Looking up (week of 2/9/2015)

Looking up (week of 2/9/2015)

o here we go again.

For my fifteen year anniversary with FedEx, I was awarded a x35 Bushnell tripod telescope. In the back of my mind, I think I knew I wanted it to sweep the stars with it. I had many happy memories looking up with my dad’s old Navy binoculars, watching the moon.

As if on perfect cue, the moon rose the night I got it, clearing the trees by about 11pm. It was a perfect moon, wide and full with just a hint of terminator (all the better to peer into those silent craters). And there I sat on our deck, the scope on its tripod, teetering on my thirty year old table (an antique when I got it). The next day at work, I was babbling with my boss about it and it turned out he had an old Meade telescope. I don’t know what the magnification was and by the time I got it home (and it wasn’t a train night or cloudy) the moon had moved on, not coming up until 2am (who ever thinks of these things – I thought you just always looked up and there it was. I never thought of the moon as an overdue train). But we looked at this and that. There was a bright star in the sky directly overhead and a quick check on line showed that, yes, that was Jupiter!

Now, finding Jupiter with your eyes and finding it with your scope are two different things, especially since the Meade’s goto mount wasn’t working, there were no instructions, and the sighting scope was wobbly and, hence, doubtful. All I could do was hunch behind the near-vertical cylinder, get it kinda lined up, then go to the eyepiece and start sweeping. Back and fourth. Up and down. It took about forty-five minutes but suddenly – THERE IT WAS!

And there it was, indeed. I could see the twin equatorial bands and the four moons floating like an cliched string of pearls. Brilliant! JB and I exchanged the eye piece for nearly an hour until she got too cold and went in. I stayed out until 1:30 or so, then gave it up. It was a school night, you know.

Anyway, this Friday, we found ourselves over at the local planetarium (the Orlando Science Center). Yes, they let me check out Venus with their decent Meade, then I got a crack (after a bit of a wait) at the big telescope in the domed roof. And there it was, even closer than I’d seen the other night, the moon still in end-on orbits, just an amazing thing to see.

I talked with Astronomer Carl for a while and he was kind enough to sit down and give me some solid newbie advice on scopes, some definitions, some things to know. I’m glad I had done some research before going in and making myself a total fool. In the back of my mind, I think of all those countless train newbies who come out to the club, curious-interested, looking into getting into the hobby with the minimal understanding of what this pastime really is. I’ve been a modeler all my life but a serious club member and railroader for the last quarter century. I’ve dispatched under warrants, CTC and TT&TO. I’ve run every sort of train and done every sort of job imaginable on a railroad (I even loaded a car ferry!). In this, I know how far I’ve come in that hobby.

And now I’m peeking into telescopes and wondering where this is going to take me.

So watch this spot. Like train operations, I’ll update following every outdoor session. You can see how long I last at this. I’m curious too…