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Daystar Filters’ SR-127 ‘QT’ Dedicated Hydrogen Alpha Solar Telescope (Chromosphere Model)

Posted by Ryan Hannahoe   02/02/2024 08:13PM

Daystar Filters’ SR-127 ‘QT’ Dedicated Hydrogen Alpha Solar Telescope (Chromosphere Model)

Daystar Filters has been well known for its filters and solar telescopes for many years. But now they are relying on that reputation to sell inferior telescopes with little to no quality control and little to no product support after purchase. I purchased Daystar’s SR-127 Solar Telescope for both solar viewing and imaging, but it cannot be used for viewing at all. It’s as if Daystar began selling this telescope before it was ready, likely timing its release - ready or not - for some anticipated solar activity.

The SR-127 ‘QT’ is a short-tube (29”), lightweight (13 lbs.), 127mm aperture doublet achromat fully integrated solar telescope with a retractable dew shield. The SR-127 is optimized for H alpha in design, figuring and coating for Hydrogen Alpha, with a 2667mm focal length. The SR-127 has a digital readout and precision tuning control accurate to 0.01Å in center wavelength. It uses 12-volt DC power and also can run off batteries. The SR-127 comes in three models: Chromosphere, Prominence and specific bandpass in PE grade. I purchased the Chromosphere version. This telescope sells new for $10,000 USD.

The initial telescope I received from Daystar would not power on, so I called Daystar to find out the procedure for returning the “dead” telescope to them for replacement. When I spoke with Daystar, they told me to ship the telescope back to them—at a cost to me of $440!—for their review. Once they determined what caused the failure to power on, they would let me know if they would be repairing or replacing the telescope.

I followed up with Daystar after not hearing from them for several weeks after they received the telescope. When I spoke with them, they claimed it was my fault that the telescope would not power on. They said the failure to power on was due to damage to the electrical wires connecting the telescope to the power supply and that I caused that damage by turning the rotator on the focuser! If turning the rotator on the focuser damages the wires to the power supply, why put a rotator on the focuser at all?! To me, this is a huge design flaw.

Despite their claim that the problem was my doing, Daystar agreed to repair the telescope and send it back to me at no cost. Nearly two months went by before I got the repaired telescope back. In the course of setting up the repaired telescope, I saw that it had significant scratches in the OTA that had not been there before. Even worse, when I tried to view the sun through the telescope, the center was so bright, I couldn’t look at it without my eyes hurting.

I emailed Daystar about both problems on September 19, 2022. In that email, I requested a refund from Daystar, given all the problems I’d had with the telescope. On September 22, 2022, I received an email from Daystar saying that a refund was not an option and referring me to Daystar’s Terms of Sale. This was the first time I was told about the Terms of Sale. No mention was made of the Terms of Sale during my initial telephone calls with Daystar, nor were they referenced on the invoice Daystar sent me for the telescope’s purchase.

On September 24, 2022, I emailed Daystar back, acknowledging that a refund was not available under the Terms of Sale and requesting a replacement instead. I heard nothing from Daystar until October 7, 2022. In that email, Daystar asked if a “dusty objective” was the only problem with the telescope and if I had “looked through the telescope”! Clearly, they had not read my September 24, 2022 email. I responded the same day, reiterating the problems with the telescope that I had described in my September 24, 2022 email.

In the hopes that Daystar would take my complaints more seriously, I asked a long-time friend and colleague with significant experience using and writing about solar telescopes to test the SR-127 with me. He agreed with me that the center of the sun is so bright visually when viewed through the telescope that the telescope is effectively unusable for viewing. I had my friend speak with Daystar directly about the testing and Daystar told him that neither of us had provided Daystar with the exact specifications the telescope was failing to meet and that the excessive brightness was due to configurations and circumstances. Daystar then suggested I consult with their customer service and technical departments to resolve the brightness issue. In addition, Daystar was unwilling to replace the OTA due to the scratches because the scratches didn’t impact viewing or imaging.

Daystar’s insistence that we provide the exact specifications that the telescope was failing to meet was based on another section of its Terms of Sale, which said that I could only get the telescope repaired again or replaced if I could show that the telescope doesn’t meet one or more of the telescope’s specific stated specifications by means of “optical laboratory testing using independently verified spectrometer testing methods, visual inspection, and visual qualification of performance.” For many of Daystar’s customers, that requirement would be excessively burdensome and costly. Fortunately for me, my friend was willing to independently test the telescope against its stated specifications and send detailed descriptions of the telescope’s deficiencies—with supporting images—to Daystar on my behalf.

My friend sent Daystar two lengthy emails with detailed technical analyses of the results of his testing of the telescope for both viewing and imaging (since the telescope is supposed to be able to do both), including images, all of which proved that the telescope was defective and unusable for viewing.

The following is a portion of what he sent to Daystar regarding the results of the imaging testing he did:

“The detail is superb on the right side of the image. Toward the left it gets incredibly soft (lack of contrast) and is much brighter. I can play around with exposure times and keep the image darker and try to brighten it during processing. The results aren’t bad, but it is noticeable, and my 80 Scout has better overall detail across the image. Please see the attached chromosphere image[s] and compare the right and left side[s]. This was especially noticeable when I imaged a prominence. I had it on the right side of the image and then slewed it slowly to the left and physically watched the detail drop. Moved it back and watched it rise. I took images of both with the same exposure and gain and all images were taken at a wavelength of 6562.8. Both images were processed in Autostakkert and Registax exactly the same using the same wavelet values in the later program. I can send you the avi files to process if you wish; let me know. ... [I]t’s almost like something isn’t centered or something is tilted. This brightening is especially noticeable visually. …I can adjust the exposure to help compensate for imaging, but not for visual.”

My friend also documented that dialing the contrast up or down did not solve the inability to use the telescope for viewing. He told Daystar that the sun was “overall still too bright, especially the center of the solar disk. No granulation or other features could be seen at the middle of the solar image,” regardless of the contrast setting. He also tested the telescope using a Baader ND09 filter with the same adjustments to the contrast setting as he made without the filter. He told Daystar that even with the ND09 filter, it didn’t make enough of a difference and the sun “was still way too bright [and] would not be an acceptable image to [view] features in the chromosphere.” Daystar told my friend that the Daystar filter installed in the telescope was “brighter,” but still within its specifications.

Daystar’s response to this extensive testing was that, since it was possible to get satisfactory results from the telescope for imaging through adjustments made in post processing and the use of solar flats, Daystar would not repair or replace the telescope. It didn’t matter to Daystar that the telescope was unusable for visual observations, even though it was supposed to be usable for viewing. So, in the end, all of my friend’s and my work testing the telescope and documenting in detail its deficiencies against its stated specifications were a waste of time and energy, and ultimately changed nothing. Daystar would not stand behind its product.

In addition to the documented problems with my Daystar telescope, I have been told by others, including a third-party reseller, that Daystar’s current quality control is very poor and their telescopes often do not work as they should. It’s sad that Daystar is no longer producing quality solar telescopes and doesn’t care about its customers. At this point, I would never purchase another telescope from them.