Category Archives: Readers’ Requests

Jim’s responses to readers requests received by email, or from Scope Out or AstroLog.

Recommending a Telescope

Q: I have a Canon 5D. Any recommendations for a compatible telescope?

A: You have a high-end camera that deserves high-end equipment. I am so happy with my first telescope/mount combination (TeleVue NP101is/Losmandy GM8) that I continue to recommend it four years after I purchased it. Ultimately, selecting a telescope is a highly personal proposition, and your budget and anticipated uses will determine which is THE right telescope for you. There is a lot of worthwhile material on the Web about the best telescope for particular application.

Here are links to some posts that provide a sense of how I have thought through some of my selection decisions:

Jim’s Astrophotography Equipment
Getting over Aperture Fever
Trying Out a Used Celestron C11
Rationalizing a GOTO Telescope Mount
Finding Barnard’s Star
Planning to Build an Observatory

© James R. Johnson, 2015.

Photo the nearest star and let us know about it

I managed to do the most important thing that I wanted to get done last month:  respond to a reader’s request. The request was quite simple – “photo the nearest star and let us know about it.” There are seemingly thousands of stars that can be seen in the sky, so one might think that a nearby star would be a bright and easy target. Surprisingly, the closest star that we can see from our northern latitudes is a rather dim star that can only be seen with a binocular or telescope. Increasing the challenge, it is located in constellation of rather dim stars. And finally, Barnard’s Star is in a constellation that will soon be below the horizon before sunset as the Earth continues its orbit about the Sun, so I had to rush to get this project done soon or wait until next summer. My first attempt was on a relatively clear evening, but the nearly full Moon made it difficult to positively identify the star field that I was seeking, and clouds eventually set in before I could complete the mission. The next time that I was able to get out, there was no Moon and no clouds, but I did not succeed in locating the target before that area of the sky set below the horizon. By the third time that I was able to get out, I had revised my search technique, and I quickly captured an image of the correct star field on my first attempt. Here is a link to the result of my work:

Astronomy-related Gift for an 11-year Old

Q: My nephew William (11 years old) loves astronomy and I remember you saying that you love teaching kids about astronomy.  Any suggestions of things out there on the market that could be cool?

A: If you want William to be the envy of me, and almost every other amateur astronomer on the planet, shell out $20K and get him a Meade 12″ LX200 OTA, Losmandy Titan mount, and an SBIG ST1100. Short of that, there are a lot of cheap (low cost, low quality) telescopes and binoculars out there that might be tempting, but I would avoid them as they usually lead to disappointment. Worthwhile equipment, even entry level, is too expensive for an 11-year old, so what’s left? I think an age-appropriate book. Try Amazon and search on “astronomy for kids.” You can pick your price range with a single item or by picking a few. Given that he is a boy, and already interested, I would avoid the “cartoony” books and go for something more realistic, with real photographs.