I've been lucky and privileged to work with and for some wonderful clients and customers. Most have become good friends, and all (so far as I know) are very satisfied with my work.
Some customers and users of my optics have been kind enough to share their experiences with me, and here I will share them with you. All of what follows are clients' or users' own words, used with their permission.
"The scope can do
better than 1.8, in fact the best nights I have images of the Trapezium
area that show resolution down to just over 0.8 arc sec, the best I have ever done with any scope. The primary mirror was hand figured by Lockwood Optics, the rest of the optics and mechanics of this scope was fabricated at AP.....
....How about a custom 16" - 17" Cassegrain with precision quartz optics, small secondary, 100% US made? Optics by Lockwood and AP. We made a large Cassegrain with Lockwood mirror, which I showed at NEAF this spring. The mirror has the smoothest, most accurate curve on it that I have ever seen. The scope is light enough to be placed on a mount by one person."
-Roland Christen, Astrophysics, 16" f/3.5 lightweighted quartz primary mirror by LCO, other optics and telescope by AP
-Geoffrey Harris, England, 16" f/4.0 JPAstrocraft Sweet Sixteen
"Hello Mike, I have
gone to the Larzac to Stellarzac to take back home my T30" =
T760mm. Fred Gea has finished. And we viewed with the scope
in his open country in the south of France.
The images are excellent!! Fred Gea, who loves precision in his work, said the same. And with this big diameter, no astigmatism! The same circles of a star, in intrafocus and in extra focus, at 700x! And good small images of each star. Bright stars give 4 broken/dotted lines. Fred say that it is also a good sign of quality.
I have choose the best mirror maker in the world, and the best frame's scope maker in Europe. BRAVO! Thank you very much for this excellent job.
Your friend, Alain"
"Tonight I took the
30’’ scope outside for the first time since it arrived in the UK.
It has remote collimation of the primary which is absolutely amazing –
The first thing I looked at was Jupiter whilst still twilight, at 279X (11mm Dellite with Paracor) and the view was AMAZING, definitely the best I’ve ever seen it. It really snapped into focus and the first time I’ve seen background detail *between*’ the main belts and inside the Great Red Spot. Also a transit of a gallilean moon was a sharp inky black circle. Later when dark, I did a star test and it’s the first time I’ve ever seen the *same* view of a defocused star either side of focus. The Starstructure design also cools down quite fast due to the open structure behind the primary and the aluminum construction. Even on bright stars such as Vega at 279X the image was very sharp with a very attractive diffraction pattern from secondary spider. Then I turned to Mars which was only 20 degrees above the horizon so I was expecting the usually fuzzy image but WOW, I couldn’t believe how much detail I could see and how sharp it was. 279x was the highest power because of its altitude but it snapped into focus perfectly and there was a fair bit of fine detail visible without the usual orange filter that I normally use. Definitely this was the best ever view of Mars (and Jupiter) tonight – then it went cloudy, you can’t have it all !!!!!!!!
What was really amazing was how *round* my stars were. I couldn’t see any evidence whatsoever of astigmatism or cooling down issues after about one hour of bringing the scope outside. The combination of your optics and Mike Z's scope design all appear to be faultless. I’m VERY HAPPY INDEED - who said large f/3.5 optics aren’t great for planets! I'll send more reports on deep sky objects when the darker evenings return in the Fall."
"Thanks for connecting me with Christina and Doug at TSP 2016. They are great people and I had a really good time with them. Christina didn't mention this object in her observing report but my favorite view was M51 which I was able to compare views with a 36" f/5 set-up nearby. I observed M51 first in the 36" and was very impressed with the brightness and detail in the spiral arms. Probably my best M51 view ever. I then walked over to Christina and Doug and we took a look at M51 through the 30" f/3.3. Wow, what a difference! Having just looked at the same object through the 36", I immediately noticed how much tighter the stars looked in the 30" - pin points. The spiral arms showed every bit as much detail as the 36", maybe more. Now this is my new best M51 view ever! You have to be proud of that mirror - I know Christina is. After a couple of months many memories have faded but that view of M51 stands out.
Another stand out
memory was the view of the "inter-galactic wanderer". I had never
seen this globular cluster before. It was faint and large, almost
diffuse like but the cluster really stood out - pin point stars.
Another testament to your great mirror. I wish I could have spent
more time with Christina and Doug but I spent a good deal of time
helping a friend cure someproblems he was having with his scope."
-James, CA, waiting for a 40" f/3.75 Lockwood/StarStructure telescope
"How are the views? In a word “Wow!” I’ve owned commercial Dobs and Schmidt Cas. telescopes at 10” aperture and with focal ratios from f/6.3 to f/4.5 and I was always disappointed with those. The images weren’t crisp and even with very careful collimation the star test would always show very rough Airy disks. So I was always skeptical of how good the images could be. First night out in my not so dark city skies of Albuquerque and the Orion nebula was amazing. Crisp, clear nebulosity extended out to the edge of a low power view. And I what I couldn’t believe - I could detect color in the nebula - something I have never been able to do. On double stars and Jupiter your mirror has provided amazing views - splitting really tight doubles and showing lots of detail on Jupiter. Heck Jupiter is almost too bright. On nights when I’ve looked at the moon, I’ve been amazed at the very low contract rilles I can make out on the maria. Really, really spectacular optic!"
-Rich, NM, 12.5" f/4.7 visual Newtonian TeleKit
"Hi Mike, I had a few nights this spring, I observed quite nice things. It was amazing to detect my first light object - IC 4277, tiny 17.5 mag edge-on behind M51! It was for me the first time that I saw that! (In a 20 inch, also under excellent sky, it was impossible!) ....and of course M51! It has a new look, and I detect a lot of new extensions and arms. M57 was greenish-blue with an easy, bright, direct-vision central star, and a second one. IC 1296, the small face-on near M57, was incredible - easy with direct vision, and with spiral structure!
On the last Friday, we had a quite OK night with a little bit of humidity in the Alps. So, I tried IC 4107 (at around 18th magnitude, the faintest object in the IC catalog!) and was successful. I glimpsed it with adverted vision clearly. It was a little bit extended, round, and no structure. We had observed this galaxy a few years ago on the Grossglockner with Uwe Glahn's 27". It was very extreme, but we glimpsed it with adverted vision.
The optic is excellent and have the aesthetic impression of looking through a good 12-14 inch telescope! I never had this impression until now in a large instrument! I very much look forward to you visiting me again! The beer is cool! Thanks again, Mike."
-Anonymous, German client, 36" f/3.3 primary, telescope by Ulli Vedder
"I rolled the scope out for a few quick looks last night. We had a span of about 90 minutes of good seeing around dusk. The moon was spectacular. I can't really even describe it other than to say that it left me speechless. Actually, I'll say that it kind of reminded me of a fractal in that it seemed that looking closer would just keep revealing more details without limit.
I slewed over to Sirius to check collimation and there was the Pup sitting just as plain as day. Capella, being higher in the sky, focused down to a very small, intense point of light. Nothing like the bloated stars that I used to see in my C11. Just a verysatisfying, searingly intense little point....."
"Sorry to keep emailing you, but OMG. The best view of Jupiter that I ever had was through my old TOA 130. Mike, this mirror… it just guts the TOA. Just slays it. It’s got all the razor sharpness of the TOA image, but SO MUCH BIGGER, so much brighter, and so much more color saturated. Jupiter, just hanging there in space like I’ve always dreamed of seeing it. I would say that I was rendered speechless, but I was actually exclaiming “HOLY SHIT!” Hope my neighbor was not outside.
This is at 300x and 392x using a Binotron-27. The 2.5”-travel Feathertouch has sufficient travel for all three power switch positions to come to focus. It’s just a dream to use. You’d have to be nuts to spend what a TOA costs for a visual experience when you could have a complete 16” scope with Lockwood optics for about the same price. Hell, I have THOUSANDS less in my 16” than what a new TOA 130 costs - and that’s after misadventures and upgrades. For imaging, sure, refractors have serious virtue and may well be worth the money. For visual? Everyone knows that the big scope will crush a refractor on DSOs, but a top-shelf Newtonian operated with a little care will crush the refractor anywhere the fight goes. Planets, lunar, double stars, whatever. I’ve seen this with my 10” Zambuto optic and I’m seeing it again with the 16” masterpiece you made for me. Make mine a Newtonian.
Two more nights on Jupiter.... Mike, this mirror is very impressive. Jupiter looks better than I've ever seen it. With most of the scopes that I have previously owned, Jupiter looked like a white disk with two reddish-brownish stripes. The Red Spot could be seen, though usually blurrily. A good night might reveal some fracturing or turbulence along the edges of the equatorial bands. And a really, really good night (>95th percentile) might show some blue festoons and smaller barges. But still, nothing approaching a photographic view.
