Ok, the waiting is done.
Wednesday afternoon I drove out to my dark sky site with my daughter and we spent a couple of hours setting up the scope. The wheelbarrow handles worked like a charm transporting the scope the 100 yards or so to my ROR dobservatory, I placed the mirror in the scope and assembled her just before the sun set and in time for my daughter to snap a pic for posterity. It was cold out, she was not warmly dressed and there were things that needed to be done at home, so we only stayed long enough to do a quick alignment, and take a peek. I could instantly tell that stars looked rounder than I have ever seen them. Further, defocusing created beautiful symmetrical expanding circles. I'm no optician, but it was clear to me immediately that I was looking an an image with very little noticeable aberration. The surface of the crescent moon looked fabulous. The smooth areas looked incredibly crisp. M42 was just peaking over the east wall so I ignored my daughter's shivering for 5 minutes more. She stopped shivering when I showed her the carnival in the eyepiece that the Orion Nebula was with a 21mm Ethos in. More nebulosity than I have ever seen live, even through an 8" reflector with night vision under suburban skies. The sky was a bit turbulent that close to the horizon so when I popped in a 10mm Ethos I only saw the E star in the trapezium. We closed down and packed it in.
Last night the weather report looked promising - clear skies and average to good transparency and seeing. I got back to the site around 8:30p, just as the crescent moon was setting, and jumped in - solo this time. I was ready for the long haul, with hand and foot warmers and well bundled up. Collimation was dialed in with laser and Tublug. My SQM meter was reading 21.4 to 21.5 consistently. I started marching through visible Messiers, to get a sense of the goto on the StarStructure. After some training I was able to nail targets with a 10mm Ethos in without difficulty. The scope feels rock solid (it held collimation wonderfully) and tracks like a dream. (Around midnight I took a break to flesh out a list of targets and when I came back to the eyepiece half an hour later the trapezium was still in the fov with a 6mm Ethos in. What a beast!)
I had originally planned to skim through some Messiers just to get a feel for the scopes movement before dialing in a list of objects I was interested in looking at, but my brief Messier tour turned from minutes to hours. I was absolutely spellbound. It was hands down the best observing I have ever experienced. I couldn't take my eyes off M76. Previously this had just been a smudge to me. Now I could clearly see it's shape, and the telescope just kept taking magnification. I made it all the way up to 521x with a 3.7mm Ethos and a paracorr in place. The view might have been slightly crisper with the 4.7mm Ethos at 410x, but both views were stunning. M82 was fabulous at 321x. The dust lanes were clear and obvious. M79 was great at 241x, with stars nearly resolving to the core. Higher mag on that object did not improve resolution much on this night. Even ghostly M1, which had never done much of anything for me, when I could pick it up, was honking clear and beautifully defined. Tonight, with Orion high in the sky, M42 was considerably settled down. E and F in the trapezium were obvious and fairly bright. A couple of times I thought I saw G blinking in when skies settled for a moment. What was really fun was to stare at the trapezium against a vague backdrop of nebulosity and then visually 'step back' and take in the instant 'pop' of the surrounding nebulosity for all its chaotic boldness and glory.
I was so stoked by all this that I had plenty of gas in my tank. I went back to the house to warm up and prepare a list of objects to look at that would be on the way up in the sky. I should have never left while I was still experiencing the magic. When I returned to the scope mean old Mister Dew started to rear his hazy head. The main issue was the eyepieces. Eventually even the Telrad became difficult to use because of the dew. Still, I packed up as a happy camper. This telescope is everything I hoped it would be and more. I have only scratched the barest surface of what I want to do with it, but hopefully there are many clear nights for the two of us in the cards. I am finally starting to understand first hand the power of fine optics in a well built, large aperture telescope. And I haven't even looked at a planet yet..., or used NV, or pulled out any filters...
To say I am satisfied by this scope would be an understatement. I'm sure I have no idea what really goes into all the components to make this machine hum the way it does. All I know is what I see, and how that makes me feel. It was more than worth the time, money, and effort that went into getting to first light.
I don't want this to sound like a speech given at the Oscars. I'm hugely impressed, and humbly grateful.
Thanks for reading.
Edited by starzonesteve, 11 January 2019 - 07:12 AM.