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Everything posted by johnha

  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.
  16. Hi All, I've tried searching for a similar topic but failed to find one - please point me to one if there is one: Having pretty much decided on a SW 127 Mak on an AZ SynScan mount (see general help 'Infrequent Observer...'), I've come across the SW Star Discovery - the FreedomFind feature looks quite interesting. Not being familiar with these mounts, I'm trying to work out what the differences are - so far I understand you can manually slew the Star Discovery and maintain alignment and can do this without power. Does SynScan offer anything not available on Star Discovery? I have downloaded the SynScan manual but can't seem to find one for Star Discovery, although there are references to the 'multi-function mount' - is this Star Discovery? Whilst the Star Discovery mount is only slightly more expensive than SynScan - it seems that I'd have to buy the Mak 127 OTA separately at a significantly higher combined cost - the only tube option seems to be the 150P which is much bigger than I'd planned - Have I got this right? Thanks, John.
  17. Um, OK there I was pretty much decided on the SynScan and I spot the Star Discovery mount: link - the next problem is by the time I've sorted tube rings and a dovetail, I'm not far away price wise from the Star Discovery 150P: link - this is much larger than I had planned but very inviting! The extra expense for the Star Discovery mount seems worth it - has anybody used the FreedomFind feature?
  18. It's usually an eyepiece accessory with a lens that increases magnification - they come in various multipliers: 2x, 3x etc. Since reading a few posts, it sounds like your scope may have one built in. My 114mm f=900mm tube is about 100cm long - if yours is about half that, then it's likely it has a 2x Barlow built in.
  19. Thanks Geoff - very useful. I'd probably try to re-use my existing tube collar by bolting it onto something resembling a dovetail. The hole centres are about 2.5" apart, with probably 6-8mm bolts so it shouldn't be too difficult... I think I've found an EQ2 to dovetail adapter should I want to put a newer scope on the EQ2: Link - based on this old thread it looks like the right one: Link although hard to justify due to the cost.
  20. Hi Shyam, I'm not enormously experienced but I have an old Tasco scope similar to your 114mm, f=900mm with (I believe) a spherical mirror. It came with cheap 1" eyepieces - SR4mm & H20mm. I have replaced these with a set of Mead MA 1.25" (Kellner I think) EPs (6, 12, 17, 20 & 25mm). The 12mm (75x mag in my case) gives me the best views of Jupiter followed by the 17mm, the 6mm give a larger disc but with much less detail & clarity. I have plans to try a 9mm and get a Barlow at some stage. Hope this helps, John.
  21. These guys have some success with airliners at altitude (scroll to the bottom of the page to see the optics they're using): Link I have an old pair of (cringe) Sunagor Mega-zoom 15-80x70 binoculars - they seem to have morfed into 30-160x70 in Argos these days!!! At 15x times they're good (not stellar), on a heavy photo tripod they're still usable up to about 40x if you're patient (I can see glimpse the bands of Jupiter) - once they've settled down and before it moves out of view, beyond that they're rubbish. It was seeing the bands of Jupiter and the 'squished ellipse' of Saturn that prompted me to buy my first scope. Ideally I'd like something like 15x70 or 20x80 with angled eyepieces - as they're not available I stick with 10x50 porro prisms (I might prefer 8x56 but can't justify it already having the 10x50s).
  22. Thanks for all the replies - I now have a plan. I was concerned about the long focal length of the Skymax 127 but liked the idea of the goto mount. I'm likely to get the Skymax 127 on the SynScan mount and then look at buying tube rings and a dovetail to fit the Tasco to it (the tube weighs about 3kg so I expect it should be OK - I may need to be careful balancing it). Thanks to all who contributed (especially those suggesting the Skymax). John.
