Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Photographs Of The Telescopes

I recently went through the notes in my observing journal. And the conclusion I came to, is that a binocular telescope is the ideal instrument for me. Or, in other words - Not only am I very keen on that type of instrument for astronomy - but, it has been the best fit for me in the past. But the fact is they aren't cheap...

Well, as promised I'd like to finally share some wonderful photographs — of the telescopes which are slated to be delivered to me.

I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to their arrival...

I plan to add a lot more details, to go along with these photos in the future. For now — they say a picture is worth a thousand words.

Feast your eyes on these beauties:

Edmund 4.25" Deluxe Space Conqueror

Front end of the E.S. 4.25" Deep Space Conqueror 

Primary mirror of the E.S. 4.25" Deep Space Conqueror 
(I like the look of the 3 simple collimation screws)


Now, for the 6" Edmund Scientifics' Super Space Conqueror:

A formidable looking instrument


Front end of the E.S. 6" Super Space Conqueror 
(the orig. finderscope has been upgraded to a larger unit from Orion)


Fascinating clock drive of the 6" Super Space Conqueror 


Primary mirror of 6" Super Space Conqueror, with orig. factory sticker visible  

 
Secondary mirror of the E.S. 6" Super Space Conqueror 

And here is a (randomly selected) photo, found via Google search, of the fourth and final telescope - Which I "gave up" for microscopy 🔬
😀

It is The Edmund Scientific model 3001, 6" Newtonian reflector.







All good things to those who wait...

Clear and steady skies!





Tuesday, February 1, 2022

"The Waiting Is The Hardest Part" I must agree...


I will be able to wait; for as long as it takes: for the wintry weather of the Northeastern U.S. to cooperate - just a little. So that my friend Scott can undertake the long road trip, to deliver those wonderful vintage telescopes to me.

But, the weather has not been behaving. However, I have seen some outstanding photos of those particular telescopes (I have pictures of them hanging on my refrigerator!). So my patience has been restored.

It doesn't look like it will happen this weekend either; but that's totally ok.

It's not just The Waiting ...It's the fact that I don't have any good optics to observe the night sky with - That's what was making it really tough. We have another clear night tonight (as I type this). A small Newtonian reflector would be ideal right now. Even a 4" - something to just pop out onto the deck with. 

I must confess: I have tried to do some binocular astronomy, On the past few clear nights: and at these temps, I can only last about 10 minutes! And I doubt it would be much longer if I changed out of my pajama pants 😁

Over the years, I've owned many different types and sizes of telescopes and binoculars for astronomy. And although Dobsonian reflectors certainly have their advantages, and their unique merits: They haven't been the most comfortable instrument to observe with - especially, for long periods of time. When making pencil sketches of DSO's, for example.

However, the telescopes we're discussing here, are not Dobs...but Newtonian's! I've never owned a large Newtonian...

With a binocular telescope (even a small one), you do have the simplicity of just the optic itself, attached to a good photo tripod. And away you go! They come with eyepiece tubes built at either a 45 degree, or 90 degree angle (either of which is very comfortable in use). Especially when trying to create a decent-looking pencil sketch of Deep Sky Objects.

The only other instrument, which provides as much comfort as a BT set-up, would be a small, wide-field refractor. One of good quality, such as this one.


Until next time, Clear & steady skies!


Sunday, January 23, 2022

Things You Never Knew Existed!

We Interrupt your regularly scheduled telescope restoration projects, tips and tricks — To bring you some important bulletins:

Some singularly odd, And formerly unimaginable events may be taking place here, in the near future. What I'm referring to is the bending of the fabric of reality — Or what might more accurately be described as a visit to another dimension.

A dimension not of sight and sound, but of mind... 

It's very difficult for the layperson to believe that acts of extraordinary kindness, and generosity still occur in the world. Especially in today's day and age — the year 2022.

Today the average person is in fact jaded. In my case, I should be even more jaded than most people are. In my 20 years of working in New York City, I've been exposed to more than my share of malice, threats, and violence. Yet through it all, I still maintained my faith in the goodness of humanity. Or, more accurately, to still know that good people (although certainly rare) still exist. 

