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 nheacock







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Scope Tips
Tip Title: 
Permanently Tighten Loose Nuts/Bolts
Tip: 
As I've moved my scope up and down and side to side, the bolts that hold the altitude bearings in have come loose. A drop of lock-tite solved that problem for me. I was afraid that one day the nuts would come right off the bolts and drop onto the mirror (which they may have), but now, they are solid and don't have any play in them. When I'm ready to do some maintenance on my scope I can break the lock-tite seal and re-apply.
Tip Title: 
Put Casters On Your Heavy Dob Mount
Tip: 
I have a 12" Dob and it weighs in at about 100 pounds on the mount. Because of obstructions in my yard (like trees and such), I need to move the scope around a bit while observing. I can't move my scope by myself on the mount because it's too heavy and awkward. So I put 4 inch casters on it and now I can just roll it out of the garage and even on gravel and grass. I put the casters where the original mount feet were.
 
My mistake was that I didn't buy casters with brakes on them. So when I'm on a smooth surface, I have to wedge something under there to get it not to roll a bit when I'm slewing to objects.

Mount Tips
Tip Title: 
Reflector on Equatorial Mount Can Be Annoying
Tip: 
I have a 6" reflector on an equatorial mount, and I find the changing of the position of the eyepiece very frustrating. A refractor on an EQ mount makes more sense because of where the eyepiece is located on the scope.
 
If you do have a reflector on an EQ mount, you can consider making a new mount (like I did - I'll upload a photo), or possibly getting the type of ring system that allow the scope to be easily rotated. I've not seen one of these, but I've heard they exist.

Accessory Tips
Tip Title: 
Fine Focusing with a Helical Focuser
Tip: I purchased an Orion Helical Fine-Focus Adapter (only $44.95) and I love it. It has enabled me to get that fine level of focus on globular clusters, and high power objects such as planetary viewing.

Observing Tips
Tip Title: 
Averted Vision
Tip: 
Some people say that averted vision is a bunch of bull-pucky. But it actually does work. As an experiment at a public star party I showed M13 to someone who has never seen a globular cluster before. They said, "That big fuzzy thing in the middle?" I told them to look not directly at it, but just off to the side of it and see if they can see it better. "Wow! That's cool" they responded.
 
I explained that when using averted vision you are using your rods rather than your cones to get more contrast out of what you're observing. When I learned this trick it enabled me to see detail in faint objects much better.
Tip Title: 
Laptop Red Screen Filter - Rubylith Film
Tip: 
I purchased 2 sheets of Rubylith at an art supply store. It's the only place you can get it to my knowledge. The particular store I got it from is in Beaverton Oregon called Art Media. A 2' x 2' sheet is 4 bucks. Since I have a 12" monitor on my laptop, I bought 2 sheets to make 8 layers. I've don't think I've used more than 6 though.
The thick black card stock I got at a local paper shop and used black duct tape to put the card stock frame together.

The frame and the sheets of the Rubylith film are 2 separate parts of the setup. First, I set as many layers of the Rubylith film on the screen as I think I need for the level of darkness. Then I slide the frame over the laptop screen and film. If I need to add or remove a layer of the film, I take the frame off, add or remove a layer or two, then replace the frame again.

It works perfect. Without this filter, I can't use my laptop in dark skies. It has become an essential part of my observing.
 
Here are photos of the front and back of my laptop with the filter on

Tip Title: 
Learning Speed
Tip: 
There are several things that I attribute to the speed in which I have learned about observing the sky.
 
1) Learning by constellation has helped a great deal. When I was just trying to memorize object locations before I knew the constellations, it was much more difficult.

2) Living in relatively dark skies. It also helps that I live in the quasi-country where, though faint, I can see the Milky Way and 10th magnitude galaxies on just about any night. Really dark nights are particularly excellent. I have only been to 3 "dark sites" at this point, so the bulk of what I have logged has been in my backyard.

3) This should probably more like #1, the software tool Starry Night Pro. Without Starry Night, I wouldn't know what's out there.

4) Repetition. Though the sky changes, it doesn't change that much, and it doesn't change that rapidly. The reason why I have no objects to log for this journal entry is simply because I have already logged everything I've been looking at for the last few weeks in past entries. I have merely been repeating what I already know to make sure I have it nailed down in my memory. 
Tip Title: 
Triple Your Eyepieces
Tip: 
I just learned something sweet that tripled my eyepieces. Tonight I was looking at Saturn, and once again, the seeing is only mediocre at best. 300 power was too much and 150 was far crisper, but I wanted to see more detail. I wanted 200 power, but I don't have a 7mm eyepiece. Out of curiosity I checked to see if my Barlow lense would come off of the long tube it's attached to and screw onto the bottom of my 2" adapter. It does in fact screw on and makes the equivalent of a 1.5x Barlow. Since it screws onto the end of the adapter, it also screws on to the end of my 40mm 2" eyepiece. So my 40 can now be an ultra wide eyepiece in 40mm, 30mm (1.5x), and 20mm (2x). Sweet. So I tried something else. I tried to screw my 1.25" Barlow on to the end of my 1.25" eyepieces and that one fits also. Kinda cool. So now I know that if I need just half again the power of what I'm looking at, I can screw either Barlow lense on either the adapter or directly onto the eyepiece and make even more power options.

Photography Tips
Tip Title: 
Cheap Astrophotography of Bright Objects
Tip: 
You can get some pretty decent images of bright objects such as the Sun, Moon, Jupiter and Saturn (and possibly some open clusters if you're camera is good enough) just by pointing your camera down the eyepiece and clicking. Obviously you can't do time-lapse photography this way, but it's pretty cool for taking a shot of the moon and such.
 
Of course, for the sun you always need to make sure there is a proper solar filter in place before *ever* pointing a telescope or binoculars at the sun.

Resource Tips
Tip Title: 
Lone Astronomer? Join The Online Community
Tip: 
If you're like me, your spouse, friends and neighbors could care less about looking at the sky. Not all of us have access to a science museum or local astronomy club. But if you are reading this you have access to the internet and the online community is huge. 
 
Become a member here at My Astronomy Journal, Astromart, Cloudy Nights, public newsgroups, etc. There's a lot to learn and great folks out there to connect with online.

Logging Tips
Tip Title: 
Keep A Journal
Tip: 
Keeping an observation journal not only tracks your progress as you grow as an observer, but it's also inspiring to both you and others (if your journal is publicly accessible).
 
When journaling, write down how you feel about what you are seeing, how it compares to other things you've seen, whether you expected it to look like that or not, etc. Sure, log the technical details of the sky conditions, what equipment you are using, the time, location, etc., but also consider making it something that's a part of you and your personal growth.
 
My Online Astronomy Journal is a great place to keep such a record of your experience with the sky.


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