My First Telescope

Mom and Dad knew I liked science and astronomy. They gave me a telescope in the early 1960s as I finished junior high school. Years before they got me a microscope to view the tiny world of inner space. This gift allowed me to see the world of outer space. I loved that telescope.

I went to the garage cabinet the other day and got out that old telescope and tripod. It’s an old friend. Together, we have viewed the rings of Saturn, the moons of Jupiter, Earth’s Moon, comets, the Orion nebula, and much more. I have a bigger and better telescope now. But, this one is special.




Recently, I read the opinion piece at the end of the February 2016 Sky & Telescope magazine. It was written by Dean Regas and entitled Saturn Changes You. Dean is the outreach astronomer at the Cincinnati Observatory and co-host of the nationally syndicated program Star Gazers.

He described the sense of awe and inspiration he felt at seeing Saturn for the first time through a telescope. It was a moving and powerful experience for him. My wife Melanie, our grandkids, and many others, marveled at seeing Saturn for the first time through my telescopes. It is a thrill to see the small sphere with those outstretched rings. Something about it changes your worldview as Regas said in his article.

I wrote to Dean and expressed my appreciation for his story in the magazine. He wrote back and said:

Thank you for the email and I’m so happy that the article took you back to that first views (and that old telescope). That was my intention and I’m hoping we can share those experiences with the next generation. It’s almost Saturn season!


SaturnMy first view of Saturn looked like this. It was tiny, just big enough to make out the gap between the rings and the planet sphere. My view was probably not quite this sharp or clear. But, I didn’t care. I saw Saturn! It became my favorite planet.

Recently, I noticed a news story about a youngster aged 15 who also saw Saturn through his telescope. Marcus Reed of Seaford, East Sussex, England looked through his telescope, about twice the size of mine. Plus, Marcus had a tool I didn’t have available 55 years ago. He put his cell phone to the eyepiece and captured this beautiful large image of Saturn.



Marcus said:

“I took the picture at about four in the morning. I had turned on the app and saw that Saturn was visible, so straight away I put my slippers on and ran downstairs, setting up my telescope on the back lawn in my pyjamas. I was pleasantly surprised when I looked back and saw I had such a clear picture – Saturn is my favourite planet.”


10 thoughts on “My First Telescope

  1. My first view of Saturn was last year through a Celestron birding scope with 80 mm front lens and used at 60x magnification. Good enough, in combination with my not-quite-perfect eyes, to see that Saturn’s image is not round but has these two blobs sticking out opposing sides and an angle with the horizon. Not good enough for me to see the gap between the rings and the planet. I used the StarMap 3D+ app to find Saturn. The hardest part was to point the scope in the right direction and get Saturn within the field of view. I enjoyed seeing and recognizing Saturn by its rings. It was one of your previous posts that motivated me to go outside and try. Thank you.

      • I did see the 4 Galilean moons around the same time. I had seen one of the moons already with 7x binoculars a decade or two ago. That event still has a slightly negative association for me. We were at a party in a beach house and star gazing was one of the planned activities. A young woman had just bought a used telescope and was using it for the first time. Turns out that only the low magnification “finder” feature worked, the view could not be switched to the higher powered main lens. So here I am with $70 7x Tasco binoculars on a flimsy tripod able to see one of Jupiters moons while she spent a multiple of that amount and could not. A little bittersweet. We shared the binoculars of course, but I still remember her disappointment of apparently having been cheated.

  2. It is humbling to see the world through that first real telescope.
    It opens a world full of beauty and wonder.

    Our Celestron sits eating to be carried out at a moments notice!!

    Seeing the Saturn rings and Jupiters moons was an unforgettable experience.
    Actually it is hard to put words to the real feeling.

  3. I’ve been sitting here trying to think what might have played a similar role in my life. Honestly, I think it might have been my first library card. It seemed unbelievable to me that you could just bring books home for free, take them back, and get more. I suppose in a way it did introduce me to distant worlds, too.

    • Libraries are wonderful things. I can see why your card would have been a source of adventure and wonder. Are they being replaced by the internet for good or bad?

      • Not in my world. Most of my friends, both real-world and online, are avid readers and most frequent libraries — although their Amazon prime/Kindle habits probably have cut into that a bit. And for research? Libraries and original source material can’t be beat. The internet is great for clues, hints, directions — and for digitized materials — but often it takes primary sources to resolve online informational conflicts.

  4. That was very much like mine only I had this metal tripod. the legs extended down, and if you weren’t careful, it would collapse. I miss that little telescope sometimes.

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