Click to see an enlarged MS Paint rendering of the VSC/ SAO/ BGRP 127mm f/9.4 Refractor!

The above image is a rendering of the home-built VSC/ SAO 127mm f/9.4 'Brigadier General Richard Pierce' Equatorially Mounted refractor. Click to see an enlarged image.


  Click this image to see an enlarged view.

Here is a photo of Mel Dawson with his completed 127mm f/9.4 refractor ready for First Light, that was conducted on the morning of December 15, 2009.


****  All photos within these sections can be viewed in greater detail. Just click on the photos within to enlarge.  ****

Click to go to the Component Design Plans for the VSC/ SAO/ BGRP 127mm f/9.4 Refractor!

Component Design Plans

Click to go to the OTA Components Page for the VSC/ SAO/ BGRP 127mm f/9.4 Refractor!

Optical Tube Assembly Components

Click to go to the Optical Tube Assemble Preparation for the VSC/ SAO/ BGRP 127mm f/9.4 Refractor!

Optical Tube Assembly Preparation

Click to go to the Cradle Rings. Dovetail Plate Dovetail Bar Preparation" for the VSC/ SAO/ BGRP 127mm f/9.4 Refractor!

Cradle Rings and Dovetail Plate/ Bar Preparation



Hello Fellow Stargazers, and ATM's! ...and Welcome to the construction overview of the VSC's "SAO 127mm f/9.4 'Brigadier General Richard Pierce' Refractor". A long time prior to building my 10" f/5.6 Newtonian, and inspired by the 60mm instruments I used in yesteryear, I longed to own a well corrected large aperture refractor in the 5" to 6" inch range. Unfortunately, their prices were beyond my means. So, since Newtonian telescopes were more economically feasible, I took that route in hopes of one day going back to my dream of owning a big refractor once funds were available. Over the years, I kept my eyes open waiting on the perfect deal on a big refractor, to no avail. If one would show up, I usually missed out on the deal. Well, back in 2007, I discovered that a company called Surplus Shed sold descent optics at great prices and had large aperture objectives periodically to boot. The one that caught my eye was the 127mm f/9.4 after hearing good reviews about its performance. So, in early 2008, I decided to make a move on one. Unfortunately to my dismay, Surplus Shed was sold out of these lenses. Drat's! Fortunately, on the ad for the lens on their website, there was a link which allowed you to submit your email address to get on the waiting list the next time they received a shipment. Once Surplus Shed did, they would send you an email letting you know they were in stock. I received my restock email from SS nearly a year later on December 30, 2008, and thank God I was in the position to snag one for $164.00 (cost+shipping). This how the VSC's "SAO 127mm f/9.4 'Brigadier General Richard Pierce' Refractor" came to be, and the rest is ATM history. I hope all readers of the overview will find a wealth of information that will fuel their telescope build. Actually, in conveying the construction of this and all of my other instruments, it is my way of giving back what astronomy has given me throughout my life. Enjoy, and Godspeed with your build!!!



Here is what you all have been waiting for!!!! Alas "First Light"!

Upon arriving home from work this morning, The skies were prime to conduct First Light with the newly completed refractor. Despite being a bit tired, I assembled the 127mm for its debut under the stars.

Though transparency and seeing were not at their best, there was not a cloud in the sky. The temperature was 65-degrees, winds calm (2-mph from the east, northeast) with a relative humidity of 100%. Quite balmy, so I expected heavy condensation to collect on the telescope. Actually, after an hour and a half it was not dripping wet. It just collected a light covering of dew and the optics did not fog up even after observing a few objects high in the sky.

Nervous at this point, and allowing the telescope to acclimate for only 15 to 20 minutes, the first object of choice was the Pleiades (M45) to perform a star test. I used a 26mm 2" wide-angle (70-degree AFOV) 5-element eyepiece (46x) identical to the Q70 series sold by University Optics, but I got mine from Smart Astronomy a few years ago. It is a decent performer on most of my scopes. Once I took aim at the cluster and focused, the stars snapped to near concentric pinpoints with a pinch of CA. As the telescope acclimated an addition 20 minutes or so, the stars became sharp and pin point. CA diminished greatly. On axis the star images were perfect, but as you look toward the edge of the field only minute levels of CA and flaring was introduced. Being familiar with this eyepiece, I knew it would do so. But, the levels were well below my expectations. The star colors were true and distinct. Additionally, I could also detect a hint of nebulosity around Merope, and Alcyone using averted vision. That was something I did not expect! :o Contrast was phenomenal, even though I was flanked by a couple of sodium vapor street lights! The baffles and flocking were doing there job very effectively.

I then turned my attention to the Great Nebula in Orion (M42) using the same 26mm ocular. All I can say is, "Smoke"! By now the refractor had acclimated sufficiently and was showing its true grit. I could easily make out filaments of nebulosity arcing and radiating from the Trapezium, which appeared sharp and crisp. M43 was also detectable with no effort. I then switched to one of my 1.25" eyepieces, 25mm Celestron LER (48x). The AFOV in this eyepiece is 50-degrees and is a great performer for its price. This eyepiece really performed very well in providing pin-point images of the stars within the Orion Nebula. The Cone was easily discerned and I could also make out structural detail within the nebulosity. I was really beginning to love how this scope was performing!

The next object I selected was an old favorite, M41 in Canis Major. Due south of Sirius, the cluster blew my away! The red central star presented a beautiful contrast among the tack sharp pail blue and white stars in this cluster.

After looking at M41, I looked to the north, northeast and saw Mars looming in front of the head of Leo. I trained the 127mm at it using a TeleVue 40mm Plossl (30x) to center it in the FOV. Mars was extremely small and bright in the field, though I could still make out its gibbous phase. There was some flaring, but I contributed this to my astigmatism. Color rendition was very good (terra cotta), but too tiny to make out any detail as you would surmise. No purple fringing was detected! Then, I wanted to get radical and push the power way up to see what the instrument was capable of. This time I tipped the magnification scale and whipped out my Orion 5.2mm Lanthanum (230x). It is one of my favorites for high power observing. With Mars centered in the field of the 40mm TeleVue, I switched to the 5.2mm Lanthanum and focused. Since I did not power up the EQ, I knew the planet would fly across the field like a bat out of hell. Nevertheless, I had to see what this combination was going to produce. My expectations were shattered as Mars snapped into focus revealing spectacular detail. Considering Mars will reach opposition in January and will only have a mean distance of around 62 million miles (as compared to its closest of 35 million miles), the view was awesome. The northern polar cap was huge and I could make out dark surface details with ease along the polar cap's its edge. I could also easily make out a thin sliver of its southern polar cap. As Mars moved across the field, there were moments of stability that made Mars appear very sharp and crisp revealing spots of surface detail with ease. Contrast was outstanding! I must point out that at this magnification (230x) there was some CA and minor fringing going on. But, it was well below what I thought it was going to be. I will try using my V-Block fringe filter the next time I observe him and report back later.

Conclusion: I am completely stoked and satisfied with the performance of the VSC 127mm f/9.4 Brigadier General Richard Pierce refractor. The North Star II is indeed a winner too! First Light was a complete success! The SurpluShed 127mm objective performed well beyond my expectations and I look forward to many observing adventures using it. I hope this First Light synopsis will be of help to others considering the attributes of this achromatic objective lens. More reports will follow. Here is a photo of me with the scope during "First Light". Time to go to bed. I'm exhausted.


Sincerely, Mel Dawson     ..."Clear Skies, Forever!"