Sunday, August 21, 2011

Five useful websites for amateur astronomers

1. This is a great site which offers monthly updates of planets, meteor showers, comets  and other celestial events.
2.  This is a great resource for those who want to buy a telescope. The reviews by Ed Ting are detailed and sincere.  You can find reviews of almost all types of telescopes.
3. you can download a magnificent star chart here. It is in pdf format. They update the chart every month. Right click on the star chart link and then click ‘save link as’  to download.
4. It’s a  pleasure to watch these youtube videos! They are very informative too.  It’s like sitting in your backyard and observing the starry sky. All who likes astronomy must watch these videos.
5.  a complete catalogue of constellations, messier objects, and other astronomical objects.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Lunar eclipse

15/06/2011. This century’s longest lunar eclipse was going to take place. I didn’t want to miss that one.  I wanted to watch that event through my telescope and take some pictures. The moon was not visible from my balcony. So I took my telescope  to an open ground near my house. It was around 10 pm. The eclipse was just beginning. Earth’s shadow was just creeping across the moon’s surface. I set up my telescope on the ground. I used my26mm plossol eyepiece. The view was crisp. The full moon was well inside the field of view.  It was quite amazing.  I wanted to take a picture of that.  I had no astrophotography kit or equipment. So I just inserted my canon ixus camera to the eyepiece of the telescope and clicked and got the above picture. Pretty good isn’t it? The view is similar to that of crescent moon but the shadows are missing. Most people think that moon is best viewed   when it is full. It is a misconception. You can’t see the beauty of the shadows on the full moon. But on the crescent moon you can perceive the depth of the surface features by the shadows created. Anyway, it was thrilling to watch our own earth’s shadow casting on the moon. The eclipse continued. The color of the moon changed a little. I took as many photos as possible. Some were blurred but some were of good quality. Slowly the shadow vanished and the full moon appeared in its full glory. So that was the end of this century’s biggest lunar eclipse and I enjoyed it very much.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

First light of my Meade ETX

Finally, the telescope arrived! Meade ETX 90 with manual controls. ( It was very cute!! I liked its shiny dark blue color! But it was new moon that day. I waited eagerly for two days. In the meantime I aligned the viewfinder and studied the operations.

At last the waxing crescent appeared! It was just above the horizon and very faint. I was doubtful whether I could see anything on that thin line of moon. I took the telescope and placed it on the window sill. I brought the moon in the centre of the viewfinder. Then I looked through the eyepiece. I couldn’t believe my eyes! Craters!! Lots of them! The view was spectacular! Resolution was superb! Meade is to be praised for the quality of their optics.

The next evening, I took my telescope to the terrace. Saturn was rising from the east. First I used the 25 mm eyepiece. Wow! The planet with rings! I had only seen that in school text books and science magazines before. Now I am watching it with my eyes! I got chills down my spine! But the planet looked very small. I used higher powers to watch it close. But too much power spoiled the sharpness of the view. I think a medium power like 9mm is perfect for watching these planets. It will be reasonably big and still crispy.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

My Meade ETX telescope!

I wanted a real telescope which would show me things like craters of the moon and rings of Saturn. So I started a big research for the best telescope. Best I mean ..portable, affordable yet powerful. I would regularly read telescope reviews by and etc .The telescope reviews by ‘Scope reviews’ were really superb. I would frequently visit the leading telescope selling sites like Meade,Celestron, Orion telescopes and binoculars etc. (, Orion’s site was very good. There was a section named ‘learning center’. It has got so many astronomy articles and a great star chart. It’s the best star chart I’ve ever seen.( the intense research and detailed studies I finally decided to buy a Meade ETX, because of its ultra portability and superb image quality!! Then I started searching for the best place to buy it. At last I found the website of ‘woodlandhills camera and telescope’. Its in Woodland Hills, CA, USA ( There was a very cool offer for Meade ETX Astro telescope. My uncle Joseph in US helped me to buy it. The basic package consisted of the telescope and a 25mm eyepiece. But I purchased a 9mm plossl eyepiece too. If you want to see the moon in close up, you need a 9mm. I also purchased a Barlow lens and a moon filter. This Barlow lens is a remarkable thing! It literally doubles the power of any eye piece!! So if you have two eyepieces and a barlow lens, its like you possess four eyepieces!

Monday, November 1, 2010

My first telescope

I had a craze for telescopes since I was a kid. I tried a lot of lens combinations salvaged from cheap binoculars and toys. But nothing worked out. But still I enjoyed astronomy very well by finding out new constellations and reading astronomy related articles. Then one day my uncle Francis gifted me a telescope! I was on cloud nine! It was just a toy telescope without a tripod. But for me it was the greatest telescope in the world! I couldn’t wait till it was dark. Then I reached my backyard,holding the telescope in my hand, I pointed it to the moon. The moon was jerking rapidly and I could not see anything. Then I realized that why a tripod is very essential to any telescope. The next day I started making a crude tripod with sticks cut from our garden and some linen threads. The great ‘goto’ mount was ready by the evening. Again I went to the backyard, turned the telescope towards the moon. Cool! The moon did seem bigger than usual but not up to my expectations. I wanted to see the craters in close up but the full moon was well inside the view. I realized that I need a bigger telescope to see the amazing sights like craters of the moon and rings of saturn! There started my search for a real telescope!!

The hobby begins!

Astronomy is a great hobby. It’s a great way to relax and unwind. My fascination with the night sky began when I read an astronomy article in a biweekly, ‘Eureka’, published by ‘Kerala Sasthra Sahithya Parishad’ a Science Movement of Kerala, India. I was in the 9th standard. The article was about the constellation Scorpio. The idea of finding out constellations in the night sky excited me. I read the article again and again and studied the asterism well. And then one clear night I ventured out to see Scorpio. I came to the backyard and looked up. Stars were twinkling through the trees. As I had no idea of how big the constellation would be and so many trees were blocking the view, I couldn’t find out Scorpio. There were no open areas anywhere near my house. So I couldn’t find any of the constellations for a long time. But I would come every night and just gawk at the stars. Then one day I was going on a church picnic. It was midnight. Everybody in the bus was asleep. The bus was crossing a paddy field. I opened the window and looked up. Wow! Up in the sky, the giant Scorpio in its full glory!