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Monthly Archives: April 2008

30 Apr

Wish someone would invent a clear sky alarm that would wake me at night to let me know a clear sky has suddenly developed. It’s so rare to get a clear sky around here that it seems a shame to miss any opportunity to do some astronomy. That’s why I keep an astronomy binocular and/or a small telescope ready to go at a moment’s notice, but I still need a clear sky to use them. Maybe I should stay up at night and start a clear sky astronomy service. I could give call to some of our local astronomers when …

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29 Apr

Last quarter moon is usually a sign to us astronomers to be ready for dark skies in the near future. That means getting the astronomy binocular or telescope ready to go. Around here, the skies seem to cloud up and clear off at a moment’s notice. For this reason, the astronomer with small, portable telescope has the advantage. Maybe it’s time for Joanie to be thinking a new Televue 76. It’s small enough I could even carry the little Televue refractor over to the park on a dark night and, if need be, run from a mugger with the Televue …

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28 Apr

It’s as tall as a full-size binocular and almost as heavy. Size is definitely the first thing you will notice when you pick up the new Televue Ethos eyepiece. You also get that feel of Televue quality, of course, from top to bottom, which, of course, suggests that this Televue eyepiece is something special. It is. When one came through our location, I couldn’t resist. Being careful not to drool too much on the Ethos, I rushed to the show room and put it into an old ETX-105. Okay, not exactly a rigorous star test, but enough to get a …

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25 Apr

Have had some telescopes which have been a good match for me and some that were not. All have been good telescopes as far as optics and features, but even the best telescope in this regard is worthless if you are not inlcined to use it. As I look back over many years of observing, I find that the simple telescopes were my favorites; Dobsonians when I needed a large telescope and small, premium grade refractors when I needed a small telescope. No computers, fancy mounts or complicated setup or electronics anything. Just grab the scope and start pointing. That’s …

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24 Apr

The birds are moving through the area. This week, I have been seeing a great many early warblers with the usual Yellow-rumped, but also good numbers of Palm Warblers. (Love seeing the warm yellow, brown and russet tones of the Palm Warbler in a good binocular.) Have also picked up more sparrows in the binocular with a gorgeous male White-throated, a Swamp, several Lincoln’s and Chippies. Out on the lake, through the spotting scope, warm weather migrating ducks, the Northern Shoveler and Blue-winged Teal are here. Can summer be far away? Seems like it was snowing only yesterday.…

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21 Apr

The most common question I get from folks looking for their first telescope is, “What would be a good telescope to see the moon and planets?”, since most beginners want to start with these objects. My standard answer is that any telescope can see the planets, the moon, galaxies, star clusters and nebulae, but the larger the telescope and the better the quality the telescope, the more of these objects a telescope can see and the more detail the telescope will show in these objects. Price is a very good indicator of both size and performance in a telescope, so …

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17 Apr

Forty miles an hour plus winds don’t make for good birding, good biking or even good astronomy, but wind is a natural part of the spring landscape, so I am not complaining, especially after our record snowfall winter. High winds do give me an excuse, though, to seek a bit of shelter afforded by the trees by cutting though the Forest Preserve trail on my daily bicycle commute. Of course, a compact binocular or my monocular is standard equipment, just in case a gorgeous bird (they are all gorgeous, of course) makes an appearance. Only downside of this “shortcut” is …

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16 Apr

High and thin beats low and murky, at least as far as the atmosphere goes for using optics. Out west, where I have spent most of my life, the air tends to be dry and the altitude high, making for perfect observing conditions, either for a spotting scope, by day, or a telescope, by night. Naturally, the first thing I noticed when I moved to the Chicago area (optically, that is) was the thick, humid air filled with smog and other fun stuff. Okay, less than ideal to bring out the best in a good spotting scope or telescope, but …

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15 Apr

With the canoeing season fast approaching, some folks have been asking about digital cameras for canoeing. Should I get a waterproof digital camera for canoeing, or just take my chances with a non-waterproof model? I have used both types of cameras for canoeing. As long as you confine your photography to land and carry your camera in a waterproof case, you can take a non-waterproof digital camera canoeing, but if you are actually shooting from a canoe, you will sooner or later drop your camera onto the floor of the canoe (often wet and water filled) or, worse yet, into…

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15 Apr

With the canoeing season fast approaching, some folks have been asking about digital cameras for canoeing. Should I get a waterproof digital camera for canoeing, or just take my chances with a non-waterproof model? I have used both types of cameras for canoeing. As long as you confine your photography to land and carry your camera in a waterproof case, you can take a non-waterproof digital camera canoeing, but if you are actually shooting from a canoe, you will sooner or later drop your camera onto the floor of the canoe (often wet and water filled) or, worse yet, into …

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