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A Scope for the Ages or Just Aging?

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#1 Frank2

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Posted 11 February 2010 - 07:08 PM

With all due respect and saying this in only the best possible way, why is it so difficult for Questar owners to see the obvious? The Questar was a truly astonishing scope meticulously crafted that was 20 years ahead of its time, but, its time was the mid 20th century. Since the advent of go-to, large dobs, and feature packed Questar clones, its desirability as the ultimate telescope to own for active observers has precipitously declined. It is my opinion, however, that its appeal as a collectable has benefited from the very circumstance that has caused its utility to be eclipsed, it remained essentially unchanged over time. Do I want one? You bet. Would my self-aligning go-to computer controlled optically similar ETX PE get more use? I think so.

Frank

#2 greedyshark

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Posted 11 February 2010 - 07:57 PM

With all due respect and saying this in only the best possible way, why is it so difficult for Questar owners to see the obvious?


Frank,
With all due respect...it was, in fact, frustration with the self-aligning go-to computer controlled scopes of today that led me to the simplicity of the "point-and-view" Questar. To each his own.

CS,
Charles

#3 ColoHank

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Posted 11 February 2010 - 08:47 PM

Do I want one? You bet.



Why?

#4 Brian L

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Posted 11 February 2010 - 10:13 PM

One might justly ask why it is that non-Questar owners can't appreciate the scope's merits? Superior build quality and materials is one. Questars are built to last- mine is 40+ years old and still looks and functions as new. Feature-packed Questar clones- I assume you are referring to Meade ETX series scopes- are built to a certain price point where the sort of engineering that goes into a Questar isn't cost effective. They are not built to the same standards and will fail on average long before the Questar. Many view the fact that Questars don't have Goto as one of the scopes merits. There are reasons to appreciate slewing all over the sky with goto scopes. However, some view goto as an unnecessary crutch that prevents one from learning their way around the heavens. Astronomy is about observing, and even though goto helps one find objects quickly and easily, they have a tendency to promote bad observing habits. Seldom to you get to see all there is to see with a quick look and then on to something else. Observing takes time and patience- changing atmospheric conditions bring out more detail that might be otherwise missed. One can detect perceptible changes in Jupiter's cloud belts in a single imaging session if you continue to observe. I've seen people with GoTo scopes that can't even find M57 without it. Some find star-hopping tedious and tiresome, some find that getting there is still half the fun. I don't always have time for it, but I am sure glad that I know how to do it. Even though modern conveniences like GPS make maritime navigation simple and easy, there is a reason that maritime vessels are still equipped with sextants and charts. When technology fails, one might find themselves (literally) quite lost. Another merit to the Questar are its ergonomics and portability. It's a joy to use and one can take it just about anywhere. It may not have the light grasp of a big dob, but it is much easier to take out and take with. I use my Questar a lot more than I thought I would for this simple reason.

I would firmly disagree that the utility of the Questar has been eclipsed. It is precisely its simplicity and timelessness that maintains its relevance. It provides a different kind of observing experience that is, in some ways, more immersive than trolling around the sky with goto. The Questar is not for everyone, but for those that appreciate its simplicity and the back-to-basics style of observing it promotes, the Questar simply shines.

#5 astro_que

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Posted 11 February 2010 - 10:28 PM

One thing which is not commonly understood is that the Questar optical design is significantly different from Meade and Celestron clones. They are only superficially clones. There are three types of Maksutovs with an axial viewport.

1. The Gregory Maksutov (terminology corrected as per Barry, thanks) is the simplest, using all spherical surfaces. The secondary mirror has exactly the same curvature as the corrector. This design is used by Meade and Celestron, because it can be mass produced.

2. The Rumak design has separate secondary mirror, which has the advantage of a separate curvature.

3. The Questar design may have no name, but it is quite unique. The secondary is on the same glass as the corrector, but it is ground to an independent curvature. The secondary has an aspheric curvature, figured by hand. This is a very expensive process, but the secondary can never go out of alignment. The aspheric element provides superior optical performance, but this has apparently escaped the notice of many amateurs.

But the superiority is widely exploited by the U.S. Government. The earth observation telescope on the International Space Station is a Questar 7. The design, which is also produced by Davro, is used uniformly by the U.S. Government for law enforcement, military surveillance, and intelligence gathering.

On the subject of craftsmanship, I have a feeling that many of the general public, perhaps including astronomers, have perhaps not seen enough fine work to really know what it is. The mass market companies have pretty much succeeded in convincing the buyer not to look beneath the surface. But fine machine work is not simply a matter of something being "pretty."

