DADE CITY, FL - MARCH 08, 2009

As Reported By: Melvin E. Dawson
SAO Riverview, Florida


FarrOut Observatory Member's Equipment During the Session

Click this image for an enlarged view.

The above photo shows the scene at the FarrOut Observatory prior to my late arrival at the site. Bob’s Meade 16” f/5 Lightbridge (left) Dobsonian dwarfs the other, but not be fooled by the potential of the other instruments. From left to right beyond Bob’s scope is: Carlos Solis’ Stellarvue SV 102 ED f/6.95 Semi-APO, Bob’s William Optics Megrez 110 Doublet ED f/5.9 Semi-APO, Curt Walker’s Meade SN8 f/4 Schmidt-Newtonian, Dennis Farr’s Celestron C-11 f/10 Schmidt-Cassegrain, and what I believe to be James’ Celestron 10” f/6 Newtonian. This photo is courtesy of Dennis Farr - FarrOut Observatory.


Photos taken by Mel Dawson – SAO - Vega Sky Center – Riverview, FL




To take part in the FarrOut Observatories observing session for March 8th, 2008, I initially decided to bring out my Hybridized 90mm f/11.1 refractor. But, upon checking and replying to messages on the FarrOut Observatories Yahoo Group Forum, Kevin Reese, a fellow amateur in the group said that I must bring it out because he had a surprise. So I did as he requested, and also brought the 90mm to boot.

 I left my home in Riverview, FL at around 19:10 EST, and finally arrived at the FarrOut site at around 20:50 EST after getting lost along the way, for which I called Curt Walker for some direction support. Driving down some of those unfamiliar Florida country roads in the extreme dark can be a bit unnerving.

 It was already dark when I arrived at FOO. Entering the wire fenced property off of a dirt road called Singletary. Curt graciously guided me to the property with only my parking lights ablaze. But, I am happy to report that no ones night vision or images were ruined. Upon parking, I immediately began pulling out the monstrous 10” f/5.6 Newtonian Fork Mounted telescope and fork mount from my 2007 Mazda CX-7, then the 90mm f/11.1 Hybridized Konus refractor.

 With both telescopes reassembled, I was ready to observe. But, before I started viewing through the 90mm, Curt Walker, and Kevin Reese approached me. They said they had the big surprise, but it would be later before they would show me. So after greeting everyone else, I began to get my observing show on the road. The first scope I used was the 90mm. After reassembling the unit, I trained the instrument on Saturn and was quit disappointed with what I was seeing. Just prior to bringing this telescope out to FOO, I did a meticulous cleaning of the objective. In reassembling it, I used four strips of aluminum duct tape to hold the two elements (crown and flint) together (see below).


Diagram of  my 90mm f/11 with Element centering Aluminum Tape Strips

This is a diagram showing the placement of the aluminum adhesive tape strips used to center the two elements of my 90mm f/11 "Vixen-Spec" objective. The process of adding the strips corrected the aberrations quite effectively.

This was done because the objective cell, which is original to the telescope, is very slightly cone shaped, fitting tighter against the Flint Element as compared to the Crown Element. Saturn’s image had a strong streak protruding from it.  I was very disappointed to say the least. Well, I decided to call it quits with the 90mm for the night and resolved to my 254mm (10”) Newtonian. I will check out the 90mm once I get back home to fix the issue.

 Curt was the first to train the 10” f/5.6 on an object that night. He selected one of his favorites, the galactic cluster M37. Curt used my inexpensive 25mm Series 500 eyepiece. He called me over to take a look and the view through the eyepiece was spectacular, regardless of the small FOV! The image of the cluster was sharp across the entire field. I had to take a second look at the shell of the eyepiece to make certain it was a Series 500!

 The observing session continued, with folks doing imaging and observational astronomy. The main event of the night to come was the shootout between Carlos Solis’ Stellarvue SV 102 ED, and Bob’s William Optics Megrez 110 ED Semi-APO refractors. But, before the event, it was time for the Big Surprise.

 As I was carousing around the FOO site to meet new members, I heard calls from Kevin and Curt asking me to come over and check out something they were looking at through my 10”. The first thing I noticed right away was the large ocular hanging off the end of my JMI Crayford focuser. Bringing my eye up to the eyepiece I noticed that it was quite huge and I begin questioning the group that hovered around my scope. Before I could finish my inquiry, the guys yelled out telling me to just take a look at what that had pointed at. So I did. As I slowly yet determinedly drew closer to the eye lens of the ocular, I began to see a multitude of stars at the center. It was the open galactic cluster M37 in the constellation Auriga, one of my favorites. Then as I peered outward away from the center of the cluster, I noticed that I could not find the edge of the field. I then shifted my head to the right looking for the field edge and continued to see hundreds of stars through my 10” f/5.6. By the time I found the field edge, I was nearly facing inline with the side of the tube! It was at that moment I realized I was looking through the premiere of eyepieces produced by TeleVue – the 100° degree AFOV 13mm Ethos! I uttered with haste the infamous words Gary Barabino and I express so eloquently, “Look at that!”

Specifications for the New TeleVue 12mm 100-degree AFOV Eyepiece

Here is a brief spec sheet of the recently released TeleVue 13mm Ethos ocular. Thanks to Kevin Reese, I was able to look through eyepiece on my 10" f/5.6 Newtonian. Simple the finest eyepiece I have ever looked through.


