My tools of the trade

I am not a professional astronomer, but I sure love stargazing – and I learn something new every time!  Beside my naked eye I don’t have a lot of tools, but those I do have I’m pretty proud of.  Which tools do you have?

When my Dobsonian telescope arrived

When my Dobsonian telescope arrived

Me with my Dob

Me with my Dob

I have the Orion XT10 Classic Dobsonian telescope.  The 10″ aperture lets in a nice amount of light.  I have never owned a computerized alignment system, but I love the way my manual Dob teaches me to navigate the sky and find things myself (with the help of a red laser finder and a good old-fashioned sky map.)

I love using a variable filter to admire the moon’s craters on a full moon-ish night.  When the skies are darker, I like to hunt for deep space objects.  Since I live in a big city, my boyfriend gave me a Narrowband filter last Christmas to cut out light pollution.

And when the scope is too big to pack around, I pull these out of my car trunk – a pair of binoculars from my Dad!

My binoculars

My binoculars

What would be on my wish list for the future?  Here are some items I’d love to have!

  • Solar filters for sun viewing
  • Color filters for enhanced planet viewing
  • An astro camera for solar system and deep space
  • An awesome lawn chair for binocular time




Going to be outside this Labor Day weekend? Look for this summer constellation…

High above our heads in the summer evenings is the constellation Cygnus – the Swan.  It’s a memorable landmark of the summer sky.  It’s brightest stars form what look like a cross, so it is also known as the Northern Cross.

Though you can’t see them all with the naked eye, there’s some pretty amazing objects found in the sky space of this constellation.  The stars that make up Cygnus include supergiants and binary stars (two stars that orbit around each other.) There are remnants of a supernova explosion and some mysteriously possible black holes or quark stars.  Cygnus also has around 100 stars that have known planets orbiting them, including the first earth-like planet to be found in a star’s habitable zone.

So take a look upward tonight – look for the cross topped with one of the brightest stars in the evening sky (Deneb, a white supergiant!)  See Cygnus flying down the Milky Way.

The constellation Cygnus as it can be seen by the naked eye.  Credit:

The constellation Cygnus as it can be seen by the naked eye. Credit:

Jupiter and Venus Dancing

Did you know that Jupiter and Venus are dating?  Well, they are dancing at least.  This month the two planets, which happen to be the brightest in our sky, are performing a lovely tango for us.  They are appearing very close together in the sky, something scientists call conjunction.  If you have to get up for work before sunrise (or even if you don’t!) look to the east to see the pretty sight.

Credit: Laurent Laveder, TWAN

Credit: Sky and Telescope