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Unitron 510 Notes

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#1 jgraham

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Posted 08 July 2023 - 08:59 PM

As I mentioned in the Unitron History Project thread it is my great honor and privilege to have the opportunity to be a part of the next chapter in the history of a relatively rare and unique 5” f/16 Unitron 510. In the interest of not hijacking the Unitron History Project thread we thought that it would be a good idea to start a thread as a place to tuck away notes on this wonderful telescope.

 

To begin, much of the history of this telescope, and a Unitron 530, has been well documented on the Unitron History Project website;

 

http://www.unitronhistory.com/

 

..and links therein. The Unitron History Project Website is an amazing resource and well worth taking the time to explore, so there’s no need to repeat any of its content here.

 

A couple of side notes that I found while researching this particular 510 includes a couple of threads here on Cloudy Nights. For example, this thread by long-time owner Jim Craft (highertheflyer) that describes some of the telescope’s early history and his thoughts on its future…

 

https://www.cloudyni...ield-telescope/

 

...and a thread on when the scope was handed off to Tom Terleski (Turk) and the very beginnings of what was to become an amazing restoration project...

 

https://www.cloudyni...ion-1300-miles/

 

...and an early project that Tom executed to build a new set of legs for the 510’s tripod…

 

https://www.cloudyni...d-construction/

 

The full restoration is described on the Unitron History Project website with a link to the full thread here on Cloudy Nights (that I frequently turn to for information).

And I think that brings us up to date! As I mentioned above, I am blessed to have an opportunity to be a part of the Next Chapter in this scope’s journey. The Plan is to use this scope in a mix of personal and outreach and a mix of using it on its original mount and on a modern mount. If appropriate it may also see service as an imaging platform (and I have done with my 155). I hope to use this thread to chronicle the progress of this journey. Given the nature of threads, I would encourage others to share their experiences with similar modest/large classics, and we’ll see where it goes!

 

So, in the beginning…

 

After a long and thoroughly enjoyable conversation with Dave (Combatdad) we made arrangements for Dave to drop off the scope during a visit with family here in Dayton, Ohio. It was wonderful meeting Dave and his brother in-law and it was amazing finally seeing the scope and the cabinets first-hand. (BTW, Dave looks just like his pictures and is the nicest person that you could ever meet.) Step #1 was going through all of the parts and pieces and assembling the basic scope to get an introduction to the task at hand. Having prior experience with a 155c was a big help and assembling the basic scope was fairly straight forward. A big difference was that the equatorial head was far too heavy to even think about lifting onto the tripod. As Dave suggested, the best procedure is to mate the head to the tripod while lying on the ground, and then to lift the assembly up onto the tripod’s feet. The rest of the assembly is typical Unitron; add the counterweight shaft, weights, tube, slow motion rods/cable, Uni-balance, diagonal, eyepiece. (Details to follow.)

 

This first night out was primarily just an introduction to the scope. The sky was veiled with a thick layer of of smoke, but I was still able to sneak a peek at a few targets.

 

First observation; as reported in the history of this scope one of the early owners shortened the tripod legs by removing the spikes, supposedly so that it would fit under a garage door. I kinda liked the spikes as they do a great job of anchoring the tripod to the turf and I thought about adding at least booties to the ends of the legs. Dave provided a set of spare legs that were originally designed to convert a 530 pedestal mounted 5” to a tripod mounted field scope. However, after using the scope it is plenty high enough! If it were much higher reaching the eyepiece at even modest altitudes could be a problem. So, for now, if it t’ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

 

Second observation; also as reported the drive motor was a tad noisy and ran warm/hot. More on this later. However, the tracking rate was spot-on, and it ran for several hours using the 120vac output from my LiOH battery using about 50% of the initial charge. 

 

Third observation; the image quality was amazing. Turk did an great job of collimating the scope and it has held alignment. Using a Meade 5.5mmUWA eyepiece (364x) stars showed sharp Airy disks with sharp, tight, concentric Airy disks. Venus showed a sharp crescent phase, a beautiful soft terminator, and a hint of detail. The moon looked amazing with no hint of image breakdown. I dropped back to 227x (Meade 8.8mm UWA) for epsilon Lyra and the Double Double was amazing with a clean split for both components. I could have stared at it all night, but I had to go to work the next day, so this was enough for the first night.

