Last Saturday Night, July 26, 2008, I was able to get out to observe
for the first time with my newly delivered 24 in. f/3.7 FX Starmaster
with a Mike Lockwood primary mirror. The new scope sat completely
assembled in my modest garage for two weeks since Rick and Carol's
delivery on July 10th. It was a real joy to have seen Rick again after
so many years (1997) and to have met his wife Carol for the first
The night's schedule for the 24" FX Starmaster was for it to be used
from sunset `til 11 pm for the summertime public observing program for
the park's visitors and campers, and for Hartnell College students for
their summer astronomy class lab. The sky last night turned out to be
fairly good in seeing (7/10) but marginal in transparency offering
only a naked eye limiting magnitude of 6.0 due to drifting haze and
smoke eminating from the large Big Sur forest fire 30 miles to the
south. As many as 50 students, family members, and individuals looked
through the eyepiece of the 24" Starmaster enjoying the views. After
the public had left, by 11pm, I was able to observing on my own until
12:30am when the threatening fire smoke from the south finally drifted
northward covering up most of the sky above.
I am very happy with the 24" f/3.7 mirror that you made for me, Mike.
The Starmaster telescope gave very good views at 150X within one hour
after setting up, by sunset, observing bright and detailed Jupiter and
its four prominent Jovian moons. Jupiter showed much detail in its
belts and zones and the four Jovian moons each were clearly defined
disks. The thermal equillibrium characteristic of this large aperture
mirror is very good – cooling down quickly. This was accomplished
with only the ambient air and using no adjacent cooling fans. The
evening's temperature started at 75°F (at sunset) and slowly fell to
60°F by midnight. By the end of twilight (9:30-10:00pm) I was able to
focus my observing on familiar "test" objects pointing the Starmaster
to a list of deep sky objects that I'm very familiar with such as the
Ring Nebula (M57), the Great Sagittarius Globular Cluster (M22), the
Cat's Eye Planetary Nebula (NGC4567), the Whirlpool Galaxy (M51), the
Blinking Planetary Nebula (NGC6826), the beautiful and irregular-"U"
shaped planetary nebula (NGC7008), the pale ghostly disk of NGC7048,
and the well known Dumbbell planetary nebula (M27) which lost it's
familiar dumbbell shape to look more fully-illuminated as a real oval
due to the 24" mirror's increased light gathering power. In my 15-year
observing experience of observing these "eye candy" objects with other
telescopes I have owned ranging from my current 10" f/14
Maksutov-Cassegrain to past owned 14.5", 18", and 20" Starmaster
telescopes, this 24" f/3.7 FX Starmaster shows these objects larger,
with more detail, and with "more color". I noticed an increase in the
colors of the golden (old) and blue (young) stars in globular
clusters, more blue and violet color showing up in some planetary
nebulas, and more color in Jupiter's belts. And this was while using
powers up to 370X which washes away the color of these objects in
smaller aperture telescopes. I can't wait to see how these objects
look like on a quality night. One note on my M57 observation: At
371X, it's 15.3 magnitude central star was easy and solid, observed
directly without a need to use any averted vision. I could never
achieve the sighting of the M57 central star so easily from this
observing site in 15 years of observing with my past 18" and 20"
Starmasters. Optical collimation of the Starmaster using my 2"
CatsEye Cheshire and auto-collimator tools and then a Kendrick
Barlowed Laser was fast and easily done before sunset. At the
eyepiece at using a 7mm Nagler T6 and Paracorr (371X), the in- and
out-of-focus star images from the beautifully-figured f/3.7 primary
mirror look textbook – very even and circular.....
I'm planning on getting out again next Saturday night to continue with
my observations of fainter objects such as more Abell planetary's,
Hickson galaxy chains, and small PK nebula's requiring high power.
I'm really looking forward to it!
