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Equipment Discussions >> Classic Telescopes

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Joe Cepleur
Carpal Tunnel


Reged: 03/18/10

Loc: Dark North Woods
Re: Observing in the 60's and 70's new [Re: rmollise]
      #5630390 - 01/18/13 06:49 PM

Quote:

Quote:

HAIR SHIRT?? Where can I get one of those?




You are automatically issued one when you reach your 40th year or so as an amateur.




Sad to say, I am old enough to have earned my shirt, but am only active in astronomy these past four or five years. Would a lifelong curiosity qualify me?

This thread is of special interest to me, because I am the same age as many of its authors, yet might be called "new" to astronomy. In childhood, I wanted a telescope and in fact built one from a shaving mirror, but I never got a good one. I still recall asking the salesman in Lechmere Sales in Dedham, Massachusetts, why anyone would pay so much more for one telescope than the other, and doubting that what must have been the 80mm was really so much bigger than what must have been the 60mm as to have been so many dollars better. I still recall seeing ads for Celestron C8s, likely in "Boy's Life" magazine and even in the back pages of comic books, and wondering how anything so odd in appearance might have been a telescope!

I live on the Classics Forum as a way to recover what is not yet a lost past. I can't get the years back, but I can see the sky with the same instruments I might have used then, had I pursued astronomy earlier. I suppose Uncle Rod is right --again!-- that we codgers should not disparage newcomers from relying on GoTo, if that's what preserves astronomy. Still, there is a special wonder not just in finding one's own objects studiously, hop by hop, but in looking up and, at a glance, knowing exactly where they are. If you are experienced and can appreciate the ride, find your thousands of Herschels with GoTo to be able to see them in this lifetime; but, if you are new, work and learn something for your own enrichment, such as how to find the Messiers on your own. I worry that astronomy risks becoming television at the eyepiece, and fear that something is lost when people presume they must buy the right gear, rather than learn the right skills, to find accomplishment and wonder in their lives.

I'm not a Luddite. I'm a Nerd. I love the new scopes and own no paper charts, preferring software on my iPod Touch. It's just that I also love the idea that simple optics, including those one might make at home --one comprehensible if sophisticated mirror, a diagonal, an eyepiece, and a marvelous, mechanical mount that mirrors the workings of the Earth's place in the solar system-- might bring the heavens within my grasp. I'm glad the equipment has improved over the years, and yet believe that, in some regards, it has not, if its role is to illuminate its own workings, the Earth's rotation, and the glories of the sky above. An alt/az GoTo mount I can understand, but an equatorial mount I can feel, not just with my hands, but its movements mimicked in my body. Something is lost when a computer from China has to teach the locals how to see and feel their own skies.


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John Jarosz
Astro Gearhead
*****

Reged: 04/25/04

Loc: Fairfax, Iowa
Re: Observing in the 60's and 70's new [Re: Joe Cepleur]
      #5630466 - 01/18/13 07:31 PM

It's hard to tell that astronomy in the 60's/70's had a lot of equipment emphasis but it did/ It's just that there is SO MUCH MORE gear available now. Insanly high end stuff too. Back then there was Questar, Unitron, Tinsley and Vega( yes Vega was very very small) in the high end market. As I recall the only really high end eyepieces were orthoscopics. I had a 6" F13 ATM given to me by my uncle who moved on to other things. I had a 1.25" FL Erfle eyepiece and a 1/2" FL Ramsden eyepiece. I did not know anyone else who had a telescope but many of my friends were intrigued enough to return for additional views after their first taste.

Much more of astronomy back then (to my mind) was the do-it-yourself aspect.

I saw quite a few objects from my Chicago backyard. I really remember when Chicago switched to sodium vapor streetlights and put them in the alleys as well for good measure. Those lights mage a big change - I was not pleased. My prize was finding M57 all by myself after 3 or 4 nights of looking. I grew up never really seeing the night sky from a dark site.

Back then I remember reading S&T and wondering about the section that mentioned 25 years ago in S&T. These days I'm horrified to actually remember covers and articles that are listed in their section on 50 years ago in S&T.

I think my initial exposure to astronomy via an ATM scope conditioned me not to run after perfect optics or hardware but to enjoy the views of things that can't be seen by the naked eye. It's still amazing what you can see with modest equipment.

John


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Jim Curry
Pooh-Bah
*****

Reged: 10/29/07

Loc: STL
Re: Observing in the 60's and 70's new [Re: John Jarosz]
      #5631121 - 01/19/13 07:37 AM

Christmas 1968-1972. Graduating from 8x32 binoculars to a 4" Criterion eq. (see Joe Cepleur's list). Two eyepieces, a third later as a birthday present, a fourth (military erfle) found and put to use as a wide field. I was told recently by Joe that the single secondary stalk was twisted out of alignment, something I never noticed while exploring the skies. Norton's was my field atlas for the Messier hunt, that took about 15 months. Then reading Scotty's column I went after NGC's. There was a couple of great comets, a Venus transit and two solar eclipses to chase (one off Cape Cod, the other Nova Scotia). Wrote a paper on an amateur solar spectrahelioscope design which got me an invite to Yale for a science symposium then poof-off to college and long term storage for the scope. It's now in good hands in the state of Maine under mostly dark skies again.

