Saturday, December 9, 2023

A Series of Awesome Books I Came Across

I wanted to share some good news, about these books I recently came across. It’s just been a long time, since I found a book, which is so useful, that I consider it a must have.

Now these books have been out and available for quite a while, which makes it even more surprising that I’ve never come across them before. In any case, the main book, entitled 'Objects in the Heavens, The Complete Mag–10 Northern Deep Sky Viewing List and Fieldbook' by Peter Birren.

The 'Goals List - Log Book - Sketch Book' is on the right-hand-side.

I like this book so much, I bought a spiral bound printed copy as well as the electronic version. After all, the electronic version is only $6.50 and you can print out whichever page covering whichever constellation that you’ll be focusing on for the evening's observing session. 

The other thing I like about them, besides being spiral bound, is that they are small and easily portable. The other book, also bears the title 'Objects in the Heavens Goals List – Log Book – Sketch Book'  'Plan Your Viewing - Have More Fun', and is an excellent place to keep your sketches. All I know is, when I stumbled across the website, and saw these books – I immediately knew I had to have them. I knew they would be very useful, and they haven’t disappointed me – only exceeded my expectations. 

I really, really like these. I especially like the 'Goals List – Log Book – Sketch Book' subtitled 'Plan Your Viewing – Have More Fun'. The reason why I like it, is because it’s the perfect book to keep your sketches in. Basically one book, to keep all of your pencil sketches in. What I plan to do is create my rough sketches, while observing (as usual) - then create the final sketches on the pages of this book. This way, all of my sketches will be in one place. The books are spiral bound, so the sketches can be easily scanned (right from the book). This will be very convenient when it’s time to make the electronic/shareable image of your sketch. I think it’s perfect! 

I can’t wait to start collecting sketches in it! because before now, my various pencil sketches have been kind of all over the place... I do my best to keep them all in one place – One general area... but they’re on different sheets of paper, different types of paper, different sizes, textures, (and levels of neatness!). This little sketch holding book is the answer. 

I was actively shopping for an astronomy sketchbook, and just for the convenience of it: I went to Amazon...

And I basically looked at every single type of astronomy sketchbook which they had available on Amazon. But for one reason or another, I never actually ordered one I guess I couldn’t decide on which one was the best or something? I can’t recall. I’m actually very glad that I stumbled upon this one, because it suits me perfectly. In fact, it’s not like some of the other sketchbooks I’ve seen, and considered buying (on Amazon). 

This one has useful features to help you achieve your viewing goals, and to keep things organized. I’d say, this is because it’s a sketchbook made for astronomers by an astronomer. It stands head and shoulders above the generic astronomy sketch books you can find on Amazon.

Signed by the Author.

The author, Peter Birren, happens to be a very nice gentleman as well. As seen in the photo above, he personalized it.

Since you’ve read this far, I will share with you the email I sent to Peter Birren – which I wrote in response to an email from him, informing me that my book would be signed, and in the mail that day. I just have to point out that the entire experience was just a pleasure. And I don’t know about you, but that isn’t always the case when buying anything, especially these days. 

So, here is a paste of the email which I sent:

Dear Peter,

Thank you for your email; and thank you for creating these wonderful resources.
I discovered your work via recommendation on Rony De Laet’s website. I’ve always been impressed with the sketches he’s made with modest instruments.
I also enjoy making pencil sketches from binoculars.
Well, it only took a quick glance at the sample pages shown on your site, and I knew I had to have them. I’d purchased a used copy of the book just a little while before.
I took one look at the OITH Goals/Log/Sketch book-and I was ordering it that same moment, almost by instinct!
I didn’t know an electronic version was available, so for good measure I just purchased that as well 😀
It will be convenient to print out one to three pages for a few hours of observing.
I’ll be adding a link to your great stuff on my little blog (shortly) - 

I intend on focusing on planetary nebulae more, and would like to know which instrument you’d recommend for this task? Bortle 4.

Thanks again! And best wishes!

Clear skies,

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Distant Early Warning - Just A Head's Up Of Topics I'll Be Covering Here Next!

Okay, so of course, 1st and foremost, let me let me remind you that: I'm super excited about presenting this month's live webinar — for the members of The BatAbility Club. Which will be on December 11th at 5:00 PM London time.

To give you an idea of what my next blog posts will be about...

One upcoming topic will be: The best astronomy books for reading. Now I know you’re making a face right now, but what I mean is books on astronomy which you can sit down and actually read through. Not the usual kind of books on astronomy, that we're all used to. Which are typically organized as more of a reference. 

Such as 'Burnham's Celestial Handbook An Observer's Guide to the Universe Beyond the Solar System' by Robert Burnham Jr. Volumes one through three, I recently purchased (just as an example of the top of my head). Here's my Volume One: 

A nice (older) book, but not the kind you sit down to read through.

