A series of anecdotes leading up to some questions:
- From the first time I read it, I have had a strange fascination with Jay Reynolds Freeman's "Refractor Red meets the Herschel 400" (available here). In it, he wrote, "Ask people who land big fish with light tackle, why I do what I do."
- Lately I've been working through a slew of the open clusters in the Herschel 400 myself. And I have found that some clusters are dead easy to recognize as distinct bright patches in my 9x50 finder, but at the eyepiece they just sort of dissipate into the background starfield. That plus some fairly transformative RFT experiences with small refractors are working some kind of alchemy on me.
- My friend Terry Nakazono is up to about 500 galaxies observed in the past 3 or so years, most of them logged and sketched with an Orion SkyScanner 100, mostly from at least somewhat light-polluted skies. He is just religious about dark adaptation, averted vision, and patience.
- Possibly as a result of all of the above, lately I have had this mad desire to go out to the desert with a 70mm or even a 50mm refractor and spend the whole night observing with only that instrument.
- Anyone else ever feel like that? Besides binocular observers? Not that I'm not interested--rather the opposite. I _love_ binocular observing. But lately I've had a yen for small-aperture telescopic DSO chasing.
- What's the smallest instrument you've carried out a serious DSO observing program with?
- Why'd you do it? I'm just curious. For me, it feels like my reverse aperture fever and my deep-sky interests are slowly colliding. That plus a sort of perverse desire to knowingly commit to a "suboptimal" (aperture-wise) observing program just because it sounds fun. I realize there are many variables one could optimize--aperture, portability, optical quality, etc--so which one pushed you toward small-scope observations of DSOs?
I wanted to create a Beginner's List of 500 Best DSOs I could give to friends who wanted to branch out beyond the Messier list, but weren't ready for the 10,000 objects in the SAC list.
So I pulled a couple thousand bright objects from my log and went to observe them all with a 127mm Maksutov (it's actually 121mm). I viewed all the objects on my list over a few years, excluding those I thought too faint or completely uninteresting in a small scope, and eventually arrived at around 500 objects.
That list, by the way, is available upon request for anyone PMing me their email addresses.
In a sense, I do that with the 12.5", too, as I am always pushing the boundaries, knowing full-well that a larger scope might see the objects more easily. I don't want a larger aperture, but I want to see what a 12.5" scope can actually see (hint: it's a lot, and it's really faint). Going after globulars in M31 or faint companions to larger galaxies or Abell planetaries might be the same as Freeman going after objects in a small scope. There is a thrill in the hunt. And I notice the number of NFs (not founds) seems to be going down over the years.
Friends tell me it would be a lot easier to just get a larger aperture. But where's the fun in that?