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Big reflectors excellent skies

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#1 John Anderson

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Posted 12 December 2018 - 03:12 PM

Have read here about fine distinctions ie should I get an 8" or a 10". And I have done my share of backyard observing with small to moderate scopes ...

 

Then I went to the Oregon Star Party and saw the Veil Nebula through an 18" dob. And M51 through a 30 inch. This was quite a few years ago.

 

Frankly it ruined me as far as observing from the city is concerned. Yes the moon and Jupiter still look nice but everything else is sort of disappointing.

 

I wonder if others have felt this way. For now I have sort of given up until I can retire to darker skies and a big dob.

 

 


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#2 Richard O'Neill

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Posted 12 December 2018 - 03:20 PM

 You need to get out more. I don't as much as I'd like to either but when I do the Joy is worth the wait. smile.gif


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#3 bobito

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Posted 12 December 2018 - 03:31 PM

I had a similar issue after taking my first dark site trip this summer.  I have moderately dark skies at home, so I can see many objects, but after seeing them in very dark skies there were a couple of months where I wasn't very motivated to go out in my yard.  The memory of seeing the objects in dark skies was too fresh so everything was a disappointment.  But now the winter time stuff is up, so all good again, no memories from dark skies to spoil those objects!  :)


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#4 photoracer18

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Posted 12 December 2018 - 03:45 PM

I used to belong to a club that included half a dozen members with 20-25" scopes. And to be honest with you no matter how good the views were I was put off mainly by the amount of effort it took to put them back together and break them down to leave a site. I mean technically that fills up the dead time while the optics are getting temperature stabilized but I am somewhat lazy. So taking my height and strength into consideration, I decided that it could be no heavier than what it took to leave it in one piece and just lift it out of my SUV and put it onto the rocker box. So the mirror cell needed to be both solid, not too heavy, and not a sling type. And I did not want to stand on anything at the zenith. It turned out to be something in the 14-15" range at F4-F5. I ended up with a used Sky Designs 14.25" F4.5 truss Dob. I put a couple of brass handles on the mirror box and it was good to go. Probably the happiest single decade I had in visual astronomy. And of course I sold it to go back into AP. And now you may ask if that size was perfect how come I am older and have a 16" now? Well this NightSky dob kit has a wheeled case for the mirror and cell (a one off by the maker) so the entire truss can stay together and I only have to lift and bolt the cell/mirror into the mirror box, after its in the rocker box. I don't think I could lift a cell and mirror even a LW one more than maybe 18" to bolt it up. My method is to put a pair of steel pins in the upper 2 screw holes in the mirror box and lift the assembly up and slide it on the pins and then bolt up the lower knobs and finally remove the pins and bolt up the 2 upper ones. In my 14" setup while I checked the collimation every time I did not have to tweak it except maybe every 2 years or so. This setup is similar as the cell is pretty solid also, one of those welded box section steel cells. And I have a small kitchen stool to stand on for those few times I need to look straight up. Now that I have had one knee replaced its no longer an issue.
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#5 Starman47

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Posted 12 December 2018 - 04:01 PM

Since I am retired, I can observe more.  I am looking for a site in Tennessee that is in a green zone or almost to the green, where I can build the dream house, and observe 100 to 150 nights per year. And if i get the fever, then perhaps I will make it to the WSP every second year.


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#6 Redbetter

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Posted 12 December 2018 - 04:08 PM

It isn't about the aperture so much as the darkness of the sky.  Backyard observing in town is not satisfying for DSO's.  It is easy enough to use my 20" in the backyard, I just roll it out from the garage and am in business quickly.  But I rarely do so for DSO's because aperture doesn't remedy the loss of contrast for anything but the highest surface brightness objects.  I mostly do checks in town with smaller aperture just to see what is detectable in light polluted conditions.

 

Instead of using the 20" in the suburbs, I keep it disassembled and prepped for transport an hour away to a dark site when weather permits.  If I didn't have a way or the will to transport the 20", then it would be a 16 or 12 or 8 or whatever worked, but I would be taking it to a darker site.  The same was true when my only scope was an 8" SCT.  I did some backyard observing, mostly planets and double stars, but I hauled my scope out of town for "dark" sky observing even when that dark sky was only semi-dark compared to what I have available now. 

