Equipment Reviews
Celestron NexStar 8SE Goto Telescope By Ronny Kelly PDF Print E-mail

Nexstar 8SE

Celestron NexStar 8SE Goto Telescope.
I bought this telescope second hand mid 2012. It was totally standard except for the Hyperion 18-24 mm zoom lens and the Dielectric 90° mirror. (I believe the previous owner dropped the original.)
Firstly, the Hyperion. Truthfully, it's the only lens I think I will ever need. I have a half dozen other lenses and I've popped them on now and again but nothing improves the view from the Hyperion.

This is a very easy telescope to assemble and set up. Going on advice from the seller I used the two star auto-align method. I entered my co-ordinates, date and time and my scope aligned perfectly. Here's where my problems started. My telescope is just not that accurate.( I say my telescope because most other reviews I have read rave about the accuracy.) After alignment I always go to M31 which is the easiest thing to see but my telescope never hits it. A bit of roaming around and I can get it fairly quickly but isn't the point of a goto telescope to go to an object?

Ok, so I can find planets easily and M31 but because so many deep space objects are very faint I would often spend a long time trying to find them. It would be fair to say that sometimes the telescope was fairly close and sometimes it was quite a bit away. Still, it didn't make goto easy.

After spending many nights trying to improve accuracy I concluded that I was in the small percentage of people who had a telescope which was not that accurate. So, how do I solve this problem then? I knew I needed to increase my field of view so I fitted a Celestron travel scope to the side and because this is a fairly low powered scope the field of view is probably 4 or 5 times that of the NexStar. Now I simply align my scope, goto my object, centre it in my travel scope and there it is in my main scope. This remains simply the best thing I have ever done to my NexStar.

As a side note the optics of the Celestron travel scope are superb. Ok, so the magnification isn't great I have seen the fuzziness of M1 through this little scope.
As soon as I had sorted the goto out I began to enjoy the Celestron NexStar. The views are simply superb from this telescope. Nothing much more to say than that. Globular clusters are "wow" objects and Jupiter and Saturn are both tremendous. I have seen many DSOs with this telescope and I never cease to be amazed with the views.

I observe quite often from my back garden in the middle of Portrush and I am still amazed by the views I get.
Collimation is very easy and I've only had to do that once.
There was also a GPS locator with the scope which means you don't have to enter coordinates. I still do though!

I have made a few improvements to the scope.
  1. As well as the travel scope I put a green laser pointer on the side for two reasons. Firstly, when I find an object I pop the laser on so I can see where it is. Slowly but surely I am learning where things are. Secondly others in my observing group can follow the laser to find the object.
  2. I also fitted an attachment so that I could mount my camera on the scope.
  3. A dew shield, heater and controller for the heater.

Now the down side.

  1. Vibration when focussing. Because this is a single fork telescope there is a lot of vibration at high magnification.
  2. Wind. Also because of the single fork issue this is also a problem. I do a lot of viewing by the sea and high winds cause problems.
  3. Dew. A big problem with this scope and a dew shield and heater are a must.
  4. The red dot finder is quite poor quality. It works intermittently and I intend to replace it with a reticule finder.

Extra bits to buy.

  1. Dew shield.
  2. Heated strap.
  3. A Moon filter because this scope is so good it will hurt your eyes without one.
  4. Nebula filter, if DSOs are your thing!
Finally. I bought a Celestron Power tank and found that the cigarette lighter popped out continually causing me to lose power so I stripped it down and attached it to the positive and negative screws. Far better!

In conclusion this is an exceptionally well built telescope. It is big enough to see everything in Turn Left at Orion but not so big that it can't be carried as a whole. It is very easy to align and in general the goto is very accurate.

How to make a very sensitive jam jar magnetometer by Robert Cobain PDF Print E-mail

Hi all,

Just thought I would write up the instructions for making a very sensitive jam jar magnetometer. The plans are based on instructions found on the internet, but it was so long ago, I can't remember from which site.

These plans will make a very very sensitive magnetometer. This magnetometer will go crazy if someone downstairs sets up an ironing board, or if a car drives near your house (within 50m or so!). If the car parks, the local magnetic field is permanently displaced and the magnet will not return to its original position until the car leaves. Turning a TV off nearby causes it to move a lot. Sometimes you will see unexplained magentic activity. It will also show fluctuations in the earth's magnetic field which are most obvious during geomagnetic storms.

(Strong laser for illustrative purpose only!)

Telrad Finder Review PDF Print E-mail

Hitting the bull's eye with a Telrad

Have you purchased your favourite astronomical magazine for this month yet? I am sure you are familiar with the vast amount of pages devoted to telescope accessories and have made a mental list of all the gear you would like to purchase in the future to compliment your astronomical observing which brings me to the ‘point’ of this article. Having a good telescope is one thing however being able to point it swiftly and accurately to a star or galaxy in the night sky is another matter entirely.

Armagh Observatory Meteor Station PDF Print E-mail

Unlike its sister disciplines within astrophysics and planetary science, meteor astronomy has traditionally been the domain of the visual observer. Large databases of visual meteor observations, meticulously calibrated and compiled via the “Mk I eyeball” detector, have formed the basis of scientific studies of meteor storms, variation of meteor showers from year to year, sporadic meteor statistics and so on. Ultimately however, camera technology would have the last word.

Review of Strathspey 25x100 binoculars PDF Print E-mail



Derrick McCourt and his Strathspey 25x100s

I received the above binoculars in April 2005 from John Burns of Strathspey Binoculars, Scotland, and he had delivered them before I had paid for them. There is not much change from £1,000. I admire the trust.

The Astronomical Log Book PDF Print E-mail


So how long have you been into astronomy? Take a quiet minute and reflect back over your observing career. Do you remember the excitement of getting your first telescope? The first time you saw the rings of Saturn? What about those spectacular Auroras, Meteor showers, Fireballs, that great Comet or that naked eye Sunspot you seen as the Sun set into a murky western sky on a gorgeous Summer evening? Better yet, did you keep a written record of these observations? Astronomy is not just about observing, it’s an experience, a life style but more than that it is a collection of priceless memories.

Setting up a meteor observing station by Robert Cobain PDF Print E-mail

Robert Cobain from Bangor runs an automatic meteor observing station from his house and has kindly taken the time to tell us of his observations and his setup. This is truly a fantastic way to record meteor showers and to capture bright meteors even when there is partial cloud cover. Robert has also setup a website, MeteorLogNI which automatically displays his observations each evening and these observations are used by the Armagh Observatory which also has an observing station for distance and altitude estimates of meteors.

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