Some say combining your hobbies/passions with work is a big mistake, others say it's a sure fire way to ensure life long satisfaction. I'm not really sure which is the case, but I'm pretty happy with the choices I've made. I'm kind of cheating because "work" is really software development. The hobby/passion is photography/imaging/astronomy. They are related, but imaging for fun is still fun, and I only get paid for imaging when I'm imaging for debugging/development... and despite what some people think, it's not really that fun at times (sometimes I have to remind friends that astrophotography is my hobby... tech support is not - LOL). It's all good, and all I can say is the OVERLAP of passions and work is really working out well for me, and I can't imagine a mix ratio that would work out better.
So, well before I ever came to Software Bisque or Starry Night, I was an amateur astronomer, already had a couple of telescopes, and was mostly visual, although I occasionally was trying to put a camera behind a scope. Visual astronomy IS fun, almost always. It is much more relaxing that imaging, and it's much more social in that you can share it with family members, friends, neighbors, and hapless strangers that wander too close to see what's going on. There's a world of targets too that I actually think no photograph does justice to the dynamic range possible through the eyepiece. A friend of mine started an outreach program in the Lake Mary Florida area, called "Coffee and Cosmos" at the local Starbucks (which friends and foes alike know as my #1 weakness). I helped occasionally and when he took a job in another state, I took over responsibility for carrying it on. It's now part of my local astronomy club's (Central Florida Astronomical Society, of which I'm also a board member) monthly outreach and we try to do two Starbucks a month based on weather. It's great fun...
Now, it's time for a word from our sponsor... OMG... the Paramount MYT is the worlds best freaking mount for visual astronomy like ever! (Did I do okay, boss?). Well, all kidding aside, I'm not exaggerating. Yes, it's designed for imaging, and I have to explain that to the public frequently, but for visual use it's like having a luxury car. Yes, a Corolla will get you where you want to go, but if you want the luxury package, the MYT gives me that Ferris Bueller experience.
Using the iOS app and TPoint (there is a video here on how to use TPoint for visual astronomy using the iOS app), setting up and using a MYT is the easiest visual system I've ever used. All you need is a WiSky board, and an iOS device (no, we don't have Android... if you want, for $200 I'll send you a dedicated controller... of course it's just an iPod Touch <vbg>). Remember, we are talking the Rolls Royce experience here, not the Corolla... In return you get to hear your peers say things like "HOW are you already polar aligned and on a target, it's not even dark yet..."
Here's what my last outting was like:
Setup the MYT in the parking lot just after sunset. Actually is less bulky than my friends SCT Alt-Az.
Level it using the MYT tripods adjustments.
The iOS app already knows where you are and what time it is. Skip all that nonsense. Do a rough polar alignment routine (thank you homing sensors!) on the moon. Center it, and add it as your first TPoint sample. "Ladies and Gentlemen... we are polar aligned".
"Wow I see craters", etc. etc.
Let's look at Jupiter, slew to Jupiter. It's actually at the edge of the field of view, so I center it and add it as my second T-Point sample. People love Jupiter, yes it's 500 million miles away, etc. etc. Great fun.
Getting darker now, let's go to Saturn. Ummm, okay I do have to switch to a lower power eyepiece for a sec, there it is, center it with the hand paddle, put in the higher power eyepiece, refine center, add my 3rd TPoint sample.
By the way, the hand controller with joystick we ship with the mount is perfect for this. I do prefer that to trying to do this with the app.
People love Saturn, but it's time to grab another view of Jupiter before it gets behind the building. Center it up, T-Point sample #4 added.
Back to the moon for a bit, T-Point sample #5 (the sky moves, so you can use these same targets multiple times as T-Point samples... at one event I had Venus in view at 2p.m and just added Venus every 20 minutes. By the time it was dark, I had a complete model).
By the time we got to Mars, I had 6 pointing samples added and had points on both sides of the meridian. I did not have to do a "T-Point Run"... the rough polar alignment is enough to get you very close, at least as close as nearby competing mounts after their multi-star alignments. I just added a new point every time I changed targets. 6 points, added visually btw, gives astounding accuracy for visual.
It's a bright parking lot the moon and planets are easy, what about deep sky? Well, hard to find unless you're right on them. Shall we try M13? Yes, yes, let's try it! Okay, whirl beep beep, and M13 is right near the middle of my field of view. It's very faint, and no you could not resolve the stars, but it was there, and I'm not sure I'd have ever found it fishing around for it with the hand paddle. Refine center, why not, add it as another TPoint sample. Visitors were I thought more impressed with it than I thought they would be. Next, how about NGC 457, one of my favorites because it looks like E.T. phoning home... Boom, right in the middle. Last target for the night, Albireo. Dead center, and people didn't even mind getting down really low because it was straight overhead.
Here's some bonus features of the iOS app too. When you slew to the moon or sun, it automatically sets the tracking rates for lunar or solar. The moon won't wander off, even at high power views.
There is no polar alignment report because... hey you're not imaging - you don't really need a better polar alignment for visual because... TADA... not only do you get great pointing, you also get ProTrack! Even with just 6 points added manually, ProTrack will start adjusting the RA/DEC tracking rates based on whatever polar misalignments you may have. Naturally this get's better the more points you add, but I've found in practice 6 well distributed points are all you need. Some 20 years ago with my very first EQ mount, there was no amount of anything I could do to keep objects in the eyepiece without constant fiddling. Speaking of constant fiddling, after ProTrack kicks in, it's no longer necessary when you have a big line of people waiting to look through your scope.
I really think we need to make more noise about this. The MYT is not only the worlds best mount for astrophotography, but it's a world class experience for when you want to do visual astronomy as well. Traditionally whenever I've gone to Star Parties, I've brought two mounts when I could swing the space, and for now on I'm always going to have one of them setup for visual use as well. You can come and check it out yourself at the Okie-Tex star party in a couple of weeks (I won't be there till Wednesday though)! I'm also going to be at Solar Fest talking about @focus3 because it works really great for lucky imaging applications such as solar imaging.
Finally, Halloween is next month, and I want to encourage you, if you've never tried it before, to just setup a telescope in your front yard and share the sky with Trick or Treaters. I've been doing this for about 20 years now, and have had dads who came as kids coming back to my neighborhood to bring their own kids! You won't regret it... it might even change a life or two!
09-17-2018 12:01 PM