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How portable is a Big Dobsonian really?

beginner dob observing reflector
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#1 darkmatter14B

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Posted 09 July 2020 - 08:07 PM

Hi.  I'm looking to buy a new/first/novice scope.    I think I'm all about viewing and aperture and don't want to be underwhelmed, so I'm giving a hard look things like 12 inch collapsable Dobsonians from Sky-Watcher or Orion.   

 

The thing is, I live in a townhouse in the San Francisco Bay Area  and don't really have a backyard for viewing, but lots of open space and hills are less than a mile away.  Obviously, lot's of light pollution too.   So, I would have to move the scope around to do any viewing.......and that's the main constraint I have.    So I guess my question is if anyone has experience with moving these kind of scopes around and is it doable/advisable?    


 

#2 kfiscus

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Posted 09 July 2020 - 08:19 PM

Welcome.  Some slightly personal questions:  How strong are you?  How tall are you?  How's your back?  I have two 12-inch scopes (one solid and one truss) and a 16-inch truss dob.  I'm 5'8" and in good shape with a healthy back.  Moving a dob is quite awkward at first but you learn tricks.  It's a balance and dance.  Muscle memory really kicks in and pretty soon a 12-inch scope is no big deal (especially when you buy a 16" later...).


Edited by kfiscus, 09 July 2020 - 08:41 PM.

 

#3 halx

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Posted 09 July 2020 - 08:21 PM

Welcome to the forum!

A 12" is the Ultimate choice! Anything less is boring, trust me I saw them all.
Why a collapsible? They are actually several kilos heavier than a full OTA. I believe 12" is of a perfect size and weight for an adult to operate in any conditions. But surely depends on your fit and age. Some folks can't lift a 8"... I'm living in similar conditions and location as you are. No single issue moving my scope around the apartment complex (doors, stairs, elevators). To make it safer for the scope I've made a cradle: Part I, Part II, Part III It can traverse stairs too (in the sled mode).

 

Update: Dancing it is, Ken! Just add a rope handle (see my blog as well) and you can hold and carry it vertically by "waist" grin.gif 
Seriously, with my wheeled cradle I forgot these dancing lessons already...


Edited by halx, 09 July 2020 - 10:19 PM.

 

#4 Diomedes

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Posted 09 July 2020 - 08:41 PM

Another thing to consider is how big your car is. I have a honda civic and I had just enough space to fit my 8" Dob with mount. A question that I failed to ask myself when getting my dob, and CPC8 is "How much weight I'm I willing to carry after a night of observing ?" carrying the telescope to the site is usually not a big issue because of the excitement of being out observing. But coming back tired/sleepy the scope seems to weight twice as much. 


 

#5 Echolight

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Posted 09 July 2020 - 08:43 PM

Probably need at least a small SUV or minivan to easily fit the base in. For a 12 inch.


Edited by Echolight, 09 July 2020 - 08:44 PM.

 

#6 Xeroid

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Posted 09 July 2020 - 08:45 PM

Do you have a hand truck to move that Dob?

 

If not, Fuggittabooutit a Dob, get a Celestron C8 and a Alt-Az mount, far easier, faster to move it from your townhouse.


 

#7 jim kuhns

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Posted 09 July 2020 - 08:45 PM

Personally with the conditions you have described I would buy a 8" dob F/6.
A lot lighter,less room in your townhouse to take up space. much easier to move,
depending if you have to transport in a car which I take you will have to do easier
to get in and out, I could on but I know you have to make the decision .

Edited by jim kuhns, 09 July 2020 - 08:47 PM.

 

#8 hcf

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Posted 09 July 2020 - 08:50 PM

Do you have a balcony/patio at the townhouse with part of the sky visible? If so, you might be able to observe from it.

 

Do you have to go up and down stairs ?

 

You are going to have to drive to your viewing spot, so look at the sizes carefully. The OTA (scope tube) will have to fit in the back seat and the base on the front passenger seat of a regular car.

 

You can build a "dob dolly" to help you move the assembled scope around at your target location.


Edited by hcf, 09 July 2020 - 08:51 PM.

