September 24, 2017

Convertable Gloves for Cold Weather Astronomy.

Ahhh… it’s sometimes the simple things that make all the difference in observational astronomy. Now that we are once again spending northern hemisphere winter in sunnier climes (i.e. Hudson, Florida), I reminisce about all those chilly nights in Maine and Alaska under the stars.

Sure, we’d all like to observe in a bug-less, shorts and t-shirt world, but sometimes, you’ve gotta brave the cold. The only other option is to not observe, right? That’s tantamount to no option here at Astroguyz. Wintertime brings exceptionally clear and stable air, as well as oodles of darkness; and sometimes, that comet flare up (think Holmes last year!) or eclipse just happens to occur at -20F local.

A February Eclipse.

When working outside in the cold weather, everything takes longer. A ten minute job to change a car battery can take over an hour . I’ve had computer batteries die an early death, and focusers freeze solid. But the bodily projections you want to protect most are your hands.

Last winter, I received a pair of Thinsulate convertible gloves from the in-laws. (I have cool in-laws!) These originated from, like everything else in Maine, the L.L. Bean outlet factory store in Freeport, Maine. It’s a ritual stop for us on our way to/from civilization, and I think we now own at least one example of everything they carry. Anyway, I used these gloves for my first few observing sessions with the $50 stovepipe scope, and was hooked. These gloves have an outer, “boxing glove” layer that can be quickly folded back to expose an open finger tip “biker glove” layer for moments that you need more dexterity, such as changing eyepieces (and we change eyepieces a lot!) Your hands have more surface area than you imagine, and your body tends to want to protect its core (i.e. heart and brain) and draw heat in from its extremities. Hang out with Everest climbers some time and note the shortage of fingers and toes. But unlike skiing or climbing, astronomers must stand still for long periods of time. These gloves did the trick, and got me through one of the snowiest seasons on record. My only beef is that being wool, they get waterlogged pretty quick if they’re wet; hence not the best for shoveling or snow ball fights. I could envision a waterproof, gortex version. Also, I wouldn’t work with them around anything moving, like an engine, as the fold backs could get caught. For astronomy though I would give these an A+. Their dexterity can’t be beat; I’m even able to type this blog with them on! Do you hands a favor, and stay warm this winter!

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