Many years ago, somebody asked me if it was possible to love a place you’ve never been to. I told her that there are *many* places that I loved but had never seen. At that time, we were talking about places like the Australian outback and unspoiled wilderness areas of Alaska.
It never occurred to me to consider that question about astronomical phenomena.
These days, I’m getting perilously close to retirement age, And it pains me to admit that as much as I’ve loved astronomy since my childhood, until recently, I’ve never owned a telescope of my own!
While boredly browsing around the labyrinthine maze that is Amazon.com, I stumbled upon the telescope listings. It didn’t take long for my lifelong regret for never getting around to buying one to finally bubble over. But I restrained myself from blowing a ridiculous wad of cash on the biggest bruiser they had to offer, which was a 16″ Dobsonian telescope made by Orion for $3,800.
No amount of booze or drugs was going to make me burn *that* kind of cheddar on my first telescope! So, I went for the much more reasonably priced Celestron PowerSeeker 127eq. Throw in a telescope bag and it came to $250. I could handle that without questioning my sanity.
In my younger days, while backpacking through breathtaking landscapes such as the San Juan mountains of Colorado, the Yellowstone Watershed in Montana, or the Grand Canyon, I’d watch in awe as the planets and the Milky Way wheeled across those dark, western skies with nothing but my unaided eyes, and occasionally a cheap pair of binoculars. My mind never made the connection of how much more awesome it would have been to see the rings of Saturn, rather than just a tiny yellowish point of light moving along the ecliptic.
Until September of 2018, I’ve made due with naked eye astronomy. Every once in a while, I’d manage a peek through a friend’s telescope; or mooch a look from other’s scopes at an Astronomy Club’s Star Party.
My first glimpse at the rings of Saturn through my very own telescope literally brought tears to my eyes! And no, I didn’t bang my eyeball against the eyecup. Saturn was no more than the diameter of a pea, but I could easily distinguish the rings from the planet. I felt as if I were gazing upon Kronus, himself, serenely luxuriating on his throne!
I Wanted More!
After gawping like an idiot at Saturn for about ten minutes, I wanted to see everything else there was to see! Next stop was up and a little to the left. Looking at Jupiter, I couldn’t make out any of the cloud structure or the Great Red Spot, but I could easily spot the four Galilean moons.
After being dazzled by Saturn and Jupiter, Mars was a bit of a disappointment. It was only two months after Close Approach, but all I could make out was the planet’s reddish tinge and barely a hint of one the polar ice caps. Still, not bad for a 5″ aperture beginner’s telescope.
Down the Rabbit Hole and Deeper Into Space
Okay, now I’m even *more* hooked on astronomy. I’ve had my first telescope for a mere six months and I already want to upgrade to a more powerful one. I want to see the planets in greater detail. I’m also itching to see the deep sky objects for which my little 127mm just ain’t gonna cut it. Andromeda Galaxy and Orion Nebula, anybody? I may even spring for a computerized equatorial mount for astrophotography.
It’s fun to dream big, isn’t it? I figure showing up with two scopes to share might even raise my social standing a bit at Star Parties!
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