Cloudy Nights

Yes, it’s true that Cloudy Nights is the excellent website one goes to for reviews, opinion and exchanging ideas with friends who share the same excellent hobby (astronomy) you do …’Cloudy Nights’ is also an excellent description of the night sky November 8. I was all set for the total lunar eclipse this time, but the weather had other ideas.

As the moon would already be well into totality by the time of moonrise (5:21PM PST), I knew that if I could see the moon from the living room, I could photograph it from the living room. I set up indoors and aimed just over the horizon for that break in the clouds that never occurred.

As a consolation prize, I posted this photo on one of the Cloudy Nights forums with the following note:

“I too favor the Orion 127 Mak for limited space apartment living. As you can see here, even the balcony is crowded. I took the Mak off the equatorial mount and set it up INDOORS for the Nov 8 total lunar eclipse. It rained cats and dogs for the entire duration, and I never got even a short glimpse of the moon. The thinking was that if an opportunity presented itself, I could have opened the slider for a quick shot, without getting myself or the equipment wet. That’s a digital SLR mounted at prime focus, waiting for the shot that never came.”

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10″ Newtonian arrives

Orion Atlas-10 10″ Newtonian Reflector (OTA – Optical Tube Assembly).

Click this image for a larger viewWe ordered the Atlas 10″ a week ago as OTA – optical tube assembly only, no mount, no tripod. The idea was to get into 10″ in time for Mars and for under $500. It arrived August 13th.

Ummmm: there’s no way this monster is going to fit on the Orion EQ-3 mount and tripod that came with our 5″ Maksutov!

You can click the image to the left to get a larger side-by-side of the 5″ StarMax 127mm “Mak” next to the new Atlas-10 tube assembly. Can you tell which is which?

We have the mounting rings and dovetail plate. We ‘re going to mount both the 9×50 correct-image finder scope, and the EZ Finder II red-dot finder.

The problem of what to mount this on turned out to be an education, as well as an exercise in patience. Thanks to our good friend Al M. for steering us in so many right directions!

Orion markets their beefy new Atlas mount and tripod, which adds $800 their 10″ reflector combo. It is no doubt built to the same standards as other fine Orion equipment, and handles a payload of up to 40 pounds. But, shipping weight is about 113 pounds (with counterweights), too beefy for us, and the OTA/Atlas mount combo is no bargain at $1299.

Ideally, the Meade 10″ LXD55 Schmidt-Newtonian, with tripod and go-to equatorial mount for $999 would give us the platform we would like with the AutoStar 497 we’re already used to in Phoenix. But, Alex wanted to try the simpler Newtonian optical path, and Meade doesn’t sell these stands separately. A shame. There’s a lively market for them in AstroMart, but we prefer buying from dealers.

Celestron is selling their stands separately, and the new CG-5GT GoTo will probably be shipping in late August or early September. It handles a 35# payload (the 10″ OTA is 27#) and the Celestron computerized control will be similar to what we are used to with the Meade 497 AutoStar.

We phoned our pre-order in to OPT today. There should still be some fine shots of Mars for most of September. And the winter skies are coming!

The 5″ Mak is cute and ideally suited to apartment living, but Mars in the city is clearly pushing the envelope. Gosh, to live in Sierra City!

The 10″ Newtonian is not well suited to apartment living (it will be stored vertically, close to where it is in the photo now). But it will lend itself to pulling in and photographing deep objects in ways the little Maksutov won’t. We hope to get a lot of enjoyment out of it.

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Telescopes Added

  • We added the Orion line of 6, 8 and 10 Newtonian reflectors to our Exposures tables.
  • We added a “Eyepiece Power” calculator to handle eyepiece magnification math for your telescope
  • We’re ordering the Orion Atlas-10 OTA – the 10″ Newtonian tube only. We hope to use it on an existing mount. If the mounting rings and plate adapter are all in stock too, it’s a done deal. We’ll do some photos and a writeup for the blessed event when it happens.
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