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Is anyone else tired of the hassle?

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#1 Terra Nova

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Posted 11 October 2021 - 11:11 AM

I’m old school for sure. With regard to mounts, I got my first GEM fifty-five years ago this summer, a 5/8” shaft Edmund equatorial mount on the tall wood tripod. Since then, I’ve had lots of others. The bigger Edmund and Jaegers 1” shaft mounts, the Vixen line of Polaris thru Great Polaris, the Unitron GEMs- small, medium, and large, a couple of Zeiss equatorial mounts, Celestrons, Meades, the list goes on. In pruning all things back to a sensible number, given my age, physical condition, and living circumstances (I’m in good health, knock on wood, and will have completed 72 laps around the Sun come Friday), I’m down to just one GEM, a Meade LX70 with dual drives (this is a CG5/GP class mount), with a nice range of counterweights of various size to handle any of my present scopes. I chose to use this mount for my observing pleasure last night. The one thing that struck me setting up was what a PITA it is to use a German equatorial mount! As I said, I used to be a fan, but in selling all but one, My experience last night confirmed my logic and forever answered in my mind, the question of why I sold them. I hadn’t set one up in months.

 

I much prefer my alt-az mounts. My TV Panoramic and Gibralter mounts, and my big Orion U-mount are ergonomic dreams to use, and my Vixen Porta-II is my staple grab and go. The eyepiece and finder is always where you want it to be (no tube rotating), balance is easily achieved, and it either all goes out in one trip or in the case of the big U-mount, two (mount and tripod separately). With the GEM its more gear when you include the counterweight(s), power supply, controller, etc. then there’s the getting down on one’s knees to polar align, etc. it took me at least twice as long set up and to take down. I think after last night, I may even ‘Dobify’ my vintage Newt (I know, I’m a heretic), and be done with the madness! I’m getting to old for this! (Not observing, just observing with GEMs). I’ll keep the LX70 mount, for old times sake- a sort of artifact and reminder. I may even occasionally press it into service. But even it needs simplifying! I removed the drive motors this morning and returned to to a completely manual mount. That at least, eliminates sum of the extra ‘stuff’ to deal with (power supply, controller, cables). Being strictly an observer with zero aspirations for AP I don’t need the bother! I’m wondering, is anyone else tired of the hassle?


Edited by Terra Nova, 11 October 2021 - 11:20 AM.

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#2 zakry3323

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Posted 11 October 2021 - 11:19 AM

For me, it comes down to "Is it worth not having to touch it when viewing at high magnification."

 

For DSO's with the equipment I have, manual alt-az is way simpler and much preferred. For Lunar/Planetary, I want the PITA GEM smile.gif


Edited by zakry3323, 11 October 2021 - 11:20 AM.

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#3 Ken Sturrock

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Posted 11 October 2021 - 11:19 AM

Sometimes for sure. Last night I thought about grabbing a classic for a quick look at the Moon, Jupiter & Saturn with the neighbors but chose the TeleVue 85 on a Stellarvue M2 alt/az mount instead. Alt/az mounts and short tube OTAs may lack some of the panache but are just less work when you're in a hurry. Or tired. Or irritated.

 

I do enjoy the old-school aesthetics but I've always been an alt/az fan for visual.


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#4 ArizonaScott

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Posted 11 October 2021 - 11:19 AM

Agree with you wholeheartedly! My GEM (16yo Konus) has been gathering dust in the garage for years, I've tried to reacquaint myself with it a couple times but I've just never had much love it. At one time I had an ETX90EC with Autostar that worked fairly well in Alt-Az mode but I've always loved the simplicity of my UA Unimount Deluxe or my Twilight II on an aluminum Oberwerk surveyors tripod, those I will never part with! 


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#5 tim53

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Posted 11 October 2021 - 11:25 AM

I'm old school, but maybe older than your school.  I love the Porter Springfield mount for comfort in use.  My 8" is on a dolly, sol I roll it out all set up, do a quick polar alignment (eyeball rule only), sit on my fixed-height chair and observe away.

 

I still hate altazimuth mounts.  Sort of a genetic imperative, I reckon.  But I do hear you regarding frustrations with setting Newts up on GEMs.  If they have rotating rings (Cave, Meade, and Bill Schafer made the best), a lot of the frustration is alleviated.  And if they're on dollies, like the springfield...

