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February 14, 2006

I Can See For Miles and Miles


They say you never forget your first telescope. Here's Athena's, a tiny Meade I got on clearance from Radio Shack as a Valentine's Day present. And yes, she's very excited about it. We're going to go out and look at the moon tonight. A full moon is in fact not the best way to see the features of the moon (it's a little bright), but it'll be workable. And besides, we'll have fun anyway.

Hope your Valentine's Day is going well.

Posted by john at February 14, 2006 03:22 PM

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John H | February 14, 2006 04:25 PM

Plenty of cool planets to look at this time of year as well - Venus and Jupiter dominate the morning sky , while Mercury, Mars and Saturn are visible in the evenings.

Cool telescope, Athena!

Gabe | February 14, 2006 05:20 PM

I never owned a telescope growing up. Maybe that's why I became a fantasy writer.

Of course, I never owned any swords either...

John Scalzi | February 14, 2006 05:23 PM

Strangely enough, I own a sword. And a battle axe!

Stephen Mitchell | February 14, 2006 07:35 PM

It looks like it will make a great spotting scope for when she upgrades to a 14" SCT next year. Or maybe go a bit smaller and let her build one. I assembled my first scope from a kit. It was an easy way to learn about optics.
For those of us who may care, what are the specs?

Gabe | February 14, 2006 07:38 PM

A battle axe? Really? Must be one of those perks of being in the eighth level of the Cult of Petey.

I also hear you get to hunt Scientologists.

Scott Westerfeld | February 15, 2006 05:55 AM

Mmm . . . telescopey. Saturn was excellent in my 80mm Explorascope (highly recommended) before the moon got full.

Give us the specs, damn you!

Katy | February 15, 2006 07:37 AM

Looks like it might be the 60AZ.


John Scalzi | February 15, 2006 07:47 AM

Yup, Katy, it is. The specs, for those of you too lazy to follow the URL:

Meade 60AZ-T (P/N: 04062) — Supplied complete with achromatic lens (D=60mm, F=350, f/5.8) • Table top tripod with pan-handled control • Two 1.25" eyepieces: (K9mm, K17.5mm) • 2x Barlow lens • Soft carry case • Instructions.

It's a nice starter telescope for Athena, and it's the right size for her to be able to carry around and play with.

Pat Lundrigan | February 15, 2006 08:16 AM

Try using sunglasses for full moon viewing.

Q | February 15, 2006 11:33 AM

Yes... I remember my first telescope...

But mostly I remember the day that 3 schools worth of state cheerleading championship teams rather unexpectedly turned up at the elementary school yard across the street from my bedroom window to practice for the nearby competition...

Ah yes... Nothing like short skirts, cartwheels, and 300X magnification...

Lee | February 16, 2006 02:52 AM

Reminds me of our college physics class staying overnight in the observatory to watch a lunar eclipse. Having beer, gin and other spirits changed the atmosphere and we ended up "seeing stars" instead. That's what happens when you put a bunch of college kids overnight without supervision.

Mark | February 16, 2006 10:06 AM

Gosh John now she might get aspirations to go to the moon :)
Yah, it's always nice to get something inexpensive with a quality name you can trust.
It’s cheap but it works for what it’s supposed to.

Also beware the cameraphone, after touching it with a long stick for an hour or so, it should eventually blink on. After reading the phone book size manual to operate it you are now involved in a government conspiracy.

I have a foldup one like that, an LG Electronics screen, Samsung makes great screens. The newer screens are really nice by the way, I leave the battery out using it just for emergencies. I wont get tempted.

Mark Ensley | February 17, 2006 12:45 AM

Cool! You are such a good geek dad.

To be a total telescope dork at you, if she ever wants a bit better view of things like the planets and the moon, I'd recommend something with a longer focal length.

Planets need a lot of magnification, and the shorter the focal length, the harder that becomes. If you want to look at things like nebulae and galaxies, to be dramatic enough to capture the attention of most kids you'll need a much larger scope. Stick to this solar system or things like the Pleides or the Orion nebula.

Most astro-geeks I know have favorable opinions of the Orion XT 4.5" Dobsonian.

Dobsonian mounted scopes are more stable, much easier and more intuitive for people to use. It's pretty much a grab and go telescope, no table required. It's light enough to be carried by most kids, and simple enough for them to use without adults around.

The optics are good, and the eyepieces provided are quite decent, which is often a problem with lower end telescopes. I've known several adults who have bought one for kids and end up using it themselves because it's so easy and portable. I've looked through one myself and was pleasantly surprised, which hasn't been the case with most scopes marketed to kids.

Just be sure to warn her about pointing ANY telescope at the sun without a proper filter!!!

I've found that pointing it at the sun briefly and burning a piece of paper held at the eyepiece gets the point across, unless it'll give the kid evil ideas. Be careful to only do this for a second or two, as you can damage your eyepiece.

But, look into getting a solar filter for your scope, because looking at the sun is one of the cool astronomy things you can do in the daytime. Everyone loves looking at sunspots. Just get one that fits over the front of the scope, and not the back end because those are very dangerous.

A filter made from Baader AstroSolar film gives the best views, in my opinion.

Have fun!

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