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johnha

Infrequent Observer - Grab & Go scope to reboot my enthusiasm?

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johnha    16

Hi All, it's a long time since I posted on SGL, I'm trying to get back into observing and looking to reboot my interest and motivation:

I have an old Tasco 4.5" 900mm Newtonian on an EQ2 which gets occasional use - limited by the space required to store it 'handily', time constraints and the aggro needed to set it up (I have to partially dismantle the wooden tripod to get it to/from the garden). If I have 2-3 hours to spare I might be enthused to set it up (any less and the clouds usually arrive just as I've done so). As a scope it works reasonably OK (the Moon, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars and the occasional nebula). I've replaced the EPs with 1.25" ones better suited to the scope and should replace the finder. I can align it with Polaris in the field of view and am generally happy with the visuals. My original upgrade plan was a 6" or 8" Newt on an EQ-5 or similar but I've realised it wouldn't really help at the moment.

I'm thinking that a more manageable rig would give me more time observing, and being more portable would give me more options. I have a 500mm f/8 photo mirror lens (???-Cassegrain) and a 10mm EP adapter (fixed 10mm EP & no finder) which is giving planetary/Lunar views similar to the Tasco on a photo tripod but lining up on objects is tricky. I have been looking for something like 15-70 or 20x80 angled binoculars - but they don't seem to exist. Instead I'm thinking along the lines of an ED80, somewhere between 4-600mm on an AZ mount. I'm interested in an ED80 to keep the size down while getting the best out of the optics (I'm concerned about CA from a small Achromat).

I appreciate aperture is king and hope to move onto a bigger newt in the future, but I'd like something I can get more usability out of in the short term and something a bit more versatile (portability, grab 'n go, possible future guide scope, possible terrestrial viewing etc) - meaning I can justify increasing the budget.

Would an ED80 give me good DSO and Lunar/Planetary views up to about 100x mag? Is there anything I should consider?

John

 

 

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mikeDnight    3,554

Hi John,

The ED80 is a great grab and go scope and if you can get the Equinox 80ED so much the better. It has a retractable dew shield and comes in a smaller diameter tube, so is very portable. Alternatively you might consider a SW 127 Maksutov, which is a great performer and is physically compact and lightweight.

Mike

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davehawkins    50

I have just ordered an AZ3 mount to go with my SW Skymax 127 mak to use as a grab and go. It's a great little scope that can be used for terrestrial and astronomical viewing although not so good on DSO's.

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Mr niall    304

Ditto the sw 127 mak, I just replaced a starwave 70ed with it and it's about as compact but much more useful! Ok for brighter DSO's star clusters etc. Good value for money.

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paulastro    3,057

I have an Equinox 80 and it certainly fulfils the role of a high quality grab and go.  The Mak 127 does have more light grasp (and resolution when the seeing allows), but  the Equinox 80 is more compact, more robust for moving around and with it's shorter focal length is more useful for wide field views as well as high power views of the planets.  I have used mine at around x160 with no problems at all. The Equinox is also less prone to poor seeing - one advantage of it's smaller aperture.  Of course, if possible, it would be useful for you to be able to use the two side by side and see which meets your requirements best.  They are both excellent telescopes.  I can carry out my Equinox on an AZ4 and it can literally go anywhere with me.

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johnha    16

Thanks for the replies. I presume the SW127 Mak you're referring to is the Skymax f=1500mm often advertised on the SynScan AZ GOTO mount? I had considered this but felt the focal length seemed a bit long? As paulastro mentioned, I also feel I'm going to be happier with the robustness of a refractor. I quite like the idea of a GOTO mount - I presume these will track well enough for observing?

I've found a thread on SGL debating the relative merits of the ED80 & Equinox 80 - as I'll be starting from scratch, the Equinox would add up to considerably more by the time I've added EP(s), diagonal & finder. I can't seem to find specs for the physical size & weight of either - how big/heavy are they?

Thanks for the help so far.

