My interest in astronomy began when I was a young boy. At the time the Apollo astronauts were flying to the Moon. I saved my money and I purchased my first telescope when I was 10 years old. My father had a freight delivery company in Iola at the time and we actually delivered that telescope to the J.C. Penney Company. The package had my name on it and we went back later that day to pick it up. This first telescope was a small 2" refractor on an alt-az mount. It looked like the small white telescope onthe back of the blue one seen below.
I purchased my first large telescope in the summer of 1985. This is a Meade DS-10a. It is a 10" F 4.5 reflector.
This telescope was built with astro-photography in mind. Most of the following photos were taken with this telescope. The mount this telescope is setting on was permanently attached to the ground. I built this mount myself. A permanent mount is a big advantage because most of these pictures were taken with the camera’s shutter locked open for up to 10 minutes. The mount had to track the objects as they drifted across the sky. The more accurately the mount is aligned the less drive correction is needed by the photographer and the better the picture will look. I took the telescope to this mount and set it up for a night of astro-photography. Then when I was done I just covered the mount with a wooden box and put a tarp over it.
To take photos through this telescope the eyepiece of the telescope is removed and the lens is taken off the camera body. Then the camera body is attached to the focuser of the telescope. This means the telescope becomes the camera lens!
With this telescope I was able to take pictures of comets,
and star clusters,
and Lunar Eclipses,
and Solar Eclipses. This one is known as an annular solar eclipse. These eclipses are also known as ring eclipses. Can you tell why? When this eclipse took place the Moon was far enough away from the Earth that it could not cover the Sun. It was just too small in the sky that day. If the Moon would have been close enough to cover the Sun then it would have been a total solar eclipse.
This is one of my favorite astro-photos. This one shows the Moon and the planet Jupiter. The Moon was a thin crescent that morning. Jupiter was close to the Moon. The Moon actually passed in front of Jupiter that morning but before that happened I took the camera off the telescope and put the eyepiece back on so I could watch the event. I sent this photo in to Sky and Telescope Magazine and it was printed in the December of 1990 issue.
I had to over expose the sunlit part of the Moon, seen as the bright crescent on the left edge of the Moon, to capture a dimmer Jupiter but it allowed the rest of the Moon to be seen in the photo. Jupiter is the bright spot to the left and the four small "stars" next to Jupiter are actually Jupiter's moons!
That first 10" Meade worked well but then John Boyd of Humboldt gave my daughter Michaela this much larger telescope. This is a 16" Meade Starfinder.
This 16" Meade is so big it was a struggle to transport out in to the country for a night of stargazing. I decided to build an observatory around the permanent mount and leave this telescope in the observatory.
We would just drive to the observatory and roll the roof off and we were ready to go.
The land I built this observatory on was owned by a group of other amateur astronomers. In the end the group became split and one small group of people took it over. I had the chance to get out and I did and I brought this scope home. As far as I know the land where this nice observing field was built is now a hay field.
In the fall of 1998 I purchased this telescope. This is a 20" Starmaster Telescope. Know who those young ladies are?
It is even larger than the one John Boyd gave Michaela but this one was built to be transported. I can take this large telescope apart and have it in the back of my truck in 10 minutes. The heaviest single piece weighs 73 pounds. This telescope has a mirror in the back that is 20” in diameter and is 2” thick. Unlike the other telescopes I had owned before, this one was not built with photography in mind. But it does give the best views of any other telescope I have ever owned.
This large portable telescope opened up a new phase of my observing too. With a scope this large I found I had the desire to observe more and spend more time recording my observations. I am a member of the Astronomical Society of Kansas City and that gets me membership in the Astronomical League. The Astronomical League is one of the largest amateur astronomical organizations in the world. The AL encourages it’s members to observe by compiling observing lists or programs. These lists are usually grouped by type of object. Some of these lists encourage us to observe galaxies, star clusters, nebula, double stars, the planets, and even the Moon and the Sun. Once you have completed the requirements of the observing list, and a representative of the Astronomical League checks your observing log, you are awarded a lapel pin and a certificate. If you complete 10 of the observing lists you can receive a Master Observer award from the AL. I completed those 10 required lists and in July of 2003 I was awarded the Astronomical Leagues’ Master Observer Award. My certificate number was #22. At the time I was only the 22nd person to earn this award.
These Starmaster Telescopes are built by Rick Singmaster in Arcadia, Kansas. Rick has become known as the best amateur telescope builder in the country. You can learn more about Rick and his Starmaster Telescopes by visiting his webpage at
At one time this beautiful telescope was in my collection too. I consider it beautiful because I built it. I purchased the primary mirror from Parks Optical and the focuser from Northern Skies Telescopes. Then I built everything else. It is a 6" F 12 newtonian reflector. It has a .750 secondary mirror in it. Needless to say this telescope gave outstanding views of the planets. The mounting is a German Equatorial pipe mount.
As good as it was this telescope was not as good as my new Starmaster so I sold it. As far as I know the guy who purchased it still has it. He loved it.
I sold this telescope and the blue one above that I did most of my astro-photography with when I purchased the 20" Starmaster. That left me with just two telescopes. The 20" Starmaster and the 16" Meade that is really Michaela's. While these are two great telescopes I found myself missing the low power, wide field of view that a smaller telescope would offer.
One day I found this telescope on astromart.com
It is a Starmaster 7" Oak Classic with a Carl Zambuto mirror. It is the most rare telescope that I own. I think Rick told me that only about 150 of these Oak Classics were made and only about 40 had a Carl Zambuto mirror in them. I was lucky. When I purchased this telescope I paid just under the cost of a new one. Once people realized Rick was not going to make any more the price went "astronomical". I have seen them sell for twice the price of a new one.
A few years after purchasing the 7" Oak Classic I found myself watching astromart again. I was looking for something in the 10" to 12.5" range. I guess I missed the views offered by the 10" Meade. After a while I was offered this beautiful telescope.
This is a 10" F 6 Starmaster truss telescope. This telescope was made in September of 1996 and the 20" Starmaster was made in May of 1996. Other than size they look alike. I was offered a deal by a friend on this telescope and I took it. Sometimes there are advantages to having a smaller telescope and the build and quality of the Starmasters are the best you can find anywhere.
I now have 3 of Rick's Starmasters and I could not be happier. I have not found myself looking for any other telescopes at all. Not that I really have the need, or the room for another one!
The bigger telescopes have wheelbarrow handles and tires on them. It makes rolling them out of the garage easy. Once you have them set you can take the handles off.
This is my current telescope collection.
Clockwise starting with the white one in the back. It is a Meade 16" Starfinder on a German Equatorial Mount. In front of it is the 7" Starmaster Oak Classic. The 10" F 6 Starmaster Truss telescope is in the front on the left. The big one in the back is the 20" Starmaster and the one in the middle is a Celestron C-8 Schmitt-Cassigrain.
It may look like I have quite a bit of money in these telescopes and I guess I do but the three Starmasters were purchased used and the other two were given to myself and my daughter, Michaela.
My photography has taken up quite a bit of my observing time but I am still getting out and catching star light when I can.