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SkyWatcher 90mm Maks sold out?

March 19, 2012

Seems to be the case. Amazon has no more, and neither do Adorama and OPT.

So what to do if you’re in the market for a little Mak? Get a C90, stat! As Ed Ting said in his 3-way Mak comparo, “An embarrassingly good telescope package for almost no money. As of this writing they’re practically giving them away. If you’ve been thinking about getting one of these, I urge you to do so immediately before they run out, or before Celestron stops making them.”

On one hand, there is probably little danger that Celestron will stop making them; they’ve had a 90mm Mak in their product lineup for almost as long as I’ve been alive. Now that the SkyWatcher brand has been subsumed into Celestron (both are owned by Synta), it’s likely that the SkyWatcher-branded stuff is being allowed to die off to strengthen the Celestron brand.

On the other hand, C90s have been around for ages in multiple guises, but they haven’t always been this inexpensive. I wouldn’t get one just because they’re cheap–that way leads to a garage full of telescopes–but if you already want a little Mak and you’re bummed that the SkyWatchers are gone, the well-reviewed C90 should be a more than acceptable substitute.

I haven’t posted any new observations with my little Mak in a while because it’s been raining here. Next weekend I’m out of town, so I was hoping to get out to the desert for a Messier Marathon this weekend. Naturally it rained all weekend and today dawned sunny and clear. So it goes.

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22 comments

  1. Matt,

    I, too, noted that “Currently Unavailable” had replaced the price on Amazon. I think this first appeared last last week. When I ordered mine, they had 11 left. When I checked last Tuesday, the day mine arrived, it was down to 4, so there was a bit of a run on them.

    I finally got out for the first time with mine last night, our first night with any clear skies at all for nearly a week, and managed to sight in on Jupiter just before it vanished beyond our roofline. While the image was noticeably larger than that in my SB6, I still couldn’t see much detail. I first used my new 32mm which gave me a fairly wide fov and a sharp, bright image, then quickly switched over to first the 15 SWA, then a 10mm Plossl, the latter providing a nice, large image but, again, no real detail. The 6mm Expanse produced a good dime-sized image but was not sharp at all. And, once more, no detail. I THOUGHT I saw some band details intermittently last night, but then I wondered is it because I actually DO see the bands, etc or do I only think I do because I know they are there and because I am looking for them? Time and more attempts will tell, I suppose. Good grief, people are seeing bands with 60mm refractors, or so they say, and I have yet to see them with any real presence with either my SB 6 or Mak.

    The Mak was easy to move around and the little finderscope worked surprisingly well. But the results were less than I’d hoped for. I attribute this to skies that looked clear but really weren’t, much the norm up here until mid-April I am told by an Portland astronomer with more experience. So I will keep trying. I am now on a true Quest! Bands All or Be Damned!

    Should I fail in my Quest, the scope will still make a nice conversation piece.

    Looking forward to your next Mak observing report.

    Doug


  2. Hi Doug,

    If you’re not seeing bands, it’s the atmosphere. If you want to be sure, go up in magnification. At low mag it is sometimes easy to miss crappy seeing. If it is bad seeing, the higher-power view will look like the planet is underwater, or on fire.

    There are things you can do to minimize the effects of bad seeing. The most important is to observe things as high in the sky as possible. Jupiter is already fairly low in the west at sunset and gets lower fast, so if you want to see cloud belts this season you need to try and catch it as soon as it becomes visible during twilight.

    I had this same problem when I was doing sidewalk astronomy a couple of weeks ago: the planet and moons were clear enough, but the atmosphere was roiling so badly that I couldn’t make out any cloud bands. Once or twice I though I saw a hint of them, but like you said, I couldn’t tell if that was because they were really there or because I had such a strong expectation of what they should look like. Fortunately passersby were happy just to see the Galilean moons in the low-power view.

    Anyway, don’t give up. The other way to beat the seeing is to observe as often as possible. Some moments, minutes, hours, and days are better than others, and when you do get a really nice, stable evening you will be amazed at what you can see.


  3. Forgot to mention: in a week you’ll have the waxing crescent moon to point the scope at, as well. And I think you’ll be happy.


