Dressed Up and No Place to Go

I was able to find a little spare time to work on cleaning up the PowerSeeker 127EQ (5-inch) which my friend loaned me. This mainly involved removing the primary mirror and cleaning it off. I just used water and very gentle wipes with a spare clean t-shirt. Not sure if that is the best approach, but it looked decent afterward, and I don't think I scratched it any.

Unfortunately, we are still having what I call the "cloud apocalypse" here in Fairbanks, Alaska. This last week was a seemingly unbroken chain of overcast days and nights — very thick clouds with some light rain here and there. And the forecast was showing all the same for the next week. In a moment of desperation last night, I noticed there was one clear patch of sky visible, so I decide I would go ahead and give the PowerSeeker a try.

When I got out there with my equipment, I noticed Cygnus was also visible overhead, so I decided to see if I could get the equatorial mount properly set-up, and then target Deneb. I don't have the user manual, but I felt like I could figure it out by going slowly and working through things logically.

First step was to get the longitude part of the mount set for my latitude, and orient towards Polaris. I think I got that figured out, but one challenge was that the counterweight for the telescope didn't seem to be heavy enough to keep the telescope side of the mount pressed up against the adjustment screw. So I had to hang a heavy object off of the counterweight.

I was still having trouble with the spotter scope - I'm thinking there might be some gunk on the inside end of the lens or piece of glass. So, I just removed the spotter scope and was using the scope mount circle as a rough targetting scope. I'll have to look at that scope later.

Having aligned with Polaris, it wasn't quite obvious to me how I should set the initial value on the sidereal hours dial, or whatever is the correct term for that. I had looked up the current sidereal time for my location, so I just put in a value that made sense to me, when the telescope was oriented to the North, according to my understanding of the angles. The I adjusted it to Deneb's RA/Decl. It appeared that I was correctly pointed at Deneb, though had to make some additional adjustments in the range of about 1 or 2 degrees to get Deneb centered.

By the time I worked through all of that (around 45 minutes) a thick, nearly solid sheet of clouds had rolled in. I could still occasionally see Deneb twinkling through brief gaps in the cloud cover, so I tried watching for a while on the telescope. I saw dim stars occasionally appear, but in the end there was just too much cloud rolling through to get any kind of practical viewing.

So that was disappointing, but I felt like I did learn a lot about my 5 inch telescope and how to use the mount. I am still glad to have an equatorial mount, but I can see now the appeal of the much simpler Az/El mount. Equatorial mounts are nice when (1) you want to target something by RA/Decl coordinates; (2) you want to move around the sky following the celestial lat/long lines; or (3) you want to be able to easily follow one object as it moves around the sky. But Az/El is more convenient for just exploring around the sky casually.

One other interest aspect of the PowerSeeker is that the location and orientation of the focuser/eyepiece, near the opening and sticking straight out, makes it very comfortable to view objects that are straight above. My Az/El refractor is nice for viewing objects near the horizon, but very difficult to use for objects straight above.

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