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How much have you seen in a 3" refractor?

observing refractor
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#1 jay.i

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Posted 20 May 2018 - 02:36 PM

It seems that 70-80mm scopes are highly prized by experienced observers, for not only their portability but their capability despite their small size. My question to owners of scopes in this size class is, how much have you actually seen with yours? How much planetary detail have you gotten? Have you seen craterlets on the Moon that you thought should be impossible for the small scope? Canals on Mars? Are you happy with the performance of your scope? Tell us what your 3 incher can do!



#2 Scott Beith

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Posted 20 May 2018 - 02:54 PM

With my previous Stellarvue SV AT1010N Nighthawk (80mm f/6 achromat) I caught the triple shadow transit of Jupiter plus two of its moons on the face of the planet during the rare March 28, 2004 event.  I used a Vixen LV 8-24mm zoom combined with a Klee 2.8X barlow.

 

A 3" refractor can show you a lot!


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#3 gnowellsct

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Posted 20 May 2018 - 03:20 PM

No one believes what you say you can do in an 80 mm class aperture.  For one thing my initiation to 80 mm was with an achromat and quickly decided I wasn't going to be using it much.  There matters lay until finally the nut cakes on this group convinced me that maybe I should stop saying bad things about 80 mm and check it out.    There was a sale on what is now labeled the SD81s at Vixen so I got one for $850 or so.  

 

It was certainly a surprise and I posted a pic of me eating my hat.  It's a real cool little scope, color correction is excellent (not too hard given FPL 53 and small diameter objective, as well as longish-fl of 7.7).  You can see a great deal of detail on it.  If you mount the 3 inch on a 5 inch the advantage of the 5 inch is obvious at the eyepiece.  Unfortunately, the drawing skills of our CN artists, even though some of them are excellent, simply can't capture everything that is going on in a planetary view.  So I don't expect drawings to prove that you can see in an 80 mm what you can see in a 130 mm.  (or 35.6 cm).  But what drawings can do is capture most of what we *remember* of what we saw, *regardless of aperture*.   

 

So I unexpectedly find myself preaching the virtues of 80mm. 

 

And this is added to a personal predilection:  I think MOST SCOPES ARE VASTLY UNDERMOUNTED.  So I was arguing in another thread that a CN member really *should not* get a 127 mm (he did anyhow) because the mount he wanted to put it on was not, by my standards, up to the job.  (He has an LX 75).  From my perspective, it's better if the OTA is about 50% of the total weight limit on a mount, and that it is much better to reduce aperture than to push the limit on the mount. 

 

So there I was arguing that the best choice was an 80 mm apo that would be perfectly sized to the mount and deliver the best overall experience IMO.  As is typical however, when it is suggested that the mount be prioritized over the aperture, this argument went unheeded.  That part is not surprising. What is surprising is that it was the argument I chose to make.

 

I think you can do a great deal of observing in 80 and 90 mm class instruments and by masking my 81 mm have shown to my own satisfaction that there are even things to be seen at 40 mm aperture level.  I haven't tried it on deep sky but I guess I will.  You can see GRS and some belt detail at the 40 mm aperture level.  The thing is not done well; what is surprising is that it can be done at all.

 

I will say that as far as deep sky goes the refractor views are acquired tastes, in many cases we have to be satisfied with *detection* instead of  "a good look."  But there is enough deep sky to keep one going for years with an 80 mm.  To sum up I'd rather have an 80 mm on a good mount (appropriately sized)  than a 130 mm on a bad one.    I would also say that, much as I respect the capabilities of an 80 mm, it has not become a sole-use scope, but rather one that I add to other scopes.  I think it would be a tough job to chase down 11th magnitude deep sky objects in an 80 mm.  Mag 10 and brighter deep sky would provide more satisfying IMO. 

 

Greg N  


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#4 Bomber Bob

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Posted 20 May 2018 - 03:28 PM

Jupiter with a 1960 Royal 76x910:

 

gallery_220683_3357_1489.jpg

 

Mars with a 1964 Royal 76x1200:

 

Mars - S6336 20140426V07S11X8C.jpg

 

Not the greatest digital images ever made.  Just hints to what I've seen over the years with 3" refractors.  I've logged thousands of hours with these scopes, and will never see all that they're capable of showing.

