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#6570756 Some Personal Thoughts—From an Old Timer (A Really Old Timer)

Posted by GeneT on 03 May 2015 - 02:02 PM

Today I turned 72 years of age.


     For 70 of those 72 years, I have been looking up at the sky. When I was two, my grandmother took me out to her back porch in Minnewaukan, North Dakota, (a town of about 500) pointed up into the dark Mag 7 skies and said, ‘look at the beautiful stars.’ I had no idea of what I was seeing. All I knew was that the dark night sky was an amazingly beautiful site. From that time forward, I have always checked out the night sky every chance I could.


     Over these years, a lot of hobbies have come and gone. Photography, back in the days when there was film, I used to develop my own negatives and print up my own positives from them. Color was too complicated, and too expensive in most cases. I took up shooting pistols and rifles and listening to short wave radio and music (led a dance band in high school playing tenor sax, and bassoon in the orchestra) and played basketball in high school. Boy Scouts took center stage, earning my Star award. Then I discovered girls, and all those hobbies went away—except for girls and astronomy. I found that the young ladies also liked looking up at the night sky and were interested in learning about its various objects. I also discovered that there is nothing like being out in a dark sky, to set a romantic mood.


     Astronomy is the only hobby that has remained with me over the past 70 years. In 1946, when I was three, my mother, a school teacher, moved us to Ely, Nevada, a town of about 5,000. A hill blocked the downtown sky at night, and again, I had Mag 6.5 to 7 skies—just outside my back door. One cold February night, a friend asked me if I would like to join him and his son (a friend of mine) to drive to the mining town of Ruth, Nevada to look through a telescope. I was 10 years old. I had never looked through a telescope. The owner had just purchased a 3.5 inch Questar and he did not know how to use it. The moon was about half full. I looked through the eyepiece and saw only a bright white glob, with no detail.


     Then, I saw a little knob near the eyepiece. I turned it—and suddenly the moon with all its glory of craters, rills, and plains popped into view. I was absolutely stunned. I have never forgotten that first view through the telescope. I read somewhere that the human brain loses about 25 thousand brain cells a day. At age 72, I don’t know how many I left. However, that first look at the moon through the Questar has forever seared that image into my mind.


     Sam Brown’s book All About Telescopes took a young person through some excellent information about astronomy; Leslie Peltier’s book Starlight Nights fueled my desire to keep looking up. Now, several large bookshelves are full of astronomy books, star atlases, and star maps. More recently, some computer programs and Tablet apps, continue to serve me well.


     Back in the days that I lived in Ely, Nevada, many of the people had limited financial means. I could not afford to subscribe to Sky and Telescope, so I went to the library each month to read it. A telescope was also out of my family’s financial reach to buy one. In the comics I liked to read, I saw the ads for a 3 inch reflector, for $29.95, that would show craters on the moon, the rings of Saturn, and other sky objects. If I wanted a telescope, I would have to pay for it. I was leery that the 3 inch telescope would do all that the ads claimed. At age 15, I drooled over the ads in Sky and Telescope for Unitron refractors and reflectors in the four to 16 inch category. I was drawn to a four inch, F10 Dynascope ad. It had an equatorial mount. Electric clock drive was not yet available for most telescopes. It listed for $79.95. I could not afford the telescope. I worked all summer mowing lawns at a dollar a pop. I had already saved up about $20 shoveling walks the winter before. At 6,400 feet above sea level, Ely gets quite cold. If does not snow that often, but enough so I could make some money shoveling walks. Finally, I had the $79.95 plus delivery costs saved up. I sent off for the telescope. It arrived in perfect condition.


     In dark, pristine skies, you can see a lot even with a small aperture telescope. Today light pollution is so bad that many of us live in Mag 3 skies, and even after driving for 20 miles or so, we still only have Mag 5 or so skies. Back in the 1950’s, I was viewing with a four incher in Mag 6.5 to 7 skies. I was viewing the moon, planets, clusters, a few brighter galaxies and nebula, and found that there were numerous double stars that I could split with that small instrument. There was no astronomy club that I could join, but I did have a friend who lived about a block away who also shared a deep interest in astronomy. He and I had numerous sleep-overs in the summer where we stayed up most of the evening looking at sky objects.


     These are some of my best memories of this great hobby that gives so much positive energy to my life. Looking up at the stars connect the 70 years of my life through both the good times and the bad. I graduated from high school in Ely, but had to sell my little four incher to pay for some books when attending the University of Utah, in Salt Lake City. I could not afford another telescope for several more years. Life’s journey took me through a divorce, but then I found and remarried the woman of my dreams and was blessed with two wonderful daughters and two sons. They in turn blessed Jeannie and I with three wonderful granddaughters and two grandsons. After 28 years serving in the Air Force, we found ourselves back living in San Antonio. I went through several other telescopes over the years, but ended up with a 12.5 inch, F5 Portaball, as my final telescope.


