balloons transit the moon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bds2t-MVzvw
observing sun spots (Mak90mm): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71fp2l9m4es
cable snag check with mic tripod (AVX/VC200L): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wVCc1wmDge8
I began my exploration of the night sky in March of 2014. I started with an Orion StarMax 90mm and various 1.25" eye pieces.
I became oriented with the brightest stars in the north hemisphere (such as Vega, Antares, Arcturus, Betelgeuse), a few of the Constellations (such as Ursa Major, Cygnus, Orion), and the visible planets (Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, which follow the same path along the sky as the sun), leading to understanding the Magnitude Scale (lower being brighter, normalized on 0 being approximately the brightest visible stars), and other terms like Meridian, Celestial Equator, Zenith, and how the shift of the night sky across seasons is both a clock and calender.
Photo of my first telescope: Orion StarMax 90mm
("table top") with attached finder-scope.
My first DSO "faint fuzzy" observations were of M57 (Ring Nebula) and M27 (Dumbbell Nebula), which I still recall being so excited to actually "see" such things in a small 90mm aperture scope (~ 3.5").
I wanted to share what I was seeing with family and friends, but I soon realized iPhone camera adapters were not adequate and imaging with a 1.25" objective was restrictive. Around this time, I was influenced by Forrest Tanaka's YouTube videos on Astrophotography. I very much respect him taking the time to create, edit, and post such informative videos.
By the end of April, I had outgrown the StarMax and committed to larger equipment: a Canon 450D with 2" adapters, modified with an Astrodon UV/IR filter, adding an Orion DSLR cooler, and a VMC200L scope on a Celestron AVX mount. I recall being very excited when I was first able to slew the mount using astronomy software on the laptop (Stellarium).
I had a general goal of imaging a galaxy in the coming Summer. I recall spending many cold nights trying to understand Polar Alignment and ASPA. Other various YouTube videos helped me understanding those aspects of the AVX mount (certainly moreso than the manual did). ASPA (All Star Polar Alignment) is Celestron's software approach to assisting with Polar Alignment of the mount.
My parents visited in July of 2014 and we spent three nights imaging at two dark sites in central Texas (of which their RV was imensely helpful). This was an amazing experience, seeing the Milky Way with our own eyes. The months of practice (in both being oriented with the night sky and using the equipment) paid off and I was able to collect data on M101, one of the most famous Spiral Galaxy. But I still lacked experience in post processing. I tried StarTools, but it wasn't until September 13, 2014 that I bought PixInsight and began down of "the other half" of astrophotography: digital post processing.
Photos of Equipment in Backyard and Dark Site (Three Rivers Foundation, Comanche, Springs, TX)