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#1 mwedel

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Posted 17 October 2013 - 01:43 AM

A series of anecdotes leading up to some questions:

- From the first time I read it, I have had a strange fascination with Jay Reynolds Freeman's "Refractor Red meets the Herschel 400" (available here). In it, he wrote, "Ask people who land big fish with light tackle, why I do what I do."

- Lately I've been working through a slew of the open clusters in the Herschel 400 myself. And I have found that some clusters are dead easy to recognize as distinct bright patches in my 9x50 finder, but at the eyepiece they just sort of dissipate into the background starfield. That plus some fairly transformative RFT experiences with small refractors are working some kind of alchemy on me.

- My friend Terry Nakazono is up to about 500 galaxies observed in the past 3 or so years, most of them logged and sketched with an Orion SkyScanner 100, mostly from at least somewhat light-polluted skies. He is just religious about dark adaptation, averted vision, and patience.

- Possibly as a result of all of the above, lately I have had this mad desire to go out to the desert with a 70mm or even a 50mm refractor and spend the whole night observing with only that instrument.

So, questions:
- Anyone else ever feel like that? Besides binocular observers? Not that I'm not interested--rather the opposite. I _love_ binocular observing. But lately I've had a yen for small-aperture telescopic DSO chasing.
- What's the smallest instrument you've carried out a serious DSO observing program with?
- Why'd you do it? I'm just curious. For me, it feels like my reverse aperture fever and my deep-sky interests are slowly colliding. That plus a sort of perverse desire to knowingly commit to a "suboptimal" (aperture-wise) observing program just because it sounds fun. I realize there are many variables one could optimize--aperture, portability, optical quality, etc--so which one pushed you toward small-scope observations of DSOs?

#2 Astrojensen

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Posted 17 October 2013 - 03:40 AM

For about three years, while my 85mm Zeiss was decomissioned, due to misaligned lenses, I used a 50/870mm Zeiss apochromat as my main scope...! I saw MANY deep-sky objects with it and my finest observation of the Orion nebula in any scope is still with this instrument. I saw quite a few H400 objects with it and even started a dedicated H400 survey with it. I finished at least Andromeda, Gemini and Cancer with it, before I got my Zeiss Telementor, which took over that survey. Later I got a Zeiss Telemator (upgraded Telementor, really) and have seen about 200 H400 objects with it and the Telementor, plus many non-H400 objects.


Clear skies!
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#3 blb

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Posted 17 October 2013 - 08:48 AM

The smallest telescope that I have taken out for a nights viewing is the 66mm AT66 Semi APO. That is one terific little telescope but the telescope that I most often take out for viewing is my 4-inch TV102 refractor. It is absolutly amazing what can be seen in a good quality small telescope.

I started out with a 60mm refractor in 1964-1965 and built a 4.25" reflector in 1966. Since then I always wonted a larger telescope and my largest is a C-11. Over the years, going to starparties and club outings, I have known people who have had large telescopes, up to 24-inches, and been able to use or look through them. No mater what size telescope you use, it seems that you are looking at objects that are on the limits of what can be seen with that size scope. Once I realized this and read, some years ago now, what Jay Reynolds Freeman had to say about his observations, I came to realize there were way more objects to be seen in a small telescope than I would probably see in my lifetime. Having come to this realization I made a list of the galaxies that could be seen in a small scope. I included all the Messier, Caldwell, Herschel 400, those listed in Stephen O'Meara's books, and a few more that others said were possible to see and you know what? Given dark skies and good dark adaption using averted vision, tube tapping, heavy breathing and all the tricks a good deep sky observer uses, there were well over 600 galaxies that could be seen. Now that does not include globular clusters, open clusters, planitary nebula, bright nebula, reflection nebula and dark nebula. What about double stars? There are over 10,000 that can be seen in a 4-inch telescope, most of which are seldom observed. Now add to all that the ease of portability, setup, and use, you see why I have used primarely these two small telescopes the past couple of years.

