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DevonSkies

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Everything posted by DevonSkies

  1. Thanks for the reply. I have now returned the scope, and I am awaiting a replacement.
  2. Hi, I recently bought a SW Startravel 102, which meets my need for a wide field grab and go / travel scope. I initially had some issues with the sloppy focus tube (solved by adjusting the tension screws) and focuser alignment (now adjusted as best I can by loosening and retightening the focuser mount screws). However, I find that when I perform a star test the collimation still does not seem satisfactory. I have managed to observe diffraction rings on one side of focus, but the central 'blob' (which has a magenta hue) is offset about half way between the centre and the edge of the pattern, and the diffraction rings are similarly offset. I know this is a sign of imperfect collimation. However, the Startravel does not have a collimatible objective cell. Adjusting the focuser tilt doesn't seem to make much difference apart from shifting the view. I suspect a lens collimation problem because (1) if I loosen and rotate the front cell the diffraction pattern rotates with it, and (2) when using a Cheshire to adjust the focuser alignment it is not possible to get all the reflections to line up perfectly. I currently still have the option of returning the scope for replacement or refund. So my question is: am I being too fussy? Should I expect good collimation out of the factory on one of these relatively cheap scopes? I realise that this is primarily a wide field scope and poor collimation is mostly an issue at high magnification, but I am a bit of a perfectionist (albeit on a tight budget!). Has anyone else done a star test on a Startravel 102 or similar scope, and if so how did it look? Any experiences would be appreciated, as I don't want to waste time returning the scope if this is as good as it gets! Thanks Ed
  3. If you are flying, I should think the ST80 would be a more manageable hand luggage size. You might manage an ST102, but I think you'd have to remove the dew shield (it does come off, but it's a very tight push-fit), also bearing in mind that the lens cap won't fit without the dew shield in place. Another advantage of the ST80 is that I have seen neat carrying cases available specifically for this model, whereas I haven't seen anything similat for the ST102 or larger Startravel scopes.
  4. Good point. I don't have any filters yet, but I'll definitely be looking to get some soon. Despite being in a rural location we still have a quite a lot of light pollution from nearby towns.
  5. So I took a peep outside at about 7.30pm and was surprised to see an almost completely clear sky here in East Devon. I quickly carried my 10" Dob into the back garden, and within 5 minutes I had started observing. I just love how easy the Dob is to set up! I managed to bag a few new objects, which I was really pleased about. The highlight was the M37 open cluster in Auriga. At low magnification, it looked like a stunning box of jewels. After a couple of minutes concentration, I felt I could see structure in the distribution of stars, like filaments or rings. Beautiful. Its nearby companion M36 was also easily found, but much less inspiring by contrast. I had been trying to spot the Rosette Nebula for a while, and failed again. I did however, clearly locate the Satellite Cluster at its centre, so I know I was looking in the right place. I think I need much lower magnification and a darker sky to succeed with this one. Another new Messier, the nebula M78, was soon located just east of Orion. Again, though, darker skies needed for this one, as little structure was visible. Another success was clearly resolving the F star in the Trapezium for the first time. It took a while, but I was eventually satisfied I had spotted the elusive F. Finally, I finished off the session by bagging my first globular cluster, M79 in Lepus. Far from spectacular (a small round smudge!), but satisfying none the less. I'm looking forward to Hercules coming round to a better position! All in all a great session (just over an hour in total), that has left me feeling inspired and satisfied! Ed
  6. So I pulled the curtains apart before heading for bed at midnight tonight and was surprised to see a sparkling clear sky! Well, the ST102 is supposed to be a grab-and-go, so I grabbed, and I went! I only managed 20 minutes outside before the clouds rolled in and it started to rain, but what I saw was very encouraging. My tweaks seem to have paid off. A star test on Sirius at 100x showed symmetrical rings either side of focus, indicating that after my adjustments the collimation is now more than good enough for a wide-field scope. I was able to easily split Castor at 100x using my BST 5mm EP. Jupiter was visible but low in the sky, and was a clear disc at 100x with cloud bands just about visible. CA was present, but not objectionable. The moon was clear and crisp, although still too low in the sky for good seeing. I did clearly notice that the CA is much reduced with the new dielectric diagonal compared to the original 45-degree prism. All in all, a big improvement over my first experience of this scope! I did experience problems with the AZ3 mount drooping at high elevations, especially with the weight of the 2" diagonal attached. I think an AZ4 will be on my shopping list soon. Tomorrow evening I hope to do a more extensive test before the moon comes up, and post an update. Ed
  7. Same here! It's so frustrating isn't it... Thursday evening looks like it might be good though, at least here in the south west - fingers crossed!
