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President's Message: March
For my first ten years as a backyard astronomer (1970-1980), my telescope of choice was an Edmund Scientific 3-inch f/10 “Space Conqueror.” Actually, it wasn’t a choice. I simply couldn’t afford those equatorially-mounted 6 and 8 inch scopes that were on the market at the time. Amazingly, that little scope had a bigger eye on the universe than I ever imagined. I saw all of the planets, a dozen or so comets, and followed the wanderings of some 100 minor planets. Over 1500 double, triple, and multiple stars were resolved, and I glimpsed 200-plus deep-sky objects, including the entire Messier Catalog. I even managed to make over 1000 variable star estimates for the AAVSO, charting stars down to 11th magnitude.
The late 1970s saw the emergence of the Dobsonian telescope. Suddenly, a 10 to 12 inch reflector could be purchased for less than their 6 to 8 inch equatorially-mounted counterparts. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to at last own a “real” telescope and picked up a 13.1-inch Coulter Odyssey I. A friend who knew my penchant for small-aperture scopes chided me for selling out and buying the big scope. I jokingly told him the Odyssey was to be mounted on my 3-inch and used as a finderscope! Since 1980, the Odyssey and, more recently, a 10-inch f/5 Dob have been my primary instruments, but I haven’t forgotten my small-scope roots. Besides the 3-inch Edmund and a 60mm refractor I picked up at a yard sale, I also enjoy scanning the skies with an Edmund Astroscan (a 4-inch RFT) and a 4.5-inch f/8 Orion Dob.
My message is simple. Don’t sell the small-aperture telescope short. If you still have that small-aperture telescope you bought as a teenager (assuming it’s of good quality and not one of those junky “500-power” department store scopes), why not give your big scope a night off and put the little scope to work? You might be pleasantly surprised by what you can see.
March is Messier Marathon month, with the big weekend falling on March 25. Skies permitting, a number of us will be at the clubhouse field, notching as many of “Charlie’s Comet Imposters” as possible. Why not join in the fun?
Glenn Chaple, President