……. I think they usually call it ‘First Light’ in astro language. However, as you may be gathering, things are rarely that straighforward.
I finally have ‘all’ of my kit. I say all, I’m sure there will be things added to this list over the months to come, astronomy as a hobby seems to offer the casual participant ever increasing circles of opportunity to spend cash. I think thats why the term ‘Black Hole’ was coined by astronomers, as a way to explain to their wives where all the income was being sucked away to.
(Did you notice that the above sentence implies that all astronomers are men? Curious thing that. I can’t put my finger on what it is that makes standing around in the icy freezing cold, looking up a pipe at dots in the sky, something that the fairer sex dont enjoy. I have a theory that it is some kind of distorted jealousy thing. For example, the other night I rushed in, icicles dripping from my nose, eyes, ears and other appendages, and exclaimed “I’VE JUST SEEN THE MOST FANTASTIC DOUBLE CLUSTER!!!!!”, and all the missus did was roll her eyes in a way that said ‘He’s been eyeing up the next door neighbour again!’
If any proper female astronomers should ever in the course of time read this, then please make yourself known to me (Ask a male friend to show you how to send an e-mail), I’d love to meet a genuine one-of-a-kind.)
When I started this lark, they said to me, “Ooooh, Its a steep learning curve.” I now appreciate that they might have had ID-TEN-T type errors in mind for me, (written down as ID10T). So hands up if you’ve ever made any of the following mistakes……
1) Polar aligned your telescope on a completely wrong star, and spent the rest of the night working out why every photo had crazy star trails on.
2) Focused the telescope, then put the lens cap on to clear the dew while you set the camera up, then spent the rest of the night taking pictures of the inside of the lens cap.
3) Tried focusing with lens cap on. (“Geee, its REAL dark tonight….”) Score more ID10T points for every time you went thru the entire focusing range.
4) Spent an hour getting everything precisely aligned with reticle eyepieces etc to get the most from your pictures, and then kicked the leg of the tripod.
5) Spent an hour getting everything precisely aligned with reticle eyepieces etc to get the most form your pictures, and it started to rain.
6) Used too short a cable from laptop to camera and had the mount slew round and pull the laptop off the table.
7) Accidentally undone the click fitting for the camera and watched said camera fall off when you rotate the eyepiece.
8) Spent 30 mins getting your eyes used to the dark, and then half-blinded yourself looking at the moon.
9) Spent longer looking at the image of the moon on the back of your hand when you remove the eyepiece, than you do actually looking through the eyepiece. (Try 57.5mm for optimum focus….)
10) Spent 8 hours trying to get your PC to communicate with your camera via serial cable, (repeating swear words like a Buddhist with his mantra), only to find you have the wrong cable and it would never work.
By now you are get the picture, or more likely, an out of focus shot of star trails. But I know what you are thinking…….”TELL US ABOUT THE BLOOD!!” (All except for ‘Precious’ from Bedfordshire who passed out at the word ‘Blood’ and has only just come round. Oh, there he goes again.)
So there I was in the midst of a black forest. Not the gateau, the place. Not THE Black forest, just A black forest. There was a little window to the stars and it was a really dark site, I just HAD to get the scope out. Besides, the villa was full of relatives and in-laws, so even if it had been raining the being outdoors would have been a better choice. Jabba the Hutt was there too, and I could see in her red eyes that she was imagining me strapped to a railway line, whilst being covered in angry red ants and then set on fire, while my eyelids and fingernails were being chewed by rats. But the mother-in-law is a different story.
Strange powers were at work. I did have some fortune. As luck would have it I did manage to take this photo;
Somebody somewhere said I was a ‘ringer’ when I showed it to him, which I think is somebody who takes pictures of Saturn. The next bit of luck came in my decision to remove the telescope from the mount before moving it. If I hadn’t, the next bit could have been so much worse.
So it was late, and I was all alone in the forest, (except for the owls and the wierd guy in the mac looking in all the windows). In a frequent moment of insanity, I decided it would be best to move the mount, still with counterweights attached, into the safety of the villa. It was also uphill to the van, so that clinched it. But moving the mount with legs extended is difficult, like dancing with a girl so fat you cant get your arms around her. So I lowered the legs, seemed an obvious thing to do. First one, then another, and then………. It was at this point that the counterweights, in the absence of the scope weight they were countering, decided to swing round on the RA axis. This in turn made the whole tripod, already leaning crazily because of two shortened legs, go crashing over.
In that horrible slow motion that follows such things, I decided to play the hero, I would take the bullet for the president. Kicking my leg out wildly, I managed to catch the falling ensemble on the outside of my foot, just below the ankle bone. It was the counterweight rod, complete with 10kg of counterweights that struck me. The force was something akin to being hit with a sledgehammer. The impact went through my shoe, forged a gash in my sock, and made a meteorite like impact crater on my foot. In the irony of rough justice, the warm blood flowing freely from the gash helped to warm up my frozen foot.
When I realized it was unlikely I would die from the injury, I had to face the prospect of still putting the mount away, this time on one leg. It may be useful to note that in emergency situations, a telescope tripod can make a semi effective crutch, albeit three legged which forces you to walk in a semi-circle to your destination.
Somehow I dragged my bleeding way into the villa, poured myself a small whisky for the pain, and collapsed in a heap on the couch. Through painful hazy eyes I can just remember a shadowy, Hutt-like being hovering over me and muttering “He must have had a skinful…….look at the state of him. I told you you should of married that nice boy from Oxford!”