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12/28/2012

Antares Dual LED Adjustable Light

Well, I think I've posted most of my new products here.  One I did order and that I REALLY like is from Agena Astro Products and it is called the Antares Dual LED Adjustable Light and you can find it here.  It has both red and white LED lights.  The light color is determined by moving a small switch on top. There is no reason to accidently turn on the white light here as once you have it on red, the flashlight turns off by the know you use to adjust the brightness. I am going to once again post some pictures to try reflect how the light works and how dim or bright it is. They won't convey what I actually see, and I am very excited as I believe this is going to make a major impact on my observing by keeping my night vision more acute.
Here in this image you can see a printed chart from Starry Night Pro that I put in a clear sheet protector and use in the field.


Next you can see the box that it comes in from Agena.  Nice box, arrived in a good small box with bubble wrap.



Here is the flashlight out of the box. No markings on this one and the cord is 14 inches long that you can put around your neck if you want.



Here you can see the front switch which you turn to the back for red, and then move forward when you want white light.  The rolling switch behind the front switch controls the intensity of the light from the LED. In white mode you have two white LED's and in Red mode two red LED.  The flashlight is powered by a D cell battery and yes, you have three screws on the right side that you have to unscrew in order to get the old battery out and the new one in.


 In this shot you can see the two red and two white LED lights in the front of the flashlight. They are protected by a clear plastic.



Here are the two red LED's at their lowest setting on the wheel.  Just perfect but you can't see it here.


This shows more of the stars from the map I am using and this is at about mid point on the wheel for looking at the chart.



This shows the LED's at max on the wheel and it is much too bright for field work.


Here is the white LED's at the lowest setting.


 Here are the two white LED's at their mid point setting on the wheel.


Here is the brightest setting for the white LED's. Perfect for when your cleaning up after the session and no one else is observing.


Seems to be build strong and barring a major drop I think this little light will last me for some time.

12/13/2012

Well, here it is new moon and I apologize but I have nothing to post about! Well, that's not true but I haven't been observing since November 10th at a dark site. I fear the curse of a new telescope, new eyepieces, new collimation equipment, new land for observing, setting up that land and so much more has meant that I am not having an inch of clear skies.  What is interesting is in reality here in northern Utah we are technically in a drought. We've had two major snow storms but not enough snow to fill the reservoirs for next summer.  However, what has failed to fall as H20 has stayed up as condensation in the forms of clouds.  Plenty of clouds during the new moon period.  I did make a recent purchase, just to test it out and see how it works. It is a 2 inch OIII filter.  I need it for the 2 inch 30mm ES 82 degree and my 27mm Panoptic which is 2 inches.   As soon as I can use it, I would guess next spring, I'll report back on the new OIII filter.  In the news I have been walking a lot lately and starting to do some hiking and I have taken up an new interest, birding. Birds are always around and its fun to identify them via sight, sound and other means.  So no, this blog will remain about my observations and equipment, but I am enjoying birding. At least the weather doesn't stop that hobby! Here's hoping you find clear skies where you are and I'll start posting here now that my semester is over.

11/20/2012

Howie Glatter Laser Collimation System


Well, this system arrived today so I thought I would post my first impressions. My back is killing me so I had to recruit help to set the scope up and try collimation with it. That wasn't one of my smarter ideas (L5/S1 and my muscles and discs/nerves in my neck are killing me today, to the point I am staying in tonight).  Let me state up front that I have the Catseye Passive Collimation System and I love using it. However, I also have to admit I haven't mastered the use of the Catseye System at night, though I purchased Jim's red light that attaches to the spider vanes.  Jim Fly posted directions over at CloudyNights in this thread at this link.
The following is what I posted on that thread: "

That is the clip light that I got from Jim at Catseye when I ordered my system last year. The light on my scope is just too bright and is drowning out the primary so I can't see any reflections. I need to read and practice more."

Jim replied with some suggestions for using the system at night:

"As mentioned, when using the autocollimator, place the clip light on the far side of the spider vane opposite the focuser pointed at the center spot. Then, while looking at the spot through the central pupil, adjust the angle of the light at the clip swivel slightly to diminish the background peripheral glare while maintaining bright spot illimination. I might add that when illuminating the BLACKCAT XL Cheshire, the clip light works best when placed on the same outboard vane but moved in adjacent to the Secondary mounting hub."

I will have to try that (thought I had as I placed the red light on the vane opposite the focuser on the outer edge. I did not adjust the angle of the light at the clip swivel slightly to diminish the background peripheral glare though.

Well, anyway, I have always wanted a Howie Glatter barlow laser collimation system so to use with the Catseye System I purchased the following items from Howie.

2” 650nm standard brightness red collimator.
2” tuBlug
Holographic attachment (for collimating the secondary).

Here are some pictures I took of the items:

In the picture below is the tuBlug on the right (black with the white face), the hologrpahic attachment for the laser collimater (in the bag) and the 650n 2 inch Red Laser Collimator on the left.



Same items, same position, just angled down.



A close up of the 2 inch tuBlug



Close up of the 2 inch 650n Laser Collimator.


Centering the secondary is a breeze with the holographic adapter.  It worked just as advertised on Howie's site  Next collimating the primary, then the secondary and then back to the primary was a breeze using both the laser and the tuBlug.  In about 10 minutes I had it down.  I'll have to make a movie of the collimation process using these tools and post it along with the Catseye passive tools and compare results.  I'll see if my friend Jeff can arrange a time to do that with me.  

The build of the items are first class. The 2 inch laser is extremely sturdy and well built. The tuBlug is also of the hightest quality and both should last for a lifetime of observing if taken care of.  I have an extra case to hold these so they will be an item I take with me all the time.  I look forward to using both tools to maximize my observing with the outstanding Zambuto mirror that I have! 

11/14/2012

Supernova SN2012fr in NGC 1365

One past time that I have gotten into over the last two years is to observe Supernova that are visible in my telescope. Specifically, I like to hunt down supernova that occur in well known galaxies.  I'll even admit I am giving it a try at visually hunting a supernova by identifying galaxies with active cores, that haven't had a SN in some time, are rather large and easy to see from my backyard and then viewing them a couple of times a week to see if any of the star field has changed. Its fun to do, gives a focus and I enjoy it even if I never discover a SN.

