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About johnha

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  1. My own experience sounds similar to yours. I have an old Tasco 4.5" f=900mm newtonian scope on an EQ2 (with wooden tripod legs). Although my garden offers reasonable views from SW-NE, the effort of moving the scope, assembling the tripod (had to be done outside - fiddly in the darK) put me off using it for a long time. I dug it out of the loft to check it with the aim of selling it - but having found it 'worked', persevered to get it outside and have a look. With only slow-motion controls, play in the gears and a 'unique' scope mounting plate - it was obvious I needed a new mount, the scope (although long & awkward) seemed reasonable as a starting point. I planned to get a larger scope/mount if I could reboot my enthusiasm but knew I needed something more portable to get me there. By going for a smaller 'most portable' (read also as : easy & quick to set-up) scope I hoped it would serve secondary use as a 'Grab 'n Go' scope and therefore remain a worthwhile investment. I was looking at the Sky Watcher SkyMax 127 AZ-GOTO, ending up with a Celestron NexStar 4SE AZ-GOTO. Simply having a driven scope that tracked objects and a tripod that didn't need constructing (the wooden one is basically three separate legs individually attached to the mount) made a huge improvement. After starting an Observation Diary my motivation improved enormously. The eventual plan was a 6" or 8" newt on a suitable EQ mount, in the interim using the 4SE and/or Tasco on the AZ-GOTO. However I've got part way there much sooner - thanks to FLO offering good prices on Celestron C6N newtonians - I just need to find a suitable EQ mount. Being 'shorter', the C6N is surprisingly more manageable than my Tasco. I'm only a beginner and don't feel I can really offer advice, but I'd suggest thinking to the future before deciding to sell. John.
  2. SGL was suggested to me several years ago by a member I was working with at the time (and described then as very friendly bunch). I've only really started visiting recently but like to thank everybody for the warm & friendly welcome and help I've received. Credit should go the organisers, admins, users and FLO for creating/supporting such a useful and helpful community. The patience shown to me as a user with little more than an old Tasco 4.5" newt bought from Argos 15 years ago has been greatly appreciated. The advice given to similar newbies with similar questions is courteous and helpful (especially given they may have just spent considerable sums on the 'wrong' or inappropriate gear). The forum format and mechanics are very good, navigation is easy and the various categories are well thought out. The only snag I've encountered with the forum is when I've been logged out automatically while typing a post/reply or changing sections - I now click the 'remember me' tick box and this seems to fix it. Since re-connecting with SGL, the feedback I've received has re-booted my enthusiasm for astro for which I thank you all - it could easily have gone the other way. John.
  3. Good point - I'd also check there are no shorts across the soldered connections - I once had a PSU fuse pop due to a very thin 'solder bridge' across the connections. I had checked for no continuity with my multi-meter but it must have been higher resistance than the <200 Ohm continuity check on the meter. Since then I always also check using a higher resistance range.
  4. As someone who wears glasses, an important point for binoculars is the eye relief (how far 'behind' the eye pieces can you still see the full frame), I look for at least 17-18mm - this is something best checked by looking through them in a store. From what I've read, the best astro bins for handholding are either 7x50 or 8x56 - however both of these are kind of specialised and may be expensive. This really leaves 'general purpose' bins of 8x42 or 10x50 options - I have a pair of ED 8x32 roof prism bins but my 10x50 porros are much better for astro. I also have a pair of 15-80x70 zoom bins - ignoring the zoom bit - they are good 15x70 bins but heavy to hold up and hard to hold still. Best advice is to visit a store and compare a few pairs (outside if possible) and try to buy the best you can afford (within reason). My preference would be 10x50s - mine are Nikon Action EX (waterproof, nitrogen filled, armoured, spin up eye-cups etc.) which I feel are very good but the objective lens covers often fall off.
