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My new StarStructure/Lockwood 20" dob

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#76 starzonesteve

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Posted 06 January 2019 - 06:16 PM

I was at work, complaining to a colleague that I was missing what would probably be some of the best skies of the year. Short of illness or family emergency it is very difficult for me to get out of a work obligation on short notice. I am, however, glad that you got to get out and enjoy it, especially with a hotrod scope like that!

 

This was the local dark sky site weather I missed out on last night:

 

thumbnail_IMG_1706.jpg

 

I have some some free time later this week and am hoping to enjoy a similar night. Thanks for the good wishes.


Edited by starzonesteve, 06 January 2019 - 06:17 PM.


#77 starzonesteve

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Posted 11 January 2019 - 06:53 AM

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.

 

Steve


Edited by starzonesteve, 11 January 2019 - 07:12 AM.

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#78 Allan Wade

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Posted 11 January 2019 - 07:22 AM

Great stuff Steve, sounds like you have an excellent dob. The two of you will have a rewarding journey together over the years to come.


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#79 stubeeef

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Posted 11 January 2019 - 11:53 PM

I can only imagine, but its a nice day dream.

 

Glad Lucille let you take a peek



#80 starzonesteve

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Posted 12 January 2019 - 12:40 AM

I can only imagine, but its a nice day dream.

 

Glad Lucille let you take a peek

A hot rod is only happy when its engine is humming...

 

Keep on dreaming - without dreams we only have nightmares.



#81 stubeeef

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Posted 12 January 2019 - 08:52 AM

Exactly, as Allan will agree, the same with planes, they love to fly-the longer they sit on the ground the more they break (Hangar Queen). I could read/feel your excitement, betting you let out some audible school girl squeals and never knew it! lol.gif

 

I'm hoping this thread will also expose the longer term goodies, i.e. how collimation holds long term, the stability of the goto/tracking over a few months, life with/without fan use. your experience with Nexus, did you put a heater on your secondary? I think you did but cant remember I know you weren't happy about some severe dew the other night. Did you have the UTA flocked?

 

How well did it fit in your Truck/SUV/Car? What ramps did you buy (you probably already said that a few years back when you first got her).

 

I got a million ???, including "does it purrrrr?"  so unleash the inner critic/reviewer and satisfy my thirst for that I desire. 

 

O btw let me know when you finish the guest cottage next to the observatory......flowerred.gif


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#82 starzonesteve

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Posted 12 January 2019 - 03:49 PM

Cottage is ready to go - it was there before the observatory and is ready for hosting.

 

There are many, many questions there - some that I can answer, most that I can't yet. I do have a dew heater on the secondary, and it did its job. I'm trying to decide about whether or not it is worth it to use a heated eyepiece case. You really have to have all of your ducks in a row to keep the night's observing productive. My sense is that I will only get a couple of nights a month for now, so I want to take as many speed bumps out of the equation as possible.

 

The Nexus seems to be unstoppable. There are many features I haven't yet delved into but there seems to be no end to its capability. For now I was happy that it was finding the objects I wanted and making it easy to keep them in the eyepiece's fov.

 

The servo cat actually does make this low level little purr to let you know it is there. I'm pretty sure there was nothing low level about what came out of my mouth as M82 came into view.grin.gif

 

The good news is that I am rampless. I have no intention of transporting this scope anytime soon. I am going to try to focus on creating a space in the observatory that will be comfortable and organized and will promote spending time observing there.

 

More to come soon. For now work and a cloudy front coming through.


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#83 dave brock

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Posted 12 January 2019 - 08:28 PM

When I returned to the scope mean old Mister Dew started to rear his hazy head. The main issue was the eyepieces.

Steve


When not using any particular eyepiece, if you keep them in your jacket pockets they will be warm and will not dew up for some time. Also if you go inside don't leave one in the focuser to become cold.
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#84 starzonesteve

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Posted 13 January 2019 - 07:46 AM

When not using any particular eyepiece, if you keep them in your jacket pockets they will be warm and will not dew up for some time. Also if you go inside don't leave one in the focuser to become cold.

