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Brand New to astronomy

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Sorry in advance for the length and possibly rambling of this intro.  Here is a TL/DR summery that I expect most of you will stop reading at.  Lol.


-The name is Randy and I am VERY green to this hobby

-Any advice to where I can read the most simplified/shortest basic astronomy starting guide, while being thorough enough to go over how to plan a good viewing (expected humidity, wind, dew points, etc)?

-Run on sentences and grammar mistakes galore

-WAY too much detail on my telescope set-up and almost 5 minutes worth of READING TIME (probably 2 hours of typing time) of me rambling about chosing my first telescope

-If you have never tried solar viewing, I highly recommend it, but do your research on how to do it safely...applies pretty much anytime you use a telescope in daylight

-Me apologizing yet again for the length and unnecessary amount of reading you may have endured

*the voice inside your head, "Can he really be sorry though if he has apologized so many times, yet still posts it...wouldn't a truely apologetic person just start over and post their intro in much more concise and orderly layout?"*

-----end TL/DR-----



Hello my name is Randy.  I'm in SoCal, so I don't get too many great times for night viewing (smog, light pollution, wind, work, etc), especially with my late-night work schedule.  Every now-and-then though, the "stars will aline" (figuratively speaking and the pun was DEFINITELY intended, lol), in that it will be a clear/still night on my day off, the neighbors have their back porch light off, AND I have the energy to set up my scope (a very rare occurrence for all of that).  Luckily I can find some decent viewing areas during my off-road camping trips (usually in the middle of the desert, about 2 hours from the nearest city).  


I have a Starsense Explorer DX 102mm Refractor scope.  I'd like to get into backyard viewing about once a month or so, and would like to host a BBQ/viewing-party soon, but I feel a little overwhelmed with the thought of planning.  I know that there is a lot of information out there (and have tried to take in info from a decent amount of different sources) but I have some pretty bad focusing issues (as in keeping my brain focused, not the focusing on celestrial objects part, lol) and I start to get lost after about 10 minutes of research.


Is there an "amateur astronomy for SUPER dummies" guide out there?...Something that just glazes over the basics on what to look for when trying to find a good viewing night...Something that after a 5 minute (+/-) read will give me a basic direction and then I could later look into researching some of the specifics (such as the dew point...I know nothing about dew points, except that it is important to viewing times and/or viewing quality...I think).  lol.


My gear

-Scope: Celestron Starsense Explorer DX 102mm Reflector

-Eyepeices: 25mm, 10mm (both came stock with the scope)

-Barlow: GSO shorty (x1.5 or x2)

-Diagonal: stock 90° erect image

-Filters: Variable Polarizing moon filter (1-40% light transmission), Thousand Oaks 'solarlite' full aperture solar filter (I only point my scope at the sun if BOTH my sun and moon filters are SECURELY on, and I remove my spotting scope beforehand as a precaution as well). Sun spots look absolutely amazing through it!

-Storage: My scope is kept in the retailers box, in the garage (safe from the elements, and shouldn't take very long for the lenses/tube to equalize to the outside temp/humidity).  My eyepieces, filters, and the like, are all either in their original tubes or in Agena bolt-style tubes (lined both top and bottom with foam).  I then keep those and my spotting scope (the stock one) in a "pick-and-pull" foam lined Apache case (the supposedly decent harbor freight ones), also kept in the garage.

-I also have the basic cleaning kit from Celestron as well as their LensPen (although I've only set up my scope three times, so I haven't had the need to use any of the cleaning kit yet, lol).


-Next on the shopping list: X-Cel x3 Barlow and an adjustable (8-24mm) lens.  I'll also likely buy a x2.5 Barlow (I think also by GSO), that most reviews say is actually more like  x2.3, but they seem to say its actually at a sweet spot for their 102 apurature reflectors, and well worth the affordable price. Additionally I'd like to pick up a reducer or two to test out how my scope fars for terrestrial spotting.  After I get a decent bit of viewing through the adjustable eyepiece through various Barlow/reducer magnifications, I'll figure out what sizes seem to work best for me; I'll invest in a few sizes of higher quality eyepieces.  At that point I'll likely invest in a few different filters as well...mainly for filtering out specific wavelengths for viewing specific objects.  


I'm obviously VERY new to amateur astronomy.  I've always had an interest in astronomy, but haven't tried to pursue my interest until this year.  As a kid, I was told that telescopes were "too expensive"...my Dad was a big tech nerd, and was the type to do his research to find a sweet spot between the "absolute very best" of something vs the "best bang for your buck"...so I'm sure any telescope that he would have bought would have been a $4-5k scope (I'm 36 yrs old now, so $5k was A WHOLE LOT of money when I was kid)...too much for something to buy a child who may not even be that big into.  So growing up I assumed that all but the lowest quality scopes would have been at least $2k, and just too expensive for me to justify to try out...really it wasn't until I started to look into telescopes about a year and half ago, that I found out that decent scopes can be very affordable (at least with my current income and living situation).


I get a sense of personal satisfaction when I find celestial objects by only knowing their general direction (so I haven't played with the StarSense feature of my mount yet).  I spent many months researching telescopes and reading reviews before buying my 102 refractor.  I 100% knew that I wanted a refractor as my first scope...Refractors seemed simplier to use and easier to understand how they work, plus I wanted that classic feel of "peering through a tube at the stars". 


I wanted a true multi-purpose scope that I could use for various viewing: solar and lunar viewing were my main priorities, able to make out the rings on saturn and/or spot a moon or two of Saturn or Jupiter would've been a plus, able to use it as a terrestrial spotting scope was a minor plus, simplicity to use (while manually locating objects) was must, and of course affordability.  Additionally brand reputation and availability were/are important to me too.  If my first scope had a bunch of issues/quirks that weren't easy to deal with, then that could put a quick end to my future hobby.


