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Home > Reviews > Telescopes > Newts > 12.5" Cave Astrola Newtonian

12.5" Cave Astrola Newtonian
By Ronald Abraham - 2/23/2008

Men are just much more emotionally responsive to visual stimuli than women. A man is more likely to have his pulse rate skyrocket when seeing a fine example of the opposite sex. A women encountering a man would be more responsive to gestures or spoken words. Women are better listenners and responders; men see, fantasize, and drool.

Ah yes - how is this relevant to astronomy?

First of all, size always matters. Men agree or disagree based on their own endowment. But if you were going to cut a pinup out of a magazine full of lustworthy photos, what would you hang on your wall - a 30 year old 12.5" Cave Astrola Newtonian, or a 4" APO? Which one will draw you like a moth to a flame when you pull up to the star party with your own ball and chain in tow? Which one will you want to be standing near when the sky darkens and people start talking about Saggitarius, Cygnus, and Andromeda?

There can be nothing at an star party sexier than a long sleek 1970s Newtonian - not even my friend Tony's 6" TMB on an AP1200 mount comes close. The view might be better, but we are talking about sex appeal right now - thank you!

When we talk about sex and astronomy, the relevance of motion, size, timing, touch, and balance are tantamount to an enjoyable experience. One must remain vigilant; sudden impact loads such as a stumble - or uncontrolled input can really upset the instrument. It's like you're almost there - closer, closer; your mind is blotting evertything else out, and then BANG - a gust of wind or slip on the focus knob bounces Saturn clean out of the 5 arc minute field of view.

Obviously motion is where sex and amateur astronomy diverge. Newton, Keppler, and even Herschel and his wife would agree. A gusty offshore blast might coax a breathless sigh on a moonlit beach, but it will turn a Saturn, Mars, or Jupiter into a bleak streak when it smacks your OTA.

Size is useless when the wind is sweeping across the plains and bouncing your optics around like sagebrush. So today, most of us guys embrace smaller shorter tubes and stiffer mounts.

You see more and more big open truss Dobsonians at star parties nowadays. DOBS have bigger bearing surfaces which tend to dampen the wind's oscillating effect much better than the spindly oscillation prone ancient GEMs. The reduced surface area of a truss also reduces the wind's net impact. Larger bearing surfaces translate into a vastly more controlable "brekaway" from static friction to sliding friction.

The problem is that the DOBs have no sex appeal. I mean - a Truss DOB is like a late mode Toyota Avalon or Chevy Denali, while an old big Newtonian/GEM is like a 1967 Buick Electra 225 Convertible or a 1968 Lincoln Mark 3 - long, low, and lean.

To conclude my review of the 1977 Model D Transportable 12.5" F/5 Cave Astrola Telescope: If you are endowed with a big instrument like this that has truly fine optics, you'll either have to wait for a windless night or put big bucks into a modern battleship of a German Equatorial Mount. These are the only practical solutions for having an incredibly sexy telescope. You must also remember that it will be men - not women who are most impressed.

I have been married 27 years; the frequency of uh - well - you know - has slowed to an astronomical time scale. Furthermore - the supernovas of my youth have given way to the smoldering death throes of small white dwarfs. I remember a guy asking "what is that term for when the Moon's rotation and revolution around earth to be out of sync. Finally - after some discussion, someone blurted out "LIBIDO". Sounded right at the time.

Certainly there is pride in owning and showing off a big old Newtonian on a GEM. It is kind of like taking a shower at the Y without feeling inadequate. People will want to look; they will want to touch because it is impressive and promises a splendid experience. I let them move it, rotate it, focus it. Handling a big old Newt/GEM is exciting.

Every behaviorist from Freud to BF Skinner to Masters and Johnson have either stated or implied that the male preoccupation with things large, long, and cylindrical (phallic symbols) is often a psychological panacea for insecurity associated with male physical shortcomings or belief thereof. Many languages assign gender to everyday things. In French a door or window is feminine: "la" porte; male nouns are preceded by "le". I would assume a frenchman would refer to my big honker as "Le Cave Astrola". This thing is a torpedo, not a port hole.

Times have changed - certainly for the better; but the finest views of the universe have been made possible by an incredible ethic among optical engineers and technicians of the golden age of Newtonian/GEM telescopes - 1955 through 1980. Today's masters - students of that era's expertise and mentorship - have made possible portable amateur instruments up to and exceeding 30" - a teastament to new technologies and John Dobsion's rotating rocker box.

Baby boomers among us who were drawn to astronomy in their youth were enamored by those alluring catalogues from Unitron, Edmund Scientific, Criterion, and Cave. The images of nerdy looking people dressed in lab jackets posing with the most lustworthy telescopes triggered a primitive desire within us. I realize now that the models posing with the telescopes were midgets to make the scopes look bigger.

I have APOs and I have SCTs, but there is simply nothing I enjoy more than my big Newt/GEMs. They are heavy and clumsy, but they are optically amazing and track the sky wherever you can feed them 110 VAC. You aim them the old fashioned way and have to twist around a little to get to the eyepiece, but the experience is rich, taking me back to the days when I wanted, but could not have.

Astronomy has always been a part of me, and always will be. Many dreams of my youth have come true, and I cherish and appreciate my good fortune. The best part of it all is that sometimes - when Danko's Sky Clock predicts perfect weather and seeing - I get to haul my gear out to my favorite dark site. I get lucky maybe five or six times a year, and - even at 55 - I still don't need to take Viagra.

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