Classes and Star Parties for Our New Observers This Summer

Classes and Star Parties for Our New Observers This Summer

This year, we will be hosting a series of star parties and classes for new observers. Whether you have just joined the club or have been a member for years, if you are ready to start your adventure observing, we are here to help! We will have two series this summer:

New Observer Star Parties - Do you have a telescope and are wanting to take it out to a star party, but need a little extra guidance? In our New Observer Star Parties, we will have mentors to help answer all your questions as your guide your telescope around the night sky. We will also have a "Kids with Scopes" section in which kids may also learn to observe on Orion Starblasts provided by RCA. Our first new observer star party will be on Saturday, July 6th, at Stub Stewart. If you are interested, please email Yara Green at outreach@rosecityastronomers.org to reserve your spot. Space is limited. We are also looking for mentors for this event, so please let me know if you would like to help out by emailing outreach@rosecityastronomers.org

New Observer Classes - In these classes, we will be providing telescopes to help you learn how to use a telescope and navigate the night sky. We will also go over star party etiquette as well as how to stay warm into the early morning hours. Dates for these are coming soon. If you would like to be on our email list for the new observer classes, please email Yara Green at outreach@rosecityastronomers.org

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What’s the Difference Between a Public Star Party and a Club Star Party?

What’s the Difference Between a Public Star Party and a Club Star Party?

It’s Complicated!

One of the funniest Mad magazine comic strips I ever read was their explanation of how to keep score in bowling.  Had me in stitches. I can’t help but think of the arrows and rule changes and exceptions and footnotes as I tackle the job of explaining the difference between our various star parties, locations and policies, especially for members who haven’t been here for the last couple of decades to watch our policies unfold.  So, with all the confidence of Alfred E. Newman, here is an attempt to clear up some questions.

Public Star Parties

Public star parties are sponsored by OMSI. They are advertised to the public by OMSI and they aim for the non-observing public. They are meant to be family events for entertainment and education.  Think kids and dogs.  RCA members bring their own telescopes to these events without hope of getting any of their own observing done; we go only to serve and inform.  OMSI events are held at Stub Stewart and most of the time at Rooster Rock State Parks, though occasionally there might be a change in location based on various contingencies.  Be sure to watch for OMSI announcement by email to our membership or on the Forum.  We have information on our website for folks who are attending their first star party here, and who are volunteering at a public star party here

Club Star Parties

            A club star party is for “members only,” though of course we allow and expect that members sometimes come with family members and/or guests.  Club star parties are meant to be smaller events, quieter and more focused.  Perhaps the word “party” is misleading; if you’re a true night sky nerd, then being out in the countryside under a dark canvas of sky with a telescope and a few friends is a party.  We offer these events so members can get some serious observing done. We do not go with the intention of providing a program. We expect that everyone attending will have their own equipment and observing plan, and will have at least basic good manners when it comes to managing light on the observing field. We have information on our website for members attending one of our club star parties here and a general Code of Conduct for all RCA events here.  One major difference between a public and a club star party is who provides the insurance. At RCA club parties, we do. Also, RCA club star parties are not advertised to the public or announced on Facebook.

What’s the difference between an Sky View Acres (SVA) and a Maupin star party?  ➡

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Please Don't Drive Into This Ditch

Please Don't Drive Into This Ditch

Ditches at Maupin Airstrip Are an Important Water Management Tool

The owner of the property that we call Maupin, i.e. the Wapinitia Air Strip, is very clear that the newly dug ditches along his property cannot be driven in, on, or through by us or anyone else. The reason is that ditches are a water management tool. They drain water out of land that is marshy with snow melt.  They also direct water runoff into a channeled flow, helping to mitigate flooding or roaring spring rivers.  They also are an environmental protection tool. Water-logged land becomes a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Draining the land helps to cut down on marshy mosquito marathons. Considering that we have experienced those mosquitoes ourselves, we should be glad to help keep the ditches in good repair. Please help us find ways to self-enforce our landowner’s request, or we are in danger of losing this location altogether.

