My first night at the Johnny Horne observatory

Astronomy, Astrophotography

By:Mark Gibson(N4MQU)

Back in 2020 I had seen a post on Facebook from my friend Johnny Horne announcing they still had space available for his Digital Photography Fundamentals class at Fayetteville Tech In Fayetteville. I’ve known Johnny for several years thru our common interest in astronomy and we are both members of  Raleigh Astronomy Club. I was very aware of his accomplishments in photography thru his employment as a reporter and his consultant work with various astronomy publications. The course started and we had met for several sessions when the pandemic hit and we had to take a break before the course was completed due to the pandemic. Johnny had promised me a trip to his observatory. The college finally opened back up and we were able to complete the class but I hadn’t got the trip to the observatory.  Early in May 2021 our schedules and clear sky finally cooperated. Johnny was able to make my camera do things I didn’t know was possible. Maybe I knew it was possible but I didn’t know how to do it. Johnny gave my camera and computer a work out. My camera is a Cannon T5i it is a 18.0 Megapixel CMOS (APS-C) sensor. I had also purchased the program Backyard EOS to use.  He was able to give it the commands required to take the various images we chose for the night.  His results allowed me to gain confidence in my camera and computer. I had tried earlier this year to take some   Afocal photography   with my Celestron 8 Edge HD telescope but the program seem to want to take pictures randomly. He was able to set up the camera and computer to do the things it was capable of doing.  
Johnny’s work included these front cover photographs from Sky and Telescope magazine. These are displayed on his walls at his astronomers quarters.


Sky and Telescope February 1994 November’s Stunning Lunar Eclipse


Back to back front cover photographs from Sky and Telescope May and June 1996

A visit from the section manager

Amateur Radio

By: Mark Gibson (N4MQU)

We had a visit from the ARRL North Carolina Section Manager Marvin Hoffman (WA4NC) at the test session May 1.  He presented the FCVET with the SUGAR award.  Supporting Upgrading Growing Amateur Radio. The certificate reads in part “Recognizes The Five County Amateur Radio Enthusiasts for their superior efforts involved in organizing Volunteer Examiner Sessions During the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

Thank you For coming Marv.  We also welcome Marv to the FCVET.  Several times during the year when COVID news got bad I had asked the team to make sure they were still willing to conduct the exams and never got one to say no.
For those unfamiliar with amateur radio ARRL is the largest group supporting the amateur radio activities.

Improving our curb appeal


Thanks to Kelvin Blackwell and Sons of Knightdale. I asked him to come and clean up our yard. I doubt I could have done this kind of job ever. I’ve been using Kelvin Blackwell and Sons for over 30 years. He cuts my grass and does all my yard work as I need it. Every once in a while I think about getting my own lawn mower and doing it and my wife talks me out of it. My allergies appreciate his service. What would take me weeks to do it he does it in several hours.

Before tree removal

After tree removal

Kelvin Blackwell and Sons, Knightdale, NC



Why Amateur Radio?

Amateur Radio, Rescue

By: Mark Gibson (N4MQU)

Stories where amateur radio works when everything else fails.

That old standby, A ham radio saves the day in the backcountry Colorado US

Ham radio aids rescue operations in Pettimudi India 

Hiker Safe with help of ham radio Washington State US

Interested in registering for the Preppernet class, click on the link.

Preppers should not only get a radio they should also get their technician class license at the minimum.  Its one thing to have a radio to use in an emergency but you should get your license and learn how the radio operates. The stories linked above are examples of amateur radio being the only ones available for that emergency to get to the authorities.

Readers should be aware that the FCC will be collecting $35 license fees but it is not expected to start before the summer see the ARRL article.

Preppers interested in getting their amateur radio license has a couple of options for studying.  The preferred method I suggest is a book 2018-2022 Technician Class by Gordon West available from Amazon. Amazon may have an ad for a newer of this item is available but that is not true.  You want to make sure you study for the Technician Class license for the dates between 2018-2022.  You may find other ads but just purchase books for the questions between 2018-2022.  If you are on a budget a free option is available. You may download the free PDF Version of No Nonsense Technician Study GuideThis will have all the questions you will have on the exam.  Many people have passed their exam just by memorization of the questions. Register a user name at You will not need a call sign at this point just a suitable user name. You will use this website to check your progress of study questions at Technician is another good study resource. Study for the Technician Exam here. As you get above 80% scores you may be ready to take your exam. Register for the exam at the FCVET site. Register on the closest date that is indicated or select other and indicate your day of week and time preference in the comments.  You will need your FRN at this point so if you need instructions see Five County Steps to tech website.

Taking a class is another option but studying ahead of time by the methods listed is suggested. W4CEC has a class on July 10, 17 & 24. At the American Legion Post 187 in Wake Forest, NC.   You must register for his class at W4CEC.COM. The exam will be on the last day of the class.  W4CEC’s class and exam are free but you must register.

I hope this helps preppers and others navigate the amateur radio licensing process.  Thank you for reading.

Astronomy Go Box

Astronomy, Equipment

The table has all the equipment I may need. I think my new case will eliminate three cases. I will have to carry it along with my camera, and eyepiece case.

