The Return of the Big ‘Dob’

I was suffering from aperture fever and was craving bigger and better views … fortunately, my 14-inch Celestron Dobsonian telescope finally arrived.

These telescopes offer the best-possible view for the dollar and are of a most simplistic design. There is a large primary mirror at the bottom and a much smaller secondary mirror and focuser at the top of the telescope tube.

Then there is the cradle that the tube rests in so you can cruise around the night sky in perfect silence – no motors, no lights and just wondrous views of the night sky.

Low-power and wide field of view is what these telescopes are designed for. When it comes to observing distant targets, such as galaxies and nebula, this is the machine for the job.

Gathering a few of the local amateur astronomers, I set out for the Takhini River gravel pit for the Dobsonian telescope’s maiden deep-sky voyage. The night was perfect, with the Milky Way extending from horizon to horizon, a sure sign of awesome night-sky observing conditions.

After about four hours, the mirror was cooled down and it was time to check mirror collimation one more time before taking to the eyepiece. I was stunned and shocked … I had only dreamed of seeing this kind of detail.

Galaxies no longer looked like fuzzy little green patches in the eyepiece. Now, the spiral arms were easily seen and huge dust lanes streamed across these massive cities of stars.

Nebulas were much larger and were seen with far-greater detail than I ever thought possible. Even hints of colours were seen. Huge wisps of cloud snaked across the eyepiece and kept right on going.

When observing the Ring Nebula, the central star was visible and looked amazing just floating in space, a perfect smoke ring.

Globular star clusters were now resolved, showing an endless amount of individual stars instead of a fuzzy little orb with a few stars present. Open star clusters were equally impressive; with the wide field of view, the image was even more impressive.

When it comes to planets, the view is unsurpassed with true 3-D viewing at the eyepiece. Jupiter abounds with detail from cloud bands, and the Giant Red Spot, to the always-fascinating Jovian moons.

Saturn’s rings never looked finer and were easily broken down to three separate ring systems. And when observing comets, it leaves you drooling for more.

“So if these telescopes are so good, how come everyone does not own one?” you ask.

To start with, these are very large telescopes. My fourteen inch telescope weighs somewhere in the neighbourhood of about 150 pounds. Breaking it down for transport still leaves you with six-foot tubes that weigh in at 100 pounds, and a base or mount at 50 pounds.

The next Yukon Night Sky Star Party will be Saturday, April 12, at Grey Mountain Lookout point, around 8 p.m., weather permitting, of course. The main targets of interest for the evening will be the Moon and Saturn.

If you are interested in astronomy and want to see what it is all about, just make an appearance at the Yukon Night Sky Star Party or e-mail me at: [email protected]

Clear Skies, from James “Deep Sky” Cackette.

James “Deep Sky” Cackette can be reached at yukonni[email protected]. See his photo adventures on Facebook at Yukon Night Skies.

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