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The Open Source Beginner's Telescope Project

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#1 Refractor Paul

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Posted 14 August 2019 - 03:24 AM

I started a thread about lessons learned in the refractor forum. We had a lot of valuable lessons learned posted and reached a bit of a consensus. The things causing the most frustration, for beginners and experienced observers alike, are:

 

1. Unstable, inadequate mounts.

2. Lousy focusers.

 

In thinking about what I'd recommend to a parent as a beginner's telescope, I realized we have an opportunity to take the principles of open source and apply it to coming up with a design for the ideal beginner's telescope. I think that will end up being plural. One for lunar and planetary people under light polluted skies and one for those under dark skies. 

 

I'd like to keep it open source and let any manufacturer bring our general ideas to life, legally, in their products and if we end up coming up with a great, complete, design under $500, I'd like to see if we could actually get some corporate (or wealthy) sponsorship to get one donated into every K-12 school in our respective countries. 

 

My first go at design principles are:

 

1. Frustration free from set up, to use, to take down.

2. Low maintenance and reliability as core principles of design

3. Help people learn to experience the joy and wonder of discovering the treasures of night sky. 

4. Under $500 and shared with as many schools as possible

 

If you're interested, spend a few weeks coming up with ideas that you are 100% willing to share openly with the community, for the betterment of our hobby. If you have a proprietary idea you want to patent and start a company out of, please keep it private, and I'm sure if it's good, we will be your customers. 

 

Here are a few component ideas:

 

An easy precision leveling system for the tripod, using large knobs and large, readable, torpedo style levels.

 

A super smooth push-to system to encourage a sense of exploration and awareness of the sky's apparent motion without being frustrating and with it being able to track smoothly by hand at 250x. 

 

An absolutely rock solid, vibration free mount, possibly incorporating many passive vibration suppression features. 

 

The vibration free experience of a motorized focuser, without the need for a motor.

 

I have a feeling the initial reaction from many will be that this dream list is unrealistic, but I have no doubt we can come up with innovative solutions that we are willing to share freely with everyone who has the resources to bring our ideas to life. Once again, I want to reiterate that if you have an idea and want to start a company, keep it private. Anything posted to this thread will be considered free for anyone to use after they've followed all their country's legal and patent laws.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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#2 ris242

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Posted 14 August 2019 - 04:49 AM

I always liked the Bowen S type fitting on photographic lights and soft boxes.

if someone could translate that to the bottom of a mount head and that you sold the female other end that you bolt down onto a park bench or cement onto a pillar. Say capable of holding a 80mm f7 scope.

 

So even  a youngster could walk outside with the complete unit, place it on the fitting, twist and with a spring clip be setup instantly. 

Press to release, twist the other way, lift and walk away with it.

stick the fitting in parks and the public start beginning their scopes out to use in different locations, cause they own a unit at home that works to the same standard interface.


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#3 Refractor Paul

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Posted 14 August 2019 - 06:48 AM

I always liked the Bowen S type fitting on photographic lights and soft boxes.

if someone could translate that to the bottom of a mount head and that you sold the female other end that you bolt down onto a park bench or cement onto a pillar. Say capable of holding a 80mm f7 scope.

 

So even  a youngster could walk outside with the complete unit, place it on the fitting, twist and with a spring clip be setup instantly. 

Press to release, twist the other way, lift and walk away with it.

stick the fitting in parks and the public start beginning their scopes out to use in different locations, cause they own a unit at home that works to the same standard interface.

Thank you! That's exactly the kind of innovative thinking that I'm looking for. After we get several ideas, I'll try to periodically maintain and post an organized summary with an outline of the parts of a modular telescope system and the list of all of the ideas that apply to each part of the telescope system. 


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#4 Tom K

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Posted 14 August 2019 - 08:54 AM

I used to do a lot of public star parties in the early 1990s and it was always hard to tell if a person had an obect in the eyepiece, had it in focus, or even had their eye aligned to the optical path correctly.   I wonder if some sort of EAA solution would be the way to go in this sort of situation.  This would also allow multiple users to use the system at the same time.  

