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Skymax127 First Light - The Continuing Saga


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So, having jumped on the "what telescope" merry-go-round I went through most possible combinations - 

 - before finally doing what most people suggested and getting a 6" Dob, in my case the FLO Ursa Major - 

 - but sadly didn't get on with that. Not an issue with the 'scope, just my aging frame. Allied to that, I was having some trouble finding my way around the night sky, So lots of frustration. Back to square one.

After plenty of angst and many emails back and forth between myself and Chris at FLO (on holiday from Youtubing?) I settled on the SkyMax127 SynScan AZ Goto. A 127mm - well, 119mm apparent - Maksutov on a steel tripod and Alt/Az goto mount with none of yer new-fangled wifi. (Yes, I'm an old Luddite) SynScan handset, an AA battery pack, 25mm and 10mm eyepieces and a x2 Barlow. Nice and simple? Well, still working my way through the instruction manual. But with a clear sky and a crescent moon visible, I gave up on the "complicated" stuff and just shot for the moon guiding manually.

And wow! Fantastic views with the usual for Skywatcher Super 25mm. Seemed nice and crisp with little noticeable chromatic aberration, although that might have been down to excitement on my part. Even better with the Barlow, but the 10mm was a little tricky - first on the upgrade list? Manual alt/az control seemed nice and smooth, and I hadn't realised the mount was set on Rate 9 (fastest) so slow motion control can only improve with practise.

Still a few things to try/sort out - need to get used to the SynScan and try dropping...I mean lowering...the tripod and observing from a seat - but I think I'm hooked. Clear skies forecast for later, so may be out seeing if I can get a decent 2-star alignment. In the meantime, watch this space!

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Got out a bit later last night and went through the initialising and 2-star alignment. Started with Pollux, then sent the mount to Arcturus - easily visible to me but JUST behind the guttering for the 'scope. So I fudged it a bit and selected the moon as a target. Went straight there, not dead centre but visible in the 25mm eyepiece. Selected a couple of Messiers to view, but they were both below the horizon - must get a list showing locations for the future. So, lessons learned -

   Spend more time picking a viewing point. A bit difficult in a small garden, hopefully better when I can get out and about.

   And more time on alignment.

   Try using the tripod not extended and with a chair/stool.

   May be getting a Telrad from someone in my local club, but think I will still need a 90 degree RACI.

  Some weight in the accessory tray to reduce vibration.

   Clothes peg or Lego wheel focuser trick.

   Eventually (when I have more of an idea what I need) eyepieces and possibly a better diagonal.

One issue that I had with the SynScan - didn't always want to respond to key inputs. I've done a search but haven't found anything quite like this. I was running off a pack of AA batteries, which I know is not ideal (Have a lithium battery arriving later today) Could this be the problem? Or something as simple as not pushing the keys hard enough? The firmware seems fairly current, V4.something - I'll check later.

Another thing I need to sort out for the future - I've seen suggestions to replace the existing visual back and diagonal with ones using brass compression rings to better secure and protect eyepieces, but to check whether the back is a 45mm or 50mm. Is this a simple as removing the back and measuring the diameter of the hole?

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Posted (edited)
On 06/05/2022 at 10:50, Paul_Sussex said:

Another thing I need to sort out for the future - I've seen suggestions to replace the existing visual back and diagonal with ones using brass compression rings to better secure and protect eyepieces, but to check whether the back is a 45mm or 50mm. Is this a simple as removing the back and measuring the diameter of the hole?

Congratulations on getting the Skymax127. I think they are now fitted with an SCT visual back now as standard.

Below are some images of my 're-modded' ETX105 showing it with an optional SCT adapter ring [2] & [4] and an SCT to 1.25" visual back [3] & [4]...

small_IMG_0385.JPG..jpg.96b510aeac1ce230208486066271a09d.jpg[1]   PIC011.JPG.d44aaf7659477cb4cf6a80da07ee9215.JPG[2]   PIC012.JPG.3b3b2b4aaf9826a35f9fd23345ee7b76.JPG[3]

 

Image below showing the separate components...

