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5 Classic Telescopes That Changed Amateur Astronomy

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#1 Kevin Barker

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Posted 24 June 2018 - 08:41 PM

Whilst bumbling around on the internet I cam across a 2009 article by Brian Ventrudo titled 5 telescopes that changed amateur astronomy.

https://oneminuteast...sic-telescopes/

 

I wonder how relevant Brian's list is today?? He chose in no particular order, Unitron refractors, Questar Maksutovs, Celestron SCTs, Dynascope RV-6 and the Coulter Dobs.

 

I would guess he was commenting from a US perspective. Well now nearly a decade later and writing from the antipodes I would come up with the following list of the 5 telescopes that changed amateur astronomy(for me personally)...

 

1. Edmund Astroscan, a lot sold in NZ in the 1980's and also around the world. I still use one 40 year after buying one. My brother has the original. I have a second hand one picked up at an auction.

 

2. Zeiss refractor, in my case I have owned three since 1994, two the venerable APQ's (100/1000 and 130/1000) and a homemade ota for an AS80/840. Stunning to look through and user friendly. They spoil the viewer. Obviously fairly low numbers of these telescopes exist in the US. There are 5 I am aware of in NZ.

 

3. Celestron SCT's. Whilst I have never owned one my brother has owned quite a few. They really deliver an aperture punch for the price.

 

4. John Dobson style homemade or commercial Dobsonians. Again very popular and widely used here in NZ. Usually half the telescopes at a star party. More of these sell in NZ than any other quality telescope. The Auckland astronomical society commercial arm(ASTRONZ) imports container loads of them.

 

5. Questar 3.5 Maksutov. I now own a second hand field scope I have converted into a Duplex. Very versatile. Quick and easy to use and great optics. Relatively rare in NZ I only know of 3 privately owned Questars and I owned by an astronomical society. I use this telescope the most. 

 

What are the 5 telescopes that have influenced you as an amateur astronomer the most??


Edited by Kevin Barker, 24 June 2018 - 11:49 PM.

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#2 Bomber Bob

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Posted 24 June 2018 - 09:33 PM

1.  Unitron refractor.  A 142 gave me The Bug.  Now 50 years later, I have one, and it's like coming back home.

 

2.  Cave reflector.  Saturn in Jim Vice's 8" F7 in 1978 was my first Big Scope view.

 

3.  Edscorp scopes.  I scoffed at their crudity as a kid.  Now my Edmund 4" F15 is my favorite Classic.  Who can forget when Edmund introduced those red & cream models -- especially the fork mounted Newts??

 

4.  Celestron.  Not only did their SCTs change our hobby, but they introduced me to Vixen imports -- made me a very happy camper!

 

5.  Criterion.  The Dynamax was a disappointment as great as the Dynascope was a success.  My own RV-6 is one of my best buys -- as it was for a lot of observers on a budget.


Edited by Bomber Bob, 24 June 2018 - 09:34 PM.

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#3 Stew44

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Posted 24 June 2018 - 10:04 PM

Thought I'd fill in a bit.  These were all influential in defining the hobby for me.

 

1 - Questar Duplex 3.5 - My first Questar and a great introduction to the observatory in a box.  Where others failed to compete with it during its earlier years, its Meade ETX renditions and the boatload of Russian Maks that flooded the market this century were all Questar wannabies and for the most part excellent performers.

 

2 - AP Star 12ED -  First good refractor I observed with.   Got me started down the APO (and especially Astro Physics) path.

 

3 - Meade 7" Mak  -  I've been fortunate to have more than one of these with really great optics.  Better settling than a typical Questar 7 and of course a mere fraction of the cost.  Only difference I've seen in the optics is smoothness.  Figures on those I've owned were really exceptional.  Everyman's Mak and equivalent to good 5" refractor.

 
4 - Pentax 100 f/12 Achromat  - Remains my favorite working refractor.  Absolutely defines the best of Japanese achromats for me from the twentieth century.

 

5 - HTPO APOMAX 130 f/12 - My favorite boutique scope and the first Super APO I have owned.  Dick Buchroder (sp?) design implemented by Fred Mrozak.  Heavy, long, but provided a view of Saturn that I will never forget in the perfect seeing of Deadman, CO.  Scope really pushed the envelope on optical design.  Perfect lens.

