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Building my Ultimate Grab and Go Setup

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#1 stevereecy

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Posted 23 September 2019 - 03:12 PM

Hey all,

 

I’ve come to the realization that I’m not doing much Astronomy because I don’t have a lot of time for it.  My backyard isn’t too bad when it comes to light pollution, but it just seems like too much of a chore to carry my 10-inch Dob outside, or to drag my Comet Catcher outside and go through the demanding requirements of plugging in and setting up my antediluvian goto mount.  I need something I can use quickly in a 10 minute session when the conditions are especially nice.

 

So, I’m going to document my construction of the ultimate grab and go system.  The term “ultimate” is subjective, so let’s just say that this will meet my definition of “ultimate”, and not yours.  My definition of “ultimate” is that this will be cheap to put together, but versatile, and be a true grab and go.  Some of you consider a 12-inch SCT to be grab and go, but I don’t.  I can always carry my 12-inch dob outside, so this is going to be an in-between.

 

OK, I want to lay down my plan first.  And I’m doing this because I’d love your feedback on my plans as it develops.  Also, I’ll be doing this piece by piece, as bargains crop up, so part of the challenge is to keep my cost down but end up with something nice.

 

The cheapest way to do this is to work with things I already own.  I already  have a modest eyepiece collection, a laser pointer, laser collimater, rigel quick finder, etc.  So I have “stuff”, but no mount…and I’ve never used a dovetail in my life.  Dovetails really seem to have gotten popular in the last 10 years.

 

My original plan was to use my Comet Catcher.  It’s a great telescope, and it gives me 140mm of aperture, and it’s a very, very, fast scope, so I can actually see some of the brighter DSO’s with it.  The short-coming of the Comet Catcher is it’s so fast that planetary viewing is challenging. 

 

But then I thought, what if I piggy-backed something with a long focal length onto the Comet Catcher?  The Comet Catcher is already light weight.  What if I pair it with a light weight Maksutov?  That would give me a long focal length for planet viewing, and short focal length for DSO’s on one lightweight mount.  OK, that’s where you guys come in…how big of a Mak can I put on there?

 

I just ordered some aluminum rings from the classifieds for my comet catcher.  They are a little big, but I can add some padding, or even rubber blocks to it to make them work without scratching up my CC.  I’m really interested in getting a light weight alt-az mount for this project.  In particular, I’m considering the Twilight mount because it seems sturdy for its weight and it can handle up to 15-pounds.  I definitely want to get an Alt-Az because I won’t be polar aligning and I don’t want the associated counter weight.  I’ve read that  the CC weighs “less than 8 pounds”  (I need to weigh mine).  That gives me about 7 pounds to work with.  I’m considering a 90mm Mak or a 102mm Mak because they weigh in at a scant 3 to 4 pounds, have focal lengths of over 1200mm, and might just be short enough to piggy back on my Comet Catcher.  That leaves me another 3 pounds to work with for the rings and dovetails.  I figure my rigel quick finder is really light weight, and if I am judicious about the kind of rings and lengths of dovetails used, I can stay under 15 pounds and still have something that won’t wobble.  I may need to bolt my rings together to make it sturdy

.
So what do you think? Would the Mak fit?  And this might be a stupid question, but if I piggyback the Mak too low, will I see the edge of the Comet Catcher?  Will it overload the Twilight Mount?  Should I consider another mount?  Has anyone here overloaded their Twilight Mount or piggy backed a Mak onto a Comet Catcher?

Attached Thumbnails

  • comet catcher.jpg

Edited by stevereecy, 23 September 2019 - 03:20 PM.


#2 sg6

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Posted 23 September 2019 - 04:14 PM

My problem with a Mak for G&G is simply the long focal length and there therefore narrower fields of view. For G&G I would say whatever scope has to be also fairly wide in order to locate and view targets easily. I guess you will have to find and track - Maks are not great fot either.

 

I have a 105 Mak on a goto and it is a pain. The field makes alignment a chore and my first purchase was to buy a 40mm eyepiece the day after a night of utter failure.

 

My G&G is maybe odd: 72ED on an Az GTi. Battery, 4 eyepieces and tablet. Simple quick L&N alignmnet (3-4 minutes) and that's it.

 

Am also slowly building a portable dobsonian of 150mm/6". Likely a better idea but a DIY item.



#3 aeajr

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Posted 23 September 2019 - 04:55 PM

You want a grab and go. Something you can pick up and walk out with.  So you are going to set up with two scopes on the mount?   Not grab and go in my book.

 

For me,  AT 102ED F7 refractor with RDF on a Twilight 2 mount.   35-40 mm 2" wide view (65-70 degrees) finder eyepiece.   Maybe an 18-20 mm 82 degree 2".  Then , Baader Hyperion Zoom and the 2.25X barlow made for this zoom.

