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Thoughts On The Refractor?

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#26 gnowellsct

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 12:09 AM

There was an article in one of the astro mags which showed an array--maybe four x three--of four inch apos that were held in a collective yoke so as to have overlapping fields.  This was half a dozen years ago or more.

 

They were being used to detect slight variations in star brightness as a means to identify candidates for closer study for exo-planets.  Though expensive to an amateur, it was a cost-effective scientific instrument for wide sky automated recording of data.  

 

Greg N



#27 gnowellsct

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 12:16 AM

I think there is a place for both refractors and reflectors.. certainly M13 takes on a different character when viewed at 300x in a large scope.. but m13 is still enjoyable in a 4 inch..  there is no perfect scope but two or more well chosen scopes are superior, more capable, than any single scope.

 

I use refractors for low power wide field and easy look-easy setup.. Jupiter in a 4 inch apo..  definitely worthwhile.

 

Jon

 

 

I save my highest praise planet-wise for Saturn at about 40x in a four or five inch apo.  The gorgeous planet adrift in a sea of stars.  Jupiter at these low mags doesn't make the grade.  It is so bright it annihilates the surrounding star field and ruins the effect.

 

Greg N



#28 gnowellsct

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 12:32 AM

The secret that few discuss is that if you do this hobby long enough your tastes change.  

 

Globular clusters are a prime example.  If you want that YOWZUH effect then you want eight, ten, fifteen, twenty inches of aperture.  The glob begins to glow with a 3-d effect.  Most of the big tight globs do.  The effects are spectacular.

 

After you spend a lot of time looking at glowing 3-d balls at high mag your tastes may change.  That is, there's always *some* appreciation of the 3-d ball, but you begin to appreciate others.  M56 might be a 3d ball in a twenty or thirty inch, but what in more ordinary good scopes it is a wonderful concentration of stars in a dense star field.  After a while you might get a hankering for the low mag view which is by definition wide field.

 

Saturn, as I previously posted: yeah magnify the bejeezus out of it, but the tiny planet with its rings just visible (minimum is around 35x, 40x) in a star field is a whole different kind of gorgeous.

 

M57....lovely at 17x.  Most of the Messiers are.   It's not so that there are only a dozen or two objects worth seeing in a four inch.  There are thousands....likely tens of thousands.

 

One should run, not walk, to one of Sue French's books to understand just what can be done with a four inch refractor.   I think her columns contributed mightily to the craze, in fact.

 

I will say that for me the refractor came to be an acquired taste.  I felt no need for it the first five years or so with my C14 as principal instrument.  But then I began to see the point about why small can be good.  

 

There is a psychological element as well.  Once you have a meatier aperture you want to push *hard*  -- gotta see that low contrast storm on Saturn.  Gotta see those "three balls" that mean I have spotted Andromeda G1.  Gotta look *hard* at M57 for the central star, or try to catch that IC galaxy near by (which in the NE is hard in a 14"--prolly not in NM).  

 

If you have a four or five inch refractor and a light bucket, you *know* that on these more difficult objects the light bucket walks away with the prize.  And so you are quite aware that if that is waht you wanted to do that night, that is the scope you would have picked.  The refractor gives you permission not to try, just to *be surprised* by how much you *can* see.  Thus I find it to be a nice low key way to enjoy the sky.  

 

One of my best nights in amateur astronomy was watching a comet in Aquila with a dense star cloud.  Kept me rapt for a couple of hours.  Another great night was catching dark nebulae with a friend.

 

Greg N


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#29 stevew

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 01:49 AM

I think there is a place for both refractors and reflectors.. certainly M13 takes on a different character when viewed at 300x in a large scope.. but m13 is still enjoyable in a 4 inch..  there is no perfect scope but two or more well chosen scopes are superior, more capable, than any single scope.

 

I use refractors for low power wide field and easy look-easy setup.. Jupiter in a 4 inch apo..  definitely worthwhile.

 

Jon

I completely agree with Jon.

I can resolve plenty of stars in the brighter globular clusters with a 4 inch apochromat.

We all know that faint deep sky objects are best seen in larger telescopes, but a good 4 inch can keep an observer busy for many years. 

A good dark sky really helps in this regard. I'd rather have a good 4 inch under pristine skies, than a 10 inch under light polluted skies.

Jupiter and Saturn are also very good with a 4 inch refractor, [my personal minimum refractor size] but it's all about the seeing conditions when it comes to planets. 

