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First "real scope" recommendations and ideas


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#1 Planetech

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Posted 18 April 2016 - 04:33 AM

I have dabbled in astronomy on and off for many years with scopes others have had and one mistake on my part (a cheap department store scope) that I've tried to use with limited success.  Now that we are retired and traveling in our RV full time spending a month or more in one place working as campground hosts, we have time on our hands and find ourselves in remote and dark night areas.

 

I would like to keep my initial purchase at no more than $200 or so and of course, want the most bang for the buck. 

 

I am considering the Polaris 127 or 130EQ.  Any thoughts on this or possibly others to consider?  I read Bill's review and was impressed with the 130.



#2 SBacon

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Posted 18 April 2016 - 10:13 AM

Hi Planetech,

 

This is just my opinion and I am sure the Polaris 127 and 130 are great scopes but I would recommend a refractor for your situation. It could be used for terrestrial as well as celestial viewing which might come in handy in your travels and there would be no collimating issues that can crop up in a reflector, especially if it's moved around alot.

 

Steve



#3 Planetech

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Posted 18 April 2016 - 06:33 PM

Thanks for the reply Steve.  I thought of this and moving around is a problem.  Will take that into consideration.

 

Tony



#4 MistrBadgr

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Posted 19 April 2016 - 07:38 AM

Hi Tony,

 

I am away from home right now and having trouble getting on line from the hotel, so sorry about the time lag.

 

Between the Polaris 127 and the 130, I would get the 130.  The 127 may be just fine, but it does have a booster lens in the focuser to get its focal length.  The actual mirror has a shorter focal length than the 130, which makes it a bit more sensitive to mis-collimation.  As a first reflector, the 130 is simpler to use and collimate than the 127.  Additionally, the 130 has a tiny bit more light gathering power.

 

Hope this helps,

 

Bill Steen


Bill Steen, Sky Hunters' Haven Observatory, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma

#5 Planetech

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Posted 19 April 2016 - 03:57 PM

Thanks Bill,

 

As far as collimating, this used up aircraft mechanic and avionics technician should be able to learn how to do that if I decide to go with a reflector.  I really am leaning that way since for the money, it seems like it is better for DSO's. 

 

We do travel with our full time home, a 5th wheel and diesel truck and the scope will have a cushy ride on the bed while we are on the road.  That should help keep things aligned. 



#6 MistrBadgr

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Posted 19 April 2016 - 06:35 PM

I have learned with my Polaris 130 that once it is collimated, it seems to stay that way pretty well.

 

If you are looking for DSOs with relatively dark skies, the reflector will be better than a long refractor, due to its greater light gathering power.  The shorter focal length of the Polaris 130 will give you a wider field with the same lens, compared to a long refractor. 

 

A long refractor definitely will be better for Moon, planets, and double stars, and it will not be affected as much by light pollution, if you are in that kind of environment.  Field of view width is not as important for those things.

 

The Infinity 102 is a reasonable compromise between the two.  It beats both in terms of wide field of view, but does not have the light gathering power of the Polaris 130 nor quite the contrast as a long refractor, like the Polaris 90.  Naturally, it is between those two in light gathering power.

 

Whatever you pick, I think you will have fun with it.  None of them are what I would call bad choices.  But, if you are traveling to dark sky areas and are interested in mostly galaxies and nebulas, then I think the Polaris 130 would do you the best service.  Also, the field is wider than the Polaris 127 or a long refractor, making it a little easier to find things.

 

Hope this helps.

 

Bill


Bill Steen, Sky Hunters' Haven Observatory, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma

#7 Planetech

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Posted 23 April 2016 - 05:18 AM

Bill,

 

I really appreciate your knowledge and tolerance for us new guys (new old guys).  I'm learning quite a bit from my wanderings through the reviews and such.  I am leaning toward the Polaris 130eq as I think that would be the most versatile for us in our travels.  We will be in remote "dark sky" areas for the most part. 

 

I've read that parabolic mirrors are best.  I have not seen what type is in the 120eq.  Some say it's spherical and others say it's parabolic.  I don't see anything in the specs. 

