First little telescope adventure

My dear wife and daughters got me something absolutely wonderful for Christmas: a beginners’ astronomical telescope! Alas, since then, the weather has gone out of its way to keep the night sky veiled and thoroughly hidden around these parts. Only last Sunday did I catch a momentary break in the cover, and an opportunity to check if my some-assembly-required-fu was as stellar as I’d hoped.

Some wobbliness still remained, possibly due to the fact that this was a non-IKEA product with no Allen wrench in sight for miles, thus forcing me to use such unfamiliar tools as — *gasp* — a screwdriver (neither vodka nor a single orange included). Plus I’ve never actually operated a proper telescope before, and much of the initial navigation of the heavens was by trial and trial and trial and utter trial and error. Stars are painfully difficult to track by hand, at least with inexperienced hands and unfamiliar controls, so both Sirius and Betelgeuse ended up far more successful in their game of hide than I was at my game of seek. I suspect my finder may be severely misaligned and the target of future calibration.

Enter trusty old Moon, whose location in the sky is hard to miss unless you try very, very hard indeed, meaning even I ought to be able to do it blindfolded (for the record, I tried without the blindfold, which may have helped). Let me tell you, the apparatus works! We spent a chilly fifteen minutes or so in –7°C, gazing at craters, ridges and plains all over the lunar surface, as well as the zig-zagging of shadows along the terminator. The moon is a big place when it’s up close! Just before I decided to let temperature dictate the duration of this adventure, I fired off a couple of shots with my iPhone into the viewfinder, and here is the result … though I ought to add that the image we saw with our eyes was far better than what the iPhone in my by then freezing hands could capture 🙂


Red Monday Morning

Monday Morning Sleepy Sunrise Revealing the Red Eye of the East.

January 8th, 2018, at a quarter to nine.

Technical: Shot in RAW and edited on iPhone SE using Lightroom Mobile.

Seven Days Seven Photos

You may or may not have noticed the current Facebook trend, which revolves around posting a black and white photo of, well, anything you like, every day for seven days, one photo per day, and with each photo you will challenge or nominate someone else to do the same.

Everyday B&W Photo. “Seven days, seven photos of your every day life in black and white. No explanations, no people. Challenge a new person every day.”

Unlike most other social media trends, this one appealed to my creativity, and I enjoyed it very much. Black and white isn’t something I’ve used a lot before, so that was rather something of a challenge, but it was fun, and I’m sure it’s something I’m going to use it quite a bit more in the future. And in as far as anyone should be interested, here’s my seven contributions collected on one page. Originally posted on my Facebook profile.

Day One

Day Two

Day Three

Day Four

Day Five

Day Six

Day Seven

An American Eclipse in Donaldland

“This American solar eclipse, a terrific eclipse, believe me, and I know this, and it’s one hundred percent American, not Mexican, and not Chinese, even if those fake news sites will have you believe so, which happens just in my first year as President, an amazing year so far, is far more spectacular, amazingly spectacular, than any American solar eclipse that ever happened in America during Obama’s two whole terms! Two whole terms! Not a single solar eclipse as spectacular as this one. Our administration has been working hard on this issue, very hard, great work, amazing people, not even NASA has better people than I do, and definitely not the Russians, and it has been proven, absolutely proven beyond doubt, not even the slightest doubt, that my presidency is making solar eclipses great again!”

Well, OK, as far as I know Trump hasn’t actually said this about the upcoming joint solar and lunar event, and I know this because I totally wrote that little piece of garbage myself, but I know he would want to, and I can definitely hear him say it:

“I know eclipses! I have the best eclipses!”

Eclipse? Think again!

So you’re another one of those sheeple who actually believe that the super hyped solar eclipse is really going to happen, just because “the scientists” said so? Well, think again!

Do you believe the eclipse is going to happen?

Ok, so it’s a satirical article, but here’s what I would’ve said if it and the stuff I wrote above was intended to be serious.

Yeah, think again. The eclipse won’t happen “just because the scientists said so”, as if by magic. It will happen because that’s the way the Earth, the Moon and the Sun roll, and thus it would happen whether or not the scientists had said anything about it. After all, that’s what they did in the countless years before astronomers came along to begin to make sense of it. What the scientists do, however, is to draw from recorded observations and measurements from centuries and millennia ago, all the way up to modern time, regarding the movements of the Sun and the Moon in the sky, which provides them (and thus the collective us) with the knowledge required to calculate exactly where in the sky the Sun and the Moon will be at any given time, which in turn enables us to know of any upcoming eclipses beforehand so that we get time to prepare for the event and enjoy it the most.

I’ve personally watched several lunar eclipses, and a few solar eclipses (though regrettably, as of yet, no total ones), and even twice seen — and photographed — the silhouetted planet Venus creep across the face of the Sun, precisely at the times that those scientists had predicted. Not once has a predicted lunar or solar eclipse failed to happen — and no, overcast weather doesn’t count as the eclipse not happening, those are after all astronomical events and not meteorological ones. This isn’t magic or shamanism, it’s the use of known facts to predict future events.

Happy solar eclipsing! ☺️

Afterwords: The above linked article is satirical, but it’s rather worrying that a considerable number of others aren’t, and there are whole websites, forums and YouTube channels that are dedicated to pulling the rug out from under science’s feet, to blur the distinction between fact and fancy, and instil distrust towards the work of the scientific community. The undeniable success that those sites are having does show the need for improvement in science education in schools, and science communication in general.

Based on this Facebook post, which I in turn based on this article (same as linked above).

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