Through this 16" scope, Jupiter looks like photo, and a good one at that. I always thought people were exaggerating when they said that, but now I understand. Last night the seeing forecast for my area was 4/5. I don't think it was quite that good, but the detail visible on Jupiter was just stunning. I was using 382x, the highest I can achieve with my current eyepiece lineup. And in the short periods of best seeing, it was just photographic. Just photographic. I can't even describe the detail. Look at one of Chris Go's better images, that's what it looked like.
I'm going to have to get a better short focal length eyepiece. I now have optics that justify dropping cash into a high-power eyepiece.
Dropping down to 230x meant that the image was at maximum detail 100% of the time. This magnification was not sufficient to resolve the seeing. However, Jupiter is dazzlingly bright at this exit pupil.
I said once on Cloudy Nights in one of the silly debates about whether good optics are worth the money that having a good mirror is like permanently upgrading the seeing by a couple of levels. And that's exactly what I'm experiencing with this 16" mirror. None of these three nights has been remarkable with respect to the seeing (as I could readily observe twinkling for stars at 35 degrees and lower), but the Jupiter images I'm seeing are superior to those that I used to observe even on the best nights with previous telescopes.
I've had this mirror on Jupiter three times. Each time, the images have been among the best I have ever seen, or *actually* the best I have ever seen. This type of performance appears to be routine. And this is exactly what I was hoping I'd get when I sent the optics to you in the first place. So once I again, I am compelled to thank you for your work. It is very much appreciated!"
-Matt M., TN, 16" f/4.5 refigure
"Mike Lockwood's mirror - perfect. It is textbook perfect.
I don't know how else to describe it..... The seeing was good enough
during portions of superb seeing to allow me to carefully examine the
in-focus diffraction pattern at over 500x. The central disc is
round and the first ring is also perfectly round. There is no
'hair' or other garbage indicative of roughness or poor figure.
The secondary mirror is a 2.2" obstruction which is 17.6% by diameter -
indistinguishable from a same-sized unobstructed scope at the
eyepiece.... Essentially a 12" refractor with 0% added colour...
Views of Jupiter gave sharp, contrasty looks at the myriad details in the tropical bands, tiny white ovals in the north (I think) temperate band, clear details of the 'eddies' which follow the red spot, etc, etc. During an Io transit the moon was easily visible for a couple of hours as it moved along the tropical belt. Io's shadow was starkly black with a sharp edge and was clearly resolved as a circle, not just a point. I have never seen Jupiter so well in any refractor, APO or long achro, at a star party, ever.
Double stars - my notes are in a box right now as I take a break from unpacking - were split with dark sky between equal components down to 0.6". 0.5" pairs were deeply notched or 'dark line' splits and 0.4" pairs were noticeably elongated."
-Dave Cotterell, Ontario, Canada, 12.5" f/6.5, 1.1" thick, in a Teeter's Telescope, with a JPAstrocraft mirror cell
"Just touching base on the 20” mirror. Los Angeles Club Star party met on Mount Wilson as part of the 60” and 100” historic Hooker Observatories programs, and I brought along the Teeter 20” scope. Exceptional steady temperature and very calm conditions gave some of the best views of the Orion Nebula trapezium that I and others at the star party has seen, excluding the 60” and 100” scopes. One person wanted to buy my scope because views were so impressively sharp and contrasty. Handled 630x with no issue. It does pay to be critical about the optical specs and quality. Just wanted you to know I am enjoying the performance."
-Mike, 20" f/3.6, CA
"The moment of truth had come – how would this large fast mirror perform? My observing partner for this occasion was noted astro-imager (and avid visual observer), Tony Hallas. Our first object was Vega, since it was the brightest star in the twilight sky. The seeing was pretty good, as it often is early in the evening, before our foothill air gets turbulent when darkness settles.
A 7mm Pentax XW
eyepiece was put into the Type II Paracorr giving about 375x.
Vega focused down to a blinding point of light. There was no question
when you were in focus. It just snapped in. Both inside and
outside of focus, sharp and contrasty diffraction rings were
visible. They were almost identical. This surprised
me! With fast mirrors I was used to seeing diffraction rings on
one side of focus (usually outside of focus), but just mush and
spikiness on the other side. But not with this mirror. One
thing working in our favor was that the mirror was pretty much cooled
down at the time since the scope had been in my shop all day, instead
of out in the hot sun.
As darkness settled, we moved from one thing to another quickly in order to get some views in of various objects before the seeing inevitably worsened as the evening progressed. First object was M13, fairly low in the west. Nice view at 370x, considering its low altitude and the crescent moon nearby. Thousands of stars filled the field. They were tiny, discreet pinpoints of light, a testament to the sharp focus this mirror was producing.
Next we went to the Ring Nebula, which was higher up and well placed for a good view. And a good view it was! First at 380x. Then at 880x. At that high power it dominated the field of view. While the seeing was now starting to go downhill, the central star was still visible, sometimes with direct vision when the seeing sharpened up. This was with a so-so suburban sky (Milky Way visible, but not spectacular) and a crescent moon. Also to be noted, the tracking at that high power was excellent, with no vibration or shaking. Using the hand control at the lowest slew rate I could glide that huge image of the Ring to the center of the field with no difficulty. Then I did Go-To's to various other objects like the Dumbbell, the CatsEye, the Double Cluster and NGC 891. The scope quickly found every object in a 260x field of view.
Suffice to say for now that we were frankly stunned by the telescope's performance, both mechanically and optically. We did not expect to see the kind of images this f/2.8 mirror delivered. Tony, especially, is wary of shorter mirrors. For the 24” SlipStream Telescope that I built for him, he did not even want to go sub-f/4, much less sub-f/3! But after those first views with the 32”, he emailed Mike Lockwood (see his comments below)."
-Tom Osypowski, CA, owner of Equatorial Platforms, on using the 32" f/2.8 SpicaEyes telescope
"Last night I had the opportunity to try out the 32" f/2.8
Slipstream for which you made the optics ... amazing! The seeing
was less than ideal but you could see the figure on the
mirror was outstanding, and with a Paracorr 2 the stars were round to
the corners of most eyepieces. When you see the scope for the
first time, it's kind of a shock ... like, "what the heck is THAT...???"
The real shock is when you look through it and see those perfect stars. This isn't supposed to happen ...
Congratulations to you and Tom for pulling off the impossible. That scope is truly one of a kind ... I hope the owner never goes to a star party with it ... he won't be able to use it."
-Tony Hallas, CA, on using the 32" f/2.8 SpicaEyes telescope
"I was at the
second annual Flagstaff Star Party with the 13.4" scope. It has
the mirror that you refigured. The event is 90% outreach and it's
held in a park that is located about 1000 ft higher than downtown
Flagstaff. There were about 30 scopes lined up on the side of a
path. My scope was near the front of the pack.
Over the course of three nights, at least 700 people looked through the scope. A fair number of folks went out of their way to come back and tell me that my scope had the sharpest and most detailed views. Though SCT's probably made up 40% of the scopes in the field, I saw two StarMasters (12.5"), two Obsessions (15", 18"), a couple Meade Lightbridges, a 178mm AP refractor, a couple 20 inch homebrews, and a very strange looking 28" f/3.7.
A few of those who commented on my scope were experienced amateurs so I felt that the scope was a definite standout.
I spent a little time looking at Saturn and I saw more detail than I'd ever seen from my backyard. A long-time astronomer and resident commented that the seeing where I live is particularly bad because the Westerly winds flow right over the mountains, then bring down a blanket of cold air into the valley where I live. Hm... That would explain a lot.
In any event, I know it wasn't a "real" star party, but I was nonetheless delighted by the unsolicited, positive feedback on the scope. The feedback was in no small part a result of your fine work on the refigure."
-K. L., AZ
"Mike, just a quick note to tell you that with your optics collimated and cooled, and under some of the famously steady Chiefland skies, Saturn tonight is simply spectacular. I was hopeful when I saw the crescent moon earlier tonight looking better than I'd ever seen despite a cooling mirror and low elevation. Saturn's rings and the planet itself were really a vision. THANK YOU for sharing your skill and dedication with those of us lucky enough to be amateur astronomers while you are creating mirrors."-Larry, 32" f/3.6, NY/FL
"Went to the Illinois Dark Sky Star Party located at Jim Edger Panther Creek State Park this past Thursday thru Sunday. I have found this to be one of the darkest places in IL and an easy drive of 100 miles from my home in Bloomington. It was hit and miss with the clouds all but one good night. Checking the Clear Sky Clock showed Sunday night after the Starparty to be the best, above average or better across the board. I had already planed on staying till Tuesday and I talked my observing friend to stay Sunday night with his Starmaster 22" f/3.3. After looking at the CSC it was easy to get him to stay one more night.
