HOUSE PARTY OBSERVATIONS
From: Mike (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sun, Jupiter, Moon, Mars during a House Party
On 5 May 2001, we had a small house party. Several people arrived early (before sunset) and some stayed late (past midnight). I decided to set up several telescopes at different times to let people see some major items. For the daytime portion to view the Sun I set up the TeleDome Portable Observatory, put the ETX-90RA with the Thousand Oaks Solar Filter inside, and then for everyone's comfort I put the Starbound Observing Chair inside the observatory. The TeleDome provided protection from the Sun's heat by shading the telescope and observer. During periods when no one was observing I closed the side opening to further block the sun. Several people were awed by seeing several small sunspots strewn across the solar disk.
After sunset I swapped the ETX-90RA for the ETX-125EC. Since the telescope was inside the TeleDome I decided to fake the Autostar alignment as I planned to only show Jupiter using this telescope. I then slewed to Jupiter and tracking was perfect with the 2.2Ef version; Jupiter stayed centered in the 9.7mm eyepiece (196X) for the hour or so that it was visible. Four moons were easily visible as were some cloud bands. Once, I parked the scope from the Autostar and when I powered on again, it began properly tracking right away. Again, many of our visitors were in awe of what they were seeing.
Just for grins I decided to unbox and set up my 40 year old Edmund Scientific 3" Newtonian reflector and let everyone see what I would see many decades ago. This telescope had been in its box for about 15 years but following a finderscope alignment and collimation it actually did quite well on Jupiter. It was only later when observing the Moon through it that I discovered what might be a problem; the Moon was not as bright as it should have been and appeared covered with a thin milky film. There was no distortion of the image so I suspect that maybe the mirror coating has slightly deteoriated.
As the nearly Full Moon rose higher in the sky I decided to set up the ETX-70AT and let everyone view the Moon. I used the 9mm eyepiece (39X). At first while the sky was still fairly light no filter was used but as the sky darkened more, using the Scopetronix Moon Filter became mandatory for comfortable viewing.
What really impressed some visitors was the capability of the ETX-70AT system given its price. I pointed out that when it was purchased, my old Edmund 3" cost $29.95 (US) and the last time I saw a similar model in the Edmund catalog it was $295. Now, for that same $295, you can get an ETX-70AT with tripod and Autostar GOTO computer. Quite a change from the limitations of the Edmund 3". Some were even impressed when I told them the price of the ETX-125EC with Autostar and tripod; they were expecting at least a price of $2000. When I mentioned that they could buy a complete LX90 8" telescope system for less than that they were totally amazed. I could just see the birthday/anniversary/Christmas planning going on in their heads!
As the party wound down I kept wondering if Mars would clear the trees before everyone left. Finally it did rise high enough and one person was still with us. So I took the ETX-90RA out to the front driveway (the only place where Mars was visible) and set up. Using the 9.7mm eyepiece (128X) we were able to easily some dark markings and I could see a Polar Ice Cap. My wife and the visitor were not certain they saw the Ice Cap.
While this party was not planned as a star party, our visitors seemed to have had a good time looking through the different telescopes and seeing these major celestial objects. So, when you have friends over for a visit don't forget to let them experience the joys of looking through your telescope!
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