Again, what started as an ordinary Want Ad, on The Cloudy Nights website (classified section) - Seemed to have opened a portal; to a simpler time - Something reminiscent of the town of Willoughby... I guess it would help if you've seen that particular episode <clicking that link will take you to a ~2 Min. YouTube video (giving you a peek at the Twilight Zone episode I'm referring to).

Perhaps in a town like Willoughby, an experienced, and avid collector of telescopes would be happy to part with examples from his collection - for a relatively small amount of money? Perhaps.

Perhaps an amateur astronomer back in those days, would think nothing of traveling many, many miles to deliver the telescope(s) to the buyer? I guess I can't say for sure, but my guess would be in the affirmative. Well this amateur astronomer (Scott), knowing my unique situation, offered to do that very thing: He'll be taking a road trip, to deliver the scopes. And I am simply floored by this act of kindness.

Each of these telescopes (listed below) are of substantial size and weight. And would be very labor-intensive to pack properly for shipping. As well as having prohibitively expensive shipping costs (mainly due to the heavy weights involved). The shipping costs for each, would be close to the actual cost/value of the scope itself...

Well, let's get straight to the telescopes!

Edmund Scientific telescopes:

A 4.25" f/10 Deluxe Space Conqueror - With clock drive

A 6" f/8 Super Space Conqueror - With clock drive

A 6" f/6 3001 model fork mount - With clock drive 

And... A 6" f/6 Cave Student Model - This telescope is all original! Which is pretty amazing! It was obviously well-kept, no restoration was necessary.

Again, one of the fascinating factors about this acquisition, is that the seller's asking price is very, very reasonable. In other words: very generous - And I appreciate it.

So essentially, it's a vintage telescope collector's starter kit! I'm really looking forward to it.

Scott sent me pictures of this wonderful, restored reflector; along with the fascinating story and details behind it. 

A 6" f/6 Cave Reflector / Student Model A
(soon to be mine if all goes well)


The beauty pictured above started it's life in California, probably around the early 1970's - And has gone through a lot since then...
Not the least of which, was a completely rebuilt mount. Scott had no choice but to purchase each component of the mount separately - and build it piece-by-piece.
Amazing stuff! 

Cave finder scope, helical focuser...


I look forward to posting much more about this upcoming unique opportunity. Along with more wonderful pics...

The mount.


All good stuff!! The only "challenge" I face now, is the waiting!!
As a side note: when it comes to most circumstances, I am far more patient than most! I'm very good at delaying gratification as well.

But waiting for the (as-yet-unkown) day when the scopes will arrive...
Oh my goodness!! What makes it more difficult, is not having a decent instrument for observing :(  
That is the factor which makes it harder to behave like a mature adult!
So what I need to do, is keep myself busy by working on my other blog.

I don't currently have any photos of the Edmund Scientific telescopes. I was thinking, that I could post pics here which are easily found on the Web - but they are of other people's scopes. I guess I could just wait a bit longer, and post up pics of the actual scopes, when they get here! 

I look forward to posting much more about this upcoming unique opportunity. With pictures of the actual Edmund telescopes. Along with more pics of The Cave scope.

Until next post - I wish you clear and steady skies!

Friday, January 21, 2022

Review: The ED Apo 16x70 Binoculars From APM

As mentioned in a previous post, I ended up selling my new Apertura 10" Dobsonian telescope - So that I could get myself either a binocular telescope, or perhaps an Alpha type pair of Binocs.

After constantly checking AM and CN, and not finding anything good...
I took a chance, and reached-out to an Astromart Member, who I recalled had sold some excellent binoculars in the past.

To make a long story short, I ended up buying a (very gently used) pair of APM 16x70's apochromatic bincos, featuring ED glass. When they arrived, they were basically in as-new condition. I cannot tell you how happy I was! Having been a die hard fan of binocular observing, this was like a dream-come-true for me.

Since, having owned the (legendary) Fujinon 16x70's - the original ones (which are more desirable than the current production models). One night, in my (then) Bortle 8, light polluted backyard (in Bronx NY)... I screwed-in the pair of Fujinon-manufactured, nebular (sic) filters into the threaded EP ends...and pointed those tripod-mounted Fujinons at M42. The view I had literally took my breath away. I immediately became a firm believer in binocular astronomy. 

And it didn't take too long after that, to slowly seek-out and acquire the wonderful books on the subject...By the legendary pillars of the binocular astronomy world:
Gary Seronik      
And several others...

