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CGE1400 on my Scopebuggy
Scopebuggy $269 www.scopebuggy.com
As Editor of Cloudy Nights I have countless pieces of equipment in my garage. I'm also fortunate enough to work with authors on their equipment review submissions. This gives me a unique vantage point on the Astronomy equipment scene. Periodically a company comes with with a simple product that solves a longstanding problem. An example of this is the Lymax SCT cooler. A simple $100 device that halves the cool down time of all cats, great or small.
The Scopebuggy is one such product. In a nutshell, the Scopebuggy is a $260.00 platform "cart" that allows the owner to pull their large SCT, EQ mounted scope or large dob outside in one trip. If this catches your interest, read on for the details because it's all good.
Parts and Pieces
Per the picture above, the Scope Buggy consists of "T" shaped adjustable platform connected to (3) 10" inflated tires. The front bar is "goose necked" and connects to the front wheel which is the steering wheel. Unlike the other two wheels, the front wheel can turn or pivot in any direction. You "steer" the Scopebuggy by pulling or turning the front wheel in the direction you wish to go in.
Connected to the axels of the front wheel is a long T-handled steel bar. To move the Scopebuggy you pull it along just like a kid with a wagon. The reason the pull handle is a bar instead of a chain or rope becomes obvious when you pull it down the first slope. The 200lbs of CGE1400 would simply roll over the owner on a downwards slope if the pull handle was a chain. The solid bar allows the owner to control the rate the Scopebuggy goes down a slope. In other words, the owner pushes back on the bar to slow the Scopebuggy if it picks up speed down the slope.
The back two wheels are attached to two separate bars. These two bars slide into the top of the "T" shaped main bar. This gives the owner the flexibility to fix the width of the back bar to exactly match the tripod or dob feet being placed on it. Obviously an 8" SCT tripod will have a smaller footprint then a CG1400 and the owner can adjust the bars to the width they need.
The goose necked bar slides onto the main T bar and is bolted into place. Scopebuggy will also send an extension bar that fits here in case you have a really giant tripod (16" LX200). This extension bar is also needed if you prefer to view with the legs of your tripod fully extended.
The tripod or dob "feet" sit in circular holders, one on each axel. These holders float on the bar and are adjustable by just sliding them back and forth. While it's hard to tell from the photo above, the holder is right underneath the orange tip of my tripod leg. Right next to the leg holder is a large bolt. Each axel has one of these bolts and they are used to level the Scopebuggy once it's in position. Since my lawn is relatively flat, I've never used the leveling bolts.
Larry from Scopebuggy has a tip for those who need precise polar alignment. On the first night out get a precise polar alignment. Next, thread the leveling bolts down into the lawn so they pierce the grass. Lastly, move the scope buggy and mark each of the holes. Now each night the Scopebuggy is used, simply line up the bolts with these holes for a precise polar alignment.
To get a perspective on the size of the 10" tire, the photo above has a 24mm Konig next to it. Upon unpacking the Scopebuggy, I almost fell over when I pulled out the first tire.. Pictures don't do them justice - they are huge! The reason these tires are so large is they are intended for outdoor use. The bigger the tire the larger the obstacle one can pull the scope over.
How easy is it to pull?
The photo above shows my 6 year old daughter pulling 200lbs of CGE1400 around my garage. On a flat and frictionless surface, a child can pull a huge scope around. Once you hit grass, it becomes harder to pull. My daughter can't pull it across my lawn but I'm able to pull it without any problems. Larry at Scopebuggy tells me they tested how high one wheel has to be before the scope tips. Their test results came back with the 16" figure. What this means is one wheel must be 16" higher then the other two before the scope tips. My own informal and unexpected tests with my CGE1400 scope put this figure at 4". My guess is the tests Scopebuggy performed was on a perfectly weight centered scope such as a LX200.
Larry recommends a bungy cord between the tripod main brace and the scope buggy. This is a $.50 safety precaution in case something comes unbalanced. This can happen if you don't have the RA locked and the OTA swings free.
How well does the Scopebuggy work?
The Scopebuggy surpassed my expectations. My first reaction was "where have you been all my life?". Prior to using the Scopebuggy I needed three heavy trips to get my CGE1400 setup.
Trip 1: OTA (40lbs)
Trip 2: Counterweights (50lbs)
Trip 3: Tripod and EQ Head (100 lbs)
Now I pull the whole thing out in one easy trip. Here comes the good part. You know those evenings when you aren't sure whether it will clear enough to view? Well, in the past I wouldn't pull out the CGE1400 as it was too much effort to make the gamble. With the Scopebuggy I pull the CG1400 out each night it *might* be clear right before dinner. If it clouds up, no big deal, I just pull it back in. The net result is I'm getting a lot more observing time in with my CGE1400. Now, as much as I like my smaller scopes, there is nothing like cooled down big aperture for a satisfying night's observing session.
Scopebuggy, not just for SCTs
The Scopebuggy isn't just for SCTs. It can be used for any EQ mounted scope or a dob. Larry from Scopebuggy was good enough to send me some photos from happy Scopebuggy owners.
Meade 16" EQ Mounted Newtonian
Dob on a Scopebuggy
Particle Wave pier on the Scopebuggy
After three weeks of use I found two minor problems with the Scopebuggy. The first has to do with the pull rod. The end of the pull rod floats on top the axel pins off the front wheel. Since it's not retained by screws, one side will occasionally fall off the axel pin when pulling the Scopebuggy around a sharp corner. Larry at Scopebuggy reports the first generation Scopebuggsy had the pull rod screwed onto the axel pin. Customer feedback of innocent owners tripping over the attached pull rod in the dark prompted them to change the design. I found out on my first night with the Scopebuggy how hard it is to see the black pull rod in the dark. For those wondering, I'm fine and the 35mm Panoptic landed on soft grass.
The second problem is the front wheel can bind against one side of the retaining yoke when taking sharp corners. This minor issue has already been fixed in current production models of the Scopebuggy. A bushing is now installed on that one side of the yoke which prevents the wheel from binding. In fact, the good folks at Scopebuggy are shipping these out to current owners.. Nice customer support!
Scopebuggy is a simple solution to a very longstanding problem among amateur astronomers - how to easily setup your large telescope. Up to this point most astronomers had different sized telescopes. Large telescopes for when you planned to observe for long periods of time and small telescopes for all other sessions. Using the Scopebuggy, setting up your large telescope takes as little time and effort as setting up your small telescope.
Additionally, the Scopebuggy allows those who were unable to physically move a larger telescope to now own and enjoy them. If you have a bad back or are not physically fit, not to worry. Scopebuggy allows the smallest or weakest of us to own as large a telescope as we want.
Lastly, we all know how we feel at 1:00 AM, frozen stiff from observing and groaning at the thought of breaking down our large scope and hauling it back in. Now, it's as simple as pulling a wagon across your yard.
I can't think of a more helpful and needed product for those of us who own large telescopes but lack the permanent observatory to leave it setup in.