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Is it me or my equipment

Started by Startest, 11/02/2006 07:37PM
Posted 11/02/2006 07:37PM Opening Post
I keep reading the review section of people having the same scopes as I have had and reading descriptions of viewing through that scope that I never had with any of those scopes. The only time I had truly fantastic views were with truly fantastic expensive optics. How is it I read about people with SCT's and other inexpensive scopes and all these wonderful experiences they have had with their scopes. Are they just good writers, lucky with the scope they have that is one out of a thousand with good optics or is it a miraculous night of seeing with a inexpensive scope?
Posted 11/02/2006 07:48PM #1
Good conditions and lowered expectations. grin Many expect miracles and some are just ecstatic if the views are good.

[SIZE="Large"][/SIZE][COLOR="Blue"][/COLOR] Floyd Blue grin
Amateur Imager
Posted 11/02/2006 07:51PM #2
Hi Johann:

Perhaps an example of what you are looking at and the equipment you are using will help Astromarters to answer your question. For example, during last Mars opposition I had a very frustrating experience not being able to observe as much as other people were reporting. I simply could not see the surface details that others were so excited about. As it turned out, the weather (seeing conditions) at my location probably had the most to do with it.

In another instance, I used a C8 for many years with poor collimation, not knowing any better. Boy, was I in for a surprise when I finally collimated the scope. I felt like such a fool for not doing it earlier.

So go ahead and give us more details of what your experience was like.

Posted 11/02/2006 09:34PM #3
Generally, I believe most optics (even SCTs) today are pretty good for visual use. I have a TOA130 with exquisite optics, but for visual use I am quite please with my <$1,0000 12" dob. I love the high contrast, wide flat fields of the TOA, but its best advantages are only tested using CCD or film.

I had truly fantastic views of M33, the Helix nebula and the Veil with my cheapo dob a few days before the last new moon from our club's dark site. Seeing was steady, my scope was cooled down and the collimation was dead on. For me the trick for great visual viewing lies more in aperture, dark skies and seeing than in expensive optics.

Randy Roy
Posted 11/02/2006 10:37PM #4

Give this a shot ...

Posted 11/03/2006 03:50AM #5
>>>Are they just good writers, lucky with the scope they have that is one out of a thousand with good optics or is it a miraculous night of seeing with a inexpensive scope?

Hi Johann:

Some good comments by others, lots of experienced observers here with lots of knowledge and skill.

Seeing is certainly of prime importance as you have recognized.

One thing that has not been mentioned, probably out of modesty, is the skill of the observer. As one logs eyepiece time, not only do the ones chances of getting that one in a million view increase, but more importantly, one gains skills in many areas that make it possible to get the most out of any equipment.

This is not only in setting up the equipment but probably most important is observing skills. Some of these are quite obvious like averted vision but many are subtle and cannot be easily described but relate to the way you actually see an image and process it. I have found that as the years have piled up and as I log more hours at the eyepiece, I see more, I know more what to look for, I see more in smaller scopes under worse conditions that when I first began and furthermore, it seems to be an on going growth.

I also know I have a long way to go. Even though I think I am in a good location and tend to get out most every clear night (~200/year maybe) for at least a couple of hours, gains are made over the years rather than from one night to the next.

There are three bookmarks that I use, one is J. Reynolds Freeman's doing the Herschel 400 with a 55mm refractor, Rod Mollise seeing the craterlets of Plato in a ST-80 and Jeff Metkeff's observing a 14.68 magnitude star in a homemade 4.25 inch reflector.

Each of these guys are well known and well established as skilled observers so I trust that these observations were real, they show what can be done by someone who is highly skilled.

Some of the folks here have similar skills I am sure, I certainly don't, my goal is to just do the best I can and enjoy myself.

I am sure there are some observations reported that are more imagination than real but I tend to believe that conditions and the skill of the observer are the most important factors.

When I see someone report something that is beyond my capabilities, it is encouraging because it points to what is possible.

So, thats my 2 cents

Best wishes to all

Posted 11/03/2006 07:46AM | Edited 11/03/2006 08:07AM #6
Like what others have mentioned, I think a lot of it has to do with two factors...

1. Expectations.
2. Observational training.

I have a little ETX105 (I also had an 8" SCT). A friend I use to observe with had an 8" Dob and a nice APO. When we would observer together, I would continually see things he didn't. Not because my scopes were better, because I even saw more through his own scopes than he could.

But, I've been a professional artist for over twenty years, and I know that "looking at" things is not the same as "seeing" them. And so it is with the faint, subtle objects we view through our telescopes.

My friend would constantly bounce from one object to another, almost as quickly as he found them. While I, on the other hand, would carefully study the same object for very long periods of time. Sometimes the seeing would be better, even from minute to minute. But also, I was specifically trying to eek out the most amount of visual information I could get out of each object, while he was simply "having a peek" at it, before moving on to the next one.

His APO was technically superior to my ETX (a point he frequently chided me about) though they were similar in size. But to be honest, for the few thousands of dollars more he spent on his, there wasn't much of anything to be seen in his that I couldn't see through my little ETX POS (sic). While some subtle details would be revealled a bit more in his APO, there wasn't that much difference. In fact, his beautiful scope was really wasted on him. This is so similar to the equipment discussions I read in my music forums. The best musicians can make a poorly designed and built bass still sound beautiful, while those with lesser talents can't even make the most expensive intruments sound like anything worthwhile.

Granted there are limitations within the type and size of the optics. Aperture generally rules. But the observer him/herself makes just as much of a difference. I used to be caught up in equipment myself. Then after I read O'Meara's book on the Messier objects, I really spent more time training myself to "see" what I was looking at. Sketching at the EP really does help tremendously.

A lot is in the eye of the beholder. Remember that the earliest of astronomers discovered many things (even discerning quite a bit of detail)...through truly terrible and small optics by today's standards. How on earth did they ever manage to do that? Think that was a case of exagerrating the quality of their equipment?
Posted 11/03/2006 09:53AM #7
Others here have pretty much covered the factors in getting great views. I recently had the occasion to get away from my usual viewing site (back patio) and went up in the North Georgia mountains and had excellent conditions and very dark skies. All in all it was one of my all time best nights. IMO the sky conditions and dark skies will make more difference than anything else provided the scopes are collimated and in good working order.
Just my $.02