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Choosing & Using a Dobsonian Telescope
on 4 October 2011
The Telescope market is vast, with a number of popular brands producing 3 main types of telescope, each of which can be further broken down into subtypes and sizes. Cost can be equally confusing with scopes ranging from hundreds to thousands of pounds (GBP). It is little wonder then that so many people buy a scope that is unsuited to their needs. What is required is some pre-acquisition research. If you are considering purchasing a Dobsonian telescope, commonly shortened to `Dob', or if you are unsure which telescope type to buy, the small outlay on this book would be a very wise investment.
`Choosing and Using a Dobsonian Telescope' is split into 2 sections, Part One deals with choosing which Dob is most likely to satisfy your requirements, Part 2 progresses to using your Dob once you have taken ownership. The first chapter gives a brief insight into the life of John Dobson, the man who started the Dobsonian revolution in 1960's California. Dobson was instrumental in bringing large aperture telescopes to the masses in a simple and inexpensive form.
Dobsonian telescopes, at their most basic, are Newtonian Reflectors mounted on `Lazy Susan' cradles. Chapter 2 takes the reader through the Newtonian telescope; the components, tube design and how mirrors affect image quality then pauses to reflect on the positives and negatives of this type of telescope. The remainder of part one, chapter's 3 to 8 catalogue the best instruments currently available, each chapter dealing with increasingly larger apertures, from mini 3 inch Dobs to 30 inch monsters. In each aperture class the main contenders are discussed and their assets and drawbacks aired. Photographs are used to enhance descriptions and owner evaluations are included for specific scopes which add an extra level of authority to an already detailed and comprehensive guide.
Two chapters, 5 and 7, deviate from the increasing aperture format in that they focus on Dobs that are specifically designed for planetary observing or are difficult to fit into other chapters because the mounting design is significantly different. In this way the author has successfully managed to compare apples with apples and has left the oranges, happily uncomplicated, in other baskets.
Part 2 of the book starts with an excellent chapter on accessorizing your Dob. Just about everything you could or should have as an optional extra is discussed, again in comprehensive detail. Accessories considered include image correctors, eyepieces, filters, dew prevention, tracking devices and computer control. Accessories are fully explained and pretty much leave no stone unturned.
Chapter 10 covers maintaining your Dob and getting the most from the optics. Subjects include collimating the optical train to ensure images are as sharp and as focused as possible, mirror cleaning and a nice piece on testing your telescope from an optical standpoint which will have you either pulling your hair out or grinning from ear to ear depending on your test results.
Chapter 11 goes on to provide hints and tips on sketching or imaging your observations and gives examples of what can be achieved with patience and a little experience. The book closes with a look into the future of the Dobsonian movement and gives a brief account of a number of projects that look destined to expand Dobson's revolution even further.
In summary, if you are in the market for a Dobsonian Telescope this book is an absolute must. If, after reading, you have failed to make a decision on what or what not to buy, the chances are you never will. Everything is here for you to make that informed judgment before parting with your hard earned money. If, like me, you are not currently considering joining Dobson's revolution or are already a proud owner then this book is still a really enjoyable, interesting read.
I will finish by quoting the author in his poetic salute to a great man who literally brought a Universe into the backyards (and budgets) of thousands, "As these words are written, John Dobson is just ending his 96th trip around the Sun...we'd like to wish John Dobson many more years of glorious existence."
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2nd October 2011