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Packing Up


When itís late, youíre tired after a fun night of observing at your favorite dark sky site and itís time to pack up the telescope and drive back home, that's when youíre most likely to drop an eyepiece, lose a cap, your car keys, or do something else that you really wouldnít like to do normally.  Fatigue can make all of us do stupid things that are expensive to fix or replace later.  Itís a good idea to pack up before you get to your tolerance points for fatigue or cold.  Experience will tell you where these points are for you.  If youíre driving home late, remember that youíll need to be sharp behind the wheel.
The first thing you should do when packing up the telescope is put the cap or cover over the end of the telescope to protect the mirror or lens and keep anything from dropping down the tube and onto your mirror. Next, put the cap on the exposed eyepiece you were using, then carefully remove the eyepiece, replacing the caps over the focuser and on the other end of the eyepiece.  Remember to unscrew any filters that you might have been using on the eyepiece before putting it back in its case.
For an equatorially mounted telescope, next ensure that the counterweights are at their lowest possible point of travel to avoid injury or irreparable damage in the following steps. Once the counterweights are in the 'safe' position, loosen the clamps holding the telescope to the equatorial mount, then carefully remove the telescope and place it in it's case.  Important - do NOT remove the counterweights before removing the telescope because your telescope could slam down hard causing damage to both your telescope and your mount and perhaps injury to you also.  Finally, remove the counterweights one at a time, remove the equatorial mount head from the tripod and place it in its case, then finally, fold up the tripod.
For a wedge mounted Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, double check that the cap is securely on the front of the scope and that visual back is also capped tightly.  Using the declination axis, lock the Schmidt-Cassegrain so that the optical tube is aligned with the forks and that the front of the tube is faced downward towards the clock drive.  Lock the declination axis in this position, and lock your right ascension axis unlocked. Partially loosen the wedge bolts that hold the telescope, then with two hands, carefully lift the telescope off of the wedge by grabbing only onto the forks.  Place the telescope into it's case.  For anything larger than an 8" SCT, you should have another person help you with lifting the scope off of it's wedge or base and placing it into the case to be safe.)  Finally, fold up the tripod.
In the case of a Dobsonian telescope, lift the tube assembly off of the rocker base and place the cover over the telescope.  Carefully load the telescope and base into your vehicle if transporting the telescope.  You'll be tired at this point.  After a great evening of viewing, you'll be thinking about other things, but remember to check around your telescope carefully with your red flashlight.  Make sure you haven't dropped any eyepiece caps or anything else.
Put your mind back in Safe Driving Mode if you have to drive back home.  Remember, probably the only people out driving this time of night are drunks and astronomers ... and there are very, very few astronomers.  Drive alert and drive home safely!


Introduction to the Night Sky - Part I

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