There are times when even the smallest decision can change everything about you and alter the course of others for life. You might not know it when it happens – because it may seem as insignificant as what to order for dinner, what Christmas present to choose, or what radio station you listened to that morning. But sometimes the Cosmos has a grand scheme waiting for you if you’re willing to listen. In this case, it’s the story of a Celestron telescope – one that’s endured through decades of use and three generations of star gazers.
It all began in the mid-1980’s with a “Cometron” telescope, bought to view Halley’s Comet. Those were the halcyon days before the Internet. Learning the night sky was a slow and painful process because no ready open sources were available for instructions and few places (besides the local library) available for learning. I was hard on a telescope because I didn’t know any better. Nearly a decade of use later, there wasn’t much left of that old refractor but fond memories. I was ready for bigger and better things. No more attaching the optical tube to a vise for a mount, no more squinty little eyepieces. I wanted the big time. It was Christmas 1994 and I had no idea then what kind of role that a Celestron FirstScope would end up playing in my life…
And no clue just how “big” it was going to get.
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The Celestron 114 Newtonian reflector and its well-manufactured equatorial mount opened my eyes. Comet Hale-Bopp, solar eclipse chasing, sunspots, variable stars, double stars, galaxies, lunar transient phenomena, star clusters, nebula… The night sky became my companion and the FirstScope my teacher. Together we learned to read complicated star charts, use setting circles, judge magnitudes and sky conditions, take notes and do astronomical sketching. Many nights and days were spent observing – be it with my old dog – or with my nearly grown sons. It was a world we traveled in alone – never knowing there were others that enjoyed the same hobby. Aperture fever soon enough had me in its grip and what better way to cure a fever than with a big Celestron Starhopper?
By the time telescope size had increased, so the world of communications had expanded. The Internet had entered my life in the form of a WebTV unit. The boys had long ago discovered girls and a new dog replaced an old one. When my Mother told me she heard about a some people meeting with telescopes on the radio, I finally knew I wasn’t alone. It was the first time the Celestron 114 was about to travel away from my rural backyard – and the beginning of its many journeys around the world. The event was my first public outreach and my introduction to Warren Rupp Observatory. From there, I knew there wasn’t any more going ”back home”.
Even though I had met some members of the astronomy club at their outreach event, I was shy my first night at the Observatory – afraid to put that little telescope alongside such fine, big company. Who was I but an older woman with no professional experience next to these guys? An hour after dark later, I knew who I was. I was woman with a star chart in her head and a little telescope that could mop up the skies. One that would eventually change the history of the Observatory just as surely as volunteering at the Observatory changed me…
And everything old became new again.
Did we travel? Oh, yes. The Celestron FirstScope has been all over the continental United States. We’ve quested in the south for Omega Centauri and chased eclipses from border to border. It’s been unceremoniously stuffed in the trunk of many sports cars to be hauled across state lines on vacations and off to public outreach events. It’s been shipped across the world and battered in the belly of an airplane. For months at a time, the FirstScope would often stay fully assembled so it could be quickly set outside the garage for daily solar, lunar and planetary viewing. It watched my sons grow as we exchanged confidences and solved problems under the comfortable cloak of darkness. It saw the birth of my grandchildren and their first views of the stars. It was my workhorse, my friend, my mentor… my telescope.
As time went on, I grew to trust Celestron’s durable quality. Like creating new recipes in the kitchen, Celestron came out with many designs that ended up part of my personal telescope fleet. While there were tasty treats that might have only appealed to a few and lasted for awhile, there were many winner dinners which have also endured the test of time to become family favorites. Yet, no matter how many times I might upgrade, trade or replace a Celestron telescope, I never had the heart to let go of the enduring FirstScope. Somehow, it felt like there was a reason I had to keep it around.
The years passed and my hobby in astronomy soon turned into a career. Although I am not a professional astronomer, I realized a need many years ago to open friendly, natural communications about astronomy and how to use a telescope. Although I learned the “hard” way, I knew I couldn’t keep what I had learned to myself. Sharing the sky and the passion for what I do became my primary goal. The Celestron 114 followed me to what I thought was to be a permanent home at Warren Rupp Observatory as an historic piece – but it had other plans. Every time I looked at it, it would all but walk around on its three black legs and cry to be used again at more than just public nights.
And it didn’t have long to wait…
Once in awhile you meet up with karma and you’ll know it when it comes to call. Our Observatory outreach had encouraged a new member, and he and his grandson have a passion which matches perfectly with everything the Celestron 114 FirstScope stands for. Many months ago, I told him to take the scope home with him and learn… it deserved to be used again. Although he was a little bit afraid of it, he took my advice and he and his grandson embarked upon a celestial journey that’s only beginning for them. Into their hands has come a case of Celestron eyepieces and filters. And, like long ago, that same old solar filter and a new canine companion to complete the circle.
So what has become of Celestron FirstScope service and Warren Rupp Observatory? Just as surely as the Earth orbits the Sun, what goes around comes around. OPT Telescopes heard about our outreach efforts and understood that in order for us to keep our educational programs free to the public that we’d need donations… and donate they did. Not only do the many Celestron telescopes of our members serve the public, but OPT provided us with a fleet of Celestron FirstScope Telescopes and Celestron FirstScope Accessory Kits to serve the thousands of children we educate about the night sky each year. Because sometimes…
Everything old comes to new again.