 

#9 S.Boerner

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Posted 09 July 2020 - 08:53 PM

I've got the SW 12" collapsible goto and I love it, BUT If you plan on moving it any distance you need an SUV or minivan because I don't think the base will fit through the back doors of a sedan.  When you get to your viewing location if you have to move it any more than 20 feet you need a dolly.  It isn't that heavy, but it is that awkward...sure it has handles, but the base bangs your legs and the eyepiece holder pokes you.

 

You said townhouse...are you planning on storing the scope on the ground level with easy access to your car?  I'd hate to schlep it up and down steps every time I wanted to use mine.

 

One really good thing is it sets up/tears down really quickly.


 

#10 Tony Flanders

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Posted 09 July 2020 - 08:55 PM

Curious, when I read the title, I was thinking of 20 inches, 24 inches ... To me, a 12-incher doesn't count as a Big Dob.

 

Having said that, a 12-inch Dob is quite a beast. Yes, a typical adult male can carry one in two pieces, but it's definitely a bit of a strain. Just carrying the mirror box of my 12.5-inch semi-truss-tube Dob up and down one flight of stairs is enough of a job so that I often end up using my 7-incher instead. Whenever I'm carrying it, there's always this thought somewhere ... what if I strain my back?

 

On the whole, I do not recommend a 12-incher as a first telescope. A 10-incher is vastly more portable, and still gathers 70% as much light as the 12-incher. Not a trivial difference, but not a huge one, either.

 

Besides, if you start with a 12-incher, what are you going to do when you want a bigger scope? smile.gif

 

As for being underwhelmed -- there's two kinds of people, the ones who are cut out to be observers and the ones who aren't. People who are really eager to get down and dirty and do some serious work aren't likely to be underwhelmed by the views through any telescope, no matter how small. Conversely, people who want gee-whiz technicolor views aren't going to last very long in astronomy. No matter how big your telescope is, you're going to run out of gee-whiz objects pretty soon.


 

#11 havasman

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Posted 09 July 2020 - 09:08 PM

I don't want to carry a 12" a mile. And if I'm going to load it up in the car I'm going to drive until it's dark and observe there.


 

#12 vdog

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Posted 09 July 2020 - 09:16 PM

Personally with the conditions you have described I would buy a 8" dob F/6.
A lot lighter,less room in your townhouse to take up space. much easier to move,
depending if you have to transport in a car which I take you will have to do easier
to get in and out, I could on but I know you have to make the decision .

I would have to agree with this.  If you don't have anywhere to observe at home an 8" would be much easier to transport somewhere.  And you're going to be dealing with some pretty significant light pollution even in the rural areas around the Bay so the farther you can get out of town, the better.
 


Edited by vdog, 09 July 2020 - 09:17 PM.

 

#13 Sam M

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Posted 09 July 2020 - 09:33 PM

I never take the 12" dob out near my light polluted house, unless it's a perfect night for planets (a few times a year).  It goes to dark sites.  It's moveable, but it's a pain, and if it's your only option, you'll skip observing some times because you don't feel like dragging it out, and waiting for the mirror to cool down. My 8" is out in the yard all the time.  It's a very capable scope, surprisingly good.  You might consider a 10" F5.  The 10" OTA is the same length as an 8" F6, so it'll fit across the back seat of a compact car, or in the trunk.  Some kind of strap handle on the OTA makes it much easier to handle.


 

#14 vtornado

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Posted 09 July 2020 - 09:50 PM

Hello, have the skywatcher 300P (12 inch) collapisble dob.

 

I really like it.  The shorter tube length does make moving it by hand easier than a solid tube. 

I move mine in two pieces, and I custom built the base so I can't tell you how big and heavy the base is.

IIRC, the tube weighs 50 lbs, and is 38 inches tall???

 

I can carry this tube about 100-200 feet before needing a break (back or front yard).  Over that and I use a cart, taking it to a local park.

 

As Diomedes says 50 lbs doesn't sound like a lot if it is a barbell, but carrying a bulky thing, in the dark when you are tired,

over rough and dewy ground (where did that gopher hole come from).  Is right at the limit of my patience.

As someone else asked about stairs.   I have three steps up to my house and I have to open the door at night while carrying the tube

(gulp).

 

I can carry an 8 inch dob in one piece much farther (not a mile).  