     The night skies has provided my life continuity, and brought me peace and joy second only to that provided by my wife, children, and grandchildren. The night skies and its stellar views were a constant in my life, no matter where the Air Force assigned me. The night skies were a constant in my life through a divorce, the ups and downs of the economy, illnesses and life’s good times. I was born at the end of World War II, remember the Korean War, the Kennedy assignation, Water Gate, the Vietnam War, the dot.com bust, the more recent financial downturns, and recoveries, and the more recent wars in the Middle East.


     Auriga, Orion, Pegasus, Andromeda, Lyra, Hercules, Ursa Major and Minor, Canis Major and Minor, Leo and others were my best friends. They could be counted on to march across the heavens, and return at their appointed times, and places. The planets and moon more randomly wandered through the constellations to provide some interesting relief. But, over the years, the starry skies became my best friends—friends that could always be counted on.


     More recently, I have a friend who approached me and said, ‘if you ever want to sell your Portaball, I would like to buy it.’ What she was getting at was, ‘when you die, have your wife call me. I would like to buy your Portaball.’ However, my daughter Stacy beat her to it. Stacy said, ‘dad, when you die, can I have your telescope?’ I said sure. My wife and I have talked about one day dying, and wanted our children to know that death is not something that we are afraid of.


     We are at peace with our religious faith and have told our children that death is just part of the cycle of life. We told our children that death is just part of life’s journey. We have told our children that our deaths one day will result in helping to make up the contents of more new stars as we take our places in the heavens.


     However, it is great knowing that my children have also grown to love the night sky with one of them wanting my telescope. Before those two offers, I was thinking of having the Portaball buried with me. However, there are state and federal laws to contend with, plus even if that could happen, I probably would have to buy two grave sites. I am happy that one of my daughters will carry on the hobby of astronomy with the telescope that brought her dad so much pleasure.


     What Stacy doesn't know is that along with the telescope, she will also get a 21,13, 8, 6, and 4.7 Ethos; a 10, 8, and 6 Delos, a 9 Hutech, an 8 Brandon, a 7 TMB supermono, 5 XO and other eyepieces. I will leave her instructions in my will about the value of those eyepieces, and knowing her, she will keep and treasure those eyepieces, along with my 12.5 inch Portaball, the rest of her life.


     Old age is creeping up on me. I have to be careful when driving at night. I can’t drive and talk at the same time because my mind wanders. Testosterone shots and Viagra help keep me going. Although my telescope is very portable, it now is getting more challenging to load, set it up, and take down. I don’t know how long I will be able to do so.


     However, the night skies will always be there and beautiful to behold—even if I am limited to the one power views of my eyes. That’s all the ancients had and they marveled at the night sky for thousands of years, before the advent of optics and telescopes.


     I have lived a blessed, full life. I hope to live a few more years—before I eventually turn to dust, and take my place in the heavens, to become the stuff of stars.


Gene Townsend
San Antonio, TX

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#6570781 Telescopes—A 58 Year Journey

Posted by GeneT on 03 May 2015 - 02:27 PM

I turned 72 years old today. 


     In the General Observing and Astronomy Forum, I shared some general thoughts on what the hobby of astronomy has meant to me over the past 70 years, from the first night I looked up at the night sky, in Minnewaukan, North Dakota. In this post, I would like to share some thoughts regarding telescopes and accessory equipment. I am parking this post in the reflector forum because most of my astronomy world was lived out with these kinds of telescopes.

     When I think about telescopes, I am reminded of how so many of us get into debates about which type of telescopes provide the best views, along with similar debates about eyepieces. I do not know how long ago what we would call the first humans appeared, but at some point they did come upon the scene. They had only naked eye views of the heavens. Some were near sighted, some far sighted, some had astigmatism and other eye defects. Yet, they looked up in skies, with little man-made light pollution, and marveled at the stars, the planets, and even a few nebula and galaxies. Some of them may even have been able to split some of the wider double stars.


     These first humans saw all this with only one power views of the skies. They marveled at the sights, and before the invention of the telescope, studied the skies very carefully for clues to the future—when to plant, when to sow, whether or not to go to war—all predicted by their reading of the skies.

