Help me decide on solar setup

Use this section to discuss "standard" Baader/Coronado/ Lunt SolarView/ Daystar, etc… filters, cameras and scopes. No mods, just questions/ answers and reviews.
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PilotAstronomy
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Help me decide on solar setup

Post by PilotAstronomy » Sat Feb 09, 2019 3:16 am

Greetings--

I’ve recently set a $5-6,000 annual astro gear budget, and after toying around with a friend of a friend’s Ha scope, I think this year I’d like to dip my toes in the solar bucket.

I’m curious your thoughts on what you’d do if you were starting solar from scratch with that budget with similar goals as mine. I’ll be primarily imaging. I’ll probably only do visual during the occasional outreach I do (local elementary/middle schools---I image solar will make this quite a bit easier!) The seeing where I’m going to be moving to for the next ~5 years later this spring is probably average overall based on my experiences when I was primarily visual last time I lived there. Because of this, I think imaging a full disc should probably take priority over closer-in images...though I do want to be able to do both when the seeing is good. I’m interested in H-a, but also CaK, and white light imaging.

My current gear (not all relevant to this) is a C925, ASI1600MM Pro, ASI224MC, CGX, some random 2x and 3x barlows, an SCT 0.63 reducer, Hyperstar, SHOLRGB 2" filters, filter slider, and an STC focus motor. I don’t really have any intention of using the C925 for solar initially, as from what I’ve read it probably won’t meet my desires...but I am open to suggestions w/ it!

My initial thoughts were a SolarMax III DS 70mm B15 that I can use to image in all three bandwidths (with a CaK module and light wedge), but I can’t seem to find anyone that actually has a SM3 for an honest review and I’m thinking a longer focal length/wider aperture might make more sense to meet my reach goal of getting closer-in/higher-res shots (w/ barlows) when the seeing allows. I’ve also been eyeballing a Lunt LS80THa SS B1800, but it being H-a only, it'd mean getting a second refractor for the CaK/white light eventually and I'm unsure if the aperture/FL is what I want there either. What refractor/etalons/filters/camera(s)/etc would you recommend?

I do not need to get everything this year--so if it's well over budget and some secondary pieces get punted to 2020, that’s ok. My budget is not set in stone either, and I’m somewhat willing to fudge it up past $6,000 a bit for the likely new camera(s) I’ll need to be at the proper image scale and/or mounting hardware. Also, I’m not [hot place] bent on spending all of it. It’s more of a guideline for myself that keeps the wife from asking too many questions. I am willing to buy used, though I am fairly careful about it.

I know we’re at solar minimum, but I am buying this for the long-term and it won’t be solar minimum forever and there’s no better time than “now” to figure out what I’m doing with all this! I’m excited to broaden my challenge past planetary and deep sky imaging.

Thank you for your thoughts.
-Dennis

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marktownley
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Re: Help me decide on solar setup

Post by marktownley » Sat Feb 09, 2019 6:05 am

Hi Dennis.

The 70mm SM3 (actually 60mm) aperture is going to give you nice full disk images, and while the solar disk is blank at the moment you will be able to watch activity build as we head into cycle 25 - I did this with cycle 24, and to a lesser extent with previous solar cycles. A 60mm scope (lunt or coronado) is pretty much only a full disk scope for imaging, start zooming in and you will soon start to see it's limitations. I do see where you're coming from by using the SM3 for 3 wavelengths and the versatility here, and there are lots of people with full disk rigs. A full disk rig like this is a good starting point to cut your teeth in the world of solar

I'm sure if you get the solar bug with this setup you will want more aperture, a 4" f7 frac with a quark would be a good step up, and you could use the other 3 wavelengths with it too. Depending on how it progresses you could get an ERF for the c9.25.

Remember it's a buyers market here in solar minimum as people sell their kit with a blank sun, so keep an eye on the second hand market, I regularly see great deals on there.

Mark
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george9
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Re: Help me decide on solar setup

Post by george9 » Sat Feb 09, 2019 6:23 pm

I am a fan of double stacking. Some say that is more important for visual than for imaging, and others find it very important for imaging. I am visual for H-alpha and neophyte imaging in CaK.

You mention the LS80, and I love my LS80 DSII with B1800. I optimized it over time with a circular polarizer filter between the etalons and a brighter blocking filter. The full-disk view is the nicest I have seen other than a tie with an old double stacked pre-Meade Coronado 90mm (90-90, not 90-60), which are getting harder to find and starting to de-contact. Many find the Lunt 100 SS better for imaging than the LS80 DSII.

Given your budget, I might go for an 80, 90, or 100 rather than 60 to get good full-disk views yet a little better prominences, spicules, fibrils, etc.

I also have a Quark on a 155mm refractor for high-power views, and a 92mm refractor with Lunt CaK B1200 for calcium.

George

PilotAstronomy
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Re: Help me decide on solar setup

Post by PilotAstronomy » Tue Feb 19, 2019 12:16 am

Ok, I think I have pieced together a plan.

For a CaK/WL refractor I’m looking at either a Celestron Omni XLT 102mm (f/10) or a Lunt Engineering ED 80mm (f/7). Both are approx the same price (the C102 needs a focuser upgrade).

Advantage of the C102 is larger aperture, and I try to get my hands on a SM90/BF15 to add hydrogen to the setup. This would make one telescope for all three versions of the sun.

Advantage of the Lunt is it’s smaller, easier to use, and likely would get used more often. But I’d probably get a Lunt LS80mm Ha scope to mount alongside it instead of trying to have a one-'scope-fits-all approach.

Either of these two approaches costs about the same, more or less. I have no issues w/ used gear in general--but from what I’m reading used solar gear is a bit riskier..? I may want the warranty and customer service of Lunt for peace of mind..?

As of now I’m leaning towards the all-Lunt solution because I like the symmetry of it (don’t judge me, haha) and warranty/customer service advantage. I may even get an Advanced VX mount (nice sale right now) so I can leave my nighttime setup up (CGX, C925, Hyperstar) without tearing it down to do solar and have a slightly more portable mount to bring my solar setup to outreach/etc. Anyone have a side-by-side solution recommendation?

I currently have some barlows that aren't anything special (not even sure their brand..a 2x and 3x..seem to work fine for planetary). Do I need any other adapters or filters to get the CaK1200 and 1.25” Light Wedge working w/ either of these refractors?

Thanks!
-Dennis

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