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Sunk cost fallacy, time to pack it in?


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2022 was a year of some decent highs and painful lows when it came to my astrophotography ventures. I made the dive from an unmodded DSLR on a handset-only HEQ5 with a 130-PDS, to modding the DSLR, then replacing it with an astrocam and using my laptop to control the setup. Then I broke my PDS (cut the focuser abrrel too short when trying to prevent it from intruding the light path), and replaced it with the horrible TS-PHOTON. That plagued me for 2022's summer and set me back over £900 once I dealt with dovetail bar upgrades and coma corrector upgrades on top of it.

Then when I was at peak distress with the PHOTON that would not hold even secondary collimation at this point (took the secondary out to blacken the edges, when it went back in, it wouldn't stay in one spot...) an ad came up in the classifieds here. 130mm f6.6 carbon tube triplet. For 1500 including a 0.79x corrector. In theory that's not just a good deal, but ideal timing for me. Some discussion with the seller and I wind up buying it, and it goes via DHL and turns up at my house a few days later.

First night I get to try it, I can't get the corrector to work, massive astigmatism at the edges (later turned out it was my fault, backfocus went down by 6.5mm due to no longer using a M48-T2 adapter). I took the corrector off and realised the focuser was tilted, and not in a small way. And on top of that, the focuser slipped when my ZWO EAF moved back and forth, and even slowly slid out during the night... It needed changing. After bribing the machinist at work with a box of Celebrations and cutting the rear flange off of the telescope to make it accommodate ANY alternative focuser, I was now down £2050 minimum, but I had a 3" R&P with tilt adjustment instead of a rubbish 2" crayford instead.

But the images still weren't right. Even dialing in the corrector's backfocus more accurately I realised there was astigmatism on one side and coma on the other, and a bit of coma in the center of the image. The front cell was mis-collimated.

After googling and researching and buying an artificial star testing kit, I used my highest power EP to study the center of field star pattern for an afternoon in daylight. I thought then that there was a little astigmatism in the middle still, but hopefully it was improved as the tilt of the cell had now eliminated the off-center rings. Yet the next time I went to image, it was unchanged. Something more drastic is wrong and it's beyond my capacity to correct. If I want to fix it now, I need to send it to a specialist. I contacted the people at FLO and they have forwarded me to Es Reid, who I will be contacting shortly. But they warned me that the *minimum* I would be charged would be £75 per hour, plus the (based on my estimates) £150 needed to post it to and back.

Now I am torn. Is it still worth me going through and spending yet more money on this refractor... Or am I just getting trapped in a sunk cost fallacy, and this scope will just cost me more and more money, never being as good as it could have been if I just splashed £3500 on a 120 or 130 triplet straight from FLO which was already checked by Es Reid as part of their running agreements... And saved myself months of stress and DIY and most importantly, NOT IMAGING.

I feel like I need this off my chest, just because at this point it's genuinely eating into my life because of the sheer emotional, financial, and time investment I have sunk these last 12 months.

Hope all of you are having a better time!

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I think we all go through it to some degree, maybe not in an avalanche sort of way you have unfortunately experienced but usually the passion takes front and centre view and we continue regardless. My struggles at the moment relate to flats and background extraction JUST NOT WORKING and the new asiair update effectively rendering my asiair pro useless (two nights in a row I setup from scratch and put it away again as it refuses to respond and goto has a mind of its own). So more time and investment into investigations, all the while whilst loosing valuable imaging time.

If it were easy, would we do it?

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I really feel for you. AP is hard enough without the issues you are having. I also feel very lucky - the week before you purchased your scope I brought a second hand 130mm triplet in the SGL classifieds. When I saw your scope come up I felt a bit of envy at missing out. With hindsight I missed a bullet. If it makes you feel marginally better, I sold the 130mm scope a few weeks later as my observatory was about 5cm too small.

Unfortunately, I don't have any words of wisdom to help. Given how much you have paid out already, it is a real quandary. All I can say is I hope you get it sorted.

Just out of interest, what did the seller have to say? They must have been aware of the issues with the scope.

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I too have just had a few horrible years. Firstly an EQ6 which I could no longer lift due to back problems. Then a 150 Mak on an EQ6 which didn't work out. Followed by a 250 Flextube Goto which I just couldn't get a working base for.

But now, I have two great scopes which are more than keepers. Despite the weather I've been out more times in the last year than I have the previous ten. 

Just remember, it's a hobby. It's supposed to be fun. If it isn't, then you need to change things. 

