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Old 23-08-2012, 10:24 AM
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Heading back to Visual Astronomy - A GOTO dob?

Hi All,

Its been a long time since I've participated in this site, I've been lurking frequently though! You guys are producing some great images these days!

Alas I have no time for imaging anymore, and I don't see me having time for it in the few years to come. But rather than give up on astronomy altogether I'm looking at getting a dob and getting back to quick visual outings when I can fit them in.

So I'm looking for a good visual scope, quick to set up and minimum of extra bits and bobs needed. Budget of up to $2500.
So I'm thinking a skywatcher flextube dob with Argonavis. I know these now come with goto but I'm not much of a fan of synscan and the argo seems like a better long term investment if my needs change. What do you guys think? I can always add servocat jr later on, I know this adds more cost than the scope is worth but its still a lot cheaper than an SDM, and I can always upgrade the scope later and continue using the quality argo/servocat for many years down the track.

12" Flextube - $1300
Argo + Kit - $900

Can I realistically expect to dump my scope down, 2 star align and be off and running?

Would love to hear what everyone thinks, I guess I'm basically looking for an enjoyable scope with quality/easy to use electronics.

Cheers,

Dave.

PS. Yes DSC/goto are a must, I never have been a good star hopper

Last edited by davewaldo; 23-08-2012 at 10:55 AM.
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Old 23-08-2012, 10:36 AM
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I had a chance to use a 12" flextube with GOTO for a night at the SPSP and I've got to say that it was the `drag n' track aspect that I loved the most.

GOTO seemed to work well enough but for most objects i simply pushed the scope manually onto the object and it tracked automatically - no fiddling with clutches as you do with a Servocat. A tracking dob is a great thing- and tracking that is completely transparent is an even greater thing

So if I had a $2500 budget I would go for GOTO Skywatcher 12" and a light shroud.
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Old 23-08-2012, 10:53 AM
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Thanks Mark, yes but my problem (perceived problem) with the Skywatcher GOTO system is that the pointing accuracy will not be great, and its not known how robust/reliable this system is.

I didn't realise you could just push the scope around once set up though, does that not ruin the star alignment?
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Old 23-08-2012, 10:53 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davewaldo View Post
Can I realistically expect to dump my scope down, 2 star align and be off and running?
YES!

It's that simple.

I came within a whisker of doing this to my 17.5" dob, but unlike you, I found the whole "electrification" of my scope too much of an imposition and it took away from my enjoyment of this hobby.

I did install the Argo (even though I dumped it soon after), and with the experience of others, it is just as you say "two star align and off you go".

Mind you, in my case, I would have had to disassemble the entire drive and Argo mechanisms in order to stow my big dob away. A 12" flex-dob is still a sizeable beastie when stowed, and heavy to move around. The extra gear is only a small amount extra, but it adds up. I mention this if ease of portablity is something you need to consider. I don't know how easy it would be to uncouple the rocker box from the OTA for ease of transportation with either a Servo-Cat or Synscan system. If go-to is important, maybe look into this aspect too. A lot of folks with dobs uncouple the OTA from the rocker box for transportation purposes, including with the Argo. But the motor situation may present other complications.

I just don't want to give you a "through rose coloured glasses" view on dobs. Go-to works very, very well. Some people even take photos of DSO's with them very successfully. But everything has a trade-off. Just consider how and where you are going to be using the dob, and if the scope you are considering will fit that behaviour, or how you may need to accomodate the scope and if it works that way too. You may then feel that a larger scope with just an Argo system would suffice.

Mental.
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Old 23-08-2012, 01:25 PM
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Thanks Mental,

Yes the 12 inch is a big beast, and I'm not the biggest of fellows, but I think separating the base from scope for transport should be fine. I know the flextube goto scopes detach quite easily from the base.

But size certainly is a consideration and I think 12" is definitely the largest I can go.

The goto dob is starting to sound more attractive as it seems to be getting good reviews.

Dave.
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Old 23-08-2012, 01:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davewaldo View Post
Thanks Mental,

Yes the 12 inch is a big beast, and I'm not the biggest of fellows, but I think separating the base from scope for transport should be fine. I know the flextube goto scopes detach quite easily from the base.

But size certainly is a consideration and I think 12" is definitely the largest I can go.

The goto dob is starting to sound more attractive as it seems to be getting good reviews.

Dave.
I have the SW 12" Flex Tube Goto Dob that you are considering. One of the other BAS members as the 14" Goto version. I can move transport my 12" without any help but the 14" tends to take two people to move it with ease.

I am content with the 12" primary. It is no SDM but the mirror performs well and experienced observers have been pleased with the views on offer. The Goto system is satisfactory. Like Satchmo, I tend to 'drag' it to the target and them let the Goto system track the object.

