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None of the photographs on this site have actually been taken through a telescope. They are pictures from regular old 35mm cameras (and I mean old), or in some cases from a 120 format camera. This doesn't mean that I don't wish I had some nice astrophotographs of glowing nebulas and swirling galaxies, just that I haven't progressed to that degree of skill.

I have been working up to the equipment needed. Here is a progression of how I got to this point.

 

When I became interested in astronomy a few years ago I dipped my toe in the waters of optical instruments by buying a pair of 7x50 Nikon binoculars. This provided a beautiful confirmation that the moons around Jupiter were visible in binoculars (I couldn't get over it!) and it exposed layers of stars that were invisible to me before.

 

 

Having passed the first test of whether this was just a passing interest, I fretted over what kind of telescope I should get, and would I really still remain interested. I finally decided on a Meade 8-inch Newtonian, the largest scope that would still fit into my car.

"First light" for my new scope was in March 1996, Mars was my target, and I was so disappointed with the wavy pink smudge that I retreated to the house to feel miserable for a few hours about the folly I had fallen to. I returned later to retrieve the telescope but before packing up took another look.

Remarkably, Mars was now a sharp stable little disk with possibly a whitish mark at one end! Stars were pinpoints of blue sparkling in a black field. The moon had a zillion sharp-rimmed craters.

 

 

It was an emotional lesson about thermal effects. The mixing of air in the telescope tube carried from the warm house to the cool March night, caused the churning I had seen earlier. After the air was uniform, and the mirror at the same temperature, the image stabilized.

I have since learned more about telescopes, as I made my own modifications to the Meade. I equipped it with a better focusser and replaced the finder scope with one that had an erect image prism, a wonderful improvement for someone finding his way by starhopping.

I even installed Dobsonian "ears" onto the tube and built a collapsible base that I could bring along on camping trips (above photo).

 

 

It has been a few years since those first nervous purchases, and I now seem to have progressed from dipping a toe to diving recklessly into the deep unknown. In the last year I have acquired various pieces of equipment whose purpose is for a more serious (if not more successful) attempt at astrophotography.

After making valiant efforts to bring the Meade equatorial mount to the performance needed for photographic tracking, I finally gave up and purchased a Losmandy GM-8 mount, a piece of equipment that when I took delivery, looked to me like something from an exotic optics lab, a finely-machined and beautifully finished precision assembly. I didn't dare take it outside.

But, resolving not to own something too nice to use, I took it out anyway.

 

 

My long range plans started to form. I wanted a more compact and faster scope. It would need a guidescope. A guidescope that could be used on its own as a nice visual observing scope, maybe even someday to take pictures through, one that transported easily. A Televue-85.

I got it just in time to take on a business trip to Arizona which I extended over a weekend for my purposes of photographing the Milky Way. It was a pleasure to use (you can see the silhouette of its dewshield in the last frame of Winter Milky Way).

 

 

I now believe that the most important and expensive part of a telescope is the mechanical design. The optics are important of course, but if the mechanical function of the telescope is poor, it will be a constant aggravation, detracting from the experience of using an otherwise fine instrument.

The next part of my plan is to replace the 8" Meade with a shorter faster Newtonian...

 

Copyright 1999-Nov-12

Thor Olson