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A comedy of errors. My journey in astronomy.

Guest JohnC

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My interest in astronomy started with the Apollo moon missions.

I had always been interested in science, indeed it was really the only thing that interested me.

As a boy i would spend all of my pocket money on astronomy books, star maps, moon maps and space models.

The night of the first moon landing sticks in my memory, my parents allowing me to bed down on the living room floor in

order to see this historic event. That was it, my fate was sealed.

The following christmas when asked what i would like the answer was simple, "A telescope".

As usual i could not sleep for days in the run up to santa's visit!

Anyway the day arrived and at the bottom of my bed lay a long colourful package. Delicatley removing the paper

(Read..frantically tearing off the wrapping) revealed a box with the words "Prinz refractor telescope"

Wow, what a beauty. Gleaming white with a wooden tripod and zoom lense.

Although only about 60mm it was my pride and joy and it got me on the road to many happy nights.

The first views were of the moon, which i found after much searching due to the totally useless finder.

I could see craters and mountains and "Flat bits". the image wobbled and diappeared from view all the time but i was


Jupiter was to be the next target. This was sighted from the living room, sticking the scope out of the open window and

aiming between the two houses over the road. I could see this disc of yellow and purple with four tiny dots around it.

when i went back later after a cup of tea the dots had changed position! it was facinating sketching these things in my

log. My log actually being Maths exercise books from school...with the maths bits ripped out. I do not know why but my logs

were always very neatly written and laid out with sketches and diagrams. My school work on the other hand was nearly always


I would spend long nights on top of the local hills trying to get darker skies as these seemed to help seeing more stars.

in those days it was safe for an 11 year old to pack a flask and sanwiches and take off on these adventures.

A highlight was my first and only comet. Kahoutek (Spelling??)

I loved that telescope, i polished it during the day and escaped to new worlds during the night. And i loved my parents for

their generosity as times were hard in those days, especially with four children to look after and provide for.

As i grew older other things seemed to take over, girls, motorcycles, Deep Purple....WORK!

Suddenly in my fourties i got the bug again and decided that i must have a telescope again. Buying a copy of Sky and

Telescope i perused the ads. Crikey had things changed. There was so much choice and so many types i had never seen before.

You could even get them with computers that would allow you to see thousands and thousands of objects. The pictures were

intoxicating as was the cost involved.

Using logic and research i decided that i really needed a blue on! I had been caught in the spell of the glossy adverts by

Meade. I bought an 8" LX 90.

My god this thing was the bees knees. The views of the Moon and Jupiter were nearly as good as my old scope. This time i

could see belts on the disc and the first sight of Saturn...lets just say it was a life changing thing.

I decided that i would take lots of pictures to show my family how good this hobby was. How hard could it be?

I bought a little camera called a Meade LPI. this enabled me to take pictures of the two gas giants and of the moon.

Well it did after about 2 months of trial and error.

But galaxies and nebulae beckoned.

Roll forward 6 years. I must have bought and sold around 8 scopes, 5 cameras, 3 mounts, 2 computers, filters, books,

software etc etc.

It never seemed to go right. I would set up get evertything ready just to have the clouds roll in. I would set up get

everything ready just to have the batteries go flat. I would set up and get everything ready just to have dew spoil the


This never happened to everyone else, they posted images daily that were stunning.

Astronomy was getting boring so i sold all my kit losing vast amounts of money.

Then fate struck again. On holiday in Yorkshire at a remote campsite a call of nature had me exiting the tent at 3 o'cock

in the morning. The skies were the darkest i had ever seen. the Milky way was so bright i am sure you could read by it.

I could not make out any of the constellations as there were so many stars. I had to get a telescope....again!!

This time i would not jump in head first. I would buy something simple, something cheap.

I bought a Meade 8" LX200, would i never learn.Anyway, i enjoyed the scope but again got fed up and disallusioned at setting it all up

just to have the great Britishweather show its face. What to do? This time i would not give up.

Instead i would try and find a way to recapture the magicof my youth.

I took advice and looked around. What i needed was a simple visual set up, imaging was not for me, with no computers,cables etc.

I Now have a scope for planets and lunar and a smaller scope for widefield work. These are mounted on a sturdy alt az

mount. With no goto i am now having to star hop and learn the skies all ovedr again. But above all i am now passionate

again about being out under the skies and have regained the wonder and awe that i had as a child. It has been a comedy of


So to any beginners reading this...please do not rush in blind. Do not be swayed by glossy ads, pictures and shiny scopes.

Listen to others and take heed, it will keep you interested and will save you heaps of cash.



Edited by JohnC
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Very entertaining read John with a great punchline of advice for any wannabe's - it's too late for me though lol.

