- Feb 1, 2003Took the 152 out to our club star party tonight, and wanted to share
a few things with the group.
We were fortunate enough tonight to enjoy some of the best seeing
we've had in the Tulsa area for some time - though it sure didn't
look as though it was going to be that good starting out. I arrived
at our club's observatory site about 30 minutes before sunset, but
the entire western sky was obscured by clouds that were being blown
to the north. We didn't hold out a lot of hope, but we set up
anyway and waited. The southern sky wasn't too bad, so I went ahead
and pointed the scope at M42 with my Nikon binoviewer and 19
Panoptics for the visitors and kids who would leave early. I also
wanted to see if the Feathertouch retrofit to the 152 was as
successful as I'd hoped it would be (more on that later). It turned
out that the view was enjoyed more by the club members than the
visitors - and every one of them said that it was the best view of
M42 they'd ever had out of any telescope. Using both eyes with the
binoviewer and allowing the image to develop while observing let
everyone see more detail in the nebula and the dust lanes. I
thought I caught a glimpse of the E component in the Trapezium with
averted vision, but maybe not.
Of course, the kids wanted to see planets, so I obliged them.
Saturn was spectacular. With the 5mm Pentax Ortho at 240x, we were
easily able to discern both Cassini's and Encke's divisions as well
as several planetary bands. The kids (and their parents) oohed and
aahed over that for quite a while. Later Jupiter came up enough to
get out of the turbulence (though the skies actually got more steady
as the night wore on) and we observed that as well. Both Io and
Europa transited the planetary disk, and it was well observed with
my 5.2mm Pentax XL (which actually provided more contrast and
surface detail than the 5mm Ortho). The point at which Io was
ending its transit and Europa was entering it was quite spectacular -
both moons were discernible against the disk of Jupiter, and one
could still see shadows projected on the disk. It was quite
stunning, and enjoyed by everyone who was still there.
Another club member who was working on his Double Stars asked if we
could find a couple of doubles for him to log that he wasn't able to
split in his scope. One was 38 Lyncis, a pair with only 2.7" of
separation with components of 3.8 and 6.5 (iirc). Easy split with
the 7mm Pentax XL. I've never observed that one before, so it was
gratifying to observe.
All of this was, to me, enhanced by the Feathertouch focuser that I
fitted with the adapter Detlef made for the TMB. The amount of fine
control it added to focusing made both binoviewing and cyclops-
viewing a *joy*. I had *no* problems whatsoever focusing the
binoviewer - even with the OTA pointed near the zenith while
initially observing Saturn. The brake held the focuser in place
with the load of the bino and the 19 Pans easily. Of course,
cyclops mode was simply stunning. There were several folks who were
at the star party last month when I gave the 152 first "public"
light and had seen the image of M42 in the bino, but they all said
that having the Feathertouch made a real difference in achieving
critical focus (seeing was better tonight, but not so much so that
it was a major factor). Even the seasoned observers in the club
were stunned - there were several "oh wows" and other stronger
exclamations from those more experienced viewers. :) Several of
the kids (ages were probably 6-10) were fascinated with it and
observed for several minutes (most gratifying to me - it makes it
all worthwhile to have the kids look for more than 10-15 seconds).
Bottom line - I would *highly* recommend anyone with a TMB consider
adding a Feathertouch to their scope. It really made it easy to
snap to focus on planets. I saw more detail viewable in Saturn at
240x tonight than I've ever seen - even with better seeing
conditions - and I attribute that to being able to achieve better
focus. I tried both (stock focuser and Feathertouch) and there is
no question in my mind that the Feathertouch is much easier and more
satisfying to use and worth every penny spent.
The wind picked up about 11PM and made it a bit unpleasant, so we
had to pack up earlier than we would have liked. Hopefully tomorrow
night will be as good as tonight (but warmer, as forecasted) and
we'll go back out for another evening.
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