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I Love Astronomy

Updated on May 13, 2013

I Love Astronomy!

Well hello-I've been pretty busy the last couple of weeks but here I am again with another Squidoo Lens-on my love of astronomy and the beauty of the heavens.

I remember as a little boy living in Germany that an older kid was out one evening, with what looked like at the time a huge telescope that he let me look through. I can't even tell you what I was looking at, but this 8 year old was interested. That Christmas I received a small reflector telescope that I could never figure out how to use it. Unfortunately it ended up in the trash later on. Fast-forward a few years after we moved back to the states, eventually living in Daleville AL, is where the story takes real roots. Another Christmas comes and I get this small (30mm) spotting scope with a zoom eyepiece. OK, this was a pretty sad little telescope in retrospect, but after fooling around one evening trying to look at Orion one night, I stumbled across a strange sight. It was a greenish fuzzy blob, with a few stars embedded, and I had no idea what I was looking at. I found a star chart somewhere, and lo and behold I found out I was looking at the great Orion Nebula, also known as Messier object 42.

As I tried to look at other objects with that scope, I realized I needed a bigger telescope if I was going to see anything with any clarity. So on my Christmas list for the next year I found a beautiful 60mm Sears Astronomical refractor in the annual wishbook. With unbridled anticipation I waited for Christmas to arrive-only to discover it had been backordered! Oh well, I'd just have to wait a little longer. I did get a optics kit that year so I made telescopes of sad optical quality but hey-at least I had something bigger to observe with.

The Milkyway - I shot this image with my Nikon D700 mounted piggyback on my Celestron CGE equatorial mount-using a 85mm lens

The Milky Way in Sagittarius
The Milky Way in Sagittarius

Finally after about 3 months I got my long-awaited 60mm telescope! Boy did I treasure that little gem! Although I am spoiled now by very large motor-driven telescopes with top quality optics and superwidefield eyepieces, I saw Saturn as I had never seen it before. Everyone who sees Saturn for the first time through a good telescope is awestruck-that ringed-planet just looks unreal through the eyepiece!

I saw many an object through that fine little telescope-from Jupiter to the Andromeda Galaxy, it served me well, and helped me to learn observing techniques such as averted-vision.

As any telescope nut can attest to, once you get hooked you develop what is know as aperture fever-that never satisfied quest for bigger, better optics so that you can see those faint little smudges that are supposed to be far away galaxies and planetary nebulae. Back in the 70's, there were a limited selection of commercial telescopes larger than about 6", and not only were they expensive, in many cases the optics were not so good and the mountings even worse. So I did what most amateurs did in those days-built my own telescope! So another Christmas is on the horizon and this time I ask for a mirror grinding kit, and mirror mount and other needed parts to build an 8" reflecting telescope.

My buddy Mike Galle and I both were grinding away-walking the barrel as it is know. This was a long and tedious process, something that a 13 year old boy like me made go by quickly by listening to all the great 70's rock and pop music. To this day, when I hear certain tunes I associate them with the months spent grinding and polishing my telescope mirror. After the months were gone, and the Focault testing completed-I was satisfied that it was time to send my mirror off to get a fresh coat of shiny aluminum. By the time I got it back, I had fashioned a really rudimentary support for the mirror and secondary mirror plus eyepiece focuser, so I could finally get a good test of how well my homemade mirror worked. The results were, well not bad. . . . . but not the best. Turns out I had slightly over-corrected the mirror plus the edge was not completely polished. But it worked better than anything I had owned up till that point, so I was finally in business!

Telescope accessories

The Dumbell Nebula - M-27 in Vulpecula-I took this image with my D-700 through my 12" Meade Schmidt Cassegrain

M-27:  A planetery nebula (exploded star remnant) in the constellation Vulpecula
M-27: A planetery nebula (exploded star remnant) in the constellation Vulpecula

I fashioned a telescope tube out of a 10" galvanized heater flue I bought at Sears, and the mount was made from cast iron plumbing components including a couple of 2 1/2" tee's and a concrete counterweight. It was pretty cool overall-sorry I don't have any pictures that I know of anymore-the ex-witch has them I believe.