 

Never really liked the SCTs and they minimally impacted me, although the technology certainly provided large aperture to the masses.  Had a couple of Astroscans.  Again portable scope extraordinaire, but not something I kept around.  The Unitrons were workhorses, but really more about the accessories than optical performance.  Built a couple Coulter dobs and an Astro Systems kit with a reworked Coulter mirror.  Simply too much effort (or maybe I was too lazy).  Still, agree that they absolutely changed DSO observing for the much better.   Goto Optical isn't on the list, as least as far as US market.  Way too few made it over here to make any kind of impact.  If you grew up in Japan however, Goto school telescopes were how you were introduced to astronomy.


Edited by Stew44, 25 June 2018 - 08:19 AM.

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#4 Geo31

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Posted 24 June 2018 - 10:32 PM

While Unitrons are wonderful, I would not include them in the list.  I’d likely include something far less expensive. 

 

Instead of the Coulter Dobs, I’d choose John Dobson’s scope as they lead the revolution.

 

I agree with the Celestron scopes.  Not so sure about the superb, but expensive Questar.

 

I’m torn between the RV-6 and the equivalent Edmund scope.  I think they were likely equally influential.

 

I’d probably be more inclined to include an APO instead of a Unitron or even an inexpensive scope, perhaps even a DST, since the low cost would open up the universe for a lot of folks.


Edited by Geo31, 25 June 2018 - 03:41 PM.

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#5 Kevin Barker

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Posted 24 June 2018 - 11:48 PM

While Unitrons are wonderful, I would not include the in the list.  I’d likely include something far less expensive. 

 

Instead of the Coulter Dobs, I’d choose John Dobson’s scope as they lead the revolution.

 

I agree with the Celestron scopes.  Not so sure about the superb, but expensive Questar.

 

I’m torn between the RV-6 and the equivalent Edmund scope.  I think they were likely equally influential.

 

I’d probably be more inclined to include an APO instead of a Unitron or even an inexpensive scope, perhaps even a DST, since the low cost would open up the universe for a lot of folks.

Yes our perspectives are all different.

I voted for the Dobsonian simply because of the versatility and as you say he "lead the revolution"


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#6 beanerds

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Posted 25 June 2018 - 02:11 AM

Have to slot the ED80 in there somewhere  , these are the ' People's APO ' and introduced many to astro-photography and what a good refractor can do .

 

Beanerds .


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#7 memento

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Posted 25 June 2018 - 05:25 AM

  • Celestron C8 – this brought aperture to "the masses" and retained EQ mounts
  • Dobson – actually did kind of the same as the C8 in an even more radical way, but with alt-az mounting
  • ETX 90 AT – wasn't it Meade that started the crase with that go-to stuff with this scope?
  • "cheap" Chinese ED refractors – combo of wide-field to planetary observing and high-quality astro photography made possible for "the masses"

Those come to my mind. But it's obvious I have no clue of how things in amateur astronomy were before the 1970s ... and the Chinese scopes are no "classics" yet, maybe even the ETX 90 isn't yet. Still I think their impact on amateur observing is huge. Thomas


Edited by memento, 25 June 2018 - 05:26 AM.

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#8 CHASLX200

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Posted 25 June 2018 - 05:27 AM

The cheap 60mm scopes changed things the most.


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#9 Ben Bajorek

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Posted 25 June 2018 - 06:42 AM

An ATM Newtonian telescopes made with help from the books or articles of Albert Ingalls of Scientific American would be my #1.  This got the ball rolling.  


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#10 terraclarke

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Posted 25 June 2018 - 07:01 AM

I will just list the six individuals and their innovative companies that from an American perspective, I think changed the landscape Amateur Astronomy:

1. Larry Fine and Unitron

2. Norman Edmund and Edmund Scientific

3. Tom Cave and Cave Optical

4. Larry Braymer and Questar

5. Tom Johnson and Celestron Pacific

6. Al Nagler and Televue


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#11 luxo II

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Posted 25 June 2018 - 07:59 AM

It wasn't a scope.

 

Albert Ingalls is the one who created amateur astronomy, through the original Scientific American articles and subsequently the 3-volume ATM books. Russell Porter deserves special mention as well, for many of the illustrations, aside from his contribution to the 200" Palomar scope and his gorgeous art-nouveau garden telescope.

 

The other two that deserve special credit are Bernhard Schmidt and Dmitry Maksutov.