 

Another thing to consider is thermal issues.  The skywatcher has no fan.  It takes 60-90 minutes for the mirror to cool 20 degrees.

You can add a fan your self if you are into tinkering.  Medium and high power images are mush until the mirror cools.

 

The collapsible design holds collimation during the session, but I find I have to collimate both the secondary and the primary each

time I use it.  I replaced the secondary screws with hex cap bolts I can finger turn for quick adjustment.  And the primary is a large adjustment compared to the small tweak I have to give my solid tube dob.

 

I am not trying to poo-poo the 12, just go into it with your eyes open.


 

#15 RKK

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Posted 09 July 2020 - 10:05 PM

Do you have a hand truck to move that Dob?

 

If not, Fuggittabooutit a Dob, get a Celestron C8 and a Alt-Az mount, far easier, faster to move it from your townhouse.

Xeroid makes a great suggestion.  And I have a C6, easy to move around and I also have a 20" f5 Classic Obsession.  The Obsession mirror box and mirror will fit in the back of my 2005 Jeep Wrangler, the Secondary cage goes in the passenger seat, and the tubes go in the over head rack.  Not exactly what I would claim to be easy but it does give some great views when I take it to the dark.  I guess it depends on what you are willing to do.  The Obsession is easier to move than my Z12 was, that was like moving a water heater ,until I bought a hand truck.   


Edited by RKK, 09 July 2020 - 10:07 PM.

 

#16 halx

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Posted 09 July 2020 - 10:45 PM

A typical 12" 1:5 full OTA fits a normal sedan just fine with the base. In a worst case you might add a standard roof rack and a cradle like mine (see the link in the above post). Same cradle perfectly working in the field to drag it over grassy hills from the car camp to the open spot (been doing that on our CalStar outings many times arriving late, it's easy to trip over bushes dancing with the OTA in hands in the dark there).
 

Don't worry about the home storage either. I'll show you the "velcro dots mod" for the mirror cell which I'm using for over a decade, in particular, it allows to store it in the regular closet standing vertically with the mirror facing down. Minimal footprint, still below the coat hanger rail in the typical wall closet even when fitted atop of the regular Dob base, and also the minimal possible primary mirror surface exposure to dust, crawlers, and other unforeseen incidents when stored.

Most folks can't realize that the weight of the typical 12" OTA is laughable as soon as you add proper handles (rope handles I've mentioned above are an ultimate solution as you can grab them anywhere in many ways and create a comfortable and reliable harness to haul it even on your back (and yes, I did once for over a mile alone).

 

The urban light pollution is in fact dictating the larger aperture, as it allows higher magnifications to darken the glow and gathers more light to work well with NB filters.

Go for it! Only after I got a 12" aperture I have finally reached that amazing feeling of being able peering really deep into the Universe with my own eyes. Even larger scopes will definitely show you some more (I've been working with refractors up to 12" and reflectors up to 60"), but the 12" felt like a "photons phase transition", not just some 30% increase from a 10". I'm sometimes feeling very sorry for the folks stopped at 10 or 8", they are missing so much joy... bawling.gif


Edited by halx, 09 July 2020 - 10:54 PM.

 

#17 Don W

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Posted 09 July 2020 - 10:55 PM

I  have always said that anything up to 10" is portable. Anything above 12" is TRANS-portable.


 

#18 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 09 July 2020 - 11:26 PM

My two cents:

 

I've owned Dobs from 6 inches to 25 inches and currently own Dobs ranging from 10 inches to 22 inches. 

 

I think a 8-10 inch is a sweet spot for a tube Dob. If you're going up and down stairs, I'd probably lean towards the 8 inch.  I do not have stairs or any real issues so the 10 inch works nicely for me.

 

There'll be time for a bigger scope but right now, easy to use is important.. get your feet wet.

 

I like what Tony Flanders wrote..

 

"As for being underwhelmed -- there's two kinds of people, the ones who are cut out to be observers and the ones who aren't. People who are really eager to get down and dirty and do some serious work aren't likely to be underwhelmed by the views through any telescope, no matter how small. Conversely, people who want gee-whiz technicolor views aren't going to last very long in astronomy. No matter how big your telescope is, you're going to run out of gee-whiz objects pretty soon."

