Sunday, February 22, 2009

New Fangled Contraptions

I never have thought of my self as an astronomical curmudgeon but I might be headed there. What I am talking about is the New Meade ETX-LS with Lightswitch technology. I for one have never been much on all in one Stuff save three or so exceptions, SBIG Cameras with two chips (one for autoguiding). That was cool genius. Second the Denkmeier Powerswitch Diagonal. You can have a focal reducer, a barlow or just the eyepiece by moving a switch.What a time saver. The Sky scout is a wonderful teaching tool.It will identify objects in the night sky give a blurb or two about it and is just fun to play with. Connect it on your non goto scope and you have added a whole different dimension to your scope. I like it because it is a stand alone piece of equipment. when I do outreach it can go with me. When I am out at the dark site then chances are it will be taking it easy in a warm house. Not just those three items, but definitely those three items make me say I am glad to be living in this age of astronomy. I cannot say that about the Meade ETX-LS at least not yet. My first impression of the scope is :Way to many bells and whistles. My Dad is a tinkering sort of guy.Collects British sports cars. So you know one thing for sure. He has his head under the hood a lot. He has always said "less parts the better" as there are less parts to break.I know Meade is in trouble and as a result they are scrambling to sell to all or anybody. Meade has always been an innovator. The ACF thing is brilliant. The DSI series? A stroke of pure genius. I believe that when an Amateur plunks down a sizable wad of cash for a scope he wants to have something that will grow with him. He can add on to it with "stuff" he likes or deems superior to make it his signature scope.Optics aside, all the DooDads on the ETX-LS are cool or have some level of Coolness but I believe might fall short of the mark. I would gladly trade the bells and some of the whistles for a larger mirror. Besides all that, the scope is a wedge on a stick. That might be OK for the ETX series but for a six inch? or larger later? very suspect. The motorized focus is cool but I am going to want a Crayford linear focuser for fine focus and no mirror shift. That might be a problem. What I am getting at is I think that Meade is marketing this scope to the "new to the hobby folks". It is a novelty to me. I do a lot of outreach and if I was a shy sort I might consider this as a tool. I go out of my way to make astronomy come alive for the folks that step up to my scope for a peak. No computer can replace that. Folks could not see the love I have for the night sky. and want to some how experience what I feel. The goto feature is great but with a six inch scope and suburban skies there will be a lot of items that might not show up in the scope. I cannot speak to the lightswitch doohickey turn the switch and presto it is ready to track and find anything. Hmmm Show me...It would be incredibly difficult to get the object in the eyepiece every time. If they have got that down then Katy bar the door!!! We are seeing the next big thing.
Good seeing to all


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Eyepieces, What a can of worms!!!

If there is anything that gets folks going, it the question: Hey Pardner what is the best eyepiece to have? I am going to tell you right now there is No absolute answer to this. However, Ladies and Gentleman there are some pretty close answers. Try as I may, I will take a whack at this and see what falls. I always respond to that inquiry with: What do you like to look at and much money do you have? Now this might seem backwards to some but we need to look at the price thing first But we will get back to it in a while. Discretionary income is the driving force here. Those of us that have plenty just call up and order two of each. Then there are those that have not so plenty. I am on the not so plenty list and a wife that rules the checkbook with an iron fist. I can not afford to make mistakes with my purchases so I do research on the eyepiece that I want. I go to online forums and ask. I go to star parties, local star gazes for public outreach. When I go which is all the time there will always be one of my buddies there with a new "toy" saying hey Steve check this out!!! So I do. Nothing better than getting scope time with a potential piece of equipment you are considering. You will have a clear idea of what is out there and what works for you. The link above is a Tele vue Ethos 13mm which costs almost 700 after tax, shipping etc... I know you are saying, HOLY hot potato Steve that costs more than my scope!!! Yup most of my Scopes too. For a lot of folks that eyepiece or one in that family is the Holy Grail of eyepieces, huge wide views, sharp as a tack images edge to edge. Makes you want to drool. That is the near high end of cost. The low end is Free I say that because I have given away eyepieces because they were so bad that I could not sleep at night knowing I took money for them. Most of the time you get what you pay for. Somewhere in the middle there are eyepieces that will not have you looking into sell your kids to afford them and they will do a very very good job. I have not used every eyepiece that has come down the pike so these recommendations are mine and mine alone so do not beat me up on this. What are we looking at? if you like planets and all that goes with that the choice most folks make is an eyepiece that has as few pieces of glass between the planet and the eye Abbe orthoscopics come to mind I use a few Celestron excels. ED glass decent views 60 dollars or so I need eyepieces that have some eye relief for my glasses. so that is one of the things that drive my decisions.Open clusters, galaxies and nebulae my MAN!!! Love em. I can spend hours and hours at a time looking at them. For these beauties I need a wide view of the sky and as I can not afford an Ethos with its 100 degree Apparent field of view(AFOV). I looked elsewhere and found some 68 degree afov eyepieces made by Baader. The Hyperion series do all I need them to do, great eye relief, sharp to nearly the edge if not the edge. Great coatings all for about $129 +/- I have a 17mm I use most all the time for everything. On the less costly side are the Birdseye view eyepieces from Anacortes. They can be the real deal. 80 degree AFOV pretty decent coatings all for $45. Pentax, Tele Vue, Meade 5000 series, Celestron Axiom and Abbe are all good to very good to excellent and you will pay a premium for them. For me and most everyone I know, if we could have two good eyepieces or one great eye piece for the same amount of money We would take the one great one every time. One great eye piece will make your scope into a new-ish scope. You will say I never saw that before continuously. I have a buddy in the astro game that will use his ethos on a 4.5 inch short tube dobsonian for that quick look thing we all do or should do. He loves it. So if you are going to settle for a good couple of eyepieces save your cash just a little longer and buy a great one.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Jump in with both feet or just test the water?

