Sunday, March 09, 2014


Old Betsy’s Revenge

Betsy in Mardi Gras Regalia
Why would Unk’s time-honored Dobsonian want revenge? Because she’s been starved of photons for too long. I booted up her Sky Commander Digital Setting Circles computer the other day, muchachos, and was gobsmacked to see the date set into it was November 10, 2012. Yep, last time she was on an observing field was at the the 2012 Deep South Regional Star Gaze.

Why? Two reasons. I’d finished The Herschel Project in the summer of 2012, so Betsy’s considerable visual reach was no longer as vital to my observing. Also, a new telescope had came to live at Chaos Manor South in the spring of 2013, Mrs. Emma Peel, shoving Bets even more into the background. But, as I do periodically, I got to feeling that getting out with the reasonably low-tech Betsy once in a while might be fun after too much wrestling with computers and cables and cameras of late.

As with Big Bertha, who’d been laid off for a long while, too, I expected to do a little maintenance on Old Betsy. I just hoped it would be minimal. Having an understanding wife helps there, since the telescope is stored in Chaos Manor South’s front parlor and is not exposed to varying temperatures, bugs, and damp. A little dust and a little cat hair is all she has to contend with.

A quick check revealed her to be in fine shape. The dust on her body was easily dispelled. How about the primary mirror? After Betsy’s last series of upgrades, Dorothy and I decided she needed some sort of dust cover for the mirror in addition to the wooden cover on the mirror box. As is the vogue for Dobbies today, we fashioned a round cover that lies directly on the surface of the mirror. We made it out of one of Unk’s favorite “astronomy materials,” corrugated plastic sign material, the stuff the politicians sue for their dadgummed yard signs.

Modern mirrors are well over-coated, and as long as you don’t drag the cover back and forth across the mirror’s surface, you don’t have to worry about causing “sleeks,” the small scratches that bedevil Newtonian owners. Indeed, removing the cover showed Betsy’s Meade primary looked pristine. One small mod, and I figgered she’d be ready to go for her twentieth observing season.

Before I get to that mod, y’all, I think I’ll give a brief recap of Betsy’s “career.” I reckon I’ve done that here more than once, but not in a while, and I just enjoy revisiting pleasant memories. Anyhow, Old Betsy first came to me in 1994 in the form of a 12.5-inch Meade StarFinder Dobsonian. One of the simple and crude alt-azimuth telescopes of yore like Coulter and Orion as well as Meade sold back in the 1990s. Cardboard tube, plastic focuser, particleboard mount.

The two most memorable things from Betsy’s earliest days? How she arrived the day before Miss D. and I were married in September of 1994, and how surprisingly good her optics turned out to be. I love telling the story of how Miss Dorothy came home on Friday afternoon to find her formerly spic-and-span front parlor covered in telescope parts and packing material. It was her response when I chirped, “Honey, IT CAME!” that clued me in, not that I needed cluing, as to how wonderful she was. The place where we were to be wed the next morning looked like a tornado had hit it, but D. replied, “Oh, Rod, how wonderful; I am so happy for you!”

Let me add that I was assiduous about cleaning up after myself once Betsy was together, and that I stashed her upstairs with herculean effort (toting her OTA around was like manhandling a freaking water heater). Then came the big day, and D. and I were off on our honeymoon. First light would wait till our return. What did I expect? “OK, not great, ‘bout like a Coulter Odyssey 13-inch.” Such a cheap and cheap-looking 12-inch couldn’t possibly have a good mirror, could it?

TSP 1997
It could. When we got back, I immediately hauled Betsy into the backyard, which, in those days had reasonably clear views of the sky here and there—today the growth of trees has foreclosed all observing “out back.” What could I see between the oaks to the west? Good old Jupiter. What would he look like in a 12-inch f/5? Like a custard pie, I reckoned.

Nuh-uh, Bubba. Despite the King being low in the west, he was a thing of wonder, showing more detail—belts, whorls, spots—than I had ever before seen visually. Back east, Saturn was perfectly placed. In addition to disk banding and a stark Cassini’s Division, the Crepe ring, which often eluded me, was, well, “easy.”

Betsy’s near-full-thickness primary was a good mirror indeed. She strutted her stuff over the next four years everywhere from the 1994 Deep South Regional Star Gaze to the (infamous) 1997 Texas Star Party, where she bested my friend Joe’s high-toned Dobsonian with its Parks mirror (Parks’ optics were highly regarded back then).

