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EdgeHD 11 Notes from a Large Aperture Newbie

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#1 KJL

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 12:48 PM

Summary first: OMG!
 
And now, the long version:

Between our typically poor Boston seeing and simultaneous heavy light pollution, facing the realities of raising a child and having another on the way, and my own busy work schedule, I finally decided that I would either have to sell all my astronomy equipment and live with a pair of binoculars until my little chickadees had flown the coop, or try one big scope to see whether I could punch above the below-average conditions on a typical night. Once upon a time I had the luxury of bringing out my 2-6" scopes whenever the fancy struck me or when I saw the seeing was promising. If the skies disappointed I could rest assured that I could try another evening, or even the next one. Now I can reasonably get out only when my family is asleep and not struggling with hunger, teething, pregnancy, etc. Whatever the sky condition I get, I have to take!
 
Now, it's not like I haven't been trying to get around my poopy viewing conditions. With the kind help of cnoct and jdbastro I put together an image-intensified EP (IIE) which gave me some pretty remarkable superpowers even with my small scopes. For example, on a clear night I am able to see the notch in the Horsehead Nebula even in my cute little 50mm SV50A refractor! Some people go years before seeing the HH at a dark site -- some never see it at all -- but I can pull it off easily when the sky is clear enough. The IIE operates just like any other EP, unlike the rather involved video setups I've seen, so it just begs to be used. In fact my IIE is so amazing that I still recommend that people try one before contemplating the purchase of a large scope, especially if they have constraints on their time like I do. But IIEs are very expensive and have some distinct weaknesses: they cannot help with planets -- the point of intense light would actually damage the intensifier unit -- and due to their poor blue sensitivity they don't really help with "white light" objects such as galaxies either. Plus everything is green and some people don't like the thought that they're basically looking at a TV screen. So for some things you just gotta have the aperture.
 
Thanks to my living conditions, I had until now concentrated only on "backpackable" scopes. I live on the third floor of a typical Boston three-story condo (Jamaica Plain, in my case) and have to negotiate tight conditions to reach either my front or back deck, so having both hands free is helpful for opening doors, supporting myself on bannisters, etc. The largest scopes that managed to qualify was a C6 XLT SCT -- which is cheating because its dewshield still had to be carried by hand -- and my current beauty, a 123mm f/6 APM/LZOS triplet that is slightly shortened so that the OTA measures just under 20 in with the 3" Feathertouch removed. My full night and daytime viewing setup can be carried in a (now-discontinued) Kata BP-502 behemoth of a backpack. Fully-loaded, the pack weighs over 40 lbs though the excellent backpack straps make the load a reasonable carry for at least a few hundred feet or so, and maybe even for a mile.
 
Mount-wise, after trying several different types I ended up with Half Hitch's FTQ and FTX. Only the FTX is in current production, and that's the only mount strong enough for the 123mm LZOS and the EdgeHD 11 so that's all I'll talk about here. These highly efficient mounts (read: lightweight yet super stiff) are designed to work with a wide variety of tripods, yet respond just as readily to the behemoths that astronomers are familiar with (read: Berlebach Planet). They balance the scope much closer to the center of the tripod, allowing the potential use of lighter tripods. Most importantly, they allow for vertical compensation so that the scope doesn't fall back as you point it higher.

My favorite travel tripod for the FTX when used with the 123mm f/6 APO is a 6-section Gitzo GT5562LTS carbon fiber tripod with an 88-lb load capacity. Retracted, the tripod measures a tad over 19 in and weighs just 6.5 lbs: it's a basically a stubby stool when collapsed. Normally this many leg segments would be a cause for concern, but the FTX's design makes using this tripod possible. The mount is attached to a Really Right Stuff round dovetail plate and that in turn hooks into a RRS lever clamp threaded onto the Gitzo. This allows the FTX to easily break from the Gitzo, and the two components fit neatly into a Gura Gear Bataflae 32L backpack (see the theme here?). In this way I have put together an eminently transportable 5"-ish scope and mount combo. I've used it for public viewing and it's a totally brilliant setup for nighttime, white light, and even H-alpha solar thanks to the Daystar Quark. The entire tripod and mount weighs just 16 lbs, including my Nexus DSC and a lithium battery. Some alt-az heads weigh more than that alone.
 
