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[23rd June 2010]

We have learned more about weather than planets so far and appear to be cloud magnets. In London, Nottingham and camping in Norfolk, we have had two decent nights since acquisition. One in Nottingham where I failed to get the setup right, but we did get some great views of the moon. Last night was more technically successful in that we got the tracking right, but there was not much to see in the small window of sky we have available through the trees and roofs. Nevertheless, sorting out the setup was a triumph.

[28th May 2010]

Significant progress to report. I bought a cheap (£13.99) pair of 12x50 binoculars from 7 Day Shop which allowed remarkably good views of the moon. I bought Nightwatch and Backyard (see books below), both of which are excellent - if I had to choose one it would be Backyard for a complete beginner. And this week we drove down to Eastbourne to pick up a second-hand Meade ETX90 from a lovely couple who gave us a lengthy, invaluable lesson on setup and usage.

The first night we had it at home was cloudy and drizzly. Last night was cloudy, but by the time I went to bed, the moon was visible and so we had a quick and rewarding look at it through the bedroom window.

The ETX is a remarkable device and we are looking forward to using it properly soon. The view from the garden is very restricted as it is mostly trees, but the ETX is compact enough to take camping and also on our weeks of granny-sitting.

Although it is not best suited to photography, I am hoping to hook up a camera fairly soon. The scope came with a copy of Lilian Hobbs' The ETX Telescope Guide which is brilliant for beginners and a source of endless accessories I can lust after.

[14th April 2010] Astronomy with small telescopes

The Berry DIY telescope book is fascinating and informative, and the projects enticing, but realistically, I cannot see us getting round to it in the foreseeable future. I am reading a variety of books on the subject of Astronomy, particularly the equipment, and one of the most helpful is Tonkin's Astronomy with small telescopes.
Incidentally, there's a free pdf book on DIY telescopes here.

Then there are three highly recommended books on the practicalities of starting astronomy:

And we are remarkably lucky in living only a few miles from one of the finest resources available to amateur astronomers in the UK, Crayford Manor House Astronomical Society. Now if only they will answer my emails, we can get some benefit from that proximity.

My current inclination (largely from specific recommendations in Tonkin's book, but also from the comments of several more general works) is towards a basic Meade ETX, explained and advertised here.

[28th March 2010]

This page might, or might not, get very far.

Primitive Photography Build your own telescope

I have pursued photography since childhood. A friend was a keen astronomer and made his own telescopes (he still has an Olympus OM-1 of mine I loaned him, decades since). Mrs B mentioned recently that it would be fun to look at planets and stuff.

And so. One plan on retirement was to build a camera and play with alternative processes. There is a terrific book on this subject Primitive Photography: A Guide to Making Cameras, Lenses, and Calotypes by Alan Greene. Amazon's clever system reminds me that I bought this on 23rd October 2002, but I have not got anywhere with it yet - I have a not inconsiderable collection of books on alternative photographic processes awaiting time and inclination.

And I have ordered a copy of Build Your Own Telescope by Richard Berry.

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