Open up another "very popular brand", and you will see a mirror that rides on a film of grease, plastic gears and plastic fasteners. Open up a Questar, and you will find work as good as a Rolex, which is why you can send a forty year old Questar in for freshening, and it will be as good as new. In fact, there is no plastic at all in a Questar, save the tiny transparent indicator on the right ascension axis.

Precision machine work is difficult to appreciate. I will post some pictures soon.

#6 Rat8bug

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Posted 12 February 2010 - 04:11 AM

I think you mean Gregory-Maksutov; not Gregorian. A Gregorian is a open tube Cassegrain with an eliptical secondary. It also produces an erect image.

Ciao....Barry


One thing which is not commonly understood is that the Questar optical design is significantly different from Meade and Celestron clones. They are only superficially clones. There are three types of Maksutovs with an axial viewport.

1. The Gregorian is the simplest, using all spherical surfaces. The secondary mirror has exactly the same curvature as the corrector. This design is used by Meade and Celestron, because it can be mass produced.



#7 Erik Bakker

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Posted 12 February 2010 - 05:23 AM

The Questar is not for everyone, but for those that appreciate its simplicity and the back-to-basics style of observing it promotes, the Questar simply shines.



Wow Brian, well said!


This is one of the things I love about my Questar. Last night, I spent roughly 7 (!) hours at the eyepiece of my Questar 7 and was stlll reluctant to go inside and get some sleep. This telescope totally gets out of the way and lets me observe the universe. Mars was absolutely breathtaking and got 95% of the time, with small excursions to the deepsky and rising Saturn.

One of the things I also enjoy about the Questar 7 is it's ability to use both a Binoviewer at the axial port and regular viewing and searching through a Brandon in the regular eyepiece holder. Last night I used my Baader bino with 2 TV 15mm WideFields and the 12 mm Brandon on top. Great combination.

And then there are the optics. The incredible optics. The amazingly sharp and contrasty optics. Polar cap in white, surface color in salmon/yellow orange, beautilul dark surface details all over the globe in many shades of gray including deep dark black.

NO DEW after 7 hours in -10 C, the synchronous motor quietly running. Dec and RA manual control smoothly adjustable, finder- and barlow flip-levers working wonderfully.

Fully cooled optics and mechanics giving a perfectly calm and stable image. The image was so sharp I dared inserting my 4mm Zeiss to observe the polar cap and the dark delineation aound it. A bit dim, but very sharp. Optimum monocular was my 7 Nagler, giving a little bit more magnification then my 12 Brandon barlowed. I guess the perfect ocular for last night would have been the 6mm Brandon that I don't have (yet). Hmmmm......
Anyway, the Q was smootly cruising at around 400x most of the night, providing a wonderful imagescale, brightness and contrast to observe Mars. It actually looked BIG.

Before I get to excited I better stop and wish you all clear and stable skies where our Questars shine and make us glow!

Erik

#8 Mike E.

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Posted 12 February 2010 - 07:47 AM

Hi Frank,

The mid 20th Century was a time of Quality. We now live in a time of quantity, in which for most things, leaves a lot to be desired.

The thing about aging is that you can look back and appreciate that quality, where others can not.

#9 Clive Gibbons

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Posted 12 February 2010 - 08:45 AM

You might even say it's "An Aging Scope For The Ages".

Yes, it's superb quality. Yup, it's a classic design and still looks ahead of it's time, over 50 years after it was introduced. Sure, it has many lovely convenience features.
It might not utilize goto technology, or employ the latest polycarbonate construction materials, but for observers who have a good knowledge of the sky resident in their noggins (or who can read a star chart), that's not an issue.

S&T wrote an in-depth article about the Questar in one of their 2002 issues. For folks who are looking for further insights into why Questar has continuing appeal, it's worth checking out that article.

I wouldn't say the Questar is "the ultimate" telescope, for active or inactive observers. However, it's extremely good for an amazingly compact "observatory in a briefcase".

#10 spaceydee

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Posted 12 February 2010 - 01:29 PM

it's the observatory in a briefcase aspect plus the pure beauty of the scope (looks and workmanship) that attract me to it. it will still be a long time if ever if I get one, but it has been a dreamscope of mine since I saw it in Sky + Tel. when I was an astro major.

#11 astro_que

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Posted 12 February 2010 - 01:45 PM

Dee, if you have a chance, do what I did. I bought a scope off eBay that was missing practically everything, at a commensurate price. Yet it was quite usable as is. You can replace/upgrade the missing parts as circumstances permit.

#12 spaceydee

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Posted 12 February 2010 - 01:47 PM

I'll consider that - when I think that there is a 'lull' in the vet bills!!

#13 astro_que

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Posted 12 February 2010 - 01:55 PM

Trade the kittens for a cat.

