Monday, December 3, 2018

Some Awesome Links - For Online "Window shopping"

As is my custom, I am sharing some Web Links which I enjoy. I'll also add some of them (the "must haves") to a new permanent Link List.

So, in no particular order, here are some links:

Oberwerk - This link will bring you straight to the 'Astronomy (Mounted)' section of their lovely site - Which, if my estimate is correct, is exactly where you'd want to be! Simply lovely instruments, which any binocular astronomer would be thrilled to use.

I mean, would you take a look at this beauty? 

What I would really love to see, is a nice, thorough, review of this intriguing new instrument! 

One of the things which I've always greatly admired, is the fact that Oberwerk checks the collimation of each binocular before shipment. Using extremely rare and expensive equipment, I might add. I've ordered a pair or two myself over the years. And it's always been a wonderful comfort knowing this. Never had a problem.
Excellent prices, on binoculars which are built to last a lifetime.

High Point Scientific I've been spending some time admiring the scopes on this site as well. Large selection, from scopes for Kids, to serious instruments. Great prices, and - They have a Pay Over Time option! 
They offer the Apertura branded Dobs (of which I had an 8" ver. once). I really liked that scope! Here are a few sketches I made using it:

 M57 The Ring Nebula, 8" Dobsonian telescope at 120x magnification

 NGC457, open star cluster.
A quick pencil sketch, using 8" Dobsonian reflector telescope, in Bronx NY.

Sadly, I was forced to sell the Apertura Dobsonian, when my Sister-in-law moved to a smaller place (with no back garden).

Teleskop Service In Germany. Now, if you live on this side of the pond, you may be wondering: "why would I want to order an instrument from Europe?" Let me tell you, I've been lusting over the unique binoculars they offer for years!
Have a look, to see what I'm referring to... Several of the pairs they offer have interesting specifications. And I've always been intrigued by the pair featuring built-in nebula filters.

OPT Corp Another Dealer of astronomy equipment, with a large selection and very good prices. 

Orion Last, but not least is a place which everyone is familiar with. Very nice selection of instruments. Their easy Payment Plans are what I find most attractive. I wish more dealers offered similar, easy, payment plans.
The selection of binoculars, well-suited for astronomy, is what keeps me going back.
Frankly, I'm surprised I hadn't already shared the links above...since these days, I spend a lot of my free time, admiring the lovely binoculars - Looking forward to the day (~January) when I'm able to order one :) 

Clear skies!

Friday, November 30, 2018

Book Arrived - 'Discover the Night Sky through Binoculars' by Steven Tonkin

I'm happy to report that This book, from Steven Tonkin (an Author whose work I've always admired) has finally arrived! (I was a bit behind schedule in actually ordering it) - But, it's here, and I highly recommend it!

A full review of the book is in the works...
For now, I'll say that all binocular astronomy enthusiasts need to add this one to their collection.
One of the things that stood out to me, was how there was quite a bit of unique information, which I've never read in any book or astronomy magazine before.
Things like:
  • Unique observing methods/approaches.  
  • Simple and effective methods for finding objects.
  • Lots of interesting facts about the stars themselves, as well as some DSO's.
I'm enjoying the book overall. You owe it to yourself to check it out.
If you're a fan of binocular Astronomy (as I am), then it's a no-brainer!

Projects which are currently in progress, are:

Clear skies! 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Review Of The Astronomik CLS Clip-Filter (EOS APS-C)

The CLS Clip-Filter  (for The Canon EOS APS-C)

The CLS (City Light Pollution) Filter, from Astronomik, is designed to clip-in to (many models of) Canon EOS DSLR cameras. The specific filter which I was loaned for this review, is The CLS CCD Clip-Filter EOS APS-C.The CCD designation indicates that the filter is designed for use with CCD cameras (obviously!), but also IR-Modified DSLR cameras as well as Black & White film astrophotography.
Recommended for use with optical instruments/lenses of all apertures, with a focal ratio of f/3 or higher.

This particular offering from Astronomik would be of great interest to the increasing number of astrophotographers using infrared modified DSLR cameras. 

