Antares 127mm First Light
Dang, she's pretty! With the tripod legs fully extended and the scope pointing north she stands a few inches taller than me, so I'm guessing 6'4" or so. For tonight I've got a short list of targets in and around the Summer Triangle - some old favorites, some I've never looked at before - compiled from Sue French's column in the September S&T plus a few I picked out of the S&T Pocket Atlas: Messiers 13, 15, 27, 29, 39, 56, 57, 71, 92, and NGCs 6793, 6800, 6802, 6819, 6882/85, 6883, 6905 and 7006.
Nice weather, finally - temp was 77 deg when I set up around 9pm, but dropped to 69 deg by 11 pm. Forgot to check relative humidity, but it was less sticky at 11 than at 9. Unfortunately it is Regatta Weekend at Lake Dipshit, so the air was thick with gunpowder smoke from the fireworks, and the mandatory "Turn Your Fucking Lights On" law is in effect. Waxing gibbous Moon turned the sky into a pale gray, not the best conditions for seeking DSO's.
Not being able to see Polaris is a major setback, and rough alignment is touchy. I tried 3-star alignment first (Vega, Altair and Arcturus) but the go-to was off most of the time. Realigned using 2-star method (Vega and Altair) and it was an improvement, at least around those two stars in the triangle; go-to placed M13 and M92 in Hercules so out of field I gave up trying to find them.
After the first alignment, my official first light target was Albireo; with low power (LVW42 at 29x) showed the colors of the yellow and blue pair beautifully! Then I went through my target list. Mostly used the LVW13 (94x) as conditions did not favor the LVW8 (152.5x). Of the globulars, M15 was the only one that even remotely showed any resolution into stars; M56, M71 and NGC 7006 were just fuzz, looking more like galactic cores than globs. Open clusters looked very nice, especially M29, M39 and the pair of NGC 6882 & NGC 6885. I punched in planetary nebula NGC 6905 for the hell of it and was suprised that it was visible under these bright sky conditions - pretty faint, but I clearly could see it as a faint disc using averted vision; it tended to disappear when looking directly at it.
So this session was not great as far as observing goes, but it was a good first-light shakedown of both mount and scope to give me an idea what they can do under fairly miserable observing conditions. Good things I noticed:
- Optics seem very good; quick star test showed well centered concentric circles inside focus, though poor seeing turned the disc to mush outside of focus. Definitely not an apo, the center turned bright violet-blue on brighter stars.
- Mount is fairly simple to set up and disassemble.
- Slewing and tracking are both quiet.
- The edge of field astigmatism I noticed when using the wider LVWs (42, 22 and 17 mm) with the TV85 seem to be completely alleviated with the longer focal length Antares.
- Polar alignment scope does not illuminate
- Keypad buttons are virtually unreadable in twilight
- Play in mount is as bad as the mirror shift in my N8GPS!
- Focuser is stiffer than morning wood.
- Finder scope is utterly useless. Need 45 deg finder with illuminated reticle.
- Can't update alignment like I could with Nexstar.
- When choosing Vega as alignment star, scope slewed in opposite direction (west of meridian as opposed to east). Same thing with Altair. WTF??? Clock, date, UTC offset, lat/lon all correct. Could I possibly be that far off from Polaris? Need to check into this.