We set up his Starmaster 22" f/3.3 and after it cooled down we were rewarded with one of the best nights I have every had at JEPC State Park.
Collimation was a snap and easy with the Tu Blug, stars were sharp and pinpoint all night. We decided to concentrate on planetaries as the night was so good. NGC 40 - NGC 6543 - NGC 6818 - M 57 - NGC 6905 - NGC 7009 - NGC 7662 were top on the list and the highlights of the evening. We started out with a Ethos 21mm and centered the object up. The mirror and eyepiece produced bright pinpoint stars and a very dark and contrasty background with the object just floating in the field. We played around with different eyepieces and decided to just go from the 21mm to my 3.5mm Delos.
The detail was amazing on each and every object, showing detail that we had only seen in photographs. Just playing around we put the 2x TeleVue Barlow in front of the Delos 3.5mm. In my 24 " f/4.2, I have figured that combination would have produced 1700x. On Terry's 22" we never got around to doing the actual math, but I would guess in the 22" f/3.3 it would have been 1300-1500x. We were both amazed that it actually focused and in the best moments of seeing produced the BEST views ever. This is how we observed each planetary object till we closed up shop.
This was the first real test of Terry's 22". We also really liked the wider field of view compared to my 24". With a 41mm Panoptic we could fit Andromeda and her two friends in the field easily, M 45 was just about totally contained. Those kind of views are not thought of with a big Dob but are now possible with these fast mirrors.
Mike, your mirror
was stunning and gave us some great memories and stories to
share. As my 24" Starmaster is sold I was kinda nervous about
going smaller, but after observing with the 22" f/3.3 I am confident that
my new 20" FXQ Starmaster with a fine Lockwood mirror will serve me
well. The 8' ladder will not be missed and now just stay in the
orchard where it belongs. Can't wait to report on my new 20" FX-Q when it is finished this spring."
-Dan Mitchell, IL, using a 22" f/3.3 Starmaster, waiting for his 20.25" f/3.3 FX-Q Starmaster
"Thought you would
enjoy the feedback my little scope got up at Oz Sky… it was among the
field ranging from John B’s 14" right through to (a) 30”…
Consistently best images on field …. SDM 38 … sharpness and contrast … Mars was un-freaking-believable, best detail many had seen in their lives (and these were very very experienced guys...)
To quote some Russian guests: 'Peter … Lockwood … 16 … Purfect Stars.' That was the longest english sentence they had managed to string together too! Best seeing I’ve ever had that mirror out in, and I can confirm a textbook perfect star test at 550x."
-James Pierce, Australia. 16" f/4, SDM Telescopes #38
"Hello Mike, hope all is well, we are currently having a real fall to winter weather transition, snow flurries at lower levels and winds blowing skin of the custard! Happy to accomodate any of your potential clients for a viewing of your 24" mirror, I have been struggling to get to the EP with the weather however when I do it is bloody awesome!
I had a New Zealand couple
over for a pizza and planets night, the moon was 3/4 and seeing was
very good. Jupiter was proudly displaying her red spot like a 3D fried
egg, with some glimpses of festooning cloud, and when Saturn was high
enough we dialed in with the 8mm Ethos…..my first experience seeing
this planet in such raw beauty, it was mind blowing for the visitors
and Julie. The detail was extraordinary Cassini and Enke divisions
razor sharp against the black contrast of the backgound, there was very
good detail on the planets surface and all that three weeks before
-Graham Sanders, Tasmania, Australia. 24" f/3.3, SDM Telescopes #70
"After having observed through several scopes which use Lockwood optics, I have come to the conclusion that the make of telescope is secondary to the equation. Whether a professionally made scope or a home-made version, (as long as the scope is up for the task) it seems to make little difference. At this year's WSP I had the good fortune to view through Joe Wambo's 32" f/3.6 Webster, Kirk Collins' 32" f/3.6 JPAstrocraft, as well as John Pratte's own 25" f/4 JPAstrocraft. All quality scopes, but the common denominator is the optics.
The WSP boasts great seeing and this was evident through these three scopes. Using Joe's scope, the views of Jupiter were simply amazing. At higher power, the detail in the bands, the festoons, the GRS and smaller storms, showed a wealth of detail. Also, when looking at the Trapezium, almost everyone has seen the E and F stars, but this was the first time that I have seen the G, H pair, and I stars.
My wife and I have the good fortune to own a 28" f/3.5 Starmaster with Lockwood optics which sits in an 18-foot dome that is on the second floor of my shop in Chiefland Astronomy Village. This April, after returning from the WSP, we hosted a small star party for a few of our close friends. We had several nights of decent seeing, but the one night was quite good so I decided to try the Trapezium with my own scope, even though it was well past the zenith. Hey! Guess what? All ten stars were visible! Jupiter showed a wealth of information but got a little fuzzy when the power was pushed over 800X (lol). Swing over to the Eskimo Nebula and here my two observing buddies and I had a slight disagreement as to which view was better. Allen preferred the 805X magnification, whereas Bud and I liked the detail at 2068X (that's right 2068X). We all agreed that the 805X view was exceptional.
Later the same evening after my two friends left, my buddy Scott, who had his 24" Starmaster f/4.2 w/Zambuto optics set up in my yard, suggested that I try the Twin Lensing Quasar in Ursa Major. He had been able to see the quasar using averted vision with his scope and wanted to see what it looked like through my 28" scope. I swung over to NGC3079 and located the asterism where the quasar likes to hide. After trying several eyepieces I found the best view was at 414X where we could hold the quasar for several seconds at a time. Scott came up to have a peek and commented as he went back down, "aperture does make a difference". As I was wrapping up for the night I decided to try and resolve the 'double double' stars Epsilon Lyra. The two pair resolved into four individual stars that were tack sharp at 404X. All in all, it was an excellent viewing adventure.
In summing up, it is a real treat to own a scope like the 28" Starmaster with Lockwood optics. The high quality of the optics ensure that the views, (whether splitting close doubles, DSO's, planets, quasars etc. etc.), are being limited by conditions such as seeing and turbulence which are beyond my control, and not to the impeccable optics."
& Doris Willis, Chiefland Astronomy Village, 28" f/3.5 (custom)
"I wanted to drop a few lines from my first light experiences with my JP Astrocraft. At the 2013 WSP I had the good fortune to spend a night with John Pratte and Joe Wambo. They have two of the finest telescopes I've ever viewed through. John Pratte's 25" and Joe's 32" both have incredible examples of Lockwood optics. I was so impressed that I ordered a 32" f/3.6 as soon as I got home.
Well, after one short year I took delivery of my own 32" f/3.6 JPAstrocraft with what might be your best mirror ever. I was blown away by target after target (at the 2014 WSP). M101 showed H-II regions that I had only seen in photos. M51, M65, M66, M97, M81, M82, etc.... all like seeing them for the first time. After a year of anticipation, I am very pleased to report that all of my expectations were met or beaten. The pinpoint stars across 100 degree fields from 21mm down to 6mm Ethos eyepieces were just spectacular. It was a privilege to treat dozens of WSP attendees to many of the best views of many DSO's and Jupiter. Well done!"
-Kirk Collins, MD. 32" f/3.6, 6" m.a. flat
32" primary and 6.25" m.a. secondary that you made for me in the
early part of 2014 got a real workout this past weekend in North
Central Florida. I had installed the reworked UTA with some neighbors
during the afternoon and one of the folks that helped me install it
(Bob) stayed over to help with collimation. My neighbor Bob is
lunar expert and has a 1 million word encyclopedic software program he
developed along with tons of pictures for lunar observation. He is also
primarily an astrophotographer.
Our first target was a 1/3 waxing Moon where we were viewing craters at between 160-642x with a Paracorr II and Ethos ep's. Bob was totally blown away by the resolving capability of the scope and said that he had never seen the Moon look so good through a very large aperture scope. We next went to Jupiter and the views were of the boring side, but crisp nonetheless. We then moved the scope over to M42 and even with the Moon only about 30-35 degrees away, Bob commented that he had not seen so many tight protostars surrounding the Trapezium. He was amazed that even with the Moon blazing that he could see both green and red coloration in the Trapezium and "wings" of Orion.
