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Explore Scientific AR 102

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#51 Mister T.

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Posted 03 June 2016 - 03:43 PM

I had the little beastie out last night at the (semi) dark sky site of Madison Astronomical

Society, Yanna Research Station. FOR ONCE we had clear skies, and quite decent seeing.

I was able to really get into playing with the scope. And thanks to my newly obtained

Thermacell, the bugs were kept at bay very nicely! :)  :)  :)

 

The mount was my Celestron CG4. BTW, I'd highly recommend the mount as a great choice

for the AR102; it's like they were made for each other. QUITE stable.

 

Jupiter, Mars and Saturn were out in their full glory; they were the targets for the evening.

There was also a 12" Dob set up on site.

 

Jupiter with a 15mm Panoptic (42 power) was pretty decent looking; three moons showing,

and quite perceptible surface detail.  Time to start cranking on the power...  drag out the

Barlows.

 

Pretty soon, after some tinkering, the Panoptic was sitting on top of a 3X Barlow

(126 power). BEAUTIFUL views; we had really good seeing. Let's see just how much

we can get away with.

 

Replace the Panoptic with an 11mm Televue Plossl (172 power). STILL looking VERY

good... let's go for broke; replace the 11mm with an 8mm Televue Plossl (237 power).

We're now well into the realm that's beyond the old Rule of Thumb that says  "50 power

per inch of aperture".

 

The 12" Dob is showing excellent surface detail (VERY good seeing), but we've hit the

limits of the ES; focus is sort of soft now, so we're approaching the point of image

breakup. What we're seeing here is an excellent demonstration of the ancient truth,

"Aperture Rules".

 

Bad point...  Jupiter is a VERY bright target, and contrast suffered as a result. A neutral

density filter probably would have brought out more surface detail, but without it

Jupiter's view was STILL quite respectable.

 

One thing I found impressive...   the LACK of chromatic aberration, even with something

this bright.

 

I suppose that purists would have found fault here, but by my inexperienced standards,

there was no complaint; quite surprising for a short tube with an air spaced achromat objective.

 

That assessment could very well be different on a target like the moon, but I don't know

for sure; I packed it in for the night before the moon rose because dewing up was

beginning to become a problem, especially on the Dob.

 

Shift to Mars next. The Dob was picking out a lot of surface detail; the polar cap was

quite prominent.

 

At lower powers the AR102 showed a cleanly defined ball, with faint surface detail

showing.  Jacking up the power to the 200 power range and higher, the detail became

diffuse as image breakdown set in. With color filters it was STILL possible to obtain

halfway decent detail.

 

Shifting to Saturn...  it was Same Song, Different Verse. Not as intensely bright as the

other two, a good image was easily obtainable.

 

The 12" Dob was seeing quite good cloud detail, and the ring shadow was clearly visible.

The Cassini Division was clearly perceptible, but we were beginning to hit the limit of

seeing.

 

The AR102 got a good view, but the ring shadow and Cassini weren't there. Cloud cover

detail was there, but obviously not as good as the Dob was seeing. While not as bright

as Mars and Jupiter, I get the sense that a neutral density filter would have helped on

Saturn too.

 

Overall, my assessment of the ES is still quite positive, but with reservations. It's STILL

an excellent Grab & Go scope, really top notch for the job.

 

As a planetary scope...  it's quite usable, but it's not great, mainly because it won't

gracefully take the power needed for that job.

 

One characteristic I like... you can get the best out of this telescope with relatively

cheap eyepieces; fancy, high ticket glass won't coax that much more performance out

of it. Give this critter decent Plossls or orthoscopics and it's a happy camper.

 

Based on last night I made a change to my Grab & Go kit; I've added my Meade

8 - 24mm zoom and a 2X Barlow to the kit. It performs as well as you can expect from

this scope, tho good Plossls would have a slight edge.

 

In summary...  small, pretty light, easy to use, reasonably rugged. Main limitation is that

above 200X you're hitting the limits of performance.

 

If a fellow Newbie were to ask me what scope to buy, I'd tell him without reservation

that the AR102 is the way to go; it's a scope that you're not going to outgrow quickly,

it's well engineered and built, and the price is outstanding.

 

IMHO, we have a definite Keeper here. :)

 

 

Mr. T.


Edited by Mister T., 03 June 2016 - 03:51 PM.

