After using my wife's 120x1000 Galileo with included eyepieces for the past few weeks, I caught the bug and ordered an Orion xt10 plus. I would rather have gotten the Apertura AD10 but they were out of stock until into December and I decided against waiting (I'm impatient when it comes to toys).
Assembly wasn't too bad... just put the base together (less than an hour while trying to keep my 3 kids from breaking or losing something), and drop the tube on. Collimate with included cap. Actually, after checking the secondary with the cap, I put my laser collimator in and adjusted the primary with that. Today, I think I'll cross check the laser with the cap to see if they agree. There was some slop with the laser as it sits in the 2" to 1.25" adapter so changing the tightening screws moved the return beam around quite a bit.
So at first glance, it kind of resembles a water heater. Fortunately I have a dolly to move it around.
First target was the first quarter'ish moon. It was still light out but I was done waiting! The scope comes with a 2" 28mm and a 1.25 10mm. I used the 28mm and was blown away by the detail. To be fair, I had not viewed the moon with the 5", or rather it was about 20 years ago so hardly a fair comparison. But I don't remember this much detail. Incredible. I just had time for a quick peak and then had to go inside to do some things. I caught another peak 15 minutes later and dropped in the 10mm. Seeing was pretty bad and I could see the boiling light a bit so I switched back to the 28 which allowed me to see the whole sphere, even the dark side was had a surprising amount of detail.
I tried the 10mm on Saturn and Jupiter, but again, there was little detail and contrast, as if the image was out of focus, even at perfect focus. Saturn looked pretty impressive at 28mm though. Quite sharp, but almost totally white. Did I see a moon or was that just a small star? I'll look again tonight... Also, all three are low on the horizon so not ideal.
After dinner, it was quite dark, for the neighborhood anyway. Bortle 7. I checked out Pleaides, M103, M52, M31 & M32. At one point I saw a meteorite zip through the fov. That was pretty cool, but it looked about the same as if I had seen one naked eye. Quite dim and fast. At around 10, my quickfinder 2 started fogging up a bit but it was still useable. The bottom end of the ota was getting condensation on the outside, but the optics still appeared okay.
I attempted several objects including Iris Nebula, M74, and North America nebula, but no luck picking out anything recognizable as a DSO. I tried splitting Beta Ori but I have no idea what I'm doing or what I'm looking for. I did notice that when it's slightly out of focus, there are two groups of spikes, but when in focus, it was just a single blob. I could see a very faint and small speck next to the bright mass but I don't think that's what was causing the second group of spikes.
It was about 10pm and Orion was about 20 or 30 degrees above horizon so I turned to M42 and it was significantly brighter than in the 5" and I could see it spread out more. The stars in it were brighter. Small, but pleasant. The I tried the 10mm but the view did not improve significantly. I even snapped a pic with my cell that put some color in it and additional detail, that I was surprised to see. I used night mode which I assume takes a short video and blends the frames somehow. It was blurry though, either from hand movement or earth rotation.
My house is in a suburban neighborhood so it's impossible to not be looking over someone's house so I'm not sure how good of seeing I can expect from here given that, and the light pollution. I've read a lot of people say that aperture is king. I think dark skies are probably more important given my very brief experience, but we'll see if my opinion changes. I was able to locate a lot more taking my 5" to Bortle 5 than the 10" at Bortle 7.
Thoughts and Conclusions:
This 10" scope is quite huge and heavy. I can see how it would be much easier to leave it in the garage and take a night off of viewing instead of lugging it out, especially under less than ideal viewing conditions.
I was disappointed in the lenses. The 10mm has little eye relief and a narrow afov. I was expecting much more from the 28mm too, it being a 2". It's quite particular about where my eye is. If I'm off too much, it starts blacking out. Stars around the outer 30% start getting soft with coma, and at the outer 10% they are completely out of focus. This is frustrating when I'm scanning for a DSO because I can't tell if the object on the edge is the fuzzy I'm looking for, or if it's just an out of focus star. So I found myself chasing stars at the edge, interrupting my search pattern. I'm glad I have two quality lenses on the way. The wide ep that came with the Galileo (26mm?) was sharp edge to edge and forgiving with eye placement. I realize that at f/4.5, this scope is less forgiving though, than the f/8. I hope these new eyepieces (Pentax xw 7mm 70°, ES 11mm 82°) are sharp edge to edge and are comfortable to use. I also realize that I need a quality wide angle as well. Sooner rather than later.
Comparing the 5" on the tripod with the Dob mount is apples and oranges. The 5" is unstable, and has no fine control. It either jerks around or falls back when trying to either alt or az. It's very hard to center a target, especially at high mag. The Plus dob mount is quite smooth and easy to maneuver around. I had no issues centering or tracking objects, even with the 10mm Barlowed.... (240x). I'm very pleased with this as this was my major gripe about the 5".
However, using the tripod was much easier to view than the dob. The tripod is easy to use standing, and virtually all ep positions are easy to get to standing, horizon to zenith. The dob horizon view will have on your knees, and the zenith view will have you standing but hunched over. I will be building myself a Denver chair this weekend to remedy this.
On this same note, using the quickfinder 2 on targets near the zenith was a real neck breaker. It's challenging to lean over the tube and get my in the right spot while looking straight up. I felt like a failed contortionist. I think building a stand to get the base off the ground would alleviate this. Or an L spotting finder perhaps. Otherwise, I love the QF2. Oh crap, I forgot to turn it off from last night. Be right back (seriously).
Ok, that brings me to my biggest drawback of the QF. In the past two weeks, I have forgotten to turn it off all but one night. Fortunately it doesn't draw much power, but I wish there was a timeout on it. Those 2032 batteries aren't free.
I will be meeting up with a buddy Saturday at his bortle 4 location, so that will be a treat. I have to be honest, with the exception of the moon, I wasn't blown away with my night of viewing like I thought I'd be. I was expecting 4x more light coming in to be more obvious of a difference. I suspect this is a combination of the seeing and my light pollution. Time and experience will tell.
I plan to build the Denver chair, a small pedestal so I can stand more (I'm 6' 2"), and some sort of padded transport cradle that I can slide in and out of the SUV so I can leverage the weight on the bumper when I load and unload.
I'd love to hear your feedback and thoughts on how my night went. Same as your first night with a big dob?