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Steve Clay

First club night experience. First impressions

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I attended the Cornwall Astro Society meeting last night and I must say that the welcome that I received was brilliant. Much like the people who respond here on SGL no question was treated as being a bit dim and people only too willing to help. So thank you for that.

There were a few scopes set up and I had the opportunity to look through all of them albeit briefly.  Prior to attending the meet I had done a bit of work on Stellarium (which I am now getting the hang of quite nicely) to get an idea as to what would potentially be visible during the time span of the observing session roughly 2030-2330 hrs.  

I did have some pre-conceived ideas about what might be good/ not make the potential future purchase shortlist. This was largely based on portability and potential ease of use, also I've run some some ocular view scenarios/ simulations in Stellarium with the characteristics of of some scopes, 10, 20 and 30 mm eyepieces and I must say that on the planets they were pretty much OK for what I actually saw through he real kit. The stellarium views of DSO's was nothing like what was actually seen which were smudges of light. Still fascinating all the same when you the distances involved.

 

Scopes and my thoughts:

I had original thought that my choice would be between a SW frac, SW 150P or 127 MAK all  on alt-az with possibly go-to on the MAK.... Unfortunately neither of the latter 2 of these OTA's was there to view..

 

What was available:

I didn't particularly like the view through a strartravel 120 and found it difficult to focus that might possibly be my eyesight though. It was on an EQ5 mount and the owner was practising the tracking functions on Mars so it might have been the object too. the whole package was quite bulky and I think definitely not for me. 

8 inch SCT fully auto (think it was a Meade) it took the guy about 45 mins to set it up from the boot of his car. View of Mars and Saturn was fantastic. Caught a glimpse of Neptune too which was a small prick of blue ish light but fascinating. Quite expensive for a starter and I did not get to see how a DSO looked through it but was told that it would struggle under the evenings conditions. I can't actually comment on DSO's

SW 200P DOB. I'd discounted DOBS pretty much from the start as being too big, heavy and cumbersome to move about. However, the 200P was none of these things. Easily portable around the site, not really heavy and pretty simple to use. looked at a double star and Andromeda. The finder sight was really awful being a straight thing and with the scope at anything more than  30 deg from horizontal was for me totally unusable. This has now become a serious contender if found 2nd hand at a reasonable price so that I have funds to address the finder and better eyepieces.   

Now for the total shocker. One of the guy's had a SW 300p open tube DOB go-to. I would of never have given this a second thought but it was brilliant, couldn't fault it, but with one tiny exception the £1300 price tag and it was a smidgen too big but not by much. Considering that you will need some eyepieces, black tube cover and power tank places it above my budget and would not pass the test from SWMBO.

So what now. I still really want to look through the 127 Mak but i'm really drawn to go-to and the open tube DOB idea which is something that has totally come from left field. The search now begins for something between the 200p and the 300p dobs, and the open tube 250 with go-to seems to be right where I think I want to be.

For any other beginner who is thinking about scopes then really try and get to an event where you can see some stuff in the flesh, it's really worth the effort. Once again a huge thank you to the members of CAS and to you guys here on SGL for the advice. I'd welcome any comments on my ramblings above especially the conclusions I have drawn be they right, wrong or ill judged.

Cheers

Steve

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Steve

Great you were made welcome, but no surprise, us astronomers are mainly a friendly lot and most don't bite 😉

You will find whatever scope you buy another will follow, its a natural thing, honest.
From what you list I can comment on most except Mak or SCT.

I have found an altazumith mounted reflector the more comfortable and satisfying to use for visual work.
I am low tec and use all hand driven, no go-to and the most hi-tec is my red dot finder and torch.

I use my 150p f5 on a Altair Sabre Alt Az on a metal tripod, nice sitting height and 150 mm is a good size to start with.
I now use a 250 mm OOUK Dobsonian, recently new to me and its wonderful, but clearly bigger and chunkier than the 150 mm,
but weight wise not much in it, why? Well the 150 mm is Steel tubed, the mount is chunky, the 250 mm is aluminium tubed and an aluminium plate base.

