When I took up amateur astronomy, I did it with the dual purpose of satisfying my own boundless curiosity about everything cosmic, AND to share that interest with my family. My 6 inch (150 mm) SkyView Pro Newtonian has served that first part perfectly. But it turned out not to be ideal for the shorter people in my life. The eyepiece is often more than five feet off the ground and requires a stool and a fair bit of balance for my wife and kids to enjoy a look. It's also not very practical or intuitive for a youngster to navigate or even make small adjustments in position due to the height and all the reaching involved. And then there's the other thing...
I have come to realize...
I can deny it no longer!
...I am a telescope hog.
I've obviously developed an observing system that is pretty intense. Which means that if I want to head out with the telescope, I have to decide between 'tour guide' mode, or 'scope hog' mode. Because it's on an equatorial mount, it takes a bit of effort to set up. Which means when my daughter would look up at the sky on a clear, dark night, she'd say "Hey Dad, it looks like a good night for stargazing..." and all too often, I just didn't have time to set it up and enjoy showing her around...much less setting her loose with it.
Which leads to an awesome deal I ran across last week on an Orion XT8 Dobsonian (8 inch / 203 mm) being sold by a fellow down in Phoenix. It was for pick-up only, which is why I assume not many people were bidding it up. I won the auction, and went down to pick it up last weekend. It turns out the seller was a member of the Saguaro Astronomical Society and when he opened the door he said "Hey...you presented to our club recently didn't you..." It's a small astronomical world ain't it =)
The scope is great. It's a snap to pull outside and it's up and running in just a couple minutes (if you don't care to wait for it to cool down). Best of all, it's short-people friendly and easy to maneuver. While observing Comet 17P / Holmes last night, my daughter was excited to join me. So I grabbed the Dob and set it up. I let her have a go at finding the moon herself, which she did eagerly. Noticing that I was going back and forth to the 6 inch scope to work on my sketch of the comet, she said she wanted to sketch some stars. So we set her up with a chair, table and the basic sketching tools and got her pointed at the Pleiades. Over the next half hour, she also sketched the comet, a non-descript star field in Cygnus, and Albireo. I was as proud as could be. Which means I took pictures:
And here are a couple of her sketches:
Here's looking forward to more relaxing nights with my family under the stars.