And Yes, I too love my 10x50 binoculars. It is amazing just how much can be seen in a good pair of binoculars. Last year I saw the Pac-Man nebula, NGC 281, in my 10x50's but that is another story.
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#4 IVM

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Posted 17 October 2013 - 12:12 PM

I was intrigued by the possibility of doing H400 (in its entirety) with a 4" refractor, like O'Meara did under Hawaiian skies in the book that I had. I thought that I would fail, but was interested to see how soon, as a measure of my skill and my skies. It turned out it was not difficult and I finished the list with that 4" (Comet Halley Renaissance). I liked "working" in this mode very much but eventually decided not to continue beyond H400 but to switch instead to other projects that call for larger apertures, such as much deeper (and therefore more incomplete) surveys and pursuing fine details in brighter objects. It is conceivable that I will go back to survey work with a 4" or even to smaller apertures in the spirit of the Freeman article. I have a pretty nice 80-mm sitting mostly unused and that does bother me ;)

#5 Sasa

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Posted 17 October 2013 - 02:53 PM

So, questions:
- Anyone else ever feel like that? Besides binocular observers? Not that I'm not interested--rather the opposite. I _love_ binocular observing. But lately I've had a yen for small-aperture telescopic DSO chasing.

Yes, I'm regularly observing DSO with 80mm and 63mm lenses, and with 100mm and 110mm refractors as well, but I consider them as mid-range as those are my largest instruments. Two years ago I found myself observing mostly through ED100 and I sold my very good 250/1600mm Newton. Then I run on used AS80 lens and I was charmed with Zeiss optics. Later on, my friend gave me even smaller Zeiss lens C63/840. And currently, I'm building a scope around another Zeiss lens E50/540. So, I'm on the down-road to smaller and smaller scopes...

- Why'd you do it? I'm just curious. For me, it feels like my reverse aperture fever and my deep-sky interests are slowly colliding. That plus a sort of perverse desire to knowingly commit to a "suboptimal" (aperture-wise) observing program just because it sounds fun. I realize there are many variables one could optimize--aperture, portability, optical quality, etc--so which one pushed you toward small-scope observations of DSOs?


There are few reasons. The first is that I was charmed the very first night when I looked through the 63mm lens. You can read about it here.

The second main reason is that the small refractors are so easy to use and to take out and more importantly in (compared to my former 10" dobson). And with two very small kids at home, I had not enough energy to taking out the Newton too often. With small refractors I'm out even in so-so out nights.

The third reason is that I have found what I can see through small telescopes quite interesting. So to me, it does not matter what telescope I look through if it is of good optical quality. There are targets to enjoy for every size.

The forth reason is that I found out that one really see quite interesting details through 4", even in 63mm I saw things that I did not noticed before in my former 250mm Newton (it is definitely not a fault of this dobson, I was not that experienced DSO observer at that time). My limit in 4" refractor is something below magnitude 14. And this is from a backyard of small town of the border of 1.5 million city. Couple of years ago I would be very skeptical if I would hear someone talking about such things. I'm still amazed by that and I like to push myself harder and harder. It is easier to do it with small aperture. There are plenty of suitable targets and the seeing is usually not the limit (which is the case of larger telescopes).

The fifth reason is that I also like discovering new things. It is fun if I run at the eyepiece to something new which is not plotted in my atlas (mostly Pocket Sky Atlas). For some reason, I "discovered" most of the objects in my smallest 63mm and 80mm refractors. Quite often I run on a grouping of stars which looks like a star cluster and which is not plotted in this atlas. I'm actually taking out Uranometria 2000.0 as well to be able to quickly identify those new founds. Just recently, couple of weeks ago, I "discovered" a cluster that was not plotted even in Uranometria2000.0 (this was LeDrew1/Alessi1 as I found out later at home). I hope I can run on something really new one day. Somehow I feel that I have greatest chances with the smallest instruments.
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#6 Achernar

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Posted 17 October 2013 - 06:18 PM

For many years, I was happily logging galaxies and nebulae with a 6-inch F/8 Dob. It was all I had and I couldn't afford anything bigger until a couple of opportunities came my way to acquire larger telescopes. I mainly wanted to see if I could see this or that object without a large telescope, and more often than not I succeeded.

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#7 JakeSaloranta

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Posted 17 October 2013 - 11:37 PM

Anyone else ever feel like that? Besides binocular observers? Not that I'm not interested--rather the opposite. I _love_ binocular observing. But lately I've had a yen for small-aperture telescopic DSO chasing.