But ... even five inches of world-class glass is simply not quite enough on an average Boston night. So far, it's optimistic for my 123mm LZOS to resolve M13 without some creative imagination. Sure, almost on every night I can see it is definitely a cluster through that scope, but I have to concentrate my observing powers to confirm that. All other globulars remain a dim blob on most evenings: they don't show their true character until I hit them with my IIE -- but I could do the same with my SV50A doublet. The only real advantage of the 5" scope is that the image scale is larger with the IIE, and the resolution concomitantly higher.
 

So, much as I adore my 5" triplet, I yearned to see what more aperture could give me. I did have some quality time with a C6, but while that is also a truly excellent scope it is not enough of a step up from the 5-incher. I gave the scope to my parents and girded myself for an EdgeHD scope. I finally worked up my courage to order a demo EdgeHD 11 last week and gave myself one week to decide whether I could live with it.



#2 KJL

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 12:58 PM

My goodness this scope is big! And the EdgeHD 11's not-to-be-sneezed at 30lb weight, fully-loaded, is not even the main attraction: the bulk is. And here I can state the only obvious downside of the OTA, and it's a doozy: I tweaked my upper back a little playing with it indoors the first night I got it. I'm 37 years old, 5'11", 185 lbs (got that, NSA?), and strong-looking enough to not to be mugged. I've never hurt my back out moving sofabeds and large speaker boxes, but somehow this gleaming cream-colored cylinder did me in after just a few lifts and manipulations. Five days into ownership and I've already been the chiropractor once but to be honest I just have to let it heal on its own. Obviously, not everyone will be in my situation, but it bears consideration. Very. Careful. Consideration.
 
But since I had it, I had try it out anyway! So far I've only had a couple nights with it, so I went full-out with the Avalon T-POD 130 tripod. The first thing I discovered was that the RRS dovetail plate/lever clamp interface was too weak for the weight of the EdgeHD 11. Well, that is to be expected: the only photography lens that comes remotely close to this telescope is the Canon 1200mm f/5.6 36lb beast, but that is mounted directly over the tripod's head. As you can see from this photo even with the FTX's accommodating horizontal compensation the EdgeHD 11 is still cantilevered a few inches off the left of the tripod. I guess that level of torque is tough for 53mm of RRS dovetail and clamping surface.
 
So I threw all the big guns into the equation: T-POD 130 and the FTX with the lovely "TQR" tripod quick-release adapter in between. You can have heavier setups for sure -- a DM-6 or T-REX on a Berlebach Planet comes to mind -- but it is unlikely you will can find a stiffer setup. Which brings me to a basic flaw with my viewing environment ...
 
... my condo's decks are made of wood. They bounce. They bounce a little with my 50mm refractor. They bounce to distraction with the 123mm f/6 triplet. And they really jigger the view up with the EdgeHD 11, especially since the large scope just invites higher magnifications. And since the FTX + T-POD 130 combo is so stiff, even a tiny vibration will transmit right to the eyepiece. If I stand with knees locked even my heartbeat will be seen in the EP! Before I figured out the culprit I had people yell out for everyone to stop breathing when they were looking through my scopes! None of this is a problem on my friend's concrete deck, and it becomes much less of a problem when I insert some 70-duro Sorbothane pads under the T-POD's feet. This was just a learning process as I moved up the aperture scale.
 
Fortunately, I can focus on being mad about just this one thing, because the EdgeHD 11 and FTX combination is wonderful! The huge OTA (to me) pirouettes like a ballet dancer on the FTX, and with a delicate touch on the handle I can even nudge along the now truly-resolved M13 at a nominal 550x (I was so excited I didn't actually measure it, but it was at least that from my calculations). And I did just that for at least an hour total, drinking in the globular which I hadn't seen clearly resolved for many months, and certainly never resolved like this. Sure, at 550x there is a bit of vibration when I let go of the handle -- the tripod AND mount weigh less than the OTA, after all! -- but it is small in magnitude and settles in less than a second. In no way does it interfere with the enjoyment of the view: I'll take the significant weight reduction of the FTX over a small bit of vibration any day (or night, rather). Thanks to my aforementioned bouncy deck there are also some "reverse" wobbles when I manipulate the focuser but it doesn't prevent me from achieving focus on the first try -- yes, even at 550x which on a usual poor night is a blobby-star mess. Truly, I feel the EdgeHD 11 and FTX were made for each other: I just wish I could use the pair regularly on grass or on concrete instead.
 
