JeffPo's Telescopes & Equipment Page
Last update: 07/13/97
I received my first telescope at the tender age of 11 years old. It was a Sears 60mm refractor on an alt-azimuth mount. It came with an assortment of eyepieces, a moon filter, and a solar projection screen. It wasn't a great scope, but it really opened up the universe for me. I enjoyed viewing Jupiter, Saturn, and the Moon through it. It even performed okay on some of the brighter deepsky objects, like the Orion Nebula (M42). It was great for viewing sunspots with the solar projection screen.
My next telescope was your basic light-bucket. It was a Coulter 8" f/4.5 reflector on a dobsonian mount. It was called the Odyssey 8. There was nothing fancy about it. The mount was made from press wood and the focuser was a push-pull design made from plumbing parts. The original mirror had some astigmatism, so I had them give me another one. This scope was my first "real" scope. It was capable of showing me some of those faint fuzzies...which it did wonderfully. I used it for a few years before I even put a finder on it. That's how easy it was to use.
I purchased my next scope in 1993. I actually sold my first scope (the Sears refractor) to help pay for it. I bought a Vixen 80 refractor on an aluminum alt-azimuth mount. This scope was a significant increase in quality over my Sears refractor. Everything was built better and more solid. The objective was better and the mount had slow motion controls. It actually came with .965" eyepieces. I have never looked through them because I purchased a hybrid diagonal so I could use my 1.25" eyepieces. This scope gives great images of the Moon and planets. It also is great on splitting double stars and even bringing in some deepsky objects. I still have this scope and because of it's ease of use, it actually gets used the most.
My next telescope purchase was an "astronomical" one. I finally made up my mind to go in debt and purchase a "serious" scope. I even sold my Coulter Odyssey 8 to help finance it. In 1994, I bought a Meade 8" Schmidt-Cassegrain LX100. This was to be my "work-horse" scope. The 8 inches of mirror was enough to really bring in the objects, and the SCT design would make it portable. It was also on a clock-driven fork mount which meant I finally had a scope that could do astrophotography. Unfortunately, due to my lack of good skies, but mostly my laziness, I haven't used the scope up to it's full potential. I have done some lunar shots and a few deepsky shots. I bring this scope out on nights when I'm doing the most observing or when I need easy to use tracking.
My next telescope purchase caught me by surprise. I wasn't in the market for a another scope, but I came across an ad (in January of 1996) and decided to check it out since it was a local seller (don't get many of those in North Carolina). Before I knew it, I had purchased a used Meade 10" Starfinder equatorial. It was on a German equatorial mount, but I had other plans for this scope.
I thought the mount would prove cumbersome to setup and I was right. It was really a hassle to set it up since I had to disassemble just about everything to get it out the door. I quickly began work on a dobsonian mount modeled after the one in Richard Berry's book on building your own telescope. The wood doesn't look good close up because of all my putty work, but I plan on painting the mount a Meade blue. The scope performs wonderfully. It is easy to use and setup and is great for observing deepsky objects. I use this scope when I want to go "deep". Building the dobsonian mount basically gave me two types of scope. I use the equatorial mount on those "serious" nights when I want tracking and setting circles, and I use the dobsonian mount on those "lazy" nights when I just want to easily setup and observe the sky.
One of the best investments I've ever made was in buying the Telrad Reflex sight. This neat little device projects concentric rings of red light onto the sky, like a bullseye. What you get is an un-magnified, and non-inverted view of the stars with these rings of light pointing the way. I use it on my Meade 10" scope. It makes finding things a whole lot easier. You can immediately see exactly where your telescope is pointing. You use it with both eyes open. I'm still totally amazed when I can find a faint galaxy just by positioning the Telrad pointer where I think the object should be. "...lets see....it's half way between that star and that star....bingo!!!". It's that easy. I really recommend getting one of these devices or one of it's "cousins" that are on the market. Some people get this instead of a regular, magnifying finder. I use both. For the most part, the Telrad gets me where I want to go. But a regular finder is really valuable if you have light polluted skies, or if you are in a crowded starfield and need to starhop. For instance, I probably never would have tracked down the planet Neptune if I had not used my regular finder. Still, the Telrad is a great accessory. Get one!!!
Some people put the Telrad sight on their Schmidt-Cassegrain scopes. With an extra base, it's quite easy to switch the Telrad from scope to scope. But, since I put my SCT into a foam fitted case, and I really didn't feel like sticking the base to my SCT tube, I decided to follow another route. Besides, the Telrad would cause some balance problems. After reading about it on the sci.astro.amateur newsgroup, I decided to get a Daisy Electronic Point sight. It is made for use on pellet and BB guns. It uses an LED to project a tiny point of red light onto a lens. It basically works just like the Telrad, although less complicated and it is very light. Unfortunately, it is made for daytime use. The lens has a dark coating that only the brightest stars show through. On top of this, the LED is too bright at night. The brightness problem was remedied with the installation of a variable resister into the circuit. I can now dim it to what ever level I want. I have noticed that I keep it at the same level all the time, so a simpler approach would be to just add a straight resister. As for the dark lens, this isn't a problem if you use it with both eyes open. I made a little wood mount for the sight and use rubberbands to attach it on top of my finder (take a look at my LX100 scope up above). It works great. It's not as good as the Telrad, but it gets the job done. I use it to point my scope in the general area of my target. I then switch to the normal finder if needed. Another positive aspect of the Daisy sight is that it only costs about $13, in comparison to the Telrad which costs about $40.
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