 

Motorized focusing without a motor an interesting idea, but how would one change the locaiton of the eyepiece/EAA camera without either a human touching the focuser or a motor doing the work?   Stepper motors are pretty cheap, so I bet a very simple in/out control of a small stepper powered by standard batteries could be developed and produced very inexpensively.   A small project box with two buttons and a battery compartment connected by a cheap coiled cable could probably cost under $15 if sourced correctly.

 

I think DSOs are out of the question here as "regular" people don't have the patience for teasing out faint wisps of nebulosity using averted vision over long periods.   I think that a longer focal length newtonian may be the most cost effective way to go for viewing of clusters, the moon, etc.  

 

It would be good to have some carefully selected ling eye relief eyepieces that are parafocal matched to the OTA and labelled so that they are easy to understand would be a good idea.   Call them "high magnification" and "low magnification" instead of 10mm and 32 mm would be a good start.   They could carry the millimeter designaitons below them to allow users to expand their knowledge once they get the hang of it.

 

Some sort of simple push to computer system is a must - I learned star hopping the hard way over 40 years ago and most folks who are starting out will never get there.   This is where a super simple method to get the mount/OTA  aligned to the sky is important followed by a simple list of objects that are optimized for the type of scope in use.

 

Just some thoughts - but I think this is a great idea.


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#5 Refractor Paul

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Posted 14 August 2019 - 12:11 PM

For the light pollution scope:

 

-I like the idea of an 80mm f/7 with the Bowen clip. It could be worn as a backpack and have room for accessories. That way they can bring it anywhere, even on a bicycle to a friend’s house or the park.

 

For the darker sky scope:

 

- A newtonian with a very clever and easy way to collimate it?

 

- A small SCT with that battery powered motorized focuser would be more compact, but more costly. Closed tube would help make maintenance easier.

 

- I used my Tele Vue Pronto so much more than my 8" SCT, I might vote for an 85mm ED as the one and only beginner's scope. I think the views of 90% of the objects for 90% of the people would be better than a 6" Newt. Less maintenance, no collimation, high contrast, daytime use, much more sturdy for kids, immediate cool down, no tube currents...if the landed cost of an 80mm  - 85mm ED is under $300 and the performance matches the 70mm Pronto, I'm all in on the refractor as the one and only open source beginner's scope. Sorry, but I named my account Refractor Paul for many ^ reasons. 


Edited by Refractor Paul, 14 August 2019 - 12:40 PM.


#6 Refractor Paul

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Posted 14 August 2019 - 12:46 PM

I have what might be a crazy idea for a vibration suppressing mount. The legs are two U shaped rubber lined rails filled with a stack of individual, independent octagons with their top, bottom and sides rubberized stacked inside the rails, rubber on rubber under slight compression. 



#7 Tom K

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Posted 14 August 2019 - 03:30 PM

I think you may be right about getting something that does not need collimation and can handle some bumpy trips.   Perhaps an 80ED of some sort would work, or even an achro.   The CA could be an opportunity to teach people how light behaves at different wavelengths.



#8 Refractor Paul

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Posted 14 August 2019 - 06:53 PM

I think you may be right about getting something that does not need collimation and can handle some bumpy trips.   Perhaps an 80ED of some sort would work, or even an achro.   The CA could be an opportunity to teach people how light behaves at different wavelengths.

I notice you have the Orion 80ED with moonlight focuser. If you make a list of observing targets a beginner would go after their first year in the hobby, is there anything that is unavailable in the 80ED that would show up with a beginner's level of clarity in a 6in Newt? I figure for the faint objects, star parties or more experienced astronomers would give them a view in their 8 - 16 inch telescopes, but for those life changing first views of the Moon, Saturn, open clusters, colorful binaries, bright nebulas...I think the 80 fits the bill. Plus they could do a bit of birding and other nature watching in the day time with it, too. If that's the case, we are looking at:

 

-Making sure the mount is truly rigid, accurate and vibration suppressing.

 

-Making sure the focuser and (red dot?) finder is not going to have bad soldering in the electronics and cheap plastic for the housing.

 

-Getting a fun, educational push to system that doesn't require lugging a large battery pack around.

 

The thing with the Chinese scopes is the optics now are, for the most part, really great for $300 or so (especially if we are talking landed cost, not retail markup). I think we really need to just engineer out the plastic compromises and remain under $500 and we can realistically get a beginner's scope the amateur astronomy community can wholeheartedly get behind and endorse as a scope we would be proud to recommend.

