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Orion Skyquest XXS12 Dobsonian

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I purchased my Orion Skyquest XXS12 Dobsonian this summer as a major upgrade to my viewing capabilities. I grew up sky observing using an Edmund Scientific 3 inch reflector. I would spend hours looking at the moon, Jupiter, but my favorite object was always Orion’s Nebula. As an adult, I still have that telescope, but have been using a Meade ETX-90 for the last 6 years.

Since I now live in suburban Maryland in a white to red light pollution zone, I finally decided to go for a larger aperture. I was looking for a telescope that had the largest aperture possible, while still being portable enough to be taken to darker sky sites, and could be easily set up by one person. After looking at many options, I decided to purchase the Orion Skyquest XXS12 Truss Dobsonian with Intelliscope Object Locator. I chose the package deal that included free shipping, a light shroud, and carrying cases.

While waiting for it to arrive, I found an excellent article by calibos (http://www.cloudynights.com/ubbthreads/showthreaded.php/Cat/0/Number/2832584/page/0/view/collapsed/sb/5/o/all/vc/1) which described some things to be aware of when constructing the base of a . I followed the directions in that post before assembly and ran the diagnostics to be sure that the Intelliscope was operating correctly. The organization of the 5 boxes was somewhat confusing, but with the help of the excellent manual, I was able to find, identify, and assemble all of the pieces. I found that the azimuth encoder magnetic disc was a bit warped and flattened it with a couple taps of a hammer. I followed the instructions in the above post and secured the disc with double sticky tape. This has resulted in excellent pointing performance for the Intelliscope every time I use the scope. The rest of the assembly was straight forward and clearly described in the manual.

My primary viewing site is the middle of my back yard about 150 feet from the shed where I store the scope. It takes 3 trips from the shed, one for the base, one for the large part of the scope and trusses, and one for the eyepieces and secondary assembly.

Assembly takes about 5 minutes once I get it to the spot and another 5 minutes for collimation. The primary is center spotted and collimation is actually pretty easy with the collimation cap supplied with the telescope. I was initially skeptical that that little plastic cap would be worth anything, but I trust it much better than the laser collimator I purchased. I found that the component that I disliked the most was the 1 ¼ adapter supplied with the scope which had a single screw securing eyepieces. I found that the laser collimator would wobble in the adapter and cause unreliable collimation. I have since replaced it with a compression ring adapter. I also find it to be cumbersome to get the little allen wrench out to collimate the secondary and am looking to replace the screws with Bob’s Knobs.

It took 4 days after I assembled and calibrated the XXS12 before the clouds were kind enough to give me a clear night for observing. I was OVERWHELMED!!!! Initial calibration was quite easy. I followed advice of always using Polaris as my second star and used Altair for the primary. I was able to use the 9x50 mm finder scope to easily find each star and center it in my 6.7mm eyepiece from my Meade ETX-90. The warp factor (a measurement of the error in the initial calibration) was +0.1 which is very good. Now for the test of the Intelliscope. I had a list of globular clusters that I wanted to try out. I typed in M13, a very nice cluster in my ETX and pushed the scope until it read 0<>0 0<>0. The motion was very smooth and easy to control. I still had my 6.7 mm in the scope and when I looked, all I saw was stars!! It was a fuzzy blob with a few stars in the ETX, but it was all stars in the XXS12. The Intelliscope was so easy to use that I was able to see over 20 Messier objects that evening. The sky was just opened up to a whole new realm.

Through the next month, I was able to take advantage of Jupiter being high in the sky to watch the moons change configuration. I was lucky enough to have a clear night when 2 moons were traversing in front of Jupiter at the same time. I was able to resolve both shadows on Jupiter and one of the moons. The Intelliscope led me to both Neptune and Uranus and I observed them multiple times this summer.

The test of portability occurred last month when I was taking my wife and a group of Girl Scouts to a Corn Maze and decided to take the telescope on the trip. The entire scope fit in the back of the Prius which allowed the seats to be used by the Scouts.

At that much darker site, I was able to see 5 galaxies. From my light polluted backyard, I have been able to see M51, M32, M110, M33 and NGC253. Finally a week ago, the night was clear enough and I was able to stay up late enough to try it out on my old stand-by: the Great Orion Nebula. Unbelievable!! I was able to see wisps in an umbrella sort of pattern with a blue-green tint to the whole nebula. I zoomed in on the Trapezium area and was able to resolve both the E and the F stars.

All in all, the Orion Skyquest XXS 12 has surpassed my expectations in all the areas. When I purchased it, I expected to be able to fit it into my small car, but was pleased to see it could fit in the trunk. The large aperture has been a dream. I was worried about the Dobsonian design and tracking objects, but the motion is so smooth that tracking is an ease. At the highest magnification (300X) it takes Jupiter 90 seconds to walk across the field. The scope is easy to set up and I can carry it easily in a couple of trips. I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for portable aperture.

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