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My 'New' Refractor, Meade 312 80mm f/11

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#1 Koala117

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Posted 24 May 2013 - 11:40 PM

Greetings,

I just wanted to tell a bit about my first night of getting back into Amateur Astronomy.

A couple of weeks ago, I posted here asking some questions about Refractors and got lots of good replies and opinions! My initial goal, after reading everyone's thoughts, was to go for a Vixen 80mm f/11 with the intention of saving up towards my choice each month because it seemed like a good fit for me.

Well, a gentleman that I am proud to know found out about my idea and plans and helped me to acquire a Meade 312 80mm f/11. He has lots of knowledge, like so many of you do. I may be able to convince him to join CN. If I can pull him away from observing, that is... Though, who could fault someone for just wanting to hang out with their toys?! =)

That said, I got to do some observing of my own, this evening, for the first time in many years!

I had a long day today, and, I was pretty tuckered out but I still wanted to do some looking since it is the first clear evening in days and the first clear evening since I got it.

So, I set everything all up. Got out nice and early so things could acclimate. Set up my eyepieces and away I went! First target was a single star. I will happily admit that I do no know the name of it(yet!). It's one that sits in the sky on approximately the same track as Saturn and maybe ahead of it by 30-40 minutes and is pretty bright.

I chose this star for a couple of reasons. One, so that I could get the fine-tuning in with my finder scope and OTA. That took a few minutes. It's been a while and I am not well-practiced! And the other reason was so I could get the focuser tuned in really well. Oh, what a nice and crisp little dot I saw!

Once I got that dialed in, I looked around for a bit. With no real goal in mind, I just sort of looked towards whatever I fancied. I think I found a star cluster(an open one?). The stars were sort of spread out a little and not 'mushed together' like a Globular. As with my first star, I do not yet know the name.

None-the-less, I was very excited. In fact, I sat back as soon as I saw it and clapped while saying 'Ohhh!' Yes, I probably looked like a goofball. I don't care, it was fun! :D Then, I looked back into my eyepiece and just stared at the cluster for a few minutes. It was the most awesome thing I've seen in a long time. And it was only a prelude to what I was about to see, because...

A couple of minutes later, to my great pleasure, guess who appeared over the tree line.. SATURN! \o/ I recognized that guy, right away. The rings looked really good and clear and the Planet itself was also quite nice. Saturn is where I spent the most time, for sure. I can't tell how many times it passed through my view and I happily adjusted the telescope to bring it right back where it belongs! I even was able to keep it in view and focus at 180x, after working my way up to that magnification. I think I saw some moons, too, unless those were stars behind the planet(?). I think they were moons, though.

The only 'issue' that I had was sometimes my targets would get a little 'fuzzy' and then go back to normal. Not sure if this is from turbulence in the sky. I think it was that because things were usually quick to fix themselves. But, that's not really a complaint in any way. Just an observation. =)

Anyway, that's my story. I apologize if this was a little long. I've waited for this day for a long time and am overjoyed at what I got to see, tonight. People here have helped me with lots of stuff, whether in reply to a post I've made or in threads that I've only read and I just wanted to share with you all.

I'm wondering, have many of you ever used or owned the Meade 312? What did you like about it? Personally, I love mine! It's definitely something that I will keep and use until I am no longer able to look through a telescope.

Thanks for reading, everyone. I hope you all are having as much fun as I did tonight.

#2 Koala117

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Posted 25 May 2013 - 01:30 PM

Here's a picture, too! I completely forgot to include that last night. I took it with my phone, so apologies for the poor lighting/quality of the image. I had to crop it down so that I wouldn't break forum guidelines! :D

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#3 audioaficionado

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Posted 25 May 2013 - 01:53 PM

So, I set everything all up. Got out nice and early so things could acclimate. Set up my eyepieces and away I went! First target was a single star. I will happily admit that I do no know the name of it(yet!). It's one that sits in the sky on approximately the same track as Saturn and maybe ahead of it by 30-40 minutes and is pretty bright.



