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Telescopes and Astronomy


My first telescope, in my teens, was a low power 4” reflector on a Dobson type stand, which was let down only by the quality of the mirror. With an eyepiece adapted from a microscope to give higher magnification, as well as the crescents of Venus, and craters on the moon, I could see some detail on Jupiter, 4 of Jupiter’s moons, and the rings around Saturn and some detail on Mars.


Many years later, a modest Far East 6” Reflector telescope on an equatorial mount can give far better views. This has been supplemented by a 3 ½“ Meade Autostar refractor, and now a Chinese made Phenix Long Focal 5” refractor which should easily be equivalent to an 8” reflector, again on an equatorial mount.  These telescopes have excellent reputations and the 5” refractor is every bit the equal of telescopes costing five times the amount!


I have a range of eyepieces from 40mm to 6mm with a midrange zoom eyepiece, and quality Barlow lenses with a good set of filters. 


My backyard is quite light polluted, especially from a house behind with unshuttered windows and lights on all hours. I can drive to a reasonably dark site about 2 miles away.


The best skies I have seen in the UK have been in Cornwall, and by far the best dark night skies were in inland mid France where so many stars were visible to make navigating the night sky really difficult!  We were in Cornwall for the 1999 total eclipse, and saw the skies darken but were denied more than a glimpse with no view at totality by cloud cover. It was still a magical experience though!!


I have an interest in viewing the moon, the planets, open star clusters and deep sky objects including planetary nebulas, emission nebulas, globular clusters and very distant galaxies. The biggest difficulty apart from actually seeing some of these objects is the very high level of cloud cover that occurs here in South Wales. The Meade Autostar is for nights when seeing is only fair to good, and has an electronic database to point at chosen objects. The 5” refractor is for the fewer nights when seeing is very good or exceptionally, excellent.


Good seeing conditions only happen when the atmosphere is steady, there is a lack of haze and there is no cloud cover at any altitude, ie not too often!!!! Also, the moon must not be in view! Deep Sky objects can be observed in fair to good conditions, but to really see planetary detail needs best seeing conditions!