Starmaster 24" F/3.7 FX
It was good seeing you at the Chiefland Star Party. Attached is a picture of Saturn I took at Chiefland by just holding my digital camera up against the eyepiece of Ken Schmidt's 14.5" Starmaster. Not too shabby, methinks... :-)
By the way, pushed the EL to over 1000X at the local observing session at the library last Wednesday, to many OOHs and AAAHHs !! Unbelievably stable air, sharp as a tack. (Lunar 1030X, Saturn 525X)
Roland Culberson, Lake Worth, Fl.
StarMaster 18 & 10EL Owner/User
night we were using my 11" EL while collimating and star testing some
other scopes. Tyler, my seven year old, who has a great interest in the
hobby, decided to come out for awhile. We had the Moon in the scope and
a 3mm Radian in the focuser. My son wanted to take a look, of course.
It started out with me realigning the scope about every 15 seconds or
so. We were fighting a "brand X" scope that has an astigmatic mirror,
as it turns out, at the time. So every 15 seconds I would run over put
the Moon on the edge of the field and let it drift through while I
attended to other things.
After awhile I noticed that he had not called me over. I looked over and he still had his eye to the eyepiece. I walked over to see what he was doing. He was tracking the Moon at 500x with no prior experience!! The next time someone tells me that tracking with a DOB at
high power is difficult, I will just smile :)
V.C. -- PA
a TV 55mm/OIII combo on my Starmaster 11" EL which sports a Zambuto 1/8
wave mirror at F/5.4, I got an amazingly comprehensive view of the
North American Neb. The Melrope teardrop neb around the Pleiades
revealed itself. Small planetary nebs (Blue Snowball, Cat's Eye,
Blinking, Saturn) were all easily accessible. Galaxies galore including
Stephen's Quintet, 891 and 253 were viewed. Neptune was a cinch (small
blue dot). By 4 am the views of Saturn and Jupiter were
250x, Jupiter's festoons were obvious among dozens of bands, the Great
Red Spot crisply surrounded by cloud streams. Saturn's Cassini show was
stolen by the subtle Enke division which looked 1/4 the width of the
Cassini on the outer rings. It was only visible far left and right
where the angle/width of the rings was greatest. I used a Clave' 30mm
Plossl with a 5X TV Powermate to achieve an ideal 6mm at F/27 for
planetary viewing. Everyone's jaw (including mine) dropped at the
bright, crisp Jovian and Saturnian images, my first through this scope
at the planets. The images looked every bit as contrasty and sharp as
the 5" Tak and 6" AP, but with more rich detail due to my aperture
advantage... almost Hubble-like in their clarity. This is good seeing
there being quite a few other nice scopes, including an 18" dob, the
line at my scope got very long -- the only real disadvantage to owning
a Starmaster EL! My next purchase is an equatorial mount, which will
make this the ultimate portable optical system for deep sky/planetary
wanted to share with you an experience Joel and I had observing several
weeks ago. In all my years of observing, I have never been able to see
Sirius's double, Sirius B. Observing with my Starmaster 14.5, Joel and
I were able to see the double. The seeing was exceptionally good for
about an hour and during that time we could easily see the double.
Later as seeing deteriorated, it disappeared. Needless to say I was
very excited for I have been trying to see that one all my life. In
that moment of steady seeing there it was, actually very easy at that
moment, confirmed by Joel and several others.
J.S. -- VA
been a dedicated Mars observer for over 25 years. I live for
oppositions! For most of those 25+ years I used refractors and thought
that what I was observing through those 5", 6" and certainly 8"
beauties was all that an amateur could ever hope to see.
I woke up one day a realized what incredible advances had been made in
large mirror-making and switched to an 18" Obsession - then a 20"
Starmaster. Nothing's been the same since! I just never realized how
much MORE was observable in a large aperture Newtonian than in ANY
refractor I had any chance of ever owning!