Small, portable telescopes. What's not to like! :)

What's the smallest instrument you've carried out a serious DSO observing program with?


Don't know about a "program" but for some years now I've been trying to see all (~2700) objects visible in Sky Atlas 2000.0 with a 4 inch telescope.

Why'd you do it?


The biggest telescope I have is an 8 inch dobson and I've never wanted anything bigger. Let's just say I've always liked the idea of being able to see objects with tiny telescopes while others fail to see the same ones with 4-5 times the aperture. And I've been always interested in trying to find a minimum aperture needed to see a certain object. I've been doing that for over 15 years now.

/Jake

#8 galaxyman

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Posted 18 October 2013 - 12:06 AM

I'm big on a 4" refractor(achro or APO) for DSO observing.

The late Walter Scott Houston of S&T used a 4" refractor for many of his observations for his monthly column (Deep Sky Wonders). So does Sue French who continued to the tradition for the column of using a fine 4" refractor.

Many of my observations for the video series Galaxy Log is with my current 4" refractor.

I usually take it to the dark sites with the larger scopes, but there are nights it's just the 4" refractor, and all of those have been lots of fun with many objects to observe.


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#9 Tony Flanders

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Posted 18 October 2013 - 05:05 AM

My primary "small" instrument is the Tele Vue Ranger -- a 70-mm f/6.9 refractor. I'm not sure I really consider that small -- after all, my friend Josh Roth is now fixated on observing with a 50-mm f/4. But it's certainly smaller than a 100-mm refractor, which to me falls in the medium-sized camp.

Why do I use it? Well, first of all, it's the first serious telescope that I used in my reborn observing years. I used it because I had it, and I kept on using it after I got bigger scopes because I still have it.

I frequently use it for short observing sessions because it's so light and easy. I leave it with a quick-release plate attached to the mounting block, so all I have to do is snap it onto my photo tripod, extend the tripod legs, attach the red-dot finder, and I'm ready to roll. Also, it fits easily into one corner of a modest-sized backpack, which is very handy when I'm traveling to the local park on foot, bus, or bicycle.

I also love it for the aesthetic quality of the views, particularly under dark skies. To my taste, quite a number of targets look better in this scope than in bigger ones. For instance, I recently observed all the winter Messier open clusters through my 12.5-inch scope. Blah! That much aperture makes all the clusters look the same. They're all fully resolved, and pretty boring.

In the smaller scope, the brightness ranges of the stars in the clusters really stand out. And clusters such as M37 and M35, which are rich in faint stars, look mysterious and tantalizing, while in the 12.5-inch they look -- to quite Eliot -- like a patient etherized upon a table.

For splitting many double stars, or for observing planets near the horizon, or for lunar occultations, the aperture simply isn't a handicap.

And of course, as you say, it's always fun to see how much you can do with a small instrument. Namely, a mighty lot.

#10 mwedel

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Posted 19 October 2013 - 11:55 AM

Thanks, everyone, for sharing your thoughts.

Jake wrote:

What's the smallest instrument you've carried out a serious DSO observing program with?


Don't know about a "program" but for some years now I've been trying to see all (~2700) objects visible in Sky Atlas 2000.0 with a 4 inch telescope.


!!!

That's one of the most serious observing programs I've ever heard of! I'd love to hear more about how it's going. Are you taking notes, sketching, etc.?

Tony wrote:

my friend Josh Roth is now fixated on observing with a 50-mm f/4


Is that the StellarVue SV50? I got one of those for a trip to Uruguay a few years ago and had an awesome time cruising the southern skies with it. Fantastic little scope--I found a shaving bag that works as a case for the scope, tripod, eyepieces, red flashlight, and mini-planisphere (photos). Now I use it as a finder, but I have often thought about mounting it solo again for a Messier tour.

blb wrote:

No mater what size telescope you use, it seems that you are looking at objects that are on the limits of what can be seen with that size scope... I came to realize there were way more objects to be seen in a small telescope than I would probably see in my lifetime.


