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  1. I just bought a used Celestron 8 SE (got a great deal) and when I first looked at Saturn with it, it was blurry and there was even a double image. That's probably why the previous owners were able to part with the scope. I tried daytime collimation following this procedure: http://www.mira.org/ascc/pages/lectures/collim.htm But it did not work for me. Tonight I looked at Saturn again and it was still blurry (perhaps slightly better than before). So pointed at Antares, switched to my high power 7mm lens (286x power), brought it out of focus, and noticed the concentric rings were not circular (tell tale sign, of course, of poor collimation). I used my little screw driver to tweak the 3 screws in the center obstruction, and after a little trial and error, my rings were circular. It really wasn't very difficult at all and probably took me about 15 minutes. Many of you know more than I do about collimation, but in case someone is interested in trying this for the first time on their scope, I have some advice: -- turn on tracking so your target star stays centered in the field of view -- make tiny adjustments and then check your progress -- make adjustments symmetrically (i.e., if you are adjusting in the up-down axis and loosen the bottom screw, then tighten the top screw slightly too) -- use your red flashlight and move slowly and deliberately (you don't want to accidentally poke your screw driver somewhere it shouldn't go) -- the seeing does't have to be perfect (it wasn't for me tonight) Once I finished collimating my 8 SE, I set up my 127 SLT (which I am trying to sell) and pointed both scopes at Saturn. The collimation worked and the 8 SE was in sharp focus! The 127 SLT does amazingly well at showing Saturn despite its 5" aperture, but the view in the 8SE was clearly superior. I could see more detail in the cloud belts, could see 4 moons instead of just 2, and also make out the border between the B and C rings. Vibrations in the 8 SE, caused for example by adjusting the focus knob, are still suboptimal but clearly better dampened than they are in the 127 SLT. As for portability, I can carry the 127 SLT back into my house with one hand. You can't beat that in portability! While it does take me two hands to move the 8 SE, it's not heavy. There's no need to separate the mount from the optical tube. I plan just carry the whole thing in and out of the house when I want to observe. So my three takeaways tonight are that collimation isn't difficult, the 127 SLT is a very nice scope for the money, and lastly that I will enjoy the even better 8 SE immensely.
  2. I bought a NexStar 127 SLT back in April and I've really loved using it and getting back into astronomy. Like most people, I live in light polluted skies, so I needed something portable to bring to darker skies, and the 127 SLT is very easy to transport and set up. I've gotten good views of planets, moon, and the Ring and Dumbbelll Nebulae (among other DSOs) with it. But when I look at the great images posted here and elsewhere, I've come to the conclusion that I want more aperture! I was going to wait a while to upgrade, but I've found a used Celestron 8 SE for sale for $640 (US) and might buy it very soon. With roughly 2.6x more light gathering power, I think I will be content for quite a while. My interest is 80% visual, with perhaps 20% for basic imaging of planets and perhaps a brighter DSO now and then. I realize that the 8 SE (with its AZ mount) isn't well suited for AP, but I think it will suffice for a decent image now and then. It seems like it will be fairly portable too. So is the 8 SE a good upgrade from a 5" Mak and will cure my aperture fever? Or will I get the 8 SE and then start pining for a 11" SCT?
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