Round and round like a whirlpool

Greetings. What’s a blog if there’s no blogging? Moldy bread? Maybe a dying star?

No, just a busy blogger’s time warp. Time for a quick update.

The pandemic certainly curtailed my stargazing activities for the past year, and then the cold dreary winter set in. Still there were a few glimpses of light.

Last summer we had that fantastic visitor, comet NEOWISE! No public observing, but a few of us got out there in July for the show. And what a show. And despite no public invites, I and several local astronomers encountered folks at Norton Cemetery out observing the show while wearing masks. I did post several blog entries and photos of the comet here and here. What a blast!

And winter clouds did dissipate one late season night – not quite freezing cold…just long enough to grab a shot of Orion as it set behind the New York mountains.

And…I did dabble around with some new tracking gear. My iAstrohub setup has served me well, but its developer is MIA and its getting stale. Time for something new. I looked at commercial options such as the ASIAir. Looks like they’re doing nice stuff with that.

But…I’m cheap, and the ASIAir is basically a Raspberry Pi with proprietary software requiring a serial number to unlock. I dislike the idea of an open-hardware platform such as the Raspberry Pi being all locked up. I’m sure ASI has added significant value in their solution, but I wanted to remain with an open-source and flexible software solution.

Thus…I replaced my aging Pi 3B with a Raspberry Pi 4 8GB running Astroberry instead. I’m still working out the kinks, but it’s refreshing to finally be running PHD2 guiding software on my Pi while retaining WiFi capability and control it all from my trusty MacBook Pro. As well, the INDI server on the Pi meshes beautifully with Stellarium running on my Mac…just select any object…Command-2…and away she goes! My CPC-800 dutifully slews to the target. Pretty cool! I did have frustrating crashes when running KStars on my Mac. I don’t need it. And I didn’t need the frustration. Stellarium works beautifully and is much prettier!

It’s June 2021 as I write this. We’re all vaxed here, the pandemic is winding down (for now), and I’ve resumed public observing at the Keene Norton Cemetery site. All are welcome, vaxed or unvaxed (with a mask, of course!)

Stay tuned as we rewind this Whirlpool back to normal!!

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