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Beginner Equipment Advice Request

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#1 tismon

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Posted 21 April 2023 - 03:24 PM

I currently have an old 114mm reflector on a GEM that I've cleaned and used for the 2017 solar eclipse with, honestly, surprising success given the basic setup including cheap cell phone mount. 

https://photos.app.g...LvJB7LSn6F6rHp6

 

For the 2024 eclipse, I'd like to upgrade it a bit so that I don't need to babysit it nearly as much. We've got a toddler now and I'd rather enjoy the experience with my family more than last time. I mean, it was a lot of fun since my wife and I set up at a winery, but still, it took a lot of constant adjusting.

 

The possible upgrade paths for goto functionality seem to either be:

  • Get something compact like a Nexstar 6 or 8 SE
  • Get a computerized GoTo GEM and use my existing tube

I'm not looking to invest thousands at this point, but $500-1000 seems like a range that should get me the functionality that I'm hoping for.

 

To that end, I've found the iEXOS-100-2 is currently on sale and these localish FB marketplace sets for a Sky Prodigy 130 and LXD-75

 

Any and all advice on these three or any other equipment that you'd recommend are very welcome.

Thank you


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#2 ShaulaB

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Posted 21 April 2023 - 03:54 PM

Personally, I would go with the 6SE. It is on the same mount sold with the 8SE, so the lighter weight 6 is not straining the mount. I know, they cost over 50% more than they did in 2019, and it pains me to see new scope prices these days.

 

Cloudy Nights has Classified ads. I would trust people selling on CN much more than any Facebook person. The FB ad did not have much info on the optical tube, or viewing accessories, which I found kind of odd.

 

if you google or search Cloudy Nights, you can get reviews for the scopes mentioned. Just my personal opinion, but SkyProdigy makes me say "ick." Since you have experience with a GEM, the Skyprodigy seems like taking a step backwards.


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#3 tismon

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Posted 21 April 2023 - 04:07 PM

Thank you. Honestly, I wonder about the LXD-75's ad. It looks a bit sketchy and possibly stolen grin.gif , but I could take a look at it in person either way before committing.

I've been looking through old posts and the iEXOS-100-2 is apparently the updated version of the LXD, assuming that I read that right. The reviews for the Sky Prodigy were not great and I thought the same thing about the mount.

 

Since I'll probably either strap my newer phone to this setup or get a dedicated imager, I'm leaning towards the iEXOS for the potential budget astrophotography, but I just plain don't have the experience with either that or the SE's to say. I've seen posts that the Nexstars are decent for casual astrophotography as well even if they don't move like a GEM. The portability is definitely a plus in that direction too.



#4 SeattleScott

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Posted 22 April 2023 - 10:32 AM

The LXD75 is probably a bit overkill weight wise and perhaps the ad is sketchy, but it is a very solid mount and includes optional GoTo. A Nexstar 6 is a fun scope but really intended more for GoTo operations. Which is tricky when there is only one star up and the mount is programmed not to go to it. There is probably a method for doing a solar alignment but you would need to research that.

#5 DeepSky Di

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Posted 22 April 2023 - 04:27 PM

Topic moved to our Solar Eclipse 2024 subforum for eclipse-specific discussion.


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#6 hdt

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Posted 22 April 2023 - 09:21 PM

Thank you. Honestly, I wonder about the LXD-75's ad. It looks a bit sketchy and possibly stolen grin.gif , but I could take a look at it in person either way before committing.

I've been looking through old posts and the iEXOS-100-2 is apparently the updated version of the LXD, assuming that I read that right. The reviews for the Sky Prodigy were not great and I thought the same thing about the mount.

 

Since I'll probably either strap my newer phone to this setup or get a dedicated imager, I'm leaning towards the iEXOS for the potential budget astrophotography, but I just plain don't have the experience with either that or the SE's to say. I've seen posts that the Nexstars are decent for casual astrophotography as well even if they don't move like a GEM. The portability is definitely a plus in that direction too.

For solar astrophotography, you don't need an equatorial mount--exposure times are short enough (even through a filter), and you're not stacking images. I'm familiar with the Nexstar SE, it's a great visual system.

 

The iexos system looks like a very nice equatorial mount for a DSLR or lighter camera. If you're using a DSLR with a cropped sensor (APS-C), a 200 mm (equivalent to a 300 mm on an old-fashioned 35 mm film camera) will yield a very nice image of the sun--or of deep sky objects. The mirrorless cameras would also be good. This type of mount is overkill for a cell phone camera.