 

 

 

 


Edited by Bomber Bob, 20 May 2018 - 03:31 PM.

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#5 desertlens

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Posted 20 May 2018 - 03:31 PM

I've just accepted the small scope challenge. My largest is an AT115EDT, my smallest a Borg 55FL. A list of things I've seen would be annoyingly long... so I've "seen" a lot. I keep an SV80ST mounted at all times and use it frequently. I'm blessed with a dark location (SQM-L: 21.5 on average) and my opportunities often require a quick "out-the-door" approach. I'm also a history buff and aware that much of the discovery done by Messier and Mechain was done with 80mm class refractors. I think this fact speaks volumes on the capability of the small telescope. Honestly, moving "down" in aperture made less difference than I expected. There is a difference so I don't expect to to a lot of galaxy busting at 80mm but I've had some beautiful nights at 3".


Edited by desertlens, 20 May 2018 - 03:38 PM.

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#6 gnowellsct

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Posted 20 May 2018 - 03:55 PM

I've just accepted the small scope challenge. My largest is an AT115EDT, my smallest a Borg 55FL. A list of things I've seen would be annoyingly long... so I've "seen" a lot. I keep an SV80ST mounted at all times and use it frequently. I'm blessed with a dark location (SQM-L: 21.5 on average) and my opportunities often require a quick "out-the-door" approach. I'm also a history buff and aware that much of the discovery done by Messier and Mechain was done with 80mm class refractors. I think this fact speaks volumes on the capability of the small telescope. Honestly, moving "down" in aperture made less difference than I expected. There is a difference so I don't expect to to a lot of galaxy busting at 80mm but I've had some beautiful nights at 3".

Well yes....at the risk of repeating myself, I like to say that when I mask my 81 mm down to 41 mm I get to have a taste of the "Galileo experience."  That is, if Galileo had had an FPL doublet with a dielectric diagonal and lanthanum eyepieces from 2.5 to 40 mm on a solid tracking mount.  It's just like what he would have seen.  Almost.

 

Too bad we'll never know, for sure, whether he did not see the GRS because of bad optics or because it wasn't there yet.  We don't know whether GRS is a 400 year storm or a 4 million year storm....

 

Greg N


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#7 gwlee

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Posted 20 May 2018 - 03:56 PM

It seems that 70-80mm scopes are highly prized by experienced observers, for not only their portability but their capability despite their small size. My question to owners of scopes in this size class is, how much have you actually seen with yours? How much planetary detail have you gotten? Have you seen craterlets on the Moon that you thought should be impossible for the small scope? Canals on Mars? Are you happy with the performance of your scope? Tell us what your 3 incher can do!

I consider portability and wide fov to be the strengths of 70-80 refractors, not planetary observation for which just about anything bigger works proportionally better.

 

Consider 150-200mm about the minimum aperture required for a fully satisfactory planetary scope. Nothing smaller is capable of providing all the magnification typically allowed by the seeing at this mediocre site while providing a 1mm exit pupil to keep floaters down. 

 

Find a 70-80mm  refractor is great for keeping track of planets, evaluating seeing (prospecting) before hauling out a bigger scope, and satisfactory for casual lunar viewing at 50-80x. To me, it’s a third instrument that splits the difference in capability between a handheld binocular and a larger general purpose telescope. 


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#8 gnowellsct

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Posted 20 May 2018 - 04:05 PM

I consider portability and wide fov to be the strengths of 70-80 refractors, not planetary observation for which just about anything bigger works proportionally better.

 

Consider 150-200mm about the minimum aperture required for a fully satisfactory planetary scope. Nothing smaller is capable of providing all the magnification typically allowed by the seeing at this mediocre site while providing a 1mm exit pupil to keep floaters down. 

 

Find a 70-80mm  refractor is great for keeping track of planets, evaluating seeing (prospecting) before hauling out a bigger scope, and satisfactory for casual lunar viewing at 50-80x. To me, it’s a third instrument that splits the difference in capability between a handheld binocular and a larger general purpose telescope. 

And you might add, enough total light to keep color saturation up as magnification increases.

