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Grumpy Martian

Deciding what type of telescope I'd really be happy with.

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 I have recently been on a quest for a telescope that I would really enjoy for what it is and being happy with it. I will offer an apology for posting several contrasting topics in recent weeks ranging from apature fever and very large Dobs to small easy to handle refractors. 

I have an eight inch Newtonian which is based in Dorset and utilises the dark skies there very well indeed. This telescope setup is rewarding in that environment. 

In my home in South Hetfordshire I have a Skywatcher ED 120 refractor. This has given me some great views. Moonshane was kind enough to give me first refusal to buy it back from him. But the truth is that astronomy is becoming less fun with the ever increasing light pollution. And it is becoming more differcult for me to handle large unwieldy setups, it is a big scope. Trapped my finger in the EQ5 tripod a few days ago. 

In recent weeks I have had the opportunity to look through an 80mm Stellavue and Celestron C80 refractors. They are light weight and easy to mount. Encouraging frequent use. I realise that these donot have the light gathering power of the ED 120. But still give crisp contrasty views of my favourite objects in light polluted skies. I once found myself stopping on a verge at the side of a road to view a comet with large binoculars on a photographic tripod. I cannot imagine that this would be practical with a much larger and heavier telescope setup. So I feel sure that a small good quality 80mm F7ish ED refractor is what I am likely to be happiest with. I am coming close to making the hard decision to let the 120 go. 

I would be interested in other people's telescope journeys. What other 80mm refractors are available? 

Edited by Grumpy Martian
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I went from 102mm f6.5 achro to 80ED f7 to SW 90/900 achro to Vixen 80mm f11.4 and now with 102mm Mak. Still didn't find that perfect setup. I was happy with all of them and views through but what was and is the most troublesome is the mount/tripod. Here I went from stock(came with the scope) to Berlebach and Manfrotto to Vixen to stock again and as far as mounts go AZ4, AYO Vamo, AZ3. Eyepieces from BST EDs to Baader Zoom, Vixen SSWs and Baader Morpheus.

My initial budget was 500 GBP lol. The journey started in May 2018.

I am almost set up with newest aquisition that is SW 102 mak with AZ GTI Wifi with stock tripod ( this will change to either Berlebach Report 112 or Gitzo 5 series 3 section down the road ) and Baader zoom. This is actually close to my initial budget. BUT! the last two days were not very good for observing so I have to wait for the moon and do a star test to see how good the scope actually is. So still not 100% set. Oh and need some wide scope as well no? :D Maybe WO 61?

The best views to date to my eye were with Vixen A80M. The best mechanics/focuser are on Starwave 80ED. The smoothest mount is AYO Vamo but the easiest to use is AZ GTI Wifi.

Don't really know what to tell you. 80ED is good and with Berlebach tripod and AYO Vamo it was a joy to use. But mak is even easier and lighter...

Edited by heliumstar
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How about looking into EAA/video astronomy? It's one relatively cheap way of beating light pollution and virtually doubling or tripling the aperture of your scope.

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Starpaw : so what would be required for this in terms of camera and software?

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36 minutes ago, heliumstar said:

I went from 102mm f6.5 achro to 80ED f7 to SW 90/900 achro to Vixen 80mm f11.4 and now with 102mm Mak. Still didn't find that perfect setup. I was happy with all of them and views through but what was and is the most troublesome is the mount/tripod. Here I went from stock(came with the scope) to Berlebach and Manfrotto to Vixen to stock again and as far as mounts go AZ4, AYO Vamo, AZ3. Eyepieces from BST EDs to Baader Zoom, Vixen SSWs and Baader Morpheus.

My initial budget was 500 GBP lol. The journey started in May 2018.

I am almost set up with newest aquisition that is SW 102 mak with AZ GTI Wifi with stock tripod ( this will change to either Berlebach Report 112 or Gitzo 5 series 3 section down the road ) and Baader zoom. This is actually close to my initial budget. BUT! the last two days were not very good for observing so I have to wait for the moon and do a star test to see how good the scope actually is. So still not 100% set. Oh and need some wide scope as well no? :D Maybe WO 61?

The best views to date to my eye were with Vixen A80M. The best mechanics/focuser are on Starwave 80ED. The smoothest mount is AYO Vamo but the easiest to use is AZ GTI Wifi.