#14 spaceydee

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Posted 12 February 2010 - 02:13 PM

got one too. :) just not a Q.

#15 Brian L

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Posted 12 February 2010 - 04:26 PM

It really is a delight to use. I bought mine as a realization of a three decade old childhood dream. I expected to use it occasionally for observing, but for the most part I expected to admire it in a display case in my study. I am finding out that the more I use it the more I want to use it.

#16 Rat8bug

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Posted 13 February 2010 - 12:34 AM

Well, I like computers, but don't like to depend on them. Some things like hybrid cars require a computer to work. In the case of Questar, it has the means to locate objects easily if one becomes adept at using its timeless features. Use the scope and it then becomes your friend.

http://www.barrie-ta...m/questar1.html

Ciao....Barry

#17 Darren B

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Posted 13 February 2010 - 05:13 PM

The Questar has setting circles, if I could learn to use setting circles on a Synta EQ1 mount, learning to use them on a Questar would be a doddle. How about learning the sky. The scope and mount that I own at the moment does not have goto or setting circles, but I get by.
I must be one of those rare types that appreciates fine and inovative engineering. I aim to own a Questar one day.

#18 JupiterJon's

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Posted 15 February 2010 - 05:37 PM

My Questar was made in the early 1970s. It has functioned PERFECTLY for almost 40 years. It has spent hundreds of hours out under the stars and at dozens of star parties and still looks new. The Sun, Moon, planets, double stars, all the Messier objects, and much more, plus a lot of film and digital photography... this little 'scope has handled it all effortlessly. Someone will still be enjoying "my" Questar long after every Meade and Celestron Go-To telescope on the planet has ceased to function due to unavailability of replacement computer chips.

Mr. J

#19 astro_que

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Posted 15 February 2010 - 06:16 PM

Someone observed that, in a Meade 7" Mak, a light baffle is glued to the corrector, surrounding the secondary spot. The glue used for this purpose is cyanoacrylate adhesive, popularly known as "superglue." This is the same adhesive used to cement rear view mirrors onto windshields.

Anyone who has ever had a cemented rear view mirror knows that, eventually, it falls off. Thermal cycles shear the bond. The owner of the 7" Meade Mak observed that, when this happens, the baffle will fall on the primary mirror. With that kind of impact, scratches, or worse, are inevitable, and these cannot be fixed by a trip to the recoating shop.

Moral of the story: If you buy a telescope that is glued together, it will eventually become catastrophically unglued. Questar owners will never be bothered by this.

#20 Halo27

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Posted 15 February 2010 - 06:25 PM

Hi...can you tell me which month of Sky & Telescope 2002 the article on Questar telescopes appeared in? Thanks Lenny

#21 Mogdriver

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Posted 15 February 2010 - 08:33 PM

Lenny:

The Questar 50th Anniversary Edition Telescope by Gary Seronik

November 2002 edition of Sky and Telscope

#22 Fomalhaut

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Posted 16 February 2010 - 04:00 AM

I had tested my Q3.5 directly against an ETX90 by day as well as under the skies.
Well, I admit the Q was the BroadBand-coated-version, and I do not know how the Standard-version would have compared, but anyway, mine was so clearly superior to the ETX in brightness and even more so in contrast, that nobody better tries to tell me an ETX is sort of equal optically. (I would severely suspect him to be a concealed Meade distributor or even the manufacturer himself:grin:...)

Chris

#23 Halo27

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Posted 16 February 2010 - 10:46 AM

Thanks

#24 John Zimmerman

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Posted 16 February 2010 - 12:20 PM

I like to think of the Questar as a "Retro-Scope". Sort of an astronomical time machine that takes us back to an era before the birth of the global economy when extreme cost cutting measures were not taken, and quality control was not sacrificed to the extent that it is today.

And as much as I love GOTO scopes, over time they do tend to cause your object finding abilities to atrophy, much as excessive use of a calculator can affect our math abilities.

#25 ColoHank

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Posted 21 March 2010 - 01:09 PM

I don't know about the Meade 7" Mak, but the ETX series Maks had a glued-on conical baffle centered about the secondary on the rear surface of their correctors. Those baffles did indeed have a tendency to migrate out of position from time to time, I presume because the adhesive deteriorated over time or was softened by heat.

The biggest complaint about the Meade 7" was that, because it employed the same tube and mount geometry as the Meade 8" Schmidt-Cass telescopes, it required a substantial internal counterweight to balance the heavier corrector of the Mak. Owing to that increased mass, it apparently was extremely reluctant to reach ambient temperature.


Chalk such shortcomings up to the difference between styling and engineering, and the manufacturering expedience of doing things on the cheap.






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