January 17, 2020

Review: Classic Telescopes by Neil English.

A Classic on Classics!

Is that old refractor in the basement/attic worth anything? We’re always saddened a bit when we see a telescope that’s fallen to disuse at one of Florida’s ubiquitous eternal yard sales; our belief is that a telescope providing a view of the sky is a happy telescope, whether a noble brass refractor or of the mass produced variety. It is said that when astronomer  David Levy returned to a classroom to find a 6-inch reflector he donated to a classroom being used as a trash can (!) he took it straight back.

Of course, a great many of these abandoned scopes are disused 60mm refractors, department store toys gifted around the holiday season and scarcely used. This week’s review, Classic Telescopes: A Guide to Collecting and Using Telescopes of Yesteryear by Neil English may be a one of a kind. Part of Patrick Moore’s Practical Astronomy Series out from Springer Books, Classic Telescopes approaches the topic from a skilled collectors and telescope operators perspective. The focus is primarily on refractors of yesteryear, with a scattering of reflectors from the past century thrown in.

Chock full of photos, it’s just plain fun to browse the old Dollonds, Clarks & Brashear-produced instruments and wonder what views through them might have been like. Truth is, if anyone wanted a large reflecting telescope prior to World War II, they had to build it themselves. Even after the war, the 6-inch Newtonian represented the “coin of the realm”¯ almost right up until the advent of the Dobsonian and the 8-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain reflector in the 1970s.

Still, it’s amazing the amount of craftsmanship they put into those old refractors, something seldom seen today. Classic Telescopes tells you how to spot a true original, as well as how to be wary of the numerous fakes that spring up on Ebay. Yes, there is actually a cottage industry in crafting fake antique telescopes!

It’s also fun to see such time-honored classics as the Unitron and Fullerscopes get their due, along with the venerable Astro-Scans and beloved Questars. Questars are a collector’s phenomenon unto themselves, and have actually appreciated in value over the years as they’re sought out by collectors, a tribute to true craftsmanship.

Chances are, you just may see that first scope you had as a kid mentioned in Classic Telescopes; in our case, it was our old 60mm Jason refractor. Sure, it was a department store mass-produced jobbie, but I pushed it to the limit, scouting out the Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, & more. I remember I even homemade a set of alt-azimuth setting circles for it using two plastic protractors!

Classic Telescopes is an indispensable reference resource for anyone refurbishing or hunting for a piece of astronomical history. Interspersed with expert reviews and great close-up pics, this guide provides a unique insight into a fascinating branch of optics and astronomy. What’s in YOUR attic?

Next week: We journey back into the alternate Steampunk world of the Weird West with Mike Resnick’s The Doctor & the Roughrider!

Mirror Collimation; Some Tips & Tricks.

This week, we here at ye ole Astroguyz are going to delve into an oft avoided but crucial technique that will allow you to get the most out of your shinny new (or old!) reflecting telescope; the fine art of mirror collimation. Sure, nearly every owner’s manual gives you a how to, but I’m going to share some neat tricks learned in the field through years of mistakes and experience. Ready? Let’s collimate!

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My Next ATM Project

Hey, how about that Full Wolf Moon this past weekend? We here at Astroguyz HQ managed to shoot some rising stills on Saturday, as well as put together a hyper cool video;

But on to this week’s post. This time around, I would like to make a proposal, and a challenge, mostly to myself. Loyal fans will remember my first voyage into amateur telescope making with the <50$ Stovepipe Scope. [Read more...]

Making a Newtonian Reflecting Telescope for less than 50$USD

Most amateur astronomers harbor a secret passion to, at some point, build their own telescope. Constructing a telescope puts you in a select realm of Amateur Telescope Makers (ATMS), and gives you intimate knowledge of how telescopes and optics really work. Another plus is as with anything, be it a house or a scope, if you want features to your own exact specifications, your always best off to build it yourself. Mass produced equipment generally means compromise. And until about the 1950s (when the concept of mass producing everything first came in vogue), if you wanted your own telescope, you had to build it from scratch.

[Read more...]