How I started in Astronomy

Early astrophotograph I did with a Nikon D-80 and a 50mm F1.8 lens.

I am now retired from three decades in aerospace. I got into astronomy around 1976 at age 16 and remember all the bad old days of gassing Tri-X film with hydrogen to speed it up to get better astrophotographs but didn’t go that route. Built a 6 inch F8 scope using a Coulter Optical mirror first and then a Coulter Optical  4 1/2 inch F4 Richest Field scope and did my own tubes and hardware for both scopes based on Sam Brown’s books. They each sat on an old Edmund Scientific equatorial mount that was likely from the 1960s or earlier. Had a LOT of happy nights of observing with those two telescopes and am glad to be back to observing again.

When I hired in with my company, my career ate into my astronomical time and I tried to keep up with it, but fell away. I did make some false starts back into the hobby back in 2011 and 2012, but wasn’t quite ready. I bought a Celestron 130SLT and a Celestron CG-4 mount but was still locked into my career and these sat basically unused. So, this winter, I caught the bug again when I downloaded some Planetarium software and the rest was history…

I first got into astronomy after a few guys from my old high school were doing observing and I started hanging out with them and eventually, after reading Sam Brown’s books on telescope making, built a 6 inch F8 reflector and embarked on 15 or so years of heavy involvement in astronomy with the Sacramento Valley Astronomical Society and other local groups. I remember the excitement of going to Big Bear one year and doing a camp out with hundreds of other amateurs and viewing the beautiful skies there in Big Bear with my trusty 6 inch F8 reflector.

Fast forward to today and I am fully retired and have stepped back into things in a big way. I have pulled the old gear out, including my old 6 and 4 inch Coulter Optical mirrors and am going to send them in to be re-silvered and brought back to life like the old friends they are. I haven’t found my old eyepieces yet, but I know they are around here somewhere. In the meantime I have the eyepiece set Celestron sells of a wide range of Plossl eyepieces and filters and it’s a good start to work with.

I have a Celestron CG-4 mount that needs a scope attached to it (that is in the planning stages) and have a Celestron 130SLT telescope that is OLD. I suspect it’ll need a few firmware updates! I did remember buying another hand box for it for some reason and it wouldn’t work because of the older electronics in that 130SLT. Might have to upgrade that to keep using it. The fun of electronics and telescopes!

I did purchase two ready made scopes to get back in fast to the hobby: A Meade Adventure Scope to modify with new rack and pinion and a T-adapter to get going quickly with astrophotography and a sweet little 4.5 inch F5 Richest Field to do some observational astronomy. I did make my own scopes back in the day, so I plan to use a new 6 inch mirror and flat set I got in 2012 to build a new 6 inch F8 scope in the Sam Brown tradition for observational work and will also resurrect the old richest field scope with it’s old tube which I still have. Going to make my own mirror mounting systems and have fun building these up into good observational setups. I will be using these on the CG-4 mount with the stock drive mechanism for it, but to be honest, I lost my old Edmund Scientific mount 20 years ago in a move and my heart still pines for that old standby Edmund Scientific mount. It was a tried and true friend and I will try to find another one to bring back to life. I think it was the old “Space Conqueror” mount.

I’ve been lurking on astronomy forums in the early weeks of 2019, relearning everything and can’t wait for the weather to break here in Northern California to try out my new gear and get a feel for things again. I’ll update this as things change :>)