Well, getting back to the 16x70 Apo ED glass binoculars from APM - They were amazing. I only got to use them a couple of times. And although their optical quality/performance was wonderful - I had become far too interested in planetary nebulae. And I knew that the only way to truly enjoy observing them, was with a (decent sized) telescope.  

And since I was on a limited budget (which is typically the case) the only way to get a good-sized refractor (4"?) or reflector, was to sell the APM Binocs.
And that's what I decided to do...
Now, I could easily write a bunch more about the particular details of the subsequent selling & buying which took place - I'm going to perhaps save it for another post. Primarily because I'm excited to work on my next post...

It will be all about a wonderful opportunity I had, to acquire not one...but FOUR beautiful telescopes! From an extremely knowledgeable, fellow amateur astronomer on Cloudy Nights. This gentleman has enough experience with astronomy (and all it entails) that he is closer to the skill level & knowledge of a Professional Astronomer. 
Well, there is a lot more to the story - Not the least of which, is the subject of the 4 telescopes which I'll be acquiring from him (sometime between now and February). In a nutshell: I'm extremely excited to share all the news - and the details about the 4 wonderful, vintage scopes!

For now, I'll point out that these will consist of:
One 4.25" reflector and three 6" reflectors...Each of these telescopes are simply wonderful (and fairly rare). One of the 6" reflectors is a real stand out. I plan to refer to it as my observatory 😄

Some experienced amateurs may recognize what this beauty is?
All will be revealed in my next post 


One last link about binoculars:

Here's a very useful link about repairing binoculars at home, using simple tools and materials. It deals with the testing, repair, and adjustment of binoculars. Older/vintage binoculars tend to be a lot easier to fully disassemble and repair.

Until the next post - Wishing you clear & steady skies!

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Sears-branded, 60mm Refractor Telescope - Model #6333-a

My recently acquired, and almost completely restored 60mm refractor telescope — made in Japan. It is a Sears # 4 -6333-a achromatic refractor, from about the late 1960's (or early 1970's).

Here are a few quick videos, to serve as a brief look at the current status of this Sears 60mm refractor:


When it arrived (well packaged) it was in very nice condition. So there's only been some very minor (and super easy) restoration steps taken:

The small chrome levers, for locking the RA and Dec movement of the scope, had a tendency to be in a constant state of being slightly unscrewed / un-tightened. It was very annoying! You can see both levers in the center of the  video frame above.
Well, applying just a tiny amount of Loctite Blue to the screw threads of those small shafts solved the issue.


The black handled screwdriver, seen in this video frame - is actually designed specifically for Japanese screws. They may have laughed at me, when I left the hobby shop with a couple of these screwdrivers all those years ago...But, who's laughing now?

Upon disassembly of the star diagonal (to find the cause of the minor rattling sound) - 
I suppose I was fully expecting to see a mirror. In my experience, that is what was always found residing in a star diagonal.
Not so with this one; it uses a glass prism instead. 

There will be much more to follow, in the upcoming posts. I will be covering the minor steps I'm taking, to make this vintage refractor look, and perform as well as it can. Stay tuned.

In even more exciting news: Not one, but three wonderful, vintage telescopes are being delivered by new friend Scott sometime soon...just waiting for the weather to cooperate. 

As mentioned briefly in the previous post, these 3 telescopes: a 4.25", and two 6" reflectors (different F/ ratios) were manufactured by Edmund Scientific. Probably in the mid-seventies to early eighties (prob ~1981 for the red tube).

All the wonderful details about these 3 optical instruments will be revealed here on the blog, in due time :) Along with "before" and "after" Pics and (YouTube) videos. It's going to be a lot of fun!!

The short version of the headline is: Yes, there still are thoughtful, decent, and generous people in the world. 

Stay tuned! - It appears that I will become a vintage telescope collector overnight! 

It's going to be amazing! If all goes according to plan - This blog will have the unique distinction, of being a depository of information and photos on Edmund Scientific telescopes. Along with detailed pictures, and restoration steps, etc.

Until next time - Clear & steady skies to you!

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Out With Astrophotography - In With Video Astronomy?

As stated in my previous post: I just have had it with AP.

