Hey folks welcome to the Visibledark podcast! Thank you so much for joining me. I’m an amateur astronomer and astrophotographer. I live in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada and do most of my astro imaging from the backyard. I also have a Youtube channel “Visibledark Astrophotography” and you’re welcome to check that out as well. My website is Visibledark.ca for anyone wanting to have a look at some of the images I’ve took.
This is the first episode and launch of the podcast, with more episodes to come.
I’ll be covering astronomy related topics as well as astrophotography, the ins and outs, tips tricks, hardware, filters and more. I’ll also be having special guests on from time to time so be sure to follow and stay tuned!
For today’s episode, being the first one and an introduction of sorts, I’m going to tell you more about myself and how I got into astronomy and in turn, bitten by the astrophotography bug.
My story begins more than 40 decades ago. As a young boy around 8-10 years old I remember looking at the Moon through my Father’s small pirate like telescope. It was fascinating. I could see all these craters and dark areas, it was a wonderful sight and really hooked me.
I began reading books about astronomy and got a subscription to an astronomy magazine. It wasn’t long before I wanted to explore the planets and see even more details up close of the Moon. My parents seeing my interest in the hobby, took me on a trip to Toronto, Ontario in Canada. It was about an hour drive from where we lived. It was also the closest city with a telescope store!
Now I don’t recall much upon walking into the telescope store. I’m sure I was in awe though looking at all the telescopes on display. I remember the sales person’s name was Clive – not sure why I remember that! He showed us some telescopes and there was a yellow beauty that stood out – a 4.5″ reflector on an equatorial mount with wooden tripod legs. It came with eyepieces, a moon filter and those now infamous dangerous solar filters that threaded into the eyepiece, would get to hot and crack. It actually did happen to me using this scope looking at the Sun. Luckily I wasn’t looking through the eyepiece when it cracked – I had stepped away to do something but I remember hearing a poping sound come from the telescope. I put my hand over the eyepiece and could see and feel direct sunlight hitting it. Yikes! That was a close one I’d say.
Back to the story though. My parents bought this yellow 4.5″ reflector for me and I was so thrilled. I couldn’t wait to use it. The next clear night and so many more clear nights that would follow I was outside in the backyard looking at my charts and pointing the telescope trying to find different object. The Moon was easy. So were planets like Jupiter and Saturn. Seeing the belts of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn for the first time through a real telescope like my yellow beauty, I was blown away. The excitement couldn’t be contained and I called for my parents to come look too!
That little 4.5″ reflector and my thirst for more astronomy was only the beginning. By now I was young teenager.
I started seeing advertisements in the astronomy magazine for building your own telescope. It was at this time I also got a subscription for a magazine of sorts called “amateur telescope maker” or something to that effect. Every issue showcased amateur astronomers building their own telescopes. How to do it, sometimes plans were even included. It was at this point I decided to build an 8″ reflector. Wow this was going to be great!
I ordered the parts I needed to build it, the mirrors, the tube, the focuser and so forth. I was so proud of it. That 8″ reflector ended up mounted on the equatorial mount for my 4.5″ telescope – it was wobbly for sure – but that’s what I had at the time and could afford.
That 8″ reflector turned into a 14.5″ reflector! That was a big telescope. I was going on 17 by now and the night sky was more fascinating and interesting to me than girls were! lol. I remember ordering the sono tubing for it. Cutting it to the length needed, cutting the hole for the focuser and painting it white. My Dad helped me with this project of course. We installed the primary mirror cell and the secondary mirror holder. The mirror was special order, I can’t remember from where. I also ordered a custom built equatorial mount. There was a gentleman in Tucson, Arizona that was building these mounts. I had seen one of his advertisements. It was made out of wood, with metal gears and shaft and motors to drive the dec and RA. It was big enough to hold the 14.5″ reflector and it worked really well.
The 14.5″ reflector, tube, mirror and all, was not only big but heavy. It took my Dad and I both to lift it and attach it onto the mount. It was this telescope that I would take my first steps into astrophotography – of course way back then I’m not even sure it was called that. I don’t remember referring to it as astrophotography. None the less I had a film SLR camera and I purchased the hyper-sensitized film that was popular at the time. I had done some reading on what to use and saw example photos in the magazines by others taking pictures through their telescopes.
I had bought an illuminated recticle eyepiece for guiding. I’d have to stare into the eyepiece and make manual corrections with the hand controller trying to keep the guide star in the center of the crosshair – wow was that fun! Contrasting that with today’s autoguiding really has me chuckle – the torture of manual guiding in the old days! One thing I also bought at the point and attempted to use for imaging was a Jack Newton Cold Camera. I had to pack it with dry ice and cool the film while I took the image. I still have some photos from back in those days. Ones that I had developed myself actually. My Dad had bought me a small film developing and photo printing setup which I’d hide away in the workshop, in the dark.
At this point the new Meade SCTs had caught my eye. I bought a 10″ LX50 SCT. I remember a little bit, using it. Funny enough I can’t recall any specific memories other than having it set up on the beach up at the family cottage and looking around with it. I was heading into my 20s now and my interest in Astronomy was fading somewhat. I began having interest in other things at the time and would ultimately stop doing the astronomy hobby. It would be another 20 years before having my interest in astronomy rekindled…
And that brings us to the end of this podcast. Tune into episode 2 and find out what sparked my interest in astronomy again and the mistakes I made getting back into the hobby!
Thanks for listening. Until next time, clear skies everyone!