Posts Made By: Philip Canard

February 24, 2006 06:32 PM Forum: Eyepieces

Siebert Star Splitter Series

Posted By Philip Canard

I recently received my 6.4mm Star Splitters and am so impressed that I felt it beneficial to start a thread on the series. I have another 8.9mm bino pair on order along with the 1.25X OCA and 2.8X OCA. In comparing the 6.4mm against the 9mm TMB, I decided I liked the attributes of the Star Splitters better and ordered the 8.9mm.

The Star Splitters are very comfortable and have high resolution and contrast very similar to my 12.5mm Ultimas as well as similar eye relief and a similar "feel" while viewing. More info later after comparisons with the 8.9mm Star Splitters.

February 27, 2006 03:54 AM Forum: DVDs and Music and Books That You Recommend

Soundstage presents: Tom Petty and the Heartbreake

Posted By Philip Canard

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have long held a reputation as one of the tightest bands in Rock 'n' Roll history, and this album shows why they fully deserve their induction into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. This album shows just what the band sounds like live, and how they can lay down tracks one after the other in a live performance venue that other bands would spend a month in the recording studio to get anywhere near the sound quality and none of the raw energy of a live performance. This is the best TPATH album that I own. DVD, CD, LP or otherwise. The song mix is very eclectic and includes some of their greatest hits, some that should have been and some that are outside the normal TPATH repertoire. It shows just how versatile the band really is. The original bassist, Ron Blair, is back on bass following the death of Howie Epstein a few years ago. Steve Ferrone has taken the place of original drummer Stan Lynch, and he's a good one. Scott Thurston on harmonica, guitar, keyboards and vocals gives more depth to the original lineup that was standard for many years. This performance is a true tour de force and one that no true TPATH fan would ever want to miss. This release is on DVD and is priced around $30. It's a great value for an extended 2-disc set. If you never were a big TPATH fan before, you might be after listening to this album. The only other DVD music album I own that is in the league of this album is Concert for George that was hosted by Eric Clapton a couple of years back and fittingly, TPATH also did a couple of songs on that album as their tributre to George. If you want overblown and glitzy performances, get something by The Rolling Stones. If you want a hardcore musical performance by true artists with nary a backup musician or horn section in sight, try this one.

March 1, 2006 03:18 AM Forum: Equipment Talk

EQ head for LOMO 150 Mak on Stellarvue tripod

Posted By Philip Canard

Ok, guys, I just bought a nice used LOMO 150 Mak and want to use it on my Stellarvue tripod. I hung 30# of weight from the Stellarvue tripod extension tube while the Nighthawk II was mounted and tapped the OTA. Vibrations died out in about 1/2 second with the M1 mount holding the OTA, so I should be good to go as far as an Alt-Az mount is concerned. The LOMO 150 OTA with 2" mirror diagonal, finder and bino body will weigh around 16#. I need a decent EQ head to put on the tripod when I want astro tracking at high mags, which is what an f/14.2 Russian Mak-Cass is all about. I have a Siebert 0.6 FL reducer for using the Alt-Az mount in daytime spotting duties. So......any thoughts for a good mount above the Chinese EQ-5 category. Ya, the Losmandy GM-8 seems the best bet, but I want something a bit less pricey if possibel. GoTo operation is not mandatory, as I can slap it on my LXD-75 mount for that. However, that's a bit heavy and overkill for Grab-n-Go visual work. Would like something light that I can carry with me and change out at sunset when the Alt-Az mount has done its duty as a daytime spotter mount. Must be reasonably priced. No new Sphinx mount, etc. I need simple and rugged, like the LOMO 150 OTA. Any advice? Anything fitting that you need to sell?

March 3, 2006 02:45 AM Forum: Eyepieces

Mid priced EP shootout.... your opinion as best

Posted By Philip Canard

What I am looking for is your opinion of the best general purpose eyepiece for around $75-$150 that you have ever encountered. Personally, I like the Celestron Ultima the best. It's also sold as the Orion Ultrascopic, Baader Eudiascopic, Antares Elite Plossl, Parks Gold Plossl, etc. It's so good, that it has a U.S. Govertment contract number as shown on the Baader Planetarium website. I talked to a dealer recently, who is not prejudiced toward brand names and sells all the common brands, and he let it be known that his favorite was the Ultima as well, saying he liked it over the TV Plossl. From high to low power viewing, planetary to deep sky, it just works very well for me. For any EP that ever beat it in any way, the Ultima beat that EP in at least one way in my scope. The kicker is the really low price of around $80 that buys a truly wonderful EP.