The last object that he and I went to was Sirius and between 330x-642x the Pup next to Sirius stood out very brightly and was a very easy target. Apparently Sirius B is six arcseconds away from the bright star so the separation was not challenging. Bob did a star test at high power and commented how nice the intra/extra focal rings were. He commented that he had always thought of large Newtonians as "light buckets" and had never seen a large Newtonian perform at the level of the newly refigured mirrors. He also commented that with views like what we were seeing, he could easily become a visual observer again and was amazed at the detail on the Moon that could be resolved.
All I can say is that this large behemoth of a scope is performing beyond my expectations and I am very pleased with the views I am getting. Thanks again for a job well done."
-Bob S., Florida, 32" f/3.6, 6.25" m.a. flat
"BTW, I had first
light tonight with the new mirror. I can sum it up
I bought an 8" Orion. I now own an 8" Takahashi.
Jupiter looked *amazing* at 300X. I couldn't really get any additional detail past 200X with the mirror prior to re-figuring. At 300X, I was noticing substantial "bloat" to star images with the stock mirror. Tonight, it was nothing but nice, round pinpoints when the seeing was good. Even at 143X, I could clearly see the images as vastly superior to the previous figure of this mirror."
"I had the
refigured 8" f/4.9 out on Thursday night. Transparency wasn't
that great, but after suffering through a cryogenic winter, I'll take
whatever observing time I can get. The haze in the air,
with my red-zone location, allowed for a ZNLM of maybe 4.7, quickly
diving as one headed towards the horizons. Just for kicks n'
giggles, I decided to take a look at some DSO's, as the seeing wasn't
any better than the previous two nights I looked at Jupiter and
Mars. I've flocked the scope, but even on a good night, I was
hard pressed to see any detail in M82--particularly the large dust lane
that bisects the galaxy--with the old stock mirror.
The new mirror? Saw it, and it wasn't even that hard. The other thing that struck me was how well the periphery of the galaxy stood out, as well as some of the other dust mottling and brightness gradients that showed up (i.e., it wasn't a featureless blog; it looked like a complex DSO). Even M81 showed a lot of brightness gradient and structure (though no spiral arms; my name's "Creed", not "O'Meara".) Again, this was under conditions that really weren't all that good.
I know there's a section on Carl Zambuto's website that hammers home the idea that absent aperture, it's contrast-uber-alles, and that only a well-figured mirror will unlike the full potential of a given aperture. It's not that I doubted him, but like the park bench scene in "Good Will Hunting", there's a huge chasm between *knowing about* and *knowing*. I would have been happy with a mirror where I could have seen the difference with powers of 200X+. Instead, I've got an 8" mirror that thinks it's a 10" or 12".
I've got an incoming Paracorr (used Type 1) and with my current set I could go up to 493X (7XW + 3.45X from Paracorr+3X), but one disclaimer you might want to put on your website: 'NOTE--Quoted prices do not include eyepieces, barlows or Powermates needed to deliver high powers you didn't feel you'd ever use.' "
-Phillip Creed, Canton, OH. 8" f/4.9
"I like Lockwood Custom Optics in my telescopes because in my line of work with NASA, it is critical to have the ability to go as faint as possible. I've used optics made by other top opticians in the industry that are similar in size, and I should know. Over the past six years I have been the top producer for NASA in their Near Earth Object program in terms of quantity and the number of faint 22nd and 23rd magnitude observations. The difference is spot size. If you can't place all the light energy into the smallest possible spot, you will not go as faint. All the other optics I've used, including some major observatory optics, the light is spread out over a lot more pixels than my Lockwood mirrors. That's the primary reason I can go fainter than other telescopes that are twice as large in diameter even when they are made by some of the top names in the business." (NOTE: These telescopes are doing this from a cornfield at ~700 ft elevation! - Mike L.)
-Robert Holmes, Astronomical
Research Institute, Ashmore, IL
-24" f/4.5, 30" f/3.0, 32" f/4.0, 50" f/4.0
"After 3 1/2 months of designing and telescope building, the 17.5" f/4.5 optics you sold me in August finally saw first light last night. I didn't plan it that way as yesterday was the first time I had both mirrors in the telescope at the same time but a clear night, more bad weather coming and a brightening moon all put extra urgency into the effort. I only had time for a rough collimation, so I knew the images would suffer, but I couldn't wait any longer.
After the mirror
finally cooled enough, that must have been quite a shock for the mirror
to go from 70F to 0F at 5pm, even with cooling fans it took almost 2
hours to get decent images but it was worth the wait. M42 was
stunning swirling mass of glowing gas, M31 was gorgeous and Jupiter, at moments
of good seeing, was the best I have ever seen.
I also went out this morning at 5am, temp. -15F. Comet
was beautiful and the spiral arms of M51 were clearly visible, no
averted vision required. A sweep through Virgo was galaxy
overload and the Markarian chain was stunning. Jupiter was
gorgeous with the GRS visible.
I could go on but in short I am blown away by what I saw. I can't imagine how good it will be when I have the optics well collimated and my eyes are not watering from the cold. Thank you for your exceptional mirrors."
"Finally.. I had
good, steady seeing this early morning. Heading out at 4:30 AM with a
temp of -10F (down to -15 by the time I called it a morning at 6:30), I
swung the 17.5" to Mars at 220x, adjusted the focus and a nice sharp
image snapped into view. The shrinking polar cap and identifiable
surface features were clearly visible. While there was still some
unsteadiness this was by far the most steady seeing I have had in the
last 2 months. Upping the power to 360x the best moments were amazing.
The disk edge was razor sharp and I was seeing details I had never seen
for myself even though the planet was only 38 degrees in elevation. I
then moved to Saturn, even lower in the southeast. The image suffered
from the low elevation but at quiet moments was stunning as well. I did
hit some deep sky objects but I always kept going back to Mars, I just
couldn't get enough of the view.
This was the first observing session where I feel the optics have had a chance to show their stuff. Up to this point I have only read about images "snapping" into focus and I now have experienced that for myself. I never doubted that your optics would perform as stated but this last observing session also validates the structure I built to hold the mirrors. From here on I know that when the telescope is properly collimated what I am seeing through the eyepiece is only limited by the atmosphere."
"It's been a while since my last update so here
goes. Up until
April I used the 17.5, f/4.5 without a Paracorr. I wasn't sure if I
wanted just the Paracorr unit or go all the way and get the Paracorr
SIPS unit from Starlight. I finally pulled the trigger on the Paracorr
SIPS and haven't looked back. What a wonderful piece of mechanical
engineering and the optical performance of the telescope with this unit
has achieved another level of performance. I guess after years of
observing with so-so optics I did expect the Paracorr to improve the
view but I was not prepared for the slap in the face snap across the
entire field of view when proper focus is achieved, wow.
Spring to me means galaxies and while there were not that many opportunities I fully took advantage of whatever clear nights we had. On one very memorable night, the Thursday night before Memorial weekend I took Friday off from work. The Clear Sky Chart was predicting clear and much better than average seeing so I wanted to take full advantage of it. That night I spent considerable time in the Virgo-Coma area gorging myself on galaxies big and small with an occasional globular cluster and planetary thrown in for a change of pace, all exceptional views. Periodic glances at Mars and Saturn did show very good transparancy but still some a fair amount of unsteadiness, then back for more galaxies.
I spent some time in the M58, M60 region then as I was beginning to get very tired I swung by M87 because I was in the area. As I studied the featureless fuzzy blob at 250x I noticed a tiny, thin thread on one side that popped into view several times. Now about half asleep my eye saw the jet but my brain said you cannot see that and I moved on. Not until the next day after some sleep did I recall what I saw and using Steve Gottlieb's NCG Notes as a reference I discovered that I could indeed see the jet in M87 after all. I have tried to see it since then but poorer seeing and the low altitude of M87 at this time of year will force me to wait until next year. In retrospect this observation alone in my mind would have made the night noteworthy but I was not done.
As mentioned I was half asleep and
thought I would give Mars and Saturn one last look before calling it a
night. I had to move the telescope to avoid trees and with that done I
gave Mars a look. It was getting lower in the SW and there was not a
lot of interesting detail visible. Next I moved to Saturn. At 250x it
was rock steady. The Cassini division was sharper than I had ever seen
it and the edge of the planets disk was sharp with the usual subdued
banding. I upped the power to 410x and while the image softened there
were many moments of exceptional seeing. As I'm absorbing the visual
overload I can see the C ring, not just a contrast difference against
the disk of Saturn but a sharp edged distinct grey band inside the much
brighter B ring. Now the sleep I was craving just a few minutes ago was
replaced by "oh my god I don't believe what I am seeing". There were
also a few moment where everything became even better. At those
fleeting moments the extreme sharpness and color variations of the
rings were like nothing I've ever seen. I have not seen any photo that
can convey the bright but subtle color variations of the A and B rings,
the blackness of the Cassini division and the delicacy of the C ring.
