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Blog Entries posted by Nigeyboy

  1. Nigeyboy
    Hello there!!
     Yeah, its been a while since my last blog post. Work and family life have been unbelievably busy these past months – added to that the summer nights being short, things on the astro front have taken a bit of a hiatus. However, the nights are slowly drawing in now, and following our recent holiday to Cornwall I am slowly getting more time to get out under the stars!
     A couple of weeks ago, we took a family holiday to Cornwall. We stayed on a working farm, on the edge of Bodmin Moor. I had done some homework, and the farm had Bortle 4 skies, compared to my 6 at home in Derby!! I was looking forward to seeing some proper skies! The first few days, while warm and sunny, moved to cloud in the evenings. However, I got my chance on the Wednesday evening – clear skies from horizon to horizon! I waited for the sky to become fully dark, and went out into the little garden we had the use of at about 10:30pm. I was lucky – the farm didn’t have any floodlighting, and the only light was a security lamp on the farmhouse. I was well hidden from it anyway in the garden.
     I wasn’t able to take my 150pl with me (too big!!), but took my Celestron 20x80’s along. After my eyes became adjusted, I was rewarded with one of the clearest and brightest skies I had seen since my days living in rural North Norfolk! The Milky way was a bright band across the sky, with Saturn nestled in it toward the horizon, and so many stars I had trouble making out the constellations! M31 was bright and clear, and Double Cluster was amazing. I spent a good half hour just sweeping my bins along the star clouds of the Milkyway.
     It was then I decided to go and get my camera, and try and my hand at some basic AP. I set up my tripod and Canon 400D, set the ISO to 1600 and opened the lens to f2.8, and pointed it at Casseopia with a 30 second exposure (couldn’t do any longer than that as I had forgotten my cable release!). The image came back and even on the LCD I could see I had captured a lot of detail! I took a few more, and the results are below.
    Did some basic editing in CS-5 – just tried to make the detail stand out a little more. Am quiet happy with them – only 30 sec exposures! The lack of LP was a real bonus!! This has ignited my desire to take the AP further. Nothing like getting an expensive mount (yet!), but I plan to get the dual enhanced motors for my EQ3-2 and attach my camera to that. Hopefully I can get at least a couple of minutes exposures at moderate focal length. I only have a 17-55mm lens, but is the f2.8 version. I have also looked into getting an adaptor so I can attach older FD lenses to the 400D. There are some real bargains on Ebay for 135mm / 200mm and 300mm FD lenses.
     I will do a separate review of the place we stayed – it really is perfect if you are looking for base to explore Cornwall and Devon ,and also want dark skies at night!!
    Thanks for reading, and hopefully, it won’t be 6 months before I post again!!

  2. Nigeyboy
    Hi all,
    Thanks for dropping into my blog – I have had over 9000 views in total now, which is incredible, so thanks all! As you will know if you have read the previous posts (dating back 4 years or so), I have very slowly been pulling together various bit and pieces of astro gear. Currently I have the following:
    Skywatcher EQ3-2 mount (white, non-motorised) – second hand for £90 off ABS
    Skywatcher 150PL OTA – new from RVO for about £180
    25mm, 10mm eyepieces and 2 x Barlow (came with scope)
    Cheshire collimating device – new from RVO for £25
    Celestron 20x80 bins – new from RVO for £99
    Old Dell Laptop – Downloaded all the free software I can find for it. Free – old works one that wasn’t wanted.
    CMy trusty Canon 400D with EF-S 17-55mm f2.8
    A dodgy old Webcam – this has been duly butchered and adapted to allow me to slot into the focuser.
    From the above, all but the Canon have been procured over the past 4 years, and only the OTA and Bins where purchased new. Going forward, anything I buy I will note how much I have spent.
    So, I have set myself a personal challenge!! I want to try and show AP can be done on a small modest set up like this! Up till now, its been purely visual that I have been doing. However, alongside that I have decided to dip my toe into AP. My interest was piqued while on holiday in Cornwall a few weeks back. I took some very basic (and out of focus!) shots of the Milkyway, and was impressed with what detail a single 30 sec exposure teased out.
