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Coronet, Autocratting With A Bad Back And Making Lunar Observations

This past weekend was Mists Coronet.  I was the Autocrat (the guy in charge for you non-SCA readers).

When I took it on I knew that it was supposed to be easy.  And really for the most part it was.  I think the biggest problem I had to deal with overall was a misfiring herald (the person who is supposed to be making the announcements for you non-SCA readers again).

But I had some problems.  This was the first time I have solo-run an event of this size.  The good thing about it is that events this size have certain things that always happen and certain people who are in charge of those certain things which means I didn’t have to be responsible for those things.

The bad thing, for me specifically, is that events this size have certain people who handle the certain things and as such I have to trust them to do those certain things.

Yup, I’m a control freak.  Always knew that I was but this event in particular brought it into sharp focus simply because there were a lot of things which were out of my control and needed to remain out of my control.  This does not mean that there aren’t thing I wish were handled a little differently but at least I got through this and I know enough now that I could (and probably will) do it again.

As to the bad back thing well I wish I knew what the heck I did.  Late afternoon on Saturday I was walking across the field delivering toilet paper to the ladies rest rooms and my back decided for reasons surpassing my understanding to clench and go out and otherwise leave me gasping for breath and barely able to stand for a couple of hours.  It made the rest of the evening pretty hard to deal with.

Including getting out with my telescope and trying to get people interested.

But I did manage it for a bit.  A couple of people, including the current Prince of The Mists, took a few minutes to take a peek through my Galileo prototype.  So as far as that part is concerned “Mission Accomplished.”

All in all, despite a number of difficulties both official and personal, I managed to make it through the weekend and it even appears that people enjoyed the event so I’m calling it a win and adding it to my SCA Resume.

Next time will be better.

A First Event Outing With The Telescope

First, let me apologize for being silent the past week or so. It has been very busy for me at my job and I have been anxious to get back to my writing.

Also, I’ve been stressed out getting ready for this weekend as I am the autocrat of Mists Coronet. (For my non-SCA readers that simply means that a weekend long medieval fair type event is taking place and I’m the guy in charge of the whole shindig.)

However, I realized that I have a wonderful opportunity this weekend as well.

We will be up in the hills, camping, away from city lights on a a couple of nights moving into a full moon! So, I’m bringing my Galileo telescope prototype with me to the event.

I haven’t had the opportunity to put buckles on the leather harness I was going to use to mount it on my tripod, but that is more critical for stellar observations. Lining up to observe the moon is very doable just hand holding the telescope.

So, for those of you who will be at the event and are curious, please feel free to come on by and take a look at the prototype. In the evening I’ll have it out and you can take a look through the prototype as well.

I promise you it’s a very cool sort of experience.

ps – My beard is nowhere near as big as Galileo’s.

Was Galileo a Night Owl?

This morning I woke up like I usually do on a weekday at about 5:30 am.  Actually a little before that since I remember listening to the sound of the shower and waiting for my alarm to go off, wondering what song it would play.

I got up, took a shower, got dressed, packed my lunch and stepped out into the cold morning air.  It’s that time of year when the time change hasn’t occurred yet and the morning sky is only just starting to promise to lighten.

I looked up.

Over my head the sky was a clear and cold deep blue.  Only the brightest of stars remained visible.  The moon a perfect crescent and Venus shining brightly in the sky all looked back at me.

And, burdened as I was with my usual bags to take to work, my car keys in my hand, I stood there for a moment and appreciated the beauty of it all.  I wanted to run back in to the house and grab my telescope but I knew I didn’t have the time for it.

My wife came out to get into her truck.  She asked what I was doing and I told her.

She looked with me for a few moments and then I muttered “F*ck.  If I’m going to try and do these Galileo observations I’m going to have to start getting up even earlier.”

She laughed and said “Yup.”

Was Galileo a night owl?  Was he a REALLY early morning person?  I don’t know.

All I know is this –

I’m not.

A step closer to my telescope tripod.

Well, 7 cents later I got the nut I needed to be able to turn the strike plate on my new tripod into something I can use.  By using a leather sling system I will be able to put my telescope on the tripod but be able to keep it safe.  So far I’ve gotten this far, but since I don’t have buckles at the moment I could only do this much.   So I’ll stop by the leather store in the next day or so and pick up a couple of buckles and finish this up.

From that point on I’ll actually be able to mount my telescope on my new tripod.  The nice thing is that with this design I should be able to actually use the same sling on a more authentic tripod once I have it worked out.

Looking forward to finishing this in the next day or so as the moon is getting full again and we should have a really nice view of it from my deck.

