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My Equipment

8" Skywatcher Dobsonian, AKA "The Beast"

This was my first scope, and I would recommend it to anyone as a terrific value - in fact these scopes now are about $200 less than what I paid in 2003, and I thought it was a bargain then. This scope is dead easy to set up and use, though many find a reticle finder, such as the rigel, to be indispensible. Personally I find the straight through fine for everything except the zenith, where it's had to manipulate an alt-az mount anyway. This is still my first pick scope for quick peeks at DSO's, because it is so fast to set up, and so easy to use.

EQ platform - AKA "Beauty"

I built this for fun, and have used it at public star parties, but in truth I don't use it that often myself. I mainly used the Dob for DSO's, and at moderate power the tracking is not necessary. It's fun to tinker with, though.

ETX 60 - AKA "Chip" (you can see a theme emerging here...)

I picked this up used for cheap. It is cute and fun to use, but limited. It was great for the lunar eclipse, and I use it for solar observing. Ironically, at 60mm, it has a larger aperture for solar observing than my Dob, which uses a 50 mm opening in the cap for the solar filter. I may tear it off it's mount and use it as a finderscope.

Celestar 8 - AKA "Davros"

Okay, change of theme. This was bought used. Optics are excellent, with good seeing I have pushed it past 700x. This is my workhorse scope for imaging, planetary observing and double stars. With this scope I like the combination of telrad and RACI finder - since the scope is mounted equatorially, the view through the RACI finder matches the charts exactly. The fork mount is tracks in RA, but has some periodic error which limits its use for DSO imaging. I would like to mount this scope on a sturdy GEM - that would be a killer combination.

Orion Vista 10x50's

These are good binoculars, made in the same factory as the Carton Adlerblicks, apparantly. Multicoatings on all surfaces give good, bright images. See my review of these binos on Cloudy Nights.

Meade 10" LX3 f/6.3 - AKA "Ray"

This scope has a strange history. It used to belong to Ray Thompson, who used it in his observatory north of Toronto for years. When he moved out east ("retiring" at 84), he tried to find good homes for his stuff. I wound up with the scope. Being out in an obs for years it needed cleaning in a bad way. The optics aren't super for high power observing, but wider field DSO observing is fine. With a nice large aperture, it also works well for variable observing, which was Ray's passion.

Flip mirror

This little accessory is indispensable for imaging with a small chip camera, such as the DSI or Neximage. It allows the object to be centred in the FOV, and then when the mirror is flipped out of the way, it falls right on the camera chip. In particular, planetary imaging with a barlow would be impossible without it. This one from Meade screws right on to the threads on the back of the SCT. It's a good quality diagonal to boot.

Cameras

I have the Neximage - basically a webcam - for planetary and double star imaging, and a DSI pro (monochrome with filters) for DSO's. I still have a long way to go with the DSI to push its limits. It is quite a respectable little camera. I thank Meade for dumping these on the market last year when they introduced the new line of cameras, it gave budget-minded folk like me the chance to play with some fairly powerful toys. This camera has been around long enough that third party software will drive the camera, so the user is not limited to the included Envisage software, which is capable but kludgy.

Anti vibration pads

These are terribly unsexy accessories, but are money well spent. When I placed these under the tripod on my SCT, damping time for vibration dropped from about 5-6 seconds to about 1 second. This means no more waiting each time you touch the focuser, which makes observing much more enjoyable. I have the Celestron ones, but virtually identical models are sold by other manufacturers as well.

POD

The Personal Observatory Dome (POD) deserves it's own page.


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