I continued to sweep my eye all over the field and was profoundly mesmerized at the view that was being produced by the combination of the Telecosm III (as I call my 10” f/5.6 Fork Mounted Newtonian) and the TeleVue 13mm Ethos. Simply breathtaking, I must say! Thanks to Kevin Reese, I was graced with a rare and precious astronomical moment that I will remember for the rest of my life.

 After all of the excitement was over, Kevin said that I could continue to enjoy using it on my 10”. So I resumed observing with it sweeping the area of Auriga picking up the galactic clusters M38 and M36. Though not as impressive as M37, they were nevertheless outstanding through the Ethos. Then, I decided to move on to M42, the Orion Nebula. It looked three dimensional in the Ethos! Wisps of nebulosity meandered from the Trapezium like smoke from a lazy campfire. I was assuredly impressed to the point of wishing I had one of my own. But, at just over $600.00 a pop, it would take a miracle. Despite the lack of funds to purchase my own, I relished looking through this ocular if not for just an observing session. Once again, thanks to Kevin Reese for this fantastic surprise.

 Well, the night continued on with other great moments and views to absorb. Curt, Bob, Carlos Solis (new to the group), were preparing to perform the astrophotography shootout between Carlos’s Stellavue SV 102 ED f/6.95 Megrez, against Bob’s William Optics Megrez 110 Doublet ED f/5.9 Semi-APO. The object of choice was M42 (NGC1976), the Orion Nebula. To be fair, Curt Walker did the imaging independently, for which the results will be posted on the FarrOut Observatory’s Yahoo web group forum.

Upon completion of the shootout, we all took in some visual observing through the instruments. Since these guys are more into the imaging aspects of astronomy, I thought it would be great to introduce them to some of my fine eyepieces while the visual observing session was going on. Before doing so, they were using Curt’s 6mm University Optics 6mm Orthoscopic, a great performer indeed. Saturn looked fantastic in both instruments using this eyepiece. Also, Bob had recently purchased a 3mm William Optics SPL (Super Planetary Long eye relief) eyepiece and it performed well on his 110mm Megrez refractor.

 It was then that I mentioned that I had a 4.9mm Harry Siebert StarSplitter ocular and asked if we could try it out on Carlos’s 102 Stellarvue, and he complied. His telescope was already trained on Saturn when I inserted the eyepiece and focused it. Man, I could not believe how sharp and contrasty the Siebert was performing! There absolutely no chromatic aberration to speak of, and the belts on the surface of Saturn were easily discernable. Both the Enkes, and Cassini’s divisions popped out crisp and clean with little to no eyestrain. I could not believe what this 4” (102mm) precision short focal length objective was doing! The power generated by the combination of the Siebert and the Stellarvue was about 144x. Later we trained the Stellarvue on the Leo Triplet using a Meade 4000 Series eyepiece (I forgot the focal length) and the view was great.

 Recently, Kevin Reese also purchased a 5.9mm Harry Siebert StarSplitter eyepiece, but said he was disappointed with its performance on his LX200 Cassegrain. I told Kevin that not all eyepieces perform the same on different telescopes, so do not prejudge the ocular before testing it out on another scope. Well, it turned out that Kevin had brought along his StarSplitter for the observing session. After he saw the performance of my 4.9 StarSplitter on the Stellarvue, he thought he would give his a whirl. He instilled the eyepiece onto Carlos’s refractor and focused it. He could not believe how well it was performing. In taking in all the glory that the Stellarvue was generating, he decided to try it out on his TeleVue NP-127 apochromatic refractor. He was awestruck! He never knew how well this eyepiece performed until he tried it out on his APO. Saturn was glorious through this instrument.

The early morning hours were upon us, yet we continued to do more visual observing. Curt, having to depart early, as well as most of the others, left only Kevin, Bob, Carlos, and me to finish taking in all that celestial glory. It was well after 2:00AM, and the three of us played around with trying out some of my other oculars, as well as my new GSO ED 2” 2x Barlow. Surprisingly, it performed just as well as the TeleVue 3x Barlow Kevin owned. I then pulled out one of my favorite oculars, the 5.2mm Orion Lanthanum. Carlos was quite delighted with its performance on his 102mm Stellarvue ED, as well as Kevin, using it on his NP-127 TeleVue APO. This was their first time using a Lanthanum eyepiece and they both expressed interest in purchasing some.

As morning progress, and the dew settled on everything, we approached the end of our session with a few ridiculous attempts, which gave some surprising results. With Kevin’s TeleVue NP-127 aimed at Saturn, we decided to combine his TeleVue 3x Barlow with Bob’s 3mm SPL William Optics ocular and the results were astounding! The combination of this optical setup yielded a power of 660x, yet the image produced by the TeleVue was still viewable. The CG-5 EQ mount tracked rather well under this high magnification! Though Saturn’s image was a bit fuzzed around the edges, detail was still discernable. It was a true testimony of the capabilities of this fine refractor. I could not stop laughing hysterically at its performance, as well as the other guys.

 It was now after 4:00AM. So we decided to call it a night. Or, should I say morning. By this time Bob and Carlos had left. Kevin and I remained and locked up everything for Dennis before our departure.

I must say that this was indeed a great observing session. I found it difficult to leave. As Kevin and I helped each other pack up the scopes, I looked forward to the next observing session, for which I hope I will be able to try my hand at doing some imaging. I just need to get me a DSLR. I know with the Lord’s help, I will have one soon. Until then, I hope everyone who read this observing synopsis found it an enjoyable read. I look forward to the next and future sessions as partaken by the Vega Sky Center.

…Clear Skies, Forever!!!