I got first light with the new focuser. I was set-up by 20:00 BST and the plan was to catch a setting Venus and as it got darker to try some rich field before the Moon was too high. I estimated that if I was lucky I may have until 21:30 until the Moon was a problem. As it was warm, sunny, and there had been a pristine and cloudless sky all day, I reckoned I was in with a chance. Of course, at 20:30 cloudy sky porridge filled the entire firmament effectively ending the session.
The first thing I’d noticed about the MoonLite was its weight compared to the Sky-Watcher (Long Perng) focuser unit. The SW with a Baader 1.25” adapter is 565g. The MoonLite with its stock adapter is 890g. Some 325g difference. I’d been using the SW focuser for nearly eleven months and had got used to the OTA being lighter than when it had the TS Optics (GSO) unit fitted. The TS Optics/GSO focuser with its original 1.25” adapter is 860g compared to the MoonLite at 890g. I don’t need the Baader (or MoonLite) adapter normally so by losing the adapter the MoonLite is ‘only’ 225g heavier than the SW focuser and roughly compares with the overall weight of the GSO.
My ST102 is fundamentally a rich field scope and it is the biggest refractor I can easily transport and set-up on the SW AZ5 mount/tripod. As a consequence I rarely use magnifications above around 60x and I’m usually observing between 18.5x and 42x. I only take two eyepieces out with it (27mm Panoptic, BHZ). I also take out a Celestron Luminos 2.5x Barlow in the grab and go bag for occasional higher magnifications. In use the Barlow usually has a Baader Fringe Killer/Neodymium stack threaded into it.
When I initially set up the MoonLite I noticed that the focusing controls and the rotation were very smooth. An odd thing was that I noticed that the left-hand finder shoe screw would push the reflex sight foot slightly forward as it rotated and tightened. To keep the finder as accurate as possible I usually push the foot into the shoe while feeling for the edge of the shoe with my finger. When it is flush with the edge I know it is in the right place. This is a particularly useful operation when setting up in the dark. It does this every time I place the reflex sight into the shoe though so once the finder has been aligned it doesn’t matter as it always slides back to the same place.
As I was observing Venus at between around 100x to 156x the extra weight of the MoonLite was quite noticeable. The vibration return at these magnifications was slower than with the lighter SW unit. I discovered that the smoothness and precision of the focusing controls offset this slightly though. Another interesting factor was the MoonLite’s shaft lock system situated directly under the left-hand focusing knob. This locks with absolutely no image shift that I could detect.
Just before the sky porridge came I had a look at Sirius, Procyon and Cappella at 18.5x with the Panoptic. It was still technically twilight but these particular stars are very bright. Any vibration was not an issue at this magnification. The only drawback appears to be getting used to the extra weight again. All in all I’m very impressed with the MoonLite and it is a joy to use. It oozes quality and is beautiful to look at. I’ll have to eventually stop taking jpegs of it lol.
Edited by Shorty Barlow, 09 April 2020 - 10:19 AM.