 

I also have grown to dislike tripods.  Don't get me wrong, the Tak wooden tripod legs and the Televue Gibraltor and Mizar wooden leg tripods are very sturdy.  But the latter two have too much spread to get through my shop door without banging into walls and other telescopes.  I much prefer piers and legs - with BIG casters, so they don't get stuck between bricks on the back patio and roll across grass happily.

 

This one needs bigger casters for sure, though the Rockler casters its on currently are very nice (but get stuck easily):  post-6788-0-64742000-1633827263.jpeg


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#6 William Whitaker

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Posted 11 October 2021 - 11:28 AM

While I'm not in your situation at all (I'm still in the process of finding what I think my ideal telescope might be. Yeah, right??...), I can completely understand you point and the frustration of it all. I have a couple of other interests: photography comes to mind first...

My life and my house are cluttered with the bits and bobs that are the "residue" of that interest. I have been trying to thin it all out over the past couple of years as my age has demanded that I keep my path clear. I just don't have quite the same directed interests that have passed through my brain over the last 40 years or so.

Age can be the great clarifier. Certainly my goals are clearer now than ever before. And I have actually manage to thin out many of the things that are just not earning their keep.

So I see a parallel between my photography and your astronomy. It is for me not an easy process to let go of my earlier hopes and dreams. But I am pleased and somewhat refreshed to have the new clarity in my life.

And ultimately, the ideal would be to sell my last camera (or lens, or telescope) the day before I die and that big "Game Over" sign lights up. lol.gif

So, I wish you well in your journey. And also to all of us who face the same process, either sooner or later!

Cheers!


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#7 Astrojensen

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Posted 11 October 2021 - 11:44 AM

For some bizarre reason, I love dobsonians, but dislike altaz refractors..! It doesn't make much sense, but it is, what it is. 

 

If the refractor is modular, IE can easily be taken apart and reassembled, then I don't find it to be much of a hassle to have it on an EQ mount, even a fairly substantial one (and I'm not a very strong, muscular guy). 

 

Poor designs, that require tools, have fine threads or use small bolts to assemble in the dark, yeah those are not fun at all. 

 

 

Clear skies!

Thomas, Denmark


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#8 barbie

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Posted 11 October 2021 - 11:49 AM

I agree with you Terra!! I no longer need the hassles of GEM's and other than an occasional moon photo, no longer do astrophotography!! Now that I'm older, my primary interest is nature/wildlife photography followed by astronomy with my 90mm Meade ETX and I certainly don't need an equatorial mount for either of these pursuits. I now have two alt-azimuth tripods, my cameras & lenses, and my classic Meade ETX 90. At this point in life, I prefer to keep things as simple as possible!!


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#9 MarMax

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Posted 11 October 2021 - 11:55 AM

I must agree and love my CPC 1100 Alt-Az but it's also because it's on a wheelie bar. If I had to take the 60+ pound mount off the tripod to set up and move it the usage would go way down. The M2C is fabulous for the smaller refractors. I had the 92mm with binoviewers and a finder scope on the M2C last night and just carried it all around the yard.

 

The G11G is also on a wheelie bar so it's just as easy to get into position and leveled as the CPC 1100. Polar alignment is another step but I'm still enjoying doing that.


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#10 Jim in PA

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Posted 11 October 2021 - 12:13 PM

I've always used GEM mounts, but for reasons everyone has pointed out, am getting quite sick of it.  I'm also sick of lugging heavy scopes.  That happened a long time ago ;)

 

I've decided to build an observatory/gear shed, and will mount my Atlas permanently to an outdoor pier for AP right next to the shed.  Where it will stay, covered a-la motel-o-scope.  I'm going to put all my gear, eyepieces, cameras, everything, in the shed.  I'm running power to it so I no longer have to use a long extension cord.  My AP location will either be in the shed, or I can run the rig from my den if it's too cold.

 

Gotten rid of all my big, heavy scopes.  Down to a short, fast 102 achro...an f/10 102 achro...an f/7 102 ED...a 180mm Mak...and my old trusty SN-8.

 

I still use a CG-4 for impromptu observing, with one of the fracs.  Sometimes in alt-az mode, but mostly in GEM mode.  But even the CG4 is getting on my nerves, so I'm designing a light alt-az out of aluminum scraps I have laying around the shop.

