Back to the Future: The 1991 AMT USS Enterprise Model

There are some moments I reflect back upon throughout my life and wonder “why did I do that?” Today I would like to concentrate on one of the more serious examples. You see in 1991, at the ripe old age of 5, I received a model of the USS Enterprise featured in the recently released Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Dad and I, using our combined model building expertise, glued the pieces, applied the paint and placed the decals on this 22″ replica of one of the most famous star ships in movie history. As the story goes, a few years later, I broke one of the warp nacelles and never placed it back together. The model was thrown away either by myself or my parents soon there after. Watching old home videos from the early to mid 90’s, I would occasionally see the Enterprise standing tall on my dresser and think “why did I throw that thing away?” Not only is it a collectors item, but it was also one of those childhood toys that I wish I had saved for nostalgia’s sake and also because, lets just be honest here, it looks really cool. Fast forward to Christmas 2009. My parents in all their love and compassion (and an e-mailed link to ebay from myself) got me the 1991 AMT USS Enterprise model I had received all those years ago. Shortly after completing it and applying the movie accurate decals I bought from an online store in Florida, I decided that I needed to repair one of the warp nacelles because it didn’t quite accurately tilt the correct angle. While doing this, I dropped the model and broke off both nacelles, in a tragic case of deja vu.

This time however, I did not trash the model but instead attempted to bring it back to its proper glory. After several failed attempts of using model glue to hold up the nacelles, I decided that the only thing strong enough to support their weight was “Might Putty” (RIP Billy Mays). The problem was I could not find mighty putty anywhere. That is, until I entered “Everything Under the Sun: Flee Market” while on vacation in North Myrtle Beach last week. There I found my savior, mighty putty, in all its glory. Returning home, a bit apprehensive and suspicious of its claims, I applied the mighty putty, let it set over night and was amazed that it worked just as good ole Billy had stated. (I never should have doubted you)

“BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE”
As a child I had always wanted to film and recreate scenes from the Star Trek movies using my model. Now, 20 years later, using a newly rebuilt model, an HD camera and some blue screen Holly Wood magic, I have recreated a few scenes from Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Comet Lulin on a Cold Winter’s Night!

On a near freezing February night at Roanoke College, I decided to hunt down my first comet using only my handy dandy duct taped Meade 114mm reflector and some good ole fashion star charts.  Going out, I quickly realized that this would have to be a fast find due to the cold weather.  Not having any winter gloves, I decided that wearing socks on my hands would be the best way to keep warm.  Yes that’s right, socks!  Imagine what the students walking by must have thought seeing a man wearing long socks on his hands looking through a telescope trying to find a comet (seems kind of strange doesn’t it).

At first, I was unable to finding Lulin and had to go back in to double check the star charts (you’d think I would have thought to print them off, but you can’t expect to much from someone wearing socks for gloves).  After 15 to 20 minutes of searching, I finally came upon it, the dim smudge in space that was Comet Lulin.  The funny thing about astronomy for me, is that no matter how faint and unspectacular an object is, finding something by only using star charts makes the discovery seem so much more amazing.  I called Lauren who came out and said something to the effect of “wow nice blur, see you inside”.

Using star charts for the first time to find an object really made me more appreciative of what I had found, even it was just a gray blur in space.  This was the first comet I had viewed since Hale Bop back in 1997, when I was 10.  I vaguely remember observing it with some some neighbors who came by to view it through my 70mm refractor telescope.  Even though the weather was cold and my hands were numb, taking the time to hunt down Lulin made for an exciting evening that helped to get me back into Astronomy, which I am enjoying immensely now!

Star Log: February 25, 2009

Getting Back in the Game

About a year ago, I got back into astronomy.  What had been a hobby of mine since childhood had turned into a frustration over the years because of faulty equipment and a lack of knowledge to effectively view the night sky.  My first telescope was a present from my Paw Paw for Christmas in the mid 1990’s (Oh, Those Wonder Years).  It was a 60 mm refractor and the only memories I have of it come from viewing Jupiter, Saturn, and the Comet Hale bop.  My second telescope came in Christmas 2000.  It was a 4.5 in. reflector telescope that would serve as my main scope for ten years.

Meade DS-114 AT
Diameter-114 mm
Focal Length-910mm
(How many “nerd markings” can you find in this picture?)

As time went on, I would observe less and less with the DS-114 because of frustrations from its “goto” feature.  Considering my age at the time (13) a telescope with motorized features was probably not the best idea, but boy did it look awesome set up in my room.  As the years went on, I would occasionally take the telescope out on a summer night to view the moon or randomly scan the sky.  Once, I remember coming across a group of spectacular spiral galaxies, but those “accidents” were few and far between.  Fast-forwarding to the winter of 2009, I had pretty much abandoned astronomy, while the interest was still there, I began to see it as a thing of my past.  That is, until one cold winter night on the tennis courts of Roanoke College.

I had recently decided to fetch my telescope from the basement of my parents house during Christmas Vacation from college.  I dusted the old lady off and to my surprise, all of the eye pieces were there and the telescope was in good condition.  Bringing it back to the college, Lauren and I decided to take it out onto the back tennis courts on a clear and cold December night.  After removing the “goto” motors (apparently it wasn’t my age, they are just crap), I moved the telescope by hand as best I could, the motions weren’t exactly smooth but never the less it was a great improvement from the battery draining, slow-moving motor system of the past.  About an hour had passed, the cold weather was starting to get to us and then a star caught my eye.  It had a dull orange/yellow glow to it.  While it was not the brightest star in the sky by a long shot, something just look different about it.

I pointed the telescope, looked through the eyepiece and was shocked to see a small ball with rings.  Lauren and I had discovered Saturn (Yeah I know that boat sailed a long time ago) but it felt like we had discovered Saturn for the first time.  This was the first time I had viewed the ringed wonder in a couple of years and I felt the joy and excitement that I remembered as a child trying to find objects in the back yard with nothing more than a “goto” telescope that didn’t really work to well and some star charts I had no idea how to read.  It was this moment that sparked my re-interest in astronomy and led to my search for a new telescope that would allow me to easily find and study lunar and planetary details as well as deep space objects.  The journey had begun and the hunt was on for what would be a nearly year-long quest to find the perfect telescope.

Michael