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The 10,000th newbie looking at scope choices

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#1 VeloBob

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Posted 17 August 2019 - 09:32 PM

In the mid 1950's, there was an article in Science and Mechanics magazine about how to build your own reflector telescope.  I bought the glass blanks from  Edmund Scientific and started grinding.  About a thousand hours later, I threw the "mirror" in the trash and stole my Dad's 7x50 binoculars instead.  Then I spent two years in college majoring in Physics and Astronomy, but put that in the trash, too.  Since then, I've looked at the stars through a sextant while doing celestial navigation, and the planets and moon through binoculars, but never did get around to buying a telescope.   For the last few years I've subscribed to Astronomy magazine, and the urge to get a telescope is back.  So...

 

I live six months of the year each in diagonally opposite corners of the country--summers in the foothills of the North Cascades in WA, winters, 10 miles in from the Gulf in western FL.  In WA, I live on a ridge 600' up a 3,800' tall hill, back in the woods.  I have a clear view to the northwest to north, but view in other directions is blocked by trees and big hills (the hill across the valley is 4,000', but the real mountains are a few miles up the road).   In FL, I live in a mobile home park with lots of street lighting and a "ten foot tin to tin" setback.  So in either place, getting much in the way of a view will require moving a scope around.  In FL, at least, there is a spot a couple of miles away that is on the edge of a 33,000 acre wildlife preserve that I should be able to access without much difficulty--meaning I'll only have to carry a scope for about 100 yards.  Most of my viewing will be what I've been doing with my image stabilized Nikon binocs--moon and planetary sighting, but I would like to try my hand at some DSO viewing as well.  Astrophotography is well down the pike, if at all

 

My wife doesn't mind at all the idea of my spending enough to get a decent telescope, but she is not so keen on my buying several, which means that any scope that I get will probably have to be transported on Alaska Airlines (has one nonstop a day between Seattle and Tampa).  I did a search here using the words "airline travel" and got a bunch of articles and forum posts, most of which involved small refractors--70 mm or so--but not much else.  There were a couple of folks who talked of flying with a C5 or C6, and one who said he flew with a C8 carried as carry-on luggage.  The C8 has an OTA diameter of 9" which happens to be the maximum depth that Alaska allows, so that is at least possible.

 

So what do all of you experts think?  The Nexstar 8se is 33 pounds, the Nexstar Evo 8 is 43 pounds, but the OTA is 12.5 pounds in both cases.  Then there is the Edge series.  From the little I've been able to find out about refractors, it looks like a 102 is about the biggest I can fit into a carry-on bag, and the variety is overwhelming.  Most of the refractors that I've looked at don't include a mount, so that is another problem to work through.  I'm open to any and all suggestions.  FWIW, my favorite picture of a "portable scope" was the guy who had his 16" Dob mounted on an electric wheelchair, including an electric tilt for the base.

 

 



#2 Augustus

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Posted 17 August 2019 - 09:35 PM

I wouldn't recommend even trying to bring the scope on a plane. Just ship it every 6 months.


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#3 vtornado

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Posted 17 August 2019 - 09:50 PM

Scopes are cheap now-a-days.   Two eight inch dobs one for each place.  If you look at craig's list you can probably pick one

up for $250-$300.  That is less than some ultra-small ultra expensive scope that would travel on an airplane. One less thing

to pack too.  Go for the saving money angle, that's what my wife does :-)


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#4 ngc7319_20

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Posted 17 August 2019 - 10:26 PM

Agreed... One for each location...  Lots of 6" to 10" used Dobs on the market...


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#5 lonn

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Posted 17 August 2019 - 10:32 PM

Build two 10" dobs. Buy one good mirror and take it with you. GSO mirrors are not bad these days. I got a great 8" on E bay for $60.00 including shipping build the rest from the hardware store focuser E bay $ 50. Take the small stuff with you.   


