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#1 Madeofducktape

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Posted 16 May 2024 - 08:53 PM

I'm a big fan of the site and have been a long-time lurker. I've learned a lot of really good information here! Thank you all for sharing! I've been dabbling in astronomy for a few years now, pretty casually. But I've hit a bit of a (very low) plateau and am not sure where to go next. I'm reaching out to some more experienced members for suggestions and guidance as to the next steps of my astro journey. I live in a Bortle 8/9 location and have family obligations at home, which limits my ability to slip away to dark sites on a whim. I struggle to star hop as there are usually not more than a dozen or so guide stars available to work with. Ultimately, I would like to be able to share these experiences with my family. I usually bring some sort of observation tools (scope or binos) along on family trips, so I do like portability whenever possible. Large Dobs are not portable enough for my needs. Here is my current lineup of scopes and accessories: 1. **Celestron Travelscope 70**: My first telescope. I performed some of the mods suggested by 10minuteastronomy, and I think they helped a bunch, but ultimately I think it might be time to move on from this one. 2. **Orion ST 80 (1.25" focuser)**: Picked this up recently because it seems like one of those scopes that everyone needs to have. Likely to replace the TS 70 as a versatile all-rounder. Just need to get some more clear nights with it to confirm. 3. **Celestron C90 Mak (the new version)**: Longer focal length for some higher magnification planetary observations. 4. **Meade 277 Comet Seeker**: Was a bit of an impulse buy but couldn't pass this one up. 5. **8x42 and 7x50 binoculars**: For quick looks! **Mounting options** are definitely my weak point for now. It’s just camera tripods. **Accessories**: - Plossl Eyepieces (32, 17, 9, 6) - Red dot finders - Svbony planetary camera - *Turn Left at Orion* - *NightWatch* I am thinking about picking up a Sky-Watcher AZ-GTi mount to make finding objects easier in my light-polluted area, and for tracking purposes. Would that help with my current scopes? Or are the apertures too small that GoTo/tracking won't make much difference? On the other hand, I am wondering if I would be better off going the Seestar route for EAA? Are either of these ideas on the right track? - Greg
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#2 shakafell

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Posted 16 May 2024 - 09:13 PM

Seestar is a good choice


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#3 Phil Sherman

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Posted 16 May 2024 - 10:08 PM

I would try to find something similar to the NexStar 4SE, probably used. You're not purchasing this for the scope but primarily for the mount. These small one-arm mounts will easily carry all of your scopes using their Vixen mounting plates. A Vixen mounting bar with appropriately sized rings can be used for any of the scopes that don't have a Vixen style mounting bar. An alternative would be to check the weight of each of your scopes with your heaviest eyepiece. If the weights are light enough, any of the simple astro imaging camera mounts would suffice for a mount for your scopes. I believe that these usually use a Vixen bar attachment and come with an attachment that matches a camera's tripod screw mount.

 

My understanding of the Seestar is that you tell it what you want to see then it figures out where in the sky to point the mount, does this, then spends a short number of minutes building up an image of the target for you to view. If this is the type of astronomy you want to do, then it's the route to take. You still won't have any way to do more than you presently can with the rest of your gear.

 

Good luck with your search and decision.


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#4 Jethro7

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Posted 16 May 2024 - 10:12 PM

Hello,

Although the Seeatar does not provide the total lmmerson that you get with a scope and eyepieces, I can highly recommend one. A Seestar is cheap for what you will get out of it. You will certainly be able to see a whole lot more than you ever will with any scope no matter what size or type, especially under your light polluted skies. Sharing this experience with your family will also be easier with the Seestar and being able to keep souvenirs of the experience to boot. After receiving my Seestar many of my viewing sessions have evolved into hybrid viewing sessions.  I still prefer the immersed feelings of viewing the skies with a scope and employing the use of a light intensifier (A very expensive military type night vision device)  to mitigate the awful effects of my light polluted skies. While I'm doing my thing with a scope, I have my Seestar doing its thing and I go back and forth between my scope and Seestar and at the end of the session, my Seestar gives a souvenir for my effort. You already have what you need for planetary and Lunar viewing. The Seestar would make a wonderful compliment for viewing those out of reach DSO's 

 

HAPPY SKIES AND KEEP LOOKING UP Jethro

 


Edited by Jethro7, 17 May 2024 - 09:29 AM.

