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Small Can Be Beautiful ... Honest !


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Aperture Aperture Aperture !!

Its what we are told . " Bigger is better " for visual .... its a wonder that smaller aperture achromats even exist .. let alone small Maks and table top Newts . 

I've owned a few 10" dobs , and large reflectors on EQ mounts ... and very good they were too. But , i am now the owner of a 4" Mak and a 3" Apo frac ... and , to be honest my interest in the hobby has never been greater . 

When i started i was told that nothing smaller than a 3" Frac or a 6" Newt would do . But optics are made so well these days that even a 3" frac can show plenty of detail on planets and those smaller Newts on a dob mount are a joy to use . 

Sure , living under a dark sky with a large scope pointing to the heavens is a wonderful sight to behold , but a lot of people tend to live in built up areas, towns , cities  ... maybe flats , even in high rise flats . So larger scopes are not viable . Owning a small scope used to carry a stigma , a " oh , you are only playing at astronomy " look  ... a snobbery that you weren't part of an exclusive club.

Fortunately all of that has changed , as i wrote earlier , build quality, optics and accessories are now better and cheaper . Small aperture scopes , whilst still annoyingly labelled as beginner scopes ,are now available , not in supermarkets but  are now sold as precision instruments from reputable dealers , by people with knowledge ( generally)  . With the worrying increase in light pollution , small scopes and portable mounts have never been more popular . Indeed small Apo fracs are the instrument of choice for Astro photography 

Now i know that many people will be thinking , " surely you buy a scope with a certain usage criteria in mind " and that , generally would be correct . lets face it , you are not seeing that distant smudge in a 75mm frac , but , as we know , there isnt a single scope that does everything 100% well . Those large dobs hit the mark , until you need to transport them... that lovely EQ6 is great unless you need to break it down and haul it back inside if the clouds unexpectedly roll in after its taken 30mins to set up ! That 180 Mak is a beautiful scope but i need to wait an hour before i can use it !

Of course , there will always be exceptions . Those plastic £50 ebay knockoffs will sell, because of the price,  to unsuspecting  newbies but in general mass production from China has made small aperture scopes acceptable instruments for viewing . We can all be thankful for that , whatever you think about China . 

Any thoughts on the above ? 

( I have in no way intended to offend anyone who doesn't share my pov ) :) 

Stu

 

 

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@Stu1smartcookie

Like your self, 10” reflection on a weighty mount, not easy to tear down rapidly.

A variety of 8” reflectors, F5 Newtonian 20lb, f10 SCT 12.5lb, f2 RASA 17lb, f8 RC 9lb are not readily moved quickly.

Two 80mm refractors, at f6.3 400mm fl at 6lb and F5 500fl at 9lb, significantly lighter than the above, and do not need such a substantial mount.

The differing focal lengths are about right for larger DSOs incl. bode’s nebula and M42 particularly with relevant field flatteners.

Many of the above offer little change from £1,000, or more.

The build quality of all, I’d not deny. Although each has it’s own foibles, mostly mechanical around focusers.

Optically, it’s great that production has improved, you can talk about mirror flop, collimation issued, but the glass quality stuff now.

 

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I’ve always been an advocate of small scopes for a number of reasons. They are so easy to use, you almost need an excuse NOT to put them out, or take with you so they get a lot of use. I’ve taken small scopes away on holiday with me numerous times and have enjoyed to lovely sights both day and night as a result.

Observing for me is just about getting out there and keeping connected with the skies. I find it just as rewarding to try to see say a shadow transit on Jupiter in a 60mm scope as trying to spot a faint galaxy in a 16”. I recall some years back trying to spot the Super Nova in M82 from my Bortle 7 back garden in a 4” scope. It was one of the hardest things I’ve done, but I saw it with averted vision and was delighted. The following night I viewed it in my 12” dob and it was just plain easy, so was far less memorable.

A current favourite setup of mine is a Telementor 63mm refractor on a Unitron AltAz mount. Very quick to setup and ready to use instantly, it just allows me sharp views of the major Moon features and shows lovely double star images. It gets a lot of use for that reason. I’m not pushing any boundaries, but do keep my enjoyment and relaxation going.

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My favourite small scope is my 127mm Skywatcher Mak, it comes in its neat bag when not on duty, and when on duty sits on a EQ5 mount which I can carry from the house to the garden in 60 seconds. Actually some days I just leave it outside all night/day long under a sturdy BBQ cover.

Having said that I did purchase the big brother, the 180mm Mak too :) and I use it regularly but it lives in the shed, not in the house and at 7.8kg is more of a pain to carry around.

I absolutely agree with @Stu that a big part of the enjoyment is to push your scope to the limit, no matter how big or small it is.

