Telescope Essentials

Ted Molczan (
Thu, 10 Dec 1998 09:56:50 -0500

Terry (radar),

For satellite observation I prefer tripod-mounted 11X80 binoculars.

11X80 binoculars provide sufficient light gathering to readily observe 9th
magnitude objects. Their 4 degree field of view is helpful when attempting
to acquire objects in slightly uncertain orbits.

Due to the weight of 11X80s, and their magnification, I regard a tripod as
essential, to provide a steady image. A steady image enhances the pleasure
of casual observing, and is very helpful if you ever decide to make
positional measurements of satellites.

I prefer a sturdy tripod, that is tall enough for me to stand under the
binoculars when observing objects at high elevation. I purchased a Manfrotto
professional tripod, with long, adjustable-length, segmented legs. To allow
for rapid adjustment in height, the binoculars are mounted on a vertical
centre-shaft, approximately 0.7 m long, which can be raised/lowered using a
small hand crank.

By itself, the tripod provides a steady image for non-moving objects, but
for tracking satellites (or any other moving objects), I added an accessory
fluid pan head to the tripod. This device employs bearings to allow smooth
motion in both azimuth and elevation, which I regard as essential to
maintain a steady image when tracking.

I purchased this equipment in 1986, from a telescope dealer here in Toronto,
for about $700 (as I recall). If you want exact model numbers, I can provide
them. The equipment currently is at another site, so I may need a day or two
to obtain the information.

Ted Molczan