 

Since I'm usually eyeballing my polar alignment when observing (not AP'ing), and I have to continually adjust both axes anyway, I figure what's the point of using a GEM for visual?

 

The way I see it, if I don't feel like wrassling complicated gear, I won't bother observing.  A light alt-az mount for easy-peasy stargazing sounds about right for where I'm at in this hobby. 


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#11 sanderslewallen

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Posted 11 October 2021 - 12:34 PM

I have graduated to the same "old school" as Terra N.   These days, I observe with my trusty Questar, as I did last evening for very steady Jupiter views, and often in alt-az mode, although attaching the Q to Dave Trott's custom wedge and tripod is a 10 second action.  My other scope of interest is the 1948 Tinsley Labs Saturn 4 on the best alt az I have ever used. Tinsley shakes out within a second and the Questar doesn't shake at all.    I observe more often than in the old days when I trucked out a hugh optical craftsman GEM on pedestal...no missing that.

 

Go Terra.  

 

Sanders


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#12 Jethro7

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Posted 11 October 2021 - 12:38 PM

Hello Terra,

Happy 72nd Birthday Anniversary. I'm not that far off. I can fully understand where you are coming from with it all. I bought a Losmandy G11G fully rigged out. When I decided to take the plunge into AP. mostly just to see what is really up there in the sky under my Bortle 8 skies. I had success in doing so but all the time spent for set up and break down, about a hour or so and especially the hours of processing and occasionally  realizing the next morning that all the images were either not captured or just plain useless because I had forgotten to do something stupid. The aggrevations that come with AP just took all the pleasure out of the Astro Hobby. I keep the G11G around just in case I have need for it again. My whole game changed after purchasing a high end Military grade night vision device. realizing  that I dont need Goto for finding Celestial artifacts. The old school way of navigation works quite well for me. These nights I use either my Losmandy AZ8 or the Stellarvue M2C Alt Az mounts. Set up time 10 min. This little night vision gadget is marvelous, my Bortle 8 skies are so full of reachable celestial targets, they are just there for me, Nebulae everywhere, stars so thick the numbers unimaginable and the Messier objects are so easy to find, it feels like cheating some how. Now my viewing sessions are very peaceful and Quiet and meditative  oh so simple. So  the answer to your question is yes I have.

 

HAPPY SKIES TO YOU AND KEEP LOOKING UP Jethro

 

It does not get much simpler than this.

20210718 000107

 

 


Edited by Jethro7, 11 October 2021 - 03:36 PM.

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#13 Paul Sweeney

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Posted 11 October 2021 - 12:45 PM

I'm solidly in the GEM camp. I just sold my AZ3 and the little 70mm scope to a friend. On the other hand, I used my GP/DX GoTo last night for the third time in 18 months. I find the batteries, cables, and especially the hand controller a real pain.

I just love my GP mount in manual mode: light, sturdy and easy to use. Two thumbs up!
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#14 AllanDystrup

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Posted 11 October 2021 - 01:05 PM

Hmmm Terra…

     

     I can’t imagine observing without a GEM mount. That said, my Zeiss Ib is pretty basic: compact, spartan, manual with worms and short handy lock & slo-mo knobs on both axis  (no tangent arms or long control rods) and just a basic RA motor drive. No batteries or hand controller, just plug in & play.

     
     The ability to dial in RA & DEC for Venus in the daytime, et voila!

The ability to star hop to any object using my star maps with RA & DEC grid: place my Z-Bolt laser on say gamma sagittae, and just leasurely pan up slowly in DEC till i hit the Dumbell. Etc. (And yes, of course I have a Zeiss 2” Amici diagonal, can’t live without that either).

     

     When on the object, just sit down and observe, sketch, snap etc, while the RA drive takes care of the tracking. It must be said here, that I have a polar aligned Zeiss pier set up in my backyard, so that part of setting up the GEM is done once and for all. I warmly recommend that!

 

     The way I see it, observing WITHOUT a GEM would be the real hassle, — so there flowerred.gif

 

     — Allan

 


Edited by AllanDystrup, 11 October 2021 - 01:30 PM.