 

I think this is starting to look entirely doable. We'd be able to get the backpackable telescope with a mount and focuser that won't frustrate. We need to get really creative on the push to aspect and the being able to manually track at about 150x or so. Maybe we go 45 deg erect image diagonal. Both day and night with no mirror flip to worry about. I don't think it will degrade the view much if we get good quality on the diagonal and we'd have a really intuitive system to start out with. I'm starting to really get excited about this project! We can really help the hobby if we actually pull this off. 


Edited by Refractor Paul, 14 August 2019 - 07:01 PM.


#9 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 15 August 2019 - 12:48 AM

- I used my Tele Vue Pronto so much more than my 8" SCT, I might vote for an 85mm ED as the one and only beginner's scope. I think the views of 90% of the objects for 90% of the people would be better than a 6" Newt. Less maintenance, no collimation, high contrast, daytime use, much more sturdy for kids, immediate cool down, no tube currents...if the landed cost of an 80mm  - 85mm ED is under $300 and the performance matches the 70mm Pronto, I'm all in on the refractor as the one and only open source beginner's scope. Sorry, but I named my account Refractor Paul for many ^ reasons.

 

CN member Alnitak22 tells the story of calling up TeleVue and asking about a TeleVue 85 as his first scope.  As often happens, he got Al Nagler on the phone.  Al told him that for anything that fits in the field of view, a 6 inch Dob would provide better views.  These days, he has both a TV-85 and a 6 inch Dob.

 

In terms of lessons learned, one lesson I have learned is that there is no perfect scope, there is no one beginner's scope that is best suited for all beginners or even the majority of beginners.  

 

Another lesson I have learned is that my interests and priorities are my own, other observers, beginners or experienced, they are just different people, they have different interests, different skills sets, different priorities, different resources.  For some, a small refractor is just perfect but for some, they want something more capable.  Whether it's a Dobsonian or an SCT on a GOTO mount or some other combination of mount and scope, helping people find the right scope for their needs is what's important.  

 

This is not a one size fits all hobby.

 

Jon



#10 Tom K

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Posted 15 August 2019 - 08:48 AM

In my experience showing non-astronomers objects, the only things that they really get into are the bright things.   Really large and bright nebulas, bright clusters, etc are the way to go.   When I would be looking at a galaxy that required patience and averted vision to get what I felt was cool, less experienced people would be unimpressed with the dim fuzzy as they are used to Hubble images.   

 

Albiero was always a hit as people could see the colors.   Saturn and Jupiter are always crowd pleasers.   The double cluser in Perseus is a hit as are large globs.  Lagoon, Orion, Swan, and other large bright nebulae are good.   I would imagine that should a project like this go forward an optomized list of low, medium, and high priority objects could be developed.

 

Full disclosure, I have not used a telescope visually in any meaningful way in a number of years and my time having people line up at my telescope ended during the Clinton administration.   Once my kids came along, my time devoted to public star parties dwindled off rapidly.   My daughter is in college now and my son just stated his senior year of high school, so that may be changing....



#11 Refractor Paul

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Posted 17 August 2019 - 12:44 PM

I organized things into a numbered format we can use from now on (M1, M2 for the mount, etc.)

 

The Open Source Beginner’s Telescope Project (OSBTP)

 

This project brings the principles of open source software development (continuous improvement, collaborative design) to create specifications for a modular, frustration-free, beginner’s telescope that an 11 year old could transport, set up, use, and maintain. We’ll know we are on the right track when most experienced amateur astronomers would recommend it without reservations. The price target is $500.

 

Once the design reaches that level of optimization, we’d like to try to get at least one of these telescopes in every K-12 school on the planet. A less ambitious, but perhaps more realistic goal, is to design components that current manufacturers could use to improve their beginner’s telescopes, especially around improvements to the stability of the view via a more stable mount and smoother focuser.

 

We don’t want to compete with the current manufacturers. We want them to see the wisdom in not compromising so much on vibration, the absolute number one reason people get frustrated with the view. The second most common reason is increasingly solved by the GPS & GoTo systems. If we can get the vibration issue solved in sub-$500 telescopes, we will grow our hobby and current manufacturers will benefit in the long run. 

