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jonathan

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About jonathan

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  1. A couple of things stand out for me about that mount... It relies on a tablet or computer to operate the GOTO system, meaning that you'll have to look at said screen while using the scope. For me, screens are a no-no if I'm out observing in a dark site, even if they have a red filter or 'night mode' activated they'll still put out a lot of light which can (and most likely will) affect your night vision, not to mention disturb others if you're with a group. Good for imagers though who normally do use a computer for guiding and such. It uses a relatively small battery pack that will go through batteries probably quite quickly, my simple tracking mount came with a very similar battery pack but I quickly replaced it with a small 6v lead acid battery and some custom power cables, much easier to handle and charge. Otherwise I have no experience of Explore Scientific mounts, however if it's made to the same standards as their eyepieces it should work well (I have their 14mm 82 degree eyepiece, very good indeed).
  2. For eyepieces it's good to have a selection, the usual is about three - 28mm is the low mag one you'll probably use when finding your target or for observing larger objects such as the moon, clusters or large nebula, something around the 14-16mm range for a slightly closer look, then probably 9-11mm or so for high mag. You could probably use higher mag than 9mm but for a high quality eyepiece that'll really make the difference you'll be paying £££, e.g. one of the Pentax range. As to which are going to be best for the 130pds, it is an f5 scope so should be good with high quality eyepieces, but you don't want to go spending the earth on specialist ones to start off with so I'd recommend looking at the Celestron X-Cel LX range or maybe one of the Skywatcher UWA Planetary Eyepieces, these are close to your £50 budget and should serve you well.
  3. Once the scope is mounted on an AZ with the eyepiece at roughly head-height I think a straight-through 6x30 finder should be perfectly adequate for most tasks, a red dot finder in addition to a 6x30 is a luxury but I wouldn't choose the red dot over the 6x30. The finder is normally fitted offset and just forward of the eyepiece so it's easy to just tilt your head from the eyepiece to look through, with that in mind you'll have to experiment to find the best height for you, sometimes it's easier to set it for a seated position.
  4. I would disagree a bit there, goto is handy for quickly finding targets but it's not always easy to use, there is a learning curve like that of learning how to use a satnav or a computer (correctly! Goto systems can be very unforgiving when it comes to mistakes or errors, and they tend not to tell you what the problem is when they don't work). Likewise, a manual mount requires a simpler learning curve but for me I prefer it because there is less to go wrong, like a simple bicycle compared to a motorbike - you can easily learn to ride and maintain a bicycle but a motorbike requires a lot more knowledge to be able to use and troubleshoot when things don't work properly. After much frustration and wasted evenings with star alignment failures and hardware issues I sold my goto in preference of a simple mount with tracking only. I'd say for ultimate portability and beginner ease of use, have a serious look at the StarTravel 80 and the Horizon photography tripod. If you can afford an extra eyepiece then consider something around the 14mm range, like the BST Starguider 15mm (cheap and cheerful) or the rather stunning Explore Scientific 14mm (worth the money, also consider the 11mm for higher magnification) from the 82 degree range, excellent for lunar observing (don't forget a lunar / ND filter to cut down the glare). Good luck!
  5. Refractors are usually smaller and maybe lighter than reflectors so perhaps tax the mount a little less, and when it comes to astrophotography with guided long exposures light gathering is less important than it is for visual. There are quite a few specialist refractors aimed at imagers and a few reflectors too, I haven't delved that far into it (I bought the Altair Astro 102 APO as a starting point, have yet to start, it makes an excellent visual tool though). Serious imagers will likely use a small refractor (60 - 80mm) as a guide scope. Certainly I think the HEQ5 Pro is the minimum serious starting point for imaging, it will easily manage a refractor for imaging purposes and shouldn't be affected by small gusts of wind. When it comes to size, a good refractor should come with a case and fitted foam, it won't have the bulk of an equivalent reflector so should be easier and safer to store when not in use. My Altair Astro 102 takes up about the same amount of space in it's case as my 150P reflector without a case. If I was inclined to and experienced enough, I could probably get some decent images out of my 70mm refractor travel scope; like the Hubble deep field, there's a lot to be seen with long exposure (and stacking, post processing, etc) vs visual alone.
  6. I have one of these rather nice Altair Astro 10x60 illuminated RACI finder scopes on my refractor, best finder scope I've ever used (one could have fun just using this instead of the main scope!) Standard fit bracket.