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4 minutes ago, Elp said:

I think we all go through it to some degree, maybe not in an avalanche sort of way you have unfortunately experienced but usually the passion takes front and centre view and we continue regardless. My struggles at the moment relate to flats and background extraction JUST NOT WORKING and the new asiair update effectively rendering my asiair pro useless (two nights in a row I setup from scratch and put it away again as it refuses to respond and goto has a mind of its own). So more time and investment into investigations, all the while whilst loosing valuable imaging time.

If it were easy, would we do it?

Funny enough I also have those same flat/extraction issues, and given as it's happened on three different scopes I'm starting to think the problem lies elsewhere haha. Probably in my case I need to fully nail the calibration (flatdarks, bias, etc)

Software updates have plagued me too, Kstars has had improvements but some releases have been broken and I've had to wrestle the ubuntu package manager to get the old one back!

5 minutes ago, Clarkey said:

I really feel for you. AP is hard enough without the issues you are having. I also feel very lucky - the week before you purchased your scope I brought a second hand 130mm triplet in the SGL classifieds. When I saw your scope come up I felt a bit of envy at missing out. With hindsight I missed a bullet. If it makes you feel marginally better, I sold the 130mm scope a few weeks later as my observatory was about 5cm too small.

Unfortunately, I don't have any words of wisdom to help. Given how much you have paid out already, it is a real quandary. All I can say is I hope you get it sorted.

Just out of interest, what did the seller have to say? They must have been aware of the issues with the scope.

The seller used a much smaller sensor camera, and I suspect this is a big part of why they didn't notice. I did speak to them about it but they seemed fairly sure it worked when they had it, and the pics they sent taken with the scope before I bought it looked ok, in the end maybe it was bad when they sold it, maybe it wasn't! In likelihood it probably was in at least some of the ways described, but it's a bit far gone now to go and complain haha.

Thanks for your best wishes also.

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Sounds like a horrible situation to be in, and a real dilemma for you. I don't know your situation, but could you look to focus on enjoying your imaging again, and take the pressure off, by using a cheaper/simpler/smaller scope for a while, and the triplet dilemma might become clearer over time with help of the good people on SGL?

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I hear you, astrophotography is not so much a slippery slope but rather like being thrown off a cliff with how many things can and will go wrong but of course too much is too much, and a tipping point could end up as a throw-the-scope-in-the-bin point which isn't good either as the hobby is supposed to be at least a little bit fun. Personally i would have the scope at least inspected by a professional, and fixed if they do come up with a workable solution and a manageable quote for a price. If the lenses end up being lemons in the inspection then its a writeoff, but at least there would be closure.

I wish you the best of luck with this situation, sounds like a tough call with money going one way or another whatever the choice.

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I think @RobertI has offered really good advice above. I would set it aside for a month, forget about lost imaging time, the heavens will always be there. Clear your head then come back to it afresh and you will be less inclined to make an emotional response.  The thing that I always come back to is for each improvement I chase (cost/equipment wise) how much does that inflate the cost per image I take. It is really easy to get carried away with astrophotography, be careful.  At best you may spoil your enjoyment, God forbid, at worse you end up throwing good money away.  Set it aside and come back with a clear head, a solution will present itself. 

Jim 

Edited by saac
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Astrophotography can be so frustrating sometimes, I really feel your pain. A few thoughts:

* You wouldn't want / be able to sell the refractor in its current state, right? So at least getting it looked at by Es would let you know what's wrong, and allow you to inform any potential buyers of the issues.
* Can any of the issues be fixed in software? I'm thinking specifically of BlurXTerminator. In some cases it seems to work wonders fixing a number of issues; other times less so. 
* I recently bought a telescope that it turned out I didn't get on with, and was spending a lot of time and money to get it working as I wanted. I realised that it was sucking the fun out of the hobby. So, I drew a line under it, bought a new 'scope from FLO that was expensive but no hassle, and eventually sold the other one. The joy returned!
* Affordable wide-field refractors can be great for imaging, and are quite forgiving to use too. Maybe consider that as an option for a while?

Best of luck with whatever you choose to do!

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I remember seeing that scope and drooling, I've always wanted a 130mm frac and that was affordable ( but not for my pocket at the time) and slightly different, ie carbon tube, f6.5...

Did the previous owner experience the same issues, as I remember it, he sold up all his kit

The issues you have saddens me as more and more often I'm seeing secondhand unfit for purpose items sold for quite high prices...

