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The Beast lives! 😱😳🤯😎


Stu

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I was supposed to be getting an early start, working in the garage and garden today, but given the lovely sunshine this morning I thought it would be rude not to give the Beast its first run out which somewhat delayed me!

As a recap, ‘The Beast’ is a 150mm f10 PST Mod using an internally mounted 110mm Baader D-ERF and setup to work with a barlow element in my Baader MaxBright II binoviewers and 40mm Plossls. Our very own Peter Drew kindly put the scope together for me and checked it worked with the binoviewers correctly. I mount the scope on my AZ100 Goto with a pillar on top of the Planet tripod. Whilst it suffers some vibration I reckon it will do the job, until I build a pillar and perhaps a dedicated mount for it. The scope itself is large, but not unmanageable weight wise. I can carry the mount and tripod in one piece out into the garden too, although my back doesn’t thank me for it!

Back to the scope, it is designed for high power, hi resolution views in Hydrogen Alpha and will require excellent seeing to make the most of.

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Suffice to say, my expectations today were not that high, I thought I would have to wait for the Sun to get higher in the spring for this scope to be worthwhile.

How wrong I was! Initially though I had problems finding focus, until I remembered to pull the PST backend out of the OTA to the correct distance and could then give it a tweak with the PST focuser. I also found eye positioning very difficult due to the long eye relief of the Plossls, extended further by the Barlow. I solved that eventually by resurrecting some home made eye guards which reduce glare from the side and make eye positioning much easier.

So, the views? I guess I expected proms to be spectacular in this scope, so was quite unprepared for the contrast and detail on the surface features. In the 102mm, this is relatively muted compared with the proms, but in the 150mm it was quite gobsmacking, and the scary thing is, I know it can be so much better than this in better conditions.

There were some nice proms visible, but that surface detail really stole the show. Filaments showed clearly, and there were two lovely filaproms showing in almost 3D as they arced from surface over the limb. This is a crop from today’s Gong image.

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Most dramatic though was the group of active regions 3536, 3537, 3539 and 3542. Hard to describe, so I’ve cropped the relevant bit out from the Gong image and processed it a bit to give you an idea, though the reality was so much better; contrasty and the bright parts quite dazzling. I need to dig out my solar observing book so I’ve got some language to describe these features properly.

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Anyway, I’m delighted to have finally got the scope back home, and to have seen that it more than meets my expectations. Best of all, I know there is so much more to come!

With grateful thanks to @mikeDnight for the donor scope, @Highburymarkfor the D-ERF and of course to the legend that is @Peter Drew for creating this wonderful scope for me. Hopefully at some point I’ll be able to get it to a star party to share the fun!

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Brilliant Stu - it sounds incredible. Early morning/early evening solar sessions for the rest of 2024 I reckon. Particularly impressive that you’re getting such good surface detail. Kudos to Peter - an amazing scope.

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Great results from a very nice set up  Stu. I tried some solar a couple of mornings ago but the seeing was absolutely terrible. Even at low mags the sun was wobbling like a jelly. Guess I will have to until it’s a bit higher in the sky.

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1 hour ago, laudropb said:

Great results from a very nice set up  Stu. I tried some solar a couple of mornings ago but the seeing was absolutely terrible. Even at low mags the sun was wobbling like a jelly. Guess I will have to until it’s a bit higher in the sky.

To be honest, that was exactly what I was expecting so it was a nice surprise to be able to see plenty of detail 👍. A lot more to come this year hopefully for Solar observers.

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I weighed the scope today, and it came in at 13.65kg fully loaded with rings, dovetail, binoviewer and eyepieces. Surprisingly light I think. It is around 1.5m long however, so is quite demanding on the mount.

Years ago, I bought a car wheel bearing, plus some other heavy duty bearings and intended to build a mount from it. I suspect that if the scope is supported both sides in the style of a Panther TTS or Peter’s home made variant then the vibrations would be reduced for such a long scope. Anyway, that’s a project for another day. I’ve just built myself a decent workbench finally so I’ll be able to do some proper DIY stuff now, rather than the wood butchery I’ve done to date 🤣.