 

What would you do as far a a collimating tool?  The manual doesn't appear to use one.  There is a Youtube video by a couple of Brits that show a laser tool.  Again, kind of confusing as to what is really needed. 

 

Is it necessary to use a filter for moon viewing with this scope? 

 

Is the mount made to accept a motor drive?

 

Is there a sun filter suitable for this scope?

 

I hope I'm not too much of a pain.

 

Thanks



#8 MistrBadgr

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Posted 23 April 2016 - 09:52 AM

Hi Tony,

 

No worries.  Even though I have been doing astronomy for a while, a lot of the finer points seem to pass from one ear and right out the other, so I am sort of a perpetual beginner myself.  Our conversation is the kind of thing I enjoy.

 

I have used both a laser collimator and what is called cheshire eyepiece.  With the cheshire, you have a little bitty hole to look through and a set of cross-hairs to use as a reference.  The one I have is actually made for refractors, and is much shorter to allow it to be placed in a diagonal.  When I am really wanting to get a reflector "dead on,"  I end up using both, since they use independent methods to a certain extent.  If I had to chose one, it would be the cheshire. 

 

The cheshire basically looks a lot like the laser, in terms of its basic shape, with the little right angle ground glass screen having a hole in the middle.  It just has a hole you look through the hole instead of having a laser shine through it.  You can also shine a flashlight through the little hole and have the shadow from the cross-hairs bounce off the two mirrors, both directions, and put a shadow image on the ground glass to give you some feed back.  Also, I can see the edges of the secondary mirror in with the cheshire and compare the shape of the secondary and its position to determinine if the focuser is positioned properly with the secondary and the secondary looks round and not oval.  When the secondary looks oval, it indicates something is off...possibly both the focuser and secondary are out of position, even though the combination can let the primary mirror put light from a laser exactly where it is supposed to go.

 

Normally, I view the moon when it is in the earlier or later phases and stay away from full moons.  There is a lot more contrast from shadows to see various features that come and go with the angle of the sun on them.  There are some things that do show up with a full moon, like ejecta rays from some of the newer craters.  I may put in a filter of some sort as the moon gets brighter, just for comfort level, but you do not absolutely have to.  Having a lunar filter, either one with a dark green shade or a neutral density filter, is a nice convenience.  Recently, I have been using a green filter, Wratten 58A, from the new 1 1/4 inch Plossl eyepiece set that Meade now has.  For me, I get better contrast.  I think a lot of interfering scattered light gets filtered out preferentially with that filter as well.  Something like that is a good tool to have in your "tool pouch."  However, one word of caution:  Everyone's eyes/brain combinations work a little bit differently.  What works for one person may not be exactly the best for someone else, though just about all of the possibilities can get the job done.

 

I have one of the little motor drives for the Polaris 130.  I took it off, because it was more trouble to me than the benefit of having it track something across the sky.  The drive is for just one of the axis.  There is a little knob you can turn to spead it up or slow it down.  In my checkout of that drive, I found what I consider to be some deficiencies in terms of it getting in the way of the telescope when going overhead, plus it seems to have been designed for a different mount.  It needs to be mounted on the opposite side from what it was initially intended.  You have to put the hemisphere  switch (N/S) in the opposite from the markings to make it work.  With one change, that I will describe to you, the mount works about as close to perfection as I would expect from an entry level rig and the drive is just not worth the trouble.  It is no big deal, at the magnifications you will be using with this scope, to turn the Right Ascension knob every once in a while to move the target from the edge of the field to the center or even to the other side, and watch the object as it tracks across the field.

 

The one real flaw in the rig has to do with the control knobs.  They are both eight inch.  The one for the RA gets in the way of the optical tube when the tube is on the east side of the mount and pointed high.  I did a couple of different things.  Nobody seems to make a control knob short enough for any of the entry level equatorial mounts from any company, so I had to come up with something myself.  The first was to go to the hardware store and buy the largest appliance knob with a quarter inch hole in it.  It mounted just fine and worked reasonably well, though being smaller than the regular control knob in diameter, it was more difficult to turn.  The second thing I did was to shorten one of the original control knobs and make it really stubby.

