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First Light - Is it all worth it?


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2nd April 2011 was first light for my SkyWatcher SkyMax 127 SupaTrak, previously i set it up in the daytime and aligned the finder scope to the OTA.

Visually the sky looked fairly clear but there was a slight haze at times, outside temp was 9c, which felt quite cold so i had my hat and coat on as well as my wellies.

So i set my scope up as per instructions, had my chair, table with my books on, red torch, pen and paper and a can of red bull.

I was using the 25mm standard eyepiece that came with the scope which gave me 60x.

OK, I am all set to go, first target Pleiades M42, crouching behind my scope i slewed it across the sky and roughly pointed it towards M42, then i went to the finder scope and after a bit of jostling M42 was in my finder scope, so i went to my scopes EP and i was amongst my target, i kept moving the scope slightly to see more of M42's stars as it is surprising how much area they cover when viewing through a scope.

Next i went to Castor in Gemini and it was just a bright star, not the binary star i was expecting, so i changed my eyepiece to my 13mm Nagler, refocused and haha there it was i had just split my first double.

Next target had to be Saturn, got it in the finder just a bright looking yellowish star, i went to my scope and it was a de-focused blob, so i started tweaking the focuser and it slowly came into focus and OMG it is quite unreal looking and you feel quite privileged to be looking at something that most other people will not ever see clearly with there own 2 eyes.

I could not see and detailing but i had visual separation of the disk from the planet, i then put me x2 televue barlow in and though it was larger it was less defined and i could not focus on it clearly due to atmospheric conditions i think, so i went back to just my 13mm and spent the next 40 mins viewing this huge gas giant of a planet.

My wife who is not into astronomy was blown away when she looked at Saturn through my scope and kept on saying "wow, that is unbelievable".

Finally the vampire of astronomy ended my viewing session "DEW" sucked the life out of my scope.

Is it all worth the expense, the setting up, the research and all the reading etc "OH YES".

Things to be aware of when you first use your scope, 1. The tripods are not as stable as you might think, the slightest touch of the focuser or your eye socket at the EP and the whole image bounces around for a few seconds and makes it hard to achieve good focus. 2. The target shoots across your FOV at a rate i was not expecting, especially at high powers, unless you have GoTo or Tracking ability, i messed my tracking up by moving the scopes ALT position when i put my x2 barlow in and was unable to accurately track from then on. 3. Dew prevention is a must even on so called mild nights, i did not have a dew shield fitted to my Mak and i got about 2hrs of viewing and my scope is stored in my garage/shed so keeps it at ambient temp to reduce cool down time when setting up.

When the dew ended my session, everything was damp to the touch, my books etc so it is a major problem and something you should be aware of.

Sorry for the long post but i had to share this with the people who i know will appreciate and understand what i am going on about.

Gaz

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Great post, I remember the experience well. It's doesn't take long to get good at setting up though. Once I got a good finder scope and remembered to align it with the main scope perfectly, observing the planets using barlows got easier.

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Hi Gaz,

You bet it's worth it.

First off, you don't need to apologize for the length of your post. If your not excited and wanting to share your first light with every one what are you doing out there watching the best free show on earth/in the skies? Just keep on enjoying it. You will remember this night for a long time.

Reading your report takes me back a couple of months to when I first took my scope out, but instead of Saturn I had Jupiter and it was so cold instead of dew I had frost on my scope. Still enjoyed it though.

You are in for plenty more great nights, always something new to see.

Clear skies.

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Glad i was able to share it with you and i will post other viewing session details now and again just to express my feelings of joy, or lack of them when the dreaded dew & frost demons strike.

The good think about me letting my wife come and have a look at Saturn was she was totally blown away and said afterwards you need to buy a better scope and more lenses (eyepieces to us) who am i to disagree, lol.

Edited by GazofCorra
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good post and very agreeable

my girlfriend was very sceptical about my and my telescope, came out a few times with me and wasnt very enthuisatic "its a lot a white dots, grey smudge" etc.. until on saturday, we came back from a curry and it was a dark and very clear sky, i couldnt resist dragging it out the shed and giving her "first light" on Saturn, "wow thats amazing" she said, made it worthwhile.

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Good read, Gaz. Glad you had a good 1st light :icon_eek:

A couple of things to mention..

-Are you going to be doing any solar observing? If so, there is an issue with tracking on some recent SW127Mak's. I'll go in to more detail if you want.

-Over time the Alt can get a bit sloppy and can slip if not balanced really well or when swapping EP's. If this happens, take the silver side cover off the mount tighten the 10mm nut at the top. Not too tight or you'll not be able to move Alt at all without using the motor.

-Periodically check/tighten the mount nuts and bolts.

-Take care to always get the scope level. The level bubble isn't the best and if it's a little off the tracking is a pig to align well.

-An electric focuser helps loads with the focus wobble. A couple of us in the Mak127 Group have done electric focuser mod and details are in there. Join the group if you haven't already.

