Perhaps my greatest sin as a Questar enthusiast is my eagerness to acquire, repair and restore, but with some lethargy at observing.
I spent the winter and spring restoring a Questar Seven mount, as well as two barrels (one successfully). But the finished product (with the restored barrel, as another good barrel awaits) has sat on display in my office for several months. As others recount their impatience awaiting the factory delivery of their first Questar, I’ve been bringing out one or another of my 3.5 scopes for actual viewing and neglecting the Seven.
That thing is a little scary. In my mind it’s 60 pounds, and perhaps on the scale it’s 50. After seven months of working on the project and fussing over every detail, it’s a daunting task to contemplate picking up the whole docked scope and taking it outside. And that’s if I even had a decent support for it, which I don’t, yet.
Docking is a worrisome strain as one struggles with the awkward weight and the fine finished surfaces banging and scraping on each other. It’s such a relief to tighten up the connection that one never wants to repeat the process. Perhaps for a start party event, but certainly not for just a quick evening of viewing, each time.
Regrettably, I lack a suitable support. The Questar support (big brother to the Tristand) is ferociously priced to one whose initial investment was less than $1500 (plus well more than that for a barrel, but it affects the mindset). Realistically, putting a $3500 support under a $4500 scope is hard to swallow.
For first viewing, a folding workbench provided a table, and I set it up flat on the base for alt-az viewing. I didn’t trust the legs to be stable on the small table. Carrying the docked scope involved having the barrel pointed up and locked, and grabbling under the fork arm bottom ends with fingertips, holding it against my hips, belly, and chest, with the eyepiece pocking me, and the base rim banging against my thighs.
What I really need is a tripod dolly. The scope is in my office with double doors, and near the double front door that accesses a front yard with southern sky view. No steps, so I could roll a 100-pound setup, then lock the wheels or deploy feet. Don’t need it to fold because I have floor space in the office. Even a $129 utility cart would provide a mobile tabletop for quick deployment, if not an ideal office display platform.
If carrying and setting up is a pain in the back, viewing alt-az on a fixed table top isn’t a picnic either. I’m spoiled by a 3.5 on a Linhof elevator post, adjusting for perfect standing height for each object.
I used a 16mm Brandon. Spoiled by a number of 3.5 scopes, only one of which has disappointed optically (working on it) Saturn took my breath away, with Cassini’s division running full circle, visible even low over hot rooftops across the street. Jupiter rewarded with ample detail the 3.5 can’t quite capture. The size of the scope enables very satisfying magnification. Mars was too low to appreciate, but the shimmering image still was a pleasure, with more detail than expected. As I observed the fine star image of Vega, I found the double-double easily resolved, and was startled to find the Ring Nebula distinctly visible in an urban sky that makes all but Vega in Lyra invisible to the naked eye.
I could wax poetic about the pleasure of viewing with the scope, as heavy as it is, and as awkward to observe without a decent mount, but all I can say is: It’s worth it.
And it makes me ready for a Q5, which promises an insignificant loss of convenience, and a major gain in performance.