    Now, general wisdom states that to get into AP, one needs to start with a decent, solid mount such as the HEQ5. I’m not one to argue with wisdom, but I don’t have the funds for big mount right now, nor for any guiding stuff to make things easier, or even a dedicated astro-cam! So, I have decided to see what can be done on a real budget with the kit that I currently have. The only addition I intend to make is to add the Dual Enhanced motors to the mount. I'm getting these for my Birthday at the start of October! Over the coming months, this blog will highlight the ups and downs of my journey. The aim is to start simple, and work upwards as my skills and patience get better!! I have also discovered the 'Imaging with the EQ3 mount' thread here on SGL, so that will be a good guide as well.
    I intend to try widefield to start with – using my DSLR directly connected to the EQ mount. I also am going to attempt to use the webcam for Lunar and some Planetary photography. Moving on, I may even try some AP with the Canon attached to the 150PL – but lets walk first eh?! I am also planning some DIY on the scope and mount, and will do my best to document this as well. First job is some ring rotator’s, and that will be in the next post!
     I hope you drop in and see how I am getting on!
  3. Nigeyboy
    Hi all
    Been a while since my last entry, so thought it about time to log another!
    Things are getting a lot busier at work. My area has changed, and I have now taken on Norfolk, along with Bristol and South Wales. I am a Regional Systems Manager for Greene King Pub Co. and look after all the sites IT and till equipment. So, more sites means more meetings and more miles, but I love it - getting out and about, and seeing areas of the country I haven't been too before. The other day I had to drive from Shrewsbury to Sheffield, and the SatNav took me over the Moors near Manchester, and the High Peaks near Buxton. It was a lovely drive!!
    As a result of the above, my leisure time has taken a bit of a hit, but I have still managed to get out with my Telescope on quite a few occasions, albeit from the back garden. When the weather has cooperated anyway! I will do a more detailed write up later, but I have made good in roads on my Lunar 100 challenge, and also made good progress in re-learning the sky. All being well, I will be heading up to the area around Ashbourne / Ilam in a few weeks. I have a friend living out in the sticks, and he has graciously let me use his back garden. Its proper dark there - compare to my garden anyway, so that’s something to look forward too.
    I have also taken my first, probably ill-advised step, into AP!!!!! I went out last night and took some pics of the full moon. I used my 25mm eyepiece, and hand held my iPhone up to it. I wasn't expecting anything amazing, but was fairly pleased with the results:

    Not completely in focus, but as I said, it was all hand held! Makes me think if I can mount the phone in some way, I could get some sharper shots. I have also found an old webcam - I have butchered it, and made some adaptions to allow it to attach to the focuser. I gave downloaded various software to hopefully allow me to get some video of the moon for stacking purposes. Not tried it yet, as I need to get a longer extension lead for the laptop. But I think it should work ok. I will do a full post on it once it has been for its first test drive!!
    Clear Skies!!
  4. Nigeyboy
    A belated Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone! I do hope everyone had a fantastic time over the holidays.
    Well, Santa has been very kind to me this year, and on Christmas morning I awoke to a huge box in the living room – it had been too big to wrap, and anyway I knew what I was getting lol!! So, I am now the proud owner of a Skywatcher Explorer 150PL. it was ordered from RVO at 4pm on Thursday afternoon, and arrived early on Saturday morning – great service!! I had um’d and ah’d for ages on what OTA to get, and I finally settled on the PL. To me, it seems to be a good compromise between focal length, portability and aperture. It will be perfect to get me back into observing once again. I think the mirrors will need collimating – that’s a given, right?? My daughter got me a collimating eyepiece and I have been reading up on how to do it – hopefully I can manage to do it without too many problems!!
    The tube has come with rings, dove tail bar, 10mm and 25mm eyepieces, a 2 x Barlow and a 30mm finder scope. I think I will be after a 90 degree finder at some point to make things a bit easier. I have mounted it onto my NEQ3-2 mount, and it balances ok. I think the mount it at is limit, but for observing it will be fine until I have saved for the HEQ5. Can’t wait to get it out under the stars, however, the weather forecast is cloud for the next week at least . . .  sigh!! I guess that is the fabled curse of new scope owners everywhere!!
    So – lets hope that the clouds clear soon. I can see blue sky at the moment . . . just hoping it stays that way!
    Happy New Year everyone, and pop back again when the next entry will be following my first evening with the PL!!

