Unsurprisingly, an iPhone 6 turns out to not be the greatest of photography tools for the amateur astronomer; the white dot precisely in the middle of the image is Venus, and if you click on the picture you can just barely make out Jupiter immediately above it. You can also get an idea of some of the challenges I might face getting a good telescope view of that conjunction from my driveway.
I spent most of last night looking at the moon. As it turns out, lining up a 10-millimeter-wide eyepiece with a speck in the sky four hundred and fifty million miles away is kind of complicated, and I was never able to get a satisfactory view of the conjunction with my smaller, higher-magnification eyepieces. I did manage a few minutes of getting both planets in view at the same time with my 2″ eyepiece, which was really cool– it resolved Venus enough that I could see it was only halfway lit, like the moon. (Would Venus ever look full? I don’t actually think it will.) No chance of cloud bands on Jupiter; I’m just not good enough at aiming the telescope yet.
But the moon. Oh, man, the moon.
Things I learned from finally getting to use my telescope in the driveway last night, in no particular order:
- I need to go back to contact lenses.
- I also need an eyepatch. This is not a joke. I need both hands free to fiddle with the telescope and the focusing knobs and it’ll just be easier to put a patch on the other eye.
- I need a camera bag or something to keep track of all these lenses and caps.
- The moon moves fast, or rather the combination of the moon’s movement and Earth’s rotation makes the moon look like it moves fast. If you catch the edge of the moon in either of the eyepieces I have you can actually watch it slide out of your field of view. It’s way worse with the higher-mag eyepiece, obviously.
- Related: the moon filter is no joke. The moon was full or close enough to not matter last night, and it was too bright to look at for more than a second or so through my un-filtered eyepiece– bad enough that I actually ordered a 2″ moon filter from Amazon from my driveway while fiddling with it. The problem is that the moon filter blocks out everything but the moon, so my move had to be to find the moon in the larger eyepiece and then switch to the smaller and move around slowly and carefully and get it back in view.
- I need to get good at collimating the scope, quickly and efficiently. I’m either doing something wrong (probably) or the scope falls out of true quickly, because it was misaligned by the end of the night. It didn’t seem to affect the moon views all that much– that was still really, really cool, but the laser collimator showed it to be way “off” before I put it away at the end of the night.
- Mosquitoes can all die in a fire. That said, there were bats out and about last night, which I don’t see very often around here, and that was kind of cool.
- A cloud passing in front of the moon while you’re looking at the moon through a telescope is really cool, or at least it’s really cool once you realize what’s going on and stop wondering what the hell happened to your focus level.
I’ve got to get better at finding smaller objects quickly in the scope. Once I’m comfortable being able to catch a planet at night, I’ll start thinking about taking the thing out to Potato Creek sometime out of range of the city lights. I’ve actually got a pretty good field of view from my driveway, despite the trouble with the trees. I can’t wait to see what I can spot once I get good with this thing.