 

Fourth observation; in typical Unitron fashion everything was well designed, assembly was clear and self-explanatory with excellent ergonomics, and the scope was very comfortable to use. One thing that I have always enjoyed about the classics from this era is that they were designed for manual operation, and everything is exactly where your hands expect to find them in the dark. I also like how the slow motion controls have different knobs so that you can tell which control is which in the dark.

 

So, off to a great start!

 

Let the Adventure Begin!

 

The Unitron 510 after the initial check-out assembly waiting for first-light...

 

Unitron 510 (6-28-2023)-3.jpg

 

Unitron 510 (6-28-2023)-4.jpg


Edited by jgraham, 08 July 2023 - 09:02 PM.

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#2 RichA

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Posted 09 July 2023 - 01:55 AM

As I mentioned in the Unitron History Project thread it is my great honor and privilege to have the opportunity to be a part of the next chapter in the history of a relatively rare and unique 5” f/16 Unitron 510. In the interest of not hijacking the Unitron History Project thread we thought that it would be a good idea to start a thread as a place to tuck away notes on this wonderful telescope.

 

To begin, much of the history of this telescope, and a Unitron 530, has been well documented on the Unitron History Project website;

 

http://www.unitronhistory.com/

 

..and links therein. The Unitron History Project Website is an amazing resource and well worth taking the time to explore, so there’s no need to repeat any of its content here.

 

A couple of side notes that I found while researching this particular 510 includes a couple of threads here on Cloudy Nights. For example, this thread by long-time owner Jim Craft (highertheflyer) that describes some of the telescope’s early history and his thoughts on its future…

 

https://www.cloudyni...ield-telescope/

 

...and a thread on when the scope was handed off to Tom Terleski (Turk) and the very beginnings of what was to become an amazing restoration project...

 

https://www.cloudyni...ion-1300-miles/

 

...and an early project that Tom executed to build a new set of legs for the 510’s tripod…

 

https://www.cloudyni...d-construction/

 

The full restoration is described on the Unitron History Project website with a link to the full thread here on Cloudy Nights (that I frequently turn to for information).

And I think that brings us up to date! As I mentioned above, I am blessed to have an opportunity to be a part of the Next Chapter in this scope’s journey. The Plan is to use this scope in a mix of personal and outreach and a mix of using it on its original mount and on a modern mount. If appropriate it may also see service as an imaging platform (and I have done with my 155). I hope to use this thread to chronicle the progress of this journey. Given the nature of threads, I would encourage others to share their experiences with similar modest/large classics, and we’ll see where it goes!

 

So, in the beginning…

 

After a long and thoroughly enjoyable conversation with Dave (Combatdad) we made arrangements for Dave to drop off the scope during a visit with family here in Dayton, Ohio. It was wonderful meeting Dave and his brother in-law and it was amazing finally seeing the scope and the cabinets first-hand. (BTW, Dave looks just like his pictures and is the nicest person that you could ever meet.) Step #1 was going through all of the parts and pieces and assembling the basic scope to get an introduction to the task at hand. Having prior experience with a 155c was a big help and assembling the basic scope was fairly straight forward. A big difference was that the equatorial head was far too heavy to even think about lifting onto the tripod. As Dave suggested, the best procedure is to mate the head to the tripod while lying on the ground, and then to lift the assembly up onto the tripod’s feet. The rest of the assembly is typical Unitron; add the counterweight shaft, weights, tube, slow motion rods/cable, Uni-balance, diagonal, eyepiece. (Details to follow.)

 

This first night out was primarily just an introduction to the scope. The sky was veiled with a thick layer of of smoke, but I was still able to sneak a peek at a few targets.

 

First observation; as reported in the history of this scope one of the early owners shortened the tripod legs by removing the spikes, supposedly so that it would fit under a garage door. I kinda liked the spikes as they do a great job of anchoring the tripod to the turf and I thought about adding at least booties to the ends of the legs. Dave provided a set of spare legs that were originally designed to convert a 530 pedestal mounted 5” to a tripod mounted field scope. However, after using the scope it is plenty high enough! If it were much higher reaching the eyepiece at even modest altitudes could be a problem. So, for now, if it t’ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

 

Second observation; also as reported the drive motor was a tad noisy and ran warm/hot. More on this later. However, the tracking rate was spot-on, and it ran for several hours using the 120vac output from my LiOH battery using about 50% of the initial charge. 

