[Last month we published the first of what we hope will become a series of articles written by SJAA members who have borrowed telescopes from the loaner program. If you have spent time with one of the SJAA loaner scopes, we would like to hear from you! Email to firstname.lastname@example.org. -ed]
I'd like to start by saying thanks to Mike Koop for all his work on the loaner scope program. It is a real asset to the SJAA members to have such a variety of instruments for use. This summer I had an opportunity to play around with scope #8, a 14" truss tube dob. I brought the scope to my friend's home in Gilroy for my first look through it. M13, the Hercules Cluster was my first choice. Looking at M13 with the 14" was like seeing a new object for the first time. An incredible amount of individual stars, even at low power, jumped into view. I spent a few hours with it that first night before putting it to bed.
The following day I disassembled the scope into its major components. After repairing some of the fasteners. I reassembled and collimated the scope. That first attempt took about 45 min. The secondary was a little difficult to get set properly but once set it seemed to stay fairly well aligned. After a few set-ups the time was cut down to about 15 to 20 min. The base is fitted with casters and while this made for easy relocation it made for a very unstable mounting. Setting up on grass or dirt helped, but it was still a little unsteady. A Telrad and a 60mm finder scope are mounted to the scope. The 60mm with the supplied 20mm eyepiece provided an excellent wide field view for finding objects.
Although it required a bit of work to get the scope to a dark site, my efforts were rewarded with some incredible views. My family has a camp on the Stanislaus River near Dorrington. On a moonless night many deep sky objects are visible to the naked eye. I brought the 14" there on such a night. After dark, the Milky Way rose from the southern horizon to beyond the zenith. The entire sky was alight with stars. Looking through the eyepiece, clusters and nebulae showed bright against the inky black background. The nebulae were the highlights, detail I had never observed before. I was also able to successfully complete my list of Messier objects finding M33 from Lick observatory and M74 at Fremont Peak.
I would recommend scope #8 for anyone who won't mind a little effort for some pretty big rewards. Thanks again to Mike and the SJAA.
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