So long Radio Shack (again)

Just as I was getting used to having another Radio Shack near me again, news came of General Wireless filing for bankruptcy (Chapter 11). They ended up with Radio Shack after the 2015 bankruptcy filing.

I stopped by the Radio Shack near the house (one of three left in the Charleston area) and was sad to learn that they would be one of the stores closing.

It sounds like the Radio Shack in Mount Pleasant will remain open (for now) leaving two left in the area. The other one in Summerville is a franchise and is unaffected.

With the store closing, everything was on sale (except for the Sprint stuff), so I picked up a few things.

Radio Shack haul
Radio Shack haul

The receipt was almost 1 m long.

A few packs of hookup wire, variety packs of resistors, capacitors, transistors and diodes, a few reels of solder, toggle switches, 555 and 556 timers, op amps, soldering iron tips, heat shrink tubing and prototyping boards. There was a lot more I probably could have left with.

May need to go back in a week or so to see what’s left.

No yolking around

Somewhere, a bunch of chickens laid a bunch of eggs. Some of them got processed and sorted into two cartons that we picked up from Publix.

All of them were double yolk eggs.

24 eggs, all with  two yolks inside them, sorted into cartons that were purchased within a few days of each other.

One or two double yolkers would be interesting. Two dozen of them though?

I wonder how many other cartons were full of double yolk eggs in that batch delivered to my local Publix.

What the heck are these chickens eating?

Celestron EclipSmart photos

It took a little bit of finagling, but I managed to get some photos of the sun with the Celestron EclipSmart telescope and my DSLR (Canon Digital Rebel XT).

Attaching a heavy DSLR (568 grams) to the back of a light weight telescope (456 grams) mounted on a light weight tripod definitely caused some stability issues. Aiming and getting the telescope/camera to stay in position was a challenge. If you’re going to use a DSLR with this telescope, you’ll want a solid tripod with some good locks.

They’re not the greatest photos, and pretty boring because it looks like there’s not much in the way of anything happening on the sun. Can’t see a whole lot of detail in them, but they’re good enough. These images are cropped (1k x 1k) from the original 3456×2304 pixel image.

This is my first time with telescopes and DSLRs, so I still have a fair bit to learn about the process. Astrophotography is something I’ve wanted to get into for a long time. I suspect there will be some new telescopes and camera upgrades in my future.

Review: Celestron EclipSmart Travel scope

I came across the Celestron EclipSmart Travel Scope while browsing around B&H Photo looking for more things to lust after. For $100 I was intrigued, so I decided to pick one up along with some adapters to let me attach my camera to the scope.

I’ll admit it. The main reason I picked up this little budget scope was for the 2017 eclipse. The other reason is that while I’ve been fascinated by astronomy and astrophysics my entire life, I’ve never had what I would consider a real telescope of my own. I’ve had chances to use them and look through some pretty decent ones (8″ and 12″ reflectors on top of the U of A Physics building). When I saw the EclipSmart, I thought to myself that maybe I should change that. Even though this one is only for solar viewing, I figured it would be a decent place to start. Fortunately, I’m pretty good at managing my expectations (at least I think I am).

First impression when I saw the box was that was a lot smaller  than I expected. Everything comes packaged in a 45x28x13 cm box. The Celestron EclipSmart travel scope is a 50 mm refractor telescope with a 360 mm/f7.4 focal length. Comes with a 20 mm eye piece, tripod and a backpack to carry everything around in. It’s all light enough to be easily portable, and sets up pretty quickly.

Celestron EclipSmart
Celestron EclipSmart Travel Scope

The telescope is about the size of a large spotting scope. The solar filter is permanently installed, so it’s a bit of a uni-tasker as far as telescopes go.

The telescope will attach to any tripod using a standard 1/4″ threaded screw. The tripod that comes with the scope is lightweight with three extendable sections on each leg. A little bit on the flimsy side, but it does the job. Easily knocked over, so not something you want to set up where lots of people are running around. Fully extended, the tripod stands just a little over 1 m high which puts the eye piece of the telescope at a reasonably comfortable height for viewing (unless you’re really tall).

On the tripod. Banana for scale
On the tripod. Banana for scale
On the tripod
On the tripod

Handy aiming sight lets you get the telescope pointed at the sun without having to look at the sun or try to hunt for it through the scope.

Sun alignment
Sun alignment (dog not for scale)

So far, it seems like a decent little scope for the price. Lightweight, very portable and easy to carry around. Focusing is easy and fairly smooth. With the 20 mm eye piece, the image of the sun is a pretty decent size. Doesn’t fill the entire field of view of the eye piece, but the image of the sun is large enough to see sunspots.

If you’re looking for a simple, inexpensive scope for solar or eclipse viewing, this one fits the bill nicely.

Photos to come in a later post.

Eclipse party!

Unless you’ve been living in a seriously deep hole under  a big rock, you know that there’s going to be a solar eclipse coming up this August. It’s the first one that will be crossing the entire US in quite a while. All of North America will be able to see at least a partial eclipse, and a good chunk of the US will get to see 90% or more of the sun in eclipse.

The US path of the August 21 total solar eclipse starts in Oregon at around 1600UTC (10:00 AM PDT) and ends in South Carolina a little after 2000UTC (4:00 PM EDT).

Back at the old house, we were just at the right edge of the path of totality. Our new house is much closer to the middle of the path (about 22 km from the center as the crow flies) and will be a much better place to watch the eclipse from. In addition, aside from houses, we have an almost unobstructed view of the entire sky from the house and a great big field to hang out in at the end of the street (if the yard gets too crowded).

2017 Eclipse path
2017 Eclipse path through the Charleston SC area

See that path of totality? We’re practically right in the middle of it.

The last solar eclipse I was able to watch was back when I was in elementary school. I remember all the windows of the school had been covered up with paper, and nobody was allowed to go outside during the eclipse. Welding shades were taped to the windows of several doors so that kids could look up at the sun to see the eclipse.

The plan for this eclipse is to acquire a few #14 welding shades and make at least a couple of pinhole cameras for friends and neighbours to view the eclipse with.

Hopefully the weather will be good. August is starting to get into the peak of the hurricane season. Don’t want one of those coming by at the wrong time and messing things up.

Eclipse data from Xavier Jubier’s interactive map.

2m 22.7s (total solar eclipse)
2m 24.5s (lunar limb corrected)
Umbral depth : 61.05%
Umbral depth : 22.3km (13.9mi)
Path width : 114.7km (71.3mi)
Obscuration : 100.00%
Magnitude at maximum : 1.00918
Moon/Sun size ratio : 1.03009
Umbral vel. : 0.670km/s (1498 mph)
Event Time (UTC)
Start of partial eclipse 17:16:25
Start of total eclipse 18:45:20
Maximum eclipse 18:46:31
End of total eclipse 18:47:42
End of partial eclipse 20:09:21

If you want to come by to watch the eclipse, drop me a line.