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10" DK vs SCT

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#1 Daniel Mounsey

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Posted 21 April 2014 - 08:26 PM

This opinion is based strictly on our personal experience comparing these telescopes last night and others. My observing buddy Herberth Zelaya and I decided to compare what is considered by most observers to be a high quality SCT of similar aperture to a high quality 10" DK. My friend and I actively acclimated both telescopes about two hours prior to the observation so that by sundown, Jupiter would be in an optimal position with decent background lighting, good for planetary observation. Both had high quality diagonals and eyepieces which I've used for years.

At 300x both of us easily agreed that the DK revealed crisp, hard outlines with sharp surface structure and color contrast, while the SCT at just 260x revealed soft outlines and soft surface detail that was harder to discern by comparison. It was easy to see the difference. There was also some image shift in the SCT and later on some dewing up since I observe near the ocean where onshore air is present. I do not use heat straps because they produce thermals, which degrade the image. If you think humans are a bad source of heat, dew straps are worse.

About an hour after sundown, the seeing went sour as expected on this particular evening and this is why I wanted to catch Jupiter before it got too dark. Later, another observing buddy of mine Luigi arrived but as the seeing declined he said the differences between the two scopes were pretty close and in very brief moments of steady seeing could easily tell that the DK was superior in optical performance to the SCT. This just comes to show how much seeing can affect two telescopes being compared even when one is unquestionably superior to the other.

I have tested numerous SCT's over the years and have expressed this opinion for years. Below is a review written in 2003 where I briefly explained that other optical designs would be more suitable for critical planetary observation for observers who are more serious. The purpose of my post is to help clarify some comments that others have made in the forums so they have a better idea where I stand on the subject. If they have a special SCT they would like me to compare, I'll be happy to honor their request and announce whatever my findings are constructively.

http://www.cloudynig...ryeyepieces.pdf

As I've stated before, SCT's are perfectly fine telescopes for consumers to enjoy astronomy and image with. We should still try to enjoy the night sky with whatever we have. I would not expect the average SCT owner to go to the lengths we do to produce an extremely nice looking visual image. But when you are comparing them in seeing conditions which are conducive to revealing their true performance characteristics, it becomes obvious which telescope is which. Observers may often see surface detail on planets in their SCT's and see what they consider to be a great looking image, but observations are relative. Unless you compare telescopes that are in locations where the seeing is really good, you may not even know what it is you don't know and it also means that you and I just have a different understanding about what a world class image is expected to look like.

People can debate all they wish regarding optical theory, but at the end of the day, the scope needs to perform and it's as simple as that. It's not about numbers, it's about looking at planets in the eyepiece and seeing something beautiful that nature has to offer in all its splendor. I have an observing buddy who has what I know for a fact to be a world class 8" apochromatic refractor. After he brought it to Pinos a couple of times, he stopped bothering because people kept wanting to look at planets through it and after they did, they kept saying the image looked like their SCT's and observers would simply conclude that SCT's are just as good as a $30,000 apochromatic refractor. I can assure you that's not the case.

Seeing conditions at Pinos are pathetic and frustrating to say the least for observers who love double stars and planets. I've been viewing there since 1992 and Pinos isn't even close to what world class seeing is all about. All Pinos is, is a decent dark sky site for "deep sky observing" on the far inland west coast with excellent transparency at about 8200 ft. Other than that the seeing rarely ever breaks the sub arc barrier and it's too dark for planets. Pinos is not a good planetary observation site or at least is not consistent. As an observer who's been doing these comparisons on the west coast for many years, I whole heartedly understand my friends frustration and would just prefer to observe with a few friends who have an understanding of this hobby and what it entails. Sometimes it is frustrating dealing with observers expectations when all you are trying to do is just enjoy a night of observing.