  5. So far, planning the objects I'm looking for is restricted to what's easily available/identifiable whilst I work out the limits of my scope & ability, using a couple of books and the odd magazine. I'm curious as to how do you record your observations? I'm just starting to and trying to find a format that works (A4 ring binder, bound notebook, page a day diary etc.). Do you make rough notes and write them afterwards, remember & record later or record the final version there & then?
  6. Thanks for the very warm & friendly welcome. I've since acquired a Celestron NexStar 4SE and have been having huge fun chasing Jupiter, Saturn and the Moon across the sky with the occasional double thrown in. The mounts ability to track an object is a huge improvement over slow motion controls and the RDF is big improvement over the rubbish finder. The optics are (as expected) on another level. The GOTO/Identify is really helping me get my bearings through cloud & light pollution when I can only see a handful of stars. There will be plenty more questions... Thanks again, John.
  7. Thanks for all the replies and comments - they have all been really helpful. In the end I've bought a Celestron NexStar 4se (102mm Mak on an AZ GOTO), the reasoning being: 1) The mount offers more alignment options, includes a basic wedge and supports EQ alignment. 2) It was available locally (important as my ability to receive large boxes is limited) although I had underestimated the size of the box such a 'small' scope requires. 3) Although the SkyMax offers a larger aperture - I reasoned that the actual difference would be limited (given the longer focal length of the SkyMax). Apart from a minor hiccup (requiring a firmware update for the hand controller), so far I'm really pleased with the package - the GOTO (and it's various fine tuning options) is really interesting. Thanks again, John.
  8. I'm just renewing my interest, and as such, don't have a wealth of experience to help, but from a 'beginner' aspect I'd mention the following (this is my experience, your mileage may vary based on budget, space, time & motivation etc.): Make sure you know how big/cumbersome your intended purchase really is and whether you have somewhere convenient (for frequent observing) to keep it. I have a 4.5" f=900 newt and the box it came in was much bigger than I anticipated, storing it for frequent observing was such a pain I put it back in the attic for a couple of years. I know someone who bought an 8" SCT + power tank but hadn't taken it out of the box for months - he bought it for visiting 'dark sites' but never found the time (or had the motivation). I'm looking for a lighter, more portable (and easier to store) package to re-boot my enthusiasm and understand my preferences so I'm better informed about a bigger, more serious set-up later. Remember that 'set-up' (and packing away) time eats into your observing time, the more critical it gets the longer it takes. I have drastically improved mine in the last week or so (10 mins last night for ten mins of Jupiter before thick cloud rolled in). I originally thought I needed an EQ-5 & pole finder as a minimum but that would be bigger, heavier and take longer for me to set-up - my approximate alignment with Polaris centred in the field of view seems to work for me. My mount has problems (gear slop, clamps loosening etc.) but they're not as critical as I first thought - and expecting the next mount up to be significantly better & precise might be a mistake. I'm a serious photo enthusiast and envy the excellent images the AP guys achieve, but I realise that requires another level of everything - knowledge, experience, scope, mount, alignment, guiding, filtering, tweaking, shooting, stacking, processing & time etc. etc. You could start with top-spec mount suitable for that but it would likely be much heavier, cumbersome and awkward until you're able to put it to that use. I've been thinking round the newt, dob, Mak, refractor loop several times, each time there's a problem. I set my newt up Alt-Az style with unlocked clamps to get the feel for how a dob might feel but didn't really get on with it. A 6" or 8" newt would be bigger than my 4.5" (if I'm struggling with motivation to set that up - a bigger one is a bigger problem). SCTs are outside my budget but I'm looking at a small Mak (OK for planetary but not good for DSOs - how often are the planets favourable?). A refractor appeals but I'd be limited in aperture by cost. What I have enjoyed is making more use of the newt I have, learning to align the mount reasonably well, learning what works and what doesn't and where its limitations leave me wanting. I've learn't that for light polluted skies an f/8 newt with spherical mirror is not necessarily a massive disadvantage (for me, at my current level and luck with the weather). I still want a smaller more portable set-up (and looking at a 4"-5" Mak on a GOTO AZ) for when I can get to darker skies without filling the car with gear, but I'm enjoying the learning experience with my old scope far more than I expected. I'm sure it's been discussed many times here, but keeping a diary has helped me enormously. I hope this helps - being a newbie to Astronomy (& SGL) I'm conscious this might seem too opinionated for one so inexperienced, if you feel this is the case please ignore it and excuse my ignorance - it has been posted with the best of intentions to try and explain (partly to myself) what is working for me and how things have improved. Regards, John.