 Well, another SN in a well known galaxy has surfaced about 3 weeks ago. I just wanted to bring to your attention if you haven't already heard about this (I posted on CloudyNights about it on October 30th, 2012, there is a wonderful Type I Supernova in the constellation of Fornax in NGC 1365.  Now NGC 1365 is a wonderful Barred Spiral Galaxy, and when you see the images, you'll be able to see what I mean.  The Supernova is easily seen in the images and easily to locate.  NGC 1365 in northern Utah is best seen around 12:30 a.m. MST when it reaches its highest peak.  This Supernova is at its peak and it expected to quickly begin its fade as Type I Supernova do.  So here are some images to view from the Supernova Page located here.  If you want to read about the actual discovery of this Supernova and see how professional astronomers make their discovery (and yes, initially it is faint, very faint!) go to this link.

This one is from Martin Pugh and is just lovely.  To see his comments on his images go to this link.




Here is a fainter image of NGC 1365 and SN2012fr is the bright star to the left of the core. This image almost looks like my sketch of this object. It comes from this Blog of an amateur in Spain.


Finally an image by J. Brimacombe of SN2012fr in NGC 1365.  It gives a good representation to orient oneself to where this bright Supernova in a well known galaxy is located.


So if your out in the night sky this weekend, please take a moment and look at this object! Now remember as Martin Pugh points out in the link to his image, if you do the math, "the absolute magnitude for SN2012fr is  -19.27 for SN2012fr. This means that if the supernova had occurred at a distance to us similar to Betelgeuse (643 light years), then its apparent magnitude would be -12.80, same as the full Moon!"  WOW! Remember this is the process which puts heavy elements back into the stellar nursery to create new stars, new planets and in some cases I would hope, life.

11/13/2012

Observing November 6th and 7th, 2012 with 14" Dobstuff w/Zambuto

Well, I had met to get this report up this last weekend but due to the car accident, I had to put it off.  So here we go.  I had decided on this night to go out to Forest Land in Vernon because of the length of the trip. Since it was a work night I opted as did my observing friends to go to the Pit n Pole location. This met a quick drive out for my friend Mat and I and Jorge, while allowing for four or five hours of observing prior to packing up and driving home so we can all go to work the next day.

I arrived a lot latter than I wanted. Originally the plan was to get out there by 5:00pm to set up but that failed as I had to do some commitments at school.  So I came home, packed up the Pathfinder with the new Dobstuff 14" and my other materials I needed for the night. This time the packing was easy, and what a difference the new Baltic Birch base and mirror box made on lifting the items into the Pathfinder. I do need to remove the alt bearings on each side though to make it safe to load.  Since this night I have received my transport struts (they were a little harder to mount a the screw in part is uneven on a couple but they work now. It's just a matter of finding which travel strut works on which strut alignment) and it is now more than easier to transport the scope.

I arrived at the Pit n Pole after dark.  Mat was already there as was our friend Daniel.  I came in and Mat was using white light to finish his set up. So I came in, and using white light in about 10 minutes I was completely set up. I used the Catseye Collimation tools to collimate and found it hard to collimate in the dark even with the red light that clips on to the spider vane. The red light caused too much light and I just had a hard time seeing the reflections of the Catseye triangle. I got it aligned and with Mat's help as he did the collimation screws on the back of the mirror box, I was able to get a decent collimation. From this experience I learned that I really need to practice with my Catseye Collimation during the day so I am prepared to do it at night. In addition, I just paid today for a Howie Glatter 650n 2 inch barlow laser with a 2 inch tuBlug and a hologrpahic tool to help center the secondary at night.  I believe with these two I can get the collimation I want to nail so I can maximize the Zambuto.

Because of the darkness I was not able to make my movie of the setup, the azmuith and altitude motions and the breakdown and loading of the scope. I'll be doing this next observing trip as my friend Jorge has strong lights that will allow us to film all of these.

After collimating I went after some eye candy just to see how things were working.  Motions were fantastic this night, though as the cold set in they did offer an initial stiction. However Mat pointed out that his 16 inch dob that he made with outstanding motions does the same thing in the cold.  Anyway, first target was M31 and using the Telrad I nailed it. All three Messier galaxies here stood out nice and bright in the 30mm ES 82 degree and in the 20mm ES 68 degree eyepiece. The dark lanes exploded out and the contrast and detail on M31 was marvelous with the Zambuto mirror.

Next, I went to Cassiopeia and took in NGC 457 the Owl Cluster and Messier 103. In Messier 103 we saw color again (actually it was later as it rose higher) with the blue, yellow/orange and even some teal or green stuck out.  After viewing this I did M57 the Ring, and then Alberio.  After that it was time to get to work and this night, it meant work for me. Oh the fun of getting to know a new scope and breaking oneself in to it (notice, I didn't say breaking the scope in, I need to be broken in to the scope and I think that is true for most of us as we get new equipment).  Anyway, I had put on the 9x50 RACI finder and tried to use t and found that it was way off in alignment. This took me 40 minutes to figure out how to align the finderscope to the Telrad and eyepiece but I finally did it. Once done, it stayed on target all night.  Basically it meant realigning the finderscope a lot in order for the screws to work on moving the crosshairs to the target.

I had decided this night to go after the Herschel 400 II fall objects as I haven't been too faithful in recording my observations of them and keeping track of what I have done and what I haven't done. So this night I got started.  My first target was NGC 1169 and let me tell you, I had the most difficult time finding this object. I believe with the old XX14i I would have had it in a few minutes but not this night. Distraction of a possible medical condition (came back negative) and some fatigue played its part in me not being the usual star hopper I am. Using the Sky Pocket Atlas as an initial guide and then a much more detailed computerized chart, I tried over and over again to find the object. Finally, victory! I had Mat confirm it as I wasn't feelign confident this night. But sure enough I got it and here is the sketch I did the next night when I returned to do things totally on my own.



Here is my favorite sketch of the two nights. It is of NGC 1169, a galaxy in Perseus.  11/7/2012, 09:14pm MST; Antoniadi II; Pit n Pole, Rush Valley, UT; V Mag. 11.6; Surface Brightness: 14.1; Size: 4.2' x 2.9'; 14" DobStuff with 10mm Pentax XW w Type I Paracorr.

