First Light, First Night

By Diane Cherry

When the telescope equipment arrived it was like Christmas Day for the committee members who opened the boxes at Malcolm's house. Who could believe it that it was actually clear that night too so it seemed as good a time as any to give at least one of the telescopes its 'first light' ' the first objects to be viewed through it.

We started with the smaller 'scope' the Skywatcher 4 inch refractor and carried it out to the back garden to set it up. We had set up the tripod relatively easily and the tube assembly was added with no problems. Russell was bent over the 'scope adjusting it to see Comet Linear C/2002 T7. Just at that moment the rest of the committee was looking up and saw two shooting stars criss-crossing in the sky. Russell looked up too late. We all had a look at the fuzzy comet and could see the nucleus and a small tail. Russell was adjusting the 'scope again to focus on Saturn when a '8 mag. Iridium flare appeared in the east. Russell looked up too late. Guess what! The rest of the committee was looking in the right place at the right time! It seemed like we had had our good omens in the sky (sorry Russell!). Jupiter, the Double Cluster and the Pleiades completed the evenings viewing. Not bad for the debut of the wee 'scope!

Our other telescope is a 10-inch goto Meade LX200 and we couldn't wait to give it its first airing. Luckily for us the AGM was a clear night and it seemed that the whole membership would get a chance to see through the big 'scope. We set it up behind the Old Peoples Welfare Hall and formed an orderly queue. It was a bit more fiddly to put together as it has so many features but, after an initial hiccup, Martin and Walter, who have similar telescopes themselves, managed to get it operational. It was a exciting moment when the 'on' button was pressed and the 'scope came to life. Having chosen 'automatic set-up' the GPS whirred into action and a few minutes later the 'scope signalled with a bleep it was all systems go. It couldn't pick up any signal from Beagle II unfortunately!! It is always a good idea to pick the wow sights on these occasions. The scope slewed dramatically around for the first time and found its target ' Saturn with its moons swarming round it. A beautiful sight for all who viewed it. Lots of oohs and ahhs from the assembled membership. This was followed by the double cluster, Messier objects 36,37 and 38 and Jupiter broke free of the tree line for us to see before packing up.

All in all two very memorable 'first light nights' for the AFA 'scopes!