2958500A_gross_Baader_Planetarium.jpg.0d68f15cc84ed56ca0a278dec027f14e.jpg5937ff536f46d_1_25inchvisualback.jpg.ce03ded75107bdcbd997b7af33d43877.jpg[4]

Edited by Philip R
more spacing between the images.
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1 hour ago, Paul_Sussex said:

Got out a bit later last night and went through the initialising and 2-star alignment. Started with Pollux, then sent the mount to Arcturus - easily visible to me but JUST behind the guttering for the 'scope. So I fudged it a bit and selected the moon as a target. Went straight there, not dead centre but visible in the 25mm eyepiece. Selected a couple of Messiers to view, but they were both below the horizon - must get a list showing locations for the future. So, lessons learned -

   Spend more time picking a viewing point. A bit difficult in a small garden, hopefully better when I can get out and about.

   And more time on alignment.

   Try using the tripod not extended and with a chair/stool.

   May be getting a Telrad from someone in my local club, but think I will still need a 90 degree RACI.

  Some weight in the accessory tray to reduce vibration.

   Clothes peg or Lego wheel focuser trick.

   Eventually (when I have more of an idea what I need) eyepieces and possibly a better diagonal.

One issue that I had with the SynScan - didn't always want to respond to key inputs. I've done a search but haven't found anything quite like this. I was running off a pack of AA batteries, which I know is not ideal (Have a lithium battery arriving later today) Could this be the problem? Or something as simple as not pushing the keys hard enough? The firmware seems fairly current, V4.something - I'll check later.

Another thing I need to sort out for the future - I've seen suggestions to replace the existing visual back and diagonal with ones using brass compression rings to better secure and protect eyepieces, but to check whether the back is a 45mm or 50mm. Is this a simple as removing the back and measuring the diameter of the hole?

My 127 came with the 45mm visual back. Just unscrew the rear adapter exposing the male threads, and measure across the outside diameter. If it’s 45mm then you need the adapter below 

133B0DCD-6A41-4698-8335-7D0A51E2E231.png.a316790fa9e3aa77ea0754444ea1dac3.png

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Posted (edited)

Welcome to the little powerhouse that is the Skymax 127.

 

3 hours ago, Paul_Sussex said:

selected the moon as a target

I think you probably know that this is unlikely to give you results as good as with a stellar target

 

3 hours ago, Paul_Sussex said:

replace the existing visual back

a good thread here, but if yours is recent, you should just be able to swap backs without the adapter: https://stargazerslounge.com/topic/336529-sky-watcher-mak-127-visual-back/#comment-3662339    To be honest, I'd prioritize a new eyepiece over a new visual back/diagonal:

https://stargazerslounge.com/topic/392875-is-it-worth-replacing-my-diagonal/?do=findComment&comment=4232532
https://stargazerslounge.com/topic/375363-in-the-market-for-a-new-125-inch-diagonal

https://stargazerslounge.com/topic/241808-upgrades-for-mak-127-diagonal-and-eyepiece

3 hours ago, Paul_Sussex said:

with a chair/stool

I was surprised how much of a difference it makes to be comfortably seated. You will literally see more.

 

3 hours ago, Paul_Sussex said:

May be getting a Telrad from someone in my local club, but think I will still need a 90 degree RACI

A red dot/Telrad is useful, but a decent sized optical finder is invaluable with a goto system. If it's behaving itself, the scope will put you in the ball park, and the magnifying finder will guide the final adjustement. A rectified image allows you to compare directly with star charts, though if you're using an app, they can often invert to match your view. The right angle saves a cricked neck.

 

3 hours ago, Paul_Sussex said:

must get a list showing locations for the future

Download Stellarium to your PC. It will tell you where all the objects will be at any time. If you're up for a challenge, you can create a landscape file for your back garden and you'll be able to see obstructions. My own preference is to combine it with Sky Safari on a phone to plan sessions.

 

3 hours ago, Paul_Sussex said:

Some weight in the accessory tray to reduce vibration

You can try that, I was unsuccessful. Reducing the tripod height certainly did work.