Jim


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Larry10
super member
*****

Reged: 06/16/03

Loc: NE Ohio
Re: Observing in the 60's and 70's new [Re: John Jarosz]
      #5631136 - 01/19/13 08:14 AM

Quote:

Back then I remember reading S&T and wondering about the section that mentioned 25 years ago in S&T. These days I'm horrified to actually remember covers and articles that are listed in their section on 50 years ago in S&T.




I can relate to that! Maybe CN should open a "Classic Observers" forum.
As others have mentioned light pollution was less prevalent. I now live on the same city block where I grew up and the magnitude limit has dropped by a bit over 2.
Equipment options were more limited. Orthoscopics ruled the roost on the top end and I was envious of those who actually owned one - and in awe of those who owned more than one. 6" reflectors were the norm for the serious observer and many were ATM products. I only knew two people who had monstrous 8" reflectors. I had the privelege of being brought into the hobby by a great group of folks who started a club in 1949. One of these people was Diane Lucas, an amazing individual, who used to share her 6" ATM Mak with some of us younger members. That was an exotic treat!


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Daniel Mounsey
Vendor (Woodland Hills)
*****

Reged: 06/12/02

Re: Observing in the 60's and 70's new [Re: John Higbee]
      #5631232 - 01/19/13 10:00 AM

Thank you all for your thoughts. It's a tremendous honor to listen to you all and John I was especially moved by your comments regarding your fathers support and your loss. My father has supported me as well.

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terraclarke
Post Laureate
*****

Reged: 05/29/12

Loc: Just South of the Mason-Dixon ...
Re: Observing in the 60's and 70's new [Re: Larry10]
      #5631250 - 01/19/13 10:15 AM

Big hooray for Diane Lucas, I would have loved to have known her. Women amateurs who are "hard core" and not just friends/tagalongs (not that there is anything wrong with that) are a rare breed, especially were back then. Girls were generally not encouraged in science unless you expressed an interest in being a nurse. My heroes were Marie Curie and Caroline Herschel. I had only one female science teacher in middle/high school- my 7th grade science teacher, no women math teachers, and in college and graduate school, it was the same, no women professors in my field (geology/geophysics). Today thankfully things are changing so that is one aspect I do not look nostalgically back on.

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Larry10
super member
*****

Reged: 06/16/03

Loc: NE Ohio
Re: Observing in the 60's and 70's new [Re: Larry10]
      #5631564 - 01/19/13 01:19 PM

I forgot to mention that to get to a good observing site we had to hike miles uphill in deep snow - both ways.

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PJ Anway
Double-Star Observer
*****

Reged: 06/04/03

Loc: North Coast
Re: Observing in the 60's and 70's new [Re: Daniel Mounsey]
      #5631633 - 01/19/13 01:55 PM

I started in the late 1960's when I purchased a kit from Ryder's Hobby Shop in Michigan and ground my first and only mirror. It started out being six inches, but after a problem with TDE it ended up being about 5-1/2". After completing the scope and mount, for years it was my only gear and the emphasis was on observing.

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tim53
Postmaster
*****

Reged: 12/17/04

Loc: Highland Park, CA
Re: Observing in the 60's and 70's new [Re: Joe Cepleur]
      #5631637 - 01/19/13 01:57 PM

Like

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Joe Cepleur
Carpal Tunnel


Reged: 03/18/10

Loc: Dark North Woods
Re: Observing in the 60's and 70's new [Re: Larry10]
      #5632032 - 01/19/13 07:00 PM

Quote:

Diane Lucas, an amazing individual, who used to share her 6" ATM Mak with some of us younger members. That was an exotic treat!




What else can you recall about that Mak? My club received a 4" ATM Mak recently. I understand there was a subculture of ATMers building Maks back then, as home-grown alternatives to costly refractors, and want to learn more.


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DAVIDG
Post Laureate
*****

Reged: 12/02/04

Loc: Hockessin, De
Re: Observing in the 60's and 70's new [Re: Joe Cepleur]
      #5632130 - 01/19/13 07:50 PM

Quote:

Quote:

Diane Lucas, an amazing individual, who used to share her 6" ATM Mak with some of us younger members. That was an exotic treat!




What else can you recall about that Mak? My club received a 4" ATM Mak recently. I understand there was a subculture of ATMers building Maks back then, as home-grown alternatives to costly refractors, and want to learn more.




It was called the Maksutov Club, which started at Stellafane back in the late 50's when John Gregory displayed his 5" Mak at Stellafane in 1956 and wrote his famous article about his Mak Cass design for Sky and Tel in 1957. The club published a newsletter from that time until the early 80's. The best of the articles became the two volume books "Advanced Telescope Making Technics-Optical"and the second volume "Mecanical" which are available from Willmann Bell. The Mak club also arranged for Hayward Glass in Cal. to make the Mak corrector blanks in sizes from 4" up to 11". Diane Lucas has a couple of articles in those books. Coulter Optics also sold the corrector shells in the 1970's as well.

