Let me introduce you to the workhorse of my adventures in astronomy, a telescope you’re going to see referenced a lot around here. I call her TYCO. The Texas Yard Cannon Observatory. I need to get my hands on a Texas flag sticker or something to put on it I suppose.
I purchased this telescope (my second “real” scope) in July of 2010 when we were living in Haslet, Texas. We had been living there for 4 years before I finally pulled the trigger and got myself the “yard cannon”. I saw that moniker applied to another Dobsonian telescope while lurking in the Cloudy Nights forums a few years back and after I built the mobile platform for it, it kind of looks like a cannon propped out in the yard:
Does kinda look like some sort of artillery piece, huh? It’s an 8 inch mirror, so at nearly 4 feet long, it’s a sizable instrument (it’s a pipsqueak compared to some of the other giants in the world of amateur astronomy but it’s over twice the size of my first telescope). The wonderful dark skies we had in Texas were simply amazing. I grew up in Delaware, just outside the glow from Philadelphia and whiel I could easily see the brightest stars and planets, when I got to Texas, I was floored at how much more one can see in dark skies. Even though we were close to Fort Worth, the light pollution was nothing compared to the Mid-Atlantic.
I built the base out of a shipping pallet I dragged home years ago from work, added hinges for the shelf and casters to make it move (I’ll make a post on this later). I also designed it so I could comfortably stand at the eyepiece. I’m 6’2″ and so the entire thing is about 6′ tall when the telescope is vertical.
At any rate, I jokingly referred to it as a yard cannon to some friends and family, and the name instantly stuck.
Last year, my wife and I brought our kids north and moved to Wisconsin. We have just recently moved into our new house in southern Waukesha County and the other night my wife and I were outside enjoying our new firepit (well, new to us at least…it had been dug into the ground in the backyard and lined with stones by the previous owners years ago) when I happened to look up.
I thought Texas had dark skies…I actually saw the Milky Way for the first time in my life! It looked like a faint cloud way up in the sky, but, I knew that the skies were crystal clear that night, and as the night wore on, I could see it move at exactly the same speed as the stars I could see. I confirmed it with Stellarium the next day.
Needless to say, I’m really looking forward to dusting off TYCO and having first light here in Wisconsin. Winter is coming and my old friend Orion is going to be making his annual appearance soon…