At more sane magnifications the EdgeHD 11 is a transparent experience on the FTX for me. And judging from this experience, I'd guess that an EdgeHD 9.25 would be rock-solid with the FTX even those with shaky hands (all you old geezers, you), with an EdgeHD 8 a total triviality for the mount. I think my back would be happier with those choices as well, sigh ....
 
Incidentally, that 550x (and higher) magnification is achieved with my Leica ASPH 8.9-17.8mm zoom in a Denkmeier Power Filter Switch, customized with their strongest barlow lens for about 2x magnification at the high end. That diagonal is also a great component with the EdgeHD 11, and one I easily recommend, especially in its latest zero-rotation IVB configuration. With it I can achieve a range of about 5x magnifications with the Leica zoom -- 110-550x -- which is probably why I began and ended my second session with that EP in the focuser the whole time.

Also, because the big SCT's mirror moves so little, the refocusing required between "power lens" changes doesn't appreciably change the balance of the scope, so I always use the FTX with no tension on either axes, making for a constantly easy and smooth panning experience. Only when I change EPs or when I switch to the much heavier/taller binoviewer do I first engage the lever clamps on the alt axis or, in the case of the binoviewer, move the trim weight like a trombone slide (yes, I sometimes catch myself making trombone sounds). I then fully release the axis tension and enjoy the FTX's buttery motions. The scope doesn't move at all with the lever clamps fully engaged, nor do they move during clamping, so I don't lose my target during EP switches.
 

(BTW, the Power Switch diagonal isn't all roses and perfume. The diagonal portion is a standard Williams Optics dielectric, and those are well-known to have a clear aperture of about 42mm at the EP end of the diagonal. The Denkmeier quick-change adapters are themselves rigidly limited to 41mm in clear aperture. Consequently, my Pentax 40XW (and when I had it, the Panoptic 41mm) vignettes in the Power Switch diagonal when used with my f/6 refractor, though it is fairly subtle in that scope. Unfortunately the much flatter >= f/10 light cone of the EdgeHD 11 causes unavoidably obvious vignetting with any EP with a field stop diameter much greater than 41mm. Even a Nagler 31mm has a field stop diameter of 42mm, for example. This means that I can never truly appreciate the already limited maximum TFOV of the EdgeHD 11 when I use the Power Switch diagonal, as the outside 15% or so of the view is visibly vignetted. So I guess I need to qualify my recommendation a little.)



#3 KJL

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 12:59 PM

So am I keeping the EdgeHD 11? Well, my back says no. Every day it heals a little and its objections diminish in strength, but I'm not getting any younger and holy jeebus I don't want to experience that discomfort again. Also these mild summer evenings are a best-case scenario for SCTs in terms of cooldown time (none necessary) and dew formation (also none, even without a dewshield). In the wintertime I will have to use Tempest fans and a dewshield (and likely a heavier trim weight to compensate), though fortunately the vent fans can be driven off the same battery currently powering the Nexus. So the EdgeHD 11 will drop in convenience soon enough, as compared to my refractors.

Yet ... I can just see so much more with the big SCT vs my 5" refractor! With the FTX's encoders and my Nexus/iPhone/SkySafari setup, I can point it at whatever I want to see and there is a good chance I can see it, with due consideration of what you CAN see with this much light pollution (e.g. not galaxies). I didn't have that luxury with the refractor, and as mentioned M13 was the only globular that was even remotely resolved in the refractor -- but there are lot more globulars out there. Heck, I can resolve M13 with my binoviewers in the EdgeHD 11!

