So who am I? By day I am a procurement category manager. By night – weather permitting – I am an avid amateur astronomer. My wife and children think that I am mad, after all, according to them who in their right mind would willingly stand outside in freezing conditions squinting down a telescope in the hope of glimpsing a fuzzy patch of light! I disagree, and argue that when you have looked at the rings of Saturn, studied the bands on Jupiter and split a difficult double star then you will appreciate what astronomy is about. Oh yes, and that fuzzy patch of light just happens to be another galaxy from where, who knows, another being may be looking back at our galaxy and trying to convince a sceptical family about his or her sanity!
My interest in astronomy started as a young boy when my father bought me a telescope. It was small, and cheap and although you could focus it there were no interchangeable lenses. But it sparked an interest that is still with me today. About eleven years ago I finally got around to buying myself a telescope – the one my father bought me is possibly gathering dust in some dark recess of my parents attic – and once more began observing the night sky. It was my experience, or rather lack of, when buying that telescope that has partly prompted me to set up this web site.
The telescope purchased was a Tasco 60mm refractor, commonly referred to, as I have since learnt, as a ‘department store ‘scope’. I was seduced by the offering of ‘a powerful, high magnification telescope capable of up to 525x magnification’. With hindsight I would have done considerably more research into the subject, but at the time what did I know. However, luckily it proved to be quite a reasonable telescope with a good offering of accessories and lenses included in the package. Views of the moon were, for the size and price, good, the rings around Saturn were visible, as were the cloud bands on Jupiter and the Orion nebula was within its range. An amusing story is that when I first set the ‘scope up and found Saturn I rushed excitedly into the house and dragged my wife out to look at the rings around the planet. She peered through the lens and then went to the front of the ‘scope a looked at it. I asked what she was doing and got the reply “Just looking for where you’ve tipexed this on”. It took some convincing that she was really looking at another planet. It also produced surprisingly clear views of star fields and clusters such as the Pleiades. Despite this, it was still a 60mm refractor complete with the limitations of a small ‘scope.
I soon began to outgrow the capabilities of the refractor and within three months of buying the Tasco I had acquired a Knous 114mm Newtonian reflecting telescope. This was a much better instrument as it had much greater light gathering abilities than its predecessor and was far better equipped. Because of this, and helped by a theoretical optimum magnification of 228x, more detailed views of the moon, Jupiter and Saturn were possible. More deep sky objects came within range and whole new subjects opened up to me. Traversing across the sky became easier as this ‘scope was on an equatorial mount, unlike the Tasco which was on a very basic altazimuth stand. This telescope served me well for some time before this too was replaced a bigger model in an attempt to satisfy my desire to see ever fainter, further away objects as well as even more detail on the closer brighter solar system objects.
Since then I have had a Helios Explorer 200mm Newtonian telescope, a Skywatcher 120mm refractor (the 1000m, F9.8 version), a Meade ETX125, a Meade LX90 UHTC (200mm version), a Celestron NexStar 102SLT refractor and a Skywatcher Startravel 120mm refractor (the short tube F5 version). The Knous ‘scope was sold to help purchase the Helios and the Helios to help with the purchase of the ETX. The Tasco was given to a friend as a companion to his binoculars. The LX90, Celestron and the Skywatcher Startravel refractors are still with me. Both the LX90 and the two refractors produce excellent views of the night skies – the view of the planets being particularly magnificent through the LX90. Fine detail can be observed within the clouds of Jupiter and, through the LX90 at 220x magnification on nights of good, seeing Saturn is a wonder to behold, with the gaps in its ring system clearly discernable. With the lunar and wide field capabilities of both refractors, and the planetary and deep sky grasp of the LX90 I feel that I now have equipment that I will not outgrow as quickly as previously, and will give me much pleasure for some years to come. As time progresses I hope to add a review of all the telescopes that I have, or had, to the web site, along with photographs taken through them – although that is an undertaking and a separate item in its self.