 

I did this to one of my Infinity 102 control knobs as well, learning from the experience and improving the second time.  The stainless steel cable under the black plastic tubing is pressed into the metal end of the control knob, making it more difficult to get the modified end into it.  The most successful modification was to leave the metal end alone and simply cut the cable with a hack saw near that end, but leave the fit-up on that end alone.  The cable is glued into the large plastic knob and goes in about five eighths of an inch.  I cut the cable maybe seven eighths of an inch from the metal end, just enough longer than necessary to make sure I did not make a dumb mistake.  I took all the plastic tubing off, exposing the long length of cable attached to the plastic knob.  The cable, which I think is some form of stainless steel but I could be wrong, has 24 strands in three layers, the outside eight being the largest and the inside being the smallest.  Using a pair of pliers, I unwound each strand and bent it back, away from the cable.  When I was done, it looks sort of like a metal flower.  Then, I grabbed the end of one of the inside strands with the pliers, while holding the knob in the other hand, and jerked hard.  The strand came out.  Working one strand at a time, I pulled them all out.  I think I then rolled up a little piece of sand paper, stuck it in the hole of the knob and sanded out some of the remaining glue.  I don't remember if I had to file any rough ends on the remaining sort piece of cable to get that end to fit into the plastic knob, but I could have.  The next step was to fit up the cable into the knob and see how long a piece of the black plastic outer sheath I would need, which ended up being around a quarter inch.  Then, I set the plastic knob on a table with the hole up, poured the hole maybe a third full of plain old white glue, then stuck in the now shortened cable with the little bit of plastic sheath on it.  I left the assembly sitting on the table for a couple days to let the glue dry.  So far, it has worked perfectly, and the knob does not get in the way of the optical tube any more. 

 

It is also short enough to reach from the far side of the scope and turn it if you want to.  You can also turn the existing drive gear on the far side of the mount to move the scope if you want to do it that way.

 

As far as solar filters go, Meade has been adamant about not doing that with a regular scope, due to the eye danger of a filter failure or having a filter come off while someone is using the scope.  The eye damage with a scope the size of the Polaris 130 would be immediate, complete, and permanent, and very painful.  There would be a permanent hole in ones retina, right where one needs to see.  There are, however, solar filters built by other companies that will fit this scope, or you can get solar filter material and make one yourself.

 

Hope this helps,

 

Bill


Bill Steen, Sky Hunters' Haven Observatory, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma

#9 MistrBadgr

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Posted 23 April 2016 - 10:17 AM

By the way, the Infinity 102 is a good general purpose to wide field scope with reasonable light gathering power.  The AZ mount is reasonable for an entry level scope, but is not quite as solid as the equatorial mount that comes with the Polaris 130.  They give you a little correct image diagonal which I have found to be quite nice.  The only serious drawback I found to the scope had to do with one of the control knobs getting in the way of the optical tube in a similar situation to the Polaris 130.  The same solutions apply.

 

The light gathering power is not quite a much as the Polaris 130, but is quite adequate for most things.  It is inherently a good light pollution fighter, but becomes almost dazzling for wide field work with a dark sky.  I have some 68 degree eyepiece that I put with it at a darker site than my back yard and become quite mesmerized.  An hour or so can slip away in what seems like just a few minutes, look at wide fields with that combination.  The Infinity 102 is not as good at planetary work as longer focal ratio scopes, but still works well.  From my light pollution red zone back yard, I was able to see a couple of the smaller moons of Saturn winking at me, which I did not expect from anything smaller than a 4 1/2 inch scope.

 

I have a review written on the Polaris 102 buried somewhere in posts in this section of the forum.  I started writing one on the Polaris 130 and went brain dead on it.  I hope to get back on that review in a few months, after I retire.

 

Again, hope this helps.

