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What equipment has revolutionised your observing?


RobertI
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Following a recent comment from @John on another thread I thought it would be interesting to hear people’s thoughts on what item of equipment has revolutionised your observing experience. 

I’ll start. Although I love my new 102EDR and am amazed by its planetary abilities, my binoviewers have made the biggest difference to planetary observing and solar system in general, making it so easy to observe for long periods. I would also rate my zoom eyepiece and my UHC and OIII filters as “semi-revolutionary”, the zoom being good for finding the ideal magnification for splitting doubles, and the filters being good for emission nebulae and planetaries.  
 

What’s yours?

Edited by RobertI
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The big difference this year has been getting a 50mm RACI finder, and combining it with proper research for observing sessions, by which I mean I wrote a book with all the targets I wanted to see! They work together perfectly for me, giving much richer and more organized sessions. But the new approach does seem to have increased cloud cover...

I also got a petite Zenithstar 66 which has been revolutionary in its fun factor. The C6 has spent a lot of time sat in a corner while I have been outside having adventures with the little frac.

Edited by Ags
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For me, it is my ZWO ASIAir, without a doubt. 

I tried hard but unsuccessfully to achieve Polar Alignment using the Polar Scope, but I could just never achieve a decent alignment.

When the AA arrived and I hacked a RA finder scope to take a 120MM Mini, PA became a doddle. My best was 6", but regularly achieve <20".

Then add the Goto feature, aided by plate solving to put the target bang in the optical centre and observing became a joy.

Instead of spending most of the time trying to get PA and find the target, now the vast majority of my time is spent actually observing my targets.

The AA has been transformational for me. 

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It is most definitely the use of a binoviewer for lunar & planetary observing. It has been an eye opener and a real game changer for me. I've always had a keen eye for detecting fine planetary detail while using high quality eyepieces, but the binoviewer along with simple ortho's or plossl's outperforms everything I've used in mono without exception, and I've used some truly top class eyepieces. And my binoviewer, which I've owned since 2008, is only a cheap and chearful Revelation model, and my ortho's cheap Kson Abbe's and various pseudo Masuyama super plossl's. 

Perhapse strangely to some, but going from a 6" Tak to a 4" has been revolutionary,  as although the 6" was superb it was also massive, and as a consequence  I looked for reasons not to set it up and observe. Buying a Tak FC100DC and later a FC100DZ,  I found my time at the eyepiece,  and my enjoyment, increased dramatically.  The FC100D refractors, like most 4" apo/ED refractors are an absolute joy to use.

Edited by mikeDnight
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The Baader 1.25" T2 focusing eyepiece holder. Around £30, this is the best astro accessory for me. Having scopes that do not have dual speed, rotatable focusers, this handy gadget fulfills both functions. One in the diagonal for fine focusing and another in the drawtube to allow rotation of the diagonal. Great for EQ users like me. 👍

 

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4 minutes ago, mikeDnight said:

It is most definitely the use of a binoviewer for lunar & planetary observing. It has been an eye opener and a real game changer for me.

Totally agree with that one. A two-eye opener!🤣

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I’ll say three things….

My Tak FC100DC has just been a joy to own and use since I bought it. It replaced a number of smaller and larger scopes, has exquisite optics, is fantastic for lunar, planetary, doubles, widefield and white light solar. It is airline portable so can come anywhere with me and is light enough to go on fairly small, portable mounts. It is the scope I have used and enjoyed most over the years.

Second thing would be SkySafari, which I just use all the time for researching targets, checking out what things looked like when I read observing reports, helping explain things to people with screenshots, and more.

I’ll also add a mention for SGL itself. The info I get off here has hugely enhanced my enjoyment of astronomy, the range of objects I’ve seen, and events that I’ve observed.

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Without  thought for a  second, a binoviewer is the single piece of equipment that has transformed my love of and enjoyment in observing the night sky, and Lunar in particular.

Edited by Saganite
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This should be an interesting thread :icon_biggrin:

SGL for certain, assuming that can count as "equipment" :icon_biggrin:

Probably my 12 inch dobsonian in terms of hard equipment. It has shown me more "firsts" and "wows" than any other item of astronomy equipment that I've owned and those are what keeps me in the hobby.

I found my observing took a significant lift when I got my copy of the Pocket Sky Atlas as well. My mum gave me it for a birthday about 10 years ago - thanks mum ! :icon_salut:

I think those are the 3 things that have had the biggest positive impact on my enjoyment of astronomy over the past 40+ years.

The slightly worrying thing is that I could have probably saved myself about £10K and still have had just as much enjoyment :rolleyes2:

 

 

Edited by John
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1 hour ago, Stu said:

My Tak FC100DC has just been a joy to own and use

You are a good salesperson, but a leetle Tak is beyond my reach. I have been thinking of a bigger 90-100mm ED scope, having enjoyed the ZS66 so much. I don't know how much I would appreciate the Tak perfection. We had the briefest session tonight looking at the Moon through my 50mm finder scope. My partner (post cataract operation) instantly saw the bright yellow-green rim around Luna from the CA of the scope, but this was invisible to me - possibly because I still have my natural, aging brown-tinted eye lenses. But it does suggest I don't need to spend on a Tak!

