Well, last week I broke down and ordered a telescope. After a lot of research and help from people on the Cloudy Nights and SLOOH forums, I decided on the Orion XT8i. It’s a Dobsonian scope with an 8″ mirror.
After some FedEx weirdness, it arrived Tuesday night. Of course the skies were cloudy (apparently this is what happens when you get a new scope) but that just meant I could take my time putting it together carefully.
The instructions say setup takes about 30 minutes but I think it took me about three times as long; partially because I was double- and triple-checking each step. I documented the assembly process with pictures but they kind of dull so I will spare you. It’s pretty much like putting together a piece of Ikea furniture, but with encoder boards. In the end I turned out to be two pieces short: a washer for the vertical stop (to allow you to adjust the straight-vertical position), and the altitude-encoder cable. Neither piece would prevent me from using the scope, but would rule out the Computerized Object Locator. Orion has assured me that the parts are on the way.
Wednesday it rained and snowed, so there was no luck that night either! I figured I would collimate the scope so I would be all set for whenever the weather cleared. I’m happy to report that no collimation was necessary – all the optics were aligned perfectly, even after shipping and assembly.
Finally on Thursday night the weather cleared and Kathy and I took it out to the backyard. After allowing the scope to cool down to the outside temperature we were ready to go.
In my excitement I tried to skip aligning the finder scope and go straight to the moon but that didn’t work out. This is my first scope so I was having a hard time steering the upside-down-and-reversed image. Aligning the finder took only a minute: center scope on bright star, look through finder, turn two thumbscrews until star is centered in finder. After that it was simple to get the moon in the finder (which has a pretty wide field of view).
That first view of the first-quarter moon was fantastic. Everything was sharp and surprisingly bright – almost like someone was shining a light into your eye. I had an afterimage of the moon in my eye for quite a while. Next time I will use a polarizing filter so I can look longer.
Then we looked at Saturn, which was just below the moon. Although it looked (obviously) much smaller than the moon, Saturn still looked great. I believe I saw one of its moons nearby but I will have to check reference to confirm.
We tried the Orion nebula next but at that point it was too near the horizon and washed out by light pollution.
It was a great night. Next clear skies will be Sunday night and we will try out the high-power (9mm) eyepiece, polarizing filter, and maybe the NexImage camera. Hopefully the missing parts for the Object Locator will come soon and I can report on that too.