  4. Hi Matt.

    Yep, it must be the atmosphere because when I went up to the higher mags, the 6mm Expanse in particular, what you describe is almost exactly what Jupiter looked like, kind of a shimmering glob, the kind of view you would get of a silver dollar at the bottom of a foot of water.

    I am relieved that you had much the same experience during your sidewalk session last week. If you saw what I saw, then it’s definitely neither scope nor user.

    I can see passersby lighting up with a glimpse of even a bright yellow circle with the 4 moons hanging there like little diamonds. Even last night, I enjoyed this sight and I’ve seen it a lot over the past 6 weeks.

    No, no, I am not giving up. Too many people, vets like you and neophytes like me, report excellent results with the Mak, so I am just going to be patient and wait for the moon to pop us. Yes, Jupiter is pretty low in the sky up here, which is why I had so little time (and this was at dusk) before it dropped so low that the roofline blocked it out.

    Hey, one thing I DID do last night that turned out well was (get ready for this) to haul out my new Iffy Night scope, a little Celestron FirstScope. Here is why I got it: I always liked the look of it with the names of all the great astronomers curled around the OTA. The reviews were all over the map, some saying a decent little scope for a beginner or a more experienced astronomer who wanted a one-hander to flip around on nights when you maybe had a patch of open sky here and there, and others saying that the optics were just so bad that the scope really wasn’t usable. I discovered that you (this AFTER i bought it) were in the latter group. Could maybe be sample to sample variation?

    So how did I end up with one? Why, The Unholy Hook of Amazon’s Free Shipping on orders over $25, of course. I ordered the Pocket Sky Atlas (GREAT trail guide!) for just under $14 and then had to start searching around for something around $12 to goose it up over $25. Just for the hell of it, I went to the Celestron FS which Amazon had for about $38 that day, but the listing also had “Used from $15.35”, so I checked there and they had 4 or 5 listed as Like New, meaning returned units, I am guessing. But one was $11.83, Like New BUT missing one eyepiece. Well, the EPs are crap, so what did I care. I ordered it and got it for under 12 bucks. Arrived in brand new condition, all the tags still on it. It really is a nifty little instrument.

    So where was I going here?

    Oh. So last night I had to go out front where my viewing window is pretty narrow and it was late and I didn’t feel like hauling the SB6 out there. So I just set up the FirstScope on a little garden table we have out front, sat down and started looking around, having to move everything 4 or 5 times to squeeze in between this obstacle or that.

    I scanned around a bit, about and the images were sharp and bright, surprisingly so. So I decided to check out a couple of targets I had have on my to-see list and took a trip down Orion’s sword. I quickly found both NGC 1981 and NGC 1980 along with M42 which had a nice ghostly glow to it in the little FS. Sketched both NGCs, then went up to that long line between Betelgeuse and Procyon which were still relatively high and found a gorgeous asterism somewhere in that area, and sketched it. I started with 20x and ended up at 30x, both of which got the whole field in. Even at 50x, the FS produced a reasonably sharp image.

    So I think I have found a nice “binos-plus” tool for those nights that are too iffy for my SB6 and/or where, as with last night, I have to be moving half a dozen times to find the right observing window. Whatever, I was delighted with how well this little sucker performed. And getting it for $12 made it all the sweeter.

    Doug


  5. Doug, well done on getting a FirstScope for $12! It’s not a purchase you have to justify. I actually think it’s quite an achievement that Celestron was able to produce a functional, mounted scope that costs so little. I think most people who are looking to get their feet wet will be better served with something a little more capable, but you’re not in that bin. For you the FirstScope isn’t actually your first scope, but something filling a niche in what is now–gasp!–a telescope collection (if that sounds too extravagant, think of it as a toolbox–most of us need a hammer and a screwdriver and a wrench). “Bino-plus” is a good way to describe the FS, and it points up a weakness in how I used mine. I only used mine from town, which mostly limited me to bright objects like the moon and planets, which tend to emphasize the FirstScope’s weaknesses rather than its strengths. Under darker skies, just cruising around the starfields and tracking down bright DSOs would be a more fitting use, I think.

