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Solar retail therapy options.


JB80
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Just want to run a couple of ideas up the flag pole in case I will need a bit of retail therapy in the near future so I can go into any purchase prepared and maybe even informed. :D

I may of even asked this before but since then there is a new comer on the market(Quark).

Now I have 3 ideas in my head, buy a refractor for a Quark/WL wedge, a stand alone solar scope or an SCT for WL close ups but the one that is bugging me is the Quark.

It's not so much the Quark itself but the refractor requirement, I know [removed word] all about refractors and having a browse this morning hasn't exactly helped.

I mean there is so much choice and variation I don't know where to start, you have apo's and achro's, ED's, ED pros, doublets, triplets, long tubes, short tubes, small/medium/large aperture, price varies greatly and I'm sure there is a whole lot more to consider.

My idea is to get a refractor and I can use it as a WL and Ha imaging scope using a wedge and Quark. Sounds easy enough but I have a couple of questions.

Firstly what is the significance of all the different makes and models when it comes to solar imaging, is it more crucial or less crucial to have the best scope around and what are the qualities to avoid in scope choice?

I can probably get an basic evostar 150 for 500 quid or a startravel for a bit more but then you go up in price range to the ED pro's etc and your talking much more cash, is it worth paying more for better quality(I'm guessing yes) when it comes to solar?

What are the reasons I would be disappointed with the cheaper scopes?

I'm working on the idea that my budget will be around 2,000 euros all in and that would include the Quark so it would leave me with a budget of around 1000 EU for a refractor.

Unless of course I decided to get the wedge first and that would free up a few hundred more, could that few hundred make such a big difference it's worth going this route?

Will sacrificing 150mm for 120mm or 90mm make a great deal of difference too?

Like I said I really know nowt about fracs and definitely need a push in the right direction here.

Option 2 was a dedicated solar scope and if I apply the same type of budget there was more choice than I was expecting.

Firstly the Coranado Solarmaxs, what is the difference between the 5,10 and 15 blocking filter versions?

And are the SolarmaxII just the same but double stacked?

Then of course are the Lunt 60s, I presume the difference between to B600 and B1200 is similar to the Coronado models.

If I'm honest if I went this route I would be leaning towards one of the Lunts but I wonder how much better it would be than my stage 1 mod.

So I guess mainly I'm looking for refractor advice so I ask what would you do given the budget, what have you got that worked or did not work or what do you wish to get etc... really I'm clueless so any advice is welcomed.

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Not going to be much offer of help to your question here but I see from your sig you already have a PST stage 1. Would you not be better off going bigger on that ?? I mean you must be half way there already. Maybe go up to 120mm with a stage 2 then go as big as you can on the blocking filter????

Just my 2p

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Not going to be much offer of help to your question here but I see from your sig you already have a PST stage 1. Would you not be better off going bigger on that ?? I mean you must be half way there already. Maybe go up to 120mm with a stage 2 then go as big as you can on the blocking filter????

Just my 2p

That is a good point and I was thinking that a while ago, I would have to get my head around all the costs and again.

I guess one reason I would shy away from a new solar scope is I already have the Stage 1 mod, but I think the other options would compliment that more as opposed to competing with it.

Edited by JB80
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My most used Ha telescope is a 127mm F1200mm stage 2 PST mod with a BF15, the performance leaves me wanting no other alternative for visual observation. The configuration of the PST etalon vignets the aperture to 120mm, more than adequate for most seeing conditions. The larger BF's increase the field of view at the eyepiece but do not increase the sweet spot, however at higher powers the field of view matches the sweet spot so it's not much of an issue. For photographic use a quality short focus refractor plus Quark could be a useful addition. If just visual, then I would recommend upgrading your current mod.   :smiley:  

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I have never used my pst mod a stage one but could do.it had the option of one and two and have never wanted to use the one a the two is amazing. It is based on a Tal 100 and I use the post bf which screws into a revelation 1.25 diagonal. I have no urge to increase this although a bf10 in the future would be nice but not 100% convinced it is needed for visual. It's a fair old spend.