 

Good luck!



#7 RichNH

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Posted 22 April 2023 - 10:32 PM

Great pics of the eclipse.  I have the LXD75 with the 10" SN.  My OTA is a bit too heavy for the mount but I get by.  Your OTA would be nothing to it though as yours is pretty light.  I'd say that getting any GEM to track OK is all about polar alignment but you probably know that already.  I've gotten pretty good at doing that apparently even without being able to see the North Star (as I set it up in the daytime).  I just have a compass that I apply to a small board against the rear two legs (which would run east/west) and I make sure that the magnetic declination is set on the compass.  Also, obviously, the correct latitude has to be set on the tilt of the mount.  the big thing about the LXD75 is it does weight a bit.  Especially the 3 10lb counter weights I need for the OTA.  You would need less though.



#8 MattPenn

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Posted 23 April 2023 - 01:16 PM

For our eclipse in 2017 we did need a tracking mount as we averaged the HDR images from the whole 2 minutes.  Good polar alignment means you won't have to readjust pointing when the eclipse starts, you can start your exposure sequence and enjoy the eclipse visually.

 

We're using a system that will cost about $1700 for 2024 for our Dynamic Eclipse Broadcast Initiative sites... could be $1300 if you already have a laptop.  We've tested it out and like the performance, field of view, etc.  It is highly portable, and can be used for decent night time pictures and projects as well (we've measured asteroid light curves, for instance).  The GoTo mount makes it easy to find objects, and SharpCap pro will make polar alignment easy.  I can provide you with links where I have purchased these items if you like.  Starting sometime in the summer we will be making training videos for taking data during the Oct annular eclipse, and in the fall for the April total eclipse.  We will have several practice runs and will provide feedback on your data to improve your results!

 

I'll list the equipment below.  Planning to start a thread about our project here, and please send a message if you are interested in joining!  You can see an introductory description of our project at Sky & Telescope here:
 

https://skyandtelesc...dcast-eclipses/

 

DEB-Initiative Equipment package: 

Skyhunter EQ/AZ         $558             
Askar FMA 180Pro       $399             
Spacers                          $28              
Camera Adapter             $13           
Neptune-M Player 1     $299             
60mm solar filter            $27               
Example Laptop          $376               

SharpCap Pro                $15
Total                          $1,715



#9 tismon

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Posted 24 April 2023 - 09:54 AM

Phew, awesome responses. Catch up time.

 

The LXD75 is probably a bit overkill weight wise and perhaps the ad is sketchy, but it is a very solid mount and includes optional GoTo. A Nexstar 6 is a fun scope but really intended more for GoTo operations. Which is tricky when there is only one star up and the mount is programmed not to go to it. There is probably a method for doing a solar alignment but you would need to research that.

I've read up on the solar alignment a bit. At least enough to know that it's a valid option. Am I wrong to think of the iEXOS as an updated LXD75? I read that somewhere in this forum while searching.

 

Topic moved to our Solar Eclipse 2024 subforum for eclipse-specific discussion.

Thank you. That's definitely my short term goal, but we have a 3 year old that I'd like to introduce astronomy to a few years. I'd like to eventually try astrophotography, but I know myself. It'll take years before I have that sort of time.

 

For solar astrophotography, you don't need an equatorial mount--exposure times are short enough (even through a filter), and you're not stacking images. I'm familiar with the Nexstar SE, it's a great visual system.

 

The iexos system looks like a very nice equatorial mount for a DSLR or lighter camera. If you're using a DSLR with a cropped sensor (APS-C), a 200 mm (equivalent to a 300 mm on an old-fashioned 35 mm film camera) will yield a very nice image of the sun--or of deep sky objects. The mirrorless cameras would also be good. This type of mount is overkill for a cell phone camera.

 

Good luck!

If I went that route, I'd be using my 114mm reflector with my phone attached as I did before. I've shopped for a mirrorless with this in mind and will probably get one in the future before some vacation.

 

Great pics of the eclipse.  I have the LXD75 with the 10" SN.  My OTA is a bit too heavy for the mount but I get by.  Your OTA would be nothing to it though as yours is pretty light.  I'd say that getting any GEM to track OK is all about polar alignment but you probably know that already.  I've gotten pretty good at doing that apparently even without being able to see the North Star (as I set it up in the daytime).  I just have a compass that I apply to a small board against the rear two legs (which would run east/west) and I make sure that the magnetic declination is set on the compass.  Also, obviously, the correct latitude has to be set on the tilt of the mount.  the big thing about the LXD75 is it does weight a bit.  Especially the 3 10lb counter weights I need for the OTA.  You would need less though.

