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Mark at Beaufort

Using a 60mm Spotter Scope for astronomy

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I have a Son that lives with his family in San Francisco. I am going to see him later this month and whilst there will do some observing especially from the dark skies of Yosemite.

I bought a 15-45x - 60mm spotter scope to take with me - not just for astronomy but for general use as well. I could have bought a small APO but this spotter scope is much lighter (1.1 kgs) and easily mounted on a tripod.

So this is my observing report from last night to see if this small spotter scope was of any use for astronomy.

I started with Venus which showed the phase and no CA.

Over to Jupiter and although still small with 45X I could still see some banding and could split Ganymede and Europa even though they were very close together.

Next the Moon which although 13 days old had some interesting craters on the terminator. I especially wanted to check out the crater Inghirami and the Valley which is number 97 on the Lunar 100 list. Well with the help of the NASA website which showed the current libration I could see Inghirami, G and A and the Valley. Again no CA.

I then split Pollux and could not split the double double.

Finally some DSOs. The Moon was very bright so this was not going to be good but I had a reasonable show of M13 and could just about make out M57.

Well this scope is not going to be brilliant for astronomy but hopefully it will allow me to view the lower parts of Scorpio and Sagittarius. With Yosemite being 15 degrees lower than the UK I am hoping to get a better view of M83 but also M6 and M7 which I have only seen once and that with a small pair of binos. Also on the 30th June there is a very close conjunction of Jupiter and Venus (22 arc minutes) - in the UK the view will be in the bright skies just after sunset but the western side of the USA should be much better :smiley:

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Excellent stuff Mark. I just goes to show that any scope is better than no scope, but regardless it sounds like you chose a good one?

I was out briefly last night too, looking at some of the same targets. Ganymede and Europa were very nice being so close. I wanted to watch them for longer but had to head bedwards before their closest approach.

Looking forward to more reports.

Stu

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good choice for a holiday grab and go.

Did you consider buying one over there and bringing it back, or was it a case of been sure before you went?

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Excellent stuff Mark. I just goes to show that any scope is better than no scope, but regardless it sounds like you chose a good one?

completely agree with this! 

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good choice for a holiday grab and go.

Did you consider buying one over there and bringing it back, or was it a case of been sure before you went?

Hello Earl

Hope you are OK - must meet up again sometime.

Yes I did think about buying over in the US. Paul lives in Livermore so its not too far into San Francisco. There is a Scope City store which I have been to visit before which has some great equipment. I was looking at buying the new Astro Tech 72mm ED which is $379 about £250 - you never know I might be tempted whilst there.

I bought the Spotter Scope now because I wanted to decide which tripod, alt/az head and RDF to take after doing some observing. So last night's observing made me decide on the tripod. The Head will be one of these - http://www.rothervalleyoptics.co.uk/baader-witty-1-slow-motion-tangent-mount.html and the RDF sits nicely in a Cullmann photographic extension bracket.

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Hi Mark,

Great write up, a few moons ago before visiting the maldives I bought a spotter scope, it was brilliant in the  dark skies. Though I have an st120 now for grab& go, aircraft = spotter scope. The tripod caused a few problems on an air lanka flight and had to open my main case!

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Hi Mark,

Great write up, a few moons ago before visiting the maldives I bought a spotter scope, it was brilliant in the  dark skies. Though I have an st120 now for grab& go, aircraft = spotter scope. The tripod caused a few problems on an air lanka flight and had to open my main case!

Thanks for that Damian. Yes I might have a few problems with the metal tripod in the suitcase flying to the United States.

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As it happens, a 60mm spotting scope was what I had to hand when I unexpectedly got back into astronomy a few years ago, and it served a purpose just fine, within its limitations of course. I had only one eyepiece - a 30x wide-field job, and the whole thing had been bought for watching wildlife, rather than stargazing. But, like you I was able to see a phase on Venus, the main bands on Jupiter, split the odd easy double (but also tried and failed with the double double), went hunting for globulars, and managed to see M57, and even M1 as a faint smudge. Open clusters were an easy target, and the double cluster was spectacularly beautiful in the dark Dorset skies. Galaxies like M81, 82, and 51 were easy enough, and of course M31. I also thought at the time that I could see M110, and wondered why I couldn't see M32. But I now realise that actually it was M32, and I wasn't even looking in the right place for 110. Mars was just discernable as a disc when near opposition, Saturn's rings were clearly defined and Titan easy to see, though Uranus was no more than a light blue dot, but it was still thrilling to have found it.

So all in all I'd say it's definitely possible to have some stargazing fun with a 60mm spotting scope - not its ideal role, no doubt, but an optic like that is a very respectable multi-tasker. It's as much at home pointing up at the night sky (mine is an angled one, rather than a straight-through) as it is watching redshanks from a hide - maybe a good way to get youngsters interested in both the world and the universe around them with one instrument. Like my 8x42 bins, I really wouldn't want to be without it.

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When I was a lad 60mm was a huge scope it does sound like yours ticks most of the boxes for a do all instrument, I wonder how well it would perform on white light solar?

Alan

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Yes, 60mm is plenty!  ;)

I managed a full 110 object single night Messier Marathon using a Borg 60 (older non-ED version) and 24mm Panoptic from Tenerife a few years back.  Used a birding/hide mount that clamps onto stable objects.