  9. Thanks Guys, The link is really helpful - I'm using Pentax lenses (the Tamron has a swappable 'Adaptall-2' mount - perhaps allowing slightly longer lens register). The Kenko 'Lens2Scope' is the one I have for Pentax - nice robust piece of kit but lacks the ability to change the EP or use filters etc. I can 'Barlow' the lens by adding a 1.4x or 2x photo tele-converter between the two. So given I have a lens register of about 45mm, in order to keep infinity focus, I believe I need the EP lens at (or closer) than that (i.e. this has to include the distance through the diagonal) - does this sound right? Thanks for the suggestion RE the 20.5mm step-up - I'll have a think about that. John.
  10. Thanks Racey. The AllView was of interest in case I wanted to put my 900mm Tasco on it by flipping the arm. I like the idea of the Star Discovery FreedomFind but it adds £100+ to the combined cost of the mount & 127 Mak (compared to the basic SynScan outfit which now seems a better option).
  11. Thanks Geoff, those are really helpful. My Tasco is longer (about 100cm) & wider so it would max out earlier. I hadn't fully appreciated where the SkyMax eyepiece would end up with the scope vertical. John.
  12. Hi All, as per the title - is the 1.25" EP filter thread 30.5mm? The reason I'm asking is I have a photo Tamron 500mm f/8 mirror lens (a something-Cassegrain derived design) and a 10mm 45 deg angled prism EP adapter (the EP is built-into the adapter and can't be swapped). The lens has a rear filter thread (inside the mount) of 30.5mm (I don't know the thread pitch) and comes with a selection of filters (red, green, blue for monochrome film, and a Neutral Density) - I understand a filter must be used to maintain the optical path correctly - there's a Skylight filter in there at the moment. On the assumption the manufacturer would have picked a commercially available thread size - I presume it must be pretty close. It would be good to experiment with Astro EP filters in the lens but access is rather fiddly and I don't want to risk cross-threading anything unless I'm convinced it will work. There is a photo filter thread on the front, but at 82mm, good filters are very expensive. As the lens has no photo aperture control, the moon is very bright and being able to use a variety of lunar filters would help. I have considered trying to attach an astro 1.25" EP holder & star diagonal to the lens mount, but the very short register of about 45mm suggests there isn't enough room for infinity focus. Any suggestions gratefully received. John.
  13. Thanks Racey. I now understand that the Multi-function mount is another mount which also has FreedomFind, lots of photo features and the ability to turn the arm round for more clearance for longer scopes - something I'm going to consider.
  14. @Geof Lister - How long is your Tasco scope and do you have any problems with it hitting the mount? I ask because I've noticed that the AllView Multi-purpose mount allows you to turn the arm round to get better clearance for longer scopes. John.
  15. Hi All, after seeing Jupiter a week or so ago, I decided to fire up my old Tasco 4.5" Newt (f=900 on a wooden tripod & EQ2) - the previous time I used it I thought there was a problem with the mount but it must have been me driving it badly. I'm finding my feet again, having a few problems but enjoying it enormously. I'm managing to get a semblance of polar alignment (at least I can get Polaris in the FOV) and managed to re-align my finder on Jupiter tonight. I've started an observation diary (currently reading as Jupiter, Jupiter, Jupiter etc...) - which will hopefully help keep me motivated. No doubt I'll have loads of questions - I'm considering a new scope & mount, please be patient if I ask questions you've answered a hundred times before. I'm based in Lancashire, not far from Much Hoole (rumoured to be the place where Jeremiah Horrocks observed the transit of Venus). Regards, John.