 

And there are nights where I mostly observe with a small refractor at a dark site, even with the 20" set up nearby.  The target list is different, but both are dependent on dark/darker skies.


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#7 TOMDEY

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Posted 12 December 2018 - 04:48 PM

Yeah, hauling a Giant scope, setting up, observing, tearing down, returning home... is a huge effort. I never took/take anything bigger than a 6-inch scope to Star Parties! Instead, almost 40 years ago... I moved the family to a rural hill and built a small (12-foot) dome for the 17.5-inch Dobsonian. Still live here with decent darkness (SQM 21.2-21.8, depending on the night).  And a 36-inch GoTo/Track scope in a bigger dome, ready to use... whenever the mood strikes me.

 

I know most people don't (won't?) even consider moving away from the city/suburbs/light-pollution...  but it is an option!

 

And I can Still haul a small scope to a park or friend's house!

 

PS: Rural living is wonderful! I know it may not be for everyone... but if you truly value: elbow room, privacy, gardening, hiking, quiet, darkness, birding, astronomy, flora, fauna, liberty (freedom to do what you want), safety, shooting, biking, free-range kids, dogs, cats, horses, ponds, streams, woods, fields, friendly neighbors... rural has it all!  Tom


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#8 Kunama

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Posted 12 December 2018 - 04:57 PM

I hear people talk about the problems associated with getting a big scope set up etc etc..... confused1.gif

 

I have an 18" F3.5 Dob and also use a TSA102S Binoscope

The binoscope rides on a modified AZ-EQ6 GT on a Takahashi EN400 metal tripod with Casady counterweight, battery pack etc.

 

The Dob is actually lighter in weight and faster to setup than the Bino/AZEQ6/Tripod.

Both systems occupy the same amount of space in my car....

 

The secret is to design and build for fast setup/takedown.....

 

But to answer the OP, 18" is really where the fun starts for DSOs..... cool.gif  But I still love the binoculars .........


Edited by Kunama, 12 December 2018 - 04:58 PM.

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#9 Allan Wade

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Posted 12 December 2018 - 08:00 PM

Since buying my dark site property, my suburban home observing has reduced. I do around 50 nights a year at the dark site, where the SQM is around 22.0 compared to 20.0 at home. So when I’m at home I don’t have any motivation to chase my favourite Astro targets like galaxies, planetary nebula and globular clusters. My home target list is somewhat smaller, and while still enjoyable, doesn’t give me near the pleasure and excitement as chasing deep sky objects in the big dob.

 

Thinking back before I owned my astro property, I used to do tons of observing at home, every clear night. I figure astronomy under a brighter sky is better than no astronomy at all. Once you get spoilt by pristine skies, your expectations are reset and it’s hard to go back to the way things were. 


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#10 starzonesteve

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Posted 13 December 2018 - 07:07 AM

Years ago I was observing under moderately dark skies. Along came family and a move to suburbia. Although I continued to observe intermittently, it was much harder to drum up the excitement necessary to really plunge into the endeavor.

 

Two sessions in the past couple of years changed my approach and align closely with your observations. The first was all nighter out under a clear, moonless New Mexico dark sky site with a 100mm binocular scope. The second was at my dark sky site with a 120mm binocular scope. After these experiences it is indeed difficult to go back to looking at DSOs under suburban skies. I will reserve my shorter, more portable, suburban viewing for mostly planetary and lunar with a medium size refractor and set of binoculars.

 

Experiencing dark skies again has brought on a profound case of aperture fever. In a desperate attempt to treat the malady I am meeting with BackYard Observatories at my dark sky sight tomorrow afternoon.grin.gif



#11 starcanoe

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Posted 13 December 2018 - 10:45 AM

 

PS: Rural living is wonderful! I know it may not be for everyone... but if you truly value: elbow room, privacy, gardening, hiking, quiet, darkness, birding, astronomy, flora, fauna, liberty (freedom to do what you want), safety, shooting, biking, free-range kids, dogs, cats, horses, ponds, streams, woods, fields, friendly neighbors... rural has it all!  Tom

 

I used to do plenty of shooting in the city...but it was a bit more interactive so to speak.... :)



#12 Achernar

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Posted 13 December 2018 - 06:44 PM

Since buying my dark site property, my suburban home observing has reduced. I do around 50 nights a year at the dark site, where the SQM is around 22.0 compared to 20.0 at home. So when I’m at home I don’t have any motivation to chase my favourite Astro targets like galaxies, planetary nebula and globular clusters. My home target list is somewhat smaller, and while still enjoyable, doesn’t give me near the pleasure and excitement as chasing deep sky objects in the big dob.

