Do telescopes harm while observing sun through them?

Do telescopes harm while observing sun through them?

I don't know whether we can observe a sun through a telescope. But if we can then will it harm our eyes and if such telescopes exists what is their configuration?

Observing the Sun through a telescope is very dangerous, whatever the telescope you use, if you don't use the appropriate tools.

A telescope a basically a light collector: its purpose is to collect all the light that is arriving on his primary mirror and focus it on a point.

You may have already tried to make the Sun light converge through a little magnifying glass (which works quite similarly to a telescope). If you make it converge on something like paper, it will simply burn it. This can eventually be the cause for big fires (example, a glass bottle in a dry forest, concentrating the Sun's light on leaves). Here is an example to convince you:

A telescope works the same, except that the collecting surface is usually bigger, so it will be more effective at burning… your eye for example (astronomers make this joke that you can observe the Sun with a telescope twice in your life: once with your left eye, once with your right eye). Or, for bigger telescope, it could even start a fire, or burn instruments…

To observe the Sun, you will need a proper filter that you will put usually "before" the telescope. You may also observe it indirectly on small telescope by projecting the image of the Sun.You can see examples here:

The very DANGEROUS use of vintage eyepiece sun filters.

One of the reasons why these filter crack from the heat is that they are usually held too tight in the cell so the difference in the expansion of the glass vs the metal that is causing the failure. The usual mode of failure is that you have been observing the Sun for a number of minutes or longer and that is when they crack. Having a solar filter mounted in a black cell is also not the greatest piece of optical engineering.
If you run the experiments be sure to run one were the filter is mounted on the end of the diagonal. Also measure were the focal plane is in relationship to the end of the eyepiece you use. With many of the simple eyepiece designs that came with vintage 60mm refractors, the longer the focal length of the eyepiece, the far the focal plane of the scope was from the end of the eyepiece when it is in focus. That put the filter in position in the optical path were the energy was spread out. The shorter focal length eyepiece come to focus were the focal plane of the scope is very close to the end of the eyepiece, putting the focused image of the Sun on the filter.
I'm wondering if the cause of failure of these filters is that one first was observing the Sun with low powered eyepiece and then wanted to take a closer look at a Sunspot and switch to higher magnification and that put the filter in position were the Sun was focused on the filter.

#28 Joe Cepleur

The little Sun filter was designed for use with a 60mm objective (or smaller) and you overloaded it with the light from a 100mm objective!Seriously ,it was subjected to 2/3rds more heat there really is a lot of energy in sunlight.

Not 2/3 more, but nearly three times as much, because heat is proportional to the area of the objective.

60mm => 30mm radius 30^2 = 900 square mm area

100mm => 50mm radius 50^2 = 2500 square mm area

2.8 times the area of a 60mm objective

#29 MacScope

#30 Joe Cepleur

I used one of my vintage sun filters this past evening close to sunset with a 20mm Huygens eye piece in my 60mm Celestron/Vixen Cometron 910mm focal length. Nice view, green, did not view for long.

Seems a shame to risk blindness when safe solar filters covering the entire objective are readily available, but none of us can tell others what to do. I am sure we are all glad that you enjoyed a fine view and came to no harm. Still, such good fortune does not change the thrust of this thread, nor our responsibility to educate the pubic on the safe use of classic telescopes.

Many people used this type of solar filter back in the day. Had it been 100% dangerous 100% of the time, no one would have used it. The problem is analogous to wearing seat belts. People will say, "No need I'm not going far." Looking simply at the facts, the equations of kinetic energy have no factor representing the total time or total distance traveled prior to the crash. Only the velocity at impact matters, with consequences that may be severe. In the case of this old style of solar filter, blind is blind, regardless of how many successful viewings one has had in the past, or how fine or long the view immediately prior.

#31 Rich (RLTYS)

Not the first time I have pushed things too far!

I'm going to set up the 60mm again today and run some further tests with additional sun filters I have.

I will report back the results.

I hope the filters you are testing are NOT the old fashion dark filters. You were lucky the first time, you may not be so lucky the next time.

#32 Joe Cepleur

#33 Jon Marinello

#34 Jon Marinello

#35 Preston Smith

DAVIDG made a very good point (as always) that the sun filters did not have thermal expansion capabilites.

