Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Coming Boom in the Used Telescope Market

If the new President has his way there will soon be a substantial tariff placed on imported goods. The proposed tariff for Chinese goods is 45%. Mexican goods will see at least a 20% tariff in order to "pay" for the wall. At best it will make many of the things you buy more expensive without any clear indication that it will lead to a meaningful increase in U.S. employment. At worst it will lead to a global trade war and an economic collapse that will dwarf 2008's crisis.

[Another way of thinking about the suggested tariffs is that they are 45% and 20% sales taxes on selected things you buy.  Essentially, they're a "Trump Tax."]

As for astronomy, one need only look at the companies that have based their manufacturing in Mexico (Meade) or China (Celestron, Orion, Explore Scientific, Sky-Watcher). If the tariffs are enacted expect the prices of goods from these companies to increase dramatically.

The effects on prices for gear made in Japan, Korea, or Europe is less clear. And and of course some things are made (or assembled, at any rate) in the US, although components often come from foreign manufacturers. It's doubtful prices will drop, even with favorable trade agreements; most companies not compelled to raise prices because of tariffs will raise them anyway (but not as much).

All of this price hiking is going to make the used telescope market more desirable. If you're selling your used gear you'll be able to raise your asking prices and enjoy your little piece of the Trump Tax! But if you're buying, prepare to pay a portion that tax even on used items.

Given the President's habit of saying (or tweeting) something one day and then having his handlers try to walk it back to some form of sanity the next, none of this might happen.

Or maybe he'll screw it up just like he has made a shambles of immigration and security. In which case, start burying gold ingots in your back yard, right next to a copy of the Constitution of the United States.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Alternative Facts

I'm going to follow the lead of our new President and give you some facts about astronomy. In the 1984-ish doublespeak now being used by the President and his representatives, I should probably say they're "alternative facts," meant to counter the irresponsible misinformation being posted by the media--Sky and Telescope, Astronomy magazine, countless scientific blogs, etc.
  • Stars get their energy by burning natural gas, but work is underway to get them to switch to American coal
  • Any Christian knows that the universe is only 7,000 years old, not the absurdly huge age promoted by atheistic scientists
  • Atmospheric turbulence is a hoax created by China to sell more off-axis guiders
  • Regulating light pollution will send thousands of jobs to Mexico. Sad!
  • Muslims and Mexicans are actively working to undermine the function of astronomy clubs across the country. Be sure to properly background-check any immigrant who tries to join your club. Better yet, simply refuse them membership. Ditto for women
  • The current state of amateur astronomy is one of carnage and dismay.  You may think that it's a good time to be an amateur what with the abundance of high-quality telescopes, cameras, and other gear at historically low prices--but you're mistaken! Wake up, America!

Needless to say, none of the above is true.
  • Stars derive their energy from nuclear fusion
  • The 13.7 billion year age of the universe is a scientific fact, and almost all organized religions accept it
  • Atmospheric turbulence is an inconvenient, but real, thing. Much like global warming it can't simply be denied away 
  • Regulating light pollution will reduce lighting costs, give more security, and provide opportunities for American innovation
  • Denying club membership on the basis of ethnicity, gender, creed or sexual orientation is simply wrong (refer to the Constitution of the United States) and self destructive
  • It really is a good time to be in the hobby.  The variety of high-tech goods at decent prices is amazing compared to decades ago. Imaging has been revolutionized and will continue to improve


Enough politics (for now.)  I only write the above because I fear for the future of our Constitutional Democracy, now entrusted to a man-child and his ethics-challenged advisors. If you voted for Trump, good for you--at least you voted.  And now, back to our regularly scheduled program, already in progress....


The big Virgo Cluster mosaic is still on track.  Imaging can't really start until late February or March, which will give me some time to learn about MSICE, the software I will used for merging the mosaic's panes. I've got to create this spring so it's ready as a promotional item for ALCON 2018, which is being held in the Twin Cities. I designed the logo for the event, seen below in two versions:

Our club is organizing some imaging workshops for the late winter and spring. I've been temporarily been put in charge of the processing workshop and it will be a challenge. Approach it by general methodologies or concentrate on specific software packages? That's something to be worked out with attendees--what they want is what we'll do.

I completed my AL Globular Cluster imaging and will be getting the certificate at the next club meeting. How I went about it (getting most of the list globs in one image of M31) may trigger a change in the imaging rules--Bob Kerr administers the list and is a member of the club, and I've talked with him about it.

It's almost time to put together the third annual list of regional star parties for the club forum. I think the August total solar eclipse is making scheduling a little difficult for clubs.

More about the eclipse and my plans for it--perhaps next time.