Observing Reports

September 26, 2020
Observed and imaged the Moon for International Observe the Moon Night.

September 6, 2020
Out to image Mars as it nears opposition.

September 5, 2020
Close approach of the Moon and Mars observed and imaged.

July 13, 2020
Observed Comet NEOWISE (C/2020 F3) with binoculars just over the tree line and captured some images with my DSLR and SkyGuider Pro.

July 5, 2020
Imaged Jupiter and Saturn

June 3, 2020
Went out to image Mercury

June 1, 2020
Went out to image Mercury and then captured some images and video of the ISS.

May 31, 2020
Went out to image Mercury

May 30, 2020
Went out to image Mercury

May 23, 2020
Hosted a live broadcast of Venus and Mercury through the telescope on Youtube.

May 15, 2020
I got up at 4:00 am to attempt to see Comet Swan from a nearby college with an open field. Due to light pollution, hazy skies and how close it was to the horizon, this did not work out. After returning home, I took some images of Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. Later that day, my wife and I did some early evenings views of Venus and Mercury and were able to see an impressive 6 minute fly over of the ISS. We were able to see the solar panels and living quarters through the telescope very briefly at 48x magnification as it passed by.

May 14th, 2020
Hosted a live broadcast on YouTube showing Venus through the telescope.

May 7, 2020
Attempted to view the crescent Venus with the naked eye but was unsuccessful. Took maybe my best image of Venus using the telescope, DSLR and 3x barlow lens. Looking forward to imaging Jupiter and Saturn this summer.

April 24, 2020
Lauren and I had a nice fire pit and took some time to observe Venus.

April 20, 2020
Imaged the Virgo Cluster and was impressed by the amount of galaxies that came through on my DSLR and 50mm lens.

April 10, 2020
Made my first observation and took my first image of Comet Atlas. It appeared dimmer than I had hoped and may be breaking up.

April 4, 2020
Space Station fly over at 8:32 PM. I was able to make out the solar panels again at 48x magnification. Made my third and final observation and documentation of Asteroid Vesta.

April 3, 2020
Beautiful view of Venus and the Pleiades Star cluster in conjunction. I made my second observation and documentation of Asteroid Vesta’s location. Possibly made an observation of Comet Atlas but it was very dim. The night ended with Lauren taking pictures of the Moon. As we were wrapping up, I decided to take a video of the Moon and about two seconds after I pressed record a plane flew right over the Moon. It was one of the more incredible moments I’ve had in amateur astronomy. The timing was beyond perfect.

April 2, 2020
Tonight I began my observations and documentations of the Asteroid Vesta as part of the Astronomical League’s “Solar System” Program. I will track it for three nights against the star field to determine how far it has moved.

March 29, 2020
While visiting Farmville, I took the opportunity to do some astrophotography at the Sailor’s Creek Civil War Battlefield. My target was the constellation Orion and the skies were dark and clear.

February 21, 2020
Set up the SkyGuider Pro to image the Pleiades Star Cluster.

February 18, 2020
Lily and I went out to look at Venus before she went to bed.

February 14, 2020
Imaged the Double Cluster, Heart and Soul Nebulae and Comet C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS).

February 2, 2020
Lauren, Lily and I looked at the Moon, Venus and Orion’s Nebula.

January 21, 2020
Used the EF 50mm lens to image the Andromeda Galaxy.

December 30/31, 2019
While enjoying a nice fire pit with my wife, I imaged the Horse Head Nebula and tested out my new EF-50mm lens on the Rossete Nebula and the Christmas Tree Cluster.

December 28, 2019
While visiting Smith Mountain Lake with my wife’s side of the family, I attempted to image Cassiopeia. Clouds rolled in but I was able to get a few usable shots.

December 25, 2019
While at my parent’s house I attempted to image the Horsehead Nebula, but dew quickly overtook my camera and lens.

December 19, 2019
Attempted to view a comet that SkySafari said was -1 magnitude. In actuality, it was +18…just a little off. More importantly, I used the SkyGuider Pro to image the Orion Nebula.

November 24, 2019
Used the SkyGuider Pro to image the Pleiades Star Cluster.

October 24, 2019
With a drive to the Blue Ridge Parkway, I viewed M33 and M74.
The Messier List is Completed. See Blog Post.

October 18, 2019
Ella, Easton and I viewed the cloud belts of Jupiter and the Rings of Saturn

September 8, 2019
Went outside after watching “Apollo 11” to view Neptune and Uranus.

September 7, 2019
Took Lily out to look at the Moon through the telescope for the first time.

August 30/31, 2019
Used the SkyGuider Pro to image Andromeda.

August 8, 2019
Observed an occultation of Europa moving behind Jupiter. Timed it at 9:48:40 PM

July 28/29, 2019
Drove up to the Parkway after a birthday party for Lauren and observed some Deep Sky Objects in and around the Milky Way that I couldn’t get from home. See Blog Post for more details.

July 26/27, 2019
Set up the iOptron Sky Guider Pro for some imaging of the Ring Nebula. Also took some quick views of Saturn.

June 27/28, 2019
What an evening. Started by viewing a transit of Io across the surface of Jupiter. I took about 30 minutes worth of video and am planning on making an animated video of it’s track across the surface of Jupiter. Seeing tonight was excellent and for maybe the first time, I was able to view the moon’s of Jupiter as actual discs, with the most clear being Ganymede. This was an incredible view at 200x and 400x magnification. Lauren can out for some view of Jupiter and the her favorite, Saturn. I documented which hemisphere is darker, the northern, and then spent a good 45 minutes verifying the appearance of 5 of Saturn’s many moons. This was my first time observing and verifying Saturn’s moons, the only one I was not able to get on the list was Enceladus.

June 26/27, 2019
Attempts were made early in the evening the see an occultation between Jupiter and it’s moon Io. Clouds disrupted this session but I came back out later in the night to view Io emerge from the shadow of Jupiter around 1:31 AM. It was an incredible view as the moon appeared out of nowhere and slowly grew in brightness as it worked its way out of Jupiter’s shadow. The Great Red Spot was also on show tonight and I was able to view it at the center of Jupiter’s Meridian while getting a good amount of video to hopefully create an animated video or Jupiter’s rotation. It was a late night out!