Amateur radio  and astronomy has many things in common but one thing is the many things you you have to carry with you.  I have been trying to get all my astronomy stuff together in one place. I think It will be impossible but I made a dent. At least I have a box for all the equipment that I need to operate my telescope with. I decided to purchase an Apache 4800 case from Harbor Freight. I didn’t have confidence that I would be able to make a neat and organized inside of the case with that foam but I did a reasonable job. I guess I have too much stuff. I decided to keep the 1.25″ diagonal and the 2″ diagonal because I use some of the camera accessories with the 1.25″ diagonal. I purchased an exacto knife thinking I would have to cut the foam but turns out they already figured that out and you just have to pull out the amount of foam the object needs. This case includes the starsense and the finderscope and a red flashlight. I have another case for the eyepieces.

Objects I needed to put in the case before I pulled the foam.

The After foam pull.

Astronomy Go Box First Field Use

202103 Astronomy Merit Badge Weekend

Astronomy, Camping, Fishing, Moon, Scouting, Weather

This was suppose to be an astronomy fishing merit badge weekend. It turned out to be a weekend to get increased confidence in staying dry in my Eureka Copper Canyon 4 Person Tent.  The heavy rain came and inside the tent and occupant stayed dried all weekend. Unfortunately I see this tent is no longer being sold. Anyway we had a great weekend even with the severe thunderstorms we had.  We did have some great views of the Waxing Gibbous Moon Friday Night. I really enjoyed the views the blue filter gave us. The details the terminator were fantastic. I had intended to get pictures on Saturday night but thunderstorms moved in. Maybe next time.

I will be using the Astronomy Merit Badge worksheet. Scouts should try to complete everything they can before we meet in person but especially the following:

Determine what time the moon will be visible at your location. I use

As you can see the moon may be visible early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

6. Do the following:

    1. Sketch the face of the moon and indicate at least five seas and five craters. Label these landmarks.
    2. Sketch the phase and the daily position of the Moon at the same hour and place, for four nights within a one week period. Include landmarks on the horizon such as hills, trees, and buildings. Explain the changes you observe.
    3. List the factors that keep the Moon in orbit around Earth.
    4. With the aid of diagrams, explain the relative positions of the Sun, Earth, and the Moon at the times of lunar and solar eclipses, and at the times of new, first-quarter, full, and last-quarter phases of the Moon.


Access road to Camp Campbell closed due to recent rain.

Celestron 8″ Edge HD Telescope

I require no fuss when it comes to set up. Eureka! Quickset Cot for me.

W4CEC Tent

W4CEC ready to fish



My time with Rush

My Testimony, Talk Radio

When you hear Rush Limbaugh you knew where he stood. There was no question. The day I got on the Rush Limbaugh show I wanted to talk to him about my duplicate photos on my Apple computer. Rush was a tech guy. He knew the Apple products. He told me what software to use and It worked! See my page I did on talk radio. It is rare in America a national syndicated host announced that he believed in Jesus and Rush did. He did this long before his announcement.  I knew this day would happen after he announced he had stage IV cancer.  I doubt if I could continue like he did.  Even when I found out I had covid last summer I didn’t want anyone to know but had to let people know when I had to stop going to the various activities I was involved with.  When I called Rush I said I was from Wendell, NC not Raleigh.  I think Rush was genuinely interested in helping me.  A friend heard me on the show and couldn’t believe he was talking about technical things.  If you don’t listen to Rush every day you miss things.  He had his listeners listen to him for three hours and you wouldn’t have to listen to anything else.  I am writing this to you as they are playing the Limbaugh Legacy on his show.  I was hoping his death would be announced this way.  I don’t know if anyone else got ahold of it first I have been avoiding the news.  I had called local shows before and found my heart rate rushed up and I was nervous.  When I called Rush I was calm and felt like I was talking to a friend.  It’s kind of funny how many people listen to Rush Limbaugh.  Many people have told me they heard me on the Rush show.  Some think I have an inside line.  As late as a couple of weeks ago at one of the amateur radio test session I do one of the applicants (a complete stranger)  told me he recognized me from the Rush show.  

I am sure I wasn’t with him on his first day but most likely started listening in 1990 or so.  I couldn’t believe some of the things he was saying.  This guy had the same opinion I had and he expressed it. I had to listen to him in my car at lunch.  I had tried to listen to him at my desk at work but my boss complained.  Everyone else could listen to Rock music and smoke but I couldn’t sit there and suffer thru the smoke listening to Rush.

During the 2008 election I changed my registration from the party I was with to independent.  Because Rush campaign for Operation Chaos to get Hillary more support.  (I have never changed it back.)

Usually Rush announced when he was going to be out for treatment week but last week he was out all week and didn’t come back Monday.  I was afraid things didn’t look good for Rush. Or maybe it was good for Rush since he will be with his savior, and mine and hope yours Jesus Christ. See John 3:16 for more details.  

I am waiting for more instructions from Rush.

I may edit this post and add to it later as more thoughts come. 

Lost in the woods

My Testimony, Prayer

As a teenager my family spent some of their time in my father’s home town Rockingham, NC.  I remember one summer I went for a walk by myself.  I got lost.  I thought I was headed in one direction but was going into another direction.  It was just me and my own two feet to carry me to my destination.  I don’t remember all my feelings but I am sure of them was panic, worry and a sense of hopelessness. I think I finally made it back to the main house and was surprised when I came out of the woods at the spot I was at.  Totally different from what I expected. When I arrived my uncle said they were getting ready to call the rescue squad to come and look for me.

My grandfathers house as it was a few years ago.

Do you have someone that cares for you or are you lost?  I invite you to come to know who you are in Jesus Christ.  Jesus loves you the way you are and the blood of Jesus wipes away all your sin. 

Thanks for reading.