A telescope twosome

Last night’s observing session was a two-telescope affair. The NexStar 5 SE, our computerized 125mm Schmidt-Cassegrain, was set up for the first time since November alongside our 80mm apochromatic refractor, the Sky-Watcher Equinox 80, which continues to work tolerably on my camera tripod. Jennifer really enjoyed the fact that each of us could look through a telescope at the same time, and was amused when we switched to the other scope, or swapped our eyepieces. (Note to self: we need more eyepieces.)

So, what did we see? We caught Venus before it disappeared below the horizon, its crescent so thin your in-laws will never come back, even at the relatively low powers we observed it with. Saturn’s rings were nearly edge-on, but still visible, and we caught a couple of its moons (probably Dione and Rhea).

Jennifer enjoyed the wide, 2½° view afforded by the refractor combined with the 16mm Nagler, which made observing open clusters like M41, M44 and the Pleiades a joy. It was also abundantly clear that the Equinox is an extremely sharp scope: the Trapezium in M42 was tiny, but all four stars were resolved. Stars were generally more pleasing in the Equinox than they were in the NexStar despite the latter’s greater aperture, but the NexStar’s greater aperture made M42’s nebulosity much more impressive. Suffice to say I’m beginning to understand why the refractor guys go on and on about their tiny and expensive scopes.

Both scopes were fitted with dielectric star diagonals — I picked up a used two-inch William Optics dielectric for the refractor earlier this week — which definitely made an impact. Using the 1¼-inch Orion dielectric on the NexStar was a noticeable improvement over the scope’s stock diagonal.

It’s been a very cold winter, too cold to do much observing. I’ve missed it.