First Light

Apparently it’s common to refer to the first time you use your telescope as “first light.” Which I guess makes sense. Anyway, I had “first light” with my Meade ETX-80AT-BB a week or so ago, and I figured I’d share the tale.

Not actually my telescope.
Not actually my telescope.

Now, for my first time using the scope (for real), I decided to stay close to home – just in case. So I did this from my porch – which is more like a small balcony, really. It faces southeast (generally speaking), and due to the fact that there is another porch above me, doesn’t actually have a very good view of much of the sky. BUT – I have a great view of Orion at around 9pm, and I know there’s the Orion Nebula in there, so I decided to try looking at that.

It took a few tries for me to get the hang of the “alignment” procedure for the scope – the computer controller is very helpful, but if you don’t start out pointing exactly north (and if you forget to tighten the clutches correctly), it won’t point in the right direction and you’ll end up hunting for stars that aren’t anywhere near what the scope is pointed at.

It also helps to know a few of the bright stars in the sky at the time you’re going to use the scope, and to be able to identify them visually without the computer. The scope’s computer really does try to find a star that’s not only bright, but by itself in that area of the sky, which helps a lot.

Eventually I got the scope aligned (it took 3 tries before I did it right – and I think my compass was not pointing properly due to perhaps some metal on the porch, or the power lines that are not terribly far away either) and got it point at the Orion Nebula.

I later described the experience to Amanda thusly:

“It looked just like the photos… just, very, very, very much smaller. And no color.”

Which, of course, is exactly what you’d expect from a small telescope! But nevertheless, considering that it was my first try (and really there was nothing else interesting in the sky at the time I was looking) I was not disappointed.

Eventually of course I plan to bring together my camera & my telescope… or at least use the two at the same time to do some astronomy and some astrophotography. I shall post my results here, of course!

Telescope icon courtesy of the Crystal Icon Set.

By Keith Survell

Geek, professional programmer, amateur photographer, crazy rabbit guy, only slightly obsessed with cute things.