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alan potts

First light Sumerian 18 inch with Nichol's mirror.

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Sumerian 18 inch Dobsonian with John Nichol’s mirror.

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Taken by Michael at Sumerian in Holland, note the naked truss poles.

Well at last I have had a chance to look through this scope, no thanks to an extra helping of misery dished up by the Bulgarian weather. We have had snow, rain with snow and the same again, with an additional annoyance, power cuts, it would seem the Electricity Board here have heard it will be an Olympic event and are putting in some extra training, not an issue if the sky is clear.

Now as to where this came from, I think John Nichol packed as much as he could when the mirror was sent to Michael at Sumerian and The Cheshire bought from FLO and the Parrcorr from Moonshane also had generous amounts of clouds crammed in the boxes. When you add to this the size of the cases that the scope was packed in there is no wonder I have hardly seen blue sky in 3 weeks.    

Now as I said in my review of the scope it is a bit bigger than I thought it was going to be but I guess this is just a case of getting used to it, I only see pictures of Dobsonians here on the site and no one puts a tin of beans in the shot so how am I to know how big they are. I can see that keeping it in one piece is going to be a non-starter and that I will have to take it apart or hatch a cunning plan of some sort. Another observatory, now that’s a plan!

I have sorted out the collimation with many thanks to Faulksy and Scoot, members on site, one of which has not long since received a similar scope to mine. Issues with collimation were purely that I was trying to look too deep into the whole art and the very few lines from them made it concise and became clear, after all, in the end it was really no different to my Mak/Newtonian 190mm, it was just I couldn’t see this and was trying to over do things.

For the first light I was going to keep it simple as my ability of nudging was shall we say more akin to kicking shoving and head-butting , I could not work out which way was left or right or up and down. I really did like the freedom of being able to just move around the sky at will to where-ever I pleased, not that I really had a massive idea of what was where. There was me thinking I was a bit sharp with where things were in the sky but all I managed was to show myself how goto systems make you lazy and do a great deal of the thinking for you. It is one thing being able to find Sirius with a telescope but another altogether being able to locate something not readily visible, even with a 60mm finder. I had enough problems finding Sirius which is a bit disconcerting when it is so easy to see.

I just want to say a little about finders which bears no reflection on either scope or mirror. I don’t know if it me but few of them seem to be even remotely decent quality. A few years back I bought a 60mm Baader finder-scope, the so called Vario Finder. This was not cheap, at 350 Euros if I recall correctly for scope and adjustable mounting rings. For me it is not a quality finder and has far to much play in the optical plain causing all sorts of aberrations. I was plainly seduced by the words Zeiss being used in the advert in relation to the objective, personally I feel the nearest it gets to Carl Zeiss is maybe sitting on the same shelf at the suppliers. I can’t say I am remotely impressed by the very similar looking 60mm Teleskop Services offering either which I selected with the scope, for one the focuser/eyepiece will not turn far enough to reach what I call sharp focus, it only needs a fraction more travel but these are things that we should not need to be worrying over, the mounting shoe is also very sloppy and should be better. I can see myself replacing this with an offering from maybe Borg, smaller objective at 50mm yes, but I bet it is sharp, after all it is a name that has quality stamped all over it. I never expect any of these little scopes to be sharp at the edges but on axis I don’t feel is too much to ask for.

I have a fair finder collection now with two Sky Watchers and one from Meade which is also poor but for me the cheapest which came with the M/N 190mm and Mak 180mm, in use have proved to be the best so far.

Targets for first light.

Jupiter.

Even a novice with a Dobsonian can find Jupiter though it was proving a challenge in almost daylight, I could just see the planet but could I get it in the cross-wires? Once I had centered the gas giant I took a deep breath for what I was about to see, which was just as well, it was so bright I could feel the need for sunglasses.          

I started out with the 41mm Panoptic which gave a very low power even with the Paracorr in line of a mere X55, even at this lowly power the sight was impressive and sharper than anything I had seen before, it just screamed, More Power!

Then I grabbed the 9mm Nagler, something that I have not done too many times since I bought it, this really piled on the coal with an unheard of for X253.  The sight was stunning, totally stunning, without much in the way of exaggeration it looked little like the opening sequence of the Sky at Night where you see Jupiter looming in to view. I was used to looking at Jupiter through a fairly large scope in the shape of my 12 inch Meade but the image offered up by this mirror from Nichols Optics was in a completely different league, it was like Gillingham and Manchester United. The first thing I did was run into the house and drag the Wife outside for a look, she looked impressed which is no mean feat when it comes to astronomy as in the area she thinks I have screw loose. The other thing that had graced me with it’s presents was the Great Red Spot, and it had colour, bags of colour. It was like a piece of fresh salmon before cooking and was garnished with swills of brown clouds, the type of cloud I didn’t mind seeing for one minute.