A Ramsden eyepiece had an old solar filter mounted between the two elements of the eyepiece? And mounted in a manner to allow for some thermal expansion? And only used on a 60mm scope?

The filter would not be near the focal point.

Do any of you have reports of the lenses in your old eyepieces cracking from solar observing? I know that more complex eyepiece can be damaged but I have never heard of the two lens eyepieces (Ramsdens, Huygens) being damaged.


Eye damage is serious stuff. I've been an amateur astronomer for over 30 years and have been observing the Sun all that time. I have had a filter crack on me while I was observing the Sun and looking into the eyepiece when was I kid. Since then I have had my eye examined many times and told the Doctors what had happened and they could find nothing wrong with my eye. I did not have any lose of vision or any problem after the filter cracked. I'm still lucky to have 20/20 vision in both eyes, today.
Maybe I got real lucky but over years I have read that when these filters crack one is going to suffer instant blindness. While this is very serious, I would like to know if anyone has FIRST hand knowledge of eye damage caused by one of these filters cracking. I know that people have suffered eye damage from looking at eclipses but that is different. I do scientific research for a living and I like to see the data and seperate the facts from the fiction.
On a side note I have seen full aperture solar filter fall off telescopes and have seen the wind blow them loose so one needs to be sure that they are mounted very well. I have witness first hand when a full aperture filter came loose and it wasn't more then 3 seconds later, smoke was coming out of the telescope and a few months ago there was a newspaper article I read were a telescope was left unattended during the day and caused a deck to catch fire.

While I am not defending the use of these screw on type filters, if they crack, your letting light in thru the crack vs if you loose a full aperture filter you have much more energy at the eyepiece.
This is why I built a telescope designed for white-light solar obsevering, with many built in safety features. If any part fails, it fails safe and no image can be formed at the eyepiece.

#37 Jon Marinello

I would like to hear more about the design of the telescope you built for white-light solar obsevering, with all the built-in safety features. Can you show us pictures with lots of close ups of the features along with a detailed description? I might want to build one. Perhaps this is already documented and in that case can you just point us to that?

#38 mikey cee

#39 trainsktg

I would like to hear more about the design of the telescope you built for white-light solar obsevring, with all the built-in safety features. Can you show us pictures with lots of close ups of the features along with a detailed description? I might want to build one. Perhaps this is already documented and in that case can you just point us to that?

There is a decent tutorial on how to design a dedicated solar scope on pages 43 and 44 of Sam Brown's 'All About Telescopes'. It isn't a step by step tutorial, as you will need to use the various tables to calculate the strength of the image based on the type of telescope you are designing, and then the appropriate filtration or attenuation to knock the image down to safe levels. I have yet to run across another book anywhere that discusses the construction of a dedicated white light reflector. Mine is a 4.25" f13.


I would like to hear more about the design of the telescope you built for white-light solar obsevering, with all the built-in safety features. Can you show us pictures with lots of close ups of the features along with a detailed description? I might want to build one. Perhaps this is already documented and in that case can you just point us to that?


The video, which he warns could be hard to watch for squeamish viewers, shows Thompson holding the pig's eye up to a telescope that he says is directed towards the sun.

After about 20 seconds under the lens of the scope, the eyeball flashes and starts to smoke.

'I've got to tell you, the smell is pretty grim,' Thompson says.

After about 20 seconds under the lens of the scope, the pig's eyeball flashes and smoke can be seen coming from it

The video then shows the results: the pig's eye has a burn directly on the cornea of the lens (pictured)

Thompson then dissects the eye to check on damage to the retina. After cutting away to it, he finds a brown patch, which he says could be damage from the sun (pictured)

The video then shows the results: the pig's eye has a burn directly on the cornea of the lens.

Thompson then dissects the eye to check on damage to the retina. After cutting away to it, he finds a brown patch, which he says could be damage from the sun.

At the end of the video, Thompson adds that if the eye had been human, there would have been serious damage to the eye of the person.

Scientists have already been warning people to avoid looking directly at the sun during the eclipse and NASA has said the only safe way to look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is through special solar filters such as eclipse glasses.

Thompson's video, which was posted in April 2016 as a warning ahead of a different celestial event, should deter people from even considering watching the eclipse through a telescope lens.


During a total solar eclipse, the moon completely blocks the face of the sun, NASA explains.