That star would be Spica just to the West of Saturn. I too am looking forward to a decent clear night to use my new scope. Tonight will be clear, but I have to work and it wont clear up until next Thursday :(

#4 Koala117

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Posted 25 May 2013 - 02:07 PM

That star would be Spica just to the West of Saturn. I too am looking forward to a decent clear night to use my new scope. Tonight will be clear, but I have to work and it wont clear up until next Thursday :(


You know what? I think you're right! I just looked at the sky software on my phone, and, after 'rewinding' the sky to last night's time, it's right where I was looking at! Can't believe I didn't think to look there sooner.

Don't worry about your own skies! If it's anything like my part of the world, forecasts change rapidly and unexpectedly every 20 minutes, it seems like. With any luck, you'll have nice skies much faster! :D

Perhaps you have a portable wide-field scope that you could use on your lunch break? Or even some binoculars? I know what you mean, though. I got mine on Tuesday and had to wait until last night. To quote Tom Petty out-of-context, 'The waiting is the hardest part...'

=)

#5 SteveG

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Posted 25 May 2013 - 02:18 PM

I still love the old Meade blue scopes! That dark stained tripod looks great too.

#6 Don Taylor

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Posted 25 May 2013 - 02:26 PM

I've never owned the Meade you have - but my current grab-&-go scope is quite similar. It's an 80mm F11 achromat that I usually use on a Vixen Porta mount - but I have put it on an equitorial mount a few times too.

Within the limits of 80mm aperture and the light pollution here - it's shown me a lot of things. Obviously the moon, planets, double stars etc. but I'm suprised that you can detect quite afew DSOs - although the challenge is detection, not seeing detail. Next time I take one of my larger scopes to a dark sky site I plan to take the 80mm too just to see what can be seen.

If you do get a larger scope in the future, try to keep the 80mm as it can be set up in an instant (and cools down quickly). You might find that setting up something larger for a quick look is too much trouble - keeping a small scope means you can look most anytime.

Good hunting!

#7 Don Taylor

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Posted 25 May 2013 - 02:34 PM

The only 'issue' that I had was sometimes my targets would get a little 'fuzzy' and then go back to normal. Not sure if this is from turbulence in the sky. I think it was that because things were usually quick to fix themselves. But, that's not really a complaint in any way.


Yup - when the atmosphere is unstable (e.g.the "seeing" is poor) high magnification views can seem like you are looking at an Amobae under the microscope. The image bulges here and there and distorts in odd ways. High magnification makes it more apparent.

Sometimes you just have to wait a while and catch details when the view settles for a few seconds. This usually works for the planets.

The moon doesn't fight so much - but sometimes the view looks like you see heatwaves off a summer highway. I see that effect ususally along the terminator and limb.

Sometimes, unfortunately you just have to wait for a better day.

#8 Koala117

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Posted 25 May 2013 - 04:05 PM

SteveG: Yeah, it's a fun telescope! I also love the color of that staining. :D

Don: Yeppers, I'll never get rid of it. I've still got lots to learn about where any objects are located to find them by just looking at the sky with my eyes. Except for the brighter planets like Saturn, Jupiter, etc. I know where those are! :D The amobae description is perfect to describe what I saw last night. Fuzzy then crisp, fuzzy then crisp. Especially at 180x magnification(my highest current possibility. Though, I think I read that 25-30x per inch of aperture is usually best(?). /shakes fist at the fuzzy sky!

It's pretty stable as far as the mount/tripod go. I notice if I happen to slightly bump it while viewing, it takes maybe 3 seconds maximum to settle down. And the 9x50 is VERY nice to me. I'm a very tall man(6'11") and would likely struggle with a straight-through finder).

