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!!!
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.
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.
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!"