The Star Adventurer Pro mount has been sold (on eBay) and is en route to it's new owner, in warmer climes. With Winter fully upon us now, equipment functioning properly in seriously cold temperatures is a concern. Not only electronics for Astrophotography, but even professional equipment for wildlife sound recording - I will be covering these topics, both here, and on my bat detector reviews blog soon...

I'll also be covering how intrigued I've been by a couple of the latest 'Actual Astronomy Podcasts ' recently, and what they had to say about cold weather observing. They discussed one instance, when temps were so low (-30° C) that cameras couldn't be counted on to function! And they had to resort to sketching - just wow!

And finally, I want to touch on a subject matter which is close to my heart. Without going into too many details:

I was fortunate enough to have a Want Ad responded to, by an extraordinary gentleman. A former Research Scientist, current Educator, and collector of vintage astronomy equipment. He collects the good stuff! 

Such as telescopes by: Cave Astrola, Edmund Scientific, Unitron, Questar, Optical Craftsman, etc.

His name is Scott, and he's a super nice guy, who generously offered to go to great lengths to get not one, but three lovely vintage telescopes to me (here in upstate New York). I always thought stuff like this only happens to other people - LoL! I recently read about a fellow (on one of the Facebook groups) being gifted a complete, beautiful, Unitron refractor! 

However, the undertaking is not only comprised of a great distance to travel - but some weather forecasts promised to add snow to mix, on the proposed travel dates... 😢

So, I was beginning to lose hope of getting them anytime soon...As of Jan. 14th, that has changed :) This real, amazing human being will be making the trip...

As some of you may recall, I happen to be disabled. I have 8 damaged discs in my spine (which are inoperable), and Fibromyalgia. So I deal with chronic pain, and don't drive. This Scholar-Gentleman agreed to drive 6.5+ hours, to deliver the 3 telescopes to me! For just the cost of gasoline. Yes, people like this still exist among us. And it's very fortunate for me.

I've just now been reminded of a line from a H.S. textbook (Asian history): "...Confucius would accept a student, even if all he had to offer was a bundle of dried meat."

One of the topics I'd like to cover in future posts here on the blog, is the challenges, methods and optical instruments used for super-cold weather astronomy.

If you have a favorite optical instrument, which you use for (relatively short) astronomy observing sessions (in Winter) - I'd love to hear about it! Please mention in the comments section below.

Until next post, clear and steady skies!

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Got Myself A Serious Tracking Mount - A (used) Skywatcher Star Adventurer

 So, I was shopping around (all over, actually) for a Star Adventurer tracking mount. I was on eBay, Astromart, and Cloudy Nights classifieds for a little over three days...

When, finally, someone listed one (on Astromart) - with just about all the accessories (except the small green anodized ball head mount). And I snatched it up; within hours of it being listed.

Seller's Orig Pic

The Seller was a really nice guy, and shipped it out right away. And for the first few nights, it worked great! Polar alignment doesn't even have to be perfect in order to get nice (trail-free) exposures of between 30" up to 2'! - Depending on how well you're polar aligned.

The Seller included a heavy duty ball head
 

I've even been keeping myself busy buying even more accessories and doo dad's for this mount...Including a new ball head holder, etc., etc.

For now, I just wanted to state: That although my astrophotography attempts have been easier than ever before; and some of the results I'm getting have been better than ever:

In all honesty, I still don't think I'm 100% "all in" when it comes to AP. I'm into it for now, strictly because of the close-to-freezing Temps we're facing over the next couple of months. 

The only way to enjoy any kind of astronomy, is via AP - where you can set everything up outside on a deck, take 15-20 Min. to frame & focus, etc., and then retreat back inside. While the equipment diligently takes the sub-exposures for you.

The bottom line, it seems: is that I much rather be enjoying the simple pleasures of observing DSO's and creating pencil sketches. The simple joy of using a telescope (or binoculars) to observe.

The first (and ever looming) issue, when it comes to AP - Is the cost. It's an expensive hobby. Especially if you want to do it right.

Mind you, this is coming from a guy who used to use a homemade barn door tracker ($25) as a mount! My entire AP set-up cost me about $600 (with camera, which was bought modified, for ~ $300+). That was my first foray into AP...while living under Bortle 8 skies.

