September 30, 2011

Enjoying God’s Creation: Take time to focus

It was a perfect night for viewing! Pristine, crisp skies. No moonlight. No breeze. Low humidity. Superb conditions for star gazing. My telescope was primed, collimated and already set up in the back yard. 006

Darkness couldn’t come fast enough. So, imagine my disappointment – after all the waiting -- when my first peek at Jupiter was nothing but a fuzzy mess.  

WHAT !?!

I fiddled with the focus knob and double-checked the eyepiece. Then, I ran down the check list:
  • I had collimated my telescope.
  • I had allowed ample time for the scope to acclimate. 
  • The eyepieces were clean and free of smudges.
  • My eyes had adjusted to the dark.
Something was very wrong. A properly collimated telescope should produce a nice, crisp image – not this optical slurry!  Grrrrrrrr… Maybe the primary or secondary mirrors had been damaged while in storage or needed cleaned? Perhaps there was more atmospheric disturbance than I realized?

Unfortunately, there was little I could do to improve the situation in the dark, so I gathered my gear and headed back inside. *pouty face* It wasn’t until a few days later that I discovered the real problem.


ME!



Yep. A visit to my eye doctor confirmed that my vision had seriously slipped!

what I see without glasses

I’ve been walking around in a sickening fuzz, and I couldn’t see the problem… because I don’t SEE correctly to start with. The slip was gradual, and it took a long time before it became so bad that I simply could not bring things into focus any longer.

The good news is my eyes are healthy, so they have the potential to see better.  With the right vision prescription, incoming light will focus through the corrective lens and onto the proper point in my eye resulting in a clear image and proper perspective. Without correction, the light scatters, falls short of the proper focal point leaving everything I see blanketed in blur.

No matter how much I tinker with the alignment in my telescope, or twist the focal ring on the eyepiece, as long as my own vision remains uncorrected, I will never achieve an accurate focus. I’ll miss so many details and be blind to the fullness and depth of beauty that lies cloaked in the far reaches of the sky. Targets that could be brought into view will remain just out of reach or be distorted beyond detection.

Taking time to get the focus right is key to happy viewing, and that starts by making sure that my eyes get a healthy adjustment from a regular check-up.


“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, 
the author and perfector 
of our faith.” 
Heb. 12:2

~De

September 27, 2011

Reach for the prize



"But one thing I do: 
Forgetting what is behind and 
straining toward what is ahead, 

Reach for the goal


I press on toward the goal 
to win the prize 
for which God has called me heavenward 
in Christ Jesus." Phil. 3:14






~De

September 25, 2011

Just talking tech. . .


I wanted to take a quick minute to update you on a few changes, tweaks and improvements here at the blog. 

First up, there are some cool new "Follow me here" buttons at the top of the right side bar.

Love 'em!

I've been looking the web over for a freebie source, and Michelle with Blogging from the Boonies shared the link in a discussion post at OurCompassion. Seriously, I am major green when it comes to installing widgets that go beyond a simple select and click process. HTML code? Forget it!  ---  But... I DID IT! 

Woo hoo! Learning and growing.

Next up is the new commenting system you'll find at the bottom of my posts. This is another feature I saw at BFTB. Then I noticed on recent visits to Compassion Can, and Compassion Family that JD and Jill were using the same format. I really like the layout and the way it structured the flow of the comments. So, you know me... the explorer kicked in. I found it. Tried it. Added it. 


Woo hoo #2!

For my bloggies, IntenseDebate was easy to set up and definitely worth checking out. Don't let the name scare you. It's really nice. I like the look of it as well as the reply format. PLUS... the little "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" buttons that let you more easily engage. For my readers following by facebook or email, this would be similar to the "like" button on FB.  You can comment as a guest, so there is no need to set up an account. Super slick. I think you'll like how it functions, please give it a try.  : )

Other fun can be found in the "You might also like" section at the end of each post, powered by LinkWithin. This highlights other posts in the blog with similar content. Just click on the picture link and it will take you to a previous article.

Woo hoo #3!

More changes are coming as I learn more about Twitter and Google+ and layout design, and.... and... and. This blogging gig is definitely a work in process. (Huh?! Kinda like me.) It's been really fun researching and learning all these tweaks and tricks, but I still need some help with some stuff that's just bugging me like no other. For example:

  1. How do I get rid of the blank strips below the comment section and before the footer?
  2. How do I eliminate the gaps between my sections? 


I feel like I'm walking around with my fly open! *blush*  Can you help me out here?

Laughing as always.