Ask any professional golfer, and you will get an array of answers about how the undulation of the greens affect their putting performance. Seeing conditions are no different and can fool even the best observers. For example you could stand and look at the night sky to see how the stars twinkle. If they're twinkling a lot, it most likely means the seeing conditions are not very good. If the stars don't twinkle at all, it may also still mean your seeing conditions are not good. Why is that? It's because the seeing is so bad, the stars blend into one wooly ball that your eyes and brain perceive as a perfect point of light standing dead still. When the seeing is really good, the stars will most likely make just a short pulse or small twitch from time to time. That's how good seeing normally behaves.

I believe the lack of good seeing conditions (not collimation as so many observers advocate) among most parts of the country is most likely the real reason why so many SCT owners are convinced planets are just as good as telescopes that cost several times as much, no different than my friends experiences with SCT users at Pinos. I can assure you unless you have something really unique, that's not going to be the case from where I'm looking. If you want world class optics, then you'll just have to pay for them. If more observers were given the opportunity to see what I've seen while making these comparisons, they would have a better understanding of what I'm trying to explain.

We live in a time where people are really hard up for money and many of them try to convince themselves that even as little as they've spent, they've got something special and believe it or not, once in a great while they may really have something special, but far more often, that's not the case. One of my friends has a couple of hand picked SCT's he swears are incredibly good. I personally have not tested them but he's quite experienced and I believe him. But he's had to go through many SCT's to find something he considers extra superb. Does this mean you have a bad SCT? Of course not! As a consumer, you need to be realistic about how you expect an optic to perform like and if SCT's were really that bad, why are so many SCT owners happy with them. I myself have tested a couple of SCT's that I thought were quite superb but we also had the proper location and seeing conditions to test them.

A telescopes optical performance is only going to be as good as its weakest link. I'll tell you a brief story about a friend I originally met at Pinos about 10 years ago who owned a high quality 10" Mak cass. A couple of my buddies and I walked over to ask him some questions about what appeared to be a pretty new scope and we had never seen him before. We then asked him how he liked it and he said he really hadn't been able to test the optics yet. Our first thought was why would anyone try to test a telescope like this here. A large, simple light bucket or a rich field refractor is fine for Pinos, but a scope like this is really all about high magnification image quality at F20.

By the end of the night, we could tell he was pretty frustrated and we weren't surprised at all. Pinos has a very rapid temperature descent and this is really bad news for a 55lb. Mak with a hefty meniscus. We could tell he was a nice person, so we invited him to let us test it at Charlton Flats with him and he gladly obliged. Charlton is unique for a few reasons. 1.) It resides at 5,500 ft. above sea level which aids in transparency, 2.) It has a slow temperature descent, 3.) It's positioned where onshore ocean flow moves, and 4.) It's light polluted and the combination of these advantages make it vastly superior to Pinos on a more consistent basis. A nice quality optical system at a place like Pinos is like a wild stallion trapped in a cage with no where to spread its legs. His first evening at Charlton changed his whole perspective on observation and within a year he moved into even greater telescopes and appreciated what the guys shared with him. So, the moral of the story is location, location, location.

There may be many SCT owners who vehemently disagree with what I've just said and that's okay. People will always disagree, that's nothing new. But before you do, ask yourself how many comparisons you've actually contributed to the CN forums and then ask yourself where those comparisons were conducted. If the best answer is some optical certificates and formulas, then I'll let you know I don't observe at a desk.

steady skies :smirk:

#2 David Pavlich

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Posted 21 April 2014 - 09:08 PM

I can't disagree because I wasn't there. But for me, the comparison is ho-hum. 99% of my viewing is deep space stuff, so poor seeing isn't much of a concern, transparency is. The best viewing I've done from my backyard was with a nice example of a C14. And for what I'm looking for from my SQM 19.4 backyard, it would take something of similar aperture to see stuff like NGC891.

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#3 Eddgie

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Posted 21 April 2014 - 09:36 PM

Yes, SCTs are terrible scopes for planets.