Not that everything was coming up roses for me and Bets as 1998 came in. The death of my little Hyundai hatchback car in 1995 meant Betsy had been confined to home most of the time—she wouldn’t fit in my Toyota Camry. Though I had a lot of fun with her in the backyard, doing deep sky observing I would formerly have thought impossible from our heavily light polluted neighborhood, I missed having her at dark sites. I went to my friendly, neighborhood ATM, Pat Rochford, for advice.

What Pat said was that it was time we did away with Bets’ Sonotube. We’d put her in one of them new-fangled truss tube rigs and I could keep on trucking. Worked for me. In addition to making the telescope portable again, we could fix Betsy’s other shortcomings: the plastic 1.25-inch focuser (which did work better than I expected), and a primary cell (if you could call it that) that was too hard to collimate.

The biggest improvement in addition to transportability, however, would be improving Betsy’s motions, and especially her altitude motion. As was all too common in the 1990s (and unfortunately still too common), Betsy’s altitude bearings were too small. That would have made her altitude movement too easy with Teflon bearing pads, and she would have been impossible to balance. Meade compensated by using Nylon. That made her altitude movement too sticky. I compromised by replacing one pad on each side with Teflon, and added an Orion lead-shot filled beanbag counterweight to the scope’s rear. That worked, but just barely.

I obtained the required items for the upgrade:  plywood, primary and secondary mirror mounts and a spider from AstroSystems, a JMI NGF focuser, and bearing material—Teflon and Ebony Star Formica—from long gone and much missed ATM merchant Crazy Ed. When I’d accumulated the parts, Pat, with a very small amount of help from yours truly, got Betsy rebuilt in record time.

TSP 1999
“New” Betsy was a revelation. Not only was I able to get her in the Toyota for the trip to the 1999 Texas Star Party, there was room left over for enough camping gear and other stuff for a week’s stay at Prude Ranch. What was truly remarkable, however, was what Betsy did way out west, snagging dim and difficult objects like the Double Quasar I would have thought beyond the powers of a “mere” 12-inch.

Not that it was all gravy. The truss tube mod meant I no longer used Betsy in the backyard. She was too awkward to carry out back without separating the upper cage from the mirror box, and that took too much effort given my home sky’s condition. Not that it made much difference before long, anyway. Every year that passed it got harder to see much out back due to the growth of foliage.

There things remained till 2007.  I did not use Betsy as much as I used my SCTs, but I did use her, including at another rollicking Texas Star Party, the 2001 edition. After that, however, your old Unk got spoiled. By goto. When I bought Big Bertha, the NexStar 11, in 2002 I discovered I was now more interested in looking than hunting. Howsomeever, it would still have been nice to be able to use the uber-simple and optically outstanding Betsy once in a while…

I didn’t do much more thinking about the old girl till I was having one of my periodic astrophotography bug remissions in 2007. What could I do to improve her? How about digital setting circles? I’d been impressed by the Sky Commander DSCs Pat purchased for one of his scopes. No leveling, no consarned “warp factors” like with Tangent based systems. Just align on two stars and everything from one side of the sky to the other was in the eyepiece.

I figgered if I was going to get Bets a set of Sky Commanders, it might be time to do a complete “Baseline Phase II” upgrade. In addition to the circles, I rang up AstroSystems and purchased a new, smaller secondary mirror, a new secondary holder, and a dew heater for the secondary mirror. Betsy had a way too large secondary as she came from Meade, necessitated (they thought) by her somewhat tall stock focuser.
Finally, I decided it was time to get the primary recoated. After a good cleaning, Pat declared the 13-year old mirror’s surface still looked good, but my mind was made up. I shelled out the bucks for Spectrum’s top of the line “MaxR” high reflectivity coatings.

How did it all work out? Amazingly well. The images Betsy now delivered were noticeably superior. Whether that was due to the new secondary or the new primary coatings or a combination of the two, I couldn’t say, but what was in the eyepiece was noticeably brighter and more contrasty. The Sky Commanders? Freaking amazing. They put anything, anywhere I requested in the field of a medium power eyepiece. I felt as if a whole new Universe had opened up for my old scope.

2008 Chiefland Star Party
There was only one upgrade that didn't take. I’d decided to replace the original Meade 50mm finder with a new and fancy Orion RACI (right angle correct image) finder scope. I didn't expect to use it a whole lot, since I already had a Telrad on Bets. I figured if it got used at all, it would just be for centering alignment stars, but I bought the Orion finder anyway. However, it didn't take long for me to recall how much I hate right angle finders. I have never been comfortable using one. I shelved the thing and returned Bet’s original 50mm to it place of honor.

