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Galileoscope - A Year Later

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Galileoscope - A Year Later

By David Treviño

I expect many of you know by now what is the Galileoscope. It was one of the cornerstone projects of the International Year of Astronomy (2009). An inexpensive put-it-together-yourself telescope with decent optics designed to make observing the night sky to an as wide audience as possible worldwide. It was even nominated as of Cloudy Nights Reader’s Choice in 2009.

Like many curious amateur astronomers, as soon as I heard about this project I placed my order. And then waited. And waited. And waited some more. Finally my order arrived, I put one of them aside (a present for my younger brother) and as giddy as a kid at Christmas, I proceeded to put mine together. I had printed the enhanced instructions ahead of time from their website. But the scope came together with clouds for a few days, and I was forcde to test it during the day as much as I could. Luckily the nearby mountains provided plenty of targets. I had even ordered a cheap tripod online. However, like many cheap tripods, it added more frustrations than really help. So, I used it without the tripod for the first few days.

Once the clouds were gone, the obvious targets were the Moon and Jupiter. I was happy to see that the optics were quite decent. Much better than I had hoped for the price. If the aim of the project was to put decent optics in as many hands as possible, then they did a good job. As far as I could tell, the views were sharper and clearer than the views of my first two scopes, despite those scopes having more aperture (and being more expensive). Alas, those scopes are lone gone. This one would definitely be a keeper.

Like many others reviews have mentioned, a couple of the drawbacks of the Galileoscope is the lack of a mount, and the difficulty in focusing. I started to think on how to overcome these two challenges. Soon I discovered the proper setting. I would attach it to my 12 inch dobsonian. I had already mounted a small (66 mm) refractor to use as a finder. The Galileoscope isn’t very heavy so I thought I could mount it on the other side without unbalancing the scope. That would solve the problem of the mount. Then, I figured out that if I didn’t have to change the eyepiece, I wouldn’t be faced with the focusing problem. I replaced the plastic eyepiece with a lightweight 12.5 mm one. Once I reached focus with it, I left it alone. This EP would give me 40x magnification and a little over 1.5 degrees field of view. My "finder” was set to 12x and the dobsonian would give me all the high power views I would ever need, so I could leave the
Galileoscope with this eyepiece all the time.

I put this new setup to a real test earlier this spring when I was asked to bring my telescopes to a youth camp. After aligning the tracking platform, I found an interesting object for them to observe. They all formed a line as took their turn observing through the high power view of the dobsonian while I spent my time at the eyepiece end of Galileoscope. My excuse was that I was making sure the object was still within view. This was a lame excuse because the tracking platform was taking care of that. In reality, this was the first time my Galileoscope had been under dark skies and I was paying close attention as to how much I could actually see with it. I don’t know who had more fun that night.

Excited by how much the Galileoscope showed me that night, I decided to turn it into a grab-and-go setup. First I replaced the sliding focuser with a rack and pinion focuser and a 90 degree diagonal I found online. I had to cut part of the tube, but it has worked great for me. Actually, the first time I pointed to the zenith the weight of a larger eyepiece and diagonal made the focuser slide out of focus. I made a couple of modifications to the focuser, mainly to increase the friction, provide smoother action and also a little bit more in-travel movement to accommodate all of my eyepieces. Now the focuser doesn't slide anymore. I also replaced the cheap diagonal with one with enhanced coatings (97% reflectivity) which has made a noticeable difference.

I added a red dot finder as well as a homemade solar finder for when I look for sun spots (I do have a solar filter). The rest of the modifications have been made to the tripod. The cheap tripod I reported earlier was too wobbly. My camera tripod was wobbly too, but it had potential for improvements. first, I replace the "head" of the tripod with a slow motion control head. I made myself some vibration suppression pads, and added a 10 lbs. weight to the tripod (it actually has a hook in the center column for this purpose). This makes the mount much stable, enough for visual observing. It does take about a second for vibrations to dampen, yet I am able to maintain an object in the field of view as I use the slow motion controls or as I focus. I couldn’t do that with the first tripod.

Anyway, I like my current setup. The Galileoscope is on the tripod all of the time now, and it is always in the back of my car. It takes about 15-20 seconds to setup and be observing; With one hand I grab the telescope/tripod and with the other my camping stool and 10 lbs. weight. Being able to sit down for observing has its benefits. First, I don’t have to extend the legs of the tripod that much, which helps with stability, and second I don’t get tired bending over the scope.

Because of recent changes to my work schedule, I am up quite late (or should I say quite early in the morning) therefore, I am able to do some observing for few minutes almost every night. Despite being in the middle of a light polluted parking lot, I have managed to find several DSO's. I wear a hoody so I can cover my head if the light pollution is too much. In the pockets of the hoody I have an eye patch and on a couple of other eyepieces. My current eyepieces consists of a 25 mm Zeiss eyepiece (20x and about 2.7 degrees FOV) for low power. For relative high power I like the views of an 8 mm Edmund's Scientific RKE eyepiece (62x). I have found out that it gives me perhaps the best view of Jupiter in the Galileoscope with no CA whatsoever. I don’t go higher when observing from my work or my backyard because of the light pollution. The images get too dim for my taste. Other eyepieces I like to use are 16 mm (31x) 12.5 mm (40x) and 11 mm (45x). I am surprised that my Galileoscope has become my working scope. Yet, I am reminded of what we often hear in the amateur astronomy community - The best telescope is the one you use most.

Clear Skies,

David O. Treviño


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