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Archive for February 2019

Infographic: Astronomy Highlights Spring 2019

February 28 2019, Joshua Taboga

As the temperatures grow warmer, many stargazers are ready to head outside regularly again. In the spring, the sky shows us a completely different face. But what is there to see? What is worth looking for?

Your sky calendar for the next three months: The new astronomy infographic, “Highlights of the Spring Sky,” shows you what will be happening in the sky from March through May 2019, at a glance.



March 3: The Planet Chain – the Moon, Venus, Saturn and Jupiter at Dawn

A good reason to get up early: this morning, we can see the planets Jupiter, Saturn and Venus lined up like beads on a necklace. Starting at around 6 am, the Moon will peek up over the horizon and join the show. The constellations Scorpius and Sagittarius are the first heralds of summer, but it will be a long time before they are visible in the evening sky.

March 11: The Moon Meets Mars

To the naked eye or with binoculars, the Moon and Mars offer a pretty sight. They are close together, only 5 degrees apart. The Moon is just 5 days old today and shaped like a crescent.

March 16: The Golden Handle

A fascinating occurrence: the “Golden Handle” on the Moon. Like a handle made of light, it breaks through the Moonlit night just past the terminator. We can see Mare Imbrium near the Sinus Iridum crater and the tall Montes Jura range. This is where the Sun rises in the twilight zone. But while the crater is still in the dark, the Sun bathes the circular mountaintops of Montes Jura in sunlight. A golden ring in the darkness.

March 27: The Moon Meets Jupiter

Tonight, the Moon does not rise until after midnight. But it isn’t alone. It is accompanied by Jupiter, and they will travel together across the sky for the rest of the night. Jupiter will remain just below the Moon, about 50 arcseconds away.




April 5: Asteroid Iris in Opposition

Iris is one of the largest asteroids in the asteroid belt. This chunk of space rock has a diameter of 200 kilometers. On April 5 it will be in opposition to the Sun, reaching a brightness of 9.4 mag.

April 9: Asteroid Pallas in Opposition

The asteroid Pallas comes into opposition this month, reaching a brightness of 7.9 mag. Theoretically, it can be spotted with a pair of binoculars, and definitely with a telescope. But it appears as just another tiny dot among the stars. Between April 10 and 12, Pallas will pass by the 2.6-mag η Boötis – a great orientation point, because both objects appear in the same ocular field of view.

April 9: A Meeting of the Moon, Mars and Aldebaran

This evening the narrow crescent of the Moon will appear in the Taurus constellation, along with Mars and the constellation’s bright main star, Aldebaran.

April 11: Mercury’s Largest Western Elongation

Mercury orbits the Sun so quickly and so closely that we cannot always see it. But right now, Mercury has a large angle distance from the Sun at 27°. Still, it will be almost impossible to make out around daybreak.

April 12: Virginids

The Virginids are a meteor shower that come from the Virgo constellation. They show relatively little activity, with at most 5 shooting stars per hour. The best time to observe them is around midnight.

April 22: Lyrids

The Lyrids are a meteor shower that will produce just 10 to 20 meteors an hour at their peak on April 22. The best time to observe them is between 10 pm and 4 am; before midnight, we can enjoy the view without the disruptive Moon. The radiant, in other words the place where the shower begins, is located in the Lyra constellation.

April 25: The Moon Meets Saturn

Tonight, the Moon will pay another visit to the ringed planet. We can see this beautiful sight in the early morning hours, starting at around 3 am. Above it and to the right is the planet Jupiter, glowing with a brightness of -2.4 mag. The chain made up of these planets and the Moon offers a good opportunity to take beautiful atmospheric pictures.



May 6: Occultation of 61 Tau (For Experts)

The Moon’s path will lead through the Taurus constellation and the Hyades cluster, creating various interesting occultations with bright stars. This evening, the stars 61 Tau and 68 Tau will be hidden by the wafer-thin crescent Moon. One problem: the occultations will take place in the day sky or in the very early twilight sky, just above the horizon. At 7:18 pm CEST, the star 61 Tau (still in the day sky) will disappear on the unilluminated side of the Moon and reappear on the other side just under an hour later. Caution: at the time of the occultation, the Sun will still be in the sky. Do not stare at the Sun! Because it will still be daytime, the occultation cannot be seen from everywhere.
The next occultation, which can be observed from more southern regions, will be better: at 8:47 pm CET, the Moon will cover the star 68 Tau, and at 9:30 pm CET it will reappear on the other side.