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#6 ShaulaB

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Posted 17 August 2019 - 10:59 PM

There are astronomy clubs at both locations. Clubs usually welcome new folks and let them attend dark sky star parties that they host. You can see telescopes in the flesh and better determine what might fit your needs. I personally like the option of two eight or ten inch Dobsonians.

 

You might find you like Maksutov-Cassegrains. Get two 150mm optical tubes and two tripods. Haul just your mount as checked baggage back and forth from NW to SE. But seriously, spend some time with other people's scopes if possible to see what suits you best.

 

Regarding fitting a refractor iton an airliner overhead compartment, be careful. You would have to make sure the refractor was bundled up safely, in case the plane hits rough air. Other people's luggage might slide or crash into yours. An 80mm refractor with enough padding and a case to protect it seems the largest an airline would let you take as carry-on. I love a good refractor, but at 80mm, that's not much more than binocs.


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#7 SeattleScott

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Posted 17 August 2019 - 11:01 PM

There is an Orion 8” XT Plus available in Lacey for $200. Quite a drive for you, but a nice upgrade over the basic 8” Dob.

I have flown with a 6” Mak. Scope about 15lbs with accessories, mount another 18lbs. Checked the mount, pretty much have to, your not getting that in an overhead bin. So flying a scope back and forth will cost you $50 a year or whatever in baggage fees and it is a real lug when you are also checking six months worth of clothing. If you are already at the limit for checked or carryon bags, it will be even more expensive. And then you have to pay the skycap to haul all those bags across the airport. I mean you fly Alaska so you have to drag all those bags all the way to North Satellite terminal, once the renovation is complete.

An 8” SCT will go in an overhead bin with about two sheets of newspaper for padding. For a once in a lifetime trip it is probably worth the risk, but not if you fly twice a year. And an 8” SCT with a suitable mount will run maybe $1,500. Two 8” Dobs will cost less than $1,000 total. So it isn’t just practical to have a scope each place, it is actually cheaper. Unless you are concerned about your place being broken into and the scope stolen while you are gone for six months. I don’t know what your security situation is. Probably not much crime up there in Winthrop or whatever but can’t speak to the mobile home park in FL.

That being said, yes it is possible to fly with a scope. I would probably get a 6” SCT and a GSO Skyview Deluxe Mount if I was going to fly twice a year. You could always team up with the Boeing stargazing group when you want to look through a bigger scope. Or invite me up to your place and I can bring one of mine 😀

Scott

Edited by SeattleScott, 17 August 2019 - 11:10 PM.

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#8 wrnchhead

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Posted 18 August 2019 - 12:38 AM

Two brand new 8” Aperturas would be 900.

I am not making any assumptions about your age or physical fitness but 100 yards twice once with the base and once with the tube I feel may become a chore once the honeymoon phase is over.

Two used but good C8 optical tubes could be had for $500. 11 lbs. Mounting would be a different animal. I have no experience with C8 forks or anything except slapping them on my already owned equatorial mount. So another member may have a better plan in the mounting dept.

Just wanted to give you a realistic view of what the weight of an 8 inch dob can be.
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#9 mrsjeff

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Posted 18 August 2019 - 04:48 AM

I highly recommend checking into the Astronomers Without Borders OneSky. It’s small enough to travel onboard a plane, light enough to tote 100 yards, and has enough aperture (130mm) to give you nice views. Oh, and it’s pretty inexpensive ($200). You might want to add a mount to stow at one of your homes so you don’t have the hassle of transporting the OneSky’s mount.

#10 SeattleScott

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Posted 18 August 2019 - 08:11 AM

Absolutely right about the portability of the AWB. But my thinking is he has access to some fantastic dark sky, at least in WA, that the AWB simply cannot do justice to. With those skies I would want AT LEAST 6” of aperture. Even settling for 6” seems like a shame. And it doesn’t sound like cost is a major limitation. I mean, his wife would probably jump at him buying two scopes and not have to travel with them if the scopes were just $200 each. So the ability to carry the AWB on a plane seems irrelevant.