    And you’re probably right about sample-to-sample variation. Collimation is probably a big factor in that. Mine was not well collimated, and I wasn’t sufficiently engaged to tinker with it. If you’re getting sharp images, bang on.

    About the Mak, the moon, and seeing: in my experience, it’s easier to detect those fleeting moments of better seeing when looking at the moon than when observing planets. Probably because the moon has so much more detail to make out, and also because lunar details tend to be high contrast and planetary details tend to be low contrast. There’s the added bonus that between first and last quarter the moon will be very high in the sky at some point. And who knows, you might get a still night. The seeing can’t be lousy forever. It just seems that way sometimes!


  6. Matt,

    Yes, I think you nailed it here. Even based on my limited experience, I would never recommend a Celestron FS as a first/entry-level scope, even for a pure beginner. It is just way too limited. Probably something such as the Orion 100mm Skyscanner, the one Terry has, or their 80mm GoScope refractor would be about as low/base as you would want to go.

    But for someone like me, who now has two “good” scopes, the FS does fill a niche, mainly the one I described last night, where I can literally grab it in one had and have it set up on a small table that is already there, and be looking skyward within 15 seconds. if it clouds over, you just pick it up with no more effort that picking up a can of Coke and take it back inside. And even though it is limited, for sure, there is still a fair amount you can see with it. But, also, I have my Plossl EPs to use. With the crappy ones that come with it, the viewing would be significantly compromised. One more reason why it would be a poor first scope recommendation.

    But it just so damn cute sitting there!

    Have you seen the UK Skywatcher version of this scope? Wholly different OTA graphics; at first glance, it almost has a Questar look.

    You’re right about using the FS for planets. Jupiter was almost a total dud no matter the magnification. But for just scanning the sky and stopping to look at especially engaging star fields, it does remarkably well. But even then, it is a far, far cry from the SB 6.

    Yes, Celestron did pull off quite a feat in serving up a scope even as modest as this for under $50. Add in its 2009 International Year of Astronomy and . . . why not?

    I’m sure that there is a significant sample to sample variation with this scope, everything from good to very good to fair/poor collimation and it’s just the luck of the draw. Based on last night, I’d say mine is in the Good+ range. Not perfect pinpoints, but close enough.

    Thanks for getting back to me with your thoughts on all things astro, I am enjoying the dialogue, and learning a lot.

    Doug


  7. Another alternative would be the Orion StarMax 90mm, currently at $205 (incl. shipping and sales tax) from Orion. Given that it comes with 2 Plossl eyepieces (25mm & 10mm) instead of only one (32mm) for the C90, a 90” star diagonal rather than a 45″ terrestrial diagonal, and a tabletop mount with a tripod bush thread adaptor which can thread to a 3/8″ or 1/4″ field tripod post vs. a dovetail plate on the C90 with only a 1/4″ bush thread adaptor, this might be the better deal (the lowest price for the C90 is $185 incl. shipping at B&H Photo-Video). This assumes of course, that the optical quality is about the same for both scopes (both made by Synta?).


  8. Yeah, the StarMax 90 is a pretty desirable package. The only potential hang-up is the diagonal. One place on the webpage says it is a prism and another says it is a mirror, and I haven’t gotten around to emailing Orion to find out which is which. Still, the mount alone is worth quite a bit; you can easily spend $200 on a good alt-az mount. It should be optically the same as the C90, I think, given that they have the same specs and are both made by Synta. The C90 might have better coatings, I haven’t looked into the coatings on the StarMax.

    Doug (and Terry, and David, etc.), thank you for keeping the conversation going. It’s nice to have people to jaw about this stuff with.


  9. I checked the Ebay vendor that had the Skywatcher backpacker Mak (the original listing, I think, said 10 or More) for $179 w/free shipping, and he, too, is now out of them. I debated between the SkyWatcher and C90 for a few days before opting for the former, partially for the striking aesthetic of the “star field sparkle” of the OTA but mainly because you got an excellent, solid, great-looking tabletop mount that works well manually and also, for some future time when, you know, I can actually USE the thing with some modicum of competence, has motorized capability to track objects. It is just a damn attractive package both aesthetically and functionally. I enjoy looking AT it as much as through it!