  8. After some thought, I'm giving the ST102 another chance. I still think this telescope is phenomenal value for money for a 102mm objective (£183 including the AZ3 mount!). If I can make it work for me then it will be money well spent. After all, it's only meant to be a secondary setup for holidays/grab-and-go. So, not to be beaten, I've had another fiddle with the scope. I've managed to nicely square the focus drawtube by tightening the front grub screw (furthest from the eyepiece), and then removed most of the 'rocking' from the focuser by tightening down the rear grub screw just enough. Since these screws weren't tightened at the factory, the friction on the focuser is increased, but it is still reasonably smooth. I then spent quite some time aligning the whole focuser using my Cheshire eyepiece, wiggling the focuser assembly to align the reflected circles and crosshairs as precisely as possible and tightening down the mounting screws until I was satisfied it was as close as I could get it. I actually repeated this procedure several times until I was convinced I couldn't improve it any more. There is still a slight up/down misalignment (possibly an offset rather than a tilt, which can't be corrected), but maybe it is close enough. Finally, I have got hold of a nice 2" dielectric quartz diagonal to replace the cheap 45deg prism. The real test will of course be a night under the stars. I'm hoping the forecast for clear skies on Thursday night comes true, so I can put it through its paces again. If anyone's interested, I'll report back afterwards! Ed
  9. Thanks. Always good to see a picture! I think you're right - a smaller ED scope (70-80mm) would be ideal for holidays. Although I was hankering after more light grasp, the larger scopes will be harder to transport (I still have the SW102 in the house and it won't fit in a small flight case without removing the dew shield, which is jammed on pretty tightly!).
  10. Thanks Alfian, Paul and Mark. I still like the idea of a short-tube refractor, so I will certainly consider a better quality model, maybe even an ED if not too expensive (the Lightwave ones could be in my budget, but are smaller than what I was originally looking for). Any other suggestions for short-tube refractors would be very welcome! Ideally in the 80-100mm range. Ed
  11. Thanks for the advice. I note what you say about the focuser on the 130P. How do you feel about the robustness of the 130P for travel? Is it preferable to separate the mount, or can it be packed well as a single unit? I initially discounted it because I thought I refractor would be more robust and need no adjustment in the field, but having said that I am quite comfortable with collimating a Newtonian (having tweaked my 250PX a few times). I am also attracted by a small Newtonian because of the lack of colour fringing, compared to the CA inherent in the achromatic ST102 refractor. I'll also take a look at the Opticstar frac you mentioned. Thanks.
  12. So I've spent some time over Christmas playing with the ST102 (including one clear night under the stars) and unfortunately I've been disappointed with the build quality of it. Maybe I was expecting too much from such a cheap scope, but issues with the sloppy rack-and-pinion focus tube and poorly aligned focuser assembly have destroyed my confidence in this scope. The sticky grease oozing from the focus rack is horrible, and tightening the focuser tension screws, whilst removing the slop, makes the focuser unacceptably tight. I hear much of this can be remedied by stripping down the focuser, but there's no way I'm going to that trouble on a brand new scope. One of the screws holding the focuser in place was also loose, resulting in misalignment. So, it's going back for a refund in the new year. I know many are happy with these scopes, so maybe I'm just fussy, but this one isn't for me. I'm gutted, as I can't fault my other Skywatcher scope (the 250PX). So it looks like my search for a travel scope continues! Maybe the Heritage 130P would suit me better after all, since I'm happy with my big Dob.
  13. Thanks for the nice report. Glad to hear I wasn't the only one up before dawn this morning!
  14. ...and my Startravel 102T arrived this morning! Already assembled it and briefly testing it with some terrestrial viewing. All feels sturdy and nicely put together. It's a sunny day here, so there's plenty of CA visible in high magnification terrestrial views, but that is to be expected. I'm hoping the clear skies will persist until tonight for a proper astro test, but I don't hold out much hope! Mine came with a 45deg erecting prism (standard with the AZ3 mount). Can anyone suggest a decent star diagonal (preferably 2")? Ideally around the £50 mark, but could go higher if need be.
