It was a huge rush to the finish. So there was a great sense of relief when "Version 1.0" of my MiataScope was successfully unveiled at Astrofest in September 2002. There were some rough edges to be smoothed out, but it still worked far better than I dared hope.
The first sigh of relief came when the telescope successfully fit in the trunk of the Miata. This picture shows how it fits. The cage goes on the left. The mirror cell is inside the rocker box on the right. On top of both go the side bearings. The mirror cell / rocker box combo needs to be slid over to the left near the cage so that the right trunk hinge will clear.
My MiataScope is designed so that the telescope and a passenger can go observe for the evening and still ride (more or less) in comfort. Every cubic inch is used of course. My eyepiece cases fits behind the front seats. The truss tubes go up front next to the passenger. When more room is needed, I went to Moss Motors and purchased "shelf luggage" which is a bag that straps onto the trunk.
For overnight trips though, the Miata just isn't big enough for the telescope, a passenger and camping gear. For the three days of Astrofest, I put two sleeping bags and two air mattresses in the shelf luggage. That meant that the two pillows, all my eyepieces, the truss tubes, clothes, tent and some food had to fit in the passenger seat.
The second big sigh of relief was doing the first full assembly and seeing that everything worked. Here are two pictures of the completed scope assembled and ready for collimation at Astrofest. You can't tell from these pictures, but there was glue and varnish drying as I took these shots.
Over two nights of observing I noticed that the collimation does drift a little. I think that this was due to the mirror cell grabbing the mirror too tightly though. Further testing of the scope is needed to make sure that what's happening has nothing to do with a flaw in the scopes design (others agree that this seems unlikely). Even with the drift, the scope stays well collimated in use. Astrofest was the first time any of my scopes has been perfectly collimated and now I see what an amazing difference it makes to resolution and image quality.
On a series of two very damp nights, there were no problems with dew on the primary or secondary. This was a surprise as I did not have a mirror shroud and I disconnected the secondary heater before the evening started during collimation and forgot to restart it. By Astrofest 2003 I had added a shroud in part to protect the mirror in case something gets knocked off the secondary cage while the scope is in use. The Velcro holding things to the secondary cage worked well, but it isn't fool proof and twice I knocked things off when reaching for something else.
Listing these problems reminds me that I should highlight what went right too. There were many things, and a lot of thanks are due.
The final triumph of Astrofest was winning an award for the telescope's design. Some dream of winning an Oscar. Ever since the first Astrofest almost 25 years ago, I've dreamed of winning an award for telescope making. Needless to say, I couldn't be more proud.
Even after Astrofest was over, there have been further moments of pride. I love hearing other amateurs look at the scope and guess that it must only be a 14", 12" or even a 10" scope. It continues to receive compliments from them on how it performs. One of the best moments though was seeing my grandfather look through it. The photo shows (left to right) my nephew and long time Astrofest buddy, Jim along with my grandfather and I.
The fun has only begun.
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Last updated 1/12/06