 

Thinking back before I owned my astro property, I used to do tons of observing at home, every clear night. I figure astronomy under a brighter sky is better than no astronomy at all. Once you get spoilt by pristine skies, your expectations are reset and it’s hard to go back to the way things were. 

I noticed that as well. I have switched from doing observing at home to imaging the moon and planets from home, and drive to a darker place to observe deep sky objects visually.

 

Taras


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#13 Eddgie

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Posted 13 December 2018 - 10:39 PM

Have read here about fine distinctions ie should I get an 8" or a 10". And I have done my share of backyard observing with small to moderate scopes ...

 

Then I went to the Oregon Star Party and saw the Veil Nebula through an 18" dob. And M51 through a 30 inch. This was quite a few years ago.

 

Frankly it ruined me as far as observing from the city is concerned. Yes the moon and Jupiter still look nice but everything else is sort of disappointing.

 

I wonder if others have felt this way. For now I have sort of given up until I can retire to darker skies and a big dob.

I used to have aperture envy, but I knew that I lacked the commitment to buy a very large scope (14" was my largest) and transport it to dark skies. 

 

But then I discovered night vision astronomy.   Now, my 12" scope performs as well from my red zone sky as it would using a conventional eyepiece under dark skies.   

 

I picked up a full 2 -2.5 magnitudes on stars

I can see as many galaxies from my red zone as I used to see from Bortle 4 skies

I can see nebula that would be invisible in my scope even in Bortle 1 skies using conventional eyepieces

I can resolve Globulars now that were barely even visible in the past

And, when I am not using a telescope, I can see the entire Barnard's Loop... From a Red Zone!!!!   California Nebula? Yes.  Angle Fish Nebula?  Yes!.  Helix Nebula from Red Zone .  Horse Head Nebula from Red Zone!  North American Nebula is fantastic from my location using a $25 used SLR lens.  I can walk out my door in the summer and see it easily.

 

It used to be a problem taking my 14" scope even 25 miles, but now I can take my 6" to the nearest "dark" site (Bortle 5 if I am lucky) and have exceptional observing, though I can see the arms in the Whirlpool Galaxy right from my light polluted back yard.

 

Some don't like us talking about using NV for astronomy, but of the 36 or so years I have been doing amateur astronomy and having owned about 50 telescopes and maybe about the same number of eyepieces, I have had more success in the last 3 year than all of the 33 years before that combined. 

 

Not pure?  I don't give a rat's butt about that.  Not really observing?   LOL. I look into the eyepiece and I see amazing things.   My bucket list was entirely fulfilled in the first year, and now I am seeing things I never even knew existed.

 

If you have big scope fever but don't want the hassle of a big scope, for the fraction of the cost, you can get a state of the art image intensifier and see stuff with your existing scope.  A lot of us do a lot of observing even from city skies using very small scopes.  It is soooo much fun!!!!



#14 Eddgie

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Posted 13 December 2018 - 10:46 PM

Oh, left our the Pillars of Creation.   Saw it from my back yard this fall using my 12" dob, all three tines.  Fantastic.   I never thought in my life that I would be able to see something like that from my yard using any size scope.  So much other stuff too.   Crazy what I can see now.

 

This is Orion from a Red Zone.  12" dob. Now this tube is green, but there is white phosphor too.  This was taken with a cheap Android cell phone held up to the eyepiece using the built in "night mode".  Phone was just held up to the eyepiece with my fingers and I had trouble holding it still so stars are slightly streaked.  Sharp when viewed directly.  Also, camera burned out the central region and Trap, but at the eyepiece, the central region is amazingly detailed, like the burled walnut on the dashboard of a Jaguar. Picture can't capture it in its full glory. The fine structure in the core is in itself glorious sight and M43 would be a showcase object if it were out there on its own like Trifid (which is fantastic from a red zone). 

 

Orion.jpg


Edited by Eddgie, 13 December 2018 - 11:02 PM.


#15 Eddgie

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Posted 13 December 2018 - 10:57 PM

Had been trying to see the Horse Head for 30 years using scopes up to 14" from as dark a sky as I could drive to in one hour.