 

3 hours ago, Paul_Sussex said:

SynScan - didn't always want to respond to key inputs

The first suggestion in problem elimination is usually to get (or make) a proper power tank before thinking further. If it's intermittent I wouldn't think it's the firmware. Are you sure that the speed (rate) was high enough? Sometimes, especially when viewing near the zenith, you need to set it to at least 4 or 5 to detect any movement.

 

3 hours ago, Paul_Sussex said:

Clothes peg or Lego wheel focuser trick

I'm a recent convert to the clothes peg, and I was amazed how much of a difference it made.

Edited by Zermelo
premature posting
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Posted (edited)

I would suggest that swapping the visual back or diagonal is not a priority. Your money would be better spent on replacing the kit 9 or 10mm eyepiece with something decent ( budget around £50, or more if you like).

As for finders, bear in mind that that you should only need to use the finder once a night if you are using the GoTo. I put a straight-thru 30mm finder on my Mak.

The Nexstar version of your outfit (from Celestron) does not offer up objects (e.g. planets) that are below the horizon. With the Synscan, it should display the altitude and azimuth, allowing you to see where the object is and choose whether to GoTo or abort. My Synscan handset has one or two buttons that do not respond unless pressed firmly.

Edited by Cosmic Geoff
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4 hours ago, Paul_Sussex said:

Some weight in the accessory tray to reduce vibration.

Try putting vibration suppression pads under the tripod feet.  I bought a pair of new old stock, 1990s pure Sorbothane insoles off of ebay and cut them into squares to put under each tripod foot.  Problem solved.  Vibration dampening went from 3 seconds to 1/2 second.  You can also purchase new Sorbothane pads off ebay.  This won't solve your instability problems if you're on spongy turf, though.  Weight is indeed your best option then to compress the turf.  You could also work each foot down through the turf to help somewhat.

Here's what the full Sorbothane insoles used to look like:

spacer.png

I don't think they're sold like that anymore due to cost.  Now, Sorbothane is used in just the heel and ball parts of the insole.

I've never tried the commercially available vibration suppression pads, but if they're using urethane, they won't be as effective as Sorbothane.  When I tap the telescope, vibrations just go "thud", so to speak.  It's really quite amazing.

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4 hours ago, Paul_Sussex said:

May be getting a Telrad from someone in my local club, but think I will still need a 90 degree RACI.

When you start finding objects with the goto, make sure to look up to the sky using whatever unit power finder you settle on.  This way, you'll quickly learn the sky and eventually you'll find you don't need the goto anymore for the showpiece objects.  I love going to public star parties and putting a floundering newbie's scope on a DSO using dead reckoning on the sky and sighting along the scope.  It never fails to astound them.  Sometimes, I shoot from the hip and don't even sight along the tube and just go by judging alt-az angles looking at the tube orientation.  You too can get there with practice.

Personally, I would recommend the Rigel QuikFinder over the Telrad for the 127 Mak due to size.  Even a cheap RDF can work well enough starting out.

A 50mm RACI would be money well spent just for the wide angle views to put objects into context on the sky.

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Thanks for all the advice. Any changes will be down the line, apart from a clothes peg and a comfy chair! But I have a little list...😀

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21 minutes ago, Paul_Sussex said:

Thanks for all the advice. Any changes will be down the line, apart from a clothes peg and a comfy chair! But I have a little list...😀

The peg mod is quite possibly the best free modification I've seen, honestly makes such a difference!

Also, a dew shield or heater is a must-have, dew shield can be diy'd on the cheap too. Why manufacturers don't include them as standard is beyond me, they are essential on mak's and sct's

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Posted (edited)

Have some pegs to play around with. And yes, have a dew shield from Astrozap already! I'm surprised Skywatcher or an aftermarket company don't produce a rigid dew shield for the Maks. I'm tempted to see what I can do with this - https://www.screwfix.com/p/manrose-150mm-round-ducting-0-35m/686GY?tc=JT1&ds_kid=92700055281954508&ds_rl=1249404&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIja2L_drB9wIVbhoGAB1m1Q4DEAQYAyABEgIVwPD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds - and some black felt.