Thank you. Mostly luck through trial and error. They're not professional level, but I enjoy looking back at them knowing that they are exactly what we saw that day. Polar aligning isn't too bad. Unfortunately, this old mount has a bit of slop in the gears, which just adds another fun factor. 

 

For our eclipse in 2017 we did need a tracking mount as we averaged the HDR images from the whole 2 minutes.  Good polar alignment means you won't have to readjust pointing when the eclipse starts, you can start your exposure sequence and enjoy the eclipse visually.

 

We're using a system that will cost about $1700 for 2024 for our Dynamic Eclipse Broadcast Initiative sites... could be $1300 if you already have a laptop.  We've tested it out and like the performance, field of view, etc.  It is highly portable, and can be used for decent night time pictures and projects as well (we've measured asteroid light curves, for instance).  The GoTo mount makes it easy to find objects, and SharpCap pro will make polar alignment easy.  I can provide you with links where I have purchased these items if you like.  Starting sometime in the summer we will be making training videos for taking data during the Oct annular eclipse, and in the fall for the April total eclipse.  We will have several practice runs and will provide feedback on your data to improve your results!

 

I'll list the equipment below.  Planning to start a thread about our project here, and please send a message if you are interested in joining!  You can see an introductory description of our project at Sky & Telescope here:
 

https://skyandtelesc...dcast-eclipses/

 

DEB-Initiative Equipment package: 

Skyhunter EQ/AZ         $558             
Askar FMA 180Pro       $399             
Spacers                          $28              
Camera Adapter             $13           
Neptune-M Player 1     $299             
60mm solar filter            $27               
Example Laptop          $376               

SharpCap Pro                $15
Total                          $1,715

Great info, thank you. Are you going to be in Carbondale? If so, I'm not sure how much help another scope will be when it's only about 15min south of you. :D We're going to be visiting Giant City that weekend and probably setting up at a nearby winery like last time.

How close to that equipment list are you requiring participants to be? Do they have to use the SkyHunter, or even a GEM? If I went the Nexstar route this time around and set it up for tracking the sun, I assume that it won't be as smooth, but should still be fine for anything besides stacking like hdt mentioned. I'm currently leaning that way since I can always put the OTA on a GEM in the future.



#10 MattPenn

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Posted 25 April 2023 - 08:51 PM

Phew, awesome responses. Catch up time.

 

Great info, thank you. Are you going to be in Carbondale? If so, I'm not sure how much help another scope will be when it's only about 15min south of you. laugh.gif We're going to be visiting Giant City that weekend and probably setting up at a nearby winery like last time.

How close to that equipment list are you requiring participants to be? Do they have to use the SkyHunter, or even a GEM? If I went the Nexstar route this time around and set it up for tracking the sun, I assume that it won't be as smooth, but should still be fine for anything besides stacking like hdt mentioned. I'm currently leaning that way since I can always put the OTA on a GEM in the future.

Interesting question re: alt/az vs GEM.  Alt/az causes field rotation, and the amount of rotation is the rotation speed of the Earth times a factor involving the latitude of the observer and the part of the sky you're observing.  The exact equation is about 25% down the length of this page:
https://kelly.flanag...ted-telescopes/

 

During a 250 second totality near Makanda, the image will rotate slightly more than 1 degree.  At the edge of a 3000x3000 pixel frame, assuming the Sun is centered, that's 26 pixels.  It should be possible to correct for this, but our project is using equatorial mounts in order to avoid this issue.  In 2017, correcting for image translation, rotation of cameras, and slight differences in focal lengths among 70 telescopes was difficult!  Adding field rotation to each site is something we want to avoid.

 

Seems like you're set on a Nexstar.  Have fun!

PS - Yes, we'll have a site in Carbondale, one of about 30 along the path.  I'll be in Uvalde County TX working with a school group.  Fingers crossed for good weather for all!


Edited by MattPenn, 25 April 2023 - 08:55 PM.


#11 SteveInNZ

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Posted 26 April 2023 - 08:07 PM

Another factor that you may want to consider with an EQ mount is an inopportune meridian flip. If you're in southern Texas, totality occurs very close to due south. It would be quite frustrating to hear "filters off" and your mount starts slewing to do a flip. Forewarned is forearmed.

