What Type of Equipment Am I Using?
Since 1997, my telescope was a Celestron 4.5 inch equatorial mounted Newtonian (reflector). You can read about how and why we got it here.
Even though it’s 20 years old and has a few dents, it still works just fine, and gives decent views of the sun, moon, planets, and a few Messier objects, but there’s only so much light a 4.5 inch aperture can gather.
Starting 2017, I got an Orion 8 inch equatorial mounted Newtonian Sky View Pro, complete with a dual axis clock drive. This one is far more useful for deep sky objects such as faint nebulae and galaxies, and to get sharper views of the planets. The only down side is it’s a lot more bulkier, takes a little longer to assemble, and harder to transport.
To take pictures and live stream, all it takes is a smartphone adapter that attaches to the eye piece, and my phone of the time, currently an iPhone 6s plus. Eventually I will get into more astrophotography and get the proper equipment.
What Are Some Great Astronomy Apps?
There are many applications and software that can be found. Some are free, others are not, but they still work!
Here are the apps I like to use.
This is a great simulator of the sky, and will give you the positions of the sun, moon, planets, stars, deep sky objects, and even known satellites, comets and asteroids, on any day and time from any location!
There are versions for desktop PC’s, MACs, and for your phone. Last I checked, for iPhone’s and Androids it was $1.99. According to a great friend of mine, he said “it’s the best two bucks I ever spent!”
Planets By Q Continuum
This is a fun, interactive app that gives you 3D views of each planet, as well as gives you a simplified star map that gives positions of where to find them!
There’s not much else to it, but it’s free!
Want to try taking long exposure photos on your smartphone? This app can get the job done. Your phone may not have the same capabilities as DSLR and other cameras that can take low light photos, but this app can give you decent pictures. So far, this is the only one I would recommend for any type of astro-photography with a smartphone.
It’ll cost you a few bucks, but it’s worth it!
Dark Sky Finder by Skidmore Properties LLC
This is a fantastic app that helps guide you to a dark site anywhere on earth. It’s essentially a light pollution map over google maps!
It also uses Dark Sky data and forecasts from Clear Dark Sky.
The colors used are represented by the Bortle Dark Sky Scale. White and Red are terrible. Orange is “okay.” Yellow is average. Green is good. Blue is great. Black and clear are excellent.
Where do I Usually go to Stargaze?
For observations of the sun, moon, and planets, I can do them anywhere, like my back yard despite being in light polluted Riverside, California.
For dark sky observing, my usual spot of choice is the Cottonwood Campground in Joshua Tree National Park, California. This spot is about 30 minutes east of Indio, CA and is easily accessed off I-10 on the Cottonwood Springs Road exit into the south east entrance of the park. It’s enclosed by hills, and far enough away from the highways.
There’s plenty of pavement and parking, and the campsite has running water and bathrooms. During the day there are trails for hiking.
However, there is no cell service at the campsite. As you get off I-10, there is good service when you start climbing into the park, and at the Bajada trail head exhibit, but once you go through the hills, it’s gone.
Summer days are typically above 90-100 degrees Fahrenheit, while nights are nice in the 70s. During the winter months, you can expect daytime temperatures in the 50s-60s, while nights can get below freezing, and even more uncomfortable when it’s super windy. One time I watched a decent Leonid’s shower and forgot my coat, needless to say I got pretty miserable under the cold and wind.
On the best nights, you can get a 2 on the Bortle Scale… on nights with moisture, it’s 3, almost approaching 4 if there’s clouds reflecting light from the Coachella Valley.
It can get pretty dark and the night sky looks beautiful, but there is a small amount of light pollution from Palm Springs to the west and El Centro/Mexicali to the south. On the best nights, the Milky Way is well defined shows a clear bulge, deep sky objects are easily visible as long as they’re not near the light domes, and dry conditions are persistent through most of the year.
However, summer months, particularly July and August, are subject to monsoon flows and high humidity, and the weather can get unpredictable with thunderstorms. Clear skies can pave way to high clouds and sudden overcast due to all the moisture in the air, so always check for forecasts on Clear Dark Sky.
I’ve had my share of nights out there that have been ruined because of high clouds and moisture. Do not go out there unless the link I gave you predicts clear nights over that site at the times you’ll be there.
Why the name “Orion Bear Astronomy?”
The truth is the name comes straight from a Bible verse:
“He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the south.” – Job 9:9 NIV
And as you can see here, the picture includes the constellations Orion, Ursa Major (the Bear), and the Pleiades in the middle.
I am not ashamed to admit that I believe in God, and am on side of the Faith vs Science spectrum that says Faith and Science CAN co-exist.
However, if you are reading this and you are more on the side coming from the beliefs of Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking, and many other brilliant minded scientists who are atheist and/or agnostic, then don’t worry, I am NOT against their work or beliefs. I will NEVER say that they are wrong when it comes to the matter of faith.
I may believe in an intelligent creator that exists outside physical space and time, but I also will be the first to say the Bible is NOT a science book, and I don’t treat it as such.
I consider myself open minded, am always trying to learn new scientific facts about the Universe, how the Universe was made and formed, and wanting to understand the natural processes at work, especially those that create the conditions which form life such as ours. Many say that science disproves such an existence of an intelligent creator, others like myself believe science CAN provide evidence. Either way, I will never say “you are wrong” and will never consider you inferior for not sharing my same beliefs.