 

At first, I was thinking we would need two telescope designs. One for light polluted skies and one for dark skies. However, in thinking of which objects are likely to make that crucial first impression on a beginner and considering a pragmatic view of the compactness and durability required for an 11 year old to safely transport, share with friends and maintain, I think the place to concentrate is on the 80mm refractor with a solid mount and smooth focuser that can provide stable views of the Moon, Saturn, Jupiter, the bright Messiers and a white light view of the Sun with a filter that threads into the integrated sliding metal dew cap. 

 

Design Goals

 

1. Frustration free transport, set up, use,  and take down.

 

2. Low maintenance and reliability as core principles of design.

 

3. Help people learn to experience the joy and wonder of discovering the treasures of night sky. 

 

4. Under $500 and shared with as many schools as possible.

 

 

The Mount

 

M1:
We’d like the whole package to fit in a backpack. One way to achieve that is to use a clamp, rather than a tripod, (like the Bowen S-Type Bracket) that could attach to sturdy objects such as park benches, fence poles, etc.

 

M2:
Outside of the backpack mode, we can offer a full-sized vibration suppressing mount. The legs are two U shaped rubber lined rails filled with a stack of individual, independent octagons with their top, bottom and sides rubberized, stacked inside the rails, rubber on rubber under slight compression. (I have no idea if this would work. People with more knowledge around this subject please comment on feature M2).

 

M3: A push to system might be a great way to encourage learning the night sky, especially since the 80mm will be used for only the brightest, highest contrast objects.

 

The Focuser

 

F1: A sturdy, yet smooth design. This may be an off the shelf item, but I don’t know the manufacturing costs involved.

 

The Telescope

 

T1: The Synta 80mm (rebranded) might be a good place to start. Does anyone know what the landed cost and minimum quantity is? 


Edited by Refractor Paul, 17 August 2019 - 12:49 PM.


#12 Refractor Paul

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Posted 17 August 2019 - 02:35 PM

To have some semblance of organization (and assuming people are actually interested in moving this forward) if when you post you give the section label that the comment applies to (for existing ones) or the next highest number for new features, that would really help keep things organized. Something like:

 

M2: This would not work, otherwise high end mounts would incorporate a similar feature. The reason is (law of physics) and (cost of manufacturing). 

 

Maybe M2 is viable. I'd really appreciate someone who knows to comment. Thanks!


Edited by Refractor Paul, 17 August 2019 - 02:35 PM.


#13 Tom K

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Posted 17 August 2019 - 03:21 PM

For the mount, how about something that harkins back to the old astroscan.   I am not quite sure how to mount encoders to something like that to get push to functionality, but it would be dead simple.  

 

With respect to the focuser, rather than a stepper, a simple DC motor with a battery compartment and teo pushbuttons would be cheap and easy to produce.

 

With respect to light pollution, the vast majority of humans live within light polluted areas, so to start with I think that should be the focus.   Should that work, then another design could be developed for other areas.



#14 Refractor Paul

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Posted 17 August 2019 - 04:05 PM

For the mount, how about something that harkins back to the old astroscan.   I am not quite sure how to mount encoders to something like that to get push to functionality, but it would be dead simple.  

 

With respect to the focuser, rather than a stepper, a simple DC motor with a battery compartment and teo pushbuttons would be cheap and easy to produce.

 

With respect to light pollution, the vast majority of humans live within light polluted areas, so to start with I think that should be the focus.   Should that work, then another design could be developed for other areas.

I'll convert these to the labelled format which will make it easier to discuss and eventually vote on design choices:

 

M4: A spherical ball mount, similar to photographic tripod ball mounts might be a component that would enhance the versatility and smoothness of the clamp mount. Also, for the eventual dark sky telescope, should that happen, we can afford to employ the large amount of space the large diameter sphere of an Astroscan mount requires. It would need a stable surface to mount on for those deep sky objects that require high magnification.

 

F2: A simple DC motor powered by standard battery may reduce focuser induced vibration. Stepper motors are pretty cheap, so I bet a very simple in/out control of a small stepper powered by standard batteries could be developed and produced very inexpensively.   A small project box with two buttons and a battery compartment connected by a cheap coiled cable could probably cost under $15 if sourced correctly.