June 22/23, 2019
Jupiter and Saturn continue to rise earlier and earlier in the summer sky. Tonight was my first imaging session of the year for them. Pictures are posted on the “Astrophotography” page

June 3/4, 2019
Vega and Epsilon Lyrae were my targets tonight. Continue to be impressed with the SkyGuider Pro’s performance. See the blog post for finished results.

June 1/2, 2019
While enjoying a fire pit with Lauren I set up the SkyGuider Pro and imaged the Hercules Globular Cluster.

May 29/30, 2019
A wonderful night of observing and imaging. See the blog post for more info.

May 24, 2019
Traveled up the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Back Creek Valley Overlook and served with Todd and Mark from RVAS. My goal was the globular cluster M68, which I was unable to see at my house. I was able to make out the dim fuzzy core which revealed it’s best details at 96x magnification. As the evening progressed I took some views through people’s telescopes of Jupiter low on the horizon, the Ring Nebula and Hercules. The evening ended for my around 10:35 PM with a view of the very faint globular cluster, M107.

May 21, 2019
With the SkyGuider Pro and my telescope I imaged M81 and M82 while observing the very faint M83 near the Southern horizon. I was not able to view M68 from my house and will probably have to pick that one up on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

May 10, 2019
The faint images of the Owl Nebula and M108 made me want to attempt a better imaging session with them. I used the SkyGuider Pro to take 60 second exposures at 250mm. I was very pleased with the performance of the tracking mount and the post processing results that can be viewed in the “Astrophotography” tab.

May 8, 2019
Took out the SkyGuider Pro for some imaging of Ursa Major. I attempted 60 second exposures at 55mm. The results were impressive. I was able to make out M108 and the Owl Nebula in the images.

May 6, 2019
First light with the iOptron SkyGuider Pro. Took it out for the first time to attempt polar alignment and do a few test shots. Only did 30 second exposures of random parts of space.

April 22, 2019
For the first time since joining RVAS, I was able to take my telescope out with fellow members for some observing. We met near Explore Park on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The skies were a good bit darker than from my location, I would say Bortle 4. Due to the darkened sky, I was able to view nine more messier objects that had eluded me from my backyard skies. Those being, M101, M109, M108, M97, M61, M98, M99, M100 and M91.
16 more to go…

April 21, 2019
The RVAS Coronado is on loan and gave me some beautiful views of the Sun. Surface details were present that I have never viewed before. An almost honeycomb pattern on it’s surfaced was noticed by my wife and I. My Dad took a view of it as well after a nice Easter dinner with the family.

April 17, 2019
After midnight, I noticed Draco had risen completely into view and I sketched it for my Constellation Hunter program.

April 16, 2019
Observed the Sun and noticed a Sun Spot moving across it’s surface throughout the day. After sunset, Lauren and I did a firepit and enjoyed some views on the Moon through our binoculars.

March 30, 2019
A hazy night with skies showing more light pollution than normal. I was still able to pick up three more Messier galaxies:  M49, M85 and M104 (The Sombrero Galaxy). Of these three, M49 was the easiest to pick out. The Sombrero Galaxy was a disappointing sight, likely due to how low it was on the horizon causing it to lose a lot of detail to light pollution. I’ll have to give it another view later in the spring.

March 27, 2019
I have overcome my “Virgo Phobia” and achieved one of my most productive nights of Messier observing. Between 9:05 PM and 10:45 PM I documented the following 11 galaxies: M106, M60, M59, M89, M90, M58, M87, M86, M84, M88, M102. See my blog post for more on this evening.

March 23, 2019
Tonight was a very productive evening. I began by finding and cataloging four more constellations: Taurus, Lynx, Cancer and Leo. After finding Leo, I noticed there were some Messier objects in it that I had not viewed. To my great surprise, I was able to view and document 5 galaxies: M65, M66, M96, M95, M105. Finding these galaxies proved to me that I will be able to get more faint fuzzies from my back yard than I had originally thought. See my blog post for more on this evening.

March 16, 2019
On a clear and beautiful night Lauren and I sat out on the driveway while I charted the following constellations: Ursa Major, Leo Minor, Canes Venatici, Canis Minor. I was surprised at how much more there was to Ursa Major beyond the “Big Dipper”. Also, while viewing Canis Minor around 10:13 PM a bright star suddenly appeared near it’s location and then dimmed as quickly as it had appeared. Probably just a satellite but it’s brightness was impressive.

January 20, 2019
In 16 degree weather, I viewed the beautiful Total Lunar Eclipse of 2019. This was also my first attempt at photographing the lunar eclipse. I was able to use my new Canon 55-250mm telephoto lens. Part of the event was live streamed on YouTube. Pictures will be posted on the blog.

January 6, 2019
Sketched the Orion and Gemini Constellations and then observed the Orion Nebula through the telescope. Always a beautiful view!

December 16, 2018
Viewed and sketched Comet 46P/Wirtanen. Even with partly cloudy skies and a first quarter Moon, it was easy to spot it’s dense nucleus and fuzzy circular tail.

December 11, 2018
Imaged Pleiades and Orion at 18mm with 11 second exposures at ISO 3200. Flat frames didn’t turn out well but I was pleased with the overall resulting images post stacking and editing.

December 10, 2018
Started to move deeper into astrophotography by capturing light, dark, bias and flat frames for my stacked image of the Pleiades Star Cluster. Shot at 30mm with 7 second exposures at ISO 6400. Hoping for some good results.

November 17, 2018
Observed and sketched the Auriga, Perseus, Cepheus and Ursa Minor Constellations.

November 11, 2018
Began the Northern Skies Constellation Program through the Astronomical League. Tonight I observed and sketched Cassiopeia.

