What if I told you it is possible to own a telescope that can fit in your pocket? Figuratively speaking (unless you have a big-ass pocket). I’m not talkin’ about some plastic sculpture in the shape of a telescope you can purchase at Toys “R” Us with your lunch money.
I’m talking about the Orion Apex 102mm maksutov!
Sold for about $299.99—it comes with a walnut blue stock and a hair-trigger…
…just kidding. But if you have a deadite problem, I suggest the sporting good’s department at S-Mart. You got that?
Anyway, the Orion Apex 102mm maksutov is a diminutive telescope. But don’t you dare underestimate it! This optical device will punch you in the eye with celestial radiance. Easily underestimated; this catadioptric—a telescope that employs both lens and a mirror—is an optical grab bag capable of accomplishing a variety of tasks:
Resolving Globular Clusters
Orion’s Apex 102mm maksutov has a full aluminum body. Plastic is kept a minimum, ostracized to a gasket-type ring that connects a barrel to the telescope. This may not seem like a big deal, but it is. Trust me. However, the aluminum body is not invulnerable! It will chip with abuse.
As a rule of thumb: maintain hyper-diligence in staying away from plastic in the shape of a telescope. The Orion Apex 102mm maksutov, if treated with respect, will last you a lifetime. In fact with genuine proper care, it will outlive you! But…let’s not get too morbid.
The telescope is finished with a rubyish-tinted coat of paint that glitters under golden sunshine (if you care about such things).
The Orion Apex 102mm maksutov is what is aptly known as a ‘catadioptric’. Feel free to whisper that term during your next cocktail party if you’re looking to impress a bunch of martini sipping Homo sapiens.
A catadioptric refers to an optical device that employs both a lens and a mirror. This combination ‘folds in the light path’, by refracting incoming light with a front lens, and then reflecting it back toward a silvered spot on the front lens with a mirror, which in turn, bounces the light out through the eyepiece.
As if by witchcraft; this effectively increases the focal length of a telescope, without increasing its physical length. Although heavier compared to telescopes of similar sizes; it’s half the size of a refractor of a similar focal length.
The boost in focal length naturally boosts the power potential of a catadioptric.
To calculate a telescope’s power: divide focal length by an eyepiece’s size in millimeters. For example:
1300 / 25 = 52x
That means a standard 25mm eyepiece provides a grand total of 52x magnification.
Let’s see what happens when we chop down the focal length:
800 / 25 =32x
The numbers don’t lie. The longer a telescope’s focal length, the more power it will be capable of.
For its size, no other breed of telescope packs more of a punch when it comes to brute force. This also means a catadioptric is not a wise choice for wide-field observation.
The meniscus lens is coated to increase contrast of astronomical treasures. Respect this thin layer of magic! It doesn’t take kindly to elbow grease! Be mindful when scrubbing down this optical baby, otherwise you’ll do more damage than good.
Don’t freak out over every piece of dust that takes up temporary residence on its glassy real-estate.
In the Field
So, what can be seen with the Orion Apex 102mm maksutov?
Well, the 102mm mirror (4 inches) will allow you to spy on stars down to the 12 magnitude, and resolve objects 1.13” across. Due to the telescope’s raw power, it excels at observing ‘non-point’ like objects.
A fancy way of saying it prefers to gawk at:
Sun (proper filter)
Anything that has a perceivable shape.
Views of the moon’s surface are crispy-katana-sharp, void of any nasty chromatic aberration, or other unsightly halos that tend to envelope bright objects. The small angle-of-view props up the moon center stage, without it being swallowed by the negative space in the sky, which tends to happen with weak telescopes (FL = 500).
The Orion Apex 102mm maksutov comes with a 25mm plossl eyepiece, which provides 52x magnification (refer to calculation above). It’s enough power to resolve Jupiter’s equatorial cloud bands or Saturn’s rings.
I recommend purchasing a 15mm eyepiece for planetary observation, which will grant you 86x magnification.
I also recommend purchasing a 40mm eyepiece—very useful for locating objects with a long focal length telescope. Don’t underestimate how much of a pain in the ass this can be.
Another useful accessory for the Orion Apex 102mm maksutov is a EZ-Finder Delux reflex sight. It’s a wide-field, 1x magnification finderscope that’s useful for locating bright objects, but not so helpful for locating deep space objects.
Don’t toss out your finderscope.
A barlow lens really accentuates this telescope’s brute force. You can double the magnification of any eyepiece with one of these optical babies. A simple 25mm eyepiece that normally provides 52x magnification, now flexes its muscles at 104x magnification!
Try to get a pussy refractor of a similar size to pull that off! (I apologize to all you refractor aficionados from the bottom of my heart).
In order to achieve optimal performance, any telescope needs to reach thermal equilibrium.
Due to the Orion Apex’s mirror/lens combination, this process takes longer compared to a telescope with a single lens or mirror. Plan ahead! Otherwise resolution will be degraded.
The meniscus lens has a habit of sprouting condensation on its surface.
No, that’s a damn understatement: lakes and puddles will scour the surface if conditions are right. There are accessories available that help combat this condensation issue, but I don’t have experience with them. Forgive my ignorance.
Gnats and other winged denizens have a habit of lounging upon the meniscus lens as if they own the place. I’ve yet to see a product that deals with this issue.
Oh, I forgot—it’s called bug spray.
The Orion Apex 102mm maksutov can be converted into a solar telescope with a proper filter. I suggest using a glass filter that snugly constricts over the telescope’s aperture. Due to the telescope’s natural power, sun spots will be more apparent through the field of view.
