Last updated: 22 July 1998

A night at the ETX

A user report on a night at the ETX.

Come with me to an ETX observation session 7/19/98. I pick up the ETX with one hand, put an eyepiece on it, then I reach for three more eyepieces with my other hand. I walk out to my deck, plop down a cushion on the floor from an adirondack chair. I get into proper observing position on the floor. Approximately point to the north and now I'm ready for an object. It's only 11pm so there are no planets or moon today. I have to push the limits of deep sky tonight. Is the 90mm Mak with the "best optics ever made" up to the task?

High overhead I see Hercules and with a 35mm Ultima at 35x with 1.4 degree field of view I aim the Orion EZ finder towards the two stars of the shield. I set it about 1/3 way down from one of the stars and look in the eyepiece. Not there, slight movement of the RA, there it is...M13. I am resting on my left elbow supporting my head and staring comfortably through the eyepiece to see a small fuzz. I try centering the object getting ready for higher power. RA is jerky and after three or four tries it's centered. DEC motion is reasonably smooth and I never lose objects with it. I pop in a 24.5 SWA 51x 1.3 deg fov. Not much more to see, still fuzz. I pop in a 17 plossl 73x w/0.7 deg fov; starting to see something more. I squint and turn to maximize averted vision. Need more power.....pop in 13.8 SWA 90x w/ 0.7 deg fov. This is the best view. I can start to make out some granularity in the globular cluster, I switch eyes to my more light sensitive but less used right eye. I can see M13 as granular, like sugar in a bowl, but the stars are not resolved. Today's limiting magnitude overhead is bet. 4.5 - 5.0 mag. I wish for a bit more aperture...C5 would be nice I say.

I lay on my back looking up and see the summer triangle. Ah..let me go for one of my favorite refractor objects, off the center star of the cross, M29. It's a modest M object but for some reason I took a liking to it as it reminds me of a stick figure of a dog or a horse. Hmm, can't make out the all the 9th mag plus stars that form the stick figure w/ lower powers. With the 13.8 SWA I can make out the stars but the effect is lost as the higher power produces stars that are bigger than tiny pin pricks. I decide to cruise with 35mm and 24.5 mm the rich area of the milky way. Hmm....it's ok but less satisfying than a pair of binoculars.

Next, I see Vega. Let's go for an easy target, M57 ring nebula. I find it on first try with the 35mm, a little smudge...no donut effect. W/ 13.8 and averted vision I can see some donutting but not obvious. The Southern sky seems lit so no attempts at the nice objects there. Point at a bright star and see nice diffraction rings around the star. Outside focus and inside focus star is not identical but respectable. Star test is better than my old C102F that Dave Simons is raving about.

I decide to pack it in. Grab the scope and eyepieces and start to go in and what do I see but Jupiter low in the horizon. Too low to see on the floor of the deck......even the chair. Got it.......I'll unscrew the altitude leg, leaving a flat bottom with rubber tips. I place the ETX on the deck railing which is 5 - 6 inches wide. I have an altazimuth mount sitting on the deck railing. Nice view of Jupiter with two major bands and a third visible through the boiling atmosphere. I decide to go in to get my 7mm and 4.8 mm Naglers. 112x and 165x. Even with the boiling skies the view is pretty through the naglers but as Jupiter moves out of view (altaz mode) I find myself jerking the RA knob back and forth to move the object in view. I decide to grab the two legs sticking out of the base and rotate them. Ah..better than the RA knob.

I wonder why I torture myself with this scope as I pick it up and bring it in. Hmm.......that was sure easy to bring in and plop on top of the table. Maybe I'll try again when the planets are up higher....I say to myself.

Next day:
Get up at 3:30am to get a drink.....look outside the dining room to the deck. Wow, planets......grab the ETX and plop myself down again on the floor of the deck. Seeing is fair......as I quickly find Jupiter and fiddle with the RA knob to get the planet on the far right side of the eyepiece fov. Huh....far right edge? you ask. Sure, how else is this thing going to track the planets. I reach under the base to feel for the two sliding switches....I make sure I feel for the one closer to the edge of the base. This switch turns the motor on, the other changes N / S. I can barely hear the grinding of the motor to let me know I turned it on (no red LED's here). The planet starts to move away from the center to the other edge of the FOV. As the clutch engages I see a small jerky movement of the planet....then it steadies. It's off center........ can't turn the RA knob as I locked it. If I loosen the lock then the process of centering starts all over again. Ah....the old reliable ...... move the legs trick......hmm......it doesn't work as well as it did before I say to myself.......It seems Jupiters position is directly South so rotating the legs doesn't give the right adjustment...but I manage with several turns of the DEC knob.

What do I see? See Jeff's Jupiter post, I saw the same....luner transit and similar details. I switch to Saturn and go through the same gymnastics and see sharply defined rings circling the body, cassini division on edges (comes and goes with seeing), dark shadow of the ring, some shadings on the planet.

OK..if you kept with me this far then either you are thoroughly confused as to what I'm saying or you decide this guy is nuts to do this. Well I have news for you...I think there are lots and lots of users out there doing the same thing (not lying on the floor) with a tripod or on top of a picnic table, etc. I can only do this once in a while......mainly when the moon is out. That's the best object for the ETX anyhow.

Oh well, thanks for reading.....I think everyone talks about the ETX's plus and minus but no one ever seems to share the nitty griddy details. I still had a good time but I think I'll lift my heavier scopes out next time......until one evening next month when I feel lazy or want a quick view of the moon.

Jae P (JaePbond@aol.com)

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