Victory For Democracy

I am in awe this morning, I went to bed last night knowing that Wendy Davis, a Texas senator was doing her best to filibuster a Republican thug abortion bill. Watchful Republicans eyed her filibuster closely, looking for rules violations to end the filibuster. After they got a third strike, they called an end to the process two hours short of the midnight deadline. The thugs quickly called in their group for a vote, and voted. At some point however a huge crowd on hand began chanting “Let her speak” and later “Hell no we won’t go” which caused a bit of pandemonium that caused the signing of the bill, to be too late. Victory for democracy. People were heard. People did not back down from asshole rethuglicans that want to strip away women’s rights. People with just and moral values made themselves known to the theocratic oppressors.

Today I am proud to be an American, and proud to have been born in Texas. I am very pleased that the system can be nudged against all odds, and that Wendy Davis had the courage and the tenacity to stand up for what she believed in, and for her constituents. There is no rest for the weary however, I am sure the Republicans will not let this go, and likely plan to have another go at it soon. They aren’t real good at being humbled. So, be prepared for round two. 

It seems all you hear from Texas these days is how religion has infected everything, dumb ass R’s saying stupid things, or even their not so bright governor proving his ignorance time and again, it paints a cloudy picture for Texas. It makes one think there aren’t any people there with the ability to chew gum and walk at the same time…but I guess there are some good people in Texas, I only hope they do more to make themselves known, and stand up in their communities, and get elected to high offices, and continue the good fight. Maybe it isn’t time just yet to flush Texas down the crapper…


Talk About Missing The Point

Judge in Montana rules that a Jesus statue can remain on federal land. Apparently this statue has been there for 60 years, and that is basically the reason this judge allowed it to stay despite the best efforts of the FFRF. (Freedom From Religion Foundation)

Here is the money quote from this judge :”The statue’s secular and irreverent uses far outweigh the few religious uses it has served. The statue is most frequently used as a meeting point for skiers or hikers and a site for photo opportunities, rather than a solemn place for religious reflection,”

…what about the fact that is obviously a religious idol, representing the Catholic groupThe Knights of Columbus? On FEDERAL land? Did that little trinket of information go in one ear and out the other? There is this thing in our constitution that the religious right, representing whatever particular cult they happen to belong to, love to trample on. It is called the Establishment Clause, which clearly proclaims that no government institution can or should endorse any religion in or on public land.

Flathead National Forest, is a fine example of government land. A god damned Jesus statue is obviously representative of several religious cults. The way I see it, the math comes out quite differently from this judge. Anyone with a functioning rational mind, should be able to see this is flat out wrong. According to the article the FFRF is planning to appeal.  I do hope common sense wins out. Given the amount of religious extremism infested in politics these days, I won’t be holding my breath.

…article here:

Jason 335 Comet Chaser 76mm F 7.9


I have one of these little tabletop newts, cute as a speckled puppy. It was a gift from some friends down the road, they are aware of my astronomy problem, and they had this little scope that wasn’t being used, so they donated it to my telescope addiction. Now the thing is, I have been trying to evaluate this little scope recently, partly because it looks kinda fun, and partly because I was thinking of offering it up for sale (too many toys, not enough time to play with them all). Anyway, I have done multiple internet searches looking for specs, and assembly instructions, and not finding anything that answered any questions I have, (common problem for me) I decided to post my ordeal here, just in case someone picks one of these up at a yard sale and has questions, maybe this will show up in a search engine…

Note: They do not come with the eyepiece pictured. This scope had some sort of accesory in the box that affixes to the focuser on one end and the other end just happens to be the exact thread on my 1.25″ plossl eyepieces. You have to remove the barrel from the eyepiece to reveal these threads. The plossls are a huge advantage over the original eyepieces and there is enough focuser movement to bring them to focus.

I took this thing apart, cleaned up the optics, and put it back together a while back, but never got around to trying it out till just recently. I took it out a couple nights ago, with a gibbous moon above, that was my first target. The image was ok, a little soft, but no doubt it was magnifying the moon fairly well. Saturn was tiny, but identifiable as a planetary orb surrounded by the ring structure, no ring detail visible. With this aperture, and magnification I wasn’t expecting much, but the image just wasn’t sharp as I thought it should be, it was a little fuzzy. The image issues had me concerned so I took the scope apart to investigate.

