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First light for a scope I've owned for six years

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#1 Michael Rapp

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 10:05 PM

Hi all,

In 2006 I bought a Zenithstar 66 SD and used it as my DSLR imaging scope for a few years before getting burnt out on imaging. It went back on the shelf for a while until I took it our for a brief foray into video astronomy, then back on the shelf it went, almost forgotten.

My work has me working long hours and coupling that to the fact that I am just plain getting older I was finding it harder and harder to go outside with my 8" Dob. I mean, you gotta lug the scope out, which takes at least two trips. Then a third trip for the eyepieces and observing chair. If I want to sketch, that's a fourth trip. Oh, and you gotta let it cool down for an hour. This is turning into an expedition. ( And if you get really tired, you might end up with cats in your tube.)

So, I picked up the 66 SD with a slight intention of selling it when I noticed my video tripod in the corner. It then occured to me that in my six years of owning the scope, I never once had ever looked through it visually! It seemed a shame to sell it without at least checking to see if one could look through it.

So I put the scope on the tripod and fished out an old diagonal. I then placed my 32 mm Plossl in it out of habit (that's my main eyepiece for my reflector). I did a quick calculation....388 mm / 32 mm...12x, wow really low. Hmm.... 50 AFOV / 12x = wait, what? 4 degrees?! That's HUGE. That's like a finder!

I then took a step back and noticed how compact the 66SD looked on that tripod. In fact...it looked as if I could just pick up the whole thing -- scope, tripod, eyepiece, all attached and ready -- and just take it outside in one trip, and in one hand even!

Hey, it's clear outside, isn't it? So, I grabbed the setup and within seconds I was outside. Then I thought, this is a waste of time. I have no finder, let alone a telrad. I'm not going to be able to find anything. Then I rememebered the field of view that I had calculated.

I sighted down the tube and pointed the scope at Vega. Sure enough, to my astonishment, Vega was in the field of view. I did the same for Deneb and Altair. I got them all in the field of view by just sighting down the scope. What an odd experience to use a scope as its own finder.

I then went to Alberio. What a pretty pair. Clear color difference and almost touching. I then went to Sadr so I could find M 29, which I knew to be nearby. I found it, but quickly became captivated with sweeping the area of the Milky Way around Cygnus. All those stars....so beautiful.

I was starting to get cold (when I said I was outside in seconds, I meant it....I didn't put on a jacket!), so I switched to the other side of the meridian and sweeped around Cassiopeia and Perseus. Another lovely area.

Looking up, I went for M31, which was easy, albeit dim. Still it was fun to see.

The cold getting to me, I went inside. As I looked at the scope I had just pulled inside in one trip, all thoughts of selling it left me. I also reflected on what had just happened. I just had an enjoyable twenty-minute observing session. I never have twenty-minute observing sessions....mainly as if I know I only have 20-40 minutes, I'm not going to bother with the hassle of setting up the 8" with all of its luggage!

I think I just encountered head-on the concept of "grab and go." :grin:

#2 jtaylor996


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Posted 13 November 2012 - 10:26 PM

You need to go buy the Hyperion zoom for this scope. I also have a little red dot I use sometimes... But the zoom on this scope takes care of a lot more than you'd think!

I've traveled about 30,000 miles with mine :)

#3 Michael Rapp

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 10:40 PM

A zoom eyepiece...that's a wonderful idea. That would eliminate the need to take out the eyepiece case.

#4 stevew


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Posted 13 November 2012 - 10:45 PM

Great report Michael. Getting outside in one trip can make the difference between going outside to view and not going out to view.
I've used a little C5 on a lightweight AZ3 for a number of years for exactly the same thing.
Sometimes I'll put it outside at dinner time to cool off, and after the kids go to bed I go out for 1/2 an hour or so.
If it clouds over before I get out, it's no big deal to bring it back inside.
It's not really about what scope you you use, as much as it is that you get outside and look.


#5 m9x18



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Posted 13 November 2012 - 10:59 PM

I think I just encountered head-on the concept of "grab and go."

First of all, that was a wonderful narrative and I thank you for sharing it. Next, I'm glad you now realize the beauty of the grab and go concept. Most of my scopes fall in this category and getting outside for a quick peek every now and then can be very rewarding. I'm happy you rediscovered and reacquainted yourself with your small scope and gave it the opportunity to strut its stuff.

#6 Binojunky



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Posted 14 November 2012 - 10:38 AM

I must admit to buying scopes and reselling them after only useing them to watch the bird feeders,for grab and go I find myself in this stage of life (the twilight years)grabbing either binoculars or a AT72 on a simple tripod being the choice, for maybe a bit more of an observing session then my 4" refactor,too many people are wrapped up in heavy duty equipment set ups when a lot of pleasure can be got from simple and easy,DA.

#7 Mary



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Posted 14 November 2012 - 02:21 PM


I just loved your post and everything that you've said is exactly why I am such a huge fan of small scopes. I just don't have the time for long viewing sessions anymore and it's getting harder for me to manuver my heavier and larger scopes and tripod out into the yard anymore, especially once the snow and ice starts to stick. These days I find myself grabbing my binos almost 100% of the time and I have lately been using a 127 Mak for observing Jupiter. I set the mak out when I get home from work, and by the time I am done with dinner and cleaning up the dishes, it is cooled and ready to go. I find that the binos and the mak have complemented each other very well and my short observing sessions of roughly 30-45 minutes have been rewarding and satisfying. I also have a couple of small light refractors that are ready to go on a moments notice. The simple way of life is always the best way, at least for me.


#8 Michael Rapp

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Posted 15 November 2012 - 10:11 AM

There is now a somewhat humorous addendum to my story. Last night I went out and tried to do some star hopping to see if I could find the Crescent Nebula in Cygnus. (Apparently, it is not visible in a 66 mm scope, but that isn't important here.)

For a good ten minutes I was exceptionally confused as to why no matter where I pointed my scope, my FOV did not match my star charts. I've been doing astronomy for over 20 years....I'd like to think that I am at least semi-proficient at matching eyepiece views with charts!

I was getting a little unnerved and was contemplating a CloudyNights post with the title, "hey, did proper motion change last night?" when it hit me.

Of course nothing is matching up. I'm using a star diagonal. It's mirror-reversed! :tonofbricks:

I've only used my reflector for visual. My other scopes -- SCT, Mak, and this refractor -- have always been used straight-through for imaging.

Once I realized the view was mirror-reversed, the stars all fell into place, although it did take a little bit of mental gymnastics to visual it.


#9 m9x18



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Posted 15 November 2012 - 01:20 PM

That's a funny story. Glad you got it figured out as you learn (or re-learn) how to drive your refractor around the celestial block. ;)

#10 astrogeezer41


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Posted 15 November 2012 - 02:01 PM

Hi Mary,
I enjoyed Michael's post too. Like you, I have come to enjoy and be satified with shorter observing sessions with my grab & go scopes which are primarily my SV80 Aplanat and my SV80/9D.

To be sure I still enjoy my SV102F11 and my 6"f8 homemade "Planetary Newt" but I am very happy that my 80s keep my observing feet in the water.

Enjoyed your comments,

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