After the first snow fell, the skies have finally cleared and I got the opportunity to try out my new toy, a Meade LXD-75 152mm telescope. So far I've been using a Russian 110mm TAL-1 telescope which is completely hand operated and a neat cold war era design meant to last. The sturdy scope is excellent for the moon and the planets, but I've had lots of trouble getting anything that is invisible to the naked eye in my view.
I spotted General Meade on a Finnish online marketplace and quickly struck a bargain. The model is made in China and prone to manufacturing flaws if online reviews are correct. As the previous owner said her family had only tried to use it once, I managed to haggle the price down to a sum for which I would agree to buy a potentially faulty scope with no warranty. As it happens the scope works just fine, so I made a very good deal indeed.
It's a motorized and computer controlled telescope so I can just choose my target on a hand console and the telescope will automatically point to the target and track it. Pretty accurate too. I haven't been able to get Uranus in my view before and now it was easy. The planet is visible only as a greenish dot, but when you think that you're viewing a gas giant 2 870 972 200 kilometers away from the sun, it is pretty cool.
There was just one downside to the scope I've spotted so far. The grease in the focuser gears went hard in the mere -4 degrees Celsius tonight and made focusing the telescope difficult. I just wonder how it will be when I go out there in a -25 celsius weather. The TAL-1 had it's problems but the Siberians who built her can definitely make a tool that can handle cold weather!
Anyway, I just thought I'd share what I've been using all this extra space and countryside darkness for. Fear not, most of the winter nights are cloudy so there'll be plenty enough time for wargames!