The belts were jumping out of the eyepiece attacking the retina and this was at a power that I had only played with before on my smaller scope, much preferring a lower magnification around the x170 mark. Believing the seeing was decent I reached for the 7mm Nagler which upped the anti to X 325, something I have never done before. At this power I had the feeling that contrast suffered a little and thought maybe a bigger scope would deliver better, for me there was nothing to be gained by the slightly larger image and the use of the 7mm only meant more pushing and tugging at the scope trusses trying to keep it in view, I could see this needs more practice.

This was without a doubt the clearest, most contrasted and sharpest view I had ever had of Jupiter, it made you want to sit and watch it for ages which of course is something that will be difficult to do with this scope, it is very much a stand up and view scope with anything high up in the sky. I have to say that with this level of sharpness and overall quality of the image, even at X325,  I missed not having a drive to keep it in the middle of the field of view.

Sirius.

This was my old favourite and I wanted to see how it handled what is not an easy split of Pup star, so it was back to 41mm Panoptic once more which offers just about the widest field of view from this scope at 1.22 degrees with Paracorr. The first thing that I noticed was I could see more stars around Sirius than I could with other scopes, I look at this so much I can recall how many are there in field. The Dog Star was staggeringly bright and stable with a tight point source and delicate diffraction rings, rare indeed, the likes of which I can only match with the 115mm APO, that how good these optics are in this scope. The only thing that I found a little distracting was the sight of the spider veins which I do not have in any of my other telescopes, this is a thing that I am sure I will get used to and not even notice after a while. I was not able to see the Pup star with this amount of power but putting the 21mm Ethos into bat developed things with approximately twice the magnification, there it was as plain as day and it was not coming and going it was just there. I think this was one of the better nights seeing wise that I had had so far this year, not before time in my books. I could see now why the Ethos and to a slightly lesser extent Naglers are so popular with Dobsonian owners, both offer that wide field and allow more time to view objects, something that is not really that important on a driven scope. There is also that extra sharpness that you get at the edge of field which just comes into it’s own with a Paracorr in the mix, stunning sharpness absolutely everywhere and don’t forget this mirror is an F 4.33, maybe not a Lilly or Thompson but for sure a Bob Willis.

A general point here, I was noticing that the X108 offered by the 21mm Ethos was better sharpness than  much lower X73 in the Meade offered by the large Panoptic, the stars were just so sharp pin point and it is not the first night I have ever had of this seeing. I had clearly got the collimation spot on and checking after one hour of pushing and pulling with the odd knock of the head found the scope was still exactly the same, I feel this could be something that cannot be said of all truss type scopes.

NGC 2204 and 2358, with a little beehive on the side

I feel this just goes to show how utterly hopeless I am at the moment at finding things as I came across a couple of patches of grey in the finderscope that I thought I would come back to after I find Sirius, that was if I could re-locate them. A trip indoors to look at the Deep Sky Atlas was required here, this is something that I feel must be outside at the scope with future observations, this scope turns up things that other scopes I have don’t.

Open Cluster NGC 2204 sits to the east of the star Mirzam and is a lovely small open cluster with many stars visible when using the 17mm Ethos which delivers a still razor sharp X134. Getting lost in the heavens also helped me come across NGC 2358 a larger open cluster on the west side of Sirius, that’s how lost I can get, still I was enjoying myself and it was not a race. The cluster looked stunning in the 21mm Ethos with everything as sharp as I have ever seen in any scope, these optics really are in the APO premier league and the colour of even fainter stars being beautifully delivered with the extra aperture.

While I was in the area I took a look at the Messier 41 open cluster which I had just found out was called “the little beehive”, you learn something every day. This looked lovely with more stars on show than I can recall seeing before and by now the 31mm Nagler was showing me why I bought this eyepiece in the first place, an eyepiece that really comes into its own as a finder that still offers me a 1.12 degree field of view and all other TeleVue trimmings. I can see this is going to a regular visitor to the focuser as you would think the two were made for each other. After almost 2 1/2hours I was starting to wonder if anyone would be able to see a difference in a better finished mirror, this one is finished to a 1/8 PV accuracy though it has been said by many that John’s mirror are exceptional and better than stated, everything was so good I could not imagine or see how anything could be improved. This is not a cheap mirror but then quality never is, though it was a special offer being reduced over others on offer on the website. Bear in mind now I have used it just once, but to me it’s by no means expensive when you see what it can deliver under good skies, it is spell binding, I have never been more impressed with a view through a telescope as this one.