However, under certain circumstances; the telescope’s power can be a hindrance. Star clusters, such as the Pleiades, take up the entire field of view. If I were to drag you over to the eyepiece, you probably wouldn’t know it was a star cluster, unless I gave away the secret.
A particular star cluster can look like any other field stars to the untrained eye.
When it comes to ghostly objects like galaxies or nebula, keep in the mirror is only 4 inches in diameter. Not well suited for this type of observing, but if the object is relatively bright, you can certainly resolve its ghastly photons.
Depending on the object in question, structure can be discerned, despite the small mirror.
Don’t be discouraged!
Although the Orion Apex 102mm maksutov is branded a slow telescope (f/12.7), it still can be used to image bright objects like the moon or sun. Practically speaking, you’ll need a decent tracking system to truly use this telescope for astrophotography.
As an introduction into astrophotgraphy; the Orion Apex 102mm maksutov will slam your foot in the door if you’re desperate.
With a crop sensor DSLR, such as a Canon Rebel XSi, you can fill the frame with the moon’s cratered face. If you decide to use this telescope for prime focus lunar photography, you’ll need something called a ‘t-ring’ for your appropriate camera brand.
The Orion Apex 102mm maksutov is capable of decent lunar imaging. I suggest prime focus instead of a-focal.
Make sure telescope reaches thermal equilibrium
Zoom in on the LCD screen 10x before focusing
Keep ISO at 100
Expose for no longer than 1/100Sec.
Do not over-expose!
When it comes to observing the moon, you’ll have to step back in awe at the thought of your pupil gliding over jagged impact craters and ancient lunar valleys. You’ll swear your iris has been cut by the sharpness of the view.
You can convert the Orion Apex 102mm maksutov into a solar telescope by means of a filter.
**DISCLAIMER** Never- ever look through a telescope aimed at the sun without a proper filter! Your eyes will smolder into charcoal
As I said, I suggest purchasing a glass solar filter that fits over the aperture of the telescope. Avoid filters that screw into an eyepiece. Personally, I wouldn’t want all that focused light burning through the filter.
I’ve read plenty of horror stories about eyepieces melting and shit— It is more intelligent to filter out as much light as possible before it’s focused through an eyepiece.
The glass solar filter shoulder blocks 99.9 % of incoming solar radiance before it graces the glassy estate of an eyepiece.
That being said, once you acquire a filter, you can take a peek behind the sun’s glare, and gander upon its photosphere. Sun spots occasionally sprout as blackened splotches, which migrate across its surface due to the sun’s differential rotation.
As with lunar photography; the sun can be imaged via prime focus.
Turn up contrast in camera
Keep ISO at 100
Zoom in before focusing
Exposure for no longer than 1/100Sec
Do not over-expose!
The Orion Apex 102mm maksutov doe’s not come with a mount.
I suggest purchasing the EQ-2 equatorial mount if you don’t have the budget of a supervillain. Suitable for standard observing—it is ill-suited for long exposure photography. Ignore the motor they claim can be used to take tracked shots. Over all, the motion on the right ascension axis is not smooth enough to respectably accommodate such a feature…to put it nicely.
Overtime, my EQ-2 has taken a serious beating! Screws fell out of it, pieces have busted off it, yet for some reason…it still works.
If you’re interested in wide-field astrophotography, I don’t recommend this telescope. Purchase something that is at least f/6, such as a small refractor. You’ll also need a— how can I say this… respectable mount.
For specific events, the Orion apex 102mm maksutov can be used quite effectively for:
lunar eclipses/ lunar phase imaging
solar eclipse imaging
sun spot imaging
That’s about it
You can try to image planets with the Orion apex 102mm maksutov at prime focus, but it’s not ideal.
As you can see in the image above of Saturn; the ring system is barely perceptible, not to mention the planet is dwarfed by the negative space within the frame.
Minor Jovian detail can be captured using prime focus, but again, I don’t suggest this method for planetary photography.
If you happen to own this telescope, and want to try taking images of planets for the hell of it, don’t over-expose the image! You’ll loose precious detail. Considering the planet’s tiny stature within the frame, you’ll need all the detail you can get.
Keep ISO at 100. Noise will degrade the resolution greatly.
Make sure to take effort to focus the image. If you can, zoom in 10x on the LCD screen, and then focus.
Don’t expose longer than 1/15sec
Crop the image if desired
If you’re having issues seeing a planet through the LCD screen, check your focus. If the moon happens to be out, focus on that, and try again.
The question remains: is this telescope worthy of forking over your shiny coins?
Although, for astrophotography purposes, I suggest you look elsewhere. For a telescope that is going to be used for observation, the Orion Apex 102mm maksutov won’t let your eyes become soggy with disappointment.
Due to the telescope’s physical size, it can easily be hauled from place to place, without being burdened too much. If you need to travel to a dark location, this telescope won’t make the process anymore of a pain in the ass—something money can’t buy…
Optical Diameter = 102mm (4 inch)
Focal Length = 1300
Focal Ratio = 12.7
Resolving power = 1.13arc*sec
Highest Useful Magnification = 204x
Limiting Stellar Magnitude = 12.7
Focuser = internal
Tube Material = aluminum (no plastic)
Weight (tube) = 5.0 lbs.
Oh yeah! This telescope can be used for terrestrial observation as well. Spy on squirrels, birds—use your imagination. No, I’m not referring to that hunky beefcake or hot piece of ass across the street.
Really. I’m not.