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7:30PM, Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

The Agony of Buying Your First Telescope


University of Washington Astronomy Department, Room A-102


The Agony of Buying Your First Telescope


Seattle Astronomical Society

This talk will help you choose a first telescope that will provide you with years of enjoyment exploring the cosmos.

Buying your first telescope can quickly become a daunting task when faced with so many choices and unfamiliar terms. With everything from cheap department store telescopes to computerized models and specialized APO refractors, how do you choose something you'll be able to enjoy for years with without spending a fortune? Last summer, I spent months agonizingly researching what to buy for my first telescope, reading dozens of articles and scouring hundreds of web pages. Now I want to save you from that same frustration! I'll share my insights on how to navigate the crowded field of amateur telescopes, decode some of the terminology, and pose the questions you need to ask yourself so you can buy a telescope you will truly enjoy owning and using.

Many thanks to our past speakers of 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012

On April 17th, 2013, Tom Field, a contributing editor at Sky & Telescope magazine, presented a meeting on Spectroscopy. Top discussed simple equipment and software he has developed and coupled to small telescopes to study the spectra of light from stars and planets. He authored the RSpec software (

On March 20th, 2013, James R.A. Davenport of the University of Washington spoke on recent discoveries by the Kepler space telescope including exoplanet systems, binary stars, and M-dwarf systems.

On February 20th, 2013, SAS members viewed talks by UC Berkeley's Alex Fillipenko on solar eclipses and quasars.

At the 2013 SAS Annual Banquet on January 19th, Mike Simmons of Astronomers with Borders spoke about his organization's global outreach efforts, promoting amateur astronomy the world over, including travels to Kurdistan and Iran.

On December 19, 2012, SAS member Dave Ingram gave a talk entitled "Pluto: American Dwarf Among the Classic Planets or KBO King?"
Although it was once thought to be Planet X, Pluto was recently declared to be unworthy of a place among the solar system's family of planets. This presentation will recount Pluto's history, decade-by-decade: the early fame and doubts, the common man's and school children's cheers and fears; the gathering weight of scientific discoveries; and the final, one-sided battle and humiliating demotion in Prague. I will also cover how to locate Pluto in the night sky; a summary of the New Horizon mission to Pluto and how science has reclassified planetary bodies of our solar system and beyond.

On November 14, 2012, Professor Woodruff T. Sullivan presented "William Herschel: The Greatest Observer of all Time", discussing his ongoing biographical research into the life and scientific career of 18th century astronomer William Herschel.

On October 17th, 2012, SAS President Denis Janky presented "Zephyr Ridge Observatory: A Project, A Passion" an account of the 2009 construction of his private observatory in Eastern Washington.

On September 19th, 2012, Ron Hobbs, JPL Solar System Ambassador at Seattle's Museum of Flight gave a Curiosity Rover update in his series of talks "The Great Martian Road Trip."

On August 15th, 2012, Jon Bearscove of the SAS and the Galileo Astronomy Unclub presented "A Hitchhiker's Guide to Greenwich Observatory," chronicling his recent trip to the historic facility, home of the Prime Meridian and the Flamsteed House.

The July 2012 SAS general meeting was canceled to avoid conflict with the annual Table Mountain Star Party.

On June 20th, 2012, SAS members Jon Bearscove, Maxine Nagel and Jim Pryal spoke on their experiences observing the Venus transit of 2012 from the Puget Sound Area, Hanford, WA, and Hawaii.

On May 16th, 2012, Professor Henny J.G.L.M. Lamers of the Astronomical Institute of Utrecht University presented "Colliding Galaxies: Cosmic Fireworks" discussing the dynamics, observational evidence and computer simulations of galactic collisions.

On April 18th, 2012, Dr. Chris Lintott of the Adler Planetarium and Oxford University spoke on his work with citizen science in the age of the Internet, harnessing via the Zooniverse project, the efforts of thousands of amateurs world wide in the search for extrasolar planets.

On March 21st, 2012, Steve Preston of the SAS spoke on observing asteroid occulations.