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My most used Ha telescope is a 127mm F1200mm stage 2 PST mod with a BF15, the performance leaves me wanting no other alternative for visual observation. The configuration of the PST etalon vignets the aperture to 120mm, more than adequate for most seeing conditions. The larger BF's increase the field of view at the eyepiece but do not increase the sweet spot, however at higher powers the field of view matches the sweet spot so it's not much of an issue. For photographic use a quality short focus refractor plus Quark could be a useful addition. If just visual, then I would recommend upgrading your current mod.   :smiley:  

I have always wanted to do the stage 2 but I think I can hold off on it for a bit. Thanks for the BF info too.

Definitely the main use for any of the gear I mentioned will be photographic and occasionally visual but in general I observe via the laptop screen.

But lets say I have a choice between these to use with a Quark or Herschel wedge...

http://www.teleskop-express.de/shop/product_info.php/info/p4652_TS-ED-110mm-f-7-APO--refractor-telescope-with-3--Crayford-focuser.html

http://www.teleskop-express.de/shop/product_info.php/info/p3685_EVOSTAR-120-ED---APO-120-900mm---optical-Tube.html

Is there really a huge gap in class say from one of these specifically for white light and Ha use....

http://www.teleskop-express.de/shop/product_info.php/info/p3309_Skywatcher-Evostar-120-OTA---Refractor-120-1000mm-optical-tube.html

Which has more aperture and is much cheaper. I guess getting one of these would give me room to fit both Quark and wedge but frankly if my images will be better with the apos then that is the most important factor .

That is what it will come down to if I'm honest.

I have never used my pst mod a stage one but could do.it had the option of one

and two and have never wanted to use the one a the two is amazing. It is based

on a Tal 100 and I use the post bf which screws into a revelation 1.25 diagonal.

I have no urge to increase this although a bf10 in the future would be nice but

not 100% convinced it is needed for visual. It's a fair old

spend.          

I can understand that, what BF do you use now?

My thinking though behind this is to add a new element to my kit and upgrading the PST isn't really doing that, it'd be nice though.

Edited by JB80
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As Peter says - the larger the number on the blocking filter the larger the field of view. As a rule of thumb the prime focus image of the sun is the size of the scope's focal length/100. For example, a PST has 400mm focal length, so a BF5, with a 5mm aperture, is sufficient because the prime focus image is ~4mm. If you've got a stage 1 PST mod you'll realise that the field of view is limited - that's the blocking filter limiting it.

Coronado BF numbers reflect the clear aperture in millimetres, so BF10 = 10mm, BF15 = 15mm etc. I think the Lunt BF600s are 6mm, 1200s are 12mm etc. Various people have done stage 2 mods with Lunt BFs, which are generally more available.

If you need to do some imaging you're better to get the next blocking filter up, so if you're scope's 900mm you'd want a BF10 for visual or BF15 for imaging. The reason for the difference is that for imaging you want your camera at prime focus so your BF goes further up the light cone and therefore needs to be wider in aperture so it doesn't cut off the light cone at the fringes.

As for scopes, I've done a stage 1 PST mod and currently have an old "made in the USA" Solarmax, which is lovely. For high resolution you definitely want long focal length. The stand-alone scopes still have a place for full disc and grab & go work though. I wouldn't be without mine.

My understanding is that scopes with internal etalons generally have sweet spots but I'd be interested to hear others' experiences on the issue.

If I was after a new scope Coronado wouldn't get a look in. I recently got a new BF10 and though it's fine to use I had to cut away some excess glue before using it. Also, the stock Coronado focusers are very poor.

Lunts or Quarks (or a Solarscope if you have the means) are definitely where it's at.  You can't really go wrong.

Keep us posted when you do finally decide!

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Jarrod,

As you know, I'm not an imager, so obviously what I write won't pertain to your post but I feel another voice may help your enquiry. 

Achromats always have some chromatic aberation, even at f/10. It's a subjective experience to discern whether CA bothers one or not, and I have no idea if you can cut it out when imaging, but visually speaking, the aesthetic experience of my 3" APO at night or in the day time with the Herschel wedge is significantly more pleasing than with my 4" Achro.

