Jump to content

  •  

- - - - -

Orion SkyView Pro 6LT



Short bio: I’ve been an amateur astronomer for more than 10 years, but I only got my first telescope about 5 years ago. Before that I was a binocular observer. I like to observe deep sky objects and use an alt-az telescope, therefore I am not very experienced with equatorial mounts. This gave me some problems I had to think through before being able to write a better and fairer review for this equatorially mounted scope.

Note: Author has no connections to Orion Telescopes and has presented this review solely based upon product the author purchased via normal channels from Orion Telescopes.

Introduction:

The 6” f/8 equatorial reflector is one of the classic amateur astronomer telescopes, with arguably the Criterion RV-6 being the most popular. Sadly, these excellent all-round scopes went out of production and the recent telescope market has become rather devoid of equatorially mounted long focal length Newtonian telescopes. However, while browsing through the ORION catalogue, the SkyView Pro 6LT caught my attention. ORION advertises the 6LT as a 6” f/8 newtonian on the CG-5 like SkyView Pro equatorial mount with dual axis drives, all for about $600 including shipping. At that time, I own an 8” f/4 alt-az scope and I’ve been saving up for a while, hoping to get a longer focal length telescope to complement my observing and perhaps jump on the webcam planet photography bandwagon. After a little pondering, my decision was made, this should be the right scope to get. As we shall see, the decision was not a very bad one.

The Joy of Unpacking and First Impressions

The scope arrived in 3 big boxes, one containing the optical tube assembly (OTA), one containing the SkyView Pro equatorial mount and one holding the dual-axis drive. I immediately got down to work un-packing. As it turns out, setup without the dual axis drive was a breeze.

The first box I opened contained the OTA. ORION did an excellent job packing the scope, no apparent damage to the scope and I will find out later too that the collimation was almost perfect. There was a shallow dent in the side of the aluminum OTA, but that is just a cosmetic defect. The 1.25” focuser and mirrors showed no signs of damage.

The next box contained the SkyView Pro equatorial mount. The components were packed in 8 separate smaller boxes. Actually only 5 of the boxes contained components, 3 other empty boxes were fit perfectly in place to fill the equatorial mount box, preventing shuffling of the contents, an indication of ORION’s attention and care when it comes to packaging. The equatorial head was placed in one box together with the Dec. shaft. The tripod came in another, 2 more boxes held the counterweights, another contained the finderscope and eyepieces. I also found a copy of The Sky Student Edition and the instruction booklet for the telescope.

Finally, the Dual-Axis drive box contained of course, the dual axis drive. After taking the drive out, I did dig around in the foam peanuts, just in case they accidentally put in some extras. Long shot, but it was worth the try.

Note here: the slo-mo knob was missing. No wonder I was still digging around for stuff. Got to email ORION about this.*

*ORION did reply and they sent slo-mo controls, it arrived a week after delivery of the telescope.

Assembly

Having taken out all the components, I was really eager to set up everything quickly. I reminded myself that its a rookie mistake and I decided instead to sit down and read the instruction manuals before assembling the scope. The instruction manual was very well written and I am certain that most beginners would be able to follow the detailed instructions. However, I did wish on a few occasions that more pictures or diagrams be provided. This goes the same for the Dual-Axis drive instructions.

While assembling the mount, I noticed that the tripod support tray did not exactly fit the tripod legs. I tried adjusting the legs of the tripod, but to no avail. While inspecting the equatorial head, I noticed too that the RA pointer sticker was peeling off. I would find out later too that the velcro ORION supplied to secure the Dual-Axis drive controller to the tripod had this peeling off situation too. A quick trip to Walmart solved this problem. There was also some black grease smeared on the equatorial head, which was easily wiped off.

The Dual-Axis Drive

The dual axis drive was the last component I installed. It is also the most frustrating part of the process. Firstly, while installing the RA drive, the latitude adjustment screw of the mount got in the way. The RA drive is secured to the mount through a hex screw which goes through a hole at the back (opposite side of the Dec. shaft) of the equatorial mount and I had to remove the latitude adjustment screw because it was in the way of the hex key. ORION’s instruction had suggested to install the RA drive first before installing the manual clutch gear. However I found that it is much easier to do it the other way around, install the manual clutch gear first before the RA drive. On the bright side, installation of the Dec. drive was a breeze. I again installed the manual clutch gear first before installing the drive.

First Light

By now, I was about to explode with anticipation of the views through this scope and seeing how the mount performs. But before that, its really worth mentioning that one of the best thing that ORION did to their scopes was to provide a straight-forwardly simple finderscope. Out on my balcony, aligning the 6X30 finder scope requires turning only 2 screws with a third spring tensioned screw holding the finder in place and a black rubber band providing a secured pivot point.

I did a rough polar alignment by facing the letter “N” on the Skyview Pro equatorial mount to the north and set my latitude to roughly 33 degrees for Phoenix, AZ. I then pointed at the Pleiades, for they were in view from my west-facing balcony. The whole cluster fitted within the FOV at 40X magnification. The stars in the seven sisters were pretty blue pin-points with little distortion at the edge of the FOV, most likely coming from my 30mm eyepiece. It was a pretty lovely sight. I also took the chance to use the collimating cap and found that the collimation was pretty good. The instruction manual mentioned that the scope was factory collimated, so it seems that the collimation has survived the trip to my doorstep.