 

Bill


Bill Steen, Sky Hunters' Haven Observatory, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma

#10 Planetech

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Posted 23 April 2016 - 03:16 PM

Thanks again Bill,

 

I may just roll the dice and see what comes up.  The 102 may be less of a hassle and more versatile.  Since they are similar in price and it would be a good choice for day use as well.  Now you have me thinking again. 

 

Tony



#11 Mark Sibole

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Posted 24 April 2016 - 04:33 AM

Later in time if or when you get the big astronomy bug as most do you will want to upgrade your scope.We have all been there.I started off with a small 70 mm refractor and it was great for lunar and planets but lacked on DSO.My next jump was to a Meade 6 inch newt long tube.Great scope and I wish I still had that one.Right now I own several scopes with the main scope being a Meade 10 inch lx200 R.A lot of scope but with that comes a hefty price tag.I not only use that for viewing but I use it for my main mount for the other scopes I have here wich are the Explore Scientific 80 mm APO  the Explore Scientific 102 mm APO  the Meade EXT i25 and a few camera lenses.For grab and fo scopes I have a LXD 75 mount with a SN6 mounted to it.And a Meade LS8.For grab and go scopes and easy transport you cant beat the LS series. Like I said in time you may want to upgrade if the bug bites you hard like it does for most and if that happens id look into the LS 6 or LS 8.They are a self aligning scope with great optics and are very easy to transport.Good luck and most of all have fun in the hobby.There are a lot of things to see up there especially if you are in a nice dark sky.

 

Mark


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#12 Mark Sibole

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Posted 24 April 2016 - 04:36 AM

Bill,

 

I really appreciate your knowledge and tolerance for us new guys (new old guys).  I'm learning quite a bit from my wanderings through the reviews and such.  I am leaning toward the Polaris 130eq as I think that would be the most versatile for us in our travels.  We will be in remote "dark sky" areas for the most part. 

 

I've read that parabolic mirrors are best.  I have not seen what type is in the 120eq.  Some say it's spherical and others say it's parabolic.  I don't see anything in the specs. 

 

What would you do as far a a collimating tool?  The manual doesn't appear to use one.  There is a Youtube video by a couple of Brits that show a laser tool.  Again, kind of confusing as to what is really needed. 

 

Is it necessary to use a filter for moon viewing with this scope? 

 

Is the mount made to accept a motor drive?

 

Is there a sun filter suitable for this scope?

 

I hope I'm not too much of a pain.

 

Thanks

A lot op people wse a cheshire tool on it but i found an old 35 mm camera film can works great.Joogle coliminating a scope with a 35 mm film can.Next on a moon filter it dosnt bring a lot of different details on the moon but it helps a lot to dim the moon down so it is easier on the eyes.I prefer the red over the green myself.


Mark Sibole
MTSO Observatory
Fife Lake, Mi.

http://astronomy.qteaser.com

#13 Planetech

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Posted 24 April 2016 - 06:01 AM

Thanks Mike,

 

Good information to digest.  I've decided to just go with the 130EQ initially at least.  A little less money and better for DSO's which I am eager to investigate. 

 

We will be traveling through Michigan in September sometime.  Keep the sky dark for us.

 

Tony Vlasak



#14 Planetech

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Posted 26 April 2016 - 02:17 AM

OK.  I went ahead and ordered the Polaris 130eq.  We have been at Lake of the Ozarks State Park for the month and moving on to Johnson's Shut-ins State Park, both Missouri.  The scope is being shipped there and should be waiting for me when we arrive.  That area should have some nice dark sky. 

 

When we were camping our way throughout Florida in January/February, we spent a couple of nights at Kissimmee Prairie State Park and they have several telescope sights out away from the camping area with electric set up just for astronomy.  They are noted for their dark sky and were having an event that coming weekend.  Unfortunately, we could not extend our stay.  We did drive through the camping area one day and one of the campers had his scopes set up to view the sun.  He invited us to take a look.  He had two scopes on his mount, one with a solar filter to view the sun spots and another to view the flares.  Quite impressive.  That re-kindled the fire again for me. 