Good thought. I also realized, retrospectively, that I had placed a cloth band across my mouth and nose as the temperature continued to drop. My guess is that a portion of my breath was directed upward toward the eyepiece, exacerbating the issue. I wonder how many go for either eyepiece dew straps or a heated eyepiece box in addition to the jacket/vest technique?



#85 JHGIII

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Posted 14 January 2019 - 11:38 AM

I vote for dew heater strips on the EP’s as well as the finder.
When in my observatory, the EP’s in the rotation wait there turn sitting on the stereo receiver. When in the field I pocket them in the pouch of a hoodie sweatshirt. If it’s really cold (20’s is cold for me) , that sweatshirt is inside my Carhart coveralls
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#86 havasman

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Posted 14 January 2019 - 09:31 PM

I wonder how many go for either eyepiece dew straps or a heated eyepiece box in addition to the jacket/vest technique?

I use all three. I keep an eyepiece or 2 in the pockets of a Dark Sky Apparel hooded observing vest, use a heater strip on the one that's in the focuser and have the rest at hand in a gently heated case I built into an old beer cooler until I need them. That way the only wild card is remembering to be sure and not breathe on the one in use when I approach the focuser.

 

Some years ago I lost a lot of good observing time to dew and now I have active dew control everywhere possible. I never lose observing time anymore.


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#87 stubeeef

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Posted 14 January 2019 - 09:42 PM

Love to see the cooler EP case! (sorry steve don't want to hijack your thread)flowerred.gif


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#88 starzonesteve

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Posted 28 January 2019 - 07:40 AM

No worries about thread hijacking this one has almost run its course.

 

I had a short session on Friday night which was a lot of fun. Yesterday we packed up the kids and put them to work staining the ROR dobservatory while I laid down interlocking rubber matting inside. It was cloudy all day but the weather forecast was for clearing in the evening so I stayed while everyone else went back home. It turned into a marathon session.

 

As the sun went down, the clouds disappeared. I experimented collimating with Catseye tools vs laser/Tublug. I found they complimented/correlated well but I could not quite get the autocollimator images to perfectly line up before running out of light. At any rate, whatever degree of collimation I achieved held up beautifully. I took the time to move the scope down from 90 degrees to near horizontal with the Tublug in and the collimation did not appear to budge one iota. Zero slop.

 

It was a nice night. No clouds, good transparency, average to good seeing. I guess I can't complain about temperatures getting down to 30 F, considering what others have to endure. Near midnight the SQM was up in the 21.5-6 region. Mean mister dew was around again but I stifled his fury some by using a newly acquired astronomy vest. I used this to keep an Ethos 17mm, 8mm, and 4.7mm on rotation without running into much problem with dew. I also used a 2" Powermate with these eyepieces on occasion. Seeing was better early in the night. I spent a lot of time in Orion as it was well placed. E & F stars in the trapezium were flat out honking. I used the Nexus tour program to look through Orion's many bright nebulae. At one point I used my NV binoculars with the 21mm Ethos and an Ha filter to get a great view of the Horsehead Nebula. This was a first for me and was very enjoyable. I was really taken with the Nexus' abilities so I decided to run through some of Orion's double stars. A bit of atmospheric disturbance started to come through but I was still able to split stars closer than 2 arc seconds. I had to wait for the air to settle down but when it did the split was clear as day. I tried a couple in the 1 arc second range and tighter but all I really could discern was an oval form. Still, I am pretty sure the weather was what was limiting me.

 

After a cup of ramon noodles for warmth and sustenance I went back out to have a look at Virgo's galaxies. Between the Nexus, ServoCat, rock solid StarStructure and impeccable optics it was a blast picking these things off. So easy to do, and yet so rich to see. I felt like a kid in a candy store. I was starting to develop the child's equivalent to a stomach ache from too much candy - a backache from a geezer doing too much stargazing! Still, as I finished up in Virgo the moon decided to rear its head. I couldn't resist. I only have a 1.25" moon filter so I screwed it onto a Televue 8-24mm zoom and spent some time viewing. The moon was fairly low and the turbulence had kicked up a bit, but the views were still stunning. Resolution was phenomenal during intervals when the atmosphere settled down. Crater floors appeared creamy smooth and I was able to get lost in the internal markings of individual craters. It will soon be time for me to learn my way around old man moon as I can see I will be spending lots of time with him.

