James Paulson's roll off roof observatory at the Sunridge Observatory site, taken in the summer of 1986, housing a 10 inch f/5 Cave Astrola Newtonian reflector telescope

Sunday, June 28, 2009

An Evening of Real Astronomy

A couple of us travelled tonite and went to a public star party armed with my glp and his homemade 6 inch Cave scope on a dobsonian mount.

We arrived in daylight as some of the folks who had volunteered their scopes for the event showed up. There was a large LX200 (12 inch) monster on a Meade fork, a nice C11 on a Losmandy G11, a homemade 10 inch dob having a telrad on it and the absolute filthiest mirror I had ever seen, a 13.1 inch homemade Dob with chunks missing from the mirror's coating, some 10 x50 binocs on a homemade parallelogram, a classic 8" Meade SCT on the old standard fork/wedge, and I think a Meade LX90. I gathered around like a kid in a candy shop eyeballing every detail I could gather about every scope there, asking questions, talking to the owners, just trying to feel it out.

Got to all but touch an actual moon rock (it was encased in plastic) and made some friends. As darkness descended the main organizer began a nice powerpoint show on 400 years of the telescope, and then everyone kinda began to make their way around to all the telescopes. I was KICKIN' myself for not bringing mine, but next time I will know better.

Anyways I spent a bit of time with the scope we brought and I lined it up on Saturn while the show was going on, and the moon. This Cave thing had a crappy Orion right angle finder on it that was all but completely useless and out of focus, but I did my best with it and was showing off M13 to some visitors and pointing out some constellations and stars with the GLP. I finally got around to seeing what everyone else was viewing, and although I got some nice views of the moon, it seemed such a waste to take such high dollar stuff out to show the moon only. When I finally got to the guy with the telraded dob, he was showing Alberio so I had a look and later M57. You can tell this guy uses his unpainted sonotube creation. It was a practical setup.

I had a good time, but I learned that the guy with the fancy scope is not always the one having the most fun. I learned that experience trumps money, and the guy who built his own scope masters his own scope. I also found out that you never take high dollar eyepieces for public viewings, it amazed me how people abused some of them when they were not supervised, I guarantee none of them had their Naglers out tonite. You can spot the people who use their equipment and know the sky for sure. For me it was just another night doing it the old way - no telrad again, and a lousy finder to boot.

I had a blast. I didn't miss my new scope, but the connections I made tonite were very worthwhile and I will be back when we do it again in August with scope and binocs, etc. The more I think about it, the less I want to be involved in one club and just be mobile joining several and taking in nights much like tonite. Life is too short to sit in club meetings and squable over fundraising to pay the insurance on a facility that nobody uses - just get out and do astronomy.


  1. One of the reasons I like to make telescopes is that I can make it to the exact specs I want. My 12.5" scope I just completed is just about what I want. Already planning a 16".

    Oh yea, my 9x50 Right Angle Orion Finder works pretty good once you get it focused :-)

    Keep the stories coming!!


  2. Love the bit about "experience trumps money." All too true. I'm very new to the hobby, but can already see that as I learn more, I enjoy more.

    And bless those who venture out to outreach events with their expensive equipment. I watched a bunch of kids running around a huge Tak refractor on a custom built pier that looked like it could hold an anti-aircraft gun. It made me shudder thinking about what would happen if one of the veered off course.

    Clear Skies

  3. I started with a cheap GOTO setup that didn't work accurately. I think it was a bad LNT module. Since I had the scope for a year without GOTO working I had no choice but to actually "learn" the night sky. When my SN10 finally arrived, I used it for probably 9 months before I gave the GOTO mount a try. You are right. I saw more that night than the previous year. I too am amazed that the LXD75 mount is so accurate. I've heard a lot of negative comments about the SN10 & LXD75 combo but I think it's amazing.

    Great blog. Keep them coming.