Archive for the ‘Roger’s Articles’ category

Using a 76 mm (3-inch) Reflector and a Relaxing Hour….Enjoying The Wonders of The Night Sky

March 17, 2018

Last night, I didn’t want to set up a larger telescope, but instead scanned the sky for more than an hour using a small 76 mm reflector.  

No notes, no sketches….just relaxing, and taking the advice of Leslie Peltier:  

“Were I to write out one prescription designed to alleviate at least some of the self-made miseries of mankind, it would read like this:  “One gentle dose of starlight to be taken each clear night just before retiring”.  Leslie Peltier

“Many books explain how to observe the sky; Starlight Nights explains why.”  In a way, Leslie Peltier is the patron saint of One Minute Astronomer.”   David Levy

So the next time you want to observe, but are a bit too tired, the weather is too cold or too hot:  why not spend a few minutes with binoculars, or a very small telescope, and you just might be surprised at what you see. Then there is also the benefit of a great nights sleep.  

I enjoy amateur astronomy much more than I did 50 years ago…as a 13 year old kid trying to find my way as an amateur in a weedy field, in the foothills of North Carolina.  

Roger Ivester

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International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) Fully Shielded Home Lighting. Sold by Lowe’s Home Improvement

February 22, 2018

My first fully shielded house light, with one more to go.  I purchased this one at Lowe’s on Sunday, and put it up today.  Threw away the old standard brass coach light which  spewed light in your eyes when coming in the front door.  You can actually see the house much better when driving up the street.  All the light shines down in a nice concentrated beam.  I need one more for my back door.  The fixture is well made and was very simple to install….

 
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Edmund Scientific of Years Past

February 21, 2018

Edmund Scientific was the company that spawned my interest in amateur astronomy. From the following books to my first serious telescope, an Edmund 4.25-inch EQ reflector, which was a Palomar Jr.

It’s really too bad that books like the ones pictured below are no longer available. It was the “Edmund Sky Guide” that taught me all about Sirius and the companion. However, it would be almost forty years later, before I would finally see the companion.  

It was the mid to late 60’s thru the 70s that were what I call the golden years of amateur astronomy. The days when 6-inch reflectors ruled the day (or night) and fortunate indeed was the amateur that owned an Edmund Scientific or Criterion 6-inch f/8 EQ reflector.

The days when the solitary observer spent many nights in their backyard. The days when every amateur wanted to see all of the Messier objects.  As a young enthusiastic amateur, the thought of seeing all of these showpiece objects didn’t seem possible. 

The wonders and excitement of being young:

Being really young, always feeling great, no responsibilities, dreaming of a better telescope, or another Kellner eyepiece.

Now what more could any amateur ask for?  

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Visual Observing with a 6-inch f/6 Imaging Reflector Telescope

February 10, 2018

 

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The above photo is my now “prized” 6-inch f/6 telescope.  When I first became interested in amateur astronomy, in the mid to late 60’s, the 6-inch reflector was “definitely” one of the most popular telescope during this period.     

One of my desires or ambitions has always been to bring back the excitement of the glory days of amateur astronomy, when all kids wanted a telescope.  The nights of the solitary observer in the backyard, attempting to locate and observe a few of the Messier objects.

I often wish it were possible to go back to those fun days.  However, each and every night when I’m out in my backyard with a telescope….I’m a kid again.  What a great feeling!  

The 6-inch f/6 reflector:

How would this telescope perform on a couple difficult test? 

Would it be possible to see Sirius B and all six Trapezium stars with this scope? 

I made my attempt (February 8th 2018) with the 6-inch to see if the companion to Sirius would be possible with this telescope.   The weather was perfect; 35º and totally calm. When I took my first look at Sirius it was obvious that seeing was very good.  I started with a magnification of 150x, but to no avail and worked my way up to 232x, and there it was, but was unable to hold “the Pup” constantly.  

After more than 30 minutes with Sirius, it was time to move on to another favorite challenge of mine:  The Trapezium in the heart of the Orion Nebula.  

Starting with 232x, I was surprised how easy it was to see the E star, but the F star required a bit of patience and was difficult.   

There were beautiful airy discs surrounding the primary four Trapezium stars.  

Note:  An imaging reflector most often requires the use of an extender tube when observing visually with an eyepiece for proper focusing.  

 

The quality of my new 6-inch:  

The optical tube assembly:  6-inch OTA, f/6, TPO brand, made in Taiwan, purchased from OPT in California, 2-inch focuser, a 6 x 30 finder and it also included tube rings, designed for a narrow-Vixen style dovetail.  

The original dovetail was too short, but I found a unique way to utilize the “too short” original.  I ordered a 13-inch dovetail to replace the short one, which allows for better balance. 

The telescope optical tube is fairly heavy, and it was difficult to set up on the mount.  I needed a handle to more easily mount the telescope.  So….I just flipped the original dovetail upside down, and it bolted perfectly on the top of the optical tube.  This became the perfect handle I was looking for. 

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I don’t remember my old 1970’s Criterion RV-6 f/8 reflector being anywhere near this good, either optically, mechanically or cosmetically.  Superb overall quality for sure!  

I added an 8 x 50 finder.  

My primary reason for purchasing this scope was for portability, ease of carrying and set-up.   

 

Fortunate for me, I had a Vixen GP equatorial mount from a refractor purchase in 1997.  I did have to purchase another Vixen counterweight.  They are now white.  

