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Astro Sky 16" f/4.5 Dobsonian

Posted by Kurtis Gothreaux   11/02/2006 03:54AM

Astro Sky 16" f/4.5 Dobsonian
I had a new 16" Meade mirror touched up and re-coated by Torus optics that I needed a home for. I had originally
purchased the whole Meade Starfinder with the hopes of making some upgrades to the scope and making it a nice
working scope. I did get around to making some nice mods to the scope but soon realized that I would never really
be able to get the performance that I wanted out of this setup. So I decided to go all out and have the mirror touched
up and re-coated by Optical Mechanics. After I got my mirror back from Optical Mechanics I started looking around
at the available options to me when I came across Astro Sky Dobsonians owned and operated by James Grigar
located in Lake Charles, Louisiana. As I looked over James' website I was instantly caught by the prices James
offered on his telescopes. I decided to contact James to let him know what I had and see what he had to say about
what I wanted. First let me tell you how much of a pleasure James is to work with. James promptly answered all
email correspondence and was very helpful in helping to answer the many questions that I had. I had my main mirror
but still had many other things to nail down for a final working product. James worked with me on the options available
on his telescopes and I ended up very satisfied with what we had on paper. I was quite excited about it and placed
the order with James. Just for a quick rundown, I ended up with an Antares secondary mirror held in place with an
AstroSystems spider and secondary mirror support system. At James' advice I also went with an AstroSystems
dewguard for my secondary mirror. I went with a JMI DX1 dual speed focuser. I knew I wanted a nice cooling fan
system for the primary mirror and decided on the AstroSystems dual fan, dual battery setup. I thought I had plenty
of AstroSystems hardware already so why not another. The only other thing of significance that I decided on was
a Sky Commander XP4 system for help in locating objects.

After several months and much anticipation the scope was ready. Since I live near Houston, TX the 3 hour drive
to Lake Charles made for a nice trip instead of the dreaded shipping through the transit system. I found James
to be a very pleasant guy and it was cool to see the actual shop where James builds his scopes. I was really
surprised at the simplicity of James' shop and operation out of a single car garage. Well, I took my first look at my
scope and I was very pleased with what I saw. I had James finish my scope in a Sedona Red stain color that I
thought would look really nice. And it did. The finish had a nice shiny sheen to it and the stain color really brought
out the wood grain which is what I was hoping. Though I think James is no longer offering the staining as a finish
option and he is finishing everything in natural wood with a clear coat finish. The wood work was very clean and
everything flowed really nice. A nice mirror cover was covering the mirror. James stepped me through the assembly
process and we went over all the workings of the scope and hardware. I was immediately amazed at the ease in which
the scoped moved in both axes. James uses the standard ebony star on virgin Teflon bearings and it worked great.
Though I knew the true test would be when I tried to hand guide the scope under the stars. The new 16" mirror looked
so good all nice and shiny supported by James' custom support and tailgate system. I was most pleased with
all the options that I had chosen. I was also eager to use the new Sky Commander XP4 System. James
seemed to have done a great job of installing the encoders and hardware. James and I also went through the
collimation process using lasers and I absolutely loved the ease at which the scope collimated. Big knobs on
the back of the mirror made it really easy to turn things to get the main mirror lined up. I thought this would be
of real importance with a truss design dobsonian that will be broken down and re-assembled at each viewing
session. At least it would be for me anyway.

I brought the scope back home and eagerly awaited a clear night to set the scope up on my back patio for first
light to see how my scope would perform. Several nights later a clear sky broke and I set the scope up.
I have moderately light polluted skies in my backyard and wasn't really expecting to see a whole lot and was
more just wanting to test the movements and mechanics of the scope and try out the Sky Commander. My
main purpose of this scope is for dark sky star parties which I try to attend several a year. Well, my first views
through the scope really wowed me. I was immediately amazed at how bright and crisp the stars were with my
27mm Televue Panoptic in the focuser. Not even using the Sky Commander yet I swung the scope to M31 to
just see what it would look like. The telescope moved effortlessly and when I saw M31 from my backyard in this
scope, and with what I saw, I knew I had a winner. M31 was surprisingly large and bright. I could just start to make
out the dust lane. I couldn't wait to see what I would see under dark skies. Next, after familiarizing with the Sky
Commander manual I went to work on learning Sky Commander. I must say the Sky Commander was a pleasure
to use and worked flawlessly. Put in the date, catch two alignment stars and you are off the to races. I owe
the workings of the Sky Commander to the installation job James did on it. I know the encoders have to be square
on the axes and things of that nature for the DSC to operate properly. Evidently James knew what he was doing.
I went on to use Sky Commander to locate other objects I would have had a hard time locating from scratch in my
back yard and they were all within the field of view of my eyepieces. I closed down the evening looking forward to
an upcoming dark sky star party in several weeks.

I am a week out from returning from the Deep South Regional Star Gaze with the scope. As I anticipated, my
Astro Sky 16" scope performed flawlessly. The deep sky views I got from this scope was just incredible. I had
no eyepiece in my collection that I could capture all of M42 within the FOV. With a Meade 56mm being my
widest. The colors of M42 were actually coming into view. I had a great time hunting down faint galaxies with
the Sky Commander. And more importantly, the manual tracking of these deep sky objects was very smooth and
easy. Only one little minor thing came up and it is of nothing from the workings of the scope. To satisfy my
old days of star hopping around the sky when I feel like it, I have both a Telrad and 9 x 50 finderscope mounted
to the uppercage of the telescope. Along with my Sky Commander controller mounted up front, this made my
scope slightly heavy in the front when pointed near the horizon. This will be easily remedied by adding some
counter weight to the tailgate in the rear. Many a folk stopped by my scope during the daylight hours asking me
questions about the scope and who made it. Many people commented on the finish and how nice it looked.
Was I proud? Darn right I was. To sum it all up, this is the best structure/optical system that I have owned in
a dobsonian telescope for the price. And I have had several. I look forward to many years of service with my
Astro Sky 16" as this size scope as always pretty much always been my dream scope. I owe a lot of the credit
to James as much of this scope and hardware was at his advice. If you are in the market for a nice Truss style
Dobsonian telescope at a good price, I recommend you check out James Grigar at Astro Sky telescopes.

Kurtis Gothreaux