  5. Nigeyboy
    It finally happened – after waiting two weeks and a day, the clouds parted, and I was greeted with a clear, still and cloudless sky!! Whoop Whoop!! 15 days is a long time to wait! The scope (SW Explorer 150-PL) had been sitting in my dining room since Christmas, and despite a very short outing last week, that lasted about 10 minutes, last night was the first time I used her properly.
    I popped the tube outside a good hour before I intended to go out to observe, giving it plenty of time to cool down. I then put the mount together – I did this inside, so I could see what I was doing! Once it was all secure and bolted together, I set the declination (?) to 53 degrees and took the whole thing outside through my patio doors. Before I popped the scope on the mount, I did a basic polar alignment. I was chuffed – I had the declination spot on, and just need a tweek to the left and it was there – not perfect, but enough for my first observing session.
    I then put the OTA onto the mount and secured it. I had been playing around with it in the house the previous week, and had found the balance point, and marked the dovetail bar, clever eh?! I then moved the counter weights about to get that balanced as well – it all worked out fine, and the lightest touch when the clutches were off was enough to move the scope about. I fitted the finder scope and got it aligned with tube – I did find this a bit tricky to start with, and a couple of times during the evening I managed to knock it out of true with my arm / head / face!! And I was now ready to go!

    My observing location is pretty limited at home – the front / side of the house is now flooded with light from an LED street lamp – the red circles show the street lamps, and the red cross is where I set up the scope. I had good views to the North and to the West though:

    I'm not shy to say that my knowledge of where things are in the night sky is limited!! This will change as the year progresses, so i content myself to first locate M31. I found this quite tricky - the finder scope is a straight through job, and the angles can sometimes make looking through it a challenge. So I bought out the 20 x 80's and quickly found it. I then pointed the scope in the same direction, and a few twists of the slo-mo controls and there it was. I had the 25mm eyepiece in and I realise that the target was waaaay bigger than the view through the eyepiece!! However, the core was revealed. I looked for quite some time, and small details began to come out and I'm sure I saw the darker dust lanes.
    I then took a look for the Double Cluster, and wow!!! What seemed to be hundreds of stars, packed into the view! I was getting happier by the minute! I content myself to just scan the star fields in that area for a while, and then swung around to try and and find M51. Using the 20x80 technique I found it, and turned the scope to it. It was a faint fuzzy at 48x, so I upped the mag to 120x with the 10mm eyepiece - it became a larger fuzzy object, and I couldn't really see any structure, but knowing the light coming into my eye had covered 20 million light years was awesome!
    It was getting late, so I took off the tube and carried it round to the garden with the street light over it - I wanted to look at M42 before I packed up. However, the glare from the street light overpowered the finder and I couldn't see anything. Tried to shield it with my hand, and although it stopped the glare, it was all a bit washed out. Shame - perhaps an air rifle would be a good investment . . . . . !!
    So, overall I thoroughly enjoyed my first night out with the 150PL. A few early observations on the scope and mount (this blog will be like a long term review for the scope):
    The OTA with tube rings and dovetail bar weighs in at 6.4kg / 14lb, according to my scales. This is right at the limit for the NEQ3-2 mount. Added to the weight, the tube is long at  and although I got the balance spot on, it took several seconds for the vibrations to die down following focusing.  However, using the slo-mo controls didn't induce any noticeable shaking when tracking objects, so thats a bonus! I think a heavier mount will be needed at some point. I hope to try and save for the HEQ5, but with daughter going off to uni in September that may be a while down the road!!
    The eyepieces and barlow that came with the scope appear to be fairly solid - I only really used the 25mm, and I have nothing to compare them too, but the view seemed bright and sharpe. The finder scope is a generic 6 x 30mm. While the view is crisp, trying to look through it gave me a cricked neck after a while!! A 90 degree finder will defo be required
    The dovetail bar is a lovely green colour, but does appear to be quite soft - just mounting the scope the few times I have used it as already left some marks and dints in it.
    The focuser is fine for my use - not stiff at all, and with enough friction to make small adjustments easy. I see no need to upgrade this yet.
    So - lets hope the weather stays clear, as I am keen to turn the scope on to the Moon!!
    Thanks for reading, and a Happy New Year to all!!
