Jump to content

  •  

CNers have asked about a donation box for Cloudy Nights over the years, so here you go. Donation is not required by any means, so please enjoy your stay.

Photo

How Do You Use Your Questar?

  • Please log in to reply
12 replies to this topic

#1 Gregory Gross

Gregory Gross

    Mariner 2

  • -----
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 248
  • Joined: 13 May 2017
  • Loc: Pacific Northwest

Posted 25 September 2019 - 12:45 PM

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.


  • Erik Bakker, sgorton99, ianatcn and 3 others like this

#2 Optics Patent

Optics Patent

    Surveyor 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 1838
  • Joined: 30 Oct 2016
  • Loc: Dallas TX

Posted 25 September 2019 - 02:29 PM

  • I roll out the Seven almost as easily as taking two trips to carry a tripod then a 3.5.  It's the go-to scope.
  • 3.5 is a travel scope, including visiting local friends with darker skies beyond the glare, solar eclipse travel, and distant vacations including watching the boats from the balcony in Hawaii.  I hesitate to take a 50th or vintage model.
  • The special ones are archived and soon will be displayed in my office.
  • An owner of a rollable Seven needs to ask himself when he'll really use a Q5 to justify the greatest scope investment to date (exceeding a Q7 restoration).  Upgrading the view for the road-portable scope is probably the answer (not a handy carry-on like the 3.5 in a Pelican) 


#3 Loren Gibson

Loren Gibson

    Vostok 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 194
  • Joined: 04 Jun 2013
  • Loc: Northern Florida, USA

Posted 25 September 2019 - 03:40 PM

Great post! I have five scopes in the arsenal right now. Purchases in recent years are driven by a combination of my starting to become “temporally challenged,” and by practical matters of my wife’s and my home at the time. In order of increasing use, my scopes, and how I like to use them, are as follows:

  • Orion 5” f/5 Newtonian on the EQ2 mount: Purchased c. 8 years ago for my previous living situation. I could carry it, fully assembled, outside through a wide sliding glass door into the yard, ready to use. Nice scope, fine views, huge bang for the buck, but it has not been used since relocating.
     
  • C8 on either an EQ5, Desert Sky Astro DSV-1, or DSV-2: My current idea of a “light bucket.” Unlike my first C8 (which was purchased over 40 years ago), it’s a bit temperamental about collimation, which is an annoyance, but I get it out from time to time, usually for DSOs. Planetary views can be awesome, too, provided that it’s properly cooled down and the seeing is very good.
     
  • William Optics Megrez 90FD on EQ5, DSV-1, or DSV-2: Does the saying, “from my cold dead fingers” apply to telescopes? It sure does! I never tire of viewing any subject through this telescope. It’s the reason my C8 stays in the barn a lot more than it otherwise would. The M90FD is operationally more versatile than the Questar Standard in some respects (e.g., access to the whole sky, wide field viewing), and with a bit more light throughput. Like the Q, it begs you for more magnification on those subjects suited for high magnification. It’s easy to use this scope to find and view bright planets in the daylight sky with the altazimuth mounts and an inclinometer, which I find to be very enjoyable. (My EQ5 is not easily used for that purpose, due to poorly implemented setting circles.)
     
  • Questar Standard (standard coatings, AC synchronous motor drive, full-aperture solar filter) on Tristand: It’s my home observatory telescope. It’s my hands-down favorite for viewing the Sun, with absolutely amazing detail on display (seeing permitting, of course). For this, I credit the quality of the scope optics and of the filter. Being able to find and automatically track planets in the daytime is wonderful, possible due to the Q’s well-implemented setting circles (together with the know-how on to polar align the Q in daylight). I love sitting on a task chair behind the Tristand to use the Q for long intervals, without tiring. I definitely like the thread-in Brandon eyepieces. I own, and have used, all six focal lengths. Suppression of scattered light by the the scope’s internal physical components is very, very good, much better than my old Meade ETX 90, although probably not quite as good as my Megrez. All the other well-known attributes of the Q. are absolutely true.
     
  • Astro-Tech 60ED on Orion Tritech II tripod, StellarVue MV1 mount head: Maybe about a dozen pounds fully dressed? It is a true (for me) grab-and-go outfit, and can be carried outside and around the yard, as needed, with a couple of eyepieces in my pocket. It suffers somewhat from field curvature and the owner’s aging, less-than-accommodating eyes, but it’s instant gratification with otherwise very, very fine views at all magnifications. It’s also good for finding bright planets in the daytime sky (e.g., Venus 7 degrees from the Sun shortly before high noon). My current dark-sky sites are such that this is my travel scope to those places, believe it or not.

