Barking Spider Observatory

My first telescope was from my Grandparents who gave me one of those department store style scopes for Christmas in 1966. The optics were ok, but after a few years one of the legs eventually broke from what I suspect was metal fatigue. Fast forward to my post-doc at Texas A&M when one of the people I hike with offered to sell me his Celestron C8 Classic in about 1994. This machine was used quite extensively and gave several nice views of deep space objects, planets, and the moon. My long range goal was to start taking photographs with my trusty Minolta XG-1. But various things kept cropping into my life to prevent me setting aside time to actually try any astrophotography. Another problem was the lack of a suitable dark area to do photography and the lack of any local Astronomy Club (surprising for a University, but the Club there was defunct. Perhaps by now things have changed)..

After moving to the the San Francisco Bay area in 1999 I was able to join the Eastbay Astronomical Society, I purchased a CCD camera cookbook kit with the goal of taking digital pictures. This was rather fun to build, but I soon realized that much better CCD cameras were coming on the market and my model was rapidly becoming obsolete. While I still have it, it has not be used except to confirm it can take images during the test phase. One major problem is that the software for it uses the Windows 98 operating system. I think I will still try to use it and see how the images are compared to the SBIG ST-2000XM.

I received a nice stipend for reviewing some grants for Science magazine, so I thought this would be a good time to upgrade my system. I visited Scope City in downtown San Francisco to check out what items were available. The C8 Classic was a fine scope to use, but I was getting tired of manually searching for items that I wanted to see each night using a Telrad and Lumicon SkyVector (the encoders were getting old anyway). After some thought, I decided to get a Celestron CGEM C11 scope. I really love this scope. However, I have to say that learning the basics with the C8 was instrumental in the ease with how I picked up using this more modern instrument.

I also decided to build an observatory to house the scope. This was done for several reasons. One was that I was tired of setting the scope up and taking it down. So a more permanent location was needed. I did not want to spend all that time redoing a polar alignment etc. etc. to be able hold star parties/viewing or perform astrophotography. Another factor was that I wanted a somewhat stable place to work in. The temperatures are not that bad here, but I wanted some shelter during cold (sometimes around 0°C) winter nights.

In February 2011, I HyperTuned my mount using a kit and instructions from Deep Space Products. I did notice the retaining rings which hold the worm gears in place were put on too tight. In addition, one set of spur gears was slightly out of alignment. The process of hypertuning also reduced backlash as well as switching the internal lubricant to a teflon based grease. Finally, the ring gears were sanded down for a better fit into the their housings. Since I had the mount off the pier and pier mount, I also upgraded the knobs and saddle using products from ADM Accessories. The knobs are much more ergonomic than the supplied knobs, and come in a nice Celestron orange color. The saddle upgrade is also a plus because I now have the capability to use OTAs with either Losmandy "D" series dovetails or Vixen "V" series dovetails. Finally, I applied a few squares of Slick Strip to the pier mount. Slick Strips are a UHMWPE (ultra high molecular weight polyethylene) which creates a creates a near frictionless surface for the CGEM to glide against rather than metal moving on metal. With this minor modification, it is now a breeze to perform polar alignments.

Here are links to:




Barking Spider Observatory Construction

Local Weather

Hiking Fun!!!!!

(last update 12/30/08)

For years, a small group of people who met while in graduate school in the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology at Michigan State University have been backpacking in the Rockies (well, we did make the first trip in Oregon, but as to how that happened is another story). This website contains a brief summary of the trips taken, as well as photos linked to topo maps.

Within each topo map are colored circles. Selecting a colored circle will open up pages containing one or more photographs taken in on or near that map position. Also shown on the map are various routes (hike in, climbing routes, day hikes). I would like to thank Brian, Ted (tj), and Jim for sharing their photos (the abbreviation next to the photo legend indictates the donor).

Click on the trip name or wilderness region on state maps (outlined in red) for pictures and trip comments.

Three Sisters Wilderness (Oregon) - Aug 3-6, 1994
Mt Zirkel Wilderness I (Colorado) - July 20-22, 1995
Wind River I - Cirque of the Towers (Popo Agie Wilderness) (Wyoming) - Aug 18-24, 1996
Mt Zirkel Wilderness II (Colorado)- July 23-26, 1997
Collegiate Peak Wilderness (Colorado) - Aug 12-15, 1998
Capitol Peak (Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness) (Colorado) - Sept 12-14, 1999
Bighorns (Cloud Peak Wilderness) (Wyoming) - Aug 16-19, 2000
San Juans (Weminuche Wilderness) (Colorado) - Aug 15-18, 2001
High Uintas Wilderness (Utah) - Sept 3-6, 2002
Wind River II - Middle Fork Lake (Bridger Wilderness) (Wyoming) - Aug 16-22, 2003
San Miguels (Mt. Sneffels Wilderness, Lizard Head Wilderness ) (Colorado) - July 13-16, 2004
Sierras (John Muir Wilderness) (California) Aug 1-5 2005
Flat Tops/Snowy Range (Colorado) Aug 5-8 2006
Wind River III (Wyoming) Aug 5-9 2007
Snowy Range (Colorado) Aug 9-10 2008
Wind River IV (Wyoming) July 27-31 2009
Mt Zirkle Wilderness III (Colorado) Aug 18-21 2010
Flaptop 2011 (Colorado)
Canyonlands National Park (Utah) Sept 14-17 2012



Oregon Three Sisters

Colordao San Juans Capital Peak San Miguels San Miguels


Cloud Peak (Boghorns) Bridger Wilderness  Popo Agie Wilderness Utah High Uintas