The area of Orion.

At this time of year I feel no report of a first light would be complete without at least a look at Orion’s famous Messier 42. For once it did not take me ages to find the nebula, this could have been me getting used to the scope a little.

With the 31mm Nagler now taking centre stage as finder eyepiece and the 41mm confined to case there it was spread almost fully across the field of view. Much brighter than I have ever seen before and so sharp you would think you were there in a space ship. The shorter eyepieces were called up, first with the 21mm which was jaw dropping and then 17mm (X134)  which framed it perfectly. I was able to see both ‘E’ and ‘F’ with consummate ease and the detail in the gas clouds was a sight to behold, though I think a playing around with filters will not be far away. I can see myself spending more time on this target next time out in a search for stars ‘G and H’ of the trapezium, these under my skies should be a reasonable ask as both are at around magnitude 15, though Orion is not getting better now. Going back to the wider views with the Nagler, I had the distinct impression of colour in the clouds, pale greeny blue in central regions and a little pinkyness on the outer edges, it was most certainly not grey. This is something that will of course require greater study later, though we are starting to lose Orion now not long after midnight.

I turned my attention to the Flame nebula which I have to say has always been a disappointment in my 12 inch, let’s see if the extra aperture makes a difference. I was back with the 31mm as I was not over confident of my hunting skills, in fact I just pointed the scope at Alnitak knowing the field of view was enough to show it. I was taken aback as there was a reflection nebula showing as bold as brass exactly the same shape as it was in the Deep Sky Atlas, I wondered why I had never noticed it before, can an extra 6 inches of mirror make all that difference? It was then the little green devil put in a show on my shoulder and asked what would a 24 inch mirror show then Alan? If I find a spare 9,000 quid in the garden maybe one day I will let you all know. I spent about 30 minutes taking in the whole belt area with visits to Alnilam and Mintaka the double of which was so wide I wondered if I had the right star. In truth with this scope you could spend years on this part of the sky alone and not look at the same thing twice, from my short time so far there are wow moment to be had everywhere.

Conclusion.

Now I know that maybe the size of such a scope will put many people off as it is maybe too large to be handled due to physical ability or that some are not as young as they once were, me included in that one. Others are sadly limited by the cost of such scopes but I have to say that you are really getting a lot of scope for your money, you can pay more and in my humble opinion do worse. The mirror from John Nichols is an absolute gem and I have nothing but praise for it, I am over the moon with it and bear in mind this is only really the first time out, things can only get better as my skill level grows over time. The scope works wonderfully well even with me being the weakest link: it pushes and pulls just right; balance never seems to be an issue and it holds collimation extremely well over an evening. If you ever seriously think you are in the market for a high quality telescope and think this type and make are out of your reach take a look and I really feel that you will find they are only a little more than some other well know quality scopes that are available on the market. Whilst I would never criticise someone else’s choice of scope I think it is very nice to own a tailor made scope. I know the optical systems are not the same but I really like the rendition of stars with the this mirror over the Meade SC scope that I also own and the contrast is just drop dead gorgeous, for me it just goes to eleven.

Happy Bunny.  Alan.                  

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Fantastic reports Alan. Both the Scope review and your first light. It is so pleasing to read that someone has put faith into purchasing bespoke equipment and it EXCEEDS their expectations.

I know you will spend many many nights under the stars with that fabulous scope. 

Listen to me..........an imager...........am I turning back to the bright side...... :shocked:  :shocked:  :shocked:

Steve

Edited by sloz1664
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A really interesting review. Thank you. I am only a humble beginner with a starter scope but can appreciate your joy at having such a great scope. I look forward to more reports.

Andrew

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Great report and what a scope!

I gave up on my finder scope and just use a 30mm ep and Rigel Quickfinder.

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Fabulous report Alan, sounds like a really wonderful scope. The John Nicholl mirror sounds the business too!

After just having had four nights with my scope under decent skies, I have a flavour of what you have coming, and it's a treat I can tell you!!

In terms of finding things, did you get the encoders fitted to yours? I can honestly say that the push to with encoders linking to an iPhone (dimmed and with red film applied) are incredible. I was able to trawl around the Virgo cluster and down the Markarian chain of galaxies and identify each one as I went. Mag 14.2 was my best effort and there is more to come. Plenty more for you I'm sure!!

Have a look for the Crescent nebula too when it rises a bit earlier, stunning sight visually!