I heartily endorse the Q for white-light solar observing, which you indicated was a favorite activity for you. Back in south Florida (excellent seeing and younger eyes, ha ha), I used to use all magnifications, including the 6mm Brandon with the barlow, on the Sun. I was floored by detail I could see in the penumbras within large, complex sunspot groups, and by the relative ease of seeing granulation. Depending upon your feelings as you continue to use your new acquisition, you may want to get the optics recoated and get a new solar filter, definitely full aperture, if solar viewing is important and if budget permits.

 

Enjoy your new (to you) Questar.

 

Loren


  • JamesMStephens likes this

#4 Gregory Gross

Gregory Gross

    Mariner 2

  • -----
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 248
  • Joined: 13 May 2017
  • Loc: Pacific Northwest

Posted 25 September 2019 - 04:37 PM

Re-reading what I wrote in the opening posting, I somewhat muddled what I was trying to get across in terms of how I use my Questar. I find myself being drawn to that instrument mainly for lunar and planetary viewing. Since I have more specialized solar observing gear--and since I've been reluctant to trust early 1960s gear for looking at the Sun (I am very paranoid with solar observing)--I actually haven't attempted to look at the Sun with the off-axis solar filter that I have. In fact, I have never looked at the Sun in any Questar. (More on that below....)
 
I've successfully located some of the brighter showcase objects in my Questar thanks to using the setting circles (M13 and M11 come to mind), but they tend appear merely as dim gray hazes at the eyepiece. I've only been able to resolve M11 using averted vision. But I hasten to add that I am suspending final judgment considering the poor condition of my optics. I know I can resolve things like M13 and M11 in my Synta-built 4" Mak especially under darker skies. Even under my suburban skies at home, I should also be able to do so in a Q with good optics. I'm sure the failed coatings on my corrector are significantly reducing light throughput.
 
I should add that I saw usage of my Questar really take off after I built a somewhat crude but very stable and effective equatorial wedge.
 
Questar on Equatorial Wedge


 
 

  • I roll out the Seven almost as easily as taking two trips to carry a tripod then a 3.5.  It's the go-to scope.
  • 3.5 is a travel scope, including visiting local friends with darker skies beyond the glare, solar eclipse travel, and distant vacations including watching the boats from the balcony in Hawaii.  I hesitate to take a 50th or vintage model.
  • The special ones are archived and soon will be displayed in my office.
  • An owner of a rollable Seven needs to ask himself when he'll really use a Q5 to justify the greatest scope investment to date (exceeding a Q7 restoration).  Upgrading the view for the road-portable scope is probably the answer (not a handy carry-on like the 3.5 in a Pelican) 

Interesting how your Seven is your most-used Questar. I can only imagine what the views are like in that scope. Maybe similar to a C8 and then some? Or somewhere between a C8 and a seven-inch long-focus refractor? I very much enjoy using my C8, but it is missing that certain je ne sais quoi at the eyepiece in terms of planetary contrast and pinpoint sharpness especially with globular clusters. Still, one often hears that the venerable C8 is pretty good at everything, and my experience confirms that. I'd expect a Q7 to deliver the same experience plus a whole lot more.

 

As far as a Q5 goes, I would think that this is your opportunity to buy not only a brand new Questar but also a new scope from a brand new line of Questars. Kind of like getting the first Field Models or Duplexes as they initially rolled off the assembly line. There will not likely be another similar opportunity in a while. So, if one has the means, go for it.

 
 

<snip>

  • Questar Standard (standard coatings, AC synchronous motor drive, full-aperture solar filter) on Tristand: It’s my home observatory telescope. It’s my hands-down favorite for viewing the Sun, with absolutely amazing detail on display (seeing permitting, of course). For this, I credit the quality of the scope optics and of the filter. Being able to find and automatically track planets in the daytime is wonderful, possible due to the Q’s well-implemented setting circles (together with the know-how on to polar align the Q in daylight). I love sitting on a task chair behind the Tristand to use the Q for long intervals, without tiring. I definitely like the thread-in Brandon eyepieces. I own, and have used, all six focal lengths. Suppression of scattered light by the the scope’s internal physical components is very, very good, much better than my old Meade ETX 90, although probably not quite as good as my Megrez. All the other well-known attributes of the Q. are absolutely true.
<snip>

 


I would love to have an opportunity to have a look at the Sun through a Questar with a full aperture filter that I trust. As I mentioned above, I'm shy about doing so with my '62 Q and off-axis filter. Too many things to go wrong (pinholes in the filter and lack of a proper solar filter for the finder lens are my chief concerns). I'm actually quite surprised to hear about your experience observing the Sun in as well-resolved detail as you've been able to achieve. Maybe this is an apples-to-oranges comparison, but I have a glass white light filter for my 4" Mak, and I've never been able to resolve anywhere near to the extent that I've been able to with my 90mm f/11 achromat and Lunt Herschel wedge. I simply assumed that any catadioptric with glass white light filter would not be able to match the experience that my Herschel wedge gives me. I may need to reassess that assumption and get some actual experience at the eyepiece of a properly-equipped Questar.
 
