My love for astronomy began six years ago in my eighth grade Earth Sciences class. I have never had such a great teacher; I was fascinated with everything he taught us about celestial objects. Unfortunately, I had to wait four years to study astronomy again. Last year, I finally had the opportunity to take a senior project course allowing me to personalize a yearlong assignment. Without hesitation, I thought to myself, "What could be better than having my very own self-built telescope to gaze up at the stars?" Within six months, I had constructed a Dobsonian 6"F/8. I began my project with no clue how, even where, to start. I searched online for instructions and found a fellow teenager's work. He had made a telescope for a school project and developed a simple, and easy to follow, manual. I read it a few times, not understanding much, but with help from my astronomy teacher, Mr. Vandergrift, I began to comprehend. I had cleared my first hurdle and it was time to go to Home Depot to buy supplies!
The building began with the ground board, rocker box and the tube box with the bearings. I learned how to use a drill and that vinyl record albums that my dad saved from his youth would allow the rocker box to swivel the telescope horizontally. The easy part was done; now came the precise part of the project — the really difficult part! To be placed inside the tube, I purchased the primary mirror, secondary mirror, focuser and eyepiece, and then made the tailgate and focuser. After much trial and error, I positioned the mirror so that it was perfectly aligned. With guidance from my teacher and extra hands from my friends who helped drag parts back and forth from home to school, I was able to see the moon for my first light on April 20, 2010!
Two weeks later, on my 18th birthday, I presented my project to my classmates, teachers, family and friends. It was a PowerPoint presentation describing my journey and the result — a functioning telescope! I explained my research and how there are different kinds of telescopes around the world. It was a perfect way to celebrate a milestone birthday! Even my eighth grade Earth Sciences teacher came to the presentation!
To celebrate the completion of my project, I threw a telescope party in the backyard of my high school with close friends and people who had a part in helping me with the project. It was a clear night and we had a wonderful glimpse of Saturn, Venus and the Moon. I brought themed snacks like Sun Chips, Cosmic Brownies, Milky Way Candy Bars and Capri Suns. For musical accompaniment, I created a music playlist of songs having to do with stars, the universe or the moon.
A year later, I often take a moment from my busy life to appreciate the planets through my Dobsonian, and feel happily connected with the world of astronomy.
Buying the wood at Home Depot.
Drilling the side bearings.
The tailgate fits!
Can you see my face through the eyepiece?
The whole things together painted blue and orange—school colors!