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First time I saw MARS !

Started by brentc3114, 02/21/2010 01:50PM
Posted 02/21/2010 01:50PM | Edited 02/21/2010 01:53PM Opening Post
Took my C8 Ultima out for a spin last night (sat night 2/20/2010). I live in Olympia, WA so the seeing is normally wet and cloudy. Last night I had weather, weekend, equipment, and mars all at the same time in the same place! The whole day I was sick with the flu but I wasn't going to miss this at all. grin

The seeing conditions were the best I have ever had in Olympia. Cold and clear but not too cold.

I was able to see the polar ice caps with a magnification of 406 X using both an Orion Ultrascopic 5 mm eyepiece and a University Optics orthoscopic 5 mm eyepiece. In fact I may want to do a comparative equipment review because I was able to compare both eyepieces on the moon and mars. I also tried a University Optics 7 MM Ortho with a barlow which would give me 580 X but the scope wouldn't hold it well with the atmospheric conditions. In fact I had no more detail with the barolwed 7mm than I did with the 5 mm.

I am also still in the process of checking out and learning the C-8. This is only the 3rd time I have had the scope out, but it is the second time I saw mars with it! The first time the atmosphere was so muddy that mars looked like a blob that constantly moved around the eyepiece. Every time I use this scope it gets a little bit easier to use and the operation is getting better and better. For now I am working on improving one thing with this scope every time I go out with it.

After the wow factor died down a little I started testing various accessories that I have including diagonals. I purchased my C8 Ultima used as well as its predecessor a Celestron first scope 80,so I got some things with each scope. I also bought a few eyepieces here and there. My comparisons and notes as to what worked are as follows:

Used C8 1 1/4 star diagonal verses used televue 1 1/4 inch diagonal. I would have expected the Televue to be better but honestly the free-be Celestron unit that came with my scope was a hair better. They were both close. There is a possibility that I will upgrade the diagonal to a 2" unit sometime in the future in order to use 2" eyepieces. The Televue unit may be older and the coatings not up to present standards?

5 mm University Optics Ortho Verses 5 mm Orion Ultrascopic: Again I would have expected that the Ortho would have done better on the planets but the Ultrascopic has a much wider field of view making it easier center the planet. You had to look HARD to see the contrast difference between the two and it wasn't that different. Vote by me is with the Ulrascopic but it also depends on the scope that it is in. With my Vixen refractor the exact opposite is true. Both eyepieces push the magnification well above what the Vixen should do, but with the Ortho at least the image is SOMEWHAT usable. This is probably due to the fewer air to glass elements in the ortho. One feature that I liked with the Orion Ultrascopic is the groves machined into barrel to help hold the eyepiece. Again, my vote is for the Ultrascopic so I will probably be purchasing more Ultrascopics soon. I understand that these eyepieces are also sold as Celestron Ultimas-I will be looking into this.

Stellarium: What a wonderful program! Because of this software I was able to preview the night sky and find Mars really easily, not only that but it is FREE and fun to use. For those of us without go-to this program is a god stead. I can preview what I am looking for and when observing time comes up I know what to look for. It is also so easy to use that my 5 year old daughter uses it and has fun with it. Highly recommended!

Zoom Eyepiece: I bought a used Williams Optics 8-24 Zoom Eyepiece off of Astromart a month ago. This is older model, they also made a (now discontinued)7-23 mm version that I hear is even better. It was one of the things that made my session so rewarding. The quality is almost as good as the orthos. The advantage is that I can zoom in and out which really helps to center the objects. Zoom out center the object, zoom in, look for more detail. This eyepiece is somewhat crippled on the 80 mm due to the lack fo light gathering power. I would really like to see someone do a review of the various zoom eyepieces on the market right now especially the Bader Plantearium clickstop zoom which I am considering purchasing. I believe that beginner can get by with essentially 4 eyepieces, a wide field 2" eyepiece, a zoom, and two higher powered eyepieces. Throw in a barlow and you have a very versatile combination.

Tracking: If you are going after a planet or anything for that matter tracking is important. I am not going to put down the DOB owners because they can get tracking with a platform. For a beginner though having the scope track the object really makes it easier to observe it. Especially if one has to change an eyepiece and refocus.

What didn't work out too well: Well my finder. The Ultimas come with a 7 X 50 finder that is convertible for straight through or 90 degree viewing. This is really the most feature packed finder that Celestron makes. The focus was off last night. After looking at the problem this morning I realized that I can focus the finder by turning the objective cell and a matching stop ring. This should fix that problem.