Friday, February 29, 2008

My New Baby

Orion 80mm ED with SkyView Pro mount

Comupterized Hand Controller (13,564 object database)

Orion 80mm ED Optical Tube Assembly (OTA)

Well gang, here is the new telescope. I sold both my ETX-125 and my 8" StarHopper Dobsonian to buy this one. Both other scopes were stellar viewing scopes, but I wanted something that I could use for long-exposure astrophotography.

Enter the Orion 80mm ED telescope sitting atop an Orion SkyView Pro Equatorial mount. The scope is just over 3 inches in diameter, but it works better with my camera for photographing Deep Space Objects such as: galaxies, nebula and star clusters.

When the weather clears this weekend, I will attempt to snap some celestial pictures.

Until the next time!


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

First Light ... A Time Honored Tradition

M42 - Orion Nebula (from

M44 - Beehive Star Cluster (from

M45 - The Pleiades Star Cluster (from

M81 & M82 Galaxies (from

Saturn (from

IC434 HorseHead Nebula (In Orion) (from

First Light is a "time honored" tradition carried out by Backyard and Amateur Astronomers. It is marked by the first night an astronomer 'gathers light' , or looks through a new telescope. You can read all the reviews you want, but you never really know how a scope is going to perform until you point at a celestial object and look through the eyepiece.

On February 25th at 7:30PM I gathered 'First Light' in my new Orion 80mm ED on a SkyView Pro Goto mount. There was a narrow period of 'somewhat' cloudless skies between frontal systems, so I took advantage of the opportunity before the 'white puffies' moved back in.

I performed my first-ever polar alignment (pointing the telescope at Polaris), then let the Goto mount do the rest. I dialed in Messier Object M44 (Beehive Star Cluster) into the computerized hand controller and pressed 'Enter'. The motors quietly whirred for 30 seconds or so, then the hand controller 'beeped' to tell me I had arrived at my celestial destination.

As I looked into the 25mm Sirius Plossl eyepiece, M44 was glistening at me with a cluster of bright and faint stars.

After observing M44 for a time, I took a tour of the sky to view other familiar space objects. Here are the highlights of what I observed:

- M42 (Orion Nebula) looked light-gray and pale-blue. I was able to resolve the four major and two faint stars of the trapezium, which looked razor-sharp. I stared at it for several minutes.

- M45 (The Pleiades) looked grand as ever, and I was surprised to see some nebulosity surrounding the 'Seven Sisters' with the telescope aided eye.

- M81 and M82 (Galaxies) looked great. Just as I thought they may appear through an eyepiece. I will have to study the galaxies individually some time.

- Saturn looked like someone painted the ringed planet onto the end of my scope. I saw faint hints of the Cassini Divide, but clearly saw lines in the planet's atmosphere and even saw the black of space between the rings and the planet.

- However, when I dialed up IC434 (Horsehead Nebula) clouds moved in and ended my session after 45 minutes. It was a memorable 'First Light' with my Orion 80mm ED.

I look forward to many more viewing and astrophotography sessions with my new scope. I didn't do any astrophotography this night, because I just wanted to enjoy the view of celestial objects from the new scope.

You may wonder why I didn't do a 'First Light' report when I bought my ETX-125 ?
I didn't know about First Light, and I wasn't running a BLOG.
Personal Observation: I become concerned when I ask myself a question, and then answer it. I will really become concerned if I give myself the 'silent treatment' for taking one position, rather than the other when answering a question. :)

The pictures are stock photos from the Internet. (Most are from I posted them to give readers a sample of the views I saw through my telescope eyepiece. Most pictures are representative of what I saw, exept for the starbursts in M45 and the detail in Saturn.

I plan to take high quality pictures of these heavenly objects some day, but I didn't want to complicate the experience of 'First Light' with my new scope and mount.

Thanks for Checking In!


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Good Bye Ole' Friend

Ready to explore the heavens!!!

This is a picture of my ETX-125 all packed and ready to go to its new home :(

Well, I did it! I sold my ETX-125 telescope to another person interested in Backyard Astronomy. I will miss my ETX, because celestial objects were sooooo easy to find and track with it.

But ... my interest in the hobby has changed to where I want to do more astrophotography than casual viewing.

My first goal is to photograph as many of the Messier Objects as one can see in the Northern Hemisphere. It will take time, persistence and patience, but that is half the fun.

I installed the motors and computer on the new telescope this weekend (Orion 80mm ED with SkyView Pro GOTO Mount), now I am waiting for the clouds to part so I can actually use the scope. I will let you all know how that goes.

Clear Skies!


P.S. - To the ETX-125's new owners: "It doesn't need a night light. My experience has been that it prefers the dark". (May you get the enjoyment out of the scope that I did, and did I ever enjoy it)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Lunar Eclipse 02-20-2008

I had the pleasure of viewing a Lunar Eclipse on Wednesday February 20th. It was a miracle we in Northern Virginia were able to see it. Snow was falling until 7:00PM. I was shocked to see the skies clear off so quickly, but who am I to complain.

I scurried around to deploy my telescope and tripod and readied myself for my first Lunar Eclipse as a backyard astronomer.
I drove my family crazy running in and out snapping pictures of the eclipse during commercial breaks while watching American Idol.

I initially had trouble focusing the camera on the telescope, but eventually figured it out. I have a new telescope (an Orion 80mm ED OTA with a SkyView PRO Equatorial mount) and was unfamiliar with it.

Some pictures were taken using a camera on a tripod, but a majority were taken the camera attached to the telescope. I froze my bottom off, but had fun taking the pictures and enjoying a lunar eclipse that wasn't in the middle of the night.

Enjoy the pictures.


P.S. - After the skies clear this weekend I'll have my new telescope back out learning how to use it. Soooooooo, hopefully there will be many more descent quality pictures of celestial objects to follow.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Temporary Suspension of Operations ...

Hi All!

My brother, Oliver Gemmel Jr. (Butch as my sibling and I called him) passed away Friday, February 1st, 2008 suddenly and unexpectedly. He will be sorely missed by me and my entire family.

He was 12 years older than me but we could not be closer. I will miss his strength, love for life, devotion to family, friendliness, charisma and amazing ability to attract strange women. (I have to figure out how he did that) :)

Butch liked lighthouses, covered bridges and he got me hooked on model trains. :)))))

I shared this blog with him and am glad I did. His eyesight was poor, so pictures in my blog were the only way he could see what I was seeing through my telescope.

His passing leaves a gaping void in our family. We just lost my Dad and Butch's son, Roger last year.

I'll begin blogging again soon, but not until I get over the shock of his passing.

The attached picture of my brother Butch (at left) and I was taken in Brimley, Michigan in June 2007. My family was in Michigan to lay my Dad's ashes to rest. My Dad passed away in December 2006.

Until the Next Time

Star Pilot

Look to the Heavens! A new Star is Shining the Night Sky. My Brother Butch is looking upon us from his Celestial Home.