Even the IIE gets a big boost up in the larger scope since the image scale (and therefore resolution) is so much greater. For example, I can now see that the Swan in the Omega Nebula looks like it is wreathed in flames, whereas before all I could see was a paper cutout of a swan. This on a moonlit night with high humidity and average seeing, mind: I can't wait for winter's dryness to tackle the M42. And the much greater light grasp and higher resolution makes the Moon truly look like a high-res photo.
 
Planetary -- well, did I mention the seeing was poor? Saturn looked the same starting around 125x regardless of whether I used the 123mm LZOS or the EdgeHD 11. The Cassini division was visible, but even the Encke Minima was invisible and on a good night in Mount Kisco, NY it was easily visible in the 5" APO. At least neither looked worse than the other, I guess. Also, I got higher magnification with equal brightness using my Maxbright binoviewers in the EdgeHD 11 as with my Leica ASPH in the 5", so I suppose that was also something. I expect planetary magic on a good night from the EdgeHD 11, but I don't look for good nights anymore. That was the point of my getting more  aperture, remember?

Speaking of binoviewing: I was pleased to see that the EdgeHD 11 seems to have the near-infinite backfocus allowances that the standard C11 had. That is to say, I measured no aperture reduction even with my worst-offending EP (the IIE, as it happens) on top of the very tall Power/Filter Switch diagonal with the ~0.7x reducer arm in. My Maxbright binoviewer is no problem either (though it won't come to focus with the reducer arm in, so there's that). Everything just works with this OTA.
 
On top of it all, the EdgeHD 11 is so easy to use on the FTX: there is no need to rebalance the OTA and its panning motion is sooo smooth -- using the big scope is almost easier than holding binoculars (really!) -- and waaay more rewarding. Sometimes, I look furtively around to make sure no one is looking and give the OTA a 360 degree twirl just for fun.

And the setup time is almost non-existent. Everyone seems to think of the C11 either mounted in a CPC1100 or on a GEM, both of which are heavy and time-consuming to set up. In contrast, I just bring the T-POD out followed by the OTA with my minimal EP bag slung over a shoulder, making this an easy two-trip affair. Just for fun, I timed myself taking 60 seconds tops to get the scope and tripod out of my office and mounted on my deck, plus another 60 secs for the two-star SkySafari alignment. And there is none of that huge range of seating positions between horizon and zenith that refractors force on me, even one as short as my 123mm f/6 LZOS. I suspect the EdgeHD 11/FTX combo may be as good as you can get for backyard astronomy in terms of ease-of-use, speed of setup, and comfort for a large SCT.
 

Finally, IMHO it's a beautiful setup! I readily admit that I wish I had the room to leave it set up in my office just so I could gaze at it when I needed a break. All those boring brass telescopes in high-rise offices would do well to be replaced a real scope like the EdgeHD 11 on the FTX and the Avalon tripod (also comes in black, in case you can't stomach the Ferrari red). I guarantee you that the 11" scope would move 100x more smoothly than the long brass achromat on the ridiculous flowery mount (I would know: we have just such a scope in our own offices) and you would easily have enough light to use it with binoviewers as well.


Edited by KJL, 07 August 2014 - 01:12 PM.


#4 KJL

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 01:00 PM

And since it's not real until you take a photo, here is the EdgeHD 11, FTX, and T-POD 130 in action:

 

Attached File  EdgeHD 11, FTX + TQR, T-POD 130 (x1024) .jpg   393.29KB   16 downloads

Don't be fooled by the apparent brightness of the shot. This was a 30-second exposure on my Canon 5D at f/4.0 and 1600 ISO: you can see the 5D's purple amp glow just peeking through in the lower left-hand corner. This was actually taken at around 11 pm, and while the moon was out and I am blessed with the blaze of a nearby street lamp, it was actually quite dark out.

 


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#5 areyoukiddingme

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 01:04 PM

The 11" edge is a great scope, and at about 30lb and compact, it's pretty easy to carry a short distance. Mounting will be tough, but you should have a good time with bright globular clusters, even under light pollution.

 

I often view from my balcony at home through terrible light pollution. Even with a neighbors light pointed at my place, I can still easily see M3, M5, M13, Andromeda, the double cluster. . . and of course planets. Before the neighbors lights, I've even managed to see M33 (but only after I'd seen it at a dark site and knew what to look for).

