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Getting Back into Observing

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#1 bryguy27007

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 11:53 AM

Hello everybody, I am considering getting back into observing. I used to have an 8" Orion dobsonian with the stock eyepieces. It was a lot of fun but I found myself not using it as much as I wanted to.

I had to sell it (also bought and sold an 80mm refractor) when I moved to Colorado but I am back in Minnesota now. I feel like maybe picking up an 8" dobsonian again. I want to use it more and I feel like 4 factors would really help.

1. Good eyepiece (I was thinking the 82* ES 18mm) - hopefully add more later
2. Observing chair (I was looking at the Starbound Observing Chair)
3. Better knowledge of the night sky
4. More dark sky visits

I feel like maybe I wasn't using my telescope as much as I wanted to because it was uncomfortable to stand/crouch at it and hold my eye and the exact location with the cheap eyepiece, while not knowing what I want to look at. I was also only viewing from my suburban back-yard with a lot of light pollution.

Do you think that with a proper eyepiece and a proper observing chair and maybe a list of targets to look at I will have more enjoyable experiences at the eyepiece? I really love space and the night sky, and I would love to get back into telescope viewing, but I also don't just want to throw money at the hobby and hope that works. I want a more immersive experience that I can relax and view the universe instead of feeling like it's work at any moment of observing. Any advice?

#2 csrlice12

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 12:18 PM

Truthfully, I love my 10XTi, and Orion does make an 8XTi. The 8" is at f6, so your focuser is right at eye-height while standing with the scope at zeinith. The ES 82* series are fantastic in that scope, for the price, you can't beat them. From your description, it sounds like a nice observing chair might make a huge difference. The XTi scopes are "Push-To". It has a hand control that will guide you to an object. It's like GoTo, only you provide the motor power. Once in view, you'll have to do the routing dob nudge, but it does help you find objects, or you can identify something you are viewing. It's very helpful, especially if light pollution is present. It also allows you to take "tours" so that, for those quick nights, just select the tour you want and the object......

#3 bryguy27007

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 12:26 PM

That's definitely food for thought. I'm not sure if I can afford the extra 200 or whatever it is to upgrade to the intelliscope though. It's enough of a stretch to get the things I listed. Is the push to really that much more convenient than a couple of good sky maps? I would need to sacrifice either the chair or the eyepiece to get it so I feel like it might not be the best idea.

Another factor that I need to consider is that I have moved from the suburbs to the city with pretty bad light pollution. I guess I just need to evaluate if I will actually get up and go to a dark sky site (like I didn't before, maybe that was a factor of uncomfortable observing experiences or maybe just laziness).

#4 csrlice12

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 01:39 PM

A dark site is probably the best and cheapest thing you can do in astronomy. I've been out to the dark site a couple of times and hardly looked thru the scope. And nothing, NOTHING, will improve the views like dark skies will. I've been to Fargo/Detroit Lakes area, and there's some nice dark country up there.

As far as push-to or Go-to goes, it's really a matter of how well do you know the sky, and as you've had a dob before, you're probably already familiar with the sky. It does help in light pollution though to find those things you can't "see" due to the light pollution.

#5 kansas skies

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 02:21 PM

The intelliscope feature sounds like it might be just the thing. I don't have this feature on any of my scopes, so I have to take more of a manual approach. With this in mind, there are a number of things that I find important to make the experience more enjoyable (which really is the key to your scope making it out under the stars).

The most important would be a place where you can setup and feel comfortable without having to struggle too much. Hopefully, the area will be blocked from nearby lights. If not, a folding dressing screen from a thrift store works pretty well if it's not windy. With this in mind, it's also necessary to have a place set aside where the scope will be stored. Preferably, both places are such that you can setup and tear down with no more than 10 minutes alloted to each task.

Without some sort of goto feature, a good finderscope is a must. I prefer a right-angle finder, since I really enjoy laying on my back while I'm trying to locate an object that I probably can't see in the finderscope anyway. A 10x50 is nice, but a 6x30 is generally more than adequate.

A comfortable observing chair is a real asset. My preference, instead of a single adjustable chair, is to employ two or three chairs of various heights. Of course, this varies with the scope that I'm using at the time.

The need to dress comfortably cannot be over-emphasized. Here, it's important to realize that setting in one position for long periods of time presents its own challenges. The abilility to dress appropriately is something that is learned primarily through experience. Personally, I think layered clothing is the best way to go.

