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Erupting volcanos are a staple of many science fairs and school demonstrations. Plus they can be fun to do at home as well. But making the volcano canbe a bit frustrating. Either your make your own volcano with lots of Plaster-of-Paris and the mess caused by it, or a you buy a kit where you make a volcano with Plaster-of-Paris around a framework, or you have a pre-mold that ‘erupts’ using a squeeze bulb rather than a more interesting chemical reaction of vinegar & baking soda.

To help resolve this, the folks ar the Plasteel Corporation developed the Smoothfoam Mega Volcano:


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Prisms! We love ourselves some prisms!


Whether they are glass, acrylic, water filled, or even hollow prisms are a great way to bend light and have fun doing it.

Of course one of the more fun aspects of prisms is using them to make rainbows (or spectrum to be scientific). Some of these prisms it is easy – just put the prism in a sunny window and it will project random rainbows around the room. But for a more scientific appearance of spectra you have to use a proper prism (typically equilateral). Trouble is, it is not as easy to do as making random rainbows with water prisms. Many folks have bought prisms as came to us saying “they didn’t work”. Which is kind of like saying a ball is broken because gravity didn’t somehow pull it to the ground. It just doesn’t work that way. That being said making spectra with a prism is not as easy as dropping a ball. Here are some critical tips for making a proper spectrum with your prism.

  1. Darken the room

The biggest issue with making spectra is that they can get washed out by other light, or be so feeble to be unseeable. So darken the room as best as your can. Turn out the lights, draw the curtains, whatever makes the room darker. The contrast will make the spectra look better.

2. Make a Slit lamp.

OK, so you might have noticed something about that Light Crystal packaging up above. Let’s have another look:


You may notice the pretty spray of colors on the right, but look at the leftof the crystal.  You might notice there is a column of light entering the prism. Note that it is almost a beam, not an entire wall of light from a bulb or sunlight. This is important:

If you try to make spectra with a bulb, flashlight or sunlight, odds are you won’t get very good results. The wash of light entering the crystal will result in a wash of light coming out of the crystal. It won’t be as good as making your own slit lamp.

How do you make a slit lamp? Well, get yourself a powerful flashlight (not too powerful…some high-power models out there can overwhelm the black construction paper you will be using) and some black construction paper. Then using the diameter of the front of the flashlight as a guide, cut out this shape from the construction paper:

Slit Light Cover

You are making a circle with a slit in it to cover the front of your flashlight, so cut this circle out a little larger than the front of the flashlight. You can make multiple versions with slightly larger or smaller slits so you can see what works best (flashlight deisgns and room darkness conditions may produce differing results).

3. Shine on, you crazy spectrum maker

With your darkened room, prism in position, and slit-lamp adjusted flashlight, aim the beam of light at the side of the prism. Typically, this means hitting the side with the beam slightly below one of the edges. The angle you aim at the side will affect where the spectra  appears. Aim from on high and your spectrum will appear on the floor, aim from below and you  could have it on the ceiling. Which reminds us:

4. Have a good target wall/ceiling/paper

If you have a wall painted red, and project a spectrum on to it, guess what? A good portion of the colors won’t show up very well. So always aim for a white wall or ceiling, or at least put down some white paper to get the best spectra.

Enjoy the colors!


In past entries in this blog we have discussed the merits Equatorial Mounts vs Altazimuth mounts on telescopes, but we never actually went into much 016detail on how to properly use one of these mounts. Here are some basic hints for a beginner first trying to use an equatorial mount. Note that this are not hints for precision alignment – they are strictly for the beginner so they do not get overwhelmed! Speaking of which

1) Keep you mount setup as simple as possible at first.

Look at telescope instructions for equatorial mounts and you’ll see a lot of information on adjusting setting circles, using a polar axis scope, and other heavy duty details. Here’s a hint: If you don’t plan on doing astrophotography or long, long viewing sessions you don’t need all of that setup! Here is what you need to do:

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Ah, some day some Nostalgia program on VH1 will talk about the phenomenon made of sweet spherical magnets known most popularly as BuckyBallsBUckballs

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Back in the 80’s a short-lived fad of Slap bracelets which were strips of stainless steel 9covered with colorful fabric) that would coil around your wrist when you ‘slapped’ it aginst them. They were fun, but cheap knock-offs flooded the market with poor quality (i.e. sharp) steel and cheaper cloth coverings that resulted in some injuries. The original product didn’t cause injuries, but schools banned them anyway and the fad faded.