     Eventually, lenses were put together and in turn, the telescope and eyepieces were invented. That totally changed our knowledge and understanding of the universe. Craters were seen on the moon. Saturn had rings and moons. Jupiter had bands and some very bright moons. We learned that the Earth was not in the center of the universe, which provoked a lot of controversy. We later learned that neither was our sun the center of the universe, which also provoked a lot of controversy. Then, we learned that our galaxy was just one of millions, and our minds were in turn expanded into the cosmos. People became fascinated with astronomy, and began buying telescopes and eyepieces. Some, who were limited financially, learned how to grind their own optics, and build their own telescopes.


     My first telescope was a 4 inch, F10 Dynascope. I found it reading the ads in Sky and Telescope. It cost $79.95. It came with a 9mm Ramsden and a 12 Huygens eyepiece. I bought the telescope in the late 50’s. I lived in Ely, Nevada, with a family that had limited income. I shoveled snow in the winter, and mowed lawns in the summer and finally had the money for the telescope. That little four incher really delivered in the Mag 6.5 to 7 skies of Ely. I had to sell that telescope to pay for books in college and I put off buying another one until after college, and I was well on the way in my Air Force career.


     Finally, while an instructor at Officers Training School in San Antonio, Texas, a Sky and Telescope ad for an 8 inch Optical Craftsman caught my eye. Aperture fever had kicked in. I bought that telescope in the early 60’s. The Dob era was not quite upon us and 8 inches was a respectable sized telescope. Back in the 60’s, the back yard views on Lackland Air Force Base were fairly decent—maybe Mag 4 to 5 skies in certain quadrants of the sky, vs. the Mag 3 skies in most of San Antonio today. That 8 incher provided great views of the planets, and some of the other brighter sky objects. A lot of double stars were nicely split by that telescope.


     We received orders for Washington, D.C. I sold the Optical Craftsman and bought an 8 inch Dynamax. The optics greatly disappointed me. However, the short tube of the SCT made it easy to load and pack up in my Volkswagen bug. However, you have to drive a long distance to get some decently dark skies in the Washington, D.C. area. We again got orders for San Antonio, and I sold the Dynamax 8 and bought a Coulter 13.1 inch Dob. Again, the optics were poor and it was difficult to transport; collimation was also very difficult. So, I sold it. The Air Force transferred us to Wichita Falls, Texas and there I bought a Celestron 8. The optics were great. I had three silver top Celestron Plossls that performed excellently with that telescope. I kept it for 10 years. It shipped to Germany and back after a six year tour. It gave me excellent views of Mars and other objects while stationed there. After being shipped to and from Germany, the collimation only needed some minor tweaking when it arrived at both destinations.


     The Air Force moved us back to San Antonio. I sold the C8 and bought a 20 inch Obsession. I never thought about a proper vehicle for transport, important because now the skies in San Antonio were about Mag 3. The telescope was of excellent build and the optics provided great views of the planets and other sky objects. However, the telescope was just too difficult for me to manage. I also did not have a vehicle that could haul a 20 incher. I caught Peter Smitka’s ad for a telescope designed to be as large as possible, and still very portable. It was called a Portaball. At that time, it was only offered in an F5, 12.5 inch size. I sold the 20 inch Obsession and bought the Portaball.


     I love the Portaball. I have owned this telescope for about 20 years. It is easy to transport, easy to set up, easy to take down, and easy and fun to use. I store it on my side of the closet, along with my eyepieces, under a bunch of shirts and suits. Due to my age, I rarely am able to get out to the dark sky sites, but I have a Mag 5 site about 30 minutes from home. The optics are excellent, and I have outfitted it with some excellent eyepieces to include Ethos, Delos, Brandon, Hutech, Supermono, and XO eyepieces.


Here are some thoughts regarding my 58 year telescope journey:


--Aperture fever is genetic, i.e. almost everyone is susceptible to this disease;


--However, aperture fever is curable;


--Aperture fever is curable if one can overcome his or her predilections to the idea that bigger is better, and replace that thought with the best is what I can afford and enjoy; some people love large 18 inch and larger telescopes; but, sometimes the hassle of setting up and using those large telescopes kills the desire to get out under the stars;


--Too many of us had to learn the hard way that bigger is not always better; for some, yes—but not for all; what is important is not size, but how you use it;


--Eyepieces are important, but again buy what you can afford; some do perform better than others, but a truly dark sky and good seeing will do wonders to maximize a telescope’s optics and eyepieces;