 

It's a very big jump from my c6 and 4" refractor. Through those I have recently seen the double cluster start to make it over the horizon in the past few nights. So I thought, what the heck, I'll take a look. In those scopes it's "wait, that can't be the double cluster". . . in the Edge it is very clear, even looking through lots of atmosphere and pollution.



#6 bilgebay

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 01:12 PM

I have downsized to C8 Edge and I'm not missing my C11 Edge at all. Unless I have a permanent setup, I will never go back to C11 or C14. 



#7 KJL

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 01:20 PM

The 11" edge is a great scope, and at about 30lb and compact, it's pretty easy to carry a short distance. Mounting will be tough, but you should have a good time with bright globular clusters, even under light pollution.

 

I often view from my balcony at home through terrible light pollution. Even with a neighbors light pointed at my place, I can still easily see M3, M5, M13, Andromeda, the double cluster. . . and of course planets. Before the neighbors lights, I've even managed to see M33 (but only after I'd seen it at a dark site and knew what to look for).

 

It's a very big jump from my c6 and 4" refractor. Through those I have recently seen the double cluster start to make it over the horizon in the past few nights. So I thought, what the heck, I'll take a look. In those scopes it's "wait, that can't be the double cluster". . . in the Edge it is very clear, even looking through lots of atmosphere and pollution.

Thanks for sharing your experiences. My limited time with the scope definitely feels like what you describe: incremental but definite improvements in a light-polluted area. The sad truth of the matter is that just as I found my ideal alt-az setup for the EdgeHD 11 I recognize that even 11 inches of aperture will not make up for the yucky skies (I'm trying to avoid the CN censors, so that's a heavy euphemism). In other words, I'll probably see vastly more with my 5" APO at a dark site than with the EdgeHD 11 at home. But since I'm basically tied down for at least 10-20 years with no foreseeable opportunity to head to a dark site for the express purposes of doing some astronomy, what choice do I have?

 

Thanks again, that was very enlightening.



#8 KJL

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 01:24 PM

I have downsized to C8 Edge and I'm not missing my C11 Edge at all. Unless I have a permanent setup, I will never go back to C11 or C14. 

Thanks for the insight. I have read and reread the threads where you announced making this change, and I still consider it a guiding light for C11 experiences! But in the end I just had to try to find out for myself. Perhaps it is providence that my back immediately said "uh, no" ....

 

However, I am legitimately worried about using my Power/Filter Switch diagonal in the EdgeHD 8 given its very stingy backfocus allowances. Even if I had your werewithal to create a custom ultra-short visual back for a Baader prism, I'd still have to figure out how to attach the Power and Filter switches with reduced path length. And using that diagonal with binoviewers is right out.

 

Also, the EdgeHD 8 begins to approach the relatively light weight of my 123mm LZOS triplet, making that decision even harder.

 

Thanks again!



#9 bilgebay

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 01:56 PM

You are most welcome KJ.

 

You are right about the shorter back focus and the binoviewer-power/filter switch issue. I haven't tested my Earthwin PFS with the C8 yet. 

 

I will work on mounting the power filter switch to the Baader prism using as little back focus as possible and share the details with you. I will also measure the effective aperture in this configuration. 

 

Cheers,



#10 areyoukiddingme

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 02:30 PM

Ah . . . I have to say that I too am thinking of down sizing (Sedat's posts planted the seed!). I've picked up a 12.5" dob, and the 11" edge is getting less use. 

 

For visual, the edge is never going to out-compete my 12.5 (Portaball with a Zambuto primary), and the PB is actually (very slightly) more portable for trips to the mountains. But I will do a side by side for the fun of it (especially given the many posts on SCT vs. dobs on planetary--my main interest right now). The edge is excellent for binoviewing, and very comfortable for viewing. On an alt-az set up it's a fast set up too. From pelican case to set up on tripod on my balcony takes me less than 2 minutes. The real down fall for me has been managing heat. I have the Tempest fans, which really help, but it's very common for me to have temperature differences of over 20 F to compensate for, which just doesn't happen. Even in summer (I live on the California coast), a trip to the mountains can easily be a 15 degree difference. I still get nice views, but I typically feel like I'm chasing better performance almost every time I use it.

