Astrophotography: The Addiction Begins!

The Quest For Aperture

Whilst I was trawling the internet I came across the Meade LX200, it had GPS, a full GoTo mount, it had 12″ aperture and a 3 METER focal length! I had to have it so placed my order and awaited it’s arrival!

The following Saturday it arrived. You do not have a clue just how HUGE this thing is till you are standing next to it

12" Meade telescope

This whole setup weighs in at about 150 pounds and is not the friendliest thing to move around!

Our first night out, Toby (my Astrobuddy) and i decided to take it to a place called Knowlton church, which is an old abandoned church about 10 miles from where I live and probably one of the best dark sites within an hour of my house.

Meade LX200

We decided that our first target for viewing would be Saturn, We decided this because it is clearly distinguishable from other planets because of its ring system, secondly, was up in the sky at a reasonable time and thirdly it was about 900 million miles away so was a comparatively close object to look at.

We got to Knowlton and set the telescope up (a mission unto itself!) I had bought an app for my iphone telling us where in the sky it would be at a given time. We powered up the telescope, and started the alignment procedure. This entailed the system working out it’s level and finding north etc. After this was complete it picked two stars for star alignment so it knew exactly where it was. Our first star was Arcturus (this is the first time we had used an alignment system and got this far with it!) The telescope slewed to arcturus and asked us to centre the image in the scope.. Problem number 1; How the hell did you know which star that was? It’s not as if Stars have labels on them! We looked through the telescope and saw a huge amount of stars and just didn’t know which one to pick! So we picked one at random, and then went to the second star and did the same thing (we were assuming the mount was very accurate in it’s alignment process! BAD mistake!) After this was complete we told the scope to go to Saturn at which point it slewed to a point in the sky and lo and behold… There was no Saturn in the viewfinder 🙁

We spent a few hours trying to find it through the telescope by manually moving it and using the iphone app but to no avail. To give you an idea as to how difficult this is, get a straw, straighten it out look through it and try and find the head of a lampost 500 feet away…

The rest of the night was spent familiarizing ourselves with the stars and trying to find the stars the scope alignment system would point at. By this point it was pretty late so we decided to head home, happy having learnt something new to aid us in this challenging hobby

Next Chapter: Saturn! 

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