 

Wide enough to star hop and to see wide DSOs, find things visually, easy tracking.   Up to 200 X for planets. 


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#4 stevereecy

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Posted 23 September 2019 - 05:34 PM

My problem with a Mak for G&G is simply the long focal length and there therefore narrower fields of view. For G&G I would say whatever scope has to be also fairly wide in order to locate and view targets easily. I guess you will have to find and track - Maks are not great fot either.

 

I have a 105 Mak on a goto and it is a pain. The field makes alignment a chore and my first purchase was to buy a 40mm eyepiece the day after a night of utter failure.

 

My G&G is maybe odd: 72ED on an Az GTi. Battery, 4 eyepieces and tablet. Simple quick L&N alignmnet (3-4 minutes) and that's it.

 

Am also slowly building a portable dobsonian of 150mm/6". Likely a better idea but a DIY item.

The problem you're describing shouldn't be a problem if I piggy back.  I think I could use a cell phone app to find a target in the sky.  Then use the comet catcher to center the object.  Then use the piggy backed Mak or Cat to look at it close up.  As long as both scopes are centered relative to each other, I could effectively use the comet catch like a finder scope with an extremely large field..



#5 Mike McShan

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Posted 23 September 2019 - 05:45 PM

Although I kind of agree with Ed that your proposed setup sounds a bit bulky, it probably would work.  I have the Twilight I mount, and it has worked well for a grab & go AZ mount. In fact, it handles a C6 with 8x50 finder, Telrad, and eyepiece quite well.  Since you are piggy backing the Mak on the comet catcher and have a Rigel Quikfinder, it shouldn't be difficult to locate planets or the moon.  When I started in the early 2000s, I used a Meade ETX90 with a Quikfinder for my telescope for a couple of years and located almost 70 Messier objects from my urban backyard.  Even though I have an excellent 4" refractor, I often use a 127mm Mak on the Twilight mount for quick and easy setup for an hour's viewing in the evening. 

 

You might also consider the Twilight II mount since you can mount the two scopes in parallel (although it might be heavier than for what you are looking).

 

Clear skies, Mike 

 

PS. I should have added that it was the original non-GOTO Meade ETX90....


Edited by Mike McShan, 23 September 2019 - 05:48 PM.

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#6 stevereecy

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Posted 23 September 2019 - 05:46 PM

You want a grab and go. Something you can pick up and walk out with.  So you are going to set up with two scopes on the mount?   Not grab and go in my book.

 

For me,  AT 102ED F7 refractor with RDF on a Twilight 2 mount.   35-40 mm 2" wide view (65-70 degrees) finder eyepiece.   Maybe an 18-20 mm 82 degree 2".  Then , Baader Hyperion Zoom and the 2.25X barlow made for this zoom.

 

Wide enough to star hop and to see wide DSOs, find things visually, easy tracking.   Up to 200 X for planets. 

Thanks.  After researching it further, the combined weight of both scopes is less than 1 pound heavier than the refractor (the green comet catcher weighs 6.4 pounds from what i find),  and has much more light gathering area too.  The trick will be making it stable.  Besides, this is a low budget endeavor.



#7 stevereecy

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Posted 23 September 2019 - 05:51 PM

Although I kind of agree with Ed that your proposed setup sounds a bit bulky, it probably would work.  I have the Twilight I mount, and it has worked well for a grab & go AZ mount. In fact, it handles a C6 with 8x50 finder, Telrad, and eyepiece quite well.  Since you are piggy backing the Mak on the comet catcher and have a Rigel Quikfinder, it shouldn't be difficult to locate planets or the moon.  When I started in the early 2000s, I used a Meade ETX90 with a Quikfinder for my telescope for a couple of years and located almost 70 Messier objects from my urban backyard.  Even though I have an excellent 4" refractor, I often use a 127mm Mak on the Twilight mount for quick and easy setup for an hour's viewing in the evening. 

 

You might also consider the Twilight II mount since you can mount the two scopes in parallel (although it might be heavier than for what you are looking).

 

Clear skies, Mike 

 

PS. I should have added that it was the original non-GOTO Meade ETX90....

Thanks for the info.  One of my set of rings arrived today, and I've already found a challenge that perhaps you can answer.  One the Twilight I mount, I've noticed in videos that there is an adjustment knob or tightening screw on the very top of the mount (like a cherry on a milkshake).  If you wanted to, could you flip the dovetail upside down and use the mount?  Your knob would be on the bottom, which would make it more challenging to tighten, but is there any reason why you can't do that?

 

Thanks in advance.