 

My original reason for the Edge11 was aperture for visual, plus a wide range of astrophotography possibilities. But then the 8" can do AP about as well--perhaps better given the quicker cool down--and I can replace/best for visual by pairing with a dob (in fact, come to think of it, a used portaball plus a new Edge8 comes in pretty similar cost wise as my Edge11 + cgemdx).

 

Having said all of that, in KJs situation with 90%+ viewing from a balcony, the Edge11 on alt-az is a brilliant set up when the conditions are right. My portaball from my balcony is a terrible faff (there's just not enough room), and set up takes longer if I have to do a full re-assembly with collimation. Plus set up on the hitch with the push to is fantastic for finding targets. I think the Edge11 would be hard to beat in these conditions.



#11 KJL

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 03:05 PM

Ah . . . I have to say that I too am thinking of down sizing (Sedat's posts planted the seed!). I've picked up a 12.5" dob, and the 11" edge is getting less use.

Hasn't he indeed!
 

The edge is excellent for binoviewing, and very comfortable for viewing. On an alt-az set up it's a fast set up too. From pelican case to set up on tripod on my balcony takes me less than 2 minutes.

I would be very curious to know what your 2-minute mount setup for the EdgeHD 11 entails.

 

The real down fall for me has been managing heat. I have the Tempest fans, which really help, but it's very common for me to have temperature differences of over 20 F to compensate for, which just doesn't happen. Even in summer (I live on the California coast), a trip to the mountains can easily be a 15 degree difference. I still get nice views, but I typically feel like I'm chasing better performance almost every time I use it.

Bummer! In the wintertime even my (air-spaced) 123mm f/6 APO takes an absolute age to cooldown in the typical 40F+ temperature swing between indoor and outdoor. My C6 XLT actually beat it for quality of view, by which I mean it cooled down enough to first beat the LZOS triplet at planetary views. My hope and expectation was that with perhaps a half-hour pre-cooldown outside with Tempest fans going the EdgeHD 11 could at least get ahead of the LZOS triplet as well. Do you think that is a pipe dream?

 

Having said all of that, in KJs situation with 90%+ viewing from a balcony, the Edge11 on alt-az is a brilliant set up when the conditions are right. My portaball from my balcony is a terrible faff (there's just not enough room), and set up takes longer if I have to do a full re-assembly with collimation. Plus set up on the hitch with the push to is fantastic for finding targets. I think the Edge11 would be hard to beat in these conditions.

Thanks for the encouragement. I agree with you that the FTX is probably as close to nirvana as one can get with the EdgeHD 11 for visual use that doesn't involve a tripod + mount that weighs north of 40 lbs (Discmounts, T-REX, CGEM, Mach 1 GTO, etc). In fact the FTX holds quite a few intrinsic advantages over the others, such as vertical balance compensation, super-easy panning, quick-release axes clamps, no huge counterweight -- or counterweight arm for that matter -- centered scope positioning, user-adjustable horizontal and zenith stops, etc. i.e. all the good Riddel stuff. It basically balances the equation in favor of using a SCT instead of a dob for easy alt-az visual use: there's no way I would have considered the EdgeHD 11 for my situation with the other mounts on the market. Hopefully this report opens peoples' eyes up to new ways to use these large SCTs (assuming they can carry them).



#12 WesC

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 03:05 PM

Hmmm... I guess its all relative. I have an Edge 11, I'm 48 years old and have had major back surgery and a serious car accident that makes my right shoulder hurt pretty much continuously.

 

I don't find the Edge 11 that heavy or difficult to move/mount. And I have never tweaked my back using it, fortunately. I do find moving my CGEM around to be a bit of a task all set up (without scope and counterweights, of course)... but A scope like this needs a big, solid mount, and I make do.

