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CNers have asked about a donation box for Cloudy Nights over the years, so here you go. Donation is not required by any means, so please enjoy your stay.
Orion Optics Europa 150 F5 Newtonian Reflector
For those not from the South East UK, the term "plump (plumping, plumper, plumped)" are local expressions which means to "decide on" "to choose" and is treated as a verb. Also "quid" is one British Pound. Both terms were explained to me by Adam. Lastly, Orion Optics is based in the UK and should not be confused with Orion Telescopes in the U.S. A lesson to all of us that the internet is an international entity.
Have had my Orion Europa 150 for one month and as a newcomer to serious astronomy, feel that my first impressions may be useful. These are personal opinions and I cannot guarantee you will feel the same. As a matter of courtesy I let Orion see the review before posting it. I now know that the less good points noted are due entirley toproduction costs which would push the purchase cost of the scope too high.
I spent some considerable time doing research on what type, size, make and price bracket. I was told time and time again that aperture matters and hence plumped for the biggest “proper scope” I could afford without cutting quality or paying for expensive electronics. I played with a few in the shops and must say I was impressed more than anything else by the robust nature of the Orion. Only Tal exceeded the mount in terms of weight and size. This I hoped would bode well for stability in viewing. I had nearly plumped for a popular 114mm GOTO scope (white and american) but the mount was in my view, appalling.
I purchased the scope through local specialist retailers in Tonbridge Wells, mainly because they were the same cost as buying direct, were local so no delivery charge but also I could fondle the beast before buying, show the wife the object of my desire and the staff were very helpful also. A word of warning...a 6” scope is big and heavy and am pleased to have had an estate car to bring it home in it’s packaging.
The Unpacking (Christmas day comes)
The scope duly unpacked on Christmas day and assembled. It spent the day gathering admiring glances from others and receiving gentle touches from me! It looked lovely. This time of reflection was good to sort out the bits that came with the scope (some bought separately).
Tube cradle and counterweights
Camera adapter (Tmount and ring)
R,G B filters
GEM1 (German Equitorial Mount) mount and Aluminium tripod c/w setting rings, bubble level and polar scope
All present and correct although a nice case (or even individual cases) for the bits would have been nice, cardboard boxes seemed, well, slightly tight of Orion for such expensive gear. Tal for example, provide wooden boxes. Stripped down my Laptop’s aluminium box and used that instead (Laptop now in cardboard box) this at least keeps all the bits together. (Wife slightly miffed at spending time in office to do this) Second slight criticism.
Its OK but short and sweet and I thought the illustrations were poor being small and black and white. These days one comes to expect high quality literature with some “added value” information. Not even a glossy accessories manual...silly really ‘cos most of us I’m sure would appreciate seeing what else is available. This is a minor point I know but after spending best part of £550 on the kit a nice informative, even colour manual and maybe a “beginners guide” and starchart to take to bed would be good.
What do all the extra screw holes do....can I adjust the “firmness” of the mount movement....where do motor drives fix if I ever get them? Etc. Illustrations of the possabilites and adjustments necessary in normal use would be good. Recently bought a £40 toaster which had a better manual - also a recipe book and cooking guide as added goodies! Seriously, I think Orion could work on this. (Not the recepies of course)
4.00pm comes at last and I was let outside to play.
I didn’t have the patience to line up the polar scope properly so set the latitude and aimed the scope roughly north. Pointed scope at Jupiter, shining bright above and put in the low power eyepiece. Didn’t bother too much with the finder at this stage
First light........well, I had never seen anything so beautiful. Four moons clearly visible and the cloud bands....crystal clear...I first came to see what they all banging on about. Here this scope was at low mag and the view was fantastic. Same with Saturn .... brilliant! What would it be like with a stronger eyepiece?.........even better......and better......but finally either the scope or the “seeing” gave way with the 6mm and Barlow in, the planet went fuzzy on me.
The controls on the scope are lovely. The knobs are big and easily handled with gloves on. Flexible extensions might be nice but are not provided as standard. The mount is rock steady and apart from the slightest of play on the DEC adjustment (now sorted thanks to Orions help over the phone but maybe such advice should be in the manual?) is secure and firm.
Took time to align the finder and found this easy. In fact I was slightly concerned because it looked complicated but in the end the 6 adjustable screws holding the finder made for secure and precise aiming.
I then spent hours trying to engage the enthusiasm of other members of the family. Failing to do so, I enjoyed simply pointing and looking across the sky. There was no moon that night The scope really is good, being an F5 unit it seems quite lively and bright and I really cannot fault the views I have had of some of clusters, nebular and fainter objects.
It hasn’t got the ferocious magnification of the longer F8 version but I cannot overstate the quality and brightness of image at about 100x
The following night it was again clear and cold and spent time getting to know the scope. I had my first major problem. The RA/DEC adjustment is locked by two clamps which press onto a nylon sleeve within the scope mount. The DEC lock gave way when being tightened which, upon inspection turned out to be a stripped thread on the locking nut. The scope was usable (just) but hard to see through my tears!. Phoned the place where I bought it the following day and by 12.00noon I was driving home with a replacement mount. Strange thing is it only took a couple of seconds over the phone for the guy to understand what was wrong - too quick and definite for my liking !. Call me cynical but either it happens a lot or that particular mount had been back before..... Never mind though, the new mount was fine and I have inspected the thread which is also fine.
The tripod comes with an accessory tray (would rather a box but there you go) to hold your bits and pieces whilst viewing. A word of warning. Check for eyepieces before lifting the scope back indoors. (The tray is black and slippery and I nearly lost one!)
Slightly disappointed by the cheap plastic dust cover for the main aperture. I know this is a low end scope but even Tasco manage a proper cover! The plastic one supplied broke on night 4 (probably the cold). A minor gripe, but are cost margins really this tight? A call to Orion has since seen another three sent through the post FOC - thanks Barry. Not sure if proper covers are made but will have to sort something.
Getting to know the ‘scope
I have suffered from Sodium light pollution from the local industrial estate (Safeway’s main south east depot) no point in complaining so have since ordered a pollution filter from Orion. It cost sixty quid but I can honestly say it is worth it. It does cut down the brightness of the object and give a blue hue but really improves contrast. If you live near a town then get one.
Setting rings were a struggle - the scope’s manual is fairly useless in this regard (for a beginner), so I read up elsewhere, got my head round RA/DEC basics and sorted it out myself. I have got to admit at this stage I can see why the ETX and other GOTO scopes are liked by many. Constant finding, adjustment and manual tracking is hard. But I really think I am getting to know the skies first hand which is good and as the Europa will accept motor drives I can add these later if i want . Have bought the book “Turn left at Orion” and this is already helping a lot.
Well I’ve had the scope for a month and am very pleased with it. This is not to say that I wouldn’t like something bigger - a 16” light bucket would be nice, also GOTO control maybe with a CCD kit and PC interface, but the Europa is reasonably portable, is very pretty and quite compact and will I am sure serve me for many years.
For a quick evaluation (cannot score because nothing to judge it against)
- Sturdy mount
- excellent brightness
- excellent clarity of view
- Good controls
- Reasonably compact
- Economical “serious” scope
- Good service from manufacturer and retailer
- Excellent after sale support from Orion
Less good points
- Poor documentation (in my opinion) for a beginner
- Silly dust cap No
- Proper boxes or cases
Overall an excellent piece of kit and I would unreservedly recommend it to any reasonably serious beginner like me. I will will give an update in a few months time.