There are some things that a photo cannot reproduce. I spent the next
hour absorbed in the view and waiting for those perfect moments.
Finally at 2:30 AM the seeing was deteriorating and I called it a
night. Even after my head hit the pillow my mind was still absorbing
the night and what I had seen, I get a lot of that lately."
"This past Thursday night there was a rather unique event occurring. According to my favorite blogger, Bob King, AKA. "Astro Bob" a writer for the Duluth Tribune, Io's shadow was going to cross Ganymede. Not only would it be visible in the US but it would occur at 9:30 PM and it was going to be clear. For most observers the only noticeable effect would be a fairly significant dimming of Ganymede and not much more. While there was a six-day old moon present we had perhaps be steadiest skies I have seen for several months but with so-so transparency.
At the appointed time I was set up with a well cooled 17.5", it was -10F but little wind, not sure what to expect. I was at 414x and sure enough right on time quite shockingly I began to notice a bite out of Ganymede that in the course of 10 minutes moved across the disk. At mid-eclipse the shadow of smaller Io was centered on Ganymede's disk forming a near perfect donut from what I could see. Over the next few minutes the shadow moved off the disk and it was all over. I stood there for a couple of minutes trying to comprehend what I had witnessed. I had seen an eclipse on Ganymede. A shadow of a 2200 mile diameter object crossing the surface of another 5200 mile diameter object 400 million miles away, unreal.
While the seeing was not perfect as there was a fair amount of
unsteadiness but overall the Jovian disks were as good as I've ever
seen them and this event ranks as one of most unique I have ever
witnessed. I feel sorry
for anyone that says that top quality optics aren't needed in a larger
scope because seeing is seldom good enough to utilize it. I'll take 100
bad nights where it probably doesn't matter that much but that one
night where it does I've got the answer.
"I've been out
numerous times trying out the re-figured mirror surface. I am
primarily a variable star observer and also do a little supernova
hunting. With what time remains do planetary observing. The only time I
do deep sky(not counting SN hunting) is for visitors - which isn't too
At any rate, I am impressed with the obvious increase in contrast, noted easily by observing lunar features visible in Earth shine during a gibbous moon.
There is definitely an uptick in detail visible in my group of my SN galaxies. And, OK, I caved in once, on a reasonably clear night and peeked at M42. Very impressive! The nebulosity about the trapezium was especially luminous - something I don't recall seeing before in any scope let alone this one prior to your re-figuring.
I am very pleased with the improvement in performance. Pushing the limiting magnitude of the variable stars I observe is what variable star observing is all about. Hopefully I can get sense of this in better seeing. Thanks for your care in refiguring my mirror."
-Dan, Canada. 20" f/5.0
"As we were setting up the 30" Lockwood f/3.3 Starmaster,
people - other seasoned astronomers - were asking whether it was a 20" or a 22", etc.
They were amazed when told it was a 30"! There was equal amazement over
the f ratio. People could not believe it was f/3.3. We noticed them
standing there, staring silently in amazement while we set up.
The 30" performed fabulously.... We looked at all the usual objects like Neptune, Uranus, the Blue Snowball, Crab, Andromeda, and a ton of other galaxies. My two favorite objects from that night were comet Linear (C/2012 K5), and the globular named the "Intergalactic Wanderer". The comet looked bright and amazing, and people were seeing color in the tail. I did not see any color, but I think my eyes just do not have good color receptors. Large dob owners themselves were saying that this incredible Lockwood f/3.3 mirror was providing the best views they had ever seen. The Intergalactic Wanderer showed all kinds of detail I had not ever seen before.
Rick - thank you for this beautiful telescope! Viewing through it is making a lot of people very happy. Mike - thank you for this truly amazing mirror! People can't get over these fast, large, perfect mirrors you have been able to create!"
"A few nights ago we were looking at Jupiter with the 13 Ethos
(225x). The seeing was very steady. It looked as if you could reach
out and hold Jupiter in your hand - clear, steady, very sharp image of the
planet and the moons. Fabulous. There was also a time
back in September of 2012 right after I got the scope that we were
observing Jupiter from the back yard in Texas using the 8 Ethos and the
2x PowerMate - 636x. This was the most
jaw-dropping view of Jupiter we ever had - HUGE and clear;
fine details visible in the cloud bands; absolutely
incredible. It looked more like a picture taken from
space craft than a view through a telescope.
I felt as if I
were in orbit around the planet. We could almost
gravitational pull! I was looking around for a seat
An employee of the McDonald Observatory was observing with us at TSP. He said that the 30" provided a view that he'd expect to see in a professional-grade instrument. The most frequent comment I hear is, "This is the best view I have ever had of _____" (fill in the blank with the name of the object). In fact, if I do not hear that comment from people, I wonder if they don't fully realize what they are looking at (inexperienced). Most of the comments about "best view I have ever had" are from other seasoned amateur astronomers who have observed for decades and are used to good quality optics."
"It is not often
that you have an "experience of a lifetime", but I have had one
recently. Last month, I took delivery of my new Starmaster telescope
with a Lockwood 30" f/3.3 mirror. Aside from one night when it was
set up in the back yard in light-polluted Plano, Texas to do a
functional test of the go-to, no observing was done until this past
My husband Doug and I had the honor of being the guests of Tom and Jeannie Clark at the New Mexico Astronomy Village (NMAV) north of Deming, New Mexico for this telescope's First Light star party. Everyone from the local NMAV community and the Silver City Astronomical Society was invited. As evening arrived, the weather was perfect - clear, transparent, with low humidity and cool temperatures.....
images! Under those beautiful dark NMAV skies, the objects jumped out
at you from the eyepiece. The first object we looked at was M7, and
then M6 from there. Beautiful, sparkling pin-point diamonds glistened
on black velvet. That view alone was enough to make people say that
that was the most incredible thing they have ever seen. From
there we went to some planetary nebulae, like the Blue Snowball and
Blue Racketball. The blue color was absolutely electric neon. I had
never seen it like that before! We also visited the Cat's Eye nebula
and a few others. The
eastern and western Veil looked like a series of
ropes that you could picture climbing, it had so much fine detail.
this was without a filter! I do have an OIII and a UHC, but had not
gotten around to putting them in.
Next on the list - we got serious and looked at the Dumbbell (M27) and Ring (M57). Wow. People kept getting back in line to get 2nd and 3rd look. Several people said that this was the best view the had ever had of those two objects. Through the eyepiece, they literally looked alive. By this time it was after 11 PM, and most people were leaving. We looked at Andromeda and the Sculptor Galaxy. They looked close enough to touch, as if you were standing there in front of them. The Sculptor Galaxy looked like a huge, silent submarine moving slowly and powerfully through space.
I would like to thank everyone who made my First Light event possible: Rick Singmaster for building this phenomenal scope, Mike Lockwood for creating this incredible mirror, and Tom Clark for providing access to the beautiful velvet black skies of NMAV. Thank you very sincerely, Guys! You are my heroes and have changed my life. I am very grateful to you all."
-Christina, NM. 30" f/3.3 Starmaster Super FX
"I finally got a
chance to do an extended viewing session with the 13.4" f/4.75 mirror
you refigured a couple years ago. I met up with a friend at a
cabin in the Eldorado National Forest, which is SW of Lake Tahoe in the
Sierra mountain range. We had five clear nights with the SQM
21.4 to 21.7 overhead (away from the Milky Way).
I'm finishing up the Herschel 2 observing list which I had been working on with the (an) 18 inch. I was worried as there are a fair number of dim targets in the mag 13.5-14.1 range. But the optics performed admirably. I installed a push-pull fan system -- with two 40mm fans in corners pushing air lightly across the surface and two 40mm fans on the opposite side pulling air out. At one point, was logging NGC 741 (a small elliptical galaxy in Pisces) and readily spotted its dim companion, NGC 742 which is mag 14.4. But the cool thing was I saw at least two other dimmer galaxies in the field. After some research, I believe I observed UGC 1425 (mag 14.52) and UGC 1435 (mag 14.9!!!).
I traded out the 8mm Ethos with a 6mm Brandon to verify that the "fuzzy blips" were indeed galaxies, not dim stars. I suspect I can push mag 15.3 on a good night. We shall see. The best thing about using the scope for those nights was that it was a seamless transition from the 18 inch. I've gone pretty deep with the 18" -- I think mag 16.5-16.9. But to me the new scope performs 90% as well in terms of light grasp. AND I only have to stand on my tiptoes for objects at the zenith. I built the 13.4" to complete a bunch of observing projects as it's relatively compact, shorter and easier to manage. It also helps that the quartz mirror is only 7/8" thick so cooldown times are negligible."
