Dandyism Incarnate

First Light

The sky was clear tonight, so I took my scope out for ‘first light’. That’s the term for when a new scope loses its virginity.

I set it up on the muddy grass – the only spot where I could get a good view of Saturn. I placed it on a sheet of cardboard to protect it from the mud…

The first session was mainly concerned with learning how to use the scope. There’s procedure you have to go through to tell it its orientation and the local latitude. This allows it to track objects across the sky using a built-in computer.

However my first attempt failed. The manual said to point the scope north as part of the alignment process. I assumed – being in the southern hemisphere – that I should point it south instead. This reflects how accustomed I have become to ‘Northern hemisphere bias’ in astronomy literature – including equipment manuals. But it turned out that the manual was correct – I had to point it north after all. The only thing specific for the southern hemisphere was the procedure for setting the latitude.

Once I did that it all worked perfectly!

I observerd Saturn, Venus, Mars, Omega Centauri, M4, M80 and Centaurus A. The latter was very exciting because I had never seen it before, it was hard to find and very hard to see, but I was able to just make out the dark lane through the middle – which made for a positive id.

I then tried mounting my IXUS camera on the scope using the adaptor I bought in the city a few days ago. It simply holds the camera steady in front of the eyepiece. I wasn’t expecting very good results, but I was stunned by the first picture I took of Omega Centauri. For a compact camera on automatic settings, the result was pretty good. The second picture (shown below) was just slightly better…

But ultimately, the scope does look like a dalek…

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