    Nige in Derby
  6. Nigeyboy
    Hi everyone,
    Note - entry written Thurs 17th Jan
    Well, its getting busy at work, and at home now. Coupled with work, my daughter is approaching the end of her A-Levels so she is massively stressed out with both her course work, and her uni applications. I can’t quite believe that my little girl is going to be leaving home in September. Only seems like yesterday that she was getting ready for her first day at school . . . . I am going to find that day very hard I think. We spend our lives looking after them, and raising them for this moment, but it doesn’t make it easier does it?
    Anyway- that day is nine months ahead of us, so I won’t dwell on it just yet!!
    Last night saw a decent break in the clouds. According to the forecast, a cold front had moved through and lo and behold the sky cleared mid to late afternoon, and the temp dropped noticeably. I took th tube out about 7:30pm, and left it a good hour to cool. Following my little process, I set the mount up inside, and then carried the whole thing outside. Mounted the tube, balanced it and I was ready. Again, I only carried out a rough polar alignment – looking through the centre of the mount I centred Polaris and I was ready to go. The evenings viewing was all about the Moon, so I had set up the scope in the garden, rather than round the back of the house. Yeah there was a lot of LP from the street light which I have dubbed Rigel, on account of its colour and brightness, but as I was just looking at the moon it wasn’t too bad.
    I started off at 48x with my 25mm and spent a good half an hour just taking in the view. The atmosphere seemed quite steady, and I took in the amazing detail along the terminator. About this time, my 11 year old lad came out with his coat and hat on! I moved the tube round for him, and he spent half an hour out with me which was lovely! He kept looking through the eyepiece, and then up at the moon, not quite believing the detail he could see! We upped the mag to 120x and while the image was a bit dimmer, the seeing was still very good and steady, and between us we looked at Sinus Iridium, Plato, Clavius, Tycho and Copernicus. He was a model student lol! Asking me loads of questions about what he was looking at. He only went in when he got too cold bless him!!
    So, another successful night with the 150PL. I have begun to tick off various items of the Lunar 100 list. I want to take my time with it, and not do it all really quickly. I also want to go back to various locations at different phases / illuminations, so as to pick out more detail in them. I have downloaded an Excel list of the features, and added a big map of the Moon showing their locations. I have also downloaded a really good Moon Atlas which is helping ID loads of smaller craters – the smallest I saw last night was about 10 miles across I think.
    Anyway – here’s hoping the skies keep clear for us all!!
  7. Nigeyboy
    Hi all,
    As you may have read in one of my previous posts, my job with Greene King sees me coordinating till and IT installations during pub refurbs. Well, these last four weeks have been solid. We are trying to get as many pub refurb projects completed before the end of this month. Doesn’t do to have pubs closed at the busiest time of year! However, things are beginning to slow down on that front – although the meetings for jobs starting in the New Year are already coming in!
    This, added the fairly rotten weather have meant I have not been out with my binoculars as much as I would have liked. I have managed a few short sessions outside though and have seen the following:
    Venus – I get up early during the week, and always poke my head outside to see what the weather is like! Saw Venus was up, and quickly popped on my slippers to take a look. It was bloomin cold!! The sky was just beginning to lighten, but the view was crisp and the planet showed a definite crescent phase! I was so pleased!!
    Mars – I can’t see a disc, but the orange hue shows up well. Must wait to get the 150PL for a proper look!!
    Moon – again, impressed with the views I had. Observed the moon over a number of different phases, from just past new, to nearly full. The detail I was able to pull out along the terminator was pleasing. I have downloaded a Moon atlas, and am challenging myself to learn as much as possible on the geography of the Moon. Once I get the 150PL I am going to try for the Lunar 100!
    Messiers – I have downloaded a Messier catalogue spreadsheet, so I can start ticking off the ones I have seen. Not really had a chance to look for some of the dimmer ones, but (obviously!!) I have ticked off M31, 42 and 45!! I think I caught M1, but not too sure at the moment. I was in my back garden, and the LP was quite bad.
    Other stuff – I have downloaded a Plane Radar ap for my phone. I keep an eye on it during the day, and if I see a large commercial jet heading over, I pop out to take a look. An A380 at 33,000 feet is quite a site through the bincoluars!! I could very clearly ready the ’Emirates’ logo in red and white under the wings.