Wish I'd started earlier when my eyes were young :)

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Well written John, I'm still on that journey and will be for a while, but I'm enjoying it and that's what counts in a hobby I think?


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That's a nice journey John.

I think in one way or another, we all blundered into this hobby/obsession. Iam much the same as you, in that I was fortunate to see the Apollo missions, as a kid they were mind blowing, and as an adult even more so when they reveal the glue and string approach to some of the problems.

My parents bought me a second hand 50mm Tasco refractor. It was great, until I copped a rocket for sneaking out the house at two in the morning, - more than once. My first look at that vibrating image of Saturn is something I will never forget, and still remains my favourite object.


Deep Purple, women, and the odd alcoholic beverage have a lot to answer for.

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Fantastic account of your trials and errors in the journey of astronomy.

My journey only started in January 2011 so there is not much to tell at all, I was fortunate enough to of joined SGL and got valuable help from the guys on there, who turned out to be some of the guys on here (Martyn, Kim, Mick - thanks a million guys!), so the scope I have now is my first and only scope.

I'm hooked.


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A very nice tale there, and one I am sure many can relate to. My journey started around age 8 or 9 although I had always been fascinated by "space and stuff". One birthday, I'm sure I was 8, I got a telescope. It was a small white one with I assume an alt az type of mount which was on top of a very thin tripod. I am completely guessing now, but I guess it was around 50mm apature, and probably around 500-600mm FL. It had what I can only describe as a fixed lens of an unknown size, focus was achieved in the way you see pirates doing with, well, telescopic telescopes.

I remember trying to see stuff with it, I do recall seeing the moon and after that just random stars. That was about it really. The tripod was only very small, it was a table top type and had legs around 10mm dia. It was my pride and joy though and I often used to go into school and proclaim I had seen aliens and alsorts....

I recall seeing a solar eclipse through some welding glass a few years later, and also the lunar eclipse on which the "central tv" logo was based. (am I the only one who remembers this fact?) The telescope soon got forgotten as the months and years passed by and I don't recall what actually became of it. From then untill my teens becomes somewhat patchy, but I recall in my late teens laying on the grass watching satelites passing over, and staring up at the stars on many an occasion.

Last December we went on our first visit to USA. Whilst in Florida we decided to go to Kennedy Space Center, there the magic of my childhood was re-ignited. I remember seeing the shuttle launch on a few ocasions on the TV, and of course I was watching live as the Challenger Disaster happened. (I remember being devistated by this.) Imagine my delight to see a real shuttle up close in the vehicle assembly building, I was instantly 9 years old all over again. The day seemed to go on forever, but at the same time was way too short, I didn't want to leave.

This January I took the decision to buy a cheap scope to try and see some stuff. I did some research on the net and fell upon SGL and later EMS. I read a lot and decided I would spend £50 or so on a cheap second hand scope. I then looked about and £50 krept up to £100 which I then decided was an st80 (£120ish) but hey I could go to 130p flexi for not much more, but that's not far off a 150p............. anyway I ended up with a second hand 200p on an eq5 with a few extras for £290 :lol:

I was excited by what I saw and wanted to show SWMBO what I could see without her getting cold, so the camera was attatched. That's when the trouble started. I'm now around £1000 in, and have 2 scopes, the 200p and the st80, 2 cameras, a webcam, numerous lenses and other associated bits and bobs. I've not regretted a single purchase or thing about anything I have done so far. My only wish is that I had been nurchered more as a child and stuck at it. I wish I had seen Hales comet and appreciated it. My dad did try and show it to me I think, but to be fair he knew and still knows very little about what hangs above us. I have tried to show him some things, he has learnt a bit and has bursts of interest. If ever I have children I will ensure they are taught as much as they want to know about the heavens above us.

Just typing this has brought back some fond memories, some sad memories and alsorts of things, but most of all it has reminded me how great this hobby is, and how age need not be a disadvantage. Kids of any age, 2 to 92 can enjoy everything the skies have to offer.

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Guest Astroplodder

A great talk John - I'll write about my own journey at some point - it's been quite a long one :) (I did touch on it in my introduction though much remains :) )

However, for now, I must have a drink (iced coffee actually!), and do some hoovering up - already done the Aldi shop! - I'm really quite domesticated!

Clear skies and see you all down the log!


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Well written John theres a few similarities there with my experiences. My 1st proper scope was a Prinz Astral 60mm. I didnt even dare asking my folks for one as we like yourselves were strapped for cash in those days, so I lied about my age and got a paper round to pay for it when I was 11 and a bit, I looked older cos I was tall :D . I saw many a sight with that scope.

I also had a few gap years, nigh on 20 for me and just like you I was very surprised at the availabilty of decent astro gear to the anateur when I returned in the early noughties.

Edited by philjay
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