Fast forward to these modern times and about 30+ years of materials science and the idea of slap bracelets is back! Only this time instead of the (potentially unpolished) steel they are made of 100% silicone that can be printed directly. Some even got the idea of putting a watch on the bracelets and so we get Watchitude:


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Aiming a telescope is tricky: It sees only a tiny portion of the sky, it might not be in focus for what you are looking at, and slight bumps can throw off your aim. That is why most telescopes come equipped with some kind of aiming device to help you find objects in the night sky. In the past this was almost exclusively with a Finder Scope – a little, low poweder telescope on top of the main telescope’s optical tube with a cross-hair that was used to aim.


The design of these little telescopes would vary from 20mm to 50mm in diameter, and the power was from 5x to 9x, typically. The holding bracket originally


would be two metal O-Rings with three thumbscrews each to adjust the aim of the finder scope. More recently that design would be replaced with a single ring with two thumbscrews and a spring bracket. Those were the good ones, anyway. Cheaper telescopes would often have a plastic 5x finder scope with a single holding bracket with

Not a good sign.

Not a good sign.

three plastic thumbscrews that would often frustrate new telescope owners as this mount is clunk and hard to control and the optics in the finder scope were poor.

This frustration would lead to a buig change in smaller telescopes around 10-15 years ago as they switched from cheap finder scopes to using reflex finders.



Reflex finders, or red dot finders involve no magnifying optics. Instead the reflect finder has a window that you look through and a red dot is projected to show where the telescope is aimed. Adjustment is made by two knobs. This was much easier to deal with fot new astronomers as the main frustrations with cheap f

080inder scopes were mostly alleviated by using a red dot finder. But unfortunately they were replaced with new issues. The first being that all too often the new astronomer would leave the Red Dot Finder on after the viewing session was over, which would drain the battery. Long term storage would also be an issue as many would forget to remove the battery and they might leak acid onto the electronics.

The final issue was that once the astronomer gains some experience they will not be able to use the Red Dot Finder for a technique that is ued by more advanced astronomers to find objects: Star Hopping. This is where the viewer jumps from star to star in the field-of-view of the finder scope to get towards an object they are seeking such as a small nebula or globular cluster.  The technique involves having one bright known star that is near another known star (not as bright) such that they can both be in the field of view of the finder scope. That 2nd start is then centered in the finder scope and a 3rd star that is near the edge of the field of view is found and so on. It is a tricky technique to learn and unfortunately you can’t do it with a Red Dot Finder.

SO which to choose? Well, some do not:


More determined astronomers will actually have both designs on their telescope. A red dot finder to easy aiming along with a larger finder scope for close work and star hopping. This may not be an option for those using smaller telescopes as they have limited space for such extravengance.

Here is a summary of the main points along with some other advntages and disadvantages:



  • Have actual magnification
  • Can be used to star hop
  • Magnification gives a  better sense of where you are viewing
  • Can be purchased as ‘right angle’ which makes using them on Reflecting telescopes easier


  • Harder to use for new astronomers
  • Trickier to align properly with the optical tube
  • Cheap ones extremely hard to aim
  • Need to keep clean



  • Easy to use, especailly for new astronomers
  • Much easier to align with the telescope


  • Batteries can be drained if you forget to swithc off
  • Batteries can leak in long term storage
  • No magnification means no star hopping

Have fun viewing whichever you use!


We are proud to now offer a new line of very fast, very high-end 3D Printers. The fastest and largest 3D printers in the American commercial . The WASP Delta Turbo line:


As said this line features some of the largest and fasted 3D printers in the USA. Three models are available, the small WASP Delta Turbo 2040, the mid-range WASP Delta Turbo 4070 and the largest unit: The WASP Delta Turbo 60100 . The 2040 and 4070 feature turbo printing features such as turbo speed (printing up to 600mm/s, 400mm/s for the 4070). ALl the models can print plastic at different temperatures. The printers have extreme accuracy and operate from the same 1.75mm plastic material used in most 3D printers.


All the models feature the WASP “Resurrection System” where if power is lost, disconnected, or if the printer needs to be moved for some reason the printer will resume right where it left off when power is switched back on.


The print volumes are large, with the 2040 haveing 12.5 liters, the 4070 84 liters, and the 60100 having 282 liters.


All  WASP units come with software that operates with Mac, PC and Linux. The format recognized are stl, obj, & gcode. The WASP printers have USB and SD inputs


The chasis and rails is an aluminum unibody, the rest of the unit is built with sturdy materials.


These units are not small, the 60100 stands over 2.5 meters tall, the 4070 is just under 2 meters (199cm) and the 2040 stands 87cm tall.

Now, of course 3D printing is a bit tricky, so all the WASP  Turbo Delta models include 90 MINUTES OF VIRTUAL TRAINING.

This truly is the top of the line 3D printer available commercially. Choose your tool for the future of 3D printing!

Buy the WASP TURBO DELTA 2040 (Tier 1) 3D Printer

Buy the WASP TURBO DELTA 4070 (Tier 2) 3D Printer

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