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retina boy
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Loc: Bryan, Texas
Airline travel scope for a major dark sky trip new
      #6035272 - 08/19/13 07:51 PM

I just saw the advertisement for the S&T Chile trip and it got me thinking. What would you take on the observing trip of a lifetime in these days of greater and greater luggage restrictions? I have never gone on a strictly observing trip. I have carried binoculars and small scopes on the plane when on vacation but I have never tried to maximize my scope power. There are many many travel scope ideas out there but many of them are too large with the modern restrictions. You also have to be able to carry clothing and other supplies. Most airlines are restricting you to 50lbs per bag with a two bag maximum. The bags themselves are part of the problem. A sturdy Pelican case will cost you 20 of those pounds so you are left with 30 pounds of equipment. It is very easy to use that up. However, using a lighter bag risks damage to delicate equipment.

So I have a few questions:

1. Would you try to do photography? Taking pictures increases the complexity by requiring a mount, camera etc but would allow you to keep memories of the trip.

2. What would you take for a scope? Would you do binoculars for portability, a refractor for versatility, or a take apart dob for light gathering ability?

3. What would you use for a mount? Driven or alt az? Would you bother with DSCs? (They may be useful to find objects under unfamiliar skies in a limited amount of time)


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Shneor
scholastic sledgehammer
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Reged: 03/01/05

Loc: Northern California
Re: Airline travel scope for a major dark sky trip new [Re: retina boy]
      #6035768 - 08/20/13 02:23 AM

If you don't mind using one max size bag for the telescope, a truss dob is the way to go. There's European organization that makes travel scopes, but I neglected to bookmark the site (but I found it on CN). Or you could try a C5 on a tripod. You will need at least 100x to see much in the LMC, and the more aperture the better - there's lots to see in that galaxy, as well as the SMC. Not to mention many other beautiful objects.

I had a 13" custom made for my New Zealand trip in 2000, and it performed beautifully in Alexandra, on South Island, at 45 degrees south latitude. You should take the biggest aperture scope you can, unless you rent one while you are there. I rented a 24" in an observatory dome in Australia in 2006. 8 good nights in two weeks.

Good luck!


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careysub
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Reged: 02/18/11

Loc: Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Re: Airline travel scope for a major dark sky trip new [Re: retina boy]
      #6035772 - 08/20/13 02:30 AM

I have been pondering these same questions: how much telescope can you get into a standard airline bag?

One question is: Does it have to be a Pelican case? Lighter hard-sided large suitcases are available with weights of 11-12 lb (just looking at ones with good reputations). The difference between having 30 lb of payload and 38 lb is quite significant. It won't be as indestructible as a Pelican, but does it have to be?

Another: Do you have "travel aperture fever" - wanting to get the largest optics you can in the bag?

If you are planning/considering building the scope you should look at Gary Seronik's 8" travelscope in the March 2013 Sky & Telescope. It weighs 15 lb. This serves as a reference point for what is possible, and what you can do simply by duplicating his build. (He had a previous build they came at 25 lb.)

By using somewhat more exotic materials (end-grain balsa core/Finnish birch composite for a readily accessible example) you can trim more weight or consider going to a 10". A 12.5" Royce conical mirror is still only 10 lb, so even that might be within the realm of possibility.

DSCs don't need to add much weight, but powered mounts add weight very quickly.

By planning your viewing session carefully in advance, with suitably prepared finder charts and good skills in locating I bet you can skip these without a problem.

BTW: I looked into the cost of shipping to Australia and it looks like it costs about $320 door-to-door, which includes a $90 "goods inspection fee" in Australia. This is "large box" which is 20x16x24, slightly larger in volume than a maximum size airline bag (the "62 inch" bag). Any weight is fine it seems. Presumably the cost of shipping it back is similar. Oh, it takes 78 days to ship. Parcel delivery services can do it much faster, but cost about twice as much.

Edited by careysub (08/20/13 05:06 PM)


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Mike E.
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Reged: 01/26/10

Loc: Moonstone Observatory
Re: Airline travel scope for a major dark sky trip new [Re: retina boy]
      #6035781 - 08/20/13 02:47 AM

Self contained Observatory in a carry on box.

www.company7.com/questar/index.html

www.questarcorporation.com


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Midnight Dan
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Reged: 01/23/08

Loc: Hilton, NY, Yellow Zone (Bortl...
Re: Airline travel scope for a major dark sky trip new [Re: Mike E.]
      #6035927 - 08/20/13 07:21 AM

One option is to ship the scope to your location separately. You would then be able to use any size scope that you can afford to ship.

For airline travel, you'd want something that can fit in an overhead bin. I would never trust a scope to the baggage monkeys at the airports. This has been discussed before in other threads and I think the consensus was that the largest "off-the-shelf" aperture that would fit comfortably would be a 6" SCT. The tripod and mount could go in checked baggage.