I remember being out about 4 years ago with my C14 and resolving features on Ganymede. I could see the flattened side of Galileo Regio on the limb of Ganymede and opposite it, I could see the small white spot of Osiris just inside but separated from the limb.

I don't remember thinking to myself "Gee, if only I had my 4" APO or my 6" f/8 acromat with filter set up outside. Just imagine how much better the view would be!

#4 Ed Wiley

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Posted 21 April 2014 - 09:43 PM

I have a high quality 8" DK and the images are very sharp. I have not compared it to an 8" refractor so I cannot say "refractor-like." I image and measure doubles at f/50 with it. That said, my C-11 Edge doesn't do a bad job on close doubles at F/30-40, Better than the DK? No, but not shabby at all once collimation is tweaked. As to planets, I don't do them so I cannot offer a comparison.

Ed

#5 Peter Natscher

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Posted 21 April 2014 - 10:36 PM

Hi Daniel,

It's good to read your posts 'cause they're so inspiring! What's this about your 10" DK? Is this a new scope you're happy with? Can you tell us more about it?

Last Saturday night, I was observing with a friend here in central California up at Fremont Peak (elev. 2,700 ft.). The peak lies just 30 mile east of the Pacific coast at Monterey Bay -- we can see the broad 30 mile bay from that high vantage point. We were planning on spending the entire night looking at springtime galaxies with our Dobs. Well, the sky turned hazy from a lot of upper altitude moisture coming in off of the Pacific and this killed sky transparency and brightened up the sky considerably. The galaxies were not showing well. They were washed out. But, the evening was saved by culminating Jupiter and rising Mars! The seeing remained sub-arc sec from sunset 'til 11pm and there wasn't too much of a temperature drop. This allowed our Dobs (24" and 15") to enjoy sharp, contrasty and colorful views of Jupiter and Mars. Using bino's, my 24" 3.3 Kennedy Dob gave me memorable Mars views at 450X. Very satisfying! Up high on Fremont Peak with undisturbed laminar air arriving off of the Pacific can be a fine place for planetary observing.

This opinion is based strictly on our personal experience comparing these telescopes last night and others. My observing buddy Herberth Zelaya and I decided to compare what is considered by most observers to be a high quality SCT of similar aperture to my high quality 10" DK.

steady skies :smirk:



#6 t.r.

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 06:50 AM

It's good to read your posts 'cause they're so inspiring! What's this about your 10" DK? Is this a new scope you're happy with? Can you tell us more about it?


I think he is referring to his TAK 250 Mewlon which has a review on A'mart.

#7 BillP

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 07:51 AM

Daniel,

Nice to read considered positions as opposed to the normal jabber trying to always to be politically correct. :lol: I agree very much that if one is doing comparisons of optics on evenings at locations where the seeing is not excellent, then one will never see the differences that world-class optics vs normal production optics can produce. Doesn't matter if the scopes compared are catadioptric designs like you are talking about, or two APOs. One doen't test the contrast of camera lenses by taking photos on foggy days, and one should never compare optical performance of two telescopes when the seeing and transparency are such that they will similarly mask (and level) performance.

The other point is that for the most part, SCTs common here in the U.S. are not really IMO what would be considered premium optics or telescopes. They are good basic mass produced telescopes. Put them next to a precision design top-tier catadioptric and they will be left in the dust when tested against targets that need the higher precision to be rendered better (i.e., planets, not faint fuzzies).

In the end, I think your essay brings out another point that you probably didn't intend, which is that one really needs to think about the primary purpose for their telescope first, then choose designs and/or quality levels that best perform that task. So while the common SCTs have lots of weaknesses and production compromises (Roland Christen certainly has a long list on this :lol:), if the primary need is for targets that need light buckets or imaging, then they can be wise choices. But for the planetary task, other optical designs and higher tier brands will be the better choice, especially if one plans to observe from excellent locations, or have the patience and skill to stalk out the best of times/conditions at their local site.