    I really would like to see some kind of A-B comparison between the SkyWatcher and C90 on the same turf, same time.

    Maybe you and Terry can get together for a scope showdown one of these clear nights.


  10. Hey Matt,

    What do you know about the Orion Short Tube 80-A refractor? I think I read a comment that you, or perhaps a poster, made on it a week or so ago. No, I am NOT intending to buy one, at least not now. But it looks like a really good scope. In what way(s) is it different from Orion’s GoScope 80mm refractor? Just from the look of it, the Short Tube appears to have a longer f/l and, judging from the price, perhaps superior optics. Anyhow, what is your take on the 80-A? I am thinking that you have (or had?) one, but could well be wrong.

    Doug


  11. I really would like to see some kind of A-B comparison between the SkyWatcher and C90 on the same turf, same time. Maybe you and Terry can get together for a scope showdown one of these clear nights.

    That’s the plan. We’re both very curious to see how the two scopes stack up. It’s the “when time allows” part that is problematic right now. I’ll keep you posted if and when it happens.

    What do you know about the Orion Short Tube 80-A refractor? …In what way(s) is it different from Orion’s GoScope 80mm refractor?

    I’ve never owned one, but I’ve been sorely tempted a few times. Evidently they’re very useful, fun little scopes, perfect for cruising the starfields under dark skies.

    The GoScope has a faster focal ratio, which means the chromatic aberration inherent in fast achromats will be worse than in the ST80. That doesn’t seem to stop people from having a lot of fun with them. A short, widefield achromat is not built to be a planet-killer anyway, and on the rich starfields and open clusters it was built for there shouldn’t be anything bright enough to throw up noticeable CA.

    What’s kept me from getting one is this: I do most of my small scope observing from town, where the LP is bad enough that I tend to stick to solar system targets, double stars, and a handful of the brightest DSOs. Those targets cry out for magnification, high contrast, and no chromatic aberration, which means they’re perfect for Maks. When I go out to dark-sky sites I do love cruising around the sky at low power, but I already have a fast f/4.7 scope for that, and it has 10″ of aperture. 😉 So while I’d probably get a big kick out of using an ST80, and I might find a use for one, I haven’t gotten one because it doesn’t fill an obvious need for me right now.

    IMHO and YMMV, as always!


  12. I was just looking around at the newer Orion Short Tube (not the 80T, but the 80-A, the one currently on sale for $179.95 on their site). Again, and seriously, I have neither intent nor desire to buy one, just interested in learning about different kinds of scopes and what they can and cannot do. Based on what you say, there really is not much that an 80m refractor can do that my SB6 can’t already do, and better. Other than pure portability. One thing I noticed on the 80-A is that the mount on the bottom is a long dove tail which looks the same as that on our Maks, so if you could turn the OTA a quarter turn, which with the two rings it appears you can do (much as with the SB6), you could use the Mak’s tabletop mount with the 80-A. Just thinking out loud. I agree with you that the Mak is a much better complement to my SB6, something I will come to value once we get some decent weather up here.

    Both the GoScope 80 and Short Tube 80T/80-A get strong reviews on both Amazon and the Orion sites, as do all Orion products. So I’m certain they are excellent scopes. Just not something I really have a need for.

    Your Nikon 4500 seems the ideal digiscoping camera; there is a big UK digiscope Web site I was reading around on today and the 4500 was one that the guy personally used and recommended for afocal photoging. Maybe I will check eBay, see if any are posted there. Hard to find smaller digital cameras today that give you a lot of manual control, especially shutter speed and aperture. Usually it’s a self-timer and that’s about it.


  13. One thing I noticed on the 80-A is that the mount on the bottom is a long dove tail which looks the same as that on our Maks, so if you could turn the OTA a quarter turn, which with the two rings it appears you can do (much as with the SB6), you could use the Mak’s tabletop mount with the 80-A.

    Yep, you could indeed. How is your SB6 held on to its mount? If it’s by a dovetail plate, you could swap that OTA out for others as well. Although the little mount that came with the Mak would be more useful in that it’s smaller and can be put up on a tripod. Like you said, just thinking out loud here.