 

I packed up a bit after 3am, totally satisfied with the equipment, and the outing it had facilitated. I may come back to this thread from time to time as I cross into new territory with the equipment, but at this point I'm happy to share that this journey has been all that I hoped it would be. Best part is that it is just beginning.

 

Steve


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#89 JMSchwartz

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Posted 06 January 2020 - 02:16 PM

With out a doubt the starstructure is probably the  most stable platform availble , this was confirmed on more than one occasion by Steve Kennedy with 3 different Starstructures all sub 3.6 the most memorable was through Steve's  32 " f-3.0 we were at 8900 feet elevation atop mount Pinos every one was wondering if the winds that day would diminish by night fall and of course they only picked up . The sustained wind speed was about 25 - 30 mph with peak gusts ranging from 45 to 60 mph  everyone packed it in for the night accept  a couple of small refractors (80mm) atop AP 1200 & a 900 and then there was the Massive Starstructure 32  everyone still awake told Steve and I that we were crazy to even try ,the most common  statement was how are you going to view with with  a giant sail attached to your scope , having  already confirmed the stability of the previous Starstructures in similar conditions , Steve confidently  replied   Just watch so and you can see for yourself. So Steve and I commenced the first light viewing session with the massively elegant  Starstructure. The first target was a 3 day old new moon mostly illuminated by earth shine , the first thing we both noticed was the absolutely amazing  seeing despite the continuous winds I have seen this on one other occasion .This scope was truly  amazing it hardly was affected by the sustained wind when the big gusts were present it was as if the wind would slightly  move the scope so the object in the eyepiece was off axis but then the scope pushed back it seemed to be locked in  always maintaining the object in the field of view yes it was buffeted and there was some movement at the eyepiece nothing like all the  other scopes experienced in similar conditions. Now the silver lining the view I had of the moon through that scope that night was surreal  we were walking on the moon with a landscape  bathed with a familiar pale blue  twilight which transported  me to another place it had a dreamlike  quality absolute serenity .

I felt that as if I was part of this grand creation. 

Then we slewed the scope to Jupiter  it was dead center the goto was flawless , now we wanted to test the power I put in a zoom eye piece and zoomed in until the image was affected  by seeing limitations which did not happen what I did notice is as I zoomed in and the peak gusts were buffeting the scope it felt like I was traveling towards the massive planet  I was getting closer and closer the wind pushed the scope pushed back it was like I was manually controlling a space craft maintaining direct course with the massive planet .

Again this amazing  telescope had taken me to another place where I have never been . This is  a tangible experience  it was realistic not a photograph or a cg image the real thing which I was able to connect with for me that was a game changer. No I was ready to go deep Steve said are you crazy we need to push the power to its limit  so we commenced ,600 ,800, 1000, at that point we ran out of barlow attachments ,we both agreed she could of taken more power I tried to find Don Penzak from eyepieces ect. To borrow a 4 x powermate unfortunately  he had already succumb  to the conditions at that point I said to Steve the eagle has landed and the views  were so good that now people are lining up to see. As people were wating some were saying these guys are  joking  when one person was finished he told the non belivers   this is no joke he reassuringly said that the only other view that showed equal and even better detail was from the Mount Wilson 60" .

Everyone who looked through that scope was awe struck that night .Definitely the best view I ever had!

Now Steve asked who's  ready to go deep so we went to the Ring he slewed the goto and to everyone's  amazement it was actually  in the field of view we exclaimed  Starstructure telescopes although we know all things must align to achieve this level of pointing accuracy and if you address all the variables  it can be achieved.  The view was again photographic, im freaking out because the central star is visible no it was the 2nd star it was actually there this guy kept telling me Jon stop jt  thats not possible when he looked he got real quiet cause he never saw the central star before he kept saying how can this be with these winds and a all metal scope no vibrations at high power rock solid  platform . He even admitted that all his prior assumptions  of fast large dobsonian all metal telescopes was erased at that very moment . I will have to continue this post later as there is so many more images of Dso's that are permanently  etched in my mind forever , in closing I have to have a new Starstructure just like John's poolside shot of that 20" 3.3 all black for the best contrast every night I fall asleep dreaming of owning one of these best of collection superior Starstructure telescopes.