The only thing I'm unsure about is: There's a tiny bit of 'play' in the focuser. edit: just double checked, it's the focuser and not the diagonal. Even with diagonal removed, still occurs a bit. :)

Meaning, it wiggles a tad little bit. Maybe 3/32nd of an inch or so, I haven't measured it. Is this something that will worsen with time/should I not worry about it/is there a simple fix to such a thing? I'm not that mechanically inclined and fear to mess something up if I just go into with no knowledge. =)

#9 Don Taylor

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Posted 25 May 2013 - 08:07 PM

The only thing I'm unsure about is: There's a tiny bit of 'play' in the focuser. edit: just double checked, it's the focuser and not the diagonal. Even with diagonal removed, still occurs a bit. :)

Meaning, it wiggles a tad little bit. Maybe 3/32nd of an inch or so, I haven't measured it. Is this something that will worsen with time/should I not worry about it/is there a simple fix to such a thing? I'm not that mechanically inclined and fear to mess something up if I just go into with no knowledge. =)


Many of the smaller rack & pinon focusers have some play - the tube actually rotates as you change focus direction. If that's what you've got the diagonal rotates slightly about the axis of the telescope.

Now if you can move the eyepiece end up/down and/or side to side then you might have a small problem. You might need to adjust the screws that cover the focuser shaft and take out a bit of play.

If you do that don't go so far as to make the focusing stiff. It should be smooth throughout its travel.

If in doubt - leave it alone.

One last thing - there's a lot of great folks that are into smaller/older achro refractors over on the Classic Telescopes forum - Might want to check over there too.

#10 Koala117

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Posted 25 May 2013 - 10:17 PM

Thanks, Don.

I was actually checking out that forum for fun today. Lots to learn over there. As if I wasn't learning a lot as it was! Seems like a person could spend hours in each place and still have tons more left to take in. :p

#11 beanerds

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 08:32 PM

Thanks for the first light report Koala , nice first scope , these reputibaly have very good Japanese optics .
I have the same mount by the looks of it EQ2? and I use mine under my Coranado solarmax40 and its great for that .
Clear skies mate .
Brian

#12 mak17

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 08:52 PM

I have the same OTA but it says model 310 and came with alt azimuth mount. These were made by Mizar in 1985. If you look at the tripod legs you'll note the M on the nuts. Also behind the focuser knob. Did you keep the original focuser? I can't tell from your picture. Mine came with a correct image prism that threads on to the focuser. Works pretty well. Really good focuser in my experience.

#13 mak17

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 08:53 PM

Oh and killer 80mm f 11. Prob best I've used and I've used quite a few.

#14 greju

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 09:28 PM

Yours and the Op's are not the same OTA's. Different manufacturers. Yours, and mine are Mizars. His Towa?

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#15 greju

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 09:31 PM

This M? ;)

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#16 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 10:35 PM

I have the same OTA but it says model 310 and came with alt azimuth mount. These were made by Mizar in 1985. If you look at the tripod legs you'll note the M on the nuts. Also behind the focuser knob. Did you keep the original focuser? I can't tell from your picture. Mine came with a correct image prism that threads on to the focuser. Works pretty well. Really good focuser in my experience.


The Meade 310 and 320 were made by Mizar and are very similar to the 312s and the 314 but the 312 and 314's were made by Towa. The Mizar tube diameter is 90mm and the Towa's are 82mm. At one time I owned a 310, a 312, a 314 and a 320 but now I am down to the 310 and the 320 but the OTAs are being used at work for some imaging.

The Meade 314 is the Brass tubed version, I gave it to a coworker, amateur astronomer as a retirement gift. That left me with three Meade 80mm F/11's, I called them my Meade Triplet... :)

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#17 Koala117

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Posted 27 May 2013 - 01:09 AM

beanerds: You're welcome! I'm having so much fun. The optics do seem very nice, I agree! :D I'm more happy than I can say with the whole thing. Solar scopes seem really cool, to me.

mak17: I have the original focuser, as far as I know. I also have the original Finder. I thought for sure that I'd seen M's somewhere. After checking just now, it seems that I'm mistaken. That's okay with me! I quite like the entire package!