If you're willing to build your own scope, there are some innovative designs in collapsible dobs that can allow you take an 8" dob on a plane. Here's one: http://www.garyseronik.com/?q=node/37

One item that is always troublesome for traveling is the tripod. If you opt for a 6" SCT, a sturdy tripod and mount can take up a lot of space and weight. The Celestron Nexstar 6 is one you might consider because you can leave the tripod at home and use the mount in a table-top mode. It provides goto and tracking and will find objects in that unfamiliar sky.

-Dan


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csrlice12
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Reged: 05/22/12

Loc: Denver, CO
Re: Airline travel scope for a major dark sky trip new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6035996 - 08/20/13 08:32 AM

Have you tried going thru your local astro society? Maybe have them contact an astro society where you are going and arrange a loner scope or rental scope? Kind of a reciprocal agreement type thing? May only be a 6" dob, but maybe a member down there might loan out a 16", you never know.

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Mirzam
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Reged: 04/01/08

Loc: Lovettsville, VA
Re: Airline travel scope for a major dark sky trip new [Re: csrlice12]
      #6036019 - 08/20/13 08:56 AM Attachment (8 downloads)

AFAIK you can always pay extra for additional luggage. At least that is what I did when bringing my 14" scope to Chile.

If you go to a good dark site you don't need no stinking encoders.

JimC


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Shawn H
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Re: Airline travel scope for a major dark sky trip new [Re: retina boy]
      #6036021 - 08/20/13 08:57 AM

TMB92 refractor, explore scientific alt/az tripod is a great travel setup!

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CharlesW
scholastic sledgehammer


Reged: 11/02/12

Loc: Chula Vista & Indio, CA
Re: Airline travel scope for a major dark sky trip new [Re: Shawn H]
      #6036113 - 08/20/13 09:50 AM

I'd preship through UPS or DHL. Have them hold it at the terminal. Probably a lot cheaper than airline fees and few size restrictions.

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careysub
Carpal Tunnel
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Reged: 02/18/11

Loc: Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Re: Airline travel scope for a major dark sky trip new [Re: Mirzam]
      #6036136 - 08/20/13 10:02 AM

Could tell us more about how you went about it? 14" is pretty big.

What size package (packages?) did it take?


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careysub
Carpal Tunnel
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Reged: 02/18/11

Loc: Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Re: Airline travel scope for a major dark sky trip new [Re: CharlesW]
      #6036161 - 08/20/13 10:15 AM

Do you have any information about doing this?

Using Australia as the shipping destination, from what I have found on-line so far it appears that any regular parcel service (through USPS, FedEx, and DHL checked so far) ships by air and does indeed have dimensional restrictions at least as strict as airlines.

For all three the cost for a 50 lb package is about the same, around $650. So the round trip shipping cost is about $1300.

Are there are better options I have not discovered?

Sea shipping is cheaper, but has to be done through an aggregator who will arrange to pack it into a shipping container. The ship cost itself is about 1/3 as much, but you also have to pay $100 for customs fees, and it takes 2.5 months.

BTW: you can buy a 10" Dobsonian in Australia for about US$700.


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csrlice12
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Loc: Denver, CO
Re: Airline travel scope for a major dark sky trip new [Re: careysub]
      #6036210 - 08/20/13 10:42 AM

...and probably sell it for $500 when you're done.....and it'll probably go pretty quickly.....total cost to you = $200. Bring your own eyepieces and accessories.

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careysub
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Reged: 02/18/11

Loc: Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Re: Airline travel scope for a major dark sky trip new [Re: csrlice12]
      #6036242 - 08/20/13 10:59 AM

Quote:

...and probably sell it for $500 when you're done.....and it'll probably go pretty quickly.....total cost to you = $200. Bring your own eyepieces and accessories.




Remember that you will be in the position of the "motivated seller" - you will have to unload it fast and easily at the end of the trip so plan on selling at a bigger discount, probably you will need to find the buyer before the trip to make arrangements.

Another thought - if you are going to start contacting and coordinating with individuals in Oz perhaps you could join an Aussie Astro club long-distance and arrange for a loaner.


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Pinbout
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Re: Airline travel scope for a major dark sky trip new [Re: careysub]
      #6036258 - 08/20/13 11:10 AM

Quote:

Could tell us more about how you went about it? 14" is pretty big.





he had a thread about the build a while back.

I still like his deathray scope better.

it looks like startstructure's horizon before the dawn of the horizon.

http://www.cloudynights.com/ubbthreads/showflat.php?Cat=0&Board=atm&N...


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tomcody
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Reged: 07/06/08

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Re: Airline travel scope for a major dark sky trip new [Re: retina boy]
      #6036388 - 08/20/13 12:23 PM

1. With your weight limit issues, no, I would not try to take an AP system with you, too heavy, expensive and complex.
But, If you want to go that way check out this site for an example of the stuff you will need:
web page

2. If it were me for visual only I would use:
Either a Tak Sky90 or a Tak FSQ106ED for the scope,
(note: add extender Q for either scope)
A Diskmount DM4 alt az mount with DSC,s and either a Sky commander or a Nexus unit with a SkySafari app on an Apple IOS device.
Note for a tripod, I would get a good folding photography tripod.
For eyepieces:
Just one eyepiece, one barlow and a diagonal.
A Baader T-thread Maxbright mirror diagonal.
A Leica ASPH zoom eyepiece and a Baader VIP barlow.
This system should be light, sturdy and provide great views.
Rex