 

Greg N



#9 desertlens

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Posted 20 May 2018 - 04:11 PM

Well yes....at the risk of repeating myself, I like to say that when I mask my 81 mm down to 41 mm I get to have a taste of the "Galileo experience."  That is, if Galileo had had an FPL doublet with a dielectric diagonal and lanthanum eyepieces from 2.5 to 40 mm on a solid tracking mount.  It's just like what he would have seen.  Almost.

 

Too bad we'll never know, for sure, whether he did not see the GRS because of bad optics or because it wasn't there yet.  We don't know whether GRS is a 400 year storm or a 4 million year storm....

 

Greg N

Funny you should mention it but the little Borg is my Galilean experience. A 12.5mm ortho is 20x. As I recall, GG never got more than ~30x.


Edited by desertlens, 20 May 2018 - 04:14 PM.


#10 Astrojensen

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Posted 20 May 2018 - 04:59 PM

No one believes what you say you can do in an 80 mm class aperture.  For one thing my initiation to 80 mm was with an achromat and quickly decided I wasn't going to be using it much.  There matters lay until finally the nut cakes on this group convinced me that maybe I should stop saying bad things about 80 mm and check it out.    There was a sale on what is now labeled the SD81s at Vixen so I got one for $850 or so.  

 

It was certainly a surprise and I posted a pic of me eating my hat.  It's a real cool little scope, color correction is excellent (not too hard given FPL 53 and small diameter objective, as well as longish-fl of 7.7).  You can see a great deal of detail on it.  If you mount the 3 inch on a 5 inch the advantage of the 5 inch is obvious at the eyepiece.  Unfortunately, the drawing skills of our CN artists, even though some of them are excellent, simply can't capture everything that is going on in a planetary view.  So I don't expect drawings to prove that you can see in an 80 mm what you can see in a 130 mm.  (or 35.6 cm).  But what drawings can do is capture most of what we *remember* of what we saw, *regardless of aperture*.   

 

So I unexpectedly find myself preaching the virtues of 80mm. 

 

And this is added to a personal predilection:  I think MOST SCOPES ARE VASTLY UNDERMOUNTED.  So I was arguing in another thread that a CN member really *should not* get a 127 mm (he did anyhow) because the mount he wanted to put it on was not, by my standards, up to the job.  (He has an LX 75).  From my perspective, it's better if the OTA is about 50% of the total weight limit on a mount, and that it is much better to reduce aperture than to push the limit on the mount. 

 

So there I was arguing that the best choice was an 80 mm apo that would be perfectly sized to the mount and deliver the best overall experience IMO.  As is typical however, when it is suggested that the mount be prioritized over the aperture, this argument went unheeded.  That part is not surprising. What is surprising is that it was the argument I chose to make.

 

I think you can do a great deal of observing in 80 and 90 mm class instruments and by masking my 81 mm have shown to my own satisfaction that there are even things to be seen at 40 mm aperture level.  I haven't tried it on deep sky but I guess I will.  You can see GRS and some belt detail at the 40 mm aperture level.  The thing is not done well; what is surprising is that it can be done at all.

 

I will say that as far as deep sky goes the refractor views are acquired tastes, in many cases we have to be satisfied with *detection* instead of  "a good look."  But there is enough deep sky to keep one going for years with an 80 mm.  To sum up I'd rather have an 80 mm on a good mount (appropriately sized)  than a 130 mm on a bad one.    I would also say that, much as I respect the capabilities of an 80 mm, it has not become a sole-use scope, but rather one that I add to other scopes.  I think it would be a tough job to chase down 11th magnitude deep sky objects in an 80 mm.  Mag 10 and brighter deep sky would provide more satisfying IMO. 

 

Greg N  

I completely agree that most scopes are vastly undermounted. This includes a couple of my own, but with the recent acquisition of a Vixen Saturn mount, I hope to remedy that in the near future. 

 

And I used to regularly chase 11th mag deep-sky objects (and fainter) with my 63mm Zeiss Telemator. Was it tough? Sometimes it definitely was, but it was also a lot of fun. I considered 11th magnitude to be a sort of rule-of-thumb border between objects reasonably easily seen and those that required serious work. There were of course exceptions from this rule, like very low surface brightness objects that could sometimes be considerably brighter, yet were extremely challenging. With my 80mm Vixen and my 85mm Zeiss, I used to chase even fainter objects. I've seen four globulars in M31 with the 85mm Zeiss. 

