Re: (IAAC) Self Introductions.
Thanks for your introduction! I am glad to hear your history of how you got
into astronomy, didn't know you owned such a huge scope (am jealous)! Like
you due to the moisture here in the Northeastern States, never quite have
the seeing to really see the festoons of Jupiter and rarely the white ovals,
but love the deep fuzzies. Unfortunately, my skies are now only about 4.5,
but I did live for five years at a 6.0 site and know what you have there.
From: N.J. Martin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Wednesday, February 11, 1998 8:19 PM
Subject: (IAAC) Self Introductions.
>At nearly 55, I am a glass freak. I collect antique glass, I engrave glass
>and love optical glass and fiddling with optics. By profession I am a
>microbiologist or was until kicked into early retirement last year, so I
>have had plenty of chance to play with microscopes and get bigger and
>toys at no personal cost.
>Like many others in the group I have been a rather on off astronomer.
>Starting with a three draw brass telescope at age 10, (lack of
>astronomically knowledgeable parents). At 15 I got given in kit form the
>cheap but good Orion 4" reflector(recently featured in Astronomy Now). At
>I purchased a second hand 8 inch mirror plus diagonal and a second hand
>made german equatorial mount with a motor drive in RA but no controls at
>At Edinburgh University I joined the Astronomical Society and used their
>refractor in its dome in the grounds of the Edinburgh Royal Observatory.
>was the guide telescope for an old blue/violet corrected, 10" Cooke
>astrograph which we were also allowed to use. We were given stocks of
>6" square, 103ao, blue sensitive plates and if anything was taken it was
>left in the main observatory entrance to be developed. Later still I was
>allowed in to develop them myself; a great experience to see a real
>observatory dark room. By modern standards the plates were very slow, it
>still comes as a shock to see how much less detail I could get in a 45
>minute exposure of M31 compared with modern emulsions. I also had the
>distinction of being the only person to do bacteriology in the Royal
>Observatory, which had the photomultiplier equipment I needed for my
>year project on growth cycles in luminous bacteria.
>After Edinburgh I moved to my present house, near Ayr in south west
>Scotland, 27 years ago. It had then marvelously dark skies but sadly I did
>little astronomy for many years. My problem has always been finding things
>in the sky. The 8" was adequate but the mount was not very good and its
>drive became problematic over the years. I finally killed it by accidently
>leaving the motor on for a week. Being mechanically illiterate my attempts
>to 'improve it' were ineffective or worse and I have felt too broke to buy
>better one. Last year I saw a 20" Dobsonian advertised and said "what the
>hec" and took a friend with a small pickup across the country to collect
>It really was a revelation and a continuing delight. The addition of the
>digital setting circles has been another great success. Despite their not
>being totally accurate they have probably quintupled the number of objects
>can find in a night.
>My skies have still have a limiting magnitude of about 6. Sadly they have
>been getting brighter but I am fighting back a little and have interested
>local councillor in light pollution. He is tackling one major light
>to try to get them to shield or redirect their floodlights. Another major
>industrial development he kept an eye on at the planning stage to ensure
>good lighting practice. It really does pay to spread the word in the right
>ears. There is good will out there if people are informed about the
>Astronomically I especially like observing and drawing comets so have done
>well recently. Deep sky I like fuzzy objects of all shapes and sizes and
>find the 20" apeture a great advantage. As well as the stunning beauty of
>globulars and the brighter objects, there is the satisfaction of detecting
>structures right at the limit of vision such as the planetary nebula, Abell
>21, seeing structure in the spiral arms of M81, the awe inspiring numbers
>galaxies in the Virgo cluster or the chance observation of the galaxy
>cluster around NGC499 in Pisces. Other joys include stunning moments of
>perfect seeing. In 1996 I had two nights with perfect seeing to observe
>with the 8" and also one morning observing Comet Hyakutake and watching
>changes in features a couple of seconds of arc across in the nucleus. There
>have been disappointments. I never seem to have seeing good enough to
>observe the planets and never have seen fine detail on Jupiter and rarely
>Mars. But then "There are no fields of amaranth this side of the grave".
>Nick Martin, Bonnyton House, By Ayr, Ayrshire, Scotland, U.K.
>Latitude 55 24'55" Longitude 4 26'00".