This reveals the 'pearly white halo' of the sun's corona – its outer atmosphere, which is invisible to the naked eye at all other times.

For this phenomenon to take place, the moon and the sun must be perfectly aligned, allowing the moon to appear as though it's the exact size of the sun.

'A total eclipse is a dance with three partners: the moon, the sun and Earth,' said Richard Vondrak, a lunar scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

'It can only happen when there is an exquisite alignment of the moon and the sun in our sky.'

According to eclipse chaser Michael Aisner, the math of this actually taking place is 'boggling.'

'The moon is 400 times smaller in diameter than the sun, and the sun is 400 times further away,' he explained in an eclipse-viewing tip list shared with

'Bingo – a perfect fit even though the sun is 100 million miles farther away than the moon.'

The safe way to observe the sun through a telescope

If you are interested in the Sun or wish to see a solar eclipse, you will need to block at least 99% of its light to avoid damaging your eyes. First of all, you have to make sure you are using the right filters.

Objects such as smoked glass, candy wrappers, or compact discs are not safe filters because although they block most of the Sun’s light, harmful radiation can still get through and hurt your retina. Remember to avoid filters that cover only the eyepiece end because the sunlight will destroy it, along with your eyes.

The best way to go are the filters specially made for telescopes, such as a sheet of solar-filter material. This type of filter is placed and covers the entire front end of the telescope. In case the telescope is bigger than the filter, you must protect it with some sort of mask and place the filter in the middle hole.

These solar filters are usually made out of metal-coated glass or Mylar and can block at least 99% of sunlight. We must emphasize the fact that you must place these filters in the front end of the telescope. If you put them at the eyepiece, these filters can be burned, or they can crack from the intense heat of the Sun, and of course, damage your eyes permanently, even causing blindness.

Using these filters, you will be able to see the Sun’s surface in a pale yellow, blue, or orange color, depending on the type of filter you have. You can stare at the Sun without any worries for as long as you like, since there are no risks for your eyes with these types of filters (when properly designed and installed, of course).

You should also look out for how well you place the filter so that it won’t fall off while you’re gazing at the Sun. This advice works just as well with binoculars.

A better way to see the Sun in detail, although pricey, is with small refractors with apertures that have built-in interference filters.

You also can buy these filters separately and attach them to your refractor’s tube. This equipment allows you to view different layers of the Sun, such as the hydrogen-alpha line at 656.3 nanometers and the calcium-k line at 393.3 nanometers.

These aspects cannot be seen in white light and are an exciting aspect to gaze at, even when the Sun is not eclipsed or transited.

Worthy Telescopes, Astronomy, and. Beer!

Here in central Oregon, beer is a big deal. There are something like 22 craft breweries in Bend (where I live) along with another 4-5 in nearby towns. Worthy Brewing is of the newer breweries that opened in 2013 in a brand new facility located at the edge of town on the east side. The owner built a first class brewery that included a restaurant and a hops garden. Last year they started construction to expand the facility and I noted an interesting new addition--a large circular turret topped with an Ash Dome. Last week, I finally got a chance to visit the new observatory attached to the pub and wow. they didn't skimp on anything. It's an absolutely first class facility of the kind that you might expect to find at a university or planetarium! The view of the sky and surrounding horizon from the third floor observatory is spectacular. They installed a 16" RC scope (I wasn't familiar with the manufacturer) on a large Paramount equatorial head. The scope also features a 4" TeleVu refractor for wide field views. There are three floors of rooms below the telescope level with videos about astronomy, photos, and art work. The telescope is operated by docents from the nearby observatory in Sun River and they are quite willing to move the scope around the sky to look at different objects. The only limitation that I see with this whole thing is that the scope is still located under the edge of the light dome from town and it's surrounded by a lot of ground lighting so the sky isn't very dark. Still, I'm totally impressed that the owner of Worthy invested so much (

$250,000) to build this facility and to promote astronomy. Worthy is actively promoting the dark sky initiative and you can see their web page on that effort here: http://www.worthybre. s-see-the-stars. It is certainly worth checking out if you are ever in the area--just check the hours. You can see the telescope on the Worthy website here: Other pages on the site have more information on the facility.

It is unbelievable to see a small town brew-pub doing such good things for astronomy so tip a bottle of Worthy to the sky. As they say at Worthy, "Drink up, dream on."

