When I was doing my vaguebooking countdown, my third one on the list was “03. Three people who have inspired part of the announcement (Aliza, Vivian, and Stephan)”. Aliza was already tagged in the first one, since she was a part of helping me figure myself out during my Tadpole years (age 28/29 to 33/34). And thus was a key inspiration for goal #1 — PolyWogg 4.0.
I tagged Vivian too but didn’t explain why in the last post. She was the one who invited me to present on HR competitions to the young officers at CIDA in the early 2000s, and to appease HR, we had to name it a “completely unofficial guide”. It was my first formal presentation of my tips and tricks, which also meant I had to write something down. Eventually it became my deck, and I’ve used it almost countless times (actually I’ve presented to about 250 people so far on my way to presenting to 1000, and it’s zipped around the government email system an unknown number of times at different departments). Now I’m in the process of writing it as a book. So while lots of people have contributed to the development of my ideas over the years, Vivian was definitely a catalyst both for writing something down and the eventual name. And the related goals of 500,000 words this year plus finishing my HR guide.
Stephan, by contrast, is a more recent inspiration for a giant goal this year, and one I haven’t previously announced. When I was about 12 or 13, I think, I got a telescope. It was a hand-held thing, more a mono binocular than anything, and like most people who get the same style/design, my interest waned pretty fast. You think, “Wow, I’m going to see amazing things”, and then you look through the cheap scopes and think, “Meh.” It’s not much different from naked eye observing. And since I didn’t have a star party or anyone else around who was interested in the sky, I didn’t jump on board. Fast-forward about 25 years, and a couple of the planets were low on the eastern horizon, with enough conjunction (which basically just means they’re close together in the same part of the sky) that they made the news. Stephan had a telescope and offered to show it to me. So off we went, over by Dow’s Lake and the Agricultural museum. Wasn’t the best of observing sites, but it was darkish. I remember that I didn’t like the setup for his scope, too fiddlish for my taste, which sounds like I’m looking a gift horse in the mouth. I’m not, and Stephan knows this too, but the choice of type of mount and setup is about your own style of observing. I’m a grab and go type observer, not a “let’s spend a lot of time setting up and getting it perfect” observer. Stephan has an equatorial mount, which is more finicky than other types of mounts. But regardless, I saw a planet. Plus some other constellations. I didn’t swoon, but it did whet my appetite for more astronomy. We even went to a RASC presentation at the S&T museum to see photos from the Saturn probe. Cool stuff.
Fast-forward another five or six years, Stephan is pushing his astronomy park idea, I’m on the board and doing the website, and I bought my first telescope with money from my inheritance from my Mom. It is a much simpler mount than Stephan’s, different style scope, etc. If I’m just doing the scope, and setting up in the backyard, it’s 10 minutes tops from start to finish to get set up, and that includes alignment. It doesn’t include schlepping all the stuff from garage to backyard, setting up the table, etc., but those are all accessories.
Unfortunately, my interest in astronomy waned a bit last year. In early August, something futzed on my mount (there are three parts to a scope — the mount (i.e. tripod it sits on), the optical tube (i.e. the part that people think of as the real scope), and the eyepieces). The mount is what rotates the scope to look at the various parts of the sky, and mine comes with computerized controls and motorized movements. A fantastic beginner scope and suits my observing style perfectly (I borrowed five or six scopes from the RASC library last year, and still prefer mine the best). But the mount’s electronics and gears stopped working together, forcing me to send it back to the manufacturer for repair. It was gone two months, early August to mid-October, prime viewing time for astronomers in our time zone and latitude. I was so disheartened with the repair time, that I started to lose interest. I even stopped photographing the sky. It doesn’t help that the last three months have been exceedingly bad for night skies — only a double handful of good nights between mid-October and now to even do naked-eye observing. I haven’t even tried the scope since I got it back.
Which means that I need to re-kickstart and commit to astronomy. It’s all Stephan’s fault, of course, but in the meantime, I need to set my goals. And here they are.
First, I’m going to commit to moon fever. It is the easiest thing for astronomers to start with, and there are a lot of choices of targets on the moon’s surface. It is amazing to see the ridge detail in even a small scope, and mine is way overkill for such a close object, so it should be good. In practical terms, it means I’m going to blog about my experience, of course, as I complete the “Moon observer” certificate with the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC). As part of that, I’m also going to learn at least twenty-five major landmarks on the moon. And, last but certainly not least, I’m going to image the heck out of the moon, including completing a full cycle of images (likely spread over several months, but day 1, day 2, day 3, etc. and publish / print it as a collage with the full moon in the centre). I’ll even try for the lunar eclipse on September 27th.
Second, it’s time to check out a planet or two again, and to use my collection of filters to see different types of detail. I have to order a couple to complete my set, but OPTTelescopes seems like a good choice, reasonably priced. For my schedule, I’ll concentrate on ones I haven’t seen much before or combinations / conjunctions such as:
- Mercury in the first week of May (or early morning on October 23rd);
- Venus in the first week of June (or early morning on December 7th, including a daytime occultation);
- Jupiter with Venus on June 30th;
- Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Mercury in the dawn light of October 8th or Moon+Mars+Venus+Jupiter in the dawn light of November 7th.
Heck, even this month I have a shot at Venus and Mercury (Jan 9th at dusk), Mercury alone (14th at dusk), Mars and Neptune (Jan 19th at dusk), Venus and Mars (Feb 20-21), and Jupiter’s moons occulting with a triple transit (Jan 23/24). I’ll also check out the Perseid shower on August 12-13 and Geminids on Dec 13-14. For my first astro imaging of stars, I’m going for Big Dipper, Little Dipper, Andromeda, Orion, and the Perseus Double Cluster.
Third, I’m giving serious thought to attending StarFest this year in August, but at the very least I’m going to make it out to Nirvana near Denbigh or head to some areas in Quebec that I’ve heard about. At the outside edge of possibilities, I’ll think about a trip to one of the big dark sky sites for Ontario.
Finally, I need to tie myself to the community. That mainly means RASC and the continued involvement in AstroPontiac, but I will also do more engagement with the online community, including blogging about newbie experiences.
Stay tuned for photos. And remember, it’s all Stephan’s fault. Or moon fever. One of the two.