Don't really know what to tell you. 80ED is good and with Berlebach tripod and AYO Vamo it was a joy to use. But mak is even easier and lighter...

Really interested in your experiences. Thanks. 

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I went through all this, i guess i was trying to find the holy grail telescope, one that COULD do every thing, it does not exist, eventually i took stock of my situation, and decided to concentrate my efforts and equipment on aspects of the hobby i could do given the LP and weather, an area i would enjoy, not find somewhat frustrating so i now focus on Luna imaging, and feel i am doing okay in this area, not brilliant but okay.

So my advice is first decide what area best suits your environment then choose equipment best suited to this, dont try to cover all aspects of the hobby, so if luna/planets/doubles are your bag, set up toward this, if DSO are more appealing go with this 

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I sense your frustration and indecision Martin, it is not easy.

I’ve gone from having loads of kit, back down to having very little, then back up to now having plenty again, probably too many. The scopes I have consistently used most frequently are manual Alt-Az mounted apo refractors of between 60 and 120mm, with the sweet spot somewhere around 80 to 100mm. They are easy to transport, quick to setup and cool, and bombproof in operation. They are just as capable of looking at the sun with a Quark or Herschel wedge as they are the planets, moon or bright DSOs. They even give wonderful widefield views of the large clusters and nebulae under dark skies.

I enjoy larger scopes and have had plenty of dobs in my time, but they tend not to get used that often because of size and inconvenience. I hope that will change now I have my 14” Sumerian which is a single handed carry out to the car. I’ve used it just once so far, but the results were very pleasing and I hope to at least see something through it this weekend if we don’t get blown away! My group are planning another trip in November.

I also have used a range of goto mounts, enjoying them a lot. I can generally find most targets without assistance, but goto under a light polluted sky does have its advantages. Even so, many of my sessions are relatively brief, so going through alignment etc takes up precious time, hence my preference for manual scopes. Push-to has many of the benefits of both worlds, you can use manually if you want, or do a quick align if you want assistance. I’ve had this on a 16” dob and also on Ayodigi AltAz mounts, linked to SkySafari they work very well.

Coming back to my earlier comments, if pushed to keep only one scope, it would still be my FC-100DC. I know everyone will say blah, blah, blah, he’s banging on about the Tak again, but it genuinely isn’t because it is a Tak necessarily. It is very light, compact, quick to cool and just works. It happens to have fluorite optics, lovely contrast and is razor sharp, but for me personally if it were the DL version I would not use it half as much because of the additional length making it just that bit harder to transport; I love being able to take the Tak pretty much anywhere, it is coming to the US with me quite soon. I’m sure the DL optics are probably a smidge better, but that’s not the clincher in this instance. If Skywatcher did a lightweight version of the 100ED at f7.5 with the same colour correction as the 120ED I reckon that would be a pretty great all rounder.

I hope some of those ramblings are of use.

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40 minutes ago, Stu said:

I sense your frustration and indecision Martin, it is not easy.

I’ve gone from having loads of kit, back down to having very little, then back up to now having plenty again, probably too many. The scopes I have consistently used most frequently are manual Alt-Az mounted apo refractors of between 60 and 120mm, with the sweet spot somewhere around 80 to 100mm. They are easy to transport, quick to setup and cool, and bombproof in operation. They are just as capable of looking at the sun with a Quark or Herschel wedge as they are the planets, moon or bright DSOs. They even give wonderful widefield views of the large clusters and nebulae under dark skies.

I enjoy larger scopes and have had plenty of dobs in my time, but they tend not to get used that often because of size and inconvenience. I hope that will change now I have my 14” Sumerian which is a single handed carry out to the car. I’ve used it just once so far, but the results were very pleasing and I hope to at least see something through it this weekend if we don’t get blown away! My group are planning another trip in November.

I also have used a range of goto mounts, enjoying them a lot. I can generally find most targets without assistance, but goto under a light polluted sky does have its advantages. Even so, many of my sessions are relatively brief, so going through alignment etc takes up precious time, hence my preference for manual scopes. Push-to has many of the benefits of both worlds, you can use manually if you want, or do a quick align if you want assistance. I’ve had this on a 16” dob and also on Ayodigi AltAz mounts, linked to SkySafari they work very well.

