Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Double Star - Mintaka (Delta Orionis)

-Scope: Edu-Sci 50mm refractor

If you look up at the constellation, Orion, the three stars that form the belt is easily recognisable. To spot the star Mintaka, it is the faintest of the three stars.. If you take the above photo as a reference, Mintaka is the star on the right. (although the above pic do not show Mintaka as the fainter of the three stars)

Mintaka is actually a multiple star system that is beyond a 50mm scope. But its an easy double to spot because it has such a wide separation of 52 arc seconds! What's interesting about this double is the difference in magnitude between Mintaka (A) and its 6.8th mag companion(C), Mintaka itself is about 2.2 mag. Try it and see for yourself, make sure you do not overlook the fainter double!

*Note: The above visual companion is referred as the C component.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Messier 41 and 47

-Scope: Edu-Sci 50mm refractor

Messier 41 - Canis Major

After a heavy downpour this evening, the sky cleared up enough for me to spot this easy object, M41 in Canis Major,
and very near to the star, Sirius.

This is a loosely packed open cluster, very easy for small scopes, a beautiful object you would love to show off to your
grandma. If you are lucky to be staying in a dark site and with good eyesight, you may be able to spot this with your naked
eyes. Sir John Herschel described it as a "coarse collection of stars".

Messier 47 - Puppis

This is another loosely packed 'coarse' open cluster, it doesn't appears to be as impressive as M41 with my telescope. This cluster can be partially resolved with a pair of binoculars.

I didn't have the opportunity to take a second look before the clouds moved in.. 

16 Nov 2010
Had a second view of M47 again tonight, condition is slightly hazy with
temp at 26 degree celsius. Relatively few stars observable and not
exactly an impressive object with a 50mm scope.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

New version of my 50mm telescope from Toys r Us

Toys R Us stores have a new version of the 'Land and Sky' telescopes, marked (II) version 2 on sale! Price is now S$44.95.

I think this version is a slight step backwards from the original version. The 45 degree star-diagonal is now integrated and not removable, which is more suited for erect-image, terrestrial viewing.

The location of the focus knob is now on top of the tube assembly(?) and also not removable, it looks like an upside down
focuser. The box claims it works better and smoother..(like crayford?) 

Seems like the main objective cell is also cemented in place, and the design is even more toy-like than before. It now
comes with an intergrated lens cap which doubles as a pointing aid together with the plastic zero-magnification pointer marker when flipped up from the middle section. Nope, no led pointer here.

It is heartening to know that Toy R Us, and/or the manufacturer, bothers to 'upgrade' a toy telescope, but if you decide to strip the telescope to make it more usuable, eg, shimming, flocking etc, I don't see how it is possible with this new version. But straight out of the box, it should gives the casual curious minds a satisfying view of the
moon and its craters, the birds and the people across your street etc.

Fortunately it still has a glass (doublet) objectives to save what's left of this telescope. Oh yes, you get a free star chart too, or rather a planisphere to get you started. I think they should include a moon map instead. Two 0.96" plastic eyepieces and a table top (plastic) tripod are included as standard. Focal length is still 360mm.

I had initially purchased the original version of this telescope just for fun, and to achieve my 50 objects goal from a 50mm scope, which i think so far it is doing reasonably and optically ok (after some DIY improvements). I don't think i would have started on this project if i have seen the version 2 before the original version. And the tube now looks plastic instead of aluminium in the
original version. (I may be wrong here..)

First impression.. 3.5 out of 5 stars. (why 3.5 stars?!!) Well its a toy telescope for christ sake, and it still cost less than a freaking meade plossl eyepiece. Buy this and look at the moon*!!  It may be your child's first look at the moon or the trees opposite your house. It will be a long and fruitful road ahead for their inquisitive minds to pursue more in their future.

* Scroll down the blog to check the current Moon phase, if its Full Moon, then
don't burn your retina, best to observe the moon when its Waxing or
Waning state.

 This is Full Moon (use a moon filter if you must observe)

 This is not Full Moon (Waxing Gibbous)

Pics taken by me with a Pentax K200D, 2009.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Double Star - 32 Eri (Eridanus)

-Scope: Edu-Sci 50mm refractor

Double star 32 Eri (Eridani), not an easy double to split with my 50mm but managed to get a clear separation if observed carefully. After getting my focus right on my second try, I can get a clean split with a hint of colours. Separation for this pair is about 7.9"

Splitted this pair with a 4mm eyepiece, the brighter of the pair is very faint yellow and the fainter pair, a hint of blue. And what a satisfying double given my average seeing condition tonight.

