I have always had some interest in astronomy. My school prize in 1970 (at the age of 11) was “The Observer’s Book of Astronomy” by Patrick Moore, which I still have. While some parts are a little dated (it warns that you may have to spend as much as £50 to buy a 3 inch refractor) the basics haven’t changed that much in 30 years. At about the same time my parents gave me a small terrestrial telescope. It wasn’t really suitable for astronomy, but I was able to see some features of the moon.
In early 2003 I saw a cheap 70mm refractor on sale in Lidl, a supermarket! I bought it and soon rediscovered my interest in astronomy and telescopes. Since then I’ve bought several more telescopes, notably an 8″ Dob and a 9¼” SCT, and other equipment.
The Lidl refractor had its own equatorial mount which I tried to use with other small scopes. However it was just too unsteady so I soon upgraded to the heaviest affordable mount, the Sky-Watcher EQ-6. The EQ-6 mount is quite a large beast and takes some time to set up, so I decided to get a “grab & go” mount for my smaller scopes. I also fancied trying a “goto” mount, so in August 2004 I jumped at the chance to get a Celestron NexStar 80GTL at the low price (for the UK) of £160. I fitted a Baader dovetail bracket to the mount so I can use it with any of my small telescopes. This has given me a taste for goto, so I’ve recently given my EQ-6 the SynScan upgrade.
As well as buying and selling telescopes I’ve been gradually improving my eyepiece collection. The Kellners that came with the supermarket scope were soon augmented by Plössls and budget widefields. Later I moved on to better wide fields (Panoptic, Hyperion, SWAN and Pentax XW) and a couple of orthoscopics. I’ve had some fun attempting to measure the focal length of every eyepiece I’ve owned.
Other aspects of amateur astronomy have also caught my fancy. I bought a budget binoviewer in March 2005, which has given some very nice views of the Moon, and I’ve also had a go at astrophotography, initially using a Nikon Coolpix 4500 compact digital camera and more recently a Canon EOS 350d DSLR.
I’ve found several web sites with astronomy weather forecasts. Some are updated more often than others, some claim to be more specific to where I live. Here’s a list of the more useful ones.
It would be really nice if I could embed all of these in one web page, for quick and easy comparison, but they’re mostly such a tangled mess of scripts and style sheets it’s near impossible to work out where the “meat” really is.
I’ve bought equipment from the UK, Germany, the USA and Canada, new and second hand. I’m always on the lookout for a bargain. I am happy to recomend the dealers listed below, all of whom have given me good service. There are, of course, many other dealers out there who are no doubt just as good, but I don’t have experience of them.
- David Hinds
- Eclipse Optics
- Green Witch
- Hands On Optics
- Island Eyepiece and Telescope
- Oceanside Photo & Telescope
- OWL Astronomy
- SCS Astro
- Sherwoods Photo Ltd
- Surplus Shed
- Teleskop Service