--Buy the right vehicle for the hobby; too often we want to try and squeeze a 12 inch telescope into a Honda Civic; it can be done; it can easily be done with my Portaball; but I wrongly thought that an 18 inch Ultra Compact would easily fit into a Honda Accord; you can get it into the trunk, but only with a lot of contortions and worry that the telescope will slip and fall crashing to the ground; I finally bought a Honda CRV. It gets great gas mileage; it will hold an 18 inch classic Dob and accessories, but it will be tight; the CRV easily holds my 12 incher, accessories, and camping equipment; the CRV nicely doubles for other uses where I need a large box type cargo area for hauling other things; I strongly recommend getting the right vehicle for your telescope;


--Don’t look at how often you get out to view as the criteria for whether or not you are a good hobbyist; work, family requirements, weather, health, and other factors determine how often one can get out and view; get out to view when you can;


--Don’t sell your astronomy equipment just because you can’t get out and view as often as you would like; astronomy is a hobby, not a job; I am a deacon in my church, and often go weeks between viewing sessions due to my church requirements; if you ever divorce, your spouse probably won’t want your astronomy equipment, so keep it;


--If you can afford it, buy premium optics and eyepieces; if not, buy and enjoy what you can afford;


--If you are buying a telescope for the first time, consider buying a six or eight inch SCT or Dob, or two to four inch refractor; learn to use the telescope and get familiar with the night sky before trying to learn imaging. Make it a two-step process—learn your telescope and the night sky before launching into photography;


--Imaging—smaller four to eight inch telescopes, with accurate mounts and processing software can provide astronomical images the equal if not better than some old black and white photos that I remember seeing years ago, taken with the 100 inch Hooker telescope; however, imaging requires patience in the setup, while doing photography, and while processing the images; many also get caught up in the ‘my equipment is not good enough and I need this’ thinking; I had a friend who had an excellent four inch refractor, a special mount for photography, and all the other accessories needed for photography; one night he showed me his mount; he told me it cost $6 thousand; I said I could not afford $6 thousand for a mount so I could do photography; he said, ‘Gene, this mount is not the one I want; the one I want costs $12 thousand'; one can get some pretty good astrophotos with equipment a lost less expensive; however, we are back to the question ‘when is good, good enough, and when can I enjoy my hobby of astronomy with what I have, and with what I can afford?’


--There is no perfect one telescope that will do it all; a good three or four inch refractor can be a good grab and go; due to their short tubes, a six to eight inch SCT packs up nicely for a trip or a camp out; an eight to 12 inch Dob expands visually the universe in the details it beings to the eye; 12 inch and larger telescopes can take one to seeing unbelievable detail on the planets and brighter sky objects, and the ability to at least see dim fuzzies that are invisible in smaller telescopes; in short, there are tradeoffs; I believe in differentiation; one telescope just can’t do it all; maybe get one for astrophotography, and one for visual and maybe one that is a grab and go, easy to take outdoors and be viewing in five minutes, and a good solar telescope for daytime use;


--A lot of questions show up on Cloudy Nights, such as ‘Do I Have to Collimate Each Time I Set Up?’ Answer: If a reflector, always check the collimation for each set up; once you get the hang of it, collimations is not difficult; ‘Why Are My Images Blurry?’ Answer: poor collimation, optics not properly cooled down (or not having reached ambient temperature); also, due to not having enough in or out focus, images will be blurry; ‘What Kind of Eyepieces Should I Buy?’ Answer: buy and enjoy what you can afford; there are good, reasonably priced eyepieces available; yes, better eyepieces do perform better, and most often, those better eyepieces are more expensive; optics with excellent figures also perform better; however to see much visual improvement in sky objects with excellent optics vs. good, a dark sky, collimation, seeing, and other factors also play an important role.


--Lastly, if astronomy is your passion, like it is mine, develop a life’s strategy for the hobby; find the telescope that meets your needs and will keep the passion alive; get the right size vehicle for your equipment; find a good dark sky site; if your back yard has Mag 5 or better skies, build an observatory and have your telescope permanently housed so to view all you have to do is eat some dinner, watch some news, and walk to the back yard, and roll of the roof to be up and viewing. If you have lousy Mag 3 skies like I do, about age 50 buy some land at a dark sky site, build an observatory and if it is secure, leave your telescope permanently housed in it; all you would have to do is after work, drive to the observatory open the roof or dome, and begin observing; you would then avoid the loading in the vehicle, unloading, setting up, taking down, reloading, and storing; at age 50 or so, the kids are almost raised, and if they aren’t, there is light at the end of the tunnel; an alternative thought is that you could buy a summer or weekend home with nice, dark skies; the area could have hiking trails and other things to do during the day, with the stars out for viewing at night; enough advice.


