Last year, during my trip to the southwest and California to relocate AAVSOnet assets from Tom Krajci’s residence, I stayed with Tom Smith and his wife Donna for two nights. We talked at some length about the status of the Morgan 24” telescope and what it would take to get it commissioned and taking data. It seemed to me that there were several phases of the commissioning process that were going to require extra hands, eyes, muscles and brains for Tom to get them done. I told him I would be happy to come spend a week with him in the spring to help with some of the physical plant work as long as Arne approved the related travel expenses.
In January we began to make plans and set up an itinerary for my trip to New Mexico to help Tom work on the telescope and shelter. Continue Reading
Compared to the pace of even five years ago, the speed at which the charts and sequences team addresses new and revised sequences is simply astonishing. One of the important factors in this NASCAR paced activity is APASS, the all sky survey nearing completion. Every time a data release is made available the team re-examines its lists of requests and reports to see what else can be fixed or created anew in light of the latest photometric data available. Continue Reading
It is amazing what two-dozen people can get done in a weekend if they are organized, serious and willing to put in the time and effort to make the most of a two and a half day workshop. I opened up the Google Drive page containing all the final drafts of six chapters written at the workshop and edited during this past week and the material is shaping up into what I believe will be a very useful introduction and instruction manual for newcomers to DSLR photometry.
Today was the first full day of the AAVSO DSLR Manual Workshop. The goal is to write a user's guide for people interested in doing DSLR photometry. Most of the participants gathered Thursday night for a two hour meet and greet session at headquarters, but the workshop kicked off Friday morning at 9:00 AM.
Friday, February 15th, will be the 14th anniversary of my first variable star estimate.
R Leo, 9.6, Feb 15, 1999
Over 82,000 observations later, I can still recall a lot of things about my first variable star observation. Continue Reading
Several months ago I was invited by French AAVSO member, Laurent Corp, to give a talk for CAPAS 2012, a pro-am astronomy conference on double stars and variable stars in Rodez, France. I was happy to oblige and agreed to give a talk on 'Pulsating Stars in the AAVSO Program'. Neither the organizers or I could afford to fly me to France, so we agreed to do the presentation via Skype.
I sent them an advance copy of my PowerPoint which they translated into French. They would display the slides on two screens, one in English, the other in French, and on a third screen would be the live webcam shot of my cheery face, blown up to giant talking head dimensions. The early afternoon time slot I was assigned translated to 8:30AM local time on Saturday, September 29, the same day I was leaving to drive to Boston, via Buffalo, New York. Continue Reading
It’s 7:30 in the morning and I find myself standing in line to get breakfast in a school cafeteria, hoping I can eat and drink enough coffee to get me going before class begins at 9 o’clock. This is like being transported back in time to my college days in the 70’s! Is this a time warp or am I dreaming?
As the caffeine slowly lifts the haze it all becomes clear. I’m at Tufts University in Boston and today is the first day of the first AAVSO CCD Course. People have come from all over the globe to take part in this total immersion course that will run from Monday through Friday, 9AM to 5PM. Most of the participants have gathered in one corner of the cafeteria this first day and we’re making introductions and chatting excitedly over what everyone expects to be a fantastic learning experience. Continue Reading
"The world's greatest non-professional astronomer."
That is what Harlow Shapley called Leslie Peltier. If that is true, then why don't more people know about Peltier? I think the simple truth is he was a very private, soft-spoken man, who never sought the limelight and would have been embarrassed by all the attention he gets nowadays.
I've tried several times to write about Leslie Peltier, but every time before, I have begun thumbing through his classic book, Starlight Nights, for references and quotes and ended up reading the whole thing from cover to cover again instead of writing the piece that was my original intention. I'll never get tired of reading it. There are a lot of books that tell you how to observe the heavens and what you will find when you do, but this book always reminds me of why I love to be out under the stars at the eyepiece of a telescope, soaking in the sounds and smells of nature and admiring the majesty of the universe with my own eyes. Continue Reading
While checking out my bedroom window for clear skies the other night, I noticed the first fireflies of the season, blinking and darting in the horse pasture behind the house. And it reminded me of a Robert Frost poem I couldn't quite recall. So this morning I looked it up on the internet. Gotta love Google.
Fireflies in the Garden
BY ROBERT FROST
Here come real stars to fill the upper skies,
And here on earth come emulating flies,
That though they never equal stars in size,
(And they were never really stars at heart)
Achieve at times a very star-like start.
Only, of course, they can't sustain the part. Continue Reading
A few days ago I received an email containing pictures of an Iranian astronomy magazine cover and the article pages of an interview I gave several months ago. To be honest, I'd forgotten about the whole thing, so this was quite a surprise. The Night Sky cover and interior pages are very colorful. Unfortunately, I can't read Farsi, so I'm not sure what portions of the interview made it into print.
They asked questions about the AAVSO, variable stars and my own personal story. They were also interested in how much I knew about their science and astronomy culture and history. I hope I passed the 'Ugly American Test'!
It also dawned on me that this is probably why I've had a sudden surge in Facebook friend requests from the Middle East. It's good to know that in spite of our governments' differences, people can still communicate in the universal language of curiosity and the pursuit of scientific answers.
Assuming that most or all of the questions and answers exchanged in the interview made it into print, here is the text of the interview I returned to them. Continue Reading