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11 minutes ago, Stu said:

I weighed the scope today, and it came in at 13.65kg fully loaded with rings, dovetail, binoviewer and eyepieces. Surprisingly light I think. It is around 1.5m long however, so is quite demanding on the mount.

Years ago, I bought a car wheel bearing, plus some other heavy duty bearings and intended to build a mount from it. I suspect that if the scope is supported both sides in the style of a Panther TTS or Peter’s home made variant then the vibrations would be reduced for such a long scope. Anyway, that’s a project for another day. I’ve just built myself a decent workbench finally so I’ll be able to do some proper DIY stuff now, rather than the wood butchery I’ve done to date 🤣.

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That is quite light for a 6 inch F/10. My Istar 6 inch F/12 weighed around 17kg I seem to recall. Such things are challenging to mount in a way that allows the full capability to be realised. I'm sure you will find a way though - it's got to be worth a little effort 👍

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Wow what a beast! Sounds like you will be loosing sleep in anticipation of those summer sessions when the sun will be much higher. Imagine the views you’ll have then, considering how it performs at the moment.

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3 hours ago, Sunshine said:

Wow what a beast! Sounds like you will be loosing sleep in anticipation of those summer sessions when the sun will be much higher. Imagine the views you’ll have then, considering how it performs at the moment.

Indeed it is! Yes, I suspect the best moments will be few and far between, but I can’t wait to see what this thing can do under good or excellent conditions 👍

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Fascinating scope and back story, Stu..

I've got to be honest, solar observing isn't my thing at all (for me, Astronomy takes place in the dark!🤦‍♂️😂), but I genuinely found your story interesting and informative..and that big 6" F10 has an interesting history.

And I second your assertion that Peter Drew is a legend in his own lifetime..I had the pleasure of meeting Peter c 15 years ago when he helped collimate an Intes Mak for me, and wouldn't take anything for his trouble: and again last year (or was it the year before?) at the Practical Astronomy show at Kettering. A real gent, and fount of knowledge of all things Astro related! 🫡🫡

Dave

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3 minutes ago, F15Rules said:

I've got to be honest, solar observing isn't my thing at all (for me, Astronomy takes place in the dark!🤦‍♂️😂),

Interesting, I just have to ask, have you looked through an H-alpha scope? If not, you may change your mind once you do.

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6 minutes ago, F15Rules said:

Fascinating scope and back story, Stu..

I've got to be honest, solar observing isn't my thing at all (for me, Astronomy takes place in the dark!🤦‍♂️😂), but I genuinely found your story interesting and informative..and that big 6" F10 has an interesting history.

And I second your assertion that Peter Drew is a legend in his own lifetime..I had the pleasure of meeting Peter c 15 years ago when he helped collimate an Intes Mak for me, and wouldn't take anything for his trouble: and again last year (or was it the year before?) at the Practical Astronomy show at Kettering. A real gent, and fount of knowledge of all things Astro related! 🫡🫡

Dave

Thanks Dave. It’s been an interesting journey, a long time in the making but very interesting to do.

As @Sunshine says, you should give solar a go, it really can give you quite remarkable views. I’ve been a very keen white light solar observer for years, and find that with a decent setup (good refractor and Herschel wedge) the views can be quite jaw dropping when the seeing is good even in only a 4” scope. Hydrogen Alpha has always been second best for me, due to the sheer contrast and vivid nature of the white light views I’ve had, however that has started to change with my 102mm PST Mod, and I’m sure will evolve further with this new acquisition.

The best experiences are few and far between, but when they happen they stay with you. I well recall viewing, in the 102mm, an arcing prominence moving in real time, and watching three plasma ‘bombs’ (as I described them) raining back down to the surface. Quite remarkable, given the speeds that must have been involved. The thing this new scope gives over the 102mm are the additional resolution of course, but also much more brightness and contrast which makes the views much more dramatic and rewarding. The surface detail I saw was quite amazing!

As said, at some point I would hope to get the scope to a star party to share the views.

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39 minutes ago, Sunshine said:

Interesting, I just have to ask, have you looked through an H-alpha scope? If not, you may change your mind once you do.

No, I must admit I haven't..

