The Celestron C90 Maksutov Cassegrain Telescope
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I'm glad I wandered up to the roof of my apartment building here in Manhattan about a year and a half ago. For those familiar with the city, I live way uptown around the Cloisters Museum. I get much better skies here than one might imagine. I grew up around Roanoke, Va. in the Shenendoah Valley. We had wonderful, dark skies there and used my Dad's old 7x50's to learn the constellations. So while my skies here are nothing like the country where I grew up, I was surprised when I went up on my roof how much I could see. It helps that we're the tallest building around and that our entire northeast exposure is the Hudson River. My eyes are still better than 20/20 so that helps too.
I'll be 43 in April though so reading glasses are looming! I get Mag 4.5 skies a lot and sometimes even better. I first purchased a pair of Orion 7x50 Vista's and re-acquainted myself with the sky. When I decided I must have a scope, I of course read many reviews and was just slightly overwhelmed by the variety of scopes available. By chance, I discovered Astromart (sadly, for my wallet) and when a package deal for a TV Ranger on a Bogen Tripod and head became available, I bought it. This was a great first scope for land and sky and taught me a heck of a lot in addition to honing my developing observing skills. You have to be patient when hunting objects in 70mm regardless of how good the optics are!
Several weeks ago I bought a TV-85. I s****ed and saved for months and when I had enough saved for a new one, I remember thinking, "Is this going to be worth it?" The answer is a resounding yes! While it may be true that there is no one perfect scope, a case could be made that the TV-85 comes close. And it would be a very good case. When you consider that it combines premium optics with a huge variety of mounting options and that it is just as portable as the Ranger, you quickly see what a versatile scope it is. While I love the Ranger and will always have a little warm spot for it, the optics in the TV-85 are a good step up from it. The views of both celestial and terrestrial objects are equally stunning.
If you have any interest at all in nature viewing (and of course you do if you like astronomy), you really should have a look through a TV-85. Looking at common birds like Jays and Cardinals is like seeing the bird for the first time. I'm lucky that I live close to Van Cortland Park, where there is a nice mix of woodland and pond enviroments. It's also very easy to just put the 85 over my shoulder and take it on the train down to Central Park where there is major flyway and migratory route, not to mention many kinds of waterfowl in and around the resevoir. Minutes turn quickly into hours with the TV-85 and a Panoptic eyepiece.
I've found that I much prefer the image in the standard Everbrite diagonal to a correct image diagonal. Yes, it's reversed, but the greater clarity and brightness is worth training yourself to follow objects. Just move your scope opposite of your first inclination and it's a snap. I have the handle attached to my Telepod head and found that by keeping one hand on it and one hand on the focuser, I can quickly center and focus even moving objects. The focuser is a joy by the way. It's silky smooth and a quick turn in or out snaps the image quickly to perfect focus.
As for astronomy, the scope is simply a joy to use . I sing in the Met Opera Chorus and getting home late at night after performing some of the great works of Wagner, Verdi, etc.. I'm a little wound up! Even a quick half hour session on my roof does wonders for my state of mind. I also have a very nice 6"Dob now, but it's rather inconvenient getting in around mid-night to wait a half-hour or so for the scope to cool down. Of course, that's not an issue with the TV-85. I peck my sleeping wife on the cheek, grab my scope and Telepod and I'm on the roof observing in minutes.
I just bought the Nagler 3-6mm Zoom and it's a perfect match in the 85. It gives a range of 100-200x and the scope on a steady night can easily handle this on the moon and planets and of course, doubles. Jupiter's Red Spot and 4 clear bands are the norm. The first time I saw a shadow transit on Jupiter, it looked like the Almighty had put a crisp, black dot on the planet's surface with a huge fine-point marker! Saturn is absolutely gorgeous with the Cassini Division a crsip, black line available totally circling the planet at the moment. I've seen 4 moons with direct vision.
Looking at the brighter clusters and nebula in a Panoptic is something I'll never tire of. M45, M44, M35 , M36 and others have that almost 3-D quality to the image. The Double Cluster is spectacular with stars everywhere and great color contrast. The Trapezium is easily resolved even at 32x and the stars are crisp points of light suspended in the gas cloud. Amazingly, the TV-85 reveals as much of the gas cloud as does my 6" Dob. Contrast does matter after all! At 75x, I've clearly seen the E star in the Trapezium and I'm sure on a good night I can get the F star as well, though maybe not at that power. Rigel's companion shows up clearly at 75x as well and all 4 components of Sigma Orionis are easy. The Winter Albiero is stunning with great color contrast. I can't wait for the real thing in summer! The comet Ikea-Zhang is a spectacular sight now even in binoculars, so I don't have to say how great it looks in the TV-85. But it's gorgeous. Please make it a point to try and see this comet as it continues to brighten. I can see that I'll be getting a serious lunar atlas, because the amount of detail that I can see even on the 5 day old moon is stunning. I'll be counting craterlets in Plato this weekend in the Nagler Zoom!
I could go on, but you get the gist. I'm very, very pleased with this telescope. It has fantastic optics, it's very portable and versatile as far as mounts and accessories, and 85mm is a nice amount of aperture for the majority of observing that most amatuers engage in. I'm aware that the price of the TV-85 is not unsubstantial, but I can honestly say that not once have I thought about that when I'm at the eyepiece. I'd be willing to bet you won't either!
Oh yeah, did I mention that Castor at 200x looks like a pick-up truck's headlights coming at you on a country road at midnight?
Clear skies and happy viewing regardless of your choice of equipment!