Here are a few comments regarding our telescopes:
This last Friday night I set up a Star Party at my son's school, Sunol Glenn in Sunol, and invited Michael S. to join us. He brought a 18" Plettstone scope you made for him. I was set up next to him and I was using a 10" LX200. About a hour into the Star Party I went over to have a look through his scope. The seeing was so-so and the moon was about 10 days old. I have been active in astronomy for about 25 years and have looked through hundreds of amateur scopes and several big boys at professional observatories. What I saw when I looked through his scope at Saturn did not just blow my socks away, I think they burst into flames and vaporized. All of a sudden I felt guilty in showing the kids Saturn in my scope when such a beautiful image was only a few feet away. I know aperture makes a difference but this was more than that. My scope is a f10 and if I remember right his was a f4.1. Both scopes had cooled down by then but there was no comparison. The rest of the night I kept telling people they should really check out Michael's scope. I also had a chance to look at the construction and finish on his scope while it was still light out and you should be proud of the beautiful job you did.
You mentioned you love building these telescopes, I want you to know all a person has to do is look at and through one of your creations to know that is true.
Review of 16" F/4.5 Plettstone:
When I began considering the purchase of a large aperture telescope, Plettstone Telescopes was recommended to me by a very knowledgeable observing friend. My initial questions about the Plettstone design were: 1) would the scope (being an "ultralight" setup) be less rigid and less stable? 2) would a shroudless design have less contrast and accumulate dew quickly? 3) were there compromises that could be attributed to the Highe design?
When I received my 16" Plettstone I was very impressed with the attention to detail and the execution of the design. Having spent a good deal of time reviewing Albert Highe's website, I was pleased to see his refinements combined with Michelle's exquisite woodwork in the 16" I received. The telescope is very solidly built. Using the instructions provided, I was able to assemble the telescope in one evening. I was blessed that on the same day I had clear (but cold and humid) conditions to observe.
My observing session began with some concern that dew might be a factor. Given that I did not have time to go to a dark site on this evening, I would be observing in my backyard where neighboring lights would test the baffle and design for stray light. My initial pre-purchase concerns were about to be tested on the very first night!
After setup, I was pleased to see the fanless convection based design cooled quickly. After 30 minutes, I had stable (and wonderful) images of Saturn. During the 4 hours I used the telescope, dew formed on my Telrad finder, truss poles, and focuser. But my heater equipped secondary and primary mirror resisted dew formation. I went on to view M3, the Eskimo Nebula, M81, M82, M96, and M97. The background darkness and contrast were very good in spite of being surrounded by neighboring lights. This put my fears about not having a shroud to rest.
Additional nights with the telescope provided further proof that I would be very happy with this instrument. The Plettstone 16" provides sharp planetary images and stunning views of deep sky objects. It is easy to set up and transport. The motions of the telescope are amazingly smooth to the point that there appears to be no vibration or wiggle of the image after I push the scope or inadvertently bump the eyepiece. This telescope it very well planned, solidly constructed, and a pleasure to observe with. I am very pleased with my 16" Plettstone and highly recommend it.
"Jupiter was amazing. It was my best view of Jupiter ever in any
telescope I have ever looked through. The cloud belts had wisps of different colors. The swirl in the GRS was visible. A shadow transit had just started and we checked back on it several times during the night.
M3 was very impressive. I had never been able to resolve so many
stars there. Also it was very easy to find compared with some other telescopes I had used to find it. (Still just using the dot)
Heather wanted to look around her self. She commented on how easy it was to just move around the sky. I pointed her at the Coma-Virgo region and she picked up a region filled with about 6-7 galaxies."
"Thanks for an excellent telescope!" -Sean M.
"Well, I had my first observing session last night. Wow!!! Collimating was easy with a sight tube and a cheshire. The views were smashing! Globulars resolved into beautiful tiny pinpoints of light. Showpiece objects such as M17 and M8 looked like astrophotos. And even objects with dim surface brightness like the galaxy NGC 6946 in Cepheus showed detail. And to top it all off, when I needed to move to another spot for a better view of that part of the sky, all I had to do was lift the scope and carry it! Wonderful! We have another clear night tonight (it's a great rarity here to have two consecutive nights that are clear and dry) so I will deprive myself of yet more sleep and love it!!" - Randy B.
"It was getting late now, by the "moon clock" - The Great Plaster Ball was beginning to show some brightening over the eastern hills. Michelle called a few of us over to look through the outstanding 15" Plettstone scope she has for her personal use. She was proclaiming that this was the best view of M57 she'd ever had. I thought "ho-hum... another M57" and began to call out "last call for M57"... and then I looked...
The Ring was green, at least to me. I think my color perception is quite acute. There was a green hue in the grey. The object was magnified over 300X and... all of a sudden, a pinpoint in the center, then gone. Then it was back, gone, back... soon I was pretty much holding the central star with averted vision. The only other times I've seen it are through the 40" Nickel at Mount Hamilton, and the 30" (brand name deleted) Jim Ster hauled up to the
Oregon Star Party last year.
Yes, Michelle, it was the best view I've ever had. Quite a telescope you made - competing with a 30 and a 40. You win! :-) " - Mark Wagner
During my first few objects, I said "To hell with averted vision. Welcome to direct vision!". - Darren H.
"We got to set up the scope after your help with collimation, and the views were amazing! Thank you! The GOTO functions with the combination of ArgoNavis and ServoCat were very precise for all of the objects that we "dialed" in." "Your willingness to help us make the transition to a new, more sophisticated telescope has made the experience a pleasure!" - Joel. C.
"This is the most amazing thing I've ever seen!" -D. M.
"I could care less if it takes me 30 minutes to put it together, or 30 to take it down. My ability to observe is limited by much much more than how long it takes me to get ready. The 45cm is _ALWAYS_ worth the extra effort. ALWAYS. No if's, ands, or but(t)s. ALWAYS. PERIOD. END OF STORY. Unless I am going to hang out with someone whose has a 45cm or larger dob, there has never been a dark sky starparty where I did not take the 45cm dob and not wound up regretting it (can you say SSP 2003?). Sure sure. Love the one you're with. But aspire to the 45cm dob. You'll not regret it. Get one from Plettstone. Obviously, YMMV" - Jeff G.
"I think the Plettstones are some of the finest and most innovative scopes on the market." - Tom Osypowski
"The new 15" is really incredible. It is opening an entirely new realm of objects to look at." - Rob H.