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New to me Skywatcher Startravel 150

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#1 Vondragonnoggin

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Posted 13 April 2019 - 07:53 AM

I picked up a very good condition light blue SkyWatcher Startravel 150 F/5 for NV use a few weeks ago from CN classifieds (Thanks John!) and finally got to test it out. It has the stock focuser but upgraded 2” clamp ring on the focuser.

 

I was worried about being able to use a reducer with the stock focuser and the single speed, but in the configuration I used, it was fairly spectacular viewing.

 

I setup my Baader afocal adapter with a Meade 56mm plossl and used my NVD Micro with envis objective. I had enough room to spare to use both without reducer and with reducer and my 2” 3nm Ha filter. Some interesting results on edge performance. Without the reducer on the end of the Meade 56mm, stars were fairly seagulled. Maybe 15% of the edge like this. I then screwed the .5x, 2” Antares reducer on the end of the Meade with 3nm screwed in the reducer and it actually cleaned up the edge a great deal. 

 

I did not expect this at all and in fact expected the opposite effect. Pleasantly surprised at the views and how easy focusing was. Drawtube on the stock focuser was out about 2” with reducer on the Meade. Definitely brightened up the view vs no reducer. Still very bright with no reducer.

 

Anyway, it was a worthwhile first light for the 6” F/5

 

I observed the following in Bortle 7 skies:

 

Crescent - could just make out some of the fainter lines inside the Crescent

 

Gamma Cygni - very bright and good definition on dark edges

 

North American - the brighter “tail” of this was showing some dark lumps too. Very nice

 

Veil - both Eastern and Western showed fairly bright

 

Dumbell - this was pretty small in the view but very bright

 

Cats Paw - I love this nebula. Also very bright and good detail

 

War and Peace - fainter than Cats Paw, but nebulosity extends more

 

Lagoon - Stunning! The nebulosity just extends out wider than the bright main area.

 

Triffid - Dark lanes very defined

 

Swan - this was the brightest and some great detail on it. Fainter regions also extending pretty far

 

Eagle - yes! Reached my goal to just make out Pillars better than my 6” F/5.9 

 

Saw some I couldn’t identify easily and Milky Way hydrogen clouds were pretty bright for my skies but had to pack it in at 4:45 am. I was out about two hours.

 

Will sell my AT152 F/5.9 - it’s 25lbs vs early SW 150 model at 13 lbs for bare OTA. The lighter weight was exactly what I needed. So much easier to move around and mount. 

 

My mount is still a beast though. T-Rex on T-pod 130. Well worth the price tag for it though. I used the slo mo handles quite a bit this morning. The shorter scope is better height off the ground near zenith with my adjustable chair too. No more lowest rung.

 

Well, that’s about it for now. Tomorrow morning I’ll be out early from about 2am, but I think I’m going to bring out the mak 150 and catch some Jupiter and Saturn views besides just nebula.

 

Going to try the Meade/NV afocal on the mak too.

 

I don’t do pics, so just a read will have to be enough. Sorry, but no motor driven tracking to make pics worthwhile and I don’t really like futzing with it anyway.


Edited by Vondragonnoggin, 14 April 2019 - 01:04 AM.

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#2 Vondragonnoggin

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Posted 13 April 2019 - 08:29 AM

I have to mention also - I was out of commission for awhile due to health issues that are getting better and it felt great to get the 6” out on the T-Rex and get some great views! I like my 120ST A LOT, but the extra aperture is nice sometimes when I have the energy or going for fainter stuff. The lighter weight of the 150ST was a big difference in ease of mounting.

 

Going to hold off on focuser replacement until I can afford a nice 2.5” or 2.7” R&P. The previous owner must have reworked this one a bit. It worked very well for a single speed stock focuser.

 

I was surprised to still be able to fit the Lagoon and Triffid in the same view with room to spare and even get the Eagle and Swan on the edges in the same view. Definitely reduced quite a bit.


