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Skymax127 First Light - The Continuing Saga


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41 minutes ago, PeterC65 said:

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)...

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.

 

Did a lot of trawling through threads, including yours. A lot of accumulated wisdom on here. And yes, the immediate upgrades -

Used the AA battery pack for a quick peek but now have the same Celestron lithium battery.

Lowered the tripod indoors - seemed much steadier. Need to find a suitable seat for observing.

And have a couple of clothes pegs standing by for minor fettling.

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2 hours ago, Paul_Sussex said:

Lowered the tripod indoors - seemed much steadier. Need to find a suitable seat for observing.

I tightened all of the bolts in my tripod so that its more rigid but will no longer fold, then I drilled three 8mm shallow holes in the patio that exactly match the tripod feet which prevents the legs from moving. This has made it much more ridged and I can align the mount then park it after a session and start the next session from park with reasonable alignment still maintained.

Here is a post about the seat I use ...

3 hours ago, Paul_Sussex said:

And have a couple of clothes pegs standing by for minor fettling.

Here is my heavily modified clothes peg focus control ...

P1060109.thumb.JPG.0c8c6671adb67d572118577e25fe4400.JPG

Only the spring remains from the original clothes peg!

 

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8 hours ago, PeterC65 said:

I tightened all of the bolts in my tripod so that its more rigid but will no longer fold, then I drilled three 8mm shallow holes in the patio that exactly match the tripod feet which prevents the legs from moving. This has made it much more ridged and I can align the mount then park it after a session and start the next session from park with reasonable alignment still maintained.

Here is a post about the seat I use ...

Here is my heavily modified clothes peg focus control ...

P1060109.thumb.JPG.0c8c6671adb67d572118577e25fe4400.JPG

Only the spring remains from the original clothes peg!

 

You should license that to Berlebach!

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So, just been out on the South Downs - a nice clear night. Managed a good 2-star alignment and started tracking the moon. Good views along the terminator, even with the 10mm EP and Barlow (which was pushing it a bit). I will have to get some decent EP's eventually, as I want to try out some lunar sketching.

Still having problems with the SynScan. Every now and then the handset seems to freeze and won't accept any input from the buttons. I'll have to contact FLO and see if there's a fix. I'm hoping it's just a firmware issue and can be sorted with a download. Has anyone else had this issue? It's a little frustrating.

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I was also out watching the moon with my Skymax 127 last night. I can't help with the tracking mount issue (I've got a manual AZ5) but I have just upgraded my eyepieces from the basic 10mm and 25mm.

I went for the 30mm Vixen NPL and the 15mm and 8mm  BST Starguiders. All three worked wonderfully on the moon. Really good, sharp views.

I was worried that the 8mm might be pushing things a bit, but on the moon, at least, it's fine. The only problem was how fast it moves at this mag - lots of manual tweaking required!

 

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8 minutes ago, Paul_Sussex said:

The BST Starguiders seem to be popular - pity they don't do a 30mm/32mm as well.

Got mine out for first light yesterday, seeing was too rubbish and hazy for any decent magnification but I really enjoyed what I could see of the moon, etc with the 40mm Plossl that came with it and they can be picked up fairly cheaply.

For example https://www.firstlightoptics.com/astro-essentials-eyepieces/astro-essentials-super-plossl-eyepiece.html

Looking forward to Jupiter and Saturn being back in the evening sky now!

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3 hours ago, Paul_Sussex said:

The BST Starguiders seem to be popular - pity they don't do a 30mm/32mm as well.

I've recently bought the Baader Classic Plossl 32mm eyepiece for low magnification and large exit pupil size and I'm very please with it. Much easier on the eye than my Celestron Omni Plossl 40mm.

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5 hours ago, Paul_Sussex said:

The BST Starguiders seem to be popular - pity they don't do a 30mm/32mm as well.

You wouldn't be able to have a 60 degree apparent field of view with a 30mm to 32mm 1.25" eyepiece like the BST Starguiders.  Around 50 to 52 degrees is about the limit in that range, depending on distortion, so you might as well go with a Plossl of some sort.  At f/12, they perform quite excellently.

I have a 32mm GSO Plossl which has noticeably better contrast than my vintage 32mm Orion Sirius Plossl thanks to better coatings.  I don't know how much of an improvement you'd get moving up to an NPL or Baader Classic Plossl, let alone a Tele Vue Plossl.  I'd probably put that money toward upgrading my visual back and diagonal to 2" so I could use wider 30mm eyepieces, even if they vignette a bit.

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The GSO’s seem to represent good value - they were recommended to me a couple of years ago and I’ve stuck with the 32 and 25mm versions across a few different scopes, along with the well rated BST’s. I don’t have direct experience of comparing side by side with NPL’s and the like but I’d be surprised if you are just starting out you’d be able to discern any advantage based on my “desk” research what others have posted on forums such as this one. I’m sure there will be some experienced members who can add more though! For my money the GSO gives to my eyes at least a very high contrast and sharp view in a Mak -  combine that with a dielectric star diagonal and you should be well set.

https://www.365astronomy.com/32mm-gso-plossl-eyepiece

 

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On 08/05/2022 at 06:44, Geoff Lister said:

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

I just check that the star is visible to me before I select it. If it’s not then look at another. No need to start over.

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On 08/05/2022 at 23:25, Paul_Sussex said:

So, just been out on the South Downs - a nice clear night. Managed a good 2-star alignment and started tracking the moon. Good views along the terminator, even with the 10mm EP and Barlow (which was pushing it a bit). I will have to get some decent EP's eventually, as I want to try out some lunar sketching.

Still having problems with the SynScan. Every now and then the handset seems to freeze and won't accept any input from the buttons. I'll have to contact FLO and see if there's a fix. I'm hoping it's just a firmware issue and can be sorted with a download. Has anyone else had this issue? It's a little frustrating.

Both of my Synscan hand controllers, one of which is only weeks old suffer from this to a degree. I found that when it happened ,it simply needed pressing again with a bit more force. The controller that is 7 months old hardly ever does it anymore. This leads me to the conclusion that it’s simply a mechanical issue and not an electrical or electronic one. I simply worked around it, but in the end it depends on how bad the issue is on yours. 

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So, after advice from FLO I checked the handset and battery leads/sockets were clean and properly fitted, made sure the powerpack was fully charged and then did a reset to factory settings. A quick indoor test seemed to operate okay. I will try out properly on the next clear night...possibly Thursday? If no joy, can then try a firmware update. Many thanks to Alex at FLO for his help.

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Well, the factory reset worked for a while. Then the handset froze again. Tried to do a firmware update but couldn't even get started. Handset refused any input. Emailed FLO, so hoping to hear something back on Monday. 😞

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hurrah! The handset went back to FLO, who checked and replaced it. Just done a quick test indoors (lying about the time to pretend it's night) and everything seems to be working properly. Next few nights are looking a bit 'orrible, but may be able to get out later in the week to try out properly...fingers crossed!

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On 06/05/2022 at 10:50, 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?

I have the 127, it is about scope number 7 and finally I think I'll just stick with this one.  I really wanted the goto and tracking and opted for the azgti wifi, sounded so simple and even purchased the hand controller but I've sold that all of that and I have the scope on a deluxe alt az now.  I couldn't get on with the goto no matter how i tried to get it setup  It was just frustrating and time wasting.  this scope is brilliant for quick looks at the moon and the planets, enjoy!  Also, a Rigel quickfinder and  8x50 right angle finderscope make things even easier.

Clear skies

Dave

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