The 200p Skyliner you mention is a great place to start, gets you to learn the sky as its all push and curse movements until you learn,
then its push just right and ah, here we are.

I am biased as I am a Luddite and visually observe only, who needs electronics, oh yes me to write this!

Going to the club and meeting folks and looking at kit was the best thing you could have done, great start.

Wish you well in your quest.

 

Edited by Alan White
typos
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Good feedback. Up in Deepest Darkest Norfolk we try and get people along to our meetings and outreach so expensive buys are not made without advice.

 

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Hi Steve.

Good that you found yourself a local club/society and you enjoyed what you viewed through the members 'scopes. 

You said you have discounted the SW 200P Dob, because of the weight and size. Have you considered its smaller sibling... the SW 150P Dob?

Mak's & SCT's are excellent for lunar & planets, but they do have a few downsides...

  1. they are dew-magnets, so buy a dewshield at the same time if you do purchase one.
  2. they can take upto thirty to sixty minutes to acclimatise, (i.e. cool down if taken outside from a warm enviroment).
  3. narrow field of view, so not ideal for some widefield DSO's
  4. on a manual alt-az, they can be a bit frustrating trying to keep the object in the e/p. I cannot comment on 'goto' as mine is 'manual' as in the photo below.post-4682-0-08081900-1394160327_thumb.jpg.b3cd57e73c3d02df8222be3eea38782b.jpg<--- my Celestron C6/XLT, (SCT) & 're-modded' Meade ETX105, (Mak) on a Tele-Optic Giro...PIC021.JPG.317e3ab5bc2a32848d576782c9caf3ab.JPG.4592fc6f2bbea546ef6fe542e1c067ae.JPG<--- and the ETX105 on a 'manual' Vixen GP/DX.

 

 

Edited by Philip R
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Hi Steve, the choice of a telescope often depends on your viewing priorities, so if you want to view DSO's in particular, then a reflector is the way to go as larger apertures are cheaper when compared to other types.  A refractor is more suited to Moon, planets, double stars and bright DSO's, but a dob is a good all-rounder with very powerful light-catching capability.  For me, I went for both at different times and they have given me a lot of pleasure.  Good luck in your choices!

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32 minutes ago, Philip R said:

Hi Steve.

Good that you found yourself a local club/society and you enjoyed what you viewed through the members 'scopes. 

You said you have discounted the SW 200P Dob, because of the weight and size. Have you considered its smaller sibling... the SW 150P Dob?

Mak's & SCT's are excellent for lunar & planets, but they do have a few downsides...

  1. they are dew-magnets, so buy a dewshield at the same time if you do purchase one.
  2. they can take upto thirty to sixty minutes to acclimatise, (i.e. cool down if taken outside from a warm enviroment).
  3. narrow field of view, so not ideal for some widefield DSO's
  4. on a manual alt-az, they can be a bit frustrating trying to keep the object in the e/p. I cannot comment on 'goto' as mine is 'manual' as in the photo below.post-4682-0-08081900-1394160327_thumb.jpg.b3cd57e73c3d02df8222be3eea38782b.jpg<--- my Celestron C6/XLT, (SCT) & 're-modded' Meade ETX105, (Mak) on a Tele-Optic Giro...PIC021.JPG.317e3ab5bc2a32848d576782c9caf3ab.JPG.4592fc6f2bbea546ef6fe542e1c067ae.JPG<--- and the ETX105 on a 'manual' Vixen GP/DX.

 

 

Hi Philip re the Dob, initially discounted but firmly in the mix after seeing and touching.