  7. I think one thing you could try is mounting it on a decent camera tripod if you have one (preferably one with a smooth tilt and pan head) and sitting comfortably with the tripod quite low (legs not fully extended) so you only need to lean in a bit to view without having to touch the scope, although holding onto the tripod should be fine (to brace yourself and also to keep the tripod from moving), it might be a bit more comfortable that sitting at a table with it on the tiny tripod. As for what to look at, there are plenty of interesting things you can look at through a small telescope, I would steer away from DSO (deep sky objects) and concentrate on asterisms, large targets such as the Orion Nebula (you may need to wait until December for this now), the larger planets and the moon; you should be able to observe the moons around Jupiter and perhaps even see a couple of the cloud bands (Jupiter and Saturn will be small bright discs in the scope, but they should be fairly sharp). Jupiter and Saturn will be evening objects from about July onwards. Look up binocular targets, treat the scope as a powerful 'half-binocular' when it comes to targets and you shouldn't go far wrong; with it being a Mak it will have a narrow field of view which should be ideal for planets, but you'll need to use the lowest magnification for asterisms and open clusters. Might even be able to spot the occasional bright comet from a dark site. Just don't put too much faith in the zoom eyepiece, it will probably have an optimim magnification zone where it works best so try to stick to that. Should definitely be able to find the Andromeda galaxy with it (it's also a naked eye object) but again, the narrow field of view may hamper your view as the Andromeda galaxy is quite a wide cigar shape (it may be that you can only discern the bright galactic centre anyway). I had a C50 Mak at one point, just a tad too small for astronomy in my opinion and as I already had larger scopes and binoculars it was quite superfluous to my needs so I sold it on.
  8. Whatever you do, make sure there's an appropriate inline fuse somewhere along the cable. Pre-made astro cables with a cigar plug usually contain one inside the plug which should be fine for a 12v supply.
  9. The lack of responses could be because you've asked very specific questions and maybe nobody has the answers or experience you've asked for. I can say from my own experience that my regular Skywatcher 150P (fatter, not as long as the 150PL) sits nicely on my Celestron Omni CG-4 mount and tripod, but that is a slightly different beast to the EQ3-2, and I have no experience with the EQ3 (which I presume is the base model, not as good as the EQ3-2?) You already said that the 150PL on EQ3 is considered large and too expensive for your liking, so perhaps consider the Skymax 127 on mount of your choice - I'd say tracking is important but not goto so you could save a few quid there, if you can stretch to an EQ3-2 with RA motor drive and a polar scope then that should be all you need to achieve good tracking for planetary or wide field long exposure photography (rough polar alignment isn't that difficult with an EQ3-2). From what I've read, you're likely to want to use video to record planets and use software to extract the best frames for stacking, as often planets are fairly low in the sky and suffer from atmospheric turbulance. Video from a smart phone or webcam can product very good results so consider allowing for the extra weight and mounting of a phone cradle / smart phone. Reasonable tracking and alignment will be necessary, but goto is not really needed unless you're not confident that you can find things like Neptune or Uranus (they'll just be tiny dots anyway, tiny discs at best even in a large telescope).
  10. I have one of these dual LED torches from Skywatcher, the 9v battery lasts a very very long time (only on my second one since about ten years ago), rattles about a bit inside but it works fine. I attached a lanyard to the loop on the end of the torch so I can have it hanging around my neck, I can easily pick it up to point at things and while walking with my hands full it points at the ground to light my feet, the dimmer goes very dim for those ultra dark nights (dims in white light mode too). I really don't like head torches, they never seem to go dim enough and when there are other people about it's a pain to be constantly blinded by them. I'm wondering about a pair of those red goggles that submariners used to wear duing WWII! Maybe I could modify some steampunk article.
  11. I have a Cheshire collimation tool, I *think* I know how to use it but I'm one who always doubts my own knowledge! I have seen laser collimation tools, some swear by them and others can't get on with them, I suppose it's like manual or automatic on a car - horses for courses.
  12. Speaking as someone who already has a range of telescopes and seen plenty through them, I do admire my little 70mm refractor for it's ease of use and very solid views. True, it won't show as much as a 150P reflector, but what it does show it shows brilliantly. It will happily sit on a decent camera tripod or an EQ mount, and doubles as a decent spotting scope when coupled with a 45degree erecting diagonal (which came with it for just this purpose). If you find yourself with a few quid to spare later on then consider the refractor as a secondary grab-and-go scope, they cost about £80 from Amazon (includes possibly the flimsiest tripod ever made, probably better to hand-hold the scope! But the included padded backpack is very handy).