Recently I was lucky enough to borrow some TV Ethos EP's and was able to make out the 'fried eggs' of Eta Carina. To see so much detail through those superb EP's still amazes me today. The image has been burnt into my memory and my humble EP's are no longer up to the task.
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Old 23-08-2012, 02:19 PM
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I know the flextube goto scopes detach quite easily from the base.
Cool,

Sounds like someone's getting a new toy soon,

Oh, but that's gonna mean more clouds for the rest of us, Not cool, Dave...
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Old 23-08-2012, 02:56 PM
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I must admit that, in my tentative pursuit of astrophotography - a path on which I am only just starting - I have often asked myself if I'm doing the right thing. The cost is one hurdle, but it's the time involved and the long learning curve as well that I'm coming to realise is a large hurdle in itself - working full time, I'm having second thoughts about whether I'll have enough time. I bought an EQ6Pro way back so as to offer an eventual upgrade path to astrophotography, and I've enjoyed the EQ mount's accuracy and tech - very snazzy - but the set up time for visual is ... well ... a PITA.

I still like visual astronomy, though, and am keen to increase aperture from the current 8". If I decide to forget about AP, then I'd sell off my current gear and get a SW 12" GoTo Dob ... in fact, I've been looking at dobs in stores recently and doing a lot of spec comparisons. Hmmmm .... sounds like my subconcious might have made up its mind already.

For someone like me ... middle-aged but reasonably fit and healthy ... the 12" GoTo Dob looks like the "sweet spot" for visual astronomy. And I think it just fits in my car.

Since we're talking about dobs: The 14" SW Dob has knobs that allow quick assembly/disassembly of the base - it breaks down into 4 pieces - base, left upright, right upright, and front upright - which makes transport easier. The 10" Dob definitely can't do that even with tools as not all the screws are easily accessible once assembled (AFAIK). However, from what I can see, the 12" SW Dob base has such screws (14 of them) that are all accessible from the top/sides. Does someone know whether these can be replaced with aftermarket knobs to make base assembly/disassembly into 4 parts easy, just like the 14"?

(@Dave: I figure this is useful for you too, hence tacking onto your thread).
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Old 23-08-2012, 04:14 PM
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Dave I have the 16" goto SW version and it's setup as a roll out roll in scope.The 12" would be about as large as you would want for set up pull down.The alignment is pretty good with 2star.Ihave a battery pack sitting on the swivel base to avoid chord wrap.Balance is important with my scope and I have tightened the alt az clutch bolt.I don,t think this will bea problem with the smaller scope however if using a heavy eyepiece I,d balance it at the rear with a counterweight.With these SWs you can also slew to an object then manually move the scope around the area and not lose alignment .Remember these come with a 12 month warranty so use it heaps at the start to see if there are any bugs.Good luck with your purchase .
Regards Derek
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Old 23-08-2012, 07:17 PM
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Well thank you everyone! Yes I am starting to lean towards the SW 12" dob

Stu: You say the goto is "satisfactory". Care to elaborate? What problems have you noted? Also I have a few nice EPs so I'm keen to see what the views are like through the flextube.

Mental: Yep, you've probably noticed my liquidation sale happening in the IceTrade section. Eitherway, I'll be getting some new scope

Astro_Bot: You bring up some good points, I've also been wondering if the hex bolts could be exchanged for knobs to make the base collapsable. I don't see why not, but finding the knobs may be tricky.

I looked briefly at the Orion 12" goto dob online today, similar price as the SW but has a collapsable base. But its heavier (almost 10kg) and is a 8 truss design which is more fiddly.

Well the search continues but the SW 12" is on the short list!

Thanks guys.
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Old 23-08-2012, 08:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davewaldo View Post
Stu: You say the goto is "satisfactory". Care to elaborate? What problems have you noted? Also I have a few nice EPs so I'm keen to see what the views are like through the flextube.
The base needs to be as level as possible or the Goto will start to miss its target as the scope slews to different parts of the sky and as the viewing session continues the error increases. This problem is minimised or eliminated by careful setup on level ground and accurate positioning of the alignment stars in the field of view.

Recently my scope has become mildly inaccurate no matter how careful I am with the setup routine. It is a minor problem that I work around for the moment but I will have to get it looked at. It is starting to cause some frustration. Luckily the scope is covered by a 5 year warranty and Sky Watcher are good with their customer service.
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Old 23-08-2012, 08:10 PM
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One additional concern regarding swapping the hex bolts for knobs on the 12" SW base is whether or not these hex bolts go into captive nuts (or some metal equivalent) or if they are basically just big screws going into the chipboard. If the latter you wouldn't want to be removing them often as you'd eventually ruin the wood.

Anyone with one of these 12" goto dob bases know if these bolts go into captive nuts? Stu?

