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Air Travel w/AP 130 GTX

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#1 HonoluluWalt

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Posted 16 August 2018 - 08:50 PM

As mentioned before in prior threads, six or eight times per year, I would like to take short flights to Maui or the Big Island to observe under observing conditions far better than what I have here at home in Honolulu.  Here at home, I use an AP Mach 1 to mount my three scopes (AP 130 GTX, Takahshi Mewlon 210, and a Tele Vue 85).  Although the vast majority of my observing is done here at home with a Mach 1, I hope to be able to observe on Maui or the Big Island on occasion with an alt/az mount capable of being transported to the island of choice.

 

Being so close to such exceptional skies presents a definite temptation to take a good scope there with as much aperture as can be practically transported (and, of course, and pair of Leica 10x50 Ultravids).  For various reasons, I prefer a refractor for this task.  A small part of my decision to buy the AP 130 GTX was based on the fact that it is specifically designed to be disassembled into two parts, both of which can be hand carried on board commercial flights, thereby giving me the option to hand carry a five inch refractor to a nice location for observing.

 

In  a previous thread I was given some good advice to start taking these trips with the TV 85 rather than the AP 130 GTX, and I will do that.  And, of course, it is also a good point that much of the mounting difficulty is caused by the weight difference between an 85 mm doublet and a 130 mm front-heavy triplet.

 

But, if I am to discover what the sky on Maui at 7,000 feet looks like through an AP 130 GTX, the most obvious question is, “Once my scope is safely on Maui (the TV 85 for the first session or two, and then the AP 130 GTX, once I done it with the TV 85), how will I mount the scope?”

 

I think that the solution to transporting the mount itself is not difficult, because there are several mounts of which I can think that could be safely hand carried in the airliner’s cabin.  What concerns me is the tripod/pier question.  As to counterweights, any necessary weights could simply be sent ahead via the US Postal Service flat-rate boxes and picked at the post office once I arrive on Maui (or the Big Island).

 

The tripod or pier is a thornier issue.  One possibility would be to try to transport in the same manner as golf clubs.  Another, more likely, possibility would be to see what happens if I check in a tripod that I can live without if things go awry.  And, I currently own just such a tripod.

 

In addition to the Mach 1, I also own a Vixen Sphinx, along with the tripod with which it came (HAL 130, or maybe it is the HAL 110).  Is checking in this tripod, after careful packing, a reasonable option?

 

If I were  to do this, I would probably buy for an alt/az mount, an AKO Swiss AYO digi II.  I would do this because it can be used, as is, with the Vixen tripods, such as the HAL 130 or the HAL 110.

 

My question are these:

 

(1)  While it seems like the combination of such a Vixen tripod and this alt/az mount could handle the TV 85 with no problem, would this combination be sufficient to mount an AP 130 GTX (for visual observation only)?

 

(2)  Would I be better off subjecting the Sphinx SXW to the ravages or airline baggage handling and checking it in and going with GEM?  The box for the Sphinx is the original box manufactured for this particular mount, and it is an excellent box with excellent padding and I think that it would be under the weight limit.  Alternatively, is it possible that the Sphinx could be hand carried if the box is left home?

 

or

 

(3)  Are the two options above doomed from the beginning because the tripod is not up to the task of mounting a five inch refractor?

 

If so, I would appreciate alternative mounting solution suggestions.  I am open-minded to other options.  If there were a safe way to do it, I would prefer to ship my Eagle pier, and then I would use something like a DM-6 or DM-4 for my alt/az.  However, I suspect that subjecting my Eagle Pier to shipping just for this type of a two-day visual observing session might be more risk than I would be willing to take.

 

The main advantage of using a Vixen tripod is that I own one already.  Another advantage of using it would be that, while it might be irritating to have it damaged, it would not be catastrophic.  On the other hand, if those with more experience with traveling type mounts think that using this type of tripod is ill-advised from the beginning, then there would be little advantage to subjecting the tripod to possible damage if it will not work well with this type of scope anyway.