On February 15, 2012, Alice Enevoldsen of the Pacific Science Center planetarium spoke on a variety of popular end of the world theories including the planet Nibiru, the Mayan Long Count, various celestial alignements, and the Earth's magnetic field, under the heading of "The Great 2012 Hoax."

On January 22, 2012, Ralph Megna spoke at the annual SAS banquet presented "Beyond Pretty Pictures: How Amateur Astronomers are Making Discoveries and Changing Solar System Science," in which he talked about his work measuring asteroid light curves with a group of amateur astronomers and opportunities for amateurs to contribute valuable data to professional research.

On Wednesday, December 21 2011, Alan Whiting presented a talk on getting started with making variable star observations.

On November 16th, 2011, the SAS had its annual club business meeting.

On October 19th, 2011, the club viewed a pair of lectures by Alex Filippenko of UC Berkeley on general relativity adn the inner planets.

On September 21st, 2011, Nick Risinger gave a talk relating his adventures in creating the 5 gigapixel Photopic Sky Survey. You can see the results at

On August 17, 2011, SAS members Maxine Nagel and Zach Drew shared their experience from this year's 2011 Table Mountain Star Party, one of the Northwest's major observing events.

On July 17, 2011 Seattle astrophotographer Wade Hilmo discussed how he got started with astro-imaging, and walked the audience through the ins and outs of data acquisition, focusing, image processing, equipment, software and strategies to improve your images.

On June 15th, 2011, Burley Packwood spoke on "Constructing an Observatory," giving attendees a tour of his observatories in Eastern Washington and Arizona.

On May 18th, 2011, Tom Gwilym presented "Astroimaging at Mt. Lemmon," discussing his experiences studying CCD astrophotoraphy in Arizona.

On April 20th, 2011, Kayla Mendel presented "Are you smarter than a 5th grader?", a talk on her experiences teaching astronomy to middle schoolers and Ron Hobbs, JPL Solar System Ambassador from the Museum of Flight gave a talk on "Voyages and Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022."

On March 16th, 2011, Alan Whiting of the SAS presented on "Sir John Herschel and the Stability of Saturn's Rings."

On Feburary 16th, 2011, Dave Ingram of the International Dark Sky Association discussed "Artificial Nighttime Light Pollution: The Adverse Consequences and Means of Mitigation."

In January of 2011, the SAS Annual Banquet hosted Scott Kardel of Mount Palomar Observatory for a talk on the construction and history of the Hale telescope.

On December 15th, 2010, Charlotte Christensen of the University of Washington, Department of Astronomy spoke on "Galactic Gas: Simulating Stellar Birthplaces."

On November 20th, 2010 the annual club business meeting for 2010 was held.

On October 20th, 2010, the club viewed "Journey to Palomar," a PBS-produced documentary film on George Ellery Hale's multi-year quest to fund and build the 200-inch Hale telescope and Mount Palomar observatory.

On September 15th, 2010, Eric Hilton of the University of Washington, Department of Astronomy spoke on "Big Flares on Little Stars."

On August 18th, 2010, Shawn Domagal-Goldman spoke presented "Cylons and Smelloscopes: False Positives and False Negatives in the Search for Extraterrestrial Life," a talk on his work on analyzing extrasolar planets for indications of life.

On July 21st, 2010, Tom Field talked about his RSpec software for real time, amateur spectroscopy.

On June 6th, 2010, Denis Janky of the SAS spoke on "Advancing as a Visual Observer" through systematic planning and logging of one's observations.

Dr. Joshua Bandfield On May 19th, 2010, Dr. Joshua Bandfield of the University of Washington gave a talk on "Thermal Infrared Spacecraft Measurements of Mars and the Moon," describing how the compositions and temperatures of a planet influence the planet's appearance in the infrared and introduced many stunning visuals and their interpretation from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Mars Global Surveyor, the Mars Odyssey and the Mars Exploration rovers.

Jerry Galt On April 21st, 2010, SAS member, Dr. Jerry Galt talked about "CCD Astro-Imaging and Calibration," covering the ins and outs of how modern CCD astro-cameras work, and the implications this has for calibrating and processing the images they capture.

