How do you use your Questar? Where does your Questar fit in your stable of observing gear? Is it your one and only telescope? Is it your most-used one given its convenient size and construction? Is it a curiosity that is there to be admired more as a work of fine craftsmanship than a serious observing instrument? Or does it serve a more specialized purpose among other telescopes that you own?
My collection of telescopes includes the following:
- 4" Mak: My first serious telescope. It excels as a lunar and planetary instrument and makes a great, worry-free travel scope.
- 4.5" f/4 reflector: A Black Friday acquisition from a few years ago. Sitting on a homemade alt-az mount, it functions as a great quick-look scope that is particularly well suited for wide-field scanning of the night sky. For instance, I can fit the Pleiades comfortably in the field of view in a 25mm Plossl. But after about a half-hour, I typically start wanting more aperture, better optics, better mechanics, or all of the above.
- C8 SCT: My workhorse backyard telescope. It's given me my most pleasing views of Jupiter and Saturn, and I've done more than my fair share of DSO observing in this scope. The reputation that SCTs have as being jacks of all trades is well deserved: my C8 represents a great balance of generous aperture, manageable size, good optics, and long focal length for higher-contrast views especially under light polluted skies.
- 10" Dob: My scope of choice for dark-sky star parties. This was my first Craigslist purchase ever. Prior owners did the service of breaking in the scope for me: it has its fair share of dings and scratches, and I see it as my clunker scope. But it delivers where it counts. I've gotten really satisfying views of a wide variety of DSOs in this scope. It was my cure for aperture fever: I don't think I'd want to go bigger than this one.
- 90mm f/11 achromatic refractor: The scope that introduced me to the addictiveness of clean, unobstructed apertures. Its forgiving focal ratio limits whatever false color an achromat puts up to a minimum. Contrasty views of the Moon are standard fare for this scope. I actually got this thinking that I'd use it exclusively for white-light solar observing with a Herschel wedge, and it sees a lot of action in this capacity. Even during solar minimum, being able to see the crackle of photospheric granulation fascinates me. I use it secondarily as a planetary scope, as I find that the views in my 4" Mak and C8 are better in this department.
- 60mm Lunt dedicated H-alpha solar scope with double-stack module: Since witnessing the 2017 solar eclipse, I've seen my observing habits shift towards solar. Indeed, about three-fifths of all my observing sessions occur during the day. There is nothing quite like observing the day-to-day changes in the chromosphere.
- My 1962 Questar.
For a number of years, I had been fascinated by Questars. Their jewel-like appearance and surrounding lore especially from their earlier years fascinated me, and I can't resist superb pieces of precision craftsmanship in small packages. But given the fact that my observing interests lie mainly with solar astronomy, I was more than a bit reluctant to plow thousands of dollars into something like a Questar when I thought that putting money towards better gear for viewing the Sun would serve me better.
Not too long ago, however, a well priced, cosmetically excellent, but optically distressed early Questar came my way. It was my opportunity, so I thought, to own a little piece of amateur astronomy history on a shoestring. When I bought it, I never expected to use it as a serious observing instrument. After working through some mechanical kinks, it was on the receiving end of my admiration, but it more or less just sat there for a month or two waiting to get used.
Those first few observing sessions with my Questar utterly confounded my expectations. I was amazed how well it could resolve Jupiter and Saturn even with its failed coatings. To be sure, even a storied telescope like the Questar can't break the laws of physics: the view that its 90mm of aperture offered was much dimmer compared to what my C8's 203mm of aperture can do. But I was astounded how such a small scope could produce such a detailed, well-resolved view of the planets. Perhaps more importantly, the experience of handling a self-contained, fully-mounted scope that switches from finder mode to low power and to high power, all with the mere flick of a small lever, makes for a decidedly unique observing experience compared to more conventional scopes with all the typical standardized eyepieces and accessories. It's such a delight to use.
Over the course of time that it's been in my possession, my Questar has gone from being a mere curiosity to something that I see as a serious observing instrument with features that no other telescope offers. I'm at the point now where I'm trying to rationalize putting resources into fixing up its optical shortcomings and mechanical flaws. I still do appreciate it even its current condition. It's kind of the Charlie Brown Christmas tree of telescopes: I can't help but smile every time I see it. But it would be a pity to relegate such a nifty scope as my Questar to second-class status over the long term. I think it's only a matter of time until I bring myself to put work into it and make it a first-rate, fully-functional observing instrument. As the years go by, I can completely see how my Questar would stay with me even as my herd of telescopes thins.