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Found 21 results

  1. I’ve been starting to think about my next scope, and knowing that order lead times are quite long at the moment, I’ve been spurred into writing by the pre-midnight appearance of Jupiter and Saturn. I’m hoping for some wise input to break me out of analysis paralysis. Here are my thoughts so far. Please feel free to rebut/add anything at all (but you might want to note my PS). Thanks in advance. Context: I’ve had a "budget" (but quite decent) 70mm F/10 refractor on a GEM for a while now, and recently have started to take observing more seriously, learned my way around a bit, and started to run up against aperture limits. My partner is also interested, but not so keen on spending long hours in the cold watching me failing to find stuff. We already have Telrad, barlow and a few extra EPs. Location: most observation is likely to be from the back garden, which ClearOutside declares to be Bortle 4 (I would say slightly generous, some nearby lighting) but we have darker skies within a 15 minute drive that we would like to take advantage of with the next scope. Likely Targets: equally interested in solar system, DSOs and doubles, so not much help on the decision there I'm afraid. Might be interested in spectroscopy at some point, but not a deal breaker. Not really keen on solar. Imaging: we are both interested to get into this “at some point” but I have taken on board the message that visual and imaging often send you down different paths, and we have agreed that we will prioritize visual for a few seasons, and consider buying further kit later if we do decide to do imaging. It might be a bit nuanced now with decisions like mounts, but ideally we would prefer to spend only what we need for visual work now, rather than going for a higher spec that would also support photography at some unknown point in the future. Budget: not particularly constrained, but ideally looking to spend no more than £600. Aperture: I know some have said good things about some 130mm scopes elsewhere, but I feel anything less than 150mm doesn’t seem enough of a step up from the current scope (and also possibly because Patrick Moore always said six inches was the minimum size for a beginner! ). I even considered a 200mm but decided against on portability (and on the heights of some of the prospective observers! ). OTA: looking to a Newt for bang/buck. There is so much choice that I’ve only been looking at Skywatcher models so far – not because I’ve already decided they’re best, but they seem to be a decent quality/price point for us and then I’ll have something to compare with if people suggest alternative ranges. So in the 150mm arena I've been looking at the Explorer 150P (F/5) and 150PL (F/8). Obviously if we were going to do imaging we’d opt for the shorter model, but for visual the F/8 is quite appealing to me with its 1200mm focal length – better contrast and magnification, more forgiving in various respects (eyepiece design, collimation, …) We’re probably not looking to spend more than £50ish per eyepiece, and may need two or three more yet, so that favours the PL. On the con side, we are obviously sacrificing some TFOV compared with the F/5, and it’s physically longer. I'm thinking a wide-field 32mm will span most DSOs with the PL. The 150P comes with a 2” Crayford focuser, the PL has a rack-and-pinion, I’ve read pros and cons for both? We’re unlikely to make use of 2” ultra-wide field EPs. Both scopes have parabolic mirrors, which I like, and I've read good things about the durability of the coatings. The PL seems to have attracted some good feedback in these pages. Mount: Getting tricky now. But GoTo (or at least PushTo) is an absolute must, because there will be one or more observers who will be wanting fast location (and even I will probably lose the will to live if I have to star hop too much). I have seen good things written about the Skywatcher AZ GTi (and it’s a keen price), but I’m advised that it’s not too stable with anything larger than a 130mm instrument. So if I went for the F/8 150 Newt, then in the Skywatcher range we’re looking at, minimum an EQ3 pro, possibly an EQ5 pro (I’m quite comfortable with equatorials). Is it worth the extra £160 for the EQ5? Would we only see any benefit in the future for imaging, or will a 1200mm tube behave better now on an EQ5 anyway? One other factor: noise. Small back garden, so motors must be quiet, and need to be able to slip and slew by hand without the GoTo losing its fix. So, where I am at the moment: For the sake of convenience, I’m still framing this in terms of the Skywatcher range (in the absence of some revelation of a better value offering elsewhere). I seem to have convinced myself of the following: - Newtonian - 150mm - GoTo (probably on an EQ mount ) - Skywatcher are a brand to beat But still undecided on the focal length. I’ve found one or two “150P vs 150PL” discussions on these forums that are interesting but haven’t been conclusive for me, mainly because I have no preference on planetary vs DSO. I think more of a factor for me on the longer focal length is just the effect on stability, and the impact of that on the mount decision. We could live with the PL on an EQ3 if it were steady enough for regular visual, even knowing that we wouldn't use the mount subsequently for photography, or even for upgrading to a 200mm for visual only. Is it just a question of living with a bit longer wait for the image to settle after focusing, for example? That wouldn't be a problem. But if an EQ3 is only marginally capable handling the 150PL, that would push us into considering either the 150P on EQ3 or 150PL on EQ5. So as I said, a bit deadlocked at the moment. If anyone can chip in with any thoughts that sway it one way or another (or unpick it and take it in some other direction), I’d be very grateful! (PS Yes, I know I’ve not mentioned Dobs. Yes, I have considered them, but as I mentioned, it’s important to me that we have a scope that finds and tracks objects. While I’m sure you can make a Dob do that, I don’t think that’s its raison d’être. Please don’t be offended, Dob lovers).
  2. Forgot to post the final version of this one. Please with the detail.
  3. rjc404

