I never thought I’d say that, but I think it’s probably true now! About the amateur astronomer thing, anyway.
It all really started when I was doing a long-distance walk with a friend. We were in the middle of Wales one night, and I looked up and saw a star, moving slowly across the sky.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“It’s a satellite,” came the reply.
I was stunned. I could not believe that I could see something so small, so far away, moving so quickly in orbit around the planet. And yet, there it was.
After that, we would print off satellite times and locations from the web before every walk, and spend entire nights looking out for them. Then I got interested in constellations. Then one night I thought to myself, sitting in my garden on a warm summer’s evening: “I could not be happier than I am right now, looking up at the stars. I need a telescope.”
I read up about telescopes, and decided to get some binoculars instead because, well, that’s what people say you should do! And so came my next significant moment: looking at Jupiter one night, I saw a little pinpoint next to it. Then I saw another two, on the other side. Then I looked online to see what could be going on: I was seeing Jupiter’s moons.
So I thought to myself: “This is utterly mindblowing. I really do need a telescope.”
So, I got one. A Sky-Watcher 130P Goto AZ.
At first I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. I couldn’t even put it together. Slowly however, I got the hang of things, and then had another hugely significant moment: I saw Saturn. At first I couldn’t quite believe it. Were those really the rings? I actually rubbed my eyes and looked again. Yes, those really were the rings, and my jaw literally dropped. I’ve never been quite the same since.
It was the spur to me buying a cheap little camera to take rather blurry photos of the moon and planets, and then attend an Introduction to Astronomy Course.
Oh, and along the way, I found out, quite by chance, that William Rutter Dawes, a prominent Victorian astronomer, lived about a minute’s walk away from me. His telescope is still at the Cambridge University Observatory. So, I went and by special arrangement was able to take some shots of it.
One day I’m going to write a page for this blog all about him, because I find it incredibly inspiring to think he probably walked past my (quite old) house and knew the same local country lanes I do.
Today, I’ve sold the 130P and upgraded to an NEQ6 mount, with a 130PDS scope, and I’ve made the move to astrophotography with a trusty second-hand Canon EOS1000D, astro-modded with the IR filter removed. I’m about to invest in a small ASI120 MC camera for planetary photography.
And now, I call myself an amateur astronomer. With two cats.