My Unitron Telescope

Unitron 62mm, 900mm FL Refractor Telescope

Once upon a time, I was a paperboy delivering the evening edition of the Detroit Free Press. I saved and bought this telescope. Over the years, the instrument was upgraded to its equatorial mount shown, new tube, added 10 X 40mm finder, and focuser converted to take 1.25 inch accessories. The telescope is "All Unitron". The optics is rated very good for this class of instrument. This 'scope and mount still has no peer today; a tribute to the design, materials, and quality of the Unitron brand; not to mention its handsome appearance and portability. This is not just a display telescope, as it holds its own for double star and planetary work; characteristic of the refractor design. Also, this telescope is well suited for piggyback astrophotography, as the mount controls are smooth and counter-weighting options are plentiful. When you have a good thing, why change it?

Diary of a Telescope Nut

Foucault Tester for Telescope Mirrors

I love telescopes; what more can I say? I did the mirror-grinding thing, but never made it into a complete telescope. Deep in my heart, I like telescopes you look in the direction you look at; thus the Newtonian design was never my first love. Telescope Making has always been a natural part of astronomy. Classic observatories always contained a shop, for the design and making of specialized devices used in the science. Careful study of the classics, showed I needed tools and equipment, to make what I could not afford. The literature also showed that ingenuity and persistence, were important parts of my "toolkit"; as a full-up machine shop was out of the question. My first optical test instrument was a Foucault Tester, constructed of stainless steel, brass, and aluminum; using hand tools, and a small Unimat Lathe. Next on the list was an interferometer, constructed using plywood, plate glass, and fluorescent ballast's to power the mercury vapor lamps. This device was used for a project to make an optical flat for auto collimating testing a Cassegrain telescope. Using the three-disk method, I succeeded in making a 1/8 wave flat. There was a lot of Zen in that flat project. Currently, the Unimat SL lathe is still in service. But the main guy is the Prazi unit shown. The Prazi is made in Germany, and has all the attributes one would expect from German engineering. It's the machine equivalent of a 911 Porche; small, precise, and fun to use!

Tabletop Lathe and Milling Machine of German Design

Beautiful Richest Field Telescope

Early Days, Barry in 1968

In the 1960's, the Richest Field Telescope (RFT) was very popular. The concept of a low power telescope, with an aperture to power ratio equivalent to a 7 X 50 mm binocular was also a hit with me. So I built one. The telescope was designed to be both functional and handsome to look at. The five-inch aperture, short focus design was selected; and time was not an issue in its completion. I was obsessed to make this telescope "near perfect". The efforts involved were described in an April 1969 issue of Sky & Telescope Magazine. This telescope has been mothballed for almost ten years; as my path deviated to other life pursuits. Now I am back on track, and the RFT will be updated with a newer designed focuser; allowing for visual, video astronomy, and afocal photography with a digital camera.

This RFT produces fine images using powers for which it was designed. Stars are point sources of light, with no visible signs of offending color, coma, or astigmatism. Typically, 25x to 40x is the magnification range. An eyepiece with large eye relief is preferred, with increased powers attained using a Barlow lens. The short tube makes for a very sturdy telescope, and has held its own against telescopes twice its size. The design of the focusing mount was ahead of its time. It is a low profile device, with course and fine adjustment modes of operation. Today such a mount is common, but my design was completed 30 years ago! The following lists details of the design of the RFT:

Exploded View of 5 inch RFT

RFT on Vixen GP-DX mount, attached via large accessory plate


So many options, so little time. What is one to do? What is desirable, is a tube length that does not exceed 30 inches. Something that is compact, storable, and transportable. The Questar and the five inch RFT are typical of this requirement. From the photo on the left, the green RFT has finally found its roots. A light green Vixen GP-DX German Equatorial Mount! It seems a perfect match; as fitting as sipping a cup of green tea, relaxing in a Japanese Kimono, listening to the sounds of Shakuhachi and Koto music in the background. The Vixen mount received rave reviews in Sky & Telescope (Aug 99), and the SkySensor 2000 GOTO was reviewed in the April 2000 issue of S&T.
Now let's talk about getting juice to this rig; when one is out in the boonies on a chilly evening! Most astronomical stuff runs on AC or 12 volts. In a typical photographic session, one could be toting a plethora of things that need power (e.g. Skysensor 2000 PC, Digital Camera, Video Camera, Dew Zapper, Laptop Computer, Power Inverter, etc.). Everything is not always on at the same time, so expect a fully charged 18 amp-hour battery (example shows "Instant Power", model PS-400-3 by Schumacher obtained from Sears, but similar models can be obtained from auto suppy stores) to last from a range of 3 to 12 hours, depending on usage rate of the high current accessories and the ambient temperature. The encased battery has charge status indicator lights, and one (1) 12V accessory socket. The Radio Shack tri-plug (RS 270-1523) is used to provide additional outlets, and the RS 273-1815 is a hi-current DC power adapter, that is strictly for the GOTO and drive motors; which according to the S & T review, can draw up to 3 amps! Stay tuned as the evolution continues......

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