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About axolotl

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  1. The cheapest telescopes currently available from the main manufacturers are small table-top Dobsonians, usually with a 3 inch aperture and a focal length of 300mm. Celestron, Skywatcher and Orion (USA) all market such scopes, for a price of around £50, and doubtless others are available. There are some minor differences between the different models, for example in the types of eyepiece provided and whether or not a finderscope is included. This review assesses the Skywatcher version (the Heritage 76), which is supplied with 10mm and 25mm eyepieces (providing magnifications of 12.5x and 30x respectively) and a 6x magnification finderscope. In particular, consideration is given to the views that a newcomer to astronomy, using only the eyepieces provided (with one exception mentioned below), could expect from this telescope. The telescope is well-packaged, needs no assembly, and is compact, robust and attractive. It is suitable for children, but has neither the look nor the feel of a toy. The focuser is a reasonably smooth rack and pinion that accepts standard 1.25 inch diameter eyepieces. Whilst the eyepieces provided are not the best (especially the 10mm), they are serviceable and are as good as can reasonably be expected for the price. The finderscope is flimsy, but it does its job – it makes it straightforward to align the telescope with objects visible to the naked eye. A table-top telescope inevitably relies on having a fairly steady table. However, I had no problems using the telescope on a standard cast iron garden table, with the simple Dobsonian mount making it easy and intuitive to use. The performance of the telescope was assessed over two nights in December, observing from a garden in suburban Cardiff with significant light pollution. The targets for viewing included Jupiter (which was close to opposition), the moon (at third quarter) and a number of bright deep sky objects. Jupiter showed up nicely using both the provided eyepieces, the planet appearing as a small, intensely bright milky disc with the four Galilean moons clearly resolved. With the 10mm eyepiece occasional hints of banding were glimpsed. To explore this further I tested the 10mm eyepiece in conjunction with a 2x Barlow lens (a Skywatcher version that is not provided with the telescope) and was rewarded by a clear view of two cloud belts across the planet. The waning half-moon gave a pleasing view with the 25mm eyepiece (even better was the 4-day old moon, with most of the disc illuminated by Earthshine, observed with this eyepiece a couple of weeks later). Switching to the 10mm eyepiece with allowed innumerable craters to be seen. I began a survey of deep sky objects with the renowned double star Albireo. This showed up very well in the 10mm eyepiece, with the stars well resolved and displaying the expected striking contrast in colour. Moving on to open clusters, the Pleides (M45) were an enchanting sight through the 25mm eyepiece in particular, with about 30 or so stars visible in total. M35 in Gemini was also pleasing and the double cluster (in Perseus) was found without difficulty, though it was a less impressive sight than M45. Of the three well known open clusters in Auriga, only M36 was seen. The next object examined was the Andromeda galaxy (M31). This was easily located and the bright core of the galaxy showed up well. However, I was unable to see either M81 or M82. The final target examined was the Orion nebula (M42). This gave the best views with the 10mm eyepiece, with the nebulosity clearly apparent and the four brightest trapezium stars resolved as a tiny cluster. No bright globular clusters were in the sky at the time, but I would anticipate that M13 would appear as a small ball of greyish light. Overall I was pleasantly surprised by the performance of the telescope. It is extremely easy to use, and whilst it’s modest light gathering capacity was apparent at times, such as when scanning for open clusters in Auriga, it was able to provide good views of the brighter deep sky objects examined. As expected, considerable detail could be seen on the Moon, and Jupiter showed up well, though the limited magnification with the provided eyepieces made it difficult to see the planet as anything more than a bright disc – the addition of a cheap Barlow lens made an appreciable difference. I had a lot of fun trying the telescope out. It would be a good present for a child of almost any age interested in astronomy and could be recommended for anyone looking for the lowest cost entry into astronomy (a cheap pair of binoculars would be an alternative). Due to the limited light gathering capability and magnification, any budding astronomer would likely feel the urge to upgrade sooner rather than later. Even so, I consider this a telescope that is much more likely to encourage users to pursue an interest in astronomy than to put them off.