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A Visit to CERN: Fast Particles, Deep Underground

A Visit to CERN: Fast Particles, Deep Underground

by Dr. Katherine Kornei

An unseasonably late snowstorm was pummeling Geneva International Airport when I arrived in early April. I pulled my suitcase through snow, dusted off my knowledge of French from high school, and rode tram #18 to its endpoint, a stop simply labeled “CERN.”

I had traveled over 8,000 kilometers to one of the world’s foremost physics research facilities. The European Council for Nuclear Research—the French translation, Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire, is the origin of its acronym—was founded in 1954. Perhaps most well known for the 2012 discovery of the Higgs boson, the sprawling campus spanning two countries is justifiably famous.  

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RCA Paints Curbs at Stub Stewart

RCA Paints Curbs at Stub Stewart

Special thanks to Alison and her volunteers Roger and Merle for painting the parking curbs at Stub Stewart State Park. They present a tripping hazard that we have to warn everyone about every time we go out there, but with the new paint job, they should show up better even in the dark to help make things safer. Alison, I'm amazed at how quickly you got this done. First she was looking for volunteers, then it was done.  Just like that.  Love it, love you, love the bright white curbs!

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Charter Member Jim Todd Receives Galileo Award

Charter Member Jim Todd Receives Galileo Award

At our April meeting, RCA charter member Jim Todd received the highest honor that our club bestows: the Galileo Award. Jim has been the Director of Space Science Education at OMSI for the past 35 years and was a key figure when our club was founded in the merger of two smaller clubs over 30 years ago. He provides our facilities at the museum, paying for us to use spaces at the museum from his own budget, which sometimes means venues such as the Empirical Theater when we need extra seating for special events. Aside from meeting rooms, such as the auditorium we’re currently in tonight, this includes storage space for our telescope and book libraries, our sales inventory, and other supplies. He cares so much about the club that he’s willing to risk tripping over all of that stuff while he’s working at his day job in the Planetarium. He even provides a mailbox for our official mail.

As if that wasn’t enough, Jim has also provided us with special programs, such as movies, planetarium shows, and special speakers, which has occasionally meant astronauts. As you will see a bit later tonight, he has always been ready and willing to fill in with a high-quality sky report whenever we have needed. He advocates and mediates for us with OMSI, championing our cause as the OMSI administration has changed over the years. He has advocated for us with city officials, such as the fire marshal, sometimes absorbing additional costs that we would otherwise have to pay. Jim has also gone out of his way to make our holiday events special, providing decorations, music, and presentations highlighting events important to the club or to the wider world. He is always flexible and works with us to meet special requests or when we need to adjust to unusual circumstances. Altogether, Jim has probably supported the club more than any other individual in ways both large and small and continues to be a very valuable and deeply appreciated member of the RCA family.

Jim’s generosity allows us to use our resources to reach more people and to provide more services to our members than would ever be possible otherwise. In return, we do our best to provide volunteers to help with official OMSI events, such as the OMSI star parties, Astronomy Day, the Makers’ Fairs, and significant events, like the Venus transit. But having the opportunity to participate in these events is yet another benefit for our members. Providing a kid’s first view of Saturn, Jupiter, or a globular cluster is a magical experience and sharing our passion for and knowledge of astronomy with other people is a lot of fun. If you haven’t volunteered yet, we strongly encourage it.

We owe a great deal to Jim and we would be a very different club without him!

Remarks by Vice-President of Programming, Mark Martin

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Welcome Our New At-Large Directors: Angele Mott Nickerson and Kelsey Yocum

Welcome Our New At-Large Directors: Angele Mott Nickerson and Kelsey Yocum

We are pleased to announce the addition of Angele Mott Nickerson and Kelsey Yocum (nominee) to the RCA board in our At-Large Director positions. Angele recently moved back to Oregon after living in Vermont where she was very active with the Vermont Astronomical Society, particularly with outreach, public speaking, and membership activities.  She is a librarian who also spends time helping out with her family's business, volunteering at her son's school, and being outdoors as much as possible. We welcome Kelsey to the board after her excellent work with the Outreach Team. She is a product designer with 14 years experience as a volunteer and seasonal staff member at the Oregon Observatory at Sunriver. We look forward to both of their contributions and leadership!

