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What scope do you bring to star parties?

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#1 Connor Walls

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Posted 06 October 2012 - 10:55 PM

I have a 12" Dob, but I think that I will just borrow a 6" Dob from the local observatory and bring it to the next star party that I attend. The 12" is great at home when I want to get some close views of the moon and planets, but for star parties (the 2 I attend are in blue zones), I find that I really don't need all that aperture, and that a 6" is more than enough. I think the 6" will just be much more laid back and casual. Just curious to see what types of scopes you guys usually bring along, if you switch it up, etc.

#2 maltydog

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Posted 06 October 2012 - 11:20 PM

i bring the biggest scope i have (16" dob). if i'm going to a dark site i will most likely be going after the dimmer objects that i cannot see from my home in the city - so i want all the help i can get from the larger aperature.

however, next star party i attend i will bring my new 5 inch refractor too. can't wait to get it to a dark site.

#3 okieav8r

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Posted 07 October 2012 - 12:31 AM

The 12" is great at home when I want to get some close views of the moon and planets, but for star parties (the 2 I attend are in blue zones), I find that I really don't need all that aperture, and that a 6" is more than enough.


"...don't need all that aperature". Man, I don't get that. :p That's kinda like saying you're going moose hunting, but you're going to take a BB gun and leave your moose gun at home. Take the biggest telescope you can and use all of that aperature to take advantage of dark skies that you don't usually get to take advantage of. I take an 18" Obsession. My 4" refractor stays at home.

#4 Connor Walls

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Posted 07 October 2012 - 12:52 AM

The 12" is great at home when I want to get some close views of the moon and planets, but for star parties (the 2 I attend are in blue zones), I find that I really don't need all that aperture, and that a 6" is more than enough.


"...don't need all that aperature". Man, I don't get that. :p That's kinda like saying you're going moose hunting, but you're going to take a BB gun and leave your moose gun at home. Take the biggest telescope you can and use all of that aperature to take advantage of dark skies that you don't usually get to take advantage of. I take an 18" Obsession. My 4" refractor stays at home.


It's just that when I bring along the big scope, it feels like more of a hassle. I probably spend more time adjusting my observing chair and messing with the scope itself than anything. I do astronomy as a hobby, so the second it starts to become a pain, I have to rethink things. When I'm at home, I don't mind fiddling with things, adjusting the chair, and all the stuff, because I'm not on a time limit. When I'm in dark skies though, every second is precious. I can't tell you how many people I have seen at star parties over the last couple of years who spend the majority of their night simply trying to get their equipment to work properly, and barely any of it actually observing. I just never got that. If I do happen to develop aperture fever while I'm there, I'm friends with the guy who owns the big 18", so I can always steal a few peaks through his scope. :grin:

#5 maltydog

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Posted 07 October 2012 - 07:07 AM

I can't tell you how many people I have seen at star parties over the last couple of years who spend the majority of their night simply trying to get their equipment to work properly, and barely any of it actually observing.


the dark site is not the place to figure out how to use your equipment. do that before you (or the people you are talking about) get to the dark site. problem solved.

anyway, there is no right or wrong size scope; if you prefer / enjoy a 6" then that is what you should use. by the way, can i have your 12 inch? :) i am a scope ho.

#6 Alex McConahay

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Posted 07 October 2012 - 08:43 AM

Depends on what you mean by a "star party."

If I am going to an in-town star party for the public, I take a driven refractor or a small 8 inch dob. I usually also take a driven refractor equipped with a video eyepiece and 21 inch monitor to show off the moon.

WHen I am going remote to a dark sky, I take the 12.5 inch Dob.

I don;t get the "taking more time adjusting the observing chair, etc....." Yes, it takes more time to set up the 12.5 inch dob than the 8 inch, but even the 12.5 is ready to go in about fifteen minutes. And once ready, it runs all night--no adjustments needed.

Just remember the adage: The best scope is the one that gets used." So, take what you feel you will use. But, really, the time taken to setup and management of a 12 inch scope is not a whole lot different than that of a six.

Alex

#7 operascope

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Posted 07 October 2012 - 10:39 AM

My usual scope at home (downtown Toronto) is a 6" solid tube newt that is quick and easy to take outside, and well optimised for the Moon. Last summer I took both it and my 12" truss tube newt to a star party. Although the optics are superior in the 6", I found myself spending all my time with the 12". Truth is, for me at least, aperture rules. Of course, it also depends on the target. When I'm in dark skies, I like to look at faint fuzzies, so the light bucket wins.

