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About mikeDnight

  • Rank
    Sub Dwarf
  • Birthday 04/02/62

Profile Information

  • Gender
  • Interests
    Lunar & planetary , binary stars & comets.
    Visual astronomy in general and an advocate of sketching as an aid to observing.
    I also have a passion for refractors and optics in general, and have a deep interest in the history of amateur astronomy, the astronomers and their scopes and observatories.
  • Location
    East Lanc's

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1,562 profile views
  1. I was observing Mercury this evening and, as always, it showed a pink hue. Mars is very tiny at present with a diameter of just over 4 arc seconds with a phase of around 95%. Mercury is currently larger at around 6 arc seconds or just over, and has a phase easily detectable in a telescope of around 75%. It looks decidedly gibbous at X100. Mike
  2. Often shorter focal length eyepieces have small eye lenses and minimal eye releif, which can make viewing a bit of a strain. It may work better for you if you use longer focal length eyepieces along with a barlow lens. Using a Barlow, which will not degrade the image, will allow the use of more comfortable eyepieces while allowing you to reach reasonably high powers. You don't have to spend a lot on a good barlow lens The SW delux is very good quality and doesn't degrade the image even in premium eyepieces. Mike
  3. O.k. Go on, keep rubbing it in!!!
  4. Congratulations Paul & Gus, I'm not in the least bit envious that you guys got it and I FAILED! May be you had an unfair advantage Paul, with your scope being a tad longer than mine, which would mean you were nearer to Venus than I was and so could see it more easily? Although it was a lovely spring day here with constant sunshine, the cloud that lingered around the Sun all day was thick enough to wash out any chance of seeing the crescent. Everywhere else was clear except where I wanted to look! I tried repeatedly throughout the day but it didn't improve. Do I get any points for trying? 😢 Mike
  5. That's amazing!! Mike
  6. That looks beautiful!
  7. It does! See! Even Lancashire has skies now and then. ⛅🌞🌞🌞🌞🌞🌙🌙🌙🌙
  8. It was certainly not an easy find due to the bright sky and high level haze, in fact I found it a difficult target yesterday. Once found of course its a great sight! I intend to try again today but there's a lot of high thin cloud that's going to be fighting against me. It's so thin that it almost gives the impression of showing the Bailey's beads effect. Mike ☺
  9. Here's a few frac pics for your amusement. The Sky 90 belongs to Derek who's stood along side it. Derek was I suppose, my mentor nearly 40 years ago now. That's scary! I've walked miles around that pier, following his direction and learning my way around the sky while observing through large binoculars to begin with. Then as time progresses refractors both achromats and apochromats from 3" to 6". He's in his 70's now and is as happy as can be with his 90mm Tak fluorite. There's a lot of contentment in a simple little frac! Derek and his frac.
  10. Hi Mike,

    I just wondered why you have your scope on an AZ4 and not a Vixen porta II. I'm having a bit of a scare from mine and I wondered how long it took you to track planets without getting frustrated. Don't you feel the need for a bit of slow motion? Did you cut your teeth on a mount with slowmo and then learn to live without them?

    Thanks for all your help.


    ps I'm not sure it's the done thing to bother other members personally. Please put me straight if I shouldn't really be doing this.

    1. mikeDnight


      Hi Dominic,

      First of all, I'm really quite happy to be contacted this way, and you're not bothering me! ☺

      I would prefer slow motion controls on an altazimuth mount and have even considered designing something simple that can be added to my AZ4. I might one day get round to doing it! When Vixen first brought out the Porta Mount I bought one as did several other local astronomers. At the time I was using a Televue NP101, which is by no means an unwieldy scope, yet the Porta couldn't hold it steady enough. I tried everything, from ensuring all its parts were secure and tight, including its mechanics. I even tried a better tripod, but to no avail. Each time i touched the scope, or a breeze blew on it, the mount vibrated like a tuning fork. After a year or so I sold it. Interestingly, the other local lads also sold their Porta mounts because of the same reason. When the Porta ll was released, one of the lads bought one, but the same problem remained. He then tried some other similar design, though not Vixen, yet it too was no better. 