 

There were several considerations that led to my choosing the 11". Size and weight vs aperture was the first, naturally. Especially compared with similar aperture scopes from Meade which weigh noticeably more and have a bigger CO. The easily replaceable visual back to allow a full 2" light path without increasing the length of light path or dealing with vignetting (unlike the Edge 8), the large-ish back focus and one that is unaltered by adding a focal reducer (unlike the Edge 8). This would also allow some room for an external focuser or a decent sized imaging setup down the road.

 

But like I said, its all relative.



#13 WesC

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 03:07 PM

BTW, you really have me interested in that FTX! Seeing the Edge on that thing is WAY cool.

I'm curious how SkySafari functions in your setup. There is no go-to capability right?



#14 KJL

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 03:17 PM

I just realized that I should be careful to specify what actually caused my back to be tweaked by the EdgeHD 11, before people assigned blame. The night I got the scope was cloudy, and besides I hadn't yet received the tapped ADM V-series dovetail plate that would have allowed me to mount the OTA on the FTX. All I did was unbox the scope in the basement and bring it up three floors to my office. I practiced a few ways of picking up the OTA which until then was limited to putting one hand on the handle and the other under the front of the scope, then standing up. I didn't even turn the scope sideways like it would need to be to mount on the FTX.

 

Somewhere during these maneuvers I tweaked my back. Talk about being reminded of your age (which I will modestly point out is not advanced at all in relation to some dusty furniture here -- WesC, <cough> ;)).

 

After I got the ADM rail I realized I didn't have to lower myself all the way to the ground to pick up the OTA from the front of the scope: I could just hold onto the Half Hitch plate that was attached towards the back of the rail, near the level of the handle on the other side. Also, I was a lot more careful to keep the scope close to my body, and to use my legs. Since then my back hasn't gotten worse, so I must be doing something right.

 

In fact, mounting the scope in the FTX is so easy thanks to its tilt-in saddle that I almost wish I hadn't had that one night of misadventure. Once I could mount the FTX I never came close to tweaking my back again.

 

Just getting old, I guess.



#15 KJL

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 03:36 PM

BTW, you really have me interested in that FTX! Seeing the Edge on that thing is WAY cool.

I'm curious how SkySafari functions in your setup. There is no go-to capability right?

Thanks for the thumbs-up, I'm glad you enjoyed it!

 

One day, when Charles Riddel is rich and famous and has the werewithal to develop an ultrasonic motor-driven alt-az mount, that also bakes pies, we will get goto in a mount in the same class as the FTX. Until then, we shall lug our 80+ pounds of CPC, or 50+ pounds of GEM and tripod plus 20 pounds of counterweight and counterweight arms, 5-10 lbs of car jumper/marine batteries, and kneel at the altar of the straight-through polar scope at a constantly disappearing Polaris (which I happen to be able to see from my porch, but only if there are no clouds), to get goto.

 

Or rather, you will, because I just can't stomach the thought!

 

The FTX's two encoder cables plug into the Astro Devices Nexus which is sitting on top of the DSC shelf. The Nexus is the one with the red light. Underneath the shelf is attached the lithium battery whose 12V output goes to the Nexus above (the battery has irritating blue lights which I should do something about). That's it for electronics.

 

The Nexus generates its own wifi network which I simply select on my iPhone under Settings -> WIFI. In SkySafari Pro I select the scope icon and hit Connect. The two-star alignment process is child's play thereafter, though I'm still working on fine-tuning the quality of the alignment. Hint: choosing one star above another one usually doesn't work, as it doesn't give enough the azimuth correction enough sig figs to work with.

 

Actually it is possible to add the Nexus automatically to my home network as soon as I turn it on and have SkySafari find it automatically, but it currently is a bit jerky compared to the standalone mode. Serge @ Astro Devices is still looking into it, but as you can imagine that would make for a super-transparent experience.

 

I hate explaining all this because it works so easily in real life. I know some people think what I just described is complicated, but it really really REALLY is not. It's a beautifully simple push-to system.

 

Anyway, thanks for your remarks. And stop showing off your muscles, you old fart.



#16 WesC

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 03:54 PM

BTW, my wife dusts me regularly. So there.


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#17 WesC

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 03:57 PM

Thanks for the explanation, so the 2-star alignment just syncs the DCS to the sky, and Sky Safari follows along... its all push-to, but you can see where you are with Sky Safari... correct?