Edited by Paul_Sussex
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I'm all for diy versions, here's my effort on my Nexstar 4SE before and after paint. Bit of matt black paint and some sticky back velvet worked a treat

image.thumb.jpeg.8b2c2c57a870ea35c4ebd182da62ac64.jpeg

 

image.thumb.jpeg.e49a22523389d2c7549b64ec8214f3bf.jpeg

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53 minutes ago, Paul_Sussex said:

Have some pegs to play around with. And yes, have one from Astrozap already! I'm surprised Skywatcher or an aftermarket company don't produce a rigid dew shield for the Maks. I'm tempted to see what I can do with this - https://www.screwfix.com/p/manrose-150mm-round-ducting-0-35m/686GY?tc=JT1&ds_kid=92700055281954508&ds_rl=1249404&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIja2L_drB9wIVbhoGAB1m1Q4DEAQYAyABEgIVwPD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds - and some black felt.

Apart from keeping the cost down, it's possible that manufacturers like their products to appear as small as possible to potential purchasers with limited storage space. Though the 127 is pretty dinky anyway.

There are rigid dew shields available (I suppose it depends how rigid you mean):
https://www.firstlightoptics.com/dew-prevention/astro-essentials-flexible-dew-shield-for-5-telescopes.html

Home-made dew shields are one of the most attempted (and successful) astro projects. If you're going to use a plastic pipe like the one you linked, it would not have much tolerance between being too loose to stay on, and too tight to get on. That's why options with some adjustment are usually preferred (the ubiquitous yoga mat).

 

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50 minutes ago, Zermelo said:

Home-made dew shields are one of the most attempted (and successful) astro projects. If you're going to use a plastic pipe like the one you linked, it would not have much tolerance between being too loose to stay on, and too tight to get on. That's why options with some adjustment are usually preferred (the ubiquitous yoga mat).

 

Yes, I'd need to caliper the i.d. to make sure there's enough room. Too loose would be better if anything...I could pack out with some rubber.

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11 hours ago, Paul_Sussex said:

Selected a couple of Messiers to view, but they were both below the horizon - must get a list showing locations for the future. So, lessons learned -

Just to make life a little less challenging when you're starting, have a look at the webpages ..... tonightssky.com (note the spelling)

You can set your horizon level and what you would like to see and it will pop up a list of objects for you.  

Enjoy your telescope 👌

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@Paul_SussexThere’s a very good blog I’d recommend for beginners - covers many of the questions and topics above and very readable with a plethora of links and resources - may find useful- even as you get more experienced !

https://pachycephalosaurus.weebly.com/

For interest I made a dew shield out of some cheap craft foam and velcro (for my Maksutov) left over from the light shroud mod project  on my Heritage 150. Works absolutely fine. 

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3 hours ago, Astro_Dad said:

@Paul_SussexThere’s a very good blog I’d recommend for beginners - covers many of the questions and topics above and very readable with a plethora of links and resources - may find useful- even as you get more experienced !

https://pachycephalosaurus.weebly.com/

Yes...I had a lot of help and input from @Tiny Clanger. And another bookmarked site!

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Great choice!  The Mak 127 has super  optics, great contrast and enough aperture to give satisfying views of all kinds of targets! 

As many have said above I am another convert to the Telrad + 9x50 RACI combination which really makes object location simpler  (The Telrad is fine on the Mak 127, equally the Rigel would do the job with a lower profile). 
 

Also with you on alignment - take your time, use high magnification and (my most recent obsession) really paying attention to a level tripod all make a big difference in accuracy. 

Clear skies & enjoy your Mak! 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Paul_Sussex said:

Yes...I had a lot of help and input from @Tiny Clanger. And another bookmarked site!

One of the best  mods to my 127 Mak was fitting an electric motor focuser, the very long focus travel makes this mod a must imo. Here are a couple of pics.