Been on the receiving end of that a few times but not to the level that you're experiencing...makes me questioning if buying second hand really worth the lottery but puts the honest people in the same category as the dishonest

Hope you get it sorted, but taking a breather may make you re-evaluate things clearer..

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Sorry to hear about your troubles with the second hand scope, I guess it is always a bit of a gamble. Several years back now I purchased a second hand Esprit 150 from the classifieds. It looked like it had never been out of the flight case but I drove to the other end of the country to inspect it first hand and get an impression of the owner, reasons for sale etc before committing to the purchase.

None of that helps your situation. If ~£225 would get you an optical report and an estimate of the cost of putting it right (if that’s an option) then I think that is still worth doing to help you make an informed decision.

If it is not viable to try and fix it, just how bad are the aberrations? This might upset the optical purists but I take a somewhat pragmatic approach to dodgy star shapes. I bought a RASA and soon found out I could spend several nights fixing tilt or spacing issues, or I could image with it, getting wonderfully deep images in a single night then, dare I say it, crop the frame or use StarTools or other software to improve the star shapes.

I know that option is not for everyone, but I think it is important to get something positive out of all of this expensive kit on a regular basis, rather than eternally tinkering with it in pursuit of optical perfection. I leave that to the JWST.

Edited by tomato
Optical report costs corrected
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I think in your position I’d be sorely tempted to cut my losses and change the scope….But…. I suspect after taking a deep breath to think objectively that would probably be the wrong thing to do…

It sounds like you’ve fixed the focuser…and an hour or two with Ed Reid is probably going to fix the lens…the bit between these two components doesn’t have a lot that can go wrong- so future troubles down the line seem unlikely.

As it stands now, your scope probably has relatively little resale value to many potential purchasers (although someone may fancy the challenge) so you’d sell at a loss. If Ed does fix it and you’re still disenchanted with the scope then you’d at least be able to sell it in in good shape and likely recoup a bit more if your investment. 

In the unlikely event that the lens can’t be fettled into good shape then the money spent on Ed would have been wasted…but that seems a pretty unlikely outcome to me.

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That sounds awful, there's nothing worse than sinking time and money into something that doesn't bring you any joy.  I agree with the consensus here, take a short break and switch off from astro. Hopefully you come back with a clear mind and can make an informed decision. 

 

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So sorry to read about issues re;lated to the hobby , but , as has been written already i think most of us have problems, in one area or another . I am not the most patient of people and get frustrated very quickly when things are going wrong . The hobby of astronomy and of course astrophotography has so many variables and at any given time one thing can ruin a session . Couple with that the , quite frankly questionable skies over the UK and frustration and indeed an  almost depression like feeling overtakes . Of course its not a cheap hobby too , the more one gets into it , the more one pays . Sometimes its like throwing good money after bad . I really wish you well and hope you come back re-invigurated . 

 

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14 minutes ago, Richard_ said:

That sounds awful, there's nothing worse than sinking time and money into something that doesn't bring you any joy.  I agree with the consensus here, take a short break and switch off from astro. Hopefully you come back with a clear mind and can make an informed decision.

An alternative might be less disruptive, more productive and lead you into enjoying a different field of work.

Take a break off AP for a while, yes, but don't switch off from astro.

For instance, start imaging variable stars and/or asteroids. Then measure your images and submit them to the BAA. They will be both welcomed and of real use to future astronomers. For photometry especially, perfectly focused circular star images are not essential, though it is nice for them to be possible. Indeed VS observers often slightly defocus their telescopes to ensure that the stellar image is not too small.

There are many people, myself included, who can help you through the learning curve.

Think about it, and give it a try, please.

Paul

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Sounds like a turbulent time, to say the least. For my 2p worth with the amount you've already sunk into it get it to an expert like Es Reid, I've only ever read good things to be fair. You may find that even if fixed you won't trust the scope anymore, but at least you'll be in a position to sell on, safe in the knowledge that all is good.

In the meantime, take it back to basics, get out there with the visual kit you have, relax and enjoy the views, sounds like you need it 👍

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I have now been in contact with Es Reid, he says he can take the scope on if I send it late next week (was busy this week and into the next). I think I will send it after all, the only problem being that he is in Cambridge and I am in Plymouth!

I trust parcel force (the courier he says he prefers, he said Post Office specifically but I think PF are the only courier through them that will take a telescope) to get it to him ok, but I don't know if I trust any courier to be delicate enough to bring a tuned and checked refractor back to me afterwards...

A train trip to Cambridge and back might be in my future to feel safe here.