Dave.
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Old 23-08-2012, 08:44 PM
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One additional concern regarding swapping the hex bolts for knobs on the 12" SW base is whether or not these hex bolts go into captive nuts (or some metal equivalent) or if they are basically just big screws going into the chipboard. If the latter you wouldn't want to be removing them often as you'd eventually ruin the wood.

Anyone with one of these 12" goto dob bases know if these bolts go into captive nuts? Stu?

Dave.
Good news here. The Hex socket head cap screws that hold the base together all screw into an embeded threaded captive sleeve arrangement.

The 3 'feet' are screwed directly into the base, as are some of the minor accessories. This is fine as long as they are not ripped out of the chipboard. I have not had any problems as yet.

I can fit the base into the back seat of our Astra Sedan. It is a bit tight but it is just possible to get the base through the door without bumping anything. The OTA fits into the boot and I use the original dense packing foam to hold it in position.
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Old 23-08-2012, 08:54 PM
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Great, thanks Stu! So it sounds like we could just swap the hex bolts for knobs and make the base collapsable. Would help for car space when you need to fit more than just astro gear, ie camping.
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Old 23-08-2012, 09:05 PM
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I have the 10" version of the SW goto dobbie and I love it.

Mine has a great sense of slap stick LOL. When it slews to an object , it stops, you put your eye to the ep, then it give one last big slew and beeps that it's arrived, I get bopped in the forehead at least once each session.
(it can't be my fault that I don't wait for it to tell me it's locked onto the target)
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Old 23-08-2012, 09:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Shark Bait View Post
The base needs to be as level as possible or the Goto will start to miss its target as the scope slews to different parts of the sky and as the viewing session continues the error increases. This problem is minimised or eliminated by careful setup on level ground and accurate positioning of the alignment stars in the field of view.

Recently my scope has become mildly inaccurate no matter how careful I am with the setup routine. It is a minor problem that I work around for the moment but I will have to get it looked at. It is starting to cause some frustration. Luckily the scope is covered by a 5 year warranty and Sky Watcher are good with their customer service.
Good to know, thanks mate. I didn't realise SW had a 5 year warranty!
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Old 23-08-2012, 09:06 PM
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So I'm thinking a skywatcher flextube dob with Argonavis.
12" Flextube - $1300
Argo + Kit - $900
Hi Dave,

Gary Kopff here from Wildcard Innovations.

Great to hear you are returning to visual astronomy.

An Argo Navis plus Sky Watcher kit is only AUD795.23 inc GST plus postage
at the time of writing.

Quote:
Can I realistically expect to dump my scope down, 2 star align and be off and running?
Yes. It is that easy.

Drop me an email or give me a phone call if you have any questions.

Best Regards

Gary Kopff
Managing Director
Wildcard Innovations Pty. Ltd.
20 Kilmory Place, Mount Kuring-Gai
NSW. 2080. Australia
Phone +61-2-9457-9049
Fax +61-2-9457-9593
sales@wildcard-innovations.com.au
http://www.wildcard-innovations.com.au
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Old 23-08-2012, 09:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davewaldo View Post
Thanks Mark, yes but my problem (perceived problem) with the Skywatcher GOTO system is that the pointing accuracy will not be great, and its not known how robust/reliable this system is.

I didn't realise you could just push the scope around once set up though, does that not ruin the star alignment?
No the skywatcher GOTO is a closed loop system with independent encoders as well as the ones on the servo motors. Once you have done initial alignment the scope knows where it is pointing at all times. The difference from the servocat system is that the Skywatcher has slip clutches that allow manual pushing that seems to work quite well.

I found pointing accuracy adequate but clearly the more you calibrate it to work in the area of sky you are working the better it points.

A hybrid solution might be to use the drag n'track side of the stock drive for tracking and an Argo for accurate aid finding objects and all the joys of its searcheable database.
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Old 23-08-2012, 10:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Satchmo View Post
I had a chance to use a 12" flextube with GOTO for a night at the SPSP and I've got to say that it was the `drag n' track aspect that I loved the most.

GOTO seemed to work well enough but for most objects i simply pushed the scope manually onto the object and it tracked automatically - no fiddling with clutches as you do with a Servocat. A tracking dob is a great thing- and tracking that is completely transparent is an even greater thing

So if I had a $2500 budget I would go for GOTO Skywatcher 12" and a light shroud.
+1

I've only had a go with this scope but it was very accurate - once trained - and if I had a spare 2500 beer vouchers, I would happily buy one.
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Old 24-08-2012, 06:59 AM
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Good to know, thanks mate. I didn't realise SW had a 5 year warranty!
Best confirm the 5 year warranty. It may have been a sales promotion limited to scopes purchased within a certain time frame.
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