Jon: What a great set up you have in that picture! I have no idea what's going on, there. But, it definitely looks interesting.

#18 mak17

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Posted 27 May 2013 - 06:14 AM

My mistake. Yes that's the M. Check the inside of the focuser knobs and you will find another M. I just noticed it last time I used the scope. Regardless the 312 if made by Towa should be just as good or close.

#19 BigC

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Posted 27 May 2013 - 08:58 AM

You have a very nice scope and good friend ,too.As much fun as the classic 60 f15s are,I feel the 80mm f11 is a lot better for fainter and more detail while still being easy to handle.

One thing you could try is thin shims( cut from plastic bottle or well-washed milk jug)wrapped around the focuser tube .The trick is just the right thickness to take up the "slop" without binding.

The "rise and fall" of the ocular and focuser tube with every turn of the knob can be very annoying;it is the worst feature of several otherwise good scopes here.

#20 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 27 May 2013 - 09:23 AM

You have a very nice scope and good friend ,too.As much fun as the classic 60 f15s are,I feel the 80mm f11 is a lot better for fainter and more detail while still being easy to handle.

One thing you could try is thin shims( cut from plastic bottle or well-washed milk jug)wrapped around the focuser tube .The trick is just the right thickness to take up the "slop" without binding.

The "rise and fall" of the ocular and focuser tube with every turn of the knob can be very annoying;it is the worst feature of several otherwise good scopes here.


I have owned a Meade 312 and a 314, the Towa models. Both had a slight motion in the focuser after I reworked them but it did not seem to affect the view. A very thin shim would probably do the job but it would have to be only a few thousandths thick, under 0.010" and would be difficult to install and maintain.

Jon

#21 greju

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Posted 27 May 2013 - 12:09 PM

My mistake. Yes that's the M. Check the inside of the focuser knobs and you will find another M. I just noticed it last time I used the scope. Regardless the 312 if made by Towa should be just as good or close.


Considering the fact that Roland picked the Mizar model to put the AP name on I doubt just as good or even close. ;) Always wanted to give them a head to head but have not had the chance. Maybe Jon can comment on the comparisons. :help: I bet the 312 is fun to use just the same. :jump:

#22 Koala117

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Posted 27 May 2013 - 01:37 PM

You have a very nice scope and good friend ,too.As much fun as the classic 60 f15s are,I feel the 80mm f11 is a lot better for fainter and more detail while still being easy to handle.

One thing you could try is thin shims( cut from plastic bottle or well-washed milk jug)wrapped around the focuser tube .The trick is just the right thickness to take up the "slop" without binding.

The "rise and fall" of the ocular and focuser tube with every turn of the knob can be very annoying;it is the worst feature of several otherwise good scopes here.


I have owned a Meade 312 and a 314, the Towa models. Both had a slight motion in the focuser after I reworked them but it did not seem to affect the view. A very thin shim would probably do the job but it would have to be only a few thousandths thick, under 0.010" and would be difficult to install and maintain.

Jon


I think that what I'll end up doing is just leaving it as is. It's such a tiny, tiny amount of wiggle and it truly does not affect the viewing, as you mentioned. And since it likely won't cause troubles down the road, I think it would be best to leave it be, in the end. My main concern is now alleviated so all is well! Thanks to Jon and all! :D

edit:
greju: The mount is quite stable, as is the tripod. I, too, have never seen the others but you are correct. This 312 is awesome and will bring me a lifetime of enjoyment! :D

#23 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 27 May 2013 - 03:18 PM

My mistake. Yes that's the M. Check the inside of the focuser knobs and you will find another M. I just noticed it last time I used the scope. Regardless the 312 if made by Towa should be just as good or close.


Considering the fact that Roland picked the Mizar model to put the AP name on I doubt just as good or even close. ;) Always wanted to give them a head to head but have not had the chance. Maybe Jon can comment on the comparisons. :help: I bet the 312 is fun to use just the same. :jump:


Optically, I found the Mizar's and the Towa's very similar, both do about everything a 80mm F/11 achromat can do.