Galaxy is pretty, rather bright and small though. Using averted vision helped to shows a faint halo with it. Core is rather bright also.  There is a 13 to 13.5 mag star imposed on the SW side of the core.

After this I then tried to star hop over to NGC 1161. Again, fatigue and worry I believe clouded my abilities and after a good 35 minutes I got this galaxy.  Also, I have to state observing on the right side after 11 years on the left is an adjutment also.



NGC 1161 Galaxy in Perseus.  11/7/2012; Pit n Pole, Rush Valley, UT; Antoniadi II; V. Mag. 11.1; Surface Brightness 12.9; Size: 2.8'x2.0'; 14" DobStuff; 10mm Pentax XW Type 1 Paracorr; 

This is a pretty bright and small galaxy in an oval shape.  Bright inner core with a stellar nucleus. Two bright stars are just off to the west and NGC 1160 is nearby. 


Next came a hop over to NGC 1175, another small galaxy in Perseus.  This time things went a little better and I was able to get on this one a little faster. It also dawned on me as I am typing this that it had been 2 months since I had seriously observed. My skills were a little rusty this night, combined with the fatigue, the worry and a new scope.  



NGC 1175 Galaxy in Perseus; Pit n Pole, Rush Valley UT; v. Mag 12.3; Surface Brightness 12.4; Size: 1.9'x0.6'; Antoniadi II; 09:55pm MDT; 14" DobStuff with Zambuto; 10mm Pentax XW and 20mm ES 68 degree with Type I Paracorr. 

Fairly faint galaxy with some fainter extensions. Elongated NNW to SSW.  Rather faint and viewed as a elongated shiver of light with an uneven surface brightness. 

M next hop was a just a tad hard until I got my bearings and then it was like old times.  I went over to NGC 1050 a galaxy in Perseus. 





NGC 1050 Galaxy in Perseus; November 7th, 2012; 10:35pm mST: Antoniadi II; 14" Dobstuff w/Zambuto; 10mm Pentax XW with Type I Paracorr; 

Roundish galaxy, irregular in on the northern edge, hint of structure there, possible arm? Brighter near the core. 

My last object was NGC 1003 a galaxy in Perseus. 




NGC 1003 galaxy in Perseus; 11/7/2012; 10:55pm MST; Antoniadi II; 14" Dobstuff w/Zambuto; 10mm Pentax XW with Type I Paracorr; 

Galaxy is faint at mag 12.3 with a 13th mag star on its SE side.  There is some brightening on the northern side with some possible knotting there. Brighter in the core region.   

So, that was the work of two nights, along with a section of Sue French's book that I'll post latter with a few sketches.  How did the scope work? Great, but I need to make sure I put the finderscope not on the strut opposite of where the finder is, but nearer the finder. I want to be able to use the finderscope and the Telrad together.  Balance was taken care of with the ankle weights and I had no problem on either night with balance. The scope works brilliantly as designed but now it comes down to me as I adjust to using the scope. That means I need more time observing but the snow and cloud curse has hit! I really was hoping for some time out either Friday or Saturday but now the forecast has changed, and clouds and more clouds coming in. We'll see. I'll still try to get out.  Then again, with a new scope, new eyepieces, new collimation tools etc., I guess I should be lucky if I have clear skies at a new moon come March! I hope not. I hope the pattern breaks and come December I can view back at a dark site if not sooner. 



11/10/2012

More YouTube Video on my new 14" Dobstuff

I found the other video I made in my garage of the altitude and azmuith motions of the new 14" Dobstuff Strut Dob. I also show off more of the scope in the video. The downside, you have to watch me.  Anyway, here you go, it is at this link. Feel free to watch it. I'll be posting a new one in a week.

Being Grateful for Curve Balls in the Face

This post isn't Astronomy related.  This post isn't about my wonderful new telescope (I'll post on that in a moment).  This post is about how fragile life is and how we have to treasure each and every moment. It is about capturing a moment spent in the desert with the wonders of the universe. It is about sharing time with friends and family.  It is about cherishing both the good, the wonderful, the bad and the ugly times in our lives. It is about how we look at situations and hopefully are better.

I played baseball in my youth and I saw times when a batter would take a pitch that would hit them. One such pitch hit a batter in the face, causing some broken bones and taking him out of the starting lineup for some time. I think life is like that at times. We are cruising and things are going well, or things are just going or perhaps they are not going, when BAM! Life hits us face on with something unexpected, something unplanned for and we then have to decide how we are going to react to it. Will we get angry, cross, disgusted, hateful or will we face it and make the best out of it? Will we try to use it to measure our own character, to measure how we have grown as a human being?

In my youth I was very impatient, very resentful, and the material things I had mattered a lot to me. I was brought up by a wonderful father, but like all father's, an imperfect father. My father was a perfectionist and as he taught me to do something, if I did it wrong that was unacceptable. It made some aspects of my youth very hard to deal with.  Anyway, as a young adult in my 20's and early 30's I found that I was still trying to prove that I didn't make mistakes (and yet I made many of them) and I was intolerant of the mistakes of others. As my daughter and son were born, I realized that I did not want them to have this trait in their lives, so I realized I had to change. I wish it had been an easy change, but the change came slowly, over time, like the growth of a tree. At times I was very patient with my children, at times I wasn't. I did let them know though when I did make mistakes, and I apologized for my mistakes and let them know that I was working to improve myself.  Yes, my children grew up knowing I was imperfect, and yes, I apologized to them (still do) when I make a mistake involving them.  It's made for a fun and eventful relationship as they respectfully let me know now when I mess up, and using humor, we usually enjoy the interaction and the apology that goes with the ribbing. More importantly, my children know today that I am not the father I was 20 years ago and that I have improved, become better and they recognize that growth. For me, I hope that is a legacy that stays with them. Today, I had the opportunity to test my own character in terms of being patient, understanding and caring in the midst of a difficult situation or a "fastball in the face" as I put it.