Books like these, of which we have many to choose from, are not exactly the type of book one sits down to read; as in to read through. I can give you a couple of examples of decent books, which I’ve recently learned about, which would be the type I’m referring to. 

For example, I make it a habit of listening to The Actual Astronomy Podcast. I usually have my Echo Dot play it (a.k.a. Alexa). I find it very convenient to listen to it that way, while I’m doing other things. From time to time I learn of new and/or interesting books mentioned on the podcast, oftentimes by guests, etc... 

The 1st example I recall, is the book entitled 'The Universe In 100 Stars'. I ordered it, and it arrived today (12/7/23). It looks even more interesting than I expected - Thumbs up!

On one particular episode (#380), the guest was David Chapman (one of my fav guests), he gave a neat description of this unique book, 'The Glass Universe: How The Ladies of The Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of The Stars' and had I not been listening to that podcast – I might not have known about it.  

I am sure you all already know this, but just in case: If you happen to have a Kindle (Fire), many times, you can request to have a sample of the book, sent to your Kindle Fire to check out, before you buy. I do it all the time!

Which reminds me, if you happen to have/or are a member of Amazon Prime – you get to enjoy one of my favorite perks, which is: being able to get older/free books sent to your Kindle fire for reading. I stumbled upon a title, which I’m reading now (and enjoying so far) titled ‘Great astronomers’ by Ball, Robert S. (Robert Stawell).

It’s really pretty good! It’s starts with Ptolemy and goes all the way to Adams…

Now, I could go on and on about this book but since it’s freely available, I won’t. However, I will tell you that it may also be found online, by using resources, such as:,, and Google books << Each of those links will take you directly to the (free) 'Great Astronomers' book. The Project Gutenberg link gives you an almost overwhelming number of choices of formats, to get the book in - All free. Can't beat that!

Each of the links above, will provide the book with illustrations, by the way. You may even find other versions online, and they will show the very nice, and engaging illustrations - Of famous observatories, ancient sketches, as well as ancient instruments, and telescopes. 

Please note: The Kindle version, available for free via Amazon, does not show these illustrations (although they are listed, near the table of contents). All in all this is a very good example of the kind of book(s) I’d like to track down.

Stay, tuned, coming up next will be:

An outstanding series of books I recently came across: 'Objects in the Heavens' - Awesome books!

Until then,

Clear skies!

Friday, December 1, 2023

Review Of The Seestar S50 (Smart Telescope) by ZWO

The Seestar S50 is a smart astronomical telescope; more specifically a smart telescope, designed and manufactured by ZWO.

Incidentally, I'll be doing a live webinar (presentation/review) on The Seestar S50 and The Dwarf II smart telescope; as well as Astronomy in general, for The BatAbility Club! On December 11th!
This is really unique and marvelous! I'll be doing my best to present amatuer astronomy, and smart telescope astrophotography to the club members; who are all experienced bat and/or wildlife professionals.
As always, it will be viewable to Club Members only (you might consider becoming a Member!).

The telescope arrived (via FedEx in my case) and was well packaged & protected for it's long journey (from Mainland China).

This is where the FedEx delivery guy left the box for me – right next to the carbon fiber tripod I was using the night before 😀

The Seestar S50 weighs only 2.5kg, the tripod is only 0.65kg, and the carry case is 0.6kg.

The Seestar S50 can be ordered directly from ZWO, right from their webpage, dedicated to the Seestar S50. It may also be ordered from many different telescope dealers online - So you can try some of the places where you normally order your telescope/astronomy equipment from.

The Seestar S50 - Removing the product box from the shipping box.

The Seestar S50 shares many features with other smart telescopes, such as:
  • It's small and compact.
  • It's controlled by your smartphone (or tablet) / Android or iPhone based.
  • Object GOTO ability / and Automatic star tracking.
  • Automatic stacking of your images from space.
  • Ability to do daytime photography (and video).
  • Comes with built in rechargeable battery. For comparison, The Dwarf II's (rechargeable) batteries are removable.
In the case of The Seestar S50 - The memory for storage of photos, is built in memory, of 64GB.

Additional technical specifications include:
  • A resolution of 2.1 Megapixels
  • Pixel size of 2.9um
  • A 50mm apochromatic lens aperture, @F/5
  • A 250mm focal length refractor
  • Utilizing a Sony IMX462 sensor chip

The Seestar S50 in its carry case.

The Seestar S50 sports a very slick design. It has a nice futuristic look to it, molded in black and dark gray. I find it very cool looking!

I am almost reluctant to describe how easy it is to use this smart telescope. Simply because sometimes, if something is very easy to use, it may not be taken as seriously as it should. Many people have a tendency to equate complexity, and difficulty of use, with something that is comprehensive and effective. 
So there’s a bit of a paradox here, the Seestar S50 is indeed very easy to use, however, the results it produces are very impressive:

NGC 7789  - Also known as Caroline‘s Rose named after Caroline Herschel (William Herschel‘s sister)

NGC 281 - Also known as the Pac-Man nebula.