-K. L., AZ, 13.4" f/4.75
"Jupiter: Wowee!!! Either the seeing was better or I had the scope collimated or something. The view of the GRS rotating off the planet was gorgeous. The detail was Extremely nice and, of course, the color was amazing. I spent a lot of time observing Jupiter. As a planetary nut the scope gets an A rating. Why not an A+? I will need the binoviewer for that.
Orion Nebula: I finally stopped observing Jupiter :^) put in the Paracorr plus 17 Ethos and sat comfortably observing with "only" 20" of aperture. Breathtaking. No color, at 62 I wonder what it might take but not problem. The detail kept me glued to the eyepiece. No Telrad, no aligning the two stars need for the GOTO. I couldn't find anything without a finder so I packed up and went in. I am so glad I was able to get out the second night. If I had a finder I might have stayed up all night!!"
-Jim Phillips, 20" f/3.3 Starmaster FX-Q (quartz)
"My dark sky first
light experience of the 24" F/3.25 over three nights at the GSSP has
confirmed all the above attributes and more. The eye candy objects such
as M17, M16, M20, M51 etc, through Ethos eyepieces from 21mm down were
exceptionally detailed in a manner I have rarely if ever experienced
before. The aesthetic appeal and impact of globular clusters was pretty
much as good as through one of my large refractors, but at far higher
detail and resolution opening up the cores cleanly. The double cluster
through my 31mm T5 was especially beautiful despite an "illegal" 9.5mm
exit pupil, being all bright diamond dust on a velvety black
were a number of very experienced large aperture
observers at the GSSP who spent a lot of time at my telescope, all of
whom were highly impressed with the exceptional contrast and clarity of
the 24" Lockwood mirror in a Spica Eyes structure. Bob
has much more large aperture instrument experience than I do, has
already briefly commented, and I invite him and others who were present
to add more.
A particularly challenging object was Campbell's Hydrogen Star, a small planetary nebula that I first observed through the historic 60" reflector on Mount Wilson, and which has become a lifetime memory and personal benchmark test. Seeing this central star surrounded by a perfect bright red ring (I nickname it "The Telrad") was quite unforgettable and an object that I just had to find in my new 24". After entering the RA/DEC coordinates the telescope slewed to the right area. This object is buried in one of the busier parts of Cygnus and it takes some teasing out of a rich star field in a 21mm Ethos. However the clarity of the telescopes optics quickly revealed a softer starlike object surrounded by a ring, and the application of higher magnification (eventually 5mm turned out to be the sweet spot) revealed Campbell's Hydrogen Star with the red ring, clear, colorful, and in high contrast. My fellow observers also saw it clearly though the seeing had deteriorated by 3:00 am when the color became less obvious.
I will admit that the performance of my new telescope has exceeded expectations, and to see such sharp and high contrast views really brought home what a precisely figured mirror in a well designed Newtonian properly collimated under dark skies can do. The Lockwood mirror, the overall design and engineering of Tom's Spica Eyes telescope structure and slip clutch drive and tracking, the Aurora Precision mirror support system, all worked together as an integral system and delivered. I also realize in hindsight that I did not even worry about mirror cooling, that as soon as it was dark I was off observing with no local mirror seeing issues that I was aware of even though the days were 90+ and the nights down in the 40's. The mirror stayed in thermal equilibrium without any evident aberrations, vindicating any fears about 'going thin'."
-Chris Ford, CA, 24" f/3.25
"Gentlemen: (I should say "Ultimate Pros") - I had my scope at Deerlick Astronomy Village last weekend. It was different than most weekends because there were 20 amateurs there instead of the normal 3 or 4. (A club was having a star party). I had a crowd the whole night. Once word spread that the views were unreal, everyone wanted in on the action. There were some pretty astute/experienced observers in the crowd and many ooooos and ahhhhhs were heard.
The show-stopper of the night was Thor's Helmet. Many said it was the best they had ever seen it and this was only on a good night for seeing*;* transparency was a little above 'average.' M46 and the Sombrero were fabulous. The Trapezium had moments of 8-9 stars.
John Pratte - I observed until sunrise and two guys set their alarm to come see the scope in daylight. They were highly impressed with the craftsmanship. Just thought you'd like to hear this. You know, when you're at the top of your game and you hear it from afar, it's THE BEST! Best regards."
-Mike Webb, Spartanburg, SC, 25" f/3.0 JPAstrocraft
"Mike, I could write a thousand words on how good this (16" f/4) mirror is - pin point stars in Omega Centauri, Saturn beautiful and crisp - you could drive a truck through the Cassini division and detail on the Moon I have never seen before. It was happy to take whatever power I threw at it and a critical star test with a 5mm eyepiece showed near perfect correction.
But I think my wife summed it all up when she
gob-smacked!! You've got to get yourself one of these!'"
"Just letting you know I had the 10" f/5.8 out
tonight for the first time under the stars and it's very, very good.
test is as good I have ever seen!
E and F stars in the trapezium are a piece of cake.
colour in the Orion Nebula....subtle steely green surrounded by ruset
Using low power was a new way of looking at old favourites - actually seeing them in context of their surroundings. Tarantula was very contrasty. 47 Tuc was resolved to the core with a myriad of pinpoint stars. Eta Carina which was just above the horizon was a pleasing sight. An enjoyable evening - Thanks."
-Peter Read, Australia, 16" f/4, 10" f/5.8
tested the mirror and the results he found were pretty contrary to what
that the test reports stated. Using the Foucault readings the mirror
tested at 0.35 Strehl and ½ wave P-V. The surface of the mirror was
also found to be extremely rough. Thus this is one of those
examples that shows you should never ever take those sheets as fact,
even if it is from someone reputable.
After Mike refigured the mirror I had a chance to use the scope a few days later. It was actually fairly windy so seeing wasn't too great but I definitely noticed a difference when looking at galaxies – particularly M81/M82 and the Whirlpool. The spiral shape of the whirlpool galaxy was easily visible just as before but the view was a lot crisper – kind of like a few sheets of veil were lifted from the Whirlpool image so that one could see deeper – at a different level. In addition the companion galaxy was more pronounced (mind you these are just crude observations, the first time with the mirror I was really just trying to imagine what I had seen with the mirror before I sent it into Mike and how noticeable of a difference there was). The view of M82 was much more significant – the mottled appearance and dust lane was very obvious during this session – previously this galaxy still appeared mottled but it was much more subtle averted vision was needed to really see the contrast between the dust lane and the rest of the galaxy.
About a week ago I was observing Saturn and went up the magnification progression from 107x to 201x to 241x to 362x. Cassini Division was obvious at this point and so were the southern temperate belts though no contrast difference was observable to separate them. By the time I hit over the 300x mark I figured I probably wasn't going to take it up much further – that was with a 5mm Takahashi LE. So went up a little bit more to a 9mm TV Nagler T6 barlowed with a 2x AP Barcon, image still held at 402x. At this point I could definitely make out the C ring but only on the sides as it was definitely not as dark as the background sky. Then barlowed the 7.5mm Tak LE – image still held at 476x. All the while I was thinking to myself, "This is probably the most it will take" and, "It can't possibly go any higher", but it did and I topped out at 724x with still no image breakdown!
Obviously a lot has to do with the seeing conditions. There was always the occasional night of good to excellent seeing with the mirror before Mike refigured it, but in no way did I ever get higher than 400x without the image completely breaking down. Mike did a spectacular job refiguring my mirror and it also showed me that a well-figured mirror doesn't always show itself with the immediate eyepopping view – it can also be how it handles those uber-high magnifications.
Thanks again Mike!"
-S. S., MD, 16" f/4.5
it was two below zero and I got the scope out. The results
confirm my belief that no one should observe at temperatures below 20F
:). My hands got really frost bitten, I cursed metal and its
temperature properties, but in the end, the mirrors look pretty darn
good. Star images are definitely tighter than they were
refiguring but the real test came from the brilliant moon.
Mike, I have seen some darn good views in the past of the moon in scopes as large as 30 inches, but what I saw tonight was totally unbelievable!
When the seeing finally settled and the mirrors cooled down enough to use, the scope handled from 527x to **836x** on the moon (*59.7x per inch* of aperture) which is as high as I can go!!!
I was seeing things I have *never* seen on the moon. Hadley Rille's area showed incredible detail (the 2 km wide shallow craterlet St. George was visible at the turn of the rille at the base of the Hadley Delta mountain). There were a huge number of tiny secondary impact craters from Thebit to its west on the nearby maria that I have never noted in images, let alone seen visually....
