FirstLight

Amateur astronomer Douglas Smith took a course on DIY telescopes and ended up creating a 10-foot monster with great optics and portability. Click through the gallery to see his creation, which makes it possible to see the rings of Saturn or Jupiter's moons.

Read more in our related article: "DIY Weekend: Building a window to the stars"

Photo by: Patty Nason/Gavaphoto

Upper tube assembly

FirstLight's upper tube assembly contains a focuser along with a finder scope and a laser finder for proper object targeting.

Read more in our related article: "DIY Weekend: Building a window to the stars"

Photo by: Douglas Smith

FirstLight base

The base of Smith's FirstLight telescope consists of a mirror box (top) that contains the primary 16.5-inch mirror, along with an integrated cooling fan. The swiveling rocker box (below) has altitude and azimuth degree indicators on etched Plexiglass that are illuminated with red LEDs.

Read more in our related article: "DIY Weekend: Building a window to the stars"

Photo by: Patty Nason/Gavaphoto

Douglas Smith

Smith, a San Francisco designer, sets up his FirstLight telescope at Mt. Tamalpais in Northern California. It requires a stepladder for viewing when set up at a high angle.

Read more in our related article: "DIY Weekend: Building a window to the stars"

Photo by: Patty Nason/Gavaphoto

Peering through FirstLight

FirstLight arose from a class at the Randall Museum led by amateur astronomer John Dobson, long known for popularizing low-cost reflectors made of plywood and plastic.

Read more in our related article: "DIY Weekend: Building a window to the stars"

Photo by: Patty Nason/Gavaphoto

Night on Mount Tam

Nightfall at Mount Tamalpais Smith's FirstLight telescope can image the rings of Saturn and the moons of Jupiter.

Read more in our related article: "DIY Weekend: Building a window to the stars"

Photo by: Patty Nason/Gavaphoto

Travel mode

In travel mode, the upper tube assembly nests in the mirror box (middle), which sits in the rocker box. The wheels and poles allow maker Douglas Smith to haul it in and out of a pickup truck with a ramp.

Read more in our related article: "DIY Weekend: Building a window to the stars"

Photo by: Douglas Smith

Primary mirror

FirstLight's primary 16.5-inch mirror, the aluminum truss tubes, and the red LEDs in the rocker box.

Read more in our related article: "DIY Weekend: Building a window to the stars"

Photo by: Patty Nason/Gavaphoto

Cooling fan

Beneath the 16.5-inch primary mirror is a cooling fan that helps bring the mirror to ambient temperature.

Read more in our related article: "DIY Weekend: Building a window to the stars"

Photo by: Patty Nason/Gavaphoto

Drawing a crowd

Stargazers gather around FirstLight on Mount Tamalpais. Smith says his 160-pound telescope is relatively stable on windy nights.

Read more in our related article: "DIY Weekend: Building a window to the stars"

Photo by: Patty Nason/Gavaphoto

Stargazing at night

FirstLight points at the moon from Mount Tamalpais. Maker Smith plans to add automation functions to his telescope so he can do some astrophotography.

Read more in our related article: "DIY Weekend: Building a window to the stars"

Photo by: Patty Nason/Gavaphoto

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