#8 stevereecy

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Posted 23 September 2019 - 07:51 PM

I had  I thought about how to mount this in a stable manner. Perhaps I could use a flat plate which would have a male dovetail on one side of the plate (“A” side) and two female receivers on the other side (“B” side). Then both telescopes would attach to the two female receivers on the “B” side and the plate itself would attach to the mount from the “A” side.   



#9 Mike McShan

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Posted 24 September 2019 - 12:54 PM

Thanks for the info.  One of my set of rings arrived today, and I've already found a challenge that perhaps you can answer.  One the Twilight I mount, I've noticed in videos that there is an adjustment knob or tightening screw on the very top of the mount (like a cherry on a milkshake).  If you wanted to, could you flip the dovetail upside down and use the mount?  Your knob would be on the bottom, which would make it more challenging to tighten, but is there any reason why you can't do that?

 

Thanks in advance.

If you are referring to the knob that tightens the bolt that holds the dovetail, then I don't think that it makes any difference whether it is up or down.  However, the top knob that adjusts the altitude tension can't be moved.

 

Clear skies, Mike


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#10 Freezout

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Posted 24 September 2019 - 01:18 PM

Don’t focus only on weight. Number of components to assemble and easiness to move the equipment is also very important. According to me (and some opinions might differ), if you need to make several travels to setup your telescope it’s not grab and go.
A 60mm refractor on complex EQ go-to mount with 10 adapters is for me less grab and go than a C11 ready to use on a dolly.
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#11 Jeff Struve

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Posted 24 September 2019 - 01:42 PM

My grab n go is: 

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  • 20170208_183137_resized.jpg

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#12 Phil Cowell

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Posted 25 September 2019 - 06:06 AM

Sky-Watcher AZ GTI and AT102. Lightweight, tracking and goto. 

You can also control it with a tablet or a hand-controller.

Very easy to transport as well.


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#13 stevereecy

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Posted 25 September 2019 - 02:01 PM

If you are referring to the knob that tightens the bolt that holds the dovetail, then I don't think that it makes any difference whether it is up or down.  However, the top knob that adjusts the altitude tension can't be moved.

 

Clear skies, Mike

Thank you for the info.  I've figured out a great work-around and have one last question.  Usually a telescope dovetail runs parallel to an OTA, which is parallel to the ground surface when you put it on.  Is there any reason why a dovetail couldn't run vertically (perpendicular)?    I should just be able to rotate the azimuth 90-degrees, snap it in, and tighten it down, correct?



#14 stevereecy

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Posted 25 September 2019 - 02:02 PM

Don’t focus only on weight. Number of components to assemble and easiness to move the equipment is also very important. According to me (and some opinions might differ), if you need to make several travels to setup your telescope it’s not grab and go.
A 60mm refractor on complex EQ go-to mount with 10 adapters is for me less grab and go than a C11 ready to use on a dolly.

Thanks.  My plan is to leave it set up all the time in my formal living room.  So I literally can grab it and go.



#15 stevereecy

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Posted 25 September 2019 - 02:14 PM

Update:

 

I just committed to the buying a nexstar (below) at a good price.  The paint color and brand are a good match to the comet catcher. It's 102mm and has a very long focal length (1325mm/f13), but it should be small and light-weight like the comet catcher (about 4 pounds).

 

And I had a brainstorm too.

 

My plan is to buy a long, standard, dovetail about 8-inches long.  Then on each end of it, I will bolt or weld, a female dovetail receiver to it.  This will allow me to attach both telescopes to the 8-inch dovetail (which will form a shape like the letter "I" or "H"), and then snap the 8-inch dovetail into the tripod's receiver.  I will place the 8-inch dovetail in there off-center to facilitate good balance point and clearance.

 

The beauty of this system is that the 8-inch dovetail should be a ridged enough "plate" to minimize vibration and if I get one thick enough, it won't flex.  Plus the overall weight of the connections should be lower than if I were to run tube rings. 

 

I just can't bear the thought of drilling any holes into my comet catcher, so it will have tube rings connected by it's dovetail, but the nexstar does have a dovetail, so it will mate up easily.

Attached Thumbnails

  • nexstar2.jpg

Edited by stevereecy, 25 September 2019 - 02:19 PM.