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Reserving Tables for Our May 20 Astronomy Day Fair and Swap Meet

Reserving Tables for Our May 20 Astronomy Day Fair and Swap Meet

The RCA general meeting of May 20th will be our annual Astronomy Day Fair and Swap Meet, in the OMSI auditorium where we usually met.  Sellers who want a space at a table in the Swap Meet area (the center of the auditorium), please let me know before April 25 at president@rosecityastronomers.org.  Let me know if you need a full table, or can use a half table to share with another seller.  Also, please include your contact information.

Set up will begin at 5:30 p.m., no exceptions. Remember that the load/unload area in front of OMSI allows only 15-minute parking. After that you are blocking a city fire lane and could get a ticket. Also, parking will be tight that night because there will be another event going on at OMSI that same night. Finally, there is no electrical service to the Swap Meet area and OMSI will not permit stretching a cord across the room, even taped down. Especially taped down

RCA will have several tables around the perimeter of the Auditorium and the Swap Meet tables and chairs will be set up in the middle. Right now there are twelve tables for a total of 24 spaces. If we need more, we can rearrange the tables to get more spaces. There will also be at least two tables out in the lobby area reserved for our vendors. Sunriver will, as usual, be in the lobby outside the main door to the Auditorium.

RCA will also have its own tables along the back wall for Sales, Membership and Book Library, as usual.  We will NOT have New Member Orientation that night.  RCA will have workshops in Classroom One and shows in the planetarium, but we will have no workshops or presentations in the Auditorium, for noise reasons. However, there will be a Kids with Scopes area between the Swap Meet area and the Main Stage.

If you contact me by April 25, I will assign you a space and put your name on it. If you contact me after April 25, you will have to use one of the "extra" tables I plan to have on hand, if I can find room for them.

We'll make it work; we always do.

I'm truly looking forward to this.

Yours, Margaret

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Dark Sky Preservation Collaboration is Mounting!

Dark Sky Preservation Collaboration is Mounting!

RCA launches campaign to identify Oregon’s first International Dark Sky Place

Last month RCA initiated its campaign to help designate Oregon’s first International Dark Sky Place (IDSP). Such places are certified under a program developed by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA), the only organization solely dedicated to protecting night skies for present and future generations. About a dozen RCA members volunteered to support this effort. This is a big effort and one that will require sustained support from many other people across the state. Getting the word out that “dark skies matter” and fending off the trend of brighter and more pervasive outdoor lighting is no easy feat. Drum roll….statewide citizen support may be just around the corner!

Oregon chapter of the International Dark-Sky Association is forming

IDA is working with active IDA members in several states to help them form statewide IDA “chapters.” Oregon is one of those states. Bend, OR has a few active IDA members who are carrying the gauntlet on this new IDA chapter formation. With the establishment of an Oregon Chapter, IDA members in Oregon can coordinate and pool their efforts, and tax-free donations will come directly to IDA Oregon to support projects in Oregon. A “boot-strap committee” of Oregon IDA members is working with IDA staff to make chapter formation a reality. Two RCA members, Dawn Nilson and Mike McKeag, are on that committee. If you are an IDA member/donor, you will soon be receiving a letter of invitation to participate in this new chapter. If you aren’t an IDA member, join now during International Dark Sky Week which runs from March 31 – April 7. If you can’t contribute time, you can contribute tax-free dollars to support the work of the Oregon Chapter. Collaboration is mounting and you can be part of it.

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Spring Astro-Imaging Class Registration Now Open

Spring Astro-Imaging Class Registration Now Open

We have scheduled another series of astro-imaging classes for beginners. The goal of the series is to give all the information necessary for the beginner to understand what equipment is needed, how to use it, and how to make good pictures with a digital camera.

Classes will be held at Clackamas Community College over 4 weekends (Saturday mornings). The classes will be similar to past classes. See below for schedule and topics. Please note that we have reserved a larger room this time and it is located in the Pauling Center (Room 101) at the south side of the campus.

