Reticulum – the net

November 6, 2016


eyepiece2The stars in the constellation Reticulum represent the tiny network of lines in a certain type of telescope eyepiece. They are engineered into a lens element and are akin to the cross-hairs in a rifle scope. In this case they are not only used for aiming, but also for measuring angular separations, and in modern times for guiding the telescope during long exposure photography.

The constellation was named by Lacaille in the 18th century, the same guy who named several constellations by glancing about at things around him.
Having a reticle eyepiece is important for astrophotography so you can keep the telescope precisely aimed at your subject for minutes, or in some cases more than an hour, while the light builds up on the film. It’s to prevent periodic changes in the tracking which lead to star images shaped like footballs.

At high magnification another problem is that our atmosphere moves the light around, kind of like looking up from the bottom of a swimming pool. Over the time of the exposure this leads to some sucky results. In any case, you can look through a reticle eyepiece and use a controller to carefully and painstakingly keep the cross-hairs on a guide star for long periods of time, and then at the end accidentally kick the telescope mount thus creating “foot binary” stars.

I read about using bits of spider web to make your own eyepiece reticle so I tried that. It actually works. But now days telescope guiding is automated, photography is digital, and Photoshop is used to overlay astrophotography with smarmy inspirational quotes.

Chances are that if you hunt down this constellation you will only see two stars, Alpha and Beta. There are dimmer unseen stars of course, including Zeta 1 & 2 which are famous for being where extraterrestrials took two hillbillies and a wiener dog when they were abducted back in 1961.

spockanddogThe aliens must have some pretty fast ships because Barney and Betty (their real names) were returned home in short order, no worse for wear except their watches were missing. Perhaps there is a lucrative black market for crappy analog earth watches on the planets of Zeta Reticuli.

The couple reports that the aliens did some sort of medical experiments on their brains which resulted in them telling inconsistent details about the experience. They responded strongly to skeptics pointing out all the inconsistencies in their story. The wiener dog seemed unaffected by the experience and responded strongly to small bits of cheese.

spockanddog2In 1977 Betty was out one night with a group of folks looking for more evidence when she spotting an incoming ship, possibly full of Zeti Reticulians. Further scientific investigation revealed it to be a street light. They apparently haven’t come back. But as Betty herself explains in a book she and her husband wrote about being abducted by aliens, “…our science cannot explain them.” Maybe so. And maybe after examining Betty the aliens of Zeti Reticuli are just as confused trying to explain us.

Carpe Noctem.

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