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gooseholla

Nichol Optical 18" F/4 1/8th wave mirror

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455mm diameter

1838mm focal length

Hilux coating

This is not a first light report. I’ve had a couple of those while building the telescope earlier this year. I’ll post those in a separate post below. But I said I owed a mirror of this quality a true test, when all the problems I was sorting on my home built scope were sorted.

The review below takes several observations over about a month and collects them into a general overview of the mirror. I wanted to make sure I did objects justice and not a quick 5 minute and move on job. All observations were done from my back garden, which is shielded from streetlights but LP is still a problem.  

Note: I am not an expert viewer, reviewer, nor a great wordsmith. I’m just trying to help people out if they are considering a mirror maker.

Ordering process

I found the process really simple. Asked a few questions via email then told John what I wanted. He kept me informed all the way throughout what was going on. Pay the balance on completion of the work via a bank transfer. Nice and easy.

Why F/4?

I wanted a large scope but I didn’t want a ladder or step. I was worried that F/4 being fast would produce mediocre views of stars. I was wrong on that front. F/4.5 seemed a bit too big for my needs, but with the amount I seem to be on my knees in the dirt, or sitting down in a chair to view most objects, I probably could have ordered longer.

Been really happy with the views. Yes, coma is present but it doesn’t bother me. I’m probably not going to be buying a coma corrector for this mirror. I intend to use the scope to find DSOs such as galaxies. Therefore, stars are only pointers for me ;-) Eyepieces are generally sharp to the edge of the FOV. Coupled with a Nagler T5 20mm, views are breath taking.

Andromeda

This telescope has given me views of Andromeda I have been hoping for. Before I just saw the bright core and in my 12” on a good night I saw a dust lane appearing. But with this mirror I could see the galaxy at least out in line with HIP 3923. The inner dust lane curved in shape was easy to detect. Moving up to 8mm (230x) showed it very clearly. As Andromeda rose higher a second outer dust lane started to appear. Part of me also wanted to declare the presence of NGC 206.

The core appeared as a star light point, bordered by a bright diffuse patch spreading out into the faint fuzzy shape of the Andromeda galaxy.

I’m sure many have seen the intro to Star Trek: TNG where a comet races towards the sun and a disc of gases. Well going up in power on Andromeda was like that. As it drifted across the field of view, you could almost imagine being on a space ship viewing out the window. The galaxy really was well defined and like looking at a photo.

M110 is also a lovely sight. An elongated streak of fuzziness that is easy to spot and started showing definition in the central regions.

While in the vicinity of Andromeda, moving down to Mirach and the ghost of Mirach was easy to spot. The star wasn’t over powering and the galaxy appeared as an easy to spot fuzzy blob.

Pinwheel Galaxy

This is really easy to find. It stood out as a bright patch in the sky. A few minutes of observing and the core started to gain a shape around it. Using an 8mm eyepiece, I counted over a dozen faint stars in the diffuse patch. Moving right, I noticed what looked like a small galaxy next to a star. Stellarium doesn’t list one in this location but still shows the Pinwheel galaxy, so I guess it was a part of the galaxy I was seeing. The 8mm eyepiece also started to show the shape of the galaxy a lot better. But with clouds rolling in I needed to view other objects.

Nebulae

I had no problem seeing a whisp of nebulosity around 52 Cyg. I needed a filter to see the other part of the Veil Nebula. A UHC or OIII filter still enhances the views. However, it did less on the Dumbbell Nebula, which appeared really bright in a 24mm (75x) eyepiece, showing its shape clearly. That scary looking bug eyed alien was staring back at me.

The Ring Nebula was also a lovely sight, appearing as a bright defined ring, which seemed more bluish than either I remember or have seen it before in my previous scopes.

The Orion Nebula, though it was low down, appeared as a well defined shape. It was a dark green colour and appeared almost 3D near the trapezium of stars. No filter was required to see its shape and enjoy the view.

Clusters

I have never noticed that one of the clusters contains a couple of orange stars. But they were prominent in the eyepiece. The clusters were sharp across the FOV and space between the closest of stars was present. Faint stars and brighter stars stood side by side in high definition giving a breath taking view.