Edited by tomcody (08/20/13 12:24 PM)


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csrlice12
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Reged: 05/22/12

Loc: Denver, CO
Re: Airline travel scope for a major dark sky trip new [Re: tomcody]
      #6036471 - 08/20/13 01:06 PM

Quote:

1. With your weight limit issues, no, I would not try to take an AP system with you, too heavy, expensive and complex.
But, If you want to go that way check out this site for an example of the stuff you will need:
web page

2. If it were me for visual only I would use:
Either a Tak Sky90 or a Tak FSQ106ED for the scope,
(note: add extender Q for either scope)
A Diskmount DM4 alt az mount with DSC,s and either a Sky commander or a Nexus unit with a SkySafari app on an Apple IOS device.
Note for a tripod, I would get a good folding photography tripod.
For eyepieces:
Just one eyepiece, one barlow and a diagonal.
A Baader T-thread Maxbright mirror diagonal.
A Leica ASPH zoom eyepiece and a Baader VIP barlow.
This system should be light, sturdy and provide great views.
Rex




After all that, I wouldn't be able to afford the trip!!


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mclewis1
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Reged: 02/25/06

Loc: New Brunswick, Canada
Re: Airline travel scope for a major dark sky trip new [Re: csrlice12]
      #6036676 - 08/20/13 02:45 PM

Derek,

If I were taking a trip like that I would ...

- use a c6 ota, with an f6.3 focal reducer and if I was planning on shooting big objects (that require wide field capabilities) also add a Hyperstar setup (~f2). This provides a very versatile 300mm, 945mm, and 1500mm focal lengths so I could tackle just about any object.
- a red dot finder, and a 50mm autoguider scope, mounted piggy back on the C6.
- I'd probably use a DSLR with a remote control vs. a CCD imager (which requires a PC)... if however I was are also planning to take a laptop then perhaps the CCD imager would make more sense (smaller and cooled).
- the iOptron ZEQ25 as a mount. I would look into a replacement tripod or possibly consider cutting down the include steel tube model. The tripod legs (removed from the head) will likely not go into a regular rolling suitcase but might fit into an older style rectangular unit. I probably wouldn't have to shorten the legs by more than a few inches. An aluminum leg tripod (like the Vixen model) would probably be better to travel with.
- A small 12v power source for the mount - something with Lithium batteries.

I should be able to keep all of this and a few eyepieces and a diagonal under 40lbs.

I would normally use a camera bag for the C6 ota. I've traveled by air quite a bit with my C6 ota and like Dan mentioned above I think that the C6 is about the biggest commercially available telescope that can be legally carried onto a plane (fits with the 21 x 16 x 9" and 25lb requirement ... these numbers are approximate since some airlines has slightly different numbers). In a camera bag I'll still have some reasonable protection on the side walls and be small enough over all so that if I ended up on a regional jet (as opposed to a mainline aircraft) I'd still be able to carry the ota onboard. If I could guarantee that I'm only flying on mainline aircraft (737/A32x and above in size) then I'll have a bit more leeway with carry on size (within the size limits mentioned above). If I was travelling Internationally today I might also consider the ota in a backpack style bag, with some clothing as extra protection packed around the ota. When travelling internationally I would always consider having at least a change of clothes, a rain jacket, and toiletries in my carry on luggage.


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Shneor
scholastic sledgehammer
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Reged: 03/01/05

Loc: Northern California
Re: Airline travel scope for a major dark sky trip new [Re: mclewis1]
      #6036745 - 08/20/13 03:21 PM

Nothing wrong with sending your telescope in checked baggage if it's properly packaged. I did with my 13", no problems at all.

Clears,


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careysub
Carpal Tunnel
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Reged: 02/18/11

Loc: Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Re: Airline travel scope for a major dark sky trip new [Re: retina boy]
      #6036875 - 08/20/13 04:29 PM

If you want to take an observing trip to Chile to see the southern skies, one thing to consider is renting time on a telescope that is already there.

The Atacama Lodge looks like a good bet:
http://www.spaceobs.com/en/telerent.php
http://www.spaceobs.com/en/tour.php

They have 13" and 18" Dobs, and a 24" Dob that is available after their nightly star tour, with Nagler and Ethos EPs.

Of course pre-arrangement would be needed to assure that you have the access you want.

Then all you would need to pack would some small instrument(s) and not need to "go big", say 40-50mm binoculars and and an 80 mm refractor. Or a 4.5" StarBlast with a Siebert coma corrector and light weight rebuilt base (replacing particle board with a lightweight core/plywood skin composite).

I am seriously considering this plan myself.


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careysub
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Re: Airline travel scope for a major dark sky trip [Re: Pinbout]
      #6036883 - 08/20/13 04:34 PM

Quote:

Quote:

Could tell us more about how you went about it? 14" is pretty big.





he had a thread about the build a while back...




I meant more like "how you went about getting it to Chile" although the build is relevant to that question.


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