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Everything posted by jonathan

  1. A friend has asked for a wide-field view of the Lincolnshire skies (looking South) from the past week, I'm not in Lincolnshire myself nor do I image so I'm asking here as a bit of a long shot as I don't know where else to look. Time would be around 4:30am, but within a few hours before this would probably suffice. I think it's just the approximate wide-field view from around that time (before dawn) that they're interested in having a picture of (photo). Thanks for any help or pointers.
  2. I'm sure this must have been asked before but my search skills are obviously not up to the task, I apologise in advance for asking the same question here. With the telescope in a vertical custom park position, if I tell it to point at an object low to the horizon it might just decide to tilt the telescope downwards, but unfortunately this means it will quickly hit the backboard of the dob mount, what it ought to be doing is rotating the mount so that it can tilt down in the other direction to get onto the target. So what would cause this and what would the solution be? There must be some setting in the configuration to tell it that it's at it's vertical position and can only tilt downwards in the other direction, then it needs to rotate to the target, but where in the handset menus would that be? I couldn't find anything in that regard, and from my limited goto experience (which was with Celestron, not Skywatcher) the nearest thing I can think of is cable wrap, which I could never get to work properly on a Celestron goto anyway. Do I need to reset the altitude readings somehow? Thanks.
  3. If 2" is a thing then I've had some wonderful views through my PanaView 38mm SWA 70, only one in stock (38mm) at time of writing. Of my other eyepieces, I really like my Explore Scientific 14mm 82degrees for clusters but that is slightly out of your budget, perhaps one of the budget offerings of a similar wide angle would do you just as well.
  4. Out there since 9.30am this morning, had to wait for some early morning mist to evaporate. An amazing amount of detail to see around the multiple sunspots, three filaments and four decent proms visible through my Lunt 60, great in white light too which really shows all of the spots. After something like two weeks of almost solid cloud this is great. Looks like it should be clear nights too for most of England and Southern Scotland.
  5. Aside from the usual oppositions etc, just wondering if there are any dates I should set reminders for, like we had Mars on close approach last year. I've looked at a few astronomy websites but nothing out of the ordinary stood out in their calendars.
  6. Weeeeell I gave it a go, after a couple of sessions using the Skymax 102 with 25mm and 32mm eyepieces I'd probably classify it as 'a compromise' between price vs capability. For sure it can't compete against the expensive and very high quality glass used in the dedicated high-end spotting scopes, but then at around £300 (including a good quality 45degree correcting diagonal and eyepiece) it's a fraction of the price of a Swarovski of similar potential power. Comparing a Maksutov to an ED refractor is a little bit like comparing apples to pears, but with the compromise of narrower field of view and a heavier scope, I think the Skymax 102 certainly performs above the relative price difference between the two. One of the other handicaps is the tripod - I have the Horizon heavy duty tripod, it may be more than is required for the Skymax 102 but the weight of the 102 makes it feel a little more 'weighty' to quickly and smoothly pan to follow a bird in flight at high magnification, there's also some wobble from my shaky hand / arm control. A lighter and smaller refractor should enable smoother panning and tracking. I found that it also suffered from stray light entering the objective resulting in red hues in parts of the field of view depending on the angle, so a dew shield becomes a requirement on a sunny day. As for the practicality of observing and identifying a bird in flight, if the view was a little steadier I don't think there was much of a problem there, I was able to successfully identify some key features of a Goshawk as it flew by over a distant treeline. Contrast is undoubtedly not as high as with a good quality refractor. The narrow field of view is definitely going to make finding the moving target more difficult, the Baader zoom eyepiece I have generates an even narrower field and only goes down to 24, giving a zoom of about 50x, typical spotting zooms go down much more than this and give a much wider field of view to ease the observer into the subject (a typical zoom level is about 42x, the 32mm eyepiece in the Skymax 102 provides this but does have some vignetting which could make observing more difficult). Also the focus knob on the Maksutov design is inconvenient for refocusing on the fly, compared to the large integral focusing ring or feather touch dual focusing knobs of spotting scopes that are conveniently placed so that they can be used while the operator has one hand on the scope to steady it with the other hand on the pan handle. I think I may just try using the Skymax 102 for astronomy for a while, get to grips with it's characteristics, and think about a second-hand spotting scope for the bird watching, however I will continue to try the Skymax for daytime spotting and may even give my 102 refractor a go from the garden just to see how that handles it. One final note - one of the attractive factors of a dedicated spotting scope is their compactness and ease of transport, especially when paired with a lightweight carbon fibre tripod and carry ruck sack; lugging the Horizon heavy duty tripod and Skymax 102 with eyepiece and diagonal (in it's storage bag) more than a few yards gets tiring very quickly. I certainly don't regret buying the Mak, it'll make an excellent addition to my 'grab and go' collection!
