Richmond Astronomical Society

Road trip–Hands On Optics

Nov 1st, 2009 | By | Category: Events

The store

Every year, Hands On Optics, hosts The Eastern Astronomy Show. Several RAS members, like myself, John Raymond, and Bill Jeffries, have gone in the past and liked it, so John organized a road trip for the 2009 event (Saturday, Oct. 31). Joining John and me, were Bill Jeffries, Dave Walton, Tim Streagle, and Jim Langley.





The store is in Damascus, MD, which equates to about a two hour trip (when there’s no traffic congestion). They set up a tent in their parking lot for lectures, fire up a grill for hot dogs, and invite a selection of telescope vendors for demonstrations during the day. They also give away prizes periodically during the day, so there’s always something going on. Including discount prices on items in the store.

Self-aligning telescope

The Meade vendor gave a live demo of their LX6 line, which features the ability to line itself up with the sky, by taking snapshots of the sky with a builtin camera–it locates an alignment star in the field of view (by virtue of the camera), and makes self-adjustments to ensure the alignment star ends up in the center of the field of view. It does the same thing for a couple of more stars, and joila, self alignment. It also includes automatic leveling, so it’s pretty comprehensive.

Super fast eyepiece cleaning

Explorer Scientific had a unique product–they were showing how you could clean their eyepieces, just by dropping them in an ultrasonic cleaner and pushing a button. They’re able to do that because the eyepiece is purged with Nitrogen gas and sealed, so it’s waterproof. A good trick, but the eyepieces were pretty expensive–$299 and $399.

Urban astronomy

James Chen gave a very nice lecture on “Urban Astronomy.” He told us how to utilize filters, light barriers, and certain eyepieces, to maximize our astronomy observing in light polluted skies. He recommended at least two filters–a deep sky, and a UHC (Ulta High Contrast). And if you’re going to observe the moon, you must have a moon filter. James said he has had great results with Neodymium filters.

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  1. Thanks for the write up. Sounds like a great trip…. maybe next year.


  2. I enjoyed the trip to Hands on Optics with the intent to purchase the latest CGEM Celestron Mount but after seeing it and its size I backed off on this and went on to other offerings in the store.
    I purchased a Lunt Solar 50mm Hydrogen-alpha Front Mount Filter ro my Megrez 90 for viewing the sun and trust it will work out as I did not want to purchase another telescope at the the price of $1850. View the link below to see what this looks like. It is more in cost than they say in the on-line offering. Cost: $995.00

  3. I enjoyed the trip to Hands On and ended up purchasing an Antares twist-lock 2 to 1-1/4 inch eyepiece adaptor, a Telrad with extra mount plate. The Celestron rep was giving away small toboggan hats with the company logo so I got one (it was promptly stolen by my wife when I got home – it’s okay, it didn’t fit my bus-head anyway). I enjoyed the demo of the Vixen Starbook and holding the really cute but well built AT66ED refractor – it came with a nice aluminum case for only $305. Another great deal was to be had on a Celestron CG-4 mount (manual) for $195. I had a hard time passing it up but we would have had to tie it on top to get it home. Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of the trip was the conversation in the van. It definitely wasn’t Bill and John’s snore-fest in the back seat! : )

  4. I too enjoyed the trip. I’m a relative newbie so really enjoyed looking and touching all the fun toys!!! I ended up buying a Light Pollution Filter and a 50mm, right-angle viewfinder for my scope. That should help out with the “stiff neck”…
    If I had won the lottery and there was more room in the car, I would have brought back all kinds of goodies!

  5. Hands On Optics Results
    I have used my LUNT SUN SOLAR SYSTEM Filter set on Megrez 90 MM and the sun looks great. I was able to see one flare that lasted about an hour but was not dramatic but interesting; there was one sunspot in the lower portion but very small and soon faded away. Very satisfied with the set-up.

    Additionally, after much dithering around at the store I have acquired a Celestron CGEM mount for the Megrez 90mm and it looks lost setting up there, seeing how this mount was made for the HD Celestron OTAs of 8″ to 11″!
    I am trying to learn how it works but have not had the opportunity actually align except on the sun during the daytime. I did run through the align process in the garage during the day and appears to be functioning as advertised. So much rain and cloudy nights.