iphone shenanigans

If you wondered why I was getting all high-and-mighty about the iPhone, and Apple’s overarching control over software on it thanks to the App Store system in particular, then this story really explains it. This guy developed an application that lets you stream podcasts straight to your iPhone, instead of having to download them via iTunes and sync them across beforehand, but Apple has refused to allow it on the App Store.

The stated reason is that it “duplicates the functionality of the Podcast section of iTunes”, but beyond the fact that both are ways you could play podcasts on an iPhone, there’s no similarity at all. It’s much more likely that Apple objected to the idea of getting audio content on the iPhone without having to go through iTunes, and preferably through the podcast directory on the iTunes Store.

Anyone want to take bets as to whether we’ll ever see an Amazon MP3 Store app for the iPhone?

galaxy hunting

Saturday was another clear night, so I took the telescope out in search of one of the brigtest galaxies in the southern skies, the Sculptor Galaxy. Unfortunately, like my earlier experience with Centaurus A, I didn’t end up spotting it; I got it lined up as far as I could tell, star-hopping along in the finderscope based on nearby stars, but I couldn’t actually see it in the end.

I know how to find it now at least, so when I do get out in to some nice dark skies, I should have no trouble tracking it down.

playing outside

The weather is back to shitty today, but last night, barring the odd cloud, it was actually clear, so I got a chance to put my new eyepieces through their paces. The moon was the main target — a big bright gibbous moon, with lots of craters jumping out along the terminator — and it looked sensational in both the Nagler and the Stratus. The Nagler gave very impressive views, with the extra maginification bringing out more detail while the wide field kept the entire moon in view. Taking in the whole moon at once was more comfortable with the Stratus, though, thanks to its lower magnification and larger true field of view, and it still showed plenty of detail as well.

The problem with having the moon high in the sky is that it light blots out views of faint objects, but I still tried the Nagler on Omega Centauri, a massive globular cluster, and on the Lagoon Nebula quickly with the UHC filter. I’ll have to wait for a clear, moonless night to really see what it do, though.

For a laugh, I threw one of my older eyepieces in while looking at the moon, and the difference was chalk and cheese — the bundled eyepieces aren’t terrible, but they’re definitely not as sharp and have less contrast, and the higher magnification pieces are nowhere near as nice to use thanks to their narrow fields of view. The fancy-pants glass is definitely worth it.

more astro toys

I have to apologise for the rain — buying new astronomy gear always brings bad weather, to ruin any plans of using it straight away, and the clouds started rolling over as soon as I was on my way home from the shop yesterday. I picked up a 13mm Tele Vue Nagler eyepiece which, along with the 21mm Orion Stratus eyepiece Kat got me for my birthday, should replace all of the cheap, basic eyepieces that came with the telescope.

The 21mm Stratus is a great low-power eyepiece for large nebulas and star clusters, while the medium-power 13mm Nagler is more for the smaller faint fuzzy things and the planets. The bundled eyepieces have an apparent field of view of about 50 degrees, and don’t perform well at the edges, but the Stratus as a 68 degree field and is sharp right to the edge, and the Nagler is 82 and should be just as sharp. The extra field of view will make observing much easier, since I won’t have to readjust the telescope so often to track the sky’s movement, especially at high magnification, which is a must for the planets. High magnification can help with small, faint things like galaxies, too, since it boosts contrast.

Of course, the bad weather curse has kept my Nagler inside since its purchase, but I’ve used the Stratus a couple of times, and it’s awesome — having a quality eyepiece really makes all the difference. With the UHC-E filter fitted, I got some great views of the Lagoon Nebula, and even though it’s not meant for planetary work, Jupiter was amazingly sharp. I’m very well set up now, so roll on the warm, clear spring nights!