Michael Swartz & Michael Jr. love Astronomy
of me and my son, Michael Jr. with my Plettstone 18" reflector,
designed by Albert Highe and built by Michelle Stone in 2004.
features an 18" Pegasus
mirror, an Argo-Navis
& ServoCAT go-to and tracking
system by Gary at StellarCAT,
and some very fine woodworking by Michelle. It is a
wonderful telescope to use because it moves so smoothly and provides
really beautiful views of planets, clusters, nebula and galaxies.
Michael & I were at a starparty in a parking lot at Henry Coe
in Morgan Hill, CA just before sunset. That was a good night
observing with friends.
Here you see me studying the
planet Neptune one night up at the Monte Bello Open Spaces Preserve on
Page Mill Road just west and up the mountain road of Page Mill Road in
Palo Alto, CA in
the spring of 2006.
The skies were clear, dry, dark and calm that night... a perfect night
for viewing beautiful far away objects.
The Plettstone 18" telescope is a good size. It is not too
handle, yet big enough to support an 18" mirror. It features
open truss design which is easy to set up and take down, it is pretty
light weight and it allows the mirror to cool down very rapidly.
Take a look at my Astronomy
Hobbies Memories page. It has more pictures of my old
telescopes, astronomy friends,
and stories of past stargazing adventures.
The man in the green jacket is
Eric Nicholas, a naturalist who at the time of this picture was working
at the Ardenwood
Historic Farm park in
Hayward. We did a starparty for
the people in the community. He did an educational astronomy
presentation and then we went out to their little orchard area and
provided viewing opportunities for the people. The Fremont
took some pictures and did an article on the event. You can
my telescope in the front of the picture. My son can also be
behind the telescope listening to Eric talk about something in the sky
He now works for the Alviso Adobe Community Park
in Pleasanton. It is a
historic dairy farm. My son
and I get to help out now and then by bringing our telescopes over for
his astronomy programs at the park.
The San Jose Astronomical Association conducts these kinds of evening
observing sessions (commonly called "star parties") for schools in
mid-Santa Clara County, generally from Sunnyvale to Fremont to Morgan
Hill. --> Schools
click here for info
Starparty at Ardenwood Historic Farm park in Hawyard CA
My young son and daughter looking through Erics telescope.
Eric, Me and my son Michael Jr at Alviso Adobe Historic Dairy in
Helping out at a starparty Eric held at the Alviso Adobe Dairy.
||I attended a
4 day starparty at Lake San Antonio
during the fall of 2005 called
time I also had a pair of telescopes set up specially for
viewing. The main telescope featuring the gold colored filter
the front end was a Takahashi 90mm
refractor with a pair of h-alpha
filters. It had a 90mm h-alpha filter on the front and then a
40mm h-alpha filter fitted into the focusing tube, followed by a BF30
blocker and a pair of Denkmeier
binoviewers. The second telescope
was an Orion short-tube
80mm refractor outfitted with a Type
2+ glass solar filter piggy-back
mounted on top using a Televue
camera piggy-back adapter.
With this dual telescope setup, it was possible to comfortably look at
sun. I could look at
the violent and turbulent chromosphere
see flows of plasma, prominences and filaments and eruptions.
through the white light filter I could see the sunspots very clearly on
the suns photosphere.
It was a wonderful set of telescopes which provided views of the sun
unmatched by any other system I have seen. Here is what my
Dawn Baird-Chleborad had to say about it after she and her husband Cary
some viewing at a club activity one day:
I had to
year and I sure miss it. I hope it's new owner is enjoying it
much as I did.
I would set up my telescopes at parks, parking lots or at
schools and look at the sun, share the views with others who had joined
me or were just walking by. The sun is different
Here is a picture of my young
son and daughter in 2004 at a starparty just before sunset with their
telescope in the parking lot at the Monte Bello OSP park.
My son was looking at a local hill for coyotes when his
came up to the telescope and put the lens cap back on. It
classic moment when two opposing goals met in beautiful comedy.
They have enjoyed many nights out with their dad looking at
sky. I really enjoy sharing astronomy with my kids.