20" Stabilite is a joy. I had the 18" Galaxy mirror custom-figured
specifically for planetary performance, and it had a finer figure (on
paper) - but the 20 seems to be immune to thermal problems and the
resulting steadier seeing more than makes up for any theoretical
advantages the 18 might have had.
the last Mars opposition I clearly observed rifts and breaks in the
polar cap that were not observable in any of my friends' scopes. They,
of course, thought I was a victim of overactive imagination. Then,
several weeks later, a new batch of HST images were released - one
taken within hours of my observation - and it clearly showed the exact
same features I had reported and drawn!!!! Needless to say, having to
have a confirmation from the HST for
a visual sighting was/is an all-time observing highlight and the ultimate compliment of the scope's optics!
If you have never used a large aperture scope for planetary observing, you are in for a real treat. Enjoy!
M.H. -- FL
One owner wrote that his 18" f/4.2 with Sky Tracker was a "panic" (an East Coast term).
using my scope for the first time, I now know what a "panic" is, and so
do a lot of other people. You can quote me on any of this.
construction of this instrument is incredibly precise. It is obvious
that a tremendous effort went into making this the ultimate visual
instrument. Also, the pre-scope testing you do makes the instrument
very easy to set up.
unpacked the scope and had it assembled in about an hour -- including
the drive system! Every screw fit perfectly, every part was precision
made. Collimation took FIVE MINUTES with a holographic laser, and was
later verified by star test. The secondary mount was so much easier to
adjust than the one on my old scope that I am now spoiled.
mirror cell is a work of art - beautiful and very functional. I
understand why the scope will hold collimation despite long trips. I
examined the scope carefully and the baffling job is great--no direct
stray light over the secondary cage, and the area behind the mirror
nicely blackened to give a dark background. The Feathertouch focuser is awesome -- I hope you continue to offer this in future scopes.
the star party, the transport handles saved my back, because I had to
wheel the scope about 200 feet from the truck. Second setup took about
15 minutes. Things will be even better when I get the StarStep chair.
am still getting used to the Sky Commander, but it is very easy to use
and did an outstanding job it's first night out. I first aligned on
Polaris and Vega, but later other people told me to use Polaris and
Fomalhaut, which worked much better. I showed a group of ten kids
Jupiter and a variety of other objects, and did not have to recenter
the object at all.
seeing was good but not great, so I was not in any position to judge
the optics other than that the scope produced great images of Jupiter
at 275x and at 478x there were tantalizing moments of outstanding
definition. A couple times per summer there is often super seeing, so
perhaps next year I'll get to star test the scope and actually see
diffraction rings (it took four months on my 12.5"). Anyway, everyone
commented that the optics on this scope seemed excellent (of course, I
didn't tell them that we were only at 15 power per inch most of the
time). I then saw WLM-1, a 16th mag extragalactic globular cluster in
Cetus. I have read observations by MUCH more experienced
observers at lower powers which show the globular less well than I was
able to see it. The equalizer, of course, is the smooth tracking system
which allowed me to stare at the area for several minutes at 275x.
else was simply amazed. Bob Stephens, the "chief observer" of the
Riverside Astronomical Society, said "This scope proves that you can
now buy a better scope than almost any ATM can build." While I think
Mel Bartels would have something to say about this, I think that this
scope provides images as good as the best visual Dobs in the world of
equal aperture and focal length and at the same time is very practical
and transportable. One of the ATMs, who is extremely picky, commented
that this scope has all the capabilities that he has dreamed of. Many
people were examining the scope for ideas for their own tracking
for the showpiece objects, well... the scope attracted quite a line.
The Veil was incredible, Stephen's Quintet was almost too easy, M22 was
spectacular... I could go on and on. Thank you, Carol, for your help
with setup. In many of the successful astronomy companies (Televue,
Astro-Physics, Anacortes, and Starmaster) the quality of the customer
service is in large part due to the help from the unsung heroes -- ie.