    Thanks for reading! I will try and do another blog before Christmas, work and weather permitting!
  8. Nigeyboy
    So, been another busy week, but not so much travel – just been pottering around the local area which makes a nice change! Also means I get home at a reasonable hour! Had a good weekend – my 10 year old son and I went to the Donnington Car Museum for a look around. He is mad about F1, and when we saw two of Senna’s cars, he was over the moon! I read that it is closing down for good on November 5th, as they can’t afford to keep it open any more – such a shame, as there is so much history there.
    Anywho – on to other things. The weather has been fairly kind this past week, but it wasn’t until the end of last week I managed to get out under the starts with my 20x80’s. it was my first look at the moon through them, and I was very pleased with the view – the moon as just coming up to half full, and the detail along the terminator was crisp and sharp. I was able to make out Mare Imbrium. It was half illuminated, and some of the mountain peaks on the far side where just starting to be hit with sunlight. Further down, there were two craters in amazing relief – I think they were Eratosthenes on the left, and Copernicus to the right. Copernicus as in deep shadow, apart from the far left crater wall, which was bathed in sunlight. Overall, I was really pleased with the views, and have decided to learn as much about the Moon as I can, in readiness of the Explorer 150PL I shall be getting at Christmas.
    Further afield, I kept getting pulled back to the area around Cassiopeia, and Andromeda. I still don’t know what I am looking at really, but once back in the house, I am using Stellarium to work it out!! I found two clusters, close together below Cassiopeia – turns out it was N884 and N869, and each showed a mass of stars.
    I went back again to M45 to marvel at the sea of stars I could see. It is still fairly low from where I am, so hopefully the view will improve in the coming months.
    Next out, I want to try finding some globular clusters, such as M13. Time to start ticking off the Messier objects I think! Looks like it will be good again tonight, up till about midnight, but the Moon is nearly full, which might makes things tricky – we shall see!
  9. Nigeyboy
    Well, it appears to have been over three years since my last Blog entry . . . . . so what's been happening?
    Well, shortly after I my last entry, I was made redundant from my job as a Projects Coordinator. When I say 'Redundant', I was contracting, and the work dried up which was pretty crap. However, I wasn't out of work for long - got some more contracting work, and then just over a year ago I got a perm job with Greene King Pub Co. as a Regional Systems Manager - basically, I look after about 500 pubs IT equipment. My region is East and West Midlands, and the North East of England - so anywhere from Kidderminster in the South, to York and Scarborough in the North. It's a lot of driving (about 35,000 miles per year), but I love it! I get to see loads of the country, and always manager to catch Pop Master on Radio 2 now!!
    So, back to it - last time I blogged I was after a new scope. Well, I still am!! I have got myself a pair of Celestron Skymaster 20x80 bins as a stop gap, and have managed a couple of evenings out with them since I got them on my Birthday a few weeks ago! I still have the EQ3-2, and have now decided to get myself a Skywatcher 150PL OTA. I have been doing lots of research, and I think it is a good compromise between aperture and focal length. My 10 year old son is now getting interested in space and astronomy and to be able to see the planets is especially important!!
    Looks like I will have to wait from Crimbo for the scope - I have sent my letter to Santa already, and I am pretty sure I have been a good boy this year!! So, I hope to start Blogging weekly again now, to start with, with observations with my new bin's, and the in the new year, with my shiny new scope!
    Thanks for reading!
  10. Nigeyboy
    Hi all,
    So a quick blog today, just to keep things ticking over, and to keep track of my ideas etc – more for me to look back on more than anything else!
    Foot is a lot better now – I am getting around ok, and have even started a new fitness ‘regime’!! I have lost 6lbs in one week, by cutting out crisps and flapjacks, and doing 20 minutes of high interval training each morning! Go me!!
    I’m still scopeless, and will be until at least Autumn I think. Had my hours knocked down at work from 5 days to 4 days. We can still cope on the reduced income, but it means my scope will be delayed slightly!
    I’m not too upset about the lack of OTA right now. Nights are still short, and the weather isn’t exactly brilliant either. It will give me time to finally settle on what I actually want to set – newt or frac!! Its either a 130p-ds or ST102. Both have their pros and cons, and I can’t guess the amount of reviews etc I have read on both scopes!!
