January 26, 2015astronomy
Beginning a backyard astronomy adventure
A couple months ago my wife casually asked if I would start looking into telescopes for our kids. I paused, then asked her to take a day to seriously consider the consequences of what she was asking. After our kids inevitably lost interest, was she prepared for a husband that might not? If we were going to do this I didn’t want a toy store telescope like I had when I was a kid - I wanted to see stuff!
To my surprise, she agreed to it.
After a lot of research, I had dizzying array of new glossary terms and good idea of what they looked like. I could at least explain the pros and cons of the different types to a normal person.
Fortunately for me, I got lucky when one of my scopes showed up on Craigslist. It was listed as a SkyQuest XT4.5, a dobsonian reflector which has a lot of praise beginners. Unfortunately when I went to see it, it was immediately obvious it had been listed wrong. Whereas a 4.5 could arguably fit on an end table, this one took up their entire living room! It was actually a XT6 (the numbers refer to the diameter of the tube, or aperture). I was glad I did my research!
It was a lot more scope than I planned for, but still an excellent scope for the money. My wife had reluctantly approved the 4.5 (she’s more of a refractor girl), so I had to make a Louisiana Purchase kind of decision. I figured I had already warned her - about getting a scope (and also our marriage), so I had some leeway.
The scope itself
My first target was the moon. I took these shots with a cell phone. Have you ever tried to take a picture with a camera through one of those viewfinders at popular points of interest? Or through a set of binoculars? Yeah, this is very similar. It was hard to balance the cellphone just right to get a good picture. I’ve since learned that many amateurs will take a video and then capture stills from it. That seems like much better approach.
I later decided that I should make better use of our DSLR. Since it would obviously take better pictures. These turned out better still - you can actually see the stripes in Jupiter! I can only imagine that I’m going to get better the more I get used to the equipment.
None of these pictures have been posted processed yet, which is why they appear like a mirrored image. I'm still working on the post-production potential of this hobby.
That looks like Jupiter!
I’ve discovered my laziness in learning all the functions on my DSLR has now hobbled my amateur astrophotography desires. I understand there is an almost endless ceiling for this stuff, but at the moment it seems my setup alone has almost an endless ceiling!