I used that scope almost every clear night to see many many deep sky objects-I even tried photography with some pretty good results considering what I was working with. Of course I had a little darkroom setup that I could develop and print my black and white photos. The really cool thing about this scope is it earned it's keep earning me a scholarship in 1978-the year I entered it into the NEASF (North East Alabama Science Fair) with my photographs at Jacksonville State University. One of the neatest days of my life-and I think my Dad's-he was as shocked as I was when I won the best of the fair, best overall project, and won a trip out to the International Science Fair in Anaheim CA!

The Andromeda Galaxy - One of my favorite subject is M-31-I took this through my 8" short focus reflector designed specifically for astrophotography

Globular Cluster - This is one of the best examples of a globular cluster-m-13. I took this through my 8" widefield reflector and a Nikon D700 camera

Here's My Latest Telescope - Celestron C-14 mounted on Pier

C-14
C-14

Here's my current telescope setup-a Celestron C-14 Schmidt Cassegrain mounted on a heavy duty GOTO equatorial mount. I cast the pier from about 800 lbs of concrete and used a Dan's Pier-Plate to secure the mount. Still working on minor pointing issues.

The Whirlpool Galaxy - A wide view of M-51, also known as the Whirlpool Galaxy. I took this with my 8 in short focus newtonian set up for astrophotography

I have a ways to go in my imaging technique-I need to get an autoguider as this image obviously had none used for the exposure. Future plans include a much more massive mount and a better astrophotography scope-plus a high end CCD camera-I can dream can't I???

Saturn with it's largest Moon Titan

Shot through my C-14 and a Canon D60a

Omega Centari

The largest and brightest globular cluster in the constellation Centarus

My Former Observatory - I built this observatory around 2001-2002 time frame. It doesn't exist anymore thanks to the EX

This was a cool observatory I built. Unfortunately it's the only picture I now have of it. What you can't see in this picture is how the metal roof section rolls over the shingled roof, exposing at the time a Celestron C-14 Schmidt cassegrain and an 12" Meade Schmidt cassegrain telescope. They were both computer controlled, and were slated to be operated by a desktop PC and both sport CCD cameras for extended deep sky imaging. To make a long story short, the EX stole some of my equipment including one of the mounts and I wound up moving and leaving the building behind.

M-20 the Trifid Nebula

Combination emission and reflection nebula in Sagittarius

Jupiter - My best attempt at photographing Jupiter-it's harder than you would think-I need a different setup than what I have right now for the best results

Clavius Crater on the Moon - And finally the Clavius region of the Moon-shot through my 12 inch Meade Schmidt Cassegrain

The Pleiades, also known as the Seven Sisters

The Pleiades, also known as the Seven Sisters
The Pleiades, also known as the Seven Sisters

The Moon in Conjunction with Jupiter

Shot this through my C-14 very quickly at minimum magnification-could barely fit the limb of the Moon and Jupiter in the same frame. Taken with a Canon 60Da

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    • JimDuke profile image
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      JimDuke 6 years ago

      @top-telescope-eyepieces: thanks-come on out to TSP at Ft Davis Texas next week! I'll be at the lower field!

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      top-telescope-eyepieces 6 years ago

      Some nice shots you have here. Love the big Schmidt. I have an 8" Meade myself, but I need to get it shipped to Canada, I still have it in storage back in Spain. Great astronomy lens.

    • JimDuke profile image
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      JimDuke 6 years ago

      @ChrisDay LM: Awsome! Thanks-I'll check out the quiz. . . . .

    • ChrisDay LM profile image

      ChrisDay LM 6 years ago

      Lensrolled to my Solar System Quiz.

    • JimDuke profile image
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      JimDuke 6 years ago

      @khael: Thanks! I guess Squidoo was having some issues :-)

    • khael profile image

      khael 6 years ago

      glad to see the astronomy pictures are showing up properly. they're fantastic.

    • JimDuke profile image
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      JimDuke 6 years ago

      @Blonde Blythe: Thank you for the nice comments!

    • Blonde Blythe profile image

      Blonde Blythe 6 years ago

      Lookin' good! Love the telescope story, and the great photos! :)