      Today, my wife and I were driving to a medical appointment that she has every Saturday in Salt Lake City.  Today, we took her new Nissan Altima Hybrid that I purchased for her this summer because of the gas savings.  Now yesterday and today it has been snowing here in northern Utah. In my backyard I have about a foot of snow for the two days (I haven't measured it yet).  So it was snowing when I got on I-15 going northbound and at one point, near what we call 106th or 10600 South on ramp, three snow plows entered the freeway and went all the way over to the left to the HOV lanes.  I was in the middle lane and as traffic slowed, so did I, down to about 45 to 50 mph.  I was considering a lane change, which I was unable to do as traffic was in the lane next to me on my right as was the third snow plow.  Suddenly BOOM! Instantly  knew we had been rear ended and I looked in my rear view mirror to see a woman in her mid twenties in a late 1990's Altima on the phone and trying to follow us.  In Utah we have new directions from the Highway Patrol that if our car is driveable, to drive to the next exit and get off so we don't cause congestion or further accidents. As our new Altima was driving and holding up, I did just that. The young woman did not follow us, as her engine stalled. Lucky for us she was honest and saw the UHP trooper and followed him right to us, taking responsibility for what she had done. Here is what the car looks like from the rear.





Here is a closer look at the damage. You can see exactly where she nailed us, making an unsafe lane change into us. 





Now a look at the left rear fender.  



Now, at this point, the UHP hadn't arrived though we had called them, and they had dispatched. The young woman hadn't showed up either and we thought we were a victim of a hit and run. My wife was talking to the insurance as a migraine started to come on her and by bad low back is radiating pain after being pain free forever.  Anyway, I called my son as I thought the car may have to be towed and Nathan was amazed at how calm I was.  The officer showed up from the UHP and began to gather our information and to have me write a witness statement.  Shortly there after, like in 5 minutes the young woman showed up and the officer worked with her. I want to compliment the officer who handled the case. He had a wonderful sense of humor that was used correctly to bring humor to the situation. My wife and I were not angry, we simply now want her car fixed/repaired to what it was before and we want any medical issues we may have taken care of.

Now let me state upfront the young lady took responsibility and drove around the 90th South exit to find us (though following the UHP helped, she had to finish finding us on her own I believe) and then drove in and everything went smoothly! More importantly it was nice to see a honest person who took responsibility for the mistake she made, though it will impact her financially. I would truly hope that all of us in life would accept responsibility for the mistakes we make if they cause injury to someone be it financial or other ways. We are grateful for her. 

Next, we are grateful for the new Altima we were in. When we were hit on our left rear end, we did not enter a spin which would not have been good as we had a heavy duty snow plow next to us. We also did not  break down on the road, but he car performed as designed and took the damage. My seat released and went back in the accident, hurting my back pretty good but that was it. Air bags did not deploy and both my wife and I survived.  That, not having caused a major traffic accident is also something to be grateful for.  Now don't take me wrong, both my wife and I wish the accident hadn't happen at all and we could have made the medical appointment. However, insurance is already processing the claim, our car will be going in next week to make. So given everything that happen, we are grateful for the minimal impact as of now on our lives. 

The last thing I'll share is of a personal nature. At 47 I have grown far more patient in dealing with others than I was in my youth. I fear, shamefully that 20 years had this happen I would have been livid and very upset. I fear that I would not have remained in control and would have said things I regretted later.  Today as my son and wife could tell you I remained calm, concerned and positive.  For me that is perhaps proof that I at 47, am finally starting to grow up.  It is a shame wisdom comes for me at middle age. I would have preferred to have been this wise at 27 and 37.  See I view it this way. A car is a car, it is a thing. It is not alive, it is just a thing. Yes, we like the car, that is why we purchased it.  Yes, we would prefer our car not to have been hit. Yes, it can impact the resale or the trade in value (but we keep our cars and drive them til they die anyway) but in the end, it is still just a thing, just a car. The thing that is important is that the young woman is okay, that we are both okay (back is hurting) and the "thing/cars" can be repaired.  I fear in the past I would have been too caught up in the "thing."  Things aren't important in the end. In the end it is how we react in a stressful or negative situation that I believe shows our character and our own belief system. Not too toot my horn, but I guess I am, but in the interest of sharing, I realized that in my own journey in life, I've reached a milestone, where anger, negativity are not what I want to be. I still have a ways to go on this, but it was nice to see I didn't react that way here.  

So as you enter this season of thankfulness, please remember what you have to be thankful for. I am grateful today, for a wife that is okay (so far we hope), that we were not critically injured or killed, and that the young woman who caused the incident was honest, taking responsibility and more important, is okay as well. I am grateful for a son who was willing to go in late for the first time to work and come and pick us up (he didn't have to).  I am grateful for a UHP officer who had a great sense of humor and at the end wished my wife and I to have a "Good Day" and then quickly revised it and using great tact and his wits said "Have a MUCH better day."  Finally I am grateful that I can see my own personal growth and development to improve myself.  So when life throws one of those inside curve balls that hit you in the face, square on, please try to remember what you do have to be grateful for. I think it makes a world of difference. I also think I and probably most of us need to exercise a better sense of calm, understanding and caring towards each other all year round. It makes for a better world.  Here's to that, being grateful and making the world we live in, the place we reside, a better place for ourselves, our loved ones and friends, and those around us.  Now, I sure hope my back clears up. I'll try to post up on my Tuesday and Wednesday observing sessions and then I have a video to post on the scope from when we put it together.  Cheers and be safe out there! 

Jay


11/04/2012

Video of DobStuff 14" Assembly

Well, I put together a video and posted it on my YouTube account of how easy it is to assembly the 14" DobStuff telescope. My friend Mat narrates and yes, you have to put up with seeing my fat middle age self (I am losing weight slowly for health reasons; I want to be around to see my grand-kids and enjoy life).  Mat makes an excellent observation during the setup, that it is entirely a tool free setup until you get to collimation.

Saturday evening was spent in the backyard with my friend Jeff and his 95/650 refractor and the 14" DobStuff with Zambuto mirror.  It made for  fun night after I called my neighbor behind us whose kids had been going into their backyard and never made it and they turned off their porch light. I saw pink in the M57 tonight and Jeff saw red in the structure of the ring.  I'll be heading out one night this week for an evening of observing at the Pit n Pole since we are back on Standard Time.  

11/01/2012

Transporting my 14" Dobstuff and the Upper OTA

Well, Dennis Steele at DobStuff read the review last night and found a solution for me on transporting my upper OTA and in storing it.  See, this is wonderful level of service and business that Dennis puts into his after delivery support.  So here is an image of the solution.





