by Gene Allen, Outreach Chair
At the NJAA flea market in High Bridge, Dave Skitt and I agreed with Tom Swords in purchasing a used Orion ED80 refractor for use as an Outreach scope. A few years ago I had proposed that the club should have a scope that a member could take to an Outreach Event if they had no hardware of their own or had only top shelf gear that they chose not to put at risk. My concept was that it would be a simple, very portable rig with a flip mirror to be able to show both eyepiece and camera views. It would reside in the Observatory and be available as an additional scope on public nights if it was not otherwise occupied.
Tom is a refractor devotee and knew the history of their production and the quality of the glass in the lenses. The price was modest (half the price of new) and the seller threw in a flip mirror. Tom did a masterful job cleaning and tuning it up, and I have been gathering the additional pieces it needs to become operational: a super short 2” to T-thread nosepiece to connect the flip mirror to the focuser, a T-thread to 1.25” eyepiece holder to allow the Ultrastar astrocam to fit the straight-through port, and an inexpensive bag to keep it all together and protected. ZWO cameras can screw directly onto the flip mirror, and there is a locking ring that can secure a camera in the appropriate orientation once we figure out what that is.
For now it can ride my Porta II mount but I think it needs one that’s self-aligning and go-to so it’s easy for newbies to operate. It will probably ride my AZ Mount Pro for checkout, and that would be an excellent choice for it, but it’s pricey. The AZ-GTi also ticks those boxes for 75% less money, but it’s fairly new and may not yet be fully debugged.
The choice of camera is challenging. Do we pick up a used laptop to utilize either the Ultrastar we already own or a less expensive ZWO? Do we skip the laptop hassle and spring for a lower resolution Revolution Imager that comes with its own monitor? My assembly test-fitting checks so far have used my Lodestar X2 and ASI224MC that match the configuration of the club cameras.
The kit should probably have maybe two or three parfocal eyepieces and, once we get a bit more of these pieces figured out, some foam will get custom cut to properly cradle the scope and stuff in the bag. If you have an appropriate piece of hardware sitting unused, donate it. And stay tuned for further developments!