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Clear skies, frozen scope!


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We still have a lot of snow on the ground up here in the hills in Mid Wales, but the sky was beautifully clear tonight. I set up the scope at around 5.30pm, when it was still light, but had a good view of Jupiter and four moons. I covered the scope with a polythene sheet and went back out for some serious viewing at about 7.30. To my horror my NexStar 6SE had frozen solid - impossible to move using the hand control.

I decided to put it away and went back out with binoculars. I find my 10x42s a little difficult to hold steady, particularly when it is so cold, but I had a great view of the Orion nebula, the Pleiades, and also caught a glimpse of the Andromeda Galaxy. I just managed to spot Mars (I think), but it was difficult to see since it was low in the sky and one of the few street lamps in the village was between me and it.

This was a good experience for me, a relative newcomer, and gave me a chance to advance a little more with finding my way around the sky. I’m certainly impressed with the binocular experience, and think I may start looking for some with slightly less magnification (7x42 or 7x50?). Any recommendations? Maybe I should post this request in a different forum (but I’d be interested if anyone reading this has any suggestions - I could go to somewhere over £100 if spending that much makes a big difference).

Any suggestions for preventing the scope freezing up? Maybe I should find some sort of cover for it, or else set up just before I want to start viewing.

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I got the same problem tonight - the freezing started at about 18:30 - 19:00. I didn't realise just how bad it was until the clouds came over and prevented viewing anyway. No damage though.

I saw M42, M31, Jupiter (two - three cloud belts and all moons) early tonight, and I saw a satellite AND a meteor zoom across the field of view while observing M31!

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The most practical hand-held binoculars for astronomy are 7 x 50. Many people recommend 10 x 50, but 7 x 50 gives a bigger field of view, a slightly better limiting magnitude, and are easier to hold sufficiently steady. The best way to prevent the telescope or its mount from freezing ( or to thaw it out once it has frozen ) is to blow warm air over it using a hair dryer. I hope you find these answers useful.

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I agree it was very cold last night. I set up my 10" Dob last night at 5.30pm and carried on viewing until about 10.00pm. The scope had a thick covering of ice plus the RDF and the finder scope. I used a 12v hair dryer which I run from a portable jump star battery pack - much, much safer. My EPs are kept in their box until required - so no ice forms. The 12v hair dryer is good enough to keep the secondary and finder clear.

I started with Jupiter, then 6/7 double stars, then 5 objects from the Herschel 400 list finally ending with M42, Trapezium and Sigma Orion. Only really stopped because the Moon was too bright.


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