Saturday, January 06, 2007


So I decided to not be lazy and went out to see what I could of Saturn. First I just took out the Opticron MM2 with my camera tripod, Saturn was low to the East quite near to the moon but not as close as it appeared with Stellarium. The Opticron zoomed in at max magnification (40x) showed the planet quite clearly, the rings quite easily discernible and overall quite a sharp image.

So tempted I swapped for the Skywatcher, the 40mm EP showed a similar view to the Opticron but as I increased mag the image quality dropped off considerably. I tried the 40mm (25x), the 25mm (40x), 10mm (100x) and the 10mm with the Barlow (200x), next I tried the 25mm with the Barlow (80x) this seemed to be the best combination but the sharpness wasn't a patch on the Opticron. However the Opticron doesn't give a large enough image to be useful.

Having said all of this the seeing conditions were nothing short of attrocious, although I'm not now so impressed with the Skywatcher for Planetary observing. Even taking into account the conditions it will obviously not perform as well as the Opticron for image sharpness at higher mag's. Of course this could well be down to the quality of the standard EP's which themselves seemed to be far better than Meade's.

The standard series of EP's for the Skywatcher seem to cost in the order of £40, the EP for the Opticron (albeit a zoom EP) was £90. So I guess I might need to invest in some higher quality EP's (some sell for £200 or more!).

Anyway, back inside now, I was about to say in the warm, but of course we have been having a very mild winter so far. Hardly any frosts that I can recall, our cricket team should have stayed home rather than tour Australia where we just suffered a 5-0 series defeat in the Ashes series! Worst performance for over 80 years apparently! But that's another story.

More later.


  1. Hi Mitch, great blogg, bit of topic but do you still use an ETX-80, did you ever get it to work well or not? would you recomend one or not as i am thinking of getting one.

  2. Hi Les,

    The ETX-80 in my opinion was overpriced, you are paying mainly for the GOTO computer feature, unless you can get one second hand. I'd say 50% of the price is in the computer, so don't expect too much from the optics. If I had the choice again I'd spend the £300 on some top spec (low power, max 10x50) binoc's and a decent tripod and mount for them (I already had a £150 tripod though).

    It is very tempting to think you are missing out by not having a scope with or without goto etc. But you can do some good stuff with minimum kit, see my posts about the Opticron for instance. Tonight I got a £550 view of Saturn that was worse (in terms of clarity) than the £230 view through the Opticron.

    I think that ultimately a lot of the Astro kit is of variable quality in the price range that most of us can afford. Take the Skywatcher, at £550 you'd think you're getting something pretty good, until you realise that the mount on its own retails for £450!

    Sorry for the ramble, but I'd say that unless you're prepared to pay a lot of money don't expect too much from a scope.


  3. I should of course have stated that the Opticron was £230 plus the cost of a tripod (which in my case was £150 bought 10 years earlier for photographic purposes).

    The point is (I think) that if Opticron decided to build a 200mm (rather than a 42mm) scope I reckon it would be amazing, but of course would be at an amazing price!

  4. What would you say is a good size Opticron to look for?

  5. Les,

    I'm not suggesting that you go and buy an Opticron, they make Bin's and Spotting scopes for bird watching etc. I'm merely pointing out that optically they're far better than my astro scope. For astronomy generally you are better off going for a larger aperture in order to collect more light (for a brighter image). When I use the Opticron in daylight and zoom in to max mag the view is quite a lot dimmer than when used at low power. So more magnification = light loss therefore a wider aperture offsets this effect.

    Hence the Skywatcher Netwonian that I bought last September has a 200mm (8 inch) tube rather the Opticron which has a 42mm tube.

    What I was suggesting is that you should avoid the Meade unless you can afford a wider (bigger) scope and rather spend the money on some quality bin's such as Opticron or Zeiss, Nikon etc. Ideally 8x50's would be good for hand held work, anything with more mag would really need a tripod and adaptor.

    The Meade might have 1,600 objects in its database but most of them you won't be able to see with that scope unless you're in the middle of Arizona atop a large hill.

    Hope this helps.