I love astronomy, but I blew my own life’s strategy for the hobby; at age 50, I did not come up with a strategy like I recommend above; had I done so, it would have been implemented by age 60; (maybe some land out in the dark, skies of western Texas or even into New Mexico; today I am 72. I blew my chance; I have to be careful when driving at night; even my easy to load, and set up Portaball is becoming challenging; I do dream about dark skies and having a place like I described, but I waited too long.


However, I have more blessings than I can count, and I am thankful for my parents, wife, children and grandchildren, and opportunities the U.S. Air Force gave me while serving for 28 years.
I appreciate the good people who give us Cloudy Nights. Over the past several years, I feel that I have gotten to know many of you, and count you as my friends.


I do not know how many good years I have left. But, it doesn't matter. I have a lifetime of dreams, many due to the numerous beautiful nights, that I have been blessed to have spent out under the stars.


Gene Townsend
San Antonio, Texas

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#6886675 Moon high resolution images taken with C14 on August 6

Posted by ch-viladrich on 12 November 2015 - 04:58 PM

Dear All,


At last, I've found some time to process a first group of images of the moon I took last August 6 with the C14 and a Basler 1920-155 camera.


Clavius :






Deslandres :



Straight Wall :



Triesnecker :



Best regards

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#6554292 2015 Eyepiece Buyer's guide

Posted by Starman1 on 22 April 2015 - 05:59 PM

Here is the latest list, which includes some new eyepieces just shown at NEAF.

Rather than list every manufacturer's offerings, I eliminated the eyepiece if no retailer sold the eyepiece under the manufacturer's name.

I encourage people to look at what is offered on sites like those of Barsta, Kunming United Optical, and other Chinese makers.


Attached Files

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#7027989 Takahashi Telescopes

Posted by waso29 on 30 January 2016 - 04:29 PM

forgive me for i have sinned.....


btw, i drive a 2005 honda.

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#6727775 Ava receives her refractor... A very happy 12 yr old!

Posted by BFaucett on 11 August 2015 - 09:19 PM

A few weeks ago, after receiving my new Stellarvue SV102 f/11 achromat, I posted in this thread that I was going to give my entry level Meade Terrastar 90mm f/11 achromat to a friend's 12 yr old daughter. BTW, I purchased the Meade back in April of 2014 when I started renewing my interest in astronomy (after a very long absence) so it's practically new and in pristine condition. Well, it took a little longer to arrange things than I anticipated but Ava's mother, Carol, brought Ava to the office today so I could give the telescope to her.

This wasn't for any special occasion, such as her birthday, so she didn't think anything was up or have a clue. Ava has had a real interest in astronomy for about the past year. Her grandfather (IIRC) gave her a Meade 60mm refractor last Christmas. Several months ago, I gave Ava some very decent Bausch & Lomb 10x50 binos that I no longer needed. I also gave her a copy of the book NightWatch which she has really been enjoying. :waytogo:

So, today, I walked into Carol's office and said hello to Ava. I told her, "I just happen to have one of my telescopes here at the office. Would you like to see it?" She said, "SURE! I'd like that very much."

So Carol, Ava, and I went to the office where I had the scope set up. I explained to her that I had recently purchased a new, slightly larger telescope and so I no longer needed this one. And then I told her that that meant I was giving this telescope to her if she'd like to have it. Boy, you should have seen her face light up! :) :) She turned to me and said, "Really??... I'd LOVE to have this telescope!" And I replied, "Well, it's now yours!" :)

So it was a great day and a good time was had by all! :)

Here's a couple of pics (click on the pics for a larger image):


Me, Ava, and the Meade. Yeah, she's one happy gal! :grin: :waytogo:


Cheers! beer2.gif
-Bob F.

edit: spelling
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#7016956 M81/82 Ultra deep field

Posted by avdhoeven on 24 January 2016 - 04:08 PM

This image is a continuation of an image I made in 2014 of the M81/82 galaxy group. I made the images and found signals of integrated flux nebula surrounding the galaxies. Soon after that I got in touch with Neil Fleming who had a splendid image of the IFN in this region on his website and a fellow astrophotographer, Michael Van Doorn, who had imaged the galaxies using his hyperstar setup.


We decided to combine the data and create a deep field of this region. The lower magnitude visible is around mag. +24 in this image!
Because of the long period of bad weather I decided to do some reprocessing on previously made images and decided to see if I could get even more out of this image.


I think the result is astonishing. As far as I have found this is the deepest image of this region that I could find on the internet. The IFN really stands out very clearly and it's nice to see details like Arp's loop at M81 really jumping out to the image....


Image details are visible in the image.



