Monday, July 13, 2015

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Falcon 9 successfully launched this morning. One of my favorite memories as a child was going to see STS-9, the first working (non test flight) mission for the Space Shuttle. I can trace a lot of my interest in science and especially space science to going to see that launch. I am still not sure how Dad managed to get those passes to see that launch. As sad as I am to see those craft grounded, I was thrilled to watch the launch this morning (well, part of it, I woke up in time to see the second stage firing). I wish Falcon 9 and SpaceX all the best, and hope to be bringing Andy to one of their launches soon.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Falcon 9 Static Test

I am a child of the Space Shuttle era. I distinctly remember watching the first launch, and probably a good half of them total. My parents even took me to see a launch (STS-5 in 1982). Falcon 9 makes me every bit as excited. I'm hoping to score tickets to see one of these launches once they get a little more frequent. Here's the link if you didn't watch the static fire test today.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Andy Sees the Big Scope

Andy got to see the big scope at Fernbank Science Center for the first time yesterday. I practically grew up at Fernbank, so this was a big deal to me. The first time I remember going there was in 1982 on the way to watch Columbia go up for STS-5, but I know this wasn't the first time I was there. I was also there for summer classes in the early 80's,  STT magnet program in the mid '80's, Independent Studies in the early 90's, and I did a project here for a technical writing class I took at UGA in the mid 90s. This telescope is why I wanted to be an astronomer1, and a good 50% of the reason I turned into the physics geek I did  - the other 50% being my dad. So yeah, I was thrilled that Andy spent about an hour up there running from the big scope on Venus, a small solar telescope watching the sun, and later in the afternoon, watching the moon rise over the rim of the dome.  I hope that he has as much fun at this place as I did growing up.

1And one of these days I may still get that degree. Granted, if I am taking classes when Andy is ready for college, that'll probably scare him off from GT :)

Monday, April 23, 2012

(Re)building my first telescope.

So I fully realize that I am starting the story of the telescope in the middle. Here is how I came to restart work on my  mirror. The little guy above playing with a metal lathe is my son. He's into everything, and  will probably get elected "Most likely to own a plasma torch" in Kindergarten.   We took him to his aunt's house where he found a toy telescope. He got very interested in stars and telescopes, which of course got me reading up on the subject again.  And, as mentioned  in my last post, I  happened to run into a friend who both had an interest in telescope making and  a polishing machine.

I first got really interested in astronomy when my parents gave me an Edmund Scientific 3" telescope for my birthday when I was in 2nd grade. I  loved  that thing and used it extensively, even when I had access to larger and better telescopes.

Unfortunately, through years of neglect and storage, it became practically unusable. The mirror needed to be re-silvered, the tube was cracked, and the mount was both too small for me and too frustrating for my son to even thing of using.  I decided it was time to convert it to a Dobsonian mount.

As you can see, the tube was in bad shape. that black band isn't a racing stripe, it's structural electrical tape. At some point I had dropped the telescope.  I chipped the mirror, but thankfully it was on the back of the mirror and didn't matter. Standing next to it is Schedule 80 PVC  pipe.  After months of looking around for a cheap cardboard tube to make into a new telescope tube, I found that. Usually it's sold in the garden section of you local home warehouse store. Its used in French drains, so it's usually perforated, but I managed to find a section that wasn't. For about $5, I got an 8 foot section, which was enough to make 3 tubes. I got it mostly right on the second try, so I have one section left over in the junk pile.

After cutting it to length, the first step was to sand it down. PVC doesn't take paint very well, so I had to  prime it, and to do that I had to get the glossy finish off.  After that, it was time to prime.

Fortunately I had a lot of paint laying around the house, because it took  a good bit. I think 2 cans of Krylon primer and 2 of paint.

The contraption in front of the tube is a flapwheel sander I adapted by attaching it to a  3' long threaded rod. I used this to sand out the inside of the tube.

Here is the tube after painting. I had almost the correct color of paint laying around from some materials test when I was thinking of builidng an electric guitar. I believe the color is called "Candy Gloss Red", but I prefer to call it "Caprica Red".

And finally, with the mounted hardware. The finder rings are slightly out of alignment, but it's a very subtle thing. Considering I'm probably going to replace the finder with a Daisy optical site pressed into service as a telrad-clone.  I even managed to salvage the Edmund Scientific logo sticker. Apparently the secret to adhesive removal is "wait 30 years and give it a try"

Of course, the scope is useless without a mount. That'll be my next post.