Accessories to Improve Your Astronomical Observing

Terry’s Useful Astronomy Links

Despite the Moon’s bright presence recently, I hope as many of you as possible took advantage of the fine weather to enjoy what there is to see in the April night time sky.

Starting with May’s milder temperatures our membership increases as new folks join us.  Those of us who have been observing for a while know that just having a telescope is not enough.  Successful observing sessions are based upon experience. And that experience is what we should be sharing with our newest members as they begin their club affiliation.

We do not have a speaker scheduled for our May 1st meeting.  So, with the Board’s approval, I’ve come up with something new.  It’s entirely experimental, but I believe it’s well timed to coincide with our increase in new membership.

Essentially, the Board agreed we could try using the speaker’s portion of the May 1st meeting to introduce to interested members some accessories, information and ideas for making observing sessions–especially at remote locations–more enjoyable.  Our focus, pun intended, is not on the optics with which we observe–the eyepieces and scopes–but on the less glamorous and less flashy accessories that help us to observe more productively and comfortably.

For example, how long did it take you to learn the importance of a comfortable observing chair?

Unlike our Show & Tell this winter, the May 1st activity will be more of a Tell  & Show.  I will plan is to serve as the primary speaker covering details on these topics:

  • Observing chairs
  • Unity finders
  • Dew strips (Cheap and not-so-cheap. Why the difference?)
  • Dew controllers
  • Dew strip placement
  •  Low magnification finders (straight through, RACI, etc)
  • Lights – LED headlamp options and flashlight options
  • Portable tables
  • Luminescent tape
  • Power supplies
  • Toolboxes and what goes in them
  • Personal items (e.g.: pocket knife, water, bug spray, band aids, nail clippers, clothing)
  • Duct tape
  • Moon filters
  • Yellow replacement caps for eyepieces and diagonals
  • Field guides to the stars, either paper, pad or smartphone
I’ll also have available some hand outs on:
  1. Types of batteries available for various purposes
  2. Links to free astronomy software
  3. Sources from which to obtain products shown during the talk.

None of this stuff is particularly expensive, but many of us have found some, or all, of it to be practically indispensable in the field.

Now, many of you, I am certain, will have useful suggestions for other items to include in this presentation.  And, I would welcome discussing with anyone what else we might add that’s in keeping with the overall topic.  Please contact me at president@novac.com if you would like to discuss your thoughts.  An extra ten minutes worth of good ideas would round out the program nicely.  That time may need to be shared if more than one member comes forward who wishes to show something to the membership.

The Board thinks we ought to limit what we present this time to easily purchased, relatively low cost items.  Home built projects, and more sophisticated observing aids deserve their own, dedicated presentation talks at future member meetings.

By keeping the overall presentation to no more than forty minutes we would still allow time for questions and answers, as well as an opportunity for those interested to take a look at the items on display before we close out the meeting.

NOVAC’s mission statement is:  “To observe, and help others observe.”  Part of our job, then, is to help our fellow amateurs.  I am certain more of those joining us this Spring will be around next January if we do our part to give them the advice and guidance they need to succeed.

NOVAC’s general meeting will be held on the campus of George Mason University on Sunday, May 1st. We will meet as usual in Research Hall Room #163 at 7:00 P.M. The NOVAC Board of Trustees will meet prior to the general meeting at 5:30 PM in the same location.

Also, I’d like to extend an invitation to everyone to come to the pre-meeting dinner this month at Brion’s Grille (in University Mall across from GMU at 10621 Braddock Rd) on Sunday at 5:30 p.m. The pre-meeting dinner is an excellent way to meet other club members, welcome newcomers, and renew old friendships.

Clear skies,

Terry Cabell