Q: What do you call a chicken with its head cut off?
A: DEAD! Ha-ha!
In all seriousness, folks, I have a hundred more where that came from. =) Let me introduce myself, I am Mr. Discover. (Just call me Bubba.) And I'd like to tell you about the time I went with Ryan to give his telescope a whirl. First, a little background information:
Ryan, not content simply to have a telescope decided to build one. That's where I came in. He charged the materials using me and now I now had a stake in the project. His progress was interminably slow and took him about a year to get from the idea stage to something that finally worked. But he did pulled it off (with my help, of course), and took it out for its first trial run on the night of July 7th, 1998.
He took his friend, Rachel, out to Santa Margarita Lake. (I sneaked into his back pocket when he wasn't looking.) Being the normally cheap guy that he is, he used a free camera tripod he picked up a couple of years ago to support the telescope with. This tripod was a flimsy hunk of junk that couldn't support a blade of grass much less the monstrous telescope he had in mind. It wobbled under the telescope's weight and had to be kept upright by hand. The trip was a success, though, because after he pointed it at the Milky Way I could hear him saying, "WOW! Wow! This is incredible!" while Rachel pounded on his back yelling, "Let me see! Let me see!"
In that sense, the trial run was a success. After about five minutes Ryan accidently snapped the tripod in two and that was that. They made a brave attempt at using a barbwire fence to support the telescope but to no avail and saw nothing more that night.
A few days later he bought a really nice tripod. Compliments of me, I might add. I'm always coming to save the day. And one week after the first try, they went out again to give it another go. This time they drove up West Cuesta Ridge just as the sun was setting. Nothing but the brightest stars were out at that time, so they set up the telescope and aimed it at the first quarter moon. Wow! Rachel and Ryan pulled out a moon atlas (again, paid for compliments of me) and started finding the names of the craters that they could see. They didn't find any martians, but it was an unqualified success and gave them something to do for an hour until the rest of the sky got dark.
I watched Rachel and Ryan spend the next four hours finding constellations, open star clusters and globular clusters. Ryan has some interesting theories about why Ursa Major, the bear, had a long tail. He says it's because the bear once ravaged cities and killed children and Hercules came to rescue everyone from the terrible beast. He couldn't kill it with his bare hands, though, so he picked up the bear by its nubby little tail and started swinging it, faster and faster. Meanwhile, the tail streched getting longer and longer until Hercules threw the bear into the sky where it can be seen every night, including the long, stretched-out tail.
Sounds pretty far fetched if you ask me, though.
Anyhow, the telescope was a success. It isn't totally done. It has yet to stained or finished, but he likes it and it makes him happy. The next night Ryan went to take another friend, Peter, up to West Cuesta Ridge with his telescope and instead backed up into Peter's car. (Ryan claims the parked car jumped out at him.) He has also since found several planets through his telescope including Mercury, Jupiter and Uranus. He's found more open star clusters and globular clusters but the distant galaxies have still elluded him. Rachel has since moved to Ohio with only memories of the sights that she saw. Peter still roams the streets of San Luis Obispo, a dent in his car, but not hardly as impressive as the one left in Ryan's!
NOTE: This telescope isn't designed for astrophotography, but NASA was kind enough to let little people like me borrow pictures from their extensive on-line photo collection. The images of Saturn and the moon are similar to what you'd see through the telescope. (You'd need something a LOT more impressive than this puny little telescope to see something as impressive as the Andromeda Galaxy shown below but it was included because I thought it was a really cool picture.)