The filter fits in front of the sensor/shutter area of the camera (the area exposed whenever a lens is removed). Be advised: These types of filters don't always produce an audible "click" when inserted. It's important to take your time and use care whenever installing or removing these filters. Ensure the filter is properly seated; I sometimes test to see if it's snugly in place, by slowly tilting the camera. It's a good idea to have a clean microfiber cloth (or other suitable clean material) held directly underneath, in case the filter does in fact slip out.

The Clip-In Filter arrives very well packaged; in a foam-lined plastic case. It looks like it would be right at home even in a Professional observatory.

The Astronomik CLS CCD filter features an integrated IR blocking layer, which is very useful (and convenient) for use in Astro-modified DSLRs. 

The filter is available in many different configurations and sizes. As you can see on the links below, you should have no trouble finding the filter housing you need for your specific purpose.
I found the Clip-In Filter very easy to use. However, I would have preferred to have it actually snap into place - with an audible "click". So that I could have an additional indicator, as to whether it is completely seated or not. 
On a related note: I've learned of some hobbyists, using a very small (Jeweler's size) flat-head screwdriver, to carefully expand the two small tension "fingers" on the black filter housing - To ensure a snug fit when inserting in camera. I have not had the need to try this "work around" on my filter. Nor would I in any case, as this filter was (graciously) loaned to me for review, by the kind folks at Astro-Shop in Germany.
Here's the Link to the (Google-translated) English version of this Site.

Again, the detailed specifications of The CLS series of filters, may be seen on this page of the Astronomik site.
These are basically high-quality light pollution filters, which are available for a reasonable price. They are simply ideal for anyone imaging from an area with light pollution.

My former residence, where I made my astrophotgraphy attempts, was under Bortle 8/9 skies. Very close to the worst possible level of light pollution. Under skies like that, The CLS CCD Clip Filter is a necessity!

It would be very difficult to get any good sub-exposures, without a good light pollution filter in place. In use, I've found the filter to do an excellent job of eliminating light pollution. And more importantly, without any multi-color gradients in the resulting images; as I've experienced with both the IDAS Light Pollution Filter from Hutech and The "CLS" CCD Clip-In Filter from Optolong.

I plan to add a few more examples of astrophotos, taken with The Astronomik CLS CCD Filter, The Optolong "CLS CCD" Filter, and possibly even The Hutech IDAS Filter; so that you'll be able to better form your own conclusions, etc.
As for my recommendation, when it comes to light pollution filters for photographic use, I'd simply stick with the products made by Astronomik - And avoid the others.

But, for now, I'd like to share a couple of the images (from 2 different filters) for comparison:
A section of Cassiopeia, featuring NGC 281 (The Pacman Nebula) in the center of the FOV.
Bear in mind, that these are single frame / sub-exposures of 30 seconds each, using an 85mm lens, with ISO 1600. Everything was the same, except for the clip-in filters. 
Camera used, was my IR-Modified Canon T5i. A simple, homemade motorized barn door tracker was used as the mount. No additional filters were used, these are as shot, directly from the SD card:

Wide Field NGC 281
Optolong CLS-CCD Filter 30" NGC 281

Wide Field NGC 281
Astronomik CLS-CCD Filter 30" NGC 281

The first difference you've probably noticed between these results, is the strong red/magenta hued gradient throughout the exposure taken with The Optolong CLS-CCD Filter in place.
I always do my best to avoid light pollution filters which produce these unnatural color gradients, etc. 
As you can see, The Astronomik CLS-CCD Clip-In Filter does not produce any of these unnatural colors. Which translates into having more accurate sub-exposures for stacking, from the start. I have a couple of more examples, which illustrate the same differences as those above. Including images processed (identically) in Adobe PhotoShop and other photo editing software applications. As well as stacked & processed images (I look forward to adding them here soon).

As for The Astronomik CLS-CCD Clip-Filter, it was originally designed, produced, and named (CLS-CCD) by Astronomik in Germany. It is manufactured using very high-quality materials and processes. And the effort put forth by Astronomik is obvious when one looks at the results.

The Astronomik CLS Clip-Filter may be purchased from:
This particular review was not as lengthy as I originally envisioned it. However, I have acquired some additional images, as well as data in the form of notes, etc. So, I do hope to add some additional technical details here in the near future.

Clear skies!

Monday, October 29, 2018

Some Awesome Books (with Links) - All highly recommended!

