As discussed in my post about the trip to Melbourne, I helped Dad buy a scope while we were there. He had been tossing and turning over getting a scope of his own for years. He's had some larger binoculars for a while and wanted to get something that would be quick to set up, no fancy computers and a decent aperture. Spells Dobsonian to me! So we went out and looked around, got a great deal on a 10" Dob made by BINTEL. It uses GSO optics and came with a nice set of accessories (three eyepieces, color filters and a moon filter) We bought him a RA 9*50 finder to help ease the strain on his back from twisting to look through the standard "straight-through" finder. It also came with a Crayford focuser system which was nice and smooth.
We set it up the day we bought it. Assembly of the Dobsonian mount only took an hour, and the rest was easy enough. The beauty of a simple system like this is once you have assembled the base and place the optical tube assembly on it, you're good to go. We only had to wait for one day for a clear night, thereby narrowly missing the typical astronomer's curse (i.e. "Thou shalt be smitten by cloudy skies for one week after the purchase of any astronomical equipment!" (This is the first rule after "Thou shalt be smitten by unconvinced looks from thy spouse after such a purchase")).
We checked out Jupiter first, which was very crisp in these skies. Dad's scope easily revealed some very nice cloud band detail and the Great Red Spot straight away, indicating that the quick collimation job the chaps at the scope shop performed paid off AND that the GSO optics were A-OK. The real kicker, though, was Omega Centauri. This is a large globular cluster that typically only Southern Hemisphere folks get to enjoy. As a kid looking at it through my 3" refractor when I used to live there, I thought it was a pretty neat little fuzzball. With this scope, however, holy crikey #$#%#$!!!! Even with his 26mm 2" eyepiece, the FOV was full of stars. The scope nicely resolved the individual stars within the cluster, and it really was mind-blowing. I'd read much about viewing it with nice scopes but was totally unprepared for how it appeared tonight. Dad was absolutely floored. It was just stunning, and going back to M13 once back in the US will be a bit sad for me now!
We checked out some other clusters and galaxies too (most of which we found just by carelessly scanning the central Milky Way region) and it's just lovely. Again, in the middle of the suburbs (Melbourne is pretty big, about 3.6 million) and the skies were gorgeous. I could clearly make out the Milky Way as well as the large and small Magellanic Clouds. *sigh*
So, anyway Dad now has a nice telescope system that is portable and powerful enough for his uses. And, I got to see some of the Southern Hemishpere's wonders as a result! Dad and I are now planning for a drive into central Australia with the scope sometime during the next three years. Can't wait!