Sunday, 3 November 2013

Now I lay you to eternal sleep. Tranquility base, your soul to keep.

Today as I clean out the family home.. my trusty 4.5 inch Newtonian reflecting telescope is about to be loaded into the skip. He will probably be underlay for Brisbane's second runway.. if BAC ever build it! Sadly his mirror is oxidised so much that he is almost useless as a telescope. In fact he has been superseded by a 6 inch cassegrain  scope with all manor of electronic guidance systems for some time.

But it wasn't always like that......

Just over 45 years ago, that telescope was my 15th birthday present. It came in pieces in a large red box from Greenfields in George Street. All the necessary parts were carefully wrapped in brown paper by some loving technician in Japan. When I unwrapped each piece carefully and assembled the instrument.. I felt like I was bringing it to life! I couldn't believe that this very instrument would show me Saturn's rings, or some of Jupiter's moons. And boy did I love using it. On clear nights my good school friend and fellow astronomy nut Robert Fysh and i would be out in the front garden of Armagh St chasing the planets, constellations and the moon if it was out. I remember the night Robert and I found Antares.. the red star in Scorpio. What a buzz. Or the "jewel box" in Orion's belt. Robert had this enormous pair of binoculars and we would often use them as well.

This was my second telescope.. my folks gave me my first, a 60 mm refractor for my 14th birthday. When this new reflector (on an equatorial mount no less) arrived, Robert purchased the 60mm for his own use. We even belonged to the ROSCOM Jnr Astronomical Society. These days I can only remember Ross Mattingly from that crew. Robert's Grandfather would drive us out to Holland Park for the meetings on a Friday night. Very generous of him when you consider it was all pre freeway. It took a long time to get there.

The first time I saw the craters on the moon.. wow.. was I blown away. I still get a buzz from it now! Over the years the reflector has been loaded onto many cars and dragged out into the scrub for a clearer view. One night at Clayfield the street light that was suspended over the middle of the intersection was killing the view in that part of the sky. I used to own a Chinese made .177 air rifle. And I wasn't a bad shot. Sorted the bulb out real quick! (That rifle is another story in itself)

In 1969 .. Armstrong walked on the moon. I had my telescope set up at the bottom of the front stairs looking at the moon... it was a magic night. I remember from that night 2 quotes.. one from each of my parents as I focused that telescope on the moon.

My father said to me, "Son if a boy raised on a farm in America can walk on the moon today, then there is nothing your generation cannot do with some effort!"

My mother said, "Can you seen Neil Armstrong on the moon?"

So good bye old telescope.. your life was good and fruitful!

The moon over Clayfield

Awaiting the scrap heap after 45 years.