 

First time I was able to see it was using a used $225 Celestron Comet Catcher. The scope was not even on a mount. I was just sitting on the curb in front of my house in a red zone, holding the scope in my lap...

 

Horse Head from a Red Zone.   12" dob, Android Cell Phone held up to the eyepiece. Again, no software processing or anything.  Just held the phone up to the eyepiece, though this was something like a 6 second exposure, but it is representative of what it looked like when viewing though the eyepiece. 

 

Horse Head.jpg


Edited by Eddgie, 13 December 2018 - 11:03 PM.

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#16 Eddgie

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Posted 13 December 2018 - 11:10 PM

And the eyepiece used for these is a Micro monocular with an aviation grade image intensifier.  I bought it used and paid well under $2000.   NV is the very best money I have ever spent on astronomy.   Nothing has provided me with anything close to the observing I am getting today, and again, that is even from a red zone sky.  Under dark skies, it is like you are above the atmosphere.   H-alpha shows a Milky Way so heavily populated with large scale gas clouds that no standard photographs can capture the shear magnitude of it.   The 40 degree true field at 1x is simply cram packed with Nebula.  I could never have imagined this 5 years ago.



#17 a__l

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Posted 13 December 2018 - 11:27 PM

There is one drop of tar. This is subject to export restrictions. Therefore, for many users it is not possible to outspeak opinion (at least).


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#18 Redbetter

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Posted 14 December 2018 - 02:57 AM

Back when I was a newbie I used an 8" SCT and H-beta to view the HH from a nearby rural location that was probably about Bortle 4 at the time (likely much brighter now).  Back in those days Pedernales near Austin was considerably darker than my local "dark" site at the time--that was my recollection of traveling to a star party there.  I also observed the HH once in the backyard in a city of 70,000 with the same scope and filter.  In the latter case it was subtle, but there, sort of like a lower contrast version of Eddgie's 6 second capture NV capture through a 12".   It is hard for me to imagine how someone could not see the HH for 30 years from dark skies, but I suppose it explains the passion some have for NV and why they seem to be in disbelief over what others see without it.   

 

There is a lot to see with even a small aperture scope from dark skies, if one makes some effort to learn how to see the diffuse nebulae.  And transparency is always a major factor.  In another thread Eddgie expressed doubt about the visibility of Barnard's Loop with simple visual gear.  Yet, it can be traced with a 60mm refractor, or an 80, or 110, or with a 20" if one wants--in dark skies and often with aid of an H-beta filter or similar.  Some even report it naked eye with or without an H-beta filter.  I was putting the new 2" focuser on the 80 f/5 achro through its paces the other night by tracing Barnard's loop all the way around., same as I have done with the other apertures mentioned above.  The 80 did very nicely showing a wide perspective with its 6.3 degree field of view.  It also was just wide enough to frame Sh2-264, the large nebula around Lambda Orionis. 

 

I have no doubt that there is more detail available in the brighter image presented by NV gear or that it makes things easier to see, but there is quite a bit out there to be seen without it.  It is more a matter of learning how to observe it.  Some things respond better to aperture, some are more readily seen with wider fields of view that provide context.

 

I picked up on the wide field of view aspect when I first had my SCT, using nebula filters on its 50mm finder for things like the Rosette nebula.  60, 72, and 80mm refractors with short focal lengths are available now that can provide 6 degree fields of view with 2" eyepieces, and for very reasonable prices.  


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#19 stargazer193857

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Posted 14 December 2018 - 11:36 PM

I can see lots of texture in the milky way in a red zone with regular eyepieces.

#20 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 14 December 2018 - 11:56 PM

We have had our place in the high desert for almost 10 years. My 12.5 inch and 16 inch have "lived" out there the entire time and for nearly all that time, there's been either a 25 inch F/5 or a 22 inch F/4.4 as well.  These scopes are permanently setup and to use them, I just roll them out of the garage, it takes a few minutes.

 

But I still do a lot of backyard observing, still nearly every clear night.  it is not so much that I reset my expectations, It's that I observe different classes of objects.  There is a certain interest in the challenge of hunting down a difficult galaxy with the added burden of the light pollution but mostly, I switch from deep space to the planets and double stars.  The high desert represents average seeing but relatively dark skies, the city represents stable seeing and light pollution.  

 

Jon




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