May 8: The Moon Meets Mars

On the evenings of May 7 and 8, the Moon and Mars will come together. The Moon’s crescent will only be 8.8% illuminated, giving it a delicate look against the colorful evening sky. On the 7th the Red Planet will shine just 5 degrees above the Moon, and on the evening of the 8th the Moon will have overtaken Mars, moving from Taurus to the Gemini constellation.

May 18: Blue Moon

A “Blue Moon” has become defined as the point when we have a full Moon twice in one month.  However, the older definition of “Blue Moon” refers to the third full Moon out of four in one season and is called a Seasonal Blue Moon. Occurring about every 2.5 years, the name has nothing to do with the color of the Moon, which is the same for every full Moon.

May 20: The Moon Meets Jupiter

At 10:30 CEST, the Moon and Jupiter will cross the horizon and travel together through the second half of the night, until Sunrise. For most of the night, they will be the brightest objects in the sky. Venus only begins to shine in the East starting in the early morning.

A PDF of this infographic can be found HERE.


New focus motor for Celestron telescopes

February 26 2019, Stefan Taube

When it comes to astrophotography, the right focus is the most important thing. Even the best optics only deliver sharp images if the focus is spot on. A motorized focus has two advantages over manual focusing: it is vibration-free and very precise. If you remotely control your telescope via your PC, you definitely need motorization.

For the very popular SC telescopes of the Celestron brand, numerous solutions from different suppliers have been available. Celestron now offers its own model, the focus motor for SC and EdgeHD optics.

Celestron Fokussiermotor für SC- und EdgeHD-Optiken

Celestron focus motor for SC and EdgeHD optics.

The motor fits all SC, EdgeHD and RASA optics, as well as the two new Maksutovs with CGEM-II and CGX mounts. Exceptions are optics built before 2006 and the 9.25″ EdgeHD. An additional adapter is required for the RASA 1100, as the RASA 1100 is already supplied with a FeatherTouch micro-focus. The adapter requires you to dismantle the focuser partially to fit the motor.

If you are using a Celestron mount, power is simply supplied via the mount’s AUX port. A cable for this is included in the scope of delivery. If all AUX ports on your mount are already occupied, simply use the Celestron Aux Port Splitter.

The motor can be controlled in three ways:

  • With the NexStar+ controller: Simply press the MENU button, select Focuser and you can use the two arrow keys to control the motor and adjust its speed. Version 5.30+ of the installed firmware is required. You can update your Nexstar control via the Internet at any time. The controller is not only suitable for visual observation, but also for astrophotography with a DSLR, i.e. without a laptop.
  • With a laptop or PC: If you operate your telescope remotely or have connected an astrophotography camera, it is best to use the free program Celestron Focuser Utility for Windows. For this purpose, you need to connect the NexStar hand controller to the computer via USB, not the focus motor itself. The new CGX and CGX-L mounts can be controlled with the Celestron PWI software. The focuser can also be addressed via this program. The CGX and CGX-L mounts can be connected directly to the laptop or PC via USB without manual control.
  • Without a Celestron mount: If you have a Celestron optic mounted on another brand’s mount, you can control the focus motor via the USB port. The USB port should supply 900mA. As an alternative to the USB power supply, you can also operate the focus motor via main power or a Powertank. However, a power supply unit or power cable is not included in the scope of delivery.

The Celestron focus motor for SC and EdgeHD optics is a really useful accessory that is easy to adapt and operate.

Donation for Scope4SEN

February 12 2019, Anita Maier

Children with special educational needs and more vulnerable people should also be given the chance to look through a telescope and explore the Moon, the planets and the stars. Joanne & Patrick Poitevin took up the challenge to roll out the initiative Scope4SEN (Telescopes for Special Educational Needs) for the United Kingdom since end 2015. Schools for special educational needs and institutions for children with disabilities are donated a telescope, a binocular, and loads of education material through sponsorship.