~ De 

 Proverbs 17:22




September 22, 2011

Enjoying God's Creation: Dare to Believe


"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.... And God said...."      Genesis 1:1,3


The simple phrase that opens Genesis 1:3 reached out and grabbed me. It wouldn't let me go. I was stuck in the wonder, and as I reread the phrase several times, the explorer within beckoned me on a journey through time -- back to where it all began.

"And God said…."   He spoke.   "Let there be...."


BOOM!

Can you imagine the resonating thunder that must have rumbled forth at the moment of creation? Talk about your Big Bang!

God breathed the word, and the work of creation began as he spoke cosmic light into existence. Frosty stars by the gazillions showered forth as he exhaled, and a brilliant display of living color danced above the waters as the full spectrum of light reflected His unimaginable beauty and creativity. Can you see it? Almost?
"By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth." Psalm 33:6 

"And God said…." He spoke.  "Let there be...."
"For he spoke and it came to be; he commanded and it stood firm." Psalm 33:9 
"Your word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.  Psalm 119:89 (NIV)
"Praise him, sun and moon, praise him all you shining stars… (v5)… for he commanded and they were created." Psalm 148:3-5
"By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible." Hebrews 11:3

"And God said…." He spoke.  "Let there be...."


The sun in it's place, the moon in it's orbit, and innumerable galaxies far, far away.  The waters keep to their boundaries, and every creature according to its kind -- all of these things hold their form and shape and place in the fabric of the universe --  because God said.
"...all things were created by him and for him. ... and in him all things hold together." Colossians 1:16-17
"For God who said let light shine out of darkness -- made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." 2 Corinthians 4:6

"And God said...." He spoke. "Let there be...."     


I dare to believe.

This is what time under the stars causes me to ponder. What about you? How does experiencing God's creation help you to focus more on Him or His word?

~ De


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
More Scriptures: (Here's hoping the Blue Letter Bible app can keep up!)
Genesis 1:1-2:2
Hebrews 1:2
2 Peter 3:5
John 1:1-3
John 1:10
Psalm 89:11
Psalm 89:36-37
Psalm 104:19
Psalm 121:2
Psalm 121:6

Scripture references listed in the text are from the New International Version. 
The Blue Letter Bible app is set to New King James Version.

September 15, 2011

Enjoying God's Creation: Capturing the Beauty

The Pleiades - Job 38:31-33 

I sigh. Pausing to look up at the night sky calms and inspires me. Such beauty! When I see familiar objects making their nightly appearance on the stage -- taking their place at their appointed time -- playing out their performance as they promenade across the sky -- I sense the reassuring promise of God's eternal faithfulness. For me, these moments help keep the craziness of this life in perspective.

If only I could capture a picture of what I see!

My viewing gear consists of my eyes, a pair of Nikon 10x50 binoculars and a simple, manual reflecting telescope without computerized imaging capability. So, I made you a simulated graphic of The Pleiades (above), hoping I could adjust it in Picasa to make it look like what I see through binoculars.

That didn't work.

Both  the colors and the haziness are extremely exaggerated and unnatural, which detracts from the subtle beauty of the object's natural form.

Now, compare the simulated graphic above to the astronomy sketch below by Rony De Laet. What absolutely stunning talent, patience and skill! His work realistically portrays the look and feel of what I see through binoculars. Click on the link and view the larger image. Can you see why I get lost in the night sky?

Click to view image larger and explore Rony's other sketches.

This is what I wish you could see -- what I would share with you if I could capture the night and give you a slice.

While I do not possess the talent to give you examples like Rony's, I do my best to personalize and capture my viewing sessions in other ways. Any time under the heavens is time refreshingly spent. Check out the tips and links below.

Here's to clear skies and a front-row seat for God's spectacular nightly show!

~De


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Helpful Tips:
Pause to Reflect.

Slow down. Take time. Allow what you see to penetrate your senses as you quiet your soul in the stillness. Feel the air. Hear the sounds around you. Smell the breeze. Taste the humidity. Touch the Creator's textures, even if only in the descriptions you write on your thoughts.

Paint with Words.


That's right -- take pen and paper to the field (along with your red-light flashlight). Express yourself. Let the creative juices flow. Write out your impressions from your Pause & Reflect moments and let them lead you to a growing awareness of this amazing universe and God, our Creator. Psalm 8:3-4  

Keep a Record or Log.