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#16 stevereecy

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Posted 03 October 2019 - 05:37 PM

Another update. I appreciate the feedback and recommendations for a dual head mount. I figured out that with some careful shopping it seems to make more sense to buy a dual mount head  that I can put on my own old and sturdy tripod rather than incur the expense of buying all of the plates and adapters I would need to piggyback two scopes. Plus a dual mount would be lighter and less wobbly. I’ve found an unbelievable but unadvertised deal on an item that I need for this set apparently anyone can buy but I will let that be a teaser for now until after I purchase it. I need to make sure I get this price before I make this deal go viral and open the floodgates. :-)

 

 In the meantime I’ve been shopping for dovetail plates and ran across a deal on eBay that didn’t make any sense. There’s a guy that is selling display models of offbrand Alt Az mounts similar to the twilight NANO mount with a matching dovetail for $50 shipped. Again, what’s crazy is they come with a dovetail plate.  I need the plate and it would cost me $25-$30 for just the plate by itself, so for an extra $20-$25 I can get a alt az mount that wouldn’t be too shabby for a lone small Mak. So I ordered one of those.  I figure if I hate it I can sell it on craigslist and get my money back but keep the plate. :-) I’m supposed to get it tomorrow since the guy selling it Is only a few hundred miles away.

 

Below is my attempt to provide a link

 

https://www.ebay.com...d:1#UserReviews


Edited by stevereecy, 03 October 2019 - 05:46 PM.


#17 Sarkikos

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Posted 04 October 2019 - 01:09 PM

My grab n go is: 

OK, what is it, exactly?  Sometimes a picture is not worth a 1000 words.  Throw a few words at that picture.

 

:grin:

Mike


Edited by Sarkikos, 04 October 2019 - 01:26 PM.


#18 Sarkikos

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Posted 04 October 2019 - 01:25 PM

I have two grab-n-go setups that maximize aperture while minimizing weight:

 

- C5 SCT on MicroStar Deluxe and Vanguard Auctus Plus 324AT tripod

 

- ST120 f/5 achromat on MicroStar Deluxe and Vanguard Auctus Plus 324AT tripod

 

Both have about 5" of aperture.  The C5 is better at higher power.  The ST120 can go lower and wider.  

 

Actually, if I wanted to push the aperture a little bigger, I'd take out the C6 SCT on the same mount. 

 

I have a Voyager ATZ mount, but I haven't used it in years.  For me, it's just too big and bulky for good grab-n-go.  

 

I avoid GEM's for grab-n-go.  More weight and complexity than they are worth.  Well, that's why I avoid GEM's altogether.  I got rid of all mine.

 

I don't bother with goto mounts, just simple alt-az's.   This also keeps down the weight and complexity of the setup.  I point in the direction of the object with a GLP or Rigel QuickFinder, then star hop with a 6x30 RACI, using SkySafari Pro on iPhone as an electronic star chart.

 

Mike


Edited by Sarkikos, 04 October 2019 - 01:30 PM.

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#19 stevereecy

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Posted 04 October 2019 - 02:01 PM

I have two grab-n-go setups that maximize aperture while minimizing weight:

 

- C5 SCT on MicroStar Deluxe and Vanguard Auctus Plus 324AT tripod

 

- ST120 f/5 achromat on MicroStar Deluxe and Vanguard Auctus Plus 324AT tripod

 

Both have about 5" of aperture.  The C5 is better at higher power.  The ST120 can go lower and wider.  

 

Actually, if I wanted to push the aperture a little bigger, I'd take out the C6 SCT on the same mount. 

 

I have a Voyager ATZ mount, but I haven't used it in years.  For me, it's just too big and bulky for good grab-n-go.  

 

I avoid GEM's for grab-n-go.  More weight and complexity than they are worth.  Well, that's why I avoid GEM's altogether.  I got rid of all mine.

 

I don't bother with goto mounts, just simple alt-az's.   This also keeps down the weight and complexity of the setup.  I point in the direction of the object with a GLP or Rigel QuickFinder, then star hop with a 6x30 RACI, using SkySafari Pro on iPhone as an electronic star chart.

 

Mike

Exactly my sentiments!   With an  App you can find a lot of stuff quick with a fast scope.  What seems like a growing trend to me is a greater demand for alt az mounts that connect from the side using dovetails. If I was wealthy I’d manufacture a real strong one with a 30 pound capacity....ideally using aluminum to save on weight. Maybe even with a built in phone holder on the mount head. If any of you guys start making one I only want 5% of the take.  


Edited by stevereecy, 04 October 2019 - 02:04 PM.

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#20 stevereecy

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Posted 04 October 2019 - 02:12 PM

Hmmm... Know what else we need?   An 8-inch or 10 inch fast Cat/Mak/etc.  Maybe with a built in coma corrector. It would be so short that it would (still) be light weight.  It would look like a bongo drum.  I wonder if that’s possible?  That would be the ultimate grab and go. 



#21 Sarkikos

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Posted 04 October 2019 - 04:35 PM

I think once you get to 8" or larger, nothing is really grab-n-go.  Actually, I don't consider a moderate-sized scope wheeled out on a dolly or cart grab-n-go either. You're not grabbing and going.  You're pushing and wheeling.  Not the same thing.  I can push my car if it's in neutral.  :shrug:

 

:grin:

Mike




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