If most of your observing is to be done from within the city, the 8" dob may or may not be the best choice. When I lived in the city, I found that my most used scope was an 80mm refractor. Since you have experience with both, you probably already know what you're looking for. Whatever you decide, with limited funds (like most of us), there is a large used market which might allow for a step up, without added cost. It's something to think about. With the scope, a solid and easy to use mount is very important. Of course, if the scope is always to be transported to a dark site, the choice in scopes should reflect this.

I could go on and on, but I think I hit on most of the high points.

Bill

#6 bryguy27007

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 09:22 PM

The most important would be a place where you can setup and feel comfortable without having to struggle too much. Hopefully, the area will be blocked from nearby lights. If not, a folding dressing screen from a thrift store works pretty well if it's not windy. With this in mind, it's also necessary to have a place set aside where the scope will be stored. Preferably, both places are such that you can setup and tear down with no more than 10 minutes alloted to each task.


I can't believe I forgot about my local astronomy club. A membership (~$16 for a student) gives you access to 4 local observing sites. There are also star parties and public outreach nights. I just contacted my club and will hopefully make it to their meeting in early March. I'm excited to meet fellow space enthusiasts, and to have a place to set up a scope!

I think I may pass on the intelliscope feature for now, I just really don't have the money and I think a good eyepiece and chair will contribute more to my observing experience now. Plus, learning the sky is fun! I will definitely look into getting a good finder scope.

I really appreciate all of the help that I have gotten so far.

#7 csrlice12

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 09:27 PM

a nice alternative is to add degree/setting circles to the dob base and a digital level to the OTA. Then, using one of the sky programs get the RA/DEC of the object. Kind of a poor-man's PushTo. I had one made for the base of my 10XTi for $24 at Fedex/Kinkos and it was laminated.

#8 GOLGO13

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 11:24 PM

If you don't get the Intelliscope Orion, you may consider the 8 inch dobs by Apertura from www.opticsmart.com ... they appear to be a better deal than the Orion XT classics.

Certainly an adjustable chair is important with any telescope...so that will certainly help. You can go fancy or even simple. I went to guitar center and got a $50 adjustable drummer's chair which works fine.

Consider checking craigslist or the classifieds on this site. Used 8 inch dobs are pretty common and could save you some cash.

Eyepieces of at least some quality is a good idea. Astronomics.com sells astro-tech paradigms which get good reviews for only $60 a piece. The ES eyepieces are good choices as well.

If you don't want to use things like the intelliscope, consider getting a telrad and telrad charts. Those work well and don't cost too much. I got some nice lamenated charts from Optcorp.com ... you can make them yourself as well from online sources.

Good luck and take your time. Observing with someone does tend to make things more fun. For me I like small groups of a few people, but that's my personality as well.

#9 bryguy27007

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 11:55 PM

Thanks for the link. It looks like a local shop has the Orion 8" for 50 dollars cheaper than the Apetura 8". I figure that tax and shipping should be about the same so I canceled those out. I just saw a thread about a chair on Amazon that is quite a bit cheaper than the one I was looking at so I may end up going that route.

I checked both Craigslist and the classifieds here and I haven't found what I'm looking for yet. I'll take a look at those paradigm eyepieces, but to be honest I have my heart kind of set on the ES 82* (although I could be convinced otherwise). Thank you for reminding me about the telrad! I was going to get those when I last had my scope but never got around to it. I'll have to look into those.

I can't wait to get out to my first star party.

#10 bryguy27007

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 12:25 AM

Well there is a 6" Orion XTi dob in the classifieds for $325 with free shipping. Not quite as much aperture as I'd like, but it's definitely something I'll have to mull over.

#11 droid

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 05:39 AM

If you are gonna join a club.....might I suggest you hold off spending money on any telescope.
Im guessing they have loaner scopes, if so borrow one, just to see if the hobby is really going to be a long term thing.
You can also look through differant scopes and get a feel for them.
Its not fun trying to sell and rebox and ship telescopes when you find it just isnt the thing.

Just my humble suggestion....wish you well in your continueing stellar journeys.

#12 Madratter

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 08:35 AM

Is the push to really that much more convenient than a couple of good sky maps?


