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Archive for April, 2014

Back To Basics

A few nights ago I set up my lxd75 with the 8″ SCT in the backyard to show my wife and a friend of ours a tour of the heavens.  Neither one of them had ever really had any experience looking through a telescope.  I was so excited to show them some of my favorite objects when disaster happened.   Having not set up the telescope in almost 2 years, I assembled the mount in my living room to test if everything was still working.   All was well, the mount slewed and even connected to my laptop so I could run it with my version of The Sky.  After setting up last night, I was having trouble finding my way around to polar align my mount.  I used to living in a darker location where Polaris was easily found.  I moved to a more urban area where the skies are really not great.  I thought I had found Polaris but it was way off from where my compass said north was.  Now I know that North and Polaris are not exactly the same, but they are pretty close.  Once I located what I thought was Polaris in the polar scope of my mount, I realized that the illuminated polar scope battery was dead making it impossible to figure out where to get the exact alignment.  I figured it would not really matter since it was a non imaging night.  As long as I was relatively north all would be well right?  I powered up the telescope, entered time and dated, and began the 2 star alignment process that meade has for finding objects.  This is where my “hell” of a night began.  Not only was the alignment way off from star it was trying to find, I did not have my finding scope on the telescope.   Using an 8″ f/10 SCT with no finding scope to center a star is near IMPOSSIBLE, especially on an GEM.  I powered down and tried the whole process over again to no avail.  As it got later, powering down a third time, I was was beginning to think that there would be nothing to look at tonight.  My wife and our friend didn’t have a problem, but I was frustrated and felt it was a waste of time.  I could not get it aligned so before breaking down I manually slewed to Mars and Jupiter.  I eventually found them in the eyepiece.  Mars was pretty low in the sky, in the muck of light pollution and very thin hazy clouds that were now moving in.  We were able to just see some dark shadowy details on the planet, but nothing was sharp.  Jupiter was a much more enjoyable view than Mars.  We were able to see some banding on the planet and 4 moons in an interesting pattern.  My wife and our friend were amazed at the view of Jupiter.  To me it sort of made the night worth it at this point.  I had forgotten what the experience of seeing an object for the first time is.  So I figured it was a good time to get back to basics.

 

Some things to do before the next time I set up:

  1. Binoculars – located the exact Polaris location in the backyard
  2. Set up the scope in the day time and train the drives on the LXD75
  3. Attach my Telerad finder and align it with the scope
  4. Create a list of objects that would be enjoyable in my heavily light polluted location

Gear and site upgrades

I will be making updates to this site and trying to be more active with the hobby.  Started by updating some gear on the equipment page.  Future plans include putting together an outreach program to expose astronomy to the community.  Cheers!