I also appreciate your comments about your full range of Brandon eyepieces. I think that, if I ever got to the point of overhauling my '62 Questar, I'd make getting at least three Brandons (32, 24, and 16mm) part of that upgrade. The 40-80x and 80-160x eyepieces, while historically interesting, aren't the most comfortable for me to use and give me too limited a range of magnifications especially in cases when I need to pick the best magnification for planetary observing under varying seeing conditions. I have long eyelashes and a heavier brow, so having the benefit of an eyecup as a sensory signal to myself that I'm about to make contact with the eye lens is also something I don't have at the moment.

 

I routinely debate options for future upgrades and restoration work, but at the moment that mental debate is purely academic. Still, I know that, eventually, I won't be able to resist doing so. At the moment, though, I'm getting tremendous enjoyment out of what I have (my Questar and other scopes). After having spent years gawking at Questars online, actually having one in my hands and being able to play with it and get a feel for it seems like a major accomplishment in itself.


  • ianatcn and Loren Gibson like this

#5 Loren Gibson

Loren Gibson

    Vostok 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 194
  • Joined: 04 Jun 2013
  • Loc: Northern Florida, USA

Posted 25 September 2019 - 06:33 PM

I have mentally compared the view I perceived of the Sun through my Questar with the high resolution images available at https://sdo.gsfc.nasa.gov/data/, the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) data page. In particular, either the HMI Intensitygram -- Flattened, or the HMI Intensitygram -- colored, available on that page. I can see all of the imaged features through the Questar (when seeing is excellent, of course). The differences are: 1) Color: In the Q the Sun's surface is maybe somewhere between the yellowish color of Flattened and the orange coloration of the "colored" image. 2) Granulation is clearly visible in the Q, usually at all magnifications (at low magnifications it looks more like a texture than a bunch of closely-spaced "dots"), but I'd say that granulation is a slightly subdued in the Q compared to the images. 3) I think sunspots actually looked better and sharper in the Q, and maybe even more detailed.

 

For viewing the Sun at the lower powers, I use a Brandon single polarizer filter at the eyepiece to attenuate the perceived brightness.

 

At one point I had dug down into the links on that SDO web site, and as I recall I found that the imaging sensor that captures the image data has about the same aperture as the Questar. Given that the SDO sensor doesn't have to contend with our atmosphere, I think that's pretty impressive for the Questar.

 

Loren


  • ianatcn likes this

#6 Gregory Gross

Gregory Gross

    Mariner 2

  • -----
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 248
  • Joined: 13 May 2017
  • Loc: Pacific Northwest

Posted 26 September 2019 - 12:09 AM

Well now I'm all the more intrigued. I would never have expected a 3.5" Questar, even with a full aperture solar filter, to show as much granulation as Loren describes. Makes me want to try out a Questar for solar observing.



#7 ianatcn

ianatcn

    Viking 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 515
  • Joined: 26 May 2010
  • Loc: Hampshire, UK

Posted 26 September 2019 - 11:16 AM

I use the full aperture solar filter on my Q50th together with the Questar variable polariser and diagonal in the axial port. The beauty of this setup is that I can vary the brightness level to match the eyepiece being used. Doing this ensures that granulation is visible most days. I am sure that having a comfortably bright image is important in seeing the granulation. Sunspots in this setup remind me of the solar etchings of James Nasmyth.

 

The Questar is my most used telescope for white light solar viewing.


Edited by ianatcn, 26 September 2019 - 11:19 AM.

  • Loren Gibson likes this

#8 Mike Allen

Mike Allen

    Mariner 2

  • *****
  • Posts: 297
  • Joined: 05 Jan 2008

Posted 28 September 2019 - 09:33 PM

I own various telescopes from 60mm to 15-inches.  Of these instruments, the most used are a 4-inch apo refractor on a pier mounted Losmsndy mount, and my 3.5-inch Questar with a tri-stand.  Both of these scopes have high quality glass with stunning contrast, but the one that causes me to smile the most, is the Questar.  The little Questar is so comfortable to use, and is so very portable.