    Jupiter 2014 11 01 Gif

    From the album: Planets

    10 runs put together for a short animation from 11 January 2014

    © Rob Carlton

  4. Afternoon all, I have set my sights on this OTA, as I think it is a good compromise between aperture and focal length. What I am struggling to find is some good reviews from people who have actually owned and used this scope themselves! So - any of you peeps had this scope now / in the past? What are your thoughts, and are there any issues / problems I should know about? It will be mounted on an EQ3-2 for the time being. I hope to have saved up enough by next summer to get a more substantial mount! Thanks in advance Nige
  5. I finally got a decent image of M1, last year all I managed was a blurry fawn blob that looked like something out of the pocket of a duffelcoat.
  6. Hardly had time to use my telescope since moving house but finally managed to get out for a very quick look up at the moon and about 20 minutes of trying to get a decent picture in between fireworks. Here's my best effort from tonight.
  7. In between Jupiter I gave the moon another go last Saturday. Haven't really done a lot of moon work. Mine's not in the same league as some of the other's on here - those big mosaics must take ages! Anyway here's the moon from the 11 Jan in the day from Stratford-Upon-Avon whilst I was out for a walk with my superzoom bridge camera. At night And my first close up attempt Rob
  8. Here's one of my efforts from 11th January as seeing was really good compared to what I've seen over the last few months. Still trying to figure out planetary photography and this is just one of 20 runs (still got loads to process! Plus more to come if I get time). I think my focus was a bit better on this one as I managed to get really sharp on the moon and it's craters before moving back to Jupiter. This one was taken through a Philips Toucam in a standard Skywatcher 2x barlow attached to my 150PL at 30FPS, full gain. If anyone has any ideas on a better barlow for my scope that would get better results let me know (2x, 3x, 5x?) Thanks for looking, Rob
  9. 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!! Cheers Nige in Derby
  10. From the album: Planets

    Final reprocess of my 11 Jan runs

    © Rob Carlton

  11. From the album: Learning to use my kit

    This is the first test run of my finder guider set up on my Skywatcher 150PL and EQ3/2 Pro. About an hour and a quarters worth of exposures at ISO1600 (just thought I'd try the higher ISO) with flats. darks and bias. About 30 minutes of 5 minute subs, the rest made up of 3 minutes and 1 minute subs. It seems less noisy than my other M31 unguided attempt. Hopefully the images will get a bit better as I get use to the guiding system.