 

I'll repost just the feature list and if we do that from now on, the document will stay organized. 



#15 Refractor Paul

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Posted 17 August 2019 - 04:06 PM

The Mount

M1:
We’d like the whole package to fit in a backpack. One way to achieve that is to use a clamp, rather than a tripod, (like the Bowen S-Type Bracket) that could attach to sturdy objects such as park benches, fence poles, etc.

M2:
Outside of the backpack mode, we can offer a full-sized vibration suppressing mount. The legs are two U shaped rubber lined rails filled with a stack of individual, independent octagons with their top, bottom and sides rubberized, stacked inside the rails, rubber on rubber under slight compression. (I have no idea if this would work. People with more knowledge around this subject please comment on feature M2).

M3: A push to system might be a great way to encourage learning the night sky, especially since the 80mm will be used for only the brightest, highest contrast objects.

 

M4: A spherical ball mount, similar to photographic tripod ball mounts might be a component that would enhance the versatility and smoothness of the clamp mount. Also, for the eventual dark sky telescope, should that happen, we can afford to employ the large amount of space the large diameter sphere of an Astroscan mount requires. It would need a stable surface to mount on for those deep sky objects that require high magnification.

The Focuser

F1: A sturdy, yet smooth design. This may be an off the shelf item, but I don’t know the manufacturing costs involved.

 

F2: A simple DC motor powered by standard battery may reduce focuser induced vibration. Stepper motors are pretty cheap, so I bet a very simple in/out control of a small stepper powered by standard batteries could be developed and produced very inexpensively.   A small project box with two buttons and a battery compartment connected by a cheap coiled cable could probably cost under $15 if sourced correctly.

The Telescope

T1: The Synta 80mm (rebranded) might be a good place to start. Does anyone know what the landed cost and minimum quantity is?



#16 Bowlerhat

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Posted 17 August 2019 - 07:19 PM

Skywatcher sells the 80mm refractor OTA only for really cheap, branded as a guidescope component. Used 70mm travelscopes or clones in new condition are really cheap too. For bulk aliexpress may have it for bulk order.

 

A spherical mount would provide great flexibility, but not near zenith because of the location of ball clamp on bottom. It would need a better ballhead too to hold the scope in place. In my experience a panhead is enough for small refractor because the FOV is big enough.

 

The height needs to be adjustable, a pier would be good too since it allows more movement.



#17 Refractor Paul

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Posted 17 August 2019 - 07:50 PM

Thanks, Bowlerhat. I have replaced M4 with your suggestion and added some commentary to T1.  

 

The Mount

 

M1:
We’d like the whole package to fit in a backpack. One way to achieve that is to use a clamp, rather than a tripod, (like the Bowen S-Type Bracket) that could attach to sturdy objects such as park benches, fence poles, etc.

 

M2:
Outside of the backpack mode, we can offer a full-sized vibration suppressing mount. The legs are two U shaped rubber lined rails filled with a stack of individual, independent octagons with their top, bottom and sides rubberized, stacked inside the rails, rubber on rubber under slight compression. (I have no idea if this would work. People with more knowledge around this subject please comment on feature M2).

 

M3: A push to system might be a great way to encourage learning the night sky, especially since the 80mm will be used for only the brightest, highest contrast objects.

 

M4: A panoramic head on an adjustable pier would allow for near zenith viewing, whereas a ball head might have trouble.  

 

The Focuser

 

F1: A sturdy, yet smooth design. This may be an off the shelf item, but I don’t know the manufacturing costs involved.

F2: A simple DC motor powered by standard battery may reduce focuser induced vibration. Stepper motors are pretty cheap, so I bet a very simple in/out control of a small stepper powered by standard batteries could be developed and produced very inexpensively.   A small project box with two buttons and a battery compartment connected by a cheap coiled cable could probably cost under $15 if sourced correctly.

 

The Telescope

 

T1: The Synta 80mm (rebranded) might be a good place to start. Does anyone know what the landed cost and minimum quantity is? If we don't end up convincing existing manufacturers that it is in their best interests to adopt our minimum requirements regarding vibration (mount and focuser quality) for sub-$500 telescopes, I'll look into (for the USA) sponsorship of some sort to manufacture and distribute these telescopes to K-12 schools. I'm thinking we would work with the Science teachers as a group to help guide the process so we make the best impact on getting kids interested in Astronomy (and STEM in general) and grow our hobby. We have Australia and New Zealand represented in this project as well. 

