Telescopes are magical

…if you are young.

Over dinner last night we got to talking about Sunspots, the solar cycle, aurorae, and the like. Calvin and Rose asked to go outside and look for some, even though I was pretty sure– you *were* aware of spaceweather.com, right?– that there were no recent flares headed our way. But in between dinner and bedtime, amidst much scrambling and bundling in gloves and hats and coats, we went out. Because I am so SMRT, I put the AstroScan out about 20 minutes ahead of time so it would be temperature adjusted.

I completely underestimated how much the kids would enjoy this. COMPLETELY. We sat on the steps for a bit to allow our pupils to dilate, bemoaned the apparent lack of Northern lights, and counted stars. Because I am a nerd, I had not one but three different iPad apps, each with a "night vision" red on red color scheme (it works!), that told us what stars, constellations, satellites, and planets were where. I love this modern age. Point the thingy at the sky, instant data, adjusted for time and location, about what you are looking at. If someone develops a USB Spectrometer or similar device, the iPad/iPhone WILL BE a Tricorder. Mark it.

After a few minutes the kids were getting restless. The moon, if you haven't noticed, is waxing currently, a few days from full, so it was the first target. With a little fiddling and some careful "just look, don't knock or kick the telescope" instruction, both of them were staring up at the man in the moon and all his mountainous, cratered glory. They were…speechless, pretty much.

As a bonus, Jupiter was visible in the same part of the sky. You can always tell the planets because they resolve to a nice clean circle, unlike the twinkly dot stars. The AstroScan is a killer scope for the price, but in all reality it isn't that powerful; you can get the moon to about fill the viewfinder with great detail, but I was disappointed to learn that it can't resolve the bands or the Great Red Spot. Or, at least, I don't think it can get the spot. I found out later that one of my apps will tell you *the specific times of day that the spot is transiting the surface and visible from earth* and I think we were looking at jupiter during that window but I want to go back out and check again to be sure. I think I also have at least one more stacking lens to double the magnification of the AstroScan and I'll have to try that. Also: anyone who buys this telescope and doesn't also purchase the laser-sight and calibrate it properly (use the moon! It's big!) is a fool. A little bit of tweaking and I was able to bull's-eye womp rats individual stars 100% of the time.

The moon was so full that we couldn't see the Milky Way; I have a calendar date set to remind me to get the kids out again on the new moon. We looked at a few stars, took another long look at the moon, and called it a night. Rose was so excited she interrupted a phone call to tell mama all about it, and we talked about what we saw during the entire bedtime tuck-in routine.

This is an easy, enjoyable wonderment. I will be cultivating it as the nights get longer, colder, and clearer!

2 responses to “Telescopes are magical

  1. You should be able to resolve the bands through a telescope if its the same astroscan we had when we were kids (i think it is.) I don't know about the GRS, but it is smaller than it was (15% or so) than the 80s-90s.

    • I used the 15mm plossel and fine-tuned the focus for several minutes and couldn't resolve them. Maybe I need to toss in the Barlow lens extension? Or hell, maybe it's my eyes. I'll take reading glasses out there tonight and see if that helps.

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