Great post :waytogo:

#8 Patrick

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 09:10 AM

Since we don't know anything specific about either of the scopes mentioned other than the optical design, the comparison given is somewhat meaningless. That aside, is it any surprise a scope probably costing 3 times as much as the other ends up being better? :smirk: But we don't know that either because information about what scopes were actually being tested was left out of the report.

What we are left with is 'trust me, me and my buddies are expert observers in world class observing conditions and everyone else is just a consumer...and sorry about your luck that you don't live in a world class observing area because you will never get to really observe fully." :(

I am so thankful that I have the opportunity of sharing my love of the night sky with others whether I'm using a refractor, newt, SCT or whatever design. I hate elitism and false humility in all it's forms. There are many fine amateur astronomers who are doing real work in research, outreach, and education who are inspiring the next generation of observers, scientists, and lovers of the night sky. They are not just consumers, rather they are the true face of amateur astronomy.

Patrick

#9 Bill Barlow

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 09:21 AM

What SCT was used when you did this comparison? I have a very good optically Meade 10" ACF that I would feel comfortable in going up against your Tak 250 Mewlon.

Bill

#10 Peter Natscher

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 09:30 AM

It's a given that the open-tube DK will equilibrate faster than a similar size closed-tube SCT. Forget about high-power planetary observing with a SCT right after sunset when seeing can be superb. The DK will lose less observing time in this manor -- similar to a APO.

Since we don't know anything specific about either of the scopes mentioned other than the optical design, the comparison given is somewhat meaningless. That aside, is it any surprise a scope probably costing 3 times as much as the other ends up being better? :smirk: But we don't know that either because information about what scopes were actually being tested was left out of the report.

What we are left with is 'trust me, me and my buddies are expert observers in world class observing conditions and everyone else is just a consumer...and sorry about your luck that you don't live in a world class observing area because you will never get to really observe fully." :(

I am so thankful that I have the opportunity of sharing my love of the night sky with others whether I'm using a refractor, newt, SCT or whatever design. I hate elitism and false humility in all it's forms. There are many fine amateur astronomers who are doing real work in research, outreach, and education who are inspiring the next generation of observers, scientists, and lovers of the night sky. They are not just consumers, rather they are the true face of amateur astronomy.

Patrick



#11 Cotts

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 09:38 AM

So, we should all pity those who are merely 'consumers'..... And those of us who are 'consumers' don't even know we are 'consumers' because we don't live beside the right mountain or we live under the jet stream or we don't sit on the correct side of our telescope or we didn't spend enough on our equipment or we lack experience or..... or....... or.......

Dave

#12 Eddgie

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 12:21 PM

Here are my observing notes posted on CN using a less than optimal SCT for planeatry observing.

I have only seen one more report of someone seeing this feature with the resolution I described, and that was a Eurpoean observing using an 8" APO at altitude.

I had reported my observation here on CN a few weeks before he reported his observation using the 8" APO.

Now, pretty interesting that I made this observation using an SCT costing a tiny fraction as much as an 8" APO.

Oh, it took 14" of apeture, but that is the point. You can get a bigger SCT for the price of a refractor or other botique telescopes and get the same result.

Daniel compared his botique telescope ($11,000 on the used market) to a $1300 telescope and golly gee, his scope won and based on this he says that DKs are better.:roflmao:

Of course Danial could not be fair about it and try to find a similarly priced mass produced DK to do his comparisons with.

Only when he can find a similarly priced mass produced DK to compare to similar sized apeture SCT of similar quality will his result be anything close to useful for people.

Otherwise it is an a deeply flawed indictment of SCTs and one that I think is safest to ignore because of the total unfairness of the comparison.

Daniel offered no test evaluation of the the SCT he used (safe to assume that the Tak is at least very good and probably excellent in quality). We don't know if his sample was average for the maker, below average for the maker, or above average for the maker. It was just an off the shelf, mass priced SCT being compared to a high end botique instrument costing several times as much.

And from this, we get that "SCTs are not as good as DKs for planets...