    In the meantime, I have decided to set myself up with a widefield DSLR rig. Budget is key here! I already have the mount (EQ3-2), DSLR with fast and wide lens, and a means to mount it on the EQ. I just need a polar scope and a motor kit. I am keeping my eyes peeled for them to come up on ABS, AB or on SGL (remember key word – Budget!!). The mount is still due its MOT, which hopefully I will carry out later this month. I want to have it all together for my trip to Pembrokeshire in mid August.
    With this set up I am hoping to get my first astrophoto’s of the Milky Way, and perhaps some of the larger constellations. From what I’ve been told here on SGL, 2-4 minute subs should be achievable if PA is good, and LP is not too bad. I will update this blog as each stage is completed, and hopefully with my first photos as well, however they turn out!!
    I have been doing a lot of reading up both on SGL, and the wider t’interweb about DSLR widefield, and it’s something I can get into fairly easily, and with minimal outlay. As a keen landscape shooter, I am hoping I can use my current skills to create some pleasing images. We shall see - this blog could well turn into a ‘How To Take AP With No Money’ blog!!
    Well, that’s all for this entry – thanks for reading, and sorry it a bit dull this time!! Next entry I am hoping to blog about my mount MOT, along with photos!! Ooooo!!!!
  11. Nigeyboy
    Hi all
    Been a while since my last blog entry. Following a meeting between my left foot and a rusty nail in the garden a few weeks ago, I contracted a very nasty infection that knocked me out of commission for nearly three weeks!! I am well on the mend now though, and finished my last course of antibiotics yesterday!! Still walking with a limp like some sort of peg-legged pirate!! It does mean on Tuesday I can finally open the bottle of Single Malt I got for Father’s Day!! Three different antibiotics has meant it has had to sit on the shelf – normally I would have had a tipple, but the doctor was adamant that I should not drink any alcohol at all as one type I was on is used for alcoholics on detox!! Nice!!!!
    So what’s been happening with me other than nearly losing my foot? Well not much to be honest! The same day I nailed my foot, I had located a nice SW ST102 on ABS that seemed to fit the bill on what I was looking for. However, following arrangements to meet the seller the infection really started up, and I was unable to walk / drive. So I had to let it go which was a bit of a disappointment. The seller was very understanding, but I felt bad having messed him about. So I am still no closer to getting an OTA!! I have set myself the goal though to get one sorted before our family holiday to Pembrokeshire mid August. That gives me 6 weeks or so to get my butt into gear!
    I did manage to get my 10x50’s onto the Venus / Jupiter conjunction last week. I had been watching them get closer and closer, and to see them in the same field through the bins was a great view! Am sure it would have looked better through a scope . . . . I will have a trawl through SGL and see if I can find any pics!
    I also came across something interesting when reading the latest from New Horizons – something called ‘Pluto Time’. It’s an interesting little item that compares what the lighting is like on Pluto at noon, to your time / place on Earth. I tried it, and was surprised at how light it would actually be on Pluto at noon! Worked out about 20 mins after sunset. HERE is a link if you want a go yourself! Goes to show, that even 4.5 billion miles away, although the sun would be a point source of light, you could still easily read a book by its light.
    Well that’s it for now. Clear skies!
  12. Nigeyboy
    Hi all,
    Another week seems to have flashed past, and I am still scopeless lol!! However, I am not too unhappy about it. It doesn’t seem to get dark properly here now, and despite the weather showing signs of improving, I am not missing much I don’t think.
    That being said, I am of course looking on all the used sites for an appropriate bargain. I have been giving things a lot of thought, and taking advise where its offered (ie on here!!). I said in one of my previous posts that I had decided on a Newtonian – either a 130 or 150p-ds. While the long term plan (when I say long term, I’m looking ahead 12-24 months!) is to get a good AP set up together, the shorter term plan is to just get out under the stars for as little outlay as possible. So, I think I have now gone full circle, and have landed back at my original plan to get a small 4” frac. The reasons are:
    Small and portable
    Little in the way on set up required (ie collimation)
    ‘Grab and Go’
    Will be able to use it as Guide Scope when the time comes
    Used, it’s cheaper than both the 130 and 150
    Hopefully a little more stable on the EQ3-2
    Money saved on used ST102 can help go toward enhanced drive system for mount to enable some wide field DSLR AP
    I have seen a used ST102 on ABS for £120. It comes with an AZ3 mount and tripod. I would possibly sell on the mount though to get perhaps £20 quid back!! It doesn’t come with EP’s, but again I can pick up some used to get me started. Can anyone recommend suitable EP’s for a fast F5 frac? I have been looking at the SW Plossl range, but it says on FLO that they are best suited for F6 or slower.
