When Orion introduced its revolutionary new XX12i Truss Tube Dobsonian last Fall, it wasn't long before Dr. Steven B. of Newton, Iowa, had one delivered to his home. You see, the doctor admittedly suffers from a serious case of 'aperture fever'. It all started some 12 years ago, when he helped his youngest granddaughter write a small book about the planets, for a school project. Since then, Steven's interest in astronomy and stargazing has grown to epic proportions. Recently, we caught up with Dr. B. to see how he's been enjoying his new telescope ...
Where do you do most of your observing, and how do you decide what to observe?
Normally my observing is accomplished here at home, either on the patio or if it is cold, from the driveway. I attend star parties as well as providing observing sessions for the Cub Scouts, etc., and general public to acquaint them with the night sky. This includes traveling about Iowa or even other states on occasion. I plan ahead to search for targets that happen to be included in a regimented observing program, or that I have read about and raised my curiosity, or am working my way through something like the Sharpless catalog for my personal satisfaction, or helping to develop an Astronomical League Observing Club.
What is your favorite type of celestial object to view?
I am a 'dyed in the wool' fan of deep sky objects in general and of nebulas, both bright and dark.
Share one of your most interesting viewing experiences.
One particularly clear and steady night last year, I was using my 10" dob while mapping the Moon. While I was engrossed in observing Copernicus crater, a 747 flew through my field of view. It arrested my attention to say the least and it appeared so close that I was able to read the UA on the tail fin and see people in the windows. This was a hoot!
What compelled you to purchase the XX12?
I love Newtonian dobs. Your XT12 IntelliScope seemed like a natural for me as I was seeking computerized assistance, storage convenience, and more oomph when seeking dark nebulas. Then you came out with the XX12 ... Orion had everything in one tidy package.
Regarding the Astronomical League, how have you shared your experience with others?
I am currently working with a team of folks who are observing Dark Nebulas. We are formulating a Dark Nebula observing club which will be based on the Barnard & Lynd catalogs ... It was suggested that I join this group because I had observed the entire E. E. Barnard Dark Nebula Catalog on my own and sort of knew what it was about. Also, I am a Master Observer within the AL and contribute to the Master Observer Network which is an email question and answer program or "ask the experts".
You mentioned using the XX12 for "some very serious work on dark nebula". Please elaborate.
Working on the Astronomical League's dark nebula team as previously stated and having found out that I like to observe dark nebulas after completing the Barnard catalog, I am after yet larger game. Some of the most beautiful nebulas you have never seen can be found in the Sharpless catalog. These nebulas are not for the novice and are normally beyond the capabilities of smaller scopes. Also, there are small, ill-defined, and opacity poor molecular clouds that no one pays any attention to and I attempt to find them and see if I can make them out and guesstimate their opacity ... My XX12 is a most-capable work horse and has proven itself to my satisfaction in this short period of time.
What benefits have you identified as a result of owning a large aperture instrument?
Basically, it's the VIEW ... 2" eyepieces are helpful on occasion. [There's] more light grasp for those far-out objects, [it's] easier to judge variable stars, and [it] makes splitting doubles easier for me. Weight is a stabilizing factor in light wind. [The] ability to "crank up the power" farther (also makes the neighborhood kids 'oooh!' and 'ahhh!' and think I'm really smart!).
Besides the XX12, are there any Orion-brand accessories or equipment you use regularly?
My oculars are Orion Plössls. [My filters are] colored, neutral-density, H-Beta, narrow band, and Mars. I previously owned two small Orion refractors which were good bargains for the money but, being small, they failed to curb my appetite.
What advice would you give to aspiring stargazers?
1. Learn the constellations.
2. Obtain the largest aperture [telescope] from a reliable dealer/manufacturer that you can reasonably afford, but don't be afraid to start down the amateur astronomer path with only binoculars, as you have a universe to discover and many of the objects are well within a binocular's modest grasp.
3. Join an astronomy club.