 

So far, My best guess is that I should just try to use the Vixen HAL along with the AOK AYO digi II for the mounting solution.  However, this choice assumes that the tripod can be safely transported in some manner.  Is this true?

 

Also, will this proposed combination of  mine even work, or is it simply an under-mounted solution that is asking for trouble from the start?  I simply do not know, and would appreciate all opinions about this.

 

Finally, if it turns out that the Sphinx can be hand carried (without the box, of course), would that be a reasonable option?  It all gets back to the question of, is the Vixen HAL tripod up to the task?

 

For the TV 85, the answer is, “Of course.”  I hope that it will also be adequate for the AP 130 GTX, but i have some doubts, even if the use is limited to visual use.  I will appreciate all suggestions and any answers to my questions.

 


Edited by HonoluluWalt, 16 August 2018 - 08:56 PM.


#2 MooEy

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Posted 17 August 2018 - 12:48 AM

The manfrotto 055 works well enough if the alt-az head has some kind of counter balance solution. You will need vibration suppression pads. Just don't extend the legs too much. 

 

I have also done some imaging with the SXW and the 130GTX, it's more than enough to hold that scope. 

 

I loaned out my GP-D2/SS2K/SX130 to a friend who checked it in. Had a few broken parts. Don't go that path. 

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Edited by MooEy, 17 August 2018 - 12:54 AM.


#3 Moravianus

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Posted 17 August 2018 - 01:13 AM

You can also keep the tripod on each of the islands and let us borrow it for a fee wink.gif



#4 HonoluluWalt

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Posted 17 August 2018 - 01:34 AM

Now this is what I call some very advanced thinking!

 

You can also keep the tripod on each of the islands and let us borrow it for a fee wink.gif

Also,

 

MooEy, thanks.  I have to admit to having been a bit gunshy with the AP 130 GTX mounted on the Sphinx because I was used to using it with the easier-to-balance TV 85 and Mewlon 210.  However, if you have used it for imaging, then for visual, it looks like the tripod would be capable of mounting the scope effectively with either the Sphinx or the AOK AYO dgi II.  But, if anyone else has other ideas, I am open to suggestion.  It will be a while before I take a flight over there.



#5 Traveler

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Posted 17 August 2018 - 03:37 AM

About the tripod. I use a Gitzo series 5. I bought it used for less then 100 euro(...). It is small when transporting, stiff/solid enough for my traveler. Hoewever, your 130 is substantional heavier then my traveler but i think it can be done. Damping time with my setup <1sec.

 

Here a link to a nice Gitzo series 5 review: link

 

...and: enjoy your stay on Hawaii.



#6 Aleko

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Posted 17 August 2018 - 01:40 PM

I don't think the HAL130 will be up to the task for an AP130.  I had one for my NP101, and felt it was at the limit. 

 

The Gitzo is great for travel. My Series 4 is more than sufficient for my Traveler, and my guess is that the Series 5 will work for the 130. 

 

Alex



#7 sector99

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Posted 17 August 2018 - 02:27 PM

The mount you should examine:

 

Manfrotto Nitrotech N12 Video Head fluid head with dynamic gas piston counter balance on a very good heavy duty carbon fiber tripod

 

As an ALT/AZ the head/tripod weighs ≈ 5lbs (head) + 3-4 lbs for the tripod lens. Easy set-up/break down.

 

manfrotto_mvhn12ahus_nitrotech_n12_fluid

 

Point the scope anywhere (-70 to +90 degrees and it retains the aimpoint. Videographers are agog over it. It's pricey but nothing else does this job.



#8 Paul G

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Posted 17 August 2018 - 07:33 PM

About the tripod. I use a Gitzo series 5. I bought it used for less then 100 euro(...). It is small when transporting, stiff/solid enough for my traveler. Hoewever, your 130 is substantional heavier then my traveler but i think it can be done. Damping time with my setup <1sec.

 

Here a link to a nice Gitzo series 5 review: link

 

...and: enjoy your stay on Hawaii.

The Gitzo 5 series holds the 130 easily. A 3 series will do in a pinch but isn't ideal.