A quick rundown on this scope, and others like it. They are Newtonian telescopes with a plate glass covering (imitating but not functioning as a Schmidt Cassegrain) This glass plate is really just a holder for the secondary mirror, and an effective dust cover. This particular model sports a 76mm mirror with a 600mm focal length. The primary mirror is the light gathering mirror, the secondary mirror reflects this gathered light back up through the focuser tube, so the eyepiece can magnify the image. Also worth mentioning there is a barlow lens in the focuser tube on these little rascals, usually a design you want to avoid, but hey did I mention how cute it is?

The primary mirror in these scopes is fixed, no adjustments here. The secondary mirror has collimation screws, but I didn’t know if they really worked like they should, or if they were just for show. Anyway I looked down the focuser tube (with no eyepiece in place) and noticed the secondary mirror was twisted around such that 20-25% of the primary mirror reflection wasn’t even visible. Problem identified. If you can’t see a round image reflection of the primary mirror, looking down the focuser tube, the secondary mirror is misaligned and you are not getting full delivery of the light gathered by the primary. It is effectively reducing aperture, and causing a misalignment that will cause a fuzzy image at the eyepiece. So I had to disassemble the front end of the scope,  by slowly taking apart the secondary assembly. I discovered in the process, that indeed the collimation screws do function as they should.

Note: the next 3 pics will be known as pics 1, 2, and 3.

The secondary assembly (pic 1, right smack in the middle of the tube) consists of  the main body that has the collimation screws on the outer side and a retaining ring with a set screw on the backside that tightens up  to hold it in place against the glass plate (pic 1 and 2, front/back side view).  This mirror anchor so to speak is held in place by the aforementioned retaining ring. There is a  phillips head screw that screws in from the front side of the main body, which holds the secondary mirror adjusting mechanism in place (pic 1).  The secondary mirror itself has a small phillips screw to hold it on to the collimation adjustment mechanism, the mirror is housed in a plastic mount that is removable by that small phillips screw (pic 3).  I hope that all made sense. Try looking at the pics for clarity.

To rotate this entire secondary body as a unit, I backed out the tiny set screw in the retaining ring, (pic 2 underneath the secondary mirror close to the glass plate is the small standard screw head) but could not get a grip on the ring from the back to loosen it, or turn the body from the front. It was pretty snug.  So I backed out the collimation screws (allen heads, front side, pic one, the 3 screws surrounding the phillips head) so that I could take a flat edge and use the screws as leverage with one hand, and using the other hand to hold the retaining ring as I turned the flat edge against the protruding collimation screws so it could pop loose. That worked. Leaving it still pretty snug, but loose enough to turn, I put the whole unit, secondary, glass plate and metal frame over the end of the scope tube. Then aligned the secondary by eye,  slowly turning the secondary assembly with my straight edge leveraged against the collimation screws, while looking down the focuser tube, until a circular view of the primary mirror was visible and centered.  (I don’t have or even want to look for specific tools for this thing, and I have a pretty good eye, this ought to be good enough)  Then I removed the entire assembly from the tube and snugged down the retaining ring as best I could, and tightened up the set screw.

Note: to do this as described, this is basically a rehash of the last paragraph, maybe this one will make more sense. You have to place the entire front assembly (the secondary mirror and the glass plate are both attached to the round metal frame that is held to the tube by 3 small screws) over the end of the tube.  Then line up the the screw holes, where they attach to the tube (see close to bottom of pic 2 below for one such hole). Then rotate the secondary mirror with the flat edge so the primary mirror reflection is perfectly round and centered in the focuser tube. Make sure that outer metal edge didn’t rotate away from the screw points on the tube. Once your alignment is good, then pop the entire assembly back out, and tighten up the retaining ring to snug  the secondary back in place. Take care not to let the secondary rotate when you do this or you will have to align the mirror again.