He did say scopes like mine can lose collimation easily and are very sensitive to de-centering... Which does make me worried about holding onto the scope for too long after tuning... Might be reinforcing my purchase of a 365 cover and pier/permanent setup plans. Telescope can't lose collimation if I never take it off the mount, at least save for high winds.

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Difficult one. It rather sounds as if the scope is a lemon, though Es Reid might be able to fix it. Will it really cost £150 to send it each way? That seems like a lot. A compromise might be to get him to make an initial assessment of what's likely to be possible.

I agree with Tomato regarding pixel-peeping for stellar perfection. How bad is it? Do you see it if you don't look for it? Like Steve, I'm using a RASA 8 and also, now, a Samyang 135 F2. I've never enjoyed imaging so much in my life and I'm able to make the kind of pictures I've always wanted to make. Not surprisingly, it is very hard to achieve stellar perfection in these gloriously fast systems but does it matter?  If it's OK to have darned great crosses springing out of stars, why is it such a big deal if small ones round the edges aren't prefect if you look closely?  (Large, imperfect ones can be fixed in one click by a simple Photoshop routine saved as an action.)

I also think that, sometimes, a product really is born a lemon. I know one imager who had a lousy new Paramount which it took him two years to get working, by which time he'd switched to a different mount. He reckoned it was now OK and sold it to another imager I know. It isn't OK, it is back in 'not working' mode again. This is made worse by Paramount's hard-nosed attitude to customer service and the absurd prices they charge for components. The same applies to another person I know who got stuck with a very expensive and very unsatisfactory OO UK astrograph. There is a case for cutting losses and bailing out, I guess.

Olly

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With regard to trusting a courier, I presume FLO have one they are happy with for large, expensive scopes. I don’t know if they use a premium service and they no doubt get a discount for the volume of business they put their way (and if they don’t, they should!)

I nearly bought a second hand Paramount but went for a new Mesu for the same money. That was a good call.

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On 24/01/2023 at 19:35, pipnina said:

2022 was a year of some decent highs and painful lows when it came to my astrophotography ventures. I made the dive from an unmodded DSLR on a handset-only HEQ5 with a 130-PDS, to modding the DSLR, then replacing it with an astrocam and using my laptop to control the setup. Then I broke my PDS (cut the focuser abrrel too short when trying to prevent it from intruding the light path), and replaced it with the horrible TS-PHOTON. That plagued me for 2022's summer and set me back over £900 once I dealt with dovetail bar upgrades and coma corrector upgrades on top of it.

Then when I was at peak distress with the PHOTON that would not hold even secondary collimation at this point (took the secondary out to blacken the edges, when it went back in, it wouldn't stay in one spot...) an ad came up in the classifieds here. 130mm f6.6 carbon tube triplet. For 1500 including a 0.79x corrector. In theory that's not just a good deal, but ideal timing for me. Some discussion with the seller and I wind up buying it, and it goes via DHL and turns up at my house a few days later.

First night I get to try it, I can't get the corrector to work, massive astigmatism at the edges (later turned out it was my fault, backfocus went down by 6.5mm due to no longer using a M48-T2 adapter). I took the corrector off and realised the focuser was tilted, and not in a small way. And on top of that, the focuser slipped when my ZWO EAF moved back and forth, and even slowly slid out during the night... It needed changing. After bribing the machinist at work with a box of Celebrations and cutting the rear flange off of the telescope to make it accommodate ANY alternative focuser, I was now down £2050 minimum, but I had a 3" R&P with tilt adjustment instead of a rubbish 2" crayford instead.

But the images still weren't right. Even dialing in the corrector's backfocus more accurately I realised there was astigmatism on one side and coma on the other, and a bit of coma in the center of the image. The front cell was mis-collimated.

After googling and researching and buying an artificial star testing kit, I used my highest power EP to study the center of field star pattern for an afternoon in daylight. I thought then that there was a little astigmatism in the middle still, but hopefully it was improved as the tilt of the cell had now eliminated the off-center rings. Yet the next time I went to image, it was unchanged. Something more drastic is wrong and it's beyond my capacity to correct. If I want to fix it now, I need to send it to a specialist. I contacted the people at FLO and they have forwarded me to Es Reid, who I will be contacting shortly. But they warned me that the *minimum* I would be charged would be £75 per hour, plus the (based on my estimates) £150 needed to post it to and back.

Now I am torn. Is it still worth me going through and spending yet more money on this refractor... Or am I just getting trapped in a sunk cost fallacy, and this scope will just cost me more and more money, never being as good as it could have been if I just splashed £3500 on a 120 or 130 triplet straight from FLO which was already checked by Es Reid as part of their running agreements... And saved myself months of stress and DIY and most importantly, NOT IMAGING.