 

Third observation; the image quality was amazing. Turk did an great job of collimating the scope and it has held alignment. Using a Meade 5.5mmUWA eyepiece (364x) stars showed sharp Airy disks with sharp, tight, concentric Airy disks. Venus showed a sharp crescent phase, a beautiful soft terminator, and a hint of detail. The moon looked amazing with no hint of image breakdown. I dropped back to 227x (Meade 8.8mm UWA) for epsilon Lyra and the Double Double was amazing with a clean split for both components. I could have stared at it all night, but I had to go to work the next day, so this was enough for the first night.

 

Fourth observation; in typical Unitron fashion everything was well designed, assembly was clear and self-explanatory with excellent ergonomics, and the scope was very comfortable to use. One thing that I have always enjoyed about the classics from this era is that they were designed for manual operation, and everything is exactly where your hands expect to find them in the dark. I also like how the slow motion controls have different knobs so that you can tell which control is which in the dark.

 

So, off to a great start!

 

Let the Adventure Begin!

 

The Unitron 510 after the initial check-out assembly waiting for first-light...

 

attachicon.gif Unitron 510 (6-28-2023)-3.jpg

 

attachicon.gif Unitron 510 (6-28-2023)-4.jpg

Beautiful scope, needs a human next to it to give it scale.


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#3 combatdad

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Posted 09 July 2023 - 05:35 AM

Great opening, John!  Looking forward to lots of updates!!

 

I know you will add additional pics, but thought I would add one from NEAF.  The scope has made four visits to the forum.  Hope to see you and the M510 there next year!

 

Regards,

Dave

 

Note: I'm a shorty at 5'6"...

Attached Thumbnails

  • Model510.jpg

Edited by combatdad, 09 July 2023 - 08:26 AM.

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#4 starman876

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Posted 09 July 2023 - 06:15 AM

such a beautiful scope with a great history and great ownersbow.gif



#5 CHASLX200

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Posted 09 July 2023 - 01:31 PM

Mine had a diff tripod. It was bigger and had the 3" Guide scope and 60mm finder and two drives.  Not sure if the tripod was a Unitron or a copy.



#6 jgraham

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Posted 09 July 2023 - 04:08 PM

Way back when Dave and I were still converging to a solution on the Unitron 510 I was pondering the status of the clock drive. The drives on my Unitron 142 and 155 perform beautifully and are a very important accessory for high resolution work and mission-critical for outreach. The The drive on the 510 was reported to run warm/hot and relatively noisy. My first thought was the possibility of worn brushes and the choppy sound that you can hear on the short video that Turk links to kinda supported that. However, once I got a chance to test the motor myself I’m not so sure.

 

My first evening with the scope I connected and ran the drive and yes, it was a bit noisy slowly warming up and eventually got a bit hot. However, the tracking rate was spot-on with no detectable drift or periodic error even at 364x. The excellent tracking and the effective slow motion controls makes this a very comfortable scope to use at high magnification, but the noise and warmth was a bit worrisome.

 

The next day I set the motor up on my desk and stared at it for quite a while. Ordinarily I’d do the ol’ take it apart, clean it, and put it back together, but Turk already did that and he ran into a couple of roadblocks possibly due to hidden screws. Still, he took it as far as he could, cleaned, greased, and put it back together. This early in the game I am very reluctant to do anything that can’t be undone and this is such an important component I decided to tread carefully. What caught my eye were two oil taps; one  each over the front and rear bearings. When I removed the covers and peeked inside I didn’t see any oil, which wasn’t a big surprise, but it seemed like something that I could easily try.

 

The first step was to flush a light machine oil through the bearings. The thought was that if this motor sat idle for a very long period of time the old oil my have dried off leaving varnish on the bearings and that might contribute to the choppy sound. A light oil might also help seal the bearings by swelling the packing, if there is any. I set the motor up with my LiOH battery as shown below, turned it on, and started slowly adding oil through the taps. The motor almost immediately ran much quieter and the choppiness smoothed out, eventually becoming a steady hum. I added enough oil to top off the taps, and then closed them up. That night I ran the drive for about 4 hours out at the scope and is was still a bit noisy and ran warm/hot, but it seemed to work okay.