The Pleiades were also fantastic. Bright points of light interspersed with fainter stars.

Not much you can say about clusters really. Just enjoy the view!

The Moon

I felt like an Apollo astronaut in orbit when viewing the Moon at high power. Mountains near the terminator seemed 3D. Craters were full of detail and variations in tone were seen. Viewing the entire Moon at low power, new objects and features I had never seen before were on show. Rays, spots and variations in colour grabbed my eye.

At low power, I saw variations in colour across the seas and new features I had never seen before. Little white points of light, which were tiny craters, shone out all across the Moon’s surface. Streaks of white and grey across the seas I had never seen before captured my attention. The rays from Tycho were a stunning white, spreading out across the face of the Moon.

The definition, contrast and clarity were excellent. Suspect I’ll actually be wanting to get out and view the Moon now, rather than cursing it stopping me finding DSOs!

General views

Every view is like looking at a star cluster. There are so many stars on display, especially around the area of the North American Nebula and the Milky Way running through Cygnus. It can be hard to find your bearings sometimes.

If you like galaxies, a mirror like this is for you. You’ll be moving across the sky picking up all kinds of faint fuzzy patches.

Benefits

This mirror is showing me more detail sooner. It also makes finding objects quicker. It really is perfect for a grab-and-go scope. That may seem silly to say about such a large scope, but I can roll it out and set it up in 5 minutes. If I only have an hour or two to view, I know that I will be making the best possible use of it viewing objects and studying detail, rather than hunting and waiting for detail to catch my averted vision.

The mirror is also coping well in a light polluted area. Haven’t really noticed orange glow around the FOV. If you are thinking of a large scope but are put off by living near streetlights or worried it will take ages to set up, don’t be. The rewards are worth it.

Negatives

Starting to think I should have ordered a bigger mirror! :D

Conclusion

This is but a small overview of what I have been seeing thanks to this mirror. I know if you order you won’t be disappointed and your money will be in safe hands. I am not knocking companies that mass produce scopes but the cost of buying a quality mirror is very little over a lifetime of viewing. I only had one chance to build my dream scope and I believe I have chosen the best possible optics money can buy. I recommend that for your home built scope project you seriously consider Nichol Optical for your mirrors - just look at how many big dob owners have one of John's mirrors!

The detail, contrast and light gathering power are astonishing. Averted vision becomes less of a factor in seeing detail and objects start to look like they do in the photos and less like ‘oh great, another fuzzy patch’ *tick off the list*. After using an 18” I wonder how I could ever describe my deep sky viewing as actually seeing the objects.  It really is like having an entire new universe to observe. I now want to get out as much as possible and view objects for long periods of time.

If you read my other reports below, you’ll see that it is also very capable on planets. This means I have a great all-rounder, being able to see planets, the Moon and DSO in high definition.

I’d like to thank John Nichol for his help and for building the mirror, those who helped me through out the build, and finally my grandma and grandad, who

through leaving a gift in their will made this dream scope possible.

John

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Here are the first light reports from April.

First Light Proper

Here we go. Was out the moment Jupiter was visible. The scope had been cooling for a couple of hours. I settled down with a list of objects and started taking notes instead of fiddling.

Remember, it is a Nichol Optical F/4 mirror set in the scope.

Jupiter  

The night was clear and visibility good. First target was Jupiter. Popped in Nagler T5 20mm giving 92 x magnification. The sky was still blue but the detail was breath taking. 3 moons were visible next to the planet. In one of the bands, which appeared a brownish colour, a dark spot was seen. Later in the night 4 satellites were visible, so I assume a transit was in progress. Detail on the rest of the planet was good. You could see that the pale brown patches at either pole of the planet were not solid but banded. As it got darker detail became easier to see. A 15 mm eyepiece, giving 122x, turned the bands orangey/red. I think this is more to do with the eyepiece showing colour different. The planet was still bright and detail was good. An 8mm, giving 230 x showed slight collimation error but couldn't produce a sharp image. I believe there was a bit of high cloud.

