I'm greatly enjoying Seeing in the Dark by Tim Ferris, and on this unusually warm and rather clear New England evening, I decided I should try a little seeing in the dark myself. Although the waning gibbous Moon, street lights, and the glow of nearby Worcester don't make for especially dark skies, Orion and the Moon itself were attractive enough targets for a little driveway observing. I got OK results with 10x50 binoculars, which gave decent enough views of the Pleiades, the Orion Nebula, the Moon, and a few other objects, but these binoculars are not image stabilized and my arms got tired fast.
So I decided to haul out the cheapo telescope I got for my daughter a couple of years ago in a discount store (during her three week burst of interest in astronomy). It's a Tasco 60 mm refractor with a "Starguide" system that I never really got to work. It has a crude plastic focusing mechanism and a shaky tripod, and even with a couple of better eyepieces that I bought to replace the terrible ones it came with, it's really not good for much more than looking at the Moon, just as I remembered. So back to the binoculars.
I recently joined an astronomy club and have started to help out with star parties, something I will be doing a lot more of this year. This means that I'm thinking more about the skies and I'm getting to peek through some decent telescopes. I think I can see where this is heading but before I buy a real telescope, I think I better talk to some of my fellow club members who have some experience in this area. The fact that I'm an optical engineer means that I know how to design and simulate telescopes in software, but there's a lot of practical stuff that I don't know that much about when it comes to evaluating the many options and buying something decent (as you can probably tell from the fact that I bought that Tasco, though it was basically a very cheap impulse buy).