The Tasco 60mm Refractor
The Tasco model 58T/302058 arrived in a single box. On opening the box I was pleased to see that some care had gone into the packaging. The first item at the top was a check list and assembly instruction booklet. After removing everything from the box I was delighted to see that all was present. Included was the optical tube itself, a wooden, extending tripod with accessory tray, a basic Alt –Azimuth head unit, a 4mm & 12.5mm lens, a star diagonal, a 3x Barlow lens, a 1.5x erecting eyepiece, a tool kit for assembling everything, two booklets and a moon map.
Assembling the scope was straight forward. Clear, step-by-step instructions in the first booklet took me through each stage and, using the tools provided, within 15 minutes of opening the box the scope and mount were assembled and ready for use.
A second booklet now came out. This took me through how to align the finderscope and how to use the Alt – Azimuth mount. It also explained about ‘seeing’, lenses and ‘useful power’ as well as giving some hints on what the telescope might be capable of. The process of aligning the finderscope was carried out in daylight. Once done all I had to do was wait for night to fall – and hope that the sky would be clear. As luck would have it that very night was crystal clear. First light on my new telescope was about to occur!
As I had not used a telescope for some years, nor did I have a star chart, I choose objects as recommended in the Tasco booklets. My first target was Mizar in Ursa Major, which was lying low on the Northern horizon. With the supplied 12.5mm lens the scope had no problem showing Mizar and its companion Alcor. Swinging around to the South I focused on the Great Orion Nebula. The scope showed the nebula as greyish greenish blob, although using the ‘averted’ method, as recommended by the accompanying booklet, some shape was discernable. Then, by pure accident, as I scanned the heavens I found Saturn. Quickly changing to the 4mm lens I took my first look at the rings around Saturn. I have heard said that Saturn is one of the most spectacular sights that you will see through a telescope and I was not disappointed. Although virtually no surface features were visible apart from a suggestion of slightly differently shaded cloud bands, the main division in the rings, (the Cassini division) was visible – not bad on a 60mm refractor from an urban location. Next to be brought into view was Jupiter. Because Jupiter's cloud bands and surface features are more prominent than Saturn's more detail was seen. The equatorial cloud belts were easily noted and other cloud bands towards the polar regions were also seen.
Other sessions followed over the next weeks and months. As my knowledge of the sky grew, aided by some choice book purchases, my viewing sessions became more adventurous. I also learnt about ‘star testing’ the scope to check its collimation. This involves locating a very bright star – Sirius is an excellent target – and taking the object out of focus to both sides of the normally focused image. This produces a series of rings, (the Airy pattern), which will show if the scopes lenses are properly aligned and free from faults. If all is well, as was the case with the Tasco scope, you will see a pattern, (as shown in the box picture to the left), similar to the one to the left, if a refractor, or to the right if a reflector.
Overall, for a cheap so called ‘department store’ telescope I can say that I was pleased with Tascos performance. The optical tube assembly was good, with a well collimated objective lens. The specification of the optical tube is an objective lens of 60mm and a focal length of 750mm. The rack and pinion focuser was smooth and precise in use. The tripod and mount were basic but reasonably stable, despite their lightness. The only area that let this scope down was the quality of the supplied lenses. This was solved by purchasing different, better quality lenses, which greatly improved matters. The 1.5x erecting tube is provided if the scope is to be used in the daytime – it turns the image the correct way round for terrestrial
The 3x Barlow was not of much use as it took the power up to unusable levels for most astronomical viewing. I believe that Tasco still produce this scope and here in the UK it retails at just under £80. As a first scope for someone starting out in astronomy, who has never used a telescope or looked at the stars before, (and doesn’t know if they will like or stick at astronomy), you could do a lot worse than buy one of these telescopes. Even if you have progressed well beyond this stage to something altogether bigger and better, this scope makes and excellent guiding unit – essential for long exposure astro-photography.