Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Galileoscope review. (Updated with new price)

I've promised it, and finally I have had a few nights of clear skies, so I got a chance to take it out for a spin. For those of you too impatient to read the whole thing, I'll give it away at the beginning:

Lab Boy sez "Galileoscope gets 5 moons!"

For those of you who want a bit more in-depth review, welcome to the rest. I must admit my scope time is limited. I have used the 6 inch reflector that was given to me in (I think) 6th grade. I have looked through a 4" Schmidt-Cassegrain in college. That's about it. Other than binoculars and spotting scopes (for hunting), I haven't used much to enhance my views of the skies.

As a kid, that 6" reflector was a royal (and looking back with the learning of age, expensive) pain in the ass. I could never get the spotting scope to line up, and I had no freaking clue how the hell to set up the equafragicaliazimuthicustical mount. I got very tired of that thing very quickly. I never pointed it to anything more challenging to find than the moon. Really. I never even tried to see Jupiter. With no introduction and no training (and no internet), I had no way to try to figure out any of that stuff. It sat in Dad's garage until a few years ago when he gave it to my cousin. I hope he doesn't get as frustrated with it as I did.

Looking through the Schmidt-Cassegrain was amazing. That scope was set up by one of my college profs in my freshman orientation term. It was super fancy: star tracking, planet tracking, moon tracking. That thing could track a falcon on a cloudy day, and it'll find you [/Princess Bride]. It was a joy to use. All I had to do was find the computer coordinates and tell it what I wanted to see, then focus.

These stories are relayed to illustrate my fear of telescopes. As far as I knew, they were either cheap(er) and so frustrating to use as to be useless, or so expensive as to be out of reach of folks like me.

Naturally, with the march of technology and the ever dropping price of electronics, that has changed a bit in recent years, but to get a marginally decent computer driven scope will still set you back several hundred bucks. The manual stuff can be good, if you know what you are doing, but if you don't...

And what about your kids? Introducing them to the beauty of the universe with something that isn't a toy?

Finally, there is something available that fits some neglected criteria.

As I said before, the Galileoscope was relatively easy to put together, though the instructions that came with mine were a bit lacking. It seems to be very well thought out and made. I was a little skeptical at first (quelle surprise!), but the main light gathering lens is a glass doublet, which I am told is good for a cheap scope. They even roughed up the inside of the scope to prevent nasty reflections. It has a gunsight style aiming device on the top, so it's basically point and shoot look.

After a frustratingly long time, we finally had a clear(ish) night. We had a couple of friends over (who I had married on July 4, cool, but a story for another time) and I dragged out the scope. I had mounted it on my dad's tripod (probably older that I) and I took it to the end of the driveway. The fiancee was ready for bed and not too happy that I had invited the friends over in the first place, but as soon as I aimed that thing at Jupiter and gave her a look...

Wow.

This is not a toy. This is a legit scope and I was very pleasantly surprised. It's super easy to use, so it won't frustrate the young folks the way my old reflector did.

I hereby highly recommend the Galileoscope to any lay person who wants to look at the skies, and certainly to any parent who wants to give their child something to spark that curious spirit that will serve them well in life.

So here is the reason for the rating that I gave in the very beginning of this post:

I saw 5 moons of Jupiter!


Five moons. Through a $15 $20 telescope. (UPDATE: They raised the price by $5. It's still remarkably inexpensive. And you can donate scopes for $15.) I'm buying more to give as gifts.

I think the folks at Galileoscope can happily claim mission accomplished.
I can't wait 'till Saturn is up in the early nights again...

(Sky pictures to maybe follow if I can figure out how.)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Those wacky Eppendorf folks...




This, um... thing came in with the new centrifuge. It's designed to hold a couple of rotor keys. All I have to say is that the entirety of the lab that wasn't on cruise or in the field laughed our asses off for a good 20 minutes. Yes, the lid does open so you can stick a sharpie or something into its head. They call it Captain Epi.

Useful, useless, hilarious, ridiculous, silly, or brilliant? I'll let you decide. I still snicker a bit when I see it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

I get Hate Mail

Well, I guess this means I have truly arrived on the blogging scene. I got my first bit of hate mail. This isn't like some other bloggers' hate mail, no sirree! It didn't arrive in the form of ones and zeros traipsing through the ether of cyberspace. This was a real, honest-to-goodness physical piece of mail, a post card. These senders (yes, pleural) wanted it to be personal. I don't how they got my address, but I know I need to be more careful in the future.

Here is the deceptively cheery front:



Anyone who has read my Science Scouts post knows how I feel about the dolphins. Well, it seems they feel the same way:



Fine. It's on then. I know one thing, you smiling bastards! You aren't so smart on land! Just try to take me! Come on, you know where I live!

Oh, crap. Something just occurred to me. The writing on the post card was surprisingly legible... That means... OH NO!!!

(Thanks to she who has yet to choose a 'nym. I'll call her S. for now. Maybe she'll comment?)

[Dangit! I was trying to schedule this for tomorrow, but it didn't work. Oh, well.]

OK, I think I'm back!

I'm sure both of my readers (myself included, though not my fiance [grumble]) have been missing me terribly during this brief outage, but the power issues on the ole laptop have been addressed. It seems the old Magsafe adapter for the macbook got ripped out a few too many times by by dogs with the zoomies, people in the dark, and all the various things that would previously have sent the computer crashing to the floor.

I guess a new power cord is a smaller price to pay than a new motherboard, case and hard drive.

Anyway, I should be back with some semblance of a schedule, and the promised Galileoscope review soon. The only problem with the review is that the summer skies in Florida are very rarely good for sky watching. I've had a grand total of an hour spread over several nights to see some small part of the skies. I will say that even through some haze, I did see 3 of Jupiter's moons. Saturn is still too low on the horizon to see.

I'm so happy that I don't have to squish and hold the power cord to get computer use! Typing with one hand (the wrong one at that) was really annoying.