You can register at this link. The fee is $20 total. For those that register, email reminders and updates will be sent out. There will be handouts for each session. Send me an email at membership@rosecityastronomers.org if you have questions.

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Registration Open for April Youth Astronomy Class

Registration Open for April Youth Astronomy Class

This class is not currently scheduled.

Observational Astronomy Class for Middle School Students Offered by RCA in Partnership With Saturday Academy.

ASTRONOMY 101
Grades 6 – 8
Location: University of Portland

Ever looked up into the night sky and wondered what’s up? Experts from Rose City Astronomers will prepare you to explore the universe. Learn the fundamentals of observational astronomy, how to use binoculars and telescopes to explore the night sky, to observe planets, star clusters, nebula, galaxies. Learn about objects astronomers study, how and why our view of the night sky changes through the night, and with the seasons, how telescopes work and how to use them, and how to find your way in the night sky. We will finish with practical advice on how to prepare for a night exploring the universe. In addition to the classroom sessions, telescope-observing opportunities under the night sky will be offered. Students and their families will be invited to attend optional star parties with Rose City Astronomers after this class.

The curriculum is created and delivered by members of Rose City Astronomers. Registration, administration, classroom, computers, and promotional support are provided by Saturday Academy. To register your young astronomer, visit the Saturday Academy website. Don’t delay; registration is limited to 12 students

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Young Astronomer Awards Program is OPEN!

Young Astronomer Awards Program is OPEN!

Early encounters with astronomy inspire a lifetime of interest. The Young Astronomer Awards Program promotes high school-age student participation in astronomy-related projects by offering financial awards, for approved and completed projects, ranging from $100 to $250 for projects of varying scope and significance.

Application Deadline is April 1, 2019

High school students in the Portland, Oregon metro area are encouraged to apply to either the Spring or Fall cycle of the awards program by submitting a project proposal via RCA’s online application. Once the proposal is approved by RCA, students have approximately 60 days to complete and submit their final project to RCA for judging. Students consider their talents and interests in astronomy and submit a proposal in one of the following categories:

  • Astronomy Research

  • Astronomy Journalism

  • Astronomy Arts & Literature

  • Astronomy Outreach & Advocacy

Club members can help promote this fun and worthwhile program by sharing with family, friends, school teachers and others. A full description of the Young Astronomer Awards Program, including guidelines, deadlines, and application can be found here.

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Help Choose Oregon's First "Darksky" Place

Help Choose Oregon's First "Darksky" Place

Please join our team of Astronomy Dark-Sky Enthusiasts to help RCA build a coalition to designate Oregon's first ever International Darksky Place. Designating an International Darksky Place in Oregon will not only provide necessary leverage to bring more attention to darksky preservation, but will generate economic growth through astrotourism. 

Our team will be identifying potential communities and locations that meet our darksky site objectives, and inviting communities and land agencies to consider designation. And there will be much more to this fascinating campaign in what is usually, on average, a three-year effort. 

We are aiming to have folks from Portland Audubon Society, Oregon Wilderness Society, and other astronomy clubs and darksky advocates in Oregon as part of our team. We hope to have Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD), Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as allies, and ideally coalition partners.

I recently received a request for help from a Portlander asking for what to do, what to bring, and where to go for a first-ever experience of a dark sky — in Central Idaho! She had heard about Central Idaho being designated an International Darksky Reserve and thought it would be a great idea for a vacation. Little did she know what great dark skies we have here in Oregon, and that they too are at risk from light pollution. Though Idaho is a great place, with your help we can put Oregon on the map as a dark sky vacation destination!

Please consider lending your talents to the effort!! Please contact Dawn at ida@rosecityastronomers.org for more information.

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Important Wildfire Preparedness Tips for the Coming Observing Season

Important Wildfire Preparedness Tips for the Coming Observing Season

President’s Paragraph, February 2019

Wildfires have been increasingly figuring into our planning for our summer observing. If you plan to get outdoors to observe under our great Pacific Northwest skies this season, please read these preparedness suggestions:

  1. We need to stop thinking of wildfires as abnormal and start planning our summer observing as if we could very well encounter wildfires, or have skies filled with smoke, or have to cancel events for fires.

