My first telescope

Just set up my first telescope today, a simple 8″ Dobsonian from Orion. I picked it after reading the Heretic’s Guide and the advice in Nightwatch. Decided to go simple and (relatively) inexpensive, seems the prudent way to start a new hobby. By inclination I’m attracted to fancy computerization tech and astrophotography, but all the guides I found online did a good job steering me away from that. I like that this thing is basically a big ol’ mirror on a gimbal, very simple.

Sadly it’s still daytime so the best I could do was a very clear image of a distant (upside down, backwards) tree. Supposed to be cloudy tonight but tomorrow night will be clear. What should I look at first? The moon seems like an obvious choice since you can’t really miss, but it’s a new moon and I don’t want to try pointing so close to the sun. Jupiter is my next thought, maybe Saturn if I can time it right. Or else the Orion nebula, that seems relatively easy to find. I feel a bit like an ignorant virgin in need of the guiding hand of an experienced mentor.

I’m impressed with the Orion package. Easy mail order, good quick customer service. The scope comes in two boxes: one for the base, one for the tube. The base comes as a flat-pack you assemble. It wasn’t too hard, I managed alone despite my mechanical ineptitude. The instructions were great and they even provided all the necessary tools (although I’m glad I had an electric driver for the wood screws). The tube comes pretty much entirely assembled, all I had to do was put it on the base and attach the finder scope. Which I managed to do backwards and confuse myself entirely. The design of the whole scope seems fine although I’m not wild about the way the springs are the only thing holding the tube to the base if you try to move both as a single unit.

The one thing I didn’t succeed at was collimating the mirrors. As it came from the factory it seems pretty close to true; while it’s a bit off-center it’s nowhere near what the diagrams in the manual show. I messed around with the primary mirror adjustment a bit, it’s easier than the secondary, but couldn’t really figure out how what I was doing was affecting the image. It may be it’s the secondary I have to adjust anyway, but only a little. I’ll see what stars look like before worrying about it.

I’m excited and full of anticipation. Shame it’s so cold!

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