March 4, 2006 07:24 PM Forum: Maksutovs

LOMO Astele 150mm Mak-Cass

Posted By Philip Canard

I got this scope from a dealer that was once one of the biggest LOMO dealers in the USA before LOMO got out of the amateur astronomy scope business. It took a long time to cool down and really perform, but once cooled down, man did it ever perform on Saturn on a night of mediocre seeing at best. Cassini Division and Crepe Ring very obvious with a 12.5mm Ultima for a mag of 171X. Seeing conditions would not support a higher mag, and also the preliminary star test looks good, but I need a better night before I can say for sure how good these optics really are. It probably meets the 1/8 wave specs. I used a Stellarvue 2" dielectric mirror diagonal and Mercury 2" back. These two items go together with about zero tolerance and there is some drag even with the thumbscrew backed completely off. I noticed no mirror shift whatsoever when focusing and the focus knob seems a bit tight, but I prefer it tight to loose as it should wear in to proper feel. Dew shield was used and optics were heated. There was some heat signature in the star test, so a dry night will be necessary to really let the optics do their thing. Cooldown period is longer than in my Meade SN8. The Astele 150 seems more affected by heat than the SN8, so not a grab-n-go type scope. The view in the Astele 150 kept improving for over 3 hours. The SN8 is better ventilated in back around the mirror, so I feel it has little to do with corrector thicknesses as generally assumed. Both scopes seem to support about the same mags, with the SN8 being considerably brighter as the 203mm aperture would suggest. The SN8 is definitely better on globulars and faint fuzzies (stayed up and viewed M13 and M92), but the Astele 150 MCT rules on moon and planets it seems. The moon is too low now and optics were not cooled down when viewing it to really tell how lunar observing goes, but it looks very promising. This is the only LOMO Astele 150 Mak-Cass I have viewed through so far.

This looks to be a great little scope and underappreciated during its production period. I view it as a collector's item now, since LOMO may never again enter the finished amateur astro scope market and instead concentrate their efforts totally toward lens and mirror manufacturing, and finished astro scopes for the pro markets. If I told somebody the scope came off a Russian tank, they would probably believe me. It has a very rugged and no-nonsense look. A rather lackluster dark gray textured finish. No knife edge baffling, but the dull black interior paint seems to suck light anyway. Much better than what comes in the Meade SN8. The contrast is almost refractor like. The 2" back and mirror adds to that look, and it supports my binoviewers extremely well. Absolutely no problems bringing any EP to focus even without an OCA. The 8x40 finder works better than I expected it to. It finds globulars as well as my 9x50 Stellarvue F50 finder scope on my SN8. The star prism diagonal instead of Amici prism diagonal probably has something to do with that. Star image orientations are the same in the finder scope and Astele 150, which also helps. I think the LOMO finder scope is a bit sharper. Really glad I bought this scope. It demands you use your best EP's to get the most out of it. It makes you want to keep looking, and that's a good sign.

March 4, 2006 08:31 PM Forum: Equipment Talk

LOMO Astele 203mm Mak-Cass

Posted By Philip Canard

I was wondering if anybody had ever seen the LOMO Astele 203mm Mak-Cass and if so, did you get a chance to view through it. I have only been able to verify thus far that the Astele 180mm Mak-Cass was the biggest of the Astele Mak-Cass series that LOMO imported into the USA, and even then only is small quantities. I heard a rumor that the Astele 203mm Mak-Cass never made it into regular production. Any info would be appreciated.

March 7, 2006 02:13 AM Forum: Equipment Talk

LOMO Astele Mak-Cass collimation information

Posted By Philip Canard

My latest star test on my recently acquired LOMO Astele 150 Mak-Cass determined that I had some coma from misalignment. It manifested itself at high power as a tiny pair of tails on brighter stars. The diffraction pattern on one side of focus clearly showed a teardrop shape, with the pattern much less pronounced on the other side of focus. It is worse near one particular side. The diffraction pattern changes considerably from edge to edge when the star traverses in one direction, and hardly any at all when traveling across perpendicular to the worst case direction. That seems to indicate a tilted corrector plate to me.

I took the OTA to the local dealer that once sold them, and we looked closely and determined that somebody had tried doing some aligning. There seemed to be too much pressure applied on one of the trio of the push-pull cell's collimation screw sets, the pair of tiny set screws that push in from the front against the larger puller screw that sits between them. One screw had a marred head from the jeweler screwdriver slipping off it.

I ordered Suiter's book on Star Testing Astronomical Telescopes, and I have experience in collimating my Newtonian scope. I will guess the corrector is a bit tilted and pinched in the cell at this point. If anybody has any experience with this particular series of LOMO Mak-Cass scopes, I would appreciate any insight you could give. The dealer said to have a go with collimating it, just go slow and take it easy, but I would rather wait and see what the book says and see if everything works out according to the book. It looks almost impossible to apply too much pressure to permanantly hurt the corrector, unless the springy section the small setscrews butt against were shoved all the way into the glass, but a person could take the spring tension out of the push-pull cell before that occurred.

Still, even with the coma tails, it's obvious that this scope has a lot of potential. Moon views were fairly sharp and Saturn was as detailed as in my 8" SNT. It's obvious that the worst aligned edge of the corrector is what causes the coma tails on bright stars. Faint deep sky objects seem hardly affected and the scope has very high gross contrast (contrast between separated objects). The price I got the scope for reflected the fact that I would need to put a bit of effort into it to get it back to factory original collimation. It was acknowledged the scope had been apart for an internal repair. It has a very clean external appearance with no scratches of significance anywhere and absolutely no dents, so the scope has never taken a hard fall. Two screws had been lost from the finder scope mount, so the scope may have been subjected to lots of vibration in transit, but there is no paint rubbed off to suggest rough traveling conditions.

