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REVIEW : Skywatcher 10" Newtonian Reflector
Updated December 20, 2014 to include new collapsible model
LEFT: 10" Skywatcher Newtonian Reflector on standard Dobsonian base. Focal length= 1200mm.
RIGHT: 10" Skywatcher Newtonian reflector on EQ6 mount.
If you're looking for a telescope that is quick and easy to set up, transportable (if you have a large enough back seat, or better yet a van or pickup), and is capable of viewing deep space objects such as galaxies and nebulae, this is a good choice. The 10" optical tube is large enough to gather enough light to view dimmer objects, and is about as large as you can go and still call it "portable". There are larger Dobsonian Reflectors on the market, but good luck getting one into the back of your car.
The 10" tube weighs about 30 lbs. and the wooden base weighs about the same. There are no motors or drives on this type of mount. The tube is aimed simply by turning the base left or right, and tilting the tube up or down. On the sides of the optical tube are mounted "trunions", which look like 2 thick plastic wheels stuck to the side of it. These trunions each rest on 2 small pivots that are mounted inside the sides of the plywood base. The trunions rotate on the pivots like they are bearings. The long plastic handles on each side of the base screw into the center of the trunions. They not only keep the tube centered, but by varying how tight you screw the handles in, you can make the scope easy to aim yet still have it remain aimed vertically when you let go of it.
The metal focusser will accept either 1.25" or 2" eyepieces, and the focusser travel will lock if desires. Rather than have a 2" focusser with a removable 1.25" adapter, this OTA comes with one separate adapter for each size that must be inserted to use an eyepiece. There are however no threads on the adapters for filters- they must be screwed into the eyepiece when using the supplied adapters. This telescope also comes with a good 9x50 finderscope. Aiming it is quite easy and is done by adjusting 2 thumbscrews on the mounting bracket 120° apart, while the 3rd point rests on a spring loaded support. The finderscope and mounting bracket slide into a channel bracket and tighten with one large thumbscrew, enabling quick removal and installation. I have found that the finderscope keeps it's alignment well as long as the bracket is inserted all the way into the channel and held steady while the thumbscrew is tightened.
This telescope is not exactly meant for planetary use. It can under ideal conditions provide great views of the moon and brighter planets, but objects that bright are better viewed through something with a longer focal ratio ( a long and skinny telescope as opposed to short and thick). This scope has provided me with great views of M31 (Andromeda Galaxy) and 2 of it's companion galaxies in the same field of view, M27 (the Dumbbell Nebula), galaxies M81 and M82, and many globular and open star clusters.
Since I already owned an EQ6 mount which came with my 6" Refractor, I thought it would be nice if I could mount the 10" tube on it. This would not only give me the ability to track deep sky objects that require a little more power to appreciate, but would also give me (eventually) the chance to dabble in astrophotography. I could not locate 11.25" dia. tube rings for sale anywhere, which is strange because they do sell this same optical tube on a mount without the trunions that uses them. I purchased a pair of 12" rings, and shimmed the inside of them with strips of a thin outdoor patio material. Due to the size of the mount, and the length of the tube, it can be difficult to reach the focussing mount depending on where the tube is aimed. Normally you could just rotate the tube inside the rings and bring the eyepiece down to an easier placement. Unfortunately the trunions on the sides of my tube limit rotation to about 90 degrees, as they hit the dovetail the rings are mounted on if you rotate the OTA too much. I am not willing to remove the trunions, as I use the scope on it's Dobsonian mount quite often just for quick viewing sessions. I just have to remember to bring a ladder when I use the 10" on the EQ6.
Newer, and more portable versions
Skywatcher 10" Collapsible Dobsonian Telescope
Larger Newtonian telescopes can be a problem when it comes to transportation. The long optical tube assemblies can be too big to fit into your vehicle, which is a problem when you have to bring it to an observing site. Skywatcher now makes a collapsible 10" Newtonian. Instead of a solid tube, the lower section holding the primary mirror has 3 long tubes connected to the upper section containing the secondary mirror and focuser. The tubes can be extended to set up the telescope for use, or retracted down until the upper section is flush with the bottom. This makes the optical tube assembly smaller and easier to transport.
Skywatcher now makes a full line of collapsible Newtonians on Dobsonian mounts ranging from 8" to 16" in diameter, including the 10" model pictured above. I have never used a collapsible Newtonian, so I cannot speak from experience. Perhaps with a collapsible version, the collimation would not go out much if the top section of the tube assembly is racked out as far as it will go when the mirror is first collimated. As long as you extend the top section as far as it will go each time you set up, the collimation should remain good. Again, I am not speaking from experience, but it seems logical to me.
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