Side by side comparisons on Jupiter, M 42, the Moon and Sun have indicated that I can tweak just a little more from the APO. Not only that, but the image is tidier, crisper, sharper, more contrasty and there is no CA. Indeed, CA does seem to reduce both sharpness and contrast in planetary and lunar viewing, and all other things being equal, I wonder if it is doing the same when I view the Sun in white light? The APO also has better mechanics, focusser, a more solid feel about it and better optics. 

Obviously you're paying for this and I really don't know if it is worth the extra expense when it comes to imaging and the filters and the editing techniques you can apply after the images have been taken, but visually speaking, the upgrade is worth it in my opinion.  

The other thing I've found as a visual observer is that within reason, aperture is nice to have. I've never really used such intruments but I'm sure a 40mm PST resolves a little less than a 60mm H-alpha scope, and the latter will show a little less than a 90mm. If that is so, then in terms of a visual experience, something like a 80mm APO with a Quark eyepiece-filter, ought to resolve more than a 50mm or 60mm Lunt and if you stick that Quark into a 120mm frac, you should be able to resolve even more. Of course, the Quark will have its problems (4.3x Barlow, 1mm exit pupil, more fiddling, cables, limited full Sun image), but in terms of resolvability, the Quark ought to do better.

I guess much comes down to cost, but in terms of starting from scratch, I wonder how much difference in price there is between a typical PST/frac mod, an 80mm APO and Quark, or Lunt 60mm BF1200 (and perhaps the need to upgrade on the focusser).

Final point, from my inexperienced eye and just enjoying the view, images I've seen here from all three set ups have been outstanding.

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Thanks guys for your replies!

Hunterknox, that's an excellent description. Helps quite a bit.

Now if I had the go ahead to spend that much I'd probably get one of these(scroll down past the Quark).

http://skylight-telescopes.com/?page_id=149

http://www.daystarfilters.com/Skylight100.shtml

Rob, thanks for that. You confirmed what I was thinking re achros and apos it's just I wasn't sure if the same issues affected them for solar, I have read that CA doesn't matter when Ha is concerned as it's narrowband but how much truth is in that I really don't know. The fact though that you say it's a noticeable difference visually likely means it will be present when imaging too.

I guess unless anyone has other ideas I can put the achros aside, as you say though that's what I am trying to work out if it is or isn't worth the extra expense.

That still leaves me with a decision for an apo though, I have seen that f7 seems to be about the sweet spot with a Quark and I can't imagine that would be a bad thing for a herschel wedge. There are still questions  though, a triplet with less aperture? A doublet with more?

Spend maybe 1500 on a scope instead of 1000 and hold off on the Quark for a while?

Ahhh my head is starting to spin. This is what happens when it's too windy to get out. :D

After thinking about it for a bit I think I have ruled out a stand alone solar scope and upping the mod on the pst purely because it will be too samey to what I already have.

Out of curiosity Rob have you come across any Spanish forums with a classifieds or a better place to look for astro stuff secondhand yet?

Milanuncios and Segundamano are not really worth the effort.

Edited by JB80
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Some great questions, Jarrod, very few of which I know the answers to! :D

As you are already some way down the PST mod route, it would make sense to me for you to carry on down that path unless you see a good reason to change direction? PST modding is a non-starter for me due to my lack of mod skills (two fails on DSLR mods - I am leaving solar modding well alone!!)

If it was me, for visual I would buy Quark and Skywatcher Evostar 100ED (I have this scope, a cracker with the Quark for visual), for imaging, probably Quark and Skywatcher Evostar 120ED (I have its twin brother, the Equinox 120, but I am not that blown away by the Equinox's focuser and upgraded it anyway, so question whether it was worth the extra... and I like the idea of the ligher Evo version with same optics).

For h-alpha and white light, I am very happy at 100mm plus. Of course lower is fab too, I actually use a 60mm the most as that's my very compact grab and go, but for detail on solar, aperture is king, and I like the richness of detail that is resolved at around the 100mm mark.

