Last updated: 6 March 2002
From: email@example.com (Clay Sherrod)
MAINTAINING AND CARING FOR YOUR "SEXY" ETX TELESCOPE
Is your ETX telescope "SEXY?" Does it look like mine? When I first got my ETX 125 I vowed to NEVER hang every gadget on one end or the other. I wanted my telescope looking just like it did when I got it: shiny, blue with lines as sleek and smooth as a formula racing car.
You have to admit....they are a pretty sight when they are brand new! Face it, part of the reason that you BOUGHT the ETX is because....well, because it's "sexy."
Well in my case, eventually nature called (literally in this sense) and now my telescope weighs probably twice what it did when I got it, with nearly every spare inch of available space holding dearly to some do-dad that I simply COULD NOT go any longer without. I have finders on both sides of the eyepiece, clamps everywhere and cords going to God only knows where....
Now, on my once clean heavy duty tripod are power cords, inverters, converters, reverters and diverters (just kidding about the last two...please don't ask what they are, because I know you'll want one). I have plugs for AC and DC and power switches for every direct voltage from 1.5 to 18 volts. There are little light bulbs under the wedge so I can see where the telescope is going, on the pier and tripod so I can see where my accessories are going and even on the ground so I can see where I'M going!
Amateur astronomers are a funny bunch. We think we have to have one of everything that shows up in some advertisement....we are sort-of a high-tech, brainy keep-up-with-the-Jones'-bunch.
I remember when I first logged onto Mike Weasner's ETX web site only to find a report from a nice fellow who had changed over to the Heavy Duty tripod for his ETX 125.....his wife told him it really looked "sexy," which made the guy really proud of the scope, and helped her by keeping him away from yet ANOTHER larger telescope. Perhaps that's what it's all about, performance....and sex appeal.
Well, I'm proud to say that - even with all the junk hanging on my scope (and trust me, I USE every bit of it! - my scope still looks "sexy," and I'm going to KEEP it that way.
Keeping your telescope in top shape is very important. I plan to keep mine (it has retired with me), and will do everything I can to keep it in as good shape as I possibly can. Let me share with you a few quick tips on keeping your telescope "sexy" for many, many years to come.
USE OF THE TELESCOPE OUTDOORS - OUTDOOR MOISTURE
Telescopes are made to be used outdoors obviously. But even made that way, the worst thing that can happen to them (unless you are careless) is the effect of outdoor conditions.
MOISTURE is the biggest natural enemy of a telescope. TEMPERATURE is the second. HUMAN USE is a close third to numbers One and Two. Let's talk about moisture in two ways: OUTDOOR and INDOOR.
Outdoor Moisture -
Everytime we take our scopes outdoors we are subjecting it to moisture; I correspond with one nice fellow from Scotland who actually observed the moon (for a project) while it was raining on his balcony. Not a particularly good idea for most of us....Don't do that.
Normal moisture collecting somewhere on the telescope will happen nearly every time you take the it out. You will have either DEW or FROST; they are both the same and form when the AIR TEMPERATURE drops to, or below, the "dew point" that the weather man always mentions on your local forecast. Expect dew or frost; it's one of those necessary evils of the hobby. Note that Dew nor frost rarely forms when a brisk breeze is blowing at night.
Below are some common-sense care tips for dealing with outdoor condensation:
1) NEVER wipe off your optics no matter how much dew or frost gets on them; bring your scope in or cover it up (with a pillow case or sheet) if it gets that bad;
2) Always monitor your objective lens to see if dew is forming; never let it get so bad as in 1), above; the best way to monitor is with a flashlight aimed ACROSS, not directly in front of, the glass; if you see a cloudy film then you may as well quit unless it is a special event such as an eclipse;
3) If the OUTSIDE parts (the fork arms, tube, tripod, etc. - NON OPTICAL) get moist, don't worry about it until you bring it in...you'll drive yourself crazy wiping it off;
4) Keep eyepieces covered in their little cases until ready to use, and once done replace them back into the cases;
5) All of your charts and sky maps should be covered for protection from dew as well; they will form dew quicker than your telescope.