Coming back to my earlier comments, if pushed to keep only one scope, it would still be my FC-100DC. I know everyone will say blah, blah, blah, he’s banging on about the Tak again, but it genuinely isn’t because it is a Tak necessarily. It is very light, compact, quick to cool and just works. It happens to have fluorite optics, lovely contrast and is razor sharp, but for me personally if it were the DL version I would not use it half as much because of the additional length making it just that bit harder to transport; I love being able to take the Tak pretty much anywhere, it is coming to the US with me quite soon. I’m sure the DL optics are probably a smidge better, but that’s not the clincher in this instance. If Skywatcher did a lightweight version of the 100ED at f7.5 with the same colour correction as the 120ED I reckon that would be a pretty great all rounder.

I hope some of those ramblings are of use.

They are Stu, thanks. I am convinced that my next telescope will be an 80 or 100 mm refractor. Put on a simple mount. 

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10 hours ago, heliumstar said:

Starpaw : so what would be required for this in terms of camera and software?

You could use something like this with a monitor:

https://www.modernastronomy.com/shop/cameras/astro-video/revolution-imager/revolution-imager-r2/

Or the Lodestar X2 with Starlight Live software. 

There's other options out there too, which I cannot remember off the top of my head.

I would go down this route myself if it weren't for the fact that I do most of my observing in a tiny front garden in a "tough" East London area (live in a first floor flat). I have an 80mm frac on a lightweight altaz mount/photo tripod combo. If I see trouble approaching I can quickly and easily get back inside with the kit, which wouldn't be so easy with a  camera and monitor/laptop. Not ideal situation, but hey ho.

 

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I have now got to a point where I own 6 scopes, 5 refractors and the 12" dob. My thoughts on which I could live with as an "only scope" vary depending on the one that I've most recently had a great session with. If I went with a refractor I'd miss the deep sky exploring that the 12" dob can do but if the refractors went I'd miss the crisp, sharp, constrasty views that they produce as well ! :rolleyes2:

I think though there is a lot of merit in picking a scope and sticking with it, pushing it as far as you can performance wise, getting to know it intimately, fine tuning it and building your confidence in using it on as wide a range of targets as possible. In some ways it does not matter which scope you actually do this with perhaps ?

One trend that I have noticed with my scopes is that I'm more often taking my ED120 refractor, on a simple alt-azimuth mount, to society observing sessions. It's rugged, easy to chuck in the car, has no setup time, I've owned if for years and despite often being the smallest aperture scope on the field, it's often the one that is usually delivering some of the best views, deep sky as well as high res planetary / lunar etc. So I guess if I was forced right now to become a "one scope" person, the 4.7 inch ED doublet refractor might just be the one :smiley:

( Don't let my other scopes hear this though ! :rolleyes2: )

 

 

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Its a trick one indeed. I feel the answer you will need more than one to truly cover all areas (if all areas are really what interest you). Of the 4 I own, they all have their strengths & weaknesses to be honest. And quite often the nights conditions dictate which you will use!.

Like john mentioned. Sometimes the easy of grab n go just nails it!. This year I have so enjoyed the little ED70 on a EQ5 with a 2.5 counter weight, dual drives & battery pack!. You can pick the whole rig up and move it around.

So I feel you need to cover a general base to start with and go from there. As mentioned a 150mm Newt is a fantastic start (portable but serious for observing)

Edited by Rob

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Hi Martin, I recently bought a HEQ5 for my 120 Equinox and it's a great mount, works as it should and is very solid. That said, I have to make around six trips back and forth with various things to set up. This makes it a bit of a faff. That said, the views are pretty good and the goto is very good, even though I cannot see a lot of objects due to LP. I hope my planned obs at the darker end of my garden will help this though in due course.

After using that set up the last few times out (and after cleaning my disgraceful mirror) I tried my 12" f4 dob and this was a joy to use. Easy and quick to set up and I found 'drive to' for most targets quicker than the goto! My 12" f4 is my most grab and go scope. I can literally be up and observing in a couple of minutes including collimation and carrying out. Could it be worth buying or making a dob mount for the 8" you have?

My point I suppose is the age old, the most convenience = the most used. Convenience will mean different things to different people and at different points in their life. 