  7. Which is a lot of the time when bird watching! I already have the Celestron TravelScope 70 so I don't think the ST80 is going to give me much more in terms of magnification, the TravelScope has surprised me by the sharp views it gives for it's size and 'cheapness'. The Mak didn't display any CA that I could notice when using it today in bright sunshine (sun behind me) as I followed a goshawk in flight above the treeline, although I think it maybe was tricky to tell with the heat haze whether or not I lost some sharpness, probably lost a bit of contrast compared to a refractor for sure. I shall have to have both scopes out for comparison some day.
  8. That's what I've read elsewhere too and seems like the best option. I think given that the actual hole in the back of the 102 Mak is as vlaiv said, about 22mm, it doesn't follow in my mind that attaching a 2" visual back onto a 1" hole would be of much help, it's surely only going to produce considerable vignetting (particularly noticeable during daylight, and negates the effectiveness of the extra field of view) especially considering that the 102 Mak is quite a narrow field of view instrument in the first place. At night it might make more sense, but for daylight use I think it would produce disappointing views. Anyone actually tried this (in daylight) and can confirm? I'm very likely going for the 32mm anyway at this point, but there's always room for more adjustments! I'd be quite interested to see how the 32mm performs in my Celestron 70mm TravelScope as well.
  9. Just wanted to get confirmation of what I think should give the 102 it's widest views, is it the 32mm Skywatcher SP Plossl or is there another option (without going silly on expense, want to keep it down if I can). I've been trying out the 102 today for bird watching with limited success, there seemed to be some stray light coming in (sun was to my back/right, had occasional red hues) so I'm going to try a dew shield, the 25mm plossl eyepiece I have (old Celestron one, came with my 8SE) worked well but at 52x it was at the top end of desirable magnification for locating and following moving birds. Would the 32mm provide the optimum wide field in this 102 Mak, at 40x? (would be better closer to 30x for locating a target, but 40x is a good compromise for actually seeing more detail after getting the target in the eyepiece) This scope will see plenty of astronomical use too of course, I'd just swap out the 45degree correcting diagonal for a 'normal' one, so the 32mm eyepiece will see some use for open clusters and the like too. Thanks.
  10. +1 for the Skymax 102, it's the one I've been pondering getting myself recently (I own an 8SE but it's quite a chore to lug about and setup, I always envied how easy the small Maks are to handle and carry). If you add a 45 degree erecting correcting prism diagonal it should also make a very nice daytime spotting scope for observing ships, wildlife, etc. The views through a 102 will be small but sharp, teasing out planetary and lunar detail takes effort no matter what size telescope you use (there's always more detail than you can see!), problem with larger telescopes is the views tend to get a bit fuzzy and dim as the magnification is increased, with a small telescope this generally isn't a problem as they simply don't allow that amount of magnification. As a starter scope I'd say the 102 is probably going to be the most dynamic and useful, easy to handle and might just get the most use even if you bought a larger telescope later.