 

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Teleskop Service currently has a semi-apo 102 f/7 doublet for 649€, not very different from an Equinox 80 in price and size but heavier in light grasp. It would compare better to a 5-inch mak but with much shorter focal, and wider field. They also have motorizable EQ-4 mounts for 142€.

http://www.teleskop-express.de/shop/product_info.php/info/p9220_TS-Optics-ED-102mm-f-7-Refractor-Telescope-with-2--Crayford-focuser.html

http://www.teleskop-express.de/shop/product_info.php/info/p8136_TS-Optics-Equatorial-Mount-EQ4-with-polar-scope-and-tripod.html

 

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Dave In Vermont    4,626

I agree that a Maksutov is an excellent choice for a 'grab & go' - but I'd like to add that they come in even smaller sizes - all the way to 60mm (if you look around hard enough).

And the venerable ST80's are also great, regardless of whose brand-name they may wear. They are an inexpensive 80mm F5 achromatic refractor.

Have fun -

Dave

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happy-kat    3,015

I would consider do you need an EQ mount it could be adding to your setup delay. If you want help lining things up with what you have you could buy a red dot finder and fix it to your lens. Astroboot is where I got my extra RDFs. Goto mount are not all equal many will not move unless powered with handset. Skywatcher freedom find mounts can be used completely manually so less restrictive and more grab and go for quick session where no goto is needed.

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Charic    1,992
15 hours ago, johnha said:

My original upgrade plan was a 6" or 8" Newt

amended ......My original upgrade plan was a 6" or 8" Newt.....(Dob). :happy9:

For visual use, the 8" is a great scope, a big improvement over the Tasco scope. It can be left fully setup and lifted to anywhere in the garden, but is not man-bag portable, for transportation say on a bus or motorbike?

Grab-n-go? Yes, at lower magnifications, until the scope cools, but all open scopes benefit from some cooling.

I don't think Binoculars will  give you the details you would require on the Planets, Jupiter for me is just bright, no detail, compared to what my scope can achieve, and a  bigger scope would  provide  even more detail than my 8" produces, under the right conditions!

Setup is almost non-existent with a basic Dobsonian scope, in comparison to  an EQ mounted tripod.

If I were to start astrophotography, it would possibly be with an ED80 or 100mm refractor, with all the whistles, bangs and gizmo's that the head unit could offer, but I would not use this for purely visual use, just too much faffing about between targets, but for a single target, taking 100's of data shots, even thousands of  timed exposures, then a suitable, and expensive mount is what I would require.

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ronin    3,698

I hate grab and go questions. For a start the question is generally which scope. Here is another question Which is the bigger and heavier - the scope or the mount?

I have an ED 90 and believe me the size and weight of the scope is insignificant compared to the mount it gets put on, and it is on no way a big mount. It is however 3 times longer and 6-8 times heavier and those legs do anything but stay together when being moved. Neither is the mount a goto equitorial. Also the tripod needs the spreader and the scope needs a supply of eyepieces. The scope is the smallest and easiest item of the lot.

Do you want tracking and goto? If you do not then I suggest staying away from a Mak. That resultant smaller field of view is a pain, I have one on a goto/tracking mount and it is still a pain on one of those. Have noticed that a manual Alt/Az like the Twilight's are getting as costly as a small goto these days. Goto is becoming the "norm" and if you want not the norm then it is specialist and if specialist then it is more expensive.

Grab and Go means small but what do you want or expect to see? One post a long time back actually said the person wanted a small grab and go scope for taking to darker sites in a back pack but still wanted to see the same as their 10" newtonian could.

Easiest G&G I can think of is the Meade ETX-80. Plonk on a small table, level base, level and North OTA, supply data, tell it to do easy align. Will run off an inexpensive Li battery for 2 or 3 hours. Nothing spectacular but about the easiest I can think of. An 8mm BST is about the best eyepiece for use on one, so a 25mm for alignment and an 8mm for viewing.

 

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Cosmic Geoff    210

The AZ4 alt-azimuth mount is a contender for a grab & go mount. It is solid enough for any smaller scope (e.g. a 127mm Mak), up to around 7Kg (visual) and if you omit the eyepiece tray, it can be carried outside and set up in moments - just spread the legs.  It's what I use when I don't want the effort of getting out a GoTo or the EQ-5.

Edited by Cosmic Geoff
Addition.

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happy-kat    3,015

^ I think they don't work without power which is why I think the freedom find mounts better as can be fully manual, track or goto.