These are travel struts. These are three 17" struts you would use when storing or transporting the telescope. They screw in like the regular struts, aren't powder coated since we just use them for storage and transportation and they keep a scope like my version, a non-easy transport version with the full strut pole length. I love this easy solution since it ensures that the upper OTA is secured, the secondary is safe and it keeps the scope all together.  So if you own a Dobstuff dob that is a full length strut here is an easy solution for storage and transport while keeping the upper OTA safe. The only thing that comes off are the Alt bearings which easily go on. So with this I would need to make only a carry case for the strut poles and then a nice case to hold the alt bearings.Thanks Dennis for following up with such a wonderful idea. Contact Dennis if your interested in this setup.

Formal Review of Dobstuff 14 inch with Zambuto Optics

I have been swamped! After pneumonia, I still have a lingering cough that I am going in for on Friday afternoon to find out why I still have a chronic cough! Next, both work and my own courses are keeping busy as are family commitments. Last, the weather over the last 3 months here has been less than favorable and that has extended here into October. Okay, let me qualify that by saying the weather over the last couple of days has been wonderful. Of course that is during the full moon period. I am hopeful to get a full session of four to six hours in with Daylight Savings time allowing me to observe from 6:30pm until around 12:30 or 1:00a.m.

So, as I have recorded here, I got my new 14 inch Dobstuff telescope and I did manage to get it out a couple of nights under dark skies.  So without any further ado, here is my review of this telescope, along with pictures I took in the garage. Sorry, my SD card was full when I got out to the dark site so I couldn't take pictures. The ones here are from my garage. First is the assembled scope with the Telrad on its riser and the 9x50 finderscope off.  You can see the large bearings that Dennis provided that ensures wonderful motions with the ebony star on them.  The struts are around 53 inches long I believe and make for an easy insert into the lower OTA. They are both attached to the bearing by a a wooden clamp that has a bolt that loosens and tightens the strut so you can fit it through. The struts screw into the bottom OTA.  If you look closely you can see the counterweight that Dennis provided but which wasn't enough for some of my eyepieces. More on that latter.




Here is the scope looking from the upper OTA where you can see the twist bolts that attach the upper OTA to the top and where I have a dew heater attached to the secondary.  Here you can see the clamps that connect the struts to the alt bearings and the mirror cover.  The build of the scope is wonderful.  I like how the counterweight easily moves up and down the strut and the same would be true for the 9x50 finder scope if I had it attached.  The most important one to move is the counter weight. As I attach a shroud to this scope, it will be critical to allow for enough movement to move the counterweight when I need it and then ensure the shroud covers that up. I have two embroidery hoops coming that should allow me to attach one just down from the focuser, and another about half way down that when combined with some bungee type cords will keep the shroud from falling into the light path.  The shroud won't go to the wooden part of the upper OTA here, but it should work well allow me access to the parts of the scope I need. With the secondary heater, I am not afraid of dew and as I don't run into dew except at one observing area.  I want the shroud to mainly protect the mirror.  My wife plans to use Velcro (we got the type that irons on which she feels will work better as we make the shroud in 3 sections.  As soon as the hoops arrive we will begin construction.  Now having said that, in using the scope, even with a 14 inch Zambuto mirror, I am not afraid of dropping stuff on the mirror.  I have never dropped anything on my old XX14i shroud and the open design here should help me to cool the primary rather quickly.  I'll make the shroud, but we will see how often I use it. Yes, that is Pepsi Max and Diet Squirt on the bench in the background. And yes, I have an older style grinding table I need to modify to grind some mirrors I have and that is another project for this winter.






Here you can see the upper OTA with the spider and the secondary.  My secondary mirror, after centering it , is still loose and I need to use the Bob's Knobs and the central bolt with a spring on it to tighten down the secondary mirror a little more.  The design of the upper OTA is a wonderful design in my opinion. It allows for open access to the secondary, with the spider in place and easy installation of the struts. Unlike the XX14i which as an awkward attachment, though I never had a problem, Dennis design is wonderful. I install the struts to the bottom OTA, and then to the upper OTA and then tighten them down.  The wood work on the upper OTA is terrific with no flaws showing.  The focuser, a 2 speed Moonlight is as smooth as a baby's backside  It's mounting allows for quick work for focusing and using.  The Telrad is a little bulky, and I may replace the 4 inch riser with a 2 inch riser, but for now, it works absolutely perfectly.  I just have to adjust to using it with my left eye over my right eye but that is coming. I do highly recommend a secondary mirror dew heater because of the openness of the design that Dennis uses.  I need to use some black electrical tape to secure the white dew wire to the spider and then so it can easily access either my 2 six volt batteries or my one 12 volt battery that I will use to run it via my Thousand Oak controller.  If you live or observe with dew, then you need one in this design. For me, that means fall and winter when I face not the dew others face in the MidWest or the Eastern United States, but the frozen dew I face during these two seasons.  Funny, since I have purchased or made my dew heating system (its a combination) I haven't needed it that much.  Hmmm. . .



This picture shows the mirror cover, the sliding counterweight , the connections between the alt bearings and the struts and the dew cover that fits into a wonderful groove that Dennis makes if you get this feature. Now the Zambuto 14 inch I have in here is no way as thick as the 2 inch primary that I had in the XX14i.  The brand new mirror is 1.4 inches thick and weighs significantly less.  However, I am not afraid for where I live and observe of the primary dewing up on me. I did want the dew cover though to protect the Zambuto primary as I observe.

The rocker box is wonderful, the only flaw I found was a small dent in the very bottom of the box that wasn't filled in and sanded prior to the coating. This is the same on the hole in the middle of the Alt Bearing on the right in the picture. There was a small flake where the wood broke away slightly when the screw went in. This wasn't filled and sanded and only distracts from the visual view of the scope but in no way impacts the operation of the scope which is tremendous. I am picky here. When I made my chair and was finishing I filled the holes and flakes of wood that had occurred during the build, sanded them down and then applied my coatings.  Again though, not a big deal, but I would mention it as the only slight critical evaluation of the scope. Overall the build quality is fantastic, and Dennis does an outstanding job. Also, in this picture in the bottom OTA you can see the two metal holders where the wired strings attach to ensure that there is no flex in the struts from horizontal to zenith.  Personally, if you are getting a scope under F5, I would recommend going with the strings over the travel version, though the argument could be made that a travel version is better since the struts probably won't flex with such a low F ratio. For my scope, ensuring no flex was more important than a travel version because I want to maximize the the views the Zambuto gives so I can sketch. From what I've seen, having the wired strings ensures absolutely no movement and if collimation is spot on using my Catseye System, the view of the DSO's were beyond description.  The travel version would help one to travel in a smaller car (I use a Pathfinder SUV) and allows for the strut poles to not be as long if I understand it correctly. This is something each purchaser from Dennis will have to decide which way to go after consulting with Dennis.