Clear and steady skies to all and may all your dreams and goals come through in this new year ahead .

Sincerely  Jon (AKA the Starkrus8r)


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#90 starzonesteve

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Posted 07 January 2020 - 09:17 AM

Great story, Jon! Thanks for sharing.



#91 stubeeef

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Posted 07 January 2020 - 11:54 AM

Steve and I buddied over SST orders a couple of years back with private chats. I sadly had to delay my order for daughter money. Anyway I'm back on track and Steve has kindly and graciously granted me an evening of viewing. His scope and observatory are certainly to be coveted. I look forward to an evening of sipping scotch, awesome vistas, and lots of lies!


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#92 starzonesteve

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Posted 07 January 2020 - 08:08 PM

Stu, it ain't no lie that I split a double at 0.7 arc seconds with my 20" a week or two ago. I couldn't do it constantly, but there were definitely moments of good seeing where they were cleanly split. All this tells me is that the weather/atmosphere is still the rate limiting step, not my 20" StarStructure/Lockwood.


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#93 stubeeef

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Posted 07 January 2020 - 08:37 PM

Oh ya, well I'll be discovering exoplanets millions of light years away, the size of mercury with my StarStructure/Ostahowski!

 

Checking out the Walmart parking lots on Pluto, while resolving doublets that are co-joined!

 

Not ly'n AT ALL!

 

The power difference between your f/3.3 and my future f/3.4 makes a HUGE difference you know.

 

lol.gif


Edited by stubeeef, 08 January 2020 - 07:21 AM.

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#94 starzonesteve

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Posted 08 January 2020 - 08:12 PM

Oh ya, well I'll be discovering exoplanets millions of light years away, the size of mercury with my StarStructure/Ostahowski!

 

Checking out the Walmart parking lots on Pluto, while resolving doublets that are co-joined!

 

Not ly'n AT ALL!

 

The power difference between your f/3.3 and my future f/3.4 makes a HUGE difference you know.

 

lol.gif

Thought you said you were gonna wait until you got up here before you broke out the scotch?hmm.gif



#95 stubeeef

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Posted 08 January 2020 - 08:21 PM

Probably only have the cheap stuff by the time I get there

#96 starzonesteve

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Posted 10 January 2020 - 08:39 AM

Probably only have the cheap stuff by the time I get there

You be careful on the road, big fella.



#97 starzonesteve

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Posted 25 January 2020 - 09:37 PM

Just over a year after first light I will break out my thread once again with a tale/viewing report of a night spent observing with my StarStructure/Lockwood 20" dob.

 

On Friday morning my friend Stu confirmed that he would be able to commando a seat/flight to my area so that he could observe with me on a clear new moon night. Stu has a 20" StarStructure on order currently and wanted to 'kick the tires' on mine in the meantime. The weather report indicated that transparency would be excellent but seeing fair at best. The flight was delayed a bit and we made it to my observation site around 9PM. We hurriedly opened up the ROR observatory and cued up the scope. After a brief set back when I had to reseat an intermittent wire to get the altitude encoder working properly we got good alignment and proceeded to poke around Orion for a bit. Skies were very dark. I got consistent sqm readings of 21.6+, which is as good as I have recorded at the site. Additionally, when we slewed to M42, not only were we thrilled with the huge nebulosity that the transparency and 20" mirror afforded us, we were pleased to see that seeing was at least average, with periods when things calmed down and it became good to very good. At around 193x the trapezium was absolutely still, with clear round stars. Stu was pleased to make his first acquaintance with stars E and F. I could see G go in and out with the help of averted vision and moments of settled seeing, a first for me. While we were in the 'neighborhood', we decided to pop in my PVS-7 NV binoviewer, which we used afocally with a 12mm Ha filter. I felt honored to introduce Stu to his first real time view of the Horsehead, which looked great flanked by Alnitak and the Flame Nebula. We then moved over a bit to have a look at the Rosette Nebula. At 35x with the PVS's narrow 40 degree fov we could just about take in the entirety of this magnificent object at a single view.

