Only too well he knew them for a trap. A man sees a few stars,

                                      shining at the issue of a pit, and climbs toward them, and then,

                                      never can he get down again, but stays up there forever, chewing

                                      the stars. Yet such was his lust for light, that he began to climb.

                                                                             -- Antoine de Saint-Exupery, “Night Flight”

    I have been an amateur astronomer since I was eight. My interests steered me to a PhD in physics, which I got working in an astronomy group at U. C. Berkeley. I could call myself an astrophysicist, but the professional astronomy I have done has been in wavelengths the human eye cannot see, so I retain amateur status in the visible. (The instrument that got my thesis data flew on an Apollo. It observed wavelengths that go about as far as the distance between these two lines || at sea level.)

    My amateur observing has been visual: I worked in computer science and chose hobbies removed from my job. I jest that I don’t want anything to do with anything even suspected of containing electrons. (Hey, most photons that enter my telescopes haven’t seen an electron in a long time!)  (Except for Feynman diagrams, but let’s not go there now ... )

    I like to write, and have written a good deal about amateur astronomy. Some of my articles have appeared in Internet news groups, on the TAC web site, in Sky & Telescope magazine, and elsewhere. I have gathered together here a handful of the ones I think are most interesting. Some of this material is very old, so references to current events may be dated, as may be EMail and web addresses.

    If you have any questions about amateur astronomy that you think I might be able to answer, by all means send me some EMail, at

    Use your browser’s “back”  command to return to this page from these links.

o    Amateur astronomy articles intended to help beginners:

      The first listed is perhaps the most useful for real beginners.

            Run mad as often as you chuse, but do not faint. -- Jane Austen

    Recommendations for Beginning Amateur Astronomers

    Astronomical Telescope Eyepieces: A Discussion for the Beginner

    Binocular Talk Outline and Summary

    Cosmic Bird Watching: Visual Observation of the Deep Sky

    A Dichotomous Key for Identifying Celestial Objects

    A Glossary for Telescope Buyers and Users

    Hazards of Observing

    How To Find Deep-Sky Objects Rapidly

    Messier Surveys

    Some Advice on Picking an Astronomical Binocular

    Suburban Astronomy

o    Astronomy articles that are how-to-do-it or technical:

            Once you can accept the universe as being something expanding

            into an infinite nothing which is something, wearing stripes

            and plaid is easy.

                                                                                  -- attributed to Albert Einstein

    An Introduction to Chromatic Aberration in Refractors

    Celestron-14 Optical Tube Disassembled for Repair

    Fifty Per Inch: Citations on Maximum Usable Magnification

    The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly -- High-End Refractor Shoot-Out

    Green Laser Pointers: The View from the Cockpit

    Herschel-400 list -- brighter than you think

    Losmandy G-11 Equatorial Mount Overhaul

    The Niche of the Refractor

    Ramsden Eyepieces: Report and Design Commentary

    Refinishing Small Refractors

    Refractor Red Meets the Herschel 400

    Telescope Performance: Refractors versus Everybody Else

o    Observing reports, philosophizing, and astronomical humor:

            He is a philosopher. They talk like that in order to confuse their prey.

                                                                                                          -- Alan Dean Foster

    April Fool, 1998

    April Fool, 1999

    April Fool, 2000

    Astronomy at a Science-Fiction Convention (WorldCon 2002)

    Car Parts for Telescopes

    Chomping on Einstein’s Kitty Crumblies

    A Deep-Sky Tour for a Beginner

    Far Centaurus

    Galaxies by Moonlight

    Green, and Other, Flashes

    The Heart of Virgo

    Historical Astronomy Re-Creation

    The Horsie, the Duckie, and the Blue Rose Nebula

    The Jet in Messier 87

    JPL Hallowe’en ECard, 2006

    Minimizing Long Lines at Your Telescope at Star Parties

    The Most Beautiful Astronomical Sights I Have Seen

    Observations of GJJC 1 and Pease 1 with a 10-inch Maksutov

    Observing from Hawaii

    Observing Nearby Galaxies

    The Old Astronomer to His Pupil (“Reach me down my Tycho Brahe ...”)

    Please Feed the Jays (my personal favorite)

    The Sculptor Dwarf Galaxy

    Splitting Sirius in a 6-inch Refractor

    Steven Hawking: Review of Public Lecture

    Ten Reasons to Buy an Astro-Physics 10-inch Maksutov

    Ten Thousand Objects

    Things That Go Bump In The Night

    Thoughts on the Passage of a Great Comet

    Through Time and Space with an Invisible White Rabbit

    An Unfavorable Star

    An Unusual Multiple Rainbow

    Visions of Lost Barsoom

    We Deliver

    You know you are a collector of classic telescopes when ...

    You know you are a planetary observer when ...

o    Software:

            A “user” is a person seriously involved with computers or drugs.

    There is a freeware screen-darkening utility for the Apple Macintosh on my Software page. It is called “Red Sky”, and you will find it way down at the bottom of that page.

o    Telescopes:

                The unfortunate man, imprudently leaning over the metal tube,

            had disappeared in the immense telescope.

                                                                                                  -- Jules Verne

     Click this link for images…

o    Reviews of telescopes and other astronomy equipment:

           I am not a refractorholic. I can quit any time I want to.

    Astro-Physics 6-inch f/8 Pre-ED Refractor

    Astro-Physics 10-inch f/14.6 Maksutov-Cassegrain

    Brandon 63 mm f/5.6 Refractor (“Baby Brandon”)

    Brandon 98 mm f/6.7 Refractor (yes, 98 mm)

    Celestron 14 Extended-Use Report

    Celestron 14 Hardware Modifications Report

    Celestron Altazimuth Mount for Small Refractor Tuned Up

    Celestron NexStar 8 (early model) Reviewed, Refinished, and Modified

    Comparison Test: Vixen 90 mm Fluorite and Astro-Physics 92 mm Stowaway

    A Chart Box for Observing in Wet, Windy Conditions

    Eyepiece Comparisons -- Featuring Intes Monocentrics

    Intes 6-inch f/10 Maksutov-Cassegrain

    Meade 5-inch f/9 ED Refractor, Model ED127

    Meade 50 mm f/12 Refractor, Model 165

    Monolux 60 mm f/11.7 Refractor, with Modifications

    Orion 120 mm f/5 Rich-Field Refractor

    Orion 14x70 Binocular

    Orion 25x100 Binocular

    Questar 3.5 Standard (mid-1960s model)

    Stargazer Steve 3-inch f/10 Newtonian

    Tasco 50 mm f/12 Refractor, Model 301051F

    Unitron 142 (three-inch f/16)

    Vixen 70 mm f/8 Fluorite Refractor

    24 mm Eyepieces Reviewed

o    Writings about space travel, including personal experiences:

                                            Black brush dipped in sun,

                                            Painting the sky at midnight:

                                            Wide awake, I dream ...

    The haiku was inspired by watching the night launch of a Black Brant sounding rocket from White Sands Missile Range, from rather close up -- 100 meters or so -- and outside the blockhouse. And by the way ... I don't like haiku: It seems to me that they are just

too hard to write.

    Contact – Movie Review and Historical Connection

    Cosmo Freeman of the Space Patrol

    The Masque of Apollo

    On Location




Astronomy, Aerospace, and Space Travel