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DwarfStar arrived today

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#1 mwedel

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Posted 17 April 2009 - 02:39 AM

Hi all. Package on the doorstep when I got home today. That can only mean one thing: goodbye ball head! :thewave:

Thirty minutes later:

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The scope is an Orion Apex 90, and the tripod is a Manfrotto 190CXPRO4. I've had both for a while, and been using them with the aforementioned ball head. It worked, but not like this.

This thing is just amazingly small. Here it is with an Orion Stratus and one of the ubiquitous 25mm Plossls:

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I did get out just briefly this evening for a quick peek at Saturn. Tracking was easy at 96x. Hard to convey the feeling of solidity this mount gives. I know my Mak is a small scope, but this thing doesn't even seem to know that it is loaded.

I put a few more pix in my member gallery. I'll add more pictures and more thoughts when I've had more of a chance to put this little thing through its paces. Still, I think I have achieved a long-held dream: Maksonian Dobsutov! :rockon:

Three last things: Larry at Universal Astronomics is awesome to work with. Customer service is not a lost art after all!

I wouldn't have even known this existed without David Elosser's review here on CN. Thanks!

Finally, one for the road:

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#2 mwedel

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Posted 18 April 2009 - 02:06 AM

No chance for astro observing tonight, but I did get a few minutes after work for some digiscoping. Man, it was so nice to just pan around looking for birds instead of doing the move/stop, move/stop thing with the ball head. The male Costa's hummingbird two houses down actually stayed put for a minute so I could get a decent shot.

Hopefully I'll have a real observing report soon.

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#3 BrianRG

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Posted 18 April 2009 - 01:20 PM

Congrats on a nice shot and nice mount. I recently got a UA microstar for my small refractor, and I love it. And I also agree: Larry gets it done! :waytogo:

#4 mwedel

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Posted 18 April 2009 - 02:12 PM

Thanks! I'm hoping to get out tonight for some more observing. Of course, now that I went and said that I'm sure the Gods of Payback will send clouds. Maybe if I put some new plants in the garden this afternoon I can keep the skies clear.

#5 mwedel

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Posted 22 April 2009 - 02:07 AM

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My astronomy club met Saturday evening and as usual we set up some scopes for a short public viewing afterward. I took the Apex on the DwarfStar. There was bad and good.

The bad had nothing to do with the scope or the mount. Trying to look at Saturn with a 13mm Stratus, it was almost impossible for me or anyone else to get our eyes positioned right. Eye position was easier but still not easy with a 25mm Plossl. I had not had this problem before with this eyepiece on my dob or on the Mak.

I tried it again from my driveway when I got home and had no issues, and that helped me figure out the problem: at the club meeting we were set up under some streetlights in the parking lot. Most everyone was looking at Saturn so light pollution was not a big deal, BUT it made the background around the scope very bright. Usually when I look through a scope I can see the field stop, and I move my eye until I can see the whole FOV at once (can't afford any Ethoses yet :lol:). Against such a bright background, the sky and the field stop were all black, so trying to find the exit pupil was murder. It was harder with the Stratus because of the monster eye lens.

So I learned some things: (1) my eyepiece is not broken, and (2) next time even if someone decides to set up their scope under a street light, I am going to find someplace less obscenely bright.

Now for the good: once I got out from under the crazy bright lights, finding stuff and slewing was dead easy. It really is like having a little dob up on a tripod. That's what I was hoping for when I bought the DwarfStar, and it's really nice to have something meet and then exceed my expectations for a change. Anyway, I showed several folks Mizar & Alcor and Praesepe, and a good time was had by all.

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I've also been using the setup for digibirding after work and before dinner. It's a lot easier to get the scope on target quickly and do fine adjustments than it was with the ball head. I have no experience with other good, compact alt-az mounts so I can't comment there, but as a committed dob driver I have acquired a taste for a smooth-moving and solid mount, and the DwarfStar delivers.

So what don't I like about the mount? Not much. It did take me a couple of sessions to figure out how much tension to put on both axes to allow smooth panning but still have the scope sit tight when I stop pushing. But that got to be second nature pretty quickly. The bracket for the panning handle sticks down low enough that it bumps the bubble level on the tripod head if I am careless about how I set up the tripod. It clears the head easily for 3/4 of a circle (as you can see in the photo at top) so I just make sure that the bubble level is on the opposite side of the tripod from the scope when I set up.

It looks like it ought to be unstable or off balance, but it's not. I found this hard to believe at first, and I have played with panning the head around with and without a scope on board. Except for the additional inertia of the scope, the motion of the head is not affected at all as far as I can tell.

It's following in the footsteps of my XT6, spoiling me for nice equipment that Just Works. And it is intensifying my desire to not deal with an EQ mount ever again, which I suppose someday I'll have to get over. If problems pop up I will report them, but so far I'm really reaching to find any negatives to discuss.

Next month I'm visiting my parents in rural Oklahoma. Neither of them have ever seen Saturn through a telescope. I aim to fix that. I'll let you know how it turns out.






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