 

-------Extra Commentary-------

 

I started this project because I've seen too many telescopes gathering dust as if they were exercise equipment. We're losing our night sky. We're losing our local retail telescope shops. A lot of our Astronomy Clubs are full of middle-aged and up members. Yet, I have never shown the Moon or Saturn to anyone for the first time who did not involuntarily gasp, "Oh, wow!" or something a bit more exuberant, depending on the amount of beer involved. That magical moment can only be sustained if on the low end of cost, we start producing telescopes that do not cause kids to abandon them in frustration.

 

I may not be the right person to lead this effort and I am ready and willing to pass the reigns on to more qualified people with better connections and more resources. I strongly believe the end goal is right for our kids and our hobby. Manufacturers have done an astoundingly good job creating quality optics at an affordable price. Now we need to push them to make quality mounts and focusers at that same affordable price - or lead by example - if needed.


Edited by Refractor Paul, 17 August 2019 - 09:57 PM.


#18 Bowlerhat

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Posted 17 August 2019 - 11:26 PM

Do you even really need a focuser motor? the vibration comes off mostly from the tripod. Triangle shape is stabler and stronger because mostly the scope would be mounted on the side with panhead. Vibrations.can be supressed by using heavier tubes, or vibration suppressing pads, or simply a hook.

 

to be honest, the price doesn't lie in the end. But it's kind of frustrating on how many people don't know that a cheap setup is possible, or ended up getting a cheap scope and abandon it because of the under-mounted accessories.



#19 Refractor Paul

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Posted 17 August 2019 - 11:36 PM

Do you even really need a focuser motor? the vibration comes off mostly from the tripod. Triangle shape is stabler and stronger because mostly the scope would be mounted on the side with panhead. Vibrations.can be supressed by using heavier tubes, or vibration suppressing pads, or simply a hook.

 

to be honest, the price doesn't lie in the end. But it's kind of frustrating on how many people don't know that a cheap setup is possible, or ended up getting a cheap scope and abandon it because of the under-mounted accessories.

I was looking at a motorized focuser because of my experience with a completely unusable Celestron 127 SLT. I could not even touch the focuser without vibration. There was no way to get focus other than giving the unbelievably stiff focuser a micro-adjustment, waiting 3 to 5 secs, trying again, waiting 3 to 5 secs, etc. The idea is that if we don't have the observer actually touch the telescope, we could achieve focus without the frustrating cycle of guessing and waiting and guessing again and waiting again. 

 

I think for the backpack model (so kids can take it with them anywhere) we would have to engineer a clamp design and rely of rigid objects at the location (park benches, fence posts, railings, etc.) and if the telescope really does become standard issue for K-12, there might be purpose built mount points in public parks, school yards, etc. 

 

We can offer a tripod design as well. But I don't think we can get a truly stable tripod to fit into a backpack along with a telescope that would be safe and comfortable for an 11 year old to ride a bike with. 


Edited by Refractor Paul, 17 August 2019 - 11:44 PM.


#20 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 18 August 2019 - 02:00 AM

I started this project because I've seen too many telescopes gathering dust as if they were exercise equipment. We're losing our night sky. We're losing our local retail telescope shops. A lot of our Astronomy Clubs are full of middle-aged and up members. Yet, I have never shown the Moon or Saturn to anyone for the first time who did not involuntarily gasp, "Oh, wow!" or something a bit more exuberant, depending on the amount of beer involved. That magical moment can only be sustained if on the low end of cost, we start producing telescopes that do not cause kids to abandon them in frustration.

 

 

Reality: That first view of Saturn cannot be sustained.  It's something very special and one of a few objects with such overwhelming magic.

 

In any pursuit, there are many who try but few who actually find a place for it in their lives. Most people have a bicycle in their garage, few actually ride them. It doesn't matter whether it's a fancy bike or a inexpensive bike of dubious quality, it's not about the bike, it's about commitment and motivation. There has to be something that resonates on several levels, the experience has to be more than just an appealing idea.