 

 

Last week I was at a very dark sky location, and I took both my 16 inch, and my 110mm ED.

My buddy picked out Stephans quintet in his 16, and while he got a big thrill out of that,  

I personally enjoyed the wide field views of large objects like M31, and the Helix etc in the refractor over the small smudges of the Quintet in the larger telescope. 

Don't get me wrong, The view of M13, and the Veil with an OIII filter in my 16 was sublime, but it's all about personal preference, and your intended targets.

Yes, by all means use a large reflector for those faint galaxies, and for getting those photographic views of M13, if that's what your looking for, but there are certainly enough large bright targets for a good refractor. Over the years I have learned that there are no perfect telescopes. Each design has it's merits and drawbacks, and that makes a great excuse to have more than one.

Steve  


Edited by stevew, 07 August 2014 - 02:27 AM.


#30 stevew

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 02:00 AM

 

 

 

6-inch refractor is probably the smallest one to be considered a serious deep-sky instrument.

 

Oh? Define serious, please.
Thomas, Denmark

 

Isn't that a star in Canis Major??

 

I've been observing weekly since 1985, and I find it relaxing and enjoyable.

I never want to get serious about it... Life is serious enough.

 

Steve


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#31 Astrojensen

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 04:00 AM

 

 

 The refractor gives you permission not to try, just to *be surprised* by how much you *can* see.  Thus I find it to be a nice low key way to enjoy the sky.  

Greg, that is a very interesting way to see it. I really like that approach. I think it sums up how I observe with my 63mm Zeiss a lot of the time.

 

 

Clear skies!
Thomas, Denmark



#32 gnowellsct

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 04:14 AM

 

 

 

 The refractor gives you permission not to try, just to *be surprised* by how much you *can* see.  Thus I find it to be a nice low key way to enjoy the sky.  

Greg, that is a very interesting way to see it. I really like that approach. I think it sums up how I observe with my 63mm Zeiss a lot of the time.

 

 

Clear skies!
Thomas, Denmark

 

I was summing up my 130mm AP, but wotthehell, it's all relative.  On a good night I nail Messiers in my 50mm finder.  

 

According to that other post you quoted from Scott99 if I'm not mistaken....I guess for him the FS128, the TOA 130, the Astro-Physics 130, the TEC 140, are not serious instruments.  was that a troll?



#33 De Lorme

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 04:28 AM

It all comes down to money{in the beginning }so Dobson's seem to give one more bang for the dollar. There's always a trade off though. With Dobson's

you need a tracking system{for high power} which is every bit as expensive as a equatorial mount.  The convenience factor is  not appreciated either in the beginning.   If  you can afford looking at a Tak then take a look at the new Istar 8" F/6 Comet Hunter for $3800; which includes a MoonLight focuser.

Mike said that they've reduced the  weight from 45lbs to around 30lbs including rings.  Because of it's weight a CGEM, CGEM-DX, Atlas or a G11 if you want to image could handle the big scope. Read James Edward review here on CloudyNights, it's very impressive.

 

I see big reflectors up for sale all the time. But seldom do I see a big refractor{7" and above}for sale here but when I do it's sold very quickly.

 

Once money is no longer an issue people buy the big refractor even though it has some inherent problems{color}it can be dealt with by using the Baader  

495 Longpass filter.

 

If Big refractors didn't get the job done APM, D&G,and Istar would have gone out of business a long time ago and Cat's and reflectors would rule the day.

But their still here waiting for people to place their order.  De Lorme



#34 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 04:39 AM

 

to jon's comment ... i'm a double star astronomer first, but i think the benefits of resolution can be overstated. a 1" double is challenging in my 140mm TEC, and a 0.5" is challenging in my 250mm DK. but so what? there are plenty of both classes to be found in the sky, and there is nothing intrinsically more challenging in resolving a binary at the aperture limit in one aperture vs. another: the pleasure is the same. and i can more often exploit that 1" refractor than i can the 0.5" reflector, due to seeing, which is no small compensation.

 

The statement was made that refractors, in particular a 4 inch refractor, are capable of splitting many difficult doubles.  My point is that in general, they are only difficult because of the small aperture, they are difficult in a relative sense. They would be relatively easy in a larger scope. The important word here is "difficult,"   

 

Jon



#35 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 04:49 AM

It all comes down to money{in the beginning }so Dobson's seem to give one more bang for the dollar. There's always a trade off though. With Dobson's

you need a tracking system{for high power} which is every bit as expensive as a equatorial mount.  The convenience factor is  not appreciated either in the beginning.   If  you can afford looking at a Tak then take a look at the new Istar 8" F/6 Comet Hunter for $3800; which includes a MoonLight focuser.