Keith Allred On March 17th, 2010, Keith Allred of the SAS Astrophotography SIG, presented "Imaging New Mexico Skies from Seattle," a discussion of his quest to build a remote-controlled, computerized observatory in New Mexico, accompanied by a live demonstration of astro-imaging from the lecture hall.

Alan Bedard On February 17th, 2010, SAS member Alan Bedard presented "Photometry: Measuring the Stars," in which he described his recent work imaging cataclysmic variables and eclipsing binary stars with affordable gear at his observatory in Washington state.

At the 2010 SAS Annual Banquet in January, Dr. Joshua Bandfield of the University of Washington spoke about the geology and geophysics of Mars, as revealed by a series of unmanned missions.

Rick Dickson On Dec 16th, 2009, SAS member Rick Dickson spoke on using TheSky planetarium software for planning observing sessions and learning the sky.

Dr. Ken Croswell On Nov 18th, 2009, Dr. Ken Croswell spoke on the "Lives of Stars" and held a signing for his new book of the same title.

SAS Board On October 21st, SAS business and upcoming board elections were discussed in the club's annual business meeting.

Ron Hobbs On September 16th, Ron Hobbs, JPL Solar System Ambassador from the Museum of Flight spoke on "Barnstorming the Solar System," discussing unmanned missions and their findings throughout the solar system.

Dr. John Wisniewski On August 19th, Dr. Wisniewski introduced SAS members to his work on exoplanet detection in "Imaging Circumstellar Disks: Exoplanet Diagnostics."

Rick Dickson On July 15th, Rick discussed "Utilizing Microsoft's Worldwide Telescope to Enhance the Astronomical Experience."

Jon Bearscove, SAS. Jon's June 15th talk "In Galileo's Footsteps" retraced Galileo's path through astronomical discovery and trial for heresy with photos from Jon's recent trip to Italy.

Jerry Galt, SAS. Jerry's April 15th talk "Observatory Construction At Home and Afar" recounted his adventures building a prototype observatory for astrophotography in his backyard, and another one at a rugged dark sky site in Oregon.

Ron Hobbs, Museum of Flight, JPL Solar System Ambassador. Ron's March 18th talk "The Great Martian Road Trip" covered robotic exploration of Mars, past, present and future.

Maxine Nagel. Maxine's February 18th, 2009, talk "Constellation Quiz" presented a star hopping tour of the Northern sky.

At the 2009 SAS Annual Banquet in January, NYT bestselling author Dava Sobel spoke on the subject of her new book "Galileo's Daughter."

Professor Bruce Balick. On November 19th, 2008, Prof. Balick spoke about Hubble's past, present, and future as well as the upcoming James Webb Telescope.

Paul Rodman. On October 15, 2008, Paul gave a great lecture introducting Fermi's Paradox to the audience. This paradox focuses on the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations...or the lack thereof. His presentation included historical documentation, great video clips, and thought-provoking content. In the audience we even had a visiting LGM, or rather a visiting LGW...dressed in green with antennae.

David Dorais, Rubie Sanborn Johnson, Edward J. Mannery, Burley Packwood, Bob Suryan, and Chris Laurel. At the "Show and Tell" presentation of June 18, 2008. David showed a nice DVD movie on cosmic collisions; Rubie and Edward showed us the RubyScope, a 6" reflector kit built for kids; Burley gave us an account of his trip to Whipple Observatory in Arizona; Bob showed pictures of Kitt Peak Observatory which he first visited 32 years ago; and Chris did a demo of his amazing 3D visualization software Celestia.

Prof. Victoria Meadows. On May 21, 2008, Prof. Victoria Meadows of Univ. of Washington talked about how we will search for and identify planets that might support life around other stars, and described results from the new science of astrobiology that will help us recognize signs of life on these distant worlds.

Denis Janky. On April 16th, 2008, Denis Janky, a fellow SAS member, shared with the audience observing tips, favorite galaxies for telescopes large and small, and other resources.

Dr. Chris Brook. On March 19th, 2008, Dr. Chris Brook of University of Washington spoke on the cosmological simulations of galaxy formation.

Paul Rodman. On February 22nd, 2008, Paul Rodman gave a very entertaining and extremely informative talk on planning and logging astronomical observations, which also included a demonstration using the software AstroPlanner.