Each school or institution who got this telescope will get the necessary support to use the telescope and all the material. So far they donated in 3 years about 600 telescopes, along with other educational material, such as binoculars, meteorites, SUNoculars, books, posters, magazines, stereoscopes, digital microscopes, planispheres, solar glasses, magnifiers, planetariums, CCD cameras, etc.


Once again, we have given support to this project at a value of 10,000 Euros and wish the association even more success in their endeavors!


Special Offer! The SUNocular 8×32 from Lunt

February 12 2019, Stefan Taube

Imagine a solar telescope that is just as manageable as a pair of binoculars, or a pair of binoculars that can be used to observe the sun as safely as if using a regular solar telescope. The SUNocular 8×32 from Lunt is precisely that. This unusual instrument for observing the sun is currently available at a special price of 98 euros. You will get 121 euros off the recommended retail price!

Lunt Sunocular

Lunt Solar Systems solar binoculars 8×32 SUNocular OD5


The SUNocular 8×32 features a permanently installed lens filter with a neutral density of 5, as is typical for sun filters designed for visual observation and allowing you to safely look at the sun. Since the filter is permanently installed, the SUNocular 8×32 is not suitable for use as binoculars for terrestrial observations. In order to ensure that there is no confusion on this point, we have classified this product under the Solar Telescope rubric for the sake of simplicity.

The SUNocular 8×32 allows you to see the photosphere of the sun. This layer, approximately 500 kilometres thick, creates almost all of the sun’s radiation in the visual spectral range. The photosphere shows sun spots with an eleven-year activity cycle.  We are currently between two cycles, and for this reason there are very few spots to be seen. But that will soon change, and this instrument allows you to be very well prepared when the change comes. You can observe, at any time and from any location, new sun spots appear as well as their day-to-day development.

The SUNocular 8×32 has all the typical features of a pair of binoculars of this size: central focus, dioptre balance, extremely rotatable eyepieces, carry strap and a very sturdy bag. Furthermore, the rubberised housing provides excellent grip!

By the way… The SUNocular 8×32 is also suitable for observing planets as they cross in front of the sun (transits) and for watching solar eclipses!


Improved Version of the Dobson LightBridge by Meade

February 7 2019, Stefan Taube

No other telescope produces the natural experience of the night sky as directly as a Dobson. Completely without a camera or any other electronic deflection – armed only with an infra-red lamp and star chart – discover nebulae, star clusters and galaxies.

Apart from good weather, two things are necessary to enjoy observation: As large a telescope as possible and a dark night sky. A Dobson is a reflector telescope with a relatively simple base. So, for your money, you’ll get a telescope that is bigger than others. The problem with the dark sky is, however, more difficult to solve. The Dobson telescope should fit in a car so you can drive to a good location for observing.

A large telescope that fits in a car is a contradiction in itself. This is resolved by the Dobson wire-mesh tube:


This Dobson in the LightBridge series can be taken apart without tools.

As the figure shows, the telescope can be taken apart into relatively small parts. From left to right, you can see the rocker box, the mirror case, the tube rods and the carrier ring with the secondary mirror. On location, the truss tube Dobson can be built in a few minutes without any tools.

The manufacturer, Meade, was one of the first, with the Dobson telescopes in the LightBridge series to use this form of construction and at a price that is affordable for amateur astronomers. We can now offer the improved version, the LightBridge Plus.

Meade Dobson Teleskop N 254/1270 LightBridge Plus

Meade Dobson Telescope N 254/1270 LightBridge Plus

The new LightBridge Plus has an improved rocker box. It is somewhat lighter, has notched carry handles, a pre-installed eyepiece tray and a friction brake for the height axis. The box can be taken apart without tools so it can be easily transported. Meade now fits these telescopes with an improved eyepiece holder that has a fine-adjustment knob for precision focusing and comes with a high-quality 2-inch eyepiece with a 26-mm focal length.

As with the previous version, the LightBridge Plus has a main mirror fan for faster alignment of the mirror with the ambient temperature. As expected, the optics are fully adjustable. Thanks to the fast aperture ratio, the tube is relatively short and the viewing height at the zenith is not too high.

If you’ve always wanted a telescope with a large aperture, but just didn’t know how you’d carry it around, a LightBridge Plus is a very good choice at a fair price!


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