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50 minutes ago, Stu1smartcookie said:

When i started i was told that nothing smaller than a 3" Frac or a 6" Newt would do .

If I remember correctly, many years ago, a 3" Frac or a 6" Newt were considered to be the minimum mainly because at the time they used to be about the same price and gave about the same visual performance?

Whilst I suspect Fracs have come on leaps and bounds in terms of optical performance since those days, I'm not so sure thay the performance of Newts will have changed that much (other reflector types are a different matter as back then you mainly only had a choice of a Newt or a Cass).  But the 'mass production' out of Asia has certainly cut prices and made decent quality scopes much more affordable.

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I understand that Synta also use German sourced mirrors for (some of) their Newtonians.

and of course, Schott glass is used in refractors is also German, with he FPL glass mainly Japanese. 

Edited by iapa
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37 minutes ago, Stu said:

I recall some years back trying to spot the Super Nova in M82 from my Bortle 7 back garden in a 4” scope. It was one of the hardest things I’ve done, but I saw it with averted vision and was delighted. The following night I viewed it in my 12” dob and it was just plain easy, so was far less memorable.

I get this ... its the thrill of pushing the scope , and your own eyes. 

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I  agrea it is about pushing the scope,and your own eyes  

  I cant wait to get out on my porch with my scope, and  stargaze again

  im even  thinking of joining the Peoria Astronomacile socity, once covid is over

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  • 3 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

I totally agree @Stu1smartcookieI own a Skymax 127 and 72ed ds pro on az gti mount. As I live in a first floor flat portability is paramount to me, everything needs to be taken down in one trip as I image from a communal area so can't leave my equipment unattended at anytime. I can get my 72ed out on the mount and tripod in minutes and set up in around 10-15mins in az mode. I used to have a sw 150p eq3-2 when I thought aperture was king for me, as only used to view and image through a bedroom window pane and never once got the scope outside, so this was sold to find my 72ed. Now I can use my scopes as intended outside and have got my scope out for a few hours imaging around 22 times since beginning of March, so it's proven to me smaller is better for my use. 

IMG_20210222_181645.jpg

IMG_20210402_212254.jpg

Edited by AstroNebulee
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18 minutes ago, AstroNebulee said:

I totally agree @Stu1smartcookieI own a Skymax 127 and 72ed ds pro on az gti mount. As I live in a first floor flat portability is paramount to me, everything needs to be taken down in one trip as I image from a communal area so can't leave my equipment unattended at anytime. I can get my 72ed out on the mount and tripod in minutes and set up in around 10-15mins in az mode. I used to have a sw 150p eq3-2 when I thought aperture was king for me, as only used to view and image through a bedroom window pane and never once got the scope outside, so this was sold to find my 72ed. Now I can use my scopes as intended outside and have got my scope out for a few hours imaging around 22 times since beginning of March, so it's proven to me smaller is better for my use. 

IMG_20210222_181645.jpg

IMG_20210402_212254.jpg

Quite right! A small scope used and enjoyed regularly is much better than a large one that stays unused. We all know the benefits of larger aperture but aren’t all in the situation where we can make use of them. You can hone some very fine observing skills with a small scope which will always stand you in good stead if you are ever able to use a large one! 👍

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To be honest my 10" dob is ideal. I have a 127 mak that I only use because I bought a white light filter for it. It has the goto which I don"t use because the telrad on a dob is easier. Having said all that I have been tempted to get a good quality small frac to stick on an AZ for a grab n go on drives out.

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Posted (edited)

I'd love a 12" dob, 14" sct or whatever, but simply do not have the storage space while the kids are still at home and although the garden is just about big enough for a small dome observatory, I don't think that would be useful given the Bortle 7/8 light pollution. Circumstance and practicality demand a smaller telescope.

The fact is, unless you're massively orientated toward deep sky observing, around a 3-5" refractor or 6" reflector is all you need. They're far from toy like or 'beginners' instruments. Getting those telescopes to dark skies opens up the universe.

Meaningful scientific observation is within reach of this aperture class, for instance variable star observing. Imagine resurrecting Galileo Galilei today. He would consider a 4" apochromatic refractor a wonderous instrument!

Edited by ScouseSpaceCadet
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This topic articulates something very well that I have been thinking for a while and felt a certain amount of remorse about. Great opportunity to come clean - an astronomy confessions booth if you will! 

For a variety of reasons (partly, the old mount I was using really struggled with my 80ED, partly as I can only observe from a shared space in Bortle 8 skies) I had been having a break from astronomy. Last year that changed when I went away to a small island with Bortle 5 skies which compelled me to buy a Celestron Travelscope 70 to use while there. It was loads of fun despite the terrible accessories. 

