Past and Future Astronomy Interests

I have blogged about some of my past astronomy interests in the post “Why Clear Sky Tonight”.

My future astronomy interests are:

  • Planets – The planets have always fascinated me.  Sure you can see the moon with the naked eye, but the planets are so big but just so far away.  I have seen the close up pictures from the different large telescopes, Hubble and the main NASA space crafts.  But, I want to see them for myself with my eye.  I remember the first time I saw the fuzzy images in my ETX of the four moons of Jupiter and mentioned to my children that was what Galileo saw over 400 years ago too.  I remember the first time I saw Mars and it was red.  I remember the first fuzzy images of Saturn’s rings on my ETX.  I want to see the planets closer, sharper and be able to photograph them.
  • Moon – Sure, we can all see the moon.  But I am interested in exploring some of its detail.  Plus, it is a good goal on those “so-so” nights.
  • Galaxies – I want see a galaxy in a telescope and realize how small we really are in the universe!
  • Astrophotography – I want to document all my observing
  • Computer-Controlled – I want to figure how to automate all of this and sit back and enjoy the images.
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How is Clear Sky Tonight?

Clear Sky Tonight is a website developed using Microsoft Web Expression.  The blog is powered by WordPress.  The forums are powered by phpBB.  The articles are powered by MediaWiki.  The website is hosted on Media Temple.

The Astronomy Calculator is being developed using Microsoft Visual Web Developer Express using ASP.NET.

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Who is Clear Sky Tonight?

I am Clear Sky Tonight.  My name is Matt Woicik and I developed this website and its contents.  I have no formal education in astronomy or astrophotography.  It is just a hobby for me but something I am interested in and wanted to share and document for others.

I have also created a weather website and weather camera on my personal website: Woicik.

Lastly, if you are interested in the technical aspects of building websites, website applications and mobile applications, please check out my other website at ML2 Solutions.

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What is Clear Sky Tonight?

Clear Sky Tonight (CST) is an astronomy community for the rest of us. It is a place to learn about astronomy and discuss astronomy with others who share your interest. It is also a place learn more about our web and mobile applications and use the Astronomy Calculator.

As I started wanting to learn more about astronomy, I was frustrated by the lack of simple answers to my questions.  I read many beginner books and did some Internet searching.  But, I didn’t easily find answers to what I thought were basic questions like what is in the sky tonight that I might want to see or which telescope is good for a beginner who wants to do more.

I was also frustrated by the apps on mobile devices like the iPhone.  Many are amazing and wonderful applications but many were complex.  I just wanted to answer a question for my child about what planet could we see tonight or where was a specific constellation.

Lastly, in order to answer some of these questions myself, I developed a number of interfaces that performed certain astronomy calculations.  I grouped those together into something I call the Astronomy Calculator.

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Why Clear Sky Tonight?

Clear Sky Tonight was an idea to create a website about astronomy.  The initial ideas were numerous.

I have always been interested in astronomy.  As a kid, I was interested in science in school, especially the planets and dinosaurs.  I lived on a hobby farm outside a medium size city so the night sky was pitch dark.  I do remember seeing the Milky Way whenever I was outside at night.  I made the typically planet mobile in grade school.  However, I never moved beyond studying about it.  I never got a telescope as a kid.

As an adult, I finally brought a telescope back in 1999.  It was a Meade ETX-90EC.  I got the case for it and a number of eyepieces.  But, I had moved to a big city for work after college and I couldn’t just go outside my apartment and look at the stars.  I kind of brought the telescope on a whim and it has sat ever since.

Recently, maybe with turning 40, I have realized that I really need to focus on a hobby outside of family and work.  Plus, I couldn’t have a bunch of hobbies because there just isn’t enough time in the week.  So, I did some thinking and I realized that astronomy had that draw as a kid and as a hobby, it also had other related components.

I had a SLR camera as a teenager.  Also, my undergrad degree was in architecture and photography was a good complement to architecture.  Astrophotography looks very interesting to me.  First, I don’t think I will be able to stay outside all night long looking through an eyepiece.  Though I want that thrill of seeing something with my own eye, I want to share it.  As I started to research the current state of astrophotography, I was amazed how technology driven it is.

My career is an IT Manager so I setup and maintain servers, networks and computers.  Astrophotography and telescopes do seem to have a major technology integration which is very interesting to me.  The idea of computer-controlled viewing is definitely something I want to explore.

So, after some thought, I realized my hobby of choice should be astronomy.  It fit many of my interests and skills.  But, how does this relate to Clear Sky Tonight?  As someone who saw the Internet and specially the World Wide Web come into being, creating a website to share my astronomy experience seemed a prefect endeavor.  Plus, maybe someone who also is interested in astronomy can learn from my experiences and jump ahead in their hobby.

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Theme credits

I wanted to pass along some credit for the themes I purchased for both the website and the WordPress blog.

The website theme was done by imaginem.

The WordPress theme was done by valen.