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Hi from Dunfermline

Posted: 06 Mar 2012, 18:43
by AlnessExplorer
Hi, my name is Calum and I live in Dunfermline. I stumbled on the forum while looking for astronomy forums - its good to learn that there is a local club.

My main astronomical interest up until recently has been through an old pair of 10x50 bins in my back garden mapping out some of the constellations with the help of a planesphere. I had been tempted with the idea of getting a telescope but the more I read about them the more I was wary of buying the wrong one.

This all changed in January when my neighbours lent me their TAL 1 Newtonian. They have had it for a few years but have never really got to grips with it so were keen for me to try and work out how to make it see objects smaller than the moon. It was only at this point did I realise that I knew absolutely nothing.

I'm sure the more experienced astronomers know where this is all going but my first question was of course "Why won't this bloody telescope point where I want it to?". So thanks to the power of the internet and some great youtube videos I learned about how to polar align the equatorial mount, align the finder scope and figured out what celestial coordinates meant. I also found out about Stellarium and installed this on my PCs. This was all good academic endeavour but I still hadn't managed to get a clear night to go outside and see something.

This all changed on Sunday night. I dragged the rather heavy telescope onto the decking and waited for Polaris to pop out. Remembering the advice of move the mount and not the telescope I eventually managed to put polaris in the centre of the finder scope cross hairs. I had taken a note of the declination of a few obvious objects (Jupiter, Venus, Pleiades, moon) and I started to fiddle. Although I got closer views of the planets I wasn't too impressed with them - I had hoped for more. Pleiades and the moon were a different story as they looked amazing, fantastic detail with a real "wow" factor. It was very cold but as I had made progress I packed up happy enough but sure that I wasn't getting the best out of it.

Once back inside I realised that I had overlooked a small pouch of bits and bobs in a bag of astronomical stuff that came over ther road with the telescope. In the pouch were a couple of eyepieces, a 10mm Plossl and a Barlow x2. Up untik now I had only had the use of a 25mm Plossl. So back to the internet for me to find out what it all meant and what I found out was the biggest "Eureka!" moment so far. I had been looking at the planets with a x32 magnification on the 25mm but I could get x160 magnification with the 10mm and Barlow x2. Even better was the forecast for last night was to be clear. I really couldn't wait.

I got home from work just before it started to get dark so I dragged the telescope out again. I had a bit of time so I decided to check the finder scope alignment. It wasn't as accurate as I had thought so I fixed this and waited until Polaris appeared again. An hour later and some shuffling of the stand later I was polar aligned and ready to go. Jupiter was first and I went straight for the 10mm/Barlow combo and BINGO! Jupiter with a couple of clear bands and 4 distinct moons. Amazing! My wife and kids were dragged out and the neighbours were phoned over. Everyone was suitably impressed by the view (although less impressed with my over exuberent excitement :oops: ). Even the teenage kids were saying "Now that is cool". 8)

Venus was next and we saw a good crescent shape. I also aimed at M42 which looked great. I tried to see M31 but wasn't successful there so I left that for another night. I then went back to the 25mm to show Pleides and the Moon to the others. It really was great fun to spend an hour out in the garden with friends and family.

As my final activity last night I was determined to see Mars at x160 magnification but I had to wait until 10:30 for it to climb over the top of my house. In the end I did see an orange ball but without any real detail (perhaps the brightness of the moon was affecting things?). It was also very cold by this point so I called it a night.

That is my astronomical story so far. A sudden and steep learning curve over the last few weeks but last night has made it all worthwhile. So to further my interest and knowledge I hope to come down to the club meeting in a couple of weeks to learn a bit more.

Cheers

Calum

Re: Hi from Dunfermline

Posted: 06 Mar 2012, 19:13
by pbholmes
Hi Calum,

Welcome to the club. It sounds like you've had a busy few weeks. Equatorial mounts are tricky to get used to at first, especially on your own, but it sounds like you've been picking things up very quickly.

I'm not surprised you had trouble finding M31 - it's big enough, but horribly dim against light-polluted skies. It's best to use a low magnification, because then the light isn't spread so thinly, but even then you'll probably only see a small fuzzy patch which is the core of M31. The rest of the disk is too dim to see from town, unless you use long-exposure photography or a much larger aperture scope.

Our next meeting in Dalgety Bay is on Tuesday 27/3, then on Saturday 31/3, we're off to a golf course in the East Neuk, where the skies are much less light-polluted. If you tag along, you might get a better look at M31 from there.

See you soon,
Paul.

Re: Hi from Dunfermline

Posted: 06 Mar 2012, 20:40
by AlnessExplorer
Thanks for the welcome and the advice Paul. It will be good to meet some experienced astronomers who can point me in the right direction and set my expectations.

I plan to pop down on the 27th but unfortunately won't manage the 31st (I start walking the West Highland Way on that day).

Cheers

Calum