Hi, I just joined the forum after finding a post during some astro-google'ing (it's cloudy) (of course).
Here's my story.
I got my first scope exactly a year ago, for my birthday. It has been a story of high's and lows, the lows mainly due to inexperience and lack of patience.
I'm a pretty impulsive guy, if i decide I want something, then I want it to be delivered yesterday. I hate having to wait for things, especially presents, but more of that later.
My adult interest in the sky came about one chilly december night in 2004, I'd seen a television program that has stated that you could see the Int Space Station crossing the sky and that furthermore, there was an interent site that showed you when it was at any given time. Not only that, but the site also showed the tracks of tons of other things, like satalites and iridium flares, most of you will know the site to which I refer, but I'm not sure about posting rules so won't post the link just in case.
So, armed with a pair of 50x30 binoculars I headed for the garden at the next crossing and sure enough, there it was. There was no discernable detail, but it was where it was supposed to be and was moving at the correct rate so what else could it be. I was elated, I'd made my first astronomical sighting and I loved it. It was dusk and a few stars where begining to twinkle through the twilight. I trained the binos on them and suddenly, I was out there, in space, lots of stars lept into view (well, I say lots, I mean lots more than the one I could see with my naked eye lol) I scaneed the sky feverishly, seeing sights I had previously never seen. I felt privileged, like the universe was putting a show on, for me alone in my garden.
Now binoculars are great for a quick scan of the heavens, but they don't half make your arms hurt holding them up for extended periods. Luckily, they had a mount hole in the bottom and with a bit of lateral thinking and a bit of swearing I managed to couple them to a camera tripod.
Much better, steady views, no arm ache, but now it's neck ache. Grrrrrr.
Oh well, I've got the greatest show in existence at my fingertips, I can handle a bit of neckache. So a few clear wintry nights later I've leaned a few things. Mainly about jumpers, gloves and that fact that you lose a million percent of your bodyheat, through your head. (also learned that looking a complete Benny in a hat is better than your ears faling off).
I'm enjoying myself immensly, things couldn't be better, thinks I.
I find myself looking the south west late one night (or early one morning, depending on perspective) and I see a very bright star, seems brighter than the others. I check lenses for condensation, but they are clear. So I look again, try to re-focus, but it doesn't seem to want to focus, weird, the stars next to it are pretty well focused. Keep staring.....keep staring....It's almost as if it's not round..........almost oval.............
My heart skips a beat, I step back, no, it couldn't be, could it?
I look again, my brain, working on it's own, thinks it knows what it is and decides to help me resolve the image a little.
Part of me is saying, no way, that's not possbile your eyes are playing tricks and the other part is saying, keep looking, concentrate it'll be worth it and so with increasing excitment I stare and stare. The image gives me just enough clarity, just for a few seconds.
And then I know, without a doubt, what it is I'm loooking at, I get a funny feeling in my stomach and tears form in my eyes.
I've just seen Saturn for the very first time!
It was nothing more than a fuzzy out of shape dot, but it was Saturn, the jewel of the planets, the well dressed queen of our solar system, who keeps her regal eye on the bully Jupiter.
I ran into the house and practicaly jumping up and down announced this great news to my girlfriend (who was asleep at the time, the news wasn't met with the enthusiasm I thought it desrved). The following evening I tried to show her what I'd seen and though i struggled to find it at first, due to it being much earlier in the evening and me having no clue what was where. She couldn't make out the shape, which I now know was to be expected, at the time I didn't realise that the eye learns to see, and it takes time. I had acidentally discovered "averted viewing" but I was actually naive enough to think that this was because my own eyes were faulty LOL!
I instead wowed her with never before seen views of the moon. She was suitably impressed.
A few days later, one of my biker mates came round for a coffee (we had run out of bats blood), I was regailing him on my recent saturn experience and the subject of binos/scopes came up, I've got my dads old spotting scope if you want to borrow it, he said.
Yes Please, said I.
Ooooo, now I've got a scope, can I call myself an amatuer astronomer yet? I decide not.
the next clear night, the scope is on the tripod and my binos look sadly on, from the top of the fridge.
My first port of call? you guessed it. I aim the small scope at Saturn and quickly realise I can't aim a scope with an angled eyepeice! It takes me nearly 10 mins to finaly find it, but at least it's given my eyes some adjust time. The scope in question, (I forget the actual specs, but it was a terrestrial bird watching scope, about 60mm I think), had a zoom. So once I'd found the planet I moved the zoom ring to it's max setting and looked again.