Here are some wonderful books; which I've owned, read, and enjoyed!
Each of the following books are very good - However, I cannot praise 'Touring The Universe Through Binoculars' enough! I simply adore the book.

I hope to post more book recommendations in the near future - There are several more must-have's. Some of which I've written about (mini-reviews) on this blog in the recent past.

If you happen to own a 4" refractor, this one is a must have! Because the Author used a 4" refractor for the observations when writing this book - Excellent!
'The Messier Objects' By Stephen James O'Meara

If you enjoy binocular astronomy (as I do) you should already have this book! If you don't: Get yourself a copy immediately - You will thank me for it! 
'Touring The Universe Through Binoculars' By Philip S. Harrington

If you enjoy sketching the objects seen through your telescope (or binoculars), this is THE book to get - It features multiple (expert/experienced) Authors, each highly skilled in the art of Astronomical Sketching!
'Astronomical Sketching A Step By Step Introduction' (By Various Authors)
...And - This book, from Steven Tonkin (an Author whose work I've always admired) has recently been announced. You owe it to yourself to check it out.
And if you're a fan of binocular Astronomy (as I am), then it's a no-brainer!

Also, I believe I've written about this book here before (also by Stephen Tonkin) it is called 'Binocular Astronomy'.

Projects which are currently in progress, are:

Clear skies! 

Friday, October 5, 2018

Recent Move To A Dark Sky Location - Reviews Are Coming!

Please note - That the next full review posted here, will be of The Astronomik CLS-CCD clip-in filter...
I apologize for the delay, I'm in the process of un-packing at our new residence (under Bortle 4 skies!).

However, I'm very happy to announce, that I will be testing and reviewing The SQM-L (Sky Quality Meter) from Unihedron

A sincere thank you, to the nice Folks at Unihedron, for loaning me a new unit to review! The device has arrived, and I find it (as well as the whole idea of it) fascinating! 
Well, there will be a lot more on all of this soon!

I also just stumbled upon another neat blog - Small Telescopes 

Friday, August 24, 2018

Waiting For The Awful Weather To Clear Up...

Finally, the wait is over - I've been anxiously awaiting for clear skies, in order to get some test shots with the new CLS Filter from Astronomik/Astro-Shop.

According to the Clear Sky Clock the awful weather will finally clear up tonight!

I was able to test The CLS filter a bit tonight, and for now, I'll just add: 
When using the new (original) CLS Clip-In Filter made by Astronomik (supplied by Astro-Shop), I immediately noticed an absence of color gradients. None visible in the sub-exposures, or the post-processed Subs (as seen when using The Optolong CLS filter). So far, so good. 

A nice (and very thorough) blog I just came across: Ten Minute Astronomy, here is one of the pages regarding sketching.

Here is an excellent Site I must share: TieDyeAstronomer

More to follow...

Clear skies!

Friday, August 3, 2018

The CLS-CCD Filter From Astro-Shop has Arrived!

I'm very happy to report the arrival of the CLS-CCD Filter, from Astro-Shop in Germany.
As is always the case, whenever a new piece of Astro equipment arrives, there has been nothing but cloudy skies & rain/thunderstorms. 
So, I've been unable to test it yet...
For now, I'll post some Pics I took of the filter - It arrived professionally packaged/well-protected (see below). It looks very promising, I'm looking forward to testing... 

The professionally packaged CLS-CCD Filter, by Astronomik on the right. The Optolong "CLS" version of it, on the left.

The Optolong "CLS" Filter

The Astronomik CLS-CCD Filter
The quick Pics above were taken of a ceiling fan, fitted with CFL (Compact Fluorescent Tube) bulbs; with a point & shoot camera. Consumer grade CFL bulbs are proposed to emit full-spectrum light.

As soon as I get a clear night, there will be more to report.

Clear skies!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Upcoming Product Review - The CLS-CCD Filter from Astro-Shop

The next product to be tested and reviewed here, will be the (original) CLS-CCD Filter (Clip-In for my Canon T5i).
Which can be seen Here from it's true place of origin.
(Site is in the German language, use Google Translate, if needed).