Visually, I far prefer using the Quark with my ED100 than with my Tele Vue 85, because of the higher level of detail. I find the jump from 85 to 100 sweeter than the jump from 100 to 120.

I love using the 100 for visual because it's less of a handful than the 120 to use on my giro mount, and to my eyes it holds its own reasonably well against the 120 (ditto white light - the 120 wins for white light visually if I want to really push the mag).

Not sure about h-alpha, but optical quality seems to help for solar white light. I have an ED66 (Telescope House) that is better optically than my ED80 (Celestron Onyx). The 66 beats the 80 on white light despite having less aperture, with crisper view by some margin. I wouldn't have thought you would need a top-end triplet, though.

Some things I like about the Quark:

I like being able to use it in different fracs. I regularly use it with 60, 85, 100 and 120mm scopes. The 60 is my grab and go, the 100 I use from home for my longer observing sessions on the lovely giro mount (on the brill Vixel Hal 130 tripod), the 120 I love to use for imaging at home, and the 85 I use as a dropdown for imaging if the 120 is struggling with poorer seeing, or also I will use the 85 if it's for a shorter imaging session at home. My 120 seems to need a little time to "get going", especially over winter it seems. I don't know why but wonder if it's something like it needs to warm up?? The 85 is soon up to speed it seems, first or second shots are normally fine to process. And if I am not sure what the seeing is like, the 85 seems like a good compromise if I haven't got time to mess around switching fracs.

I like that the Quark means my fracs get a lot of use. I use them for lunar and planets, and sometimes DSO too, but the Quark makes sure no dust settles on them :laugh:

I like that I can use same scope for white light and h-alpha, letting me travel lighter or meaning I can cover the scope after doing h-alpha, keep it on the mount, and swap over to the Herschel wedge.

I like that my regular fracs have good focusers, The helical on the SolarMax 60 is a weak point, with backlash. It works, but I appreciate using a better focuser. My Tele Vue 60 is ligher and more compact than the SolarMax 60, and for hols I like that the Tele Vue 60 does not draw attention to itself. The SM60, I will leave for you to decide if a chunky 60mm gold scope blends into the background :grin:

As an imaging scope I am very happy with Equinox 120mm. I use a 0.5x reducer and I could try to push things more. On my setup there seemed to be Newton's rings at prime focus, but 0.8x seemed fine - but I am happy with 0.5x anyway generally. Maybe I'll try 0.8x again when the sun is higher and conditions hopefully a bit better.

I'm not the sort of person who has the patience for something like imaging planets with a huge SCT and chasing the best seeing. I'd rather have a compromise, where I don't push as hard and go for slightly lower hanging fruit that I still find tasty. That's why for lunar I won't get something bigger than my 8 inch SCT. I find the detail enough to keep me amused, and it's not pushing things too much so gets a fair bit of use.
 

If you did go Quark route, at some poiint you might want to add a smaller scope, cost of course is more reasonable at that size. The Skywatcher ED80 at FLO is about £350 I think, that would tempt me, I have always been impressed by Skywatcher's optics for the price (four dobs, two fracs, all good optically in my view).

I currently am hanging onto my SolarMax 60 but I take my Tele Vue 60 and Quark in preference every time when on hols or for lunch at work. If we need to free up funds for astro, I am happy to let the SM60 go, A fine scope, but I adore the Tele Vue 60 and white light plus h-alpha with one scope clinches it for me.

Good luck whichever way you go, no doubt a well performing PST mod is a cracker of a setup, but it's not for clumsy me!

Edited by Luke
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Jarrod,

A whole heap of questions, all of them very well answered, so just my 2p worth (actually nearer £4.99 worth).

Lunt 60 DS is my fav scope, it has been a consistent performer at home, work, twice to Scotland and once to La Manga, Spain. In fact I like it so much I want to trade up to a Lunt 80 DS, but that well mean it is more of a home/work scope, too big to take away. I am off to Astrofest next weekend, you will find me drooling over the Lunt stand, wondering if I can get one back on the plane.

