Heart of the Valley Astronomers Telescope Tune-Ups

by Steve McGettigan

Look through an astronomy magazine and you'll discover an abundance of telescope advertising, not to mention articles describing objects for a telescope to explore. That's assuming everything is working well with the scope. But there usually isn't much to tell you what to when something isn't working right with the scope. It can be disconcerting to discover that the main mirror for a telescope has a dust layer that you can write your name on. Or that the inside of the tubes appear to have "permanent" residents of the arachnid variety. Maybe there's trouble with the mount, too. That means it's time to do some repairs and cleaning.

Because of the sensitivity of most optics, it is easy to be daunted by performing maintenance items and fixes such as optic cleaning or mirror alignment. But most telescopes are surprisingly tough, their Pyrex mirrors quite resistant to shock damage. Mine has a tube bearing all sorts of dents dating to when I carried it around on a backpack - it has been dropped, banged, and on one occasion, attacked by cats. But the views are still great.

A novice with optics needs to simply devote a little care and patience to become proficient at handling most difficulties with your instrument. A surprising amount can be done with simple tools, materials, and common sense - a classic example is building your our Dobsonian telescope mount, just out of some plywood and Teflon. So how can you find out more about keeping your scope in stellar shape?

Part of the Heart of the Valley Astronomers, service is helping amateur astronomers address telescope maintenance with our Telescope Tune-ups. This is an integral part of our monthly group meetings and is a great way to learn more about using your instrument. This service, as with all H.V.A. events, is free of charge, open to all. You find our next Telescope Tune-up night by clicking Schedule, you can also send us an e-mail inquiring about any part of telescope maintenance and repair.

If you are ready to dive right in, you might want to check out the following articles on the Sky and Telescope web site: