Sunday, November 17, 2013


Through a Glass Not so Darkly

Okay, where was we, muchachos? I’d just finished the third night of the 2013 Deep South Regional Star Gaze, which was the first clear night after a couple of days of stormy weather. Friday night was damp, y’all, real damp, but I got a lot accomplished. In about five hours, I did 77 Arp galaxies and 20 showpiece objects besides. When I finally drifted off in our room in the Lodge at 3:30 in the a.m., I was feeling good.

I felt even better when I awoke after nine Saturday to skies that were, if anything, clearer and bluer than they had been Friday. The air was also a whole lot drier. It was slightly breezy and it felt as if the humidity had dropped by double digits. A quick run down the field before breakfast was illuminating, campers. If I hadn’t known otherwise, I’d a-thought it had rained; everything—scopes, canopies, tables—was wet. Friday night’s ground fog, the remnants of it anyhow, was still hanging on but was soon burning off and I didn't think it would put in a return appearance Saturday evening.

After breakfast, where the Feliciana Retreat Center staff kicked it up yet another notch, adding pancakes to the grits, bacon, sausage, eggs, and biscuits, I had a couple of things to consider. First was what to do with myself all the livelong day. Second was what to do with the night that was coming. The former turned out not to be much of a problem. Once I was done with breakfast and had lingered over a few cups of Joe, it was near-about noontime.

The second question was a bit more difficult to answer. I’d covered most of the Arp galaxies that would be well placed before the wee, wee hours, so I didn't believe I’d be able to devote a second night to Operation Arp. Originally, the plan had been to do some further testing of the remarkable Mallincam Junior Pro. I’d image some of the same objects I’d got with the Xtreme, at least the showpieces, and see how Junior stacked up against big sis. That was before Miss Dorothy won her telescope, though.

As I told y’all last week, Miss D. won a lovely new scope, an Explore Scientific AR102 refractor, at the Friday afternoon raffle. It sure looked good, but I had a powerful hankering to see how good it would be to look through, not just at. I mean, y’all, do you really think I’d let a brand new scope sit idle on a clear night? Junior would get his turn under dark skies down in Chiefland after Christmas if not before. Tonight we would go visual—with a freaking refractor.

It was still damp Saturday a.m...
As you probably know, Uncle Rod just ain’t a refractor kinda guy. Oh, I’ve got a couple of ‘em. Small ones. 80mm is the largest aperture lens-scope in my stable. And those little guys get used infrequently at best. As I have said before, Unk’s refractor-phobia had its origin in my first look through what was supposed to be the wonderscope of all wonderscopes, a Unitron.

If you came of age as an amateur astronomer in the 60s or 70s, I don’t have to tell you what a Unitron was, but for you sprouts, Unitrons were gorgeous long-tubed achromatic refractors that graced the advertising pages of Sky and Telescope every single month. When the company’s Christmas ad appeared in the December 1965 issue of Sky and ‘Scope, Unk, like a thousand other space-crazy Boomer kids, couldn’t help but put a Unitron on his Christmas list.

Not that I had a dog’s chance in hell of getting one. The basic Unitron, a 2.4-inch (60mm) alt-az job, went for one-hundred and twenty-five fraking dollars in the mid-60s. Which was somewhat more than the average for a week’s wages back then. At least I could dream. 

Unitrons were the very stuff of dreams, and I spent plenty of lazy afternoons dreaming about what I would be able to see through Unitron’s 3-inch Photo-equatorial, which was the one I really wanted. It was a Unitron, so I naturally assumed it—or even the 2.4-inch—would show far more than my 4-inch Palomar Junior Newtonian or even my “realistic” dream scope, a Criterion RV-6 Dynascope.

Seemed like back then every neighborhood had a Little Rich Kid in residence. We did, and he was not a bad feller, but he and I had had a bad falling out and didn't speak much.  Nevertheless, when he cajoled his old man into buying him a Unitron Model 114 alt-azimuth 60mm, I wasn’t too proud to cadge a look one night when I spied him setting up in his backyard.

Those thrilling days of yesteryear...
The first quarter Moon was up good and high, and I suppose I expected Copernicus to look like the Ranger VII pictures that had been in My Weekly Reader. Boy, would my buddies in our Backyard Astronomy Society envy me when I told ‘em I’d observed with a UNITRON. I could already see the envious look on ol’ Wayne Lee’s face. Eye to eyepiece… “Hey, why is there only one freaking focus knob?” And…and—what a disappointment.

