Seeing the Cosmos - Leaving Earth Behind

Astronomers constantly seek to visually escape earth by avoiding light pollution.

This picture on the left is  M-45 - the Pleiades; this is how it often appears through a telescope on the clearest night within urban centers - sometimes better - sometimes worse.

The image of the Double Cluster in Perseus to the right is an honest representation of what you might see against the darker skies  at the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve.

How much we see depends on sky darkness.   Salt shows up on a black floor but will hide on a gray floor. Traveling to dark skies is always a trade off: Our site at Oil Capital Rod and Gun Club is a low traffic, 15 minute drive from County Line Road at 71st .  At this location one can see much more as there is virtually no light pollution except low in the western sky.

If you want to experience truly black velvet skies, prepare for a 200 mile round trip to the Kansas border northwest of Bartlesville, OK or a similar length trip to Lake Eufaula.

The night sky is not predominantly a place of brilliant colors and dazzling images.

What you see in books and on the internet and TV is light amplified dramatically by long exposures and false colors used to isolate and analyze elements.  We notice subtle color differences in stars because they are bright enough to trigger the cones (color receptors) on our eye’s retinas.

Even through larger commercial telescope, most objects other than some stars, planets, and the brightest nebulae, appear as white and shades of gray with only the slightest hint of color.

To the right we see the Eagle Nebula (M-16) imaged multiple times, each with a filter which allows only the emission spectrum of certain elements to pass.  Each exposure is assigned a certain color - either similar to the actual or otherwise Then images are overlaid for artistic or scientific purposes.

“Sidewalk” Astronomy

In urban settings, light pollution makes it impossible to see any but the brightest objects, and the sheer volume of light makes our eyes less sensitive as well; but that is where ti people are!

The concept of sidewalk astronomy is credited to John Dobson who over 50 years ago designed a simple, lightweight mount for large optical systems that allowed him to share astronomy with passersby on city streets in San Francisco.  The use of the mount and the popularity of the movement has spread throughout the world.

The Astronomy Club of Tulsa sponsors monthly “sidewalk astronomy” events at either River West Mall or Bass Pro in Broken Arrow - sometimes both.  Visit


Observing Basics 1

Observing Basics 2

Seeing the Cosmos

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 Telescope Basics

Astronomy Optics and Systems


Earth - Pale Blue Dot

Oil Capital Astronomy Observing Center

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On the clearest night - given a stable, non-turbulent atmosphere,  a large telescope with precision optics, and a fine eyepiece, you may actually see an image this colorful and crisp.    Mr. Roland Chavez took his picture with a Cave Astrola 12.5” F/6 Newtonian reflector telescope in the same month I last viewed Saturn with my Cave Astrola 12.5” F/5 telescope in Spring 2007.  This is about how it appeared at 600X on a night of virtually perfect seeing. This image benefits from eliminating the effects of wind buffeting and enhancing contrast with algorithms and other techniques like combining multiple images and discarding inconsistent image data.