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Astronomy by Michelle

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Astronomy Product Reviews by Michelle Stone
The Vixen 102mm?

Manufacturer:??? Vixen
Retailer:?????????? Orion
Web Site:???????? http://www.oriontel.com



102 mm Aperture


Focal Length of 920 mm


Focal Ratio of f/9

The decision to purchase

I had a C8 and a Televue Pronto.? The C8's images of planets and the moon were less than what I had hoped for. And when I compared what I could see in good refractors (AP's and Takahashi's) I was truly dissatisfied. The Pronto had been purchased for bird watching and although it does fairly well on the moon and planets, there isn't quite enough aperature to pull in the subtle details. In addition, there is some color associated with the images through the Pronto. This surely does not make a scope unusable but it does detract from the experience for me.

I knew that I wanted a larger refractor of high quality on a mount that would track the sky. We do a lot of star parties for the public and folks really like to look at the Moon, Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn. I wanted something that I could stand away from and discuss objects without constantly moving in to move the scope to match the objects trek across the sky.? I had considered the purchase of an Astro Physics refractor. But the costs were overwhelming for the uses I had planned for the instrument.

I know that flourite objectives promise color free observing.? This is what I wanted. I love a perfect image when I'm observing. After looking through some of the better scopes in the group I observe with, I knew that I could accept no less.


I ordered the scope through Orion's mail order arm called "Telescope and Binocular Center".? It was only the second of these jewels that they had sold.? Mike Shade, a fellow I observe with occasionally, snagged the first. The scope arrived in one large box.? Orion had included it's own brand of 26mm Plossl eyepiece and diagonal. The first thing that I did was repace the diagonal with my Televue 2" diagonal (stolen from my Pronto).? An adaptor from Lumicon helped me in this task.? I also relegated the Plossl eyepiece to the accessory drawer in favor of my Televue models.

The scope came with a GP mount. This mount (and it's predecessor) has been a known quantity in amateur astronomy circles for years. The one thing different about this mount was the aluminum tripod legs. Most of these that I have seen sport a solid wood tripod.? The aluminum is very unstable by comparison.? However, the uses I had planned for the scope did not require that rock steadiness. Besides the aluminum tripod folds up very small and is very easy to through in the car.? I obtained a foam lined case and made cutouts for the various components of the equatorial head.

The scope is white with the metal components finished in a light metalic green color.? It is attractive to look at and from what I understand, white is a better color for instrument for various reasons.? They heat up less during the day and may be less prone to the effects of dew at night (we can only hope).

I can set up the scope in 5 minutes or so. Polar aligning is straight forward with the included polar scope. The trick is to know how many minutes east or west of your time line. Without it, the alignment procedure is not effective. The scope easily mounts to its dovetail connection.

On my scope, I have a "flat tire" effect on my focusing mechanism.? When I turn the focus knob on the rack and pinion device, it feels like I am turning a wheel that has a flat spot.? I have taken the mechansim apart and nothing seems to be wrong. It doesn't affect the focusing at all... it's just kind of annoying.? I haven't seen this problem on any of the other scopes that my peers have purchased.

The Views

The scope is not an Astro Physics.? It does not have the fine machined components and technoweenie appeal of those fine instruments. However, the scope is excellent in terms of the views it provides. The flourite objective delivers color free images of the brightest planets.? I must say that in the 4" category, I have not seen better. It really is a shame that Vixen does not offer a 5" scope.? There seems to be a great difference in observing Jupiter features in that 1" jump.? I have not had the opportunity to use the non flourite version of this scope. I would venture to say that if you can deal with some color in your images, then the 102mm non flourite edition is an excellent value.

The scope has been a big hit at star parties.? And I have enjoyed taking it to these events. It sets up quickly, tracks the sky well, and has great images.

I have since mated the Vixen with my C11 on a saddle mount in my observatory.? I use it for various purposes. As a wide field scope, it complements my C11 (a deep sky instrument).? I can really enjoy large and small objects with a single setup. I use it for a finder scope.? You would not believe the number of NGC objects you can see in this thing with a wide eyepiece at low power!? And the star fields are absolutely stunning.? These kinds of views are hard to beat in a reflective instrument where stars are seldom pinpoint images. Its third purpose is to serve as a guidescope for the C11 during photography. I use an ST4 for tracking. I love the scope so much in this capacity that I have decided to leave it permanently mounted in the observatory. I have moved back to using my C8 for star parties... but I ripped off the fork mount and installed the dovetail plate so I can mount it on that nifty G8 mount that came with the Vixen.


Everyone will have a refractor if they are really into astronomy.? It is well known that the small orbs in the sky are delightful to look at through a refractor.? But for those of us who can't really thunk down 4 to 8 thousand dollars for an AP or Takahashi, the Vixen offers a great alternative.? While the mechanical components seem a bit more fragile and the drive not as well designed, the views through the VX 102mm are hard to beat.

I highly recommend this scope as a lifetime investment.?