 

By this time, the fine Scotch that Stu brought (as promised) mingling with the wifi tunes that blared such brilliance as The Who and Pink Floyd, helped us to really hit our stride. Stu wanted to look at a couple of globs, but most of the marquee ones were still below the horizon, so we decided to go galaxy hunting. M82 was truly memorable. It kept taking magnification. Finally, at 521x, with the galaxy stretching across the entirety of the 3.7 Ethos' fov, I heard Stu exclaim. 'You could drive a truck through that dust lane!' When we tracked down the Sombrero galaxy we hit a stretch of really good seeing. Stu was floored by the superb contrast that so clearly allowed him to visualize the light of the galaxy on either side of the dark lane that runs through it.

 

The sky was so impressive that there were a ton of naked eye 'faint fuzzies' running through and around the winter Milky way. For a while we released the Servocat clutches and moved the scope around free hand using the Telrad to point at areas of interest. We would then consult Nexus to identify what we had found. We bagged a number of galaxies, nebulae and double stars using this technique. There is something to be said about stumbling upon a beautiful object in your eyepiece that you had no idea you were going to find.

 

The weather was pretty cool for a couple of old fart southern fellers so we took a break to eat some subs which Stu graciously supplied, and to warm up a bit. Nipped on a bit more scotch to help warm up. By this time Hercules Cluster was coming up, along with M3. M13 looked glorious with a 6mm Ethos at 321x. We tried to imagine what the sky would look like in the middle of that wonderful chaos. Epic fail. Stu was very helpful guiding me on the efficient use of Sky Safari Plus. I don't get out to observe as often as I would like. Having a system to help me organize my viewing sessions is very important. It is a wonderful thing to have a race car like my StarStructure scope that is turbo powered by my stunning Lockwood mirror. Having tools like the Nexus and Sky Safari help efficiently map the terrain you can visit with it.

 

We stayed out under phenomenal skies punching away at anything we could put a glove on till about three am. Both of us had been up since dawn the day before and were tired and getting a little sore. We shut down briefly but agreed to get back up at 4:30 so we could try to get a look at Mars rising. A bold notion it was, but at 4:30 Mars was barely above the ROR obsy's east wall, and in the meantime surfaces were being covered in a thick film of dew that was starting to freeze over. At this we called it a session, closed up, and went in for a few hours of much needed sleep.

 

All told it was a fantastic night of observing. I was pleased to finally share the observatory and scope with a fellow zealot. Stu has a wonderful knack for clearly understanding what he is observing and describing it with meticulous accuracy. The back and forth that goes with sharing one's wonder and appreciation of the sky's bounty with another only adds to the satisfaction of the experience. My 20" StarStructure/Lockwood dob makes it easy to feel the love.

 

Thanks for reading.


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#98 stubeeef

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Posted 26 January 2020 - 09:59 AM

Size Matters!

Most of us want a bigger one, and while my 12" is fun, bigger logically would be more fun!

 

Steve and I started a private conversation in June of '17 surrounding our intentions to get a 20" StarStructure. That private conversation has 22 pages last I looked. Having 3 college aged daughters, I had a large unexpected obligation arise that knocked my SST dreams to the curb till recently.

 

Steve had graciously offered some scope time and tire kicking to me in the past. Having ordered my optics and the scope within a year of completion (Mike at SST's estimate) I thought this should be a great time to do it. Luckily I'm an airline pilot and can get around easily. Unluckily my work schedule had me miss a flight and the next one out cost me a 5-hour delay getting there, and as things go the weather caused another 1-hour delay. By the time I got there and got the car rental, it was after 8pm local. An hour later, at Steve's Astronomical Center of Excellence, I was putting on layers of cold weather mitigating clothes while eagerly unpacking a bottle of Macallan double cask scotch for my gracious host and a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue for the evening. Grabbed the Bluetooth speaker and cellphone and started the trek to Steve’s portal to the Heavens.