Mike said that they've reduced the  weight from 45lbs to around 30lbs including rings.  Because of it's weight a CGEM, CGEM-DX, Atlas or a G11 if you want to image could handle the big scope. Read James Edward review here on CloudyNights, it's very impressive.

 

I see big reflectors up for sale all the time. But seldom do I see a big refractor{7" and above}for sale here but when I do it's sold very quickly.

 

Once money is no longer an issue people buy the big refractor even though it has some inherent problems{color}it can be dealt with by using the Baader  

495 Longpass filter.

 

If Big refractors didn't get the job done APM, D&G,and Istar would have gone out of business a long time ago and Cat's and reflectors would rule the day.

But their still here waiting for people to place their order.  De Lorme

 

You seldom see large reflectors for sale because there are so few of them. In reality, if one is looking for a large scope, reflectors and cats clearly rule the day.  A 7 inch is "larger" for a refractor but in the big picture, it's on the borderline between small and medium aperture wise. How many own 12 inch, 14 inch refractors?  Tracking.. manual tracking works fine but equatorial platforms are quite affordable, much less expensive than an equivalent sized GEM. 

 

Jon



#36 dlapoint

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 06:05 AM

For me, it boils down to location.  I grew up under very dark skies.  My first, and only scope for over 10 years was a 4.5 newt.  I was very happy with it, didn't need anything more.  When I made the transition to city life, my old friend just couldn't cut it.  So I started getting bigger, and bigger dobs.  They were all better at first, but as the scope got bigger the focal ratio got shorter.  Defraction spikes stood out more, sharp focus was almost impossible with my unstable skies.  Plus I was living in appartment buildings.  3 flights of stairs, security doors ect.  So I tried a small refractor.  Since then, I have been hooked.  In my location, galaxies, and nebulas just don't stand out.  The sky is gray.  I spend most of my time on star clusters, and double stars.  I'm limited to a max power of about 200, most nights less.  So my 6 inch refractor gives me very pleasing views.  The fov is bigger, and the stars sharper than in my dobs.  The temp varies largely as well.  up to 40-50 degree difference in the winter, from house to outside.  Even in the summer temps can swing 20 degrees.  It is almost always hazy here.  Planets/moon boil, and have halos around them many nights.  On my average night out, my refractor aways gives a better image.  It cools down, and works with my sky conditions better than any dob I have ever owned.  The odd night out when it is really clear, I'm taken back at what my 10 dob can do.



#37 Astrojensen

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 08:00 AM

 

With Dobson's

you need a tracking system{for high power} which is every bit as expensive as a equatorial mount.

No it isn't. You can get an equatorial platform for a 16" dob for around $500. An equatorial mount capable of holding a 16" newtonian will set you back at least five to ten times that.

 

 

Clear skies!

Thomas, Denmark



#38 Jon_Doh

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 09:17 AM

A big 10" reflector is going to give you a brighter view of globular clusters.  No doubt.  And it will do better on dim dso's too.  But if you are considering getting an 8" SCT to cure your disappointment with your 120 APO I would suggest you still may be disappointed.  In comparing my 120 against an 8" SCT from my fairly light polluted driveway I found the 120 bested the SCT on most objects.  The one area the SCT pulled ahead of the refractor was on globs.  However, I did compare the SCT against a 6" refractor and the view in the SCT was still vastly superior.  If you are looking for an SCT to improve the view over your 120 APO I would suggest going up to a 10 or 11" model.  Now, my experience was limited to comparing the telescopes on a moonless night from an  dark orange zone.  I may have had a different experience at a truly dark site.  But the bottom line is that a decent size (10 or 11") SCT or 10" reflector is a great complement to a 120 or 127mm refractor.


Edited by Jon_Doh, 07 August 2014 - 09:20 AM.


#39 Sarkikos

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 10:22 AM

 

 

With Dobson's

you need a tracking system{for high power} which is every bit as expensive as a equatorial mount.

No it isn't. You can get an equatorial platform for a 16" dob for around $500. An equatorial mount capable of holding a 16" newtonian will set you back at least five to ten times that.

 

 

Clear skies!

