Disaster Averted, M1 Found

Observing notes from Saturday, March 25, 1995

Yes, those are the headlines. The "disaster" was me almost trashing my 8" Schmidt!!! I took it "home" with me this weekend to do some observing. When I looked through it, the images were terrible. I knew it wasn't the sky, so it must have been the scope. I brought the scope in and started tinkering with the collimation screws. But, since I couldn't see any difference, I thought the screws were just holding a cap over the real screws so I removed them, but the "cap" wouldn't come off. I tilted my scope slightly and PLOP!!!! The secondary fell off, inside the scope!!! Major panic attack!!!

I had to take the front end apart to get at the mirror. Screws and stuff were everywhere. I finally got it back together and tried it out. Cool, I've discovered a comet!!! Wait, there's another comet!!!.....and another...I'll be famous......wait....everything looks like comets!!! Every star looked like a comet! My scope was hosed!!! (STUPIDITY NOTE: I left my manual at my apt. which was why I didn't know what I was doing.)

The next day I "focused" it on an insulator on a phone pole and couldn't even tell what it was. But, although already scanning repair ads in Astronomy, I finally figured out what the image should look like when collimating so I was able to align the mirrors up. That night, using a star, I improved the alignment. Finally, everything was working.

To make a long story short, I finally found M1. It took me three tries. From there I just jumped from star cluster to star cluster, and spend a lot of time around Orion's Nebula (lots of "cools" and "neats" from my family members). And interesting side note, two members of my family independently thought they were looking at trees when viewing M42. It struck me as strange. My last target was M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy. I could just see a hint of the spiral structure. My f/6.3 reducer should be in today so I'll be able to get some brighter images. I haven't tried any photography yet. We've got cloudy skies today, but we needed a break from all that sunshine!!

Jeff Polston

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