The first task is to make sure the telescope has arrived undamaged. You might even consider asking the delivery person to wait while the boxes are opened and the contents are given at least a cursory examination. The average delivery driver may balk at this prospect, but if there are signs of serious mishandling, you should insist on the driver waiting.
What if the boxes are damaged and an "open and inspect" reveals the telescope inside has been totaled? That does not happen often, but it does happen, and stories of smashed corrector plates and secondary mirrors that have been dislodged and deposited on primaries are unfortunately fairly common in the amateur community.
R. Mollise, Choosing and Using a New CAT,
DOI: 10.1007/978-0-387-09772-5_5, © Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2009
In a case of obviously abused boxes, unpack the scope immediately and examine the contents in detail. Especially, remove the dust cover on the corrector end of the tube and check the optics for breakage or other damage. If the worst has happened, ask the driver the proper course of action. Whatever he or she says, call the dealer immediately and report what has happened.
Assuming the telescope has arrived intact, job number two is to take inventory of everything. There will probably be at least two boxes to poke around in. One will contain the telescope's tripod, the other will hold the optical tube assembly fork-mount combo. If the new baby is a German mount-equipped CAT, there will likely be three boxes, with a separate one for the GEM mount head.
What if there is only one box instead of two? The scope is there, but there is no tripod to mount it on? Or, worse, there is a shiny new tripod and no telescope to put on it. It is not uncommon for boxes in a multibox shipment to go their own ways. Go straight to the PC, bring up the delivery company's Web site, and plug in the tracking numbers (the dealer should have e-mailed these once the scope shipped). Likely, one package's Internet info will have "delivered" next to it, and the other one won't. It is painful not to have a complete telescope, but the remaining parts and pieces will probably arrive on the next day. What if the whole shipment is marked as delivered or the remaining items do not arrive in the next day or two? Call the dealer. It is possible something is back ordered or that something has gone astray.
If there are shipment problems, do not be too quick to blame the dealer or the guys with the big brown trucks. Many scopes are "drop shipped" from the manufacturer these days. This is particularly common with Meade. Often, a dealer does not have any inventory. When a telescope is purchased, the dealer sends the information to the manufacturer, who sends out the scope directly from the factory.
Now, the fun begins. Start unpacking. The first thing to look for is the instruction manual, which will be required for this initial inventory. It is pretty obvious that there should be a telescope and a tripod in the boxes, but what else? How about eyepieces? How many eyepieces? Does the telescope come with a direct current (DC) power cable? How about an alternating current (AC)/mains power supply? One thing you should do as soon as you purchase a scope is download a manual from the manufacturer's Web site. By the time the CAT actually arrives, you will have a pretty good idea exactly what should be in the boxes and how it will all go together.
Now, start removing items from the boxes and placing the items in an open, uncluttered area. If there are young children in the house, wait until they are in bed before beginning. Otherwise, that shiny and fascinating Plossl eyepiece may never be found. After removing a few small accessory containers perhaps, the beautiful new telescope will be revealed cradled in shipping foam. Grasping either fork arm, gently lift the telescope, remove it from the container, and set it up on its base (assuming it is a fork-mount telescope). Some fork models will have handles on the tines to make this easier. If this is a large or heavy-duty Schmidt Cassegrain telescope, take it easy. It will be heavy. Do not be afraid to ask for help if needed. Where should you put the scope? someplace where it will not be knocked over by passersby as the rest of the gear is unpacked. If there is a sturdy table at hand, that might be a good temporary home for the CAT.
Once everything is out of the boxes, try to bring some organization to a scene that will look a lot like Christmas morning with the kids (Plate 33). Group small items
Plate 33. (Unpacking a CAT) A new CAT: Christmas in July. Credit: Author.
such as eyepieces, the star diagonal, and the hand controller together and put them somewhere where they will not be misplaced. Do not throw anything away at this point. It is all too easy to accidentally dispose of small plastic bags containing critical mounting bolts and similar hardware.
How about all the packing stuff? Save everything for the moment in case something is wrong with the CAT and it has to go back. Actually, permanently retain at least the telescope's shipping box and the foam in which it was packed. Squirrel the box away in the attic for future use should the CAT ever need to be returned for repair. The box may also have to serve as a temporary telescope case until something better comes along. Keeping at least the foam the scope was packed in is vital. Some cases sold for SCTs—and a case will be needed—Meade's, for example, are just soft Cordura fabric meant to fit around this original shipping foam. The foam will also make building a custom case or adapting some other container as a scope case much easier. Foam padding suitable for a CAT case is hard to come by and harder to cut into a suitable shape.
Whew! Once the living room is in some semblance of order again, take a break and admire the new CAT. Remove any paper or plastic that protected the telescope during shipping, but don't do anything rash. Observe all caution and warning notes attached to the tube (often concerning moving a computerized scope in either axis with the locks tightened down). Resist the temptation to play with all those attractive knobs, switches, and levers at this time.
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