I went through an ST80, Aquila 80 and finally a second hand WO Zenithstar 80. The Zenithstar is by far the best, possibly the best scope I own. Apart from the [relatively] good optics, it is just a joy to use. It's fairly small, light and the focuser is about the best I have, super smooth, no slop and a very good 10:1. I have a WO 102GT and a Moonlite on my C11, neither focuser is any better than the little ZS80.

I use a white light wedge on my ZS80 and a Quark when conditions are good. I took this combination on holiday at Xmas, it worked pretty well, but I struggled with the Quark, one or two days it was quite good, but not every day. This means it is only really going to get used on holiday or when I only set up my WL rig.

For the money the Quark is way out in front and for compactness and flexibility it scores top marks again. But for quality of image I prefer my Lunt every day. I did once do a test, used my Quark in a 102GT with focal reducer and then used a Barlow to try and get the same FoV on the Lunt. The Quark actually performed better at that level of magnification, no doubt helped by the bigger aperture.

Robin

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Thanks guys for the responses. :)

Some great questions, Jarrod, very few of which I know the answers to! :D

As you are already some way down the PST mod route, it would make sense to me for you to carry on down that path unless you see a good reason to change direction? PST modding is a non-starter for me due to my lack of mod skills (two fails on DSLR mods - I am leaving solar modding well alone!!)

Well the thing is I'm already quite happy with the PST mod as is, I know I'm still learning how to use it and am probably yet to get the best from it so it's not so much wanting more from it but wanting something different entirely. Like I said a bit of retail therapy, I should know in a couple of weeks or a month whether or not the funds will be free to use or not. If not then maybe a stage 2 mod could be the way to go as it'll be cheaper but it's not really on my radar just now of something I want to do.

If it was me, for visual I would buy Quark and Skywatcher Evostar 100ED (I have this scope, a cracker with the Quark for visual), for imaging, probably Quark and Skywatcher Evostar 120ED (I have its twin brother, the Equinox 120, but I am not that blown away by the Equinox's focuser and upgraded it anyway, so question whether it was worth the extra... and I like the idea of the ligher Evo version with same optics).

For h-alpha and white light, I am very happy at 100mm plus. Of course lower is fab too, I actually use a 60mm the most as that's my very compact grab and go, but for detail on solar, aperture is king, and I like the richness of detail that is resolved at around the 100mm mark.

Visually, I far prefer using the Quark with my ED100 than with my Tele Vue 85, because of the higher level of detail. I find the jump from 85 to 100 sweeter than the jump from 100 to 120.

I love using the 100 for visual because it's less of a handful than the 120 to use on my giro mount, and to my eyes it holds its own reasonably well against the 120 (ditto white light - the 120 wins for white light visually if I want to really push the mag).

Not sure about h-alpha, but optical quality seems to help for solar white light. I have an ED66 (Telescope House) that is better optically than my ED80 (Celestron Onyx). The 66 beats the 80 on white light despite having less aperture, with crisper view by some margin. I wouldn't have thought you would need a top-end triplet, though.
 

Some interesting observations there, I'm pretty certain that I don't want any smaller than 100mm aperture and with imaging being the order of the day I get the feeling that 120 is always going to offer more than 100 or 102 etc... Then again I don't know the TS110 looks interesting and at a nicer price point.

From the sounds of it though and it does seem practical is the 120ED is the way to go.

White light imaging will be just as important too eventually as the Quark, just a thought aren't some scopes recommended to use an extra blocking filter or something with the Quark?

What's that all about?

As an imaging scope I am very happy with Equinox 120mm. I use a 0.5x reducer and I could try to push things more. On my setup there seemed to be Newton's rings at prime focus, but 0.8x seemed fine - but I am happy with 0.5x anyway generally. Maybe I'll try 0.8x again when the sun is higher and conditions hopefully a bit better.