  23. Thanks for all the replies, they're all very helpful. My aim is to fill the gap between my Tasco and something bigger, a stop-gap if you like which will be easier to store/setup and something easier to use much more frequently. As such I'm looking for something more versatile which I would be able to use for different purposes (rather than simply outgrowing it). An ED80 refractor seems to give me G&G, guidescope and other options. I guess my problems are: 1) Storage: The Tasco tube is a metre long - finding somewhere handy to keep it where it won't get bashed about (and keeping the finder aligned) is quite difficult. 2) Setup: The EQ2 looks like an old Orion - the EQ mount attaches to three individual wooden legs all supported by the accessory tray (wingnuts & washers etc.). I can't get the tripod into the garden without undoing the accessory tray (at which point the legs want to fall off the mount). 3) The EQ mount: Aligning with Polaris in the field of view is OK, but slewing round to (say) Jupiter often causes the latitude clamp to swing to zero. I suspect either the clamp is worn or the tube is out of balance (moving the counterweight seems to have little effect). I started by re-aligning when this happens (resulting in the same thing happening) but now just crank the latitude back to 54 degrees which seems to work reasonably well. I can set it up as an AZ mount but the DEC slow motion worm gear only covers a few degrees before it tightens up. My options for upgrading bits (mount, finder etc.) seem limited. The tube doesn't have rings & dovetail but a collar which connects to the mount with a two bolt fixing (roughly diamond shaped with holes about 2.5" apart). Unless there's a handy conversion to a dovetail - replacing either the tube or mount seems problematic (putting rings and a dovetail on the tube on a new mount & better finder probably costs almost as much as new scope). The SW EQ2 mounts I see advertised seem to look exactly the same as mine except for an aluminum tripod - I'd expect to have many of the same problems as (3). I appreciate the mount has to be sturdy/heavy enough but I feel it could be less aggro. Im looking for something I can keep closer to hand and use more frequently to grow my experience before jumping to something bigger. If I went a bought a 6" or 8" newt (EQ or Dob!) I'd use it for the next month and then probably find myself back to where I am (although with better visuals).
  24. Thanks for the replies. I presume the SW127 Mak you're referring to is the Skymax f=1500mm often advertised on the SynScan AZ GOTO mount? I had considered this but felt the focal length seemed a bit long? As paulastro mentioned, I also feel I'm going to be happier with the robustness of a refractor. I quite like the idea of a GOTO mount - I presume these will track well enough for observing? I've found a thread on SGL debating the relative merits of the ED80 & Equinox 80 - as I'll be starting from scratch, the Equinox would add up to considerably more by the time I've added EP(s), diagonal & finder. I can't seem to find specs for the physical size & weight of either - how big/heavy are they? Thanks for the help so far.
  25. Hi All, it's a long time since I posted on SGL, I'm trying to get back into observing and looking to reboot my interest and motivation: I have an old Tasco 4.5" 900mm Newtonian on an EQ2 which gets occasional use - limited by the space required to store it 'handily', time constraints and the aggro needed to set it up (I have to partially dismantle the wooden tripod to get it to/from the garden). If I have 2-3 hours to spare I might be enthused to set it up (any less and the clouds usually arrive just as I've done so). As a scope it works reasonably OK (the Moon, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars and the occasional nebula). I've replaced the EPs with 1.25" ones better suited to the scope and should replace the finder. I can align it with Polaris in the field of view and am generally happy with the visuals. My original upgrade plan was a 6" or 8" Newt on an EQ-5 or similar but I've realised it wouldn't really help at the moment. I'm thinking that a more manageable rig would give me more time observing, and being more portable would give me more options. I have a 500mm f/8 photo mirror lens (???-Cassegrain) and a 10mm EP adapter (fixed 10mm EP & no finder) which is giving planetary/Lunar views similar to the Tasco on a photo tripod but lining up on objects is tricky. I have been looking for something like 15-70 or 20x80 angled binoculars - but they don't seem to exist. Instead I'm thinking along the lines of an ED80, somewhere between 4-600mm on an AZ mount. I'm interested in an ED80 to keep the size down while getting the best out of the optics (I'm concerned about CA from a small Achromat). I appreciate aperture is king and hope to move onto a bigger newt in the future, but I'd like something I can get more usability out of in the short term and something a bit more versatile (portability, grab 'n go, possible future guide scope, possible terrestrial viewing etc) - meaning I can justify increasing the budget. Would an ED80 give me good DSO and Lunar/Planetary views up to about 100x mag? Is there anything I should consider? John
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