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#3 Vondragonnoggin

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Posted 14 April 2019 - 01:33 PM

Weird, was looking around in a spare equipment drawer I hadn’t looked in for awhile because I needed a place to stash the straight through finder for the 150ST and found a brand new ScopeStuff GSO linear bearing focuser that will fit the 150ST. Forgot I had ordered one a few years ago with the short adapter plate for my 120ST. The 120ST already has a TS Monorail which is the same focuser rebranded for TS.

 

A brand new 2” dual speed linear bearing focuser just sitting in my drawer! I just ordered the low-profile adapter plate for it to fit the 150 and shorten the back substantially for more back focus to use Prime Focus, but will try without adapter plate also and see if I still have enough drawtube to do the afocal use with plossl setup. That drawtube is only 50mm on the linear bearing which is great for these short tubes - drawtube won’t cut into the light cone when racked in fully.

 

I was contemplating ordering that for the 150 but put it off so I could test with stock focuser. I am becoming absent minded with my equipment. I really need to inventory all the adapters and accessories I have. 

 

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Edited by Vondragonnoggin, 14 April 2019 - 01:45 PM.

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#4 DMala

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Posted 14 April 2019 - 06:58 PM

Do the filters from the Ebay seller come in a filter mount or as cut glass to be mounted?

#5 Vondragonnoggin

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Posted 14 April 2019 - 07:00 PM

Do the filters from the Ebay seller come in a filter mount or as cut glass to be mounted?

The 4.5nm Ha I linked in the other thread comes mounted. My 2” 3nm Ha was mounted also. It was also $130 a few years back but he doesn’t have any of those listed. Just 4.5nm and 7.5nm in 1.25” size


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#6 DMala

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Posted 14 April 2019 - 09:26 PM

Oops only now I realize that I posted my question in the wrong thread.... but at least to the right person!
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#7 Gavster

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Posted 15 April 2019 - 07:37 AM

Great report!

I wonder what the resulting f ratio of the setup is with the 56mm and 0.5x reducer on the end, approaching 1.5?? In any case lightning fast...

I have found reducers a bit hit and miss. I've not had one that actually cleaned up the edge of field performance. Generally its been about retaining existing good edge of field performance which is what my AP 0755x photo visual and GSO 0.75x RC reducers have done.

I've also found that doing phone images has made me more affected by edge star shape than I used to be - I'm trying to train myself to be less focussed when viewing visually since having fast (f2 or less) setups really does work wonders for emission nebulae.

I think an advantage of afocal NV observing is that you can use eyepieces in conjunction with a reducer to get system speed down to that f2 level.


Edited by Gavster, 15 April 2019 - 07:54 AM.

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#8 Vondragonnoggin

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Posted 15 April 2019 - 08:09 AM

Howie1 gave me some good tips on drift timing and comparing without reduction then finding out how much it really is reducing the system. Next time I’m out I’ll try to get an accurate measurement of true reduction.

 

The afocal reduction technique is pretty cool though. Going to try it with my mak for sure. 

 

Again - was very surprised to see the edge clean up with round stars again using afocal with .5x on the 56mm plossl. It was kind of a mess at the edges without the reducer screwed on. Definite field curvature effects that almost disappeared with the reducer. 


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#9 Vondragonnoggin

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Posted 20 April 2019 - 08:56 PM

I swapped out the stock focuser today with my GSO Linear Bearing focuser and low profile adapter. Shaves 2” off the scope, so that’s a good amount of back focus gain. Have to wait for clear night to try Prime Focus.

 

Its all of three screws now to swap back and forth with GSO + low profile adapter and stock focuser. Took about 5 min including screwing the GSO Linear Bearing into the low profile adapter.

