Wednesday, February 27, 2008

First Light ... A Time Honored Tradition

M42 - Orion Nebula (from

M44 - Beehive Star Cluster (from

M45 - The Pleiades Star Cluster (from

M81 & M82 Galaxies (from

Saturn (from

IC434 HorseHead Nebula (In Orion) (from

First Light is a "time honored" tradition carried out by Backyard and Amateur Astronomers. It is marked by the first night an astronomer 'gathers light' , or looks through a new telescope. You can read all the reviews you want, but you never really know how a scope is going to perform until you point at a celestial object and look through the eyepiece.

On February 25th at 7:30PM I gathered 'First Light' in my new Orion 80mm ED on a SkyView Pro Goto mount. There was a narrow period of 'somewhat' cloudless skies between frontal systems, so I took advantage of the opportunity before the 'white puffies' moved back in.

I performed my first-ever polar alignment (pointing the telescope at Polaris), then let the Goto mount do the rest. I dialed in Messier Object M44 (Beehive Star Cluster) into the computerized hand controller and pressed 'Enter'. The motors quietly whirred for 30 seconds or so, then the hand controller 'beeped' to tell me I had arrived at my celestial destination.

As I looked into the 25mm Sirius Plossl eyepiece, M44 was glistening at me with a cluster of bright and faint stars.

After observing M44 for a time, I took a tour of the sky to view other familiar space objects. Here are the highlights of what I observed:

- M42 (Orion Nebula) looked light-gray and pale-blue. I was able to resolve the four major and two faint stars of the trapezium, which looked razor-sharp. I stared at it for several minutes.

- M45 (The Pleiades) looked grand as ever, and I was surprised to see some nebulosity surrounding the 'Seven Sisters' with the telescope aided eye.

- M81 and M82 (Galaxies) looked great. Just as I thought they may appear through an eyepiece. I will have to study the galaxies individually some time.

- Saturn looked like someone painted the ringed planet onto the end of my scope. I saw faint hints of the Cassini Divide, but clearly saw lines in the planet's atmosphere and even saw the black of space between the rings and the planet.

- However, when I dialed up IC434 (Horsehead Nebula) clouds moved in and ended my session after 45 minutes. It was a memorable 'First Light' with my Orion 80mm ED.

I look forward to many more viewing and astrophotography sessions with my new scope. I didn't do any astrophotography this night, because I just wanted to enjoy the view of celestial objects from the new scope.

You may wonder why I didn't do a 'First Light' report when I bought my ETX-125 ?
I didn't know about First Light, and I wasn't running a BLOG.
Personal Observation: I become concerned when I ask myself a question, and then answer it. I will really become concerned if I give myself the 'silent treatment' for taking one position, rather than the other when answering a question. :)

The pictures are stock photos from the Internet. (Most are from I posted them to give readers a sample of the views I saw through my telescope eyepiece. Most pictures are representative of what I saw, exept for the starbursts in M45 and the detail in Saturn.

I plan to take high quality pictures of these heavenly objects some day, but I didn't want to complicate the experience of 'First Light' with my new scope and mount.

Thanks for Checking In!


1 comment:

Jacki said...

You mean you saw things like that through your new scope?? That is pretty cool!