Appropriate Telescope cover for outdoor

I would like to leave my telescope on the back covered patio. Can anyone suggest what the best material I can use. I live in Peoria Arizona so it gets kinda hot here. Also would leaving it outside like that harm it?

Thank you in advance for your help

#2 Jim Davis

Look into Telegizmo's 365 covers.

#3 Stacyjo1962

If you want to go the DIY route, you could fabricate one out of material that is appropriate for your climate. Telegizmo makes an outstanding cover, however. (I've seen them used at star parties, but don't have one myself).

#4 Kevdog

I have a Telegizmo 365 for my C11. It is VERY well made and I trust the scope outside in all weather.

It'll keep both the sun and rain off and is strong enough for the winds and dust in the monsoon storms. (I'm just 30 miles NE of you!)

#5 Tom Polakis

As you know, you have to worry far more about it deteriorating in sun rather than rain. It looks like you got a recommendation for a Telegizmo 365 from a fellow desert dweller, so maybe that's the way to go. Another option is the ScopeCoat sold by AstroSystems. I noticed a lot of these around the field at this past year's Texas Star Party.

Things may have changed since I last stored my scope under a cover through summers in Arizona, but back in the day, the Mylar covers would flake away, while the ScopeCoat style material was more robust.

One thing that I think we can all agree on is that prolonged covering with a tarp that you buy at a department store is a bad idea. Those things do not stand up to prolonged exposure to the sun very well at all.

#6 mike89t

Hi Everyone,

I would like to leave my telescope on the back covered patio. Can anyone suggest what the best material I can use. I live in Peoria Arizona so it gets kinda hot here. Also would leaving it outside like that harm it?

Thank you in advance for your help

I would be worried about all of the dust and wind from our summer monsoons. It could get knocked over or dust could get blown up into it.

#7 Alex McConahay

You may want to consider a simple roll-off covering--the OUTHOUSE design. I have an example of mine at my website, but there are plenty of others.

#8 Ken Watts

I'm right around the corner in Sun City. I also keep my scope on the patio that is screened in. I cover it with an old sheet. Keeps the dust off and being screened in, the worst monsoon winds are greatly attenuated, so no problem there. Many years ago I kept a scope on the back patio in Tempe and also used a sheet but had to bungee it at the bottom around the pier.

#9 Arizona-Ken

I keep my AST-CG5 mount outside under the patio here in Scottsdale. I use a canvas painters tarp, although not waterproof it is great to keep the dust off of the mount. Home Despot or Lowes for 10-15 bucks.

#10 MalVeauX

My telescope & mount lives outside here in Florida permanently on a concrete pier. I use a Telegizmos 365 cover as well. I got mine from Astronomics, a big one to cover all my scopes depending on which one I leave out there mounted on my Sirius, since we get a discount there as a CloudyNight member. It's great stuff, made the same way things are made for satellites. Mine has been out in the hurricane tossing rain and weather here in Florida for a bit now and is holding up great. It helps keep things ambient temperature instead of heating up and it blocks everything. I button mine up with bungee cords onto my concrete pier. The pier is finished with waterproofing sealer to help slow down moisture transfer from the rock to the air inside. I keep eva-dry dehumidifier units hanging in there on the mount while it's buttoned up to manage humidity. Works great!

Going Beyond

A GOTO telescope system opens the doors to much more than simple stargazing. You might decide to observe all 110 objects in Charles Messier's famous list of deep-sky objects, or hunt down the hundreds of other objects he omitted. And while your telescope keeps the target in view, you can practice sketching objects at the eyepiece. (Use a red LED headlamp to let your eyes stay adjusted to the dark.)

Using mobile astronomy apps or online resources, you can research which eye-catching double stars are visible, and GOTO them. Or, you could try your hand at variable star observing, where you estimate the brightness of particular stars from time to time and submit your observations tothe American Association of Variable Star Observers. The sky's the limit!

In our next mobile astronomy column, we'll cover controlling your GOTO telescope mount with your PC and operating the mount hands-free using your smartphone or tablet. I'll also talk about a gadget that grants GOTO capability to binoculars and manual telescopes. In the meantime, keep looking up!

Editor's note: Chris Vaughan is an astronomy public outreach and education specialist, and operator of the historic 1.88-meter David Dunlap Observatory telescope. You can reach him via email, and follow him on Twitter as @astrogeoguy, as well as on Facebook and Tumblr.

