General Meeting Venue Change!

August’s meeting will be at Riverview Retirement Community in the community center building.  (same place as last year). We’ll be discussing telescope collimation as well as other astronomy related topics! Bring your questions!

Avista’s streetlight ‘upgrade’ is a downgrade for night skies

If you hadn’t heard yet, our local utility company, Avista, is in the process of installing hundreds of blue-white LED streetlights in the Spokane area. These lights are, for the most part, far brighter than they need to be. To make matters worse, the lights are on the blue side of the spectrum which is terrible for dark-adaptation. What can we do?

  1. Research! Here’s a couple of recent articles and news stories about the issue:
    • http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2015/oct/25/doug-clark-the-livin-is-easy-under-avistas-new-str/
    • http://www.kxly.com/news/spokane-news/new-led-street-lights-get-mixed-reviews/35976920
    • http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2015/oct/20/new-led-streetlights-are-green-but-have-some-spoka/
  2. Let the your city council rep know what you think.
    • https://my.spokanecity.org/citycouncil/members/
    • Phone:509.625.6255
  3. Let Avista know what you think
    • https://www.avistautilities.com/contact/_layouts/avista/contactus.aspx

If enough of us voice our opinion (respectfully!) there’s no doubt in my mind we can make a difference here.

Marathon Tips

Messier Marathon time is almost upon us.  The weather forecast gives us a roughly even-money chance of having clear skies…which isn’t bad for March. I thought it’d be worthwhile to go through some quick tips and suggestions to help us all get ready. I am aided in writing this post by a fine book, Astronomy Hacks by Robert Bruce Thompson & Barbara Fritchman Thompson, which was recently given to me by a nice person (Hi Debbie!).

Finalize your observing sequence and schedule

Don’t fly blind! According to Astronomy Hacks, you should develop a your own schedule that works for your latitude and observing site.  Makes sense doesn’t it? I’m planning on using Stellarium, AstroPlanner, and published lists (more on that later).  I don’t personally plan on completing more than half the objects (it’s my first Marathon and I’ve only ever observed 37 Messiers).

Learn your equipment

Oh boy, waiting until it’s dark on March 21st to learn how to use your Telrad is not a recipe for Marathon success. Take some time this week to make sure you can set up and use your telescope with minimum hassle. We’re all a bit rusty after this admittedly short winter.  “Equipment” isn’t limited to shiny mirrors or pretty glass.  Astronomy Hacks also suggests getting out in a cold evening beforehand for an extended period of time so you know what you are getting into and if you need any cold extra weather gear for Saturday.

Prepare your charts

Whatever your preferred charting method (laptop software, Sky Atlas 2000.0, past notes, etc) now is the time to get this stuff in order. Astronomy Hacks recommends keeping it simple and optimized for finding Messiers: use custom charts printed from planetarium software so that the charts are appropriate for the time you intend to observe each object.  Plan Telrad placements for star-hops (if you’re into that sort of thing.)

Practice the Virgo Cluster

Or is it “Clutter”?  ‘Nuff said.  It might be too late for this one…doesn’t look like we’ll have a clear night between now and Saturday…never know though.

Check equipment

Make a checklist if you don’t already have one. Plan to bring warm stuff including a hot drink. I’m going to bring a bunch of those magic hand-warmer things. Make sure all your stuff actually works after being in storage all winter!

Final Prep

Charge your phone. Charge batteries. Make sure your family’s expectations for Sunday are low. Oh, and get some sleep.

Got any other suggestions? Tell us on the club mailing list!

On Pluto’s Doorstep

Hey everyone! I thought I’d share a link to the video we watched at the last meeting. It’s a fascinating overview of the New Horizons mission to Pluto.  It’s a little over an hour long and features Dr Mark Showalter of the SETI Institute. Great stuff, check it out.