 

We ran into a spell of cloudy weather which put field testing on-hold, but I continued to bench-test the drive motor. The bearings needed topping off and I figured that the oil that I was using was too thin. After a bit of research I found an oil that is designed for use with electric motors. Using this oil made a significant improvement. The rear bearing is stable and so far hasn’t needed any more to be added after several hours on the bench and 4 hours in the field. The front bearing has also settled down but need a few drops. I wouldn’t describe the motor as quiet, but it’s not bad and just hums steadily along. It warms far more slowly, doesn’t really get hot, and after 4 hours in the field my LiOH battery still has about half its charge left.

 

So, for now, the drive motor seems to be running well and has become a non-problem.

 

Neat stuff!

 

Unitron 510 Drive (7-9-2023)-1.jpg

 

 


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#7 combatdad

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Posted 09 July 2023 - 06:12 PM

Mine had a diff tripod. It was bigger and had the 3" Guide scope and 60mm finder and two drives.  Not sure if the tripod was a Unitron or a copy.

That tripod was cut down by a previous owner.  Also, check out this Unitron customer pass out sheet: https://www.unitronh...s-out-front/.  

 

It shows a Model 510 with the 40mm viewfinder and the 60mm guidescope.

 

Dave


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#8 jgraham

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Posted 09 July 2023 - 06:41 PM

I haven't mounted the 60mm guidescope yet, but it is on the to-do list. My 155 also has a 60mm guidescope and it us excellent. I like to use them as a medium field finder. I'm also going to try and mount a camera on the guidescope and use it as a video finder/EAA option. The later can come in handy at outreach events.

I've got the 510 outside right now on my Atlas for a set of optical tests. Heh, heh, I'm sitting out at the scope right now looking at Vega in daylight. smile.gif

Gorgeous!


Edited by jgraham, 09 July 2023 - 06:41 PM.

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#9 jgraham

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Posted 09 July 2023 - 08:00 PM

New meets old...

 

Unitron 510 Atlas (7-9-2023)-1.jpg

 

...the Unitron 510 riding on an Orion Atlas EQ-G. This is the configuration that I will use for star-hopping with Sky Safari as well as imaging. Tonight was a great opportunity to test this setup as it gets dark late and I have to get up early tomorrow for work, so I don't have a lot of time. Tonight is dedicated to conducting some optical checks, so this was a nice chance to check some boxes. The 510 is well within the weight limit of the Atlas and it should be a nice combination. I had a great time imaging with the 155 and I am really looking forward to testing the 510 with a full-frame color camera.

 

Should be fun!

 

 


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#10 ccwemyss

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Posted 09 July 2023 - 08:10 PM

Before anybody pipes up about the orange finder -- it's a UO 8x50. The UO finders were made by Nihon Seiko, so technically, the optics are all still Unitron.

 

Chip W. 


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#11 jgraham

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Posted 09 July 2023 - 08:17 PM

Heh, heh,I was going to mention that at some point. :)

Someone once described these as little Unitrons. :)
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#12 jgraham

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Posted 09 July 2023 - 08:50 PM

Optical checks complete. I had to pull the objective apart for cleaning and reset the collimation. All is well. (Whew!) A noticeable difference between the 4" and the 5" is that the 510 takes the image sharpness up a notch. The components of epsilon Lyra clearly show tighter and less prominent diffraction rings. Splitting close (and not so close) double stars in the 510 is wonderful.

Now I'm just having fun star-hopping Lyra, one of my favorite celestial walkabouts. Stephenson 1 is gorgeous using a 2" Meade 56mm Super Plossl.
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#13 deSitter

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Posted 09 July 2023 - 10:41 PM

Optical checks complete. I had to pull the objective apart for cleaning and reset the collimation. All is well. (Whew!) A noticeable difference between the 4" and the 5" is that the 510 takes the image sharpness up a notch. The components of epsilon Lyra clearly show tighter and less prominent diffraction rings. Splitting close (and not so close) double stars in the 510 is wonderful.

Now I'm just having fun star-hopping Lyra, one of my favorite celestial walkabouts. Stephenson 1 is gorgeous using a 2" Meade 56mm Super Plossl.

A good test is Pi Aquilae. But it's not an acid test for a 5". (It is for a 4". I can barely do it with a 90mm.) Nearby is 16 Vulpeculae which is probably the limit of a 5" scope.