I'm sure you have many happy nights ahead of you.

As a junior cadet member of the Dob Mob, may I welcome you as possibly the first international member [emoji6]

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Even I was impressed with Stu's encoders. 

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Sounds like you have a great scope. I'd love one of those myself - what a beauty.

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That was a great read Alan, apart from the feeling of envy that I've acquired reading it :smiley:

I'm so glad the scope and 1st light has been very positive. You make the investment, you wait, and wait for delivery, then for clear skies and when you get to use it any doubts you had just fall away  :smiley: 

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Well Alan now you know what it's all about a big mirror under dark skies...great report can feel your excitement,targets are like black and white photos aren't they??!! M42 in November will shatter you jaw and your also your seeing objects in a different way...welcome to the Dob mob, enjoy your stay....

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Hi Alan,

Great first light report :)

If you want to split tight doubles you may like to try putting the main star diagonally away from the centre of the FOV and your diffraction spike interference will be reduced.

Regards

Dannae

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Stu,

I have the encoder fixing points and various connection bars made ready, I was going to put the Argo Navis system on at some point but it is a bit on the expensive side ( what isn't) but it could well be a next purchase. I really think I have enough eyepieces and in truth could even lose a few and not notice too much. I don't see anyone in England that seems to sell this stuff and I only really want to deal with the best retailers. The trouble at the moment is with the Pound and Dollar being strong against the Euro, the likes of TS stock has shot up a great deal, well over 10%, a 21mm Ethos from them is now over 900 Euros.

I am very happy at the moment pushing and pulling my way around but I can't say I am very professional at it, I bet if a few of you could see me it would give you all a dam good laugh. I have been out 3 hours and the seeing tonight was poor, so much so I almost thought, is that Jupiter? Nothing like Saturday night when it was hey, come look at this :eek: !

What I am finding very watchable are many doubles that are now showing colour where as before they did not, I found a lovely double near Sirius (blue gold) which because of where it was I may even be able to find it again, it seems to show colour even on 5th and 6th mag stars.

I took it apart Saturday and it didn't take very long to re-build though I was a bit nervous at first :eek: , collimation was so easy I am ashamed to say I even had a problem in this area :mad: :mad: , still it takes a man to admit things he got wrong sometimes.

I know you have one Stu but I am very impressed with the combination of Sumerian and Nichols, Calvin was not wrong when he said i will not find better but he then he would :grin: .

I also find this Atlas that you switched me on to very useful :smiley: .

Dannae,

Greta advice on the doubles and yes I am a fan of these.

alan

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Forget the Argo Navis Alan, just get a Nexus wifi unit connected to the encoders and then you can connect your phone to it wirelessly and away you go. It really is the business I cannot recommend it highly enough.

As a dob virgin, I was finding stuff faster than the master star hopper Mr Moonshane which is saying something.

Agree about the mirror Alan, I guess that's a possible upgrade in future. I don't think I would go bigger but a better figured/smoother mirror might well be appealing. Not for a while though!!

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Stu,

I have the encoder fixing points and various connection bars made ready, I was going to put the Argo Navis system on at some point but it is a bit on the expensive side ( what isn't) but it could well be a next purchase. I really think I have enough eyepieces and in truth could even lose a few and not notice too much. I don't see anyone in England that seems to sell this stuff and I only really want to deal with the best retailers. The trouble at the moment is with the Pound and Dollar being strong against the Euro, the likes of TS stock has shot up a great deal, well over 10%, a 21mm Ethos from them is now over 900 Euros.

I am very happy at the moment pushing and pulling my way around but I can't say I am very professional at it, I bet if a few of you could see me it would give you all a dam good laugh. I have been out 3 hours and the seeing tonight was poor, so much so I almost thought, is that Jupiter? Nothing like Saturday night when it was hey, come look at this :eek: !

What I am finding very watchable are many doubles that are now showing colour where as before they did not, I found a lovely double near Sirius (blue gold) which because of where it was I may even be able to find it again, it seems to show colour even on 5th and 6th mag stars.

I took it apart Saturday and it didn't take very long to re-build though I was a bit nervous at first :eek: , collimation was so easy I am ashamed to say I even had a problem in this area :mad: :mad: , still it takes a man to admit things he got wrong sometimes.

I know you have one Stu but I am very impressed with the combination of Sumerian and Nichols, Calvin was not wrong when he said i will not find better but he then he would :grin: .

I also find this Atlas that you switched me on to very useful :smiley: .