What I saw was a yellow-orange Moon that was OK, but didn't look near as sharp as it did in my Pal Junior at a similar magnification. When Bubba applied his highest power eyepiece, the lunar surface didn't rush up to meet me like I was making a descent with the Destination Moon rocketship, it mushed out. I somehow managed to force out a “Great scope!” or two and headed home to my lowly Edmund as fast as my legs would carry me.

My disappointment in the little Unitron stayed with me. Now, before you refractor troops get all huffy, yes, I know a good refractor is capable of excellent performance. And a good apochromatic refractor capable of astounding things. Hell, I’ll even grant that that 60mm Unitron probably could have surprised under the right conditions in the right hands. And yet...and disappointment with that pretty little telescope stuck with me.

And now a refractor had come to stay with Unk and Miss Dorothy. I had no idea what to expect. It was bigger than any refractor I’d owned. Four fraking inches, same aperture John Mallas used to make the observations for his classic 1960s columns and his book, The Messier Album. I loved and still love that book, and John M. had obviously seen a lot with a 4-inch refractor, so I’d reserve judgment on the one sitting in its box under our tailgating canopy until it was under the stars.

First step was getting the newun on the mount. Shortly after D. received it, I’d checked out the dovetail sitchy-ation and had determined there’d be no problem mounting AR on VX. It came with a nice pair of rings and a Vixen compatible dovetail, and would work out of the box with the VX—if I could balance it. I’d only brought along one counterweight, one 11-pound counterweight. That’s enough to balance the C8, but I wasn’t sure about the AR102. I had almost packed a second weight, but hadn’t. Why? I had an epiphany the night before the star party: “Maybe I should bring another weight, we are gonna win that refractor. Naw, might jinx it.” Lucky guess or an instance of Unk’s POWERFUL REMOTE VIEWING SENSE? You be the judge.

On the VX...
Turned  out I needn't have worried about balance. Eased Mrs. Peel off the VX respectfully, and put the new girl in her place.  At 10.4-pounds, the refractor is actually lighter than the Edge 800 (sorry Emma). She was easy to balance in declination by sliding the dovetail a little forward. I could have also moved the AR farther forward in her rings if I’d had to. To balance in R.A., I actually had to slide the counterweight slightly up the shaft from where it had been to balance the Edge. Looked like we was go.

I felt a little guilty about relegating the Edge 800 to her case, since she had performed so brilliantly the night before, not just capturing the Arps, but bringing back surprising detail in ‘em. But I figgered she’d get over it. Unk had new scope fever, and the new baby’s looks were just sending his temperature ever higher.

To start with, the tube was a gleaming white. I’ve loved orange, black, and blue tubes over the years, but white just seems right for a scope. My Palomar Junior’s tube is white, my RV-6’s tube is white, and now our current scopes, my Edge 800 and Dorothy’s AR102, have white tubes; it’s like a return to those thrilling days of yesteryear. I might add that the finish on the Explore Scientific is flawless and the Explore decal on the dew shield is attractive and professional looking.

Ah, yes, the dewcap. That’s the one thing on the scope that makes it stand out. It is considerably larger than the dew shields on similar aperture refractors, and seems bigger than it needs to be, even given the scope’s somewhat oversize objective cell. Once I had the dew controller adjusted correctly for the night’s conditions, the larger diameter of the shield didn't seem to hurt anything, though.  As my buddy Jon said, it just seems to make the scope even more impressive looking. What it actually looks a lot like is the old LXD 75 – 55 refractors from Meade. That’s okay. I always liked the cut of their jibs.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about this OTA is the focuser, a hefty 2-speed Crayford in a hefty tailpiece assembly with two large and hefty (that seems to be the operative word for the AR) aluminum knobs. Looked good, but I couldn’t help being skeptical. I’ve seen plenty of focusers on import scopes that looked good, but worked bad: rough, prone to slippage, impossible to adjust correctly. Only use under the stars would tell which way this one would go. The focuser uses a compression ring impinged on by three big screws, not just setscrews, to hold the diagonal in place.