 

If you have to name a scope:

 

- the ubiquitous 60mm f/15 refractor given to teenage kids in my generation, or 4" f/10 Newtonian which some schools had;

 

- those who dared as I did, made an 8" Newtonian, in my generation these were home-made using the ATM books;

 

- A Questar 3.5" is what we all lusted for but could never afford;

 

- A Unitron refractor was what many had, despite its limited aperture;

 

- Some had a Celestron 8" SCT which was a compromise then, and still is.


Edited by luxo II, 25 June 2018 - 08:08 AM.

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#12 Mikefp

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Posted 25 June 2018 - 08:26 AM

Top five are a little unclear for me, but the top three are definitely:

Edmund, I lusted over the Edmund catalogs as a child and built a 4.25" reflector from a kit.
Cave, Look at my signature.
Dobson, The telescope revolution. We should all own some form of his scope.

The remaining two are distant on the list.

Edited by Mikefp, 25 June 2018 - 08:53 AM.

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#13 starman876

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Posted 25 June 2018 - 09:42 AM

I would agree that Questar changed what most considered the first high end scope that is truly portable scope with excellent optics

 

The Celestron SCT changed the field for affordable large aperture telescopes in a relatively small package

 

The dobsonian changed the field for truly affordable large optics.

 

Unitron showed us what a really good scope should be built like.

 

Then came the Chinese imports which has changed the cost of telescopes for everyone.


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#14 SteveGR

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Posted 25 June 2018 - 10:07 AM

I will just list the six individuals and their innovative companies that from an American perspective, I think changed the landscape Amateur Astronomy:

1. Larry Fine and Unitron

2. Norman Edmund and Edmund Scientific

3. Tom Cave and Cave Optical

4. Larry Braymer and Questar

5. Tom Johnson and Celestron Pacific

6. Al Nagler and Televue

If we are listing people instead of scopes, we have to put Roland Christen in there.


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#15 memento

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Posted 25 June 2018 - 10:47 AM

I agree on Al Nagler and Televue but to me, his real impact was about eyepiece design. The Televue scopes were nice but did not change the amateur astronomy world. The eyepieces did.
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#16 Piggyback

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Posted 25 June 2018 - 11:34 AM

My list of 5 telescopes that changed amateur astronomy in Germany:

 

- Kosmos-Franckh. They sold a quality-line of refractors, Coudes, Newtonians and the venerable Schiefspiegler.

- Quelle-Neckermann. Importers of japanese achromats 60/910mm and 60/700mm labeled Revue and Weltblick

- Lichtenknecker high-end refractors and Maks

- Celestron 8" and 5" SC (orange series)

- Zeiss Jena (before the wall came down 1990 Telementor wasn´t widely available. Jena closed production in 1995. (Zeiss always more of a dream to german amateurs then a reality) That´s why I go nuts for Telementor and everything else Jena.


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#17 rcwolpert

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Posted 25 June 2018 - 12:01 PM

My five, in order of appearance in my home:

 

1) Edmund 3” Space Conqueror 

2) Criterion RV-6

3) Celestron C-8 and Meade LX-200 12”

4) Mayflower and Swift 3” refractors

5) Questar 3.5

 

- Bob


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#18 terraclarke

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Posted 25 June 2018 - 12:04 PM

I agree on Al Nagler and Televue but to me, his real impact was about eyepiece design. The Televue scopes were nice but did not change the amateur astronomy world. The eyepieces did.

I have said this before and I will say it again. To me, Televue picked up the mantle when Unitron was in decline. Unitron offered not just high end refractors but what I refer as a complete observing system- scope, an extremely functional mount and tripod seemlessly integrated, a full set of eyepieces, and all the additional trimmings. Televue did the same with the Genesis and Pronto, the Gibralter and Panoramic mounts, an observing chair, the starbeam red-dot finder, and a whole line of excellent eyepieces designed for use with their shorter focal length refractors. 


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#19 Geo31

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Posted 25 June 2018 - 01:17 PM

OK, this isn't classic related, nor a specific telescope, but it's worth mentioning (and on-topic)....

 

The advent of the dovetail mounting system appears to me (having taken some time away) to have radically changed how telescopes and mounts are designed and sold.  It has literally changed the industry, to the point that I doubt we'll see complete telescopes sold as a designed package ever again (with some either high-end or low-end exceptions).  As the industry is configured today, telescopes, mounts, and accessories are very much modular in design and execution.

 

It's pretty cool actually.  While I love the classics, I have purchased my last classic (except possibly a one-off here and there for restoration and eventual rehoming).  It's my intention at some point to buy a modern go-to mount for AP and outreach (I'd still just as soon star-hop for my own leisurely enjoyment).