 

365F7F13-6178-4446-9F7E-B7755D0B469F.jpeg

D70C9A0C-6435-459B-87E4-399BF28EB897.jpeg

Edited by banjaxed
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55 minutes ago, banjaxed said:

One of the best  mods to my 127 Mak was fitting an electric motor focuser, the very long focus travel makes this mod a must imo. Here are a couple of pics.

 

365F7F13-6178-4446-9F7E-B7755D0B469F.jpeg

D70C9A0C-6435-459B-87E4-399BF28EB897.jpeg

A ha yes remember this one - a labour of love! 

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I just picked up one of these myself.  Very excited to give it a whirl.  Well, it's the celestron version at any rate

You could download the synscan pro for your phone.  I don't think it'll work with the mount, but if you go to 'utility' (might have to click the 6 red dots in a circle on the bottom right first) then click the 'tonights best' it should give a list of objects that are visible from you location (ignoring local trees, house, sheds, etc).  You can then select it on your handset.  Also tells you the elevation/direction so you can make a rough judgement if you are likely to see it or if it'll be obscured.

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When I started using Synscan on my Skymax 127 Az/Alt mount, I had problems sorting out the best stars for alignment. I tend to use the "Brightest Star" option, similar to 2-star, but with the option of Planet + 2-star. I was finding that, quite often, the suggested second star was behind a roof, tree or fence; and once selected, and abandoned, required a restart on the first star.

I spent several hours with the Stellarium program, on my PC, and produced a table of 14 of the brightest stars visible from my back garden, and for dusk, in the middle of each month of the year, selected a few of these stars, and tabulated the rough compass direction and altitude, avoiding those too close to the zenith or horizon. At dusk, only the bright stars are visible, so avoiding confusion with adjacent, but dimmer, stars. I produced a similar table for 1 hour before dawn, although I have found it only useful on a couple of occasions. By choosing a pair of stars with about 90 degrees azimuth difference and at least 15 degrees altitude difference, Synscan's Az/Alt alignment algorithm seems to give me good GoTo. Different pairs of stars are likely to be needed for aligning an EQ mount (I can use Polaris as a 2nd star, if my mount is in the right place on my patio), and the zenith is not a problem. This is my table:-

967189403_SynscanAlignmentStars-NorthSomerset.jpg.5355bcbce6e3b4a2364732c20b979fa6.jpg

This has saved me a lot of frustration; definitely worth doing the homework.

I also replaced the 6 x 30 straight-through finder with its RACI equivalent - it's much more convenient for higher altitude targets.

Geoff

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Posted (edited)
10 hours ago, Ratlet said:

I just picked up one of these myself.  Very excited to give it a whirl.  Well, it's the celestron version at any rate

You could download the synscan pro for your phone.  I don't think it'll work with the mount, but if you go to 'utility' (might have to click the 6 red dots in a circle on the bottom right first) then click the 'tonights best' it should give a list of objects that are visible from you location (ignoring local trees, house, sheds, etc).  You can then select it on your handset.  Also tells you the elevation/direction so you can make a rough judgement if you are likely to see it or if it'll be obscured.

I'm slowly finding my way round the mount. Although one problem - certain items in the menu seem to freeze up and I have to power off to continue. Must check if this is a known issue. Also, don't think I could download to my phone - temp.jpg.62c04c8a9609dade90fe3b6a93595be5.jpg

Hope you have as much fun with the Celestron! 😉 Be interested to hear how you get on with it.

Edited by Paul_Sussex
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I've been reading this thread with interest as I also bought a Skymax 127 on a Synscan AZ GOTO mount as my first scope about a year ago, and I also avoid excess technology (my mobile phone is a Doro).

There have been lots of sensible suggestions made already but here is what I posted about my experience:

After a year of using the scope and mount I'd say the most important lessons have been:

  • Use a good Powertank - I've never had any problem with power supply.
  • Sit down to observe so that you can really take your time with each object - I have the tripod permanently lowered and I cant over the diagonal so that the eyepiece is roughly horizontal and I can look through it comfortably while seated on my stool (a kick stool with casters).
  • Use a clothes peg to give you fine focus - I scoffed at this initially but now it is a standard part of my Skymax 127 kit and I use it all of the time.

 

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