Tag Archives: mhastro

New MHAA Website

Over the past few weeks I’ve been redoing the Mid Hudson Astronomical Association website.  It looks like this:

Yes, it’s dark, but that’s when astronomy happens.  The site is built on Drupal, as I’ve gotten some experience there recently doing sites for the Poughkeepsie Farm Project and MHVLUG.  For people that want to know more about the tech side, I’ll be giving a talk in January at MHVLUG.

I did come across one really odd thing in working on the three boxes (I was calling them chicklets, but they look less like that with content in them). Round corners in CSS are awesome (thank you w3c). IE9, at least the version in Adobe Browser labs, still doesn’t support it (really Microsoft? I thought you were getting down with the standards). While a TD can have a round background, it’s border is always square (I almost understand why, but it definitely limits what you can do. It also took me a while to realize this was happening as the round is subtle enough on the front page). Div height 100% doesn’t work inside a TD (it seems like it should, but no one implemented it that way).

So the only way to get 3 columns that correctly degrade to 2 columns (50% of screen each) when one is missing (there will not always be a special event), have round borders, and be the same height is…. jquery. While on the one hand, it seems crazy, on the other hand, yay for jquery. You can view the source on the website to see how I did it.

Upcoming Talks

Things are going to be quiet here for a few days as I prep for 2 upcoming talks, both which are about aspects of Where is Io.  The first of which is this Saturday at the Central PA Open Source Conference, which I’m about 2/3 of the way through creating that presentation.  Here is the title slide:

The CPOSC presentation is about Android development, using Where is Io as a roadmap through some of the interesting parts of Android.

The second is coming up a week from today at the Mid Hudson Astronomical Association at SUNY New Paltz.  It’s called “Tracking the Movement of the Heavens” and is about the math and astronomy behind Where is Io.  There will be a little bit of content sharing between the two, but they’ll be quite different in many ways.

I’m really looking forward to both talks, especially now that I’ve got quite a bit of material and narrative for the first one nailed down, and a decent set of notes for the second one.

A weekend of astro camping

You know you are rusty at camping when the list of things you forgot, which you are just now remembering in your head as you are driving away from home, gets long enough that you actually turn around.  It has been at least 5 years since I was last camping, and that definitely showed in how I packed the car to head out to the Catskills for the AOS starfest.

I learned a number of things about the experience.  First, a critical list of Astronomy gear I don’t have.  This includes a weatherproof scope cover, a 12v hair dryer (for dew elimination), and a portable deep cell battery for said hair dryer.  Being the odd one out I had to keep shuffling my scope back and forth between cover and not as we were dodging the storms that rolled through.

I also learned that most amateur astronomers are not campers.  We had at least a couple of inches of rain up there this weekend, and only a few tents stayed dry.  Rookie mistakes about how to setup the ground cloth were prevalent.  It’s understandable as camping is a means to an ends (being where the skies are dark), but I was surprised that more people hadn’t experienced this enough times to still be caught by that.  I tried to be helpful where I could, but didn’t want to impose too much, being one of the new guys there.

I learned that I don’t need to be too envious about other people’s scopes.  Even though my 8″ dob put me on the smaller size up there, I’m just very comfortable with the scope now.  I know exactly where to put my eye, how to tweak the focus, and with my astronomy chair can really relax with my views in the scope.  There are clearly things I can’t dial in that Rudy and Rick could get in their 18 and 13 inch scopes, but for all around usability, I’m just really happy with this scope.  I saw the veil nebula in my scope via an O-III filter (which is the only high contrast one that I’ve got for viewing Orion), and realized there is a whole other set of things I can see in that scope with a dark site and some additional filters.  I’m definitely going to have to invest in those.

And lastly, I learned, the 3am sky is a different sky than I’d ever seen before.  Once civilization has gone to sleep things get darker yet again, as no place on the east coast is immune to at least a little light pollution.  I doubt the site we were at was much darker than my parents place in VT, but I realized I’ve never gone looking for stars after midnight.  With my new found dew management knowledge, I’m really looking forward to my next venture up there.

Even though we only got 1/2 a night of observing in (Saturday/Sunday after 1am it started to clear out), I had a really good time with some great people this weekend.

Looking forward to doing more of this in the future.

Being more entertaining than a cell phone

Tuesday night was the first night of the Mid Hudson Astronomy Association in their new digs, the Coykendall Auditorium at SUNY, New Paltz.  I really like the venue.  The lighting and environment is much better than the library.  With 34 people in attendance last night, we had a quite good turn out.

The lecture itself was given by Cathy Law about teaching Astronomy to middle and high school kids.  In an hour we got about 5 weeks worth of material thrown at us (some of it was skipped over), but all of it was quite good.  I especially appreciated the use of Monty Python and the Universe song to end us off.  Cathy was an incredibly compelling speaker, and her students are definitely lucky to have her.

The thing that made me think the most was her comment that one of her biggest challenges in class is being more entertaining than a cell phone, though, ironically, I was on my cellphone at the time verifying the statement I’d just made on the modal lock of Mercury.