Last updated: 17 February 2003
It was clear on Sunday, 2 February, so I decided to go out and enjoy the Universe, and in some small way, honor what the Columbia astronauts gave their lives for.
I did a quick polar alignment: polar axis towards Polaris and Polaris in the middle of the finderscope. I then did a Two-star Easy Align; the 1st star was just outside the finderscope FOV and the 2nd star was near the center.
I manually entered the (interpolated) RA and DEC for Comet NEAT (2002 V1) into the Autostar. It wasn't visible in the finderscope so I slewed around a bit until I saw it. I attribute this error to my interpolation. It appeared very nice in the Meade 40mm eyepiece (50X) with just a hint of a short tail. The head was very round and bright (I didn't make a magnitude estimate). I took some photos, the best of which is on my Astrophotography - Comets page. During the observations and photography, tracking was excellent.
I then did a GOTO to M31, the Great Galaxy in Andromeda. It wasn't in the finderscope so I began slewing around. Unfortunately I began experiencing some drive slippage. I re-tightened the axis and did another two-star align. My next GOTO to M31 was much better.
GOTO Saturn; placed in the finderscope FOV. Very nice although seeing wasn't too good at the time. I was not able to push the magnification as far as in other sessions but even with the Meade 6.7mm eyepiece (299X) it was nice. Ball and Ring shadows were evident as was one cloud band. I then took some photographs of Saturn (on my Astrophotography - Planets page).
Next up was M42, the Great Orion Nebula. Gee, it looked huge in the 26mm eyepiece (77X). Even with the not-so-good seeing there was a lot of extent visible across the entire eyepiece FOV.
As an Autostar experiment, I decided to SYNC on the star Pollux and do a GOTO to Castor (both in the constellation Gemini). Castor appeared at the edge of the 26mm eyepiece FOV. That amount of error surprised me. I think it is time to reTRAIN the drives. By the way, the double star Castor was nice.
Last up for tonight was Jupiter, which had just cleared my house's roof. It was a beautiful sight in the Meade 12.4 eyepiece (161X). But due to the poor seeing at this position I didn't try any photographs.
Previously I had mentioned two different models of the Astrozap dew shield for the 8"SC. My first one worked but the fit was not perfect due to the OTA mounting bracket. Based upon my feedback they modified the dew shield and sent me a newer model that had a notch for the bracket. This second one fit much better. These were low-end, flexible, wrap-around type of dewshields. Functional but they detracted from the beauty of the 8"SC.
Astrozap recently sent me one of their aluminum dewshields for the 8"SC OTA (see the photo on the right). This lightweight, black felt-lined, model slips onto the corrector lens housing and is locked into place by three small screws on the circumference of the dew shield (see photo on the left). The screws go into the groove around the corrector lens housing and keep the dew shield from falling off. I was initially worried that it might not work due to the mounting bracket but there is no interference. It fits perfectly! In fact, it looks like it belongs on the LXD55 8"SC (see photo below)! The only bummer is that there is no cap for it, otherwise it could be left on when the telescope is not in use. Astrozap says they have had a lot of requests for such a cap and are working on it. In my limited use (the weather here in "Sunny Southern California" has been really lousy) there has been no problem with slewing with the dew shield attached. If you live in a dew-prone area as I do then the Astrozap dew shield can make a nice add-on for your 8"SC.
There is also a model in Meade blue for the LX90 and LX200 8"SC models. The price for both the white and blue models is $125. Astrozap also has a slide-on aluminum dew shield for the ETX-90, -105, and -125. You can read about it on my ETX Site at http://www.weasner.com/etx/misc.html.
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