In January, I published a set of posts about my lifelong passion for astronomy– a passion never properly nourished, but that’s a long story. One way or another, it’s been an unacknowledged part of most of my life. I suspect I should have been a scientist–someday I’ll speculate how that might have been derailed.
I removed those posts for a while, but they’re back up.
I have finally found my way to a relatively dark night sky, and my immediate desire was for a telescope. (The first night, I was kept awake by the stars in my eyes!)
I settled for a cheap one, and unfortunately had an ordeal with customer service when something went wrong.
After three nights of careful, gentle use (I am always very cautious with something new), the declination control knob simply jammed. Stopped moving altogether. Nothing doing. And then, clink! a little piece of pot metal fell out.
The mount had failed. The cheap, Chinese-made, two-dollars-marked-up-to-two-hundred mount, had failed.
I contacted Meade customer service, and got what we might reasonably call a bullshit job. “Would you please very kindly Mister Hall sir write a narrative of the purported occurrence so that our Engineers might possibly read it and figure out what happened?” said a thick-tongued and insincere voice on the other end of the phone.
In other words, go screw yourself, idiot.
If a company sells a product, it stands by a product. End of discussion. I don’t want to hear about “low-end models.” Stop selling them if you don’t respect them.
Narrative for the engineers. Indeed!
But I waited like a typical well-bred dope, and then finally called again, full of the fine-toned indignation which I also inherited. I got a woman this time, and she understood my simple English phrases like “blistering zero-star review on Amazon” and the like.
And lo! the new mount arrived in the mail. With a new and unneeded tripod. But without counterweights or control cables. I was supposed to cannibalize the old one. Well, OK then. I was back in business.
And I’ve had a good time since then.
I’ve added some accessories: a 26mm eyepiece via Agena Astro, a 4mm eyepiece via BST, a planisphere via Celestial Teapot Designs, a red flashlight via Rigel Systems, a subscription to Sky and Telescope, a polarizing filter, a carrying case, and a 6×30 new-old-stock Meade finderscope. (Not crazy about the red-dot finder.)
I plan to get some black flocking for the interior, as well as a solar filter for the front end. Also, I think I need a good classic Plössl at the 9-10mm size. I’m auditioning different kinds of mid-priced eyepieces.
I’ve been enjoying Jupiter’s big show, though any Newtonian reflector is bound to disappoint here. A washed-out disc with a hint of banding, and pinpoints for the Galilean moons. Still, I note their position night by night. Then, there are the popular binaries: Almaak, Albireo, Algieba, Castor, 145 Canis Majoris, iota Cancri, Mizar (of course).
And the mythology! I always look for Algol and Antares–the two evillest stars in the heavens. Antares and Mars are close right now– Mars and Anti-Mars (ant-Ares)–or even Mars and Fool’s Mars!
When I find the “evil” stars, I am drawn to the exuberant words of Psalm 19… but still cannot repress a shiver.
My sessions are always heavy on unaided visual observation, and careful practice of declination and RA motions.
Honestly: how can I buy another Meade telescope after my experience? I’m thinking of an advanced Celestron model, or a SkyWatcher apochromatic refractor. Not too keen on Cassegrains.
That is, if I don’t lose interest first.
Which I won’t.