Astronomy-I'm getting a telescope!

My husband has surprised me with a most awesome telescope. Of course, he couldn’t wait to tell me, so I’ve been feverishly running the tracking numbers. I’m getting an Orion XT8 Intelliscope. It is quite a dandy and gets great reviews, even from seasoned astronomy folk.

Since I’m now in the boonies on a mountain with a 2nd story deck, I figure I’m in the perfect spot for star gazing. I used to travel to my Grandmothers house to watch the shuttle launches and whenever I’d visit, I’d always sit out in the yard and stare at her skies. She lives in an area that as far as light pollution is concerned, is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, there is NO light pollution near her.

My scope won’t be here until Saturday, which means that the cloudy weather is guaranteed to last a few more weeks. :slight_smile:

Any other folks into astronomy here?

It is the Year of Astronomy, btw. Also, did you know you can listen/talk to the Space shuttle and the ISS via Ham radios? Neato!

I have about 50 tabs open to astronomy sites and am researching my heart out.

No, I’m not secretly wishing my daughter turns into a little Jodie Foster in Contact. Well, maybe a little bit.

Practice with it in daytime first to get the logistics down of changing lenses, filters and such.

There are a lot of little pieces that go with telescopes, and you want to have a system for keeping track. I made the mistake of taking mine out first time without doing a dry run, and nearly lost some stuff.

Also check the aim of the spotting scope during the day. Just don’t point it, or the main lense at the sun!

A wooden deck will cause you problems - no matter how stable it is, it’s going to be wobbly and every time you shift your weight or take a step or breath you risk losing whatever it is you’re looking at. Much better to be on stable ground.

Other than that, it looks like a doozy of a scope! You’ll have a blast.

Yeah, I’ve heard the deck may be a problem. Since it is over a downstairs bedroom, I haven’t quite convinced my husband to erect a concrete/steel pole up to the deck. If that doesn’t work, the top of my property has a grand view of the sky and is almost at the same level as the deck.

I’ve considered giving up breathing, it does seem to pose a whole host of problems.

With the amount of rain we’ve had here, I doubt I’ll be able to take it outside for quite some time. However, it is a monster, at 44" tall and that is just the tube, not the stand, it will give a whole to meaning to the room we call “the view room.”

Mr. Athena has owned 20" scopes, and we had a friend with a 30" scope. 44" tall is cute, not large :slight_smile:

And yes, if you could figure out a way to quit breathing, that would help a lot!

Considering when I began looking at the scopes, I thought they were table-top scopes, I was shocked to see a guy standing next to one. At 44" long, it’s about 30" longer than I was expecting.

I’ve seen some of those monster 'scopes and the observatories they build around them. Similar to a drug addiction, I’m afraid of where this will lead me. I see a ramshackle building, with a hole in the roof, with a dirty mattress, empty coffee cups and such laying about and a MONSTER 'scope. I shall name this one my “Gateway” scope.

that is a perfect beginner scope. Big enough to actually see something. As a matter of fact, thats a size many folks with the BIG scopes choose as a second quick, easy to use and more portable scope.

You REALLY need to get together with a local astronomy club. Go to one of their “star parties” It is SO much easier when someone shows you how to use it, how to find stuff, and once you find it actually to be told what it is actually supposed to look like in real life. don’t feel like your an intruding outsider. Most astronomy club members just LOVE to help beginners out.

A good book, that will help you find the 100 or so best objects in the sky is called “Messier Marathon”. Each of the 100 objects has a nice charcoal like sketch of what it looks like through a scope your size, a good map and method of how to find it, as well as various facts and a verbal description.

Believe it or not, you have to train your eyes to see things through a scope. Which is mainly done by just hours and hours of looking at things trying to see more than you see at first glance. After some experience, you’ll be amazed at how much your vision has improved.

I hate to tell you this, but you can rest assured that once the rain stops, it will be a full moon. That washes out most of the good viewing, as it is so bright. And the full moon isn’t good to look at, as no contraxt. Wait a few days for a crescent2, and took at the terminator line (where light and dark meet) and you’ll see awsome craters, moutains, etc. Good to practice on the moon until you ge the hang of the scope.

I hope you understnad polar alignment. Study. :smiley:

Go out in the dark and wait 15 or so minutes for full dark eye adaptation. When that happens, you’ll be surprised how much better you can see. Don’t ever, ever turn on a flashlight or other light. Use a light with a red lens or red bulb only. One blast of light from anywhere ruins your dark adaptation.

