First Light Through an Old Bargain

When a telescope is first put to use it’s traditional to call the first observations made through it, or the first images taken with it, as “first light.” It’s perhaps a bit of a cheat to consider photos of the photosphere of the sun that I took on 1 January 2013 as “first light” through one of my telescopes, but as I’ve been making repairs on it since I picked it up in December I felt a certain sense of occasion on New Years Day when I was able to set it up “for real” for the first time.

Set-up for balcony solar photographs.

Set-up for balcony solar photographs. My balcony faces WSW – good for some afternoon sungazing.

I have an affection for old optical equipment. As evidence I can readily point to my Hasselblad and large format film cameras, still used on occasion. For some months I had noticed an older refracting telescope – complete with a mount and wooden tripod in a big wooden box – on the floor of a local telescope shop. In early December it was on sale for $100, and suddenly found a new home at Pine River Observatory. Well, in my living room. Same thing, really.

So, I started fiddling about with the old telescope a few weeks ago, and quickly discovered why it was such a bargain. In addition to several bends where bends shouldn’t be in the fine adjustment gears on the mount, and a couple of other minor issues, the biggest problem with the telescope was that the collar that holds the eyepiece or other fittings in the focuser was in fact pretty badly damaged. It had been knocked around (I suspect it had been actually pulled or knocked out of the telescope by force at one point) and was being held into the telescope with aluminum duct tape! With a bit of perseverance, cleaning out, and re-bending, the collar is now looking much better, is equipped with new thumb screws, and is firmly epoxied into place – permanently.

The specifics are that it’s an 80 mm achromatic refractor, f/15 (or, put another way, it has a focal length of 1200 mm), and it’s labelled with the brand name “Polaroscope.” So far I haven’t been able to find out too much about this brand. It was likely made in Japan, possibly by a company called Eikow or Towa, and similar ‘scopes may have been sold under various trademarks. It may be as old as 1960.

Even though the repairs have been made, it’s still January in Ontario, and this winter so far has been very cloudy. However, on New Years Day there was a great deal of very welcome sun, and I was able to set up the old telescope in a fairly heavy-duty mount for a little solar imaging (Shortly after getting the telescope I did play around a little with taking photos of the moon with it, but this was with the camera held to the tube with duct tape). Equipped with a mylar solar filter over the objective and a Nikon D5100 dSLR at prime focus, I was pretty pleased with the $100 bargain ‘scope.

The results were worth waiting for, as several large sunspots came into view this afternoon. I have several more subjects planned for this telescope, including Jupiter and the Galilean moons, when the weather will be accommodating at the right time.

The sun's photosphere photographed 1t 1400 EDT, 1 January 2013 from Hamilton, Ontario.

The sun’s photosphere photographed at 1400 EDT, 1 January 2013 from Hamilton, Ontario.


As I’m now back to work five days a week, following a very nice holiday for Christmas and the New Year celebrations, I don’t think it will be very realistic for me to be posting daily blog entries. In January I am hoping to average one or two postings a week. Just so everyone knows.