The Frisco Star Fest for June 2015 was a go!
Half way through June, and so far the weather has been somewhat cooperative for me. Last Saturday, June 13th, I was able to finally take my setup with me to a local Star Fest in Frisco, TX. I was so excited that I packed EVERYTHING! All my cameras, filters, telescopes, guiders, my mount… Hell I even packed my wife. She wasn’t exactly amused, but since she was able to do some shopping instead of sitting around as skeeter bait she went along anyway.
This was my first star party that I was able to attend since February. Past experience have taught me that warm nights during the summer months always turn out a large crowd. The Frisco Star Fest for June 2015 was no exception. Even as I was unloading my equipment, a line started to form behind my tripod, even before I unpacked the mount from my case! I entertained the questions of a cub scout troop while I loaded the mount on to the tripod, leveled it and found North using an app on my cell phone. Sun set was still about 20 minutes away, and there were no useful stars in the North that I could use at this time.
It’s nights like that where I almost wish I had a Dob. Set it down on the ground, and BOOM! – you’re observing. My CGEM requires meticulous setup for the polar alignment if the stars aren’t out which was the case. I spent the final moments of twilight getting the RA aligned to where I was certain Polaris was. As soon as some of the stars began to shine through the twilight, I started my 2 + 2 alignment. I don’t always go for a 2 + 4 and then do an ASPA at star parties, especially when the crowds are thick, it takes up too much valuable observing time.
We looked at Jupiter first, which is always fun. Jupiter was the obvious target in the beginning of the night because it was quickly approaching the Western horizon. Also, Saturn was behind a receding cloud bank in the South West. With Jupiter centered in the eyepiece, everyone was able to see all four of the Galilean satellites, and after about an hour the GRS came around to view. Not everyone was able to see it, because it was getting low in the sky, it was a little milky with all the humidity, and the seeing was crap.
I left Jupiter and switched to Saturn as soon as it emerged from behind the clouds. To enhance the experience, I threw a Barlow in front of my 9 mm eyepiece. The effective magnification ended up being in the neighborhood of 645 power, which is crazy when the seeing is as bad as it was. However, the idea was to split the Cassini division and it worked. All in all, I think I was able to show roughly 150 people our two largest planets in the solar system.
The telescope came out, and the questions rolled in
While I was setting up my 1100 Edge HD telescope and getting it ready to view Jupiter a visitor asked if he could look at my StellarVue SV105 refractor telescope. I obliged him, and it lead to a marathon session of Q and A. I found that he was interested in astrophotography and was looking to buy a new telescope to help him get started. His original idea was that he wanted to get a fast focal ratio Newtonian telescope and wanted to place it on an equatorial mount. Based on his desire to do deep sky imaging, I explained to him that it may not be the best route for a beginner to go for a few reasons, the main reason is that the primary mirror requires a very meticulous collimation because of the low F-ratio optics. The collimation may also require checking and tweaking throughout the night as well. his best bet would be for a refractor instead.
Then the questions switched to mounts. He liked the CGEM I use, but wanted to know if I knew much about the higher end mounts like Takahashi and Paramount. I did, but actually was planning on buying an Astro-physics Mach 1 GTO as soon as my budget allows. Actually, I almost ordered one in April of 2015, but one one of our cars needed expensive repairs and the resulting decision to replace it with another vehicle eroded that budget away immediately. He asked what the difference was between the Mach 1 and the Paramount MYT mounts were after learning they were in the same price bracket ($6000-$7000 USD). I told him that what I believed to be true was that the MYT had a lower weight rating than the Mach 1. For Astrophotography, the weight class of a mount is a very important factor, as is the lowest allowable periodic error that the builder allows into the mounts. I did not know the PE in the Paramount, but I knew the AP Mach 1 GTO had at most 7 arc seconds peak to peak, which is pretty dang good.
As the crowds died down and fewer and fewer people were lingering around, I unloaded the Celestron and mounted my StellarVue 105 so my inquisitive acquaintance could have a look through it. We hit a few clusters, M57 (which was surprisingly bright albeit small), and then the planets. He loved the crispness of the stars and Galilean satellites. He then started asking questions about which kind of refractor would be a great one for getting into the hobby without sinking a lot of money into equipment. I suggested an 80 mm apochromatic telescope with as fast of a focal ratio as he can afford. The night went on, and we tried unsuccessfully to find galaxies through the haze and light pollution. We bid each other farewell, and I began to break down my setup and pack up.
I was bitten by the curiosity bug
That night, as my wife and I drove home, I kept going back to some of the questions about the mounts he was asking. I knew the information about the Astro-physics Mach 1 well enough, but the Paramount MYT was new enough that I had not done my own research into it. Actually, I had made up my mind on the Mach 1 about a year ago and was pretty settled on it. But there was this uncomfortable feeling of not knowing much about a new mount that could be better. What I did know about the Paramount systems is that they are very nice and highly capable systems. The MEII and MX platforms are too expensive for me, and are also ridiculously over-engineered for what I would need in a mount. I can’t lift 100 pounds of equipment onto a mount, so why on Earth would I need a system that could carry that much weight? That is the reason why I never considered the Astro-Physics 1100 GTO, it’s simply too much mount for me. Maybe this MYT is a direct competitor to the Mach 1 in terms of budget, and weight class. I had to do some research in the morning.
You can find out more about the Paramount MYT mount through their website, and any other online search than I can fit into this blog post. I won’t go into all of the minute specifications that I found. What I learned however was that the MYT is actually a much better choice for me than the Mach 1. The major reasons are that it carries the same amount of weight as the Mach 1, which is a total of 100 lbs including the counter weights. They are rated for about 50 pounds each for photographic equipment. The Mach 1 and MYT weigh about the same, being 30 pounds. but the MYT begins to edge out the Mach 1 in my book on price. Firstly, it costs $850 less than the Mach 1. To add insult to injury, the Paramount MYT does not require that I buy the saddle adapter, counter weight, tripod adapter and other accessories that are not included in the already higher price of the Astro-Physics Mach 1. Actually, the only thing I need to buy in addition to the Paramount MYT mount is a tripod. I could save over $2000 if I purchased the MYT instead of the Mach 1.
But wait, there’s more! I also would get all of the Software Bisque software necessary to run the mount, and do a t-point model each time I set up. better yet, I could setup my mount and telescope and do a polar alignment without ever needing to use a single eyepiece! That was what ultimately sealed the deal for me. A chance encounter with a stranger saved me hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on a future purchase. When I take it to star parties, I’ll be able to do imaging from the very beginning of the party. This will only add value to the parties because attendees in Frisco will finally be able to see the deep sky objects that are otherwise hidden behind the annoying and persistent glow of the Dallas light dome.
Planning for what comes next
I continue to save money for my next big purchase, and will eventually make the call to upgrade to the Paramount MYT mount. Because of life being so unpredictable, it’s impossible to say exactly when I’ll own it. You can be sure, though, that when the day comes, there will be a live tweeting session happening as I un-box, setup, and turn on the new mount. If you’re not already following me on twitter, maybe you should consider it now by clicking my twitter handle: @EastOfJup.
Since the Paramount MYT and tripod will constitute a considerable cash investment on my part, and there is no way to justify owning two mounts I have decided that the purchase of the Paramount MYT will also result in the sale of my Celestron CGEM. Lately, I’ve been struggling to do more deep sky observations and imaging while my efforts in planetary imaging have waned. To make the purchase easier to facilitate, I think I’m going to bundle my entire Celestron 1100 Edge HD and CGEM system as a single turn-key ready sale. I’ll include the mount, tripod, Celestron 1100 Edge HD telescope, and all accessories short of the cameras and filters. My list price has yet to be determined as I’m still researching fair pricing for everything that will be in the package.
Also, part of the sale would require that I do not ship the system to anyone, they would have to pick it up, or meet me somewhere. The major reason I refuse to ship the telescope is that I am fully committed to being on hand to train whomever purchases the telescope system in its operation. I think I could make them an expert in it after just two nights. I had past experience showing a few people how to use their mounts already, and they have been doing very well ever since.
Thanks for taking the time to read, and I wish you all clear skies!
Until next time!
– Mitchell Tubbs