You may be right..but at the moment I'd settle for a few nightime sessions in the dark..ironically, it's clear tonight, first time for weeks here..and I cant get out as I have to get up early..  it's my wife's birthday tomorrow and I am taking her away for the a night in a nice hotel!!😱😂.

Dave

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I have looked through a number of H-Alpha scopes (up to 100mm) and even owned a couple but, somehow, the interest didn't hold with me.

But, those experiences were during the "quiet" part of the solar cycle so perhaps H-Alpha activity was quiet as well.

I do white light observing (herschel wedge) from time to time, mostly at society outreach events.

The Sun is a very interesting target because a) we depend on it, b) it changes all the time, and in real time and c) because it can be a nice, comfortable experience observing it 😁

So, speaking for myself, I would not rule out taking more interest in solar observing and I will be following @Stu's experiences with "The Beast" with interest 🙂

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15 minutes ago, John said:

I have looked through a number of H-Alpha scopes (up to 100mm) and even owned a couple but, somehow, the interest didn't hold with me.

But, those experiences were during the "quiet" part of the solar cycle so perhaps H-Alpha activity was quiet as well.

I do white light observing (herschel wedge) from time to time, mostly at society outreach events.

The Sun is a very interesting target because a) we depend on it, b) it changes all the time, and in real time and c) because it can be a nice, comfortable experience observing it 😁

So, speaking for myself, I would not rule out taking more interest in solar observing and I will be following @Stu's experiences with "The Beast" with interest 🙂

I would agree that looking through H-alpha during solar minimum when the sun looks like an orange ball with a few dark spots can be underwhelming. There are those days (a lot recently) where there are no less than five proms, some are enormous. Those days are amazing, the beauty of an H alpha scope lies in it’s portability and ease of use, a scope small enough to keep right next to a door ready for a quick peek. One quickly finds that an H-alpha scope no matter how small it is, it will become a most used scope and one which will be greatly missed if sold. One more thing about HA scopes which is wonderful is outreach, it is much easier to draw a curious crowd on a walkway, park, or anywhere than night observing where less people are up and about. Curious folks are always blown away by the fact they are looking at the sun, almost everyone expects telescope to be for nighttime use but when passersby see me looking into the sun they cannot resist asking for a look, and the reaction is always the same “omg this is the sun? I see fire coming out!” this is great, I absolutely love solar outreach.

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7 hours ago, Sunshine said:

What aperture size are you looking at buying? 

I think a one roomed bedsit in Bortle 1 skies, with a ground floor patio for putting the scope, er, sorry, deckchair on would be ideal for us, sorry, her!!🤦‍♂️😄

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28 minutes ago, F15Rules said:

I think a one roomed bedsit in Bortle 1 skies, with a ground floor patio for putting the scope, er, sorry, deckchair on would be ideal for us, sorry, her!!🤦‍♂️😄

don’t forget the doghouse, Dave….

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Wonderful tool and beautiful photographs! I also really like observing the sun (in white light) both because I can do it even on quite cold days when I don't dare put the telescope (and my nose) out at night. In winter with the sun quite low and before sunset I experienced good seeing and had some beautiful visions of our star with a small achromatic 80/400; I therefore think that it is best to always try even at your latitudes (I am at around 40 N), if anything by observing at local noon, it might be a good time.

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14 hours ago, Sunshine said:

I would agree that looking through H-alpha during solar minimum when the sun looks like an orange ball with a few dark spots can be underwhelming. There are those days (a lot recently) where there are no less than five proms, some are enormous. Those days are amazing, the beauty of an H alpha scope lies in it’s portability and ease of use, a scope small enough to keep right next to a door ready for a quick peek. One quickly finds that an H-alpha scope no matter how small it is, it will become a most used scope and one which will be greatly missed if sold. One more thing about HA scopes which is wonderful is outreach, it is much easier to draw a curious crowd on a walkway, park, or anywhere than night observing where less people are up and about. Curious folks are always blown away by the fact they are looking at the sun, almost everyone expects telescope to be for nighttime use but when passersby see me looking into the sun they cannot resist asking for a look, and the reaction is always the same “omg this is the sun? I see fire coming out!” this is great, I absolutely love solar outreach.