Ultimately telescopes can get into the situation where miniaturization costs more. Just like a laptop costs more than a comparable desktop computer. You can get a large Dob that travels in a suitcase but it will cost you thousands. Cassegrain are the most compact design, but they are not the cheapest. An 8” SCT tube alone costs as much as two 8” Dobs complete with mount, a couple basic eyepieces and maybe a laser collimator. Or a 6” SCT tube costs about as much as two 6” Dobs, if he wants to go smaller. Shoot I am getting a 6” that I will probably be looking for a new home for soon. And I’m closer to him than Lacey. It will literally be cheaper to put a scope at each place rather than buy a portable design with the same amount of aperture. Not to mention the checked bag fees! That being said, if she is fine with you getting a $2k 180mm Mewlon and flying back and forth with it, go for it! Oh wait, it might be a little too long. Maybe you can shorten it by unscrewing the visual back for travel?

The other issue is a Cassegrain will have a narrow view, making it hard to find targets without GoTo. And a GoTo mount will be risky to travel with because of the baggage handlers. Maybe you carryon the mount head and just check the tripod? Ok but now you have two big carryons just for the scope. On the other hand, with the right eyepiece, an 8” Dob can go nearly twice as wide as an 8” SCT, making finding targets without a computer easier.

Scott

Edited by SeattleScott, 18 August 2019 - 08:28 AM.


#11 clearwaterdave

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Posted 18 August 2019 - 09:09 AM

I have the Onesky and dark skies.,and they seem to get along just fine.,Not everyone needs 20" of glass to be content.,

  I would put a scope at each house.,problem solved.,good luck with your choices.,


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#12 aeajr

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Posted 18 August 2019 - 09:28 AM

Welcome to the next step in stargazing.


You mentioned the NexStar series of SCTs. Was that strictly for portability or do you NEED a GoTo mount?

I would suggest buying one scope now and plan for the second scope later.

Based on your implied budget, if you don't require a GoTo mount you might consider the Astro Tech 102 ED on a manual AltAz mount.

I have 5 scopes but this is the next one on my list. Gets great reviews, excellent value, and the F7 profile should travel well in a carry-on bag.

If I were buying it, here is what I would get:

Optical Tube
https://www.astronom...ractor-ota.html

2" Diagonal
https://www.astronom...refractors.html

AltAz mount with slow motion controls
https://www.astronom...muth-mount.html

Finder - Since you know the sky from your binocular observing, I would suggest one of these finders.

Rigel Quick Finder
https://www.astronom...eye-finder.html

Or. Telrad
https://www.astronom...s-and-base.html


Regardless of what telescope you get you will need a selection of eyepieces. This article will help you understand the factors you need to know when considering eyepieces and includes recommendations by budget.
https://telescopicwa...cope-eyepieces/


Here is a fairly inexpensive starter set.

38 mm 70 degree low power wide view and finder eyepiece for star hopping and for large DSOs like the Pleiades and the Andromeda Galaxy. about 19X and 3.6 degree FOV. Almost as wide as a finder scope.
https://agenaastro.c...a-eyepiece.html

AT Paradigm. They get great reviews are and are quite inexpensive. Will work great in this scope. A 25, 8 and 5 would be a great start.
https://www.astronom...iece_series=478


If you have a higher budget then the Explore Scientific 82 degree line is an outstanding choice and they are on sale right now.
https://www.astronom...iece_series=498

I have 4 of the ES82s. - Love 'em.

However my favorite eyepiece is my Baader Hyperion Zoom. Not as wide a field of view as the ES but pretty much eleminates eyepiece swapping. In this scope I would recommend the zoom and barlow package
https://agenaastro.c...ow-2454827.html

This zoom would give you every mag from 30 to 90X without the barlow. Attach the 2.25X barlow and you are at 67 to 200X and all magnifications in between. That pretty much covers the full range of the scope.