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#15 ccwemyss

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Posted 11 October 2021 - 02:10 PM

I really loved my Nexstar 11 Alt-Az, which didn't need polar alignment, kept eyepiece position comfortable except for a few degrees near the zenith, and tracked beautifully. Then the electronics died. As has already been noted, the total weight is a challenge, but when it was in the observatory, it was so easy to turn it on and just go. 

 

Now I have a GEM in the observatory, carrying two big scopes. The floor has rubber matting, so it's comfortable to sit down when viewing near the zenith. Even if I were to put them on a big alt-az, I think I'd still be needing to sit, as there is no way to use a long refractor without either getting low for zenith views or standing on a step for views nearer the horizon, short of an adjustable pier. 

 

The Pentax 85, Unitron 142, Edmund 4", and AP 706 GEMs are all easy to set up, and with eyeball polar alignment will track well. That's really useful for outreach, where I either don't have to touch the mount between viewers, or just turn the RA knob a little to recenter the object. In contrast, the Unitron 114 and 140 mounts require two hands to track, and something has to drift while focus is adjusted. With a rich field scope that's not as much of an issue. Maybe an alt-az rig that allowed precise balance and smooth hand tracking, rather than slow motion controls, would be different.

 

The Losmandy G11 was a pain in the neck to align, and if it wasn't really close, it took forever to build a good enough model to compensate. The CGEM DX that now carries the 11" is too tall, but it works well with a rough polar alignment and a 3-star model. I think that if I converted it to Starsense, it would align itself very accurately. The scope is so tail-heavy that the eyepiece is just a few inches behind the center of the Dec axis, so it doesn't change position very much. 

 

The place where I do like alt-az is Dob mounts for large Newtonians. When well balanced, with good bearings, the long moment arm does make it easy to track and to scan.

 

Chip W. 


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#16 CHASLX200

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Posted 11 October 2021 - 02:51 PM

I only like EQ mounts that are non GO-TO and don't even use drives. Just give me SLO-MO knobs. A old gray NJP160 would be a dream mount if i could ever find one. Or a G11 with SLO- MO knobs. Seems everything made today is GO-TO with no SLO- MO knobs at all. There is a AP1200 local to me for sale, but no way i am spending $9700 for it.  A older non GO-TO AP1200 would be nice also for around $4k. I have a mint GP coming my way soon with dual axis drives.  I can live with them ok.  I grew up on non driven mounts like a old Edmund 1.5" shaft mount that i loved.  I have a hard time seeing hand controls for GO-TO.


Edited by CHASLX200, 11 October 2021 - 02:59 PM.

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#17 jgraham

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Posted 11 October 2021 - 03:04 PM

I much prefer an altaz mount for visual, but I also have a motorized LX70 for those times when I want an eq mount. Disengaging the motors is easy when I want to go fully manual, just loosen the knurled knobs on the drive shafts.

BTW... I'm working on a homebuilt 6" f/15 achro and it's going on an altaz mount. :)
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#18 Terra Nova

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Posted 11 October 2021 - 03:55 PM

Hi guys. Thanks for all the positive comments. I really feel like I’m going in the right direction. I seldom go over 200X with any of my scopes. Seldom here is the air steady enough for that. For planetary, as I said in a previous post, the Vixen Porta II with its slow motions does a great job with my Takahashi FC76. I’ll be keeping the LX-70 for manual tracking in EQ mode for

the Vixen ED102SS and frankly my big U-mount is a rock-steady alt-az alternative for both the 4” and 5” Vixen refractors, and the TV Gibralter is wonderful with the Genesis SDF. My longest refractor, ironically, is my little Unitron 114 (62mm x 900mm) and its native alt-az mount couldn’t be more smooth or stable. Other than it and my little 60mm Mayflower, all my scopes are F8 and faster and I’m quite happy about that. I really am seriously considering making my old 6” Newtonian into a Dob. Its 6” F4.5 and is a mostly low power scope anyway. This Night Vision astronomy really has caught my interest! I’ve done some limited EAA for years with fast CCD and CMOS cameras outputting to a video monitor but again it’s more stuff to cart out. Both routes to my backyard observing pad where I use my bigger scopes require steps, up or down. Only my deck doesn’t but that is only for my 80mm and smaller scopes or binoculars which are stored on the same level. 