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I have a 200p and 300p flexi goto

Your right the standard straight finder is awful but you can get a right angled one which is much better : https://www.firstlightoptics.com/finders/skywatcher-9x50-right-angled-erecting-finderscope.html

The 200p as you say is very portable in one piece, the 300p flexi goto isn't as portable but I move mine around the garden, the tube and base separately, when observing so its manageable and the goto means you will observe so much more than with a manual dob in a single session, the goto is reasonably accurate - sometimes it will find the object sometimes it may be a little off, the main thing I appreciate from the goto is that it tracks and keeps objects in view over a long period of time

Best of luck with what you decide and eventually purchase

 

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I "discovered" dobs after owning an 8" Celestron SCT. I got some great views with the SCT but cool down times and dewing were a drawback. Compact storage and portability were strengths of the SCT though. I bought a £100 8" F/6 dob (Revelation I seem to recall) because I wanted some wider views but rather to my surprise it performed just as well, if not better than the SCT on the moon, planets and double stars as well !. Quick to setup, portable and with a small storage footprint, when pointing upwards at least.

So the SCT was sold and the money went towards my 1st ED refractor which I thought would compliment the 8" dobsonian nicely.

Nothing like getting your hands on scopes and your eye to their eyepieces for a while to help you decide which tick your boxes best. In my case I had to do it by buying used and trying but society meets and star parties are a better (and cheaper !) way :smiley:

 

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7 hours ago, Steve Clay said:

SW 200P DOB. I'd discounted DOBS pretty much from the start as being too big, heavy and cumbersome to move about. However, the 200P was none of these things. Easily portable around the site, not really heavy and pretty simple to use. looked at a double star and Andromeda. The finder sight was really awful being a straight thing and with the scope at anything more than  30 deg from horizontal was for me totally unusable. This has now become a serious contender if found 2nd hand at a reasonable price so that I have funds to address the finder and better eyepieces.   

The 200P finder is my preferred finder these days, I'm also right eye dominant,  but I also  keep the left eye open (aids focusing when finding) and I'm seated, so all-in-all a comfortable situation for me.

There are other finders that you could consider as replacements or additions to what's already fitted to the scope.

Finding  the one that's right is all you need to worry about. This season I will  re-asses  my two other finders, a  RACI  (Right Angled Corrected Image - same as the standard finder but the eyepiece faces you when your stood/sat aside the scope, and my latest Telrad, which also has a mirror to  allow viewing from the side!

Of the three apertures you mention  I'd like the 300P but the 200P is so manageable.

Edited by Charic

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You have done we to get. Chance to compare some scopes to help form your thoughts. An 8 or 10 inch dobsonian would be great scope covering my bases.

The focussing on the st120 could be because of the scope but there are other possibilities also... it's a fast focal ratio with a smaller depth of field and/or if you were focusing on Mars itself that is a tougher task than focusing on a point source star. The stock focuser doesn't have a fine focuser either. If the mount wasn't solidly set up then vibes as you move the focuser can also make it harder to get it spot on. Lastly it could be your eyes - I thought my st120 had astigmatism when I first used it but in the end I tracked the problem down to my own eyes!

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Steve

Great you have an enjoyable night

Been on committee for my club now for over 10 years, and still learning new things

One of the thing tell new members, with a dob, as you found out

Ditch the straight through spotting scope, and get a right angle one, makes life so much easier

Our club meets, members have their scopes setup, and each month have a member give a short presentation on subject of their choice

John

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Glad you got out and allowed yourself to make an informed decision. Seeing them in action really is the best way.

I see second hand 200 dobs coming up for sale fairly frequently - either from someone who had never seen one before and it is just too big, or from someone who has had great use out of it for 3 or 4 years and is no longer big enough :D - so I'm sure you'll be able to pick one up soon for about £200.

as mentioned above,  best thing I ever bought for mine was a RACI

good luck in your purchase

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I picked up a SW200P on an EQ5 mount with drive motors and loads of other bits including 2 cameras and various filters, battery packs, spares for £400, now has GOTO system fitted, new 50ED finder, EFW and better camera - always something to build on!  But as part of an Astro group I have found the best advise and help and go every week without fail even when the weather is poor just to chew the fat and gain more insight from the pros.

Edited by Astrosharkey

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