NGC 2175 - The Monkey Head Nebula

I happen to like the blue Seestar banner on the bottom of the resulting photos. The Seestar S50's operating software is very advanced.

When it comes to who I would recommend this product for, the answer is: Anyone! Anyone, ranging in age from a (patient) teenager to someone of advanced age. Why?
Because operating the Seestar S50 couldn’t be any simpler – It only requires the main unit to be attached to the included tripod. The tripod legs opened, and the telescope placed on a flat, level surface. 
After which, you power the unit on - by holding and pressing the power button for a few seconds. The unit powers on with an audible beep, and the red and amber LEDs illuminate, indicating that the unit is powered on. 

The only section which may require a bit of dexterity (or "skill"), is the navigation of the Seestar software. This software is an astronomy/planetarium-like application. 

I may be going out on a limb here, but if a person already has an interest in astronomy, there’s a very good chance, that they will feel at home, navigating this easy to use software. I've found the software to be very intuitive to use.

The only thing required of the end-user, in essence, is to simply select what celestial objects they would like to have the Seestar S50 photograph. I hardly think that the entire system could possibly be made any easier to use.

The Seestar S50 smart telescope, would be well suited for anyone who enjoys, or is interested in the night sky. 
It would be fitting for anyone, ranging from being simply intrigued by the night sky, and especially deep sky objects – to someone who always wanted to take photographs of deep sky objects, but wasn't sure how they'd begin.
This runs the gamut to someone who has previously tried Widefield Astrophotography, or conventional Astrophotography.

This smart telescope would be well suited for anyone who is fascinated with the subject of astronomy. It would be well-suited for anyone who has owned a telescope in the past, and has dabbled in the hobby of amateur astronomy. 
I contend that those who have enjoyed conventional Astrophotography in the past, will really be blown away by both its simplicity and raw capability. And by this, I’m referring to the outstanding results which this unit produces. 

M27 - The Dumbbell Nebula
(Some minor post processing)

M13 - The Hercules Star Cluster
(cropped and post processed)

NGC 7635 - Also known as The Bubble Nebula
(only very minor post processing)

The following, could be considered my version of a Quick Start guide:
(although there's nothing wrong with the one provided)
  • Open the case, remove the Seestar S50 unit and plug it in via the provided USB cable, to begin charging it’s internal battery.
  • While waiting for the unit to charge, you can download and install the Seestar software on your smart phone.
  • When the unit is fully charged, as indicated by the red LEDs, it’s ready to begin taking images of objects in the night sky.
  • Again, the Seestar S50 excels at capturing images of deep sky objects (referred to as DSO’s).
  • You launch the smart phone app, connect to the Seestar S50 (This is via Wi-Fi) and you’re ready to select your first object to begin imaging.
No, I didn’t forget anything - those are all the steps.

Things like Polar alignment. Something which is a must, when doing conventional astrophotography don’t exist when using The Seestar S50. 
Many astrophotographers (myself included) are not fond of polar aligning a set-up. Depending on your equipment, it can be quite annoying. As evidenced by the existence of so many funny memes on the subject!

Things like:
  • (1.) Polar alignment - Not only is it not needed, but it cannot even be done! 
  • (2.) Having to take Calibration frames: Darks, Biases, and Flat frames - again, not required, and also not possible (practically speaking).
  • (3.) Having an autoguider to purchase, and then worry about.
  • (4.) Having to wait until the next day (typically) to sort through, organize, and stack your frames.
  • (5.) Stacking and post-processing "your data" - this necessitates being in front of a computer screen, for substantial lengths of time (always my least favourite part).

I found the GoTo system and pointing (finding) accuracy to be excellent!

NGC 2237 (aka Caldwell 50) - The Rosette Nebula 

  • Requires almost zero prior knowledge of astrophotography. 
  • Features an intuitive planetarium-like software, enabling the user to explore & select objects to photograph.
  • Is rated to continue operating down to a temperature of -15℃
  • Has a built-in dew heater, which is easily turned on & off (via phone).
  • Features a built-in Duo Band nebula filter (which is amazing!). 
  • It may be used to photograph the Sun, utilising the (included) Solar Filter.
  • It may also be used for daytime/terrestrial (wildlife) photography.
  • The software gives you the ability, to easily join a worldwide network of S50 owners: Enabling you to share your "works" and "Like" other's. Like a "Facebook for astrophotographers" - Neat!