Try this double with your small telescopes and see if you can get the fainter star to show up as green hue (see below).


Info from web:

32 Eridani is an attractive but little-known pair lurking in the dim expanse of Eridanus due west of Orion’s Belt. Its 5th- and 6th-magnitude components are set 8 arcseconds apart and display lovely pale topaz-yellow and sea-green hues that are evident in a 3-inch telescope and are truly striking in a 6-inch scope at 50x. Italian astronomer Angelo Secchi described this pair’s colors as “magnificent, superb” — and they are! Try cranking the magnification up to 40x per inch of aperture to see this pair’s beautifully tinted diffraction disks.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Jupiter's Vanishing Belt

-Scope: Edu-Sci 50mm refractor (FL 360mm)

It has been a year since my last observation with   my tiny 50mm scope. A year ago in 2009, jupiter still have two belts that are observable through my 50mm, this year i can only see a single belt (NEB). The south equatorial belt (SEB) has vanished!

Well, the 'vanished' or faded belt isn't gone for good, phew, its more like a cycle which could last up to 3 years in this faded state until it reappears again. 

NASA scientist are baffled and 'do not fully understand what's going on', so i won't attempt to explain what's going on here. Until its revival, its going to be an interesting event for all astronomers!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Albireo in Cygnus and Coathanger

-Scope: Edu-Sci 50mm refractor (FL 360mm)
-Condition : Partly cloudy

This is a very easy double star target for most telescopes. With a wide separation of 35 arc seconds, you can virtually drive a truck in between. The pair of Alberio A & Alberio B is amber and blue green respectively. Alberio is in the constellation Cygnus.

The colours are readily apparent in a 50mm scope and is beautiful with very contrasting colours, it may appear to be gold and topaz. The space between the two stars can fit 50 of our solar systems end to end! If you have trouble splitting this double star, take up fishing instead :) 

Alberio is in fact a triple star system which is beyond the grasp of my scope, Alberio has a very close companion itself!


Since we are in the vicinity, lets hop over to a curious and bonus object, the Coathanger Cluster.

This is a very easy object for binoculars and small telescopes. I am able to get the whole view of the coathanger within my 25mm eyepiece in my 360mm focal length scope. Use only very low power eyepieces when viewing this object with a scope. In fact this is a naked eye object under dark sites.

Once you get the orientation correct, its easy as pie to recognise the straight & hook stars pattern forming what resembles a coathanger (may be upside down depending on your location/facing). When I first saw this object, I find it really cool, it did took me a while though to see the hanger. 

This is not a true star cluster..

Coathanger Cluster

Friday, August 14, 2009


-Scope: Edu-Sci 50mm refractor (FL 360mm)
-Condition : Partly cloudy

After a long break, I continue my quest for the '50 objects' target with my humble 50mm scope. Jupiter is the target today as it appears near the zenith at this time.

The 4 galilean's moons should be easy targets with any 50mm scope (if no occultation or transit occurs). To view the cloud belts I need a 12mm or shorter fl eyepiece, (today my viewing location is my apt's rooftop and brightly lit even at 1.20am!) Very slight hint of reddish brown hue is discernible with a 12mm. Both the latitudinal belt becomes apparent with a 4 or 6mm (huygens) eyepiece although no details or irregularities are detected.

(Simulated view, but belts appears more distint through scope)

Tonight the satellites Ganymede & Europa are quite close to each other. With Io appearing alone on one side. (13 Aug 09 17:13 UT)

*The challenge here for those who already owns the Galileoscope, see if you can detect any belt irregularities or belt's hue with your scope. I think the galileoscope should fair better with its longer focal length.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hello from Earth!

Now you can send a message to Gliese 581d, a (exoplanet) planet outside our Solar System which may support life. Please do so before Sunday 23 August 2009 where all messages will be compiled , collected and exported as text files and encoded to binary code by NASA before transmission.

Travelling at speed of light, the messages will reach the target destination in approximately Dec 2029.

For more information and to be part of this project, please visit this site.

Once you have composed your interstellar message, in english only, not binary code =) , you will receive this email as a confirmation..

Hi Jeffrey Lim,

Your interstellar message has been logged. It will be transmitted on 24 August 2009 to Gliese 581d, the nearest Earth-like planet to us, by the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex in Australia.
Your message should appear on the HELLO FROM EARTH site within 10 minutes.