6) Keep moisture AWAY from all electronic components; your hand controller, a DC or AC inverter if you are using such and even the electrical plug connection should be raised above ground level if the grass is beginning to get wet;
7) "Parking the Telescope" - if you are at a star party, camping or even at home and know the weather is going to be nice again tomorrow night and do not want to bring the telescope indoors, follow these rules to protect the telescope:
a) if it is not going to be raining, or if the winds are not excessive, it is perfectly okay to leave the scope out, provided you have run all the burglars away first;
b) make sure your power connections are undone and your off-on switch is "off;"
c) cover the telescope with a soft, clean pillow case or cotton sheet;
d) cover that with a small plastic tarp with elastic "tie downs" to something firm on the ground; DO NOT tie the plastic tightly around the telescope or moisture will condense during daylight hours!
e) uncover telescope about 1-2 hours prior to use to equalize for the evening.
Indoor Moisture -
Unless you live like Snuffy Smith and have holes in your roof, you should not have to worry about indoor moisture. HOWEVER, as discussed in a moment, LACK OF MOISTURE in you home or storage area for you scope can be very detrimental to the telescope, particularly in winter months!
1) When bringing in the telescope after dew or frost has formed on it while observing, NEVER COVER UP THE FRONT LENS! But....ALWAYS plug up the eyepiece holder so that moisture cannot condense INSIDE the telescope!;
2) In winter months, ONLY IF moisture HAS NOT formed on your lens, cap it up securely (do not overtighten the lens cap) and bring indoors with all optics covered; condensation will immediately form on the outside of the telescope and mount; don't worry about this right now;
3) During other months, if moisture DOES form on the lens, bring it in uncovered and let it evaporate NATURALLY and slowly indoors; only then, after dry, if you can see any significant - and I mean significant - spotting from the moisture do you clean the lens carefully using the cleaning method described on this web site;
4) No matter whether the moisture forms outdoors or indoors, after bringing in the telescope, use a soft cloth (I prefer Terrycloth) towel and gently wipe down all metal and plastic parts until free of water.
5) Electronic components outdoors - Your electronic components are temperature-sensitive and must be protected from extreme heat and cold; in very cold weather, electronic hand controls can do strange things and they should be kept warm whenever possible; many people keep them (yes they do) in small can coolers when not in use, and carry them in their pockets if going inside for an extended time;
6) Optics on a hot day - if you are going camping or getting ready for a night-long star party and want to set up early there is a very important rule: NEVER LEAVE YOUR TELESCOPE in direct sunlight for a long period of time; just like in a closed car, the inside of your optical tube assembly is capped off from ventilation and will become VERY hot! The baffle on the secondary uses adhesives to hold it in place and there are cements used in various places throughout your telescope; always protect it from HEAT outdoors and when transporting in an automobile; USE THE CHILD-CARE RULE: "would I leave an infant in conditions like this?"
THE TELESCOPE INDOORS
To me, the worst treatment that a telescope gets is NO treatment at all....not ever using it. This allows dust to accumulate, and - yes - dust does settle inside of the fork arms and the drive base, causing problems in motion over long periods of time.
In addition, a stored telescope tends to redistribute its lubricants (the drive gear, the bearings, the fork arm drives in the ETX EC, and even the focus mechanism) when it sits in one position for a while; gravity - a very strong force over time - will take the lubricant and put it where IT wants it. You are left with a very dry driving system, except in one spot.
Even if you do not use your telescope to observe with for an extended period of time, go in where you have it stored (see below for TELESCOPE STORAGE) and move it around occasionally....turn on the motors and slew around. Focus on nothing in particular. Let the telescope know it is still loved.
Dust needs to be kept off of your telescope; you bought a beautiful instrument: keep it that way! Remove dust gently and ALWAYS with a soft damp cloth; do not use "Pledge" or any other dusting compound! Use water, and only a little bit of that. NEVER use window cleaner on ANY part of your telescope! Use only the optical solution described on the web site for your optics and only use water for the rest of the telescope. Water will restore the brilliant shine and color to your tube assembly;
Once the dust has been removed from the telescope, gently buff it with a soft towel to make it shine like new (I use an old diaper).
NEVER - EVER use automobile "wax" on any part of your telescope!!!