The ES 82s give a wider field of view, but the zoom lets you stay on the target without eyepiece swaps as you explore higher and lower magnificaitons. Some people love zooms, some don't. I have two and I really enjoy them. They are my most used eyepieces.
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#13 MalVeauX

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Posted 18 August 2019 - 09:50 AM

Heya,

 

Two 8" dobs. One in FL. One in WA. Don't travel with them. They're inexpensive enough. Still light enough to manage moving them around outside. Lots of aperture. Still wide enough field too if you stick to the F5~F6 ranges. Travel optics are your nice binoculars.

 

Where in Florida? There are a few groups down here, you could also borrow a scope or leave it with the group if you felt the need to avoid travel.

 

Very best,


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#14 SeattleScott

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Posted 18 August 2019 - 10:46 AM

I never have understood how Zoom eyepieces reduce eyepiece swapping. Even the Baader doesn’t really go wide enough to be used for a low power sweeper. So you start with a 2” eyepiece and then switch to the Zoom, and rotate the Zoom to the desired magnification. On the other hand, with my fixed eyepieces, I start out with a 2” low power sweeper, find the target, decide what magnification is appropriate for the target, and use the corresponding eyepiece. What is so complicated about that?

I can see using multiple magnifications for a couple large, showpiece objects that are nice to view at different magnifications. Orion Nebula, Veil Nebula and the Moon come to mind. Frame it at low power then zoom in for details. But there are very few targets that I view at different magnifications.

A Zoom is nice starting out because you can get a range of magnifications covered at a reasonable price, and they are nice for travel because you need fewer lenses. I do get that. I just don’t understand how they are supposed to be so much more convenient than having a full range of fixed eyepieces.

Scott
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#15 rowdy388

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Posted 18 August 2019 - 10:46 AM

I'm 66 and can still pick up my 8" dob in one piece but they are so easy to move in two pieces that

anyone can move one in two trips. Takes just a couple minutes to break down and reassemble.


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#16 VeloBob

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Posted 18 August 2019 - 10:46 AM

Thanks to all who have answered so far.  I had thought about the two Dobs solution, but in order to get to a viewing spot here in WA where I can see to the south with relatively dark skies would require loading the scope into the truck, driving five miles or so, unloading it, carrying it about 100 yards or so, setting it up, then rinse and repeat at the end of the observing session.  Somehow, it seems more likely that I would do this with a 6-8" SCT than I would with a Dob.  Similarly, in FL, to get to where I can view something other than the neighbor's roof requires that I transport the scope down to the park at the end of the road, a block away.   I could put the Dob in a wagon to do this, but there is still the hassle factor.  To get to darker skies, I'd load it into the van, drive the 8 miles to the edge of the wildlife preserve, unload it, carry it a couple of hundred yards to a bridge over the drainage ditch, and set up there.  Again, I think that I'd be more likely to do this with something that is not as bulky as a big Dob.  As far as the budget goes, I won't say that price is no object, but I'm fortunate enough to be able to afford to buy what I want--which is something that I will be pleased with for the future and be willing to use for years and which represents a good value, with decent resale if I decide to get further into this as a hobby.  As far as the flying part goes, we already have two complete sets of everything, and just take a carry-on bag for the two of us.  I even went so far as to get a second velomobile (a streamlined bicycle that looks sort of like the 1950's Bonneville racers) to keep in FL (at my wife's suggestion) so that we wouldn't have to drive across country with it on the top of the car.  And, if we book the flight using the Alaska credit card, we get one free checked bag each, which would cover flying the mount and tripod.



#17 Napp

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Posted 18 August 2019 - 10:53 AM

I have an 8” sct.  A good friend has an 8” dob.  I consider the 8” dob easier to transport by hand.  I can lift the 8” dob one handed.  Try that with an 8” sct and mount.  I don’t think you are considering carrying the mount and scope.  