#8 bherv

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Posted 07 October 2012 - 10:57 AM

I bring my 16" Lightbridge for observing at star parties. If I am going to my club's site I usually just setup the 17.5" that is stored there.
Barry

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#9 Don Taylor

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Posted 07 October 2012 - 01:31 PM

I take my 16" and several binoculars. If I feel like taking in the big picture - I use the binos. If I want to see the faint fuzzies then I use the 16 (which I leave set up for the duration, covered when not in use). I had it set up for 3 nights at okie-tex.

Regardless, I usually take the above and leave the small scopes at home.

#10 Connor Walls

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Posted 07 October 2012 - 02:18 PM

Hmmm, now you guys are making me reconsider lol

#11 okieav8r

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Posted 07 October 2012 - 02:58 PM

The 12" is great at home when I want to get some close views of the moon and planets, but for star parties (the 2 I attend are in blue zones), I find that I really don't need all that aperture, and that a 6" is more than enough.


"...don't need all that aperature". Man, I don't get that. :p That's kinda like saying you're going moose hunting, but you're going to take a BB gun and leave your moose gun at home. Take the biggest telescope you can and use all of that aperature to take advantage of dark skies that you don't usually get to take advantage of. I take an 18" Obsession. My 4" refractor stays at home.


It's just that when I bring along the big scope, it feels like more of a hassle. I probably spend more time adjusting my observing chair and messing with the scope itself than anything. I do astronomy as a hobby, so the second it starts to become a pain, I have to rethink things. When I'm at home, I don't mind fiddling with things, adjusting the chair, and all the stuff, because I'm not on a time limit. When I'm in dark skies though, every second is precious. I can't tell you how many people I have seen at star parties over the last couple of years who spend the majority of their night simply trying to get their equipment to work properly, and barely any of it actually observing. I just never got that. If I do happen to develop aperture fever while I'm there, I'm friends with the guy who owns the big 18", so I can always steal a few peaks through his scope. :grin:


Conner, why are you having to fiddle with your scope? It would be a good idea to check the telescope to make sure it is in good mechanical condition--nuts and bolts secure, secondary mirror centered, that sort of thing. Are you comfortable with your collimation technique? Practice your technique at home so that you're comfortable with it in the field.

I really don't mean to sound like I'm giving you a hard time about your choice of telescopes, but if you're having to constantly fiddle with your 12" telescope, then something is amiss. On the other hand, if you simply feel that the 6" telescope is more fun to use, then that is your choice. BTW, most of the rest of us practice astronomy as a hobby too. ;)

#12 Connor Walls

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Posted 07 October 2012 - 03:45 PM

Collimation is fine. Aligning the intelliscope base is alright, but I can never get it to hit objects dead on, but it usually at least gets me in the general area. The hand controller is a pain in colder weather. After about 2 hours the screen on it is so dim that it is impossible to read. I've read stories about many others having problems with their intelliscope controllers doing this in cold weather, so I know it is a common thing, but it is still pretty annoying. I guess when it comes down to it, like I said earlier, I'm just more of a planet and moon person. I'm happy with just staying with the Messiers when doing deep sky stuff, never really felt the need to hunt down these elusive galaxies that some do.

#13 bicparker

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Posted 07 October 2012 - 04:15 PM

Rex brings up a good point that can apply to what you bring to a star party, in general.

Bring equipment with which you are familiar, is comfortable for you, and will simply work. If you aren't familiar, go to an observing site some night or weekend prior to a star party and do a shakedown of all of your equipment (including camping equipment, if you are camping). This makes the star party experience much better since you'll be fretting over the equipment less and enjoying the event more.

Also, it does not hurt to have a plan B in case something goes wrong.

#14 JMW

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Posted 08 October 2012 - 01:06 PM

I have a 5x8 trailer for hauling and sleeping so I bring several scopes. Some are for imaging and a couple for observing. For observing at a dark site I like a big dob and an APO refractor. The high contrast of a very dark site will make all your scopes work better.

#15 omahaastro

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Posted 08 October 2012 - 01:18 PM

I'd love to take out my new big bucket... but the haze/clouds which have accompanied each new Moon since I got it, seem to be hanging around still. I don't know if that phenomena is a function of aperture or what.

#16 DeanS

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Posted 08 October 2012 - 01:56 PM

I bring all of mine ;) Or at least it seems that way.