Jot down basic details about your observations including:
  1. date and time
  2. location
  3. weather/temperature
  4. optical aides used (binoculars / telescope / lenses)
  5. seeing conditions and transparency
  6. notes about unusual points of interest or some new find you want to research
This step helps you to find your way around the night sky more quickly; to find the object again in a future observing session; and to serve as a reminder of a memorable evening under the stars. 
Sketch what you see.

  1. Primitive and simple is perfectly okay! 
  2. An artistic interpretation, or
  3. A field sketch - showing main object observed, any features you can detect, and other field stars.

Here's one of my basic log entries and a quick field sketch. 
My impression of galaxy M108 viewed through an 8-inch Newtonian reflector

Helpful Links:


September 14, 2011

Round Trip to South America!



I received a letter from my Compassion International correspondence child Darwin. It included something that made a round-trip from the U.S. to Colombia and back again, and another adorable piece of children's artwork that just melts my heart. Why? Take a look.




First, I love that he drew his entire family -- he is one of four boys. That's got to be a busy household! *smile*

Second, look at the linear precision in how he sequenced the scene. His translator said that he is a child given to organization and collaboration, and he loves to help in the classroom. Love it! (I also learned in his letter that his favorite school subject is now physics.  Seriously! Physics? I'm impressed.)

Third, and the best part of this picture:  the stickers! I sent him the puppy stickers in one of his first letters, and he used them to draw a picture for me and send them back. Those little puppies and their bones made a round trip from the US to Colombia and back again with expression of love and care -- both ways.

God is so good. This is just one of the fun blessings of being a Compassion sponsor.


~De

Psssst:  Click the Mail Call button link below to get in on the fun over at Blogging From the Boonies.


Click here to find more Mail Call fun!

September 12, 2011

Enjoying God's Creation: The Harvest Moon 2011

"Shine on, shine on harvest moon up in the sky!" 

Did you know that the beautiful moon display from September 11-13 is known as the 2011 Harvest Moon?  


This is not a scheduled post in the September series, but I couldn't let you miss out on an opportunity to see this annual night sky event. The Harvest Moon lasts only a few nights, and is one of my favorite lunar events to behold. It looks HUGE on the horizon -- often orange or reddish in color. 

The kids will love it!  -- Hey, I still get a kick out of observing it.


How did it get it's name? When does it occur each year? There's a full moon every month, so why is this one significant?


Below is an excerpt from a great post over at EarthSky that gives more detail and fun facts about the Harvest Moon.

Photo by Ilco / Izmir, Turkey
"Bottom line: ...The Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox, which in 2011 comes on September 23. So the full moon of September 11-12 is the 2011 Harvest Moon."
"September 13 will have a beautiful, bright full-looking moon, too. The Harvest Moon is not really bigger, brighter or yellower than other full moons, but it is special for ushering in the year's grandest procession of moonlit nights. Enjoy."

Here is another article for more fun moon facts to share with your children.

You know... this would make a great letter writing topic for your Compassion children. Include a picture of the Harvest Moon and scripture passages to help the children connect God, the creator and master designer of our beautiful universe with the nature event you write about. Since Compassion US sponsors will be able to upload pictures in the new, on-line letter writing tool to be released Friday, September 16 -- (read more at OurCompassion) I may have to do another backyard astronomy letter for my kids.

When you see the moon rising tonight, I hope you pause to remember the glory of our Creator, the Lord God Almighty, the one who spoke it into existence. (Now that's amazing!)

I have my telescope out and ready, and my binoculars on standby. Where will you observe the Harvest Moon, and who will be your observing companions?  If you photograph the 2011 Harvest Moon please leave a comment with a link to your blog or website.

Enjoy the night skies with our Creator!

~De

Scriptures:
Psalm 147:4
Psalm 8:3-4
Genesis 1:1
Genesis 1:14-19

Photo credit

September 9, 2011

Enjoying God's Creation: A Child's View of the Heavens

Gasps pierced the silence followed by exclamations of "I see the moon!" -- "I hope I see a satellite." -- "Heeeeeeey! I see a circle right over there!" -- "It's so sparkly!!"  **giggle** -- "Elijah, you can't see a satellite. They're way out in the universe... that's out where God lives." -- "And boy, He sure is BIG!"

The grandkids (ages 2-7) came over for a backyard camp-out Labor Day weekend, and we took advantage of the gorgeous night for a little trip through the Milky Way. They had a great time exploring, and I had fun just listening to their little minds processing audibly.

The moon, observing target #1, was actually visible during daylight hours. The kids responded to this discovery with squelched snickers and feigned indignation, as if they didn't know whether to scold him for sneaking out of bed -- or praise him for pulling it off. Even the two-year-olds joined in with lots of jabbering and pointing.

