Jim's Corner Blog

Practicing What I Preach

This latest entry is somewhat of a departure from my regular postings. 

Like most of my readers, my wife and I have been stuck at home waiting out this Covid-19 pandemic. Fortunately, my many hobbies and interests have kept me busy.

This time has also allowed me to reassess my astronomy hobby, and in particular my current lineup of telescopes. My telescopes are mostly refractors ranging in apertures from 80mm to 130mm. But at the head of the collection was my Celestron NexStar 11 GPS.

My 11” served as my “Big Eye”, my deep sky telescope. With its substantial aperture (no snickering from you large aperture Dobsonian users) and GoTo capabilities, I’ve been able to hunt down and observe all the Messier objects, and a large number of faint NGC and Caldwell deep sky targets.

But I just turned 68 years old, and my youthful vigor and strength have given way to an older person’s struggle. When I turned 65, I would describe myself as “the wheels aren’t falling off, but the lug nuts need tightening.” As I turned 68, the wheels are falling off. A combination of osteoarthritis in my foot and achilles tendonitis, plus the slow diminishing of upper body strength has made it challenging for me to use some of my telescope collection. You can’t use a telescope if it has become an immoveable object sitting in the corner of your living room.

My 11” SCT had become an immoveable object. A look at my logbooks of the past two years proved to me that I had to make an adjustment. My binoculars, 80mm, 94mm, and 102mm refractors were getting the bulk of my observing time. My 130mm apo and the 11” gathered dust, each getting only four observing sessions over two years. The reason for the 130mm lack of use was diagnosed to a faulty controller cable that has been since remedied. But the 11” lack of use was due to its weight and bulkiness. With the NexStar 11” weighing in at 92 pounds, the struggle to get the telescope out to my deck has proven too much for my aging body.

Yes, I know there are wheely bars and various dollies for sale to move overweight telescopes. But they all have one drawback, the wheely bars and telescope dollies are too big for most domestic doors. A local middle school, which has two Meade 16” SCTs mounted on wheely bars had to install new doors on the rear of the school in order to get their telescopes out to the observing pad.

So that option is not available to me.

But in keeping with my fourth book and fifth book, I have found my solution. For those avid readers of my books, you will recall my fourth book is a users guide for using the Celestron Evolution series of telescopes. These telescopes are revolutionary in their use of WiFi connected control using apps on iPhone, iPad, or Android devices to control the telescopes. Genius!

My fifth book is of particular interest for those who share my particular affliction, growing old. Astronomy for Older Eyesis a survival guide for late 50’s or older backyard astronomers. One of the book’s recommendations is to downsize the telescopes being used. The rule of thumb is that the telescope that gets used more will see more.

With these two books at hand, I decided to heed my own advice. The 11” GPS needed to be replaced with a lighter, easier to set up telescope. I still needed a larger aperture “Big Eye” for deep sky observing, but something more moveable. I still wanted the GoTo function, since it saves time in searching for objects (as you know, time becomes precious as you grow older). And I own a lot of SCT accessories.

The opportunity presented itself in the form of the Celestron Evolution 9.25” SCT. GoTo. Check. Aperture. Somewhat smaller and less light gathering but still ample. Check. Lighter and easier to move. 40 pounds lighter. Definitely check!

So my beloved NexStar 11 GPS is gone. My new Evolution 9.25” is here, sans a tripod. The tripod is on order. Soon, I will be tripping the faint starlight fantastic with my new telescope.

In the meantime, I have to read my own book on how to use the Evolution 9.25”. Its been a few years since I used the Celestron Evolution 6” to write the book, so I definitely need a refresher.