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johnha    16

Thanks for all the replies, they're all very helpful. My aim is to fill the gap between my Tasco and something bigger, a stop-gap if you like which will be easier to store/setup and something easier to use much more frequently. As such I'm looking for something more versatile which I would be able to use for different purposes (rather than simply outgrowing it). An ED80 refractor seems to give me G&G, guidescope and other options.

I guess my problems are:

1) Storage: The Tasco tube is a metre long - finding somewhere handy to keep it where it won't get bashed about (and keeping the finder aligned) is quite difficult.

2) Setup: The EQ2 looks like an old Orion - the EQ mount attaches to three individual wooden legs all supported by the accessory tray (wingnuts & washers etc.). I can't get the tripod into the garden without undoing the accessory tray (at which point the legs want to fall off the mount).

3) The EQ mount: Aligning with Polaris in the field of view is OK, but slewing round to (say) Jupiter often causes the latitude clamp to swing to zero. I suspect either the clamp is worn or the tube is out of balance (moving the counterweight seems to have little effect). I started by re-aligning when this happens (resulting in the same thing happening) but now just crank the latitude back to 54 degrees which seems to work reasonably well. I can set it up as an AZ mount but the DEC slow motion worm gear only covers a few degrees before it tightens up.

My options for upgrading bits (mount, finder etc.) seem limited. The tube doesn't have rings & dovetail but a collar which connects to the mount with a two bolt fixing (roughly diamond shaped with holes about 2.5" apart). Unless there's a handy conversion to a dovetail - replacing either the tube or mount seems problematic (putting rings and a dovetail on the tube on a new mount & better finder probably costs almost as much as new scope). The SW EQ2 mounts I see advertised seem to look exactly the same as mine except for an aluminum tripod - I'd expect to have many of the same problems as (3).

I appreciate the mount has to be sturdy/heavy enough but I feel it could be less aggro. Im looking for something I can keep closer to hand and use more frequently to grow my experience before jumping to something bigger. If I went a bought a 6" or 8" newt (EQ or Dob!) I'd use it for the next month and then probably find myself back to where I am (although with better visuals).

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davehawkins    50

There isn't a conversion bracket for the EQ1 or 2 to a dovetail fitting. I had the chance to buy a cheap second hand 70mm SW frak on an  EQ1 and asked First Light optics if one existed so I could mount my SW 127 mak on it. Ended up getting the AZ3 with an adapter to a camera screw fitting which the mak has holes in its dovetail for.

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happy-kat    3,015

Something to ponder. Member Nigel G had tried his ED80 on his Star Discovery mount, even used it for an imaging run (he's proficient within altaz imaging limitations). (I'll double check later incase I recall incorrectly) It does read that an EQ mount is unnecessary hassle for you. Can you visit a shop to gauge size of equipment or check out youtube to see if videos hello you gauge size.

Edited by happy-kat

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AdeKing    159

I'm afraid that I don't have an ED80 so can't offer an opinion on that particular scope.

For my grab and go setups I use either an ST102 (500mm focal length), if i want a particularly neat and compact setup, or a 150p f/5 newt (750mm focal length).

Whichever scope I choose, I tend to use an AZ4 mount, as it is so quick and easy to set up and start observing, though you do have to remove the spreader plate and fold up the tripod legs to make it nice and small.

I find that the ST102 frac requires less cool down time, but the 150p is usable after about 10 mins, even if I have to wait a bit longer for everything to stabilise properly.

I really like using an AZ mount for quick sessions as the setup simply requires extending the tripod legs, attaching the spreader plate and attaching the tube to the AZ4.  Once thats done you're ready to go.

 

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Geoff Lister    85

I have a Skywatcher Skymax 127 MCT with Synscan GOTO. The OTA is robust, and weighs just under 4kg, the tripod and mount add about the same again. The whole kit can sit in a small corner, with the OTA under the tripod (legs partially retracted). It's quick to get outside on a stable surface (patio or path) and is frugal on power; I use a 12V 1.5A plug-top mains supply, but you should be able to get 8 to 10 hours observing from a set of 8-off AA-size alkaline cells. 2-star alignment is quick if you do your homework (I use the free program "Stellarium" on my PC), to identify 2 or 3 bright stars that will be visible when you want to start observing. The OTA does take a little time to cool to ambient temperature, so I (a) assemble everything about an hour before sunset, or (b) leave the OTA in my garage for a couple of hours.

