Orion Nebula

I brought the scope out to another TVS outreach star party, this time at an elementary school. This was the first time I got a chance to look at the Orion Nebula through the scope and wow, it was impressive. You could easily make out some detail, and this wasn’t even close to a dark site.

On the left is an image taken with my phone at the star party, and on the right a Hubble image of the Orion Nebula (Wikipedia). If you look closely, you can make out the line running about 45 degrees to the three stars, as well as the dust cloud just above said stars.


TVS Outreach Event at Library

We recently joined a local astronomy club, Tri-Valley Stargazers (TVS for short), and brought the Cave to one of their community outreach programs at the Livermore library. All of the scopes were setup behind the library where we had the best view of the sky. At least a hundred people showed up and we spent about an hour and a half observing the moon, Saturn, the Ptolemy cluster, Andromeda Galaxy, and the Ring Nebula. I was particularly impressed with how well we could see Andromeda and the Ring Nebula. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get any pictures, but a student from one of mom’s science classes, Luke Darby, got a few nice photos of the moon through the scope.

Solar Eclipse

Both of these pictures were taken in our backyard with my iPhone mounted on Dad’s TeleVue Ranger scope equipped with a solar filter. Near the peak of the eclipse we could actually make out some details on the moon.

Moon mountains


Cleaning the Primary Mirror

Here is a list of the supplies we used to clean the primary mirror:

  • Distilled water
  • Palmolive Ultra Oxy Power Degreaser
  • 91% isopropyl alcohol
  • Squirt bottle for alcohol
  • Cotton balls
  • Air duster

First we carefully removed the mirror from the scope and its housing before placing it in an aluminum tray. We then placed the tray in the sink and rinsed off the surface of the mirror.

Backlighting the mirror shows the holes in the coating.
Rinsing the surface.

After rinsing, the tray was filled with water and a dab of Palmolive. Next we felt very gently along the surface of the mirror for anything still stuck to it, which we then scrubbed off with a cotton ball. Once we were satisfied that the mirror was clean, it was lifted out of the tray and held at an angle as distilled water was poured over it.The mirror was then rinsed with the alcohol squirt bottle and held at an angle while it dried. Finally, the mirror was placed back in the scope.

As you can see in these pictures, cleaning the mirror has significantly increased the sharpness and color of the scope.

First night

Last night was the first time we used the scope to observe the night sky. So far we haven’t made any renovations beside adding a Telrad sight and cleaning up the optics of the finder scope. We observed the moon, Jupiter, and Saturn, using the 20mm, 12mm, and 4mm eyepieces as well as a 24-8mm variable zoom eyepiece. The clock drive helped immensely for taking photos as without it we could only keep an object in its view for a few minutes before having to adjust the scope. Unfortunately we couldn’t get any photos of Saturn last night.

Enlarge for moons.