University Lowbrow Astronomers

Happy One Year Anniversary!

by Belinda Lee
Printed in Reflections: July, 2008.

About a year ago I picked up a small box that changed my nights. That small box held a Questar Telescope; it was my Dad’s dream to share with his daughter, exposing her to the wonders of space. Sadly, he only saw in its’ small box that was tucked behind my drivers seat. After 10 years of disuse it was going to get some much needed use. Robert and I were about to begin star gazing; we had talk about it for over a year. And the key element to star gazing, a telescope, was in the car. Our nights would never be the same.

The first night did not amount to much, just staring at the neighbors’ bonfire. The next day was looking at the sun. A week later were looking at Jupiter. We quickly added to the list from there: Alberio, the Hercules star cluster, the Dumbbell and Ring Nebula. The night madness built and Robert bought his own scope. We endured Michigan’s mosquitoes and stayed up to 3 in the morning or later just gazing at the heaven. Sometimes we even got up at 4 am to look out at the heavens finding the Andromeda galaxy and the Orion Nebula. As our hours of sleep dropped, the number of object we saw increased and we didn’t complain; we were the night time explorers.

Next, was if we couldn’t convince our friends that staying up half the night to look at old light was fun well... we’d just have pictures to share. Easier said that done! My hands are not steady but Robert’s are, so the first idea was to hold a camera over the objective and shoot. Sometimes it worked others it didn’t. Also on the didn’t work list: a beep, beep, cheap, cheap CCD. It had a defective port for the cable, darn! The even sadder news, was it would be over 3 months before they could get a replacement to me. But, several months later came a nicer and 6 times more expensive CCD. Even better was not paying the extra money since the old one was defective... can you say hooray! The replacement was a great addition to the observing kit; washed away all the three plus months grumbling when is it getting here.

We discovered that star gazing was hard in our knees, back and neck and soon came the observing chair. In my humble opinion every telescope should come with an appropriate chair! Pain reduction, again, hurray!

We’re cheered again finding the Lowbrow’s! Hurray, an even darker place to see the night sky and a chance to look through a 24 inch telescope. How do you spell chinking?! We even met a few members. Happily wrote our checks to officially join the club.

A week later we’re at Astronomy on the Beach sharing the night sky with folks of all ages. Robert won a calendar and some other gifts. My prize was the thrill of seeing another Questar! Charlie had the club’s Questar at Kensington that evening.

That led to being a Night Sky Network Co-Coordinator. If my scope was under used I made up for lost hours of viewing. Scout badges and time at the Natural History Museum racked up the view hours. It lead to a getting more scopes. A Burgess was my idea and a Dobsonian was a gift. A client gave me a 6 inch Criterion. It was learning new skills, collimation, using a finder scope and changing lens.

Then the list of gadgets! Filters, shrouds, red goggles, eye patches all added to the joy of sky watching. Going out to view the heaven meant turning on red lights, putting on goggles and collect more that just a chair and telescope. It turned into a joyful production.

Winter was challenging, a clear winter’s night in Michigan is COLD! But, there were nights dressed like an Eskimo staring at the heaven. The nebula filter enriched the view of the Orion Nebula. It lead to the quest was for another famous nebula, the Horsehead Nebula. Though finding it before clouds could roll and the cold seeped to one’s bones was a loosing battle. But, a quick and rewarding offset was seeing Saturn and Mars.

The weather warmed again and it was time to really use the CCD and another hurdle, polar alignment. Polar alignment wasn’t the big hurdle, figuring out how to use the CCD was the hurdle. Beware when you get an instructional DVD verse a manual. But, in the course of a weekend there were the first images. That weekend was the one year mark. How things changed from bringing home a little box.

So, in wrapping up let me thank all the people not mentioned in the year’s journey. You have not brightened our lives but have darkened the heavens so the twinkle in the sky is even brighter! The next year will be even better!


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Copyright © 2015, the University Lowbrow Astronomers. (The University Lowbrow Astronomers are an amateur astronomy club based in Ann Arbor, Michigan).
This page originally appeared in Reflections of the University Lowbrow Astronomers (the club newsletter).
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