Dannae,

Greta advice on the doubles and yes I am a fan of these.

alan

glad your having fun alan and your scope is brilliant. as stu says forget argo navis go for the nexus system same idea as argo but £400 made on the same industrial estate as well. here you go http://www.astrodevices.com/products/Nexus/Nexus.html i would also reccomend a red dot finder i find this easy for locating things

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The Nexus seems very good by what you all say but I see it as only available from the USA and there is no way i will buy from there I just don't agree with it. I am very happy to support UK dealers from here and the Local and European dealers but not America. I do not hold anything against people that do this though. This was the only reason I opted for the Argo Navis.

Is there anyone you know of in the UK that deals with these units after all they are made in Australia I think.

Alan 

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Forget the Argo Navis Alan, just get a Nexus wifi unit connected to the encoders and then you can connect your phone to it wirelessly and away you go. It really is the business I cannot recommend it highly enough.

As a dob virgin, I was finding stuff faster than the master star hopper Mr Moonshane which is saying something.

Agree about the mirror Alan, I guess that's a possible upgrade in future. I don't think I would go bigger but a better figured/smoother mirror might well be appealing. Not for a while though!!

I was a die hard star hopping devotee until Saturday night when Stu kindly let me loose on his dob. I couldn't belive how well this system worked. You could even venture into the bowels of the Vergo galaxies without fear!

Paul

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Glad you enjoyed it Paul.

I think the beauty of the system is that it is there if you need/want it, but you can just revert to star hopping for those targets you are familiar with.

With a dimmed screen and Rubylith cover it was not affecting my vision any more than a red light torch. Another benefit is that I need to put my glasses on to look at the Rigel finder and take them off to observe. I don't need to do that with the nexus.

Anyway, back to Alan's lovely scope and apologies for the diversion.

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The Nexus seems very good by what you all say but I see it as only available from the USA and there is no way i will buy from there I just don't agree with it. I am very happy to support UK dealers from here and the Local and European dealers but not America. I do hold anything against people that do this though. This was the only reason I opted for the Argo Navis.

Is there anyone you know of in the UK that deals with these units after all they are made in Australia I think.

Alan 

they are ozzy alan as you say. we were speaking to steve and james at flo at sgl 10 and they loved the system. there on about getting in touch with serge at astro systems

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Great first light Alan, looks like the one magnitude increase from 12" does make great difference, in addition to better optics :smiley:

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Faulksy,

I hear what you say and thanks for the information, I will await the outcome of such talks and drop a line asking, I would be happy to be their first order of one of these if they were able to pull it off, I have a full 700 quid in the UK account, better not buy anything in the next few weeks.

Alan

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Congrats for having some fine views Alan! I'd be pointing that scope at Virgo as soon as I could! :grin:

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Gerry,

I will be trying that though at the moment this is one area where i do have a small Light Pollution issue. It never was the case from the nearby town which is about 5 miles away, however they have changed a good amount of the street lighting to a new type and whilst not serious it is much worse than it was. Virgo rises in this general area so maybe in a month or so it will be a bit higher up in the sky.

I trust you read the report, that is if I can find Virgo.

Alan.

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The Nexus seems very good by what you all say but I see it as only available from the USA and there is no way i will buy from there I just don't agree with it. I am very happy to support UK dealers from here and the Local and European dealers but not America. I do hold anything against people that do this though. This was the only reason I opted for the Argo Navis.

Is there anyone you know of in the UK that deals with these units after all they are made in Australia I think.

Alan

Great report! Sounds like you have a very sweet scope with a beautiful mirror. Congrats!

FWIW - I bought Argo Navis direct from Gary Kopff in Oz - cheapest option, no import taxes. It works great and is simple to align - <1min. I know that Gary offers first class support - and the manual is top notch.

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Great report Alan, you sound just a touch excited!?

I've yet to hit Virgo with mine yet so here's hoping we get some clear sky to do it soon.......should be amazing!

Your not wrong about Jupiter, there is definitely a sweet magnification point that varies night to night, generally I find my 10mm ethos hit's the spot though (x188 for me).

I put the planet right over to one side of the eyepiece and then watch it drift across the 100 degrees. This gives your eye time to take in the detail without any nudging.

The summer nebula will be a treat too.......wait till you point it towards sagittarius & cygnus  :icon_eek:  :biggrin:

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Simon,

I know yours is a faster scope and for its size shorter by ratio but I can't imagine what an extra 4 inch must look like, I think when they get this size an observatory or two part rolloff shed is required. I noticed some time back one of our members in Australia has a 28 inch scope, that would be one to use outside while you look out the bedroom window with Powermate and Ethos arrangement in the focuser.

alan 

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