I’d agree on the reaction of the public - many are disbelieving of what can be seen in Ha if they haven’t looked through a solar scope before. 
Last year I was fortunate to catch an X-class flare develop and diminish in real time - it was without doubt the most spectacular thing I’ve witnessed since starting astronomy. Even after (I’d estimate) a thousand observing sessions over a decade, it’s still thrilling to be able to study our own star in such detail. The drawbacks are cost of course, and variability of filter quality, but Stu has shown it is possible to do things reasonably affordably. 

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30 minutes ago, Highburymark said:

variability of filter quality,

This would indicate to me that you use a Quark? I say this because they have been known for inconsistency in their filter quality, but if you happen to score a good one I hear the views are second to none.

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5 hours ago, Sunshine said:

This would indicate to me that you use a Quark? I say this because they have been known for inconsistency in their filter quality, but if you happen to score a good one I hear the views are second to none.

I’ve had various set ups - a Quark which was poor, two Lunts which were great double stacked but both (one in particular) underwhelming single stacked. A couple of Baader/Solar Spectrum Sundancers which were basically nice etalons, but with other (significant) problems, and a double stacked Solarscope 70mm, which is wonderful - though once again, nothing particularly special single stacked. I’ve learned enough to show that all brands are highly variable in both quality and bandwidth, but Quarks/Solar Scouts and Coronado are more variable than the others - a view backed up by specialist forums like Solarchat. But these are mostly cheaper, entry level products. Interestingly, the real Rolls-Royce etalons were produced many years ago by Solarscope and pre-Meade Coronado. Though if you dig into the history of commercial solar Ha filters, all four brands share a common ancestry. 
One thing’s for certain - Stu’s route is a very cost effective route to wide-aperture observing. But the Beast will require good seeing to really shine!

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1 hour ago, Highburymark said:

I’ve had various set ups - a Quark which was poor, two Lunts which were great double stacked but both (one in particular) underwhelming single stacked. A couple of Baader/Solar Spectrum Sundancers which were basically nice etalons, but with other (significant) problems, and a double stacked Solarscope 70mm, which is wonderful - though once again, nothing particularly special single stacked. I’ve learned enough to show that all brands are highly variable in both quality and bandwidth, but Quarks/Solar Scouts and Coronado are more variable than the others - a view backed up by specialist forums like Solarchat. But these are mostly cheaper, entry level products. Interestingly, the real Rolls-Royce etalons were produced many years ago by Solarscope and pre-Meade Coronado. Though if you dig into the history of commercial solar Ha filters, all four brands share a common ancestry. 
One thing’s for certain - Stu’s route is a very cost effective route to wide-aperture observing. But the Beast will require good seeing to really shine!

I have to say that this variable performance is what has put me off H-Alpha in the past. The Lunt 50 (single stack) that I had was a so-so performer as was the PST that I owned for a while. We have 2 PST's in my society one of which is not bad but the other rather unimpressive. I have read a lot of reports of poor Quark performance. 

I realise that what such equipment is doing is pretty complex and that there are more satisfied owners out there than unsatisfied ones but it is still difficult for someone who is a little ambivalent about solar observing to feel motivated to spend several hundred £'s on what seems to be a sort of performance "lottery" 🤔

@Stu's approach with "the beast" makes a lot of sense though - have it put together and sorted by somebody who knows what they are doing and knows good H-Alpha performance when they see it 🙂

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I agree John - and the ‘several hundred £s’ is now rather more for all but the very cheapest dedicated scopes. Have a look at current new prices for the Lunt 60, and you’ll see that even this modest aperture scope, with a small internal etalon (cheaper to produce than the better performing, full aperture external etalons) is many thousands new. Double stacked is almost double the price. 

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On 11/01/2024 at 06:02, Highburymark said:

I agree John - and the ‘several hundred £s’ is now rather more for all but the very cheapest dedicated scopes. Have a look at current new prices for the Lunt 60, and you’ll see that even this modest aperture scope, with a small internal etalon (cheaper to produce than the better performing, full aperture external etalons) is many thousands new. Double stacked is almost double the price. 

Oh my gosh, i was curious and looked on FLO’s website, the Lunt 60 configuration I purchased here in Canada is nearly double the price in UK when considering the exchange back to Canadian dollars, outrageous!

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