Perfect Astronomy

First Night with Skywatcher Skymax 90

Published December 11, 2021 by Tim Trott in Observations

Trying out new equipment on a freezing cold winters night - new telescope, old mount.

When I returned home from a recent trip to Loch Lomond, I set about auditing and cleaning up my equipment. What I found was that I had a great big, heavy, tripod and mount, a rubbish alt-az mount but can be moved, one telescope too large to use daily and one very low quality scope with the same magnification as my camera lens. What I need is a scope small enough to carry around and use daily, but as powerful as my large telescope.

I knew that this would be some kind of compound scope, and after a little research I was able to get a Skywatcher Skymax 90 Maksutov-Cassegrain in a Black Friday deal. Its only a 90mm aperture so does not have the light gathering ability the Explorer 200 has (it'll only gather light pollution anyway), however it does have a 1250mm focal length which should be great for lunar, solar and planetary observation and photography. It should also be reasonable for some of the brighter deep sky objects like Andromeda galaxy M31 and Orion nebula M42. I also picked up a Bresser Full HD deep sky camera to help with planetary and deep sky imaging.

Whilst I haven't had chance to hook up the Bresser camera yet, I have taken the Skywatcher Skymax 90 out on my old HEQ5 with SynScan upgrade for some visual observations of the Moon, Venus, Saturn and Jupiter the other day.

I was also out last night with the DSLR and took some pretty good photos of the Moon just with a T-Mount at prime focus. I also used a 2x Barlow lens to get some more details. Next up, I shot some quick still frames of Jupiter which I stacked to produce the picture below.

OK, so the first images aren't great by any stretch of the imagination. There are definitely focus issues somewhere in this setup. The view through the eyepiece is crystal sharp, although the 40mm eyepiece with long eye relief doesn't really feel comfortable at all now that I no longer wear glasses. Through the camera live view the Moon looked in focus even at 5x zoom yet the photos were just slightly out. Jupiter was a bit overexposed and being low on the horizon the seeing wasn't too great. In the eyepiece you could see the dark band clearly, just for a fraction of a second, however it seems none of the frames I obtained had this moment of clarity. Hopefully better with the Bresser camera when I get that hooked up.

Focusing can be tricky on the Skywatcher Skymax 90 as there is a tiny little focus adjustment knob, a lot smaller than the focusers I'm used to. I used a clothes peg to help with the tiny adjustments needed and I'll need to make a new Hartmann Mask or Bahtinov Mask for this scope.

Later on in the evening I wanted to try Orion nebula, but the mount was giving me problems. It just wouldn't align properly. Each time I did a 3 star alignment it would fail saying RA axis alignment > 45 degrees. The one time it did align, it was tracking in some random direction. It was getting too late, too cold and starting to get cloudy so I took the frost covered mount back inside to warm up, and when I warm up i'll read up on the SynScan alignment process as it's been 6+ years since I last had it working.


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