 

I have come to believe the telescope is rarely the problem. Too many of us have started with equipment that was of poor quality. My first scope cost $5 at a garage sale, it was a sorry thing, a workout 60 mm with no finder and one 2 element eyepiece.  I stumbled across M42,   I saw a hint of nebulosity and I was hooked.

 

People look through one of my scopes and they're impressed with the view. But the question is, does that translate into commitment and motivation, a willingness to live with the reality of amateur astronomy.. Cold windy nights, hot humid nights with mosquitos swarming. Tired, sleepless nights when any sane person is in bed. Traveling and planning only to be defeated by the weather.

 

All this and more just to hopefully catch a glimpse of some distant object that can be better seen in an astro-photo on line.  

 

This is a crazy thing we do, most people oogle the views of the show case objects but it never really touches them in that special way.. 

 

It's not the telescope.. it starts with the observer.. the spirit and heart.. for such people, any telescope is good enough..

 

Jon


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#21 Refractor Paul

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Posted 18 August 2019 - 10:29 AM

Jon,

 

Your observation: "It's not the telescope.. it starts with the observer.. the spirit and heart.. for such people, any telescope is good enough..." makes a very good point. The question becomes how do we give as many people, especially kids at the crucial age of exploration and excitement for science (around 10 or so), the opportunity to see if that spark lights a lifetime love of Astronomy.

 

Maybe hardware improvement is not the most effective answer. Maybe it's putting more effort into our local Astronomy Societies, working with Universities to have more public outreach nights, and making sure the science teachers in our local schools have access to telescopes, even if it's just us volunteering our telescopes to help the teachers run a star party for their classes. Or maybe this hobby really is just for a few of us who have a love of Astronomy and it won't enrich the lives of those whose sparks ignite other pursuits. 

 

The engineer side of me just can't stand that we, as creative and capable humans, don't constantly strive to push the low end of everything we make, not just telescopes, on an ever upward trajectory. Whether it be minimum quality of life standards or luxury items like telescopes. We have brains and hearts capable of continuous improvement. We, as amateur astronomers, are likely to be capable of designing fundamentally more stable mounting systems for the affordable end of the price spectrum. The optics are really good now, even on the very inexpensive telescopes. It's really just the mechanical components that are lacking. Vibration is the largest unsolved problem. I think we can solve it. I also think the first company to solve it will be a company which will produce a telescope that we, for the first time, can recommend to parents without reservations. I don't care who that company is, if they do it, I will spread the news far and wide. I hope such a company is lurking in our forum. 

 

-Paul


Edited by Refractor Paul, 18 August 2019 - 10:32 AM.


#22 Traveler

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Posted 18 August 2019 - 11:12 AM

Reality: That first view of Saturn cannot be sustained.  It's something very special and one of a few objects with such overwhelming magic.

 

In any pursuit, there are many who try but few who actually find a place for it in their lives. Most people have a bicycle in their garage, few actually ride them. It doesn't matter whether it's a fancy bike or a inexpensive bike of dubious quality, it's not about the bike, it's about commitment and motivation. There has to be something that resonates on several levels, the experience has to be more than just an appealing idea.

 

I have come to believe the telescope is rarely the problem. Too many of us have started with equipment that was of poor quality. My first scope cost $5 at a garage sale, it was a sorry thing, a workout 60 mm with no finder and one 2 element eyepiece.  I stumbled across M42,   I saw a hint of nebulosity and I was hooked.

 

People look through one of my scopes and they're impressed with the view. But the question is, does that translate into commitment and motivation, a willingness to live with the reality of amateur astronomy.. Cold windy nights, hot humid nights with mosquitos swarming. Tired, sleepless nights when any sane person is in bed. Traveling and planning only to be defeated by the weather.

 

All this and more just to hopefully catch a glimpse of some distant object that can be better seen in an astro-photo on line.  

 

This is a crazy thing we do, most people oogle the views of the show case objects but it never really touches them in that special way.. 

 

It's not the telescope.. it starts with the observer.. the spirit and heart.. for such people, any telescope is good enough..

 

Jon

Very very true Jon!!



#23 Bowlerhat

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Posted 18 August 2019 - 06:29 PM

Reality: That first view of Saturn cannot be sustained.  It's something very special and one of a few objects with such overwhelming magic.