 

I like to push the Questar to observe almost impossibly faint objects.  A couple of nights ago I picked off the 11.9 magnitude planetary ngc 6751 in Aquila.  I did this under my visual magnitude 5 sky.  That same night I spent over 4 hours at the eyepiece, observing objects deep in the southwest, to Cassiopeia behind my left shoulder in the northeast, and never once had to re-adjust my observing chair.  The internal finder, rotating eyepiece holder, and accurate setting circles made this possible.  

 

Observing double stars, especially colorful doubles, with this scope is my most enjoyable past time.  No other scope I have used or owned shows the beautiful gold and blue colors of gamma in Andromeda as well as the Questar.

 

I love taking this instrument to a dark sky site.  By doing so, you can “push the pedal to the metal” and accelerate into the  deepest of deep sky territory for a small scope.  My most memorable experience using this scope under a remote dark sky, was observing dark nebulae Barnard 92 and 93 inside the star cloud M24.  They looked like empty black eyes staring back at me from the abyss.


  • Erik Bakker, ianatcn, JMKarian and 3 others like this

#9 Pragmatist

Pragmatist

    Mariner 2

  • -----
  • Posts: 299
  • Joined: 12 Jun 2018
  • Loc: Suffolk, UK 🇬🇧

Posted 29 September 2019 - 01:12 PM

I got sick and tired of setting up large scopes for views of Saturn, Jupiter and the moon and as we Brits love nothing better than a good moan I decided to do something about it. The smaller scopes with their plasticy feel didn’t really do it for me and as I’d always seen Questar adverts in the old astronomy mags and lusted after them and having done an extraordinary amount of overtime I thought go for it. You only live once...(I think). The views I get of the 2major  planets and my beloved moon are amazing through the Q. Why would I need anything else. It satisfies my Astro urges big time. I

love it. It’s also small and amazingly well built. 


  • Erik Bakker, rcwolpert, Loren Gibson and 2 others like this

#10 JamesMStephens

JamesMStephens

    Viking 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 673
  • Joined: 25 Jan 2015
  • Loc: Hattiesburg, Mississippi

Posted 29 September 2019 - 03:59 PM

I got sick and tired of setting up large scopes for views of Saturn, Jupiter and the moon and as we Brits love nothing better than a good moan I decided to do something about it. The smaller scopes with their plasticy feel didn’t really do it for me and as I’d always seen Questar adverts in the old astronomy mags and lusted after them and having done an extraordinary amount of overtime I thought go for it. You only live once...(I think). The views I get of the 2major  planets and my beloved moon are amazing through the Q. Why would I need anything else. It satisfies my Astro urges big time. I

love it. It’s also small and amazingly well built. 

Good observation.  Add a few double stars to the mix!


  • Erik Bakker, Loren Gibson and Pragmatist like this

#11 BillHarris

BillHarris

    Messenger

  • -----
  • Posts: 455
  • Joined: 29 Nov 2017
  • Loc: northwest Alabama

Posted 30 September 2019 - 06:52 PM

My primary scope that I have been working on since 1980 is an 8" f/4 Wright-Newtonian reflector set up for deep sky astrophotography. It is wonderfully portable, but is still a couple of hundred pounds of gadgetry to tote around. I'm getting older and creakier and having a light and versatile scope to set up is a blessing. I enjoy setting the Questar on the Meade 880 tripod, plugging the power cord into an inverter and setting up my adjustable observing chair. I've gotten more into Lunar and Planetary observing (and photog), which is a nice change. The Questar has impeccable optics and everything works together so well.

#12 BillHarris

BillHarris

    Messenger

  • -----
  • Posts: 455
  • Joined: 29 Nov 2017
  • Loc: northwest Alabama

Posted 30 September 2019 - 06:53 PM

Oh, and I also use the Questar for birdwatching.
  • JamesMStephens likes this

#13 Mike Franzyshen

Mike Franzyshen

    Lift Off

  • -----
  • Posts: 18
  • Joined: 12 Apr 2008
  • Loc: Somerset, NJ

Posted 04 October 2019 - 12:39 PM

I use my Q 3.5" primarily for solar (white light), lunar and planetary viewing and an occasional double star here and there. This is also a great scope for public outreach and travels easily with a tri-stand.  The tri-stand makes the eyepiece very accessible for both adults and children.  


Edited by Mike Franzyshen, 04 October 2019 - 12:40 PM.



CNers have asked about a donation box for Cloudy Nights over the years, so here you go. Donation is not required by any means, so please enjoy your stay.


Recent Topics






Cloudy Nights LLC
Cloudy Nights Sponsor: Astronomics