 

Steve.



#12 tismon

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Posted 27 April 2023 - 09:56 AM

Interesting question re: alt/az vs GEM.  Alt/az causes field rotation, and the amount of rotation is the rotation speed of the Earth times a factor involving the latitude of the observer and the part of the sky you're observing.  The exact equation is about 25% down the length of this page:
https://kelly.flanag...ted-telescopes/

 

During a 250 second totality near Makanda, the image will rotate slightly more than 1 degree.  At the edge of a 3000x3000 pixel frame, assuming the Sun is centered, that's 26 pixels.  It should be possible to correct for this, but our project is using equatorial mounts in order to avoid this issue.  In 2017, correcting for image translation, rotation of cameras, and slight differences in focal lengths among 70 telescopes was difficult!  Adding field rotation to each site is something we want to avoid.

 

Seems like you're set on a Nexstar.  Have fun!

PS - Yes, we'll have a site in Carbondale, one of about 30 along the path.  I'll be in Uvalde County TX working with a school group.  Fingers crossed for good weather for all!

 

At this point in my life, I'm certainly leaning towards ease of use and portability. I'm just starting out and we have a toddler that would make using a more complicated setup difficult. Hopefully in the future, I can try my hand at astrophotography, but for now, teaching him about the world and being present is my first priority.

 

Thank you for the information and I'll definitely watch the project for news and results. Any idea if the Carbondale person is on this forum? 

 

Another factor that you may want to consider with an EQ mount is an inopportune meridian flip. If you're in southern Texas, totality occurs very close to due south. It would be quite frustrating to hear "filters off" and your mount starts slewing to do a flip. Forewarned is forearmed.

 

Steve.

Interesting. I'm in Missouri and will be in Illinois for the eclipse, and am very inexperienced. So I haven't heard about this, but I can definitely imagine the mechanical need and how frustrating that would be.



#13 tismon

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Posted 27 April 2023 - 07:22 PM

Well, as quick as that started, I now own a Nexstar 6SE...sort of. One popped up in Kansas City that looked good and a friend that lives close by was willing to go take a look. So I own it, but don't have it yet.

 

In the end, I just have to admit that I'm not going to have the time I'd like to justify even more than this at this time. One day...

 

Thank you all for the help. I'll report back when I get to play with it myself.



#14 brionl

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Posted 29 April 2023 - 01:17 AM

The NexStar does have solar tracking, but you have to dig into the menus and enable it. I was going to use it for the last transit of Mercury, but we had pretty complete cloud cover here, so I had to watch it online.



#15 Nicole Sharp

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Posted 04 October 2023 - 07:03 PM

I currently have an old 114mm reflector on a GEM that I've cleaned and used for the 2017 solar eclipse with, honestly, surprising success given the basic setup including cheap cell phone mount. 

https://photos.app.g...LvJB7LSn6F6rHp6

 

For the 2024 eclipse, I'd like to upgrade it a bit so that I don't need to babysit it nearly as much. We've got a toddler now and I'd rather enjoy the experience with my family more than last time. I mean, it was a lot of fun since my wife and I set up at a winery, but still, it took a lot of constant adjusting.

 

The possible upgrade paths for goto functionality seem to either be:

  • Get something compact like a Nexstar 6 or 8 SE
  • Get a computerized GoTo GEM and use my existing tube

I'm not looking to invest thousands at this point, but $500-1000 seems like a range that should get me the functionality that I'm hoping for.

 

To that end, I've found the iEXOS-100-2 is currently on sale and these localish FB marketplace sets for a Sky Prodigy 130 and LXD-75

 

Any and all advice on these three or any other equipment that you'd recommend are very welcome.

Thank you

A long-tube Newtonian is an excellent Solar telescope.  Is that 900/114?  I've had a 1000/130 Newtonian on my wishlist for a while but it's a bit heavy for an Orion StarSeeker (Sky-Watcher Star Discovery).

 

Keep the Newtonian you have now for the Annular Solar Eclipse on October 14, assuming you have it collimated.

 

For the Total Solar Eclipse on April 8, you don't need a telescope or really want a long focal length.  For visual, the telescope you have now is likely a good choice without needing to upgrade.  For photography you will probably want a shorter focal length to capture the Solar corona.

 

If you just want Solar tracking, 900/114 should work okay on an Orion StarSeeker (Sky-Watcher Star Discovery).  Not sure about a Sky-Watcher AZ-GTi.  You have to figure out the payload weight.





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