Is it more convenient? Absolutely. Is it necessary to see a lot? By no means. I observed 30 objects the other day in about 4 hours just using a Telrad for my finder. And I did that just in the course of a normal night's observing. I wasn't trying to set any speed records.

Also, I have been observing for many many years so I know my way around.

You need to ask yourself whether you enjoy the hunt, or whether you just want to see the objects when you get there. Was part of the reason you didn't do it often because you didn't see much when you took it out?

#13 csrlice12

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 10:34 AM

"You need to ask yourself whether you enjoy the hunt, or whether you just want to see the objects when you get there. Was part of the reason you didn't do it often because you didn't see much when you took it out?"

Good question to ask yourself; as I didn't know the sky very well, I opted for the Intelliscope, and it has been a big help in my learning the sky. Unfortunately, Orion is the only one out there with GoTO/PushTo scopes.

+1 on Telrad (although be aware under significant light pollution, a Telrad doesn't work very well, but at at darker site, they are the most useful tool you have.)

You have had lots of good info here; I will agree that you should contact your local astro society and go to a couple of sky parties. Go early and check out the different scopes, how they work, what they cost. Offer to help someone(s) setup/teardown a few units to get a feel for the weight/bulk of the various parts (OTA, Mount). You could also check to see if they have a loner scope program (most do). They also might have a member or know of someone who has a nice setup for sale at a good price. I did this, and it saved me a bundle. I was ready to jump with all four paws for a 16". THEN I did as suggested....NOW I own a 10" Dob and a 4" refractor. (Also note that for many here, we eventually end up with more than one scope. Usually at least two (Reflector for faint fuzzies and refractor for wide-field or planetary). As you grow in the hobby, you will find there is no "all round scope"; but that 8" dob probably comes as close as anything.

#14 De Lorme

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 05:05 PM

I recently bought a Dell Axiom X5 Pocket PC and put Pocket Stars astronomy program on it. Shows NGC,Messier,and Caldwell in decimal for alt and az. A lot of great features. I like this more than my laptop;more convenient. I had to buy a 2GB card and a down load cable for it which brought it to $50. The Pocket Stars was $20.
In the reflector forum look up the topic:Thermal issuses
I think it's now on page 2. They discuss why and how to handle boundry layer. This is a really great forum.
Digi-Key is a great place to get fans and speed controllers.
I'm also looking into Astro-Fix. It does the same as setting circles and a digital angle finder but more accurate. The easier you make it the more fun can be had.
A small investment goes a long way. You won't be sorry.
De Lorme

#15 Glen A W

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 12:45 PM

I find a C8 SCT gives me more comfortable viewing - I can almost always turn the eyepiece to make for chair viewing. I do have more of a need for a chair than I used to! GW

#16 bryguy27007

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Posted 23 February 2013 - 04:34 PM

Thanks everybody! I am definitely holding off on the purchase for a little while. I am going to my local astro-club the Thursday after next for the monthly meeting (and to officially join). If I do buy another telescope, I'm getting a dob. I know I can manage the 8", I just need to decide if I want the 8" XT or the 6" XTi (in the marketplace). I do enjoy the hunt, I think that I just didn't know what I wanted to hunt a couple of years ago when I was observing. I would pull out the scope with nothing more in my mind than, "saturn's out". I read the thread that was about bringing a list of objects that you want to find and I will definitely do that.

I think I may end up going with the 8" with a telrad. I know that I love that telescope, my only decision left to make is if I'm going to use it enough. I think joining the club and checking out a few of the observing sites that I will have access to (and driving to them) will answer my question. Besides, I don't have my tax return yet so I have to wait a while whether I'd like to or not, haha.

#17 Atl

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Posted 24 February 2013 - 02:36 PM

I suggest the Z12 with a Telrad. Just go on and get a big scope and be done with.

#18 bryguy27007

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Posted 24 February 2013 - 05:13 PM

60 pound OTA? Wow, that's pretty crazy. The price isn't too bad though. I don't think I could manage the 12 but I had a look at the 10 and I'll have to see how I feel about that.

Things that are non-negotiable:
Observing chair, good eyepiece (have my eye on that ES 82*), telrad + riser, and a good star chart. These are built into my budget. The reminder determines my aperture. I just sent in taxes so I still have a couple of weeks to go to the local astro-club and decide what I want for sure.