I am primarily interested in casual viewing and not too interested in things like astrophotography (at least not yet), so I wasn't worried about having the biggest apurature with the cleanest image...I figure that if I start wanting to dive into something more advanced like that, I would later invest in a bit higher-end, specialized scope for that.


I had originally decided on the Omni XLT 120 refractor...it seemed to hit most of my wants and desires, with a decent amount of good reviews.  Unfortunately when I was looking to buy, the XLT 120 was pretty much impossible to find anywhere.  Everywhere that would sell one had them on backorder for an unknown period of time, plus the MSRP on it had apparently jumped up quite lot (I think almost doubling from what it used to be not even a year beforehand).  The astronomy bug had bit me too hard wait for an unknown backorder time, plus the consensus on the interwebs was that it no longer was quite the bang-for-the-buck that it used to be.  And sure, at the time I could find some used ones for an okay, but still fairly high ("darn you basic supply-and-demand principles!") price, but I wanted my first scope to be new...with my lack of experience I didn't want to have to worry about anything like fixing a broken lens, or how to realign it if it was off...I wanted something that should be fine out of the box, and if anything was a miss, I could exchange it, or have it covered by a warranty.


So with not wanting to wait, and realizing that a cheaper option may be better to start off with (I could always invest in another scope later right), I went back to researching for another month or two.  Since I had previously decided on a Celestron product, I took a really good look at their other products, more so than other brands really.  Part of it was still for my desire for the Omni XLT 120.  If I tried a cheaper Celestron scope and liked it, then I could still end up buying it later...selling my first scope to recover some cost back.  it would basically be a test drive for the brand's refractors.  Despite that, the biggest reason that I ended up focusing most of my final research primarily on the one brand was because I was just so burnt out on researching.  I was sure that I would not be displeased with one of their refractors and was tired of looking up the comparisons between their scopes vs similar scopes that may (or may not) be a a better buy.


At this point I was actually going to start with a 70 aperture scope just to learn the basics of and get into the groove of astronomy, and then plan on upgrading fairly soon (assuming I did enjoy the hobby).  If I had gone that route, then the plan would have been to use the 70 primarily as a terrestrial scope and/or one that I wouldn't mind letting kids (or my more clumsy friends) use for stargazing; however, when I was price-checking around, I saw that OP had a deal going on with the StarSense 102 (bundled with the cleaning kit and I think something else...a flashlight maybe) and discounted for a noticable savings...I took a quick look at the specs, and thought the StarSense mount could be a useful feature (especially when friends/family are viewing through it).  Since that scope checked off a lot of my wants, seemed like a good compromise between the one I originally wanted to splurge on vs the more financial responsible route, AND that the fact that the price was right during the sale, I jumped on it.


Even though I have had my scope for almost a a year now, I have only had it out a handful of times.  It's been hard to find the time and motivation to set it up for viewing...but I am hoping to change that, and MAKE the time to enjoy this new hobby of mine.  I feel like it could really help with stress management and mental health, plus it's the perfect hobby that combines my nerdiness and my love of outdoorsy activities into one.  So far I love my scope and can't wait until I take the real plunge into the hobby.


For anyone reading who has just focused on night viewing.  I highly recommend consider investing into a trusted Solar filter for the occasional solar viewing.  Do your research into the possible dangers and how to do it safely (both for you and/or your guests AND protecting your equipment as well.  As I mentioned above, I use both a trusted Solar lens (at the apurature end) and a polarizer moon filter (eyepiece end).  Never point your scope at the sun without your filter on (even while not viewing), as it can damage your lenses.  Obviously you also don't want to look through your scope without the proper filtering due to possible retina damage (the reason for the sun filter AND polarizing eyepiece filter).  That goes for your spotting scope as well...I read they make specialty spotting scopes for solar viewing, but I just remove mine when it's daylight...that way me or anyone else doesn't accidently look through it at the sun.  Always be mindful of who is around...while you may have the best behaved kids in the world, and they can flawless use your scope at night...that doesn't mean that they know/UNDERSTAND of all of the dangers it could pose during the day.  If you have an aperture-end Sun filter (like I do), note how secure it stays on, and how likely it may be that it could fall off if the scope/tripod is bumped or if wind could catch it and knock off while viewing.  Check for anything bigger than a tiny pinhole in your filter(s).  I'm sure there are other precautions that I'm forgetting so be sure to do the quick research. I'd hate to recommend solar viewing to someone and them end up blinding themselves or a loved one, or damaging their equipment.  Please do the research on the precautions and advice, and take them seriously anytime you have your scope out during the daylight.  Solar viewing can be amazing though...watching the sun spots can be memorizing, and who knows, maybe your catch a glimpse of spectacular flare or something.


I'm sorry if this intro had me rambling on (I tend to do that and think it's related to my focusing issues).  If you have read through this entire book, then kudos to you...I don't think I would have been able to, lol.  In my defense though, I should have been in bed 3 hours ago.  I had an eventful day that made me reflect a lot upon myself and how I have been this last year, and what little (yet possibly impactful) changes that I would like to make in the near future.  And this reflection gave me a spark of near obsession level interest in astronomy that I haven't felt since I first decided that I was going to buy my first telescope.  Anyways thanks for reading.  My name is Randy.  It's nice to make your acquaintance.  I may try to edit this down and be a bit more concise after I have had some sleep.  😉


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