Accessories? They are surprisingly lavish. There’s a 50mm finder with a gleaming white tube that sports nice dual crosshairs. The only down check with it is its mount. Oh, it’s nicely done, I reckon, but like most of those that ship with scopes these days, it uses the two-screws-and-spring-loaded-tensioner paradigm. I prefer three adjustment screws per ring, as that seems to hold alignment better. I guess this is the current fashion with Chinese scope makers. The Edge 800’s finder bracket also has a spring tensioner-thingie.

Also impressive is the star diagonal I found in the box. It’s a 2-inch job, a nice HEFTY 2-inch job, marked “99% reflectivity.” It uses a compression ring to hold the eyepiece and the sides are an attractive carbon fiber material (that’s what they look like, anyhow).

The legendary FRC pot-roast...
Finally, there is the tube rings/dovetail. Again, “hefty,” with nice oversized knobs and a precision manufactured Vixen compatible dovetail that slid into the saddle on the VX mount easily and was not too tight nor too loose. Also cool is that the “top” side of the rings opposite the dovetail is formed by a carrying handle that made it easy to get the OTA on the mount.

The refractor was on the VX and looking oh-so-fine. Miss D. was thrilled to receive many admiring compliments about her pretty, new scope, and she and me could hardly wait for first light. Before that could happen, though, we had to get through the tail end of the afternoon. I spent a little time reading (more military SF), but the biggest event was the last raffle of the star party. Naturally, again, Unk didn’t win nuttin’, but my friend and observing companion, Jon Ellard, almost unbelievably, won the second AR102. He was just walking on air about that. Looked like it would be a dadgum refractor party on the old DSRSG observing field Saturday night!

Not long after the raffle, it was time for supper. I believe my favorite on the FRC menu is the pot-roast—the menu remains purty much the same spring and fall year after year—but the brisket is a close second. Tender…smoked to perfection…excellent sides…the salad bar…gallons of that southern elixir, sweet tea. What more could a hungry hillbilly ask?

Then, darkness was upon us. D. and I bundled up, since it was to be considerably colder than it had been the previous evening. Friday, it got down to maybe the upper forties—though the humidity made it feel colder than that—on this night it was forecast to hit the upper thirties. That’s verging on “too cold” for this good old boy, especially since I’d be out under the stars at the eyepiece of Dorothy’s refractor, not under the canopy next to a heater in front of a computer and a video monitor.

Jon with new friend...
Anyhoo, the mount set up was exactly the same as the night before. I hadn't managed to move or bump the tripod, so I didn't have to worry about polar alignment. Since I didn't say anything about it last week, I suppose I should mention I controlled the mount with NexRemote, Celestron’s program that takes the place of the hand control. While I’d be observing visually and not sitting at the PC, I like being able to use  a wireless Wingman game pad as an HC thanks to NexRemote. One less cable to get tangled up in. NR works just as well with the VX as it does with my other Celestron mounts, albeit with one hiccup.

If your telescope mount features one of Celestron’s “PC” ports, there is no need to worry about the hardware hand controller at all. It can say in its case or at home. You plug the laptop directly into the PC port via Celestron’s “programming cable.” While the CG5 doesn't have a PC Port, I can provide one for it with it with their (no longer sold) Aux Port Accessory, which plugs into the hand control socket. 

Unfortunately, the Aux Port Accessory doesn't work with the VX. That means I have to connect NexRemote to the mount through the port on the base of the hardware hand control. You don’t have to do anything with the hardware HC; it just provides a way of connecting to the mount. Wish I didn't have to fool with it, but it is not a big deal, I reck.

Soon as it was dark, I got the mount goto aligned. That was no more difficult than it had been the previous night, or shouldn't have been. I had forgotten how much I hate using a “real” finderscope for alignments. Mrs. Peel has a Rigel Quickfinder on her, and my other most used C8, Celeste, has a Telrad. The AR102’s finder is a pretty one and the optics are good, but I find it much easier to use a zero-power job. That, combined with the fact that we were real excited and that it was just barely dark enough to see alignment stars, caused me to miss Fomalhaut when I was doing calibration stars, aligning on a nearby sparkler by mistake. I got an “align successful” message nevertheless, but the go-tos were not as good as they normally are.

The Happy Hand Grenade...
Nevertheless, everything I requested was in the field of the refractor using the 16-mm 100-degree Zhumell eyepiece, the Happy Hand Grenade. What was our first light target? M13, of course. Yeah, it was probably a little low here in the first week of November, and it really wasn’t dark enough, but with it in the sky, what else would we go-to first?

