I am sitting here, being clouded out of another star party and realized that I have forgotten to update how the month of October went for stargazing. I was able to view 24 times this last month and get a steal (at least I think) on a old used scope.
Have only seen ISON once (October 5th), but hope to get in a area where I can see again, most of the time clouds have been blocking the lower S.E. for me at the house. Gone are the times of viewing with short sleeves and sandals, most of the time I have at least a medium weight jacket and a stocking hat along with light weight gloves.
I did get to the mountains twice; and set up near Kenosha Pass, with a 3/4 Milky Way overhead the first time with clear skies, about 37 degrees out with a slight breeze. The Owl nebula was very nice and the best I have ever seen it, new galaxies were seen (NGC 2775 & NGC 2683), M41 and M94 seen too. The second time there I had a visitor stop by and I gave him a 30 minute "tour" of the sky - he have never viewed through anything larger than a 4 inch and the 12" that I had out that night surprised him on all that he could see.
I spent $1500 to have two large Honey Locust trees trimmed (one in the back yard), they needed it badly and it opened up some more of the night time sky at the same time. We won't have to do that again for a number of years.
This last month activities included work on the 15 inch: adjusting the canvas cover tighter, some caulking in old holes and paint touch up, attaching small pieces of Velcro to help hold the cover in place on the upper cage, gluing down some flacking that was starting to peal up and marking the trusses with the colors of the four elements (Blue/green/brown/white).
I purchased a new glass solar filter for the 12 inch and retired the homemade one. The glass one gives a more "neutral" color (not so orange) and some more detail too. Helped out with a star party at the local telescope shop and one evening had both the 12" and the 15" out to compare views. It is a sober reminder to see how much more the few extra inches of mirror surface makes in detail and largeness of objects.
Now for the new (old) scope - I saw a add in Craig's List for a 10 inch (red tube) Coulter Compact Odyssey; $75. Could not pass it up, so I called on it. Had to drive 35 minutes to see it and then bring it home. The scope had some cosmetic marks and a lot of dust and pine needles from setting in a barn for a number of years, but the optics were good. What a learning time it has been working on this scope. Coulter made these scopes cheap, fast to make and durable! I had never seen a wooden mirror cell made out of two solid pieces of 3/4 plywood and six slotted bolts, nor a hunk of straight piece of iron holding the secondary and the old helix focuser. The combination worked well and once aligned, stayed that way; but it was like driving a 1940's car - it can get you there, but advances since then make the scope seem antique in nature. Well, a new 2 inch focuser (which then required a shortening of the optic tube and rebalancing of it), a new coat of paint on the tube, major cutting out of material on the base (to lighten it and make it look a little more modern) and installation of a old telrad I had in one of the cabinets gave the scope a new life. A new spider is ready to go in sometime soon. All of this (including the scope) I have $210 invested. The scope is a compact, so I need a chair to sit on the use it (otherwise my back aches from bending down so long); but it is a sweet little thing. If I find someone looking for a good beginner scope, I probably will sell it for what I have invested in it. You can learn a lot from one of these scopes - where we came from and how we got to the beautiful, easy to use (very spoiling), light weight ones of today. It is fun and very educational to work on projects and this one is a great one.
October was a good month, November is doing well. I hope all the A.A. (amateur astronomers) here have good views and the energy to see many great things. The constellations are moving across the sky fast it seems and many things can be seen if you burn both ends of the night. Take Care!