It’s time. For years I’ve been pawing at advertisements in astronomy magazines, and browsing through ATM (Amateur Telescope Making) guides and handbooks, but I’m still doing my astronomy through a rather nice pair of binoculars. I haven’t looked through a telescope since 1995 (beautiful 100mm refractor that my uncle kindly loaned me for about a year), and that has got to change.
So, this Saturday afternoon I will drive down to Parktown Boys High School in Johannesburg and join an ATM class. The Astronomical Society of South Africa’s Johannesburg Centre has been running these classes for years at the school’s Design Technology Centre (which I suspect is a fancy word for “Workshop”. Just like all school libraries suddenly became Media Centres in the 1980’s), and proudly advertise the fact here.
Since I’m a total beginner at this, I’ve decided to follow the advice everybody gives: Start small. So I will be building a 6 inch Newtonian reflector, in a dobsonian style alt-azimuth mount. I’m not a fan of dobs, and my experiences from the past have been that if a telescope can’t be a refractor then it should at least have an enormous mirror, but that doesn’t matter. This isn’t the instrument of my dreams so much as a learning experience. I will learn the trade before progressing to something more upscale. Besides which, I will still put my absolute best effort into the humble little mirror and with luck I’ll get something which surpasses expectations!
So come back next week, see how my first day went! If you have any words of advice or encouragement, feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org