 

The evening could not have been better (well could’ve but was beyond expectations). The sky was dazzling, a deep black blanket holding a spread of bright diamonds. I was giddy as a 12yr old school girl about to meet Bieber.

 

Steve has every TOY I mean TOOL you could desire. He can extract every bit of every photon at his Casa de Astronomia. The night sky was so phenomenal I had a sore neck the next day, when not looking in the scope I was always looking up taking in the horizon to horizon diamond show. To clearly see multiple dust lanes in edge on and face on galaxies was quite the treat, I’m sure I subconsciously leaked out the occasional schoolgirl giggle. As Steve pulled out the ever more powerful Ethos, the views continued to delight. Galaxies, Globs, and Nebula, OH MY. I've never had the such an experience within the Trapizium as that evening. Zoomed out slightly, the Nebula has such architecture and structure that I was actually surprised by it.

 

All of us have different styles; I often enjoy cruising around and just exploring an interesting part of the sky. Steve obliged, to this point his first telrad lineup on an area yielded a wonderfully centered Galaxy. All of this fun to Moody Blues, Who, and Pink Floyd and sipping scotch neat, kept cool by the ambient temps.

 

Steve, thanks so much. I will be bringing my SST up for a first light setup upon delivery, and you know there will be good scotch, music, and food!


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#99 Starman1

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Posted 26 January 2020 - 01:02 PM

Just over a year after first light I will break out my thread once again with a tale/viewing report of a night spent observing with my StarStructure/Lockwood 20" dob.

 

On Friday morning my friend Stu confirmed that he would be able to commando a seat/flight to my area so that he could observe with me on a clear new moon night. Stu has a 20" StarStructure on order currently and wanted to 'kick the tires' on mine in the meantime. The weather report indicated that transparency would be excellent but seeing fair at best. The flight was delayed a bit and we made it to my observation site around 9PM. We hurriedly opened up the ROR observatory and cued up the scope. After a brief set back when I had to reseat an intermittent wire to get the altitude encoder working properly we got good alignment and proceeded to poke around Orion for a bit. Skies were very dark. I got consistent sqm readings of 21.6+, which is as good as I have recorded at the site. Additionally, when we slewed to M42, not only were we thrilled with the huge nebulosity that the transparency and 20" mirror afforded us, we were pleased to see that seeing was at least average, with periods when things calmed down and it became good to very good. At around 193x the trapezium was absolutely still, with clear round stars. Stu was pleased to make his first acquaintance with stars E and F. I could see G go in and out with the help of averted vision and moments of settled seeing, a first for me. While we were in the 'neighborhood', we decided to pop in my PVS-7 NV binoviewer, which we used afocally with a 12mm Ha filter. I felt honored to introduce Stu to his first real time view of the Horsehead, which looked great flanked by Alnitak and the Flame Nebula. We then moved over a bit to have a look at the Rosette Nebula. At 35x with the PVS's narrow 40 degree fov we could just about take in the entirety of this magnificent object at a single view.

 

By this time, the fine Scotch that Stu brought (as promised) mingling with the wifi tunes that blared such brilliance as The Who and Pink Floyd, helped us to really hit our stride. Stu wanted to look at a couple of globs, but most of the marquee ones were still below the horizon, so we decided to go galaxy hunting. M82 was truly memorable. It kept taking magnification. Finally, at 521x, with the galaxy stretching across the entirety of the 3.7 Ethos' fov, I heard Stu exclaim. 'You could drive a truck through that dust lane!' When we tracked down the Sombrero galaxy we hit a stretch of really good seeing. Stu was floored by the superb contrast that so clearly allowed him to visualize the light of the galaxy on either side of the dark lane that runs through it.

 

The sky was so impressive that there were a ton of naked eye 'faint fuzzies' running through and around the winter Milky way. For a while we released the Servocat clutches and moved the scope around free hand using the Telrad to point at areas of interest. We would then consult Nexus to identify what we had found. We bagged a number of galaxies, nebulae and double stars using this technique. There is something to be said about stumbling upon a beautiful object in your eyepiece that you had no idea you were going to find.

