Saturday, January 3, 2009

New Telescope Arrived

Back in grade school, when someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I replied "an astronomer". That usually got some interesting looks from the questioner, since not many 8-year-olds want to go into that line of work. And of course there were always the people that thought that meant that I wanted to read people's Zodiac signs and forecast their future, and I had to clarify the difference between astronomy and astrology.

When Carl Sagan came out with the "Cosmos" series, I watched it avidly, of course. My family did not have a VCR at the time, so I would tape the audio of all the episodes on a cassette recorder, so that I could play them back later. I especially recall all the great music in that series, much of it early electronic music by Vangelis, Larry Fast/Synergy, and Isao Tomita.

Eventually, when I was about 9 or so, I got a Montgomery Ward 60mm (2.3 inch) alt-azimuth refracting telescope. It was one of those infamous poorly constructed telescopes with a weak tripod, very cheap eyepieces, and low quality main optics. It was good for moon viewing and that's about it. It was mostly useless. As I got older, I dreamed of getting a Real Telescope.

When I was in my teens, my brother-in-law worked at a high school in a district with wealthy families. The high school had a 8-inch Celestron equatorial Schmidt-Cassegrain with a couple of eyepieces and good tripod, and he was able to borrow it for a few months during the summers and lend it to me. That was a Real Telescope, and through it I was able to see the planets well for the first time. Seeing Saturn for the first time through a Real Telescope is a memorable sight. When Halley's Comet came around in 1986, I spent many nights trying to find it from my northern Indiana location using the borrowed Celestron, but was never successful - though I did learn a lot about the constellations in the process. The Comet was a bit too far south and there was too much light pollution along the horizon from my location. I continued to dream about getting a Real Telescope of my own.

Job and family and other priorities intervened for many years. I eventually got interested in computers and went into software engineering instead of astronomy, but astronomy still remained an important hobby of mine. I joined various astronomy clubs over the years, and for many years this page was how long lost friends found me on the Internet.

This past Christmas, I decided to get a close family friend a "beginner" Orion StarBlast Astro 4.5-inch telescope as a gift, and finally decided to get a Real Telescope for myself at the same time.

On January 3, 2009, my Real Telescope arrived. It is an Orion Skyquest XT8 8-inch Dobsonian. Great scope! Quite portable, and excellent optics for the price.

The scope was around $350. In January, I took advantage of Orion's 20%-off-all-accessories sale to pick up some additional quality eyepieces, eyepiece filters, Barlows and an eyepiece case, for about an additional $1000 or so. So, for a total of around $1500, I now have my first Real Telescope.

Things are looking up!

No comments:

Post a Comment