D.W. -- CA
Hi Rick & Carol
wanted to let you know how pleased I've been with the performance of
our scope. I've only had two or three chances to use it and had had to
contend with a half moon or more so most deep sky objects are somewhat
limited. Jupiter and Saturn have been a real pleasure. I don't believe
the sky here has been quite as stable as it was at your place. I did
get a good look at NGC 6543 the other night and the color was
breath-taking. The central star stood out like a beacon - magnificent.
M33 was almost as good as when we were at your place. The set-up and
alignment of your scope is unbelievably easy, the tracking is nearly
perfect after 15 or 20 minutes and this is probably due our delay in
engaging the drives. If anyone wants to get my opinion on the use of
your 22" scope, please feel feel give them my e-mail address. I'll be
happy to describe the fine quality of workmanship you put into your
design as well as the ease of operation not to mention the "Stellar"
performance. Again thanks for everything you did for us and thank your
lovely wife for lunch and the hospitality while we were at your shop!
Re: 22" F/4.1, 1.6" thick Pegasus Optics Primary
Rick. I just wanted to write you and voice my sheer appreciation and
total elation for the fine work that you have put into my 22" f/4.1.
Not only has this scope exceeded my expectations, it has downright
blown me away! I want you to know that I have had the opportunity to
observe through many fine optics over the years. In fact, I had at one
time planned on buying a large SCT or even a medium sized APO refractor
for the sole purpose of astrophotography.
was until I met you at the Nebraska Star Party back in '97. After
observing Jupiter through the 22" f/4.1 at very high power, I found
myself saying, "Why do I want to photograph the sky when I can see it
like this?" The image was so crisp that I figured there had to be a
mask on this large rig. I looked over the eyepiece cage and it was FULL
APERTURE! I had yet to see Jupiter so sharp, so detailed. Belts, ovals,
festoons...OH MY! The experience immediately changed my mind on what my
next scope would be.
Rick, 2 years have passed and I now have a 22" f/4.1 for myself, thanks
to you being in the right place at the right time. In the past few
months that I have had it (and when the seeing allows) I have been able
to observe detail in the ring systems of Saturn that I never thought
were possible! Jupiter's colorful and extremely fine detail is
sometimes so intense I forget I am looking at a live image. You were
right when you said that exquisite optics coupled with large aperture
are the key to fine planetary observing. I would not even think of
using a mask. There are no sweet spots. The entire mirror is a sweet
spot and to mask the mirror would be to mask the resolution! Masks are
also want to say that there are many other veteran observers that I
associate with, and they too could not believe the performance of this
scope. The images of star clusters are so sharp and pinpoint that I
have a hard time observing when others are around (and some of them own
scopes over 20"). The double-double is resolved easily at a mere 74x!
Unbelievable!!! Also, I have already observed the very difficult
planetary nebula in M15 known as Pease 1. I feel the optics are largely
responsible for the relatively easy find of this extremely dim object.
deep sky observing experience has been heightened tenfold and I know
it's not just because of aperture. The phenomenally smooth mirror is
largely responsible in the fine, tenuous detail that I am getting use
to see on most objects nowadays. At a recent star party, I observed
through a few large aperture scopes whose names are very well known.
All I have to say is that they don't even compare! From the optics to
the smooth motion and the right amount of "stick" that your scopes
have, you leave them all behind! I have yet to find an amateur
instrument that even comes close to your work! That's a promise. I am
more than satisfied and now am eternally grateful for you taking the
time to prepare me a scope that outperforms anything I could have ever
imagined. See you at the next star party my friend!
E.H. -- NC
has been two weeks since the star party and people are still talking
about the views of Saturn and Jupiter through the 20" F 4.5 Starmaster.
I had one gentleman tell me that when I invited him to take a peek at
Saturn at 1088x, he climbed up the ladder and was saying to himself,
"Yea, right, one big fuzzy ball." After one look, and him almost
falling off the ladder, he said that was the best he had ever seen
Saturn. We were staring at the Crepe Ring and the darkening of the
other belts where the spokes are. The views were unbelievable.
was one ball of color from top to bottom. There were so many white
ovals and loops and festoons that you could not count them. This same
man asked if I had an aperture mask on the 20" and I told him that if I
put one on it would take away from the resolution. As you know aperture
is the key to resolution, not the F ratio. There is no way that my old
6" F 12 reflector could keep up with the 20" Starmaster.
