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The 19th Nervous Breakdown


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They say everything comes to those who wait. Which is fair enough I reckon. I’ve waited since last September to start observing again. I have had a whole nineteen sessions since this September. Usually I’ve clocked over a hundred around this time of the year. Seventeen have been with my refractors, mainly the Titchy Sixty and 72ED (which are ‘neck a neck’ at eight sessions each) with one widefield session with the modified ST102. The scopes 72mm and under are the easiest for me to actually carry and use at the moment. When the Moon is bright however, the biggest reflector I can use relatively easily is the 127mm Maksutov aka the ‘Big Mak’. I have other Synta Gregory Spot-Maksutov scopes of 90 and 102mm respectively (Little Mak & Middle Mak).




Big Mak is a bit planetary specific and so doesn’t need to be moved on its mount axes much. I can also set it up so I can sit right behind it. I’m not over-keen on splitting doubles with Synta Mak’s either as they seem to have bright second diffraction rings. Although, this has always been a bit of a problem with reflectors as a whole IMO. This recent session was the nineteenth (nervous breakdown lol).




The downside of an enclosed instrument like the Big Mak is that its internal environment, dependent on ambient temperature, takes some time to achieve thermal equilibrium. So I ‘unleashed the beast’ and left BM out for an hour at about 19:00 GMT. At around 20:00 I went back down to the garden hide/observatory to put the dew shield on the OTA and the standard Baader prism was placed into the visual back. I fired up the reflex sight and aimed at a recently post-transit Saturn (Aquarius). I had taken five ortho’s and a Meade zoom with me.




The moons of Titan and Rhea were not far from each other and pretty easily visible at 123x (virtually a 1mm exit pupil) with a Fujiyama (Ohi) 12.5mm. Whether it was my imagination or not I was convinced I could occasionally see a bright point of light at Saturn’s northern pole. This may or may not have been Dione, which has an albedo of 0.998 ± 0.004. Dione is the fourth largest moon of Saturn and the fifteenth largest in the Solar System. It also has a pair of trojan moons (Helene & Polydeuces) situated in the Lagrangian points of L4 & L5. Of course, it may have just been as prosaic an explanation as a Zeta Reticulan scout ship hovering above Saturn’s pole, but I like to think I had a few momentary glimpses of Dione. Prove I didn’t! lol. I both increased and decreased the magnifications (10mm BCO, 18mm Astro-Hutech) for 154x & 85.5x respectively. The lower magnification produced a sharper image although 154x was a bit much with the jet stream’s current position. 




Meanwhile, Jupiter beckoned. I was tempted to scan for Uranus, but didn’t. The cold was probably starting to get to me. The four Galileans were easily observed with some colour definition, but anything over 100x for the Jovian surface was less defined. I could see some fair amount of detail in the equatorial belts regardless of the jet stream’s position. But it was the Moon, and particularly Schroter’s Valley and the Oceanus Procellarum area that I wanted to observe. There is effectively only a short terminator window for this region every month. I switched to the Baader Zeiss Amici as mirror reversed lunar features ‘does my head in’. The Gassendi impact crater, once considered as a potential Apollo landing site, was fairly clear and prominent. Schroter's Valley and the surrounding Montes Harbinger mountains were magnificent however. The Prinz ghost crater was quite easily perceived and the detail in the terraced walls of Aristarchus was phenomenal, considering the overall seeing.




I started off at 123x, went through 154x, 220x (7mm orthoscopic) and eventually achieved 257x using my faithful old 6mm Astro-Hutech (Ohi) orthoscopic. This tiny and reliable eyepiece has seen a lot of Moon over the years with a variety of telescopes. The only real problem is that with a tiny field stop and a 42° FOV the Moon really shifts at 257x! At around 21:00 I called it a night. It was either that or entering the Brass Monkey Zone (shock, horror). The only real problem I had was that at one stage Big Mak’s dew shield inexplicably fell off. I have no real explanation for this incident which was easily remedied.




I’m pretty sure it was those pesky Zeta Reticulans though! I’ll get even … eventually … if I don't have a 20th nervous breakdown ...



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1 hour ago, Butterfly Maiden said:

A very detailed and interesting report @Nightspore 😃


Thanks. It turned out better than I expected. I could see the Pleiades with the naked eye. However, with the jet stream being over the Midlands I wasn't expecting much. I'm about Bortle 4.5 (I live in the greenbelt in a village surrounded by woods and farmland). When the Moon is in a large waxing phase, planetary observation is the only realistic option, as the Moon really lights up where I live. You might like this site as it shows where the jet stream is.



In fact, the lunar/planetary session went so well I feel cyberpunk good!

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2 hours ago, GazAstro said:

Have you tried wrapping the Big Mak in reflectix or similar, seems to help with the thermal inside tube.


No, but I've heard these strategies can work. Bear in mind I can only use my left/arm hand well and there are certain physical practicalities to setting up a 5" OTA. It takes me long enough just to get the Mak into the dovetail lol. So when I go out with the Big Mak, and by the time I've got my s*** totally together, it can be more or less an hour anyway.




One of the reasons I waited before I acquired a 127mm (which was my original first choice) was that it just can't be picked up with one hand successfully. The 102mm & 90mm are comparatively easy to manipulate with one hand in comparison. So I went for the 102mm first. It was originally mounted on an EQ mount and tricky for me to set-up. I actually had to lie the mount head on the ground to connect the OTA to it. 




Hence the appeal of the 'Orion' 90mm. Which had the dove in a position with the finder shoe at about the 10 o'clock position.




Then, one fine day, the SNAFU that is FLO advertised a 127mm OTA with a dove and finder shoe in the same position as the Orion. I contacted them more than once to confirm they had got this correct, as most freestanding Mak OTA's have the dove at the bottom. They assured me the picture they had used on their site was right. So, I duly ordered it. I was so excited when it came. I totally forgot about the huge 'head up the jacksy' mad hatter zone that totally surrounds everything FLO. 




When I opened it I saw this! There's no way that it can be realistically used with a Vixen mount as the finder shoe will essentially be in the 7 o'clock position. To be fair to the disaster zone that is FLO they did offer to throw in a Rigel finder for free. But I returned the OTA. 




However, I discovered that I could pick up the OTA by its dovetail (years of playing guitars have made my fingers strong and I have big hands). Emboldened (embiggened? lol) by this I ordered the AZ5/127 bundle from Forked Light Optics. The mount/tripod is woefully inadequate for the 127 IMO. It came in useful for smaller scopes though and is quite light to physically carry. The OTA dove and finder shoe are in the same position as the 90mm Orion. So actually the AZ5 got a lot of use with several scopes:







Eventually I used a Rigel on the 102, after rotating its dove by 180 degrees so it sat in the AZ5 mount jaws with the 'dimples' in the right position.




As dimple positioning is soooo important lol.




Anyway, all's well that ends well, as that other chap from the Midlands said. 



FLO's official signature song (what? Mad hatters, where? lol). 

Edited by Nightspore
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It’s difficult to beat a Mak on the Moon. I’m now the owner of an absurdly expensive 5” triplet, and lots of nice eyepieces. But it’s no crisper than the brutally sharp 4” Mak I started out with, together with a £99 case of Chinese Plossls. I don’t remember cooldown being a major problem either. The optics were great, but the electronics were laughably poor - it was supposedly a ‘go-to’ Meade ETX, but it went absolutely nowhere. 

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The ETX's have a reputation for fine optics. My 90mm and 102mm Mak's don't suffer terribly from thermal problems, even though I like at least 40 mins to cool. Meade electronics have always been a joke from what I hear. Not unlike Synta clock drives lol.

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