Phoebe Waterman Haas Public Observatory

An Explainer facilitates safe solar observing with a hydrogen-alpha telescope at the Public Observatory.

Outside on the National Air and Space Museum's southeast terrace, near the corner of Independence Avenue and 4th St. SW, Washington, D.C.

About our Telescopes

Our largest telescope is a 16-inch Boller & Chivens telescope, purchased in 1967 by Harvard College Observatory. It is named the Cook Memorial Telescope in memory of Chester Sheldon Cook, a long-time member of the Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston. The telescope was used by generations of students at the Harvard-Smithsonian Oak Ridge Observatory in Harvard, Massachusetts. The Cook Memorial Telescope was loaned, and later donated by Harvard, to the Museum as the primary telescope in the Phoebe Waterman Haas Public Observatory.

Our favorite objects to observe with the Cook Memorial Telescope are planets and double stars.

We also have several solar telescopes that allow observers to safely view the Sun in different types of light. Our white-light telescopes show us a view of the Sun's surface. Our hydrogen-alpha (red light) and calcium-K (purple light) telescopes shows us the Sun's atmosphere.

About Phoebe Waterman Haas

Phoebe Waterman Haas received her doctorate in astronomy from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1913 — one of the first American women to earn such a degree. She also studied at the historic Lick Observatory near San Jose, California. She is believed to be the first woman to directly use the Lick telescope, which with its 36” lens was one of the largest telescopes in the world at that time. The observatory was named for her in recognition of a $6 million donation from the Thomas W. Haas Foundation to establish an endowment for the Museum's Public Observatory Program. It is the largest donation ever given to the Museum for science education programming. Phoebe Haas was the grandmother of the foundation's president, Thomas W. Haas.

Questions & Answers

What can visitors do in the Observatory?
When the weather is clear, visitors will be able to look through telescopes to see the Sun (safely), the planet Venus, or the Moon (when available), guided by our staff of astronomy educators. Visitors can also participate in hands-on, interactive activities to learn more about astronomy and telescopes.

What if it is raining or cloudy?
During overcast or rainy weather, or when it is extremely hot or cold, the Observatory will be closed to the public. If the Observatory is closed due to weather, join us at Discovery Stations inside the Explore the Universe or Exploring the Planets galleries for astronomy activities.

Is the Observatory ever open at night?
The Public Observatory is typically open for stargazing once or twice each month, weather permitting. Check the Museum's calendar of events our next stargazing event.

Can you really do astronomy in the daytime?
Yes! Visitors will be able to observe craters on the Moon, the phases of Venus, and features on the Sun (through our safe solar filters).

Can I volunteer at the Observatory?
Yes! The Observatory periodically accepts applications. Please note that volunteering at the Observatory is only at our Washington, DC location.

Is the Observatory wheelchair accessible?
Yes. The terrace and observatory dome are both wheelchair accessible. The main telescope is fully accessible as well, thanks to an extended eyepiece that can accommodate any height or viewing angle.

About Viewing Sessions

What happens at a Friday Public Viewing Session at Cline Observatory?

If the sky is clear, we open the facility to allow visitors to view objects through the telescope in the dome and additional telescopes set up on the observing pad. You look through the telescopes with your own eyes. There is no official program – it is simply a viewing session. We show various astronomical objects through the telescopes, point out constellations and other objects in the sky, and answer questions.

Visitors are free to come and go as they please – you don’t have to arrive at the beginning or stay until the end.

Typical turnout for our sessions is about 40-50 visitors per night, though session attendance has varied from 1-2 to nearly 300.

What time do the Friday sessions start? How long do they last?

During March-October, we start as darkness falls. Typically, this is 30-40 minutes after sunset. Since the time of sunset changes steadily throughout the year, our session start times will also change (Determine sunset time for a particular date).  In June-July we don’t start until nearly 9, but in late October we start around 7.

During November-March we start at 7:00 pm.

Sessions usually last about two hours. If we still have a big crowd or enthusiastic visitors at the scheduled ending time, we usually extend our session time. If sky conditions worsen and we can’t see any more objects, we will end the session early.

How much does it cost? Are reservations necessary?

All our events are free and open to anyone with an interest in astronomy. No reservations are necessary.

