Telescope first impressions

We could see stars on Wednesday morning, so we decided, spur-of-the-moment, to do a quick test of the telescope before I left for work. I had twenty minutes or so — plenty of time, right?

The computer wanted latitude and longitude in degrees, minutes and seconds, and I’d written down our coordinates in decimal format, so I had to run back up and pump them through an online converter. Filling in the date, time and location was fiddly, mostly because it was my first attempt and I was rushing.

Star align wasn’t at all difficult, though it ended up being less accurate because I aligned on two relatively adjacent stars — Sirius and Rigel — rather than, as the manual suggested, stars further apart.

When I first lined it up with Sirius, I noticed that the optics were in perfect collimation: the store staff had taken the time to collimate when I bought the scope the night before. A nice touch.

I was apprehensive about the red dot finder, but ended up impressed: once I had centred the telescope on Sirius, I centred the finder as well. After that, centring in the finder — something I needed to do because of my poor alignment (the computer got it close, but not close enough) — presented the object in the eyepiece.

Seeing wasn’t great: our backyard has too much ambient light, and the atmospherics were poor. But we ran a few tests and were impressed: M42 was too faint, but planetary bodies were interesting. We saw the phases of Venus and the rings of Saturn for the first time — sharply, but, at 50×, a little too small in the eyepiece. My next purchase will probably be a higher-magnification eyepiece for planetary observation. The Moon filled the eyepiece’s view, as you might expect from a 25-mm (50×) Plössl with a 50-degree field of view.

We ran out of time before I could zero in on Mars or try to find Comet Holmes.

Impressed so far.