This story began about 25 years ago when my father purchased my first telescope. A small Tasco refractor with a solar filter from a department store. Yes I know, the worst place to buy a telescope. It had all the catch phrases about magnification etc. But boy o’ boy, that still was cool getting my shaky looks at our Sun and Moon.
Unfortunately circumstances in my life while growing up did not facilitate my interest in the sky and beyond and therefore the astronomer in me had been repressed until now. I’ve had more time available lately to invest in the hobby. I have children of my own as well and want them to be as interested and awe inspired as I was in childhood. My daughter Caleesa is seven while my son Caiden is five.
The telescope we are using now is a generic 3.5 to 4 inch newtonian. It is a telescope that my father inherited from his teaching days when the school district was throwing it away. The scope seems to be at least twenty year old if not more. My father did not care for it well and it is missing the dust cap now in addition to some screws and adjustment knobs. But, it is a telescope with a well worn 20mm eyepiece and a 2x Barlow. I took about 3 days taking it apart and doing my best with the limited training I have to make it work. After collimating (I believe I did this correctly) and aligning the mirrors, tightening loose bolts and drives I was able to get in in usable condition. I was afraid to touch the mirrors and so they still have reminants of 20 plus years of dust. However, it is working for close sky objects and this is where the fun started.
I took it out three days ago when the moon was only half developed in the afternoon. My children and I got great views of the moon and even craters. It was awesome and my daughter really took to it and appreciated it. My son enjoyed it but was not as excited to look into the eyepiece as she was. I think his younger age is playing a role in his lesser interest. Unfortunately I could only provide them with close ups of the moon as the finder scope was so badly aligned that it was very difficult to locate Saturn. We could see it with our naked eye but the combination of dirty optics and unusable finder scope left us wanting more.
I continued to work on the scope throughout the next day, diligently trying to have what was centered in the finder scope centered in the eyepiece. Alas, about three sweaty Phoenix, Arizona summer hours later I had it. As the Sun faded out of site and Saturn and a 3/4 Moon became visible I trained the finder scope on Saturn and viola, we had it. Saturn was very tiny mind you, but we could see the disc and rings surrounding it. We could also see one of its moons. This was great and both the kids loved it and it was great seeing their excitement. Later that evening I was by myself and had the scope trained on Vega. This looked like a normal star and was rainbow color due to the optics. But I still persisted to stare at it. What happened next was very cool to me. A satellite passed through the field of view, it was so fast but unmistakably a satellite.
That was the last night we were able to be out. I hope to purchase something more substantial someday but will have to save up. Maybe winning this contest or being a runner up will help with our journey.