Thomas, Denmark

 

 I wouldn't accept the premise that Dobs need tracking for high power. What they do need for high power is a smooth moving mount with a well-balanced OTA.  I've never owned a Dob that tracks. With experience you learn to work well without it.

 

Mike



#40 Scott99

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 11:00 AM

I can see we're all having fun arguing about semantics and the word "serious".  Not really interested in pursuing that further, although if people enjoy it, by all means delve into it some more.

 

After finishing my H400 project a few years ago with a couple different 100mm-120mm refractors, the next project I started was faint summer planetaries.  that project required all 160mm all the time!   You're not going to pick out a 13th magnitude planetary with smaller scopes.  

 

Personally I need a bigger scope to do this type of viewing.  If that's your cup of tea too I'd suggest a 6-inch refractor or larger.  Doesn't need to be an expensive apo either.  It all depends what you want to do.  I do the majority of my viewing with 110mm-120mm refractors, but like the OP I need something larger in the stable. If I could not get a larger refractor I'd probably get something like an 8-10 inch Mak that would allow me to keep using a small equatorial and the seated position, light weight, etc.

 

I know Scotty loved his 4-inch Clark, but he spent much of his life observing with a 10-inch Newtonian too.  My point is that if you want a scope that will be able to see most of the DSO's that big Newts are viewing, and compete with them for overall quality of view, you'll have to get a 6-inch refractor or larger.  Most people get a 4 or 5 inch and then stop, I think it's worth making the point that things really open up at around the 150mm mark.



#41 schang

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 01:17 PM

 

Should I be looking at TAK's and the like for that visual wow experience, or just stick with the cheaper designs and get all that aperture?

Why are people so enamored with small refractors when they can't get that detail (visual)?

 

Thoughts?

 

Maybe you can also ask similar question as

 

"Why are people so enamored with large reflectors when they can't use it often?"

 

I think the question is more rhetoric than substance in itself.  Telescopes are made with specific attributes, marketed to  various people with specific needs.  They are meant as tools to be used primarily.  The rest is really not that important...



#42 schang

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 01:24 PM

 

 

 

With Dobson's

you need a tracking system{for high power} which is every bit as expensive as a equatorial mount.

No it isn't. You can get an equatorial platform for a 16" dob for around $500. An equatorial mount capable of holding a 16" newtonian will set you back at least five to ten times that.

 

 

Clear skies!

Thomas, Denmark

 

 I wouldn't accept the premise that Dobs need tracking for high power. What they do need for high power is a smooth moving mount with a well-balanced OTA.  I've never owned a Dob that tracks. With experience you learn to work well without it.

 

Mike

 

I had a project to build an EQ platform but eventually nixed that idea.  I can see the benefit of tracking at high mags, but after I used my 10" dob for a while, I found that I can live without it...Being a minimalist observer and having a wide field 4.7mm eyepiece all but sealed the fate of the EQ platform project.... 



#43 gnowellsct

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 01:54 PM

I dunno.  I have four scopes: an ED doublet which is very well color corrected (4" Vixen); an AP GT130 which defines color correction in Apo-land; a C14 SCT; a 10" Newt which is optically excellent and a PITA to lug around and set up (f/6, on a GEM).

 

What all these scopes have in common is that they are real performers.  

 

This is a mix of gear.

 

I have read all kinds of stuff in Internet dog-landia (real dogs) about whether to feed your dog real food, household food, the "raw" diet consisting of raw meat on uncooked bones, commercial dog foods, and so on.  If you think apo vs newt vs sct can get to be repetitive and intense just check out the what-to-feed-your-dog debates.    I seem to have settled down on about 1/3 1/3 1/3.  Kibble is convenient, he gobbles it up.  He enormously and obviously enjoys chewing on "raw" bones with meat, sometimes eating the bone altogether (uncooked bones are kosher).  And if I have leftover foods (leftover meats I dont want, without bones) he gets to have those too.  He gets also gets chicken feet and chicken gizzards.  A lot of this stuff is competitive with dog food at roughly $1 a pound.

 

So I guess I run my dog the same way I run my telescope collection.  

 

Greg N


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#44 Scott99

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 02:18 PM

 

 Greg, great analogy.  My dogs do really well with raw diet, but my sister's dog hates the stuff and won't eat raw meat.  To each his own is very appropriate.