    Both the GoScope 80 and Short Tube 80T/80-A get strong reviews on both Amazon and the Orion sites, as do all Orion products. So I’m certain they are excellent scopes. Just not something I really have a need for.

    Yep, that’s my take exactly.

    Your Nikon 4500 seems the ideal digiscoping camera

    Yeah, I kind of lucked out with the 4500. I got it for taking specimen photos in museums, for my research, but it’s turned out to be an excellent all-around camera. It’s only 4 megapixels, which sounds small by today’s standards. But there are two big ‘buts’ that come with that. First, it’s 4 useful megapixels–I have seen a LOT of inexpensive point-n-shoots that can deliver an 8-12 megapixel image, but all too often it is 2-4 megapixels of signal and 6-10 megapixels of fuzz. I suspect that’s because the cheaper models just don’t have good enough glass. The 4500 came out before DSLRs were all the rage and I get the sense that Nikon lavished an unusual amount of care on it. The other thing is that a good, sharp 4-megapixel image is plenty big for almost any application. The pictures I take with that camera are always at higher resolution than is necessary for journal publication, and I have a framed moon photo on the wall in my office that is blown up to poster size and still looks nice and sharp.

    Hard to find smaller digital cameras today that give you a lot of manual control, especially shutter speed and aperture. Usually it’s a self-timer and that’s about it.

    Ugh, tell me about it. I picked up one of the newer Coolpix models a couple years ago just to have a second, smaller camera for stuffing in a pocket. I had hoped to do some digiscoping with it but it’s just useless, there are not nearly enough user-modifiable settings to do any serious work.


  14. As Ed Ting said in a recent review about the Short Tube 80:

    “Should you get one? Of course! Ownership of one of these seems to be a rite of passage for astronomers”.

    Enough said! But I’ll say a few more things anyways.

    All my scopes prior to getting this were Newtonian reflectors, so I was very curious to see how the planets and double stars looked through this fast refractor compared to the Skyscanner and yes, they do look sharper and cleaner (though these targets look OK through the Skyscanner once collimated).

    I’m especially interested in seeing if the better optics and contrast this refractor offers offsets the smaller 80mm aperture compared to the 100mm Skyscanner in viewing DSOs. Like the stars and planets, I suspect that brighter DSO’s such as the Ring or Dumbbell Nebula may look better through this scope, so I’m looking forward to finding out.

    A good amateur astronomer needs experience in handling different types of scopes, so for me this was a good choice for a “first” refractor because of its portability.

    Got it on sale last December ($189.99 with coupon + sales & shipping tax), but a little bummed that the retail price went down on this scope for both the astronomical and terrestrial versions starting this year. The first scope I got and the subsequent replacement both came miscollimated, so I had to go in and fix the problem myself.

    BTW, the GoScope 80 can only be used with the supplied diagonal, cannot be replaced with a better one.


  15. The two rings on the SB6 are attached directly to the tabletop mount, so you’ll need to get a dovetail plate if you want to use the OTA on a different mount. I bought a dovetail plate for my SB6, but found out that the screws that attach the rings to the SB6 mount are too short for the dovetail, need to get two longer screws. The VersaGo II alt-az mount has enough weight load capacity to handle the SB6 OTA.


  16. Matt,
    Regarding the 80-A and loosening the tube rings and turning the OTA a quarter turn to the right (so you would be moving the dovetail mount which comes stock at the 6 o’clock position to the 3 o’clock position which is the same as that of the mount on the Mak), you would ALSO be moving the finderscope that same quarter turn so it would end up . . . where? Apparently somewhere around the 8 o’clock position? If so, that would be an odd-looking placement and a difficult viewing angle. I didn’t full think this through!

    As for cameras, yes, absolutely. The whole “Now, More Megapixels!” thing is more marketing hype than substance. In 2004, I took a tiny, and I mean tiny Casio ExlimEX-20U camera with 2mp on a 3-week bike trip in Provence, snapped a couple hundred pictures, came home, uploaded them into my iPhoto and printed out dozens of sharp, crisp, clean 8 x 10s with excellent color saturation, I mean they really couldn’t have been any better. And this was off 2 megapixels. I also have a 5-year old Casio Exlim sz-770 that takes nice snaps and is 6 mp but, again, no manual control other than the self-timer.

