It’s been a crazy couple of weeks. We’re now in Benson, AZ at the Butterfield RV Resort and Observatory. Yes.. you read that correctly… Observatory! They have a 16″ Mead LX200 Schmidt Cassegrain Telescope in an Observatory dome and have public viewings every night that the weather cooperates. We attended one of the shows hosted by Dave and had a blast. After the show, I stuck around and helped clean out and repair the motorized focuser which seems to be working well now. You’ll see pictures to the right of the scope and observatory.
Bitten by the Astronomy bug again, Lehnanne informed me (much to her later regret) that there was an Astronomy shop right up the road in Tucson called Stellar-Vision. So, our first weekend here, we ran up to check it out. It’s a mecca of New and Used astronomy gear all packed into a small warehouse space. We (or I) ooh’d and aaah’d over a few different trinkets, and then Frank honored us by taking two Solar scopes outside to look at the Sun. We got to look through a Lunt LS50THa Solar Scope, as well as a Meade/Coronado Personal Solar Telescope (PST). A fellow shopper advised me that the Lunt should be the much better scope, and was made right here in Tucson. However, to the eye, the PST had a much better image, and was significantly easier to get viewing of the Solar prominences visible that day. We decide to hold off on that until more research could be done.
The fellow shopper also reminded me that there was yet another astronomy shop in town… The world renowned Starizona! So, away we went… Dean at Starizona was very gracious and allowed me to bend his ear quite a bit about astrophotography. He started telling me the benefits of Hyperstar and CCD astrophotography. I’ll be the first to admit that while I enjoy astronomy and astrophotography.. I don’t enjoy waiting hours for my captures to complete, which had been my experienced norm. After a bit of inner reflection and quick accounting math… it was decided to purchase some new gear. I walked out with a Hyperstar adapter for Celestron 8SE and a new Atik 414EX Color CCD camera.
I’m still quite new to this method of imaging, so no cool pictures to show yet, but I plan to resolve that with the very next clear sky night. I have however had a few nights out with the new gear and figured out that manual focusing was just not going to cut it.. So, back we went to Starizona to pickup another new toy… A Feathertouch focuser and a Microtouch motorized Auto Focuser for said Feathertouch. This is different from my prior motorized focuser which was part of a Moon-lite Crayford style focuser. That one was only good for imaging / visual work from the rear cell of the Telescope. This new one directly moved the mirror of the Telescope, so it will allow focusing with either visual or Hyperstar Imaging work!
You’d think that would be enough astronomy gear for one trip.. but OH no… Back to Stellar-Vision we went. They still had both the Meade PST and the Lunt LS50THa scopes. We asked Frank to let us test out the Lunt one more time and he was happy and helpful as usual. With the eyepiece Frank provided us to test with, we were not really impressed with the Lunt’s performance. But today, I happened to have all my gear with me. So, I whipped out a few of my favorite eyepieces.. and WOW, what a difference. Prominences and sun-spots were easy to bring into view… and now, we could also see the orange-peel like texture on the surface of the Sun! We were sold… So, we walked out of Stellar-Vision with the Lunt LS50THa scope w/ B600 blocking diagonal and a previously owned iOptron Mini-Tower mount. I had wanted to pickup a quick setup Alt-Az mount for nights when I’m only doing visual work.. And this one allows for mounting of two Telescopes! So, I can setup my new Lunt Solar scope on one end, and my 8″ Celestron SCT on the other (with white-light solar filter of course) for dual observing!! Very slick.
I was out the next day all day.. and got a good sun-burn on my neck, arms, legs and the tops of my feet (flip-flops)… But enjoyed every minute :).
More pictures, posts, etc.. to come!