Old Betsy sure did prove herself anew, beginning with the 2008 Chiefland Star Party. The skies were not perfect during the week-long event, but she showed me some amazing things ne'ertheless (with the aid of my new 8mm and 13mm Ethos eyepieces). Including a fairly pedestrian DSO, but one I’d been striving to get a really good look at for dang near 40 years, NGC 206, the huge star cloud in M31’s arms. Oh, I’d seen it plenty of times before, but never as clearly and sharply as Betsy showed it Down Chiefland Way.

I did make one more addition to complete Betsy’s Upgrade following CSP 2008. I’d been using a Desert Storm cover to protect the scope since TSP 2001. It worked, but had a big fault. It was cut to cover the whole telescope, yeah, but only when the tube was pointing nearly straight up. For safety’s sake, a Dobsonian needs to have its OTA positioned near level when unattended in case a wind blows up. With her tube level, though, the cover would not fit over Betsy’s big (ahem) rear end. I made do by protecting the mirror box with a tarp I bungied in place, which was a hassle. At the CAV, I’d noticed a fellow observer's AstroSystems scope cover, which would go over the mirror box with the tube level, and asked Santa Dorothy to bring me one for Christmas ’08.

The cost of Betsy’s upgrades was not inconsiderable, but what she did at the 2009 Deep South Regional Star Gaze made it worth it. We had horrible weather on the first night of the star party, but the other evenings were exemplary, and I ran through my observing list in a right quick hurry and was soon out of objects. ‘Twas then I concluded that Betsy’s optical and finding prowess meant I should tackle the legendary and somewhat daunting Herschel II list. The rest, as they say, is history—in a small amateur astronomy sort of way.

DSRSG 2009
After that triumph, however, things wound down for Bets. She got a few cracks at the Herschels, but after I decided to go for the Whole Big Thing, all 2500 H-objects, I began to use deep sky video camera equipped SCTs most of the time. Especially when I had to do Herschels from our less than pristine club site.

There was another and more serious reason for Betsy falling behind the CATs. Her weight (sorry, old girl). Every year, her mirror box seemed heavier. We had built Bets’ mirror box along the lines of those of the first truss tube scopes, like the old Sky Designs Dobs: big, heavy, solid. The opposite of today’s ultra lights. Betsy was too heavy for me now, and I didn't take her to the Possum Swamp Astronomical Society dark site often.

I finally got up the gumption to ask Pat if he could figure out a way to knock some weight off Bets without completely rebuilding her (Pat had just constructed an innovative ultra light around a 16-inch Meade StarFinder primary). He said he could, and proceeded to do quite a bit of whittling away with a jigsaw.

The results hit the field of the 2012 DSRSG for first light with Baseline Phase III Betsy. Not only had Pat removed quite a bit of weight from her mirror and rocker boxes, the holes he cut looked professionally done and improved the airflow around the primary considerably. Yes, the mirror was somewhat exposed during observing, but that is today’s fashion and doesn't seem to cause problems. Betsy performed well at the star party. The Herschel Project was done, so, admittedly, I didn't push her, but I had mucho fun looking at cool stuff, a lot like I did at the 2008 CSP bash.

Which brings us up to today. What would I need to do to bring Betsy back online? As above, not much. A little dusting, a little cleaning, a little application of Pledge to her wooden body. Actually, there was one last mod I wanted to make. While the holes Pat cut in the mirror box were a practical help, they left the mirror a mite exposed when she was uncovered and unattended on the field. Our expedient solution at DSRSG 2012 was to drape a towel over her mirror box. That didn't seem very elegant, however.

I cut a couple of removable panels of (yes) corrugated plastic to block those holes when she is sitting out without me around, affixing them with Velcro. I used white plastic since that’s what I had on hand and my intention is to remove them during observing. That was all I did (other than changing the battery in the Sky Commander). Next step was to get her to the PSAS field for a check ride.

2012 DSRSG
Which was not what I’d planned for last weekend. I thought I should get out with Bertha again to make sure she was 100% after her long layoff. But given a forecast that predicted clouds well before midnight, I just couldn’t face dragging the C11  and batteries and laptop computer to the dark site. I am purty confident Bertha is good to go for the upcoming Chiefland Spring Picnic, but I should get one more chance to test her in the field before then—if the weather gods cooperate.

