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eifionglyn

Advice for returning astronomer

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So I haven't pointed anything skywards for some time, but a few days ago following a room clearout I found myself flicking through the pocket sky atlas, and making a makeshift Alt-Az mount by attaching a pan head to a ball head photo tripod set at 90 degree "portrait" mode and mounting an ST80 on that. Azimuth adjustment is done by the ball head's pan axis, while the pan head, now vertical provides elevation. Doesn't quite balance with an 18mm eyepiece in, but pointed at M13 showed a small fuzzy blob. It's still there! I'm quite tempted to pick up an AZ5 deluxe at some point to put it on - or even getting the 127mm Mak with it as a package.

 

Having this experience gave me a desire for a proper scope again - the ST80 and 18mm BST is all the optics I have left since I last sold up. Wondered if the community had any thoughts for what I should go for given my requirements. I suspect I know the answer already.

 

Imaging

Not bothered by imaging at all, don't have the patience, the time and certainly not the budget. If I take any images it will strictly be stacked short exposure wide-field stuff with a regular camera for the foreseeable. The "no EQ" imaging thread is an amazing showcase of what can be done with modest kit - so one day maybe - but not a consideration for now.

 

Go To

Had it, didn't like it. Had a Skymax 127 on the Synscan mount back in the day. Fast, accurate, convenient, but didn't enjoy the experience of tapping in a target then looking through the eyepiece. There seemed to be very little for me to actually do. No disrespect to those that use go-to but it's not for me. Similarly I prefer sailing to power boats, and gliding to powered aircraft.

 

I have reasonably OK skies (live at the edge of a small town) but severely restricted southern view.

 

In the past I've had 200mm newtonians on an EQ5 and a 250mm on a dobsonian base. I liked the quick and easy setup of the Dob, the fact that it's rock solid, it's low price,  and the eyepiece is almost always at a comfortable height. I didn't enjoy the EQ5 much in terms of carrying it out, polar aligning it, attaching the counterweights, annoying Mrs E by having the door open for multiple trips letting the warm out etc etc. But it did have one redeeming feature, an RA drive. Having it keep your target in view enhances the experience hugely, IMO. It lets you catch that fleeting moment of good seeing when viewing the moon or planets, and keeps you on track during an extended star hop as you check the charts.

 

So clearly my best bang for the buck would be a 200mm Dob, easy to use, quick to set up, relatively easy to store, cheap etc. But lacks RA tracking. There seems to be a lack of small, but quality equatorial mounts. Everything with a motor seems to be either Go To, or HEQ5s or heavier aimed at imagers. Or am I missing something? How easy is it to keep a target in view with slow motion controls like on the AZ5? Guessing you have to make constant corrections on both axes. Is the EQ3-2 any good - and is it significantly lighter and less hassle than the EQ5?

 

I imagine I will settle on a 200mm Dob again - but wanted to get ideas for alternatives first.

 

Thanks in advance.

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The EQ-3/2 is essentially a EQ-4 and is a good mount depending on the size of tube you are putting on it. 

I do not think it would do well with anything larger than a 150mm newtonian or 150mm f/5 refractor. 

I know a couple of people that have a 200mm SCT on the AZ5 and they like them. 

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Welcome back to the dark side!

From your post, I reckon you will enjoy using a 200 dob.

I wouldn't dismiss an alt-az mount just yet. Also consider goto.
Quite small and quick to set up. Unlike EQ, no messing around with weights on long poles.

For me, the lower cost goto mounts can be more faff than benefit. If you look at goto and are not stuck for budget look for one that has an internal battery for the clock.
It really annoys me to have to enter the time/dae every time out with the 'cheapie' goto mounts.
Yes you can pay a bundle of money for a GPS receiver that plugs into the mount to do this for you!.
What I like about goto is that you swap eyepeices, filter, etc. Or even walk away from the scope. When you return, the object of interest is still there.

Just few thoughts.

David.

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Thanks for the input, good to know the EQ3/2 is well regarded, there is one going on eBay not far from me. Also there is a 200mm Dob, I may just end up with both!

 

When I had the EQ 5 i did enjoy the convenience of being able to step away from the scope return later and have my target still there, but I didn’t enjoy the go to. Not that it was a faff to set up, or didn’t work, quite the opposite, it worked too well and left me with little to do. 

 

Have not discounted the AZ5 either, looks like it could be a nice grab and go setup for the moon and planets with the 127 Mak. 

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If going for an EQ mount

Better off getting one with SynScan Go-To

Can then use for tracking

There is now also a SynScan WiFi adapter available, and works from your Android mobile device App

Pic taken recent solar field day with my club, showing my ED80 on EQ5 Pro mount

In background another ED80 on a HEQ5 mount

 

 

Skywatcher ED80.jpg

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I guess that the question is, how important is tracking? The Op has decent skys, so can see to star hop. He doesn’t want to image. Why complicate things? 

Personally, I’d spend the money on optics and a nicely engineered Alt/Az or go the Dob route.

Paul

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12 minutes ago, Paul73 said:

how important is tracking?

It would be a nice to have. And by tracking I mean RA sidereal / lunar rate tracking. I’m specifically not interested in GoTo. I’ve had it in the past and found it took much of what I enjoy out of the experience, the sense of discovery when finding an illusive target for the first time. 

 

So so if there was an EQ mount with a RA drive, that was convenient to carry, store and set up, and could cope with a scope of reasonable aperture for visual use I’d be interested. I suspect I’m after something that doesn’t exist, an EQ5 that’s lighter and smaller but just as capable. 