Here is a view of the left Alt Bearing. Again, there is Ebony Star on the actual Alt Bearing and on the bottom of the rocker box are the Teflon pads that ride on a orange peel like substance that I am guessing is like FRP Wall Board as you can see at this link. I have the counterweight all the way down and you'll see why soon.



Here is the right Alt Bearing and a close up of how strut is connecting to the Alt Bearing, and the clamp for the 9x50 Finder which I hadn't removed at this point.  The beauty of this design ensures that I can use this scope with a quick cool down with premium optics.




Bottom of the mirror box with the modified mirror cell from the XX14i, the three new collimation screws and the rubber feet so that if you remove the mirror box from the rocker, you can put it on the rubber feet keeping the structure off the ground. Wonderful adaptation. An even better adaptation is Dennis has removed the locking screws from the Orion mirror cell. I and my friend Mat who has been ATMing for 17 years or more see no reason for the locking screws. If the mirror is secure, there is no need for the locking screws.  You can see the back of the mirror and the mirror completely covers the opening in the back so there is no need of a baffle here.  I put a mirror on the back and with the way it is mounted, there is no vibration. To be honest though, I haven't had to use it so far except in the backyard one time.  I am hoping that changes this next Friday. You can see the Ebony Star here on the Alt bearings and you can see the outstanding quality that Dennis puts into the scope.



Now here is where I ran into problems.  This is the Explore Scientific 30mm 82 degree eyepiece. It's a monster at just over 3 lbs if I remember correctly.  When I put this on the scope the counter balance went out the door! Even trying several positions with the 1 1/4 counterweight I just found I couldn't use the scope. Well, its not quite a TeleVue 31mm Nagler, but it is close and I REALLY like the views from this eyepiece. So much that I knew I had to figure out how to make this happen. So I left the Telrad on, removed the 9x50 RACI finder and would use the ES 30mm 82 degree or my TeleVue 27mm Panoptic as my finder eyepiece.



I struggled to figure out how to get this to work when I remembered something I had purchased to help for balancing the old XX14i or the XT10 I own. So I went to my office, pulled out the two 2 1/4 pound ankle weights I had, attached them using their velcro around the end of the truss poss and yes, when the eyepiece was in, I had no balance issue. However, when I took the eyepiece out to insert a new one, say my 10mm Pentax XW, the scope was largely out of balance and I would lose the object I had found in the 30m ES 82 degree. So I removed one of the ankle weights and it seemed to help.

Dennis reading about this sent me an email and made and sent me at no cost two more 1 1/4 lb counter weights to add to the one I have. That is 3 3/4 lbs and that should more than balance the scope. I haven't had the weather or time to try it but I am looking forward to a trial run perhaps this Friday or Saturday in the backyard again.  I expect that this will resolve the issue and is just one of those things of getting use to a new scope.  Again, not an issue, Dennis helped me out but one if I am solely using the ES 30mm 82 degree I could have solved with the ankle weight as shown in the picture below.  The counter weights are the major difference! Thanks Dennis for again, showing outstanding customer service.  You can see the dust from using it the night before (its been wiped out now).





So, how please am I with my new scope? Extremely pleased. I have thought for 2 years now whether to go with Dennis or another Telescope maker. I choose Dennis because of the open design of his telescope, and for the quality and quick turn around he offers.  The other maker would have meant a year long wait, and I had waited long enough. Do I feel I lost something by going to Dennis? NO WAY! The build is excellent, and the quality superb and the motions are outstanding.  This scope surpasses what I had in the XX14i by light years. Don't take me wrong, the XX14i was a good scope and I used it extensively 3 to 12 times a month for over 2 years. Yet it was starting to show the wear and tear of that use and I feel now I have a scope that will last a much longer time and one that as I want, I can modify and play with as I want.  Here is my final review:


Transportation:  The mirror stays in the rocker box, is stable in the car. The three strut poles fit nicely either laying across the back seat or if I want to lay the seats down, I can fit them on the side. I do need to make a carrying case for the strut poles so they don't scratch up as much. The only thing I need to figure out is how to comfortably transport the upper OTA as the secondary is sticking out. I have tried to see if it will fit on top of the mirror box but that hasn't worked. For now I lay it on a seat (I fold 3/4 of my back seats down, leaving one seat up) with nothing near it.  Weight is another huge saver as this scope is so easy to move.  The rocker I can carry by one hand if I have to and the mirror box, though still a two handed job doesn't break my back like the XX14i's lower OTA did.  So for ease of transport, 9/10 (just need to figure out the upper OTA and then I'll change it to 10/10, but this is more my issue I believe).

Setup/ tear down - Setup takes 10 to 15 minutes, realizing I'm still adapting to the scope. I pull the rocker out of the car, put in the mirror box, drop in the struts and secure them, attach the Telrad base to the strut I want to have it on, the 9x50 IF I want it (need to make a lighter one), put on the sliding counter-weights.  I then attach the upper OTA to the struts, attach the light baffle that Dennis included and works wonderfully (I am adjusting just a little), collimate with the Catseye System and I'm ready to go! Tear down is even quicker! I am also making a removing pad though that will go around the struts when I remove them in cold weather so my hands aren't frozen (yes, I wear gloves, but for break down it can be more like the lining I wear under the gloves so I have traction).  Score: 10/10

Telrad: Works well, no problems outside of weight. I may move to a Rigel Quickfinder (someone not knowing what they were at one of Mat's ATM sessions called it a Telrad 2 so now we call it that with affection and a term of endearment).  8.5/10 (not scope issue here, I am thinking the Rigel might be a better piece of equipment on a scope like this just due to the weight difference).

