Monday, November 13, 2017

First Light with The LX-850
First light for my new scope was a three-minute exposure of The Ring Nebula. I had never taken suck an obscenely long exposure. Although the image was poorly focused and light pollution overwhelms all but the brightest stars, the tracking was great. With this initial success, I looked forward to creating some beautiful photographs.

Throughout the summer, I experimented with the scope under my brightly-lit suburban skies. Believe me, this scope has its share of idiosyncrasies. Moreover, Polaris is not visible from my home observing site making polar alignment a challenge. Consequently, most of my observations from home included the well-placed planets Jupiter and Saturn and the Moon.

I was fortunate to travel to the club’s observing site in Alpha Ridge three times. In fact, I first polar aligned the set-up at Alpha Ridge two months after I purchased the scope. Of course, polar aligning a new instrument brought its own list of idiosyncrasies. Likewise, all catadioptric telescopes should be culminated each time they are moved. Eventually, with the help of the Cloudy Nights Forum ( ) , I felt confident to productively use my new scope.

October began with me never having really used the new scope under a dark sky. At night I could almost hear the poor telescope bucking around the garage trying to get out from beneath the light dome above the Baltimore-Washington Metro Area.  

Ironically, a high school friend also purchased a new telescope this summer. He lives in Orlando, and I was able to fly down for a night to meet him and his new scope in a State Park close to The Everglades. While he worked, with his new scope, I occupied myself with my camera and tripod grabbing some quick shots of The Summer Milky Way.. Although we had a great time, the brilliant glow of The Milky Way made me miss my scope. Shortly thereafter, we planned to meet “midway” between our two homes.
Milky Way from Kissimmee Prairie Preserve, Florida

We settled on The Stephen C. Foster State Park ( ) deep in The Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia.  I am not sure how Southern Georgia qualifies as “midway” between Florida and Maryland. But, my friend had just returned from The Caribbean with an ample supply of sipping rum, so I asked no questions.

Last year, Stephen C. Foster State Park was designated a Dark Sky Park meaning we could look forward to dark skies. I secured six days off of work, packed my 300-lb. telescope into my tiny two-door Fiat and began the long drive south.

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