Since then, I bought an AZ-GTi for grab and go use and had planned to go to a dark site for a few days over Christmas. To ensure I had the "best experience" I decided to get an EQ6-R Pro as my "mount for life", but due to (still ongoing) COVID restrictions (and also getting COVID!) the trip never happened, and the mount has gone unused, along with my SW 80ED. It's too big/complex to set up for use in the brief windows I get to observe, and I can't move it upstairs to the shared terrace without numerous trips. 

Conversely - once the cheapo celestron went on the AZ-GTi and had some decent eyepieces in it, I've basically used nothing else since - it's been a total delight to use and so quick to set up or break down - I can get *at least* a solid 1.5hours observing in a 2 hour window and the whole scope and mount cost a mere fraction of the EQ6-R. 

If I had my time again I'd not bother at all with the big mount, and I doubt it will get any decent use until at least winter, but I feel pretty terrible for spending so much on something I can barely use. I'm cutting (or compounding?) my losses and will replace the Travelscope 70 with a semi APO version as part of a travel/grab and go kit, and I've no doubt that this setup will be my main kit for years to come. 
 

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Badhex, don't feel terrible about the EQ6-R. You're a prime example of someone discovering what suits their circumstance, rather than what you think is the best generic solution you're supposed to have.

My 102mm refractor and AZ-GTI has me observing within fifteen minutes and can be taken anywhere. If I swap out the tripod for the light weight aluminium and change to the 102mm Maksutov, I'd just about be bus friendly (in the unlikely event a bus is required..).

The only change to my current home/astro camp setup will be an EQ5 sized mount as the 102 frac is right on the AZ-GTI limit and I don't want the mount wearing out. That's still relatively light, grab n' go.

Our experiences seem to be quite common, I went up to 8" dob and back down again. Prefering the smaller kit. Poor decisions probably put a fair few people off the hobby unfortunately. Rather than finding a balance, they just sell the kit and give up.

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Posted (edited)

Yep, I agree with those points. I've found a set of scopes that are easy and quick to setup, can be moved around to get the best views, don't need cables, power etc and are quick to tear down and put away. It took me a while to realise what worked for me and what didn't and there were a few "bloopers" along the way which seemed a good idea at the time (:rolleyes2:) but I learned from those and that helped make a better choice next time.

I'm lucky that the above can include a 12 inch scope so going reasonably faint and deep is practical. I do sometimes yearn for a larger aperture and have had to resist the temptation to acquire a 14, 16 or even larger scope a few times but I just know now that it would be a mistake in my current circumstances. Nothing sadder than a scope with huge potential that is not getting used.

 

 

Edited by John
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14 minutes ago, ScouseSpaceCadet said:

Our experiences seem to be quite common, I went up to 8" dob and back down again. Prefering the smaller kit. Poor decisions probably put a fair few people off the hobby unfortunately. Rather than finding a balance, they just sell the kit and give up.

This is how is was with me, though I wasn't at the point of giving up, more so like you say finding that correct balance and knowing your expectations of what you can do and how far you can push the equipment, I went big quick but soon found my correct setup. My Skymax 127 is on the absolute limit for my az gti and am thinking of a 102 possibly and sell my 127. I will soon have my star adventurer 2i from @FLOwithin a couple of weeks hopefully so that'll probably be me then, besides an odd lens for my dslr. Then my AzGti can go eq mode as an added setup. 

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7 minutes ago, AstroNebulee said:

This is how is was with me, though I wasn't at the point of giving up, more so like you say finding that correct balance and knowing your expectations of what you can do and how far you can push the equipment, I went big quick but soon found my correct setup. My Skymax 127 is on the absolute limit for my az gti and am thinking of a 102 possibly and sell my 127. I will soon have my star adventurer 2i from @FLOwithin a couple of weeks hopefully so that'll probably be me then, besides an odd lens for my dslr. Then my AzGti can go eq mode as an added setup. 

Circumstance has dictated your kit and you have made the most of it. You're blessed with a talent for astrophotography. Going from 0-60 quickly judging by the results using very light weight kit.

It can take a while and lots of swapping, buying and selling to get a feel for what suits. Apparently Stusmartcookie's owned 57 telescopes in two years & John took 43 years to find his balance. 😄

 

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2 hours ago, badhex said:

This topic articulates something very well that I have been thinking for a while and felt a certain amount of remorse about. Great opportunity to come clean - an astronomy confessions booth if you will! 

For a variety of reasons (partly, the old mount I was using really struggled with my 80ED, partly as I can only observe from a shared space in Bortle 8 skies) I had been having a break from astronomy. Last year that changed when I went away to a small island with Bortle 5 skies which compelled me to buy a Celestron Travelscope 70 to use while there. It was loads of fun despite the terrible accessories. 

