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Obsessed right out of the box!

Itís not like Iíve never owned a telescope before Ė well, yes it is.

Let me try to explain. Iím not a newbie. 4_in_dynascope_tiny.jpgMore than 40 years ago I bought a 4-inch Dynascope. And that was followed by the now near legendary RV-6 Dynascope. And when Coulter came out with one of the first large, commercial Dobs I had one of those Ė a 13.1 inch blue monster, And around the same time I had a Televue Genesis Ė a 4-inch refractor hugely different from the Coulter. And also a Meade 16-inch on traditional GEM. And I love computers, so when Meade introduced the first 8-inch,. GOTO LX200 I had one before they had printed the manuals. So Iíve been around the telescope block Ė and yes, I donít just look at them Ė I look through them - quite a bit really, though much more now that Iím retired.

Up until a couple days ago I had never seen an Obsession. (I have never been to star parties and Iím not a member of a club.) For me observing is an intimate, mind-blowing experience best summed up in Einsteinís words when he said: ďThe most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; His eyes are closed.Ē


(Click image for larger view.)

My eyes are wide open and I m staring, rapt in awe, at this wonderful melding of 19th, 20th, and 21st Century technologies now standing in my living room. Yes, itís an Obsession 15 with ServoCAT and Argo Navis and even before I look through it Iím hooked. Wood, metal, glass and silicon, brought together by craftsmen and engineers on two continents and inspired by the spirit of the remarkable John Dobson - I just donít think it can get much better than this. It transports me back to that wonderful age of discovery when one person could know most of what was worth knowing and fine, scientific instruments were crafted by hand and included plenty of wood because that was the best material they had for the job. In a way the living, breathing, imperfect wood forms a wonderful bridge between the world of our everyday experience and the astronomical world we perceive - a world of the mind crafted by so many daring leaps of intellect and insight taken by so many brilliant men and women over the centuries.

No I didnít rip into the five boxes like a kid at Christmas. I really showed remarkable restraint after the UPS guy dropped them off. I knew this wasnít something to hop up and down over and if I did at my age Iíd probably throw my back out ;-) These were moments to savor, starting with the remarkable packing job. I took out my camera and thoroughly documented some holes and hefty dents in the cartons, fearing the worse Ė but as it turned out nothing got through to mar the contents.

And before I assembled a single piece, I cruised up to the hardware store to purchase a can of Johnson paste wax, as per instructions. Yes, I rubbed it in with plenty of elbow grease, though all the time I wondered if this were really necessary, Is this Mr. Obsessionís (Dave Kriegeís) none-to-subtle way of getting us to bond with his telescope? Or at least fully appreciate the wood cabinet making?

I was a little surprised that Dave left center dotting the primary and secondary to the user Ė but then again, these were small acts and they did make me more aware of the remarkable optics. 15inch_null.jpg (Mind you - I think any telescope mirror or lens is a remarkable piece of work with its incredible tolerances to a fraction of the length of a light wave and at this point I accept the quality of these optics on faith because I havenít tested them and I really donít understand - impressive as they look Ė the test images online. (See: http://www.opticalmechanics.com/15-148-012405.htm )There is a curious comfort, though, in knowing my mirror has an identity of its own and is not just another widget spit out of another machine in and another huge factory.)

All the parts went together nicely over the course of a long, slow day while I did several unrelated tasks as well. A lot of bad habits Ė like instant gratification Ė are dying with this purchase, and I donít miss them at all. What stands out at this stage? The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, though its parts are wonderful. (By the way - which genius came up with those little clamps that hold the truss tubes to the Upper Tube Assembly (UTA)? Iíd seen them used in the Obsession video, but I didnít appreciate or understand how they worked until I put on the UTA the first time.)

mona_lisa.jpgDonít worry. Iím going to find flaws. My friends like to say that if Leonardo showed me the Mona Lisa, Iíd give it a careful look, then say something helpful like: ďNice job Leo, but donít you think it would be better if you wiped that silly smirk off her face?Ē

So thereís gotta be a flaw here somewhere. Professionally Iíve been writing magazine reviews and buyers guides for years. Iím a born nit-picker, but where the heck are the nits? So far all I can find to complain about is having to go to the local drug store to copy the drawings of the secondary mirror Ė part of the center-dotting process. Hey, at this price a few extra copies could have been included! But my heart isnít in even that tiny complaint. I feel so damned good about this whole experience so far I wasnít the least bit put out by this little irritant.
15_setup.jpg
I can hear the other Obsession owners now Ė ďbut wait until you look THROUGH it!Ē I can wait. Of course the new telescope curse is acting in full force. As far into the future as the forecast can reach thereís nothing but clouds and rain. Hey Ė and behind them a full moon! Funny. But for the first time I see the new-telescopeĖweather curse as a good thing. I want to practice. I want to become thoroughly familiar with assembling the scope, and wheeling it about. Then thereís that business about balancing it so it handles the hefty Denkmeier binoviewer I now insist on using. (Two eyes ARE better than one Ė at least for me.) Not to forget laser collimation, something Iím told is ďeasy,Ē but Iím sure has a learning curve. Of course, I want to make sure ServoCAT is on the prowl, doing its thing correctly. And I want to set sail with the Argo Navis so its computer interface is second nature to me. In short, much as Iím in love with this wonderful creation, when I get out under the stars I want it to drop out of sight. As someone said recently, the telescope should be invisible, I agree. I donít want to know itís there, I just want it to beam me up. I want to approach M92 like I was in a spaceship on its maiden voyage, peering out a huge window and ďrapt in aweĒ as we approach that star city Ė or it approaches us,

We intelligent bipeds are so damned clever that I think we fake ourselves out. We get downright glib, as we tell admiring kids or visitors to our observatories that the little blur of light theyíre seeing originated in a galaxy 40 million light years away, And I donít think Iíll ever live long enough to truly grasp what 40 million light years is. But damn Ė Iím having fun trying to Ė especially with the new Obsession. Thanks Dave. And thanks to the folks in Obsession Users Group who helped me make this leap in the first place simply by taking the time to share your experiences and knowledge. Youíve brought new life to these old eyes.

As I said - itís like I never owned a telescope before ;-)

Posted by Greg Stone at May 23, 2005 04:43 AM Comments? Please email me: gstone@umassd.edu

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