Observatory First Light and CTIA Star Party!

I was able to complete the roof drive last weekend (April 7th) and clean up the observatory, setting up the telescopes for first light. My wife had some friends over that night. I also took pictures of the setup including this little guy which caused the whole thing!

So here’s the story. The wife and I were walking through Fry’s Electronics one day in 2006 or 2007 and they had a cheap little $50 Celestron refractor on clearance for $10. We picked it up and said if we ever actually used it, we’d get a better one. The thing sat in our foyer for at least a year before one summer evening in 2008 when we were out in the pool and looking up and my wife said, “I wonder what that bright star is.” My response, “I don’t know, but we have a telescope. I’ll get it and let’s find out.” So after fiddling with it for a while, I managed to get it lined up and lo and behold, there was Jupiter in all its glory. Of course by the time I got it lined up and my wife had a chance to look, it was moving out of the field of view. And with that spindly tripod, there was no easy movement of the scope to track it. So after a frustrating evening, she said, “That’s it! We’re getting a better scope!” Thus started a rather expensive hobby, first with a new Celestron 8se, and a bunch of stuff to try to soup it up and do astrophotography, then on and on, eventually buying some land about 30 miles from where we live to get away from the worst of the light pollution, and now finally building the observatory that’s nearing completion.

Of course in the process I’d also given that little scope away to the kids of a friend and in the meantime got in the habit of watching Craig’s List for good deals on used equipment. When I find a good starter scope at a good price, I’ll usually buy it, fix it up, and give it away to some youngsters to get them started in the hobby. Once we started the observatory I realized I needed to preserve that original telescope for posterity, so I traded a used go-to scope for it and plan to frame it up and hang it on the wall in the observatory at some point.  Thus, the slight detour is the reason for the generally poor shape of that poor little scope!

At any rate, here’s the scopes set up for first light.

There’s also a video of the roof rolling off.

So part of the reason for getting the telescopes into the observatory, and a working deadline for getting things finished (or close), was that our company hosted a week of technical working group meetings for the CTIA The Wireless Association’s Certification Program Working Group. While the weather forecast didn’t start out looking very good, we had clear skies and pretty decent viewing on Thursday and Friday night, with a decent sized group coming out each night. Hopefully this is just the first of many such events.

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