#9 HonoluluWalt

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Posted 17 August 2018 - 09:03 PM

I don't think the HAL130 will be up to the task for an AP130.  I had one for my NP101, and felt it was at the limit. 

 

The Gitzo is great for travel. My Series 4 is more than sufficient for my Traveler, and my guess is that the Series 5 will work for the 130. 

 

Alex

 

I suspect that you are right about this.  If one "reads between the lines" of my initial post, one might conclude that I seem to be trying to talk myself into the the Vixen HALs being adequate for this.  However, the more that I think about it, the more I hear from others who have addressed this problem, the more I think that I will need something better to make session on Maui or the Big Island worthwhile (and hence, my questions to others who have had to cross this bridge before me).  There is nothing quite like the experience of others who have had to address the same (or similar) issue with the same (or similar) equipment.

 

It is not so much that there is anything wrong with the Sphinx and the tripod with which it ships.  It is more that I was thinking of using it for a task for which it was not really designed.  Having said this, if anyone out there thinks that it would be worthwhile trying to use a Vixen HAL for this, I am all ears because I would love to avoid buying another tripod.

 

For those who think that a Vixen HAL would be adequate, my question is, "What would be the best way to get it to Maui" (1.  Shipping it prior to departure,; (2)  checking it in as regular luggage after carefully packing it, shipping it; or (3) Some other method)?

 

If there are those who figure that I have little to lose by at least trying the HAL on Maui (w/appropriate mount), do you think that it is possible for me to get it to Maui without significant damage if I were to check it in as regular luggage?  If so, what precautions (beyond careful packing) do you think I need to take (if any additional precautions are needed in order to transport it as luggage).  Or, would trying to get it there as luggage be almost the same as throwing it away?



#10 MooEy

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Posted 18 August 2018 - 03:46 AM

There are probably different versions of the vixen legs. The ones that come with the Sphinx have 5” base and are significantly sturdier than the gp version with the 4” base.

I would say it’s sufficiently strong for that scope.

You would need to pack it really well since those guys will throw it really hard. Tie the 3 legs together and make sure they don’t open up in the bag. 3D print or make some cover to go over the spiky end of the legs, those will make holes in the bag. Wrap lots of foam around the legs before putting them into the padded bag.

Alternatively, just use the original box that comes with the legs.

#11 samovu

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Posted 18 August 2018 - 08:26 PM

HonoluluWalt, IMO, the HAL130 may work with your 5” APO but it would depend on what you’re viewing and what your tolerance for “the shakes” is. For wide field viewing chances are better that it would be fine versus high power planetary viewing with, for example, a Pentax 3.5mm eyepiece. How about testing it out on a planet on Oahu to see if you’d be fine with it. If planets are not what you’d like to view, then you may be fine with the HAL130. 

 

For me, the HAL130 that I have is not sufficiently sturdy (for my targets) for my FS-102. For others, they are fine with their 4” refractor on their HAL130. 

 

Cheers,

John


Edited by samovu, 18 August 2018 - 08:27 PM.


#12 moshen

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Posted 20 August 2018 - 10:00 PM

For visual, Gitzo 5 series carbon tripod , Stellarvue M2. Sorbothane vibration dampeners. DSC optional. 15lbs all in. Super easy & light. High power planetary no problem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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#13 Erik Bakker

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Posted 21 August 2018 - 02:11 AM

That looks like a really nice and portable visual AP130 GTX set-up waytogo.gif


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#14 lionel

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Posted 22 August 2018 - 10:07 PM

I carry my fully-dressed 130GTX (24 lb) on a first generation Sphinx SXD, half-pier and HAL130 tripod. The setup is quite adequate for high magnification visual work on challenging doubles and planets with no focus shake when there is not much wind to contend with. Anti-vibration pads and the Vixen tripod tray help.  

 

Also make sure the U brackets that connect the spreader to the aluminum legs are firmly screwed into the legs. The screws are small, fine-threaded and eventually they stripped out of the legs in my tripod.  I reattached the brackets with epoxy cement several years ago and haven't had a problem since.


Edited by lionel, 22 August 2018 - 10:47 PM.