#17 George N

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Posted 08 October 2012 - 08:15 PM

For the past 2 years: 20-inch Dob *and* 5-inch APO on CG-5 mount, plus 20x80 binocs on parallelogram mount. Prior to that, just the Dob and binocs. That’s for a ‘visual’ trip. For imaging I take the RC10 and/or 5-inch APO, MI-250 mount, plus CCD stuff. PST and white-light filter for daytime solar. Handwarmers to keep me and sometimes eyepieces warm, plus dew/frost control heaters.

I often have an observing buddy who comes along with no scope, so he helps with set-up, etc, etc. We’ve had our share of “flakey equipment moments” needing some field repairs, but never enough of a problem to ruin an observing run. I too like simple equipment that just “gets out of the way” while observing.

#18 George N

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Posted 08 October 2012 - 08:21 PM

...... We’ve had our share of “flakey equipment moments” needing some field repairs.....


We've also had our share of "flakey astronomer moments" when someone hits a wrong button and the scope does what we told it to do, and not what we *wanted* it to do! :p

#19 edwincjones

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Posted 09 October 2012 - 06:06 AM

it all depends on what I want to see-my goals- for the specific star party
(a one night local party for the public is very different from a week long star party under very dark skies)
but usually I have specific goals, sometimes just causal viewing
and I take the optics best suited for the job for the occasion

edj

#20 rboe

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Posted 09 October 2012 - 08:39 AM

I bring the NS11GPS and a small step ladder (the kind with a grab bar at the top that you normally would use in a kitchen).

It tracks, it's normally low enough for most adults to use (the ladder is for seniors and kids), the diagonal can easily be twisted to the side to help with folks viewing, it has GOTO because I suck at that, and it's big enough to bring in some faint fuzzy details. I recently added Wi-Fi to it so I can control it from the laptop or iPad wirelessly; pretty amazing the wow factor for the public that gives you. Eye candy on the screen and a 007 kinda control on the scope. A lot of folks eat that up giving astronomy a cool factor that M13 seems to lack.

I tried the dob, with no tracking and too high of an eye piece I got few takers.

#21 bicparker

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Posted 09 October 2012 - 11:31 AM

Ron,
You are talking about what you take to public star parties, right?

What do you take out to the dark sites for your own observing?

#22 George N

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 01:37 PM

.....
...... I tried the dob, with no tracking and too high of an eye piece I got few takers.


A non-tracking Dob is a bad idea for most public outreach, unless we are talking small groups that show up intermittingly. I’ve exhausted myself a few times going up and down a ladder for hours to re-center objects for the public. This is one of the major reasons I keep considering installing a drive on my 20-inch Dob.

However, I thought that this thread was about big star parties, like TSP, not public outreach. At such events you can expect most folks who show up to look thru your scope to know how to use a PushTo Dob.

My personal experience at Stellafane and Cherry Springs with a 5-inch APO and a 20-inch Dob: 90% of the people who show up want to look thru the Dob and the refractor mostly sits unused.

#23 rboe

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 04:36 PM

David; Alas; I now use the NS11GPS for non-outreach star parties as I can't lift the dob into the car without scratching the car all up. With luck I can rebuild it (I seem to be on the twenty year plan) and make it lighter so I can use it again.

My interest has been superceeded by motorcycles as of late so the occasional outreach is all I do. For Halloween I'll I'll have the SS-127mm refractor in the driveway. :jump:

#24 Ziggy943

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Posted 11 December 2012 - 06:22 PM

For the past 2 years: 20-inch Dob *and* 5-inch APO on CG-5 mount, plus 20x80 binocs on parallelogram mount. Prior to that, just the Dob and binocs. That’s for a ‘visual’ trip. For imaging I take the RC10 and/or 5-inch APO, MI-250 mount, plus CCD stuff. PST and white-light filter for daytime solar. Handwarmers to keep me and sometimes eyepieces warm, plus dew/frost control heaters.

I often have an observing buddy who comes along with no scope, so he helps with set-up, etc, etc. We’ve had our share of “flakey equipment moments” needing some field repairs, but never enough of a problem to ruin an observing run. I too like simple equipment that just “gets out of the way” while observing.


That sounds like the best of all worlds.

#25 MRoedel

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Posted 12 December 2012 - 01:33 AM

A few years ago, my wife asked me why I took my scope (10" F6 Discovery) to star parties. She had noticed that I would set it up and then not use it. I was too busy talking with other people and looking through their scopes. I said that I took it to show that I wasn't a scope moocher. She said that they know me by now and either they like me or they don't. Taking the scope won't change anything. So we leave the scope at home and haul more camping gear.
More gear means a better experience for my wife. I'd much rather have her at the star party than my scope. :jump:






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