  • Cannot enter Right ascension / Declination coordinates (for unlisted objects).
  • Exposures are "locked-in" at 10 seconds each (end user cannot [currently] modify).
  • Lower Megapixel resolution than The Dwarf II (2.xMP vs 8.xMP on Dwarf II).
  • There is currently a bit of a wait, after you order a Seestar S50 (they are still catching up on back orders, etc.). The Dwarf II may be had without delay.
I have a feeling I'll be revisiting the subject of smart telescopes on this blog again, in the near future. Believe it or not, there are some fundamental (yet simultaneously amazing) topics, which may still need to be discussed:

Like how these smart telescopes are changing the way many people enjoy the hobby of amatuer astronomy now... Astrophotography, to be more specific. 

Until next time,
Clear skies!

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Story #2 - Being Disabled and The Convenience Of Smart Telescopes

I was on the fence for quite a while, about whether or not to discuss this subject on (any of) my blogs. 

So, I've decided to go ahead and post my little story here ('Story #2') on my Astronomy Blog. This topic coincides with the wonderful convenience which the "new" smart telescopes provide.

I've made some new (online) friends over this past year: Both in the world of Bat Research, and Amateur Astronomy. So, as an 'FYI' for them, and as a way to illustrate the usefulness of smart telescopes...

There are 1 billion people, 15% of the world's population, disabled today. At the age of only 39 - I would've never expected to have my career come to a halt. I wouldn't have expected it in million years.

In an effort to make a long story short: I found myself coming home from work, not just tired (like everyone else), but with increasing levels of back pain, and body-wide inflammation. When it got to the point where normal movement became difficult, I consulted Doctors.

It's interesting to note: The first couple of Doctors I visited (General Practitioners), attributed these issues as being: "muscle related", "possibly arthritis", or other run-of-the-mill issues.

The third Doctor I visited (a Pain Management Specialist), sent me for X-Rays & MRI's. It was discovered that I had 8 damaged spinal discs: 4 in the mid-back; surgery not an option (due to proximity to thoracic region). 3 discs in lower back (Lumbar region) surgery not an option there, as a perfectly healthy disc would be affected. As well as 1 slightly damaged disc in the neck (cervical region).

I was also diagnosed with Fibromyalgia; by more than one Rheumatoid Specialist. In the years which followed, I had many tests done, and several medical procedures. I'm not going to go off on a tangent here, or get into all the details, etc. - The main points I'd like to make are that living with chronic pain & fibromyalgia (and most recently, diabetes) isn't easy.

The majority of my time is spent in bed. I never know when I'm going to feel okay; which makes planning to enjoy astronomy, or astrophotography (on clear nights) close to impossible. 

I was involved with both the visual, and AP facets of amatuer astronomy, since I was a freshman in high school. For about the past decade, trying to enjoy astrophotography was very difficult. There were quite a few steps involved in the set-up of the equipment, for a night of imaging. 

As you might imagine, there were many nights when the sky conditions were excellent - and I simply couldn't manage to set anything up. To say it was frustrating, would be a gross understatement.

With the development of these compact, smart telescopes - I've found that this is no longer the case. These new smart telescopes for astrophotography are practically effortless to set-up. The Seestar S50, for example - can simply be placed on a flat surface outside, and powered on. Then, you can just go back into your home, and control everything via smartphone or tablet. The Dwarf 2 is amazing - and almost as easy to set-up: You simply need to let it go through it's calibration process (successfully) and then you can also go indoors!

People sometimes like to say that the Dwarf II's lens is too small...But, have you ever seen what some (dedicated) astronomers accomplish with cell phone cams??

Anyway, this is a real game changer for just about anyone with disabilities. Which is really amazing, and is the reason why I'm sharing all of this.

For the first time in about 15 years, I won't have to miss out on any clear nights! I'll be able to just go out on the deck, and place a smart telescope on an outdoor table (or other flat/sturdy surface) and that's it! The rest is smooth sailing...

Well, that's my short post (for now). I'm happy to report, that:

  • The 2-Part Review of The Dwarf 2 has been posted here (Pt.1 - Pt.2).
  • The Seestar S50 review will be posted here soon!
  • And, last...but certainly not least: Instead of my (usual) live webinar/presentation on the lastest bat detector, I'll be talking about these two new smart telescopes! As well as the hobby of amatuer astronomy! For the members of The BatAbility Club (based in Scotland).

Stay tuned - More interesting stuff coming soon!

I just got a new telescope today! So, I'll be reporting on it - All I'll say for now, is that it's the first GoTo telescope I've ever bought... I want to especially share what it's like, having a new "conventional" telescope next to a smart telescope...

Also: A few of you may remember me posting about some beautiful vintage telescopes a while back? ...Well, they may yet find their way here! We'll see...

Looking forward to it!

Clear skies!

Friday, November 3, 2023

Sharing Some Stories - Story #1 - How I First Became Interested In Astronomy

How I First Became Interested In Astronomy 

When I was in my first year of high school, I came home one day, to find that one of my older brothers (John) had a new telescope sent to me.