Later, as the night deepened I pointed out the Big Dipper to them, and their excitement at recognizing the shape of the handle and the cup surprised and delighted me. Mission accomplished with observing target #2.

Stargazing with young children doesn't have to be complicated. It shouldn't be. It's a wonderful and unique way to make lasting memories that foster family bonding. These are the kind of moments that encourage your child to open the window of their heart and invite you into their world... to give you a glimpse of what they perceive... what they feel. It encourages their creativity and expands their awareness of God's great big universe. 

Here are some suggestions to help you create a successful creation-focused star party for young children.
  
Keep It Simple and Short
Focus on the kids, and on expanding their awareness of God's created marvels in the night sky. For the very first outing – simply plan to look up and talk about what you see. Talk about what the bible says about the moon, stars, constellations and who made it.

Plan Ahead 
  1. It helps to know what objects will be visible and to have at least one target in mind. 
  2. Set your blankets or lawn chairs up while it's still daylight.
  3. Don't forget the bug spray (if you plan to be out for 5 or 10 minutes or more)
  4. Prepare a Red-light flashlight for each child.
    This is a fun and easy project made by covering a flashlight lens with red tail light tape, available at any auto supply or hardware store. Remember from last week's post, the red light helps protect dark adapted eyes, and is essential for reading your planisphere (Star Wheel) in the dark.

    Moon Fun for Pre-Schoolers
    1.  The moon changes shape every night
    2.  The moon grows (waxes) and shrinks (wanes)
    3.  The surface of the moon is covered with mountains and craters
    4.  The shaded areas on the moon make pictures. What do you see?

    Links
    Make a Star Wheel -  a fun and easy project; (or purchase on-line by searching for a planisphere)
    Getting Started in Astronomy - a great beginners guide
    This Weeks Sky At A Glance - to help you determine what will be visible, and what events to look for

    Scriptures About God's Heavens:
    (Leave a comment with your favorite creation scripture and I'll add it to the list with a link back to your blog.)
    Psalm 8:3-4 
    Psalm 147:4
    Job 38:31-33



    September 2, 2011

    Enjoying God's Creation: A Look at the Heavens

    "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?"  Psalm 8:3-4




    In the still of night I slip silently out the back door. A gentle hint of breeze invites me to linger, to marvel at the splendor I behold. I take a moment to get my bearings. It has been much too long  since I spent time here in this place of beauty and wonder.

    My eyes search the northern sky, picking out familiar outlines. To the northwest I see the Bear (Ursa Major). Her cub (Ursa Minor) should be directly in front of me at due north, but The Little One hides, skittish at the glare of city lights.

    Moving across the sky eastward from the Bears (a.k.a - the Big and Little Dippers) I find the familiar shape of an abstract "W" seated awkwardly on edge like a child's first shaky attempt to print on unlined paper. This is Queen Cassieopia, surrounded by her court.

    The great square of constellation Pegasus rides well above the northeastern horizon tonight. The Andromeda Galaxy is an easy star hop from this sky marker, but the light pollution obliterates any hint of her location without some sort of optical aide. Tonight there is no gear; only my eyes.

    One by one the neighboring lights go out. The night deepens. I grow more accustomed to the darkness, and the beauty of the night explodes. Everywhere I look the stars dazzle my senses like sparkling diamonds against navy blue velvet.

    Why do these sights fill me with such awe?
                                                               
    I breathe deeply, lost in the wonder of all that I see, knowing there is so much more out there than my eyes alone can capture. Star clusters, galaxies, planets with many moons. Gaseous nebulae, and rich mysteries I will never understand. 

    What am I that You are mindful of me?

    You created all of these marvels and you call the them each by name! Yet, at the same time, you stoop down low to make me great.

    Standing here in the night, 
    with the magnitude of Your grandeur
    draped radiantly across the heavens, 
    I feel the extent of my nothingness
    in the fullness of your presence...
    and Peace surrounds me.


                                                                   ~ De



     ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    Tips to Improve Your Nighttime Viewing
    1. Allow at least 15-20 minutes for your eyes to adapt to the dark.
      1. The more your pupils dilate, the more light they gather.
      1. The more light your eyes gather, the more detail you see

    1. Protect your dark adapted eyes from white light including:
      1. regular flashlights
      2. light from house windows
      3. street lights
      4. cell phone screens


    Helpful Links for Visual Observing

    LinkWithin

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