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#5 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 17 May 2024 - 02:42 AM

I'll second what Jethro7 had to say about the Seestar S50.  I'm primarily a visual observer but I've always done a bit of astrophotography/imaging.  The Seestar S50 can produce surprisingly good images even from rather light polluted locations and I've used it quite a bit in hybrid sessions, as Jethro 7 put it, since purchasing one last year.

There's a thread consisting of Seestar S50 images at https://www.cloudyni...1#entry13450959

 

 


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#6 Madeofducktape

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Posted 17 May 2024 - 07:18 AM

Thank you all for the responses, and sorry about the formatting- I had it nicely formatted in another window but I guess it did not copy-paste over correctly.

The nexstar 4se is an interesting recommendation, I guess that would replace the TS 70 and the C90 Mak.

A lot of good feedback on the seestar as well.

I'll keep you posted when I decide a path forward!
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#7 rhetfield

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Posted 17 May 2024 - 12:40 PM

A 5, 6, or 8" dob would up capabilities. Add manual degree circles to aid with navigation. The AWB onesky/skywatcher heritage scopes are collapsible truss design that make travel to a dark site easier when the opportunity does present itself. When I was living in B8/9, I could navigate to any target easily with the degree circles. Sadly, the light pollution made many dim targets impossible. Not much one can do about that without travel.
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#8 Jethro7

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Posted 17 May 2024 - 12:44 PM

Thank you all for the responses, and sorry about the formatting- I had it nicely formatted in another window but I guess it did not copy-paste over correctly.

The nexstar 4se is an interesting recommendation, I guess that would replace the TS 70 and the C90 Mak.

A lot of good feedback on the seestar as well.

I'll keep you posted when I decide a path forward!

Hello,

I don't wish you to be dissappointed but even with a Celestron 4se with your light pollution  you are still going to be limited to viewing the Moon, bright planets.double stars and a handful of showcase DSO's and that's about it. Many folks here on CN, that live under bright skies like yours do EAA, that greatly opens up their skies and exponentially expands the available wonders of the heavens that are out of reach by any other conventional viewing methods.

 

There are only four ways to  deal with viewing under light polluted skies that I know of.

 

Here are your choices

 

(1)- Travel to dark skies. This is the best but inconvenient

 

(2)- Purchase a Night Vision Astronomy set up. This is game changing tech but it comes with a $5000.00 + price tag

 

(3)- EAA. The Seestar is a cheap and easy way into this Genre.

 

(4)- Learn to accept and enjoy the limitations of your situation. The cheapest way but tends to get boring

 

HAPPY SKIES TO YOU AND KEEP LOOKING UP Jethro


Edited by Jethro7, 17 May 2024 - 01:37 PM.

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#9 sevenofnine

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Posted 17 May 2024 - 02:10 PM

+1 on Jethro7's posts. If you want a better scope for your current B 8/9 situation then consider a 5" Mak on a tracking/go-to mount. It will give you better views of the SSO's that you are limited to in bright city night skies. It also will travel well to dark skies on vacations or camping trips. Because of it's long 1540mm focal length, a go-to mount makes finding objects much easier. As others have mentioned, the Seestar is another option. It is amazing to watch images of DSO's form on your cell phone and the captured image can be shared with family and friends. The built in LP filter should help a lot. Best of luck to you! borg.gif

 

https://agenaastro.c...unt-s21130.html.

 

https://agenaastro.c...ope-by-zwo.html.


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#10 vtornado

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Posted 17 May 2024 - 02:23 PM

Hi I am bortle 8 too.

 

 

A small CAT up to 5 inches, or a fast refractor (100 f/5) on an AZ-GTI is a good combination.  You are still visual, but the AZGTI finds stuff for you, which can be challenging/fun, or time consuming/stressful depending upon your disposition.  If you have kids out, they have low patience if it takes you 10 minutes to hop to different objects.  Solar system, Globs, doubles, and open clusters are what can be seen in bortle 8.  Only a few nebula and galaxies but they are ghosts of their glory.   Goto's can be trouble with houses and trees.