Of course, as you might’ve guessed it was the ubiquitous 60mm refractor!

I was very excited, but at that age, with no experience with astronomy, and no one around to guide me, I didn’t really know how to get the most out of it.

And although I lived under Bortle 4 skies at that time, all I ever managed to do with it, was to look at the moon and planets – I think back now, and think to myself: what a waste of dark skies! That was what first sparked my interest in astronomy.

Through the years since then, I’ve always had a telescope of one kind or another around. I really became immersed in astronomy, and at one point even invested in more than one pair of Fujinon binoculars, along with matching nebula filters, a TeleVue telescope (The Pronto), as well as a new 8 inch Dobsonian. But it was all still visual astronomy.

Discovering Astrophotography

As it so happens, to many of us amateur visual astronomers, we eventually become interested in astrophotography; and I was no different.

As for my career, I was an Information Technology Professional, working for many fortune 500 companies, in fast-paced New York City.

Nevertheless, when it came time for my hobbies, I was still on a limited budget. Astrophotography can be an expensive hobby; and I didn’t have a lot of discretionary funds available to spend on expensive equipment. So I looked into ways that I could enjoy astrophotography on a low budget.

My first forays into astrophotography, consisted of wooden barn door trackers with 12V stepper motors, and 35mm film cameras! I used many different models (mostly rangefinder types), and also used gas-hypered film! 

Gas-hypered film was offered by a company, called Lumicon, and I’m pretty sure I was the individual who purchased the very last rolls they had in stock. Gas-hypered film is no longer available anywhere…Something which in this day and age, would be considered an ancient relic! Well, in those days, gas-hypered film was made, so that amatuer astrophotographers could capture colourful nebulae with their film cameras.

My collection of (relatively low-cost) 35mm film cameras. I experimented with each of these for astrophotography.

At some point in the future, I'll scan some print photos I'd made with gas-hypered film, and add them to this post. For now, here is a Pic of one of my better barn door trackers:

Homemade barn door tracker (purchased from another hobbyist online). I provided ~10.8v DC power, in order to get 1 "tick"-per-second from the stepper motor. 

Making Progress In Astrophotography

Things slowly continued from there; I was able to acquire slightly better equipment, over time (but still always low budget!). I even experimented with a low cost (Meade) one shot color CCD camera, attached to a 135mm (Canon) lens.

M17 - This was taken with the Meade DSI CCD camera, attached to a canon 135mm F/2.5 lens, set at F/4. A stack of 87, 2.8 second exposures. Stacked using Nebulosity‘s drizzle feature.

I eventually (finally!) progressed to a modified Canon DSLR camera, along with slightly better mounts. I can still remember how off-the-charts happy I was, when I got that used, Ha-modified Canon DSLR! I also bought an extra lens from the seller.

The astrophotography experiments continued; at this time I was living under Bortle 8 skies, (in Bronx NY) not too far from New York City.

As I advanced, the thing I began to notice, was how astrophotography required quite a bit of time in front of a computer screen - processing the images. As an IT Professional, I already spent almost 9 hours a day, looking at computer screens!

Believe it or not, this was one of the main reasons why I would take long breaks from the hobby. I simply didn’t want to spend so much time in front of a computer screen, stacking and post processing images.

NGC 1499 The California Nebula. This is one of my better images, taken with a modified Canon DSLR.

Discovering and using The Dwarf 2 

Then, just recently, I discovered The Dwarf II smart telescope from DwarfLabs.

When I first stumbled across the Dwarf 2 - It was like wow! I started seeing the images people were taking with the Dwarf 2 – and they looked great!

So I immediately decided that I simply had to have one!

I’ve been using mine on every clear night, since I got it. Of course, there are many wonderful pros about owning and using a Dwarf 2 smart telescope. The characteristic I appreciate most, is how the images look so good – and that with just a little basic “cleaning up”, most often directly on your cell phone, they are ready to share with friends and family.

M31 - 150 sub exposures of 15” each. Taken and stacked by The Dwarf 2. 
Minor post processing.

There are many things that I like about The Dwarf 2, but 2 factors which are most prominent, are:

1. The way it’s like having a tiny robot, doing your astrophotography for you. I mean, it's out there in your backyard...sometimes, in the freezing cold, taking photos of deep space for you...It might as well be a Probe Droid 🤖

2. And, the wide fields of view it provides. It is able to comfortably frame many of the larger deep sky objects, where other smart telescopes cannot.

On these nights, whenever I leave The Dwarf 2 outside in the backyard, to do it’s imaging: I walk back into the house, with a big smile on my face, saying to myself: “I love this thing!”

In fact, as I type this, my Dwarf 2 is on my deck; taking (and stacking) images of NGC 6946 The Fireworks Galaxy and open star cluster NGC 6939 - Since they both fit comfortably in the field of view!

I'm looking forward to doing more astrophotography with The Dwarf 2!

