Moon, Venus, Geminids, Fireball - Observation report

Building the mount

After the successful "first light" through the telescope, I spent last week in frantically building the mount. It was an interesting exercise to calculate the height of the mount and then to purchase the plywood of the right thickness and size. I had to make so many iterations while drilling, fixing, aligning the wooden pieces that it's a big surprise that I did not suffer a major emotional breakdown.

But, it has all paid off. The mount is functional, though, I admit, it is a bit rough to operate and intensely fugly to look at. It can only be operated by me, but hey, even the world's best observatories have a dedicated operator ;)

Dec 14th

With the telescope mostly functional I called up my ex-colleagues from Vayavya for a quick observation session. I called them up at 10.30pm and PS, Madhu and Gobi turned up instantaneously. The full moon would have been the bane of a regular observation session, but since my mirror is not coated yet, it was the only object I could aspire to, and it didn't fail us.

We took our turns admiring the moon, the telescope and the mount, in that order, and since all of them were first time observers, I got to give them a lot of golis (facts based on a fast lapsing memory).

We enjoyed looking at the Geminids which were quite frequent, even with the Moon sitting squarely inside Gemini.

At some point, I brought out my 10x50 binoculars, and we had a peek at the Orion Nebula. All else was hopelessly lost in the Moon + street light haze.

They left at around 12.30am, and it was then that an idea struck me; could I actually try some photography? All I had was a 3.2 megapixel mobile camera and a slow, uncoated mirror. But the results weren't all that bad:

Dec 15th

The next day evening I tried pointing the scope at Jupiter, and I had a rude shock. All I could see was an extremely distorted shape without any hint of any moons, and I spent quite some time in rechecking the focus and alignment. I was almost beginning to feel disheartened with the quality of the mirror, when I suddenly realized that I had been mistaking Venus for Jupiter. I quickly cross checked with KStars, and confirmed it. And then, it all made sense. I was looking at a very bright and crescent face of Venus and it looked great! (The real jupiter was almost setting on the horizon)

As if to share my cheer, a bright fireball appeared directly overhead and was visible for about 3-4 seconds.

All in all, these were great observation sessions! I can hardly wait to get the mirror coated and begin some serious observations.

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