  11. Check this map for your area's light pollution, click a point to get detailed info including the Bortle rating - a rating of 4 or lower should afford you plenty of nebula viewing capability, although I'm sure people will tell you they've observed nebula probably up to Bortle 6, assuming there isn't a porch light ruining your night adapted eyes or causing very localised light pollution. Nebula are among the faintest objects so need to be observed when the moon is either below the horizon, a thin crescent or new. Be sure that your SCT has a suitable dew shield in place, this will help to cut down any stray light and also is a necessity on everything but the dryest of nights to help keep dew from forming on the front glass corrector plate. Dew heater tapes will probably be necessary as well during the damp autumn / winter nights. Use a dimmable red LED torch to see by (a rear bicycle light is probably too bright IMO), and make sure there are no white light sources, windows with lights on, etc visible from your observing location. Also make sure the goto system is functioning correctly, it might be that it's not pointing directly at the target so with a narrow field of view you're just missing it. Test it out on bright objects such as Polaris or the moon with a low power eyepiece to check how accurate the alignment is.
  12. If you have a 2" - 1.25" adaptor that accepts 2" filters then it would be a good way to use said 2" filters with 1.25" eyepieces, and the adaptor can more easily be removed if the filter is not wanted (but you'd then be limited to using 2" eyepieces, unless you had a second adaptor). The alternative would be to fit the 2" filter to the diagonal. I think I read somewhere that sometimes the position of a filter in the light path could make a tiny difference so being able to move it around could be a benefit. Also, 2" diagonals and the Baader 2" adaptor are more likely to have brass compression rings rather than straight thumb screws, so this will be kinder to your eyepieces.
  13. Just a bit of a guess, but make sure there's nothing else (apps) running in the background on the tablet, do a full shutdown and restart then try it again. If possible, try disabling all of the background app update / refresh settings so that there's the minimum network traffic possible on the table IO ports. I don't have a Windows 10 tablet so can't advise in detail, but it sounds like there may be something conflicting with the SkyFi software or network / serial comms port. Also double check that the serial port connection speeds and settings are the same on the telescope and in SkyFi / VSP3.
  14. The 25mm Celestron Plossl that came with my 8SE is still one of the best eyepieces I own - it's extremely versatile, works very well in the 8SE SCT and every other scope I care to put it in. Of my other eyepieces I can't say that for their intended purpose any work particularly better than the 25mm does for it's purpose, and I've never felt the need to replace it with a more expensive one; it's definitely the case that several of my eyepieces do not always work as well as they could in the SCT, this is usually due to average seeing conditions making the slow speed of the SCT incompatible with higher eyepiece magnifications. The SCT is usually very forgiving of 'cheap' eyepieces, especially medium to low magnifications, on most typical nights a Plossl or similar budget eyepiece will do the job, however the Baader Zoom 8 - 24 that I paid a pretty penny for does work very well in it's own right in my 8SE and was definitely worth the money, it doesn't replace my other eyepieces, but it does allow me to carry just one eyepiece and it will work fine at most if not all zoom ranges when my other eyepieces of similar high magnifications do not work at all. I would not pay more for a zoom eyepiece, definitely worth the money though. If you want to get full use of the 2" diagonal then you probably should consider at least one wide angle 2" eyepiece, I have only used one (PanaView 2" 38mm) and in my opinion the views through it are always fantastic, I haven't felt the need to buy anything more expensive for this purpose. I tend to steer clear of eyepiece sets, I just buy the ones that I need. The higher magnifications (up to 12mm) probably won't be usable in the 8SE on most typical nights unless you have very steady and clear skies.
  15. One of these was listed in the Buy and Sell forum here (2019) for £800, I'd say this would be a good starting point as new telescopes are hard to find in stock at the moment, don't let it go too cheap as it should definitely be worth the money to a serious buyer. You probably require more posts in order to list in the Buy and Sell forum here, but astronomy forums (there's usually a special forum to buy and sell astro gear) are probably the best place as you'll generally only get serious buyers looking.