That's an excellent perspective. In the original post I mentioned Terry Nakazono's galaxy observations with the SkyScanner 100. Terry has said that his only regret about that work is that he moved up to the SkyScanner 100 too soon, and didn't spend enough time pushing the limits of the 76mm Orion Funscope that he got before the SkyScanner. I know for a fact that he has a 6" reflector sitting almost unused because he wants to keep pushing his 5" scope right now.

A friend is building a heavily modded Galileoscope for me, with a chopped tube to accommodate a focuser and diagonal. When I take possession, I may have to start my own 50mm deep sky survey.

#11 tnakazon

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Posted 19 October 2013 - 11:10 PM

I've observed, logged and sketched well over 500 DSO's (not including double stars) using scopes of 4.5" aperture or less the past 3 years, but "only" 368 galaxies at last count. IMO, it would be difficult (if not impossible) to reach 500 galaxies when nearly all of my "serious" observing is done in suburban skies (yellow - orange zone) using these modest apertures. I'm very close to running out of new galaxies to spot, so I've been seeking out more open clusters lately. If I can make it to 400 galaxies from my current semi-dark observing sites, I'll be satisfied.

The Orion SkyScanner 100mm F/4 Newtonian was my main observing scope for about 2.5 yrs - I'll still take it out when I don't feel like lugging my other (larger) scopes around. My current workhorse is the Celestron PowerSeeker 114mm F/8 Newtonian.

As Matt mentioned, I do have a 6" Newt (Starblast 6) which I've had for almost 3 years now and haven't looked through yet (it can wait!), along with a couple of 5.1" Newts which might start seeing some action within the next year or two.

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#12 tnakazon

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Posted 19 October 2013 - 11:34 PM

Oh, and I do have the urge from time to time to just go out and do some serious observing with my smaller aperture scopes (e.g. Orion FunScope - both the spherical and older parabolic mirror versions, Galileoscope) at my regular observing sites as well. Currently, I use them mainly for star parties, public observing sessions and writing telescope reviews...

#13 JakeSaloranta

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Posted 20 October 2013 - 03:36 AM

That's one of the most serious observing programs I've ever heard of! I'd love to hear more about how it's going. Are you taking notes, sketching, etc.?


I started the project back in 2008 but from a scratch. Before that, I had something like 800 objects observed with my 3" Konus refractor and roughly 400 of them sketched with the same instrument.

But so back in 2008 I decided to give this Sky Atlas-thing a go but this time I'd have to sketch every object I see with the 4" scopes. One of the reasons I wanted to try is was just to see if I couldn't see something listed in the Sky Atlas! I've currently sketched roughly 250 objects and seen somewhere around 600-700 objects with three telescopes: 4.3" Tal-1 refractor, 4.5" SkyQuest and 4.7" Sky-Watcher. It is pretty decent number considering the roughly 20-30 good, clear and moonless nights we have here in Finland annually. Luckily I've been able to do 3 separate observing trips during these last five years that nearly cover all of those 250 sketches.

/Jake

#14 tnakazon

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Posted 20 October 2013 - 11:43 PM

...But so back in 2008 I decided to give this Sky Atlas-thing a go but this time I'd have to sketch every object I see with the 4" scopes. One of the reasons I wanted to try is was just to see if I couldn't see something listed in the Sky Atlas! I've currently sketched roughly 250 objects and seen somewhere around 600-700 objects with three telescopes: 4.3" Tal-1 refractor, 4.5" SkyQuest and 4.7" Sky-Watcher. It is pretty decent number considering the roughly 20-30 good, clear and moonless nights we have here in Finland annually. Luckily I've been able to do 3 separate observing trips during these last five years that nearly cover all of those 250 sketches.

/Jake

Jake - I've done all my "serious" observing for almost 3 years now using scopes of similar aperture that you've used for your Sky Atlas Project (4 scopes in the 100-114mm range) and observed about the same no. of objects so far.

But I also have the urge to use my smaller scopes more, such as my Galileoscope - pictured here on the streets of Helsinki last April. It was cloudy over there, but I was able to use it across the waters in Estonia. I may return to Helsinki this December.

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#15 JakeSaloranta

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Posted 24 October 2013 - 11:58 PM

But I also have the urge to use my smaller scopes more, such as my Galileoscope - pictured here on the streets of Helsinki last April. It was cloudy over there, but I was able to use it across the waters in Estonia. I may return to Helsinki this December.