Then, I moved to Bortle 4ish skies; and things were great. I was still using the barn door tracker, and getting good results. Short sub-exposures, though. Then, I got out of AP. Sold my modified Canon, and all the AP goodies.

Now, we moved to some solid Bortle 4 skies. So...I tried it again. By acquiring this Star Adventurer mount, etc. But - Here's a spoiler: The mount is currently for sale, right back on Astromart and Cloudy Nights.  ((sigh)) ...Well, I tried.

I guess what bugs me the most (these days) is the necessity of taking Darks, Flats, and Bias Frames - Ugh. Annoying.  

But, if we really get down to brass tacks - It's the expense. It's just naturally an expensive hobby. Much more expensive, in my estimation than even Mini Reef Keeping (marine aquariums). A person can set-up a very small ("Nano Reef") of a few gallons -to- 5 gallons in size, for much less than it takes to get started in AP.

YouTube is practically littered with videos on exactly how to do it. From 0 to thriving mini-reef aquarium in under $300. It's just an example...

Anyway, the expense - That's what's been "bugging" me lately. Most likely, because as of late, I'm on a lower budget than ever. Plus, the idea (mostly, the simplicity) of just observing (and maybe sketching) DSO's with an optical instrument has a quaint appeal to it.

What I've been fascinated with lately, are vintage optics. Vintage telescopes, both reflectors and refractors; as well as binoculars. I have even contemplated selling my Star Adventurer mount...so that I can buy a nice, vintage telescope. By this I mean something like a Tasco, or Edmund Scientific 4.5" reflector... Or a 76.2mm Tasco refractor, or any of the other desirable vintage models. Again, the only thing stopping me - are these really cold temperatures...

If you're one of the 3 people who occasionally visit this blog, and you have any opinions/thoughts to add on this subject: Please do!

To be continued...

Clear and steady skies to you!

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Review: The 2 In 1 Move Shoot Move Rotator for Star Tracking!

I'm happy to report, that I will be adding more information to my Review of The 2 in 1 MSM Star Tracker (from Move Shoot Move). Check out this inexpensive tracker Here!

 

Load image into Gallery viewer, MSM Easy to use Star Tracker (Newest 2-in-1) - Holiday Sale is ON!

Monday, December 6, 2021

Finally Found A Vintage Refractor! An 80mm Equatorial-Mounted Unit from Sears.

Well, I finally managed to find a vintage refractor - And I'm very happy about it! I had been wasting so much time on eBay... Ugh!

I decided to put an Ad up on Cloudy Nights... And Bam! I got a whole bunch of replies from some nice fellow Astronomers. So, the first thing I needed to do, was to mark my Ad as Found.

The next thing, was to reply to everyone who responded (in chronological order).

Then, print out their replies, etc. and keep them for future reference...And if you're an Amateur Astronomer, I don't have to explain why...

One fellow has a nice Sears, which I hope to be going with - but, my plan, will be to contact each of the other fellows - in chronological order - Each time I need a new addition :)

I feel very fortunate - And when I'm ready to add the next vintage scope to the fleet...I'll know exactly who to contact.

In the meantime, this is the 80mm beauty from Sears (Model #

Which will eventually find it's way to me here in New York, for some Winter observing (and sketching!).

 

Sears Model 4454, 80mm, F15, f=1200mm

 

Above, is a Sears Model 4454, 80mm, F15, f=1200mm which I was hoping to get... A gentlemen on one of the Astro buy/sell sites mentioned he had one...But I never heard back (re: this model). So, I ended up with this one:

Circa 1970 Sears Model 4 6333 A



Clear skies!

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Review of The 2 In 1 Move Shoot Move Star Tracker

I recently purchased a star tracker from Move Shoot Move. This was the kit (configuration) which I ordered - Basic Kit A:


MSM Easy to use Star Tracker (Newest 2-in-1) - Holiday Sale is ON! ✨

Basic Kit A: Rotator, Polar Scope, Scope illuminator, Scope Bracket

 

Check it out Here!

 

I placed my order online, on October 19th (2021).

I opted for getting my order from The US warehouse.

This option may be selected for an additional cost of $5.95. It was supposed to help me get my order quicker (as per their website). Move Shoot Move Have warehouses in Australia, Europe, and the US. 