Now after all of this, the collimation screws were completely out of whack and still protruding out into space. So I slowly screwed them back in and snugged them up by eye, getting it as straight as possible (see pic 2 above, note the equal distance between the bottom of the secondary mirror holder and the retaining ring) before attaching it all back to the tube. I have a laser that is made for collimating telescopes, but it is useless in this situation, this small scope has .965 eyepieces and modern eyepieces and tools are 1.25″ or 2.00″  Lasers are mostly good for just getting “pretty darn close” anyway, the best way to collimate is with a star. So I waited for nightfall.

First look was the moon. Not bad, but off. So I picked out Vega* (bright star in the constellation Lyra) and defocused the image in the eyepiece until it resembled a bullseye with a dark spot in the center. The bullseye rings (only a couple of them with this scope and this magnification, with the supplied 20mm .965 eyepiece) were a little lopsided. It was a matter of trial and error here slowly adjusting the collimation screws until the bullseye was as close to uniform as possible. The result? Well, that fuzzy Saturn is sharp now. Stars are pinpoints, and this little scope is ready for some fun.

For serious telescope nuts, the intrafocal and extrafocal bullseyes varied by a large amount. So I just adjusted this thing by essentially splitting the differences. The end result is darn well good enough for this thing. It is not exactly a piece of optical perfection to start with, but the images it produces now are decent considering its aperture and design limitations.

The biggest drawback to this scope now is the finder. It is absolute junk. If I could rig up a better finder I might actually use this thing more than I do. Having an 80mm apo refractor on an easy to move mount, makes it all too simple to grab it, instead of this little guy when I’m out for a quick look. But when I am feeling more whimsical than serious about observing, the Jason gets the nod.

If I had a tripod, with an alt az head, and a decent finder scope on this thing, it might make a good little rig for kids. My kids are already quite proficient with my other telescopes though, so it’s really a toy for me… If you happen to run across one of these little rascals at a yard sale or on Craigslist, and if you can get it cheap enough, they are fun to play with, just don’t expect premium optics or a usable finder scope. The build quality isn’t terribly bad, and the tabletop mount takes some getting used to, but the worst thing about this scope design is the barlow in the light path, and of course the finder scope. I could maybe forget the barlow if the finder scope was usable.

Newtonian: or Newt for short: A telescope design using a primary mirror at the back, a secondary mirror up at the front. Usually housed in a solid tube.

Schmidt Cassegrain: is a telescope design using a refractive corrector at the front of the tube, and a primary/secondary mirror as in a Newtonian design.

Collimation: is the aligning of telescope optics, so that they perform as they should and at their best. There are many articles on collimation on the web, Google is your friend.

Aperture: is the amount of light gathering possible, by measuring the primary mirror in reflecting telescopes, or the objective in a refracting telescope. More is better.

Barlow: is a magnifying lens that increases magnification.

* Vega, usually when collimating a telescope you want to use Polaris, the north star. This star remains stationary in the sky, and is by far easier to collimate with. That said, the finder scope on these little scopes is barely usable, Vega is nice and bright, easy to find, and positioned so I could see it from the front porch, which required no extra hassles moving around and in situations like this I am a lazy S.O.B.

Galaxy Interactions



Hubble never ceases to amaze me. This picture of two galaxies, one essentially ripping the other apart, is gorgeous. Never mind the fact that when you look at it it resembles a penguin (NGC 2936), guarding its egg (NGC 2937). This combination of galaxies is known as ARP 142. I am probably an odd sort, as I always like to play “spot the other galaxies” in Hubble pics, I can see at least 10 that I’m pretty sure of, there is probably more, and no I don’t have anything better to do…

What I find intriguing here, is that usually when two galaxies interact there is a mutual warping of structure. In this case, at this point in time, the fuzzy blob galaxy (NGC 2937) appears unperturbed while the penguin (NGC 2936) is being ripped to shreds. The penguin was before this incident, an often seen spiral galaxy. The fuzzy blob was and still is what is known as an elliptical galaxy, that seems unconcerned of its devastating force being exerted upon what once was a beautiful spiral structure.