 

I'll let you know how my experiences play out in the coming weeks. 

 

Thanks for everything.

 

Tony



#15 Planetech

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Posted 04 May 2016 - 12:00 PM

OK. I went ahead and ordered the Polaris 130eq. We have been at Lake of the Ozarks State Park for the month and moving on to Johnson's Shut-ins State Park, both Missouri. The scope is being shipped there and should be waiting for me when we arrive. That area should have some nice dark sky.

When we were camping our way throughout Florida in January/February, we spent a couple of nights at Kissimmee Prairie State Park and they have several telescope sights out away from the camping area with electric set up just for astronomy. They are noted for their dark sky and were having an event that coming weekend. Unfortunately, we could not extend our stay. We did drive through the camping area one day and one of the campers had his scopes set up to view the sun. He invited us to take a look. He had two scopes on his mount, one with a solar filter to view the sun spots and another to view the flares. Quite impressive. That re-kindled the fire again for me.

I'll let you know how my experiences play out in the coming weeks.

Thanks for everything.

Tony



#16 Planetech

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Posted 04 May 2016 - 12:10 PM

I receivers my new Polaris 130eq yesterday.

First, it went together easily in less than an hour. I checked collimating and it appeared to be good so after sunset I observed Jupiter. It did quite well with some color issues and clearly the eyepieces could be improved on as they appear to be a low cost option so the Meade marketing coud hit their price point.

My question is:
Are the 4000 series a great improvement or should I consider something else?

Also, just inside of the RA gear is a plate that appears to be some kind of a locking cam. ?????

#17 MistrBadgr

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Posted 04 May 2016 - 04:59 PM

Congratulations on your scope!

 

The little eyepieces that come with the scope are not bad, but they are older technology than newer designs.

 

There are eyepieces out there that are better than the 4000 series, depending on what you are looking for.  However, for the money, I think either the 4000 series or the Plossles in the new eyepiece kits that Meade has are really about all anyone really needs.  Beyond that, you are talking more about the finer points of the view.  I have one of the kits that Meade currently sells and they are quite good, plus you get a 2X Barlow and a whole bunch of filters.  There are extra plugs in the foam inside that you can pull out for additional eyepiece placement in the case.

 

Both kinds, the Plossles in the kit and the 4000 series have multi-coatings, which help reduce reflections and glare.  The apparent field of view in the Plossles is 52 degrees, where the MA eyepieces that come with your telescope have about a 45 degree field.

 

The HD-60 eyepieces have a 60 degree field, even better coatings, and high tech types of glass.  The have even more light through-put and, in my opinion are very good all the way to the edge of the field.  I think there maybe be people that can see little imperfections out on the edges, compared to eyepieces costing hundreds of dollars each, but the difference is beyond my ability to detect.

 

For what you can presently see, until your eyes get "educated" with practice, and keeping the fact that you have an entry level scope (thought a good one) in mind, either group of Plossles that Meade has are the best "bang for the buck," in my opinion for your situation.

 

I will write more about specific eyepieces in terms of focal lengths later if you want me to.

 

Hope this helps,

 

Bill Steen


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Bill Steen, Sky Hunters' Haven Observatory, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma

#18 Planetech

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Posted 06 May 2016 - 02:52 PM

Always willing to learn. I need to view with my glasses since I have astigmatism in both eyes.
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#19 RickScofield

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Posted 06 May 2016 - 05:48 PM

Tony,
I wanted to chime in regarding HD-60 series Meade eyepieces, I have the full set and for the money you can't go wrong. Clear from edge to edge and they are para focal. Good luck and enjoy the night sky.
RickScofield

#20 MistrBadgr

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Posted 06 May 2016 - 07:58 PM

The little latch thing on the side or your mount is for an older motor drive that does not exist any more, as far as I know.  They have a different one now that hooks onto the RA shaft instead of the control knob.  I bought one of the new drives.  I used it a little, then took it off.

 

Bill Steen


Bill Steen, Sky Hunters' Haven Observatory, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma




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