My biggest concern is how much pressure should be applied to the corrector with the push-pull alignment screws, and my best guess is there should be a "torque angle" to be evenly applied by the puller or pusher screws. The angle turned on the small screws after making contact will probably determine a clamping force through the springy part of the retaining ring. My guess is that the bigger trio of screws actually sets the corrector tilt while the six little setscrews set the clamping force.


May 13, 2006 04:48 AM Forum: Eyepieces

Re: What are your 3 most used eyepieces?

Posted By Philip Canard

6.4mm Siebert Star Splitter in a 150mm LOMO Astele f/14.2 Mak-Cass with Siebert Black Night binoviewer and 2" Stellarvue dielectric diagonal for 350X lunar observation on nights of good seeing.

23mm Celestron Axiom with 2.5X Tele Vue Powermate in my Meade SN8 for general deep sky scanning on dark moonless nights. Gives about 88X mag. The 23mm Axiom also works great in the 150 LOMO when I want to do some deep sky work with it at about 98X in the binoviewer.

18mm Celestron Ultima. The best all around 1.25" EP in my collection. Can be used in just about any scope with good to excellent results. The EP to own if you could only own one eyepiece.

I own about 50 EP's (I long ago lost exact count), and my favorites are from the Ultima, Axiom and Star Splitter series. 19 of my EP's come from those three series, with 8 coming from the Ultima series alone. My local dealer has seen it all, through scopes that cost well into five figures, and he rates the Ultima series his favorites as well. Below $50 price point, it's the GSO Plossl series for me, but I have since moved up to my favorites. I use the above EP's slightly more than some of my others, so it's not like they are "head and shoulders" above everything else, but nothing at any price outperforms them by much either.


June 23, 2006 05:58 PM Forum: Equipment Talk

Your minimum mag for splitting Double-Double

Posted By Philip Canard

I am able to split the Double-Double in Lyra on nights with good seeing at 75X with my f/14.2 LOMO Astele 150 and f/6 80mm Stellarvue NH II. The seeing was no better than 4 out of 5. Associated equipment includes dielectric diagonals, Siebert binoviewer, Ultima and Star Splitter EP's. Similar mags have made the split in my Meade SN8 with JMI dual-speed Crayford focuser. I live at about 200 meters above sea level and approximately 35 degrees north latitude. While I do star test and star collimate my scopes (I own H.R. Suiter's book on star testing), when it comes to actual performance on objects I actually view, the Double-Double split is my standard test for actual system visual acuity. I have to see black space between both star pairs during moments of steady seeing, and not merely definite elongation or two connected blobs to consider it a split. I did not have my LOMO scope last summer when Lyra was high in the sky, and I am sure I can improve on that 75X mag when I get a night of excellent 5/5 seeing as sometimes happens here during the dog days of summer. I have done 81X splits with the SN8 and Ultima 10mm even before the JMI focuser was installed (I used a Borg helical focuser then) and present critical collimation was achieved.

What are your lowest mags for the split, and what gear was it done with and the seeing conditions?


July 3, 2006 01:49 AM Forum: Equipment Talk

Proof that Maks outperfrom refractors

Posted By Philip Canard

I bought Rutten and van Venrooji's book, Telescope Optics. What grabbed my attention was a chart on page 219 and another on page 221 that shows that contrast is higher in obstructed scopes vs. refractors at the highest magnifications possible with diffraction limited optics. It varies a bit according to central obstruction, but on average at the top 30% of magnification the obstructed scope wins. This seems to be confirmed in comparisons between my perfectly collimated Stellarvue 80mm refractor and LOMO 102mm Maksutov-Newtonian. It has been said you need about 20% to 25% more aperure in an obstructed design to get the same resolution as in a refractor, but in my case the LOMO very clearly outperforms the Stellarvue. The LOMO is without question the superior lunar and planetary scope, due to the increased contrast at high mags that I typically use with both scopes. Of course, for deep sky work at low mags, the situation could reverse according to the charts, but I'm not really seeing much to that effect. The light gathering ability is about equal in both scopes, since the central obstruction does cut down on light throughput a bit in the Mak-Newt. The mirror in the LOMO doesn't cover a 23mm Axiom or 30mm Ultima as well as the Stellarvue does and vignetting is apparent. That's the most obvious difference at low mags.

At least the book exposes the myth that obstructed optics are always lower contrast than unobstructed optics. It is entirely magnification related and also related to percentage of central obstruction with the most obstructed designs getting the best contrast at the highest possible magnifications allowed by a particular aperture. Sort of like wild camshafts in high performance engines. That tends to make the obstructed scopes the true "Ferraris" of the scope world. More limited in scope of usefullness, but unsurpassed in that narrow band of performance they favor.