I feel like I need this off my chest, just because at this point it's genuinely eating into my life because of the sheer emotional, financial, and time investment I have sunk these last 12 months.

Hope all of you are having a better time!

Can I see your latest image so I can see what your looking at?

Also if you have any star test (intra and extra focal) that would be useful. 

Can only really give an opinion after doing that. 

But what I would say is that the general rule is that if stars look ok in the centre of the image then its probably just needs some TLC.

Adam

Edited by Adam J
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10 minutes ago, Adam J said:

Can I see your latest image so I can see what your looking at?

Also if you have any star test (intra and extra focal) that would be useful. 

Can only really give an opinion after doing that. 

But what I would say is that the general rule is that if stars look ok in the centre of the image then its probably just needs some TLC.

Adam

Best I was able to do when it came to star testing was this:

 

Not easy to take pics with a phone down the eyepiece haha. Some also said I might not have been far enough away, although the 0.05mm star would have had a radius almost half that of the Rayleigh criterion for the scope at that distance so it might have been an ok test.

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1 hour ago, ollypenrice said:

Difficult one. It rather sounds as if the scope is a lemon, though Es Reid might be able to fix it. …

Olly

Looking back at the post for the original sale here it seems the scope at one time was very much not a lemon, to the extent that Olly himself appreciated the quality of the images presented (assuming they were indeed taken with the sold scope). Hopefully it can be brought back to life.

Magnus

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1 hour ago, ollypenrice said:

Difficult one. It rather sounds as if the scope is a lemon, though Es Reid might be able to fix it. Will it really cost £150 to send it each way? That seems like a lot. A compromise might be to get him to make an initial assessment of what's likely to be possible.

I agree with Tomato regarding pixel-peeping for stellar perfection. How bad is it? Do you see it if you don't look for it? Like Steve, I'm using a RASA 8 and also, now, a Samyang 135 F2. I've never enjoyed imaging so much in my life and I'm able to make the kind of pictures I've always wanted to make. Not surprisingly, it is very hard to achieve stellar perfection in these gloriously fast systems but does it matter?  If it's OK to have darned great crosses springing out of stars, why is it such a big deal if small ones round the edges aren't prefect if you look closely?  (Large, imperfect ones can be fixed in one click by a simple Photoshop routine saved as an action.)

I also think that, sometimes, a product really is born a lemon. I know one imager who had a lousy new Paramount which it took him two years to get working, by which time he'd switched to a different mount. He reckoned it was now OK and sold it to another imager I know. It isn't OK, it is back in 'not working' mode again. This is made worse by Paramount's hard-nosed attitude to customer service and the absurd prices they charge for components. The same applies to another person I know who got stuck with a very expensive and very unsatisfactory OO UK astrograph. There is a case for cutting losses and bailing out, I guess.

Olly

I understand that line of thinking, and maybe I am stressing over it too much... But I also know at heart I am a pixel peeper and even if other people might look at my images and go "oh that looks nice!" I'll still know what's "wrong" with it and will struggle to be satisfied!

As for diffraction spikes, I rather like them in all honesty in reflector images... But only so far as I could keep them sharp and defined, and they didn't encroach on the image or sit at angles other than increments of 45 degrees. It sort of gives a hubble-esque look to me and I think the mirrors scatter a little less light than lenses, leading to bright stars bloating a bit less in a reflector which makes up for it a bit in my mind. Still, at that point it's an artistic choice as much as anything! Coma in the field center and astigmatism at the edge isn't so easy to debate over. Like you say though, everyone has their tolerance and tolerances can change over time...

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9 minutes ago, Captain Scarlet said:

Looking back at the post for the original sale here it seems the scope at one time was very much not a lemon, to the extent that Olly himself appreciated the quality of the images presented (assuming they were indeed taken with the sold scope). Hopefully it can be brought back to life.

Magnus

Its all subjective, some are bothered by things others are not, but in your linked images the scope is showing pinching in the flaming star nabula image at the very least. Also in the star test shots posted my pipnina there are signes of both pinching and decentering assuming the artifical star was centered on the sensor.

Edit: Just seen you used a mobile phone, thats not ideal, you could be picking up aberations from the eyepeice for example. Normally I would just use a small pixel guide camera for a star test with no eyepeice involved looking at the defocused diffraction rings.

Adam

 

Edited by Adam J
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