Sky Watcher Heritage 76
The International Year of Astronomy is being marked by several new telescopes from different manufacturers. Sky Watcher has two, the Heritage 76 and Heritage 130, both Newtonian reflectors, with tubes decorated with graphics celebrating notable contributors to the science of astronomy, including Sir Isaac Newton, the originator of the Newtonian design.
I have looked through a replica of Sir Isaac Newton’s telescope that used a metal mirror and I can categorically state the Heritage 76 is at least a hundred times better! If Sir Isaac had a Heritage 76 he would undoubtedly have seen much, much more.
So how good is this small but powerful scope? The fine polished optical surfaces of the 3” primary and secondary mirrors form an optical system that is apochromatic, which means all the colours in the light spectrum focus in the same place, hence the optical system has no false colour. The telescope comes supplied with two eyepieces: 25mm giving 12x magnification and a 10mm delivering 30x – not high magnifications it’s true, but telescopes are not all about magnification collecting light and putting it in the right place is more important.
There are an enormous number of astronomical objects that this telescope can reveal, some with great ease, some more difficult, so, for under fifty quid, what can you see in the night sky?
Over two million light years for our first object, M31 the Great Andromeda Galaxy, a small oval-shaped patch of light, picked out first go with great ease.
The next target, a bit more difficult because of its size, M57 the Ring Nebula in Lyra. Situated between two of Lyra’s brighter stars at 12x magnification the nebula looks like a star that will not focus, but using the 10mm at 30x, the small doughnut shape was revealed. The Ring Nebula for under £50, a bargain! Surrounded by lots of tiny diamond stars some yellow some blue, large and small, a beautiful sight!
Close by M57, M13 the globular cluster in Hercules again located between two bright stars so finding it with a small atlas is quite easy. At just 30x magnification, using the 10mm eyepiece, this small shimmering snowball of stars is a glorious sight. Many other globular clusters are within reach of this scope. Someone should do the Heritage 76 scope challenge, see if you can get at least 10 globular clusters!
I watched Jupiter’s moons slowly drift round the planet over a four-hour period, amazing how much they move. The pale yellow disc of the planet is very bright with a hint of bands on the surface (very good seeing conditions are required to see much in the way of detail on any planet).
One of the most spectacular sights for me in the autumn sky is the double cluster in Perseus – for the owner of a small scope this object will not fail to please. Both clusters fit inside the field of view of the 10mm eyepiece at 30x. The view is simply stunning with many old red stars that look like rubies in the sky. Until you look at these two clusters for yourself you will not believe how red stars can be.
When you’re having this much fun in the dark you soon realise what a nuisance the day job is! As the Moon rose higher I turned the Heritage 76 to it and popped in the 10mm eyepiece and started to count craters, by this time I was ready for bed. Some people count sheep, I prefer craters, some have mountains in the middle, long and short shadows and walls of all shapes and sizes, sheep just look the same and smell!
A final point that commends the versatility of this instrument, I left the telescope on the dining room table overnight and when I came down in the morning, almost immediately, I noticed a Sparrow on the tree outside that appeared to be struggling with something. I quickly lined up the telescope using the little finder scope and had a great close-up view of a very determined sparrow grappling with, and pulling at a red berry (whilst a shower of seemingly identical red berries fell off around him – as a result of his strenuous efforts). It was a comical view – he really was determined to have that particular berry regardless of how many fell off around him. He got it in the end, only he promptly dropped it with all the others – whether he was able to identify his special one amongst the hundreds on the ground I can’t say. But I did have a great view of his antics thanks to the Heritage 76 telescope.