Keep an eye out for Story #2, coming soon...Until next time,

Clear & steady skies to you!

Monday, October 30, 2023

Review of The Dwarf II Smart Telescope Part 2 of 2

Review of The Dwarf II Smart Telescope - Part 2 of 2 

A very short un-boxing video

Right from the start, let me just "blurt out" some thoughts, from the top of my head: 

I've had this Dwarf 2 for about 2 months now, and even though there have been more clouds & rain than clear nights - Every time I leave it out there, to do it's imaging: I head inside the house, thinking to myself "I love that thing!"

It is amazing! That's why I (thought of) and shared this video on one of The Dwarf 2's Facebook groups:

Again, it really comes down to - Me having been into astrophotography for years; and now having a smart telescope:

  • It takes under 5 minutes to set-up!
  • It has GoTo ability - Which means it can find, and track any DSO you want!
  • It automatically produces results, which in many cases, are even better than my DSLR set-up used to!

What's there not to like??
  • The images, look great as-is, straight out of the Dwarf 2 (right off of the memory card).
  • If you do just a little bit of post processing, right on your smartphone's default photo app: The images look fabulous!
  • You can then share them wherever you'd like - Super easy!

For me, personally: I seriously dislike spending all of that time in front of a laptop screen - when doing normal (conventional) astrophotography. Having to do all of the arranging in file folders, and (necessary) stacking, etc., etc. 
As a former Computer Engineer, I used to spend all day at work, looking at computer you think I wanted to spend any more time looking at a computer? (in order to enjoy my astrophotography hobby)?

No way! I want to avoid it as much as possible.

Okay. What about the expense?
Yes, astrophotography is (and always has been) an expensive hobby. The Dwarf II is currently priced at $459 for the standard version; and $595 for the Deluxe version - You can just get a modified DSLR camera for about that much...and you still would need to buy:
  • A lens of 135mm FL (or longer) -or- a telescope.
  • A (good) tracking mount.
  • A sturdy tripod.
This quickly brings you into the realm of about $1500+!

An image produced with my Dwarf II - The Eastern Veil Nebula
341 images of 15" each, taken & stacked by The Dwarf II; cropped and post processed in PixInsight software.

M20 - The Trifid Nebula. 153 individual shots of 15" each, taken & stacked by The Dwarf II. Cropped and post processed with Siril and Gimp (both free applications!).

When I first started astrophotography, I also experimented with film cameras! I even used (the increasingly rare) gas-hypered film - Which was only offered by a company called Lumicon. I believe I purchased the last rolls of that 35mm film in existence. 

And mounts as primitive as homemade (wooden) barn door trackers! These used simple gears, a not-so-simple curved bolt, and 12v powered stepper motors.

For those of you who have never done astrophotography - What you need to keep in mind, are all of the procedures and steps, which are required for traditional astrophotography - And that they simply don't exist when using The Dwarf II! 

The more thought I give to this subject in particular, the more I feel I could write about it. And, I wouldn't want to make this review too "drawn-out". Or, longer than it needs to be! It bears repeating at this point: Those who will appreciate The Dwarf II the most, are those who have done some conventional astrophotography in the past.

I couldn't resist showing a photo I managed; several years ago - Using a Ha (Hydrogen-Alpha) modified Canon DSLR:

An image taken with (conventional equipment) - Hydrogen Alpha modified Canon T3i DSLR, Clip-in light pollution filter, on a wooden barn door tracking mount. Shown here is The Heart & Soul Nebulae, as well as The Double Cluster in Perseus. Bortle 4 skies.

In operation, The Dwarf II is very easy to set-up and use; and more importantly, it is an accurate device. It's calibration sequence is automatic, and completes quickly. When you ask it to goto an object (from the Auto Goto List) it always centers the DSO in the center of frame.

In the past, while using conventional astrophotography gear: If there was a clear night, and I wasn't feeling well - that was it. I had to deal with the disappointment of not getting any astro-imaging done. With a smart telescope like The Dwarf 2, you only need to pop outside for a few minutes for set-up. Then you can go back indoors, and be comfortable while the tiny Dwarf II capture and stacks the images for you. You also get to watch it's progress, from your smartphone or tablet's screen - Excellent!

This is M8 - The Lagoon Nebula. A stack of only 37 frames! of 15" each, stacked by The Dwarf 2. Cropped and post processed using PixInsight.


  • Super small, lightweight, easy to transport anywhere.
  • Additional (optional) batteries are available for purchase - which can be a great convenience.
  • Ability to purchase & use third-party nebula filters, providing excellent results (especially in light-polluted areas).
  • Offers a wide-field of view, required for larger DSO's.
  • Offers good control over manual focus, which stays in place once set.
  • Single exposures taken by the Dwarf 2 are made accessible by default, if user would like to stack them manually.
  • Acquired images are written to an accessible MicroSD card, convenient for post-processing (on PC).