However, please be patient! All submissions are moderated by real human beings right here on Earth. If the number of submissions is very high, it may take longer than usual for your message to appear.

Please spread the word, email your friends/family & fellow workers about the site and get them to send their messages!

Upon approval of your message (within a minute or two ), another email follows..

Hi Jeffrey Lim,

Your interstellar message has been approved.

Remember you can change your message up to 4 times by simply going to the "Edit Message" menu item on the site and using the below logon details

Hopefully my message and the rest of the 6583 messages as at 14 Aug 2009 12.22am (Singapore Time) will reach planet Gliese 581 in 2029 which is 193 trillion km away in the constellation of Libra.

Dear habitants of Gliese 581, I may not be able to see your reply unless I lived to a ripe old age, even if you transmit at the speed of light. Do come in peace should you decide to visit us mankind.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Open-source software for Volunteer and Grid Computing

Use the idle time on your computers (Windows, Mac, or Linux) to cure diseases, study global warming, discover pulsars, and do many other types of scientific research.

Choose your own projects, eg Seti@home, (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) by running a free program that downloads and analyzes radio telescope data) or Rosetta@home, (determine the 3-dimensional shapes of proteins in research that may ultimately lead to finding cures for some major human diseases) and other scientific projects.

To get started, you need to first download the BOINC software,then choose your scientific projects from here, you can participate in more than one projects according to your interest & your computer's resources.


My current hosts running BOINC,
(2 Asus netbooks and an old 'dino' Pentium 4)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Saturn's Disappearing Rings

-Scope: Edu-Sci 50mm refractor
-Condition : Partly cloudy
-Location : East Coast Park

Tracking Saturn with my 50mm refractor (above)

Decided to head down to east coast park (ECP) for a
glimpse of Saturn's thinning rings. I'm still able to see the rings with 
my 50mm scope at 90x with a 4mm eyepiece. Saturn will retrograde
from Dec 2008 through May 2009, during this period, the rings
will open up slightly before reaching the thinnest again in Sep 4 2009.

Known as ring plane crossing, it occurs periodically when
the tilt and position of Saturn's orbit allows a view as
if the rings are disappearing. You have to view this
occurrence as it happens only once in 14 to 15 years, don't miss it!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Caldwell 41 - The Hyades Cluster

-Scope: Edu-Sci 50mm refractor
-Condition : Clear & Windy

This is the nearest Open Cluster to us, can easily be mistaken
for a star field as its quite scattered. Easy target for a 50mm.
This cluster almost fills the FOV of my 25mm eyepiece at 15x.

Do note that the bright star Aldebaran is not part of this cluster.

Double Star - Gamma Ari (Aries)

-Scope: Edu-Sci 50mm refractor
-Condition : Clear & Windy

Double star at Aries (Mesarthim), just able to split this double stars with 8mm eyepiece (45x). Appears to be of same magnitude, colours not apparent through a 50mm scope.

*On closer inspection with a 4mm at 90x, the yellow double is evident if observed carefully! The challenge now is to see if you're able to observe the colours for this double with your 50mm or 60mm scope. Have fun..


Info from web: 

-The system is 204 light years distant and composed of a binary star with components separated with an angular distance of 7.5 arcseconds (separable in small telescopes). Both components are white A-type main sequence stars and have apparent magnitudes of +4.52 and +4.58. The brighter is known as γ2 Arietis and the dimmer γ1 Arietis. The orbital period of the binary is greater than 5000 years.

-Although they were very closely spaced, with the 26mm (48x) eyepiece in the ETX-90, I could split this double. In the 17mm (74x) eyepiece, Gam Ari appears as a closely spaced pair of stars of equal magnitude. The primary is a yellow color and the secondary is a contrasting bright blue color. The contrasting colors resemble the double star Alberio (Bet Cyg) in the constellation Cygnus. (ETX90)


-Scope: Edu-Sci 50mm refractor
-Condition : Clear

Venus is currently in its crescent phase (which means its closer to earth as compared to gibbous phase). Easily visible with my 50mm scope & a 4mm (90x) eyepiece,using a 12mm (30x) eyepiece, the phase is also detectable.