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#52 phxbird

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Posted 12 June 2016 - 07:47 PM

Thanks everyone! I do have an article coming out soon in Astronomy Technology Today on the AR102. The review was rewritten and some other details were added. The weather in Northern New Mexico where I live has been terrible for astronomy. I counted up the clear nights since January 1 and it has only been 9! There were some others (2 I think) that were clear but I was away on a trip. This makes it hard to really test a scope like you would like. I spent a week in Missouri and only had one night of good observing. My inlaws property is pretty dark and has pretty good skies for the Midwest. Jupiter was crisp and clear with the 2 bands quite prominent and details of clouds in between. These were most easily seen with averted vision but was visible none the less. After looking at Jupiter I pointed it at the Pleiades just to see how they would look. Breathtaking! Bright blue stars (and that is with a #8 filter) and pinpoint. I used the 25mm 2", 70 degree Bresser eyepiece to test how well it worked on these stars. No sign of astigmatism or coma that some reviewers have mentioned when it was near freezing.  It was cold and damp out so I packed it up after this star test. My favorite eyepiece for the AR102 is a Meade 8.8 mm 85 degree. This gives a wide field view and good magnification. It will be fun to tune in on some of the summer targets (if it ever clears up long enough!). 


Edited by phxbird, 22 June 2016 - 04:24 PM.

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#53 phxbird

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Posted 16 June 2016 - 10:27 PM

Finally had a clear night out tonight. We are packing to move back to southern New Mexico so I couldn't stay out to long. I used the modified Celestron GT mount. I took a can of foam and sprayed into the space under the mount or in the tripod cavity. This has really made a difference in the steadiness of the mount. Now the AR102 is pretty stable and I got good views of the Moon, Jupiter and Mars. I could see the 2 bands on Jupiter, the polar cap on Mars and the usual sights on the moon. With a 2" #8 filter on the diagonal there was virtually no false color. When the conditions are bad but you can still see the polar cap and some albedo features on Mars it got to be good!



#54 phxbird

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Posted 22 June 2016 - 04:22 PM

Here are some better images than in the review. AR102, ZWO 120MC camera and Sirius mount. 

M 57 AR102 ZWO 120MC 30x30 minus V summed cropped
Mars 06 20 2016 cropped
Jupiter 06 20 2016 AR102 ZWO120 200 frames Out Of 1200 cropped

 


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#55 mjhuston

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Posted 02 October 2016 - 11:28 AM

I have owned an AR 102 for about 2 years and have used it dozens of times for public outreach viewing. At almost a "department store" price. I'm not afraid to let the public at it. It has survived well in that service and wowed many people with views of Saturn, the Sun (w/1000 oaks filter) and the moon.
I needed a carrying case; and would have preferred a hard sided case, but could not find a reasonably priced (cheap) one. I settled on a HAKUBA PSTC 200 tripod/light stand case. It was $43.95 delivered on Amazon. HAKUBA makes 4 different sizes in its PSTC line. Owners of 3-5" refractors should check them out. The case has a 600 denier polyester exterior, hi density closed cell foam padding, and a nylon lining.
My 102 with diagonal and cradle fits nicely in the case. I ditched the big, bulky factory finderscope for a Quickfinder. The Quickfinder and a couple of 1.25" eyepieces in cases fit in the side zippered pocket.
I posted an article about a good, cheap hard sided case for 8" SCT owners as well. After banging up my stuff up for too long, I got on a tear about getting cases for everything!
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#56 rogeriomagellan

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Posted 13 October 2016 - 05:15 PM

 

Here are some better images than in the review. AR102, ZWO 120MC camera and Sirius mount. 

sml_gallery_36578_5787_7065.jpg
sml_gallery_36578_5787_387.jpg
sml_gallery_36578_5787_3477.jpg

 

 

Thank you very much for posting these pictures. Have you ever tried taking pictures using the AR102 and your smart phone placed close to the eyepiece? If you have, would you mind posting them here as well? That could give us some general idea of what to expect from the ES AR102.



#57 rogeriomagellan

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Posted 13 October 2016 - 05:17 PM

Thanks everyone! I do have an article coming out soon in Astronomy Technology Today on the AR102. The review was rewritten and some other details were added. The weather in Northern New Mexico where I live has been terrible for astronomy. I counted up the clear nights since January 1 and it has only been 9! There were some others (2 I think) that were clear but I was away on a trip. This makes it hard to really test a scope like you would like. I spent a week in Missouri and only had one night of good observing. My inlaws property is pretty dark and has pretty good skies for the Midwest. Jupiter was crisp and clear with the 2 bands quite prominent and details of clouds in between. These were most easily seen with averted vision but was visible none the less. After looking at Jupiter I pointed it at the Pleiades just to see how they would look. Breathtaking! Bright blue stars (and that is with a #8 filter) and pinpoint. I used the 25mm 2", 70 degree Bresser eyepiece to test how well it worked on these stars. No sign of astigmatism or coma that some reviewers have mentioned when it was near freezing.  It was cold and damp out so I packed it up after this star test. My favorite eyepiece for the AR102 is a Meade 8.8 mm 85 degree. This gives a wide field view and good magnification. It will be fun to tune in on some of the summer targets (if it ever clears up long enough!). 