I wonder why is the NGC 2937 not noticeably distorting? Is its gravitational pull so strong it simply overwhelms the penguin? If that is the case, it must be a hugely dense galaxy. I wonder what an infared pic might reveal here? I also wonder when the penguin gets pulled closer and closer, will the fuzzy blob inevitably begin to distort? I can’t imagine that not being the case. Only time will tell I suppose, and I won’t live long enough to know the answers. In the meantime I can only look on in amazement as the galactical drama unfolds. Reality TV at its best.

Something else I’m curious of in the pic, is the filaments of darker material, that often lines the arms of spiral galaxies. Much of it appears to have been yanked free of the spiral arms, and has formed into the long strands that seemingly are being sucked down the drain, so to speak. As if, during the reshaping process, that matter was distilled out of the arms, and coalesced into the cloud-like strands seen here. Or maybe it is just loose material swept up in this reorganization. I do hope someone with a better grasp of this situation does a full write up, so I can get a better understanding of what is going on.

More here:

…and much more needed to satisfy my curiosity. Paging Phil Plait…


EDIT: My favorite professional astronomer Phil Plait,  got around to doing a blog post on this subject. So for more info on the matter (pun?) go here:


Well, how about that…? After 37 years of, and I quote: “undue suffering and judgment at the hands of the organization and the church as a whole.” The leader of Exodus International (an apparent religious reconditioning facility) has declared they are shutting the operation down.

Well you sure as hell don’t see that often, a X-ian group publicly apologizing for whatever atrocities they have committed and shutting down their concentration camps? I wonder what brought that on? I really kinda doubt it was a result of rational introspection and a desire to try and correct some terrible injustice. Because history tells us that just doesn’t happen, and people with religion stuffed up their orifices don’t seem to know what rational introspection even means…

I would really like to know what is behind this radical change of behavior. Dollar to a doughnut says, as history does tend to show us, that someone or someones high up in the churchy administration got caught with their pants down, and not with a member of the opposite sex. Perhaps on a mind boggling scale. I do hope further details soon emerge from this, there is just something odd about the whole thing. Maybe I am overly suspicious, maybe it is what it appears to be on the surface. I fear however, that there is much to this story that we just don’t know yet.

X-ians, persecuting, oppressing, and generally abusing people with no remorse for 2000 years…well maybe that is changing, the Catholic church did apologize for their treatment of Galileo a while back. But one incident and a maybe, does not a trend make.

Just for the record, I’d like to announce that I am not gay. I do however support any persons desire to pursue whatever sexual orientation they prefer, or to pursue mixed race relationships, or to just be themselves, and it is none of my business, or anyone else’s as to what goes on between consenting adults, in bedrooms or motels or in the backseats of cars anywhere*…well unless it is my driveway, then we would have to talk. You gotta be smarter than that…I know the back roads and out of the way place around here as well as anyone, I am sure I can direct you to a better spot.

* Unless you are some bible thumping jackass, or  politician, or self inflated smug sort of hypocrite, that can’t keep his pecker from getting caught somewhere it shouldn’t be. Then it’s open season.

Praying Mantis


Since I was a kid, the Praying Mantis has been a favorite annual insect to explore. The way they have no fear, after the apparent  “if this big thing hasn’t eaten me yet it probably won’t” moment… Then they will walk up your arm, and look you in the eye almost with an intelligent gaze. Or they will groom themselves, as if putting on a show. Or crawl up to the top of your head, and hang out a while. Mantis are pretty cool and fun to interact with.

Yesterday I was out in the shop, and heard my youngest “Dad! I found a little Praying Mantis!”  Sure enough there was a small mantis that could not have been more than a few days old. We oogled and ahhed over the little guy, took a few pics, then released him back to the wild.

Where we live the mantis color is mostly a bark colored camouflage look, although I did spot a classic green one yesterday on our front door. We gave this one a few moments of inspection before we let him go on one of the tomato plants. No matter how old I get, the mantis holds a special place in my memories. It is interesting to note, that my kids have the “bug” as well. Pun intended  : )

Lesbian Student Expelled in Omaha

It’s a X-ian school by the way, nuff said, except the part where they are demanding six thousand dollars for not completing her courses. I would like to think if you kick someone out and then charge them with not completing the course, that the responsibility would fall upon the school for kicking her out. But my logic surely conflicts with any religious ‘logic’ on every level.

