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Tuesday, 14 November 2006

A Tale of Two Telescopes

A PayPerPost opportunity to blog about telescopes was too good to pass up. I've been an astronomy buff since I was a little kid. I can still remember being taken out of school on the day of the Apollo 11 moon landing to watch it on our black and white TV, and I still get a thrill of space exploration and astronomy.

Back when I was in primary school (about 10) my father had a telescope which I was allowed to use. One windy day I lugged it outside to observe sun spots (using solar projection technique) when it fell over and broke. I then saved up for several years (doing various unpleasant tasks in a market garden, such as "rebagging" rotten potatoes and weeding flower beds or picking green beans in the midday sun, all for 60c and hour) so I could buy myself a Tasco reflecting telescope. It looked a bit like this:

This 'scope lasted me all through high-school, and I loved watching the moons of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn on a clear winter's night. My efforts at astrophotography were never very successful, but I had a ball.

My next 'scope was the "big one" - a 10" Meade SCT. I saved all through my undergraduate uni years doing factory work in the summer vacations to buy that beauty, and I still have it today. One of the good things about a telescope is that one with good optics and mounting will give years of service. I've started showing the heavens to my six year old son with this telescope, and it will probably still be in good working order when he has kids of his own. These days I've traded up from a Pentax MX SLR camera to a Pentax *ist DL digital SLR camera for my astrophotography, but the telescope is still just as good as the day I bought it 20 years ago.

If anyone has a budding astronomer in the familiy, I can't think of a better Christmas gift.

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