    © Rob Carlton

  12. Right I was out the other night and after all these years I got so annoyed with the wobbly slack focuser on the SW Explorer 150PL that I really wanted to snap it off and throw it over the wall. This got me thinking, I do love the 150PL and I've done a lot to it like flocking, Bob's knobs and blacking the edges of the secondary and I'd like to keep it but that brings a few thoughts up. Should I just bite the bullet and find a new focuser? I do try to do something a few years ago and got a TS baseplate but ran out of funds before I got an actual focuser. Or do I just go "meh" and just get an upgrade OTA? I wouldn't mind imaging quite seriously in the future which is another bundle of questions but the dismal focuser stands in the way.
  13. I think I am happy with this one.
  14. From the album: Moon

    A final reprocess of a raw image I took of the moon on the 11 Jan. Maybe over-processed but this was the best image from about 50 raw shots taken on burst mode on my DSLR attached my scope.

    © Rob Carlton

  15. From the album: Planets

    Latest go at our favorite gas giant. Taken through a 2x barlow attached to my Toucam at full gain.

    © Rob Carlton

  16. rjc404

    Moon 2014 03 07 19:56

    From the album: Moon

    One processed raw image of the moon from 7 March. Single shot at ISO 100 1/60 second.

    © Rob Carlton

  17. Skywatcher 150/1200 f8 planetary Newtonian. Bought this originally intending to set up a planetary rig but circumstances call for sale. Will come with eyepieces and a collimation eyepiece. Not used by myself and has seen very little use. Mirrors in good condition Collection only £50
  18. This is the result of my first go at using 16-bit RAW mode instead of 8 on the ASI 120MC, with a 3X barlow on my 150PL, then resampled 2x. I realise this is actually just 12 bits, it also limits the capture rate to about 15 fps on my awful lappie (I was using full screen resolution, but I think I may have the confidence to crop in future). Seeing was very steady, bahtinov mask said focus was dead on. This was the first 60-second capture, put through PIPP, AS!2 and Registax. Though I say it myself, I think this is getting close to the limit for what the 150PL can deliver, such a shame that no Red Spot and the quadruple moon and shadow transit will be after Jupiter sets :-(
  19. Here's a shot of the moon I grabbed today. Turned on my mount and the handset date read that it's two months since I've last been out so roll on spring and some better weather! Anyhow, this one was taken at ISO 100 at 1/60 of a second with my Canon 700d on a 150PL.
  20. After the debacle of my only Newtonian telescope (a Celestron Astromaster 130EQM), I've tended to favour refractors and currently enjoy using my Starwatcher Startravel 120 refractor (and my two other smaller 70mm fracs too). However, I am thinking now of perhaps going left field a little and getting a Newtonian OTA to use for planetary & lunar work, and am looking currently at the Starwatcher Explorer 150PL OTA. The 1200mm focul length of this scope will double the power of all my EP's in the new scope as against when used in my ST120 frac. Plus the extra light gathering of the 150mm mirror should come in handy too. For space reasons I don't want to go any lager than this really, or get into dobsonian telescopes at all. So I guess my query first off will be would the new scope give me better views than my current ST120 frac? I realise that seeing comes into play here, but on an average UK kind of night where seeing is around 3, and pushing up to 4 occasionally, will the view through this telescope be better, crisper, sharper than through my ST120 frac after the Newtonian has fully cooled down of course when for example using approximately the same power in each scope? As I would want to use this for planetary & lunar observations then I would be looking to try to get around x150 at least on a average night, and when seeing allowed push it up to perhaps x200 if possible. Any feedback from anyone who has/had a 150PL would be appreciated, plus any other thoughts on this potential OTA upgrade from other SGL members is as always very welcome. Cheers! Gus
  21. Seeing as I had plenty of DSLR subs of M57 at along f/l of 1200mm I though I would have a go at drizzling the data at x2. It was also a chance to see how Astra Image 5 performs. I thought I got better colour from the undrizzled data so the colour layer is simply resampled x2.
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