I have been at this for four months now and have enjoyed it immensely. I have seen over 100 new objects through my Nexstar 8SE as well as revisiting some old favourites.
Highlights have been
M51, the Whirlpool – 2 galaxies – 1 devouring the other.
M13, a globular cluster – a snowball of stars.
Caldwell 6, the Cats Eye planetary nebula. A blue-green ball. Early astronomers like William Herschel thought these were planet-like structures – we now know this is a dying star (like our own will be one day) shrugging off layers of gas and making the gas glow from within.
The weather has been poor recently so I have been thinking about how to upgrade my scope.
The GoTo function has been great, allowing me to work through a list of targets each night but if it is off, then I search around or just re-align and try again.
Sometimes I think I am just too zoomed in! The widest eyepiece I have gives me 67x magnification (and shows about 0.75 degrees of sky -about 1.5 moon diameters) and although I find the zero magnification red dot finder great for rapid scope alignment, I think it would be useful to have an in-between zoom level to look at a constellation or region as a whole.
An 8×50 finderscope attached to my main scope sounds good – just like having a co-axial half pair of binoculars. Such a scope covers 5 degrees of sky -about 10 moon widths.
Unfortunately, this leads to a problem – the Nexstar has only one attachment bracket and the RDF is currently attached to that. Looking through the Cloudy Nights forum on the Internet, it looks as though lots of Nexstar owners get round that by just using double-sided foam backed tape. Initial experiments with this seem favourable, leaving me a slot for the heavier 8×50 scope.
I would also like to use wider eyepieces for open clusters and large objects like the Andromeda galaxy and Rosette nebula so a larger visual back and diagonal might be worth investigating to permit 2 inch eyepieces like the 36mm wide angle Baader Hyperion aspheric modular (this covers just under 2 degrees of sky).