  2. We have to watch the fire forecast as carefully as we watch the weather forecast.  I’ve asked Matt Vartanian, our new VP of Observing, to include fire watch in his forecasts for star parties, even early in the season, just to get in the habit of it.

  3. We have to create safety practices at star parties in preparation for the event of a fire. At Camp Hancock, we park our vehicles facing the exit so we can get out quickly in case of fire. RCA should make this a requirement also. It has the added benefit of turning each car’s headlights away from the observing field.

  4. At Oregon Star Party, we are required to carry five gallons of water dedicated to fire-fighting, and a shovel. We’ve been asked by Eugene Walters, who owns the property at our Maupin site, to require every attendee to have a five-gallon empty plastic buck filled with old blue jeans and enough water to keep them damp, with a lid so they don’t spill in the backs of our cars. In the event of fire, we would put the damp clothes on the grass around our observing site to dampen down the spread of fire, and leave. Eugene said the old-fashioned technique was to use wet gunny sacks. But no one knows what gunny sacks are anymore. I have already assured Eugene we can do this. It’s a small ask to protect his property and to protect ourselves.

  5. We probably will have to develop ways to keep an eye on the wildfire situation on any weekend we’re observing in Oregon Outback. This means that those who have internet connections on site may have to have a fire watch program running in the background.

  6. We must practice fire safety in the drylands where we camp. This means no smoking and no campfires where fire danger is high. This is not one of those “oh well, everyone’s getting too fussy” requirements. If we’re asked not to smoke outdoors, we don’t.

There may come a day when we really do need to leave a place quickly to get to safety. It may even mean having to leave all our beautiful, dearly beloved and expensive equipment behind. But the fires have become more numerous, bigger and faster than they have ever been in the past, and until we as a society invest the time and effort to restore our forest and grassland environments, fires will probably continue on this growth curve.

I sincerely hope that if we are careful and proactive, we can continue to have many more years of wonderful observing. But given that wildfire season has stretched into early spring and late fall, we may have to start expanding our thinking to include our hobby as a winter-time sport. So those clear cold nights in February up at Stub Stewart State Park are looking better all the time. So are nights in our backyards, or online telescope services. We will find a way.

Looking forward Margaret

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Change Continues at the Telescope Library

With the arrival of Winter and the New Year, our prime season for maintenance and cleanup is upon us. After examining our patterns and preferences for borrowing over the past year, I am making some decisions about reorganizing the collection a bit. In order to free up space at both of our storage locations, telescopes that have not loaned out over this past year will be removed to another location. They will still be available for reservation, but on a somewhat different basis.

Telescopes that are in this category will be removed from the main list you see on the website today, and moved to a new section, below the main collection. You will still be able to reserve them, but what happens between the time you reserve and the time you pick up and return the telescope will be a little different. In essence, we will decide, together, where the telescope will be loaned, and where it will be returned, and how long each loan will be.

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Are You the Next Telescope Library Volunteer "Eyepiece Curator" or "Review Observer"?

Are You the Next Telescope Library Volunteer "Eyepiece Curator" or "Review Observer"?

Are you interested in volunteering for the Telescope Library? We have several important new positions available.


Eyepiece Curator

The Library needs at least one experienced observer for a newly created “Eyepiece Curator” position. We have over 350 eyepieces in our collection and a number of “spares” that can be used for a variety of applications. Some of the eyepieces included with telescope are not well-matched, but more urgent matters have precluded dealing with this problem until now.

Our collection needs a fresh look at eyepieces allocated to telescope packages; our goal is improving this across the collection. This will include modification of our pool of spares, and proposals for the
acquisition of new eyepiece sets, as well as liquidation of others.

We will start by gathering any information we are lacking about the telescopes and eyepieces we have, examine it, and recommend equipment moves. (We are open to having multiple curators
working together on this effort.)