    I am guessing that the bridge cameras such as the Nikon P100 wouldn’t work because their lenses are too large to fit within the confines of an eyepiece. Your 4500 sounds ideal, so I am going to keep scanning eBay.

    Terry,

    Good heads-up on the GoScope being stuck with the diagonal that comes with it. I wouldn’t have guessed that.

    So do you have one of the Orion ST 80 refractors? I read your post and it seems so, but I’m not sure. If you do, I will really be interested to see the results of the A-B comparison of it and your Skyscanner on the brighter DSOs. Be sure to include M42 in the mix.

    Doug


  17. No, wait. It is just the TUBE RINGS that move around the OTA which would stay in the same position. Only the actual rings move. I am such a cretin!


  18. I am guessing that the bridge cameras such as the Nikon P100 wouldn’t work because their lenses are too large to fit within the confines of an eyepiece.

    Actually, that shouldn’t be a problem. I don’t put the lens of the camera right against the eyepiece. It usually needs to be at least a small distance back, where the image forms–equivalent to the eye relief when used visually. I know that some people get good results doing afocal projection photography using DSLRs, whose lenses are much too big to fit ‘into’ the eyepiece.

    No, wait. It is just the TUBE RINGS that move around the OTA which would stay in the same position. Only the actual rings move. I am such a cretin!

    Ha! No worries. There are actually three possibilities, depending on the scope model.

    First, you could rotate the tube in the rings, if there are rings. That would work for the ST80A, which comes with rings, but not for scopes with a dovetail bar bolted directly onto the tube, like my 80mm f/11 refractor.

    Second, some refractors have rotatable focusers, so if you turned the tube by a quarter turn, you could rotate the focuser a quarter turn to compensate. Most refractors have their finder shoes on the focuser, so that would also serve to rotate the finder shoe. I don’t know if the ST80 has a rotatable focuser or not.

    Finally, if you don’t have rings or a rotatable focuser, you can just turn the diagonal. The focuser might end up with the knobs oriented vertically rather than horizontally, and the finder shoe might end up in an odd place, but you could still observe comfortably.


  19. Matt,

    Just out of curiosity, nothing more at this point, honest, what is your opinion of the Meade ETX-80 refractor with the AutoStar Goto mount? It seems a decent instrument, nice grab and go size, good optics, solid-looking base.

    Have you used any of the GoTo systems? There seem (too often) to be all kind of problems, just based on what I read, setting them up, getting in the correct coordinates, etc. If they did work well, and were simple enough to operate, it seems that they would save someone like me a lot of time.

    What are your thoughts here?

    As for the Orion ST80-A, I don’t think it would work with the Mak tabletop mount because on our Maks, the dovetail mount on the OTA is vertical and goes in to the tabletop unit vertically, bottom to top, whereas on the ST80, it runs horizontally along the bottom of the scope barrel. You could always use the camera mount L, I suppose, but it would make a very wide mounting platform.

    If I ever do opt for an 800 refractor, I would take a serious look at that Meade ETC, contingent, of course, on what you have to say about this scope.

    Btw, what kind of refractor is your 80mm? Probably a long tube, right? Is there a photo of it anywhere on your blog?

    Doug


  20. Ignore my comment about the dovetail mount “issue”. I need to pay more attention to the details of my equipment. All I remembered is that when I slid the Mak into the dovetail groove on the tabletop base, I did it vertically or close to it and hence extrapolated that the dovetail bar on the scope was aligned vertically. I just checked the Mak and the mount is in exactly the same position and configuration as that on the ST80. DuhDuhDuh. With our weather (wet snow right now) I haven’t been out since I got the Mak and so haven’t paid much attention to it. Had I given it even a cursory going-over, I would have seen that there is no problem at all with the dovetail mounts on the two scopes, that they are nearly identical. So the nifty little tabletop we have would work splendidly with either.

    So were I to eventually opt for a refractor grab-and-go, it would probably come down to the ST80-A and the Meade ETX-80AT. This sometime in the future. I mean, I should actually USE the SkyWatcher Mak ONCE just to see how it goes. Jeez.