  • The list of goto/DSO objects (to automatically goto) is currently rather short.
  • Imaging the same object for long periods of time, will begin to show the effects of field rotation (if The Dwarf 2 isn't polar aligned).
  • Not ideal for smaller nebulae (such as planetary nebulae).
  • Battery life could use improvement.

The Dwarf II may be ordered directly from DwarfLabs. Several Dealers of astronomy products also have them in stock/currently available for order.

NGC 281 The Pacman Nebula - A stack of 63 frames, 15" each, taken by The Dwarf II. Cropped, and processed in PixInsight.

Until next time,

Wishing you clear & steady skies!

Friday, October 20, 2023

Review Of The Dwarf II Smart Telescope From DwarfLabs Part 1 of 2

OK! So, I'll be doing a live webinar (presentation/review) on The Dwarf II smart telescope -and- Astronomy in general, for The BatAbility Club! On December 11th!
This is really unique and amazing! I'll be doing my best to present Dwarf II astrophotography to the club members; who are all experienced bat and/or wildlife professionals.

As always, it will be viewable to Club Members only. However, if you know anything about how thorough my reviews are...And you wanted to see an in-depth review of The Dwarf II - You might consider becoming a Member!

The lofty goal I've set for myself, is not only to introduce astrophotography to bat research professionals...but, to see if I can introduce astronomy hobbyists to the hobby of bat detecting!  

In any case, here is Part 1 of 2, of the full 2-part Review of The Dwarf 2 

The Dwarf II is the smallest, lightest, and most portable of all the smart telescopes available today. It also happens to be the most budget-friendly! At it's current (on-sale) price of only $459 - It is the lowest-cost smart telescope currently available! It is basically a user-friendly, entry-level, introduction to astrophotography! One which an entire family may enjoy.

Dwarf II in it's box

An interesting point to note: Is that The Dwarf 2, provides a user with an actual "taste" of real (conventional) astrophotography - but with the most annoying factors omitted! It's safe to say, that all of the other smart telescopes on the market don't. Rather, all of the others (many of which can get expensive!) are devoid of any bits of the astrophotography experience. In other words, all of the other auto-telescopes are completely automated. Removing the user from the experience (or process) altogether (they are fully automated). 
This is a very interesting point to consider.

If you'd like to see a few pics from the day The Dwarf II arrived; and was unboxed, then have a look at this post.

The Dwarf II measures 204 x 62 x 130mm or 8 x 2.4 x 5.1 inches. And weighs only 1 kg or 2.4 Lbs.

It's main features are that it is:
  • It's super small / compact
  • Controlled by your smartphone (or tablet) / Android or iPhone based.
  • Object GOTO ability / and Automatic star tracking
  • Automatic stacking of your images from space.
  • Ability to do daytime photography (and video), as well as panoramic images.
  • Comes with rechargeable battery & 64GB MicroSD card.
I'll be covering these features in more detail, sometime later in this review.
Additional technical specifications include:
  • A formidable resolution of 8.46 Megapixels
  • Pixel size of 1.45um
  • A 24mm lens aperture, @F/4.2 
  • 100mm focal length refractor
  • Utilizing a Sony IMX415 sensor chip

The Dwarf 2 being unpacked (Deluxe Package)

The unit itself consists of a unique, super-compact design - It isn't much larger than a typical hardcover novel. 

All things considered, it is fairly easy to use. The thing to keep in mind, is that The Dwarf 2 is not a fully-automated smart telescope. Again, it is designed to allow the user some involvement in the astrophotography process.
But, I can promise you, it isn't a lot! The learning curve is not steep at all. Typically, by the 2nd night out, you'll be well-versed in it's proper operation. By the 3rd or 4th night out, you'll be an expert!

This makes The Dwarf II ideal, for someone wanting to do some astrophotography of DSO's (Deep Sky Objects) without having to learn or study the subject.

Generally speaking - The steps for using it for astrophotography are as follows:
  • Attach the included tripod.
  • Set it down outside.
  • Turn the lens unit upwards (bet. 30 and 90 degrees).
  • Click Auto focus (which will focus the stars).
  • Choose Calibrate...
  • Then choose the DSO you'd like to image.
  • Check a few basic settings, and click the red button.
  • You are now doing astrophotography!
The Dwarf II and all accessories fit nicely in carry bag.

Next, I'd like to draw your attention to the things which are required for normal astrophotography. The stuff one must do in the traditional hobby... 

Things like Polar alignment. Something which is a must, when doing conventional astrophotography. Many astrophotographers (myself included) are not fond of polar aligning a set-up. Depending on your equipment, it can be quite annoying. As evidenced by the existence of so many funny memes on the subject!