Designated Review Observers

We are looking for experienced observers to come forward for our “Designated Review Observer” program to test and review telescopes new to the collection (and eventually move on to every telescope we have). This position can be held by multiple individuals who will take telescopes from the library, use them for observation, and (at least) takes notes on how the telescopes perform. We can work these notes into a review, for these pages, and any special notes about the telescope can be included with the package, so future borrowers can be more informed about the telescope they have borrowed. Flaws will be dealt with, raising overall quality of telescope being borrowed.

The Telescope Library is powered by volunteers, who have done excellent work (certainly worthy of a future article, maybe more) and provide the skills and talent it takes to operate the library keeping our collection in working order. If you think any of these positions is a good fit for you, please contact me: Bob Brown, Telescope Librarian.

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More Star Parties and So Much More in the Coming Year

More Star Parties and So Much More in the Coming Year

We have more star parties scheduled in 2019 than we’ve ever had before in one year. Two of them are in a semi-new location: White River Sno-Park, which we haven’t visited for years. View our complete downloadable, printable star party schedule.


What Else in 2019?

We’ve got a new contract with Haggart Observatory which will be reopening this spring. We’ve got a more solid relationship with International Dark Sky Association. We’ve got several star parties for new members lined up. We expect to hand out at least one more Master Observer Award from Astronomical League. We have an ever-greater reach with Facebook and social media, as well as increasing visits to our website. We’re doing more with local clubs like Friends of Galileo, and everything we normally do is bigger and better: Telescope Library, Telescope Workshop, Astro-Imaging SIG and class, Outreach Events, and Youth Scholarships.

So to keep it short and sweet, we’re looking forward to another great year in RCA and we expect to continue to grow in both membership and impact. Happy New Year, everyone! Let’s hope for a full calendar of clear skies and bright stars.

Looking forward — Margaret

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Telescope Library Acquires new Binoculars, Tripods for our Members

Telescope Library Acquires new Binoculars, Tripods for our Members

We are pleased to announce that 2 additional pairs of binoculars have been obtained, in response to borrower demand. The new binoculars are 20x80's, made by Orion. We had one pair of these, and they have been very popular. Now, we have 3 of them. The binoculars are paired with Orion "extra heavy-duty" tripods. These are heavier than the Orion tripods we have now, and should provide solid support for these large binoculars, better than the Orion field tripods we have for our other binoculars.

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RCA's IDA Conference Representatives Return with Fresh Ideas

RCA's IDA Conference Representatives Return with Fresh Ideas

The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) hosted its Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Utah this year and Dawn Nilson, RCA’s Dark Sky Preservation Director, and Mike McKeag, RCA’s Youth Director, were in attendance. Dark-Sky researchers and advocates came from all over the world — China, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, and the United States — to network and share preservation success stories, improved lighting technologies, scientific impact analyses, and outreach ideas. RCA’s list of 2019 “to do’s” in support of dark-sky preservation has grown thanks to the inspiration gained from our attendance at the AGM. You can lend your support to the cause in many ways.

Read more: What Can I Do to Promote Dark Skies? ➡

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Giving a Telescope for the Holidays

Giving a Telescope for the Holidays

Recently I’ve been asked more than once what telescope to buy for someone who wants one as a holiday gift, and the giver doesn’t know what to get. If you’re a recently-joined member or a parent or partner in the same situation, this article is for you.

Ask yourself a series of questions before you spend money on a scope. 

  1. What kind of vehicle do you have for hauling it around?

  2. Do you want to take it apart each time you put it in the car and take it out, or do you want it in one piece?

  3. How much weight can you pick up at one time?

  4. How tall is the person who is going to use it?

  5. What kind of budget do you have?

  6. How serious is the potential user about taking it out into the cold and dark to use it?

  7. How many accessories, like eyepieces and tripods, can you afford? Can you pack them into the same vehicle and remember to bring with you?

  8. Do you have a lot of warm clothes that also fit into the same vehicle?

  9. Do you have a table and a chair? A clock, a sky atlas, some notepaper and pens for taking notes? A planesphere? A thermos? A red LED flashlight? Extra batteries?

Read More: The Best Advice ➡

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