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

Friday, June 19, 2009

Stargate 101A

I am writing this in restrospect of all that I have traversed to plan, craft and dream. It is not economical to transport the Cave to Kentucky from Alberta, so now things change. I had thought about just going and getting it, but even that, economically does not make sense. I really hate to part with my Uncle Walter's telescope, but it's the next right thing to do.

Before the internet, we used this thing called mail. And back in the early 70's, there was just me, Grampa, and Uncle Walter who had telescopes in our family. Grampa's was a nice little Tasco spotting scope with a cool zoom lens and a little tripod. It was him who bought me my first telescope for my 6th birthday in 1970, a little tabletop tripod mounted 30mm refractor that had the telescoping tubes like you see the pirates using. And then there was Uncle Walter, who always had to do better. He had a 6 inch f/8 on a homemade mount.

My interest grew in astronomy and I gradually got bigger telescopes, a 40mm refractor, then a 60mm refractor. I'd spend hours out in the yard winter and summer with them and binoculars and Walter and I would write to each other every month or so about what we were observing. And then in the summer of 1976, Walter came to visit, and we had to wait until 11 O Clock for him to show up. It was worth the wait, he outright gave me the 6 inch f/8 telescope because he had bought a new one. At last, my first real telescope. Now I could see everything. Things that were small were larger, and the moon's surface was awesome, as were all of the planets, nebulas, star clusters. That following spring, I was finally able to make out Virgo and learned a ton of new constellations. We would write each other often, he would suggest things for me to do with it, how to do this and that.

And in the summer of 1985, he came back to visit. I was busy with college the few years before that and didn't have much time to do astronomy, but the scope went everywhere with me. I asked him if he still used his telescope. He said no, so I asked him if he wanted to sell it. He notified me that he would, and he wanted $1200 for it, that it was a Cave, and that I would have to make a 6 hour drive to get it. We worked out a payment plan, and two weeks later I picked it up.

I'll never forget getting this scope. Everything about it was precise. The mount was awesome, and a clock drive to boot. The first time I looked through it was unreal. The best star images I had ever seen. The best planetary images I had ever seen. The contrast was fantastic. We removed the homemade 10 inch f/6 from the club's dome and installed the Cave 10 inch f/5 for Halley's comet. I spent every single night out at the observatory, and showed 20,000 people that comet through this scope. When the people went home, we looked at everything you can imagine. The following summer, I built it a home of its own. And I used it whenever I could. Until I moved to Kentucky in 1999, it was 20 minutes drive to the dark country and 2 minutes to observing.

So just as the 6 inch went to a new owner, the Cave must also find a loving home. Unless circumstances change, it is time to move on. I selected a 6 inch f/5 Schmidt Newtonian to take it's seat. This scope has the features I was thinking would be nice to have, such as GoTo and the ability to do astrophotography again. It's the modern version of the old 6 inch telescope. It is small and transportable, and that is desireable since the skies are no longer dark in one place. It has a good mount with tracking. It's even got some neat electronic features. It can never take the place of the Cave. The Cave opened me to deep space, this is just the express ticket for getting back there, a new Stargate if you will. I don't expect to discover anything with it, but I do intend to push it to it's limits and try to take it places I could not get with the Cave. I'm sure we will learn to love each other in the days ahead because all of my telescopes are like children to me.

1 comment:

  1. James...

    I enjoy reading your blog. I look forward to hearing about your 6-inch SN.