 

 

Clear skies!
Thomas, Denmark


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#11 gnowellsct

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Posted 20 May 2018 - 05:39 PM

Funny you should mention it but the little Borg is my Galilean experience. A 12.5mm ortho is 20x. As I recall, GG never got more than ~30x.


GET OUT! 55mm is HUGE for poor Galileo. Maybe you're thinking Huygens or Cassini.
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#12 IMB

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Posted 20 May 2018 - 06:05 PM

I do most of my observations with my 72 mm. This is a sample of what I've observed:

 

- a double shadow transit of Jupiter moons

- the entire Veil nebular complex in a single field of view (with and without a filter)

- M17 and M16 in a single field of view

- the Leo triplet M65/M66/NGC3628

- the dust lane in NGC 5128

- the northern Milky Way from Sagittarius to Orion from Cherry Springs

- the southern Milky Way from Gemini to Scorpius all the way through Canis Major, Puppis, Vela, Carina, Centaurus from Chile


Edited by IMB, 20 May 2018 - 06:13 PM.

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#13 areyoukiddingme

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Posted 20 May 2018 - 06:27 PM

One point I'd like to make is that the process of becoming a better observer often involves comparing what you can and cannot see in different apertures.

 

I started with an 80mm F6 apo, and quickly became interested in the planets. Looking at Jupiter was an exercise in frustration b/c I wanted to see the GRS, and try as I might, I couldn't. I quickly concluded that the scope was too small.

 

Next I got an 11" SCT, and after much effort, I finally got the GRS, as well as a wealth of detail around it, and even shadings in it. Hah! (so I thought).

 

What I didn't realize at the time was that the 11" was enabling me to learn. Now when I use the 80mm, the GRS is a piece of cake and I can't believe that I couldn't see it before. 


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#14 Redbetter

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Posted 20 May 2018 - 07:04 PM

The Orion 80ED is better suited for showing wide field objects like the California, North America, and Rosette nebulae in dark sky.  It is good for large open clusters as well.  A simple ST80 at 16-17x will show most of the Herschel 400 galaxies from what I have seen employing mine as a finder for the 20", and I would expect the ED to be able to show all of them.   

 

I end up using the 80ED more frequently as a scout or quick look/low elevation planetary scope in the backyard.  If the seeing is at all usable it will show something at 125-150x.  If things look better/steadier than normal, out comes a larger scope.  The difference between the 110ED and 80ED is pretty noticeable on Jupiter.  The 80 is running out of gas a little above 150x, so festoons are far more subtle and some are missing that are visible in the 110, lines in the bands are mere hints by comparison, and white ovals in the SSTB are entirely absent.  The 80 does show some of the darker barges/storms in the NEB (even my 60ED was showing one of them a week or so ago.)  The GRS is not hard to detect of course, at least not now that it has more color/shading contrast with the band and belt. 

 

Saturn isn't quite as well resolved in the 80 as in the 110.  The major banding on the globe is there and Cassini is resolved, but the moons take more work to detect.  Titan and Rhea show up easily, even in the back yard, but Dione is typically averted vision in the same red zone sky.  Tethys is a real handful for the 80 in such conditions, but I did manage to catch it the other night and detect its movement at 200x.  I also managed to detect Iapetus with it the same night.  It helped that I was comparing with the 110 which was already revealing them.

 

I haven't spent much time on Mars with it yet, partially because backyard seeing is less than ideal.  I did do some 5 to 6" arc second Mars observing with it over a year ago and it was enough to show a few of the major features low in the sky.  It is getting better now that Mars is getting larger, and an Orange 21 filter works well to get rid of the atmospheric chromatic dispersion and bring out the dark shading. 

 

My stellar limiting magnitude with the 80ED has reached 14.3 V on calibrated stars in M67 in dark sky, so it has more capability than one might expect.  (And that number isn't an outlier, I reached 13.7 with the 60ED and 14.96 with the 110ED in the same cluster.)