Since then, I bought an AZ-GTi for grab and go use and had planned to go to a dark site for a few days over Christmas. To ensure I had the "best experience" I decided to get an EQ6-R Pro as my "mount for life", but due to (still ongoing) COVID restrictions (and also getting COVID!) the trip never happened, and the mount has gone unused, along with my SW 80ED. It's too big/complex to set up for use in the brief windows I get to observe, and I can't move it upstairs to the shared terrace without numerous trips. 

Conversely - once the cheapo celestron went on the AZ-GTi and had some decent eyepieces in it, I've basically used nothing else since - it's been a total delight to use and so quick to set up or break down - I can get *at least* a solid 1.5hours observing in a 2 hour window and the whole scope and mount cost a mere fraction of the EQ6-R. 

If I had my time again I'd not bother at all with the big mount, and I doubt it will get any decent use until at least winter, but I feel pretty terrible for spending so much on something I can barely use. I'm cutting (or compounding?) my losses and will replace the Travelscope 70 with a semi APO version as part of a travel/grab and go kit, and I've no doubt that this setup will be my main kit for years to come. 
 

I have a Travelscope 70. May I ask how mounting it to the AZ-GTi works? aka did you need to purchase extras to make it attach?

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51 minutes ago, ScouseSpaceCadet said:

Badhex, don't feel terrible about the EQ6-R. You're a prime example of someone discovering what suits their circumstance, rather than what you think is the best generic solution you're supposed to have

Thanks. I know the EQ6-R will eventually get some good use but I probably bought it 5-10 years too early! 😂

I'm really looking forward to the 70ED arriving hopefully in the next few weeks. TBH I would have stuck with the Celestron for longer but whilst it's surprisingly good, there are tons of little things (no 2" EP possibility, janky focuser) which made me want to get the best I could reasonably afford in that size format. I also neglected to mention that I have a C5 which compliments it well in terms of size, but for planetary work etc. 

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6 minutes ago, Maideneer said:

I have a Travelscope 70. May I ask how mounting it to the AZ-GTi works? aka did you need to purchase extras to make it attach?

Sure. It works pretty well. It's hard to get it to balance as the dovetail is miniscule so it's usually back-heavy, but the total weight of everything, including a decent diagonal and heavy EP is still reasonably low so the AZ-GTi can take it. If you're confident making adjustments you could unscrew the three screws holding the focuser to the main tube, and replace the dovetail with something longer to allow better adjustment. If I weren't replacing the scope I would definitely do this.

Screenshot_20210516-144719_Photos.thumb.jpg.6b37714b509efd874e767118e2a69c5b.jpg

 

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23 minutes ago, ScouseSpaceCadet said:

Circumstance has dictated your kit and you have made the most of it. You're blessed with a talent for astrophotography. Going from 0-60 quickly judging by the results using very light weight kit.

Thank you for your kind words, I'm not sure it's a talent, nowhere near the likes of others with the same kit I have, it's just something I enjoy doing and know what I can expect to get out of it for a few hours that I can set up. I don't want to be faffing around with guiding, platesolving, laptops and lots of leads at the moment, polar aligning will be enough of a job for now and laptop for Jupiter and Saturn. Though astrophotography not much good at the moment the astro darkness is virtually non existant so will probably go with planetary on 127 and milky way on SA until August when astro darkness returns. My advice is like you say go with your circumstances at the present and then see where your astro journey takes you. 

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57 minutes ago, John said:

Nothing sadder than a scope with huge potential that is not getting used.

As they say @John your best scope is the one you use the most! 

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50 minutes ago, AstroNebulee said:

My Skymax 127 is on the absolute limit for my az gti and am thinking of a 102 possibly and sell my 127

The first scope that I bought was a Skymax 102 and I loved it. It's in storage in the UK and I really missed how easy it was to set up. I suspect it would complement the AZ-GTi extremely well! 

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1 minute ago, badhex said:

The first scope that I bought was a Skymax 102 and I loved it. It's in storage in the UK and I really missed how easy it was to set up. I suspect it would complement the AZ-GTi extremely well! 

Quite correct I think, it would be better for the az gti considering a dslr hanging on the back of the 127 takes it to the limit with the long focal length adding to some shaky views at times. 

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1 hour ago, badhex said:

The first scope that I bought was a Skymax 102 and I loved it. It's in storage in the UK and I really missed how easy it was to set up. I suspect it would complement the AZ-GTi extremely well! 

It's a great combo. The small size and long focal length combined with easy, no prep required Point and Track is especially good for very relaxed lunar sessions. Great for summer.

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