-The dew you were talking about is more likely steamy lenses, which a dew shield won't stop. You'll still need a dew shield for the dew, but to stop the lens misting up (and it will, all the time, which is a pain) you'll need to heat the objective lens with something like a Dew-Not.

-Give the scope at least an hour to cool before use.

Hope that's helpful. Enjoy your new toy! :rolleyes:

Edited by Revs
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Gaz - I agree that good seeing makes all the difference in the world and it is nice when your other half finally understands why you are always on the forums and reading books and why we get excited about the prospect of a good nights seeing.

Roger - Thank you and glad you enjoyed it.

Paul - I am not planning on any solar viewing at the moment but i would like to know about the tracking issue on some of the SW127Mak's.

I am glad you have mentioned about the alt movement (to those who do not know, on the SW SupaTrak you can move the scope in the alt position manually, whereas the AZ motion can only be moved via the handset, so it is easy to knock scope and out of sync and mess up the tracking all together) as this is exactly what happened to me the other night when i went to put my barlow in the EP holder, the scope moved in the alt motion and from then the tracking was all out. I am going to tighten that bolt you mention slightly so small knocks do not spoil my viewing again.

I wondered where to centre the dove rail into the mount and put it half way, i think i will move it slightly forward to counter the eyepieces.

I would love an electric focuser as it is very annoying when you try and focus and the view in the EP looks like a crazy jumping bean, it makes achieving clear focus a bit hit and miss.

I just assumed it was dew and i am glad to know that it was more likely steamy lenses as that is what the front objective looked like (a steamed up window), but my books were all damp so maybe a bit of both, i will look into the Dew-Not as it sounds like it will save the bacon on a few occasions.

Just looking forward to some good clear night skies.

Edited by GazofCorra
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The problem with the tracking with solar viewing is that on the mounts with silver side covers, the sunlight can penetrate the cover, which sends the trackings positional sensors (can't remember their proper name) haywire, causing the tracking to shoot off randomly.

I sorted it by spraying the inside of the cover black, which blocked the light. I email SkyWatcher about it and they said they'd look in to it. Someone I recently chatted to who had just bought a 127GoTo said his was OK, so they may have sorted it. Have a look while you're tweaking that nut up :icon_eek:

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Good post, i had problems aligning my sons meade Starnavigator 102, but last night we managed to get it slewing in the direction it was meant to, the best was Saturn we got it ij the direction of it and then got it in the eeyepiece and focused it, it is truly an awesome sight and to think its so far away as well, 1st view was with a 25mm and it was pretty small but with the 9mm and a 2x barlow we managed to get a leare if albeit small view of it.

Even Mum came out and had a look and thought it was amazing, hopefully she will be up for getting a 8" Meade lightswitch LOL!!!

I am becoming hooked already after one night!!

Edited by mikepacitti
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Paul - Thanks for the info and i will check it out when i tighten that nut up.

Mike & Ken - What you actually saw last night 3rd April 2011 was Saturn at opposition (closest to our planet) a mere 1290 million kilometres away and opposite the Sun as seen from Earth, well done!

But all this month April 2011 Saturn is putting on it's most magnificent display of the year, shining all night long at +0.6 but you will notice that the rings are significantly brighter around opposition.

Gaz

Edited by GazofCorra
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Great write up Gaz, I am interested in reading about these Maks as I know relatively little about them.

I managed to get out last night with my now sold scope and grabbed saturn with the currently brighter rings, I know exactly how blown away you feel :icon_eek: I could capture the 4 brightest moons also!

Do these type of scopes require collimation? I presume their only draw back is not so good for dso?

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Gaz, my first night out was in January, -3C and the scope was dripping when I came in, but no dew on the objective! Never has been a problem.

Like you, however, my books and notes were sodden- near ruined.

Since then I have used "Stellarium" to plan my nights viewing and printed out targets in nice big easy to read typeface and popped the sheet in a plastic folder.

Works fine- no more soggy messes!

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Hi Adam, as far as i know the mak does not require collimation like a reflector, but if it was out of sync i believe it has to be done by an expert, i am sure another SGL member will be able to clarify this.

Also they are supposed to be ok on brighter DSO's as for faint DSO's what is needed is a large aperture like your 200P dob :icon_eek:

Well done on your views of Saturn around opposition, it blows you away as it comes into focus does'nt it.

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Enjoyed reading your post. If the cloud doesn't get you the Dew will :icon_eek:. I saw Saturn for the first time last month and was completely blown away. I got such a buzz and felt so humbled.

For anyone that isn't into star gazing it's just another star in the sky until you show them. I showed my Mrs and got an OMG!!

Hope you enjoy your next outing just as much (I'm sure you will.)

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Revs - I took the silver cover off my scope and inside it is white plastic so i assume mine would go all haywire unless i painted it, i did tweak that nut up and it is a whole lot better now.

Cheers

Edited by GazofCorra
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