Sam Swiess and his loving and
faithful companion Maria run Scopecity
in San Francisco where I have
been to many times to learn about and see all things astro-optical and
of course to buy many of the things my astro-dreams have been made of
over the years. They are wonderful people who have always
way beyond normal customer service. They become extended
to their customers and they make you feel at home in their store.
They are good people and they have a nice showroom.
My wife and I were up there recently to pick up a few little things for
our astronomy setup.
Here is my lovely
model Georgeta posing by a little 10", 3 pole open truss dobsonian
made by Dennis Steele who runs dobstuff.com.
We ordered one of these little 10"
for my son so we
can do stargazing together and also help out at school starparties
together now and then.
The design is remarkably similar to my telescope.
Michael Jr now has a junior version of his dad's telescope.
This picture was taken in the showroom of Scopecity
where Sam and Maria have an amazing variety of telescopes, binoculars,
microscopes and accessories. All you need to look at anything
small. ...very cool...
This is Michael Swartz, Jr. with his dobstuff
telescope on his first
night out. We just went to a vacant lot in our neighborhood
set up our scopes. It soon became too windy and we had to
and go home. But it was a fun first night. This
telescope is very well made. It has nice contrast
stars look very sharp. And as you see, it is just the right
Having the ability to look at the sun's
and the sun's
side by side is very nice. And
it looks cool too!
This is my new setup for solar viewing. I got a Lunt LS35T
for h-alpha and an Astro-Tech 72ED
with a glass solar filter for
white light. I then mounted those with scopestuff
top of a Garrett
heavy-duty video tripod.
The Lunt LS35T isn't in the same league as a $5000 double-stacked Coronado SolarMax-90
filter on a $2000 Takahashi
Sky90.. But.. for only 699.00...
it works very well.
Actually, it is amazing the amount of detail that can be teased out of
this little scope by carefully and patiently adjusting the tilt of the
filter, the focus and moving the scope back and forth a little, or by
looking at an area at a slight angle. It provides a very
satisfying solar viewing experience for such a small
I like it!
for current solar activity!
And here I am at the Monte Bello OSP park by Palo Alto, CA looking up
at M81 though my Plettstone 18" reflector.
My son and I go there often to get away from the winds of Mountain
House. It is a pretty good place to go for stargazing.
For a list of good places to go stargazing in the bay area please look
. This page has descriptions
of the observing sites, directions to get there and a clear sky clock
for each to give astronomy focused weather information. It is
|Calstar 2011 was held at
south shore campground of Lake San Antonio which is a little
west of San Pablo and a little south west of King City California, from
September 29 thru October 1st. Amateur astronomers, mostly
members of "The Astronomy Connection" and the San Jose
Association, had a 4 day and 3 night star party. There were
around 50 astronomers and telescopes scattered about an open meadow
which served as an overflow camping area. We had all that
and pretty good skies to enjoy for those 3 nights.
In the pictures above you see my wife, kids and me by our telescopes.
We were a little unprepared for the camping part of the
experience. Georgetas cooking was great but I think we need
figure out the tent and packing part a little better. We have
year to get ready for the next one. It was really a lot of
Lately I have been taking my solar scopes to work and going out at
lunch just ouside the library. I will look at the sun for a
minutes, enjoy the view, see what new stuff is going on, etc... After a
few minutes I notice that students walking around begin to notice me
looking at something in the sky with some strange telescopes.
wave a few over and offer them a look at the sun. They say "sure, I
would love to see that!". Then I show them the photosphere
sunspots, then the chromosphere
with it's red color and features such
as prominences, filaments, etc.. that show the magnetic
Now and then a physics major or a professor will walk by and we will
have a really interesting discussion. So, this is my time to
look, learn, and share the joys of daytime solar astronomy.
It is a nice way to spend a lunch break.
My friend JT and I enjoyed a warm Saturday afternoon at Central Park in
Mountain House. Our kids were keeping themselves busy playing in
the sand while we were enjoying observing the activity on the sun.
There were a couple pretty big prominences and a good splattering of
sun spots. We shared the views with other families in the park
who happened to be walking by and were curious about what we were
It was a beautiful day at the park to be enjoying solar astronomy.
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