I have used a 100mm f7 Altair Astro ED frac and it was lovely, sharp and convenient. Using it on a giro mount was great and enjoyable. I do find though personally that despite what people tell me, aperture is better even in areas with LP. I'd think something like a Skywatcher 8" dob would be simple to set up, and work very well at home. For more mobile requirements, I agree that a 100mm approx. frac. on a giro type mount would be optimal given your stated requirements. It depends what sort of targets you prefer I suppose.

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ps, I should caveat that when I say aperture is better. I mean that for fainter objects it can make the difference between seeing them and not, and for brighter objects like open clusters and globs, there is a massive difference when view with e.g. my 120ED and my 12" f4 (in the favour of the 12").  Only darker skies will improve the view for some objects though. This assumes the object fits in the field of course which in some cases it won't (in which case I use the 120ED or the finder!).

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You ask what type of telescope you would be happy with. You have I seem to recall tried a few different ones out over the past couple of years. One starting place might be to have a think about what you did not like and what you enjoyed about the ones that you have owned and used and see if there is a scope that combines as many of the positives as possible while leaving out as many negatives as possible ?

There probably won't be a scope that is 100% for you but you might be able to narrow the choice down to ones where most of your preferences are met with few compromises ?

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HI Moonshine. I did actually think about making it into a Dob. But my garden has restricted viewing all round. The Newt that I have in Dorset works really well there as the skies are visible to quite low down. 

Thanks John. Good points for me to take on board. 

Edited by Grumpy Martian
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LP has slowly killed the hobby for me over the past couple years. It was never great living so close to a large town centre but it was the installation of LED lights towering another 7' above where the original sodium lights once pinnacled that brought the largest impact. It took several attempts to get shades installed but the problem is they are so high there's no escaping night vision blindness.

For this reason my kit over the past year has been slowly disappearing so I can relate to your search for an ideal scope to keep your hand in the hobby. For me it has always been my ST120 AZ4 combo. I know achro aren't for everyone but I find I only get distracted by CA when I choose to look for it. Yes it does impact on planetary views but I just use filters to help with the contrast.

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Grumpy, Did you just hear that ?

……………….

……………….

There it goes again !!

It's you kicking yourself - You just sold one the best telescopes you have had.

Don't sell your 120ED, or you can just give it to me, but you will not get it back ! 😈

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8 minutes ago, Skyline said:

Grumpy, Did you just hear that ?

……………….

……………….

There it goes again !!

It's you kicking yourself - You just sold one the best telescopes you have had.

Don't sell your 120ED, or you can just give it to me, but you will not get it back ! 😈

I have thought long and hard. It will be moving on. It is a great telescope. But just does not suit me now. I've had a great time with it though. 

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I can certainly confirm that it gives great views, having owned it!

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36 minutes ago, Grumpy Martian said:

I have thought long and hard. It will be moving on. It is a great telescope. But just does not suit me now. I've had a great time with it though. 

Thats fine but it would be good to quantify why it does not suit you so you can learn from the experience and apply that to the next one.

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I take your point John. Thankyou for your input. To be honest I have enjoyed using down in Dorset where the skies are dark and you can see quite low down. One setup has to go. Either the Orion Optics or the 120ED.

But high hedges in my garden which restricts the full use of medium to larger telescopes. Also light pollution means that a smaller more easily transportable refractor fits the bill in South Hertfordshire. A smaller telescope can easily be taken to sites that are better for astronomy. 

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What sort of budget are you looking to spend Martin, including any sales? Also, are you planning to buy a different mount? For ultimate portability, the giro mounts are hard to beat. You might find that if you sold your eq5 and another few bits, you'd have enough for a giro which would easily handle your 120ED and your 8" newt and give the flexibility height wise.

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I bought a Giro recently. It does work a lot better than the AZ4 that I used. 

I feel that it may well be the time to get a smaller, more manageable ED refractor. What comes to mind is Skywatcher 80 mm Equinox, Celestron ED C80, Orion ED 80 mm. There is also Altair Astro's Starwave ED 80mm. So budget wise what ever they Come for. I know that The Starwave is priced at £590 odd. I would use an EQ5 tripod with a Berlebach Castor mount. 

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