      By comparison the AZ4 was much more solid and once properly adjusted for tension, can be used at reasonably high powers with just a gentle touch. I would definitely prefer slow motion controls but not at the expense of solidity. Unfortunately, most AZ mounts either don't use slow motion drives or are too heavy, some needing counterweights, which kind of defeats the object of an easy to carry grab and go mount.

      If you have a Porta Mount and it doesn't bounce around, then don't let what I've said influence you. For me, the Porta took too long to settle down, 6 seconds or more, and was easily set in motion again by either an accidental touch or a gentle breeze. I generally use my AZ4 as a grab and go set-up, or for when I feel like low power sweeping around. Last year however, I was unable to get Mars from my observatory and so had to use the AZ4, yet I managed track the planet and powers approaching X300 while sketching, without much of an issue.

      Often I will use my Vixen Great Polaris equatorial, which is mounted on a permanent pier, for high power lunar and planetary observing. It has slow motion drives! ☺☺☺

      When I first started out in astronomy at the age of 18, there was no where near the number of available mounts and scopes as there are today. As a consequence most observers, unless they had great wealth, had to make do and mend, often constructing their own mounts. To some extent i suppose i still a bit of a dinosaur in this regard, and am happy with simple things. Today I have the two mounts mentioned above and one scope that performs well on most things, so I'm quite content. Images attached! 😊

      I hope this answers your questions Dominic, but you can ask anytime.

      Kind regards Mike





    2. domstar


      Thanks for your full reply. You're right-the AZ4 is beautifully solid but on my first go I deeply missed the slow motion controls that my Bresser Skylux had even though moving from target to target was wonderful. My dilemma is whether to send the az4 back and get an Explore Scientific Twilight 1 while I can still return it without a reason, or keep it and learn. My thought was that you have such a nice scope on it that the mount must be decent and a bit of practice is all it takes. 

      I need to do some thinking.

      Thanks again.


      p.s. beautiful observatory/set up

  11. It's been a washed out sky all day with thin cloud cover even when it looked clear. This made finding Venus very difficult against a bright sky background. Still in the late afternoon I managed to catch a view of the planet before it dropped behind the high tree line to my south west. The seeing was turbulent and the transparency mediocre at best, but I managed a quick pencil sketch. Attached is a quick watercolour illustrating Venus in a turbulent sky. Mike
  12. I tried from around 945am until 10.30 but to no avail. I think the sky brightness and thin cloud deprived me of an early view. After collecting my grandson from school at 3.30 and his dad from work at 4pm, I rushed out to the observatory around 420pm and had another go at finding the fine crescent. By now the Sun was dropping behind the trees to my west but Venus was still high enough to be caught from my site. Fortunately a passing aircraft allowed me to focus my scope on infinity. I then swept the region just above the tree tops and ghere it was. The seeing was turbulent but it was still quite a beautiful sight. Attached is a quick watercolour illustrating a turbulent view against a bright, not very transparent sky. Mike
  13. I use an AZ4 as my grab and go mount and have regularly used X296 while observing the planet's, and the eyepiece, a 2.5mm Vixen lanthanum, is only 45° apparent field. Definitely doable! Mike
  14. Star tests tell part of the story as they can reveal differences in light scatter levels and brightness. However, I think one of the most stringent tests for any diagonal would be to assess each with regard to the amount of subtle planetary detail it shows, and the ease with which it shows it. If one diagonal reveals subtle nuisances that the other does not then keep that one. If a diagonal shows The planets well then it will show anything well! The trouble is that much also depends on the quality of the telescopes optics, as the diagonal will only ever be able to give as good as it gets. I'd probably stick hold of the 12th wave diagonal if I had to choose without testing! May be it would be best if you wait until you get your new telescope before making any decisions, if you can. Mike
  15. I had my first ever view through a Baader MKlll Zoom last Monday. I was observing Venus in broad daylight while using my friends Takahashi FC100DL. Up until then the only zoom I ever considered worth having was the grossly over priced Televue 3 to 6. Since last Mondays session with the Baader Zoom, I haven't been able to get the ultra clean, super sharp crescent of Venus out of my mind. I haven't yet seen through one on the night sky but the Baader MKlll on Venus in daylight was just stunning. I'm seriously considering the MklV. (MklV has same optics, smaller, lighter body for bino use) Mike