President’s letter

Original article appears in GuideStar September, 2016.

by Rene Gedaly

ART IN ASTRONOMY: MEMBER PHOTO GALLERIES One of the things you miss as a website lurker is the personal photo galleries of HAS members. The post-processing required of the imager reminds me too much of a day job. Still, it doesn’t keep me from appreciating the artistry of many of our members. If you’re a member, log in and see what your clubmates are doing. If you’re not a member, dues are pro-rated your first year, so now’s a great time to try us out. Click the Join HAS tab on the website.

HooksAirport.jpgOBSERVE SELFISHLY. JOIN AN OUTREACH EVENT That’s right. By giving others a look through your scope, you’ve carved out precious time for your own observing. It attracts the community, sure, but it also keeps your own skills sharp. Or maybe you don’t know your way around the skies or don’t have your own telescope. Show up and look through what’s already there and find out which type of telescope you do like. It’s like speed dating the loaner telescope program and the scopes are lined up for you.

I STILL THINK BIGGER IS BETTER, BUT... Aperture fever, the bane of the amateur astronomer! I made a short list of candidates and then decided my next scope, my last scope, would either be a 14.5” or 18” Webster truss telescope with Zambuto optics. The Argonavis and Servocat thrown in for good measure.  

WHAT DID I GET INSTEAD? A 7.5” SKY-WATCHER MAK-NEWT. AND I LOVE IT. You’re no doubt familiar with the Schmidt-Cassegrain design, although my dentist recently told me he was interested in astronomy and asked if I had a reflector or a refractor, the two designs he knew about. You may also know about the Maksutov-Cassegrain if you are a Questar devotee. Or what many assume to be a Schmidt-Cass from Meade. But the Maksutov-Newtonian design is one I hadn’t come across yet. Turns out the David Levy Comet Hunter is of that design.

Optical layout of a typical Maksutov-Newtonian. Note the meniscus corrector lens. The primary mirror is spherical and the secondary is attached directly to the corrector—no diffraction spikes from spider vanes

Now, my favorite go to scope is a 90 mm refractor on a simple tripod with an alt-az, non-computerized mount. “Go to” in this case being the scope I go to most often. The optics are superb and it’s easy to transport and set up. The Zambuto optics on the Webster would be more than a match, but traveling with such a large reflector, who was I kidding? Still, I wanted to reach farther than 3.5 inches could send me but not sacrifice the wide contrast-y views of the apochromat. Could a Maksutov-Newtonian really give refractor-like contrast and widefield views at a much better price point for the aperture? The Mak-Newt is not a widely known or manufactured design. But definitely worth a look as the short answer is Yes. Oh, Yes.

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