 

A seestar would be able to pull in a lot more objects, but you do lose the visual experience.  


Edited by vtornado, 17 May 2024 - 02:59 PM.

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#11 Madeofducktape

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Posted 17 May 2024 - 07:47 PM

Seestar is sounding more and more like the right move for now. Seems like the best bet to peek some deep sky objects while keeping the family engaged. And I would still be able to use the c90 for some planetary / Lunar work.
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#12 whizbang

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Posted 17 May 2024 - 08:34 PM

You need more aperture in a small package.

 

Consider a Celestron 6SE.


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#13 3C286

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Posted 18 May 2024 - 04:18 AM

I live in a Bortle 8/9 location and have family obligations at home, which limits my ability to slip away to dark sites on a whim. I struggle to star hop as there are usually not more than a dozen or so guide stars available to work with.

 

This might be a bit left-field but have you thought about white light solar observing (i.e. sunspots)? Light pollution doesn't affect the sun and you can get your astronomy fix even when it's a bit cloudy and, obviously, during the day.

 

We're nearing the solar maximum so there are lots of interesting sunspots that change daily. In the last few weeks, like other solar observers, I've been tracking the progress of the large and complex sunspot group AR3664. It's the one that released the massive coronal mass ejections that caused the recent aurora. It's a great time to start observing the sun!

 

 

I am thinking about picking up a Sky-Watcher AZ-GTi mount to make finding objects easier in my light-polluted area, and for tracking purposes. Would that help with my current scopes? Or are the apertures too small that GoTo/tracking won't make much difference? On the other hand, I am wondering if I would be better off going the Seestar route for EAA? Are either of these ideas on the right track? - Greg

AZ-GTi might be a better way into EAA because you can also use it for visual astronomy.

 

I also have an ST80 and I'm looking for a used AZ-GTi to get started in EAA. The ST80, being an achromat, isn't the best scope for EAA but its short focal length allows you to use a cheaper small 1/3" sensor to get around 1° FoV. This should be wide enough for plate solving and aligning the subs. If you get a colour camera, SharpCap (the go-to live stacking SW for EAA) now has a feature to correct for chromatic aberration, which should allow us to get started in EAA inexpensively with an achromat:

https://www.cloudyni.../?hl= chromatic

 

This forum is strictly "No Astrophotography" and EAA sails a bit close to that so you should probably post detailed questions on EAA to the EAA forum?

 

 

Hope that gives you some food for thought

Tak


Edited by 3C286, 18 May 2024 - 04:19 AM.


#14 Madeofducktape

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Posted 18 May 2024 - 10:57 AM

Great point on white light solar! I do have a filter that I used recently for the eclipse and have been meaning to check out these sunspots.

#15 Astro_In_Tampa

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Posted 20 May 2024 - 03:57 AM

I absolutely love my Seestar S50. I live in a bortle 7-8 area and I can only observe from my back yard. Even then, when my neighbors leave their lights on (which is often!) it is almost impossible to identify anything in the sky. But the Seestar sees right through it and it takes pictures of things I can never hope to see with my AD12.

 

That said...

 

Nothing beats the photons from Andromeda hitting the back of your own eyeballs. For me, it's a completely different and unique experience no picture will ever equal. You mentioned getting your family involved in the hobby. If you have kids, I can't think of a better way than to let them watch as a picture of <insert thing here> develops on a tablet in front of them. Compliment that with views of the moon and planets from your scopes, and I think they will be hooked. 

 

So that's my long-winded way of saying, get a Seestar! You'll love it.



#16 radiofm74

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Posted 20 May 2024 - 06:07 AM

You need more aperture in a small package.

 

Consider a Celestron 6SE.

In short, this! Below, my longer answer.

 

Before we go in, two premisses

1. I've been exactly where you are now. My life situation is: Bortle 9 most of the time, family, and so trying to make the most of family trips (learn the dark art of negotiating good spots for holidays…). I am away from home during the week for work, so I can log more hours under darker skies, but I know your situation well. Here are my suggestions for stargazing under Bortle 9, with a package you can take with you on family trips. I am going to stay with observation at the eyepiece – if you want to do EAA, which is something I want to explore myself, that's a different set of advice.