First Stellar Observation

Tonight, after coming home from a guitar lesson/art night over at a friends house I pulled into the driveway, got out of the car, looked up and realized I had a truly gorgeous sky to look at.  So I promptly went into the house, grabbed my “Galileo telescope” and rushed back out on to the deck.

Of course I’m still hand holding this thing instead of putting it on a tripod (I just haven’t had the time to get a new one yet), but even so, I’ve gotten better at aiming and hand holding it.  As such I was able to get a look at a star.  A bit of jumping around and choosing various targets to try and focus on based on what I could brace myself against and I ended up getting a magnified look at the star Kaus Media in the constellation of Sagittarius.  Assuming, that is, that I’ve used this handy little star map application on my phone correctly.  Yes, relying on some modern technology to help me understand more ancient technology.  I definitely do not have a problem with that.

So, briefly, Sagittarius is generally associated with Bellerophon in Greek mythology, one of the greatest monster slayers of mythology who was credited with slaying the Chimera.  Also associated with Zeus and Thor from their respective mythologies.  Sagittarius is generally depicted as a Centaur Archer.

In the constellation of Sagittarius Kaus Media is one of the stars which makes up the arrow in the bow held by the figure.  It is approximately 305 light years away.

Although I don’t think Galileo would have known that last bit.

Observations of the first waning gibbous moon

Over the past few nights as the moon waxed to it’s fullest I noticed that my telescope was in fact powerful enough to make it possible for me to see actual lunar mountains along the edge of the lunar disk, most notably the upper right quadrant.

This got me to thinking — as the moon waned would I see these lunar features at the shadows edge?  I figured it would be an interesting sort of thing to look for and that it might even make me feel a little like Galileo must have felt as he formed his ideas and tests to determine the truth of them.

Tonight I looked along the earliest line of shadow and indeed I saw the lunar texture I was hoping to see.  In an effort to make sure I wasn’t just seeing what I wanted to see I waited, made several more observations and I am now absolutely willing to say “I’m not sure yet.”  I saw them, but if I let myself come to a conclusion with only one nights worth of observations then I’m not really doing myself or Galileo any justice now am I?  Not to mention cutting short the fun I’m having wandering around in my kid like enthusiasm for recreating these moments of discovery.

But what is perhaps cooler is that as I waited impatiently for the moon to rise I managed to catch a few moments when the moon was partially, and very artistically obscured by the very top most branches of a large redwood tree across the field from my front deck.  It was a truly beautiful picture which I got to share.  Though at the moment hoping to capture a picture is just that; hoping.  There is no way things can be kept steady enough to capture a picture at this time.  But perhaps in the future I will manage it.  It was a truly artistic moment captured in the midst of scientific exploration and it gave me pause as such things always do.

In the meantime, sketching it will be.  As I looked on tonight I thought about how I would sketch to capture what I was seeing.  It’s been a long time since I’ve done any real drawing beyond some pretty basic stuff so this is going to present it’s own set of challenges.

However, that being said, tonight I was really swept away with the idea of how these were the kinds of things Galileo was seeing and maybe, just maybe, the kinds of things he was thinking and feeling.

How to eventually communicate those feelings to a class of students is going to be an interesting challenge.

Project Frustrations

It’s frustrating to be extremely excited about a project but be unable to progress on it.

The Carnival Project is something I am highly excited about but because there are other people involved I can only progress as fast as they are able to get back to me. I knew that was going to be the case of course. I’ve been in the theater for a very long time, so I know all about herding cats.

The Telescope Project is something I am highly excited about but I need to get:

  • a tripod
  • a sketch book and sketching tools
  • a way to speed up time so I don’t have to wait for various stellar configurations

Yeah, that last one probably not going to happen any time soon.

A new project is raising it’s head which I think I’m going to be playing with as well – Ancient Inventions. In particular I want to build a model of the Heron Temple Doors device because it ties so well into the research I’ve done on magic and theater in history.  And it looks like I can actually build it pretty easily.  At least my brain is already turning over a number of ideas on how to do it.

But it’s another project and I’m frustrated because I have this thing I have to do every day called work, which lately largely involves waiting for other people to do their jobs so I have what I need to be able to do mine. Remember that herding cats thing? Yeah, these are government cats. They move even slower and more aimlessly.

Ah well. That’s what happens when you are interested in to many things all at the same time and not rolling in money.

At least I updated this site and the menu structure a bit more.  Yay!  Progress!

Tonight’s observations

I took the time to do a few more observations tonight with my telescope.   I’ve actually done some every night for the past couple as we’ve gotten to a full moon.

