The dining vroom, on the other hand, has a very familiar feel (cruise ship dining room fare tends to be European anyway).

 

p.s. I see that linking this to facebook has caused the comment spammers to bump their game up a notch or two; my quantity of spam attempts is way up. My blocker catches it all (so far) but as a backup I am approving comments individually for anyone who hasn’t previously posted a legitimate comment. This will cause a delay because I’m only on the Net sporadically while traveling – but I’ll get to it so don’t hesitate.