Saturday, September 17, 2016

An expensive hobby

You can probably tell by now. I've am astro-geek. I love all Sci-fi, space, Star Trek, Star Wars etc. I've had this fascination since I was a child. Indeed, there was a time when I wanted to be an astronaut- nevermind that Malaysia did not have a space program (do we, now? Or is it more like a space tourism program?).
One day when I was about 10, I was given a simple 40 mm refractor telescope by dad's boss who got tired of this. Then, it might as well have been the Hubble! You could see the craters on the moon! You could use it to project an image of the sun and watch the sunspots. It was great.
Anyway, life and school and budgetary constraints made me neglect that hobby. The one big treat I gave myself was purchasing a hard cover copy of Hawking's A Brief History of Time (now, if you want a book that will drive you made, go read that).
Fast forward a few decades. I still catch myself looking up, yearning, wondering. My wife knew that. My wife also knew I had a loadful of crap in the garage, including some almost new winter tires I bought for the Porsche which I used only 1 season. It was now taking up space. And playing the little devil on the shoulder, she suggested "why don't you sell your tires and use that money to buy that telescope you've been dreaming of?".
That was good encouragement. I sold the wheel/tire package for $500. And bought the Celestron Nexstar 4SE Maksutov Cassegrain computerized telescope.
Problem was, like any hobby, it starts to become a parasite. It asks for more. And so, over the last 2-3 years, my collection has grown; so has the cost.

$499 Nexstar 4SE. But oooh, the batteries don't last very long for long tracking/viewing sessions. And so next came...
$20 AC adaptor. Now that I'm viewing, why not take some pictures? Well, I'll need a T-ring...
$22 T-ring for Nikon SLR. But I'm shaking the camera too much. Maybe I should get a shutter release cable
$10 Shutter release cable. Hmm, pictures are so-so. I've read that you can also use video- take a 30 second video of solar system objects, then stack them into a photo.

$160 Celestron Neximage camera. Great shots! Loving the images of Saturn and Jupiter. But dang it, I need a laptop to be portable and to operate the camera.
$300 HP laptop (basic specs- use only for the webcam). Have been quite happy with this. But I wish I had more zoom. Maybe I should get a Barlow lens.

$75 Celestron Xcel 3x Barlow lens. Triples the zoom of your telescope. Have been very happy with this setup. But am wanting to branch out and take other pictures. Maybe I should try taking pictures of the sun. I'll need a solar filter to not blind myself....
$12 Solar filter. What next. I'd love to take DSO (Deep Sky Objects) but my altazimuth mount, as easy it is to use, simply cannot compensate for Earth's rotation. Do I really want to take the next big step and get a larger scope with a German equatorial mount???
(2 years of contemplating later) $1599 Celestron 8" Schmidt Cassegrain telescope with AVX equatorial mount. This thing is huge! Built like a tank and heavy like one too. But very stable, and allows me to finally attempt exposures up to 90 seconds long. But, I need a polar finderscope to properly polar align the mount.
$42 Celestron CG5 polar finderscope. On a good day, I get great shots. But on most days, I'm still getting field rotation and star streaks with shots over 60 seconds. Not getting good shots of faint galaxies and nebulas. How the pros do it is they use a separate scope with an autoguider, hooked to a computer, to guide the main scope with precision.
$340 Orion Magnificent Mini Guidescope package. It's still in the mail- to arrive in 2 days. Alas, when will this parasite stop sucking money out of me??
(I did catch myself salivating over the Starizona Hyperstar lens, which would let you take a 30 second shot of a nebula, in better quality than spending 30 mins doing long exposures. But this would cost $899, and the corresponding Atik camera would cost $1359. So I mentally told them to go to hell)
(for now :P )

3 Comments:

Blogger W said...

Amazing how you manage to remember all the cost for the different stuff you bought. normally I forget the price one week after I buy anything haha. For so many stuff, I guess 3000plus (I added all up haha) is not that expensive? it is money well spent, just take more beautiful pictures. maybe you can sell some of the pictures to cover the cost? Or paint the pictures into paintings to add even more value haha. Keep the posts coming in!

Anyways this year you did not celebrate mid-autumn festival? Ahhh... I want a durian snowskin mooncake now...

12:01 AM  
Blogger vagus said...

Nope. no moon cake festival here unfortunately.
I buy all my stuff on Amazon- so as much as i'd like to forget the price, it keeps tabs for me :P

1:32 PM  
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