But tonight was very cool.  I’ve managed to develop a steadier hand and combined with leaning carefully against the supports on my deck I have been able to make halfway decent lunar observations.  Tonight I was able to get a steady enough and sharp enough view that I could actually make out the shape of lunar mountains on the very edge of the moon!  The magnification is strong enough that I can see the shape of mountains and craters as they rise up around the very edge of the lunar disk.

I know that doesn’t seem like much reading it, but actually looking at it with a telescope you’ve made yourself is amazing.

I got Laurie to come out and take a look as well and she was able to confirm that I was seeing what I was.  We both grinned like idiots.

So, I”m getting a better and better idea just how much I can do with this telescope.  I’ll be looking forward to seeing how things progress proceeding from a full moon back down to a new moon.  I’m hoping to be able to make good observations as the shadow on the moon grows.

I need to get to an art supply store and buy myself a sketch book so I can start trying to draw what I see.

Having so much fun with this thing!

First Observation

Since I built my prototype telescope I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to make a good lunar observation.  Last night was it.

Given the current lack of a tripod I wanted to try for something bright and easily targeted.  So the moon is the obvious choice as it would have been for Galileo.  Last night I had a nice clear night with a nearly full moon up high enough that I could easily target it from my front deck.

I was amazed.

This is still only a small telescope in the sense that I’m looking at about 14x magnification just like Galileo, but even given that I was startled at how clearly I could see the moon.  Well, parts of it anyway.  Just like Galileo’s telescope mine has a very limited field of vision.  So limited in fact that I can only see about 1/3rd to 1/4 of the moon at any given moment and I must pan the telescope slightly to see all of the moon.

But that is kind of the point.  I’m trying to recreate Galileo’s conditions and ultimately his observations.

So all in all I’d say a successful first observation.  I imagine that Galileo must have had the same sense of “gosh wow” that I have and that he may have done very little in the way of writing down anything for the first night.  But being eager to continue and being ready to engage in more detailed and more accurately recorded observations as soon as possible.

For him, I’m sure that will have happened immediately the next evening.

For me, not so much.  The pressures of modern life being what they are I will have a few more mundane things to deal with and really, before I can begin to be even remotely accurate I need to get myself a tripod.  My camera tripod seems to have vanished into the ether so I may need to just purchase a new one (thus forcing the old one to rematerialize) and building a simple rack to attach my telescope to it.

For now I am well pleased.

I built a telescope last night. What did you do?

Okay, so that’s slightly smug of me.  But really, how often do you get to say things like that?

So the whole fiasco with the lens works out like this —  I goofed.  What I thought was the proper double convex lens (the kind where both sides push outward for those who always get convex and concave mixed up) for the objective end of the telescope (the end pointed at whatever you want to look at) was, in fact, a double convex meant for the eye piece.

What I thought was a perfectly flat piece of glass was, in fact, a very subtly shaped double convex lens that was meant for the objective end of the telescope.

Yes, these lenses came in boxes that were labeled, but unfortunately the printing on one of them was so badly smudged that it was utterly unreadable, so I found myself getting things mixed up.

I had, inadvertently, glued the eye piece lens into the objective end of the telescope, and due to other aspects of it’s ultimate construction I couldn’t simply reverse things in order to make it work.  So I needed to find a way to cut it back out without damaging either the lens or the tube, a process I expected was going to be long and painful.

I was wrong about that too.  After only a few careful minutes with an Exacto Knife I was able to carefully cut away enough of the glue that I was able to free the retaining tube holding the lens in place without damaging anything.

After that, a careful rearrangement of the pieces (and an email or two with the person who sent me the kit) and I was able to quickly reassemble the telescope into a good working order in just about ten minutes, not including the fretting time I spent double checking every last thing because I didn’t want to screw it up again.

In the end I had a working “Galileo style” telescope.  I think I’m not really going out on a limb here by saying that he didn’t use cardboard tubes, but functionally it recreates what he used and I am amazed that he could see anything with it!  The field of vision is tiny!  I was unable to do much more the verify that I’ve got it working correctly.

I had no intention of staying up until 12:30 AM waiting for moon rise so that I could attempt an observation with something that provides enough light and is a big enough target that I’d stand a chance of seeing something.

So, there it is.  One telescope.  If you would like to see pictures you can check the link to the photo album on this page.

As I have planed this is the prototype.  I built this one so that I could understand the construction and general requirements.  I will be attempting to extend what I’ve learned so far from this into creating an even more “realistic” recreation of the telescope itself as well as building, with significant help, a fairly accurate reproduction of a tripod for the telescope as well as creating a decent historical representation of an “astronomical observation” setup as I can.

Ultimately the goal is for me to put a nice setup together and take it out on to the Eric at an event at night to create one of those “teaching in place” moments that I love so much, and then, from there, to create a Kingdom A&S class.

Stay tuned for further updates!

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