If I'd thought the first time I saw Saturn was exciting then the moment the actual rings resolved themselves to me was possibly one of the most memorable moments of my life! This wasn't a funny shaped spludge of light, this was a ringed planet! This was actualy Saturn, live!
More tears in the eyes I'm afraid, quite emotional for me, this star gazing lark. (well, I was only 34 at the time).
And I could finally share my find with my girlfriend, my step daughter, my friends, the postman, people innocently walking by. I just couldn't show enough people, I felt like a prophet, bringing the universe into peoples lives.
Oh dear, now I've got a taste for it. Was it time to buy a telescope?
I'd obviously wanted one since I was a child, I was constantly looking at the stars when I was young (although to be honest, for a long time it was to see if I could see any space ships from Star Wars, which obviously is real). Then as a teen I had enough basic knowledge of the naked eye sky to be able to show off to girls. (very important as a teen).
The thing that had always prevented me from getting a scope so far, was the percieved huge cost. I knew I was never going to be happy with a department store purchase as I knew enough about optics to know that they mattered! The alternative, as far as I knew, ran into several hundreds of pounds, money that I simply couldn't justify spending.
It was only when I did a bit of research on the net, that I realised that it was possible to get something usable for a couple of hundred pounds...
...and with my birthday coming up 2 months later, I started my campaign of wishfull sighs, "oooo, look at this...isn't that cheap...." and other underhand hint tactics. My lovely and evermore understanding girlfriend is very used to this and knows how to play the game.
Once that particular battle had been won and I had been given a 200 pound budget, it was then time to look for a scope (and of course try to up the £200 pound budget to say, £250).
Then I found my scope, I knew it as soon as I saw her, sleek, silver, lights that flashed, the words "computerised GOTO control". That'll do for me I thought. (also perfectly on the £250 borderline). So, a few more sighs later I got the "ooo, go on then, but that's it, that's all you're getting".
I ring the dealer, make my purchase, pretend that I know what I'm talking about. Job done.
Wohoo! But there's a problem A BIG PROBLEM, it's now midway through january and the scope has been ordered and dispatched.
My birthday isn't for weeks!
It's due to arrive the 2 days after it was ordered and now I have to spend the next few days worrying that I've made a big mistake and the scope I've bought is the size of a toilet roll tube.
Reading reviews of the scope you've already bought is a double edged sword. I believe the correct method IS TO READ REVIEWS FIRST! Oh well.
Most reviews say it's good, good enough for me. It's due to arrive the next day.
Due to my girlfriends mistrust of me and my abilty to accidentaly open things, she took the day off work so she could shepard the new arrival into a safe and secure storage location. I spent the day at the window listening for medium sized vans to come down the street. For some annoying reason, it was "Medium sized vans going down the street day" that day. I think it's annual, just bad timing I guess. Eventually a meduim sized van of suitable van lettering (not Bob's Carpets, for example) pulled up outside the house. Heartbeat starts to race, it's actually here.
I'm actually going to own a proper telescope (I thought it was proper, stop mocking me. lol). A small box appears out the back of the van, my heart sinks. I think oh my god, if it's that small, it's going to be worse that the spotting scope. My girlfriend answers the door, I can't do it due to excitement and now, slowly rising fear.
"Two parcels for you love, this small one and a big one, I'll just go and fetch it".
Never in the field of courier deliveries have so few words meant so much.
She re-apears with a much more respectable sized box (yes, size does matter, anyone who says different probably isn't showing anyone theirs).
Papers are signed, thanks are given doors are shut and the whining begins.
My poor girlfriend has to put up with about 4 weeks of me and my puppy dog eyes,
I tried every tactic at my disposal, from the classic and well used "I should check if it's all there, I'd hate to open it on my birthday and find an important piece missing". Also tried "I should get the manual out of the box, so I can learn how to use it...I'd hate to open it on my birthday to find that I can't use it". She was rock solid, not even bending on the manual. I even resorted to "What if i get run over tomorrow and killed and I'll never even seen my scope...." To which I was told, if I mentioned the scope again, it would end up on ebay.
Patience, they say, is a virtue. Wrong, patience is having someting better to do while you wait.
The weeks dragged by, my unweilding girlfriend didn't weild. The eve of my birthday arrived and at 0.00am (it's officially my birthday, that's the law). The box was opened. There she lay, my first astronomical telescope.
Celestron 114mm 4.5 inch Reflector on a Nextar GoTo alt/az mount.
And for the first time in history, a new scope was unboxed and the sky stayed clear.
I shall tell you about my experiences with my 4.5 in my next post and then come up to date with the scope I got for this birthday.
Thanks for reading
Now can I say I'm an Amatuer Astronomer?