  2. I might have missed this, but does anyone know if sgl is producing a calendar for 2013? -The 2012 calendar was really excellent
  3. The Skyliner 200P Dobsonian is a very good scope and is within your budget (Dobsonians)
  4. Hi Tom I've used the LPI with an skyliner 200 and it is possible to get images (so long as the shortest possible exposure times are used) because the software will track the target whilst it is in the fov. An example (withour barlow) is at http://stargazerslounge.com/members/axolotl-albums-lpi-pictures-picture365-jup-22jul08.jpg It will also give very nice lunar pictures
  5. We will never know for certain how life originated, though there's a good chance it would habe been based around RNA with DNA and protein coming later. Could it have come from space? - very hard to disprove but complex biological molecules could certainly have formed in early earth conditions and its seems as likely that life evolved here rather than arrived from out there. Its hard to conceive of active viruses like influenza being present in comets though unless they came from us - the viruses that infect us are adapted to life in our cells and use the same genetic code we use.
  6. I've used skywatcher 5 inch and 8 inch scopes and been very pleased with them - I'm sure the 6 inch will be fine also (but the 6 inch Dobsonian might also be worth considering unless your keen on Astrophotography). As to accessories, I agree about the moon filter. You might also want to consider a better 10mm eyepiece (the 25mm eyepiece supplied is not bad), possibly a red dot finder to replace the 6 x 30 finderscope (I've used the 6 x 30 but found it quite difficult, a red dot finder or a 9 x 50 are both better in my opinion (but have a go with the 6 x 30 first, it might just be my dodgy eyesight that gave me problems). My strongest recommendation though would be to buy a book called "Turn left at Orion" which is available from Amazon. This was a great help to me as a beginner in helping me find good targets to view
  7. Thanks Damian, some good advice there. I was using ISO 800 so will try a bit lower next time. I have photoshop elements but I have to admit that the layers function is a bit of a mystery to me, but I will have a play with it. thanks again
  8. Thanks Damian, that is much better. How did you do it?
  9. I treated myself to an adaptor from FLO Adaptors - Skywatcher Universal Camera Adapter to attach my digital compact to my scope (Skyliner 200 Dob) and took a few pictures of the moon last night. I'm not sure the pictures are better than those taken without the adaptor, but it certainly makes it easy to take a large number of images in a short time. Here's the best of those first efforts
  10. I've been a scientist all my working life but only got into astronomy a couple of years ago when I bought a cheap skywatcher refractor - I've been streadily upgrading ever since. Its a great hobby, one of the few areas in science where amatuers can really get involved. What sustains me I think is the sense of wonder. Many of the objects we view are not especially striking visually - I was very pleased to recently view a couple of the galaxies of the virgo cluster, and whilst these, at least through my scope, are simply faint smudges its knowing what you are looking at that makes it so amazing. Strange to think that if anyone in those galaxies have radio receivers pointed towards us it'll be 50 million years or so before they catch the first episode of the Archers!
  11. The meade LPI is not that expensive and quite easy to use - see Stargazers Lounge - axolotl's Album: LPI pictures for some not very good examples of pictures taken with it.
  12. I prefer a Dob, but I did recently get a cheap goto from Telescopeplus (an 80mm short tube refractor). They have sold out of these but they do have a very cheap celestron GoTo in their bargain basement. Bargain basement Celestron nexstar 80 gtl refurbished
  13. You should be able to see it - it is the one DSO I was consistently able to find with my 130PM even in light polluted Whitchurch. But as others have said it is very small. In the 25mm eyepiece it will look like an out of focus star with the ring shape obvious with the 10mm eyepiece. But it will be difficult to find until you have your red dot finder working again (these days I have a 10 x 50 finderscope so I don't have to worry about batteries any more )
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