To the moon and back with Iver and a telescope

When the big bosses told me I could borrow a Nexstar 6SE telescope, I was super excited.

I checked the Stargazing forecasts: snow, clouds, blizzard, freezing rain, more blizzards, and more clouds. Finally, after a couple of weeks of hateful temperatures and precpitation, there appeared to be a clear yet bitterly cold weekend coming so I packed the Nexstar up and we headed home. 

I am not a professional astronomer. I am not an amateur astronomer. I had to use spell check to spell astronomer. I know three constellations by sight; Orion, The Big Dipper, and the Little Dipper, otherwise I barely know any of those little white dots in the sky from another, so if anyone can attest to the ease of use of these scopes by a complete beginner, it is me. 

I should also point out that I am pretty impatient and despise reading manuals and instructions, which has led to some horrific disasters in the past, so I usually allow extra time (about a day and a half) for putting together any given item incorrectly, disassembling said item and then having to grudgingly refer to the manual to put it together correctly.

The Nexstar goes together quite easily the first time without the need for time consuming re-do's: tripod goes up, optical tube goes on, insert star diagonal, insert eyepiece, look through eyepiece. 

The Nexstars all come with an Alt-Azimuth mount, a fancy term that means "Altitude-Azimuth" or for people like me, up and down and side to side. This mount will find, identify and track pretty much any object from its database of over 40,000 objects.

To do this, the telescope must first be aligned properly.

There are several methods to align the scope that vary in their accuracy and the amount of time required. I had every intention of actually sitting down and reading the manual before my first use but two of my daughters were already up past their bedtimes waiting with unbridaled anticpation and unrealistic expectations of seeing to the outer edges of both space AND time so every minute spent reading manuals meant one minute closer to the emotional meltdown of a 6 year old. Reading was out of the question.

I leafed quickly through the manual and came upon the words, "Solar System Align is designed to provide excellent tracking and GoTo performance by using solar system objects (Sun, Moon and Planets).....". "The MOON!", I thought to myself, "That is one of the few objects I know!"  I slammed the manual shut and headed outside. I pressed the directional buttons on the handset and amidst the whirring and churning of tiny gears I got the Nexstar's orange tube pointed at the biggest, easiest to find object and pressed "Align".

BOOM! I had done the impossible, a successful Solar System Align.

From there, we checked out craters on the moon, Jupiter and three of it's bright, little moons, Mars, and then put the happy kids to bed. Once the feeling returned to my fingers and face I headed back into the cold and used the Star Tour to select objects from the database and let the scope find everything for me.

I know what you're thinking. "Yeah, but I don't work at Atlantic Photo Supply where they just give out free telescopes so how do I know how these things work?"

Well, if you want to see what one of these Nexstars can do, if you're interested in astronomy, or if you want to get a lot of useful information from the members of the Royal Astronomical Society of Nova Scotia, you should seriously consider visiting the Brownlow Avenue location for our Star Party on March 27, 2015 at 8:30. It's a great way to see Atlantic Photo Supply's line up of telescopes at work, see what certain telescopes can and can't do, and talk to a lot of experienced and passionate stargazers. 

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