Saturday, September 1, 2007

The Search Has Begun

For as far back as I can remember I have had an interest in the dark skies. Maybe it is because I am part of the Star Wars generation or maybe it was Carl Sagan's old Cosmos PBS series. I first started looking up with a Jason 50mm tabletop refractor telescope back in the early 1980's. I remember the nights when I would set it on the family coffee table and point out the window with the light out. With that little scope, I had my first closeup views of the moon and some decent views of Mars. Also, this little scope did some hard work on Comet Halley. What wonderful sights it gave me

In the early 1990's I moved up to a Bushnell SkyChief III. It is a 60mm f15 refractor scope. This scope really served me well. Mars, Venus, Saturn and Jupiter were all tracked with this great scope. In 1997, the scope was set to work on Comet Hal-Bopp. It did quite well.

During the late 1990's and early 2000's the scope was not pulled out much. This was due to full time work and apartment living. It was not until we bought our house that the scope was setup again. Even then, because of some run ins with some rather smelly nocturnal animals, skunks that is, viewing was limited to sa couple occasions per year.

In 2004, my wife surprised with me with a nice Orion Scenix 10x50 binocular. It was used handled to scan constellations and the moon. Not until early 2007 did I decide to mount the binos. I ordered an adapter from OrionTelescopes and placed them on my video tripod. This made for much better viewing.

At this time, I also decided to upgrade the eyepieces on the scope to 1.25". Also from Orion, a hybrid diagonal and 20mm Sirius plossl was ordered. What a difference this made. Now armed with a mounted binocular and "souped" up scope, I decided to search for DSO's (Deep Space Objects). I first viewed the easy ones, M42(Orion Nebula), M45(Pliedes Star Cluster), M44(Beehive Star Clister). Saturn also proved a very nice subject. later in the winter I added 10mm and 25mm Sirius plossls. The 10mm gave me some really nice views of Saturn.

Springtime came and I was itching to get a scope with better optics. Refractors were still my favorite, so I start looking high and low for one. After doing quite a bit of research, especially on the Cloudy Nights website, I decided to go for an Orion 80ED APO telescope. It is an 80mm f7.5 ota. My reasoning was that the scope was portable yet could work well at higher mags because it was an apochromatic. As a Father's Day gift, I ordered the scope and a WO 1.25" dielectric diagonal from Oceanside Photography and Telescope. Because of costs, I decided to keep the same mount that carried the SkyChief III. A new mount would be much better but I am making due for now. I also added a 9x50 RACI find from Smart Astronomy on ebay.

The scope has been a pleasure to use this summer. With it, I have had great views of Jupiter. On a couple of occasions at 60x, a couple of cloud bands have been seen across the planet. The scope has also provided me with first time sightings of globular clusters M13 and M92, galaxies M31, M32, M81, M82 and also a few star clusters. The apo optics give a crisp contrasty image, especially on the moon. Here is a picture of the moon I took at prime focus with a Sony Alpha A100 DSLR.

At the funds permit, I would like to add a higher power eyepiece. The BO/TMB Planetaries look real good. Later I would like to replace the plossls with some better glass, maybe Vixen LVWs or the TMB Paragons. Also, a better mount is in order, ALT/AZ first, then a good EQ mount for tracking and picture taking. For now, I am enjoying the views that the scope gives me.

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