After showing the neighbours next door Jupiter, they disappeared and I settled down to finding some objects in Ursa Major and Canis. I had to wait for it to get darker but as I swung across the sky, stars were visible everywhere. Every move of the scope is like looking at a star cluster. It is going to take some getting used to seeing so many different magnitude stars in a field of view. Trying to find objects will be interesting. But as I discovered, when it is dark, faint fuzzies are as easy to see as stars!

Owl Nebula

At this time of night it is hard to become dark adapted. House lights and streetlights are on, and the odd car or two still coming home. Nevertheless, when it was dark I swung over to the Owl Nebula. Bam, easy to spot. A patch of light. My 26mm Panaview (70x) showed hints of the eyes with averted vision. I suspect in a darker setting and with full adaption this will be a lovely sight. A UHC filter made it easy to detect eyes.

Surfboard Galaxy (M108)

Near the Owl Nebula is the Surfboard galaxy. The Panaview showed it as an extended shape of white milky light, with a star like blob in the centre. The more I looked the more I became convinced that it wasn't a solid milky patch but that hints of detail were starting to appear, like a line through part of it. The galaxy, which is mag 10 and surface brightness 14 was easy to find. No straining to try and find the galaxy, just appeared floating in the blackness of space.

Whirlpool Galaxy

I had viewed this the other night and seen a shape but no detail. Tonight as it came into view in the Panaview - WOW! Detail and structure without averted vision. It was as clear as day, swirls within the milky haze! I have never seen structure in a galaxy other than Andromeda before, so this is really exciting for me. Part of me wanted to say that this milky patch was purpley in places, but I suspect that is my brain wanting it to look like the images! Once the excitement of finding things wears off and I devote some time to objects and get fully dark adapted, this mirror is going to give cracking views and I'll be spending a lot of time with this galaxy. I ended the night with this after going off to view a couple of other items. It was starting to dew up and nothing like I had seen earlier. The magnitude 13 star was easily visible in the haze of the galaxy.

M63

I popped over to the Sunflower galaxy. Didn't stop off long. Could find it easily. A round patch of haze. Didn't bother to see what detail if any might appear. Wanted to pack up while people were still around in case I ran into a problem.

M3

But before packing up there was just one object I had to see again... Just to make sure the image I had seen wasn't too good to be true... Having seen this previously and having to pick my jaw up off the floor, I returned to it tonight and the image was no less impressive. Stars everywhere to the core. It was like a picture floating in space. The wonder and awe was no less having seen it again. 

I packed up a happy man, I cannot fault the mirror at all. It is returning some cracking views, much better than my previous telescopes, when I am not even fully dark adapted. Detail is easy to discern if you look at an object for a few minutes. Even faint galaxies are easy enough to find as you swing about. In Ursa Major every so often a fuzzy patch would appear alongside stars without  having to strain to find a galaxy. I could find everything I set out to find easily.  

John

-----

Tonight's Viewing

The viewing was cut short by cloud and things started dewing up. Because of this I only had two hours out. It wasn't fully dark and there were lights about meaning I couldn't get fully dark adapted. But... WOW! Some of the targets I had planned on viewing were behind a tree from my location, which isn't my normal observing spot. But I observed one of each type of object - planet, galaxy, globular, star cluster. Each was tested with a T5 20mm Nagler, giving something like 92x magnification.

Remember, I am testing an 18" F/4 John Nichol mirror.

Jupiter

WOW! Jupiter was like viewing a picture or being in orbit around it. It was the brightest and most contrasted image I have seen of Jupiter in any of my scopes. Usually I could see the two main bands then the top and bottom of the planet was a brownish colour. This mirror showed that there were bands and detail and that it wasn't just solid colour. Can't wait to be able to use high magnification on it and go deep sky hunting! The moons were visible and two were quite close together but easily separated. The level of detail was great.

I swung to it the moment it became visible in the sky. Bearing in mind the sky was blue, the image was excellent. The bands could be seen as bright colours, and detail was visible. The Red Spot was clearly seen. My dad came out to have a look. He used to use the 12" refractor at Cambridge to observer Jupiter. I've seen his books - he made extensive records over the years he was there. He was impressed! He couldn't believe the level of detail seen when it was still essentially day time. As the sky blackened the planet became even more impressive. Again, it looked like a photo in a book!

