Newts, Tests / First Lights

Carlson Skele Scope

The Glorious Carlson Skelescope

Bottom line up front: Only purchase as a visual aid or for low power terrestrial daytime viewing.

Where to begin? $31.62 on Amazon, free 2nd day shipping last week. It was at a low, had been for over 4 months. Price on this varies – up to ~$70-$75 for a while, back down to ~$32-$35. I was pretty sure it would not be ‘research grade’- that just doesn’t happen @ 0.032K$ funded level.

My granddaughter had asked Grandmama and I to help the Girls in her Scout troop obtain their Astronomy / Space merit badges. We try to do the very best we can when sharing knowledge. The Skelescope, we thought, would make an excellent visual aid with the mysterious inner-workings being exposed. We had been thinking we could show the lightpath thru the scope with a red laser and the help of airborne particulates. So, click-n-buy on Amazon.

Delivered this a.m.: One each well packaged Carlson Skelescope, nice little altaz table top tripod. Tube struts and legs cleanly threaded steel, mating with cleanly threaded brass inserts. Good ‘heft’ – and provides weighted stability for the tripod. It’s light enough, with tripod, to wear as a necklace. The focuser is helical, plastic. Actually very smooth, no slop. About 25mm travel. Holds std light 1.25″ EPs (Ks,H/HAs/Ps) securely with one screw.

Secondary appears adjustable, screws hidden behind cute little moon sticker. Primary apparently has screws behind the bigger moon sticker at the tail.

Preliminary daylight look at the cliffs and neighborhood:

included 25mm plastic kellner – short eye relief, but clear across ~70% FoV , when you get your eye positioned properly. Looks a bit SA’d / Ca’d

included 10mm plastic Kellner – short eye relief – eyelash distance and less. Much positional adjustment of eye required, but a good focus in central 60~70%, fainter of course.

Orion Sirius 10mm Plossl – lil crisper, wider than the 10mm Kellner, still faint and ghosty, image flitty.

Orion Sirius 12.5mm Plossl – better than the 10mm, better fullness, less faint, less flitty, but better than 10mm Plossl

Orion Sirius 20mm Plossl – nicest, stablest image all around so far.

Celestron 8mm~ 24mm Zoom – able to run thru range. 24mm – nice, 8mm – flitty, ghostish, barely useable, but seemed a bit nicer than either 10mm. 15~13mm range was ‘comfortable’ minimum.

Baader Mark IV – just not as clean and crisp as the Celes Zoom in this scope.

all these stayed within first 6mm of focuser out travel, and focus started on the 25mm @ about 2mm out, ran to about 6mm out for the Celestron zoom @ 8mm.

Below probably 15mm, keeping the image is annoying – the zooms weigh as much or more than the whole scope.

and… a std $1 red laser pointer will show the optical path quite keenly – tied the laser to bamboo skewer w/ foam spacer to get it in the optical path 20% in from edge, rubber banded to scope frame. A little incense smoke and wow you can see the beam path from the laser, to the primary, to the secondary and right up into the EP. Worth the $30 just for that – and the laser can be gently rotated out of the path for normal viewing – I’ve got my granddaughter’s Girl Scouts star party coming up in a couple weeks and my wife and I want to do a good job. Now I’m thinking I may round up my 60mm parts and set up an open refrac on extruded alu – I knew I needed an optical bench…

I’ll try to get some cellphone pix thru the lens @ 25, 20, 15, 12.5, 10 and Celes Zoom of the Moon and / or Jupiter and post.

Overall, it’s a keeper for the open frame educational value and performance @20mm, which is only 18x, but a good 18x.

8mm / 10mm / 12.5mm (45x, 36x, 28.8x) – will probably be better ‘quality’ @ night – some ghosting won’t be evident, contrast better, but duhdamn – just not comfortable viewing I’m betting.

Can’t wait to see how the Infinity 50 (also $30) stacks up against this image quality wise.

Jupiter – I didn’t know it was rainbowed! kinda purplish-bluish on one edge thru to orangish-yellow on the other! Soooo pretty! And it dances!! bip-bip-jiggle-jiggle-bip!

Mars, an oranger version of Jupi!

I spent two hours on those two tonight. Had to bag the open frame to keep out ambient light.

What seemed acceptable during the day – the bit of jitter – is truly horrid at night – think 120 f/10 refrac on an EQ-1 – that sort of stability. It’s not any less stable at night, but during the day everything shakes and is relatively low contrast and your brain can stabilize that better than lone, focused points against the high contrast black voids of space. So IF it resolved any detail on either planet, I didn’t notice. DIdn’t see any attendants with Jup.

As for 100x – yeah, I have the tools to get there optically, but physically the tripod is a) shakey and b) hard to track with unless your EP is very light – like an all plastic, thinnish-shelled kellner would be, er is. Any heavier and ya gotta make the Alt axis too tight. I ran the Celes Zoom 8 to 24, the 25 and 10 kellner, the 10 plossl, the twenty plossl and IF you can twitch to the image and WHEN it settles as far as it can, CA makes things prettier than they should will all the EPs – and if you look closely you can seen flaws in the figure of the mirror.

Collimation was actually bing-bang on, for all the good it did. The mirror may be a bit more accurate than a, say, 3x shaving mirror. Anyways, below 20mm, the mount itself is too jumbly to track effectively with, with a narrow FoV, even if you are kissy-kissy gentle. That means constant reacquires – I sight down one of the tube rails and that works fairly well – 25 in, sweep sweep sweep, center, 25 out, xx in, oops lost it, repeat. there it is – gently twist focuser – oopsie!

I’ve got sandbags around here some place, so I’ll sandbag the mount, maybe the tube-frame and try again tomorrow night. The I’ll wait til the 14th or so for the moon.

I might have a way to get a rail on it and use a CG4 or Sirius mount.

But I wouldn’t recommend anyone purchase this, except as a cute daytime 18x viewer, or a visual aid. Performance was as expected, but not hoped for.

Clouds drifted in to save my sufferin’ self, finally. I’ll have another go or two at this – every scope deserves a chance.

I’ll add that it this is a very good example of what you get for $32 delivered – if you expect anything more in quality of image / performance you, as I often do, are being overly optimistic…

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