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MoonLite Becomes Her

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It all started in January 2018 when I decided on a larger alternative to my ST80.




I never used the stock focuser and the TS Optics (GSO) Crayford seemed like the answer. Unfortunately it didn't rotate well. The Sky-Watcher (Long Perng) was an improvement but inevitably I splashed out for a MoonLite.




As the ST102 is the largest refractor I have that I can set-up easily it made sense.



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1 minute ago, RonC said:

It certainly does, had mine a few years now and no problems! (Mines Blue!)



Yeah, I originally went for blue but changed my mind. I'll see how it goes and then I might put one on my ED80 as well.

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19 minutes ago, philjay said:

Moonlites are superb focusers, had a blue one on my 127edt for years nowcand still performing nicely

I've not had a chance to properly test it, but it feels very high quality. The rotation is incredibly smooth. I get more in-focus than the Sky-Watcher focuser, similar to the GSO. But the back-focus is very long, so probably no need for an extension tube. I must say I'm impressed.

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I got first light with the new focuser. I was set-up by 20:00 BST and the plan was to catch a setting Venus and as it got darker to try some rich field before the Moon was too high. I estimated that if I was lucky I may have until 21:30 until the Moon was a problem. As it was warm, sunny, and there had been a pristine and cloudless sky all day, I reckoned I was in with a chance. Of course, at 20:30 cloudy sky porridge filled the entire firmament effectively ending the session.


The first thing I’d noticed about the MoonLite was its weight compared to the Sky-Watcher (Long Perng) focuser unit. The SW with a Baader 1.25” adapter is 565g. The MoonLite with its stock adapter is 890g. Some 325g difference. I’d been using the SW focuser for nearly eleven months and had got used to the OTA being lighter than when it had the TS Optics (GSO) unit fitted. The TS Optics/GSO focuser with its original 1.25” adapter is 860g compared to the MoonLite at 890g. I don’t need the Baader (or MoonLite) adapter normally so by losing the adapter the MoonLite is ‘only’ 225g heavier than the SW focuser and roughly compares with the overall weight of the GSO.




My ST102 is fundamentally a rich field scope and it is the biggest refractor I can easily transport and set-up on the SW AZ5 mount/tripod. As a consequence I rarely use magnifications above around 60x and I’m usually observing between 18.5x and 42x. I only take two eyepieces out with it (27mm Panoptic, BHZ). I also take out a Celestron Luminos 2.5x Barlow in the grab and go bag for occasional higher magnifications. In use the Barlow usually has a Baader Fringe Killer/Neodymium stack threaded into it.




When I initially set up the MoonLite I noticed that the focusing controls and the rotation were very smooth. An odd thing was that I noticed that the left-hand finder shoe screw would push the reflex sight foot slightly forward as it rotated and tightened. To keep the finder as accurate as possible I usually push the foot into the shoe while feeling for the edge of the shoe with my finger. When it is flush with the edge I know it is in the right place. This is a particularly useful operation when setting up in the dark. It does this every time I place the reflex sight into the shoe though so once the finder has been aligned it doesn’t matter as it always slides back to the same place.




As I was observing Venus at between around 100x to 156x the extra weight of the MoonLite was quite noticeable. The vibration return at these magnifications was slower than with the lighter SW unit. I discovered that the smoothness and precision of the focusing controls offset this slightly though. Another interesting factor was the MoonLite’s shaft lock system situated directly under the left-hand focusing knob. This locks with absolutely no image shift that I could detect.




Just before the sky porridge came I had a look at Sirius, Procyon and Cappella at 18.5x with the Panoptic. It was still technically twilight but these particular stars are very bright. Any vibration was not an issue at this magnification. The only drawback appears to be getting used to the extra weight again. All in all I’m very impressed with the MoonLite and it is a joy to use. It oozes quality and is beautiful to look at. I’ll have to eventually stop taking jpegs of it lol.

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I’ve had three sessions now with the ST102 fitted with the MoonLite focuser and the AZ5 mount/tripod combination. The AZ5 is 4.9kg and the stock ST102 is 2.5kg. So, without accessories, this combination is at least feasible. When I fitted the TS Optics/GSO focuser I weighed the OTA and it was still about 2.5kg. So I assumed the GSO wasn’t really that much heavier than the stock Synta focuser. When I replaced the GSO with the Sky-Watcher/Long Perng focuser I weighed the OTA again. This time it was about 3kg. Still do-able with the AZ5 though. Bearing in mind at least another kilo could be added with the diagonal and eyepiece.




Saturday I had a three hour rich field session with ST102 which enabled me to really put the MoonLite through its paces. It certainly didn’t disappoint me. Everything is so precise and using it is a delight. In fact, once I had become more familiar with MoonLite I ceased thinking about actually using it and it just did its job. So I could sweep for open clusters, the occasional globular, planetary nebula and other DSO’s and concentrate on observing. Later I realised that the supposed extra weight of the MoonLite wasn’t a problem. So I weighed the OTA on bathroom scales. It was about 2.5kg. At first, this didn’t make sense, until I re-weighed the Long Perng focuser and compared it with the GSO. The Long Perng was 1.4kg!




So ignore what I said about the weight of the Long Perng focuser in an earlier post, I must have misread the scales (I have actually had brain damage). Just picking one of the units up after the other will show the difference in weight.




The OTA together with the APM diagonal weighs in at about 3kg, basically the same weight as the OTA with the Long Perng focuser. 



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