2. Visual astronomy in the city can be a lot of fun. Yes: lunar, planetary, and multiple stars are your main diet. But you can have fun with DSOs too, perhaps more than it's currently suggested. Very bright DSOs (think Double Cluster, Pleiades, M44, M13, M3, Ring Nebula) are still beautiful, though less beautiful than they are under better skies; fainter ones become fun as a challenge (… can you bag the Crab Nebula under Bortle9?). Observing DSOs in the city is also great training, both for finding and for observing: when you do get the chance of being under rural skies, you'll be far more able to seize it if you observe regularly in the city. But to do so with profit, you need the right gear… 

 

Tube

 

You need More Aperture than what you have. Keep your ST80, it'll come in handy. But move up. In my experience, 6" is good; 8" is a lot better. Add portability requirements, and you cannot go wrong with a C6 or C8, with a f/6.3 focal reducer. They have narrow FoVs, however, and might make it difficult for you finding objects if you use a non-GoTo mount (more on that below). A 6", f/5 Newtonian is a cheap, easy to transport option and has considerably wider field. I've done my first couple of years of observation with one, and it's been a great ride. I now have a Vixen R200SS (old and scarred, bought for 400€) and it would also be super light and a good aperture, but at f/4 it's a difficult beast to tame and I would not recommend it for starting out. 

 

Mount

 

Your main choice is: GoTo or manual? I'll discuss here only mounts I have experience with, and of course other solutions might be as good or better (e.g. getting a C6 or C8 on a computerised alt-az mount if that's your thing). 

 

If GoTo, a HEQ5 Pro can be had used for not a lot of money, will hold all the above scopes well, and is a good platform for doing EAA and imaging later on. On a trip, you'll need to figure out where to plug it: wall wart, 12V battery, …? It's not a "grab'n'go" portable mount, but if you have an understanding SO it can fit in the car without taking a huge amount of space. 

 

If not GoTo, here are a few I've used with satisfaction

-- Super-light and stable is possible, but pricey. I've used a Vixen APZ (alt-az, manual) and an Advanced Polaris (eq, manual or motorised) with both my C6 and (at the limit!) C8. I love both mounts like mad. One is my travel mount, the other my "travel-to-the-countryside-and-image" mount. The AP goes on 5V power banks, brilliant!!

-- A Vixen GP (or better still GPDX) is a little bulkier, but can be found for not a lot of money on the market and is plenty stable enough for all the scopes above. If you get it with a tracking motor, it'll have its own power pack and you can also rig it up to 5V batteries so it's also more portable than the HEQ5 Pro.

-- The cheapest mount (yes, another EQ, sorry it's all I use apart from the APZ) is the fully manual CG-4 that's bundled with the 6" Newtonian by Celestron. It also holds all the tubes discussed so far well, and can be upgraded with an RA motor for visual. 

 

Finders

 

For star-hopping in the city, if you don't have GoTo, I'd consider a 7x50 optical finder over the usual 6x30 that comes with scopes. With the SCTs, it was a life-or-death thing initially. Now I'm well used to star-hopping in the city and can find most anything with a 6x30. 

 

Filters

 

Do take full advantage of narrowband filters: UHC, OIII. Avoid "light pollution" filters, which are basically useless IME. Hunting for nebulae of all kinds is easier in the city than going after faint broadband targets such as most galaxies. The Orion Nebula, the Eskimo Nebula, the Ring, the Ghost of Jupiter, … all show well in the city. Note: to use filters, you do need some aperture … see above! 

 

Conditions, conditions…

 

Most nights, under Bortle 9, you do best to stick to multiple stars, and to the Moon and planets if available. Hunt for DSO only when there's no or little Moon (yes, the Moon makes a difference even in the city) and transparency is very good. On such nights, with my 6" Newton on a manual mount, I've managed to spot the Leo trio (well, duo…), Bode's Galaxies, the Crab Nebula, the Sunflower galaxy… not in much detail, I'll grant you, but I was THRILLED. 

 

Clear skies!