2", 2 speed Moonlight Focuser.  This focuser is a joy to use. I'm sure it adds weight to the OTA, I love this focuser and it is a keeper.  It focuses precisely, and holds focus every time.  It has a very precise hold on the eyepieces, thus keeping the eyepieces well aligned with the scope. The only thing I didn't like is that my 27mm Panoptic lips drew the brass compression ring out of the structure. I was able to insert it but I would think for the cost, this wouldn't happen. Again though, I think this is part of my learning curve. We'll see over time. Focuser: 9/10 Brass Ring popping out I didn't expect and my heart sank until I realized I had grasped it and it wasn't heading toward my Zambuto primary!

Upper OTA Design. Works outstanding. The Spider is a 4 vane system from my old XX14i and works just fine here with a minor adaptation from Dennis.  There is a spring and central bolt that helps collimation and I have Bob's Knobs on the scop. I just need to figure out how to make the secondary more secure so that after observing, it doesn't move around.  That is how my old XX14i was, how the 20" Obsession is.  I may email Dennis for advice on this one.  Again, not a problem with the design, just my learning curve on the scope.  The Baltic Birch here is beautiful as is the entire design.  10/10.

Struts:  - These are as solid as iron and the ends work quite well. I am close to figuring out which strut is the best fit in each section so when that is done, I'll number them so they can't be seen and set up will go even more quickly. The virtual spring truss made of wire are absolutely what I wanted. There is not flex in the scope.  10/10

Collimation: Due to the virtual springs collimation is easy and with the Catseye System, dead on. This ensures that the Zambuto primary is giving its absolutely best views when observing. 10/10 No variance once I am done, I don't have to redo that night. 10/10 (9/10 until I can figure out how to secure the secondary).

Mirror box - I am extremely pleased with the mirror box, the dew shield, the mirror lid and all that goes with it.  The box allows for a quick cool down, even without the fan, the dew shield protects from both dew and those pepples and sand in the desert and mountains where I observe, and the mirror cover is wonderful to protect the primary.  10/10

Mirror cell - The mirror cell works wonderfully.  It is the old, 18 point mirror cell from my XX14i minus the locking bolts and I haven't had a problem. Mat has suggested a slig around it, and I will probably add that just to make me feel secure with that investment.  Collimation bolts work great and are much easier to use than the Orion or Chinese systems I've done.  Rating: 10/10.

Mirror cooling -Not a problem here. The openness of the mirror box and cell ensure a rapid cooling and if I engage the fan, that only helps. Dennis design for what I wanted (quick cool down to maximize viewing time) nailed it. 10/10


Rocker box and baseboard. Wonderful design, light weight enough to easily move, strong enough to support the scope. Only critical were two pieces of wood work I personally would have filled and sanded but that is me. See, I have to nick pick to really find issues with the scope.  9/10 because nothing is totally perfect! ;)

Vibration - Not an issue. None. 10/10

Baffling - The baffle across from the secondary works great.  I will be adding a shroud more to protect the primary though I am getting very comfortable using te scope without one and this build truly doesn't need one. In truth, this scope has made me more aware at the scope than any other scope I've used and that is a wonderful thing. I make sure everything is done right.

Motions: Altitude is a charm, never a problem. I did have a problem in azmuith that it took an initial bump to get it to move, but then it was like butter. I added some Pledge Lemon Oil to the bottom and that worked wonders to the point it is not an issue.  9.75/10

Mirror: Okay, if you've never owned a Zambuto Mirror then your missing a lot! The contrast in the mirror for me is one of its key features. That contrast brings out more detail that I have seen in any mirror save one or two perhaps,made by my friend Mat.  I know that M103 was just downright STUNNING as the Blue Giants, the Red Giants and the oranges and yellow stars just popped out of that cluster. M31 from a dark site! My eyes were bulging out as I saw dark lanes, globulars and bright HII regions far easier than I ever had before. Faint objects? Yep, more contrast means more detail in my experience so far. The mirror was more than worth the weight and the cost.  Now I just need one good night to get out under the stars and really work the mirror and the scope. I need to spend 4 to 6 hours working a list quite hard, sketching quite hard and going there. The mirror scares me because I think I may have to start over and redo over 1200 sketches I have! Thank you Carl and Chuck for the outstanding and unbelievable product you provide and deliver. You make a huge difference to those who view through your products I believe. Rating: 15/10! if not more.

Build cost - I believe the cost for this scope (the structure) from Dennis would be just over $1800.

Overall Rating: I have to give the scope a 10/10.  There are a few things but those are more my issues than Dennis's build. I am having to adjust to a new scope and that takes time. The scope is wonderful and for the cost, offers one of the best values out there. Dennis' customer service is second to none. I have another good friend who has ordered a premium scope well over a year ago and has only heard from the builder two or three times. I had no such communication problem. Dennis and I talked via email daily and Dennis kept me entirely in the loop.When I wanted one thing different than his recommendation, he went with what I wanted. The turn around time was also tremendous, just over 5 weeks I believe to get the scope.  I have a new quality mirror and a quality first rate structure to house it and now just need the weather and my schedule to cooperate.

So, if you want a quality build scope, with the highest quality build and motions, and yet don't want a huge lag time, Dennis at Dobstuff is the way to go. I am glad I went that direction and I know there are many out there who are also glad.  Your build will last far longer than a Chinese scope, the quality is worth the build and to be honest, after I refigure my XT10's mirror, I think that scope is going to be off to Dennis for anoher remake!  Dennis, thank you for your patience, your communication, the outstanding craftsmanship and quality that you provided. I'm proud to be a Dobstuff owner!

So those who have gmail are aware, I created a hangout for Dobstuff owners or those who may want to be where we can hangout and chat via video or chat, answer questions etc.  Email me at JayLEads at gMaiL doT cOm with your gmail account and I can add you to the circle. I think you can add yourself since the Circle is public. The name of the Circle is Dobstuff Owners.

10/13/2012

What a Finished DobStuff Looks Like Ready to Ship from Dennis

Well, Dennis has completed his wonderful structure and it is boxed and ready to come back to me. When I get it I will be making a video of how I assemble it so others perhaps may benefit from it in the future. Anyway, here are what the 3 packages look like: the struts, the rocker box and the OTA's etc.


 I can't wait to receive them later this week!