....I won't be getting the scope back out until things warm up a lot (and much of our snow melts), but for now, I am pretty darn satisfied as to what kind of optics I have. Thanks again for picking up (the other company's) fumble and running it back for a touchdown."
-David Knisely, 14" f/4.6
"....You had a 20" f/3 at the WSP 2009, and it is the first telescope I ever looked through that instantly and most convincingly showed me Sirius B, a star I have searched out for many years.... But after looking at it in your 20" and failing on the same night to see any trace of it in a 6" A-P, and a nice 10" f/5 Newt., I understood why it was not discovered until the Clarks had completed the 18.5" refractor now at Northwestern University. I never saw the thing through a lovely 8" semi-apo I built and used in Tucson, nor in my 10" Houghton-Cassegrain. Your optics, from what I've seen, are the real thing. Just my $0.02...."
"I got to use the
newly refigured mirror recently at a dark sky site. The
transparency wasn't great but the seeing was ok. After the
was cooled (didn't take too long), it began to deliver very nice
straight overhead, stars were pinpoints and
snapped into focus as they never had before. I was delivered
absolutely stunning view of M13, with pinpoint star images where as
before they had been fuzzy and blended together. For the
time, I felt I needed a coma corrector - before my mirror was
refigured, stars were fuzzy everywhere, now they are pinpoints in the
middle and the coma that was buried under a pile of aberrations shows
up towards the edges.
Pointing lower in the sky revealed that I need to replace the metal band mirror sling with something that more evenly supports the mirror; despite the slight warping caused by my improper mirror support, images were still great. I was treated to a detailed view of Jupiter and Saturn; Titan and Jupiter's moons were little orbs, and detail could be seen within the great red spot!
Finally I got 'serious'. I had made an unsuccessful observation of GJJC 1, the planetary nebula in M22, back in 2008 when I had first received this mirror. The observation was unsuccessful largely because the aberrations were spreading the light of stars in M22 out too much to really detect any kind of object. Now, with my mirror finally performing how it should, I decided to give it another try. After starhopping within M22 to the position of the nebula (using finder chart images taken by the HST, no less), I began comparing the view with and without an OIII filter at 1080X. The "central star" of the nebula (certainly not the actual central star, but it's close enough) was visible in both unfiltered and filtered, but with OIII I thought I could detect a slight brightening of the area in and a slight "puffing out" of the star. Not yet a truly successful observation, but a huge step forward towards completing one of my observing goals. Thanks again for fixing up my mirror so it actually does what I want it to do!"
-John, Austin, TX (See more about this set of optics in the first installment of In the Shop.)
"After more that a year of installing your primary mirrors in my telescopes, I wanted to express my satisfaction. Starmaster has received, in a timely manner, many superb optics ranging in sizes from 14.5" and up. All at F-ratios of F/3.7 or faster, as fast as the recent 20" at F/3.0. Having observed with ALL of them and star tested ALL of them I can say the optical quality has been exceptional. When coupled with the TeleVue Paracorr and Ethos eyepieces, the performance has proven to be stunning.
Also appreciate your careful attention to checking and refiguring the secondary mirrors for these scopes. Even I was surprised to find approximately 30% of the larger secondary mirrors were not the quality we demand. By testing and refiguring some, the performance is insured. We always knew that fast mirrors have many advantages but were very difficult to obtain. No longer!! Keep up the good work."
-Rick Singmaster, Owner, Starmaster Portable Telescopes
-Jim Riffle, Astroworks Corp., AZ
"Mike, I just wanted to let you know how pleased I am with the 20" f/3.7 mirror you made for my new SlipStream Telescope. The fast f/ratio is perfect for when I am using my color MallinCam for live video viewing. Also, views of Saturn with the almost edge-on ring system have been spectacular. And last week at the Golden State Star Party, I loved the way globular clusters focused down to tiny pinpoints of star dust. The mirror is a keeper, and I also appreciate how you took the time to test my diagonal and give it a polishing tweak to bring the edge up to spec. Thanks for your excellent optics and first-rate service!"
-Tom Osypowski, Equatorial Platforms, CA
"After reading some good stories about very fast telescopes, I decided to get rid of the ladder I needed for my 20 inch f/5 Dobsonian and ordered an f/3.6 mirror from Lockwood Custom Optics. The mirror plus the 4.5" secondary, tested by Mike before coating, arrived on May 21st (2009). Important to note is that the mirrors were very, very well packed. I am absolutely sure they would have easily and without any scratches, survived an airplane crash followed by an elephant stampede (which is, thinking about the arrival condition of less carefully packed things I have received over the years, not much worse then being shipped from the US to the Netherlands). The primary is about 1.5 inch thick and weights 15.2 kilo's (33.4 Lbs), which is about two-thirds the weight of my 20" f/5 mirror....
One test I performed was the test voor spherical aberration Suiter mentiones in the book 'Startesting': measuring the difference in distance from focus (in and out) of the equal size of the secondary shadow. The difference was very small and comparable or better then it is when testing my 12 inch, 1/8 lambda zerodur mirror. So I already concluded the correction would be at least 1/8 lambda wavefront or better. Which is very (!) good, especially for such a large and fast mirror. What I could also see was nice, round diffraction rings on both sides of focus...."
I am sure I will use this mirror for many years, because I don't see any reason to prefer another one. And if aperture fever might strike again, I now know for sure where to order a larger one. I am sure the combination of large aperture, low f/# and very high quality of your mirrors has set a new standard....
There's one other thing important to mention. I was very pleased with the information updates you sent me from time to time, without needing to ask for it."-Jan van Gastel, Netherlands, 20" f/3.6
I am very happy with the 24" f/3.7 mirror that you made for me, Mike. The Starmaster telescope gave very good views at 150X within one hour after setting up, by sunset, observing bright and detailed Jupiter and its four prominent Jovian moons. Jupiter showed much detail in its belts and zones and the four Jovian moons each were clearly defined disks. The thermal equillibrium characteristic of this large aperture mirror is very good – cooling down quickly. This was accomplished with only the ambient air and using no adjacent cooling fans. The evening's temperature started at 75°F (at sunset) and slowly fell to 60°F by midnight.
I was able to focus my observing on familiar "test" objects pointing the Starmaster to a list of deep sky objects that I'm very familiar with such as the Ring Nebula (M57), the Great Sagittarius Globular Cluster (M22), the Cat's Eye Planetary Nebula (NGC4567), the Whirlpool Galaxy (M51), the Blinking Planetary Nebula (NGC6826), the beautiful and irregular-"U" shaped planetary nebula (NGC7008), the pale ghostly disk of NGC7048, and the well known Dumbbell planetary nebula (M27) which lost it's familiar dumbbell shape to look more fully-illuminated as a real oval due to the 24" mirror's increased light gathering power. In my 15-year observing experience of observing these "eye candy" objects with other telescopes I have owned ranging from my current 10" f/14 Maksutov-Cassegrain to past owned 14.5", 18", and 20" Starmaster telescopes, this 24" f/3.7 FX Starmaster shows these objects larger, with more detail, and with "more color". I noticed an increase in the colors of the golden (old) and blue (young) stars in globular clusters, more blue and violet color showing up in some planetary nebulas, and more color in Jupiter's belts. And this was while using powers up to 370X which washes away the color of these objects in smaller aperture telescopes. I can't wait to see how these objects look like on a quality night.One note on my M57 observation: At 371X, it's 15.3 magnitude central star was easy and solid, observed directly without a need to use any averted vision. I could never achieve the sighting of the M57 central star so easily from this observing site in 15 years of observing with my past 18" and 20" Starmasters..... At the eyepiece at using a 7mm Nagler T6 and Paracorr (371X), the in- and out-of-focus star images from the beautifully-figured f/3.7 primary mirror look textbook – very even and circular.
I'm planning on getting out again next Saturday night to continue with my observations of fainter objects such as more Abell planetaries, Hickson galaxy chains, and small PK nebulas requiring high power. I'm really looking forward to it!
Thanks for such a beautifully crafted mirror,-Peter Natscher, Monterey, California, 24" F/3.7 FX Starmaster
I don't believe in the "new equipment curse", so it's perfectly normal that another observation session presented itself tonight :). The seeing was better than yesterday (3 to 3.5/5) and also the telescope was much better prepared - everything now perfectly collimated.
Powers up to 555X (9 mm eyepiece + 2.5X Powermate) were usable. Very fine color nuances in the belts on Saturn's disk were visible - the images of the planet's disk rivaled what was visible in the 25" in much better seeing conditions in April 2007. The rings weren't quite as good as last year, but that's to be expected with the current ring inclination. At even higher powers (715X) the views were washed out by the seeing.