M81/82 Ultra deep field :) by Andre van der Hoeven, on Flickr

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#7010503 NGC 891 in C14 Edge

Posted by sydney on 20 January 2016 - 10:34 PM

I messed up some of my early processing steps and planned on using this as a trial run.  In the end, I kind of liked how it came out so thought I would post it here for feedback before deciding whether to re-do.  This is an LRGB taken with a C14 Edge at f/8.


Larger image and data are here:



Thanks for looking up.

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#7008043 Jupiter & Ganymede 16.01.2016

Posted by Alexander Obukhov on 19 January 2016 - 04:02 PM


Jupiter image from 16.01.2016

2016/01/16 01:26:30(UT)
CM1=318.9 CM2=234.5 CM3=234.5
Celestron С11, ASI224MC, Baader IR Cut, 2.5x barlow, Pierro Astro ADC

18000 frames x 16 ms


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#6695390 If "aperture rules" Why is it that refractors are so popular?

Posted by jrbarnett on 23 July 2015 - 09:51 AM

And I don't just mean popular with imagers.  The preference over a compact, easily mountable, easily adaptable OTA for imaging is easily understandable when the alternative imaging platform is a reflector.  Refractors presently are extremely popular with visual observers; perhaps the most popular design in fact if you consider the sheer number of different brands and models available relative to the brands and models of other designs.  Clearly the total number of different refractor brands and models is many times greater than the total number of commercial reflector brands and models.


I've spent long periods of time living with individual scopes of particular designs.  For example, I spent 15 years with a 6" f/8 Newtonian, 6 years with a C8, 3 years with an 80mm MCT and 5 years with a 4" f/9.8 achromat.  It's only relatively recently that I've become a many-scoped observer.  And by "many-scoped" I mean multiple examples of refractors from 2.4" to 6", multiple examples of SCTs from 5" to 11", a D-K, a MN, several different MCTs from 90mm to 7", multiple Dobs from 10" to 16", etc.  Having "done my time" with examples of the most common designs, there are no ifs, ands or buts about it - refractors are my favorite designs fro visual use.


In my experience and opinion, "aperture rules" is one of the greatest fallacies in the hobby.  Don't get me wrong.  On paper, aperture should rule.  But we don't observe on paper or in a classroom or in a laboratory.  Instead we observe out of doors, under a blanket of thick atmosphere, dynamic weather, a mix of local and celestial light sources.  It's in the field, subject to these determinative variables that the deficiencies of aperture and obstructed designs become evident.


While it is true that the job of the telescope is primarily to collect light, its secondary job is to manage to keep all of the components of that light where it belongs in the final image rather than snuffing it out or worse, putting where it does NOT belong in the final image.  Central obstructions and spider arms are obvious sources of scatter (disruptors of light from where it belongs to where it doesn't).  On paper supposedly a small central obstruction (25% or less) is indistinguishable from an unobstructed system of like aperture.  That'd be great if we observed on paper.  In the field, this is a crock of hog hockey.  Every source of scatter and other disruption of the collected light accumulates and conspires to interfere with the image.  Beyond obstructions lack of or inadequate baffling, rough, dirty or misaligned air-to-glass surfaces also divert light from where it belongs.  Most on paper models predicting telescope design behavior either ignore or improperly account for these other sources of sucking.


Beyond sloppy light management, increased aperture also generally means increased mass of the optics.  While it's true that theoretically the greater resolving power and light grasp of a larger aperture ought to enable superior views, thermal and atmospheric variables "off paper", in the field, disproportionately impact the larger scope's ability to deliver performance approaching its theoretical capabilities.  Put another way the inability of a large scope to quickly attain thermal stability in real world conditions affects the quality of the images it presents compared to the manner in which a smaller less thermally affected instrument manages the same target under the same conditions.  The greater susceptibility of larger apertures to variable seeing is similar to the disruption caused by thermal deficiencies.


I surmise that the reason refractors are so much more popular than other designs for visual observing, despite their comparatively high cost per unit of aperture and on-paper deficits relative to larger instruments is that  under real-world, in-field conditions refractors produce better results at the observer level than other designs.  On any given night, under anything less than very good seeing, much smaller refractors produce superior images of many classes of targets, including planets, the Moon, double stars and bright star clusters, than much larger, sloppier, more environmentally vulnerable instruments.  For other classes of targets, even with the sloppiness factors, aperture wins.  The thing is, though, such targets generally aren't all that great from the suburbs even in great and mighty instruments.  And therein I think lies the key to solving the mystery of refractor popularity.


