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Will Desert Based Observation Damage Reflectors?

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#1 midasjohn

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Posted 14 October 2021 - 12:37 AM

If you have travelled to the desert you will know - sand gets everywhere. It's not at all like going to the beach. There are all grades of 'grit' all the way down to the finest powder that floats upon the slightest wisp of air. To wit I wonder, am I better taking a large Refractor to the Sahara Desert?

 

Will I find the closed tube and substantial lens more robust than a Reflector?

 

I am planning establishing a small observatory for an 18" Reflector in a small town located east of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. Knowing the area well, it only occurred to me recently that this presents an extraordinary twist to the Reflector or Refractor question :/

 

I'm hoping that there are forum members with direct experience of Desert based observation.


Edited by midasjohn, 14 October 2021 - 01:49 AM.

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#2 nightowl

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Posted 14 October 2021 - 01:17 AM

One thing I noticed about observing in the desert ecosystem is that there are seasons where the winds will blow with much strength. Acquiring information about wind patterns and gusts that are typical of certain seasons is the key. In the southwest where I do most of my observing (primarily the Death Valley, Mojave, and Joshua Tree areas), winds are strongest during the spring months, and they almost always blow from the south, southwest. During these periods, I bring my refractors. After spring, the desert dies down and only the heat remains for much of the remaining summer.

 

That said, I wouldn't be too worried about the dust as much how a larger scope "catches" the wind due to its size. Is your observatory going to be the slide-off roof version? You'll catch a lot more gusts if your walls are not high. I loved going to the desert during spring to welcome Omega Centauri with my former 10" non-dobsonian reflector. The winds just shook the OTA to the point that medium to high magnification would cause the observer an immediate headache and nausea due to the shakes and you'll stop observing before any dust/sand issues plague your scope. A smaller profile scope is rather invisible to strong wind gusts and this is where my 6" fast refractor comes into the picture.

 

Another attribute to consider is observing time. Again, I can only base my experience with the Southwest USA: if I head out during spring, I actually sleep early and wake up around 2AM to observe until dawn. Even in spring, most winds die down by the wee hours of the morning and an eerie silence permeates the entire viewing experience. Indeed, observing during the wee hours of the morning during most nights of the year in the southwest is what I consider to be the most ideal time since the temperature change from twilight to night is no longer a factor that could generate wind gusts.

 

Clear skies.


Edited by nightowl, 14 October 2021 - 11:00 PM.

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#3 Dave_L

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Posted 14 October 2021 - 01:30 AM

I would recommend common sense fundamentals... protect your equipment the best that you reasonably can... a bulb duster will be your best friend and should be all that's required... if you are going to clean, do it the right way with a bulb duster first, and then some wipes or spray, but don't clean too often as it can be counter-productive. The arid climate can make for some spectacular observing! Clear skies!


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#4 midasjohn

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Posted 14 October 2021 - 01:52 AM

Invaluable advice immediately - Thanks!



#5 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 14 October 2021 - 03:00 AM

We have a place in the high desert where it blows 20-30 mph most days, it generally clams down some at night but 10-15mph is common.. it's dusty but I have three Dobs that stay there permanently.  I just clean them as needed.

 

Jon


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#6 Notdarkenough

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Posted 14 October 2021 - 06:58 AM

I recently upgraded my air bulb blower to this awesome rechargeable device from Amazon:  https://www.amazon.c...e?ie=UTF8&psc=1

I still keep the bulb for precise air, but for removing fine dust from large areas, this thing is the shizzle. Additionally, if you are concerned about a specific device and possible sand egress, you can mitigate that to some extent and have a good ROI.

 

Sounds like a fantastic opportunity; I love the quite early AM observing opportunities as the sky is so bright and huge! A serious effort to retain  your dark-eyes when you observe in the AM pays huge dividends in my experience. I am jealous! Enjoy-

Mike


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#7 teashea

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Posted 14 October 2021 - 07:38 PM

Blowing sand will damage the telescope and mount.


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#8 nightowl

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Posted 14 October 2021 - 10:56 PM

I recently upgraded my air bulb blower to this awesome rechargeable device from Amazon:  https://www.amazon.c...e?ie=UTF8&psc=1

I still keep the bulb for precise air, but for removing fine dust from large areas, this thing is the shizzle. Additionally, if you are concerned about a specific device and possible sand egress, you can mitigate that to some extent and have a good ROI.

 

Sounds like a fantastic opportunity; I love the quite early AM observing opportunities as the sky is so bright and huge! A serious effort to retain  your dark-eyes when you observe in the AM pays huge dividends in my experience. I am jealous! Enjoy-

Mike

I have a similar rechargeable blower and have never bought another compressed air duster again. It is still not as powerful as the cans, but it's 85% there in my opinion.


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#9 midasjohn

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Posted 15 October 2021 - 02:52 AM

Blowing sand will damage the telescope and mount.


Is that a fact? What's the alternative? Thanks a lot lads.

#10 ngatel

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Posted 15 October 2021 - 06:56 PM

I’ve lived in a desert for 45 years. Things get dusty. Whenever possible keep things covered and/or stored. Clean often as needed. My CGX lives outside 24/7 under a telegizoms, except for most nights. Good news is excellent viewing conditions most most of the time.
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