#15 HonoluluWalt

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Posted 23 August 2018 - 03:34 PM

Thanks to everyone who has contributed so far.

 

Moshen, your suggestion (or something similar) is what I truly want.  However ...

 

Lionel, thank you very much for your contribution because this is, in essence, what I already have.  Of course, the Sphinx SXD is more up to this task than my Sphinx SXW.  However, the two are close enough so that your experience gives me the confidence to at least try to accomplish the task by using what I already have.

 

My main worry is the HAL tripod.  I sure wish that there was a way to get my Eagle pier to Maui without subjecting it to the risks of transporting it there.  The Sphinx atop the Eagel pier might be a good combintion.  But, I could wish for that forever and it will not come true, unless someone would be willing to try to set up an interisland ferry again, which is exceedingly unlikely, after the first fiasco.  I'll probably try the Sphinx first and see how it goes (first with the TV 85, then with the AP 130 GTX if all goes well with the TV 85).  Then, if it does not work out so well, or even if, later on, I just want a better solution more tailored to the task, I might get something like what Moshen suggests (the more I look at that, the more I want it).g


Edited by HonoluluWalt, 23 August 2018 - 03:37 PM.


#16 k5apl

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Posted 10 September 2018 - 07:37 AM

Honolulu Walt

I have viewed from Haleakala and Mauna Kea with a 4 inch refractor, and Haleakala with a 130mm refractor on a CG5 ASGT mount.

All is ok unless there is a breeze.  Even with the CG5 the breeze shakes the scope so much that viewing is impossible (this mount

is at its weight limit).

Whatever you decide, my recommendation is to "over mount" your scope of choice rather than put it on a mount at its limit.  

In clear and steady skies, calm /no breezes, either should work.  But you don't want to carry that stuff and set it up to find that the

weather doesn't cooperate.

Wes


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#17 HonoluluWalt

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Posted 10 September 2018 - 09:31 PM

Thanks for this advice.  The more that I think of it, the more I wish that I could pull off something like mounting the TV 85 (on the first trip of two), and then the AP 130 GTX (once I get comfortable with making the trip) on the AP Eagle pier with something like a DM 6 on top of that.  That would probably address the excellent advice you give (especially regarding the frequently breezy conditions on Haleakala).  Getting a DM-6 and the scope there is not a problem as, with two passengers, one can hand carry the scope, and the other can hand carry a DM 6, a DM 4, or something similar.

 

The problem is getting a tripod or pier up there that is up to the task without having it get damaged on the trip.  Someone once told me that he had gotten a tripod on to a flight as goldclubs by putting it into a golf bag.  Someone else suggested just packing the tripod or pier carefully and shipping it, with insurance.  Others have suggested some pretty stable, but still lightweight tripods (as suggested above) that can be hand carried.

 

I guess the challange will be to find the lesser of the evils.  Each solution has its own disadvantages (lack of stability, as I would probably find with the Vixen HAL - or significant expense, as with a good, lightweight-but-stable tripod, or significant shipping expense, if I were to ship a high quality and very stable pier like the Eagle).  So, in the end, I guess that I just have to pick my poison.  However, I am still receptive to additional ideas (including a decision by some nice billionaire to set up a ferry system again, which would solve my problem completely, but might not be so good for Hawaii’s fragile ecosystem).

 

PS

 

Does anyone know if any of the smaller Astro-Physics piers could be transported safely via airline travel?  Are they small enough to hand carry, or sturdy enough to check in?  Or, are there better solutions than this?  Would one of these with a DM-6 on top be a viable solution?

 

Honolulu Walt

I have viewed from Haleakala and Mauna Kea with a 4 inch refractor, and Haleakala with a 130mm refractor on a CG5 ASGT mount.

All is ok unless there is a breeze.  Even with the CG5 the breeze shakes the scope so much that viewing is impossible (this mount

is at its weight limit).

Whatever you decide, my recommendation is to "over mount" your scope of choice rather than put it on a mount at its limit.  

In clear and steady skies, calm /no breezes, either should work.  But you don't want to carry that stuff and set it up to find that the

weather doesn't cooperate.