  21. Have you used any of the GoTo systems?

    I haven’t. I don’t have anything against their existence, they just don’t appeal to me right now. Part of the reason I go out to observe is for the fun and challenge of finding things myself.

    OTOH, I have talked to several older observers who say they felt that way too, for the first decade or three, and then went GoTo and haven’t looked back.

    And I know some people who have had good luck with GoTo right out of the gate, and God bless ’em.

    So when I say GoTo isn’t for me right now, that’s all I mean. I don’t have a problem with the technology or with people using it, it just doesn’t appeal to me at this time. Ask me again in 20 years, you may get a different answer.

    There seem (too often) to be all kind of problems, just based on what I read, setting them up, getting in the correct coordinates, etc. If they did work well, and were simple enough to operate, it seems that they would save someone like me a lot of time.

    Well, you’ve hit on one of the main reasons I haven’t tried it. My work requires me to be on a computer almost all day, and often for a good chunk of the evening. I go out stargazing to get away from electronics and reconnect with nature. The last thing I want to do is futz with electronics or have my zen moment ruined because the batteries go dead or I forgot the hand controller and my scope can’t run without it.

    Uncle Rod says you can spend your time hunting or you can spend your time looking, and that’s why he prefers GoTo. And I’m fine with that. But honestly, it’s been his posts as much as anything that have convinced me I don’t want to try it out right now, because of all the time he spends getting things to work properly. I’d amend his statement to “You can spend your time star-hopping or getting your GoTo equipment to actually work, but either way it’s time spend not looking”. He might kick my arse for saying so, but that’s how it seems to me.

    Btw, what kind of refractor is your 80mm? Probably a long tube, right? Is there a photo of it anywhere on your blog?

    Yep, it’s an f/11, delivers VERY sharp views. But no sharper than my 90mm Mak. I occasionally haul it out to look at the moon or for a public outreach, but honestly, now that I’ve got a 90mm Mak again, I don’t know how much use it’s going to get. The refractor I actually lust after is the Orion ST120 or whatever they call their 5″ f/5. I’ve spoken to a couple of people who have owned that scope and they’ve had very glowing reports. I really, really like the idea of 5″ of unobstructed aperture under dark skies.

    And yes, there are a couple of photos of the 80mm f/11–or “Shorty Long”–in this post.


  22. Hi Matt.

    My thoughts are much the same as yours on the Goto, that is not right now. I also agree that too much technology does remove some of the connection between the observer and the stars, that looking around in search of this or that object shows you a lot of gorgeous stuff that you would miss if you just hit the button and the GoTo took you directly to M-whatever. But it also can be frustrating when you look and look and look and still come up empty. But this, obviously, is all part of the learning curve. Right now, I would rather spend my time out there looking up there rather than screwing around with a computer readout. That, and I need to learn the sky on my own, then . . . maybe at some point, a goto setup.

    We finally had a bit of clear sky, or what passes for it here this time of year, and I managed to get the Mak out. No planets or moon out, so I homed in with the 32mm on M42 and was rewarded with perhaps the cleanest, sharpest view yet. The Trapezium, in particular, was razor-sharp and each start clearly defined from the others. So is the Mak good for some of the brighter DSOs and Messiers? Do you use yours for this.

    I only used the Mak for a bit as I had some other DSO targets I wanted to try to find so I took it in and hauled out my SB6. I think I found M35 and NGC 2158 right next door but, you know, I’m never quite sure. The pattern of the stars in what I saw looked very close to the little sketch in Turn Left at Orion, and M35 is described as a large open cluster with a number of bright stars (which this also was) and best viewed at low power which I did with the 25mm Plossl mainly. Ah well, I’m going to count it until I come up with evidence to the contrary. Looked around for the M36-37-38 triad but came up empty and finally gave up because it was just too damn cold out.

    Oh. Mars finally appeared where I could see it and I just barely got the SB6 on it before a fast-moving cloud layer covered it up. I used my SB6 and Sirius Expanse 6mm (125x) and all I got, and this just for a few seconds before the clouds obscured it, was a bright red pea. So small. With that kind of mag, I expected better. This may be a job for the Mak, though I would still expect the SB6 to give me something more than what I saw last night. Any advice?

    Doug



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