I've read your article in ATT and I liked it a lot. Nice job!



#58 SantanuRoy

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Posted 25 October 2016 - 01:00 PM

Can someone please tell me whether I would be able to attach a guide camera (ASI120MM-S) to the finderscope that comes with this?



#59 phxbird

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Posted 21 November 2016 - 09:19 PM

I think you could use the finder for a guidescope but it might be difficult to find objects without it. However, if you have an accurate electronic mount that might not be an issue. Scopestuff has adapters that you could use for a camera. I am planning on mounting another scope and using it as an external guide scope. With the ZWO120 and an autoguider the AR102 should be a pretty solid imager!



#60 phxbird

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Posted 21 November 2016 - 09:21 PM

I did read the above question about using a smart phone to image. I have not tried it I'm afraid. I do think you should be able to do this especially with brighter objects. If you give it a try and you get good results post the images. 



#61 phxbird

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Posted 29 January 2017 - 12:43 AM

Here is a new image of the Orion Nebula. Taken with the AR102, ZWO120C camera using Sharpcap LX mode 20 seconds. The mount is a Sirius mount with an Atlas tripod and controlled by a laptop with EQMOD. 

Orion 20x10 ZWO120C

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#62 phxbird

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Posted 01 February 2017 - 11:52 PM

M 42 A stacked process final
Album: AR 102
11 images
0 comments

Venus 2 1 2017 Proce3ssed 2

Here is a so so image of Venus. AR102, ZWO120C and a Sirius mount. Processed with PIPP, Registax and Maxim DL5. 



#63 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 02 February 2017 - 06:50 AM

There never seem to be any negative reviews on this site.

 

Try this one:

 

Baytronix 150mm 1400mm Short Tube Newtonian
Is it a Decent Telescope?

 

Jon


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#64 SideWalk

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Posted 12 April 2017 - 11:20 AM

I got this telescope last year and have been very happy with it.  It is light enough to quickly pack in my car and powerful enough for some great viewing.  The wide field Explore Scientific eyepieces paired with this scope makes for the best viewing.



#65 Mister T.

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 03:20 PM

I had the scope out this past weekend at a sorta dark sky location,

and just encountered a minor problem with it...  but the problem isn't

a big enough deal to alter my very positive impressions of this little

scope.

 

The target was Jupiter, under conditions of pretty good seeing.

 

I was trying it out with a binoviewer for the first time (eyepieces were

11mm Naglers, about 115 power). It was on my Celestron mount. This

was a test setup for a public outreach event this coming weekend.

 

Batteries in the drive died while I was away from the scope, and tracking

stopped. When I returned and replaced the batteries, it was necessary to

relocate Jupiter before restarting the RA motor drive.

 

As I unlocked the drive and swung thru RA, I saw it...  a fringe of light that

appeared before Jupiter and it's moons did.

 

Jupiter is a VERY bright target, and off target it will produce a lot of stray,

off axis light. It appears that the ES tube is a bit short on baffling and / or

suppression measures to deal with such "ghost images" completely.

 

Interesting that it should show up NOW...  in the months I've played with

it, it occurs to me that I haven't tried it out on the ULTIMATE bright target,

the moon!!!

 

My impressions of the scope remain unchanged; I STILL consider the

AR-102 to be an outstanding value, especially as a "first serious telescope"

for Newbies (it's already taught ME a lot!). But be aware that it has limitations;

we're NOT talking Televue refractor here (close to it, but not quite).

 

Incidentally...  even with Jupiter low on the horizon, the views were pretty

spectacular.  waytogo.gif    It should leave the outreach viewers with good impressions

this weekend. 


Edited by Mister T., 24 April 2017 - 03:25 PM.


#66 BobW55

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Posted 11 July 2019 - 11:00 PM

I know this is an old post.  I just recently bought the AR102.  Compared to my Celestron GPS 11, this is a lightweight.  I have a CEM60 mount and wanted to get into AP, that the 11"SCT is just not made for.   Unfortunately for me, the alignment of the OTA and the lenses were way off.

If you looked down from the objective towards the EP, you could see the misalignment.  I could never get anything to focus in the center of an eye piece.

I was how ever impressed that with a finder scope, Guidescope/camera, imaging camera, and 2" diagonal I could easily heft this into the mount one handed.

Well I sent the scope back to B&H, and got the ok from the big boss to upgrade to the FCD100 102mm.

I am blown away by the views.




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