My impression after Dorothy had had a good long first look with her new scope? How tiny the stars were. Yeah, I know, people always talk about stars being tiny in a refractor, but most of the reason for that is that stars naturally look “smaller” at the lower powers you get with a medium aperture/medium fast refractor.  The AR102 is a 4-inch f/6.5, so the HHG was producing a measly 41X. Still, I gotta say them stars looked mighty little and sharp. I was also extremely impressed at how many were resolved in the cluster. M13’s core was grainy, and there were dozens of eensy-beansy sparklers around the periphery when I exercised averted vision. Considerably more stars than I see with my 4.5-inch StarBlast Newtonian.

How was the field edge? In the Happy Hand Grenade, stars were acceptable. Not perfect, but okay, and not much worse than in my f/10 SCT. In the Ethoses, they were very good indeed. There is field curvature with this relatively fast achromat, but I never found it annoying. I didn’t notice any other optical problems of any kind. Collimation appeared to be bang-on.

The view of M13 was nice, and was considerably better when we switched to the 8mm Ethos (83X), but busting globs is not the strength of a 4-inch wide-field refractor. You go to one for, well, wide fields. While we could, we headed south to the rapidly sinking wonders of Sagittarius and company. They were all tremendous despite their low altitude. The Eagle Nebula in M16 showed up easily; the Lagoon was its purty old self despite being way down in the southwest. The real winner, though, was M17, the Swan Nebula. It looked great, especially with the help of a Lumicon 2-inch UHC filter, in every eyepiece we tried, but for me was best in the Happy Hand Grenade. The Swan was a little small in that ocular, but not too small, and it was swimming in a huge, crazy-rich sea of (yes) tiny stars.

We did plenty more showpieces in this early part of the evening, including M22 before it sank out of sight. It’s loose and it’s big and if you want a globular that’s well-resolved and just looks good in a smaller scope, that is it. M20 was easy to see and showed its "petals," a pretty good accomplishment at this time of year. M31? Freaking amazing with at least one dark lane evident. When we'd finished with the Andromeda Nebula, Miss D. was feeling chilled, and both of us were still a little concerned about her “spell” the day before. After a quick look at NGC 457, the E.T. Cluster, who waved her goodnight, she left the field for the Lodge and left her beautiful new scope in Unk’s eager hands.

What would I look at? Now that I’d calmed down a little—first light was done and I had assured myself that D’s scope didn't just work, but worked Real Good—I thought a test might be in order. The AR102 is an achromat, and like that entire breed, it suffers from chromatic aberration, “excess” color around bright objects. You can reduce chromatic aberration in an achromat by using objectives with slow focal ratios. Unfortunately, the AR102’s objective, an f/6.5, is not slow enough to do much to eliminate excess color. To reduce chromatic aberration to low levels with a 4-inch objective, you have to go all the way to f/15, the focal ratio of John Mallas’ Unitron. There would be chromatic aberration. The question was “How bad?”

Certainly, I hadn’t noticed purple around any of the objects we’d looked at thus far. But I wouldn’t expect it with deep sky objects and dimmer stars. Where it really shows up is with the Moon, the planets, and bright stars, stars brighter than about magnitude 2. The Moon wasn’t available, and Venus was now behind a tree, but Vega was riding high. Mashed the buttons to get me to “Named Stars,” and punched up “Vega.”

Alpha Lyrae in the field, I took a critical look with all three of my standard eyepieces, the HHG, the 13-mm Ethos, and the 8-mm Ethos. Verdict? Oh, there was color, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d feared. It was noticeable, but when I was critically focused it was genuinely unobtrusive, a small violet halo. No doubt Venus would have been a purple-people-eater horror, but I don’t look at Venus much, and when I do, I don’t use a 4-inch wide-field scope to do it.

Whew! Glad we got that settled. What now? More wide-field beauties was the answer, but before I did that, I decided to do a new go-to alignment. I got the correct stars centered this time, including that rascal Fomalhaut. It wasn’t really that hard with the finder—guess my excitement and impatience had been most of the problem—but I am still going to see if I have a suitable red-dot finder for this telescope.