 

PS: key resource to finding and enjoying DSOs in the city: https://tony-flander...ssier-project/ 


Edited by radiofm74, 20 May 2024 - 06:12 AM.

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#17 Madeofducktape

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Posted 20 May 2024 - 09:20 PM

Thank you all for your well thought responses! I am blown away by the knowledge generously shared here on this site.

Seems like I now have 3 things to consider:
* AZ Gti offering goto capability for a visual experience. Relatively limited DSO performance in my main viewing location due to light pollution, but is a portable and good for travels. I think this could be paired with my planetsry camera for some basic EAA, but I will confirm over on the EAA forums.

* Seestar S50 dips my toes into EAA, and is easy to share views with the family. But i would lose the "eyepiece" experience

*Finally, I could go the route of a 6-8" SCT. Larger aperture would help with DSO's (when paired with the correct filters) and be awesome on planets. I actually had been keeping a lookout for a C8 to see if any screamin' deals come up. Question is- do I need one of the modern ones (like the 8SE)? Or would the older orange tube ones work for my application?

I actually got a few minutes of white light solar observation in this weekend with the TS70. Might search for a larger filter. Hopefully I can fine one that fits both the C90 and the ST80.
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#18 radiofm74

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Posted 21 May 2024 - 02:07 AM

Thank you all for your well thought responses! I am blown away by the knowledge generously shared here on this site.

Seems like I now have 3 things to consider:
* AZ Gti offering goto capability for a visual experience. Relatively limited DSO performance in my main viewing location due to light pollution, but is a portable and good for travels. I think this could be paired with my planetsry camera for some basic EAA, but I will confirm over on the EAA forums.

* Seestar S50 dips my toes into EAA, and is easy to share views with the family. But i would lose the "eyepiece" experience

*Finally, I could go the route of a 6-8" SCT. Larger aperture would help with DSO's (when paired with the correct filters) and be awesome on planets. I actually had been keeping a lookout for a C8 to see if any screamin' deals come up. Question is- do I need one of the modern ones (like the 8SE)? Or would the older orange tube ones work for my application?

I actually got a few minutes of white light solar observation in this weekend with the TS70. Might search for a larger filter. Hopefully I can fine one that fits both the C90 and the ST80.

To the third point: when I say C6/C8 I mean the tube – for mounting it you have many choices, old or new does not much matter provided the scope has a Vixen dovetail. You can get separate tube and mount, or you can get a bundle. Mine is an old warrior of a C8 "deforked" from its original mount by previous owners and Vixen-compatible. 

 

Old or new? The design has not changed. As a general rule of thumb: it seems that the very old SCTs are not only older, but also have less transmissive coatings so perhaps I'd limit my search to more recent, Synta-era, "XLT" SCTs. Whatever you do, check that mirrors, plate, focusing mechanism are in good state. If you're buying an electronic mount with the scope, make sure it is in perfect working order before pulling the trigger (or negotiate good return policies). 

 

Last consideration: C6 and C8 are not the same choice. A C8 is a step forward in capability, but a C6 is in a completely different league portability-wise: check out Ed Ting's famous pic with all the Celestron SCT family, or better still check them out in person. A C6 will accordingly be able to live on the lightest of mounts – including, if reports are correct, an AZ-GTI. A C8 is still a portable scope in the grand scheme of things, but not "airline portable" or "grab'n'go" the same way a C6 is, and will require a more capable mount. Where the sweet spot lies depends entirely on your priorities and observing habits. I thought I'd sell the C6 after getting the C8, but that is not going to happen. While I use the C8 by preference during the year, the C6 is my favorite "holiday scope" (and might now also become my EAA scope thanks to a friendlier focal length and more generous FoV). 

 

Good luck!


Edited by radiofm74, 21 May 2024 - 03:41 AM.

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#19 3C286

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Posted 23 May 2024 - 01:51 PM

I actually got a few minutes of white light solar observation in this weekend with the TS70. Might search for a larger filter. Hopefully I can fine one that fits both the C90 and the ST80.