While I’ve observed more in the last year than I have in who-knows-how-long thanks to my retirement, the observing projects just keep piling up. I still have a few loose ends to tie up on the Herschel Project. I want to get back to Operation Arp. There’s visual observing for a new book to work on. Also, there is a new “big” observing project I keep trying to get started on (more in a minute, y’all). The backlog is thanks to almost unceasingly punk weather since last summer. The rotten cherry on top of the mess? I hear El Niño will be back with us in 2015, no doubt bringing more clouds. Such is the curse of the astronomer.

When 4 p.m. came on Saturday afternoon, I was kinda surprised. The clear sky seemed to be holding. It was humid and warmish, but still clear, so I set about loading up the 4Runner, Miss Van Pelt. Observation number one? Yes, we’d substantially lightened Betsy’s mirror box, but it still ain’t light. Or maybe it’s just that Unk is two years older than he was the last time he hefted it.

Observation two was that when you don’t have to worry about computers, cables, batteries, and multiple gear boxes loading sure does go quick. The mirror box and rocker box (which I toted out separately) went in the cargo area along with my tackle/accessory box, the little netbook computer, and the case containing Bets’ Sky Commander computer and altitude encoder. In the back seat went the upper cage assembly and the truss poles. For a quick run out to the Possum Swamp Astronomical Society dark site, I leave the truss tubes attached to the upper cage.

Traffic wasn’t bad, at least not going the way I was headed, west. The eastbound lanes of Airport Boulevard were bumper to bumper with folks bound for the night's Mystics of Time (Mardi Gras) parade. The slightly less than one hour journey out to the old observing field went pleasantly, with your old Unk passing the time by listening to one of his favorite radio stations, “Willie’s Roadhouse” on the Sirius XM.

Driving onto the field, I was pleased to see my old friend and observing companion, Max, was already onsite. He’d snagged Unk’s accustomed spot, but that was OK; it sure would be nice to have some company other than Mothman and the dadgum Skunk Ape for a change. Before long, one more PSAS compadre, Taras, rolled in bearing his nice 15-inch Dobbie.  It almost felt like a mini-star party compared to Unk’s lonely solo runs.

Set up with Betsy, like loading her into the truck, reminded me why it is nice to go visual occasionally. Plunk down the rocker box, mirror box goes in that. Attach upper cage and truss poles to mirror box. Cable up Sky Commander…and…that…is it. While I could run Betsy’s computer and secondary heater off a jump-start battery, I don’t. The Sky Commander will go multiple nights on a 9-volt battery, and one will power the dew heater for a (short) evening. I stock up on cheap transistor radio batteries at the Big Lots, and glory in being freed from big batteries and cords.

The bright stars were soon turning on and it was time to get aligned. Inserted the 1.25-inch reticle eyepiece and 1.25-inch adapter into Betsy’s JMI NGF focuser—and she immediately began to sink in altitude. Hmm. Hadn't remembered a balance problem at DSRSG 2012, but maybe I’d just forgotten it. Pat removed quite a bit of weight from Bets’ rear end, so it wasn’t surprising she’d be somewhat nose-heavy afterwards. That was easy enough to cure. Removed the counterweight attached to the upper cage with Velcro and all was well—with a 1.25-inch eyepiece, anyways.

Hadn't aligned the Sky Commanders in over two years, but it is so simple I didn't have to exercise a single brain cell (good thing). Power up, enter the date, and the computer defaults to Polaris as alignment star one. Push the scope to Polaris, center the star in the cross-hairs, press Enter, and pick a second star. I have two pairs of “Sky Commander stars” that get me through most of the year, Polaris and Procyon and Polaris and Fomalhaut. These pairs seem perfectly spaced to yield excellent alignments, but I can’t take credit for discovering ‘em. I was told about them by my Sky Commander wielding buddy and big Dob builder extraordinaire, Tom Clark.

Second star entered, it was time for a test, and what better test than M42, which was now straddling the Meridian. Cursored down to the M objects on the ‘Commander, used the right-left/up-down keys to get to “M42,” mashed Enter, and moved the scope till the altitude and azimuth readings on the display zeroed out. In went my much-loved if hardly perfect 16mm 100-degree AFOV Zhumell eyepiece, “The Happy Hand Grenade” and I had the first look of the evening.

M42 was dead center and looking mighty fine in the gloaming. There was a surprising amount of nebulosity, and, with a little staring, I picked out the E and F stars in the Trapezium. Seeing was not perfect but not bad, either. Downside? It was clearly going to be a wet night; there was plenty of moisture on the Telrad’s dew shield already.