November 3, 2018
I was out last night for about an hour around midnight and even though my intended targets of M33, M74 and Comet 38P Stephen-Oterma were obscured by light pollution, I did get a sneak peak of the beautiful winter sky. Of particular prominence was Pleiades. The seven sisters looked spectacular through a low powered 38 mm 2 inch eyepiece. I couldn’t tell if I was getting some nebula glow around a few of the stars or if I had breathed on the lens.

September 3, 2018
Before sunset when Venus popped into view I took out the telescope and DSLR for some imaging of our sister planet. I was very pleased with the resulting crescent Venus. Later in the evening I attempted some more imaging of Mars and took a peak at Uranus which appeared as an incredibly small blue sphere at 200x magnification.

September 2, 2018
I was able to show my Dad the Sun, but still no sunspots visible. During the night, I attempted to view a few more Messier Objects with no success so I turned my attention to Jupiter. It was the sharpest view yet this go around. I was able to view land features and the polar ice cap. Video came out sharp and an image is posted on the Astrophotography Page.

August 31, 2018
Showed Lauren’s brother the Sun through the solar telescope. Sadly, not sunspots were visible.

August 25, 2018
Sunspot visible the day before had shifted a good bit over 24 hours.

August 24, 2018
Observed my first sunspots through the solar scope.

August 22, 2018
Today, I observed the Sun through my new Celestron Solar Telescope. There were no sunspots visible.

August 3, 2018
With a rain storm moving out of the area the skies cleared up and I went out for some observations of Mars. The polar ice cap was very crisp and evident in the South pole. Also got the globular cluster M57, not that impressive of a sight.

July 27/28, 2018
After a wonderful evening of RVAS outreach at the Salem Red Sox game I took out the telescope for some views and video of Mars at opposition.

July 18/19, 2018
A long evening of imaging Jupiter, Saturn and Mars along with observing some more objects on the Messier List.

July 14, 2018
The goal of tonight’s observing was to compare DSLR images of planets to those of the iPhone X using a new video recording app. While the iPhone was able to zoom in more on Saturn and Jupiter, the limitations of the smaller sensor and digital zoom were apparent. Contrast and fine detail were much more pronounced on the DSLR even with the object being smaller in size.

June 29/30, 2018
After some impressive results from the night before, I went back out to attempt some more DSLR images of the Moon, Jupiter and Saturn. Shooting 1080p video in manual mode at 60 fps, I altered the ISO and Shutter Speed with various degrees of success on each object. Images from this night are posted on the Astrophotography Page.

June 28, 2018
Stepped outside for a few minutes with the telescope to attempt some planetary imaging with my DSLR. I’m not sure why it took me this long to try this with the T-Ring adapter and prime focusing. The results were much more impressive in their faint detail of Jupiter’s cloud belts than that of the iPhone X. Check out the Astrophotography Page for a look at the image from this night.

June 24, 2018 (1:17AM)
Lily was born!

June 15, 2018
After an eventful evening of showing my brother Alston Jupiter, Saturn and Hercules before seeing him off to Richmond, I arrived back home around 3:30 AM and completed 5 more Messier targets, M71, M27, M15, M30 and M26. Of those, M27-The Dumbbell Nebula was truly an incredible sight. It floats is space as a grayish blob slightly resembling the shape of an hour glass. UHC and O-III filters both provided more contrast to the object. The night ended at 4:45 AM with the first signs of light glow coming from the east ahead of the rising Sun.

June 7/8, 2018
A long evening of observing the Messier List and some planets. See blog post for more information.

June, 6, 2018
Started off the evening by filming some footage of Jupiter at 200x magnification. The 2x optical zoom on the iPhoneX pushes that to 400x. Hopefully, I can stack some good images of that soon. I then moved onto some more of the Messier List, picking up M10, M12 and M14. M10 was the most impressive of these globular clusters, particularly when viewed at 200x magnification and using averted vision. M14 was pretty disappointing and came across as nothing more than a blurry cloud.

May 23, 2018
After 10 months, I completed the Astronomical League’s Lunar Observing Logbook.

May 12, 2018
Took some briefs views of Jupiter on a warm and humid evening.

April 20, 2018
Viewed the Piccolomini crater on the Moon and took a quiz gaze at Jupiter through the binoculars.

March 18, 2018
In an effort to catch a few remaining Winter objects for the Messier list, I went out and bagged M46, M47, M50 and M93, all open clusters. Nothing too spectacular, unless you stop to think about how they formed and what they represent in the grand scheme of galactic evolution.

February, 27, 2018
Came back out with the telescope to finish up a few targets left over from the previous night that weren’t visible. Finished all telescope targets for the Astronomical League, now just need to finish up 8 more binocular targets.

February, 26, 2018
Was able to observe a number of lunar features with the telescope and binoculars.

February 2, 2018
Went out for a bit to try out the shutter release controller I recently bought. I programmed it to take 90, 4 second exposures with dark frames every 10 seconds. 15 minutes later I went back outside and it was done. The stacking and processing of these images provided my best image yet of Orion’s Nebula.

January 25, 2018
Went over to Bert’s to view his new astrophotography set up. He has the very impressive Orion Atlas Pro AZ/EQ-G Computerized GoTo Telescope Mount. Bert was able to take a 10 minute exposure using his DSLR with very little star trails.

January 18/19, 2018
See blog post for more information.

January 14, 2018
Woke up at 6:45am before going to Church to view the cresent waning Moon in the old Moons arms. A beautiful site just above the horizon before sunrise.

January 13, 2018
On a cold 20 degree night, I connected my DSLR to the telescope for the first time. Using a T-Ring adapter, extendable camera adapter and a 25mm eyepiece, I was able to get some exposures that showed Orion’s Nebula. Not having a tracking motor greatly limits how long exposures can be, but I think it will work especially well for the Moon and planets.

December 27, 2017
While visiting Staunton with Lauren’s family for Christmas I was able to take my first exposure shots of Orion’s Nebula.

December 11, 2017
Second night out with the DSLR camera led to great improvements in manual focusing. Took my first image of Andromeda.

December 10, 2017
Right after sunset, I took my first steps into DSLR Astrophotography. I’ve added a new page to the blog that will document my pictures in further detail.