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#15 Scott in NC

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Posted 20 May 2018 - 07:09 PM

For years I kept my SV Nighthawk 80mm achromat mounted in my den just a few feet from my front door (although lately that position has been taken over by my SV80S LOMO apo).  Over the years I've seen tons more through those little 3" class scopes than I've seen from my 12" dob.  Now why is that?  Simply because they're so much more convenient to use, that I basically have very little excuse not to take them out when the weather is nice.  I'm not saying that I don't frequently have excuses not to go out and observe, but there are far fewer barriers to taking my 80mm refractors out than there are for any of my other scopes.


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#16 rogeriomagellan

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Posted 20 May 2018 - 07:17 PM

Jupiter with a 1960 Royal 76x910:

 

attachicon.gif gallery_220683_3357_1489.jpg

 

Mars with a 1964 Royal 76x1200:

 

attachicon.gif Mars - S6336 20140426V07S11X8C.jpg

 

Not the greatest digital images ever made.  Just hints to what I've seen over the years with 3" refractors.  I've logged thousands of hours with these scopes, and will never see all that they're capable of showing.

Thanks for the pictures. Do you have any of Saturn?



#17 nicknacknock

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Posted 21 May 2018 - 05:23 AM

When I got my 3" scope, it was always a toss between it and my 12" dob. Setting aside aperture considerations - 1.25" diagonal, RDF, 24 Pan, 13 and 7 Nagler T6 and Nagler 3-6 zoom, on a lightweight carbon fiber tripod and a DM4, it doesn't get simpler than that.

 

As I said, aperture considerations aside, the times I went out to observe because I had an easy setup Vs dragging Godzilla with me are too many - when I was tired, upset, in pain because of my back, or just wanted to relax and take it in without having to "work at it" by setting up the Dob.

 

A skilled observer does not need aperture to have a good  and productive time. There are challenging objects at every aperture as Thomas has proven time and time again with his detailed observations with small aperture instruments.

 

In the end, I ended up using the 3" refractor more than the 12". Yes, a lot of objects are out of reach, resolution is less of course, but the clarity of views from a small aperture quality refractor are something to behold.

 

My 3" is now not with me as my 5" is only more marginally difficult to set up and I also got on the list for the new A-P 92mm, but that doesn't mean I don't miss it already. There is indeed some magic happening at the 70mm to 80mm aperture...

 

 

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#18 Not Here Anymore

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Posted 21 May 2018 - 05:41 AM

There is a superb article in the May 1999 edition of Sky & Telescope.  In it Jay Reynolds Freeman uses a 55mm Vixen Fluorite - Refractor Red - to pursue the Herschel 400.  It is a magical read.  I have kept the edition all this time and read it fairly often.  For me, it never gets old.  I am quite fond of small aperture, and if you are too, you owe it to your self to read the article. 


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#19 Sasa

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Posted 21 May 2018 - 06:21 AM

Redbetter gave quite a good description of 80mm refractor capabilities. I found my 80mm refractors (have three 80mm class lenses) useful in particular for short planetary winter sessions. Their capability to be ready and actually perform on short notice is the most valuable aspect for me. This applies to doublets only, it took my former 80/480mm triplet much longer to perform under such conditions.

 

Despite relatively small aperture, one can enjoy observing planets with them. Just last evening, I spent about an hour and half on Moon with my 82mm refractor. First, drawing and interesting crater Fabricius and rimae in nearby crater Janssen, then I was just scanning the Moon for interesting features, first rimae (found quite many of them, even one tiny not plotted in Rukl's Moon Atlas) then domes. Found one - Arago alpha. The dome was in particular very impressive (beta was still at terminator). There were in addition 4 small domes plotted in the Moon Atlas north of Arago alpha, all of them were nicely visible.