Wes

 


Edited by HonoluluWalt, 10 September 2018 - 09:37 PM.


#18 nicknacknock

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Posted 11 September 2018 - 06:11 AM

A DM-4 can carry the AP130. I have discussed extensively with Tom Peters plus checked reviews on the Internet when I got mine.

 

FYI it can support my FS-128 which I tested as soon as I got, so the AP130 being more compact would be just fine.

 

The critical part is the tripod and perhaps a Gitzo Systematic Series 5 is the best option.

 

So, a DM-4 and a Gitzo Series 5, reduce the weight to an absolute minimum in terms of having acceptable mounting hardware for the scope. The reduced cost of going from the DM-6 to the DM-4 partly offsets the cost of the tripod.

 

Remember whichever option you go for in terms of DM mounts, to get the 4" extension and the handle.



#19 moshen

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Posted 11 September 2018 - 01:34 PM

Even my Stellarvue M2 handles the 130GTX well and it has 3" bearings instead of 4" bearings of the DM4. DM6  would be very solid but just unnecessary for a on-a-plane travel setup.

 

The plan of figuring out how to board a flight with an Astro-Physics Pier & DM6 just seems overkill when you can get 90% of the performance for 1/3 the weight and 1/3 the packed length with a carbon tripod and DM4 or M2.



#20 mlanglois

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Posted 11 September 2018 - 01:49 PM

Walt,

 

The non-Eagle AP piers are practically bullet proof. It would be hard to imagine anything that a baggage handler could do to damage one. They consist of a piece of steel tubing, 3 struts, steel rods and some turnbuckles. The separate pieces can all fit inside the tube, but it's not terribly lightweight; from 30-35 lbs. depending upon the height. The whole thing is easily shippable. They are made for AP mounts but there are adapters for all sorts of others things including Discmounts.

 

Michael



#21 HonoluluWalt

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Posted 11 September 2018 - 11:46 PM

Wow.  What an excellent set of suggestions.  I am really glad that I asked for a few more suggestions.  Actually, the first set was good, so the second set is icing on the cake.  Well, now I know what to do what I have been taking about for the last five years or so.  Of course, it will take awhile to decide, but I am in no hurry.

 

I am leaning toward an AP pier.  I am not too deterred by its extra weight.  But, because my wife will have to hand carry the DM (if I cannot talk anyone else into coming) maybe I should take the suggestion to go with the DM 4, if I know whats good for me.

 

Another thought it that, instead of the AP pier, there is something to be said for the Gitzo series five and the ability to hand carry everything and leave nothing to chance.  Also, setup would be a snap with the Gitzo, whereas setting up the AP pier would be a bit more time consuming (but I have never set one up, so maybe I am wrong).

 

But, after hearing someone else saying what I was already thinking (regarding the apparent non-destructibility of the AP piers), I am thinking along those lines.  But, if something DID happen to it by checking it as baggage, I would not be amused because, as simple as they are, and although they cost less than the Eagle, they not exactly free (but, are probably worth every penny).  Does anyone think that there would be any significant risk to checking in the AP pier as luggage if I pack it reasonably well?

 

As to weight of the AP pier, durability sufficient to allow cheking it in is more important to me than weight.  About the farthest that I will have to carry it will be from the luggage area to the rental car.  There are plenty of turnouts on Haleakala highway on the way up, and even a few small parking lots, so I would probably not have to carry it far.  There is a turnout suffiently off the road to be safe on the west side of the mountain that might be a nice place to start because of the northern, western, and southern views (and fewer clouds because that side is near the rain shadow.

 

Hmm ... now that I have told everyone where to expect me, maybe my greatest expense will be hiring a few big beefy guys to guard me while I am observing, and paying enough to be sure that they are happy with there employment would be quite wise.  On the other hand, my 96 pound wife would be quite fearsome even as a solodefender should she think of how much jewelry my stuff could buy for her if she were to successfully defend me and demand that I sell my equipment in order to buy her some nice jewelry in return for protecting me from the roving bands of refractor thieves.  But, yet again, I digress.  But, thanks for all of the excellent suggestions.


