I purchased a used TV76 a few months ago to use as a wide-field, grab-n-go in my Bortle 7 back yard. This past weekend, I brought it with me for my first visit to GMARS in Landers, CA. I was initially going to bring my 5”, but decided to start with the little 3” to make the trip less stressful. No heavy mount. No big tri-pod. No big scope.
GMARS is classified as class 3 skies, but just barely. The Light pollution map says the site has SQM = 21.73, Just barely making it Bortle 3. Regardless, just looking up at the much darker skies was a treat compared to my back yard.
The TV76 was mounted on a Tele-Pod mount with a small carbon fiber tripod. No tracking, go-to, or DSC to help find my targets. Just a pair of Tasco 110s brought by fellow star-gazer and a couple star maps. Once the sun set, my first target was M1 in the eastern sky. Hey, why not start at the beginning, right? However, with the sky not quite dark enough to identify the Crab, I had to move on.
With the help of another comrade who has a lot more experience then I do, I got my first look at M37 in Auriga. Oh my goodness! I found myself saying that a lot during the night. I simply couldn’t believe how many stars this little 3” was showing me with a 17mm Morpheus. At 27x with a 2.8* TFOV, I was in awe. From there, I nudged the scope up to find M36 and then M38. While M36 and M38 didn’t have the same pow as M37. I was very pleased with the views.
From there, I pushed the scope towards the zenith to catch the double cluster. Again, I was ooing and awing at how much detail this little guy shows in dark skies. And the stars were tack sharp, despite my optometrist telling me the day before that I had to go see the ophthalmologist on Monday to fix a small tear in the retina of my right eye. I sat and stared at the double cluster for quite some time. It never looked this good in my back yard.
Next up was M31. Why not?.... I’ve looked at this in my 5” many times from the back yard and it always showed up as a rather large smudge with not much to look at beyond the core. Well, again, I was surprised at just how much I was able to see. I think the galaxy filled about half the FOV. At this point, I was incredibly happy with my decision to just bring the 76. It made me realize just how little one needs to see some really incredible stuff without all the light pollution.
I spent the rest of the night viewing:
M42 - simply awesome. Tried to resolve the E star in the trapezium, but with 96x and retina problems, no luck. Maybe next time.
Splitting the Castor double with my 11mm DeLite at 44x and then making it look like the headlights of on oncoming car at 96x. So cool!
Splitting the Mizar double with the 11mm DeLite was a treat, too.
Pleiades - WOW!
M44 (the Beehive)- Sweet!
M48 - Sweet!
Orion’s belt - I simply couldn’t believe how many stars surround the 3 bright ones. Who knew?!
In total, I spent about 3 hours observing before it got too cold... didn’t anticipate that. Trying to look through an eyepiece while shivering doesn’t work so well. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to go back to M1. But all in all, I can’t wait to get back out GMARS with this little gem. If anyone has any doubts as to what a 3” refractor will show you, leave them at home. My next purchase is a logbook to keep track of what I’ve seen with this little guy.... no doubt in my mind I’m gonna fill a lot of pages.
Clear (dark) skies!
Edited by StarAlert, 29 January 2020 - 01:06 PM.