My 50mm on Nexstar mount tracking Venus thru my window

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Lunar 100 Card Log (8,90)

-Scope: Edu-Sci 50mm refractor
-Waxing Crescent 43% full (6 days old)
-Condition Clear

8 Theophilus, Cyrillus, Catharina - Crater sequence illustrating stages
of degradation.
11 May-Very easy to spot chain of craters

90 Armstrong, Aldrin, Collins - Small craters near the Apollo 11
landing site (small craters cannot be seen)
11 May-Apollo 11 landed near Armstrong crater.
Try to spot the two craters, Ritter B & C (above Ritter), both can be
seen in a 50mm refractor if you look carefully as they are only 14km

15 May-Correction!! Apollo 11 landed nearer to Collins.
Will not be adding this item to the 100 Object List as the
small craters (3km wide!) couldn't be spotted with my
50mm scope.

Lunar 100 Card Log (7)

-Scope: Edu-Sci 50mm refractor
-Waxing Crescent 33% full (5 days old)
-Condition Partly cloudy

7 Altai Scarp - Nectaris basin rim

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Lunar 100 Card Log (10,16)

-Scope: Edu-Sci 50mm refractor
-Waxing Crescent 13% full (3 days old)
-Condition Partly cloudy

10 Mare Crisium - Mare contained in large circular basin

16 Petavius - Crater with domed and fractured floor
8 May-Can't make out the convex floor (domed) or the fractured floor
Multiple peaks sighted as well as the double rim walls

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Semakau visit report...

Tasos scope..an old & reliable friend

Back from a very fun & fruitful trip from Semakau with TASOS!
here's a long list of objects compiled by my friend (FL, thanks!) n
observed during this trip. I personally only observed about 80%
from this list as in the early morning I spend time lazing around
in my cosy tent...(see pic below)

Cosy corner..living on the edge.. (Pic by FL)

Me here, ready to start up the scope for a night of viewing, Albert and gang are sitting watching

(Pic by Tasos, Albert Lim) 

The first few objects..
Pollux double star

Southern Sky

NGC4755 Jewel Box aka Toolbox :p
IC2602 Southern Pleiades
NGC5139 Omega Centauri Globular
NGC3372 Carina nebula
NGC5128 Peculiar galaxy
α Centauri double star

Before the clouds came in..
M104 Sombrero galaxy
M65 spiral galaxy
M66 spiral galaxy
M3 Globular
M5 Globular

M6 Butterfly cluster
M7 Ptolemy’s cluster
M4 Gloubular
M80 Globular
NGC 6231

M22 Globular
M8 Lagoon nebula
M16 Eagle nebula
M17 Omega aka Swan nebula

Other objects observed in early morning..
Coathanger asterism 
e Lyra Double double
M57 Ring planetary nebula
M27 Dumbell planetary Neubula
M11 Wild Duck Cluster (an open cluster that looks like globular at low magnification)
M13 Globular
NGC6543 Cat’s eye planetary nebula

Rising sun! (yawn..I'm awake now..did I miss anything?)

Packing up..

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Semakau Landfill

The Astronomical Society of Singapore (TASOS) will be
organising an outing  to the Semakau Landfill this saturday. 
The response for this trip is very encouraging!

My previous trip in Jun 2007 was quite enjoyable, brought
my Nexstar5 there, but will not be bringing my Nexstar5 this
time, most probably will be bringing my short tube 80mm

Jun 2007 trip to Semakau Landfill, getting ready
to load up and transfer to the other end of the island

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Observing aids for small to medium telescopes

The Lunar 100 card and the DeepMap600 (revised edition)
was recently purchased from Astrobargains.
The Lunar card list 100 features of our Moon in increasing
level of difficulty to explore with most scopes. Although some
may have questioned Charles A. Wood's choice of the 100 features,
nonetheless its still an interesting project to tick off all 100 features
listed on the card. The first item on the list is 1) The Moon!
This should be an easy target to start with, 1 down....99 to go
For a complete list, click here.

I got my first experience of the DeepMap600 was about 10 years
ago but lost the map. Finally ordered another one and this is a
revised edition, have no idea where's the revision but it sure
bring back memories of those starhopping days. Great map by
Wil Tirion, very easy to use as its all in one map when unfolded,
but for those in the southern hemisphere, the DeepMap600 only
shows stars to -60 degree declination. Waterproof plastic so dew
is not a problem, can be use as a scope cover if you're taking a break..

My small eyepiece collections

Just got some more 0.96" Huygen eyepieces from Surplus Shed.
So here's a pic of the whole family of small eyepieces together.
Most are Orthoscorpics and a lone Vixen 10mm plossl (w/eyecup)
I just got a vintage Meade Research Grade eyepiece recently,
very sharp! On the left is my work-horse zoom Celestron
eyepiece. All stored in a small plastic tool kit box ready for a
night of planetary observing.