November 26, 2017
Tonight, I caught a few more lunar features for the observing program. Of the nine that I viewed the most impressive were Montes Apennius and the Straight Wall of Rupes Recta.

November 24 & 25, 2017
Continuing on with the Messier list, I picked up a few easy targets. M42 and M43 were gorgeous as always. The tealish gray color coming through in the structure of the nebula. It took some averted vision to distinguish M43 in the nebula. A little after midnight I moved on to nearby M78 and M41. The open cluster, M41 was the more impressive of these two, filling up the majority of the 25mm eyepiece at 48x magnification.

November 16, 2017
On a clear night with temperatures in the high 40’s I logged a few more of the Messier objects as the nighttime sky slowly transitions to the winter constellations. The night began with an old favorite of mine, Pleiades, M45. The seven sisters are always a beautiful sight and I counted over 30 stars in the cluster tonight. Jumping to the North-West of Pleiades took me to the unimpressive, M34. I was surprised to be able to find the Little Dumbbell Planetary Nebula, M76. It showed up as a small dim smudge that a UHC and O-III filter helped to bring out at 96x and 100x magnification. The night ended with an object that has evaded me for years due to light pollution in my area, M110. After some frustration, I was finally able to verify it’s location and glimpse it in the same field of view as M31 and M32.

October 24, 2017 (4:30AM Alaskan Time Zone)
Flying back from Japan at roughly 30,000 feet, I opened my cabin window while we were just South of Anchorage, Alaska and could clearly see Ursa Major. The Big Dipper looked beautiful and clear from this altitude. Due to our speed of about 600 miles per hour, I could open up the window every 5 to 10 minutes and notice an obvious shift in the angle of the constellation. Around 4:50 AM, I viewed what appeared to be a bright satellite pass overhead. It beamed brightly for a few seconds and then dimmed away. The whole sequence of events was incredible to experience from the air!

October 3, 2017
Continuing with the Moon, I logged all 10 of the naked eye Maria targets from Crisium to Oceanus Procellarum. The ever poetic Man in the Moon, Woman in the Moon, Rabbit in the Moon and Cow Jumping Over the Moon followed. After picking up a few craters with the binoculars I called it a night.

October 1, 2017
To knock off a few more objects from the lunar logbook I took out the binoculars and observed 5 more features of the Moon.

September 30, 2017
Between 9:00 PM and 10:52 PM I focused my attention primarily on the Moon to work on observations for my Astronomical League Observing Logbook. 21 features and craters were viewed through my binoculars and telescope. Some objects that stood out to me through the binoculars were the Lunar Rays of Proclus, the Mountains surrounding Sinus Iridum and the craters Aristillus, Autolycus, Archimedes and Plato. The telescope brought in a nice site of Fra Mauro, the failed landing site of Apollo 13 and eventual landing site of Apollo 14. Craters and features in the Southern region near the terminator line and the far eastern region were hard to verify due to the current light pattern and shadows. While this was going on Lauren used the telescope to take a few views of Saturn. Wind turbulence made it hard to view at anything other than low magnification. We then listened to religious podcasts as I picked off some more targets on the Moon. It was a great night!

September 26, 2017
With Lauren and I hosting Sean, a visiting teacher with my school’s Japanese exchange program, we wanted to show him some views through the telescope. The Moon and Saturn were our main targets. Jumping between 48x and 400x magnification gave Sean the full spectrum of views for these two objects. Sean preferred the low power views of the Moon and high power views of Saturn.

August 21, 2017
Great American Solar Eclipse
Madisonville, Tennessee
Totality: 2:32:54 PM to 2:35:32 PM
See blog post for more information

August 5, 2017
After having some friends over for a fire pit we turned our attention to some observing through the telescope. The three targets I showed our friends were Saturn, which obviously is always an impressive showing, the Moon, in all of it’s brightness this evening and Epsilon Lyrae, the double double. It’s a treat to show these views off to people who don’t regularly get to view through a telescope.

July 30 & 31, 2017
I decided to take advantage of one of my last summer nights before getting back to work for the new school year and was able to knock off a good number of lunar and deep sky objects. Starting with the Moon, I was able to view a nubmer of craters, including Plinius Cassini A and Gemma Frisius to name a few. Once the Moon had set, I moved onto my Messier Logbook and was able to view the following objects: M31, M32, M52, M103, M56, M57, M39. The most impressive target of the night was the Ring Nebula, M57 and I was surprised that I was not able to make out and verify the location of M110, seeing that M31 and M32 were so easily visible.

June 27, 2017
On this evening, I focused on the surface of the moon. I knocked out most of the craters listed in the AL Lunar Program that were visible with the current moon phase.
Each of the following craters were viewed through the telescope at 200x magnification:
Picard, Furnerius, Petavius Wall, Messier and Proclus
Moving to the binoculars, the following craters were viewed at 15x magnification:
Langrenus, Vendelinus, Petavius and Cleomedes
Following this, I hosted some live videos of the moon, Jupiter and Saturn on twitter with over 50 people watching at one point.

June 26, 2017
Lauren and I took out the binoculars to get some quick views of the waxing crescent moon.

June 25, 2017
The evening began with some observations of a waxing crescent moon appearing just after sunset. The moon between this phase and 1st quarter is always my favorite to view. I began my lunar log program by documenting the current phase and the Earth’s glow illuminating the shaded part of the moon. This is referred to as “The Old Moon in the New Moon’s Arm’s”.

Following the moon, it was back to the Messier List. On this clear and steady night, I worked my way through some rather unimpressive globular clusters, galaxies and an odd listing in the catalog. Starting off in the constellation Coma Berenices,was the globular cluster M53, which showed up as a dim grouping of stars with some sharper details appearing at 96x and 100x magnification. Galaxies M64, M94 and M63 revealed few details aside from a blurry core. M51, the whirlpool galaxy was more interesting simply due to it’s proximity to NGC 6195. The oddity of the night was M40 which is a rather basic multiple star in Ursa Major. I am not quite sure why Messier included this in his listing.