Edited by Ags
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15 minutes ago, Space Hopper said:

My Nexus DSC must be worth a mention.

I agree, especially when coupled with an AZ100.  It's so easy to set up, and accurate, so I know that I'm looking in the right place.  With Bortle 8 skies, I know that if the target is not visible, it's not because I'm looking in the wrong place.

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A super lightweight and portable g’n’g 80mm setup which I can have out under the stars in fewer than 60 seconds. In weather conditions like we are having at the minute, being able to take advantage when the clouds break has been a hobby saver.

Honourable mention to a Herschel wedge too. 24/7 observing! 


 

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36 minutes ago, Stu said:

Second thing would be SkySafari,

Good shout, SkySafari has been such a fundamental part of my armoury that I completely forgot about it!   

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Gotta shout up for my Nadira observing chair.  Revolutionised my sessions. Sitting in a comfortable position cannot be beaten. You concentrate on your target rather than how your back, neck or knees are bent !!! 
John

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23 minutes ago, Telescope40 said:

Gotta shout up for my Nadira observing chair.  Revolutionised my sessions. Sitting in a comfortable position cannot be beaten. You concentrate on your target rather than how your back, neck or knees are bent !!! 
John

Yes I’m also a recent convert to seated observing after many years of swaying at the eyepiece! I also have the Nadira and really can’t fault it.  

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Having completed my eyepiece set I have only two visual astronomy items left on my wish list - a Nadira and a good manual AZ mount. Sadly the perfect lightweight AZ mount with high capacity and slow motion controls has yet to be invented!

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My TV-60 allowed me to observe in a time of my life where it was literally impossible otherwise. Now that things are more settled, my home made 16" dob is hard to beat. It offers me surprises every time it goes under the stars.

The original design of key components in my 12" dob was a mess in my opinion, and many other parts could have been designed better. Despite the numerous issues and frustrations it caused me, without those problems I would never have considered the idea of making my own telescope (which, I have to say, has been one of the most beautiful experiences in my life). As the mirror is good, I have a plan to refactor this 12", but this will only happen some time next year.

Finally, after being "feathertouched", my Tak FC100 has received much more star light than anticipated.

In conclusion, all these tools have given me something valuable, although in different ways.

Edited by Piero
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I'd say mine would have to be fast internet.  First time around doing anything astronomy related, it was limited to a small village library and the few things they had in there for any information regarding anything; now I can get on here or poke round in other corners of the internet and find answers that I don't even have the questions to yet.  The access to collective knowledge, information and different viewpoints, as well as discovering equipment and techniques really has opened up more than what three dusty tomes and a dog-eared copy of Popular Astronomy could ever do.

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Being only about three years in, some of the items mentioned previously I can't imagine observing without:

Sky Safari Pro - A vast library of knowledge, a planetarium and telescope control in a pocket device.

Goto - The AZGTI - a tiny power house and now the Celestron AVX. Goto and tracking make observing a very relaxed and comfortable experience.

Although it's probably the low tech gear that makes the most difference being a city observer - a tent and decent binoculars open up dark skies.

The ED102 refractor is also very versatile. This little 4" will keep me busy for a long time. I don't have storage space for several scopes so it will probably be replaced at some point, however for now I couldn't be happier.

Edited by ScouseSpaceCadet
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My ZS73 and AZ-GTi combo have been by far and away the most revolutionary for me. Portable enough that I can fit everything in a backpack it had travelled with me to a number of much darker sites, and the goto mount showing me the way to targets I might otherwise struggle to find. The scope balances size and great quality optics, and whilst technically widefield, I've also done some surprisingly impressive planetary observing. 

Must also mention the Morpheus 17.5mm - have easily spent the most time at this eyepiece. 

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Lots of things of course, but the Skytee II alt-az mount  must be near the top of the list. 

Heavy duty saddles on the sides, and a smaller one on top.  Fits on the AZ4 tripod.  Easy and smooth to use - slow-mo cables are good, although I just tend to push it on the azimuth axis.

Easy to remove any slack that creeps in, re-grease, replace worn grubscrews.

It takes all my 'scopes (except the Dob), even two at a time if I fancy that.

Great piece of kit!

Doug.

 

P1080920.JPG

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So it seems that in an ideal world, we all need a 4” refractor fitted with a RACI finder and binoviewers, mounted on a lightweight but heavy duty altaz mount, with a comfy chair to sit on, complemented by a 12” dob with Nexus push-to. 
 

Well I’m half way there, just need the dob and Nexus. 🙂

Edited by RobertI
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