 

-drl



#14 CHASLX200

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Posted 10 July 2023 - 05:50 AM

That tripod was cut down by a previous owner.  Also, check out this Unitron customer pass out sheet: https://www.unitronh...s-out-front/.  

 

It shows a Model 510 with the 40mm viewfinder and the 60mm guidescope.

 

Dave

Mine had a diff tray for the weight drive and powered drives and the legs were thicker and 8" higher.  I think someone may have made that tripod. Not sure about the 3" guide scope , maybe it was added or sold by Unitron with the scope.


Edited by CHASLX200, 10 July 2023 - 05:51 AM.


#15 starman876

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Posted 10 July 2023 - 11:41 AM

Way back when Dave and I were still converging to a solution on the Unitron 510 I was pondering the status of the clock drive. The drives on my Unitron 142 and 155 perform beautifully and are a very important accessory for high resolution work and mission-critical for outreach. The The drive on the 510 was reported to run warm/hot and relatively noisy. My first thought was the possibility of worn brushes and the choppy sound that you can hear on the short video that Turk links to kinda supported that. However, once I got a chance to test the motor myself I’m not so sure.

 

My first evening with the scope I connected and ran the drive and yes, it was a bit noisy slowly warming up and eventually got a bit hot. However, the tracking rate was spot-on with no detectable drift or periodic error even at 364x. The excellent tracking and the effective slow motion controls makes this a very comfortable scope to use at high magnification, but the noise and warmth was a bit worrisome.

 

The next day I set the motor up on my desk and stared at it for quite a while. Ordinarily I’d do the ol’ take it apart, clean it, and put it back together, but Turk already did that and he ran into a couple of roadblocks possibly due to hidden screws. Still, he took it as far as he could, cleaned, greased, and put it back together. This early in the game I am very reluctant to do anything that can’t be undone and this is such an important component I decided to tread carefully. What caught my eye were two oil taps; one  each over the front and rear bearings. When I removed the covers and peeked inside I didn’t see any oil, which wasn’t a big surprise, but it seemed like something that I could easily try.

 

The first step was to flush a light machine oil through the bearings. The thought was that if this motor sat idle for a very long period of time the old oil my have dried off leaving varnish on the bearings and that might contribute to the choppy sound. A light oil might also help seal the bearings by swelling the packing, if there is any. I set the motor up with my LiOH battery as shown below, turned it on, and started slowly adding oil through the taps. The motor almost immediately ran much quieter and the choppiness smoothed out, eventually becoming a steady hum. I added enough oil to top off the taps, and then closed them up. That night I ran the drive for about 4 hours out at the scope and is was still a bit noisy and ran warm/hot, but it seemed to work okay.

 

We ran into a spell of cloudy weather which put field testing on-hold, but I continued to bench-test the drive motor. The bearings needed topping off and I figured that the oil that I was using was too thin. After a bit of research I found an oil that is designed for use with electric motors. Using this oil made a significant improvement. The rear bearing is stable and so far hasn’t needed any more to be added after several hours on the bench and 4 hours in the field. The front bearing has also settled down but need a few drops. I wouldn’t describe the motor as quiet, but it’s not bad and just hums steadily along. It warms far more slowly, doesn’t really get hot, and after 4 hours in the field my LiOH battery still has about half its charge left.

 

So, for now, the drive motor seems to be running well and has become a non-problem.

 

Neat stuff!

 

attachicon.gif Unitron 510 Drive (7-9-2023)-1.jpg

what are the dimensions or model number of the motor.  I might have one of those laying around.



#16 jgraham

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Posted 10 July 2023 - 05:48 PM