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#19 Terra Nova

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Posted 11 October 2021 - 04:04 PM

Hmmm Terra…

     

     I can’t imagine observing without a GEM mount. That said, my Zeiss Ib is pretty basic: compact, spartan, manual with worms and short handy lock & slo-mo knobs on both axis  (no tangent arms or long control rods) and just a basic RA motor drive. No batteries or hand controller, just plug in & play.

     
     The ability to dial in RA & DEC for Venus in the daytime, et voila!

The ability to star hop to any object using my star maps with RA & DEC grid: place my Z-Bolt laser on say gamma sagittae, and just leasurely pan up slowly in DEC till i hit the Dumbell. Etc. (And yes, of course I have a Zeiss 2” Amici diagonal, can’t live without that either).

     

     When on the object, just sit down and observe, sketch, snap etc, while the RA drive takes care of the tracking. It must be said here, that I have a polar aligned Zeiss pier set up in my backyard, so that part of setting up the GEM is done once and for all. I warmly recommend that!

 

     The way I see it, observing WITHOUT a GEM would be the real hassle, — so there flowerred.gif

 

     — Allan

Allan, if you tried a TeleVue Gibralter mount you might change your mind. And equipped with an illuminated digital level for altitude, and an illuminated or luminous compass and Sky Safari, it’s as easy to find things as with setting circles. I really think Uncle Al thought of everything when he designed his family of 101mm Petzval apos, the Gibralter fork mount, and his wide angle Nagler and Panoptic eyepieces.


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#20 photoracer18

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Posted 11 October 2021 - 05:05 PM

My first GEM mount was also the Edmund 5/8" that I stuck under my 3" Space Conqueror about 60 years ago. I sort of gravitated to mostly GEMs although I have had most every type except a Springfield. I prefer a GEM with dual drives but can do ok if it has one or none also. As for Alt-Az drives I have a few but don't use them much even though the Stellarvue M2 and UA Unistar Light work fine. I just like my AP900QMD and AP400QMD and my Schaefer AT-9 better. I have an affinity for finely machined GEMs. Even my little Tak EM-2. I know that when I start paring down my mount collection it is going to be harder to free the GEMs more than any other type.


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#21 Bonco2

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Posted 11 October 2021 - 05:40 PM

A perfect match for my TV Genesis is the Super Polaris equitorial mount. Has wonderful  electric  tracking and slo mo controls. Very easy to carry especially if no counter weights. You can usually find ones for just a few hundred bucks.  Personally I  like Alt /Az mounts only on 8 inch and larger Dob's. For small refractors I favor equitorial mounts.

Bill


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#22 rcwolpert

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Posted 11 October 2021 - 05:42 PM

Terra, you and I seem to always be on the same wavelength to within +/- a few Angstroms. I’m only keeping my LX85 because of the chance I might be moving to a 3-story townhouse on the ocean with a 3rd floor observing deck. Until that happens I’m going to use my 80mm Mayflower on its tripod or the Questar on a tripod. The weather is just starting to get good for observing again, and the only way I’ll do that is with a minimum of setup, as in grab and go. We’re only about 42 days apart on birthdays! My 72nd trip around the Sun started September 3rd.


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#23 Bomber Bob

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Posted 11 October 2021 - 05:51 PM

I’m wondering, is anyone else tired of the hassle?

 

Not yet, but I actively de-hassled my GEMs:  Internal batteries or battery packs that hang off the mount.  Dovetail Clamps on all but the short Meade SF -- won't trust the 826 on anything but the hefty mount plate.

 

When / if I part with the 826, I'll really only need my 2 x Mizar & 1 x Tak EQ for my 4" & smaller scopes.

 

But, for the near future, I must have motorized tracking EQs for high-power observing.  We may ultimately land at a place with much darker skies, and my patterns will shift towards deep sky rather than in-town planetary.  After decades in LPZs (Light Pollution Zones) that would be a HUGE paradigm shift for Ole BB... I don't think I'd mind.


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#24 Echolight

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Posted 11 October 2021 - 05:54 PM

Guess I’m late to the party... fashionably?

 

Just picked up my first and third manual eq mounts today. An old EQ1, an older EQ2, and Polaris with the red and black numbers and a polar scope.

 

But..... I’ll use them in alt/az mode, sans counterweights.


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#25 Echolight

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Posted 11 October 2021 - 05:55 PM

Speaking of parties.... HAPPY BIRTHDAY ON FRIDAY!


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