  16. Most astro clubs will probably have a beginner's night as the observing season begins around September time, it's a place where people can go to ask questions and see kit and demonstrations hands-on, worth finding out about in your area. I second the planisphere, there's also a nice little book called Stargazing Month-by-Month Guide to the Night Sky, published by Philip's. A new edition is published each year so look out for it in book shops (I usually pick mine up in one of those discount bookshops), it has the top things to see each month and some nice facts and information. A lot cheaper than a monthly magazine if all you want is observing suggestions, although there's usually plenty of interesting articles in the magazines if you think he'll read them (I like Astronomy Now myself, I generally only buy a mag if there's something very interesting in it that I want to read). If your son has an iPad or similar device then consider an astronomy app such as Star Walk 2, there's also Moon Globe and similar. I've found the paid-for extras in Star Walk 2 well worth the small asking price, interesting and educational for all ages.
  17. I think unless you expect to be troubled by a breeze or think you might want a bigger scope in the future (or add lots of guide scopes and heavy camera equipment), a 6 shouldn't be necessary. Besides, a 6 is likely to set you back the best part of a grand.
  18. I found quite a few favourable birding / hunting forum entries praising the product line, it may be that official review sites either don't want to review it or weren't paid to or given freebie ones to review. Likewise, on the 'official' review sites I couldn't find much mention of quite a few of the spotting scopes I've come across, they do tend to stick to the big brands from what I've seen.
  19. I have been advised to try before I buy and that would be great in an ideal world (I'd just drive down the road to Bempton Cliffs), but I'm not willing to travel to West Yorkshire (even at the best of times!) or further afield. Besides, I can imagine how such a viewing is likely to go - when I looked at the RSPB website they had mostly RSPB-branded kit for sale which makes me think they've done a deal to rebrand things that are probably very similar to the Helios and other China-made ones, and they'll most likely have these plus maybe a couple of more expensive offerings from leading brands (but I doubt it would be Swarowski). I'd be very surprised if they had anything that FLO stock. I've always bought astro equipment 'blind' (after reading up on them and reviews) so I don't really see why this should be any different. I'd probably be better off asking the local bird watching gang if I can have a quick butcher's through their scopes, I've done that before a few years ago but... that was a few years ago, and I wasn't really in the market for a spotting scope then. However, as most of them have very expensive scopes it might not really help me much other than make me disappointed in anything I can actually afford right now.
  20. From just reading a few articles and reviews it seems that ED is highly desirable to cut down colour fringing and such, and a magnification range between 20x - 60x (for an 80mm objective this would be 8mm - 24mm eyepiece) to make it worthwhile, otherwise use binoculars. Those criteria should help me to cut down the number of models I'd want to look at, and I do like the idea of having standard 1.25" eyepiece fitting as that allows me to use my existing astronomy eyepiece collection. It seems that many of the more expensive brands tie you into their own ecosystem with bespoke eyepiece fittings, more money for them I suppose. Also, as much as a 50~65 objective scope would be lightweight, it seems that the 80mm objective scopes have greater potential for light gathering and thus a greater light condition range, but only when coupled with good multi-coated optics (hence opting only for models with ED glass, which I think usually will come with those good quality lens coatings for higher light transmission). There are some scope speficiations that I don't understand or can't yet relate to though, such as a few listing with this Celestron Regal M2 80ED including the angular field of view (how does this translate to the real world when looking at a distant treeline?), Relative Brightness - totally meaningless to me, Twilight Factor - again, what does this figure actually relate to in terms of being able to see a bird at distance? Such as how it relates to lighting conditions given a clear sky at a specific date and time at my latitude (NE England). Any real-world advice on these would be much appreciated. Just looking at the Acuter GrandVista, I see it comes with a rubber-armoured body but I'm not so sure that I like that, I would prefer a straight forward metal casing as in my experience rubber coatings tend to degrade over time, especially with exposure to UV (even if it always has the soft case fitted, the rubber coating will likely still degrade albeit at a slower rate). This is a shame as this combined with the requirement for ED glass effectively eliminates the entire Acuter range. The Helios Fieldmaster Triplet is looking like a good contender at the moment, although it doesn't look like it accepts 1.25" eyepieces this shouldn't be a deal-breaker if the supplied zoom eyepiece works well (and others available).
  21. I know it's a bit pricey compared to others but have you any idea on the quality of this William Optics erecting diagonal for daytime use? I'm not sure how much difference the diagonal quality makes for daytime observing of birds etc.