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#18 aeajr

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Posted 18 August 2019 - 11:12 AM

I never have understood how Zoom eyepieces reduce eyepiece swapping. Even the Baader doesn’t really go wide enough to be used for a low power sweeper. So you start with a 2” eyepiece and then switch to the Zoom, and rotate the Zoom to the desired magnification. On the other hand, with my fixed eyepieces, I start out with a 2” low power sweeper, find the target, decide what magnification is appropriate for the target, and use the corresponding eyepiece. What is so complicated about that?

I can see using multiple magnifications for a couple large, showpiece objects that are nice to view at different magnifications. Orion Nebula, Veil Nebula and the Moon come to mind. Frame it at low power then zoom in for details. But there are very few targets that I view at different magnifications.

A Zoom is nice starting out because you can get a range of magnifications covered at a reasonable price, and they are nice for travel because you need fewer lenses. I do get that. I just don’t understand how they are supposed to be so much more convenient than having a full range of fixed eyepieces.

Scott

Good questions Scott.  For the benefit of the OP, I will address them.  Remember, this discussion is about where to start, not where to end.  And let's agree that these are opinions, not facts. 

 

Reduced swapping, not eliminating swapping.  Right tool for the task.   As you saw, I recommended a low power wide view as a "sweeper" as you call it.  Not the right task for a zoom.  I too start with the low power wide eyepiece most nights.

 

In that 20 to 8 mm range I LOVE the ability to explore up and down to find the best mag and then to adjust as atmospheric conditions change.

 

I am sure there are few targets you view at multiple mags.  To do so you would be swapping eyepieces.   I don't have to swap eyepieces to do that so I do it, and do it often.

 

Yes, a zoom is a great starting out eyepiece because you get the full range of  your scope.   And I often suggest to people that over time they may wish to fill in where they feel they would like to have a wider view at a particular mag, especially with manual mounts.   I have done that as you can see in my signature.

 

It is not an either or proposition.   Look at my signature.   I don't have zooms exclusively.  But since I do have a full range of choices in zoom an single FL eyepieces of good quality, I can state that I prefer the zooms most of the time, in the 18 to 8 mm part of the range.   

 

In my 2" focuser scope, I start with a 38/70, then go to a 20/82, then to the zoom and if 8 mm is as high as the sky will let me go, I am likely to stay with it all night. 

 

In my 1.25" focuser scopes I start with a 32 mm Plossl or a 26 mm Plossl, then go to the zoom most of the time.

 

I have barlowed the zoom and still do so, depending on which scope I am using and what I am targeting.  I have 1.5X, 2X, 2.5X and 3X barlows so I can match the zoom to the FL and aperture of the scope. 

 

The zoom sounds great, but there is a trade-off.  The field of view of the zoom runs from a narrower AFOV at the 24 mm range to a wider FOV at the 8 mm range.  This may be narrower or wider than other eyepieces you might ave.  The zoom is narrower than my other eyepieces throughout the range. 

 

So, like any approach, the zoom is a compromise.  I find that compromise quite acceptable when weighed against the benefits listed below.  Most of the time, in range, I prefer the zoom.

 

  • I never expected the zoom eyepiece to become my primary eyepiece, but it has.
  • With a zoom, the eyepiece seems to disappear as you just move in and out at will, no swapping, no thinking about eyepiece changes
  • The Celestron 8-24 zoom is good and image quality comparable to my Plossl eyepieces
  • The Baader Hyperion is great with image quality comparable to my Explore Scientific eyepieces
  • Watching doubles split as I rotate the barrel is wonderful
  • One filter serves over a wide range of magnifications, no screwing and unscrewing to try other eyepieces
  • Moving smoothly between small changes in magnification helps when seeing is not the best
  • I am always working at the optimum magnification for this target.
  • Sharing the view with others is easier, especially in my manual tracking Dob - I hand it over at low mag so it stays in the view longer.  They zoom back in to whatever magnification works best for them.
  • Kids love the zoom

 

Naturally, your smileage may vary.  wink.gif


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#19 RDCII

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Posted 18 August 2019 - 11:25 AM

Welcome. You will find lots of help here.