    Another exciting event has happened – we have booked out first proper holiday abroad!! Since the children came on the scene, we have always holidayed in the UK, mostly in North Norfolk where my mum lived. It was a great way to get away on a budget, and for my mum to see the grandchildren!! We normally spent two weeks every August down there.
    Sadly, mum passed away 18 months ago so we haven’t been back since we cleared and sold her bungalow last year. So myself and Charlotte decided it was time to have a ‘proper’ holiday, and last night we booked a week in Puerto de la Cruz in Tenerife for August next year. We are doing it ourselves, rather than through an agency. For a little over £600 we have booked a fantastic 3 bed, 3 bathroom villa on the hillside overlooking the town. It’s got its own private pool, garage, outdoor kitchen and BBQ area and gym lol!!
    It may seem trivial to most, but this is a big thing for us. Money has always been really tight and every break we have had we have had to really watch the purse strings! Even a package holiday to the Costa Del Sol has always been way out of reach, and we are not the types to bung it on a credit card and spend years paying it all back at 17%! However, things are a little better now, and we can now look forward to next August. Wonder if the ST102 will fit in hand luggage . . . . . ??
    So things are slowly but surely coming together! A big thanks to all of you that have read my blog and posts so far. And thanks for all the replies, advise and recommendations. It is very much appreciated, and to know there is always going to be someone here who can answer my questions is a big comfort!!
    Post Script – just seen that my blog has had 1001 views!!!! Wow!!!
  13. Nigeyboy
    The time since my last blog entry has been a little turbulent. Some close to home family problems have had my entire focus and energies. Coupled with a week in the Lake District, the time has flown by!
    I had really hoped to have a scope to take with me up to Windermere, to make the most of the dark skies on offer up there. However, due to circumstances this didn’t happen. My EQ3-2 is still scopeless in the dining room. That said though, and with hindsight I didn’t miss out – the typical weather, while ok-ish during the day was pretty wet through most of the evenings. It also doesn’t really get dark now here in the UK at this time of year, and with the solstice still 3 weeks away, that won’t change anytime soon. But, hey! The stars have been there for a few years, and they aren’t going anywhere are they?!?!
    So I can take stock for a few more weeks, and read, and reread as much info as I can before laying down my Sterling on a OTA to adorn my lonely EQ3-2 mount. But what OTA to get – that’s the million dollar question. The more I read, the less certain I am!! I started out with the plan to get a SW 80 or 102 ST. That then changed to a SW 130p-ds, after seeing the thread here on SGL about its imaging prowess. But I am not getting back into Astronomy for AP- at least not yet. One must walk before one can run! I have plenty of time to build up to AP if and when it takes me. I can settle for looking at the great images here on SGL for the time being.
    I want to immerse myself in the visual aspect. I want to be able to find those fuzzies by knowledge of the sky, and not have to rely on a computer doing the hard work for me. Sure, I would love to go out and buy an EQ6 with imaging and guiding OTA’s, and all the bells and whistles that go with it. But here’s the thing – I am a keen photographer, and have learnt that you don’t need all the latest camera bodies and lens to get on with the hobby. You make do with what you have, and use it to its full capability. Give a novice a £10k camera and lens set up, and they will still take novice photos. Give a £40 compact camera to a master, and they will still turn out the goods.
    The same is true for Astronomy, and especially the AP aspect of it. Only when you have outgrown what you have, should you even consider upgrading! And for those of us starting out in this amazing hobby think about this – don’t jump in and get what could possibly be thousands of (insert your currency here!!) on equipment that you may well not be able to make the most of. Even worse, it could put you off for life! While the eagerness is always there to get that huge mount and photon hoover, can you really, really use it to its full potential?