 

Im hoping I can get a reducer before the diagonal now. If not before the diagonal on prime focus, then I would have enough to do it afocal. Optical train afocal I’m hoping for is: scope - .5x reducer - diagonal - Ha filter - 56mm plossl - NVD Micro. This might be too fast for my Ha filter though. Might have to try a 1.25” 7nm right on the envis lens. If it works with 7nm on the envis, then I think I’ll spring for the Omega 4.5nm 1.25” I linked in the other thread. It’s the right price for an experiment.

 

I’m sure I’ll figure out some combination that works well. Shaved a little weight off the scope too with new adapter and focuser. It was already crazy lightweight for a 6” refractor.


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#10 GeezerGazer

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Posted 23 April 2019 - 09:22 PM

I typically don't use my f:5 ST 120 in afocal mode, but I do use an Orion .8x reducer which works well, taking the f:5 to f:4 which seems just right for many medium sized nebulae.  The GSO R-C .75x reducer that Chemisted and Gavster tried recently might work even better to clean up the edges.  I tried the TV 55 Plossl with the ST 120 which showed curvature at the EoF, so gave up on it for afocal, but Chemisted and Gavster both reported that the GSO R-C reducer cleaned up the edges when using the 55 Plossl. 

 

Sometime back, Eddgie tried a 56mm Meade but did not have satisfactory results; it might have been in his fast Boren-Simon scope... can't remember for sure.  


Edited by GeezerGazer, 23 April 2019 - 09:47 PM.


#11 Vondragonnoggin

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Posted 12 May 2019 - 03:34 AM

Finally got my 150ST out for about an hour before clouds rolled in. A fakey forecast. Was supposed to be clear until 6 am, but one hour is better than none. The low profile adapter and linear bearing shaved off quite a bit of length. I had my pvs-4 Monocular version in tonight. I had to use two 35mm extensions on the nosepiece to come to focus at F/5. With .5x reducer a single extension was enough and had plenty of back focus left.

 

I just fixed up the pvs-4 the other day by using some electrical cleaner spray on the on/off/gain pot. Previously it had two small spots in rotation that went pretty dark, but now pretty smooth from just on to full gain. No chance of testing nebula but found a few galaxies although pretty small in the FOV.

 

Night Vision SWA is what the pvs-4 is. Both my pvs-4’s have good clean gen 3 tubes in them, but one has the big biocular on it and one the Monocular eyepiece. It’s a good 65° AFOV and panning around at F5 with a 640nm longpass In is a treat in my backyard. Nice contrasty view. These NVD’s are still great for narrowband even at 3nm, but the Richfield sweeping you can do at F/5 with a longpass was definitely worth the price of admission.

 

Was really hoping the forecast was going to be correct, but again, one hour to test configurations and get some cool viewing In was great. I love this 150ST for this. I do have enough back focus to put a 20mm extension between the nosepiece and focal reducer but not enough to put the focal reducer before the diagonal. It’s still gonna give me about F/3 though, so pretty pleased with that. 

 

I’ll keep fingers crossed for an actual clear night soon because I’ll stay up for sure until Sagittarius comes up and I can start viewing the star cloud, wild duck, a few globs, then drop in a narrowband and start taking in the stunning summer nebulae. Really gonna have some fun with this setup for summer!

 

It’s an easy swap to put old collar and focuser back on it for afocal use if I want. I can get it to F/2.5 pretty easy that way also. Don’t think I can use the pvs-4 in afocal though. Too big and too heavy. F/3 with pvs-4 is good enough for me for nebulae.

 

The scope is just so lightweight for a 6” refactor. Perfect for my old bad back.

 

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#12 Starman81

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Posted 13 May 2019 - 03:47 PM

I agree with your sentiments on the 6" f/5 achro for NV... I snagged the Celeston Omni XLT version last year and though I only got it out once for NV usage, I knew it was something special. I also worried, like you, that it will take away a lot of my 120ST's observing time. 

 

I like the scope for visual as well, wide field observing of the MW. 


