Last night was the grand opening of the "new for me" Astro-Physics AP1200 telescope mounting. It is a big upgrade in the carrying capacity of the mount I've been using for the last 15+ years. I obtained it from an acquaintance in the Chicago area this last summer when he upgraded to a newer model. While the mount is in perfect shape, he kept some of the needed accessories, so I needed to obtain a new pier (machinist in Phoenix), saddle plate where telescope attaches (from Astro-Physics), and a new set of counterweights (water-jet steel from a local engineering company, machining by me!). Finally all was ready to go, so with Roger C. in town, who made the 7" Apochromatic refractor about 10 years ago, we invited ourselves to the home of Richard Buchroeder to set up, and who took the enclosed pictures - thanks Dick! At left, I set up the mount for the first time, and about the first time don't have an under-mounted telescope! At right Roger critically checks out the view of the Moon at high power.
Besides the APO in front of the house, Dick also had a 5" APO that he designed for Meade Telescopes years ago in the side yard, and in the back yard had a 7" Maksutov telescope (also a Meade), both of which he recently obtained used. So during the bulk of the 4 hours spent there, we circled the house checking out alternatively high-power views of bright stars overhead (it is what optics nerds look at!), what little terminator the nearly full Moon showed, and Jupiter a little later when it rose above Dick's trees. Jupiter cooperated by having the Red Spot cyclonic storm rotate through the meridian for best viewing about 10pm - it looked great! Of course, Melinda and our friend Donna are telescope fans too, and here are checking out the view of the Moon early in the evening through the Mak. It was a fun evening - no need to leave town in search of a dark sky with the bright moon, and this way we got to have lots of viewing in a comfortable observing spot with refreshments! In a few weeks when the moon passes, it will be time to search for darker skies and push the mount a little harder with the 14" Celestron and see how it performs with a heavier load. Looking forward to it!