What really struck me sideways is this quote “Grace University’s code of conduct for its students is strict: No kissing, no prolonged hugs and certainly no premarital sex. The school even monitors students’ television habits, forbidding HBO, MTV, Comedy Central and several other channels “because of the values they promote.”  That is just a stones throw away from the god-damned Taliban. Make no mistake, if the religious right had the power to do so, this is the kind of ‘policy’ we would all be living under. 

Also note, they made her partake in what I can only think of as some religious re-conditioning, with,  and I quote: “months of church attendance and meetings with Christian mentors, spiritual advisers and other groups.”  This was a condition that had to be met before they would allow her to continue with school, after the lesbian affair came to light. Then they turned right around, expelled her, and charged her for not completing the course.

X-ians, persecuting people for 2000 years.

…I have got to stop reading the damn news, every day it seems there is another story about religious fuckwits doing religious fuckwittery, or cover ups concerning kiddie diddling priests, or faith healers killing their kids, or some school board infiltrated by right wing asshats trying to get religion taught in public schools, or religiously motivated bombings, killings, stonings, beheadings, etc etc etc. 


So It Took An Expert To Figure This Out?

Headline: Dying woman should have got Irish abortion

Well since an expert has weighed in on the matter, I guess we can all relax…right? How in the hell does it take an expert to make such an easy call as this one? Yes, she should have had an abortion, the fetus was dying, and killing the mother in the process. The problem here, is she was in a CATHOLIC hospital. That means NO abortions, NO MATTER WHAT THE CIRCUMSTANCES, you know because of the bible or baby Jeebus, or something.

This woman died because of religious doctrines that supercede morality? I would assume the moral thing to do would be to save the one that could be saved, and let the one that could not be saved, go. It is a natural process dying, it happens. It is unfortunate but in this case instead of being a singular tragedy, it was doubly so…  I was led to believe religion supposedly had the market cornered on morality, guess I was mistaken.

The article goes on to mention that certain things that should have been looked at, were not, things were missed. Again, I venture to say they were missed, because from the very beginning, no thought was given to save the mother, all efforts were geared towards the fetus. Why? Same as above. Catholic hospital, and the doctrines that go with it. If the church, any church or representative thereof, is going to convince anyone with a rational mind that they have morality on their side, they got lots of splainin to do.

Black Holes Galore


NASA’s Chandra observatory has with a recent observation, turned up several more black holes, than previously known, near the center of our closest galactical neighbor Andromeda. This survey has raised the number of known black holes there from 9 to 35.

One of the interesting findings, is that some are associated with globular clusters. Globs as they are appreciatively known by amateur astronomers, like yours truly, do not have that distinction in our own galaxy. At least as far as we know at this point in time, it is kind of difficult to observe your home galaxy in a detailed manner, due to the predicament of being located in said galaxy. Hard to get a distant perspective, plus the fact that all kinds of dust, and accumulated matter, make it difficult to peer inside our galaxy, making a thorough investigation difficult at best. The article goes on to explain that Andromeda’s central bulge is quite a bit bigger than our own, allowing more black holes to form. I doubt I will live long enough to see if there indeed is a chance of a glob in our galaxy sporting a black hole. It is the possibilities, and the desire to know, that keeps scientific investigation alive, and imaginations working overtime. (I think I am safe to assume, that not all of the existing globs in our galaxy have been discovered, or shown to not have a black hole. As always, I am open to evidence)

At any rate, I love to observe globular clusters, and galaxies when I’m cruising our galaxy on a moonless night, with my small yard cannon, a 12.5″ Newtonian telescope. Planets are fun too. Oh and planetary nebula’s, and double stars, and catching a stray meteor when I’m out there looking up, and supernova remnants, and open clusters, and stellar nursery’s, and yeah…I’m a geek.