If you want something small, and very portable, then you may want to look at the Skywatcher Heritage 90P Virtuoso. It comes with a 90mm MCT and a bracket to fit a camera in place of the OTA. It is a simple AZ/ALT table-top mount that has the "standard" dovetail clamp, so it will take other OTAs up to 2.2kg. The whole assembly is very compact, and can be left, fully assembled, on a shelf, in a cupboard; or, with some form of dust cover, anywhere dry. I bought one, recently, and was surprised by its capabilities. I use it on a small garden table, (a) unpowered as a pure Dobsonian mount, with the clutch knobs released, (b) powered with auto-tracking and pushbutton slewing, and (c) with the Synscan handset from my Skymax, as a full GOTO. The 90mm MCT is a compromise, and clearly not as effective as the 127mm equivalent on the Skymax. The mount will take the 127mm MCT, although its weight exceeds manufacturer's recommendations. I have done a few trials and, provided the 127mm OTA is balanced in the dovetail clamp, the mount seems fine, with an altitude limitation of about 70 degrees (the 90mm gives full 90 degrees).

Geoff

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johnha    16

Thanks for all the replies - I now have a plan. I was concerned about the long focal length of the Skymax 127 but liked the idea of the goto mount. I'm likely to get the Skymax 127 on the SynScan mount and then look at buying tube rings and a dovetail to fit the Tasco to it (the tube weighs about 3kg so I expect it should be OK - I may need to be careful balancing it).

Thanks to all who contributed (especially those suggesting the Skymax).

John.

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Geoff Lister    85

John,

Attached are photos of (1) my original 3" Tasco, bought in 1986 to see Halley's comet, (2) DIY rings with dovetail clamp, made from items in my "come-in-handy" collection, and (3) Tasco OTA with DIY rings on Skymax 127 Synscan mount, and (4) Astromaster 130 OTA and its rings on Skymax mount.

 

P1030757R.thumb.jpg.1cccc0f3668bff74bd84d83c6a817024.jpg

591ac57649917_DIYRings(R).jpg.d7ece721dbf079f0df2ecf263ae65873.jpg

591ac61ca9c19_OnSkymaxMount(R).thumb.jpg.52c96a3b0c652d7c69a6663698b77b07.jpg

591ac7c6e1d6e_Astromaster130onSkymaxmount(2R).jpg.2c3d244e1501bd6dd23f6e23508913e3.jpg

 

 

 

 

Edited by Geoff Lister
remove unwanted photo

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johnha    16

Thanks Geoff - very useful. I'd probably try to re-use my existing tube collar by bolting it onto something resembling a dovetail. The hole centres are about 2.5" apart, with probably 6-8mm bolts so it shouldn't be too difficult...

I think I've found an EQ2 to dovetail adapter should I want to put a newer scope on the EQ2: Link - based on this old thread it looks like the right one: Link although hard to justify due to the cost.

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johnha    16

Um, OK there I was pretty much decided on the SynScan and I spot the Star Discovery mount: link - the next problem is by the time I've sorted tube rings and a dovetail, I'm not far away price wise from the Star Discovery 150P: link - this is much larger than I had planned but very inviting!

The extra expense for the Star Discovery mount seems worth it - has anybody used the FreedomFind feature?

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happy-kat    3,015

Yes it is on my Virtuoso mount and it's great flexibility. Plus the mount works manually with no power this is not often on all tracking goto mounts.

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johnha    16
On 16/05/2017 at 10:37, Geoff Lister said:

John,

Attached are photos of (1) my original 3" Tasco, bought in 1986 to see Halley's comet, (2) DIY rings with dovetail clamp, made from items in my "come-in-handy" collection, and (3) Tasco OTA with DIY rings on Skymax 127 Synscan mount, and (4) Astromaster 130 OTA and its rings on Skymax mount.

@Geof Lister - How long is your Tasco scope and do you have any problems with it hitting the mount?

I ask because I've noticed that the AllView Multi-purpose mount allows you to turn the arm round to get better clearance for longer scopes.

John.

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