June 11, 2017
Tonight, I officially began logging observations for certification from the Astronomical League. I began with C/2015 V2 Johnson, which was more difficult to find than on my May 26th observation. After that, I observed two globular clusters, M5 and M3. M5 was the more impressive of the two, showing sharp details outside of its core at 200x and even 400x magnification.

June 2, 2017
Took some videos of the Moon and Jupiter at 100X and 200X magnification with pretty good results.

June 1, 2017
I went over to my parents for the evening and viewed the Moon and Jupiter with my Mom, Dad and little sister, Abby. Clouds moved in making it hard to observe much later in the evening.

May 26, 2017
After setting up the telescope, Lauren and I traveled to the Roanoke Star for a nice evening. Upon returning, we happened to notice a fly over of the ISS and were able to track it with the telescope. We were able to make out the solar panels at 48x magnification. It was an impressive sight, that we tracked for a few minutes. Following this, we viewed Jupiter and Lauren was able to make out the disc of it’s moon, Ganymede at 400x magnification. The main event of the evening was hunting down Comet C/2015 V2 Johnson, which appeared as a slight blur. After this, I viewed some messier objects I had not previously seen, M59, M60 and M104, the Sombrero Galaxy.

May 1 & 2, 2017
Took out the 15×70 binoculars to view the Moon and Jupiter. The Moon, as always, is a beautiful site through binoculars and Jupiter was showing 3 moons easily with a hint of a cloud belt.

April 16, 2017
Lauren and I recently purchased a Mazda 3 Hatchback and I wanted to see how easy it was to transport the telescope around town. We packed it into the trunk and drove up the Blue Ridge Parkway just past the Roanoke Star. After set up, two park rangers stopped by to say hi and then Lauren and I took a couple views of Jupiter before some clouds came in.

March 4, 2017
Accompanied by my faithful four legged companion, Zoey, I went out for about 30 minutes and viewed the Orion Nebula and the Moon.

February 26, 2017
Traveled across town to visit RVAS member Bert Herald for a look at his set up for astrophotography. A write up with more details is posted for this date.

February 19, 2017
A warm winter has led to some beautiful nights. Lauren and I observed a crescent Venus, Mars and Uranus early in the evening. Later on that night, we viewed the Pleiades Star Cluster, Orion Nebula and Andromeda.

October 2, 2016
The Roanoke Valley Astronomical Society held their annual picnic at the Claytor Nature Study Center. After a fun evening Frank and Ray brought out their telescopes for some observing. Frank had a 10 inch dobsonian and Ray was using his 8 inch Celestron Ultima. Frank gave a nice star tour with his green laser pointer and we had some nice views of Saturn, the Hercules Cluster and the Ring Nebula.

September 9, 2016
After having some friends over to watch the first aired episode of Star Trek for the 50th anniversary we started a fire pit and took out the telescope for some views of Mars, Saturn and the Moon.

July 10 and 11, 2016: 10:45 pm-1:30 am
Nice night of observing some Deep Sky Objects along with a few planets. I will be doing a separate blog post on this night with more details.

June 26, 2016
Tested out a new iPhone adapter. It attached onto my eyepieces and the iPhone 6 fit well in the holder. I was only able to set it up and test the part briefly as cloud cover unexpectedly came in early in the evening. Once I get to test it and get some video and pics of the Moon and Planets I’ll do a review of the product.

June 17, 2016
Lauren and I, along with our good friend Cody, enjoyed a nice cool evening by the fire pit and afterwards took some time to view Jupiter, Mars and Saturn through the telescope. The rings of Saturn continue to be as impressive as I have ever seen them in my lifetime and Mars showed off some land features as well. It’s always nice to be able to take friends out to view some of these objects. I’m so used to seeing the planets that sometimes I take for granted how unique of an experience it can be for most people.

June 10, 2016
After visiting my parents for the weekend we took out a pair of 15×70 binoculars to view the Moon, Jupiter, Mars and Saturn. The Moon and Jupiter put on the best show at 70x magnification with the craters showing up incredibly sharp and the Galilean Moons of Jupiter appearing as bright pin points of light orbiting the massive planet. Mars showed off a slight copper color tint and Saturn’s rings were just barely distinguishable at the magnification.

May 13 & 14, 2016
Between 11:45 pm and 12:15 am Lauren and I took our first views of the Mars and Saturn for 2016. They had just risen high enough and were perched in between two trees. Initial views of them showed pretty good detail with how low they were in the sky. Saturn and her rings are always a beautiful show, with at least 4 Moons showing up tonight as well. The Cassini Divide was barely visible due to atmospheric turbulence. The highlight of the night however was Mars, which is close approaching it’s May 22 opposition with Earth. At 200x magnification while using a lunar filter, Mars showed sharp land features including Syrtis Major.

May, 8, 2016
I went out tonight, hoping for some views of Mars and Saturn but they were still too low on the horizon at 10:00 pm.  Earlier in the evening, I viewed the thin crescent moon. Later in the evening there were some impressive views of Jupiter at 200x and 400x magnification.

April 14, 2016
Around 10:00 pm I realized that I would have a perfect opportunity to take a picture of the ISS through the telescope. At 10:23:08 pm it would pass right through the Beehive Cluster. As I hurried out to set up, I found the Beehive cluster and was able get a sharp focus on the starfield, the only thing left to do was wait. Lauren came out at 10:20 and we prepared for the event, she would call out the time and I would be ready at the eyepiece. At 10:21 the space station appeared coming out of the North West and right before it reached the Beehive Cluster, it vanished. I didn’t understand what had happened, it just disappeared right before moving in front of the cluster. It turns out that it’s orbit made it lose the sunlight needed to reflect down onto the Earth about 2 minutes before it was to appear in the eyepiece. While it did pass in front of the Beehive Cluster, it had eclipsed so that there was nothing reflecting down for me to see in South West Virginia.

April 12, 2016
Tonight, I tried out the new Astromania 2x barlow lens and was impressed. I have no other barlow to compare it with, but for 15 dollars it pushed my telescope to 400x magnification views of the Moon and Jupiter. The atmosphere was turbulent, but it showed great promise in its first brief tests. At more traditional magnifications, I viewed two open clusters, M50 and M93. Attempts at viewing some galaxies and hunting down comet P/2010 V1 were unsuccessful due to the Moon.