Mechanically, the Mizar's are definitely a cut above the Towas and the Vixens. The focusers have a lock and adjustable gibs. The alt-az Mizar mount is by far the best of the three, the Vixen and Towa are essentially the same, both use tangents arms and are unbalanced. The Mizar is more robust and is fully geared on both axes. The Mizar Gem is also top notch, similar to the Vixen Polaris but with some nice added touches.

In comparison to the previous generation of 76mm F/16s, all three represent more usable, more practical scopes. The 900mm focal length in combination with the 1.25 inch focuser provides for a reasonable field of view and a scope that does not tax the mount.

Aesthetically, the Mizar is the winner but the Towa is plenty good and I had many wonderful nights with mine before I passed it along to someone who was able to use it more often. The Dawes limit for an 80mm is 1.45 arc-seconds. A few summers ago as Porrima slowly opened from 1.44 arc-seconds to about 1.51 arc-seconds, I followed it with the my Towa 312 and my WO 80mm Megrez II FD. The little apo was slightly better at this tight split but the 312 was not far behind.

Someday I plan to fit a 2 inch focuser to an 80mm F/11, it seems like a natural. With a 2 inch focuser, it should be capable of a 2.93 degree TFoV, plenty for most purposes, and at F/11, even eyepieces like my Explore Scientific 35mm 70 degree ($50 at OPT on sale) should be quite sharp at the edge... No need for Naglers or Panoptics.

I am thinking the Pleiades would be spectacular.

Jon

#24 Don Taylor

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Posted 27 May 2013 - 08:56 PM

Considering the fact that Roland picked the Mizar model to put the AP name on I doubt just as good or even close. ;) Always wanted to give them a head to head but have not had the chance. Maybe Jon can comment on the comparisons. :help: I bet the 312 is fun to use just the same. :jump:


I've been casually researching this - as I own one of the Astro-Physics 80mm guide scopes. There is an extensive thread here on CN started by Neil English (Astroneil) about his A-P 80mm guide scope.

Looking at historical A-P brochures and advertisements there was originally a 3" guide scope (no focal length given) claimed to be 24" long.

In 1987 catalogs there first appears an "imported" 80mm x 900mm guide scope pictured - which is the version I have. It's ~81.8mm tube diameter and has a small diameter dew shield. The lens cell is not collimatable. I believe this version to be the one reported as having "ota by Nihon-Seiko, with optics from a one man optical shop in Tokyo""."

Nihon-Seiko made the Unitron scopes but apparently sourced the optics from several contractors. My scope is engraved "Astro-Physics 80 mm x 900mm" on the side of the focuser.

I have seen A-P advertisements into the early '90s that show this style guide scope mounted to larger A-P refractors.

I understand Nihon-Seiko closed shop about 1997.

Somewhere in all this the Mizar sourced A-P guide scopes were introduced, distinguishable by the focus lock knob on top of the focuser, the larger diameter dew shield, and the collimatable lens cell.

I believe this version is the scope also sold as a Meade and the A-P marked version was the version written about by Neil English (and on his website).


I don't know if A-P switched to the Mizar produced scope when Nihon-Seiko closed, or before, or if A-P sold both versions at the same time.

I've not seen one of the Mizar 80mm scopes in person nor a Towa so unfortunately I can't offer a comparison of their relative merits.

I will say the scope I own is very good optically and mechanically.
And I agree: if Roland put the A-P name on it it was a worthy product.

#25 Koala117

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Posted 27 May 2013 - 09:16 PM

Don, Thanks for sharing all that info! Cool to learn a bit of history about all these 80mm's. :D

At the risk of going off-topic in my own thread: Would you be willing to post a picture or two of your scope? I'd love to see it. =)

edit: That 'one man shop' sounds a bit like Hattori Hanzo.






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