As a young teenager I poured over catalogs from the local astronomy shop in Sydney (Amateur Astronomy Supply Company - now Astro-Optical Supplies) and Sky & Telescope magazines. I would make train trips from Hurstville to St Leonards and then walk to Crows Nest just to pick up a new catalog! I drooled over the miriad magazine ads showing everything from binoculars to US Surplus optics. From small 2.4" refractors to huge Unitrons and "Deluxe" newtonians. I dreamt of the day I'd own one and spend endless nights in solitude gazing at the sky's wonders. And look at this beautiful Unitron 3" Photo Equatorial. Magnificent! (Back page ad from the November 1968 issue of Sky & Telescope).
Wow! Wouldn't it be nice to have a 6" refractor!!! This Unitron ad from January 1975 Sky & Telescope shows a huge 6" Unitron refractor dwarfing the 4" model and the human model. I can't see myself ever being able to own a telescope that big!
Star Trails #1
When you don't have a telescope you look for ways to image the sky at night. Star trails were my only option. This one was taken through a canopy of trees at a dark site with Kodak Ektachrome and Minolta SRT-101 and 55mm f1.7 lens.
Hmmm ... maybe I should consider a newtonian. I might be able to afford something like this one day - lots more aperture for your buck! Yep, the Model A 6" Deluxe looks like the way to go!
Star Trails #2
Orion rising. I thought I'd get an interesting dimension if I shot a star trail while the moon was up. I thought the sky would glow blue ... and it did! Taken on Kodak Ektachrome with a Minolta SRT-101 and 55mm f1.7 lens.
A Must have!
... then again maybe this is more in my price range? But how to I buy one in Australia? There were only one or two astronimical supply companies in the whole country back in the early seventies and they only stocked home grown newtonians and cassegrains that were nowhere near as glamourous as these! But wait - I CAN by Unitron in Australia! ...
Star Trails #3
Another star trail centered on Eta Carina. Again taken while the moon was up. Taken on Kodak Ektachrome with a Minolta SRT-101 and 55mm f1.7 lens.
This is it!!
After interminable deliberations, waiting and saving, plus many window shopping visits to one of the only astronomy supply shops in Australia (Amateur Astronomers Supply Company in Crows Nest), I decided I was able to afford one of these (the 3" version). My bank book had just over $200 dollars in it, so with a layby plan and a bit of help I managed to buy the Unitron model 131 3" equatorial ($AU295.00) within a few months. A positively gargantuan sum of money for a 14 year old to be spending but boy, was it worth it!! To own a Unitron was the ultimate!!
Me and my new toy!
Unfortunately I lived in a 3rd floor apartment, so to use it I had to set it up on the balcony or downstairs in the common area. This is me and my scope downstairs observing the sun. I didn't often set up in the common area because it was a parking lot and anything but private. In fact, on one of the rare occassions I did at night, one of the neighbours kids started throwing stones at me!!!
On the Balcony
I often set up on the balcony with the tripod legs folded so I could get a view of the northern sky. This is me having a look at the sun.
My First Telescope
I owned my Unitron Model 131 for about 3 years and over that time managed to turn it into a "Photo-Equatorial" by adding a guidscope and a "Synchronous motor drive". My ambition was to try some deep sky photography. But without a dedicated asto camera and only a 35mm SLR jury rigged to the prime focus, that proved way too difficult.
Shooting the moon
Of course I took quite a few images of the moon because it's such an easy target needing only 1/60 sec exposure.
I attached my Minota SRT-101, with it's lens attached, via the contraption pictured. I got it from a local camera store! The lens had a screw on adaptor with a hole in it that conveniently let a 0.96" eyepiece poke through it.