#45 grendel

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 02:46 PM

Well Patrick Moore had a 3" refractor most of his life (I got to see it when it was being restored) he considered that a 3" refractor was the smallest size for a serious observer (he  put it down in writing in one of his books). He also had other bigger scopes but used all equally. most of his observations of the moon were done with the refractor as the main instrument (how often has your night sight been ruined looking at the moon with a big light bucket). he was even consulted by NASA to help with picking a landing spot for the apollo missions. now if that isnt serious astronomy I dont know what is.

I have had scopes from 40mm all the way up to a 12 1/2" dob, but I still prefer my small refractors, I have a 50mm f12 refractor that lives in the boot of the car for those off the cuff moments, at a good dark site it performs really well.generally I will use a 3" f15 scope, great for the moon, for planets, double stars etc. faint fuzzy things - I can leave them, they dont interest me, I have seen them through big scopes, and they still dont get me excited, so for my type of observing, give me a small scope any day

Grendel



#46 Robert T

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 03:09 PM

As an owner of an 8" dob and a 65mm refractor, I just think it's weird to try to declare one or the other "serious," or to determine whether or not one is absolutely better. Sure, if your only metric is amount of detail resolved in DSOs you're going to select the dob. But for objects visible in both telescopes, each one tells a different visual story. The dob brings me up close and resolves all the fine detail. The 65mm refractor shows the same object in context, and sometimes that's a more compelling view.

 

To borrow some photography concepts, there's an up close portrait of the subject, but then there's also portraits that show the subject in context. Which one is more compelling to look at? It depends on your interest and the subject, but good luck proving one is definitively better than the other.



#47 Astrojensen

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 03:21 PM

 

 

how often has your night sight been ruined looking at the moon with a big light bucket

When looking at the Moon, you don't want your eyes to be dark adapted at all, as this harms detection of the finest details. Turn on the outdoor lights. 

 

 

Clear skies!
Thomas, Denmark



#48 Larry Geary

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 03:26 PM

However, this is all tangential to the original topic. I am interested to hear how others have had similar experiences, their opinions, and how they have resolved the issue to satiate their needs.

 

When all I had was a heavy but medium-size scope, I wanted something lighter, so I got a smaller scope. Then I decided I was missing out on the Dobsonian revolution, so I got a large scope. People have different preferences, and they can change over time. We are also subject to constraints of time, space, energy and biology, and those may influence our choices. I resolve the dilemma of which scope is best by keeping several scopes of different type and size. Not everyone can do that, or wants to. If you can hang on to your refractor, you will probably return to it some day. If that happens, you will find yourself using and enjoying both your large and small scopes, for different objects and circumstances.



#49 -Starfighter-

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 03:27 PM

 

 

Should I be looking at TAK's and the like for that visual wow experience, or just stick with the cheaper designs and get all that aperture?

Why are people so enamored with small refractors when they can't get that detail (visual)?

 

Thoughts?

 

Maybe you can also ask similar question as

 

"Why are people so enamored with large reflectors when they can't use it often?"

 

I think the question is more rhetoric than substance in itself.  Telescopes are made with specific attributes, marketed to  various people with specific needs.  They are meant as tools to be used primarily.  The rest is really not that important...

 

The question was not meant to be rhetorical or to elicit a negative response. I am genuinely interested as to why people would prefer to see less detail rather than more. Some of the responses have been thoughtful and I appreciate people taking the time to provide the reasoning for their preferences. I obviously view the hobby much different than some as i want the most detail from objects every time I get out. I am always looking for that wow factor. Even after I have seen an object several times I still get a sense of satisfaction from either seeing more detail or just the impressiveness of the object. Going down from the 10" for me feels like taking all the fun out...but that's just me...  



#50 -Starfighter-

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 03:33 PM

 

However, this is all tangential to the original topic. I am interested to hear how others have had similar experiences, their opinions, and how they have resolved the issue to satiate their needs.

 

When all I had was a heavy but medium-size scope, I wanted something lighter, so I got a smaller scope. Then I decided I was missing out on the Dobsonian revolution, so I got a large scope. People have different preferences, and they can change over time. We are also subject to constraints of time, space, energy and biology, and those may influence our choices. I resolve the dilemma of which scope is best by keeping several scopes of different type and size. Not everyone can do that, or wants to. If you can hang on to your refractor, you will probably return to it some day. If that happens, you will find yourself using and enjoying both your large and small scopes, for different objects and circumstances.

 

Good point, as I previously noted I do see the advantages of a good APO in the collection. I am just thinking the refractor will be mostly a lunar and planetary instrument for me.








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