We've really been enjoying our telescope. We watched Mars in 2003, gawked at the Moon through all of its phases, and lately we've been keeping an eye on Comet Near. There's another ripe opportunity for using the telescope if done right: viewing Sun spots.
If you spent any time with a magnifying glass as a kid you've probably harnessed a little solar energy to burn stuff. It doesn't take much of a magnifying glass to make things burn; so it stands to reason that pointing a telescope, of ANY size, at the Sun is going to quickly and irreversibly burn things if you aren't careful. And, unlike a magnifying glass, you may not get a little warming to first warn you.
The telescope has burned a few holes in an old sheet used to keep the dust off of the telescope. I had been using it to provide shading and the wind whipped it in front of the lens for a couple seconds. I have also developed the habit of replacing the lens cap whenever possible. Unfortunately doing so without first covering the other end of the lens is, as you can see, a bad idea. Finally I had the not-so-bright idea of using a moon filter to reduce the brightness. It didn't work very well, and when I went to remove it, I discovered it was insanely hot. The filter glass cracked once cooler air contacted it.
Before we go any further, I have to stress how easy and quickly things can get damaged. Like some invisible death laser, the Sun's focused beam is there waiting to burn anything in it's path. Never, ever get your eyes or skin near the lens and keep kids far away. Really.
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