Looks good and unsurprisingly familiar! I've also got the Galileoscope but haven't used it much. Good to know there are others who enjoy observing with small telescopes as well. Hope you had good time here in Hellsinki :grin:

/Jake

#16 ensign

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 11:28 AM

Limitation can actually enhance creativity in art. Is stargazing an art? I think so.

It's interesting to look at some of Picasso's pencil drawings. They may be some of his best art. Some of Bach's greatest works were for single instruments.

I think that small scopes don't give you less, they give you different.

#17 JRiggs

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 02:09 PM

I agree completely with the general theme of this post! I really enjoy observing deep sky objects with my TV76 and 4-inch f/15 Jaegers refractor - especially open clusters. As noted above, open clusters can be very interesting and beautiful when only partially resolved in a smaller telescope. I like to call these clusters "lyrical". I've complied a list of clusters which are particularly notable in this regard.

#18 Sasa

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 02:29 PM

JRiggs, I like to observe open clusters in my small telescopes too (and even more to "discover" them). Where I can find your list? Would be nice to have it for an inspiration.

Cheers,

Alexander

#19 JRiggs

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 03:32 PM

My list of "lyrical" clusters is not published anywhere, it's just a list for my own use. Here are some of the clusters on the list - which I am adding to all the time so it is not definitive by any means. And, this my own list, someone else will have their own favorites:

NGC 559
NGC 637
M 103
NGC 654, 659, 663 - as a group
NGC 1245
M38, NGC 1907
M35, NGC 2158
NGC 2194
M 37
NGC 2266
NGC 2324
M46
Mel 71
NGC 2360
NGC 2453
NGC 2477
NGC 2479
NGC 2506 - one of my favorites

NGC 6451
NGC 6520, B86 - cluster and dark nebula
NGC 6603
M11
M26
NGC 6802
NGC 6811
NGC 6819 - my favorite lyrical cluster and the one that started the list
M 71 - a globular but deserves to be on the list
NGC 6939
NGC 7044
NGC 7086
NGC 7419
NGC 7510
NGC 7789
NGC 7788, 7790

I'm sure there are other clusters that would qualify, but this is the list as of now.

John

#20 tnakazon

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Posted 26 October 2013 - 09:55 PM

Looks good and unsurprisingly familiar! I've also got the Galileoscope but haven't used it much. Good to know there are others who enjoy observing with small telescopes as well. Hope you had good time here in Hellsinki :grin:

/Jake

I visited the URSA office, where they had the library and a whole bunch of Sky Watcher and some Russian-made telescopes. Didn't meet any local astronomers unfortunately - the guy at the office was too busy to talk to me. Also the observatory was closed for restoration - so I had to go across the Baltic Sea to get to the one at Tartu (the old observatory). Here's a link to my article on that:

http://10minuteastro...first-great-...

Yup - had a good time. I've been there 3 times previously back in the early 2000's (all short stays - as a starting point to get to Russia!), but last year was the first time I was there for about a week. Karaoke capital of the world - more people do karaoke here per capita than anywhere else in the world! Unfortunately I had a slight cold and my voice wasn't 100% during my stay there.

#21 Eric63

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Posted 27 October 2013 - 01:36 PM

I love this thread. Due to space limitations (or shall I say upcoming space limitation), I really can’t afford aperture fever. I saw most Messier objects with a 4” achromat under skies ranging from mag 4.5 to mag 6.5. It’s amazing how well a small instrument can perform under dark skies. Lately I’ve turned to two eyed viewing using binoculars and I am very impressed with what can be seen, but more importantly with how it's presented. Many open clusters are just amazing in a small instrument. I also get excited when I can actually spot a galaxy instead of detail within it. I now take my 15X70 binoculars with me and complement them with my 127Mak. I immerse myself in the stunning wide field 3D view and then turn to the Mak when I want a deeper and closer view of something interesting. But many nights now I just go out with the binoculars. As I gain experience, I find that I can see more and more with smaller instruments. Last year I wasn't able to find M33 from my suburban skies with a 4” acrhomat. I had to go to darker skies to log it. This year, I easily saw it from my suburban skies with my 15X70 binoculars and even with 10X50’s!

