Observing in the cold

Last night we could see some stars, but it also proved that cold nights aren’t much use for stargazing. Too much goes wrong with the telescope: the optics never quite settle down due to the temperature, so nothing stays in focus; the batteries drain rapidly; the LCD on the Celestron controller goes wonky. We had the power die on us during the alignment, forcing us to start over, and we lost tracking while at high power. And meanwhile we’re freezing our extremities trying to control the scope and handle ice-cold metal eyepieces. Mental note for future reference: try not to go out stargazing below, say, –10°C.

Our purpose last night was to test our new acquisitions: a 10-mm Radian eyepiece (125× in our scope) and a 2× Barlow lens, both from that manufacturer of astronomical holy grails, Tele Vue. We were especially hoping to test them on Mars, which is bright and nearing opposition this month. We’re going to have to wait for more favourable conditions.