Plastic covers for the holes...
What now? I was close to winter’s only Messier globular star cluster, M79. Boom. Right in the middle of the big field. As I told Taras, who was having a little trouble with his Sky Commanders initially, the only trouble I’ve ever had with the S-Cs has been due to pilot error—usually me being mistaken about the identity of an alignment star. Which turned out to be his problem. A realignment and Taras’ 15-inch Dob was also hitting every blessed target.

Then it was my turn to have trouble. Moving down in altitude to snag M79 revealed I still had balance problems. Betsy wanted to keep going all the way to the horizon. I was stumped as to what to do for a minute. Then it hit me, “Get rid of the Telrad or the finder scope, dummy; you won’t need either one for the rest of the night.” Away went the old 50mm Meade finder, and balance became perfect no matter how low we’d go with the heaviest eyepieces.

But where would we go? I fired up the little Asus netbook and took a gander at my list on SkyTools. I’d brought the Asus out since it will run all night long off its internal battery. That was the good. The bad, as I quickly discovered, was that with the display turned down to low intensity and a red filter over it, my old eyes had a right hard time reading the small text, even with my coke-bottle glasses on. I vowed to always use the Toshiba with its big 17-inch screen from now on. I persevered however, and loaded up the evening’s observing list, “BCH unobserved.”

If you are an old-timer, or even a not-so-old timer, in the astronomy game, you probably know the letters B, C, and H stand for “Burnham’s Celestial Handbook.” This three-volume observing guide is not state of the art anymore. It pales in depth and object number in comparison to books like The Night Sky Observer’s Guide. However, it has never been and may never be surpassed for its thoughtful, aesthetic take on the Universe. Robert Burnham’s story is a sad one, but not without its triumphs, and I will say more about him and his books some Sunday soon. For now, though, let’s just talk about the BCH Project.

With my grand Herschel Hunt a fading memory, I was after a nice big observing project. Something wider in scope and encompassing more objects in more constellations than Operation Arp. That’s what I was ruminating about one afternoon when I happened to spy Burnham’s on the bookshelf in Chaos Manor South’s den. “Well, why not?”

It was easy enough to find a text file on the Internet listing of Burnham’s object numbers. It was also easy to import that into SkyTools 3 and turn it into an observing list. Then the culling began. I eliminated variable and multiple stars, far southern constellations, and objects for which I had recent log entries. That left me with a grand total of just over 700 deep sky objects, 707 to be exact, of all types scattered all across the sky.

20 years down the line...
What are my “rules” for the BCH project? Ain’t got nern. Unlike the Herschel Project, I am not imposing a time limit on myself. I will observe the BCH objects when I observe them, and will let you know how it goes and will talk about the most outstanding objects rat-cheer. I’m looking forward to both observing the DSOs and to reacquainting myself with the Handbook after not having cracked it open in way too long.

So, Unk got on the stick with the BCH project and ever’thing went smooth as silk? Y'all know better than that. The evening's silliness began when I decided to see how M82’s supernova was looking. The first difficulty was that Miss Van Pelt’s raised tailgate was blocking the galaxy. Well, shoot, I’d just lower it temporarily. I did that, barely noticing an audible CRUNCH when I did so. M82 didn't look half bad, though the sky was now a little hazier than I’d have liked. There was detail along the disk in the 13mm Ethos eyepiece, and the supernova was still easily visible with direct vision. The uh-oh came when I was done and lifted the tailgate.

DOH! I FORGOT THE MONSTER! I use Miss Van Pelt’s rear cargo area as my observing table, with the laptop and accessory box stationed there. What I had also stationed there, on the bumper, was a half-drunk Monster Energy Drink. It was now also half crushed. The tailgate had squeezed it good, spraying the sticky stuff all over the netbook. Luckily, Max had brought along paper towels, and even more luckily, the Asus’ semi-chicklet-style keyboard is reasonably resistant to moisture.

Alarums and excursions over, I got started observing. What was the final total? A somewhat paltry 21 objects. I’d hoped to do more than double that, but Urania had other ideas. Her sky was never very transparent, and by 9 p.m. was closing down with haze and ground fog, something not unusual for this site in the late winter-early spring. Even before the fog came, this was not a night for galaxies. It was an evening for open clusters, alas. But, as you know if you have been observing long, there’s always the possibility of surprises, even on semi-punk nights.

