Last updated: 29 October 2001

Subject:	a long story
Sent:	Monday, October 29, 2001 10:42:15
From:	aon.964562295@aon.at (marko kolm)
First of all I'd like to thank you for your efforts in creating this
incredibly informative website. I can imagine what it takes to keep up
this constant amount of actuality and reliability.

My name is Marko Kolm, I am an amateur astronomer from Vienna/Austria.
School was long ago, so let me apologize in advance for my English. I
would like to share some of my experiences with you and maybe some other
people reading this, maybe it can be of some help or at least interest.

I have always been interested in astronomy, but it took me until 1996 to
get my first telescope (at the age of 30). Until then, besides being a
social worker during daytime (wich I still am), I was a fanatic
musician/guitarplayer, having produced several CDs with my band in our
own self-built soundstudio. Unfortunately I suffer from Multiple
Sclerosis and by that time, already having troubles walking, my left
hand got affected too, so I was no longer able to play the guitar. In
deep desperation, having lost such an important part of my life, me and
my girlfriend Grazyna (my biggest support during the last ten years next
to my parents) were planning a holiday in Cabarete (Dom. Rep.) in the
winter of '97, to get some new perspective. I remembered my old interest
and, knowing that Grazyna was interested too, we decided to take a
closer look at the nightsky there.

So I went to a camera-store in the neighborhood, having all these
beautiful optical gadgets on display. The store (www.astrostudio.at ,in
German), is owned by Gerald Rhemann, who, as I learned later, is one of
the best astrophotographers worldwide, having his wonderful pictures
regularly published in magazines like Astronomy, Sky and Telescope and
of course the magazines in German like the great Sterne und Weltraum. He
also is a wonderful person who really supports his customers by advising
them far beyond what you would normally expect, to get the right
instruments and knowledge, and even displays and sells used instruments
in his store if you want to get something new. With all his commitment
and incredible energy, I think he is the greatest promoter of amateur
astronomy in my home-country.

Wanting something lightweight and portable, so that I could move it
around myself without help, I bought an ETX 90 RA, some eyepieces (Vixen
LV10mm and 6mm) and color filters.

The sky in Dom. Rep. was so dark with so many stars visible that we
(beginners) got completely lost, but the views of the Moon, Saturn, the
Pleiades and the Great Orion Nebula were so wonderful that they will
stay forever in our memory. We could watch the Moon using the 6mm and it
looked like a photograph taken by Apollo, the air was absolutely steady,
we've never experienced anything like this again.

Now I was hooked. I immediately bought a pair of Fujinon 16x70
binoculars, which are great for scanning the Milky Way (using a tripod
of course), read every book and magazine I could get my hands on and
learned the sky using planispheres, maps, the naked eye, binoculars and
the ETX.

I also took my first astrophotos using only my old Canon A1 camera, a
tripod, cable release and fast Kodak P1600 slide film. This method is
surprisingly simple and rewarding, just open the shutter for 30 to 60
seconds depending on the lens you use (I used 50mm and 24mm). I've
picked up this technique from Jerry Shad, whose great photographs can
often be seen in magazines. My pictures of comet Hale-Bopp were done
this way, the first (HaleBopp1.JPEG) is also the first astrophoto I've
ever done! I still use this technique quite often, unfortunately there
are not many supermodels like Hale-Bopp crossing the celestial catwalk.
But from time to time there are nice planetary alignments to be
recorded, and it can be fun to shoot constellations too. Due to the
large field of view provided by normal camera-lenses it becomes
important to really compose the pictures to get good results, for
example by using a nice foreground (HaleBopp1.JPEG, HaleBopp2.JPEG,
Orion.JPEG, W.JPEG).

My first pictures were transferred to a Kodak Photo-CD, now I use a
film-scanner (CanoScan 2700F).

We then spent our summer-holidays of 1997 in Italy near Venice and were
lucky to witness something great: Jupiter had lost its moons! On a rare
occasion its four big moons where either behind the planet or hidden by
its shadow. During three hours or so we could see them reappear.  Using
the ETX equipped with the 10mm eyepiece, we saw little bumps growing out
of the planet turning into little dots of light as the distance between
moon and planet got larger, or see a little light near Jupiter getting
turned on gradually like someone turning on a giant dimmer. What a
wonderful experience! Besides watching meteors I saw actual movement in
the sky for the first time. And what a giant heavenly "Mobile" (remember
these baby-toys?) it must have been!

On September 16, 1997, we watched a total eclipse of the Moon from
Vienna. I took my first prime-focus photographs with the ETX, having my
Canon A1 mounted to the telescope and using again the P1600 film. I
can't remember the exposure-time, I did a series of different times and
kept the best pictures (Eclipse.JPEG).

In 1998 I wanted to step things up so I bought a Celestron Ultima 2000
8'' Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope and a StarlightXpress MX5 12bit
CCD-Camera. The telescope was a bit heavy for me to move it around, but
it had sensational optics, the best I ever owned. So me and Grazyna used
it a lot for visual observations.

The CCD-Camera was another story. It was very tiring for me to carry
around and set up all the stuff needed (big and heavy telescope with
mount, camera, notebook, powersupply,...), and it was almost impossible
for me to achieve sharp focus. When I finally did, the telescope
slipped, I had to find the object again, recenter, refocus, slip again,
search, center,..., I think I've made my point. I got so frustrated that
I finally gave up. But one evening I looked out of my window and saw a
beautiful Moon rather low in the sky and thought, "OK, I want a picture,
let's try something desperate." So I quickly set up the little ETX on
the windowsill, mounted the CCD-Camera to its back, the 26mm Ploessl to
the eyepiece-holder, used the flip-mirror to alternate between camera
and visual, centered, focused approximately, took a picture - and,
surprise, it worked perfectly! I hurried to get some more pictures, but
the Moon quickly disappeared behind a building (MX5-1.GIF, MX5-2.GIF,

In 1999 we did some more visual observing with the C8, some CCD's of the
moon with the ETX and saw a wonderful total eclipse of the Sun in August
(sorry no pictures, just watching in awe).

