After a 30 year absence from the hobby of Astronomy, I was once again reunited with a past love last Christmas. With much agonizing over what to do for Christmas, a brand new, shiny Meade ETX-70 showed up under the tree. After a few clear nights near the Big Day, my wife couldn’t wait to open it, but I made us wait. This was mostly because I was busting at the seams myself, knowing that the Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn of my past life (seen then through the standard 50-mm department store refractor), were beckoning. Once the Genie is out of the bottle....
Christmas Day dawned and we unwrapped all the gifts, last but not least, the ETX. After the usual cloudy nights and false starts with the new technology, I got all of my favorites lined up. I was again in awe of the Heavenly Wonders, this time through much better optics and a sturdier tripod. My wife was not so impressed. Having not had the bug from so many years ago, and seeing all of the Hubble and Galileo photos, was a bit skeptical about the views we were seeing. “Those are the rings of Saturn? Are you sure?”. Aperture fever was setting in and she didn’t even know it. A few days later she proclaimed that we needed a Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope, preferably 8” or so. So, I explained that those were a bit out of our budget. She can be persistent, and searched for that elusive telescope. She actually found a Celestron G5 at an extremely reasonable price and brought it home.
The G5, however, is not a go-to scope and now forced me to remember how to find my way around the sky. I found the two Terence Dickinson books - The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide and, especially, Nightwatch to be extremely invaluable. Also, around that time, we ran into an interesting group of people who gathered on a hill near Dexter twice a month to stare at the sky through all types of interesting devices. We joined the Lowbrows and I learned at an astronomical pace. I learned how to find more and more faint fuzzies. I rekindled an old friendship, and started a few new ones. Of course aperture fever continued to run rampant and our “space cannon” Orion XT-10 Newtonian reflector joined our telescope fold. More fun with faint fuzzies and old astronomical delights.
Time flies when you are having fun and it is now a bit more than a year since that fateful Christmas. I remember a time late last February early in the crisp, clear morning, with my new Schmidt-Cassegrain and a book with a chart that only said “Realm of the Galaxies” in the area that I was preparing to look. Boy, was I excited! Two hours later, frozen to the core, the sun just starting to show some rays, I thought I found something. I actually sketched the star field and later found it to be M100. My first real faint fuzzy in the Virgo Cluster. Of course now that I have the space cannon pointed in that direction, Star Atlas 2000 open, and my telrad finder books, 20 or 30 galaxies float into view as I scan. Kind of like shooting fish in a barrel. I went back to get the G5 out. Six galaxies are visible, now this is a challenge! Wait, what if I try with the ETX? M86 is all I can truly see right now.
I guess the point of my ramblings is that, as a beginning astronomer, it has been overwhelming to jump in with both feet. I’m going to take a lesson from my old friend Mike, and let patience take over. While you’ll still see us with the space cannon, you might see me more huddled over the ETX, trying to complete the Messier challenge. Maybe when that’s complete...binoculars. I’d like to thank the Lowbrows for making this as much fun as it has been, and special thanks to Mike Radwick, Mark Deprest, John Causland, and Gary Perrine for some valuable lessons during the huge learning curve.