|Mark's Amateur Astronomy Page|
That's what I decided was the most important thing to keep in mind in 2002 when I purchased my first scope. The result was an 8" Discovery Dobsonian telescope. I have enjoyed many hours of amazing views with the 8" dob. If you are considering purchasing a first scope, I strongly suggest the Dobsonian design and the Discovery brand.
My original equipment consisted of an 8" dobsoniaon reflector, 6 1.25" eyepieces, 2X barlow, a few filters, red lights, and a laptop. I recently purchased a webcam, but found that the moon was about all I could image with a dobsionain mount. When I got the NexStar 11", I sold the 8" dob, but kept everything else. I also acquired a inexpensive 2" wide field eyepiece from Owl Services and it is quickly becoming my favorite eyepiece.
I do most of my observing from my back deck. The surrounding buildings often have lights on and the sky glow is pretty bad, on a good night I can just make out the Triangulum Galaxy M33. I am fortunate to belong to the Greater Hazleton Astronomy Society and have access to a relatively close site that has much darker skies and several amenities that make observing comfortable.
When I started observing I experienced the common newbie frustration of not being able to find anything that I couldn't see through binoculars. I lacked the charts and the skills to star hop. It sounds so easy until you look in a scope and see 20 stars in the field. It also didn't help that I got a slower scope, which resulted is a narrower field of view. My solution was to rig up altitude and azimuth indicators to the scope and let some software guide me. That worked, but I found the software I have required too much user interaction and the laptop screen would hurt my night vision even with a red filter. So I wrote AstroHelper. This program let me plan my observation session and then just walk up to the screen and in a glace get the current coordinates of the next object.
The first 2 years of amature astronomy cost me just under $1,000, but lots of time. After developing AstroHelper, I started developing the Clear Sky Alarm Clock. The alarm clock is based on the Clear Sky Clock which is driven by astronomy forecasts made by the Canadian Meteorological Centre. I recently completely rewrote it with a many more options and less headaches. I am planning on a site for newbies to the hobby for the Fall/Winter that will suggest objects of interest that are easy to find with pictures of what you should see in the eyepiece.
I encourage you to check the rest of this page using the navigation bar at the top of the links at the bottom and the rest of my site.
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