Stowaway #249 first light was this morning's Mercury solar transit. I had been waiting to get an appropriate mount but after briefly viewing the transit with my 80mm, f/7.5 achro and white light filter, I decided to try it out. I was using a Manfrotto 055MF3 with 701RC2 head, which I normally use with 15x70s but it works ok with 80mm achro for terrestrial. I moved the mount shoe to the Stowaway dovetail and determined that, with care, I could safely use the Stowaway on the 055MF3/701 combo.
The focuser was a little stiff but I got my Ethos focused on a bush on a ridgeline 5 miles away and knew this was going to be a different experience than with my other small telescopes. I dropped in the Nagler Zoom and cranked it up to 3mm (204x) and was seeing limited at the low elevation but could resolve branches and groups of leaves.
After adding the white light filter, I watched the hole punch move across the sun for the next hour. Seeing was remarkably steady, which allowed me to use powers that I never expected. The mount was the obvious limitation, but I was able to learn the altitude sag pretty quickly and follow the sun at 100-200x fairly well. This is not a setup I'd recommend, but it worked ok given the rarity of the Mercury transit.
My first impression opening the box was that the Stowaway is a very small telescope. It's like my 130GT shrunk down by 50%. The views of the transit at 200x defied what I thought a small telescope was capable of. Admittedly, though, most of my smaller telescope experience has been with various achromats. The Stowaway image held up to all the atmosphere could yield, which was a solid black pea on the face of the sun at 150-200x. I dropped in my 2" 1.6x Antares Barlow and watched Mercury and the sun race across the FOV at the 4 and 3mm Nagler Zoom settings (245x and 326x; 68x/in and 90x/in, respectfully). At 326x, the view was obviously darker and the 0.28mm exit pupil was noticeable. That power was beyond what the atmosphere could handle and didn't add to the experience. The best views were between 150-250x. I never thought I'd see such a steady view of Mercury, as it's always so low in the sky at dusk or dawn. So here I was with a steady sky and a small aperture and perfectly maxing out both. The sky steadiness was limiting above 245x, which is right were the Stowaway exit pupil gets too tiny (0.38mm).
I need to give credit to the small aperture, and it's portability, for some of the "steady skies". My initial views were across asphalt, which I realized was giving off heat. I picked up my setup and easily moved it to the edge of the pavement. This definitely helped. I also know that using larger aperture would be looking through a wider column of air. So my "steady skies" capable of 250x were in part due to the 92mm column of air I was looking through.
The Nagler Zoom deserves another mention, as it appears to be an outstanding companion to the Stowaway on a manually guided mount. The ability to zoom out to 100x and then back in to 200x helps tremendously with finding and guiding at the eyepiece. Manually tracking was a little frustrating on this overtasked mount but it would have been a much worse experience without the Nagler Zoom.
Another shout-out to the 2" 1.6x Antares barlow. I really like it. It's gentle on the light cone and relatively short and lightweight.
So I really enjoyed using the Stowaway this morning viewing the transit. It easily showed me everything the sky could give in a compact package that I can't wait to use at night. I don't expect to see Mercury so well resolved again until the next transit in 2032. I expect I'll use the Stowaway again for that one.
Edited by Zoomit, 11 November 2019 - 07:14 PM.