Looking up, I saw Cygnus was now straddling the Meridian. What better time to go after one of the more challenging big nebulae, NGC 7000, The North America Nebula? I had good success with it the previous year at DSRSG with the StarBlast, but I was still after a definitive look at that wonder after five decades of hunting for and looking at it. Mashed the buttons, the VX hummed, and we were there.

Before having a look, I switched eyepieces, to one of my old favorites, TeleVue’s 35mm Panoptic. I’ve had that ocular for years and consider it a classic, even though I am not usually a fan of lower powers. I will say that when you do need low magnification there is no better way to get it than with a 35 Pan. It is far more comfortable to use than most eyepieces of its focal length. Its eye-relief is not too long, and it doesn't suffer too much from “blackout” if your eye is mis-positioned.

Alrighty, then, what do we have here? A quick look showed something in the big field, something faintly nebulous twining through the clouds of stars. How about adding the UHC? Good thing Unk’s sneakers were tightly tied; otherwise my socks would indeed have been blown off after I screwed on the filter. There it was. The nebula, and especially the “gulf coast” region, was—dare I say it?—bright. Slewing a little even turned up the freaking Pelican lurking down in the starry Caribbean. No, even at 19X I couldn’t quite frame the whole thing, but it was good enough. Man, was it ever. I have never, ever had as good a look at the N.A.N. This single observation made the whole night worthwhile.

NGC 7000 was so cotton-picking good I decided I’d go after its e’en tougher sister over in Perseus, NGC 1499, The California Nebula. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. It had been visible with the StarBlast and an h-beta filter the previous year, but was not easy. VX hummed, I looked into the Pan, and was soon hollering, “Jon, get over here!” There it was, running down the center of the field as an easy to see stripe of nebulosity. Jon and I scanned up and down the huge thing for a while—we spent the whole evening calling each other over to our AR102s for looks at one wonder after another. Only bummer? If only I had had a 2-inch h-beta filter for the 35 Panoptic. The UHC worked but was not optimum for this deep red object.

What impressed me even more than the way the AR102 had shown up the two legendarily dim nebulae? How well the scope’s focuser worked. It never slipped, even with the big Panoptic, and its action was smooth and responsive no matter where I pointed the scope and no matter whether I was using the course or fine focus knob. The fine focus? With a fast scope that tends to snap into focus, it sure is a help.

I knew that anything else I’d look at pre-M42 would be a letdown after those two stupendous nebulae, but I had a lot of fun while waiting for M42 to rise above the trees. Most of that fun came from running through the objects in one of Sue French’s “Deep Sky Wonders” columns. Doing “Sue’s objects” is a tradition for me at Deep South, and I thought I’d give her November 2013 column, “Friends,” a spin.

Before I could do that, though, I had to zap some dew. I didn't have a 4-inch dew-heater strip, so I made do with an 8-incher, wrapping it around a couple of times. I wasn’t sure how well that would work and, especially, whether it might not get too hot, so I set the DewBuster controller for 5-degrees above ambient. It was humid, but not as bad as Friday, so I hoped that would be enough. The result was the objective dewed-up not long after we left the California Nebula. Luckily, I found I had a 12-volt hairdryer/dew zapper in the equipment case—I initially thought I’d left it at home. I zapped, cranked the ‘Buster up to 10-degrees and had no further dew problems.

Sue’s Friends

It had been a long time since I’d spent much time in Cassiopeia. Maybe not since I woke up one morning with the idea to view as many open clusters there as I could for my book The Urban Astronomer’s Guide. So, it was like old home week. Sure I’ve seen M52 and M103 in the interim, but a couple of Ms. French’s other picks were like old friends I hadn’t seen in too long a time.

M52.  I very much agree with Sue’s description of this cluster, which, like me, she observed in a 4-inch refractor. As she says, it is a “swarm” of fifty or more small sparklers packed into an area of about 15’ diameter. Sue doesn’t mention it, but to me the central area always looks triangular in a smaller scope.

I ain’t much on asterisms, so I skipped the next Friend, “the Airplane,” and headed onward to another open cluster, Czernik 43 that is just southeast of M52. It was quite marvelous in the refractor; at low power it looks like a “detached” part of M52 and is equidistant between the Messier cluster and a magnitude 6.6 star 14’ farther to the south-southeast.

