Depressurizing Through Practice

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a crowd watching you try to make a balky telescope cooperate or the relentless ticking of  the clock. There’s nothing quite like pressure to turn your fingers to unresponsive sausages and your brain to a pile of grey mush.

For the Transit of Venus, I’m planning to concentrate on visual observations.  Even so, I ‘d like to have a few of my own photographs. What I don’t want to do is waste a lot of time fiddling with equipment.

Small telescope with solar filter

66mm refractor with a solar filter

Just as I predicted, I’ve been waffling on the equipment I plan to use for the Transit. The most recent favorite is my old, reliable AT-66 refractor. I have other, bigger telescopes, but this little scope is a gem for the Sun or the moon.

Here’s a solid example of the value of practicing and trying out techniques. Just behind my lovely little scope, there’s a camera mount on the deck. It’s one of those gadgets that clamp onto the eyepiece and hold a camera in perfect alignment. There’s an implicit assumption, of course: that you get the  damned camera aligned in the first place.

White light image of the Sun

The Sun through a white-light filter

Now I remember why I gave up on those little gadgets. Perhaps I’ll get the hang of using my gadget to align a camera, but on a whim, I used a small hand-held digital camera aimed into the eyepiece to get this solar photograph. It’s not a bad photo, particularly considering the simple technique.

I’ve got a few weeks to work on various techniques, but at least now I’m confident that I’ve got a couple of backup strategies. There’s no doubt in my mind that something I haven’t thought up will crop up. It’s good to have a few backups in your (metaphorical) back pocket.

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About Tim Cole

Astronomy enthusiast and educator, all-around fancier of dark skies and starry nights
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