Starting Problems

Diary of a fictional beginner’s disappointing start in Astronomy.

Day 1

I’m keeping this diary because I just started an exciting new hobby and I want a record of how it goes. So I can look back in a few weeks when this is all easy and natural, and remember what it was like to get started.

I just bought my new Astro-Pro2000xe telescope at Electronics Wonderstore, and brought it home. They had 3 different telescopes on sale and I wasn’t sure which one I needed, so I found a clerk who explained it all to me. PowerJunkBox.jpg

I didn’t want the “reflector” because they show everything upside-down. I was interested in the “go to” model, but the clerk talked me out of it. He didn’t want to say it right out loud, but kind of hinted that if I needed the computer to find things, other astronomers would think I wasn’t a real astronomer. Pretty good — I mean he could have had the commission on the extra $99 but he was honest with me instead.

So I picked the refacter. He said it can magnify 675 times, and comes with 3 lenses and a professional stand with slow motion controls.

I’m just sitting here staring at the box now, wishing it would hurry up and get dark out so I can unwrap it and put it together.

Night 1

Ok, it’s dark, and I’m out on the balcony putting it all together. It’s not easy to see the parts and instructions — I’m going to have to get some more lights out here if I expect to keep using this spot. But I think it’s all set up, so I’m going to look at some things.

Moon

The sight on my telescope doesn’t seem to work, but I was able to find the moon by looking along the tube and hunting around. I don’t know what good that sight is supposed to be — I had the moon right in the cross and it wasn’t in the telescope at all. Anyway, here goes…

Wow! I can really see it, and is it ever bright. This is really exciting! A couple of problems with the telescope though, but I’m sure I’ll figure these out:

  • It’s jiggling around a lot, kinda hard to keep everything still enough.
  • The moon keeps moving slowly out of view. Always in the same direction. I guess I didn’t tighten something on the scope enough. I’ll look for the loose connection tomorrow.
  • Even so, it’s hard to keep it in view because turning the slow motion controls isn’t moving the view in sensible directions. I mean even simple directions like “left-right” aren’t working.

Anyway, I had a good long look at the moon and I’m sure I’ll figure out what is wrong with the stand and the slow motion controls. I’m more worried about what’s wrong with the telescope itself though.

I can only get the lowest power lens to work — the one that says “K22” on it. It’s a pretty clear view but the moon isn’t very big and I’d like to see higher magnification. But when I try the “high power” lens, the “O-4” whatever that means, I can’t find the moon. Except one time when I did find it by hunting around, but then it was really jiggly, and also kind of blurry. I think there might be something wrong with that high power lens’s focus, because I couldn’t get it sharp.

I’m going to stick with the low power for now because it works, but I was hoping to see where the astronauts landed so I’m going to have to get that high power to work. If I can’t figure it out in a day or two I’ll get some help.

I’m not sure what this third lens is for. “3x” on the side, and it’s a long tube. I think maybe it’s for daytime use.

Planets

I was going to look at some planets tonight too, to christen my new telescope. But here’s a problem I never expected. I bought this round star map with the telescope, and it has the stars and the constellations alright, but it doesn’t have the planets on it! What a stupid thing to leave out! I mean, it’s not like they’re moving around or anything!

Night 2

Ok, I got a magazine with a map that told me where to find Saturn and the North Star. Gotta take the round map back to the store later, it doesn’t even have Saturn!

Saturn

With the magazine I can tell which bright star Saturn is. It took me a while to figure out the stupid magazine printed east and west backward on the map though.

I found Saturn in the sight but it’s not in the scope, and after I made sure all the connections on the sight were tight today too. I’m going to take the sight back to the store some time and ask for a new one. Anyway, I found Saturn by hunting around.

I see the rings! Omigod! This is amazing!

But it’s so small in the lower power lens! I can hardly imagine what it will be like at the high power, once I get the high power lens working. I’m having the same trouble with it as last night — I can’t find anything. I did see a yellow blob for a little while but I couldn’t hold steady enough to focus.

North Star

So I put the low-power lens back in because that way I can find things, and thought I’d look at some stars. Let’s start with the easy one, the North Star.

It’s just a dot! It’s supposed to be the brightest star in the sky! What’s so special about a dot? I’m getting confused and a little frustrated – this doesn’t seem so special. I know a guy at work who’s into this so I’m going to ask him tomorrow.

Day 3

Well, I got some good advice today. My friend at work was surprised to learn I’m into Astronomy. Anyway, he says astronomers don’t really look at the moon and planets much, they’re too close. And they don’t look at single stars – I was absolutely right, they’re just dots, even in a big telescope like mine, so they’re not very interesting.

It’s galaxies and nebulas I should be looking at, like the pictures on my telescope box. I should have thought of that. I mean, why else would they put them on the box?

He said I could come and visit him at his cottage some time, where the skies are darker too. I think I’d like that. And I’ll bring my super-bright flashlight with me to help us see.

Night 3

Just got home, late. The local astronomy club was having a “star party” out in the country tonight, so I went and looked through another guy’s telescope to get an idea how to find some stuff like galaxies and things.

It was a go-to scope, and it was only 100 power, but I didn’t say anything. I mean, it was nice of the guy to let me look and it wouldn’t be very polite to embarrass him in front of his friends.

Andromeda Galaxy

I know all about it, so of course it’s the first thing I wanted to look at, and he made the scope go there. I said thanks and everything, but inside, I was really surprised. That was it?! Where were the spiral arms? Where were the colours? It was just a grey smudge! I’ve got a better picture than that on my box.

Nebula

He also showed me the Orion Nebula too. Another disappointment. Where were the colours? It was just a grey blob! He didn’t even seem to know it was supposed to be in colour — he was all excited about being able to see 5 little stars in the center (I counted, and there were only 4). More dots, sheesh.

Well at least now I know what I’m looking for. It should look better in my scope. That was only about 100 power, and I have 675.

Night 4

Where is everything? I’ve tried like 50 galaxies and things. I’m pointing my telescope where the star map says but there’s nothing there. I think maybe my star maps are wrong. You can’t really expect me to find things if the maps are wrong.

I was wondering if I should have bought that “go to” option after all. It said it can find 40,000 objects. And it worked for that other guy.

Week 3

I had a chance to visit my friend at his cottage this weekend and talk Astronomy again. He says my problem isn’t that I don’t have go-to, it’s that my scope isn’t big enough.

He says they all say “Aperture is Everything”.

After his neighbour and I helped him get his 15” Dobsin and the stepladder out of the shed I realized he was right, it was much better.

I’m returning this junky scope to the electronics store and buying the bigger one they had at the camera store down the street. I wish the clerk had told me about that, but I guess you can’t expect them to recommend the competition.

And I’m going to order some nebula filters from the Internet. A guy in the Internet group I found, who sounds like a real expert, says they’ll make the galaxies and things brighter.

Month 18

Where Next?

Discuss what went wrong.

 

One Comment

  1. I ran across the McWiki looking for equatorial mount information, then wound up spending an hour or two reading the rest of the site. Really enjoyed the Beginner’s Diary and subsequent pages. I have had an Orion XT6 dob for a few years now, but haven’t used it in a long time. The bug is coming back, and your site has helped me. Really like the What to Look At – Easy Objects section too! Wish I would have found your site back when I first started. I will be recommending it and visiting often.

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