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#22 k5apl

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Posted 12 September 2018 - 11:19 AM

Hi Walt

If you want to view on Haleakala then maybe my experience will be of help.  I have observed many times with my 100mm and 130mm refractors.

 

There is a parking lot at the 8000 ft. level that will give you a good view of the East and the North.  The lower parking lot on the summit is where I observe most.  There is a hill that breaks the wind and I try to stay in its

shelter. It has good views to the North, East, and West. The upper parking lot has a good South view (you can see the observatory on Mauna Kea).  I would Not view by the side of the road going to the summit. Too many crazy drivers (ie. tourists from big cities or flat lands that don't know how to drive on a mountain).  Haleakala has the steepest road for the shortest linear distance to reach 10,000 ft. elevation in the U.S.

 

Safety has never been a problem for me. There will be a lot of tourists going up for Sunset.  So leave early because (1) some drive verrry slow, and (2) it gets dark fast after sunset (need set-up in daylight?).  After Sunset

most of the tourists leave within a couple of hours.  Then you will be virtually alone and no lights.  It has been a

very safe place for me to view.

 

Cellphone coverage is spotty.  I put mine on airplane mode until I need to use it. You might have to move around 

to find a sweet spot.  There is drinking water and a restroom at the lower lot.  My wife has read books in the lit

restroom while I observed in the dark.

 

Don't plan to go up early in the morning because the Park Service regulates cars coming for sunrise.  I have done all-nighters and had no problem leaving.  When leaving in darkness, be careful of cattle and maybe Axis

Deer.  And, you might want to get some painter's tape at Ace or Home Depot etc. to cover dome lights and

back up lights on your rental car so if others are observing, you wan't blind them with white light when you leave

or get something out of the car.

 

Bring snacks and have a wonderful time observing under pristine sky.  Wear warm clothes.  Wish I was with you.

Wes


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#23 HonoluluWalt

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Posted 15 September 2018 - 06:16 PM

Wes, thanks for the tips.  The next time you observe on Haleakala, take a look at the house across the street from the 4,000 foot marker.  That is the house in which I lived for two years back in the 1980s  When I lived there (at a time when I was so poor that I could not afford to eat three times per day, much less afford a scope), the sky was sunningly beautiful almost every night.

 

Do you run into any problems with the national park rangers when doing all nighters, or even staying with the park after it closes?  I was under the impression (which is apparently wrong) that everyone was supposed to leave prior to the park closing.  I would be really happy to be wrong about this, because you are right about setting up on one of the turnouts outside of the park at lower altitudes.  It would be risky.  The parking lots within the boundaries of the the park are better.

 

That parking lot at 8,000 feet strikes me as a good place to observe, if no one gives you a problem.  I think that I know the exact parking lot.  But, as far as the initial access, if the the rangers allow staying after closing, I will be fine because I own one of those national park passes (and, rherefore, they need not have me pay for a second day if I stay after midnight).  Thanks again for the tips.


Edited by HonoluluWalt, 15 September 2018 - 06:29 PM.


#24 Moravianus

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Posted 15 September 2018 - 09:56 PM

Leofoto LN-404C (or Gitzo Series 5)

DM-4 or DM-6

would be my choice.

But if I go alone, AP is with me and the mount takes almost the luggage allowance.



#25 k5apl

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Posted 16 September 2018 - 09:27 PM

Honolulu Walt

It was ok with the park personnel to do an overnighter.  But, with the new rules to apply for sunrise at the top, I

would leave as the sky starts to lighten up; or earlier if cars start coming in with their headlights on.  I'll see if I can get you a specific answer.

 

The park entrance and visitor's building are about 3000 ft below the summit IIRC.  That's where I usually change from shorts and tank top to cold weather gear.

 

If you want to do some roadside viewing, a good place is go past the Winery around to the back side of Haleakala.

Once the traffic dies down after dark, you can get a great view of the southern sky.  I have seen Eta Carina nebula

and the Jewel Box and the Southern Cross and they are impressive.

 

I know you will have fun.

Aloha

Wes




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