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Monthly Archives: September 2007

27 Sep

The moon, from a nature lover’s point of view, has been magnificent this week – a true September classic, hanging low on the horizon and dominating the sky. Of course, from an astronomer’s point of view, the full moon rates less highly. Deep-sky observers often wish the moon would disappear, entirely, and even lunar observers with their telescopes prefer the moon only partially full. Still, I’ve had fun this week with my tiny Nikon 5×15 monocular. As I pedaled home last night, lights flashing on my bike, I turned the little monocular on the moon and was rewarded with a …

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26 Sep

Magnification in any optical instrument is like spices in cooking – a little goes a long way. Nearly all beginners, regardless of whether we are discussing microscopes, telescopes, spotting scopes, binoculars or riflescopes, have a fascination, if not a downright obsession about magnification. Joanie’s rule of thumb for any optical instrument is to use only as much magnification as needed to get the job done. As magnification goes up, so do your headaches in terms of field of view, image brightness, steadiness and overall image quality. In a binocular, for instance, a steady 7x or 8x beats a shaky 10x …

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25 Sep

Steve, our riflescope and tactical gear expert, is off this week, chasing antelope, up near Casper, Wyoming. It’s country I know well and is dear to my heart. Some folks here in the east would call it ugly, but to me the sagebrush flats out west are beautiful, indeed. Wide open spaces are in my soul, so I envy Steve. I was all prepared to advise him on a binocular for his hunt, but when he told me he already had a Swarovski Pocket binocular, I just smiled and nodded. We think alike.…

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19 Sep

People sometimes think that my apartment must be loaded with optical equipment, given all the writing I do about optics. Fact is, no, my apartment is not overflowing with binoculars, spotting scopes, telescopes, microscopes, magnifiers, cameras and so on. Having so much optical gear is at odds with my minimalist, go light lifestyle, not to mention my chronically stressed bank account. What I will tell you is that I take products home to test for a few days or weeks and give them the workout they need, then take them back to the job and test some more, but at …

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18 Sep

As I rode my bike along the trail last night, the quarter moon hung low in the twilight and its beauty brought a smile to my face. This is in stark contrast to the days when I, like many of my deep-sky observing cohorts, spoke of the moon in less complimentary terms. As I recall, the “accursed orb” was one of the worst. Now that I am trapped in the light polluted city, though, I am singing a different tune when it comes to the moon. Okay, maybe not “Fly Me to the Moon” but certainly “By the Light of …

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17 Sep

If you happen to be in Chicago’s northern suburbs and see a woman some night in her nightgown with a big binocular around her neck or standing next to a telescope, don’t panic (or laugh). It’s probably me. I’m not a Peeping Tom, I’m just doing some astronomy. Sometimes I get up in the middle of the night with the urge to take a peek at the stars and end up with a telescope or binocular at my side. Just a habit I have developed over the years and I can’t seem to break it. If you see this pattern …

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13 Sep

When you get right down to it, there is no great mystery about optics. The basic laws of optics concerning magnification, image brightness, field of view, exit pupil and so on are the same for all optical instruments, be they binoculars, spotting scopes, riflescopes, microscopes or telescopes. Knowledge of the basics in one product category carries over to other product categories.

If I was going to get someone started on the basics, though, I would probably begin with that most universal of optical instruments – the binocular. My article on binocular basics, How to Understand Binoculars is written with the …

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11 Sep

It’s new moon time and you know what that means. You don’t? It means Joanie will be spending a few evenings under the stars to do some astronomy, assuming, of course, that the sky is clear. I’m in the mood to do some open star clusters and even though I prefer my Nikon 10×70 Astroluxe binocular for this type of work, it might be time to put the spotting scope to work. That’s right, a spotting scope. A good spotting scope, like the Kowa 663 with a 20x wide angle eyepiece provides stunning views of open star clusters. If you …

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10 Sep

We somehow got a shipment of the Bushnell Elite 15-45×60 spotting scope that was a bit different than the standard version of the Elite. This “military version” of the Elite spotting scope was made expressly for the military and has had the Elite lettering removed for reduced visibility in the field and it also does not include a case. Since the word tactical seems to sell things, these days, perhaps we should have labeled it the Tactical Elite. Either way, it’s a great little spotting scope for those who want the ultimate backpack spotting scope.…

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06 Sep

Big seems to be name of the game in telescopes for astronomy or, so it would seem from the viewpoint of all the hype and advertising. I can tell you, though, from years of personal experience that big can also be a drawback.

Try coming home from work after a hard day, taking care of the kids, getting them fed and put to bed, then looking out the window and seeing stars in a clear sky. You feel compelled to get the telescope out for a quick look before calling it a night, yourself. In fact, maybe you feel a …

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