You know about averted vision? You see dark fuzzies easier looking out the side of your eyes than directly at something . Some call it perverted vision.

After the moon, start looking at the planets. Jupiter is easy to find, and even with low magnification, you will see four or more moons. Then, the first time you find Saturn, you’ll be awestruck at it’s beauty in a black sky. Mars is good, and if you really have clear skies, you may be able to see the polar icecap.

And in winter, look for the Orion nebula. And the Milky Way is a never-ending beautiful thing to observe.

Oh, there are so many wonders out in space that you can spend the rest of your llife marveling at all the beautiful things you can see. Get a good book of star charts, and peruse other astronomy books at the library.

One word of caution: don’t expect to see glorious, full-color galaxies or nebulae like the full color pics in books or astronomy magazines. But still, you will see marvels. And if you really want to drive yourself crazy, get into astrophotography.


I described astrophotography to my mother in law yesterday. I emphasized how utterly whacked out their equipment is compared to the normals. Those folks are dedicated.

I bought a printer a few days before and I have a list of stuff I want to print out. I’ve been reading until I’m blind, but so much of it is over my head, I’m hoping osmosis works. I also hope having a telescope in my hot little hands might help me understand things better.

I’ve already joined a local-ish astronomy group. They don’t have any star parties scheduled, they are probably having the never ending rain I’m having. Due to my location, I’ll probably end up hosting a star party before too long. I’ve already promised food for telescope time. Heck, I may have offered hookers and blow. I’m a world class suck up. :slight_smile: Or rather, I’m an eager and enthusiastic learner and I love to let folks show off their toys.

Come to think of it, that last line explains a significant portion of my twenties…

Had a telescope when I was a kid but light pollution prevented me from seeing much,but still love astronomy to death but unfortunately as a book/Tv observer.

I envy you alot,hope you have great stargazing.

Oh, BTW, is is a lot of fun to see the amazing pictures, many by the HST, on the Astronomy Picture of the Day site at

And star parties are a wonderful way to learn stuff, either with or without hookers and blow. :smiley:

Seconding the red flashlight, or better yet, a keychain red LED light.

Get a subscription to Sky and Telescope magazine. There’s articles in there about certain asterisms, galaxy clusters, planets and moon placements and tons more to set out and find.

Learn about satellites as well; they either are fun to watch (especially the Iridium flashes) or a nuisance for long exposure photographs on

Get a detailed star atlas that preferably has the same magnitude that’s your telescope’s limit, and with black stars on white background for red light viewing.

Also, get A Field Guide to Stars and Planets.

Have Fun!

I remember the first time I saw Saturn and could see the gap between the planet and rings. I thought, they are not lying, it is real. It was a thrill.

ARGH! Fedex is supposed to update my tracking info today. GET ON IT ALREADY! I am nervous as a kitten and so excited I could bust.

And extra good news! My husband has to leave town today so I’ll get to open it, assemble it and play with it ALL BY MYSELF for at least 2 days, maybe even 3 or 4. No nosey-noserson opening the boxes or helping me unpack it, or hovering over me and putting it together wrong. No jockeying for eyepiece time, no fiddling with the Intelliscope thingy. Wheeeee!

You think chocolate is good? Baby, nothing beats this. Oh wait, sorry. I eagerly anticipate being able to share my experience of first light with my soul mate. Screw that! I’ll have all to myself!

While you are waiting, be sure to get a bubble level that is wide enough to go over the mouth of the telescope. Making that sucker level is the first point of reference for it’s computer.

Gonzomax is right. When I used to do public star parties, the moon was a big hit. But when folks got to see saturn, they often gasped outloud. I mean, you usually cant see anymore than a tiny yellowish ball “surrounded” by a yellowish featureless ring, but there is something about those rings!

You are in luck, Saturn is well placed for easy evening viewing right now, so as soon as you have clear skies you get to spot that sucker. The moon is getting near perfect right now as well.

Also, be careful assembling the scope. Just snug things down. Between the typically smaller screws and bolts and the fact people are used to really torquing things down because they move or vibrate alot (which scopes dont), its easy to overtighten something on a scope.

Calm down and be prepared to be disappointed at first. Observing through a telescope is a skill that takes time to master (especially for deep-space as opposed to solar system objects), and some of the best celestial sights are also the most subtle.