I would agree that really the best option is a scope in each place. The more aperture you have the happier you will be. I have an 8 se and 130 SLT. The views through the 8 inch are much better. Setting up the goto is fairly quick as long as you are in roughly the same place. If not you may have to adjust the location and I have not found a quick way to do that. Setting up the goto takes some patience, where a manual mount you can start quick but takes more effort while using.

As far as moving the scope around a wagon/small hand truck makes 2 trips one. I have the big case for the 8 in that is on wheels. I can take the scope and everything in one trip. I keep the scope mounted in the case.

Rich
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#20 MalVeauX

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Posted 18 August 2019 - 11:26 AM

Thanks to all who have answered so far.  I had thought about the two Dobs solution, but in order to get to a viewing spot here in WA where I can see to the south with relatively dark skies would require loading the scope into the truck, driving five miles or so, unloading it, carrying it about 100 yards or so, setting it up, then rinse and repeat at the end of the observing session.  Somehow, it seems more likely that I would do this with a 6-8" SCT than I would with a Dob.  Similarly, in FL, to get to where I can view something other than the neighbor's roof requires that I transport the scope down to the park at the end of the road, a block away.   I could put the Dob in a wagon to do this, but there is still the hassle factor.  To get to darker skies, I'd load it into the van, drive the 8 miles to the edge of the wildlife preserve, unload it, carry it a couple of hundred yards to a bridge over the drainage ditch, and set up there.  Again, I think that I'd be more likely to do this with something that is not as bulky as a big Dob.  As far as the budget goes, I won't say that price is no object, but I'm fortunate enough to be able to afford to buy what I want--which is something that I will be pleased with for the future and be willing to use for years and which represents a good value, with decent resale if I decide to get further into this as a hobby.  As far as the flying part goes, we already have two complete sets of everything, and just take a carry-on bag for the two of us.  I even went so far as to get a second velomobile (a streamlined bicycle that looks sort of like the 1950's Bonneville racers) to keep in FL (at my wife's suggestion) so that we wouldn't have to drive across country with it on the top of the car.  And, if we book the flight using the Alaska credit card, we get one free checked bag each, which would cover flying the mount and tripod.

Nexstar Evolution would be nice, it's still fairly portable, good mount, simple to use. Packs up with the legs taken off. A C8 is a great aperture and compact tube. The mount can handle more weight so you could even get a small 72mm~80mm APO to ride on top for wide FOV use with it at the same time (piggy back) (so an AstroTech AT72EDII or SkyWatcher 72ED would be great here). Plus you can use a binoviewer with the C8 naturally without a corrector. Big bright aperture. Tracking so you can just focus on observing. You saw the weight already, not bad, as it breaks down into parts. Another option instead of the Evolution is an iOptron Minitower II and it can also hold two scopes, so throw a C8 on there and a small APO again.

 

Very best,



#21 SeattleScott

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Posted 18 August 2019 - 11:34 AM

Well if you aren’t carrying a bunch of luggage and don’t have to pay for checked bags, then a NexStar 6SE makes a lot of sense.

Scott

#22 gkarris

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Posted 18 August 2019 - 12:35 PM

Well if you aren’t carrying a bunch of luggage and don’t have to pay for checked bags, then a NexStar 6SE makes a lot of sense.

Scott


LOL...

I used to work Passenger Service at the airport, you really, REALLY, don't want to be checking in this sort of equipment (camera, astronomy, other) on to the aircraft baggage area... I know, trust me...

 

The people  I've seen that do have some very, very expensive travel sturdy hard cases for the stuff. If it gets lost - that really won't help. FRAGILE stickers may help, depending on the airline or who is actually handling the bags (many handlers are outsourced).