Then, I left the scope outside for about an hour to cool off while I followed a Phoenix Suns game and watched some news….

Saturn is now in view from my balcony, and I just put in 4 fresh D cell batteries into the Dual-Axis drive’s battery pack. I plugged in the RA and Dec. control wires, tightened the clutch and turned on the Dual-Axis drive. I tried moving the RA and Dec, but there seemed to be no reaction. The scope didn’t look like it was moving, and there was no sound. Turns out that the scope WAS moving and the motors are really quiet. But this being the first time I used a Dual-Axis drive, I did not realize the max 8X slewing was not very fast and what really impressed me was how quiet the motor is, as opposed to the “coffee grinders” I heard at many of my club star parties.

Aiming the scope at Saturn and increasing the magnification to 267X using the included 9mm eyepiece and a 2X barlow, I was surprised that my polar alignment was pretty good and Saturn stayed within the FOV for quite a while. Centering Saturn was a breeze using the dual-axis drive. While controlled manually, there was a slight delay after centering the scope before tracking took over, but I wasn’t really paying attention to the time delays actually, because I was hooked by the views!! Saturn was a spectacular sight!! At moments of good seeing, I could clearly see the Cassini Division, a brown band across the globe of Saturn. I can also clearly see that the outermost ring, Ring A is greyer compared to the center ring (Ring B). I could also see the Crepe Ring or Ring C which was clearly a greyer, thin layer within Ring B. Apart from Titan, I also spotted 3 other moons, though I did not bother to identify them.

As expected when one gets a new scope, the clouds came rolling in after about 20 minutes of admiring the views of Saturn. I had planned to do a star-test after observing Saturn, but I guess this will have to wait for another night.

Further Testing

Views of Jupiter this night was also affected by the poor seeing. The 2 main equatorial belts were very prominent, but the poor seeing blurred the finer features on the bands. I could not see any of the other cloud bands either. I gave up when the seeing seem to not settle and actually seem to have gotten worse.

I also had the chance to take this scope out to a dark sky site. The scope was easily transportable, but I wished the counterweights were a little lighter, then again, they won’t be counterweights if they were lighter, doh! The tripod and head did not need to be detached and fit nicely inside a 1993 Toyota Corolla. The OTA goes in the back seat, semi-secured in place by seat belts. At the dark sky site although the skies are dark, I was plagued again by rather poor seeing conditions. Nevertheless, Jupiter and Saturn were again a very beautiful sight through this telescope. I noticed too on this night, that the secondary vanes scatter quite an amount of light. Aldebaran shows four bright diffraction spikes seemingly extending beyond the 1 degree field of view. As an extra note, a fellow astronomy club member and avid planet observer, Bill, had a few looks through the telescope and felt that the views through the scope were pretty good, although we were limited to rather low magnifications (~ below 100X). Finally, views of deep sky objects through this scope were wonderful. M1 was as bright as it should be in a 6” scope. The Orion Nebula was a spectacular sight! I could also clearly see the planetary nebula NGC2438 in M46.

Skyview Pro mount for the Pro’s?

The equatorial mount has held the scope pretty well. Stability was very good and while observing Saturn at 267X on the first night, I tapped the tube at various spots of the OTA and the mount and got damping times of about 1 to 2 seconds. Although the fit and finish of the mount was not very impressive (the RA drive housing on the mount is made of plastic), it does its job well. The mount holds the tube assembly via a dovetail plate. A securing knob and a backup screw secures the dovetail plate and the OTA in place. The dovetail plate looks to be made of some light metal, but I did not notice any structural distortions of any sort after the observing session. Seemingly the dovetail plate is stronger than it looks.

One final note, this scope stands pretty tall. At maximum height, I could not reach the eyepiece (I’m 5’6”) and I can only reach it when the tube is rotated so that the focuser faces nearly downwards. This means that a child would probably need to stand on a chair to reach the eyepiece.

Conclusion:

I felt that I really like what $600 got me. The scope had pretty decent optics, the mount was stable and tracks pretty well. The supplied accessories were well made and sufficient for a beginner to start out on their astronomical adventures. There were of course, some minor problems as reported in my review, but those problems were relatively easy to solve. One down side to this I feel, is that ORION decided to sell the polarscope separately. Therefore, astrophotography junkies would have to dish out another U$50+ for the polar finder.

Additional/Helpful Notes:

The Dual-Axis drive requires 4 D-cell batteries to operate. For use in a remote site, the batteries are a very good choice and one can save more money using rechargable batteries. However, for home use, it is more desirable if the drives could be powered via a DC adapter. A call to ORION’s technical support gave a positive response: a 6VDC 1000mA (1A) DC adapter with tip positive configuration can be used to power the dual axis drives. Before long, I found myself at a nearby Radio Shack buying the aforementioned DC adapter, it worked with the Dual-Axis drive perfectly.




0 Comments



Cloudy Nights LLC
Cloudy Nights Sponsor: Astronomics