Spring 2017 Update

Well, it has been more than four months since I last posted anything to my website and perhaps some people think I may have abandoned the initiative. The simple answer is that I have been a bit lazy in doing anything with the web pages but I have not been totally idle with my local astronomy activities. What follows is an update.

The CPC Telescope

The most significant change is of course that I sold my eleven inch Celestron CPC XLT GPS telescope earlier this spring. This was the hardest thing to do as I dearly loved this telescope. It provided so many fantastic views of the planets and deep sky objects to so many people over the years.  I enjoyed so many nights with this big telescope observing and imaging and sharing the views. It would be impossible to count the number of Oohs and Aahs, the Wows and Holy Cows I have heard from people who looked through the eyepieces on this big telescope.

My fondest memories with it are of the many people who came back on different nights to observe a galaxy or a globular cluster; and especially of those who shed a tear as they experienced the magic from the magnificent views of Saturn or jupiter for the first time. These are cherished moments with my CPC friend.

However, age takes its’ toll and so it did with the telescope and with me. Although the telescope was incredibly easy to set up or take down, it was heavy and required a significant number of attachments to function at peak levels. Heaters, controllers, counterweights, batteries, focusers, diagonals are some of the things common to many telescopes but added more weight and complexity to the CPC operation. The telescope was ten years old and I was becoming concerned about what I would do if internal parts, in particular the electronics, started to wear out. It is incredibly expensive to send the big scope back to California for servicing and the cost of repair would be prohibitive.

In addition, I am getting older with more aches and pains in the past few years than I planned on or hoped for. That made the weight and complexity of the CPC system even more a concern, especially after a night of observing. Moving all that gear at the end of the night from my truck to the garage often was a laborious process.

I shall miss the telescope greatly in the months and years ahead but I have plans to replace it with something nice. More on that later.

The Library Telescope Program

As most local people who follow me on the Facebook Sidewalk Astronomers of Charlottetown are aware, I have provided Dobsonian telescopes to several libraries here on Prince Edward Island.

Librarian Krystal Dionne with the Montague library telescope
Librarians Pam Wheatley and Ashley Graveline with the Cornwall library telescope
Librarian Jane MacKinney with the Stratford library telescope

Libraries in Montague, Stratford, and Cornwall each have one telescope while the Charlottetown Regional Public Library at the Confederation Centre has two of these fine instruments. A quick check of the library catalogues reveal that there is a significant demand for the telescopes with as many as seventeen holds (or reservations) currently on some of them. That is better than the thirty-plus people who were patiently waiting for a chance to use the telescope but still too high for my liking.

I have two more telescopes to be delivered in the next few weeks, just waiting for the telescope bags to be delivered. One telescope will go to the Gulf Shore Consolidated School who will use the telescope in the school and make it available to Rustico in a loaner program of their own.

The second telescope will be going to the University of Prince Edward Island library who will offer the telescope to students and local residents, also in a loaner program.

My original plan was to eventually provide a telescope to most of the libraries on the Island. However, since library management insists on maintaining a nine-day hold policy (meaning that for each person who requests the telescope the library will hold the telescope for nine days to allow the person to come and pick it up), I will not provide any more telescopes to Prince Edward Island libraries. This hold policy, so rigidly held by the regional library management, adds to the wait times unnecessarily and makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Despite my recommendations, library management refuse to adapt the policy to a more reasonable two-three day pick-up time.

As an outcome of this impasse, I turned down a private offer to fund five telescopes and refused the Summerside library’s request for a telescope. It is unfortunate that library management choose to take such an inflexible approach when they are receiving a $500 telescope at no charge.

Once the two remaining telescopes have been distributed, my efforts in this initiative will end. Ongoing care and maintenance of the telescopes will be provided courtesy of the University of Prince Edward Island’s Physics department.

Facebook Sidewalk Astronomers of Charlottetown Group

While I have been inactive on my web page, I have tried to keep the local community aware of astronomy developments by scouring the web for interesting posts. In particular, those which may have an implication for observing or which explain visible objects receive high priority.

I also try to keep abreast of solar system developments such as transits on Jupiter, solar activity, aurora, meteor showers and asteroid passes which may be of interest. Occasionally I will post maps or charts which may also be of interest to local astronomy fans.

Future Plans

While I have sold my largest telescope I still have my 60mm Lunt solar telescope with a dual etalon, and a StellarVue 110mm refractor.

Previously I used these telescopes exclusively for solar observing and imaging. Until I replace the CPC, I plan to use the StellarVue for stargazing as well. Certainly the views will not be as great as with the CPC but I am hoping that solar system objects (which are the WOW objects after all) will still be decent in the refractor.

I have purchased $500 worth of filters and a filter wheel to expand my ability for imaging with both telescopes. This imaging process is one with a long learning curve and I am hoping to do a bit more of it this year.

I have given consideration to a couple of options to replace the CPC including the 8-inch Celestron Edge. However I am currently leaning toward making a significant investment in a 130mm APM Telescopes with a LZOS lens. This is a world-class refractor yet despite the price it is only a five-inch telescope. The views of the planetary objects should be outstanding. Due to the cost, I have started saving towards this major purchase.

What all this means is that depending on the fickle skies of Prince Edward Island, I still plan to do sidewalk astronomy. It may not be as frequent as in previous years and it will most certainly be with different telescopes. I may be doing more solar sidewalk astronomy during the day, and less evening sidewalk astronomy as I may be spending nice nights imaging solar system or other objects.

For the time being, I will continue to serve as an administrator on the Facebook Sidewalk Astronomers of Charlottetown group page. In addition, I have renewed my services for this website for another year.

My health continues to be a factor as much as the local weather does. I am hopeful that both will be better than last year and that we can have a great year looking into the universe and exploring the mysteries that abound there.

In closing, I would like to express my appreciation for those who follow me on my website or the Facebook group. I invite your comments, questions and opinions and encourage you to keep gazing skyward. You just never know what you might see.

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