Most of us no longer have easy access to dark skies where the kinds of targets living in the big aperture wheel house reside.  Under suburban skies and the predominant "shorter session" we working stiffs find ourselves stuck with, refractors do a better job in the field than larger obstructed instruments under such conditions.  The massive popularity of refractors for visual use is easily demonstrated.  I've shared my ideas as to why refractors are so popular for visual use.  What are yours?





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#6651436 The Most Important Piece of Advice I Can Ever Share

Posted by thomasr on 26 June 2015 - 09:25 AM

You are bang-on with this advice. Since adding wheels to my primary scope I am observing a lot more and I'm taking my rig to much better sites. I wish I had done this years ago ...



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#6981015 Jupiter 03.01.2016

Posted by Alexander Obukhov on 05 January 2016 - 01:28 PM

Hi !

Here is Jupiter (+Callisto) image from January 3rd .

2016/01/03 03:13:00(UT)
CM1=130.2 CM2=144.4 CM3=141.0
Celestron С11, ASI224MC, Baader IR Cut, 2.5x barlow, Pierro Astro ADC

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#7040133 Jove & Saturn @ 47°...Mars much higher..! ;) iR's ADDED.

Posted by Kokatha man on 06 February 2016 - 06:56 AM

I have edited this post to include the iR images captured this particular morning: IR610nm for Jove & iR685nm for Saturn. Interestingly, Saturn displays a prominent bright spot on the Southern edge of the EZ...quite a catch for so early in the apparition! ;)


The colour ASI224MC is still our preferred choice of camera with its very strong iR as well as very low noise performance: I state this as a counter to some other camera claims, but this is not to decry in any way other cameras or personal choices...it is our considered practical appraisal, & the simple fact is that there are numerous current camera makes & models that will return almost identical outcomes in similar situations. When another camera appears that clearly surpasses the camera we use atm we will switch once more :grin:  - regardless of whether it is a colour or mono unit...we have no prejudices wrt that aspect, we just want the best ones available that cover a wide range of imaging band-widths! ;) On that point it is likely different folks will utilise more than one camera...currently we are trying to image as well as test another scope...using 2 cameras will only be likely if we run the C14 & VX16 side-by-side...possible but unlikely..! :lol:




Hi all - finally managed to image yesterday morning for the first time in ages with some acceptable results...


Spent a lot of time trying to get the OOUK f4 16" Newt working but discovered the primary mirror cell was not functioning properly...I should have stripped it down & reassembled it at home considering all the other work I've done in the last month, but with a poorly collimated VX16 we were at least rewarded with a breath-taking ep view of M42 - I can honestly state that I have never seen it in such splendour...which gives me confidence the optics really are up to the specs the scope's mirror came with..! :)  :waytogo:


Also need to get the fitting finished so I can swap the C14's Moonlite over onto the Newt...want to see how it performs before laying out pretty big dollars on another one solely for the 16". (the stock focuser also caused collimation issues when the scope was targeted skywards for a star-test...)


Anyway, took the C14 along & yesterday after nearly 2 days working on the Newt "in the field" managed some reasonable images with "Ole Faithful" :flowerred:  - we also used the ZWO ADC as it should be used. (a right-hander, see the start of John's current ADC thread)


Our ADC horizon screw with built-in bubble level proved very practical...the long screw the bubble phial is situated on meant we could go for about 20 minutes before needing to re-adjust this & the ADC parallel to the horizon...& knowing which way the levers operate on our unit certainly helped it to function as it is meant to..! ;)


Sam has expressed an interest in having something similar manufactured as an accessory...I can honestly say that it performed flawlessly & was really easy to visualise & adjust for the scope/mount movement over time. :waytogo:


Anyway, we had to sit through over 2 hours of mucky seeing for 2 avi's right at the end of the Jove session: well past culmination/transit with Jove down to 47°...but with the ADC providing tangible benefits onscreen when adjusted. :)


We then shot a few images of a fast-rising Saturn where the ADC again came in handy...finishing with Mars which was high in the sky but jumping around very erratically: also a few more iR captures of Jupiter & Saturn I might post later...


Not getting the Newt to "first light" meant my idea re marking the orientation of the camera sensor on the outside of the camera body to find the horizon line was untested  (ie, getting the planet moving horizontally E-W across the sensor screen to determine N, & therefore the horizon etc...) - but for the SCT, the ZWO ADC is a really "easy-peasy" accessory!















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#6999358 Jupiter - 12Jan2016 - CFF350 - Arizona

Posted by djhanson on 15 January 2016 - 12:57 AM

Jupiter 12-Jan-2016 10:30UT



No barlow (8550mm)/Pierro Astro ADC/ZWO224MC/Moonlite DRO

2ms @160fps @gain=315 @40-45% histogram
Best 25% of 4.7K stacks/16 sets (FC/AS!2/Reg6/WJ/Astra/CS6)

Initial setup temp of 60F (16C).
9 hr ambient temp match with fans on.
Final imaging temp of 35F (2C).

