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Starting Minimal - Part 3 - First Light (that's what you call it, right?)

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Disclaimer: as stated before, absolute beginner here; total lack of wisdom compensated only by the use of the wrong term for every concept; corrective suggestions invited.

"If you're not looking through your scope with a big smile on your face, something is wrong."

Light pollution must surely be very bad here at my house - but how is a beginner such as I am to judge? Big street lights at front and back. And then there's the tree out back, and the neighbors' houses on all sides. But this is it, and the house hasn't moved an inch for a few years now, so I assume it will stay this way for years to come. At least it's a reasonably clear night. To work.

First, a survey. A short walk around the grounds (destined to be short, as the grounds aren't much) with my phone pointed skywards, Google Sky telling me what could (possibly) be seen from where, and what to forget about for now. I had practiced with Stellarium, even simulating the view I might have with my scope's aperture and focal length and my eyepieces - and how a "star hop" might work.

I set up in the front yard/garden facing South-East. That had to be Jupiter, as confirmed by Google Sky. Here we go. Insert 25mm Plossl. Remember, no finder of any kind and a camera 3-D panning head. Galileo time.

First, get the stars focused to points of light - wow, there are so many I couldn't see without the scope! And are those "shooting stars" zipping through my view at irregular intervals? Jupiter not in view yet. Panning around slowly in the general direction of where I saw it without the scope, disguised as a bright star. Then finally: there it was, with its four moons. Work the Crayford gently back and forth. Smile. Such a great view, no detail on the planet, but very sharp image, the moons (almost?) showing up as tiny globes already. I'll never get bored of this. But this is my first realization of how fast our own planet is rotating - and confirmation of how poorly designed my 3-D panning camera head is for tracking...which is not, in fairness, what it was designed for at all.

Insert 3.5mm Type 6 Nagler. Jupiter has disappeared. More panning, as gently as the head will allow. Wait, light...waaaaaaaaaay out of focus (of course, I suppose). Work the Crayford again...while Earth rotates on, undisturbed. More panning and focusing. Getting better at this, but still fighting the panning head. There! Tighten the levers to fix the view...gone. Must forget about fixing the view for now, as tightening the levers to keep the head in this position actually moves the head fractionally, but far enough to lose sight of the target, which seems to be moving anyway, due to Earth's rotation. That's decided, then. Note to self: must have mount with slow-motion panning, let-go-to-freeze-position control. Reset and start over with 25mm Plossl. Improving further still, but it shouldn't have to be this hard. The focused glimpses I do get with the 3.5mm T6 are very satisfying: Jupiter has coloured bands on it, just as advertised. Very cool. Try the 3-6 Zoom. I'm impressed. At the 6mm, 5mm and 4mm stops, the image seems somehow sharper to me, with perhaps a darker background; at 3mm I need to re-focus and it reminds me more of the view through the 3.5mm T6, with a narrower field of view. Really must get a different mount.

Tear myself away from Jupiter to try other targets. The Orion nebula is actually there, but faint and can only really appreciate the view with the 25mm Plossl. Still smiling, though, as I turn to find the Pleiades. I do, and again the view through the 25mm Plossl is the best. Feeling good as I've targeted all this first time out without a finder...I declared the evening a success, but tried to "star-hop" around between Cassiopeia and Andromeda, just to see how that would work. It didn't. I'll need lots more practice, perhaps a lot less light pollution, probably one or more different eyepieces and a FINDER. Maybe two. Smile won't go away. This is great. Can't wait for the Moon to come out.

To be continued.

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On 2/16/2016 at 20:46, laudropb said:

Very nice report on your first light. Glad your session was a success and you enjoyed yourself. Now you have to get out under the starry sky at every opera unity to learn how best to use your new kit and to find your way around the sky.

Thanks very much. It's happening!

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