Workshop Review 01/10/03
I’d say our second annual New Telescope Workshop was a big success. Maybe 100+ people showed up with their brand new shiny telescopes looking for any help they could get. We were there to oblige them. First Rich gave an informative introductory talk. Then we split up into 3 groups with Gene taking the refractors, Phil the reflectors and myself getting the computerized telescopes. Now I’d love to report on all three groups but since I can’t be three places at once here’s how things went in my group.
First I gave a general discussion on the basics of starting up a goto telescope. There were about 15 telescopes there maybe 8 different types. I explained they all work pretty much the same so what holds true for one is pretty much the case for all. One basic misconception is that a goto scope does everything, needs no human intervention and you don’t need to know the sky. That’s incorrect. For all goto scopes, you the user, must still manually center the two alignment stars in the eyepiece field. You therefore must be able to locate the stars the telescope has chosen. Most new inexperienced users think the scope finds the alignment stars itself. Although it does choose them, you still need to know which ones they are so you can center them.
The telescopes we were dealing with ranged from 60MM to 5”. I spoke briefly about what to realistically expect to see and not see in the eyepiece with this size scope. The Moon, Planets, Comets, Asteroids, Double Stars and about 70 Messier objects are all visible in the smallest of scopes. All 110 Messier are visible in the 80MM and up. This was very encouraging to the new telescope owners. But then there’s the bad news. I had to inform them nothing was going to look like the beautiful pictures on the box. This got moans and groan from the crowd as if it was my fault. After about 15 more minutes of Q & A, we went outside for the real hands on lesson.
Did I mention before I can’t be in three places at once.? When I got outside I was expected in fifteen places at once! “Take a ticket”. I started with a Mom and son who had a Meade 4 ½” reflector with a motor drive but no goto. The azimuth control was working fine but the altitude just spun around without moving the scope. I though it was broken till I realized the tube was sticking ¾ of the way out of the rings on one side. It was way out of balance. I centered the tube in the rings and presto! It worked fine. I pointed it at the moon and boy the look on that kids face. He couldn’t believe what he was looking at in his own scope. That’s why we do this and that’s why I came!
Next we went through the motions with the Autostar control on all the ETX’s. Pretty much got them all working. One tricky problem was with the lock nuts. People would open them to move the scope manually then try to use the hand control. The hand control doesn’t work with the lock nuts open. It took a while for us to notice this. With the one Saturn scope I couldn’t figure out how to increase the sluing speed to center the alignment stars. After some time was spent on it we decided to go manual. If you ask me, some of these inexpensive 60MM goto scopes are best used as a manual scope, sent back for repair or sent back for redesign. Last was a Celestron 5” Nextstar. It took about 20 minutes to get it running. The optics were very good. It pointed quite accurately. Turns out she had it for 2 years and never got the goto working. All she ever looked at was the moon and it was collecting dust. She saw our ad running on the local TV station and came down for help. What a happy camper she was. We told her she had stay now and observed till we were ready to go. She was more than happy about that and we stayed till about 11:30. We were the last ones to leave.
Anyway, we did get almost all the computerized scopes working. I’m sure things went just as well with the refractors and reflectors. We had many good ASTRA members there to help. All the new telescope owners went home happy. Some went home thrilled. This was well worth the effort. I’m sure we made some new friends. Maybe got some new members. But best of all we got some telescopes into use that may otherwise have become dust collectors.