 

I guess heading into the garage and building an equatorial platform might be an option. How hard can it be? ;)

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I'm with you on the non goto side here!. This is why I have 2 mounts that are just RA/DEC driven. I like releasing the clutches and finding my target. Then enjoy the target sitting the ep for a s long as I like!. Only need few extra adjustments here & there. I would suggest a EQ5 with the newer enhanced dual drives. If you really do want to go back to EQ. However the EQ3-2 (as said) is a nice mount, but aperture restrictive

That said I think maybe a flex tube dob (10") might be the way forward for you?!. Very nice scopes, and fold down a little for storage and carrying!

Rob

Edited by Rob

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Unless I am mis remembering things, you can get a goto mount and just use the tracking can't you? I seem to remember doing that with my Evolution mount. I too like the satisfaction of finding the object, but having recently started getting my travel set up together, agree that tracking is a luxury I do not want to do with out!

That said I have slo mo controls on my AZ3, with its attached 102 ST, they work fine, but not as good as tracking! On my photo tripod and using my new Celstron C5, it is even more noticeable. I am going to get the AZ GTI mount, which I am reasonably certain you can use it, with or without GOTO and still use the tracking.

By the way do not forget to look at the smaller SCT telescopes, they are very good for grab and go! :smile:

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6 minutes ago, Greymouser said:

Unless I am mis remembering things, you can get a goto mount and just use the tracking can't you?

It depends, I remember my EQ5 you could loosen the clutches and slew the thing across the sky by hand, tighten up the clutches once in the vicinity and the motors would take over. I imagine you could do the same if it were a Go To handset sending instructions to the motors. But then you're back to polar alignment and lugging counterweights around.

With an alt-az goto like the Synscan I had the Mak on, you could not, you could only use the handset to slew the scope, which was slow, noisy and annoying!

Basically what I need is a butler to slowly turn the RA control  for me, but to get out of my way when I want to push the scope myself!

I fully realise that I have unreasonable conflicting requirements here. Light, small, simple but durable, capable and stiff, tracked but not go-to, and cheap. 

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1 minute ago, eifionglyn said:

But then you're back to polar alignment and lugging counterweights around.

No counterweights with either the Evolution mount, or AZGTI! :tongue:

I am not so sure of the combination of C9.25 and the Evolution mount, they are not a match imo, however the C5, even though the mount is overkill is slick on that mount. The weight is an issue, which is why I am now going to get the very versatile AZGTI, as soon as I can it weighs only 1.3KG, then a lightweight tripod and away I will go! I expect the whole setup to be less than 8 KG in weight including the odd eyepiece! :shocked:

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AZ GTi - now that is quite an interesting little thing. According to the specs:

 

Quote

Telescope can be moved manually in either axis without the mount losing its positional information. 

 

Which sounds much like what I want. Same legs could carry an AZ-5 for when I want a pure manual experience. My interest has been piqued.

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What did I end up buying?

Nothing. 

I remembered that years ago I’d lent a Heritage 130p to a friend. I asked, and as he wasn’t using it I retrieved it. It still works. Primary was visibly out of collimation, did an approximate adjustment with no aids which improved the view a bit. 

Red dot finder battery was flat, of course, which limited observation to just the moon last night, but even my 12mm GSO plossl showed me some nice detail along the terminator, some central peaks of craters poking up out of the shadow. 

So it needs: battery, proper collimating, and the mount taking apart and bearing surfaces checked and cleaned. There’s a stiff spot in the azimuth rotation. I might even add a lazy Susan!

If in six months time I’m still observing the night sky at every opportunity then I’ll think about upgrading. If it turns out to be a passing interest then the 130 can just sit on a shelf and get used now and then. 

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2 hours ago, eifionglyn said:

What did I end up buying?

Nothing. 

I remembered that years ago I’d lent a Heritage 130p to a friend. I asked, and as he wasn’t using it I retrieved it. It still works. Primary was visibly out of collimation, did an approximate adjustment with no aids which improved the view a bit. 

Red dot finder battery was flat, of course, which limited observation to just the moon last night, but even my 12mm GSO plossl showed me some nice detail along the terminator, some central peaks of craters poking up out of the shadow. 

So it needs: battery, proper collimating, and the mount taking apart and bearing surfaces checked and cleaned. There’s a stiff spot in the azimuth rotation. I might even add a lazy Susan!

If in six months time I’m still observing the night sky at every opportunity then I’ll think about upgrading. If it turns out to be a passing interest thqen the 130 can just sit on a shelf and get used now and then. 

Nice one. The Heritage is a very capable scope, and has the additional benefit that you can fit to to other mounts if you want tracking. I'm sure an EQ3-2 would take it nicely, or an AZ5 if you are ok with slo mo controls

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Good result I would say, of all my scopes my Heritage 130P is probably still most used, either on a simple lightweight manual altaz (giro wr) or a lightweight goto altaz (Skyprodigy). I hear what you are saying about manual versus goto, it’s rewarding to find objects manually, but sometimes under my mildly light polluted skies, I find it’s not that easy to see all the stars required to star hop, especially with a RDF, plus contorting to look through finders ain’t fun anymore, so over the years I have come to appreciate goto more and more. I have also come to appreciate  the lightweight altaz mounts such the AZ Gti or the Star Discovery (which I particularly like). And for info my Sky Prodigy keeps the date a time even when switched off which is very useful - sadly it’s not made anymore. 

Anyway clear skies and happy observing. 

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