Often the greatest observing experiences in amateur astronomy are the unlooked for ones. Auriga was riding high, just past zenith, and I started running the list objects there. M38? Check. M36? Check. M37? Check? NGC 1893? Uhhh… The number was somewhat familiar, but only somewhat. Looking at its vitals in the information window in ST3 revealed NGC 1893 to be a sprawling 16’ across open cluster in the southern area of the Charioteer. Hokay. Punched in “1893,” did the push-to thing, and put my eye to the Happy Hand Grenade.

“Well…cool enough star cluster, I reckon. But what’s that around it? Nebulosity?” I didn't recall a bright nebula in Auriga. There is the Flaming Star Nebula, yeah, but that is hardly bright. Let’s look at the POSS plate. A few clicks in SkyTools and I was viewing at the old Oschin Schmidt picture of the cluster. Which was enrobed in nebulosity to a spectacular degree.

Removed the Happy Hand Grenade, and screwed my 2-inch UHC filter onto it. Back in the focuser, a little focus tweaking, and I sure was rewarded. At first all I saw was a bright arc of nebulosity, somewhat tadpole shaped, but as I kept looking, I began to see there was an annulus of nebulosity superimposed on the hordes of cluster stars. What was this thing?

Betsy's latest incarnation
I pulled up the Interactive Atlas chart in SkyTools, and saw this was IC 410. The isophote on the chart showed an elongated patch, and after a lot of staring, both Unk and Taras, who also homed in on  the nebula, began to see it was a like a smaller version of the Rosette, only strongly elongated rather than round, extending roughly north - south. Images show IC 410 enclosing at least two separate dark areas, but visually we only saw one. Anyway, “Rosette Junior,” as we began calling it, was beautiful. 

What did Mr. Burnham think of IC 410? Hard to say. He has the nebula in his “List of Interesting Objects,” where he describes it as “F neby [faint nebulosity], diam 20’, encloses cluster NGC 1893,” but it does not get a full write up in the descriptive section of the Auriga “chapter.”

I pressed on for a while, but my view of IC 410 was the high point of the evening. Not long after I was done with it, conditions began to degrade badly. It was damper than ever—Betsy’s shroud was dern near sopping wet—and when I pointed my red light out toward the runway and engaged all its LEDs, I could see thick fog. The netbook went in its bag. Disconnected the Sky Commanders, and detached the upper cage and truss tubes from the mirror box. Packing took less than 15-minutes.

Back at the old Manse, unloading was similarly easy. No, I didn't have a memory card full of images, but I did have nice memories of the objects I’d seen, and the BCH Project had finally got off the ground. Time for the Yell and the cable TV and some strategizing. I arrived home too late for Svengoolie, but that was OK, The sucka had showed Batman: The Movie. I’ve never been a big fan of the Adam West 1960s Batman. Oh, it’s campy fun, but it is not THE BATMAN I’ve known and loved since I was a sprout. I tuned in the Military Channel, but didn't pay much attention to The World at War. I was thinking about what was next on my observing calendar and what was next for Betsy.

The old gal probably won’t get back out for a while, but she will get out again before another two years elapse, muchachos. She is a good old telescope, I love her, and I have every intention of turning her loose on the globulars of Ophiuchus and Sagittarius this summer should the weather gods permit it.

Next Time:  How Do You Video II...

I am glad it ended acceptably well with the Monster can for you. A few years ago after one of my Herschel 400 observing sessions, leaving in the dark, I forgot to load my laptop bag back into the trunk and backed up the car over it - actually a multi-thousand-dollar "mobile workstation". It is from such experiences that we really learn, right?
Unk said "Every year that passed it got harder to see much out back due to the growth of foliage."

Unk. I know whatcha mean. Over the years, I have watched our trees become such obstructions.

It's like it's so much of a problem to keep our trees for the hard not to clear out all those 'nasty ole' trees, esp. when they clog the gutters!

Clear skies (yea, don't we pray).....

Don Horne
I really enjoyed your post as it reflected what I went through with my 10" f/5 dob. U recently sold it after 7 years. My BIG dobbie used to be my most used scope when I lived in a towhouse and had...surprise surprise a white Hyundai Excel hatchback. My baby got relegated when we moved over to Los Angeles and into a 2 bedroom apartment and no lock up garage. I finally sold her last year in favour of my first Celestron C8 SCT, which is my main visual scope at the moment. She rides on a Vixen Porta mount and she gets used heaps more. I can carry her down, with an extra hand to spare for my camping chair and Astroscan. I told myself I will buy a bigger scope in the 12.5" - 16" someday when we move into a until then...
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