For most folks that's a good question. Do I spend a Gazillion dollars or do I spend next to nothing and be sorely disappointed not to mention frustrated that I can't see all those awesome things we see in all those astronomy magazines and posters.Well here is a hint my friends: Do your homework!The real question is do I need to have a Telescope to be an observer of the night sky ? No you do not! When I was a kid growing up, anytime there was an opportunity to be on the business end of a telescope I was there. Be it at a family get together the local observatory, Dad's binoculars, I seem to be the first on the scope and the last off of it every time. I was too young to know I was bit by the astronomy bug and bit bad. I must admit I did pretty good for a mighty poor kid growing up in the south. Now what to glean from all of that? Find an astronomical society near you take a peak in their scopes. You would be amazed at how helpful those folks can be. They can help guide you toward a solution for your astronomy needs. It will suprise you just how many very fine objects you can see with a regular old run of the mill set of Binoculars. Can you see the four main moons of Jupiter? Why yes you can! To tell the truth, some items just look better in binoculars. I can spend hours with a pair and cruise the southern skies of Summer with all those rich star fields around Sagittarius and Scorpius. two things in particular that just really jump out at you are the Bee Hive cluster and the Pleiades. Both are awesome and well worth a look.You might notice here I might be kind of pushing you a bit in the way of Binoculars . For a vast number of people that is the way to go. Being, relatively inexpensive the wide views will help you to be comfortable learning the sky.But Out there my friends we have folks known as Race car Astronomers. Pedal to the metal Bigger Better Cost is no option. For those folks I say Whoa!!! lets rein it in a bit. The last thing anyone needs is a giant or pricey scope they have absolutely no idea how to use. It will most likely be an exercise in frustration and will eventually lead one to park that spawn of hell in the closet never to be heard from again until the wife decides to pitch junk out. That was when I discovered her junk and my junk we're not always the same! (That story is for another day but it does involve a Televue Ranger). For those folks that need to learn the sky and see some cool stuff along the way I say the Dobsonian is your friend. A "Dob" is simply a Newtonian Reflector that sits on a simple mount ( it spins on its base and the scope tilts up or down) so you can pretty much take a look at most anything you want. Get your self a nice star map and you're set or better yet, find a buddy that knows the sky. He can teach you how to adjust the scope so it is in good alignment (collimation). Relax it is not rocket surgery. Once you get it down it will be second nature to you. But that might be a drawback to some. For you folks a Refractor might be your ticket A short tube type would be the one to get. You can then use it as a guide scope down the road. This scope is such a treat on a go to Mount and not a whole lot of green backs to boot. A go to mount is a computerized mount that has a database of thousands of things to look at. Some have tours of the sky etc. Pretty cool huh? You will still need to learn the sky so look at the map decide what you are going to look at in say one or two constellations and write them down in a list and that evening punch em in the hand controller and take a look!By working a couple Constalations at a time you will get cozy with the night sky rather quickly. So in closing, the most important thing to remember is to not be over matched by cost or technology. Oh one more thing. Have fun. I know when I am on my Scope you can not get the grin off my face!
Good Seeing to all ,


Steve's Astro corner first light!

Welcome !!! I am glad to share my little corner of space with all that share my love for all things Astronomy

So... First a bit about my self. I have been kicking around the third planet of our solar system for almost 49 years. In that time, I have been everything from a roughneck to a logger to a construction superintendent. I have a degree in construction management. I know Wow what a diverse career path! My love of astronomy has followed me nearly all my days. I started this blog to help new comers to astronomy get more comfortable with some of the finer points of astronomy This will be a place to learn and to ask questions. There are no stupid questions. If there were I would have been declared a raving lunatic years ago. I will be posting to this blog every week with an article. In the mean time if you need an answer to question related to Astronomy you can always eMail me