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Hi from N Yorkshire and Austria.


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Hi! So as I write I am the newest and the greenest.

I am older rather than younger so have less time than many. At the start of my career I worked on Saturn V and the Apollo 9 launch, and met von Braun. Yes we were going to the moon, but that was easy to find.

The night sky has always fascinated me but with a wife indoors it never seemed quite fair to be out more than occasionally; meteors, spacecraft, aurora etc. . Soon I will be on my own, so can do what I wish with my time. I have a few questions so will lay them out here, but first I have been researching on/off for a year or so now. I have also read the 'Essential Reading article'.

1. Dark sky. Is the main problem the total amount of light beneath the sky (a city), or the light immediately surrounding the place of observation. I ask this because I have two places to view from. Either N Yorkshire, where my house stands quite alone and I control the light, but the sky glows from Teeside and Harrogate etc., or alternatively, 3000' up a mountain in Austria. Austria is the location where I will have the most time. While there is a small town locally, the sky is pretty dark but there are some lights I just cant control in the immediate vicinity of the location from which I wish to observe. Once you say put the 'scope in the car its use will fall dramatically. I would like to know if you think that is essential because it might cause me to go no further.

2. Because I have less time ahead I will soon buy a 'scope and would rather spend a bit more rather than less so I dont have to buy again 18mos or so later. So " ...which one ?" is my question. My research leads me to the Nexstar 5, or possibly 6. The GOTO will help me through the long apprenticeship which I am too old to start now. Is this 'scope a mistake? Is there something else I should be looking at?

3. Once I have bought it how much maint. does such a scope need? Who would typically do this? Can I learn to do it since I will be pretty much on my own. I am an engineer so not frightened if I have GOOD instructions.

Thanks in anticipation.

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Hi Retross,

Welcome to your late start in Astronomy, although you say you worked on Saturn V, so I guess as an Engineer. How exciting to be involved in that.

In answer to your first question, it is light pollution that is the worst offender. Stray local light can often be blocked out. So 3000 up a mountain sounds the best bet to me.

If you're only wanting to do observing (not imaging), then a good GOTO like the ones you suggest would be fine. If you think you might want to venture into imaging then it's a whole different ball game (and a whole lot of money too). You might be able to image Moon and planets from the Nexstar 5 as they do not require long exposure.

Having a dark sky will enable you to see more faint objects than you would from a light polluted sky (near a city).

Hope this helps.


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In terms of kit, I suppose the rule of 'more aperture' is preferable. It really depends what you are wanting to look at as there isn't the perfect scope that does it all. As you won't be travelling with the scope and it will only be moved a short distant to start your viewing, collimation (ensuring all mirrors are aligned) will clearly be kept to a minimum. Clearly at some point (hopefully not the first time you take it out of the box) the scope will benefit from a small adjustment but its not rocket science (sorry, I couldn't resist :D) to complete this task.

Clear skies and look forward to reading up on how you're getting along.


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Hi Retross and welcome to SGL :D

The Nexstar SE's are schmitt cassegraine scopes with long focal length and high f-ratios. Very nice for viewing imaging planets. Personally I don't like the single fork arm design - prefer two fork design for stability. But the optics and tracking are spot on with these scopes.

You can look at all objects with all scopes - but some are better than others with specific object types. For deep sky objects I prefer large aperture newtonians on a dobson mount (alt/az). They gather more light and with good quality eye pieces deliver smashing views.

Refractors I'd need more experience to comment on them, but for location - the best one will be the darkest one - but you seem to have a great choice of two very good locations. :)

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Hi Retross and a warm welcome to SGL - sounds like you've had an interesting past - perhaps sometime you could tell us about it?

With reference to maintenance, the Celestron 5SE (is that the one you were thinking of?) is a Schmidt-Cassegrain and will need very little maintenance, they hold collumnation well and apart from batteries for the goto (sensible to invest in a power pack) you shouldn't need to do much with it,

Good luck

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Hi retross

Welcome to SGL.

What a great experience to have worked on the Appollo project.

Have you considered a small refractor such as I use. William Optics have a good range as do Skywatcher among others. With a refractor there is no collimation to worry about and if you chat to someone like Ian King or FLO you can match your scope to a suitable Goto mount .

From 3000' in low light pollution the wide fields of view of a fast refractor should be spectacular.

Good luck

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Hi Retross and welcome to SGL, your intro, if I may say so, seems to have a tinge of sadness in it, when you talk of what time you have left and when you are on your own, I am well over the hill as they say and my enthusiasm and interest has never wained over the years, I do not look upon what time I have left but more to enjoy each clear night as they come along and each rewarding new site I come across, I wish you well for the future and may you enjoy your Astronomy :D


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What a very warm welcome. Thank you. Let me pick up on a couple of points.

  • While I dont have a telescope of any significance, over the years I have seen the basics of the moon and our local planets, Jupiter’s moons etc on various borrowed equipment. So while I look forward to getting to them in much more detail I do want to explore rather further afield, overtake Voyager, and look at what I dont know anything about. The Newtonian/Dobsonian suggestion is therefore interesting because I should be able to get a bigger aperture, but I am struggling to find something also with ’goto’, recommended, and at the same time stay within a somewhat arbitrary budget of £750 ish. (It seems quite a lot for a first ‘scope.) Any specific suggestions would be very welcome. Also, would it be too complex to use for a beginner?
  • Perhaps I have misunderstood, but I have largely counted refractors out because anything within my budget will fall down on aperture size?
  • I have no need to take pictures. It can all live in my head.
  • A couple of you have asked for more details on my work on Saturn / Apollo. Sorry to go off topic. I was lucky in that as a new engineering graduate I was also able to program a computer in a scientific/engineering language. Unusual in those days. I worked for a NASA contractor who had the biggest shakers in the world. Basically we sat the top ⅔ of a Saturn V on them in the rather large hangar ‘out back’, complete with the LEM and shook it to see what resonated (Like a window rattles when a noisy plane goes over.). I, a more senior physicist, and a CDC3300 computer were teamed up to do a digital simulation of the whole caboodle, to predict where the problem was in the design. (They new it would fall to bits as it was on the way up. Lot of stray energy in the back end of a Saturn V! Not good for manned flight therefore.) So Jim made the model, I turned it into code and the computer said where the problem would be. The other 600 people shook the rocket for real. It turned out that digital simulation worked, and our solution was also their solution. It made the Apollo 9 launch (first Saturn V + LEM) possible. The best bit was when the LEM arrived from the W Coast, to stick on the top, and head of research came to me to say one employee had been chosen to go inside. As the youngest professional, it was me. (One giant step for RetroSS!) Von Braun came every Monday to review progress. Interesting days! Did some other things as well, but relatively boring.
  • I will look out for members close by, but Yorkshire is huge. Every time I drive to just beyond Bristol I marvel that a third of the total journey is inside some kind of Yorkshire. I’m from Zomerzet myself. If anyone from near Northallerton is reading I would appreciate a chat and a squint through your kit one night.
  • A tinge of sadness? Thanks Glowjet. Yes its tough times. That was very sensitive of you. The rest of my life is about to start, but lets not dwell on that here.

Thanks again for the welcome and ideas.

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