There was a problem, but not with the telescope:  

My older Vixen GP tripod was designed for a refractor, and too tall for a reflector.  I didn’t realize until the other night that Vixen offers a short tripod, designed for Newtonian reflectors, but just the shortened legs with a base sells for ~ $200 dollars.

A light bulb turns on in my head: 

About 12 years ago, I bought a set of Vixen (standard) tripod legs for $20 at a local astronomy event.  They appeared to have never been used, and I’d had them in storage ever since. 

Why not attempt to shorten my extra set of standard tripod legs to Vixen height specs?  

So….for most of the afternoon, I spent several hours,  sawing, drilling and filing.  The results were worth my time and effort, and all modifications looked really good, or what I would call….factory.  

And now, I can enjoy observing with my 6-inch while seated.

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I’ve found it “almost ” impossible to look through an eyepiece, make notes and a sketch, in a standing position….. 

Roger 

University Optics Close Doors After More than 55+ Years

December 3, 2017

I’m a bit late in finding out, but University Optics closed its doors in ~June 2017.  I was saddened to hear this. 

After 25 years, I still use my UO Konig’s :  A 12 mm, 16 mm, 24 mm in a 1.25-inch  format, and a 32 mm 2-inch, and also a 20 mm UO Erfle.  I also have a University Optics 2.8x Klee Barlow.  

About 15 years ago I called the owner, Mr. Seyfried.  My 12 mm Konig had a streak of light crossing the FOV when observing brighter stars.  Seyfried told me to send the eyepiece back to University Optic’s (after more than 10 years) and he would replace the lens.  

The eyepiece was returned back to me in less than a couple weeks, and it performs perfectly to this day.  Now this is a great warranty and great service for sure!  I was willing to pay for the repair service, but Mr. Seyfried would have no part of this.  

It’s very sad to see a company that supplied mirror making kits, mirror cells and other low profit items, which other vendors did not sell, is now out of business after 55+ years.  

University Optic’s will be missed by the amateur astronomy community.  

I like things to stay the same  😦 

Roger Ivester

Bob’s Knobs – Collimation Thumbscrews For Newtonian and Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescopes

November 27, 2017

It was almost forty years ago when I sold my 6-inch Criterion RV-6 Newtonian reflector.  Life became really busy and I just didn’t have time to observe for several years.

Earlier this year (2017) I decided to replace the RV-6, with another 6-inch reflector.   I really didn’t need another telescope, but you know how that can be.

The telescope came with a bag of Bob’s Knobs thumbscrews, but I had not installed, until this weekend.  It was very easy, replacing one screw at a time and collimating after each replacement.

The 6-inch reflector: 

In the days of yesteryear, a 6-inch reflector was the workhorse of amateur astronomy, but in recent years has lost favor among the amateur astronomy community.  Not so fast!  

Please consider:  The 6-inch reflector is reasonably easy for most anyone to handle, and has good light gathering capability.  The venerable six is an excellent all purpose telescope, especially with an f/6 focal ratio.   

Roger Ivester

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Does Anybody Remember Science Hobbies on Central Avenue in Charlotte?

November 7, 2017

I will always remember purchasing my first telescope from Science Hobbies in Charlotte, North Carolina during the mid-70’s.  It was an Edmund Scientific 4 1/4-inch f/10 reflector. Science Hobbies sold mostly Edmund products, and always had a big 8-inch Edmund f/6 reflector sitting in the window.  The 8-inch would have been my dream scope at the time, but the cost was well over $600.  The year was 1976….and this was far beyond my budget.

I was looking at both the Edmund 4 1/4 and the larger 6-inch Super Space Conqueror.  I really wanted the 6-inch with a much heavier equatorial mount, but had to settle for the smaller scope, due to the cost. 

Throughout the years, I always enjoyed going to Science Hobbies.  It was fun to see the latest from Edmund, which included telescopes, eyepieces, and other fun science products.  I bought a lot of stuff over the years from that little store.

I also purchased The Finest Deep-Sky Objects by Mullaney and McCall, a Tirion Atlas.  One item I really like and use is an eyepiece shelf which mounts on the pedestal and will hold six eyepieces.  I also purchased all of those old, but fabulous astronomy books written for Edmund by Sam Brown and Terence Dickinson.  I still use them on occasion.  

A sad day:

It was a Saturday, back in the late 90’s, and I said to my wife Debbie “hey lets ride down to Science Hobbies”.  Debbie always enjoyed going to a shopping mall after my spending a couple of hours looking at telescopes, etc.  We drove into the parking lot, something did not seem right, there was no telescope sitting in the window.  The rusty sign that had been hanging over the front door for many years was missing.  I got out of the car and pressed my nose on the front door.  Oh no…..the store was empty!  The store had closed!  

The last time I had been there, one of the clerks told me that business had been slow.  This concerned me a bit…..I was the only person in the store.

I really miss that place, spending time and looking at astronomy equipment “live” and not on the pages of a catalog.  Retail stores are having a difficult time these days, regardless of what they sell.  It’s really hard to compete with the internet, and mail order.  

If you have problems via mail order it can be quite difficult having to box up a defective product.  I had to return two Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes quite a few years ago.  One would not focus, and the other had a serious problem with the drive.  It would have been great if I could have checked them out in a store before taking them home.    

The good thing….all major astronomy equipment vendors online have excellent return policies, should there be a problem, or if the product does not meet your expectations.   

All of my astronomy purchases are now online, since the closing of Science Hobbies, which has now been almost twenty-five years.   However, I still miss those Saturday afternoons, looking at astronomy equipment.  

Roger Ivester