April 5, 2016
Spent about an hour and hunted down some Messier Objects. At first the sky hadn’t darkened enough yet, but once it did these faint fuzzies popped into view. Also have some amazingly sharp looks at Jupiter at 120x and 200x magnification, pushed me to buy a 2x barlow lens.

March 29 and 30, 2016
Great nights of observing some Deep Sky Objects and the ISS. I will be writing up a blog post with more details.

March 22, 2016
Attempted to use the orange planetary filter to view Jupiter. I was able to get some sharp videos of the cloud belts and a nearby moon, Io. Had some difficulty color correcting the video in Registax 6 because of the planetary filter.

March 16, 2016
Jupiter and the Moon were the main targets tonight. Using my iPhone 6, I took several videos of them and used Registax 6 and Photoshop elements to stack, enhance and edit the video into detailed pictures of the Moon and Jupiter.

March 15, 2016
Having just finished “A Man on the Moon” I was interested in getting in some lunar viewing. I used a lunar filter to cut down on the glare and had some nice views at medium to high magnification. Also, took a peak at Orion’s Nebular and Jupiter.

February 29, 2016
On this relatively warm 40 degree night, I decided to use the Intelliscope Object Locator to take a guided tour of the winter sky. This feature has always impressed me with its simplicity and accuracy. With a simple two star alignment the telescope shows exactly where to move it to find some of the best views of the night. The Eskimo Nebula was a highlight of this tour. This light gray blob with a bright core showed up well even with the slightly light polluted sky of Roanoke. Next up, were the Castor Stars. Appearing as a single star in low magnification, they split into two distinct stars at 200X magnification. The night ended with Jupiter and some attempts at astrophotography. The gas giant was impressive as it slowly rose from the east and into view. Lauren first noticed the Great Red Spot in the upper cloud belt. I took some videos with the iPhone 6 and am going to attempt to photo-stack them, sometime soon.

January 30, 2016
With a small area cleared of snow on our driveway, I went out to get in some long overdue observing. I didn’t spend too much time outside, even though it was only in the upper 30’s. Most of my time was spent on the Orion Nebula, with it’s always visible blueish green tint. After that I did some star hoping trying to make out some dim nebulae, but was unable to from our skies in Roanoke.

August 2, 2015
Saw a nice fly over of the ISS around 9:20pm traveling Southwest to Northeast.

June 24, 2015
While viewing Saturn, I was able to get a nice shot of it through the eyepiece with the Cassini Divide being visible in the image.

May, 24, 2015
Got in some nice views of the Moon and Saturn. Use the iPhone to take some pictures of the Moon at 96x and 200x magnificatio.

May 8, 2015
Had some quick views of Jupiter and Venus and was able to take a picture of the Jupiter’s cloud belts with the iPhone.

January 19, 2015
The night started with some early views of Venus and Mercury around 6:00pm. Even though the scope had cooled for a good amount of time, there were still no details to be made of these two inner planets. About an hour later, Mars and Neptune were up. Of these two, Neptune took the show, tonight. This is not a planet that I get to see much of, so being able to view its small, but distinct, blue sphere was a nice treat. Comet Lovejoy, showed similar detail to the previous week’s observation with still no visible sign of a tail from my location. Going back out around 11:00pm led to some wonderful views of Jupiter with Lauren picking out the Great Red Spot. I tried out some astrophotography with my iPhone 6 tonight and had came out with some surprisingly good results, even showing the cloudy features of Orion’s Nebula.

January 10, 2015
Bundled up for a cold 27 degree night, I went out in search of Comet Lovejoy C/2004 Q2 and was amazed at how easy it was to spot. After gauging some star charts, I looked to the region of stars just above Orion and spotted Lovejoy with the naked eye. Through the telescope, it appeared as one of the brightest comets I have ever viewed with a slightly grayish green tent to it and a center mass that could be spotted anywhere from 32X to 200X magnification. Earlier in the evening, I was also able to get some wonderful sights of Venus and Mercury appearing close together just above the evening sunset. An airplane flew trough the field of view at one point and the telescope was experiencing a decent coma effect from not having enough time to cool down before use.

October 23, 2014
Went out right before sunset to get a quick view of the partial solar eclipse that occurred. Lauren and I had good views of it from higher up on our street and used my Solar Eclipse Glasses to view it. A few neighbors were walking by and took a turn at viewing it as well.

October 19, 2014
Took out the telescope in the early evening, attempting to see Comet Siding Spring pass by Mars. While we were unable to see the Comet, a few neighbors did stop by to take a peak at Mars, having heard about the Comet passing on the news. One neighbor had a young child who viewed Mars along with a few other random bright stars that were out in the early evening. It’s always nice to be able to introduce someone, particularly a child, to astronomy.

September 1, 2014
On this warm and humid labor day night, I enjoyed some quick views of the Moon, Saturn, Mars and Andromeda. The Moon was the highlight of the night with it’s shadowy craters and good but slightly hazy viewing at 100X and 200X magnification.

July 17, 2014
Went over to a fellow amateur astronomers house and was able to take a look at his Zhumell Z8 Dobsonian. An impressive telescope that gave us some nice views of Saturn. Around 10:15 pm a very bright shooting star flew over and broke into at least a half dozen visible pieces following a green tinted explosion. One of the most impressive meteor breakups I’ve ever scene, that was apparently visible up and down the east coast.

June 15, 2014
Lauren’s parents were in for Father’s Day and after a good time at the Salem Red Sox we came home and took out the telescopes for a little bit to show them around the sky. We started with Mars and Saturn before moving onto some more varied objects such as the Ring Nebula and globular cluster M92. They loved the views of Saturn and were surprised at how many satellites (3) we were able to see in just about 15 minutes worth of time.

