Messier Observation List
I've been interested in Astronomy for a while now. Back in July of 2003 I purchased a telescope so Erika and I could get a good look at the Mars Opposition (the closest Mars got to earth in the last 60,000 years or so). The telescope I bought, an Orion Observer 70mm Refractor, was pretty modest, but the optics were decent. I was able to get my first looks at the moon, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter and I was hooked.
After about a year, I decided I was really into this astronomy thing and that it was time to look into getting a scope that would show me more. If cost were no object I would have bought a high end apochromatic refractor like the Takahashi FS102, but they are generally quite pricey. Instead, I negociated a great deal on a nice intermediate level telescope, the Celestron C102-HD. This 4" refractor was a nice all-around scope, with enough aperture to show the most famous deep-sky objects, as well as more detailed views of the planets. Its much bigger than my old 70mm scope, the tube was nearly 4' long and it weighed about 40 lbs assembled, but it was still relatively easy enough to move around. This scope showed me Saturn's Cassini ring division, the great red spot on Jupiter, and my first Messier Objects, the Orion Nebula, Triangulum Galaxy, Andromeda Galaxy, and Pleadies. These first glimpses of deep-sky objects got me thinking I needed a bigger scope to see more detailed views of these faint objects.
Finally in late 2004 I sold off the Celestron refractor for about what I paid and purchased a new Orion XT8. The new scope is an 8" Newtonian scope mounted on a simple Alt-Az base (this set-up is referred to as a Dobsonion, or Dob). The 8" aperture provides substantially more light grasp to aid in seeing fainter objects, and while larger and bulkier than my previous scopes, it's still easy enough for me to move around. So far it's worked pretty well, and the scope lends itself well to modifications that will improve it's performance in the future. I hope to make a new collapsible base for easier car transport for example, as well as build some kind of transporting cart so I can tote it out of the garage and into the yard for quick observing. Eventually I may scavenge the mirrors and use them to make a truss dob which offers substantially more portability.As for observing, I've checked off several new Messier objects with its help including the Dumbbell Nebula, and Andromeda's companion galaxies.
Below I've made a list of important astronomical events and best observing times to remind myself when to set up the scope. I've not made any notes of when the best time to observe Venus, Mercury, Neptune, Uranus, or Pluto is because they're either very difficult to see with my scope or not very interesting targets. Also, I only list eclipses and astronomical events that will be viewable in my local area (Kennewick, WA).