CybrTeddy's tropical weather blog

And the Stars Go with You!

By: CybrTeddy, 3:40 AM GMT on February 01, 2014

A fun little blog I decided to write up, describing my experiences with my first ever real telescope I've owned, as well as hearing from any other amateur astronomers out there on this site! The telescope I managed to procure is Orion's XT8, arguably one of the best starting out telescope for someone who's getting serious into astronomy. The telescope features a mirror that is 8 inches in diameter (hence the XT8 labeling), a focal length of 1200mm, and a f/5.9 mirror. Coming in at $350, it's what I would consider a cheap(ish) telescope that really delivers.

With the telescope, I've also gotten a Zhumell Z Planetary eyepiece, the 25mm eyepiece that came with it, a 32mm 1.25" eyepiece from Celestron, an O-III filter, and a 13% moon filter that's yet to come. The first night I got it, the seeing conditions were rather poor but I was still able to get stunning images -- what step up from my 70mm telescope! The views of Jupiter and the Orion Nebula were just incredible. 5-6 cloud bands were visible on the disk, with the four moons of Jupiter, instead of being just stars that change their positions every time I look at it, were disks too (too small to resolve detail, however, I've heard of people seeing mottling on the surface in a similar aperture in absolutely excellent seeing conditions).

Since then, I've observed Mars, Uranus, stunning Saturn, the Moon, the Pleiades (M45), M103, the Double Cluster, M81 & M82 (now featuring a supernova!), and the Ring Nebula as well the various stars such as Sirius, Betelgeuse, Polaris, Procyon, etc. I'm patiently waiting for summer to come around, so I can undertake a search for the Messier objects. Oh, and with note to Saturn, bring a tissue if you look at it in a telescope of this aperture. I was nearly brought to tears, it's just amazing. Mars is going to have its closest approach to Earth since 2008 this coming April, so I'm definitely waiting for that too.

I've also tried some astrophotography out with a Nikon D5100 camera, but unfortunately astrophotography simply isn't possible with this telescope or any telescope under $400. You need a GoTo mount to do that and a good one with a good telescope ranges from at least $600 to as high as $10,000 (but that's for seasoned astrophotographers who know what they're doing). In any case, I just used a nice tripod and a camera with a roughly 30 second exposure, and an ISO of 3400, and a f-ratio of roughly f/3.5 or so. The images I got were of stars with a brown sky so I had to edit out the light pollution via GIMP, but when it clears up here in Florida, I will be attempting to do star trails and will post them here.

I'm already looking towards the future, although probably not for another 3 years or so as I finish up college, towards my next telescope. By then my budget will probably be much higher, so I'll be hoping to get my first serious astrophotography telescope.

Anyways, any other astronomers out there?

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.