Eric

#22 Michael Rapp

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Posted 27 October 2013 - 01:46 PM

I also have recently rediscovered the joys of "small" aperture astronomy. I remember back to when I was in high school and regularly used a 13" and 17.5" Coulter dob. I had limitless energy and nearly unlimited time so manhandling those scopes was no issue.

Twenty years later, I'm older and more tired. Sure, a properly cooled-down and aligned large scope gives exquisite views, but using it is also something of an endurance test. Even my 8" dob, while not at all in the heavy category, requires the fussing of collimation, wait for cool down, and the tedium of hand-tracking.

Last night I had a good night with my 4" refractor -- light weight, equatorially mounted, clock drive, eyepiece always at a convenient position, feet-on-the-ground viewing. Now this is relaxing!

Sure, there are nights in which -- usually after a few days off of work -- I am up for an "endurance test" and will lug out the larger scopes, but those nights are rare and far between.

I have to laugh at this. My 14-year-old self -- who thought a Meade DS-16 was a portable scope -- would scoff at the instrument I am using now, but I'm older, wiser (I hope), and I'm having fun and enjoying the challenge.

#23 JRiggs

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Posted 27 October 2013 - 02:44 PM

Michael, I followed a similar path to yours. When I was in high school I thought "bigger is better" under all circumstances. Now, 40 years on, its what telescope can I manage. More often than not, I am observing with my TV76, the 4-inch Jaegers, or my 6-inch f/7.5 newtonian. By the way, apropos the title of this post, "Bigfish with light tackle", one of the great achievements of 19th century astronomy was the compilation of the famous Bonner Durchmusterung star atlas. The telescope used for that project was a 77mm f/7 refractor. Remarkably, the TV76 is almost an exact analog of that telescope.

John

#24 Patricko

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Posted 27 October 2013 - 10:01 PM

I know why I observe with small apertures: money, busy life (two jobs and college), local climate (very windy and dusty here), laziness, and location.

My most used equipment is 11.75x48mm binoculars (11x56mm). I get these out every clear night. They have shown me many wondrous sights. For example, I am able to see IC 1805 and detect IC 1848 using these small twin telescopes by hand.

Probably 80% of my life-time observing (1,000s of hours) has been accomplished with scopes ranging from 35mm to 113mm in size. My most used size overall would be 60mm refractors. Why small refractors overall? Fast acclimation, no need to collimate, can be used on a light mount, most are very forgiving of eyepiece designs, excellent contrast, fairly large FOVs, good illumination of exit pupil, and they have nice dew shields to help block local light pollution. Oh, and plus it is nice to sit and observe looking down into the eyepiece.

After the 11x56mm binoculars my most used scopes currently are a C6 SCT and 113/454mm reflector (Orion 4.5" Starblast). This said I still have a 60mm f/11.7 that gets used.

Heck, I've seen NGC 147 and NGC 185 with a quality made 50/750mm refractor from a yellow zone. The outer shell of NGC 6826 from my back yard inside a small town with the C6 SCT. Distant supernovaes with a 60/1000mm. M45 totally engulfed in gray/blue nebulosity on a dark night with the 4.5" short tube reflector. The dark lanes of M31 and NGC 206 with a simple 60/700mm refractor, and countless galaxies with a simple SV50 finder, not to mention tons of dark and bright nebula. This list is only a portion of everything that I could mention.

Yes, I consider myself blessed and not restricted at all with small apertures. These small aperture telescopes and binoculars have allowed me to see more objects than I ever would have thought possible. My only thinking is... "what will they show me next". Enjoy the views! :cool:

#25 tnakazon

tnakazon

    Ranger 4

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 10:04 PM

...IMO, it would be difficult (if not impossible) to reach 500 galaxies when nearly all of my "serious" observing is done in suburban skies (yellow - orange zone) using these modest apertures [of 4" to 4.5"]...


My apologies to Matt. A 4.5" scope IS capable of picking up 500 galaxies (and more) in semi-dark (yellow-orange zone) skies. About a third of them will be found in the Realm of Galaxies in the Coma Berenices/Virgo constellations.

I thought I had already covered this area thoroughly - turns out I only scratched the surface of what is observable in Coma/Virgo using modest scopes in the 4"-4.5" range.

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