In 2000 I felt that the C8 had become too heavy for me (I was not too
well at that time), so I decided to sell it together with the ETX. I
wanted something with bigger aperture than the ETX, but still easy to
carry around, and having Goto-electronics, too. So I bought a Nexstar 5.
What a big mistake! The electronics and Goto-accuracy were good, but
when I was using a heavy eyepiece like my new Pentax XL 14mm, the thing
slipped and lost its target. The optics were even worse. I had got an
instrument of the first series, where the secondary mirror was loose.
But even when Mr. Rhemann fixed this problem, the views were not nearly
as sharp and contrasty as with the ETX.

Don't get me wrong, the Nexstar is a good scope. It just did not fulfill
my silly, unrealistic expectations. I had to realize in a painful way
that it is not possible to get everything with only one instrument. So I
quickly sold it. I then bought the new ETX 90 EC because of its
transportability, and a Meade 10'' Starfinder Dobson for the Deep Sky.
This combination works out fine. With some modifications (installing
carrying handles, a vent, a Telrad, and a new focuser) the Dobson is
great. The optics are very good and the big aperture is really worth the
effort. Galaxies, Nebulae and Star Clusters really come to life in such
a telescope! I also enjoy searching for objects myself very much, the
Dobson is great for that. It is sometimes surprising what objects you
stumble over just by chance! And if there are no helping hands available
I can use the ETX, witch works great too. The optics are great as usual,
having done no modifications yet the OTA sometimes slips a bit, but I
can live with that. Recently I got an Olympus Camedia 3040 Digital
Camera. I immediately tried to hold it against the Pentax eyepiece
coupled to the ETX when looking at the Sun (through a Baader Astrosolar
Filter in a self-made filterholder) and the Moon. Look at the results!
(Sun.JPEG, Moon1.JPEG, Moon2.JPEG, Moon 3.JPEG)  I just clicked and let
the camera do the work! It's so quick and pleasing that I immediately
ordered the ScopeTronix Digi-T-system and eyepiece, hoping to do some
shots of Jupiter, Saturn and maybe some bright Deep-Sky-Objects like the
Orion Nebula in the near future. I'll let you know of the results. One
last thing: Mr. Rhemann and me "invented" a very useful alternative
altaz-tripod for the ETX (or other small altaz-scopes). It consists of a
small photo-tripod with a metal plate mounted on top to carry the scope.
We used a plate produced by  the company  "Manfrotto", which is a
photo-accessory I think normally used for carrying spotlights or
something like that. This plate can be attached to the tripod-head in
seconds. I then drilled a hole into the plate and secured the ETX using
one long (caution, not too long!!!) tripod-screw. This construction is
stable enough for visual observations and even photography with the
Digital Camera (I never use the polar-mode, for short exposures altaz
suffices). Most important for me, it is lightweight and very quick to
set up. You can see it at www.astrostudio.at/tischstativ.htm

I have to stop now, I have already stolen enough of your time. I cannot
express how happy I am having found this hobby. It is so wonderful to
look up to the sky and forget the daily routine, just being overwhelmed
by the immensity and weirdness of the cosmos. I am lucky that I don't
need help in my everyday life. I can walk without help, drive my car and
do my work, nevertheless everything has to happen in a kind of "Slow
Motion". My life is a constant struggle against the restrictions of my
own physiology, but having these wonderful people around me and a great
interest to fulfill me, everything becomes easier and rewarding too.

Thank you for your time reading this, I just hope that my long story has
not been too boring for you.

Please feel free to use it in any way you want. I would appreciate very
much if you could post it on your website. I 'd really like to get some
response from the amateur astronomers community, I am sure there are
some people with similar experiences and problems.

Best Regards and Greetings from Marko
and of course Best Wishes from Grazyna too
Comet Hale-Bopp
Canon A1, Kodak P1600 Slide-Film, fixed Tripod, 50mm Lens

Comet Hale-Bopp
Canon A1, Kodak P1600 Slide-Film, fixed Tripod, 24mm Lens

Canon A1, Kodak P1600 Slide-Film, fixed Tripod, 50mm Lens

Alignment of Mars, Antares, Venus and Moon; Canon A1, Kodak P1600 Slide-Film, fixed Tripod, 24mm Lens

ETX 90 RA, Canon A1, Kodak P1600 Slide-Film; Exposure time unknown

ETX 90 RA, StarlightXpress MX5 12bit CCD-Camera; Exposure time unknown; Contrast Strech and Unsharp Mask using PixM5-Software

ETX 90 EC, Baader Astrosolar Filter, Pentax XL 14mm Eyepiece, handheld Olympus Camedia 3040 Digitalcamera in Automatic Mode; Contrast increased and Unsharp Mask using Adobe Photoshop; on the lower left side you can even see solar flares!

ETX 90 EC, Pentax XL 14mm Eyepiece, handheld Olympus Camedia 3040 Digitalcamera in Automatic Mode; Stupid framing! If I had turned the camera around by 90 Degrees I would have been able to capture the entire Moon within one picture alone. Now I have to glue the two together using Photoshop.

same as above, plus Meade 2x Barlow-Lens, Unsharp Mask using Adobe Photoshop

Go back to the User Observations page.

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Copyright ©2001 Michael L. Weasner / etx@me.com
Submittals Copyright © 2001 by the Submitter
URL = http://www.weasner.com/etx/observations/etx90-vs-some-others.html