The Giant and the dwaft size comparison!
Left: Pentax 14XL Right: Vixen 6mm Plossl

Just for fun...Pentax 14XL on my tiny 50mm refractor, the
cost of the eyepiece is about 8 times more than the scope!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

0.965" focuser issue

Dismantled the the edu-sci scope and attempt to shim
the focuser tube because of the slop/play when using 1.25"

I added 3 pieces of black strip paper to the internal
focuser housing, friction is not a problem as one side
of the black paper in contact with the drawtube is
smoothen with cold laminate.

Finally the slop are almost eliminated! And now with
1.25" accessories there is negligible movement of the
drawtube. Picture above shows the hybrid diagonal from Scopestuff.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Tasco 10VR (Article)

Spotted this Tasco on ebay! Complete with case and tripod!
Its a 80mm f/5 refractor. This is a Vixen-made scope for
Tasco. Astromart has one listed on Apr 2007 and selling for
$130 without case & accs. Hmm.. wonder how much this ebay
scope will fetch since its complete with all accessories.

Added: Auction ended with a winning bid at $263.88!!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Packed and ready to go

My edu-science 50mm refractor all packed up in my
Lowepro mini-trekker all ready to go for a quick ob.
Items inside is a red dot finder, a 8x42 bino, vibration
suppression pads, eyepiece box. Not in photo, my benro/
manfrotto tripod and geared head combination.

Tonight's full moon, and skies pretty much clouded up.
Manage only a glimpse of Saturn.

Below pic shows my ST80 refractor all packed in a compact
airline portable aluminium case.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Clear skies & a quick peek..

Clear skies tonight.

A quick peek at the moon
-Scope: Edu-science 50mm refractor
-Waxing Gibbous 87% full

Gassendi with its adjoining crater "Gassendi A"
looks spectacular at 90x with its odd central peak.
These two craters together looks like a diamond ring.
Gassendi was one of the landing sites considered
for Apollo 17 mission. 

Gassendi with its odd peak near Mare Humorum

Able to detect about 4 very very small craters at the
surface of Mare Humorum. Check if your 50/60mm
scopes are able to detect these small craters!

Vintage telescopes on ebay..
Carton Optical Co. Vintage Telescope
D=60MM F=910MM


Vintage ATCO No.1253 Astronomical Telescope
D60mm F910mm

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Hybrid Diagonal 0.96" to 1.25"

The hybrid diagonal I ordered from ScopeStuff is here,
now I can use my 1.25" eyepieces on the edu-science's
0.96" barrel!

Here's a closer look at the well machined metal 0.96"
to 1.25" adapter which can be unscrewed to 3 separate
parts, and can be adapted to any diagonals. I have
to flock the internal barrel to remove some glare.

The edu-science cannot come into focus with this
hybrid mirror diagonal as the scope does not have
enough in focus travel because of the added '1.25" step'
in the adapter.

I removed the metal adapter and use an old celestron
prism diagonal and the scope comes into focus this
time. However, the collimation seems a bit out as I can't
get the image to come into clean focus with the various
eyepieces (including UO orthos).

I switch between the stock/cheap edu-science's diagonal
and the 4mm, 20mm huygen eyepieces and it is sharper
than the hybrid celestron prism/UO ortho eyepieces combination!

I dismantled the old celestron prism diagonal and try
to clean it up and attempt to realign the prism into the
plastic diagonal case. Will see if it works later
tonight. If it doesn't then i may have to try and
get another diagonal to try out or just stick to the
old 0.96" format..ha.

I'm still trying to improve this cheap little 50mm toy scope
from Toy r us! See below photo which i took through the eyepiece
with this little 50mm scope and a 26mm plossl.

Added: The plastic focuser of the edu-science scope is unable to
take the total weight of the 1.25" diagonal & eyepiece causing the
focuser tube to bend causing some collimation problems in the
upper half of the FOV. No wonder the image could not come
into a clean focus.

Have to stick to using the 0.96 accesories for now until i find
a way to shim the focuser tube.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A quick peek..

(pic taken through the edu science 50mm refractor)

A quick peek at the moon
-Scope: Edu-science 50mm refractor
-Waxing Crescent 33% full

The above pic was taken through the eyepiece, the
chromatic aberration (CA) is not as prominent as shown
in the pic when viewed visually through a 4mm huygen

The three main craters, near Mare Nectaris, Theophilus,
Cyrillus & Catharina can easily be seen.
The peak inside Theophilus is visible, the small crater Madleris is also visible at about 90x through the 50mm.