 

This is wisdom, this is reality. There'll be times when I'm just enjoying the view through the 50 mm finder that's mounted on the 16 inch or the 22 inch. And I spend a lot of time with 80 mm and 100 refractors..

 

the magic is there in the eyepiece. In reality, the magic is something that I bring with me..

 

Jon


 

#19 darkmatter14B

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Posted 10 July 2020 - 12:50 AM

Wow!! What a wonderful forum, so many thoughtful replies in a short amount of time!!!!

 

Just to clarify and address some questions, I wouldn't actually be carrying anything 1 mile, I would drive and then most likely carry the scope 50ft or so.  I just meant to say that while my front/backyard is less than ideal for stargazing, I have tons of wide open space within a mile of my home.   On my back patio, most of the sky is blocked by either a row of 2-story houses on one side or tall trees on the other side, but there is a small swath of open sky to the south west, so there are things to observe, it's just a somewhat limited field of view.    I have a honda pilot, most of these scopes should fit if I lay the seats down I think.   And I have a 2 car garage that's plenty big enough for storage.    I'm 6 ft tall and fit, should be strong enough so that the actual weight of any of these scopes shouldn't be a deal breaker....more likely pure laziness would be the real nemesis........and that's where easy of use factors in heavily.  

 

I do appreciate the wisdom in what Flanders wrote...I just don't know which one I am yet. 

 

Under normal circumstances, I would attend one of the many Astronomy Clubs around the bay area and try out some different scopes to get a feel for them, but can't really do it with this Covid19 mess.    I'll chew on what everyone has said and let you know what happens.......I'm intrigued by the idea of carrying straps/ropes and scope cradles.    Like some people mentioned, something like a Nexstar 8 is a strong contender .......but, idk, I can't get the bigger Dobs out of my head for some reason.      Maybe I should call scope city or a similar place and see if they have a few I can actually look at in real time.  

 

Many thanks. 


Edited by darkmatter14B, 10 July 2020 - 12:58 AM.

 

#20 Redbetter

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Posted 10 July 2020 - 01:09 AM

This is probably a good time to ask what the original poster's observing expectations are? 

 

With "lots of light pollution" as described, I don't see DSO's as being particularly rewarding targets even with a 12".   Only higher surface brightness targets are left after accounting for light pollution. However, if a person is planning to drive to a location with darker sky for long sessions, then that is a different proposition.   This might not have any impact on your portability considerations, but if it does, and transportability requires a size or two smaller (e.g. 8 or 10"), then I suspect you would be considerably happier with the smaller aperture and taking it to a rural location. 

 

Note that I am not of the "either/or" persuasion, more of an "and" approach since I instead do both:  I use a truly large Dob and drive it roughly an hour each way to dark sky for a night of observing.   But for many folks the logistics of what I do are not manageable.  


 

#21 Bowlerhat

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Posted 10 July 2020 - 01:48 AM

Under normal circumstances, I would attend one of the many Astronomy Clubs around the bay area and try out some different scopes to get a feel for them, but can't really do it with this Covid19 mess.    I'll chew on what everyone has said and let you know what happens.......I'm intrigued by the idea of carrying straps/ropes and scope cradles.    Like some people mentioned, something like a Nexstar 8 is a strong contender .......but, idk, I can't get the bigger Dobs out of my head for some reason.      Maybe I should call scope city or a similar place and see if they have a few I can actually look at in real time.  

Don't you have dobs on star parties, why not try lifting one up? Or why don't go to telescope stores on SF Bay area?

 

Large scopes can have a dolly and even collapsible truss. But it's a matter of expectation. A good scope is the one you use the most, and a hefty scope kills the hobby fast. There are tons of old dobs being traded because people stopped being able to carry them around.


 

#22 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 10 July 2020 - 03:26 AM

Don't you have dobs on star parties, why not try lifting one up? Or why don't go to telescope stores on SF Bay area?

 

Large scopes can have a dolly and even collapsible truss. But it's a matter of expectation. A good scope is the one you use the most, and a hefty scope kills the hobby fast. There are tons of old dobs being traded because people stopped being able to carry them around.

 

Covid-19.. There are no star parties. Scope Stores, I would not go..

