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Not as much anymore, 'cos I'm bored with anything but deep sky, and that means motors. Joel Send a noteboard - 25/01/2010 02:22:01 AM
About ten years ago I worked at an awesomely fun chain store and the scopes were our big ticket item. The problem, initially, was that we were scheduled to open on Black Friday so we immediately went into our Christmas season with a brand new staff that knew jack about them. However, they had a practice of, twice a year, closing the doors and letting the employees shop at 40%, so I basically spent my first check on our best scope (Firstscope 114, a 4.5" Newtonian with an equatorial mount, 2X Barlow and three eyepieces) and learned everything I could about it. I quickly became our "telescope guy" in part because I'd steer parents shopping for their eight year olds away from stuff like the one I bought, and encouraged potential customers to do their homework before coming back and agreeing my suggestions had been right (which they regularly did. )

I also learned a fair amount about telescopes, how they work, and which ones are best suited for which tasks (for example, you can't flip the image right side up on a Newtonian, which sucks for bird watching, or "bird" watching, but it's irrelevant for skywatching, and Newtonians are far less expensive per inch of aperture because they don't have a lens in the front. ) If you want to nature watch, get a cheap refractor; if you want to moon watch, get a cheap Newtonian; if you want to see thinks like the Horseshoe Nebula or the Andromeda Galaxy, anything but a star outside our system, get something with an equatorial mount, because you can't do tracking without it, and you won't see that stuff without time lapse photography: It's just too faint, with any aperture.

Here's the quirk of fate that really soured me on my scope though: I ultimately bought a motor for it, fairly inexpensively, but the way it was supposed to be installed was to DRILL AND TAP HOLES IN MY EQUATORIAL MOUNT to attach it. I don't have a set of taps, and everyone I know who does says the same thing: "Um, I'd really prefer not to drill holes in your telescope that was $450 new, because I don't want you coming for my family in the dead of night if I screw up the thing. " So no deep sky for me, and to really get up close shots of the planets takes a lot of magnification, which means the earths rotation will usually move the object out of the field in the time it takes me to switch eyepieces (in fact, above about 200X you can see it moving in the eyepiece and have to compensate to keep it visible. ) The best part: The VERY NEXT YEAR Celestron changed the mount; after that all you had to do was use an Allen wrench to remove a bolt and stick on the motor. They even provide the wrench. Thus began my decade of lust for a C-8 (deep sky astronomy has the same rule as many women: Anything less than 8" is a disappointing waste of time. ;))


With a 4.5" aperture viewing the moon becomes painful at around 100X, and dangerous at about 200X. Remember: You're taking all the reflected sunlight that entered through a 4.5" diameter hole and focusing it down to an area about half a millimeter across. For the same reason aperture is more important than focal length (as long as you have enough light you can theoretically magnify indefinitely, though I've never heard of an commercial eyepiece with a focal length <2mm) you don't want to concentrate TOO MUCH light on your retinas if you're fond of them. ;)
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