  15. The BSTs are good for the price. The only one I didn't get along with was the 25mm, which was awful in the 10" f/4.7 Dob. I replaced it with the XCel LX 25mm, which is excellent by comparison. Ed
  16. I've been keen to try some planetary observations in my new 10" Dob, so I decided, optimistically, to set my alarm for 5.30 this morning based on a forecast of clear skies in Devon. I crawled out of bed and peeped between the curtains, to be greeted by a fantastic bright view of Jupiter, Mars and Venus. The excitement of my first chance to see the planets properly was enough to wake me up, so a few minutes later I was dressed, downed an espresso and set up the scope in the garden. I'm not an experienced observer, but I'd still like to document what I saw on here. Light pollution at my site is moderate, and the transparency and seeing were good. Straight away, Jupiter and its moons were a sparkling sight. I was able to make out 4 cloud bands on Jupiter, and some kind of darker mark on the first band north of centre (below centre in the inverted image, if you know what I mean!). As it happened, I had two different 5mm eyepieces to compare here, so I spent a little time swapping between a BST Starguider 5mm and a Celestron X-Cel LX 5mm. Overall they were very similar, but I had an inkling of better definition of the cloud features in the BST, as well as slightly better sharpness as the planet drifted out of the edge of the field of view. I'd been unsure of which eyepiece to keep for a while, but I've settled on the BST now. Not too surprisingly, tracking a planet at high magnification (240x in my case) with a Dobsonian was "fun"! I then turned to Venus and Mars. Venus was a blinding disc about 2/3 full. Mars was a nice pink circle at 240x, but no surface features were discernible. I had heard about comet Catalina, so I tracked it down in Stellarium and used my Telrad finder to eyeball its approximate position. Eventually I located it and observed a smudge with a bright core in the scope. No tail was visible, although I didn't spend a great deal of time observing it and didn't try my lowest magnification. Still, great to bag my first comet! Being my first morning session, it was the first time I was able to get a good view of some areas of the sky, particularly Ursa Major (usually behind my house in the evening). I was keen to tick off some new Messiers, including M81 and M82 (Bode and Cigar Galaxies). I located them easily using the Telrad, and enjoyed a nice view of both objects using my 25mm 60-degree eyepiece. Next, I located the Whirlpool Galaxy (M51). M51 was quite a satisfying sight, despite moderate light pollution. I could just about make out spiral structure, although I feel I really need to go to a darker site to appreciate it. All in all, a very productive morning!
  17. Great scope you have there. I got mine recently and I love it (apart from the weight!). You've had good advice so far. Mine came with adapter tubes for 2" and 1.25" eyepieces. The 1.25" tube has to be inserted before you can use the supplied eyepieces. Tighten it with the two thumbscrews. You have already discovered the focuser locking knob I think! Just take things slowly and don't panic! These scopes are quite simple and robust, so there's not much to go wrong really! Have fun with it.
  18. The AZ4 does indeed look good. I'll see how I get on with the bundled AZ3 before I think about upgrading though!
  19. LOL... I know I said I'd wait til the spring, but I couldn't help myself and just ordered the ST102 on AZ3 mount! Looking forward to some nice wide field views!
  20. I think I've decided on the Startravel 102, but I'm kind of tempted by the little Startravel 80 too - it's so cute! ;-)
  21. Good input, everyone - thanks! Does anyone know whether the dew shield is easily removable on the Startravel series? I'm just thinking about the overall length of the scope for transportation. The Evostar 80ED looks nice too, but really it's out of my budget!
  22. Thanks, I'm leaning towards the short tube refractor option at the moment. I can't justify an APO for occasional use, so CA is something I'm going to have to live with. Hopefully for star fields and deep sky CA won't be an issue anyway.
  23. Thanks for the input so far. The Vixen Porta 2 does look like a good option for a mount. For legs, I already have a heavy Manfrotto photo tripod which I could press into service. Having said that, the Skywatcher AZ GoTo mounts also look quite attractive, and an absolute bargain when bundled with a scope. Good point about the 15x70 binoculars. Perhaps I'll give that some thought too. Ed
  24. I recently bought a Skywatcher 10" Dob, which I am very pleased with as my first telescope. However, it's obviously large and heavy and I've come to the realisation that I will need to complement it with a smaller scope for travel (mainly caravan/camping holidays) and grab-and-go use. I anticipate it will be for use in good dark sky locations, so I'm mainly going to be targeting DSO's (planetary stuff I can do from my slightly light-polluted back garden!). I'm willing to sacrifice aperture in favour of portability (hoping dark skies will compensate), so I'm looking for something in the 3"-5" range. I need to be able to transport and store the scope alongside family holiday paraphenalia, so I would prefer a short tube (I'm thinking around 60cm tube length?) and simple alt-az or Dobson mount. I have been considering three options: 1) A short tube refractor, such as SW Startravel 102 or 120 2) A small Maksutov, e.g. SW Skymax 102 or 127 3) A mini Dobsonian, e.g. SW Heritage 100P/130P Any thoughts on these options for my intended use? The size of the Mak is attractive, but I fear the long focal length might be too much for larger DSOs. The "low maintenance" aspect of the refractor appeals to me, but do the Startravel range perform well? The mini-Dobs look neat, but how easy are they to pack away and transport? I won't be buying until the Spring at the earliest, but with the cloudy winter evenings I'm already thinking ahead and want to make the right choice! Ed
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