How will I know if the session is being held, or if it is canceled due to weather?

If it is raining or completely cloudy, the session will not be held. If the weather is uncertain, the best way to check session status is through the observatory’s Twitter page (@gtccastro: Decisions about cancellation are usually made by the official start time. If it is cloudy at the start and weather sources indicate that it might stay that way for a while, then we will close for the night.

Are there special rules for observatory visits?

There are a few restrictions – GTCC is a tobacco-free campus, so smoking is not allowed. Food and drink are not allowed near the telescopes, so please do not bring them into the dome area. Campus rules do not allow pets on campus. North Carolina General Statues prohibit the possession of alcohol, drugs and weapons on campus.

The dome and outside observing areas are kept relatively dark. In order to provide optimal conditions for viewing, it is important to preserve night vision. Please do not use bright lights near the telescopes (bright phone screens, flashlights, flash photography, etc.)

Is the observatory heated in the winter?

No. Since the dome opens to the night air, any heat from inside will escape, and the warm air convecting through the dome opening creates unsteady conditions that distort the views of the objects we observe. Therefore, our policy is to try to keep the temperature of the interior of the dome approximately the same temperature as outside. So be sure to dress for the conditions.

Are the observing activities appropriate for young children?

The observatory is family-friendly. Observing the Moon and planets will be an exciting experience for a child with an interest in science. Very young kids are fascinated by the Moon, but tend to be overwhelmed by the observatory experience.

Do telescopes harm while observing sun through them? - Astronomy

Note to readers: As of late 2010, the facility is now known as the San Pedro Valley Observatory. It is no longer a B&B, it is just an observatory. Sara Brown writes and says "the new owners are keeping with Dr. Vega's vision of specialty sessions but are also getting updated equipment and offering new classes in things such as CCD, etc."

I wish Sara and the new observatory the best of luck. The original article appears below, unaltered except for the contact information at the end. Thanks for reading, -Ed

Imagine, if you will, an astronomy bed and breakfast, under pristine dark skies, with an indoor/outdoor observatory stocked with equipment, friendly service, near-luxury accommodations, where you can observe all night to your heart's content, only to have a faithful servant close up while you stumble into bed a few doors away. You don't have to imagine because there's a place like that a short plane ride away. Sound like heaven on earth? Like many, I have looked at the ads for the Astronomer's Inn (and its New Mexico counterpart, the Star Hill Inn) for years, wondering what it would be like to spend a few uninterrupted days thinking about nothing but astronomy. In April 1999, I decided to find out for myself. Along with three other club members, I traveled out to the Arizona desert for a long weekend of observing and relaxing. I expected outstanding observing conditions and not much else. What I got was a pleasant surprise. Walking in the front door, I was confronted with a long, large building, extremely well-furnished (almost over-furnished) and well-equipped for astronomy. The complex is modestly sized but feels massive, due to its layout - every room seems to lead into every other room - and the variety its decor. In fact, one your first tasks upon arriving is to learn your way around the building. I expected a simple, rustic retreat. Boy, was I wrong! Within minutes, I found myself happily installed in the Egyptian Room, complete with marble jacuzzi, satellite TV, and a walk-in marble shower with solid brass fixtures and inlays on the floor. Other rooms include an Ivy-themed room, and a room with lots of Star Wars-like toys and a planetarium, complete with a dome in the ceiling. To put it mildly, I was impressed before I even got to the observatory.

There are two places to go observing. You can use the scopes in the open-air observatory (many reflectors and refractors, and 2 12" LX200 SCTs) or you can purchase time on the 20" f/10 Maksutov in the dome. The latter is done through hired help (they don't want you messing around with the custom built Mak, and I understand why.) Also, if you bring your own equipment, you can set up on the patio outside. The relative humidity hovered around 9% when I was there, so dew isn't a factor. Finally, if it's cloudy out (not likely) there are mountains of astronomy- related books, videos, magazines, toys, and a large screen television to keep you busy.