Above average seeing with Jupiter @57 degrees.


Prevalent dew and frost a few days post El Nino rains (but none on primary or secondary).

First outing with the 1100GTO which provided much better stability near meridian and almost no planet shifting :)


cheers, DJ



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#6964658 Post a picture of your refractors (PART 7)

Posted by Josef1968 on 27 December 2015 - 04:04 AM

My new Setup!


Self made 178 ED-APO!





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#6914228 Six Months of Planetary Imaging with new C14 Edge HD

Posted by RBChris on 28 November 2015 - 12:28 AM

For most of my life (well, beginning in the second grade, and I'm retired now ;) ) I've been an amateur astronomer, almost all that time exclusively visual.  About two years ago I acquired a C8 and an ASI 034MC camera to begin exploring digital planetary imaging, inspired in large part by the images and experiences shared by posters in this forum.  It should be no surprise to anyone reading this that I found the experience highly rewarding, not to say addictive. After a year of imaging with the C8 and ASI 034MC I succumbed to aperture fever, planned and built a home observatory in my back yard, and equipped it with a C14 Edge HD mounted on a Losmandy Titan. First light was achieved in early June 2015, and since then I have been able to enjoy the experience of walking out to the observatory and beginning to observe with a minimum of setup-hassle. Of course, the down side of using a home observatory is that I can't chase the seeing (I'm thinking of Darryl here - much admiration :bow: ), and just have to wait for the seeing to come to me - a disturbingly infrequent occurrence. In any case, I thought I'd share some of the best images I've been able to obtain during these last six months to thank the many posters here that I have learned so much from (and yes, it's obvious from the images that I have a lot left to learn, but that's at least half the fun!).


I would also like to thank the authors of the various software packages essential to our efforts who so generously share the product of their labor and ingenuity with our community.


Thanks Everyone!




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#6726545 12" f7.5 APO binocular saw firstlight

Posted by Savio Fong on 11 August 2015 - 06:27 AM

It took a long long time, finally we setup the 12" f7.5 APO bino. 


I am sure late Thomas Back will be surprised serial #001 & 002 will be setup here, as binoculars. 

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#6696367 Post a picture of your refractors (PART 7)

Posted by Yuri on 23 July 2015 - 09:45 PM

I did not buy it, but it is mine :grin:

(APO250 F7.5 prototype)

250FL F7.5 prototype.jpg

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#6655220 Mercury on June 24 in good seeing

Posted by John Boudreau on 28 June 2015 - 03:14 PM

The morning of June 24 I finally had a chance to image Mercury this year in good seeing conditions.  Before inserting my ASI120MM I had a very fine view at the eyepiece at 370x while adjusting the ADC, although there was certainly not as much detail visible to the eye as seen in this processed result.


This is the 1st time that I used the 610nm longpass filter with my 14.5" scope on Mercury. If the seeing allows the 610 can potentially give better resolution than my usual choice, a Baader 685LP.

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#6642869 Info on my home built 4" f 12 refractor and mount.

Posted by rogue river art on 21 June 2015 - 12:30 AM

This was started as a project in a machine shop where I was an instructor. I wanted to let the students work on something different than making small hammers and other useless junk. I decided to start making a mount for a refractor. I didn't have one at the time. I drew up some prints for sizing up a mount to scale with a scope and tripod. The student only worked on the parts for a short time before the school closed. I continued for 12 years  doing a little at a time before finishing in 1992. The scope has Edmond optics . I bought and machined the tube of Aluminum and installed the baffles. The mount was made at home from Brass, bronze,SS steel and titanium. All the gears were made at home as were the cutters to cut the gears. The polar and Dec. shafts are ball and needle thrust bearing mounted. The clock drive was roughly copied from a picture of a Unitron clock drive I have. I changed a few things like the ratchet rewind on the cable drum to a ball clutch like the return on a hand start lawn mower. The cable drum has more cable also for a longer run time. The tripod is strong enough to hold around three hundred lbs and is solid oak with a solid center support with brass turn buckles for adjustment. The foucser  is all brass and slides on teflon on the inside. It also has a sliding scale scribed on the tube viewed through a small window on the side. The tube was made from a solid brass roll of 4" dia. and 1' long like the counter weight on the polar shaft. the total weight is 195 lbs. so it's not a grab and go as it takes time to break down and carry back to the truck during star parties. I've included more pictures.

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