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Time to Lighten Up

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Time to Lighten Up


I recently relocated to a new house that happens to be closer to town (Tucson, AZ) because of my age and health.  Among other things, this move signaled the need for a smaller scope and mount.  The telescope was a no-brainer for me based on previous experience so I bought an Explore Scientific ED102 Essential Series Air-Spaced Triplet APO Refractor.

Fig. 1

For my mount, I selected my favorite smaller-medium, the Celestron AVX.  I improved its performance: see my article on that task here.


To complete my new rig I implemented a series of ZWO items including an ASI533MC-Pro for my primary camera, an ASI120MM guide camera, a ZWO EAF focus motor, and of course, an ASIair Plus (Mini) controller.


Along with a .8x focal reducer/field flattener I had an excellent rig for anything below 10th magnitude and perfect for large and bright nebulae



In my early years of astrophotography I shot 120” exposures while ignoring the distorted semi-egg appearing stars.  With this new inexpensive rig I routinely ran up to ten minute exposures with perfect stars (see fig. 5 above).

For less than $4,000 (Brand new cost) and less than $3,000 (Pre-owned) I owned a rig that had everything to automatically image even small planetaries and faint nebulae suitable to impress even the best amateur astrophotographers with their $6,000 Tak and $2,000 EQ-6R.

After years of multiple telescope designs and exotic mounts, I was now officially an “old guy” with a combination of hardware suitable to last until I became that well known computer geek enjoying what everybody else was doing while munching my pizza in my warm recliner watching YouTubers that were still “doing” and not just “watching”.

  • Rome, CollinofAlabama, Scott Beith and 37 others like this


I lived in Oro Valley for a couple of years and even though it was in the Tucson metro area the skies were still really nice. My neighborhood didn’t have street lights and I could see the Milky Way from my back yard, where my setup was. I still miss those night skies because I didn’t have to leave town to do deep sky observing, like I do now.

    • Bob Campbell likes this
Bob Campbell
Nov 15 2023 05:04 PM

The 80mm AT ED is a gem of a telescope, at a bargain price.  I bought the latest version for solar viewing and was amazed at how well made it is, and how crisp the images are.



I love my AT80ED. Punches way above its aperture and glass class. With a L-pro filter, much of the CA even disappears for DSOs.



    • flyboyu777 likes this
Nov 16 2023 12:41 PM

Excellent contribution.


Transitions like the one you are making are key to extending one's years in astronomy. I have several scopes but I try to keep the individual components of the observing rig to no more than 10-15 lb. My Celestron C8 and ES 127mm ED CF are exceptions. I loaded them up with Parallax rings, Losmandy style plates and 9" Astronomics handles. Now several different ways to hold the scopes safely. (Also recommend padded gloves for handling gear)


Like you I had an AVX mount ( and a CGEM II before that !) but I later replaced it with the AM5. Expensive but very good value.


I keep telling people that focusing on preventing falls and related accidents is central to maintaining one's health after 65.

    • Bob Campbell likes this

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