 

That's fantastic that you're interested in white light solar observing cool.gif. A lot of people find it a bit dull because sunspots are just spots.... If you'd like to get deeper into it, the Astronomical league has a good booklet and some exercises for their "sunspotter" observing program:

 

https://www.astrolea...erving-program/

 

I really enjoy sketching the sun because you can see how the sunspots are changing over a period of days. This post with a GIF movie from sketches of the sunspots over multiple days is what got me into sketching the sunspots. I hope it might inspire you too:

 

https://www.cloudyni...he-last-3-days/

 

If you're going to be doing white light observing frequently, you might like to consider getting a second-hand Herschel wedge. They work on all refractors up to some maximum aperture, though not on reflectors like your C90. They are more robust than solar filters and I feel that they're safer because you don't have to worry about damage/degradation to the solar filter and there's no risk of the solar filter blowing off while you're observing. 

 

I started off observing with my ST80 and a Herschel wedge. You typically observe in monochrome using a green filter (or a red filter) or a Baader Continuum filter, so achromats are perfect for it. Just to stress that the filters are mounted after the Herschel wedge. I later moved on to a scope with a dual-speed focuser but an ST80 was fine to start with.

 

It sounds like you know what you're doing with your telescope but a safety warning to complete beginners who might read this thread; it's probably safest to start with observing the night sky and only attempt solar once you're completely comfortable using the scope and know what's what. Even experienced solar observers have burned burnt their equipment from a moment's inattention or wind blowing off the front-mounted solar filter:

 

https://www.cloudyni...-is-hot-beware/

 

For questions on solar observing, it's best to head to the very active solar observing forum on CN where solar observers, who are much more experienced than me, can help you: 

 

https://www.cloudyni...ng-and-imaging/

 

Good luck!

Tak


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#20 rrpallechio

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Posted 23 May 2024 - 04:39 PM

I am very happy with my Seestar S50.


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#21 Madeofducktape

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Posted 24 May 2024 - 11:04 PM

I was able to take out the meade 277 last night and the c90 tonight. It was interesting to see the difference between the two scopes. The only stars I was able to see were arcturus and spica, so I just observed the moon for a little bit. It is also my understanding that there isnt much to see this time of year. It was neat to just watch the moon drift across the eyepiece.

Thanks for the tip on the AL sunspotter program! I'll have to look more into it.

#22 Madeofducktape

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Posted 01 June 2024 - 09:40 AM

Ok just a quick update, as a plan is beginning to come together. Thanks to all the great advice from this forum. The current focus is to use the scopes I have (ST80 and C90) for visual observations of objects not affected by light pollution (lunar, solar, planets). I will look into astro league for targets / observing ideas. I also placed an order for a seestar, the plan is to use that to enjoy some of the DSO's via EAA during my visual sesions.

I will also be keeping an eye out for a deal on a C6 to further enhance my visual observing. I just missed one last week, but i'm sure more will come up!
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#23 radiofm74

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Posted 02 June 2024 - 12:19 PM

Ok just a quick update, as a plan is beginning to come together. Thanks to all the great advice from this forum. The current focus is to use the scopes I have (ST80 and C90) for visual observations of objects not affected by light pollution (lunar, solar, planets). I will look into astro league for targets / observing ideas. I also placed an order for a seestar, the plan is to use that to enjoy some of the DSO's via EAA during my visual sesions.

I will also be keeping an eye out for a deal on a C6 to further enhance my visual observing. I just missed one last week, but i'm sure more will come up!

Not a rare scope by any means ;D Keep your powder dry, and one will surely come along!


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#24 Jethro7

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Posted 03 June 2024 - 01:43 AM

I also placed an order for a seestar, the plan is to use that to enjoy some of the DSO's via EAA during my visual sesions.

Hello,

You are going to fun with the Seestar. 

 

HAPPY SKIES AND KEEP LOOKING UP Jethro


Edited by Jethro7, 03 June 2024 - 01:44 AM.


#25 Madeofducktape

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Posted 10 June 2024 - 09:52 PM

The Seestar arrived today! I was able to play around with it a little bit. Still a ton to learn, but I think I will enjoy it. Took the requisite photo of the moon, then tried for the leo triplet. Finally put in 7 minutes on m13, which the seestar picked out of a seemingly endless patch of milky gray sky. It would have taken me forever to find that!
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