- Dave


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John Jarosz
Astro Gearhead
*****

Reged: 04/25/04

Loc: Fairfax, Iowa
Re: Observing in the 60's and 70's new [Re: Joe Cepleur]
      #5632135 - 01/19/13 07:52 PM

I almost bought a Mak optical set in the 80's, I think JMI was selling them. It would have been an ATM project without building the optical components. I came thisclose to pulling the trigger. I forget why I didn't.

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jeffg
member


Reged: 02/13/07

Loc: Irvine CA
Re: Observing in the 60's and 70's new [Re: tim53]
      #5632467 - 01/20/13 12:01 AM

My brother and I started into astronomy in the mid-60s with a 3 inch reflector we got from Sears for Christmas. It was a Harmonic Reed and had a simple eyepiece and a horrid Barlow, but you could get a useful 75x out of it before the images became blurry. We upgraded it to 1.25 inch eyepieces with a focuser from Edmund and two Ramsden eyepieces. I used to looking longingly at the Orthos in the Edmund catalog, but there was no way I could afford $14.95 for one as a teenager. We eventually got one of the RV-6 scopes from Criterion, which even had a clock drive, which very few in our Astro club had. As had been said previously, Uncle Rod is right, no way would I want to go back to those days. The skies were darker, but that didn't mean you knew how to find much of the faint stuff. This evening I was looking at some negatives of Comet Bennett I took in 1967, but they aren't very good--focus is poor, and the stars are elongated due to poor tracking. So it is much easier to get a decent shot today.

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CHASLX200
Post Laureate
*****

Reged: 09/29/07

Loc: Tampa area Florida
Re: Observing in the 60's and 70's new [Re: Daniel Mounsey]
      #5632726 - 01/20/13 08:09 AM

Quote:

Since this was before my era, could anyone who was observing during the 60's and or 70's please elaborate on what observing was like in those days? Did you find yourself fussing with your telescope mechanics or did you find yourself paying more attention to what you were observing in the night sky?




I started out in 1976 and found myself trying to find stuff in the sky. Everything was new to me and i would love to go back and start over.

Chas


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Larry10
super member
*****

Reged: 06/16/03

Loc: NE Ohio
Re: Observing in the 60's and 70's new [Re: DAVIDG]
      #5632736 - 01/20/13 08:23 AM

Summed up well, Dave!
There is a wonderful book, Telescopes for Stargazing, by Henry E. Paul that shows a good spectrum of the gear used in the early 60's. Not too hard to find a used copy online.
Larry


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bogg
sage


Reged: 11/17/09

Loc: Bruce County Ontario
Re: Observing in the 60's and 70's new [Re: Larry10]
      #5632923 - 01/20/13 10:36 AM

I got started in the 70s with a copy of The Stars. Nothing but eyeball observing to start. I could even remember most of the constilations. My Dad one Christmas got me my first "telescope". It was a Bushnell Skymaster with a 20 to 45 power eyepiece and a photographic trypod. I enjoyed many a nght observing Looking at Jupiter and its moons. One night I was shure I was looking at Andromeda. I just panned arround the sky. Looking at what I found. I still have that Skymaster and it brings back some good memories and at 60mm still produces an amazing view for terestial or astronomical.

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SkipW
sage


Reged: 02/03/11

Loc: Oklahoma, USA
Re: Observing in the 60's and 70's [Re: Larry10]
      #5632957 - 01/20/13 10:52 AM

One thing is for sure: cold-weather clothing is much better now! Today's outdoor gear is lighter, far less bulky, and warmer.

I sure don't miss freezing my butt off. Maybe I'm just more cold tolerant now, but I don't think so.


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rmollise
Postmaster
*****

Reged: 07/06/07

Re: Observing in the 60's and 70's [Re: terraclarke]
      #5633451 - 01/20/13 03:49 PM

Quote:

Well I never got mine darn it! I need a hair shirt keep me warm. I haven't been able to get my butt outside at night to observe with anything other than my two eyes since Thanksgiving weekend. Whenever its clear here at night this winter its also below 30 and I don't allow frost on my 'objective.'




Hint: the purpose of one is not to keep you warm...


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Glen A W
professor emeritus


Reged: 07/04/08

Loc: USA
Re: Observing in the 60's and 70's [Re: terraclarke]
      #5633729 - 01/20/13 06:25 PM

Quote:

It seemed to me then that is was much more about the sky and much less about the equipment- or perhaps that was just the exuberance of youth and living in the "space age."




That did not really get lost until the late 80s and all through the 90s. Now, I am kind of sick of all the equipment fascination. S&T hardly even did equipment reviews until about 1990! I liked things better then.

Edit : I may be wrong about that. It's only how it seemed to me! I didn't have the money for a bigger scope, so I made do with a 60mm and it was, actually, pretty great.

Edited by Glen A W (01/20/13 06:38 PM)


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Glen A W
professor emeritus


Reged: 07/04/08

Loc: USA
Re: Observing in the 60's and 70's [Re: tim53]
      #5633753 - 01/20/13 06:40 PM

Star Maps for Beginners was my first book! The cover was different than on yours. Those little cross shaped maps worked really well - I still use the book sometimes. GW

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