I'm looking forward to doing a shoot-out between the original, high-quality CLS filter and the inexpensive copy from Optolong...
I have a "CLS" clip-in filter from Optolong here, which I've been using...
I purchased it, used, via Cloudy Nights

And I've been assured, by a representative from Optolong, that the layers, optical coatings and etc. have remained unchanged 
for the past eight years.
So, in other words - There is no difference between an Optolong "CLS" filter purchased eight years ago, and one purchased today.

I'm really looking forward to the arrival of the CLS-CCD Clip-In Filter from Astro-Shop.

Clear skies!

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Book Review: The Deep-sky Imaging Primer, 2nd Edition

I'm so glad to have found this book! It's definitely one of the best I've seen so far, on the subject of Astrophotography - And I wanted to share this discovery right away!

Here is the link to the book on Amazon, where I bought mine: 

The Deep-sky Imaging Primer, 2nd Edition

As received from Amazon, the book arrived sealed in a cardboard pouch. It is a softcover book and is a easily manageable, comfortable size.

Price - (at the time of this writing) is $42.70 U.S. Dollars.

The book's contents are very well arranged. 

This particular book would be ideal for someone who is interested in improving their understanding, as well as their skills in the art and science of Astrophotography.

I have purchased and read many books on the subject of Astrophotography, and Astronomy in general. And at some point, I will post reviews of all of them here.

But, this book has earned a place at the top of my list, along with only a couple of others.

Exemplary photos may be found throughout the book, as well as excellent screenshots from Astrophotography software. There are several before/after comparison shots of Astrophotography images throughout. 

This is only a partial review - I actually have a lot more to write and share about this book. But, I wanted to at least get the word out about this book (for now); and the sooner the better. Like most amateur astronomers, I tend to buy a lot of books on the subject. Especially the subject of Astrophotography, because I need all the help I can get! 

I've purchased more than my fair share of books which failed to impress me, many which were only marginally helpful, and several which were complete wastes of money.  So if I can save a few people some money, then let me go ahead and post about this excellent book right away. 

This book is wonderful - and will make a  great addition for many astrophotographers. It contains very useful and practical information - You won't be disappointed. 

Much more will be added to this review, in the near future! Stay tuned... 

Clear skies!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

A Few Of My Most Recent Images

I'm definitely overdue for the sharing of some images...
These are...Umm...not very good. But, they are the best I've been able to do for now.
They are the pics which I share with my friends and family, which is why I tend to label the objects. Well, I've come a long way from my film days.

Stack of 13 frames, less than 40" each.
You can see how my post-processing skills need a lot of work...

This is a stack of only 10, 20-second shots,

The North American nebula (NGC7000) Stack of 26 frames.

The above shots were made with an Astro-modified Canon T5i, using very inexpensive lenses, on the homemade, motorized barn door tracker.

Clear skies!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Finally! A Decent Lens For My Canon T5i 📷

To make a long story short, until now, the only 2 lenses I had for use with my (Astro-modified) Canon T5i were:

  • A very beat-up Canon 75-300mm with plenty of small scratches on the front element, and a missing AF/MF switch. However the seller was a very nice guy: He knew that I was pretty desperate to get a lens (any lens) just so I could start shooting right away. So he found it for me, and gave it to me for $20.
Sometime later, I got myself...
  • A new Yongnuo 50mm F/1.8 - Which has a housing made from plastic, and has lousy (soft) optical properties. Yes, I know, I know, it's only a $50 lens which was made in China.
I hope to post some of the resulting images from each of these two lenses very soon. I've finally managed some which aren't too awful...

And so, today, my new Opteka 85mm F/1.8 "portrait lens" arrived
I chose it, mainly because it was $99.95 - and I'm on a low budget.
Luckily, just about everything I'd read about it was positive.

Well, the lens arrived (from B&H) today, and it looks very promising. I'm very excited to try it out; but of course, I don't even have to mention what the weather will be like for the next few days, do I?

Well, I hope to add a bit more to this post later, and...write some new blog posts about some of the other things going on.
Oh, and books! ...A few short book reviews will be coming...

Clear skies!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Just Some Pics Of My (low-budget) Barn Door Tracker Mount.

This is my current, low-budget, tracking mount. It's a barn door tracker, which was made by another amateur astronomer. I got it from Astromart.

I made a few minor improvements, and I'm able to get up to 50" exposures (some times) without star trailing.
I'll add some more details to this post in the future...

Clear skies!