Another Adaptation on the Scope


Well for those who don't know it, Dennis can use new parts if you want or he can do what he so often does  which is to use the spider, secondary, mirror cell and primary of your current scope to make the new scope (I hope I didn't leave anything off!).  Here you can see how Dennis adapted the spider and secondary so that they work together to improve collimation.  Here is the image and the note from Dennis. I find it interesting how Dennis has really mastered the design of his build but is always seeking to tweak and improve it depending on the project. Not how he included the Bob's Knobs I had installed.

". . . the attached picture is the way your spider and secondary go together. Notice the spring on the top. It'll let you collimate quite easily. Make the spring TIGHT as the bolt is slightly smaller than the hole. It'll be more stable. Play with it, Not too tight!!"


10/11/2012

Finished 14" DobStuff

Well Dennis has sure delivered on this scope. Here is what he said in his email to me:


"Hi Jay. Here's some pictures of your 14" telescope completed. I'll use it again tonight then begin packaging it tomorrow and over the weekend.

I used my laser collimator to test the strut flex with the strings installed. There is NONE!! The red-dot of the laser stays right in the center of the mirror. The motions are beautiful. Buttery smooth. I use Lemon Oil Pledge to lubricate the bearings and it works great. You can get it at Costco or any supermarket.

I'm very pleased with the telescope. Love the look and feel. The Zambuto mirror is excellent."

I am extremely pleased with the look and with the fact that there is no collimation shift from the strut flex. I'm also very excited of Dennis' description of the motions.  Bottom line, I definitely  feel like a kid waiting for that Christmas Day to open his packages! Remember that Heinz Ketchup commercial called "Anticipation?" That is how I am feeling.  Below are the images of the completed scope that Dennis shared with me. Oh, the wire coming down from the secondary is an anti-dew heater.




























10/08/2012

Rocker Box/Alt Bearings for 14" DobStuff



Here is a quick post to show you the rocker box and alt bearings for my new scope.  I've included the email that Dennis sent along with it. He continues to amaze me with the images and updates as I really wasn't expecting anything for a few days but this is incredible.! I can't wait to get it and assembly it, and try it out at home. Here's Dennis' email.  Powder coating the struts will take a week! I do think when it is all done I will have a wonderful structure to house the mirrors I have and that the motions will be very smooth.  I sure hope we have clear skies at new moon in November.


 "The rocker box/alt bearings are coming along nicely. I put the rocker box together with clamps to be sure everything fits nicely. All is looking good.

I took the struts to the powder coating this a.m. They tell me, because of a busy schedule, it may take a week or so!! Meanwhile, I can use other tubing to continue building the scope.

So far, so good. I'm very pleased with the fit and finish so far."

10/06/2012

Next Post on my 14" DobStuff

As Dennis promised, I have more pictures and an update I"ll share from him on the build of the scope. I would like to point out that Dennis has been just outstanding, no, beyond outstanding to work with.  He has made suggestions, asked for my input and communicated daily since he has started working on my scope. I can't wait to get the scope back when it is done and give it a shakedown first light in the backyard during the day, use it that night and then after a few tweeks (every dob is a work in progress!) taking it to a dark site and giving the working scope the same beyond outstanding review that Dennis' communication and service has been so far.

So here is Dennis' comment to me:


"I've completed the OTA -- more or less. Just a couple of small things to do. I'll be working on the alt bearings tomorrow and Monday and later the rocker box. I'm pleased with the results so far. The wood is beautifully colored, smooth and shiny. Very nice I think.

Notice, too, that the dew shield slips into place and fits into the groove on the mirror board. Everything fits nicely.

Now that the struts are cut to length, I'll test it under the stars just for my own satisfaction and then take the struts and focuser bracket into the shop for powder coating.

More to come!!"

Here are the images he shared today.

In the first one you can see the lower OTA with the mirror cover in place and the light shield that will fit around the primary.  Dennis is right, everything looks outstanding right now.





Here is a full blown view of the upper and lower OTA, the secondary mirror in place, the black Moonlight Focuser in place (to my friend Jeff, I look forward to you trying out the focuser) and you can see the light shield in place which will help to protect the primary mirror from dust and other things from the ground and from ambient light and dew.





These next two show the upper and lower OTA in detail with a focus on each one.  Notice on the bottom OTA in all the pictures where it is present you can also see the attachments for the strings I've ordered to ensure that when the scope goes to zenith there won't be any movement of the collimation. I totally agree wih Dennis I LOVE the color of the wood and think it is coming together so wonderfully.





Here is a close up of the bottom OTA with the dew shield in place.




That's all for today.  As he sends me more I'll post more.  So far I am so pleased I went this route to build a new structure for the 14" Zambuto.

10/05/2012

More on the DobStuff 14







Well Dennis continues to make wonderful progress on the new 14.  To explain what your seeing above I'll quote Dennis from his email update to me today:

 "Jay,

Here's a couple of pictures of your OTA with the "test struts" and optics in place. I calculate the length of the struts then take the scope out under the stars to be sure that all my eyepieces come to focus. Once that's done, the OTA is a day or two from complete and work on the rocker box begins.

FYI, the struts are 57" long. Not bad, actually.

As you may know, I live in Palm Desert California. We have about 340 days of sunshine and clear skies. Tonight, so far, it's cloudy!! Go figure??"

So the OTA is coming along very nicely.  You can see the clips that will hold the 14" Zambuto mirror in place and the rest of the wonderful wood work Dennis has done.  I love the cover for the mirror!  Remember there will be a light shield that I put around the mirror in the field that will protect it from dust and other material and ambient light.  You can see the black Moonlight focuser I added to this structure as well.  Also, as Dennis points out the struts are 57" long, which seems to be shorter than the XX14's 62" for the length of the optical tube. Man, I am sure hoping that by November's new moon, I'll have this new scope in the field working.  First light for me though will be in my backyard as I do a breakdown cruise so to speak.  That will be an exciting night! More to come, that's for sure!

Edit: Well, yep, there is more to add.  Dennis replied with following:


"Well, it does turn out that the sky cleared. I was able to take the scope out and confirm that the strut length is fine. So, I'll make the permanent struts and get busy with alt bearings and rocker boxes. The stars were pin-points, beautiful -- although I didn't collimate the scope properly. My goal was to be sure the struts were correct.

I finished modifying the mirror cell. The "clips" were about 1/2" too high, so I fixed those. Just a bit more to do with the mirror cell, but it's working perfectly.

More to follow!!"