Set Goals

The surest way to keep things interesting is to set and work at goals. The major reason CATs hit the closet is that the owners have decided that they've seen everything there is to see. Questioning these individuals will reveal they've actually hardly seen anything. Most have barely scratched the surface of the thousands of objects available to an 8-inch Schmidt Cassegrain. "Everything" turns out to be the Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, and a few of the brightest Messier objects.

R. Mollise, Choosing and Using a New CAT, 313

DOI: 10.1007/978-0-387-09772-5_13, © Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2009 313

Plate 84. (Uncle Rod) "Thirty-five years down the SCT road, I'm still in love with CATs." Credit: Quote and image courtesy of Dorothy C. Mollise.

Why would a person think he or she has seen everything when very little has been observed? Usually because there is no plan. These amateurs drag the scope into the backyard, look at any bright planets that happen to be visible, point at a Messier object or two—M42, M13, and similar showpieces—stand around for a few minutes staring blankly at the sky, and pack it in. As mentioned earlier, having a well-planned observing list is very important. Without at least a semi-detailed list of what is to be observed, nothing much will be observed.

Some amateurs need a little more motivation to keep pushing back the deep space frontiers than a mere self-made observing list, and some of these folks find that motivation in the awarding of honors by observing clubs sponsored by the Astronomical League(Appendix 2), which is the national amateur astronomy organization in the United States. The league has a variety of clubs, but the one to start with is the Messier Club. Two classes of their much-coveted award are offered, "Standard" and "Honorary." The standard certificate is given to any amateur who successfully logs observations of seventy of the objects in Charles Messier's list. The Honorary award is reserved for those observers who manage to find all 110

objects and consists of a handsome pin as well as a certificate. With the Messier conquered, it's time to proceed to the slightly fearsome "Herschel 400," a club that requires the observation of some truly challenging objects; something that will consume many a happy night of deep sky hunting.

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