Travels with Charley Summary
One of the best reasons for learning to build telescopes is that you can make instruments that perfectly match a particular observing need or circumstance. As an editor at Sky & Telescope, my “circumstance” happily involved a lot of travel, and as a result I found myself dreaming of a telescope that I could take with me as I zig-zagged across North America from one star party to the next. It seemed a shame to arrive under the dark skies of the Texas Star Party or Mount Kobau without a telescope of my own.
For a while, I made do with my Questar — an icon of portability but offering only 3½ inches of aperture. I felt the dark skies I was lucky enough to enjoy deserved the light grasp of at least a 6-inch scope. Initially I found a solution in simply cutting the tube of my 6-inch f/6 Newtonian in half. This way I could fit both tube halves (stuffed with my cold-weather gear and other clothing) and my lightweight German equatorial mount into one large suitcase. This configuration survived a few trips, but eventually my luck ran out, and some rough treatment by baggage handlers resulted in a crushed telescope and a return to the drawing board. I resolved that my next travelscope would have to be compact enough to go as carryon luggage.
Having seen a fair number of highly portable scopes in back issues of S&T and on the Internet, I knew I could come up with a workable scope, but I also wanted to avoid a few pitfalls. I didn’t want to relegate some major portion of the instrument as checked baggage, or make a scope that would literally be a pain in the neck to use.
In addition to carryon-luggage port-ability, the scope would ideally have these attributes:
• at least 6 inches of aperture, although 8 would be better;
• focuser that doesn’t come straight out the side of the tube;
• maximum and minimum eyepiece heights that allow seated viewing;
• effective baffling against stray light;
• no-tools setup.
When I sat down with a clean sheet of paper to make some preliminary sketches, all roads seemed to point to some kind of nested, truss-tube Dobsonian. After ironing out the details, I converted my 6-inch f/6 reflector to this configuration. I found not only that the design worked better than I expected, but that the finished scope was considerably smaller than the typical airline carryon allowance. This suggested the possibility of an even larger instrument utilizing the same design.
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