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, October 11, 2009

Those Little Things

For those of you who have been following my blog, which is my personal adventure with the hobby, you remember my experience with shipping my Cave 10 inch telescope. Well after that dream died, I remembered all my other smaller things in Canada and had a bunch of books and notes shipped to me in 2 shipments. I am really thrilled to get my logbooks, astronomy lessons from the classes I taught and more.

The entry pictured intrigued me because I remembered the evening only after reading the notes, some 24 years later. But what amazes me is the deep down love I had for the whole experience of doing deep sky astronomy even back then. Here I am, a 23 year old guy, still with sharp eyes making observations with a high quality instrument under the darkest of sky conditions available in the world. My earliest recorded observations go back years before this too, so taking notes and writing logs is not a new experience. What we don't see in this photo is pages 3 and 4 where we go on to do some planetary viewing, viewing Uranus, the polar cap on Mars, and Saturn, and the end of the evening in morning twilight. Without these notes, all of this would have been forgotten.

My favorite journal is nothing but a coil bound notebook. Record things like time, temperature, sky conditions, observing location, equipment, and then begin to document what you are seeing. Make detailed notes of what you are observing. Don't worry about accuracy in terms of a comparison with what you should be seeing, but rather record what you are actually seeing. They may not seem important to you at the time, but the devil is in the details. Be as descriptive as possible. You can use adjectives, you are not being graded on this. Record your emotions, failures, frustrations, successes, telescope struggles, etc.

I have the Cave listed to sell. But in reading this, I realize only now how fantastic this telescope really is, how we varied magnifications, its resolving power, its abilities as a planetary scope, and the thrill of Halley, something that my eyes will never live to see again. Equipment can always be replaced, but the experiences at the eyepiece can never be regained, unless you choose to preserve them. And I have not spoken to my friend Dave in over 23 years, so I am going off on a quest via the net to locate him, and to test his interest in astronomy once again.

Taking notes is not a huge investment, and is actually a great way to improve the experience of doing astronomy. Don't worry about the technical side of it, organizing it, etc. Let what you record be a reflection of where you are at, and it will carry you forward in the years ahead. Only now, some years later, am I actually going through my notes making a list of all the things I have seen. One of these days we have to get organized around here.

1 comment:

  1. Your old logbook reminds me of a few of mine. I prefered the simple wire bound type as well. I still dig it out from time to time. It reads rather well and I can recall those evenings from long ago. I use fancy(by comparison)notebooks these days. Keep your old scope, my 26 year old Meade still delivers like the day I got it. I can't let it go now.

    There is continuity in these things. That's important.