If your tripod is the painted type, as are most camera types and those that are commonly used with the smaller ETX scopes, simply clean them with water as well. HOWEVER, if you have the heavy duty chrome tripod with steel legs, you need to use automotive chrome cleaner to periodically provide a protective finish to the legs. All exposed METAL parts, whether cast aluminum or steel (like the hardware) should be sprayed with a LIGHT coat of WD-40 and then wiped down to an even shine for protection. Do this every month minimum.
Fork Mounting -
My fork mount still looks "sexy" after all these nights out. How do I keep it looking that way? ARMOR-ALL!! That's right....Armor-All, the "car stuff." In case you haven't learned by now, the ETX is prone to fingerprints. What you may not know so far is that the plastic - JUST LIKE THE DASHBOARD OF YOUR CAR is also prone (very much) to solar FADING over time. This is particularly true, not just from exposure to the SUN, but from storing the telescope UNDER FLUORESCENT LIGHTS!! If you wonder why the fork assembly has lost its luster and now appears a rather "ash gray" instead of black....that's probably the culprit!
I wipe my ETX fork arm and drive base (including the setting circles and clamps) thoroughly with TWO (2) coats of Armor-All every week. It pays off, if you want a sexy scope that you are not ashamed of in public! The first coat, I guarantee you, will soak right in! Let it dry hard and then BUFF to the best shine you can. Always buff with a clean, dry soft cloth. Then REPEAT by applying another coat of Armor-All (or other similar product) onto the plastic components; let dry thoroughly and buff again. You will be AMAZED how good the telescope turns out....better than it did when you got it.
Not only does it LOOK good, but you have protected the plastic and made it resistant to fingerprints as well!
DO NOT spray the solution onto the telescope; spray it on the rag or otherwise it may get down into the crevices around the setting circles and clamps; I always carefully wipe down EVERYTHING BLACK (except the lens cap which is metal), including the rear cell of the telescope, the electric focuser, the right angle holders for both finder and scope, the optical tube assembly support arms, etc.
INSIDE THE TELESCOPE
For the novice I do not recommend getting "inside" the fork arms or drive base of the telescope; if you must, for whatever reason, use Scopetronix's ETX "Tune Up". It thoroughly describes the process of lubrication and adjustment.
For most people getting inside the telescope should never be necessary and maintenance is certainly not normally required. NEVER attempt to get inside of the optical tube assembly except to clean the corrector lens and then do NOT be tempted to explore further!
I DO recommend, however even for the novice, periodically (say every six months) REMOVING each of the side clamp on the altitude (declination) arms and thorough cleaning to remove the dust from all surfaces behind them. You must be careful when unclamping them completely however, so that the optical tube does not "fall down" into the base. Remember that a small amount of Lithium grease is REQUIRED behind each setting circle where they rub against the four (4) protruding plastic posts from the fork arm; otherwise you will restrict free movement of the assembly during electronic slewing and/or tracking.
There undoubtedly will be times when you must part company with the telescope for a while, or periods in which you cannot use the telescope. Take the following precautions for its care during dormant periods:
1) Check to assure that all optics are covered; fumes from heating and air conditioning can leave very troublesome deposits on optics;
2) Cover the scope with a cotton pillow case or sheet;
3) DO NO cover that with plastic, as you did when "Parking" the scope for a night;
4) Position the telescope so that no vents blow directly on it;
5) Never store the telescope in an open window no matter WHAT direction it faces; if it faces east, south or west, the sun can severely fade the finish (even covered) and the heat from it can damage internal parts; if you put in a north-facing window it is likely to develop mildew over an extended period of time;
6) LACK OF HUMIDITY - keep in mind that LACK of moisture - just like too much - can damage your telescope; in this case, it can result in adhesives (such as that which hold the secondary baffle) to dry out and crack, dryness can result in premature aging of the plastic, much like happens to automobile tires when they "dry rot," and very dry conditions will definitely adversely affect any rubber or soft plastic fittings on your telescope or accessories.
That's it. Keeping your telescope clean is like taking a bath.....you sometimes just HATE to do it, but you gotta'.....otherwise, you might not be "sexy."
P. Clay Sherrod
Arkansas Sky Observatory
Conway / Petit Jean Mountain
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