 

In any pursuit, there are many who try but few who actually find a place for it in their lives. Most people have a bicycle in their garage, few actually ride them. It doesn't matter whether it's a fancy bike or a inexpensive bike of dubious quality, it's not about the bike, it's about commitment and motivation. There has to be something that resonates on several levels, the experience has to be more than just an appealing idea.

I find saturn to be the easiest for hooking up people enthusiasm. It's a clear, bright planet with rings.

 

Maybe for kids it's better to use it for planetary. Even 60mm long focal refractor would do the job, but the problem is vibrations and sagging from a lousy focuser..



#24 Tom K

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Posted 18 August 2019 - 11:59 PM

Jon,

 

Your observation: "It's not the telescope.. it starts with the observer.. the spirit and heart.. for such people, any telescope is good enough..." makes a very good point. The question becomes how do we give as many people, especially kids at the crucial age of exploration and excitement for science (around 10 or so), the opportunity to see if that spark lights a lifetime love of Astronomy.

 

Maybe hardware improvement is not the most effective answer. Maybe it's putting more effort into our local Astronomy Societies, working with Universities to have more public outreach nights, and making sure the science teachers in our local schools have access to telescopes, even if it's just us volunteering our telescopes to help the teachers run a star party for their classes. Or maybe this hobby really is just for a few of us who have a love of Astronomy and it won't enrich the lives of those whose sparks ignite other pursuits. 

 

The engineer side of me just can't stand that we, as creative and capable humans, don't constantly strive to push the low end of everything we make, not just telescopes, on an ever upward trajectory. Whether it be minimum quality of life standards or luxury items like telescopes. We have brains and hearts capable of continuous improvement. We, as amateur astronomers, are likely to be capable of designing fundamentally more stable mounting systems for the affordable end of the price spectrum. The optics are really good now, even on the very inexpensive telescopes. It's really just the mechanical components that are lacking. Vibration is the largest unsolved problem. I think we can solve it. I also think the first company to solve it will be a company which will produce a telescope that we, for the first time, can recommend to parents without reservations. I don't care who that company is, if they do it, I will spread the news far and wide. I hope such a company is lurking in our forum. 

 

-Paul

I think that there is no silver bullet here.   We need to create a spark in as many minds as possible, and for those where the spark becomes a smoldering ember, we need to have a way to give it oxygen and fuel so that it can become a fire.   More outreach is a must - in more places - and the cheap portable scope may make that possible.   The cheap portable scope can also be a way to get kids started once the spark ignites, so it is important to get these into the hands of those who will impact the most.

 

The big issue is how to get them a system that they can have early success with a minimum of training.   When I started I had dog eared copies of Burnham's Celestial Handbook and a variety of charts.   Star hopping was somethign you studied in daylight and practiced at night.   There was no go-to back then and we all congratulated ourselves for the navigation skill as much - or more - than the view of an object.   I distinctly recall many times where three of us were looking for the same object and the guy who found it first - irrespective of how the object looked - was the one who "won".  

 

Now, the thrill of the hunt will probably turn folks off as they know that there is a better way out there.   Go-To (or push to) systems are pretty much mandatory if you want this to meet the exptecations of kids today.  Otherwise, an astronmy app on their phone may be better.   In fact, a sytem like this should be coupled with an app.



#25 Refractor Paul

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Posted 19 August 2019 - 06:45 AM

This topic is directly related to our beginner's scope goals, but it doesn't really belong in the equipment forum, so I'll keep this brief.

 

Tom - Great idea on the software side of things. I'll check on the existing availability of free night sky learning games. There might be some good ones already out there. The astronomy apps I've run into are all just maps. If there isn't a fun game that teaches star hopping yet, we could ask the community that develops the free, open source app - Stellarium - to create a star hop mode. You'd get points by clicking each hop star along the way to your destination in a very realistic night sky. This could be fun for even very experienced star hoppers depending on the degree of difficultly of the destination. We could set the search cursor to be the size of the actual fov our one of our telescopes and see if we could get the object in the fov. 

 

For the beginner, a much more simplified app could have features like:

 

- A puzzle to drag and drop constellations in place

- A map of the 100 or so brightest stars as the background map with a set of place holder markers for targets and you'd get points by putting the targets in the right spots. 




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