Just before dusk last night, I walked Roxy (my ‘ditsy’ Rottweiler). I hoped to catch a glimpse of the crescent moon, since the new moon occurred just two days before on Sunday afternoon. I had missed the first crescent on Monday night, mostly because of a large hill and trees to the west of my home. When Roxy and I left the house, the sky had few clouds (just a few in the west) and a slight haze due to the rising humidity this time of year. The clouds made a pretty sunset, but nothing spectacular. Since I’d called my dad the previous evening during dusk, he returned the favor last night while I walked. Neither one of us had spotted the crescent moon.
Just as I approached within a block of my house, I happened to look up quite a bit higher in the western sky than I had been searching, mostly to track a high-flying commercial jet airliner leaving a sunset-enhanced vapor trail. I watched it spear through the faint crescent moon. I called my dad to let him know I had found the moon, but he had just climbed over a fence chasing an errant piece of firewood, so our conversation ended abruptly. Once he retrieved his delinquent wood, he called me back and we both exclaimed at how high the moon was in the western sky (much higher than we anticipated in relation to the sun and only two days since the new moon).
Once I got home, I moved my Meade ETX-90 on it’s field tripod from the master bedroom (where I’d last used it Monday evening in a vain attempt to find the crescent moon from my west-facing second story window) to the backyard. I located a spot with no tall trees to the west and oriented the telescope to peer through the various electrical lines also crossing my westward sky view. I brought only one eyepiece (the 26mm) since the moon is quite a large object and I only need to use that eyepiece as a viewfinder for the digital camera. I attached the adapter ring for the camera and then carefully attached the Pentax K100D to the back of the telescope. This causes stress and a constant downward pull declination gears. I did not plan to use any of the motorized sidereal tracking or other features of the Autostar computer controller. The small finder scope is difficult to use once the camera is attached since your head needs to be where the camera body is. Eventually, I found the crescent moon and took a few snapshots.
I waited about an hour before moving the telescope to the east side of the house in an attempt to view Saturn. Sadly, the haze that plague me earlier while photographing the moon had accumulated into a substantial cloud cover, preventing an unimpeded view of the ringed gas giant.
This morning, I went searching (again) for tips on repairing or tuning up the ETX 90 telescope. I found this helpful article by Jordan Blessing complete with full color photos for tuning up the telescope. Another helpful link, also found at Weasner’s ETX Tech Tips page, advertised a supercharge tune-up (and repair) service offered by the Arkansas Sky Observatory. Lastly, I found a nice classified ads site called Cloudy Nights that had several ETX items posted. I also need to buy at a minimum a half dozen astronomy research and reference books, the first one of which will probably be Sky & Telescope‘s Pocket Sky Atlas.