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Monthly Archives: January 2009

28 Jan

The big news in the telescope world this year is the new Meade ETX-LS, though it has yet to appear on store shelves. The buzz is all about this new ETX-LS “light switch” system that supposedly allows the computer to align itself, with no help for you. From a telescope marketing perspective, this is sheer genius, though I am personally far more interested in seeing the 6″ ACF optical tube. I don’t care for computers on my own telescopes, but I have always been a fan of 5″ and 6″ Schmidt-Cassegrain optical systems. That new Meade 6″ ACF telescope, with …

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27 Jan

Is there any difference between a monopod used in photography and a monopod used for hiking? Interesting question and one I get, now and then. I have used both types of monopods for either use, but there are differences. Monopods used for photography and cameras, such as the Bogen 682B, tend to be quicker to set up – you’re more likely to get quick-release mechanisms on the legs such as lever locks and a few will even have a leg warmer – a foam section designed for padding when you carry the camera/monopod slung over your shoulder. Camera monopods, though, …

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26 Jan

Monoculars have never been as numerous as binoculars, but monoculars have been around for a long time. My first monocular was a Bushnell 7×20 roof prism I purchased back in the early 70s. As monoculars go, it was very well made – all metal, no plastic. I bought it with the hopes that it would substitute for a birding binocular that I could not afford at the time. I soon learned that monoculars are handy and effective for some uses, but definitely no substitute for a serious birding binocular. My disappointment was somewhat offset when I discovered how darn handy …

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22 Jan

Some of our folks have returned form the Shotshow – the premier shooting industry trade show – with some good news from Nikon. Nikon will be adding a Nikon EDG spotting scope to their already excellent spotting scope lineup which now features the Nikon Prostaff and the venerable Nikon Fieldscope. I have owned and used a Nikon Fieldscope for many years, but often wondered if and when Nikon would ever go beyond the Fieldscope spotting scope to keep up in the premium spotting scope market. Not that the Nikon Fieldscope is not a premium spotting scope; far from it. Makes …

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21 Jan

There is a comet due to show up in the early morning February skies this next month by the name of Comet Lulin. As with all comets, it’s anyone’s guess how bright it will actually be, and, as always, I am optimistic, despite the fact that I have been through more than one “comet bust”. Either way, I will be ready with a binocular or a telescope. For the really great comets with long extended tails, I have had my best views in a binocular. For the smaller, fainter, comets, though, I often use a telescope. Will have to wait …

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19 Jan

Lot of winter left, of course, but it is only natural for us outdoor types to be thinking ahead till spring and all the outdoor activities that have lain dormant over the winter. For me, spring means birding for warblers and shorebirds and that means both binoculars and spotting scopes. Warblers and other songbirds require birding binoculars, of course, but to be serious about shorebirds, a birder needs a spotting scope. I have lived in other parts of the country where I spent more time behind a spotting scope than a binocular, but, even here in Chicago, I manage to …

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15 Jan

Everyone wants a telescope with lots of performance and everyone would love to have a telescope with great portability and ease of handling. Both are a matter of telescope size – more size means more performance, but more size also means less portability. Is there a good compromise for these frigid nights in a telescope big enough to impress, but still small enough to grab and use before our hands go numb with cold? Yes! My favorite is the Meade ETX-125 PE. As a gal, even I can pick up an ETX-125 (with some huffing and puffing, true) and carry …

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14 Jan

With all the snow these last couple of winters, I finally fulfilled one of my life’s ambitions and started cross-country skiing. As accessories go, XC skiing is fairly straightforward, but one thing on my list that we do carry is some of the UnderArmor Cold gear. No need for the Extreme Cold UnderArmour since XC skiing is about as aerobic as it gets. I’ve also found, as always, that a compact binocular is handy for scouting fields for tracks left by other skiers or snowmobiles. I don’t mind breaking trail, but always nice to have someone else do it, too. …

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12 Jan

When times are tough, people typically cut back on luxury items and “extra-curricular” interests. This is understandable, but I sometimes think it can also be a mistake when carried too far. It’s when I am a bit down and worried that my astronomy observing and my birding most refresh and nourish. Nothing like taking your mind off your troubles by looking through a telescope under a dark, night sky or even just heading into the backyard with a binocular to watch some birds. Better yet, go for a nice long walk, but don’t forget that binocular. Don’ let hard times …

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09 Jan

There was a day when “lunar” or “moon” telescopes were quite popular in amateur astronomy. That was prior to the days when men landed on the moon. These moon telescopes were generally small refractors – no need for large telescopes with something as bright as the moon. In fact, any telescope can be used effectively to observe the moon. For many years after the moon landings, however, interest in the moon faded. Deep-sky objects – galaxies, nebulae and star clusters – were the main focus for amateurs and these objects still dominate in amateur astronomy. Things are changing, however, largely …

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