Snore. :sleepy: :sleepy: :sleepy:

Posted report on resolving surface features on Ganymede using an SCT

#13 roadi

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 12:25 PM

As always interesting readings from you Daniel! :waytogo:
I too would be interestet in knowing wich SCT you compared with the 10" DK.

I see nothing negative in your post as opposite to some sour responds!!. Actually you mensioned that you've experienced some excellent samples of the mass produced SCT. They generally are not quite up to same task of performance as equal sized premium scopes wich many would like to imply! shouldn't surprice.
Your definately into enemies territory here :grin: so take care.. wouldn't miss your interesting findings in real world observations ;)

#14 KevH

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 12:44 PM

Since we don't know anything specific about either of the scopes mentioned other than the optical design, the comparison given is somewhat meaningless. That aside, is it any surprise a scope probably costing 3 times as much as the other ends up being better? :smirk: But we don't know that either because information about what scopes were actually being tested was left out of the report.

What we are left with is 'trust me, me and my buddies are expert observers in world class observing conditions and everyone else is just a consumer...and sorry about your luck that you don't live in a world class observing area because you will never get to really observe fully." :(


Well said. Exactly how I felt when I read it.

#15 Cotts

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 01:31 PM

Eddgie, you are totally right for suggesting comparing dollar-for -dollar...... Pretend you have $5000 to spend on a telescope and mount. New gear only..... You could get a 4" APO on a G11, a 10" Celestron Edge on an EQ6 or a 14" f/7 Zambuto-mirrored dob newtonian (roughly speaking, I didn't look up the actual prices...) Guess which one will be the 'best'.......

If the DK in Daniels's comparison is really $11 000 then there are ridiculously, embarrassingly better scopes for resolution, contrast and light gathering for that kind of coin....

Dave

this gives me an idea for a thread. See 'Equipment' forum......

#16 nicklane1

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 01:36 PM

Daniel,
Thanks for the honest review. It is human nature to be skeptical of objects we cannot afford or are not willing spend on. An Aston Martin Vantage, while not a super car, is better than a Malibu. But it doesn't mean the Malibu is not good or nice transportation. It's just that in a head to head comparsion, the AM is better. Of course, due to the price difference it is not an apples to apples comparison. We have to live with the compromises of our purchases, whether it is a Mewlon, Edge, AP, Ford or Aston Martin. There is always something better or maybe more appealing.
As for me, I'm always happy for folks who can enjoy a object that I would like but can't afford. But I can always dream.

#17 A6Q6

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 01:39 PM

Hi Eddgie, I've been thinking about a C11 or C14 only for L&P, but really , the OP said :"the moral of the story is location, location, location." I think most of us wish we had the kind of seeing you have.

#18 Edd Weninger

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 01:46 PM

I read this as "different strokes for different folks" ?? No ??

As I've stated before, SCT's are perfectly fine telescopes for consumers to enjoy astronomy and image with and after all is said and done, we should all try to enjoy the night sky with whatever we have.



#19 Peter Natscher

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 01:47 PM

The variable here is location, not price of instrument. Who cares what who spends on what. Whatever works for you at your location and conditions is what's best. Daniel's familiar with a lot of scopes and their characteristics with planetary observing in his location and because he chooses a 10" DK, I'm sure he knows what's best for that.



Here are my observing notes posted on CN using a less than optimal SCT for planeatry observing.

I have only seen one more report of someone seeing this feature with the resolution I described, and that was a Eurpoean observing using an 8" APO at altitude.

I had reported my observation here on CN a few weeks before he reported his observation using the 8" APO.

Now, pretty interesting that I made this observation using an SCT costing a tiny fraction as much as an 8" APO.

Oh, it took 14" of apeture, but that is the point. You can get a bigger SCT for the price of a refractor or other botique telescopes and get the same result.

