general astronomy

I stopped doing the cruise ship astronomy presentations in 2014 due to insecurity about my health but things have improved a great deal and I started up again last year. I have switched to Royal Caribbean and am quite pleased with them so far; they have been my favorite cruise line for many years but I never hooked up with them for the enrichment programs before.

In November 2022 I did a gig on the Rhapsody of the Seas from Barcelona to Barbados. Had to dust off some old presentations and update them and added a new one or two as well. I enjoyed the presentations and they were well received. Better yet, we managed a stargazing session one night and it was terrific – the best sky I have experienced on a ship. The passengers loved it and so did I. I have booked the same trip on the Rhapsody for this November, though the itinerary is a little different and this one ends up in Ft. Lauderdale.

This year (2023), I went on the Ovation of the Seas in May. It was two voyages back to back; the first was Honolulu to Vancouver and the second was Vancouver to Seattle via Alaska’s Inner Passage. I added a new topic, the Aurora Borealis, for the Alaska leg of the trip. Never managed a stargazing session (I figure we get to do those about 50% of the time) but the presentations went well and were well received. The best part for me that I managed to stay healthy for the duration of the trips so I should be able to continue doing these for a while.

First light - RASA 11"
First light – RASA 11″

After five or six years of an empty observatory, I am finally getting some gear back in there. Everything is on the pier and all cables are run. As of last night, one camera is fully operational (ASI 071 Pro on a Celestron RASA 11″) and the AP-1200 mount has been drift aligned. I just got the stepper controller for the second telescope’s focuser (SBIG STT-8300 on a Meade 10″ F/8 ACF) running tonight so that will be in service next time I have some sky time out there.

Grabbed a quick test shot of M38 last night. Not surprisingly, I don’t remember everything I know about image processing! This one was a challenge to process anyway due to vignetting (a real challenge at F/2.2) and very short exposure time (5 frames of 2 minutes each). No light pollution filter, no flat frame correction, no guiding. It has been many years since I used a one shot color camera so that was a challenge as well.

Still, it was fun to put an image together again and it does verify that the RASA is working fine and collimation is decent.

No photos this time, but the observatory should ready to move into again. New roof, new South wall, new drywall (Thanks, Scott at ). Just need to paint the interior and get some gear mounted onto the pier which is still in place. I am not sure what I will install, but it will be lighter than what I have had in there in the past. The days of hauling 70 pound mounts and 50 pound optical tubes up the stairs are over for me, so no more Tak NJPs or 12″ RCs. No more LX-850 and 12″ enhanced SCT.  I have a couple of high quality small refractors available, and a Vixen GP-DX that would carry them with grace and style, so it will probably be something like that. I have a better Canon DSLR (T2i) than the one I used all those years ago (original Rebel) so I think that will do to get me back in action for widefield shots. Might pick up an 8″ SCT for longer focal length work, or the very economical and effective Astrotech 8″ RC.

The setup will be very modest compared to what has been installed in the past, but should be enough to keep me active.