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Antares XL 10-inch Dobsonian

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Date: 4-19-2003
Price: $599.99
Design: 10-inch f/5 Dobsonian
Description: 32mm and 9mm Plossl eyepieces, 8x50 finderscope, 2” rack-and-pinion focuser with 1.25” adapter, moon filter, and an Omcon 2x Barlow lens.

The Review

Hello to all Affordable Astronomy Equipment readers.  This will be a review of the Antares XL 10 Dobsonian telescope offered by, and purchased through, Hands On Optics. 

The telescope itself appears to be the steel tube Newtonian reflector 10-inch f/5 optical system offered by Guan Sheng, manufactured in Taiwan.  This particular package includes a 32mm plossl, a 9mm plossl, and an Omcon 2x shorty Barlow.  The eyepieces appear to be identical to the Sirius line offered by Orion.  In other words, decent for this type.  Not the newer generic type Chinese ones with plastic barrels.  Also included is a decent 8x50 straight through finder.  The focuser is a fairly accurate two-inch aluminum rack and pinion unit with a 1.25 inch adapter.  As with most lower priced Dobsonian telescopes, the base is particle or chipboard covered with laminate.  The bearings (both altitude, and, azimuth) appear to be nylon.  The telescope also has the now familiar spring tensioning system.  The total price, delivered to your door, is $599.00.

The first thing I noticed upon taking the telescope out of the box, was how different some of the components that Guan Sheng is using now, are from what they were just a few years ago.  The most notable improvement, to my mind at least, is the four-vane spider.  This is a great mechanical, as well as optical improvement.  Mechcanically, because of how much better this spider holds collimation.  Optical, because those six diffraction spikes from the three vane spider are gone.  Not that there is anything wrong with using three vane spiders.  It is just that the ones Guan Sheng were using had thick vanes that cast bright diffraction spikes.  There is no such problem with the new ones.  There are diffraction spikes, but they are much less noticeable.

The mirror cell is a nice aluminum unit.  Knurled hand knobs for the collimation, and lock down screws work well.  One of the lock down screws on the unit that we received had to be tensioned and loosened with a screwdriver until it got “broken in” a bit.  It works fine, and can be turned by hand now.  One thing that I do not like about the new mirror cell, is the heavy steel plate that blocks off the air flow to the back of the primary.  I’m sure it contributes to a longer cool down period.  If it were my personal telescope, (this telescope was purchased for the “Eyes on The Sky” astronomy club) I would probably look into ways to eliminate this plate.  We may just drill some vent holes in it.

Optically, this telescope is a real decent performer.  Saturn and Jupiter images have been great.  We have used all kinds of different eyepieces in it.  Surprisingly. All have performed well, for such a short focal ratio.  The supplied Plossls give great images.  The wisdom of including the 32 mm became apparent when using this ‘scope for deep sky observing.  It gives absolutely stunning deep sky views.  Using the included Barlow even allows you to use this as a medium power planetary eyepiece.  Coma has been negligible for such a short focal ratio.  We have achieved best images using a partial set of Orion Epic ED eyepieces.  (The 22 mm, 14mm, and 5.1 mm).

While we are talking about observing with this ‘scope, I must mention something that has troubled me a bit.  My American built two-inch eyepieces do not fit well in this focuser.  In fact, my 38-mm Erfle does not fit at all.  My 50 mm Plossl fits with great difficulty.  Once I got it inserted, I found that the focuser did not have enough back focus without locking the eyepiece in only halfway.  I did get great views with this combination.  I don’t know where the tolerance problem lies, but, these eyepieces both fit and work great in my J.M.I. Crayford style focuser, that is in my personal ten inch telescope.

I do want to make clear, that I am very impressed with the optical quality of this telescope.  The finder works o.k.  and is large enough to locate objects for a telescope of this aperture.  The base is typical for this lineage of ‘scopes.  Easy enough to use and point.  It has good altitude motions right out of the box.  The azimuth motions, however, were very stiff.  Tough to move, and alot of static friction to overcome.  We fixed this by inserting two c.d.’s over the center bolt and sleeve.  We then applied silicon spray to the baseboard, and the nylon bearings on the ground board.  This has helped movement in azimuth a great deal.  We plan to replace the nylon bearings with Magic Sliders, although, now, the ‘scope is usable as is.

The folks in my astronomy club are very excited about this being one of the club telescopes now.  That sentence alone gives you a clue about whether this ‘scope is recommended or not.  To me, at least, it is just amazing what just a little bit of money can get you in the way of a telescope nowadays.  Would someone who has been observing for years be happy with this telescope?  Well they could be, if they wanted to put a little time into some improvements.  Would a beginner be happy with this ‘scope?  Sure.  How could they not be?  Decent aperture, good optics, and just about bullet proof.  I never thought I would see the day when ten inch ‘scopes would be at a beginner price point.  We are now there.  Add in the fact that some dealers are selling similar packages (without the Barlow and 32mm eyepiece) for about $460, delivered, and I do not think amateur astronomy is ever going to be quite the same again!

Submitted by Ed Conley - North Branch, MI - econley@lcisd.k12.mi.us

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