Sunday, December 29, 2019

First Light

What does an amature astronomer first do with a new telescope?

Point it at out the window and see if he can see anything, of course.  In my case, I used it to 
peer at the neighbor's much studied chimney.  It's much studied because I frequently use it to test new astro-gadgets and align the optical paths of anything that needs aligned.

So, technically, first light on the new telescope came from the neighbor's chimney.

How does Santa fit?
But that doesn't really count as first light, does it?

Santa was good to me this year.

The telescope arrived in a number of heavy boxes via UPS, signature required, and left at our "loading dock," aka, at the garage.

Dear wife signed for it, and the nice UPS delivery man carried the boxes into the garage for her.

I hurried home from work to see what was delivered.

Box #1

The first box weighed 36 pounds and contained the tripod.  Yes, it is a tripod mounted 'scope.  I'm deviating from having another Dob because the first step to having a pier mounted telescope in a backyard observatory is having a telescope that is capable of being mounted on a pier. 😎

It's a heavy duty tripod.
No damage.  The styrofoam packing did its job.  There were, however, little electrically charged pieces of styrofoam clinging everywhere.

Box #2

The second box weighed 75 pounds.  You gotta be strong to do deliveries for UPS.  This box contained the optical tube assembly (OTA) and some electronics.

Looks like a giant coffee maker.
No damage to this either.  I wanted to keep the shipping containers and material.  That made it really challenging to unpack this behemoth.

The yellow tag attached to the scope warns not to point the scope at the sun.  Always good advice!

Box #3

I didn't take a photo of the third box, actually.  It was rather unremarkable, weighing only 10 pounds.  It contained the electronic focuser, the 2 inch diagonal, and a focus reducer lens.

Assembly Required

I started assembly near the spot where the scope will be kept, in the great room, next to the Dob.  I have a very loving, understanding, and tolerant wife.  I think that I'll keep to a two (largish) scope limit, though.

Scopes in the great room.
I'm really pleased at the sturdiness of the tripod even with the heavy optical tube assembly attached.

Further Assembly

Finder scope, diagonal, electronic focuser, focal reducer, imager, and hand-controller attached.  It makes the OTA even heavier.

First Light!

Days passed while the obligatory new-astro-gear clouds and rain occured. 

On the first clear night, the challenge was getting everything outdoors. 

The OTA has a handle on the right side and a handhold on the left.  It is ergonomically designed, but very heavy.  I can carry it from location to location, but lifting it is a struggle.  I took the tripod outside first.  By rotating it, it fits through the doorway without much trouble. Next, I carried the OTA outside and by flashlight, DW helped me set it on the tripod.  While carrying the OTA, I can't see the alignment pins on the underside of the base to the fork.

After getting the mechanics set, things went fairly smoothly.  I was a little disappointed that my Meade eyepiece, the one with illuminated crosshairs, the one that I use for aligning scopes for Goto, will not come to focus... It turns out that it doesn't seat properly in the eyepiece holder.  That is just an annoyance, however.  It comes close enough to focus for its intended purpose.

I did a "two star auto align."  Afterward, the scope did a great job of "Goto-ing" selected targets!

A Comet! With a Tail!

I spent some time just cruising the sky, looking at targets, and marvelling at how bright the optics are with the new scope.

After a while, I settled on C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS).

Comet C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS) with tail
You can see the tail to the left on the comet core.  Stars in this image are elongated because the comet is moving against the starfield.  This image is from 111 frames of 4 second exposures, stacked.

I wasn't expecting to see a comet with a tail on the first night out with the scope. I'm pretty happy with that.

A Galaxy!

This is NGC 891.  Also known as the "Silver Sliver Galaxy."  It is another one of my favorites that I take a look at whenever I'm out.

Silver Sliver Galaxy
The image is from 31 frames of 2 second exposures.  I should have spent more time on it, but I was having fun putting the new scope through its paces.

What Next?

Did I mention that the new scope is heavy?  Really heavy!

I'm going to put the whole assembly on wheels to make it much easier to take outside.  The width of our doorways and the width of the tripod will make it challenging.  Oh, there is also a little matter of building a ramp or two to make it easier to roll the scope to my observing spot on the driveway.

Wish me luck!


  1. I love the comet image, cool! Good luck with the ramp and putting everything on wheels.

    1. Thanks. Next to Jupiter's moons, Comets are my favorite solar system objects!


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