Well, the fact is it took a while for my package to actually arrive. Below I've pasted the status updates, from the USPS website. As you can see, there weren't any changes for quite some time. Being very anxious to receive the tracker, I made it a habit of checking the package status everyday. The same status (as seen below) remained unchanged until October 25th. If you happen to be very anxious to get (back) into the hobby (like me!) it may be a little frustrating...

The MSM website does advise the buyer that they should expect delivery to be between 1 and 7 days.


October 20, 2021, 11:10 pm
Departed Shipping Partner Facility, USPS Awaiting Item
WHITTIER, CA 90601 
Shipping Partner:  DHL ECOMMERCE
Your item departed a shipping partner facility at 11:10 pm on October 20, 2021 in WHITTIER, CA 90601. This does not indicate receipt by the USPS or the actual mailing date.


October 20, 2021, 10:20 am
Arrived Shipping Partner Facility, USPS Awaiting Item
WHITTIER, CA 90601 
Shipping Partner:  DHL ECOMMERCE

 

Well, The MSM Tracker did finally arrive. And I was pleased with the excellent packaging.

I really liked the nice, cushioned carry case included -

The Polar Alignment scope is very nice, well-built (Aluminum) with the ability to focus; as well as 3 easy to access Allen screws for calibration (centering) of the reticule. 

Alignment and centering (calibration) of the reticule simply requires a bit of time and patience to get sorted properly. There is a helpful YouTube video, giving a good general idea on how to do it Here.

As other reviewers have mentioned, the only occasional issue I've run into, is: Ending up with a few shots (images) with minor star trailing. This happens (as others have reported) from time to time while the gears are getting "settled". Or "re-settled" after the mount has been moved or had any gross adjustment done to it. It seems to take a few minutes for the gears inside to settle back into their (accurate) routine.

If you take your time, and handle the mount very carefully, without overloading it (with anything larger than a 135mm lens) then your chances of success increases.

I only ran into issues when trying an 80-200mm zoom lens, on my Canon T7 DSLR. 

Again, the bottom line is: Get your mount properly polar aligned, don't treat it roughly, and it works just fine. I was able to get decent, trail-free images:

I used a 18-55mm Canon zoom (kit) lens; and managed to consistently get 30 second exposures, easily without trailing.

I look forward to adding much more to this review soon; as well as some of the pics I managed with The MSM Tracker.

 

NGC7000 The North American Nebula 


This is a stack of 18, 30-second images, taken with an un-modified Canon T7 + 55mm lens - Using The MSM Tracker.

 

Until then, Clear skies!

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Having Immersed Myself in The Hobby of Astronomy Again...

Having Immersed Myself in The Hobby of Astronomy Again... Some thoughts and ideas. Things which have come to my mind (both old & new revelations) which I thought I'd share.

Some background: For whatever reason, I always find myself "analyzing" and comparing hobbies to each other - far more thoroughly than they should be. I also keep a hard copy (paper) journal for each hobby.

Not long ago, I wrote a (rather quick & unpolished) article for the awesome Micscape Site, which may be see Here.

Now, those actually were my feelings at the time - But since then, I've given a lot more consideration to amateur astronomy. And I've reconsidered it's merits; and realized it needs to be experienced again. 

I've also become quite fascinated (enamored would be a better word) with the various, vintage consumer telescopes, from the 1950's, 1960's and 1970's...

Clear and Steady skies!


Saturday, October 23, 2021

Microscopy Versus Astronomy - Some Initial Random Thoughts...

Microscopy & Micrographs Vs. Astronomy & Astrophotography

*Disclaimer* In the spirit of full disclosure, I will state up front - That since the time when I first typed-up this post: I've changed my mind about these hobbies, and I've found myself very satisfied with astronomy & astrophotography. 
Without further adieu, here's my original Post:

Here's a topic, which I think about quite often. As in, which is the better pursuit? Which is the hobby that one should devote their precious free time to? Or, more specifically, which one should I spend my time on. Which of these two optics related hobbies are more worthy?

Well, of course, here are some logical answers, straight away:

  • Why not simply enjoy both? Enjoy each, when you can, etc.
~ Or ~
  • Partake in the hobby which you, personally, enjoy more. 
Either solution seems simple enough. However, many (if not most) people simply don't have a huge surplus of time - So, they may elect to spend their precious free time on just one. Perhaps with the hope that a fuller, deeper,  enjoyment can be achieved using the advantage of focus?