 

I like this. It would be great for my SV105 as a grab and go setup. I use Sky Safari with my CGEM wirelessly and its fantastic. I love the idea of using it as a star-guide in a push-to scenario.

 

I will have to seriously consider this...



#18 herrointment

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 04:07 PM

A very good read, Sir.



#19 crow

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 04:25 PM

I just received my FTX. Its the kind of thing you buy and never get rid of, you could also just stick it in the living room as an example of functional industrial artwork.

I'm waiting for my new heavy duty photo tripod. I couldn't wait so I stuck the FTX on a lightweight Vanguard unit which while an amazing tripod it is only rated for 15 pounds.

I then attached my 4" refractor to the FTX, and waited. The scope weighs around 11 pounds. Everything seemed ok. So I went ahead and brought out the binoviewer and D21's.

My mind is telling me this is getting a little nuts but what the hell so I do a bit of daytime observing with the thing.

Its the Ferrari (V12) of alt-az mounts, no doubt about it.

 

I also have the nexus, ill be looking forward to getting that rigged up to the FTX. I like Charles style, I'd already paid for the mount and bought the nexus thinking I'd have

4096 step encoders. Charles then ups the encoder resolution for the thing. I get the feeling he genuinely wants people to have a great experience using the mount.

 

Serge from Astro devices sent me some easy instructions on altering things on the nexus for the increased resolution.

 

I actually sold my 1100 Edge recently, I have a Tec140 in mind.


Edited by crow, 07 August 2014 - 04:47 PM.


#20 scott4comp

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 05:46 PM

Excellent write-up, KJ. I'm about 7 miles south of your JP location, and I assure you the light pollution continues unabated !

 

I too have been focused on globulars, and my Saturn results mirror yours. ( puns intended )

 

I am glad to hear that going bigger has given you better results, as I intend to do the same.

 

I do have a byo, but wasn't sure bigger was going to equal better, thanks for your insights !

 

jscott



#21 MitchAlsup

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 06:58 PM

A great story (sorry about your back) thanks for taking the time to write it all up.



#22 Bill Barlow

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 07:04 PM

I'm not too familiar with the FTX altaz mount.  How much weight can it carry?  I own three UA Unistar altaz mounts and they are also very smooth.  I use the duel saddle one for my C14.  But I am also going to downsize my scope lineup as now carrying around and mounting/dismounting the C14 is starting to hurt my lower back as I am a few months shy of turning 60.  I just found a nice Meade 12 ACF f/10 OTA that will only weigh 39 pounds compared to the 50 for the C14.  I hope that I will not lose too much with the 2" aperture loss as I really like viewing the more distant galaxy groups like some of the Hickson's.  I considered the C11, but thought the extra inch of aperture might be a plus for the type of observing I like to do most.  I hope I don't regret selling the big 14, but I have to think about my long term health at this point in time, I think. 

 

Bill



#23 Dwight J

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 07:12 PM

Shake-Enders under the tripod legs will reduce at least a little vibration isolating movement in both directions.



#24 jrbarnett

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 10:51 PM

I have downsized to C8 Edge and I'm not missing my C11 Edge at all. Unless I have a permanent setup, I will never go back to C11 or C14. 

I have a C5, C6, C8 and C9.25 Edge HD currently and recently also had a C11.

 

When I decided to try an Edge HD scope, I went back and forth among the 8", 9.25" and 11".  The 11" is a hefty scope.  The 8" is very compact for its aperture.  So I split the difference and went with the 9.25".

 

The 9.25" is more like the 11" than the 8" in size.  It's longer relative to its girth proportionately than the other Celestron SCTs.  It's only just manageable.  I wouldn't want to travel with much bigger.

 

- Jim


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#25 jhayes_tucson

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 11:11 PM

KJ,

You're 37 and having trouble with a C11?  Heck, I'm over 60 and I hoist a C14.  So, I have one word for you; Crossfit.  It might not help, but it can't hurt and besides the C11 is pretty cool.  Congratulations and thanks for the write up!

John

 

 

…Seriously, good luck with the back.  I know that can be a real problem.








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