M.M. -- KS
wanted to let you know how much I'm enjoying my 18" Starmaster F/4.2
with the Sky Tracker goto-then-track drive system. I've had it a year
now and simply love it. The last night at this years Great Plains Star
Party at Scopeville, Kansas was the ultimate of dark skies, combined
with excellent seeing conditions. When the fog rolled in the seeing
conditions were the best I've ever seen. I was able to see detail in
Jupiter and Saturn that I have never witnessed before. It was a
pleasure to have optics that could take advantage of such pristine
conditions. This is my third Starmaster scope I've owned and am a truly
satisfied customer. At least I was until you came out with your new EL
line of lightweight scopes. Now I can hardly wait for the 12.5" F/5
Starmaster EL I have on order, which will bring the total to four of
your scopes I've had the pleasure to own. Please don't introduce
anything new for awhile, until I catch my breath. Keep up the good work.
JK -- KS
must admit I have seriously considered removing all the Starmaster
labels from my scope so I can use it a little more myself at star
G.S. -- IL
Hi Rick and Carol,
Just read your "planetary paradigm"
article on fast scopes. I, too, was "old school" in the opinion that a
fast reflector was unsuitable for planetary work. However, the
performance of your 7" Oak Classic revamped this out-dated thinking. A
few months ago I had a major shock. In the early morning hours, the air
was very steady with hints of dawn breaking . I trained the Oak Classic
on Saturn. Cassini's Division was traced entirely across the rings.
Pumping up the power to nearly 400x, Encke's Division clearly popped
into view as a finely drawn line. And if that was not enough, then the
shock of shocks. Intersecting the rings were two faint bands...Ring
also do serious double star observing with over 2000 pairs logged. On a
night of excellent seeing, I clearly separated a 7th/8th mag with only
0.7" pair and elongated a 7th mag pair with only 0.5" of separation!
Extremely impressive for an f/5.18 system!
have since added the 10" f/6 EL. October has had wonderful transparency
for deep-sky observing and the 10" has shown impressive views.
Unfortunately, seeing has been consistently poor. The EL has shown
promise on the planets but those atmospheric cells keep getting in the
way. With opposition rapidly approaching, I am hopeful that seeing will
improve for serious Saturn and Jupiter observing.
for providing the tools for an incredible viewing experience! BTW: If a
14-16" Dob with Zambuto optics becomes available, please let me know.
D.S. -- NH
the guy from Ruidoso that recently bought a 16" Starmaster telescope
from you. I just wanted to tell you how pleased I am with it. It is
everything I had hoped it would be and more. It is both beautiful to
look at and beautiful to use and look through. In my career as a
professional astronomer a major part of my work was the design of
astronomical instrumentation. As a result I appreciate the well though
out details of your design for this telescope. It is a dream and you
seemed to have thought of everything. The construction workmanship is
also of a very high standard.
am really glad that with your advice I settled on a 16" (I had also
been considering an 18" when I first contacted you). I am finding it to
be an ideal size for my ultimate telescope; enough aperture for superb
and very satisfying viewing of both deep sky and planets, with the
solid feel of a big telescope, yet a convenient eyepiece height and
still easily managed by one person.
am having a ball seeing deep sky objects better than I had ever seen
them before with my own personal telescopes and have had a few nights
of good seeing that have shown me what stunning views the Zambuto
optics can give you of detail on Jupiter and Saturn. The PARACOR and 27
mm Panoptic recommended by you are also a joy. I was surprised to find
that the PARACOR even noticeably improve the low power field extremes
with my 8" f/6 Newtonian.
You and Carl Zambuto are doing a real service for the amateur astronomer that wants the best possible performance.
D.T. -- NM