DO you remember Sputnik? I do, it made the nightly news in October, 1957. My mom, dad and I stood outside in the driveway looking at the sky untill we saw the satellite. We did this for several nights. It was so cool I thought, to look at the sky and see something out of this world. That kindled my interest in looking up at the heavens when I was only 10 years old.
I began my astronomy experience as a young boy in elementary school during 1960+/-. My dad had bought me a small hand-held telescope for Christmas. My cousin and I would lay on the sidewalk and try to see stars with that little telescope. We did not know that it needed to be mounted to be able to see anything. I don’t think we ever got it focused on a star. I remember dad and I standing on the front porch steps and looking at the sky together one comfortable autumn night. He pointed to the Pleiades (M45) and told me that was the little dipper, he didn’t know where the big dipper was. All he knew was that I was interested in the sky, so he tryed to help. I wish he were here now so I could show him the really cool stuff I look at today.
A couple years later I bought a 60mm Tasco refracting telescope with money from my paper route. That was in 1964 and that telescope showed me Jupiter, Saturn and the Moon. I even saw the Great Orion Nebula, M42 along with the open cluster M45, the Pleiades, with that telescope. A couple of years later,in 1966-1967, I built a 4.25″ reflecting telescope on a pipe fitting Gem mount. Any one who was a child interested in astronomy in the 60’s had to love those little paperback booklets by Sam Brown. I still have four of those Sam Brown booklets. So much how-to information was contained within them.
That reflector opened up the sky for me. The first deep-sky object I ever found with it, that I could not see naked eye, was the Ring Nebula. I showed the Ring Nebula to my next door neighbour who had been my mentor in building the telescope. Mr Willet was simply astounded by the sight. It prompted him to build a 6″ reflecting telescope, which he asked me to show him many different deep-sky objects in.
I remember as a young boy drooling, in the school library, over those full page Unitron adds in Sky & Telescope magazine. Oh what dreams I had of what I could see with a scope like that. That was a time when the average reflecting telescope was 6″ and a large telescope was an 8″ and there were those rare guys that had made a 12″ reflector somewhere else, but not here. This was the era of the common 60mm refractor, and up to the three-inch Sears refractor, then there was that 4″ Unitron refractor in the adds that nobody I knew of had. Wow! How far have we come?
Today my largest telescope is a Celestron C-11 on a cgem mount. I have a Orion 10″ dobsonian mounted Newtonian reflector, a 6″ Celestron C-6 SCT, a 5″ ETX125PE Mak-cass, a 4″ TV102 semi APO refractor and a 2.6″ AT66 ED refractor. Of course there are some other telescopes that I do not use, I still have the 4.25″ reflector that I built-in 1966. That is a pretty varied stable and each one takes a turn being used. I think it is safe to say that my favorites are the 4″ refractor and the 10″ dob.
Now, 50 plus years after starting this journey, I am an older more experienced observer who still loves his first love. I still think Saturn is the most beautiful object in the sky and if the Ring Nebula is up, I’m going to look at my old friend once again to say hi. I am still an avid visual amateur astronomer. Have I seen it all? Not yet but I am still looking and observing on clear moonless nights. Today I am a retired Professional Land Surveyor, pining for more clear moonless nights. You may like looking at my equipment page for the rest of my current telescopes.