Once again I was particularly struck by the crispness of the disk and the blackness of the surrounding sky. The moon Dione was emerging from behind Saturn (or from its shadow) and was visible as a tiny speck very close to the planet - at maybe 1.5 arcsecond from the disk. During the 1.5 hours observing session Dione moved visibly to the east. Also Rhea, Tethys and Enceladus were visible, but I did not notice Mimas (I used CalSky afterwards to identify the moons).
So far the mirror's performance certainly is up to the high expectations - thanks for the excellent job! Looking back at the first two sessions, what strikes me is its ability to cut through the seeing and deliver sharp and contrasted images even in less than optimal conditions. I look forward to some really steady air in which I can use 700X to 1000X.
With such an excellent primary I'm now looking at replacing the secondary. It's obviously become the weakest link......
Since May 3 there's been a stretch of clear weather in Belgium which is about to end tonight. I've been able to observe Saturn 10 evenings in a row, more than 20 hours accumulated. The telescope is left assembled and ready for use in the garden; I step out, power the telescope, and start observing.....
Seeing conditions have been reasonably good with useful powers mostly around 400X. The 16" is performing really well: very fine globe details, up to 7 moons simultaneously (Titan, Rhea, Dione, Thetys, Iapetus, Enceladus and even Mimas occasionally), and Titan clearly shows a tiny disk. The 1.4"-thick mirror cools significantly faster than conventional 2" mirrors and produces sharp images from the outset. It's a vital part of the "grab & go" strategy which in my experience would not have been possible with a 2" mirror.
During the same period there's also a very favorable evening apparition of Mercury leading to the longest stretch of Mercury observations in my life. And last but not least there was a daytime occultation of Mars by the Moon last Saturday!
It's been a lot of fun, and I haven't once felt the urge to roll out the 25"... which tells it all!
...with Jupiter only 14° to 17° high I was really surprised at the quality of the views. This 16" Lockwood mirror continues to amaze me.-Robert Houdart, Belgium, 16" F/5, 1.4"-thick primary
I thought you'd like to know that I took the Mak-Cass to PSSP where it was given a vigorous workout.
Thursday night got cold and wet fast , but the viewing wasn't bad. However, Friday was surprisingly excellent - warmer and less moisture to deal with. We stayed out until about 3 a.m. Jupiter was the target, of course. I mounted it up on my Losmandy G11 and it tracked nicely (with 42# of counterweights!). I fabricated a bracket for mounting a Telrad which helped.
The detail in Jupiter was astounding. the moons were discs! I set up my Denk binos which provided a real visual 3D treat. The later it got, the better Jupiter appeared. We caught a moon transit with its shadow marching across the disc. Also, the GRS (or GCS - Great Creamy Spot as Scott Foster calls it) was visible. We were catching details in the cloud bands like I have never before seen. They no longer appeared as bland stripes, but very dynamic festoons.
Someone across the field had a TEC 8" APO set up on an AP1200 (I think it was the former owner of FeatherTouch). There were several who commented that the views in the Mak-Cass were keenly better. It may have been a cooling issue with the APO since it is such a gargantuan instrument! This was my observation also after spending some time at the eyepiece of the TEC.
A good friend of mine, Mike Nelson, was incredibly impressed with the Mak-Cass performance. He had experience with it prior to its rising from the ashes and vividly remembered its (previous) issues and crappy views!
......I decided to enter the OTA into the telescope judging contest and you will be happy to know that it warranted an award for restoration of a telescope! You were given full credit for the optical portion of the restoration.
-Steve Sands, 9" commercial Maksutov-Cassegrain refigure/rebuildI FINALLY had a chance to get the 10" back together and fairly collimated. Between no time and rotten weather, it has been a challenge! I set it outside early tonight and let it cool down. I had a near full moon to contend with, but still got some nice viewing it. The Trapezium and moon were about all I could get from my deck (too lazy to get it elsewhere for a better sky view!).
The difference is quite astounding! The stars are very nice pinpoints with a dark (as can be with a full moon) background. The images inside and outside of focus are identical. I need to spend a bit more time collimating, but the overall impression is excellent! I pumped up the power on the Trapezium (an easy target from my vantage point) and the view was beautiful with no breakdown of the image. It will be great to get this scope under some dark unobstructed skies.
-Steve Sands, 10" F/4.5 refigure
Well, it's like this. New moon is going to be over soon. Tomorrow very early I've got to fly to Florida to fix a ship. I have basically a brand new 28" telescope. The telescope skeleton is the same, everything else is new, including both the primary, and secondary mirrors (Thanks to Mike Lockwood).
I really want to test it out under really stable, dark skies........ So, Tuesday night was my only chance to get out during this lunar cycle, so we set out about 2:00PM Tuesday......The clouds persisted, so I set my alarm for 2:00AM and went to bed. At 2:00AM, it was snowing lightly, but I could see a couple of stars come in and out of view. Went back to bed. Bob woke up at 3:30, and found it to be perfectly clear.........
I had two objectives, One, to test the mirror some more, and two to test out the drive system. Testing out the drive system was a success, because I found out it did NOT work in 14 degree weather! I have a solution to apply for next time! Testing out the mirror was a success, but I needed to spend a bit more time than I had. I did find that I could find NO astigmatism, Zero! I also am now really appreciative of the tight stars, even at 358 power!
First Eric found NGC5584, so we could have a look at the super nova. It was clearly visible. The tracking was working quite well in spite of the altitude, so Bob was able to make a drawing of it. The galaxy itself is very low surface brightness, quite large, but the SN was easy.
Then we looked at M3, then M4, both at 358 power. Tight star images, and M4 was really cool, 'cuz of it's trails of stars and empty space. We had a look at M57, but twilight was starting to interfere. We ended on Jupiter. It was fairly low, so we went down to 246 power. When I first looked I gasped, I've never seen this much detail in the clouds. Eric made the statement "This is the best view of Jupiter I've ever seen". Then something went downhill. I think it may have been frost on the eyepiece. Bob didn't like it too much, then when I looked again, all the detail was gone. We may have just hit some bad seeing, or frost or something, but my memory is with the best view Eric and I had at first.
After this I went to polaris to try to compare inside focus and outside focus views. I could detect no astigmatism whatsoever. I didn't have time to try the ronchi eyepiece. The inside and outside focus were very similar, but I could barely detect some differences. This is now an exellent mirror, and I can't wait to have more time at the eyepiece with even higher power, but I'm afraid this is going to have to wait until the next lunar cycle!
-Dan Gray, 28" F/4.5 refigure, 8"x1/2" secondary flat refigure
I observed Jupiter at twilight.... Initially, I was able to view jup at 360X and 450X. The detail was incredible. I'm not sure if my 10 mm EP is really a 10 mm because there did not seem to be a big difference in the size of jup when switching between the 12.5 mm (360X) and the 10 mm (450X).
-Tim Camden, 13" F/4.5, 7/8" thick Pyrex
I was out at the dome last night with the 18 inch. It was a damp night with ground fog raising up now and then. The seeing was quite steady however.
I started with Jupiter and quickly touched up the collimation. It was the boring side of Jupiter but lots of detail visible with the 7MM T6 (290X).
At 9:000 PM I lined up on Antares with the 9mm T6 (226X). The green companion star was mid way between the diffraction spikes from my secondary spider. I tried all my T6's ending with the 3.5 (581X) all showed the companion though it was most visually appealing with the 7MM.
After it got dark I picked up all 4 Planetary Nebulas in Scorpius with NGC 6337 being a pretty Mag 12.3 ring. At about 11:00pm the ground fog was thickening so I tried for the central star in M57. It was winking in and out with the 3.5 mm T6 but with the 4mm TMB supermono it was visible about 90% of the time.
Then I tried the Double Double in Lyra. With either the 3.5 or the 4 the Airy disks of the stars were clearly seen though the seeing was randomly brightening the diffraction rings. The 4MM gave a slightly cleaner view. The moon stated rising about 11:30 and the fog was thickening so I packed up. Great optics good seeing and a great night.
-Willard, 18" F/4.5 refigure
I am currently on the field with a certain telescope manufacturer. His latest creation is a 24" F/3.7. While looking at NGC-5353 last night, this telescope was at near zenith --- or only TWO steps up a ladder! Bravo to the brave souls who have worked to make this happen! Not that I would be a name dropper but the mirror is by the lists very own Mike Lockwood --- the person on the field with the scope is that Rick Singmaster dude!
What a scope --- what a view!
-Mike Wolford, From the Heart of America Star Party 2008 --- Kansas City, MO