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#20 Kevin Barker

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Posted 25 June 2018 - 02:35 PM

I will just list the six individuals and their innovative companies that from an American perspective, I think changed the landscape Amateur Astronomy:

1. Larry Fine and Unitron

2. Norman Edmund and Edmund Scientific

3. Tom Cave and Cave Optical

4. Larry Braymer and Questar

5. Tom Johnson and Celestron Pacific

6. Al Nagler and Televue

Terra

Good point re Al Nagler.

 

Their eyepieces have certainly expanded the hobby for me. I have at least 23 Televue eyepieces?? possibly even more in scopes I have loaned to friends.


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#21 Kevin Barker

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Posted 25 June 2018 - 02:37 PM

OK, this isn't classic related, nor a specific telescope, but it's worth mentioning (and on-topic)....

 

The advent of the dovetail mounting system appears to me (having taken some time away) to have radically changed how telescopes and mounts are designed and sold.  It has literally changed the industry, to the point that I doubt we'll see complete telescopes sold as a designed package ever again (with some either high-end or low-end exceptions).  As the industry is configured today, telescopes, mounts, and accessories are very much modular in design and execution.

 

It's pretty cool actually.  While I love the classics, I have purchased my last classic (except possibly a one-off here and there for restoration and eventual rehoming).  It's my intention at some point to buy a modern go-to mount for AP and outreach (I'd still just as soon star-hop for my own leisurely enjoyment).

Good point.

The Vixen, Losmandy D and the Zeiss/AP dovetails all spring to mind.

This has allowed mass produced mounts to fit a myriad of scopes.



#22 BlueTrane2028

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Posted 25 June 2018 - 02:53 PM

I've got two "old" 60mm refractors that got my feet wet as a youth, a short zoom spotter and an f15 long format.

Many an hour looking at the moon in those, but not much else.

The "revoution" for me personally was with the 8" Celeston sonotube Star Hopper pictured in my profile.  Easy to use, great mirror.  I sold it because the tube's dimensions were far too large for the optics contained therein.  When a 12" fits in a Civic but an 8" won't...  Kept a 6" Star Hopper (modern Skywatcher production) as a reminder of the old for use as a punchy quick grab.

Someday I'll give equatorial mounts another try, gonna be an expensive day when that happens.  I'm spoiled by aperture now.


Edited by BlueTrane2028, 25 June 2018 - 02:53 PM.

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#23 Bonco2

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Posted 25 June 2018 - 03:21 PM

Ditto's concerning the Televue Genesis. That little Gem got the short focus refractor movement going. 

Bill



#24 CHASLX200

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Posted 25 June 2018 - 05:58 PM

I agree on Al Nagler and Televue but to me, his real impact was about eyepiece design. The Televue scopes were nice but did not change the amateur astronomy world. The eyepieces did.

The Nags were a world changer for me when i first used them at star parties in the 80's. I remember Tom Clark with his 26" Dob and a big wood case of Nags around 1988. Eyepiece tech was dead until Tele Vue came around.


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#25 clamchip

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Posted 25 June 2018 - 06:32 PM

I kinda missed the boat on two of the biggies the C8, I remember we got one in class

so we had this sea of white tube reflectors and refractors and then there's this short

fat orange thang.

I didn't want to have anything to do with it, I was heavy into classics even back then

in 7th grade. I think the C8 may have took a while to take affect but it more or less

made every other design extinct eventually until the apo rejuvenated the refractor. 

Now the C8 is one of my favorites.

Next was the Dobsonian revolution, I don't really remember it, but it made a huge

impact. I wasn't involved at all, I don't remember seeing any up here in Washington

in those early 1980's, or did it start in the late 1960's? I don't know. I was into a refractor

on driven equatorial pretty much only in those years.

I have since owned many of the large dobs and they are fun that is for sure.

I was interested in the next wave, the apochromatic refractor, very nice, but all I could 

afford were a second hand one, and I thought I would wait until the smoke cleared and

buy a used one, if the Fluorite element would stand the test of time, which they did.

And then came the Chinese 80ED another revolution, a apo or semi-apo that everyone

could afford. 

I didn't like the sound of buying one, testing it, sending it back, and by about the 3rd one

you would have one that was acceptable so I stayed clear.

I own one of these Chinese 80ED's now and it's a very fine scope. Its a modern one, I

think about 10 years old, the Chinese are fast learners, quality is getting very high

now.

 

Robert


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