Your Observatory

The term observatory may sound a bit pretentious in view of the scope of astronomical operations here contemplated, but you are going to see a great deal more with your simple equipment than did the astronomers of old who operated the enormous ancient observatories of the Far East. The location of your observatory will be governed by the position and size of trees, buildings, lights, and other distracting conveniences of civilization in the vicinity of your home. If necessary, you may be able to select various observing sites for different parts of the sky. Pick the spot that gives you the best sweep of the sky—front yard, back yard, or apartment-house roof. If a street lamp or a neighbor's light shines in your eyes, its effect often can be nullified by a portable screen or a small tarpaulin hung over a clothesline. In fact a 6-by-8 or 5-by-6-foot canvas tarpaulin attached to a frame of aluminum pipe or 2-by-2's and provided with legs can screen out a host of offending luminaries and bring good ob serving conditions to a spot that otherwise would be bathed in impossible glare.

A garden variety of chaise lounge will be found convenient for lunar (and stellar) observations particularly if it has an adjustable back and if the arms are correctly located to support your elbows as you hold the binoculars to your eyes. If the arms do not quite fit, perhaps they can be supplemented by cushions or pads of some sort. Always sit down or lie down when observing because the closer your eyes and arms are to your point of contact with the solid earth, the easier it will be to hold the binoculars steady. For the same reason don't tilt your chair back on its legs or rock it. The better you can imitate the relaxed rigidity of a concrete pier as you hold the glass, the better will be your view. Support yourself well, but relax your muscles and forget your problems as you explore the moon.

You also will need a light for reference to the charts. At this point the beginner often makes a mistake that wastes much of his observing time and may soon tire his eyes as well. He goes out equipped with a powerful flashlight or a desk lamp with a loo-watt bulb in it. These show the charts well, but they also throw back into the eyes so much light that one is essentially blinded for several minutes as far as observing the night sky is concerned. Since flashlights are designed to illuminate objects 10 or more feet distant, they are invariably too bright for chart-reading purposes. If you must use one, wrap several layers of dark-colored cellophane over the head to cut down the glare. Much better is an extension cord with a "Nite Lite" plugged into the end. The Nite Lite consists of a small-hase miniature white light bulb of the Christmas-tree type mounted in a plastic plug-in base and provided with a switch and a small plastic shade. The complete unit is only four inches long, burns seven watts, and may he obtained at a variety store. It should be placed from one to two feet above the chart with the shade turned so that no direct light strikes the eye. For lunar observations it may be left burning all evening, but for stellar viewing it should be turned off when not in use. If you happen to be a Do-It-Yourselfer you can make a convenient observing desk for lap or table from a clipboard, two nine-inch lengths of perforated steel pipe strap, some bolts with wing nuts, an extension cord, a single electrical outlet, and a Nite Lite. A gooseneck desk lamp is also convenient for this purpose, but the regular bulb must be replaced with the weakest one you can buy—a seven-watt standard base bulb (white glass 1% inches in diameter). Extensive reading with such feeble illumination certainly is not recommended, but when one is observing the night sky, a seven-watt bulb provides adequate lighting for checking charts, noting location directions, and reading short descriptions of objects.

The equipment of the observatory may be completed with the addition of a card table or convenient substitute therefor.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment