Saturday, December 31, 2016

Telescope Test: Meade ETX 90 RA (1996)

My new-old telescope, an ETX 90 RA of late-'90s vintage

Had a good time in the wee hours this morning, trying out my free ETX 90 'scope ca.1996. I've got it mounted on an old Meade heavy-duty tripod (I'm well-known in my local astronomical community for over-mounting telescopes!), adding a Sky-Watcher " wedge and cheesy Tasco right-angle finder. The result: a rock-solid mounting for my initial tests on this 90mm Mak.

After a rough polar alignment I sighted the 'scope on Regulus and "engaged" the drive motor. Happily I couldn't detect any delay in the drive wind-up--it started tracking immediately (though at first the noise-level surprised me--this little motor seemed quite loud in the stillness of pre-dawn!).

Went inside to warm-up and get a cup of tea. When I came back outside fifteen minutes later Alpha Leonis was only slightly off-center in the eyepiece, probably more a result of my perfunctory alignment procedure than any error in the drive motor.

So far, so good.

The optics performed very acceptably; the defocused Regulus showed only a slighty off-centered Airy disk, and focused finely all over the field of view, a nicely defined point of blue light.

The only fly in the ointment was the finder scope. As mentioned I had replaced the factory-installed finder (the use of which required a greater level of gymnastic skill than I am comfortably capable of) with a cheap right-angle unit from my spare parts box. Unfortunately the Tasco unit was nearly useless. After only a few minutes I knew that the search for a usable and user-friendly finder would continue...perhaps I might have to invest in one of the Meade right-angle products after all.

As the dawn came up, I summarized the morning's session for my observing journal:

Vintage Meade ETX 90 RA telescope:       FREE
Meade Heavy Duty Tripod:                        $55.00 (Ebay, 2004)
Sky-Watcher Equatorial Wedge                  $65.00

Night under crystal-clear suburban skies with a "new" telescope and a fresh cup of tea: PRICELESS

Friday, December 30, 2016

Quick Post: The Stars In Their Courses...

I was driving in to work this morning (usual obscene hour=0430) and listening to BBC. The Business News included a consultation with several "Financial Astrologers", one of whom predicted a downturn in the FTSE next month due to a close encounter between Saturn and the Galactic Center, which, to her credit, she assured us were in no danger of collision as they are "millions and zillions" of miles apart in space. She also noted a possible downturn in the markets because of a nearby black hole...nice to know that the loonies are keeping current on their astrophysics!