Things like:
  • (1.) Polar alignment - Not needed, but optional with The Dwarf 2. If you chose to, it is easily done.
  • (2.) Having to take Calibration frames: Darks, Biases, and Flats - Oh my!
  • (3.) Monitoring of the progress.
  • (4.) Having an autoguider to purchase, and then worry about.
  • (5.) Having to wait until the next day (typically) to sort through, organize, and stack your frames.
  • (6.) Stacking and post-processing "your data" - this necessitates being in front of a computer screen, for substantial lengths of time (always my least favourite part).

Below, I've provided detailed explanations of each component:

1. Polar alignment - Aligning your telescope's mount, to the star Polaris, "the North Star" in the Northern hemisphere. Or the Southern Celestial Pole / the 4 stars of The Southern Cross constellation; if you live in the Southern hemisphere.

2. Calibration frames - 
Darks: A series of (anywhere from 20 to 60) exposures taken for the same length of time as your Lights; with the lens cap on.
Biases: Similar to above, except using the fastest shutter speed your camera is capable of. 
Flats: Similar to taking Darks, except with a white T-shirt stretched over the front of the lens, while aiming at a uniform source of illumination. Such as a slightly overcast sky during the day.

3. Frequent checking, on how everything is going. More specifically, things like: Is the system still tracking properly? eg. Are the stars still round? Are they beginning to trail? If so, that's more frames for you to discard when you're going through them later... A moot point with The Dwarf II!

4. Autoguiders! An autoguider is a smaller telescope, equipped with it's own small (CMOS or CCD) camera - you center it on a star, and it communicates any tracking corrections needed to the main imaging system.
Well, as I have a habit of being honest to a fault: I will state, that I've been intrigued by autoguiders over the years. 
However...There are some things to consider: In order to use / take advantage of an autoguider, your set-up needs to be a certain level of capability. In other words, if you're not using an advanced tracking mount to begin with, an autoguider cannot be a consideration. Less expensive tracking mounts simply don't feature an autoguiding port.
If you do have a top-of-the-range tracking mount; then you can purchase a small guidescope and guide camera. Which will ensure that your tracking mount avoids tracking errors, etc.
Okay, all of that 🠉 doesn't exist with The Dwarf II.

5. Yep, all shots - Lights*, Darks, Biases, and Flats must each be placed in their own, dedicated file folders. Later, each folder must be specified (you must inform your software where each folder is). Or, things will not go well for you - LoL!
*Lights are the actual photos (frames) of the object you're imaging.

6. This is the part where your software has already stacked all of the (various types) of frames. This is when and where your post processing (of the final image) takes place. This was always one of my least favourite parts. It consists of sitting in front of your computer screen; and applying one minor adjustment after another to your final picture.

However, I'll state that it's inherent versatility, allows a user to get as involved as they please. Again, optional - as in, if a user is so inclined to. I'll touch on this a bit more below.

After one becomes competent (proficient) in this skill, they develop what is referred to as a workflow. Essentially, a series of steps of adjustments to your final image, which further enhances and sharpens your final result.
If someone were to ask me: Who is The Dwarf 2 good for? I would say (1st and foremost) it's well-suited for anyone wishing to try astrophotography. Virtually anyone from a (patient) teenager to a seasoned/experienced astronomer would likely enjoy this smart telescope. The only prerequisite being a desire to photograph objects in the night sky. 

A useful tip: I use this digital thermometer to check that The Dwarf 2 has cooled down (close to the outdoor temp.) before taking 'Astro Darks' (automatic Darks).

It is especially well-suited for anyone who has tried some astrophotography in the past, but perhaps found a facet of it annoying, unpleasant, or tedious. Since what a smart telescope does, is effectively handle almost all of the boring stuff! Why do I use the term almost? because in the case of The Dwarf 2, some things are still possible (at the user's discretion).
The unique thing about The Dwarf 2, is that it doesn't do away with everything. It gives the user the optional opportunity to:
  • Attach 3rd-party nebula filters, including experimenting with various narrowband filters (Ha, OIII, or SII).
  • Attach it to a standard, adjustable photo tripod, to do a (simple) polar alignment. This will allow you to accomplish much, much longer imaging sessions, before the effects of field rotation become apparent. 
  • Take their own (additional) calibration frames (Darks, Flats, & Biases) to manually stack in software later. Someone might do this, in an effort to "squeeze" every additional amount of image quality out of the unit's capability. Think of this as something an experienced astrophotographer would be apt to do.

The Dwarf 2 smart telescope - In it's carry bag - Ready to go anywhere!

For my part, I have purchased an excellent nebula filter...And it has provided a very noticeable improvement in my images of deep sky objects (especially nebulae). What I'm actually referring to is called a Duo Band filter. The one I bought, from High Point Scientific, is manufactured by ZWO:

The ZWO Duo Band nebula enhancing filter.

Part 2 of 2 is coming up next... 

Until next time,
Clear skies!