  22. Already doing that with the 70mm Travel Scope, works quite nicely but I've the sneaky suspicion that those dedicated spotting scopes result in far sharper and higher contrast views, plus the Travel Scope just has the very basic rack and pinion focuser. I'm not that good at holding binoculars steady, I have my father's genes to thank for that! Spotting scopes can easily track a distant target if mounted on a good pan/tilt head, I have the Horizon heavy duty tripod (heavy being the operative word!) but it's much more than is necessary for a lightweight spotting scope. I'm toying with the idea of giving my 102 triplet a go, but I'd have to buy a 45° degree erecting diagonal for it (fitting the cheap one I have would seem like an insult to the 102) and a tripod mount for the dovetail fitting. Apparently the ideal spotting scope size is around a 65mm objective for portability and ease of use. Bird watching is a daytime hobby one can do alone or in a group, in the warm dry conditions of spring and summer, it's also a thrill to see something with my own eyes (through optics) rather than in a nature programme, the same as being able to see a distant galaxy or nebula rather than a fancy picture in a book (which probably has false colours etc).
  23. Lately I've noticed the local bird-watching crowd have been mostly turning up with one brand of spotting scope - Swarowski - however they are expensive and, having owned a few decent budget scopes for astronomy purposes already, I'm wondering if anyone can offer up some real-world usage experience of the spotting scopes on offer by FLO compared to this much more expensive 'scope for life' brand. I see there are offerings from Acuter (basically Skywatcher), Celestron (same ball park), Hawke, Helios, and Vortex Optics, but I have no idea about these brands when it comes to spotting scopes. Advice was to try out a few different ones under cloudy conditions, much easier said than done especially at the moment (and when a lot will be out of stock anyway). I am wondering what the practical difference will be between a spotting scope for £129 and one for £495, I know the 102 triplet I have for astronomy is good but I don't and have never owned a cheaper 102 for comparison, the nearest would be the 70mm Celestron Travel Scope which punches above it's weight IMO but is hardly a like for like comparison. While I'm sure spending £2,500+ on a spotting scope will result in perhaps some of the best views and be a joy to use, I don't really want to spend that much right out of the bat as a starter to bird watching etc. I'm thinking perhaps spend a few hundred on something that will be good enough for bright conditions, then later maybe upgrade to something capable of all lighting conditions (not really for astronomy use though). Any particular recommendations? Thanks.
  24. Ah, telescopes working seamlessly at a star party... how rare that happens, in my experience! What you need to be aware of here is that a) telescopes do not always work seamlessly, especially in public, and b) people may have different attitudes or needs when it comes to keeping their telescopes in good working order - everyone's eye sight will be slightly different, different focusing needs, different eyeball capabilities, so the view through one telescope may look slightly different to several different people, and finding the telescope and setup that suits your personal eyesight is half the battle; it could be that the other people's telescopes were a little out of whack, maybe not perfectly collimated (optics aligned), or their eyepieces were not as good or best suited to their telescopes, whereas the beginner's telescope was still in very good alignment from new. There's also atmospheric conditions - one night a telescope could appear to perform brilliantly, another night (or even just a few minutes later, if the atmospheric conditions change such as whispy clouds coming across or departing) it can seem quite poor; and certainly some telescopes will struggle if the seeing conditions are not perfect. So what I'm saying is that there are numerous reasons why on one particular night some telescopes may appear to perform better than others, it's not always purely that one telescope is better than the others. Personally I'd probably say no to StarSense and the Edge HD, it's a nice telescope but rather OTT for a beginner, and a manual option is going to help a lot with a beginner's understanding of how things work (very handy when the auto gizmos fail!). Probably better to start with something a bit more basic, a regular GOTO perhaps, motorised tracking only, or a smaller telescope with manual slow motion controls (no motors = very simple setup and less kit to lug around). Consider a refractor telescope for hassle-free maintenance, they require no alignment of the optics like reflectors do (occasionally, or after a knock), easy to store and very handy to get outside quickly.
  25. What do you see when the telescope is setup as per the instructions and you look into the eyepiece?
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