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#13 Vondragonnoggin

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Posted 13 May 2019 - 06:39 PM

I agree with your sentiments on the 6" f/5 achro for NV... I snagged the Celeston Omni XLT version last year and though I only got it out once for NV usage, I knew it was something special. I also worried, like you, that it will take away a lot of my 120ST's observing time. 

 

I like the scope for visual as well, wide field observing of the MW. 

I should have bought one of those Omni XLT’s when they were on sale but missed the sale before they discontinued. This Startravel is a great sample though.

 

Its heavier mounting requirements over the 120ST will be the big factor in whether used or not. Sometimes I don’t have enough energy to get the bigger mount out, so the 120ST is still a great option on lighter mount. We’ll see. I do like the extra aperture. Still take my AT72ED out a lot because of low energy states.

 

I realized I need to try the reducer in front of the diagonal again on the 150. When I tried it, it wouldn’t come to focus anywhere, but I may have still needed an extension on the pvs-4. It needed the extension with thereducer on the nosepiece. I had diagonal - 35mm extension - reducer - nosepiece - pvs-4 as my optical train that came to focus, but there was still a lot of back focus available. I never tried reducer - diagonal - extension - nosepiece - pvs-4.

 

Next time out will try again, other wise will keep using the two different configurations for F/5 and F/3



#14 Vondragonnoggin

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Posted 18 May 2019 - 05:05 AM

Ok. Took advantage of the clear night despite having a full moon present. Tomorrow night is rain predicted and these clear night this time of year are few and far between. I have a 3nm Ha so still can view nebula under full moon + Bortle 7 skies. 

 

I needed to retry the reducer position configurations. Confirmed - not enough back focus to use the .5x before the diagonal. 

 

2nd experiment was a success though. My PVS-4 Monocular has a T2 adapter (my pvs-4 biocular has a c-mount adapter) and is a flat fit on the housing and close to the optical input window. Closer than my c-mount. I use a short T2 2” nosepiece on it. I placed the 2” .5x reducer in between two 35mm extensions (one 35mm on one side, one 20/10/5mm screwed together on the other side of the reducer) and then screwed the whole thing on the short T2 nosepiece. Probably a full 50mm from optical input window opening on the adapter to the reducer, then another 35mm after that with Ha filter on the end that goes in the diagonal. Came to focus with a couple mm wiggle room to spare. Definitely more reduction than having the reducer screwed right on the nosepiece. The difference in back focus requirement was easy to see on my linear bearing as the drawtube is marked in increments. Directly on the nosepiece I had about 20mm room still and with it sitting in the middle of the extensions, I only had about 2mm room left. That enough for me. I can lock the focuser once fine focus achieved.

 

I was able to view M81/M82, M13, Lagoon, Triffid, Eagle and Omega (fit in the same view with just a little to spare on the edges in the 65° AFOV! On this 6” with new reducer configuration), Gamma Cygni, Crescent, North American, Pelican, Cats Paw, Wild Duck, M22, Sagittarius Star Cloud.

 

I packed it in after that. Next time, no experimenting. Just viewing and hopefully no full moon or any moon present for that matter.

 

Will give the pvs-7 a chance next time.

 

After I get a few nights of casual observing only done, I’ll switch from low profile adapter and linear bearing back to stock collar and focuser so I can do further afocal experiments. Three screws only for focuser change. Really easy.

 

Well that’s all for this report. Pretty happy to get the further reduction by using the extensions before and after reducer.

 

Still haven’t drift timed anything to get specific reduction numbers I’m getting. Still estimating F/3 ish for Prime Focus. Probably can get to F/2 using afocal with 56mm plossl and a reducer on the plossl, but can’t use my pvs-4 afocally. Much too big. NVD Micro for afocal, although after seeing DMala’s afocal pvs-7 configuration (R.I.P. DMala) with the Novagrade adapter, I’m tempted to get a Novagrade adapter to try it. Really cool pvs-7 setup.

 

Another night...


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