Heavenward Ho

VenusSo, I have bought what I need, and am now going to enjoy it.

I have the new telescope, mount, extender, red-dot finder, barlow, 40mm Plössl, Baader neodymium filter, and still have my 25mm ED from Agena and BST 4mm. I even have a combination red flashlight and hand warmer–thanks, B & H!

Yes, a higher-mag eyepiece would be good. But it’s time to quit ogling the astro catalogs and get on with ogling the glorious heavens above.

One very important new thing has cost me virtually nothing: an observation log. Thanks to AAAA–the American Association of Amateur Astronomers–for a great template. Two dozen of those printed up, an old binder with a new label, a pencil, and voilà. I just need some Star Trek™ stickers!

I love note taking in general, so it’s high time. I have bravely taken my first steps in sketching. Ugh. Lots of room to improve there. For location, I’m indulging hubris and saying “Hall Observatory.” Hall, not Hale!

(My honorary Aunt Cynthia is a great-niece of George Ellery Hale, for whom the Palomar telescope is named. He was a founding professor at my alma mater, the University of Chicago, and a longtime denizen of Madison, Connecticut, which shines at first magnitude in my childhood memories. I’d like to be his honorary great-great-nephew.)

I find that having a log gives me a small ‘research agenda’ every time I go out, and motivates me to stay with an object for a longer time. I no longer just “get as much time as I want, looking at whatever I want,” but studying. Then, looking up some details like magnitude, dec. and RA (I like to estimate these and see how close I get), not to mention size and distance, I learn incidental details about the object or lunar feature.

This led me, recently, to a study of Pierre Gassendi, a philosopher and priest, opponent of Descartes and friend of Mersenne. The combination of ED eyepiece, filter, and barlow gave me a razor-sharp view of the small lunar features named for him.

Somehow, being an organist and an amateur astronomer fits together well. Scholarly, nay geeky, passions still make a renaissance man, even in this age. I can’t forget that Galileo fashioned his first telescope from eyeglasses and an organ pipe…or that the modes were associated with various planets and their spheres.

I note, too, that Gassendi was a priest, as were the early selenographers, and George LeMaitre, proposer of the Big Bang theory. Surely religious faith can fit in here too?

About Jon

Organist, sacred musician, teacher, writer, working in New York City and parts north. Amateur genealogist, astronomer, etc.
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