Back to the Navy (again)... while on duty in a shipyard setting,
there's often nothing to be done except be available and awake. I
found this a great time to learn about shipboard navigation --
charts, compasses, and all that, and celestial navigation as
I was actually paid for this skill while working on
the missile tracking ships, and became quite proficient with
(early 1960s) navigation tools like computers, star trackers,
Transit satellites, and so on. Interesting enough, if it was
clear, the traditional marine sextant worked about as quickly
as the high tech solutions!
Fast Forward to the late 1990s -- we live out in the
country with (relatively) little light pollution, and the sky
can be awesome. Interest rekindles and we acquired a small
telescope (Orion Short-tube 80, an F/5 scope nice for watching
the deer, birds, bears and (oh, yes) the sky.
In the process, itches began that I was told could only
be cured by some mysterious elixer called "aperture". I started
dreaming, thinking, designing (and checking out things like the
UseNet group (available as Google Groups)
"sci.astro.amateur" and similar resources. I found a ten inch
F/4 mirror, and began acquiring things like mirror cells, focusers,
spiders and diagonals, and a bunch of plywood from Estonia or
Today that pile of stuff is a fairly squat
10" F/4 Dobsonian
telescope with traditional problems (it's an altitude/azimuth
design that tracks stars with the help of nudges from the
But wait, there's more... "Equatorial Platforms" can
provide a base on which the telescope sits which slowly rotates
at the same rate as the earth turns, providing that star tracking
feature that was lacking.
Here's a .pdf file that helps put us, the Earth, the solar system, the Sun and other stars in perspective. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader or a similar program to read it. astroperspectivebilingual.pdf
More to come later.