June 14, 2014
Went out with Lauren to view a number of objects on a cool and calm night. Going back to some summer favorites, we viewed the Double Double near Vega, the Ring Nebula and globular cluster M 92. After some failed attempts to see the North American Nebula we moved over to the main event, Saturn. Due to recently collimating the telescope (way over due) and having a night of extremely steady skies, Lauren and I witnessed the sharpest views of Saturn either of us had ever scene. The cassini divide, shadow of the rings on the planet, cloud belt and several moons were all visible in incredible detail at 200X magnification.

June 2, 2014
Went out for some quick binocular views of the Moon and saw a long fly over of the Space Station. Got a couple glimpses with the binoculars but couldn’t make out any details. The Moon looked very crisp at 15X magnification, even revealing a massive crater that was in the shaded part of it. Lauren and I switched over to Saturn and were impressed that the rings were still visible at the lower magnification.

June 1, 2014
After about 45 minutes of star hopping, disruptions from cloudy skies and failed attempts, I found Comet Panstarrs. It appeared as a small barely visible circular blur, with the best views coming around 100x magnification. Lower magnifications led to less impressive views because of light pollution washing it out. Following this, some quick views of Mars showed off some impressive land details.

May 24, 2014: 3:00am-3:25am
Around 12:49am I saw a shooting star through the telescope while viewing a galaxy. Later on in the night, after a great deal of hype from national news and astronomy websites, I woke up at 3:00am to go lay out in my front yard and view the recently discovered Camelopardalid Metoer Shower. 25 minutes later, I went back to bed after only seeing 3 meteors.

May 23, 2014
Tonight was slightly breezy which cut down on high powered views of Jupiter, Mars and Saturn, so I turned my attention to hunting down some deep sky objects. I calibrated the Computer Object Locator on my telescope and looked up some old favorites such as the Dumbbell and Ring Nebula. My new OIII filter came in handy helping out on contrast for the dumbbell nebula in particular. After that, I looked up some Messier objects I hadn’t viewed  and went to the Virgo Cluster to hunt down the Markarian Chain’s M84 and M86. They were somewhat difficult to make out but I verified that the blurry smudges were them from some good old fashioned star hoping and counting.

May 8, 2014
For my birthday, I received the Zhumell 12.5mm Planetary Eyepiece from my lovely wife. Tonight allowed me to do a first light with it on Jupiter, Mars and Saturn. The cloud belts on Jupiter were sharp through the new 12.5mm, providing 96X magnification. Io was transiting between Jupiter and the Sun displaying a pin prick of a dot on it’s cloudy surface. Mars look incredibly bright with a reddish copper color to it displaying it’s ice cap prominently. Lastly, Saturn came up into view around 11:00 pm and was a beautiful sight. The rings are tilted more than I have seen since I was a child in the 1990’s. The cassini divide was visible along with four of Saturn’s rings.

May 3, 2014: 11:09 pm
After getting home from a nice dinner at my parents house, I stepped out of the car and noticed a shooting star. It began as a dim object but then brightened significantly and broke apart into 2 or 3 pieces that could be made out before the meteor faded into the night sky.

April 1, 2014
After first attempting to find the dim comet 154/Brewington, I turned my attention to hunting down asteroid (2) Pallas. After a good deal of star hopping, I discovered my second asteroid, which coincidentally is the second largest asteroid in our Solar System.

March 22, 2014
Catching up on my Messier hunt, I observed M46, M47 and M48 tonight. Of these three, M46 stood out as the most spectacular. Even though it was fainter and more difficult to find than the others, it appeared as a beautifully dim field of hundreds of stars clustered together. Jupiter and it’s Great Red Spot along with the Pleiades star cluster ended out the night for Lauren and I.
Update: I went back out around 11:30 pm and discovered Mars was high enough to view. At 200X magnification, Mars was showing some incredible detail considering it’s low viewing position and a slight breeze. Syrtis Major along with another land feature and a polar ice cap were visible.

March 9, 2014
The highlight of tonight would have to be the observation of a new supernova in M82. While this had been known of for the past few months, tonight was my first go at attempting to find it. Using the Computer Object Locator to get to M82 in our moderately light polluted skies, I observed and verified the supernova with online guides from various websites. The galaxy itself was quite dim with the supernova shinning through just off center of the main fuzzy mass I could make out of the galaxy’s inner core.  Lauren and I also enjoyed some beautifully sharp views of Jupiter and the Moon.

February 1, 2014: 3:35pm
Went out to randomly look at the Sun with my solar glasses and noticed a sunspot in the middle left portion. It appeared as a small black slice.

December 11, 2013: 6:30pm
Walked outside on our way to an advent service at Church, looked up and saw the ISS flying over.

December 1, 2013: Sunset and 10:00
Set up at sunset and had some great views of a crescent Venus. It’s been a couple years since I have seen Venus with it’s shadow and think it is by far the best time to observe our twin planet. Went back out around 10:00 and had the best views I can remember of Jupiter. A very calm atmosphere and the scope being cooled down allowed Lauren and I to view it with great detail at 120x and 200x magnification. We were able to make out 4 cloud belts and the Great Red Spot, which we hadn’t viewed since November of 2011. I played around with using the blue 28a color filter on Jupiter but still found the best views to be without.

November 3, 2013: Between 12:15 and 12:45
Enjoying a cool, but comfortable, night with a light breeze, Lauren and I viewed some of my favorite targets. We started with the Pleiades Star Cluster and Orion’s Nebula, before moving over to the highlight of the night, Jupiter. We could make out two or three of it’s cloud belts and four of Jupiter’s moons were visible, all located on one side of it. A great start to the winter sky. Next time, I’m sure it will be much colder!

September 3, 2013
Lauren and I went out for some quick views tonight of Saturn and Uranus, which Lauren viewed for the first time. After some good ole fashioned star hopping, it displayed as a small blue disc at 200X magnification.  We attempted to find Neptune but it was hidden behind a tree.

June 14, 2013
Went out with Lauren and her Mom to view the Moon and Saturn. Had not viewed Saturn since last year. The rings are tilted now more than I can remember them since I was a child. Great view of 5 or 6 moons along with the Cassini Divide clearly visible.