Daniel compared his botique telescope ($11,000 on the used market) to a $1300 telescope and golly gee, his scope won and based on this he says that DKs are better.:roflmao:

Of course Danial could not be fair about it and try to find a similarly priced mass produced DK to do his comparisons with.

Only when he can find a similarly priced mass produced DK to compare to similar sized apeture SCT of similar quality will his result be anything close to useful for people.

Otherwise it is an a deeply flawed indictment of SCTs and one that I think is safest to ignore because of the total unfairness of the comparison.

Daniel offered no test evaluation of the the SCT he used (safe to assume that the Tak is at least very good and probably excellent in quality). We don't know if his sample was average for the maker, below average for the maker, or above average for the maker. It was just an off the shelf, mass priced SCT being compared to a high end botique instrument costing several times as much.

And from this, we get that "SCTs are not as good as DKs for planets...

Snore. :sleepy: :sleepy: :sleepy:

Posted report on resolving surface features on Ganymede using an SCT



#20 David Pavlich

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 02:43 PM

And what telescope fits what your budget commands. ;) A prospective buyer may be able to afford a 10" Meade ACF, but not a 10" Tak Mewlon.

This comparison is very much like the off the shelf SC and the hand crafted apochromat. It would be nice to have someone like Roland or Yuri build an SC with hand crafted mirrors and corrector and active cooling so that those proverbial apples we all talk about could be used.

David

#21 Peter Natscher

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 03:45 PM

These two scopes are quite different so there could never be an "apples-to-apples" comparison between the two even if aperture is matched.

And what telescope fits what your budget commands. ;) A prospective buyer may be able to afford a 10" Meade ACF, but not a 10" Tak Mewlon.

This comparison is very much like the off the shelf SC and the hand crafted apochromat. It would be nice to have someone like Roland or Yuri build an SC with hand crafted mirrors and corrector and active cooling so that those proverbial apples we all talk about could be used.

David



#22 WesC

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 04:28 PM

I agree, I find comparisons of off-the-rack, mass-produced scopes to high dollar premium scopes to be virtually worthless. I would HOPE that an $11,000 scope would perform well!

This kind of thing happens a lot in the refractor forum when putting down SCTs and its really wearing thin.

But even worse, the implication that because some of us can't afford to spend $11,000+ on a high end Tak Mewlon or an AP refractor and have to "settle" for a $3,000 SCT that we are somehow misguided or not serious is quite elitist... even if it wasn't intended to be.

I'm feeling like I've been shamed for owning an SCT.

I get that location is important, and as someone who lives not too far from Mt. Pinos I found that information quite useful! But beyond that, I'm puzzled at the attitude, especially the "challenge" at the end. This isn't a contest or an arms race... we're all just trying to enjoy looking at the stars and learning about them.


Right? :question:

#23 elwaine

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 06:53 PM

I hate elitism and false humility in all it's forms.


Wow! That implication is harsh, to say the least. Does having the good fortune to observe at sites with superior seeing make one an elitist? Does having the funds to purchase an $11,000 telescope, or a $30,000 telescope, make one an elitist?

Daniel, hats off to you for tackling what you already knew would spark a hot bed of controversy. Whether I agree with your points or not (based on my own experience) is not the point. I took your remarks as a student might regard the remarks of a teacher with more experience: with civility and with an open mind. But you have obviously stepped on the toes of some of the best posters here on CN.

Keep up the good work! :bow:

#24 Wmacky

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 07:14 PM

I notice that all the back slappers appear to strictly be refractor, or dob owners. They never seem to miss a opportunity. If the stock market was as predictable as this forum, I'd have a $11,000 scope too. It probably wouldn't be a 10" mewlon though.

#25 Patrick

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 07:20 PM

Does having the good fortune to observe at sites with superior seeing make one an elitist? Does having the funds to purchase an $11,000 telescope, or a $30,000 telescope, make one an elitist?



Absolutely not. I'd be thrilled to take a look thru Daniels DK at one of those pristine sites. That's not what I was saying.

Patrick






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