The observatory, roof closed

As the sun set the first evening, I knew I was in for something special. At sunset, there was no color at all on the horizon, something I almost never see from damp New Hampshire skies. Also, the darkness descends on you like a cool black blanket. On this first night, I had what may well be my most productive ob- serving session in my life. Working on my Herschel 400, I bagged 65 objects before midnight with the 12" Meade Starfinder Dob in the observatory. What's even more impressive is the type of objects I was observing. I cleaned up on ALL 50 Herschel objects -- 49 (mostly dim) galaxies and one globular -- in Virgo, in less than 3 hours. On the second day, I was given a tour of the mirror making facility at the University of Arizona (thanks to Howard for taking time out of his busy day!) We saw 6.5 meter and 8 meter mirrors, in various stages of completion. The second night, fellow club member Dave had purchased time on the Maksutov. Mars was nearing opposition, and he wanted to do some CCD work. However, the skies looked cloudy, so we called it off and set out for a leisurely dinner. As the sun set, I peeked out of the restaurant window, and noticed some clearing in the west. We jumped in the van and high-tailed it back to the observatory. The second night was even clearer than the first. I had not intended to do much "serious" work on my Herschel 400, but after a couple of hours talking and playing around with other people's scopes, the conditions were too good to pass up.

Big Mak Attack - the 20" Maksutov

Of the 400 deep sky objects on the Herschel list, a disproportionally large number of them (158, or 39%) lie in the galaxy-rich spring sky around Virgo, Ursa Major, Canes Venatici, Leo, and Coma. This poses two difficulties for the observer. First, you have to locate the objects. Then, you have to identify them. This can be tough -- in some fields, there may be several galaxies crowding the FOV. Still, all 44 Ursa Major galaxies were logged in less than an hour, which is an amazing rate (at least for me.) I also "cleaned up" the areas in Canes Venatici and Leo Minor. Want to know how clear the conditions were? Halfway through the night, I laid some time aside to look for NGC 6118 in Serpens, which is roundly considered the most difficult Herschel object of them all. It's a relatively large galaxy with almost no surface brightness. Many experienced observers go their whole lives without seeing it. On this night, I found NGC 6118 in about thirty seconds. It looks a little bit like M33 does in my TeleVue Ranger under modest light pollution.

At the end of the second night, I logged 67 new Herschel objects, another new record for me. The third night was, incredibly, even clearer than the first two. Dave made another attempt to work with the Maksutov. I peeked in the dome to see how he was doing. I saw the CCD camera attached to the focuser and lots of computers and cables rigged to the scope, so I decided not to bother him. As it turned out, I never did get to look through that Maksutov. On the third night, I decided to slow down my hectic observing pace. There were a number of novices visiting the Inn (including a local reporter) and I spent some time showing them some of the brighter spring objects. Still, after they left, I wound up logging 42 Herschel objects. Early the next morning, watching the sun rise over the desert, I started recording my observations over the past three days. It had taken me nearly 6 months to log the first 157 objects on my Herschel survey. In the past three nights alone, I had logged another 174 more. Apparently, observing is a lot like buying a house -- the most important factors are location, location, and location.

View from the upper parking lot

During my three days at the Inn, it began to dawn on me just how single-mindedly astronomy-oriented the place really is. Everywhere you turn, there is some piece of astronomy-related paraphernalia lying about. The bookshelves are stocked full of astronomy and space- related books. The magazine stands in the halls and the bathrooms are filled with old S&T and Astronomy back issues. Any guess as to what's in the video library? The whole experience rather smacks of overkill. However, I happen to LOVE overkill, and I couldn't have been happier. The Astronomer's Inn offers dynamite observing conditions, superb accommodations, friendly service (wait until you see what they do for breakfast around here) and is an excellent value. It's technically an "astronomy bed and breakfast," but to me, it feels more like a really nice house with a lot of telescopes in it. I will be back. In fact, we were already planning our next visit on the drive back to the airport. Highly recommended. Don't you have some vacation time coming?

  • Beautifully clear skies, reliable seeing
  • Luxurious accommodations
  • There's a 20" Maksutov in the building!
  • Attentive staff, reasonable rates Astronomer's Inn Nots:
  • Far away from East Coast patrons
  • Non astronomy-minded significant others might be bored The Verdict:
  • Get drunk on astronomy at Astronomer's Inn Equipment List: Computerized 20" f/10 Maksutov-Cassegrain (fee required) 14.5" f/5 Newtonian 12" f/4.8 Newtonian 12" LX200 SCT (two) 8" f/6 Newtonian 6" f/24 Maksutov 6" f/6 refractor Tons of accessories, binoculars, charts, tools, etc. Back to Home Page