The weather for my second night out with the 510 wasn’t great and it was more of an opportunity to really start the learning process. However, my son and his family were visiting us from Texas and it turned into something of a nice little impromptu stargaze and a nice practice outreach-ish type of an evening. We took a peek at Venus (very low in the west), Arcturus, Mizar A/B & Alcor, Vega, epsilon Lyra, Albireo, and Antares. I get a kick out of using these long focal length achromats to show off star colors. As expected, the 510 showed no significant CA except maybe the tiniest smidge around Venus and Vega, but it tends to disappear when the scope is precisely focused. During the evening I learned how to lock and unlock the axis and how to sweep the scope across the sky to locate different objects. Pointing the scope proved to be fairly easy, but it also emphasized the need for me to add a right-angle finder. The original straight-through finder works fine at low altitudes, but I’m just not flexible enough to use it at moderate to high altitudes. The slow motion controls were responsive and effective, but there was a fair amount of backlash in the controls and in the mount in general in some orientations. I later traced much of this to lose screws, which isn’t surprising given the mass, momentum, and moment arm of this scope. There was also some rocking in the R.A. and Dec lock/slow motion assemblies. The actual amount is relatively low, but it is magnified by the length of the scope. I have since done a top-down review of the entire structure snugging screws and that cleaned things up nicely. As for the locks and slow-motion assemblies I am pondering installing a few strategically placed shims to take up the slack. However, a much simpler approach is to simply set the scope up just a tad out of balance so that it leans against the backlash and doesn’t float. I have tried this method out and it seems to work very well. However, once we hit another bad patch of weather I may explore making some shims from either  polyethylene or some really nice stainless steel shim stock that I have at work. Another product of the evening was the need to develop a good procedure for set-up and tear-down, particularly managing the mass of the equatorial head.

 

That was a task that I tackled on the 3rd night out…

 

The Journey Continues…

 


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#17 starman876

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Posted 11 July 2023 - 02:28 PM

Lifting that big mount into position must be a challenge with the legs attached.   The 155 is a bit of a challenge. 



#18 deSitter

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Posted 11 July 2023 - 02:52 PM

Lifting that big mount into position must be a challenge with the legs attached.   The 155 is a bit of a challenge. 

I can't even imagine. At my age getting out my LXD650 requires planning :)

 

-drl



#19 Jim Curry

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Posted 11 July 2023 - 03:13 PM

John
Great start to your thread. Congratulations on your new stewardship. Us Unitronians needed a new chapter and this promises to be a good one. Thanks for starting it.
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#20 CHASLX200

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Posted 11 July 2023 - 06:04 PM

I can't even imagine. At my age getting out my LXD650 requires planning smile.gif

 

-drl

That is a light weight mount vs the 510 head fred.  My LXD600 was a hunk of junk with the GO-TO going off on it's own and hitting the tripod. Remove the GO-TO and it was a good mount.  



#21 starman876

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Posted 11 July 2023 - 08:45 PM

I can't even imagine. At my age getting out my LXD650 requires planning smile.gif

 

-drl

Everything special is worth that extra effort.  That 510 mount is so special.   Comparing the 5" Unitron to modern day 5" scopes makes it really seem like something magical.  Modern day scopes have very little magic.



#22 jgraham

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Posted 11 July 2023 - 09:51 PM

Indeed. Magic is the word that I use to describe what it’s like to spend an evening catching starlight with these wonderful scopes. It is also an accurate description of what we feel when we share them with families with young children at outreach events.

 

Speaking of the 510… more to follow… we had a rare string of 3 clear nights in a row! I’m exhausted, but in a good way. :) It’s supposed to turn wet for the next several days and that will give me time to write. I also want to get some pictures of the assembly sequence now that it is converging to a solution.

 

One crisis at a time…


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#23 combatdad

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Posted 12 July 2023 - 07:53 AM

Hi John!  Great thread!!  Looking forward to lots of updates.

 

I never had the muscle nor height to use it in original configuration, but did get it out on my Losmandy G-11.  The 24 inch dovetail and parallax tube rings made for easy setup and very stable configuration.

 

Regards,

Dave

 

M510v4.jpg

 

 


Edited by combatdad, 12 July 2023 - 08:24 AM.

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#24 CHASLX200

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Posted 12 July 2023 - 06:02 PM

I would much rather have another 510 head again. But lifting it over shoulder high is something i can't do like i could when i was 14 and had the drive to do anything.  I just don't have the drive anymore and i don't mean clock drive.

 

The M-510 needs to be rolled out whole and that won't work at my house.



#25 starman876

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Posted 12 July 2023 - 09:44 PM

Hi John!  Great thread!!  Looking forward to lots of updates.

 

I never had the muscle nor height to use it in original configuration, but did get it out on my Losmandy G-11.  The 24 inch dovetail and parallax tube rings made for easy setup and very stable configuration.

 

Regards,

Dave

 

attachicon.gif M510v4.jpg

What is your next Unitron adventure  going to be Dave




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