    Astronomy teaches us the wonders of the sky – and it also teaches us patience. Learning curves can be step, but you can make it easier on yourself by taking it one step at a time.
    Thanks for reading –
  14. Nigeyboy
    So, not bought any further equipment since the EQ3-2. I have been spending perhaps too much time browsing the forums. This has its positives – it gives me other ideas to consider, and on the negative side – it gives me other ideas to consider lol!! But in all seriousness, it has stopped me rushing out and getting stuff that I either won’t need in 12 months, or will not be suited for my needs. A lesson there for others I think – when you have decided what you want, stop and rethink!! Saves money and heart ache in the long run.
    Plan was for a SW ST80 or 102. However, I found the thread here on SGL about the little SW 130p-ds and am now thinking this may be a better choice. Long term I would like to get into AP, and the 130 seems to deliver very high levels of ‘bang to buck’. I am well aware that I won’t be able to use the EQ3 for AP. However, a new mount such as the HEQ5 for the AP, and the EQ3 for ‘grab and go’ seems to be the way forward, and they will complement each other quite well in this regard. I can then slowly build up the HEQ5 in to a decent imaging system.
    At this point in time, I may splash out and get the 130 and the ST80 together. When I get to a position where I can get my grubby mitts on a HEQ5, I will then already have imaging and guiding OTA’s, and will have one less thing to worry about buying. It will also give me time to get used to a newt again.
    I already have the camera – my trusty Canon 400D that I have had for just over 7 years. Its never let me down, and with the battery grip I have attached, can take an amazing amount of pictures on one charge. I have been a keen photographer since I got my first camera when I was 7 – a Halina 110! I favour Landscape photography now. I enjoy the peace and solitude of getting to a site at 4am during the summer to catch the sunrise over some hills. Living next door to the Peak District I am spoilt for choice. You really have the world to yourself at that time of day, and if you are lucky the lighting will have that perfect hue and contrast we photographers yearn for! I would like to add that I am a published photographer! I had the following image published in The Sunday Times travel supplement some years ago!! Go me!!

    I use the EF-S 17-55mm f2.8 for all my shots – its now my only lens. I don’t need anything else to be honest. I am hoping to use it next week for some wide field fixed tripod shots when I go up to the Lakes (Staying at Low Wray nr Ambleside). Given the darkness there I should be able to get some decent 20 second subs to play with when I get home on the Friday. My first foray into AP lol!!
    I would like to sign off this entry by saying, the quality of advice and guidance here on SGL is amazing. Likewise, some of the images in the gallery (and on the 130p-ds thread) really give people who are just starting out something to aspire too. Maybe in a week or so I will be able to post my first Milkyway shots here!!
    Thanks for reading, and Clear Skies!!
  15. Nigeyboy
    I first fell in love with astronomy when I was perhaps 5 years old. I remember my dad showing me some of the constellations one winters evening. I even was allowed to look through his 10x50 bins!!
    Since then, it has always been a major interest in my life. It culminated 10 years ago, when I got my first telescope - a Helios 150 reflector on an EQ3 mount. Unfortunately, living in the middle of a city, and at the time not being able to drive, the scope got very little use. I used it perhaps half a dozen times, and it just started to gather dust . . . . so i sold it . . . .
    Move on 10 years, I now have my driving license (didn't pass till I was 30 odd!!), and a renewed interest in getting back under the stars - this time properly, and with a lot more knowledge than I had ten years ago. I can now get out from under the LP dome of Derby, and head out into the Peaks - only a 30-40 minute drive for me - and I can be under dark skies!!
    So, the current plan is to equip myself with a basic EQ mount, and a small 3 or 4 inch frac for visual observing. I have decided on the frac from a purely practical point of view. I can check a 80mm frac in the back of the car quite easily!! This will hopefully just be the start. My end aim is to have an 80ED on a HEQ5 and begin a quest into AP . . . . but thats years away yet, back to the present!!
    So - phase one is complete!! I am now the proud owner of a barely used Skywatcher EQ3-2 mount:

    Shiny lol!! So I'm off the blocks. Next purchase - a SW 80 or 102ST. Not yet decided on which. It will be ordered over the weekend, as I need it for when the family and I go up to the Lakes on 25th May!
    One really stupid question though - do I need to get a dovetail to fit in here:

    Cheers all
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