One of the great things about Sue French’s columns is that she offers up a nice variety of objects each time. Next was a faint emission nebula, NGC 7635, The Bubble Nebula, 30’ to the southwest of M52. Sue calls it “faint” in her 130mm refractor, and it dang sure was in the 102mm. It was visible in the OIII filter equipped 13mm Panoptic, but just barely as a faint haze. The “bubble,” which had shown itself so starkly in the Edge 800 and Mallincam the night before was nowhere to be seen. That was okay. What I could see, a rectangular swath of nebulosity made a beautiful field even more beautiful, even with the star-dimming caused by the filter.

From the Bubble, Sue takes us to a double star. I like double stars, but wasn’t in the mood on this night, so I pressed on to King 20, an open cluster. This little group is mainly distinguished by being near a prominent multiple star system, AR Cassiopeiae, which is 26’ to the west. What I saw was pretty much what Sue French saw: a misty patch of starlight framed by a triangle of dim resolved stars. The tiny, misty stars that form the cluster itself tended to wink in and out as the seeing (which was not ever very good on this night) changed.

The last Friends object was, believe it or not, Cassiopeia A, the supernova remnant left over from a supernova (unobserved) that lit-off in the last years of the 17th century (maybe). Sue could see it with a 9.25-inch SCT, but I certainly didn't get a hint of it with the 4-inch refractor. Sounds like a job for the Mallincam.

Sunday morning...
I intended to make it an early night because of that inevitable packing and drive home in the morning-time, but after I’d done the last of Sue’s Friends, M42 still wasn’t quite high enough to look at. I spent the next hour zig-zagging across the sky to a variety of objects. Everything from bright wonders like M2, M1, and M30, to Herschel 400 objects. I was pleasantly surprised that the AR picked up every 400 I tried. Yeah, I know Steve O’Meara did ‘em all with a 4-inch refractor, but I don’t have his eyes or skies.

Finally, M42 was well above the trees. I'd stuck to the rule my old friend Pat Rochford and I formulated a long time ago at DSRSG, back when the star party was at its original and legendary home, Percy Quin State Park:  “No going to bed till the Great Nebula is good and high.” The greenish color that is sometimes visible was particularly strong on this evening, and even at 41x the Trapezium’s minuscule stars were so well separated I coulda drove a truck through the spaces. The nebula’s glowing clouds just seemed to go on forever.

I was so hyped up by the sight of Orion (and maybe the Monster Energy Drink I’d chugged about an hour before), that part of me wanted to stay up for ISON.  And maybe even linger through Sunday night. That would have been possible, but there’d have been no supper served Sunday evening, and we might have had to move to a cottage. In the end, I decided that, as always, The Only Enemy of Good Enough is More Better (Gooder). After four days at FRC it was time to get home to the Old Manse.

Back at the Lodge, it wasn’t quite 2 o’clock, and I spent an hour watching DVDs, surfing the pea-picking Cloudy Nights, and thinking about the 2013 edition of the Deep South Regional Star Gaze. Over the years, there've been good ones and not so good ones, same as with any star party. 2013 wasn’t the best ever—that was 1994, the first year I had my new wife, Dorothy, at my side—but it was a goodun, best in years. Will I be back next fall? Sure hope so. If we do a spring edition, I dang sure intend to be onsite for that, too. Deep South Forever, muchachos.

Next Time: Destination Moon Night 3...

Rod, I know how feel about the Explore Scientific Achromats. I've had an AR152 from the beginning of ES.

I love my 6" Achro. I use it for outreaches as well as imaging. Like you I don't find the CA overly objectionable, even on the moon. I do find that a Baader semi-APO filter really helps. I put it on the diagonal, so it works with every eyepiece.

I have not tried to see the North American Nebula/Pelican nor the California Nebula. While they're too big for my camera's FOV, I think I will give them a try visually, so thanks for the new targets.

Tell Miss Dorothy, congratulations and to enjoy the scope.
Good-looking scope. It will show all of the Herschel 400 if you want it to.
Congrats to Dorothy and Jon Ellard too. Thanks for your review of Dr. Clay's talk, and will pass along this link as well to the EAAA.
"My Weekly Reader", wow, you are working the Wayback Machine for me today! I forgot all about them.
Been trying to decide between this scope or a Celestron 120mm Omni... But I think this review takes the cake. Looks like I'll be picking up an ES 102 soon! A review like this was exactly what I was looking for.
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