Equipment

Astronomy equipment seems to be an intensely personal experience, born out of a number of key factors: budget, ease of setup/portability, target objects (i.e. planets vs deep space objects), user patience, whether astrophotography is a requirement and so on. However I’ve also found, since I started in Spring 2014, that equipment seems to be less of an end-point and more of a journey inasmuch as my perception of future needs has changed; some items become defunct whilst other purchases seem to become necessary … some perhaps should not have been bought at all !

In this light, I hope you find this roster of my current equipment interesting:

Scope:

Skywatcher 200p with low-profile focuser
Not too much to say here - I think I was always going to get an 8" Newtonian as the tube. I did consider 10" but concluded that this would add too much to the weight of the overall kit.

Have only just upgraded my focuser to the Skywatcher Low Profile and this was a revelation - so much smoother and more flexible than the stock item. I was considering the Moonlite kit but the extra cost was unnecessary.
Mount:

EQ5 equatorial with upgraded GOTO motors
Started by considering a Dobsonian mount but was worried about i) Alt/Az tracking and ii) physically getting into position to view through the eyepiece (I'm 6'5" ...).

Elected to go with the standard EQ5 in the Skywatcher Explorer package. With the benefit of hindsight (and now being far more interested in astrophotography than I thought), I wish I had gone for the HEQ5 mount - this may be a future purchase.

I don't think I ever really considered going for GoTo tracking and I'm glad I didn't. I enjoy the challenge of star-hopping and the thrill of capturing a difficult target. I very rarely use the mount's setting circles - only when I really have to.
Eyepieces:

Baader Hyperion 31mm

Vixen NPL - 30mm

Celestron X-Cel LX - 18mm, 9mm and 5mm

Celestron x2 Barlow
The stock Skywatcher eyepieces are fine for starters, particularly the 25mm; I'm less of a fan of the 10mm.

Moving to the Celestron matched set seemed logical at the time and, at the price, they're great value. However, they turned out to be a stepping stone as I've moved to the X-Cel LX's which I'm very happy with.

With the benefit of hindsight, I should just have moved from the Skywatcher stock straight to the X-Cel LX missing out the matched set and the Vixen (however the aluminium case is quite helpful).

My ideal set would perhaps be: 25mm, 18mm, 7mm and 2x Barlow.
Red Dot Finder:

Telrad
For me, some sort of zero-magnification support for my stock finder was a no-brainer. The Telrad has received good reviews and I don't regret buying it for one minute.

Absolutely recommended as a Day 1 purchase.
Cameras:

Canon 600D (aka Rebel T3i in the US) at prime focus

ZWO ASI290MM CMOS at prime focus

I started with a Nikon D3200 that we already owned.

However, Canon's seem to be better supported by astrosoftware and it was an easy decision to get a Far Eastern grey import of a 600D body. Not too expensive either.

ZWO are currently putting out a lovely range of CMOS cameras ... but they are a bit pricey compared to a DSLR.
Software:

SkySafari 4 Plus (iPad)
Skytools 3
Stellarium
Cartes du Ciel
RSpec - for spectrometry

Nebulosity 4
Autostakkert
Registax 6
Firecapture
Photoshop CS2
My iPad always comes outside with me and I'm very happy with Sky Safari. It was very good value.

Skytools is a bit pricey but I find its capabilities in organising what is likely to be visible of an evening (taking into account the phase of the Moon!) and its planning and logging most helpful.

Stellarium is very helpful for visualising the skies and for talking through things with non-astronomers - it's also free!
Binoculars:

Helios FieldMaster 10x50
An astronomer needs a pair and these work well for me.

I'm not a dedicated fan - I find holding them steady to be a bit of a faff - but they do work well for comets and for the International Space Station in particular.
Seat:

Skywatcher Observing Chair
I've heard it said that a steady seat adds one magnitude to your visibility and I can believe this.

However I don't use the seat as much as I expected - I seem to work in a more animated manner so standing is preferred. However, when I settle down for a lengthy period on one object, or photographing, then the adjustable seat is welcome.

Received wisdom is that an ironing seat could be just as good an investment and I'd be happy to go along with this.

Author: © Martin Veasey 2015 – 2019
www.orionwatching.org

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