5/30 Astronomy Report

The weather looked promising last night, and the ClearSkyChart was reporting good news.  At around noon, I shot a quick e-mail over to a few of the people I’ve viewed with before, and was happy to get a quick response from Barry (who lives near Rattlesnake) that the skies were in fact clear.  I cleared my calendar for the night, and packed up my gear.

I arrived at Rattlesnake at around 9pm, and was surprised to see 3 other people already set up.  Apparently I wasn’t the only one with the great idea of stargazing tonight!  By the end of the night, we had 9 people and telescopes: Sam (Dobs), Skip (SCT), Jim (SCT), Barry (SCT), Jon (Refractor), Denis (Dobs), Mohammad (Dobs), Marius (SCT), and Michael (Newt and Refractor).  I’m pretty sure that’s everyone that was out there, and if you happen to stumble across this and I left you off – I’m sorry.

I hadn’t planned on staying out terribly late tonight (told Diann that I’d start breaking down my gear at around 1am), and with the sun setting at 9:15 that gave me only a few hours of actual darkness.  By 10:15, you could just start making out the Milky Way overhead, and then we were greeted by the ISS passing over.

Last night’s viewing breakdown:

Favorite objects of the night: M4, M94, and M101.  M94 had a super-bright central core to it and on M101 I could just start making out the spiral pattern of the galaxy.  I think it’s fair to say that my night viewing is steadily improving over time – I was also able to make out individual stars in most of the globulars I looked at last night.

64 Messier objects down, and 6 to go before I can file for my Astronomical League Messier Certificate.  46 to go until I hit all the Messier objects.

Hosting Solutions: Alternatives to Layered Technologies?

I’ve been an exceptionally happy customer of Layered Technologies for a little over 3 years now, and they’ve just announced a monthly price increase of about 30%. Yes, a 30% increase.  My rates are going to go from $93/month to $121/month in July.  Granted, I split this between two other people, but that’s crazy. 

Seems many other Layered Technologies customers aren’t happy either, judging by this forum thread.  Anyone have any preferred hosting companies that have reasonable rates? 

The morning at work…

Fire truck

Yep, that’s a fire truck.  Bunch of co-workers standing to the left milling around aimlessly due to a (false) fire alarm that meant for evacuations.

Pretty impressive response: City of Redmond rolled what I counted as 4 units, and the City of Kirkland rolled 1 as well. 

This isn’t normally what people mean when they say they’re dealing with fire drills at the office, though. 🙂

What a great weekend

(I’m including Thursday night as the official start of my weekend, since I took Friday off)

Thursday night: telescope until 4:30am
Friday: Slept till 11:30am.  Caught up on e-mail, played some Grand Theft Auto IV.
Saturday: Seattle Cheese Festival, followed by an acquisition of scallops and spot prawns at the Pike Place Fish Market in Pike Place.  Grilled prawns on the Big Green Egg.
Sunday: Planed some more Grand Theft Auto IV.  Grilled tri-tip steaks on the Big Green Egg.

Beautiful weather every day.  Sadly, this week’s forecast is not so great:

weather forecast

The weather is warming and the clouds are vanishing

Seattle in the summertime, oh how I love it.  Today, the temperature breached the 80°F mark, and there hasn’t been a cloud in the sky.  A sign of things to come.

M31, M32, and M110 As has become common practice for me now, anytime there hasn’t been clouds, I’ve been out at night with the telescope and last night was no exception.  I decided to take Friday morning off from work, so I could stay out late on Thursday.  I headed out to Rattlesnake Lake and set up my telescope around 9pm, and arrived back home at 4am.  The moon was nearly full last night, which put a damper on finding a lot of things – faint fuzzies are hard to spot in moon glow.  I did manage to knock a good deal of objects off my Messier list, and was shown some phenomenal views in Barry’s brand-new 11” Celestron.  Consider me jealous of telescopes with goto capabilities: I’m tired of manual setting circles. :)  I’m also exceptionally jealous of his 41mm Tele Vue Panoptic.

A few awesome things from last night, before I get into the technical nitty-gritty of my viewing.  The moon set at about 3am.  Simultaneously, we noticed three things: coyotes starting howling, the milky way suddenly showed up overhead, and Jupiter came up from over the hill and tree line.  Awesome stuff.

Last night’s viewing was primarily spent hunting open clusters and globulars, as they were the most visible.  I did manage a few nebulas and galaxies, too:

Not a bad night of viewing: 19 Messier objects I hadn’t seen before.  I was particularly impressed that I was able to star-hop to M63 and M64, as they were buried in moon glow by the time I got to them.  M64, in particular, was tough: I could just barely make out a slightly brighter spot in the moon glow than the surroundings.  I’ll definitely need to go back to it on a darker night.

The atmospheric conditions weren’t all that great, and this was obvious when Jupiter came up.  If I slightly defocused the telescope, I could see major air currents over Jupiter; even when in focus, I couldn’t make out any of the cloud bands.  I can’t wait to get better views of it later in the year when it’s higher in the sky.

I’m now up to 54 Messier objects viewed, with 56 to go until completion of all Messier objects.  Only 16 more until I’ve completed basic work required for the Astronomical League’s Messier Club.  A good portion of the 56 remaining are winter-only items, and I hope to wrap up the rest of the summertime items at various star parties this year.

I’ve got my process for stargazing pretty well locked down now.  I create a list of the Messiers (or whatever I want to look at that night) in AstroPlanner, and print out the list.  I also take with me a list of alignment star coordinates (so I can set my manual setting circles), and a pencil.  As I’m running through the printed list, I check off things I find and make any relevant notes or quick sketches.  I’d like to supplant this with a digital audio recorder at some point so I can talk through observations rather than writing them down – it would be nice to be able to document things without leaving the eyepiece.  The next day, I log my observations in AstroPlanner, and write up a blog post with lots of Wikipedia links.  I’ll also often compare what I saw to imagery in the WorldWide Telescope to make sure I saw what I think I saw.  I’ll probably put together a post in the near future about what all I bring onsite to aid others that are learning this stuff, as I am.

[edit May 19 – fixed a bunch of grammatical errors.  I must have been tired when writing this!]

25x revenue is a company valuation? Huh?

I was reading the article by Mark Evans that laid out how Flickr could have an independent valuation of $4 billion dollars.  He used a multiplier defined by Henry Blodgett in determining the value of Facebook: 25 times a company’s annual revenue is their valuation.

Wow.

I decided to apply this to a few other companies that have been in the news lately: Yahoo!, Microsoft, and Google.

Based on 2007 10K filings for each company:

Company Annual Revenue Valuation Market Cap (as of 5/8/2008)
Yahoo! $6.425B (2006) $160.625B $36.08B
Microsoft $51.122B (2007) $1.278T $272.60B
Google $16.593B (2007) $414.825B $182.92B

This gives between 2.5 and 4.5 of over-estimate in independent publicly traded companies.  I’m not a finance guy, but it seems like that 25 times number is quite a stretch, to me.