 

Just keep a scope at each location - buy used, or on sale/clearance so that it is more cost effective...

 

Tell us how you ended up...

 

Here's some used/clearance sales:

 

https://www.telescop...60/pc/6/777.uts

 

https://agenaastro.c...t_list_limit=72

 

https://www.highpoin...order=price_asc

 

Good luck...


Edited by gkarris, 18 August 2019 - 12:36 PM.

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#23 aeajr

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Posted 18 August 2019 - 12:50 PM

Well if you aren’t carrying a bunch of luggage and don’t have to pay for checked bags, then a NexStar 6SE makes a lot of sense.

Scott

Can  you get the mount, OTA, accessories into a carry on bag with your cloths and such?  I would not have expected that to work, but never tried. 

 

Since you are only moving this once in a while, save the original shipping boxes. When you travel, put it all back in the box and put it in as checked luggage. If you need to you can reinforce the box, but that is how it shipped to you so it should be OK to check with the airlines. 



#24 SeattleScott

SeattleScott

    Fly Me to the Moon

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Posted 18 August 2019 - 01:36 PM

My 6” Mak I can carry on, so a 6” SCT would work fine. Obviously tripod won’t carry on but who cares. Not sure about NexStar mount head. Would need to check out dimensions. I would be nervous about checking the mount head and would only consider it with a very sturdy case. My airport travel mount is an AZ4 so not even baggage handlers can hurt it.

Scott

#25 vertex2100

vertex2100

    Vostok 1

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Posted 18 August 2019 - 02:13 PM

Thanks to all who have answered so far.  I had thought about the two Dobs solution, but in order to get to a viewing spot here in WA where I can see to the south with relatively dark skies would require loading the scope into the truck, driving five miles or so, unloading it, carrying it about 100 yards or so, setting it up, then rinse and repeat at the end of the observing session.  Somehow, it seems more likely that I would do this with a 6-8" SCT than I would with a Dob.  Similarly, in FL, to get to where I can view something other than the neighbor's roof requires that I transport the scope down to the park at the end of the road, a block away.   I could put the Dob in a wagon to do this, but there is still the hassle factor.  To get to darker skies, I'd load it into the van, drive the 8 miles to the edge of the wildlife preserve, unload it, carry it a couple of hundred yards to a bridge over the drainage ditch, and set up there.  Again, I think that I'd be more likely to do this with something that is not as bulky as a big Dob.  As far as the budget goes, I won't say that price is no object, but I'm fortunate enough to be able to afford to buy what I want--which is something that I will be pleased with for the future and be willing to use for years and which represents a good value, with decent resale if I decide to get further into this as a hobby.  As far as the flying part goes, we already have two complete sets of everything, and just take a carry-on bag for the two of us.  I even went so far as to get a second velomobile (a streamlined bicycle that looks sort of like the 1950's Bonneville racers) to keep in FL (at my wife's suggestion) so that we wouldn't have to drive across country with it on the top of the car.  And, if we book the flight using the Alaska credit card, we get one free checked bag each, which would cover flying the mount and tripod.

Scopes are so cheap now, I would go with one at each location and just invest in good eyepieces and carry them back and forth to save the hassle of carrying heavy scopes with you. You can transport a dob using a pneumatic wheeled hand truck if you need. You won't much like carrying an 8" sct very far by hand either. My Meade LX 200 isn't light and then, there is another trip for the tripod, battery and eyepieces. An ETX of some sort might be easier to carry but smaller. West Virginia skies are great for DSO so get the largest aperture you can for there. Florida skies can be dark depending on the site and also pretty steady for good high power seeing. I have two houses and keep 2 scopes for now at one and an embarrassingly large number of them at the other one. Both have big dobs for my nights that I'm feeling strong and want long viewing sessions under excellent skies and smaller refractors for quicker, easier viewing.
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