We tried 185x magnification and it was still sharp and detail easily seen. The image wasn't faint.

Beehive Cluster

I moved over to M44 next. As it came into view I was like "gold nuggets in space!" The stars were really bright and varied between gold and silver in colour. Never seen that effect before in my smaller scopes. I couldn't believe how wonderful it looked.  It was like seeing gold and silver coins hanging in space. Obviously at 92x magnification there was a lot of moving about to see all the stars but the image was amazing. Everything was crisp and clear. Yes, coma was visible at the edges of the field, but I didn't think this is ruining the image or these look like comets.

Whirlpool Galaxy

Swinging the scope around I found the Whirlpool Galaxy. Despite not being dark adapted, I saw two blobs of light surrounded by a faint hint of a milky patch which my eye was telling me was foetus shaped. As my eyes adapted over a few minutes the shape started to become a definite 9/g shape. Didn't see any extensive detail but as I said,  I couldn't get dark adapted. But what I saw makes me want to get this scope under some dark skies. I could find the galaxy easily when I swung across the sky. Looking at the galaxy straight on was like averted vision in my smaller scopes. I'll be visiting this a lot more once my scope is ready and I can stay out once the streetlights have gone off. Have a feeling I'll be seeing some detail in this one.

M3

My night ended with M3. Swung round to it and I had to do a double take and check the focus. This was no faint fuzzy! This was a picture floating in space! Stars everywhere. The core was not a fuzzy bunch of white light with stars around the edge. No - Stars were the core! I placed a 8mm eyepiece in to finish the night off and the image was still bright and stars were still everywhere. I couldn't believe it. What a way to end the night as cloud started to form. As I have said, cannot wait to get it to a dark place. For me, this is what I wanted a large scope for - to see objects in detail. If this is a taster of what is to come, I will not be disappointed.

All In all I am impressed with the mirror.

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What fantastic reports, you really brought your excitement to life.

Good luck with your future viewing.

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A great report, most enjoyable to read. Your enthusiasm came shining through. As for the views you are achieving I can only dream of them. Thanks for the very informative post.

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Another happy Nichol customer...great read and your excitement shows. 18"of quality optics will last you a lifetime...app fever will come and go,when it comes go to dark skies that'll cure it! hope to see you in the wilds with it soon John...clear skies

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Excellent reports, a pleasure to read, apart from the pangs of jealosy as Mark reports :smiley:

Interesting that you say a number of times about more details appearing the longer you view the object. I've always found this in planetary observing and I'm now finding it with deep sky observing too. "The more you look, the more you see" - definitely :smiley:

I'm also finding that using quite high magnification allows me to see deeper and fainter with deep sky objects.

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John that probably one of the best reviews I've read on here for quite a while just because you can feel your excitement!

Looking forward to hearing more of your deep sky adventures. :)

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John that probably one of the best reviews I've read on here for quite a while just because you can feel your excitement!

Looking forward to hearing more of your deep sky adventures. :)

How do you do your fantastic sketches. Is it white pencil on black paper or are they inverted?

John

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How do you do your fantastic sketches. Is it white pencil on black paper or are they inverted?

John

Thanks.

Yeah they are white pastel onto a black sketch pad. :)

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Great report John, really glad you are enjoying the scope now.

I was at herstmenceux star camp last month with my scope observing and this guy comes over and ask to have a look through the eyepiece. He has a gander and then says "that's a nice mirror". I said "cheers, I'm very very happy with it". He then says; "that's a John Nichol mirror if I'm not mistaken?" "It is!" I reply surprised, "how can you tell?" He then comes away from the focuser, shakes my hand and says "John Nichol, pleasure to meet you!"

When I ordered the mirror it was done via email and phone so I'd never actually met the man. In the dark it was obviously difficult to recognise him! Anyway meeting him in person only reinforced my opinion on what a nice guy he is and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend his mirrors. So glad you have a similar opinion!