April 27, 2013
Had some nice views of Jupiter, Orion’s Nebula and the Moon tonight with Lauren.

November 28, 2012
Took out the binoculars for a quick view of the moon and Jupiter which were very close together, maybe about 5 degree apart.

November 21, 2012
Lauren and I took out the telescope to show some views to her parents who were visiting for Thanksgiving. We looked at the Moon, Jupiter and Orion’s Nebula.

November 10, 2012: Midnight
Went out with Lauren and viewed Jupiter and the Orion Nebula. Tried out some filters for both with limited success, but views were excellent thanks to very steady skies and cool temperatures in the low 40’s.

June 25, 2012: Around 10:00pm
Took the binoculars out with Lauren for some quick views of the Moon. Saw some great crater detail along the terminator.

June 19, 2012: Between 10:00 and 11:00pm
Very humid and warm night. I let the scope set out for about an hour and found it and my seat wet from humidity moisture. Views tonight of Saturn and Mars were exceptional and this was mainly due to the #21 orange planetary filter I was using. The Cassini Divide on Saturn looked razor sharp and its cloud belt popped out more than usual while using this filter. This planetary filter provided some of the best views of Saturn I have ever had, and that is including the fact that I had condensation on my eyepieces and filters from the humidity. I moved over to Mars after this and was very surprised to be able to make out not just its polar ice cap but also two dark defined land features. I can count on one hand how many times I have been able to make out land features on Mars, and this again was due to the #21 orange planetary filter.

June 15, 2012: Between 10:15 and 11:30pm
Knocked some messier targets off of my viewing list tonight. I was also able to try out the Zhumell UHC filter for the first time and was very pleased with the results. Without it, I could not see the Owl Nebula at all, because of light pollution. With it, the planetary nebula popped into view right where it was suppose to be. I’m looking forward to trying this filter out on the Orion Nebula later this year! I also used the XT8i’s object locator for the first time in a while, to help track down some more messier objects. It was very accurate and without it, I could not have located some of the the galaxies because of light pollution.

May 25 & 26, 2012
Lauren and I viewed Mars briefly, making out its polar ice cap, but spent most of our time on Saturn. The rings were tilted much more than when we last saw her a year or so ago. We could make out the Cassini divide as well as a partial shadow being cast by the rings on the planets surface. By far the best views of Saturn yet through the telescope!

December 25, 2011: Around 5:30-6:00pm
Went out to test the new meade planetary color filter set on Venus and Jupiter. Venus was low on the horizon and showed nothing more than a bright blur, giving little indication of the effectiveness of the filters. Jupiter on the other hand was high up in the sky and provided some pretty good views, even though it was a tad windy. Of the three filters we used, the blue filter worked best in improving the contrast, eliminating atmospheric turbulence and bringing out the two major cloud belts. I will be doing a more detailed review of this filter set in the coming weeks, once I have more observations with them on multiple targets. All in all, it was a nice short night of observing on a wonderful Christmas Day!

November 25-26, 2011: 5:30pm, 11:30pm & 12:45am
Lauren and I started out the evening with the second rock from the Sun, Venus. She was just barely visible over the roof of my house and quickly went out of view after only a few minutes. I couldn’t make out any shadow cast on Venus and with it low in the atmosphere its disc appeared as a hazy blur at 200x magnification. The highlight of the night however, came from Jupiter and the transit of its moon, Europa. The moon’s shadow appeared as a black pin-pricked dot pocked into the surface of Jupiter. Various times of observing, from 11:30am to 12:45am, showed the quick pace of Europa’s shadow as it moved from the far upper right to the far upper left of the planet.  Also in view tonight was the Great Red Spot. Lauren spotted this phenomenal storm and we watched as it trekked across the planets surface similar to the trajectory of Europa but at a lower position. It was incredible to see the rapid change of the Red Spot and Europa’s transit shadow on Jupiter over just an hour.

November 1, 2011: 8:30pm-9:00pm & 10:15pm-10:30pm
Had some amazing views of the Moon and Jupiter tonight. Started out by looking at the shadowy terminator of the Moon, always my favorite. Saw some amazing mountain features and highlights across this region with parts of it looking like powdery snow lightly dropped on the surface. I used the iPhone, for the first time, to take pictures and video producing some of the best pictures I’ve ever taken of the Moon. Moved on to Jupiter and saw some really fine detail in the clouds. I could easily make out three main belts and during times of ultra sharp views could see very fine layers of clouds in the upper half of the planet.

October 23, 2011: 11:15pm to 12:00pm
With clear skies and temperatures in the mid 40’s, Lauren and I viewed Jupiter through the Zhumell 6mm eyepiece at 200x magnification. Lauren made out three distinct cloud belts with four moons easily visible. After that we moved over to the Pleiades star cluster, Andromeda Galaxy and the double cluster with the Orion 32mm ultra wide lens. Before packing up to come in, I remembered that Uranus was visible tonight and we took a quick look at it. Uranus appeared as a very small dim blue disc at 200x magnification. Throughout the night, we saw 4 shooting stars, the first of which had a long burn out and a tail that streaked across the sky. These were probably leftovers from the Orionid meteor shower that peaked the night before.

August 28, 2011: 8:45pm to 9:45pm
Clear skies after part of Hurricane Irene swept through yesterday.  I viewed comet C/2009 P1 (otherwise known as Garrad). It appeared as a tight blurry ball from magnifications of 32X to 200X with no visible tale. After that, I moved over to Messier 101 where a supernova has recently been discovered. It is possible that I did see the nova as two stars appeared in view near the edges of the dim fuzzy galaxy. However, those could have been stars from our galaxy in the same line of sight.

August 11, 2011: Midnight to 1:00am
Partly cloudy night with the Moon washing out most of the sky, however it did show some interesting mountain peaks near it’s edges. Also, after a long hunt made more difficult by the Moon’s brightness, I found Neptune and could just barely make it out as a round disc for the first time using 200X magnification.

August 10, 2011: 10:00pm
Witnessed an occulation between the Moon and Pi Sagittari. Appeared as though the star had been turned off.

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