 

The weather was pretty cool for a couple of old fart southern fellers so we took a break to eat some subs which Stu graciously supplied, and to warm up a bit. Nipped on a bit more scotch to help warm up. By this time Hercules Cluster was coming up, along with M3. M13 looked glorious with a 6mm Ethos at 321x. We tried to imagine what the sky would look like in the middle of that wonderful chaos. Epic fail. Stu was very helpful guiding me on the efficient use of Sky Safari Plus. I don't get out to observe as often as I would like. Having a system to help me organize my viewing sessions is very important. It is a wonderful thing to have a race car like my StarStructure scope that is turbo powered by my stunning Lockwood mirror. Having tools like the Nexus and Sky Safari help efficiently map the terrain you can visit with it.

 

We stayed out under phenomenal skies punching away at anything we could put a glove on till about three am. Both of us had been up since dawn the day before and were tired and getting a little sore. We shut down briefly but agreed to get back up at 4:30 so we could try to get a look at Mars rising. A bold notion it was, but at 4:30 Mars was barely above the ROR obsy's east wall, and in the meantime surfaces were being covered in a thick film of dew that was starting to freeze over. At this we called it a session, closed up, and went in for a few hours of much needed sleep.

 

All told it was a fantastic night of observing. I was pleased to finally share the observatory and scope with a fellow zealot. Stu has a wonderful knack for clearly understanding what he is observing and describing it with meticulous accuracy. The back and forth that goes with sharing one's wonder and appreciation of the sky's bounty with another only adds to the satisfaction of the experience. My 20" StarStructure/Lockwood dob makes it easy to feel the love.

 

Thanks for reading.

here is a good thread for you to follow:

https://www.cloudyni...s-and-clusters/


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#100 starzonesteve

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Posted 27 October 2020 - 06:43 PM

I'll post a quick follow up since it has been nearly a year.

 

Since I last reported on this scope I have obtained a small Airstream Basecamp trailer that the 20" StarStructure/Lockwood fits into nicely. The ramps and wheelbarrow handles make it easy to get in and out and there are ample anchoring points to secure the scope safely for travel.

 

Although I have gotten good use out of the observatory there is a small blinking light on a nearby cell tower which slightly diminishes the quality/enjoyment of the dark skies at the site. As well, it is nice to be able to travel/congregate with fellow observers.

 

I am currently having some work done on the observatory and am leaving the scope set up in the barn. A couple of weeks ago I rolled it out under wonderfully dark, moonless skies, with excellent transparency and good seeing. My mission was Mars. I spent the majority of the evening soaking it up and relishing the good fortune to be off from work while the weather cooperated very near to opposition.

 

I started out with a Ethos 10mm which yielded 192X. Mars looked large and clear. Mare Sirenum was facing and it and the polar cap were very clear. I slowly increased magnification and found that at 321x more than 50% of the time seeing was steady enough to really appreciate surface markings. I particularly enjoyed when things settled and I could make out the fine mottling between Mare Sirenum and the polar cap. 

 

Fortunately my Nexus/Servocat was hitting on all cylinders this evening and Mars was holding steady in the center of the field of view. I slipped in a 4.7mm Ethos for 410x and, finding periods of steady seeing, finally reached for the 3.7mm Ethos. At 512x the main ingredient I needed was patience. Some of the resolution was lost, except for the 10 or 15% of the time when the atmospheric turbulence would die down enough to let the fine surface details come into focus. It was clear to me that any loss of resolution I was seeing came from seeing issues. Those rare moments when seeing became still for 30 or 60 seconds at a time were truly jaw dropping. My Lockwood mirror was clearly up to the task and the StarStructure scope and drive kept me comfortably and smoothly locked in.

 

I continue to feel that the majority of difficulties I encounter with this scope come from either external limitations or my own shortcomings. My hope is to continue to improve my expertise and experience using the scope, and to use the improved mobility that I now have to seek out really great observing locations so that I can continue to push the boundaries of what this scope will show me.

 

Steve


Edited by starzonesteve, 27 October 2020 - 07:58 PM.

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