I've always enjoyed reading any posts or articles I've stumbled on, regarding these two pastimes (invariably, microscopy tends to come out on top in case you were wondering). If you were to do your own bit of research, you would run into some of the following factors which are usually mentioned:

-Astronomy-

Pros:
  • Easily "accessible"
  • More mainstream and popular. 
  • Several major magazines are printed monthly (in almost every Country) devoted to the subject. In addition, many others are now available online (mainly dealing with Astrophotography).
  • Astronomy clubs exist in every major city.
Cons:
  • Absolutely weather-dependent. 
  • One should ideally live under dark skies - Although "counter-measures" exist; the level of frustration one endures, is in direct proportion to the amount of light pollution present.
  • Initial investment must (typically) be substantial in order to get decent results.
  • If one wishes to capture images: The level of investment (of both time & money) skyrockets. 

-Microscopy-

Pros:
  • May be enjoyed 365 days per year, in any weather, at any time.
  • It's very easy to collect specimens to view; whether they be Protozoa or small cuttings from trees, flowers, plants, moss or algae.
  • There are a myriad of permanent slides available for convenient viewing.
  • Can be enjoyed regardless of location (Urban/Suburban/Rural)*
* Even someone living in the center of New York, London or Tokyo could entertain themselves with a microscope.  
 
Cons:
  • Requires slightly more effort to learn one's way around, etc.
  • Clubs are practically non-existent (on this side of The Pond).
  • Those who enjoy observing Protists, need to do a bit of planning ahead, etc., to ensure thriving cultures through the coldest months.
The only additional challenge/annoyance which comes to mind, relates to those living in a metropolitan area: To enjoy the fascinating world of living microorganisms, such as Protists, Protozoa, colorful bacteria, etc., one needs to get a water sample (or two) from an appropriate pond, swamp, stream, etc.
 
So a (hopefully short!) trip would be required, to fill a few small containers with suitable water samples.
The good news, is that with a bit of research and resourcefulness, you can keep your pond water cultures thriving for many months (more on this later).

Again, for now, I can really only share my experiences with both endeavors as a guide. I haven't directly consulted (or interviewed) other hobbyists yet...

I recently relocated from an urban area, to a much more rural location. I can tell you that trying to enjoy any kind of visual astronomy while close to a city is very frustrating. Some folks, in similar surroundings, have found astrophotography to be less annoying - but not by much.

As I type this, the Astronomy related books at my bedside have been reduced to just two; both dealing with one of my favorite subjects - Binocular Astronomy. The others, having been steadily returned to their bookcase. 
In their place, there are: A field guide to bacteria, other books on bacteria; college textbooks on: Freshwater invertebrates, Protozoa, pollen, plant microtechnique, etc. Lately, I especially enjoy the (old) books on Plant Microtechnique.
 
I suppose I'd be remiss, if I failed to mention the myriad of printed (Web-based) resources/articles which are also on my reading list - These deal with fluorescence microscopy, which I've been fascinated with for many years.
Coincidentally, I'm in the process of completing the (minor) repair/restoration of a (American Optical 20 w/ 2070 fluorescence unit) fluorescence 'scope from the late 1970's. Preliminary tests look promising.

Not too many years ago, I came across an article which described a somewhat senior couple who lived in a very remote location - And the husband was an avid Microscopist. The article had a profound and lasting impression on me: This gentleman lived in an area, where the nearest other inhabitants were tens of kilometers away. He could have chosen many other ways to spend his time, but choose microscopy.

I seem to be of the opinion, that solitude may somehow distill one's passions. Perhaps it helps to concentrate a person's interests? so that they settle on a pastime which they value more (above other, possible endeavors).

I suppose one of my questions regarding this topic, and of comparable hobbies in general is: If you were to live on a "deserted island" and could only enjoy one hobby, which would it be?

Back Into Astronomy!

I'm very happy to report, that our new (rental) house is situated under even darker skies! 

Noticeably darker than at our last place (technically ~ .5 star magnitude better).