  13. Location can be an important factor in what you're able to see, and while the brighter planets shouldn't present too much trouble when it comes to finding and viewing them, once you start to increase the magnification you'll see more of the atmospheric disturbances such as heat rising from roof tops or roads, light pollution, that sort of thing. If you live in a built-up area, even a small village, it can affect what you can see; choose a position that doesn't have direct line of sight to any lights (even ones inside buildings). If you're able to safely transport the telescope to a spot well away from streetlights, houses, etc it should help, but try to stay away from the road as if a car comes past the headlights will ruin your night adapted eyes. I stood at the top of a hill once (admittedly on the grass verge just by the roadside, but it was a very quiet country lane) in quite a chill wind, it provided an excellent view across the valley and I was able to see a comet that was passing at the time (I believe it was the big Panstarrs one from a few years ago). I may or may not have been able to see it from my back yard due to the buildings and trees. Getting away from civilisation with a telescope can be difficult but is sometimes well worth the effort.
  14. The ST80 is a very capable small refractor, I had one but found that the mount and provided eyepieces let it down, I sold it but later picked up a 70mm travel refractor which I find is also optically excellent and with a few good eyepieces can give some brilliant views. Consider adding a medium eyepiece, something around the 14-16mm size, e.g. https://www.firstlightoptics.com/bst-starguider-eyepieces/bst-starguider-60-18mm-ed-eyepiece.html The ST80 is a relatively fast scope at f4.9 so the provided plossl eyepieces, while functional, are probably below the optimum quality that this scope has the potential to use. Spending a bit more on eyepieces should be justified and improve the views. A moon filter will certainly make observing the moon and venus much easier on the eye, something like this: https://www.firstlightoptics.com/moon-neutral-density-filters/variable-polarising-moon-filter-archived.html You might also like to try a light pollution filter, it may help to cut out some of the false colour / background glow of street lamps etc, worth a go as I've heard people have had a lot of success with them. I don't use them myself so couldn't recommend any particular one, it will depend on what kind of light pollution you have in your area.
  15. I think for your budget you could either: Go for a small telescope (70 or 80mm refractor, or something like the Heritage 130P Go for medium or large binoculars (8x42, 10x50, or 15x70) with a sturdy metal L bracket for tripod mount (don't bother with a plastic L bracket, they're rubbish). To get the best out of any binoculars you'll ideally attach them to a monopod or a tripod to get steady views, they can also be rested on the brush end of an upturned broom. The views will be slightly different and it will depend on whether you prefer the '3D' stereo viewing of binoculars or the flatter '2D' single eye view through a telescope. Certainly you should be able to see much more of the moon and saturn, venus, and jupiter through a telescope as they're nice bright objects (use a moon filter for the moon and venus otherwise you'll be dazzled, consider wearing sunglasses if viewing the moon through binoculars). NEVER look at or view the sun through a telescope or binoculars unless you have specialist solar filters firmly in place, best to avoid the sun completely as a beginner. Binoculars and a star chart / planisphere are great for getting out quickly into your back yard or a dark site and learning the night sky, there are many interesting targets that you wouldn't need or want a telescope for (their field of view is often too narrow for such targets). It's only when you start looking for the smaller, fainter objects that you need a telescope, and that can be a frustrating or disappointing experience if expectations are too high. I started with a pair of 8x42 Bushnell Legend binoculars in my back garden, I still have them as my main spotter pair if I'm out with a telescope or sometimes I just sit out in a recliner with them. Things to look for when buying binoculars: Fully multi-coated glass surfaces Porro Prism Bak-4 glass While not absolutely necessary, they will provide a noticeable improvement to the views and are definitely worth the extra money. When it comes to binocular collimation, it's a common problem with binoculars that have been tossed around in storage boxes at a warehouse, gone through the mail, and plopped through a letterbox or whatever. I've had to collimate several pairs of binoculars, the larger the pair the more noticeable it will be. Under the rubber armour near the top bulge there should be a couple of small screws, collimation is a matter of looking through each eyepiece and making sure they both line up exactly to a target (so the binoculars need to be held in place, e.g. on a tripod), the screws require tiny adjustments, but once set they should remain collimated (a dab of superglue or threadlock ensures this). The rubber armour should lift up fairly easily from the eyepiece end to reveal the screws, it might be lightly glued in place, I've never had to glue mine back down though. Collimation shouldn't put you off buying or using binoculars. Note that nearby objects inside the field of vision can sometimes throw off your eyes' focus on the distant object, I find this especially when using large binoculars, it can be mistaken for collimation issues.
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