Also worked well as a very wide field scope for objects such as Barnard's Loop.

Yosemite is magical!!!  Spent 6 months there climbing in my youth.  Hope you have a great time!

...cheers, Paul

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I wonder how well it would perform on white light solar?

Alan

Alan I was thinking the same thing. I now only have a Herschel Wedge for my 4" APO so I might get/make a Baader film filter to see how it goes. If this scope works well in Yosemite I will use it in the future as a holiday grab and go which hopefully will include the 2017 Total Eclipse in the United States.

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Thats a very interesting report Mark. I've recently parted with a 65mm spotting scope that I was hoping would do for both birding and astronomy when I travel but I was not impressed with the views of the Moon or Jupiter that I got from it, despite it providing very good views of birds. I put this down to me being too optimistic but clearly your experience is quite different so maybe I just picked the wrong spotting scope ?

I'm glad yours will be versatile and the forthcoming trip sounds wonderful :smiley:

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Thats a very interesting report Mark. I've recently parted with a 65mm spotting scope that I was hoping would do for both birding and astronomy when I travel but I was not impressed with the views of the Moon or Jupiter that I got from it, despite it providing very good views of birds. I put this down to me being too optimistic but clearly your experience is quite different so maybe I just picked the wrong spotting scope ?

I'm glad yours will be versatile and the forthcoming trip sounds wonderful :smiley:

I'll be interested to see what  experienced observers like you and Mark think of the views through my "diminutive" Nikon ED50 I have two Nikon EP's for it - a fixed WA  and zoom one...  it was an extravagant purchase but ultra compact...

Peter...

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When I was a lad 60mm was a huge scope it does sound like yours ticks most of the boxes for a do all instrument, I wonder how well it would perform on white light solar?

Alan

I've got an Optus 60mm zoom spotter,bought cheap,a couple of years back, from Aldi. Might try some solar through this,by the projection method,if I rig up some sort of screen.Of course,it's a 45 degree job,rather than straight through. Think cap on!  :icon_idea:   One thought - might there be any problems with this method re heat build up,especially if (as likely) it has a cemented zoom eyepiece?

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I've got an Optus 60mm zoom spotter,bought cheap,a couple of years back, from Aldi. Might try some solar through this,by the projection method,if I rig up some sort of screen.Of course,it's a 45 degree job,rather than straight through. Think cap on!  :icon_idea:   One thought - might there be any problems with this method re heat build up,especially if (as likely) it has a cemented zoom eyepiece?

 

I think some baader film would be the safest option would make a good full disc scope for quick sessions.

Alan

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I think some baader film would be the safest option would make a good full disc scope for quick sessions.

Alan

I'd already thought that this was the answer. However,I do have a rather irrational fear of looking directly at the Sun-even through a filter.Silly,I know.Must be down to reading all of those warnings at a young,impressionable age! Though then again,when I was young we still worshipped the Sun - "Do NOT look at face of SUN GOD-or face his Wrath!!!"  :laugh:

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I'm glad yours will be versatile and the forthcoming trip sounds wonderful :smiley:

John I hope it works out OK. I am hoping to view two objects from the Herschel 400 list that I have not seen - NGC 6451 (Scorpio) and NGC 6569 (Sagittarius) both around mag 8. What I would love to see is Omega Centauri but Centaurus is setting just when its getting dark but I will give it a try.

I should get a good wifi from Paul's home where I am staying so should be able to post some observing reports.

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I'll be interested to see what  experienced observers like you and Mark think of the views through my "diminutive" Nikon ED50 I have two Nikon EP's for it - a fixed WA  and zoom one...  it was an extravagant purchase but ultra compact...

Peter...

Peter next time we meet up at a SGL star party perhaps we can give it a go.

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Which spotter did you get Mark? Sounds lie a good one!

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Stu I bought one the same as this - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Hilkinson-Kestrel-15-45x60-Angled-Spotting/dp/B006CI7C0A/ref=sr_1_17?s=photo&ie=UTF8&qid=1433254439&sr=1-17

I did not get it from Amazon but bought it from an independent camera shop in Hereford. I tried several different makes and decided that this one provided the sharpest image. I liked the lens hood, focusing position and the eye cup adjuster (great for eye relief). Yes I could have bought the 80mm and extra mag to 60X but I just liked the feel of this Spotter Scope and its weight of just 1.1kgs which will go nicely in my hand luggage.

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Interesting Mark. I'd always assumed these would struggle for astro but it sounds like you picked a good one :)

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Interesting Mark. I'd always assumed these would struggle for astro but it sounds like you picked a good one :)

Stu its not going to replace a small APO but it will give me chance to view objects I cannot see from the UK. I am looking forward to view M83 and M6 and M7. I have also produced a list of other objects - Globs in Sagittarius M69, M70, M54, M55 for example. I have only viewed M70 once from Home and it was my last Messier to observe.

I have also listed a number of other NGC objects if the scope performs. I will produce a report with my findings - one way or other.

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Great stuff Mark, it does make a lot of sense and saves a lot of weight.

I'm putting together a kit to take to the Med over the hols, based on the Tak 60/76. I'll post about that separately. The weight will be a lot more than yours unfortunately.

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Great post and thread  - I tend to overlook my lowly-ish Meade spotter, but it did give a okaysih view of Saturn and rings once at max zoom, dim but recogniseable. I must give it another go. 

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