I'm not the sort of person who has the patience for something like imaging planets with a huge SCT and chasing the best seeing. I'd rather have a compromise, where I don't push as hard and go for slightly lower hanging fruit that I still find tasty. That's why for lunar I won't get something bigger than my 8 inch SCT. I find the detail enough to keep me amused, and it's not pushing things too much so gets a fair bit of use.
 

If you did go Quark route, at some poiint you might want to add a smaller scope, cost of course is more reasonable at that size. The Skywatcher ED80 at FLO is about £350 I think, that would tempt me, I have always been impressed by Skywatcher's optics for the price (four dobs, two fracs, all good optically in my view).

I currently am hanging onto my SolarMax 60 but I take my Tele Vue 60 and Quark in preference every time when on hols or for lunch at work. If we need to free up funds for astro, I am happy to let the SM60 go, A fine scope, but I adore the Tele Vue 60 and white light plus h-alpha with one scope clinches it for me.

Good luck whichever way you go, no doubt a well performing PST mod is a cracker of a setup, but it's not for clumsy me!

You use a reducer with the Equinox so do you think one would be required too with the EvoStar? I guess the accessories need to be considered too.

As for the SCT route well I think if I had an EQ6 already or could find one really cheap I think I would already of gone this way but in a way that is just me putting an arbitrary cap on budget for no real good reason. What has got me to step back from this is what you say about waiting for gaps in the seeing and the right conditions, I really do wonder if there is much call for a C11 out here without a permanent mounting, I would however then be looking at a 9.25, I figure it'd be a killer on sunspot and lunar close ups plus planets so it would get a bit of use.

The SCT concept is just something I find hard to let go of. :D

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Jarrod,

A whole heap of questions, all of them very well answered, so just my 2p worth (actually nearer £4.99 worth).

Lunt 60 DS is my fav scope, it has been a consistent performer at home, work, twice to Scotland and once to La Manga, Spain. In fact I like it so much I want to trade up to a Lunt 80 DS, but that well mean it is more of a home/work scope, too big to take away. I am off to Astrofest next weekend, you will find me drooling over the Lunt stand, wondering if I can get one back on the plane.

I went through an ST80, Aquila 80 and finally a second hand WO Zenithstar 80. The Zenithstar is by far the best, possibly the best scope I own. Apart from the [relatively] good optics, it is just a joy to use. It's fairly small, light and the focuser is about the best I have, super smooth, no slop and a very good 10:1. I have a WO 102GT and a Moonlite on my C11, neither focuser is any better than the little ZS80.

I use a white light wedge on my ZS80 and a Quark when conditions are good. I took this combination on holiday at Xmas, it worked pretty well, but I struggled with the Quark, one or two days it was quite good, but not every day. This means it is only really going to get used on holiday or when I only set up my WL rig.

For the money the Quark is way out in front and for compactness and flexibility it scores top marks again. But for quality of image I prefer my Lunt every day. I did once do a test, used my Quark in a 102GT with focal reducer and then used a Barlow to try and get the same FoV on the Lunt. The Quark actually performed better at that level of magnification, no doubt helped by the bigger aperture.

Robin

It was the Lunt 60 that I was considering too I think though it will be somewhat the same use as my PST mod, I mean if I got the Lunt I would probably not use the mod much any more or vice versa. I know I would like it but I want to mix things up a bit.

I'm pretty certain you could get one back on the plane. :D Have fun at Astrofest.

I did look at the WO range and they do look lovely, of course with the price to match.

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Out of curiosity Rob have you come across any Spanish forums with a classifieds or a better place to look for astro stuff secondhand yet?

Milanuncios and Segundamano are not really worth the effort.

Curiously, as you've probably found yourself, Spain is pretty good in terms of clear days and nights, but poor in terms of stargazing/astronomy as a hobby.

You're wise to stay clear of places like milanuncios and segundamano and the only astronomy forum I'm aware of is astronomo which comes across as very much a one man's affair. They do have a secondhand section, but, again, treat with caution and make sure you've got proof of telephone number and poster's activity. I have sold on the site without a problem and if I recall correctly, picked up a continuum filter quite cheap.

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