...Grabbed the vintage 7x50's...Grabbed a plastic (but comfy) lawn furniture chair - Despite there being just about a (100%) full moon:

Looked at the Lyra constellation - 

Tried to spot M57 - NG 

I did get a glimpse of M27, The Dumbbell Nebula

Cygnus - Saw the North American Nebula (faintly)

Cassiopeia - Saw NGC 281 

Cassiopeia - Saw the Double Cluster

Was also able to see a few other DSO's, including M31.

All-in-all, it was a very enjoyable experience. And very relaxing (I hadn't taken the time to simply observe like that in a long time).

Until the next post - Clear & steady skies to you!


Thursday, March 18, 2021

Maybe the Best Kept Secret In Nebula Filters! Part II

Maybe the Best Kept Secret In Nebula Filters! Part II

The filters were shipped out to me on Monday, and arrived on Wednesday. Preliminary tests showed that they seem to: Darken the background sky nicely, Allow a good amount of light through (compared to OIII filters for example), And I like the way they render most stars a hot purple-ish hue (it's a nice change from the usual green of all other filters).
Since their arrival, several weeks ago - I've had quite a few opportunities to use them. And, I really like them!

OK, so I was going over my Astronomy notes recently...And realized, that I left out some interesting technical details about these nebula filters while haphazardly writing my original Post. So, in re: to the GCE nebula filters, from DGM Optics - Here's some more details, along with my comments in Purple - (this info is directly from DGM Optics):

"The Galaxy Contrast Enhancement™ filter aids in the visual observation of galaxies and milky way dust clouds and dark lanes. The GCE filter takes a different approach to enhancing galaxy observation by allowing high transmission through nearly the entire visible spectrum while rejecting only the harmful light pollution wavelengths. Because of those attributes it also is a very good general purpose LPR filter, unlike traditional wideband filters, which exclude most of the red portion of the visible spectrum. I like this very much, because until now, you couldn't "have your cake & eat it too" - If you used a broadband filter, from other manufacturers, some of the desired wavelengths were getting blocked as well.

Specifications
The GCE filter design stresses maximum optical throughput utilizing state-of-the-art optical thin-film designs and materials. This filter is a “first surface” hard oxide thin-film and is much more durable and long lived than laminated “soft film” designs used by several famous makers." 

I'm also very happy about this, no one wants a light pollution filter with a surface that will deteriorate over time. 
"They are also much less prone to the internal reflectance problems that plague laminated filters. Laminated filters can produce a very undesirable “doubling” of stellar images often with one of the doubles being red.
 
Contrary to popular belief, this image doubling is not due to the red sideband component that many nebula filter designs produce, but in many cases is due to laminated glass not being exactly parallel to the protective cover plate after lamination. Many laminated filters display this annoying characteristic." This is awful! After learning about this, why would anyone buy an inferior nebula filter again? I won't be!

"This filter averages around 1% Transmission (optical density of 2) through the rejection region from 540 to 590nm, and average transmission greater than 90% Transmission in the passbands, and greater than 75% at the 656.3nm H-Alpha line. The design yields a filter with a very symmetrical shape and high optical throughput, for maximum enhancement of nebula with a minimum of loss of stars in the field of view.
The substrate is quartz and has measured total wavefront values of .25 waves. I find this fact awesome :) These filters don't use plain glass as their substrate; it's Quartz! 
The combination of first surface optical thin-film technology and a polished, flat substrate enables this filter to be used with high magnification, a real plus for small planetary nebula." And, finally, this last part - about being "a real plus for small planetary nebula" It just so happens, that I have become very interested in hunting planetary nebula recently; so, I was also happy to read this. 

As for me: One of the joys of using this GCE filter - Is that I simply leave a pair of them screwed into the threaded EP barrels of my Garrett signature series 10x50's - And, I just leave them attached all the time. I don't find my views of Asterisms, or Open Clusters darkened very much at all. Yet, they improve the views of all DSO's at same time. I plan to do a side-by-side comparison of these, vs. the pair of Zhumell OIII filters I have, and post my findings.
It would be great, if someone who has other name-brand "Broadband" LPR filters could also do some tests vs. the GCE filter...
The smallest (good-quality) Binoculars I currently have, are my Garrett 10x50's. But, I believe that these would also perform well on smaller Binos - Which would be great when scanning for/observing large, diffuse DSO's. In fact, I believe I just gave myself an idea for a future project...

Clear skies!
-Al