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Hi John,

I love reading first lights and this really was one of the best. I think it is because they remind me of my own first lights and the emotion you feel when all the expectations and no small guilt of spending good money comes to fruition. I have to echo your thoughts that often you wish you had gone larger I think that may be the most common of thoughts!

Good luck with your new scope and keep the reports coming.

Regards

Dannae

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Great report John, really glad you are enjoying the scope now.

I was at herstmenceux star camp last month with my scope observing and this guy comes over and ask to have a look through the eyepiece. He has a gander and then says "that's a nice mirror". I said "cheers, I'm very very happy with it". He then says; "that's a John Nichol mirror if I'm not mistaken?" "It is!" I reply surprised, "how can you tell?" He then comes away from the focuser, shakes my hand and says "John Nichol, pleasure to meet you!"

When I ordered the mirror it was done via email and phone so I'd never actually met the man. In the dark it was obviously difficult to recognise him! Anyway meeting him in person only reinforced my opinion on what a nice guy he is and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend his mirrors. So glad you have a similar opinion!

..great story...
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Great reports both of them. I am very pleased with my 18 inch from John and a little like you I sort of wish I had gone for a 20 inch which I could of at the time. I was a little worried about weight as I was getting older. Now of course it puts both of us in the 24 inch mirror next step bracket :eek: :eek: .

The only down side is I don't seem to use my other scopes any more.

Alan

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Yup not sure my 12" or 4" mak are ever going to see light again.

Thanks for the comments guys about the excitement/enthusiasm. After the problems I had with the build it really was great to see such wonderful sights.

John

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Great reports both of them. I am very pleased with my 18 inch from John and a little like you I sort of wish I had gone for a 20 inch which I could of at the time. I was a little worried about weight as I was getting older. Now of course it puts both of us in the 24 inch mirror next step bracket :eek: :eek: .

The only down side is I don't seem to use my other scopes any more.

Alan

nah 28" minimum

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Great revue, sounds awesome.

I have always managed to convince myself that getting a big dob would be a waste from my LP back garden now you're telling me different John, having had a look through Simons monster at Hersty recently (he's probably still cleaning the drool off the light shield) I suddenly feel the need for one again  :grin:

Dave

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That's the problem with these reviews...AF kicks in!!

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Great revue, sounds awesome.

I have always managed to convince myself that getting a big dob would be a waste from my LP back garden now you're telling me different John, having had a look through Simons monster at Hersty recently (he's probably still cleaning the drool off the light shield) I suddenly feel the need for one again  :grin:

Dave

If tonight's views of the dumbbell, the ring, double cluster and Andromeda are anything to go by, LP or not, the views were stunning!!

John

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Nice reports John... Well worth the effort and pain you have put into the scope build. A fitting reward to have such an amazing scope!

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The second time I have read through your collated viewing notes John although I got side tracked and never commented.

A thoroughly interesting and enthusiastic review. Glad the mirror has lived up to expectations, but I have to admit I knew it would.

Enjoy

Damian

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Great report John, really glad you are enjoying the scope now.

I was at herstmenceux star camp last month with my scope observing and this guy comes over and ask to have a look through the eyepiece. He has a gander and then says "that's a nice mirror". I said "cheers, I'm very very happy with it". He then says; "that's a John Nichol mirror if I'm not mistaken?" "It is!" I reply surprised, "how can you tell?" He then comes away from the focuser, shakes my hand and says "John Nichol, pleasure to meet you!"

When I ordered the mirror it was done via email and phone so I'd never actually met the man. In the dark it was obviously difficult to recognise him! Anyway meeting him in person only reinforced my opinion on what a nice guy he is and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend his mirrors. So glad you have a similar opinion!

John told me about his little Meeting with you and said he had quite surprised you.

I have spent quite a bit of time of late with John and can say that he puts heart and soul into every mirror, most end users don't realise the amount of work that he puts in.

A true gent and without him (including myself) many would not be able to appreciate the stunning heavens above in all their glory.

Great stuff and he said the views were stunning.

Damian

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