#19 Saint Aardvark

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 12:13 AM

One more suggestion: try observing with someone else. This is a small variation on the "go to your local club" advice, but it might really help boost your interest to have a scope buddy you can observe with. If he/she knows more than you, you'll learn from them; if you're both learning, then that's fun too. :)

And to echo the comments above: comfort and warmth make a huge difference. But don't overlook what can be seen from your back yard, even if it is light-polluted. I regularly observe from a park a five minute walk from my house, and it's a rare night when I really need my flashlight to see the atlas. I'll never have truly dark skies there...those are special trips for me. But I can see a lot -- really, it surprises me how much I can see -- and when I'm ready to go home, I'm fifteen minutes from being on the couch, warming up with a glass of wine and looking up sketches of what I saw to compare with what I drew. Being able to get out (and home) quickly lets me see a lot more than I would if I saved everything up for a once-a-month trip to dark skies.

Clear skies and fun nights to you.

#20 Matt Wallin

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 07:23 PM

A comfy seat is something that is absolutely crucial in my mind for any kind of extended observation. You see so much more when you can just relax at the eyepiece. I built a "Denver Observing Chair" (Google it!) for <$15 and it is wonderful, don't forget to craft a foam cushion for it, it makes a big difference, especially when it is cold out. As for the eyepieces, I'd definitely suggest quality over quantity. I have had several ES 82* eyepieces and still have the 30mm, they are nice, great for the price!

#21 bryguy27007

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Posted 28 February 2013 - 05:33 PM

Thanks for the link to the Denver Observing Chair. I'm not that handy but I'll have to see if I can whip something up. I definitely will remember not to discount the backyard views. I could get some good lunar viewing done for sure, and maybe some other objects as well.

I just found a local Z10 for 175 with a couple of accessories for sale from a member of the local astro club. Sounds like a good deal to me so I'm going to go take a look at that tomorrow and take it home if it's all on the up and up. I'm excited!

#22 csrlice12

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Posted 28 February 2013 - 07:39 PM

Wow, if its in good shape that's a steal....

#23 jrbarnett

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Posted 28 February 2013 - 08:30 PM

"1. Good eyepiece (I was thinking the 82* ES 18mm) - hopefully add more later
2. Observing chair (I was looking at the Starbound Observing Chair)
3. Better knowledge of the night sky
4. More dark sky visits"

1. is a misconception. Eyepieces in a nice slow Dob like an f/6 8-incher don't make all that much difference in image quality terms. You may like the aesthetics of a wider AFOV, but the eyepieces almost certainly aren't a major factor holding back your use, and do not expect a world of difference in the detail visible in any object swapping the stock Plossls for an ES 82 eyepiece.

The other three factors are indeed very important, and to those I would add another - learning to collimate precisely. It's very easy to get an f/6 "in the sweet spot" for collimation, but you should know how to determine if the secondary is correctly positioned relative to the focuser and the primary, and also that the primary is properly aligned. Good collimation tools will help with this. I like the Catseye tools, but they aren't cheap. You can get passable results with a budget Cheshire with an f/6 scope.

Regards,

Jim

#24 bryguy27007

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 04:57 PM

Wow, if its in good shape that's a steal....


Well I just picked it up and I think I got a pretty good deal. It came with 2 eyepieces (Zhumell 26mm 2", University k20mm), finder scope, fan, upgraded bearings, flocked tube, and right ascension markings. Not bad at all in my eyes. The mirror looks to be in pretty decent condition, I'm not too worried about it. The person who I picked it up from said it worked great for him and if I have any issues with it to talk to him about it.

I'm pretty excited!

I do not think that the higher end eyepieces will give me more detail, I was just looking for more FOV and better eye relief, which I think I would get with these. I'll have to post some pictures of the new scope (tube has a couple of scratches but no big deal).

I'm a little worried about collimating this one since it's a little faster than what I was used to. I'll need to look into those laser collimators.

#25 John Lacey

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Posted 12 March 2013 - 01:52 AM

For me, getting my Hyperions was like getting a new telescope. There was no comparison with the plössls that came with the scope. I never used them again. (Fwiw, I wear glasses when observing.)

A chair is an absolute must, but with a 6-10in dob, I find that a comfortable small folding chair works great. I can see everything from the horizon to the zenith sitting down. You might have no need to get fancy.






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