 

When Jupiter got above trees, I made this sketch and went home:

 

Jupiter_20180520_2013UT.jpg

 

It does not show, what 80mm is capable of. And I'm afraid this will be the case for the whole apparition. Here is an example from previous year:

 

https://www.fzu.cz/~...0522_1855UT.jpg

 

And here is Mars from 4 years ago when it was about 15'' large

 

https://www.fzu.cz/~...0416_2015UT.jpg

 

As for DSO, one can have a lot of fun with such telescope as well. I prefer 100mm aperture for this kind of work, especially on galaxies as many of them show (to me) unexpected level of personality (Ha regions, arcs, dark lines, etc...). These are far less numerous and much harder to notice in 80mm class. Still I do most of DSO work from our backyard in 63mm and 80mm refractors. In particular, I had a lot of fun with small bright planetaries. They are not affected by light pollution too much, and they can show quite interesting level of details:

 

NGC7027.jpg

 

As for the reach, I can go with uncoated 82mm refractor definitely to V=13.5 in our light polluted backyard and probably a little bit lower (never tried to determine the limited telescope magnitude with my 80mm refractors).


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#20 Illinois

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Posted 21 May 2018 - 06:41 AM

I love my Orion 80ED and I use it for about 10 years. I painted black to look nice! Wonderful for bright DSO, nice Veal and North America Nebula in dark sky and grab and go! Nice sharp pinpoint double-double stars in Lyra at 120 power!   I went cruise few weeks ago and I saw several nice DSO in my 10X50 binocular around Crux (Southern Cross) and Carina. It made me wish to bring my Orion 80ED!  It Would be great for far southern sky in dark sky!

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Edited by Illinois, 21 May 2018 - 06:45 AM.

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#21 Bomber Bob

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Posted 21 May 2018 - 08:09 AM

Thanks for the pictures. Do you have any of Saturn?

 

From 2014:

 

Sears 6336 - Saturn 20140712R04X2M07.jpg

 

Back then, I'd gotten my first imager (Orion StarShoot 2) & was on a steep learning curve, so when I said that I could see more detail than I could capture it was 100% true!  Now with better gear, and hundreds of videos, I can get better results:

 

Edmund 4 - Saturn 20171001V07AS21.jpg


Edited by Bomber Bob, 21 May 2018 - 09:29 AM.

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#22 Erik Bakker

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Posted 21 May 2018 - 08:43 AM

My answer to the OP's question:

 

Much, very much....


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#23 nicknacknock

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Posted 21 May 2018 - 09:24 AM

Best answer ever....



#24 jay.i

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Posted 21 May 2018 - 11:01 AM

To those feeling sympathy for Nick for his choice to part with his beloved FC-76DC, worry not. It is making its way into my hands with which I will use it lovingly. I promised to take good care of her so I shall. It may mean the TV-85 finds a new home, but it is a significant aperture difference, so we will see. I am beyond excited for the little Tak and will surely write about what I see with it in this thread.

 

So far with my AT72EDII, I've gotten some lovely winter views of the Moon, of M42 and M45, and some general sweeping when transparency was good despite cold temperatures. It performs better on the Moon than I thought it would and does it in a cute little form factor. The grab and go nature makes this size of scope very useful. I am not sure if I would have brought an FC-76DC out in the frostbite weather of Minnesota winters, but I think I would have eventually, I just have to use a dew strap so the lens never gets cold enough to dew up upon coming back inside. I also leave the sliding glass door to my balcony open for a few minutes before bringing the scope in, so it's not warm by the door as the scope comes in, lessening the chances of dew/fog on the lens.


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#25 Erik Bakker

Erik Bakker

    Fly Me to the Moon

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Posted 21 May 2018 - 01:02 PM

To elaborate, here are 2 sketches from my observing log, which I made some decades ago through two superb 3" refractors I had at that time.

 

 

IMG_2430 (1).jpg

 

1. small sketch of Saturn from august 1995, just 4 days after our passage of it's ring system. It was a stunning sight in my 3" f/12 Japanese achromat at 100-140x through a 9mm OR and at times a 24mm TeleVue WideField with Dakin Barlow preceding the prism diagonal yielding 3.8x, with excellent transparency and superb seeing I-II out of V on the Antoniadi scale.

 

 

 

 

IMG_2428 (1).jpg

 

2. a low power sketch of comet Hale-Bopp in february 1997 through my Zeiss AS 80/840 with a 24mm TeleVue WideField at 35x with excellent transparency.

 

 

Small scopes are easy to get out under the stars and the best samples can do really well if transparency and seeing are at their best.


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