 

Regarding scope size and use: My most used scopes are my two largest, the 16 inch and the 22 inch. Yes, they're a bit more hassle but the anticipation and the excitement of the evening ahead with a large scope more than overcomes any concern in that department. Of course, my situation is ideal, open the garage door, roll the scopes out, it takes less than 5 minutes.

 

If someone told you that you'd be spending the night with large scope.. most people would be excited, I sure am.. and it happens 100+ nights a year.

 

I do appreciate the wisdom in what Flanders wrote...I just don't know which one I am yet.

 

 

And you won't until you actually get involved with actual observing, spending time under the night sky with a telescope.  The hardships and obstacles are many, cold, windy sleepless nights or maybe short humid nights surrounded by mosquitoes. Planned trips that result in a week of cloudy skies and 3 hours of observing. And the thrills, they're subtle, a small faint object that's barely visible.. 

 

Why am I up at 1:10 am waiting to setup to view comet Neowise for the 6th morning in a row?

 

I must be witched, there must be some kind of magic in that eyepiece because no sane person would do it. smile.gif

 

The wisdom for you in Tony's advice is that scope doesn't really matter, if you've got the persistence and curiosity, the spirit, the mind, and heart that it takes, any scope will be fine. If not.. no telescope will be enough. My first scope.. $5 at a garage sale, that's what I could afford. It wasn't much but it was more than enough.. a tiny patch on f nebulosity in that broken down 60 mm Refractor was all it took and I was hooked.

 

I recommend not starting with a large scope. Start with something manageable, you don't learn to drive in a Peterbuilt, there's time for that.

 

Jon


 

#23 Bowlerhat

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Posted 10 July 2020 - 03:44 AM

Covid-19.. There are no star parties. Scope Stores, I would not go..

Ah, I forgot. This year surely is different..


 

#24 Tony Flanders

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Posted 10 July 2020 - 04:38 AM

This is probably a good time to ask what the original poster's observing expectations are? 
 
With "lots of light pollution" as described, I don't see DSO's as being particularly rewarding targets even with a 12".   Only higher surface brightness targets are left after accounting for light pollution. However, if a person is planning to drive to a location with darker sky for long sessions, then that is a different proposition.


Well, there's one class of DSOs where a 12-incher might be significantly more rewarding than a 10-incher, even in heavily light-polluted skies: namely, globular clusters. The brightest globulars do resolve dozens of individual stars in a 12-incher even under very heavy light pollution. Many fewer in a 10-incher, and fewer still in an 8-incher.

 

However, we're talking a grand total of perhaps a dozen objects. The remaining globs won't resolve well under light-polluted skies unless you use even more than 12 inches. And to some extent, an unresolved glob is an unresolved glob; the view through an 8-incher and a 12-incher isn't all that different.
 
Aside from globular clusters, I agree with this post. The classic big-scope targets are galaxies, and with a tiny handful of exceptions, in heavily light-polluted skies galaxies aren't going to show any detail at all even in a 24-inch scope, much less a 12-incher. If you want to see them well, you need to travel to dark skies.

 

There are, however, some reasonably dark sites within an hour or two drive from most peripheral Bay Area locations. And I gather from the description in the original post that the original poster does not live in The City itself, nor in (say) Oakland.


 

#25 Paul Sweeney

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Posted 10 July 2020 - 05:23 AM

I would not recommend a 12 jnch dob as a first scope. I would go with a used 8 inch dob. A small investment, and when you have gotten used to it, you can easily sell it and move up. That is what I did. The difference in performance is huge. But the hassle factor also goes up.

My 8 inch dob was easy to use, easy to collimate while sitting at the eyepiece, easy to transport, and cool down was fast with the fan. It was easier to set up than a refractor, went deeper and was a real joy to use.

The 12 inch dob is a beast. It is nowhere near as easy to use or to collimate. It is heavy, awkward to maneuver around and cools more slowly. I have a Subaru Forrester and it fills the back. So now, unless I am out for the night, it gets little use. And when you go to a dark site, you need another smaller scope so you can observe while the 12 inch dob is cooling.

Don't get me wrong. My 12 inch dob is fantastic. It blows an 8 inch dob out of the water. I want to get a bigger one. But the logistics are far higher than with an 8 incher and, in my opinion, not the right scope for a beginner.
 


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