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Monthly Archives: August 2011

31 Aug

I’ve blogged many times about what an excellent target the moon makes for telescopes and even binoculars when you find yourself stuck in an urban or suburban area and have to fight light pollution to do any astronomy at all. I’ve been reminded that I haven’t mentioned planets as much as probably should have, though, as equally suitable objects for urban observers.

Planets are ideal objects to observe for urban bound astronomers, no doubt about it. For one, planets tend to be plenty bright, so they are little affected by light pollution – you may not be able to see…

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30 Aug

One of the many advantages of astronomy binoculars compared to a typical telescope is the wider field of view in the binocular. This “big window” view offered by binoculars makes them ideal for observing the big stuff in the night sky, such as large open star clusters and huge nebulae. Typical telescopes just can’t down low enough in magnification to see these objects in their entirety, a classic example of not being able to see the forest for the trees.

On the other hand, with the exception of a few specialty binoculars and zoom binoculars (always poor, optically), you are …

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29 Aug

I’m an optics addict and I’ll be the first to admit it. I drool over good image quality, regardless of whether I get it from fine binoculars, spotting scopes, telescopes or digital cameras. Show me the view that only great optics can provide and I tend to lose self control when it comes to the checkbook.

In my opinion, the view you get from a premium spotting scope is the one that will most likely cause you to abandon your good sense. Yes, the image difference between fine birding binoculars and average quality binoculars is noticeable and so is the…

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29 Aug

I often wonder why so many of us astronomers can’t resist a challenge. Why is it that we seem to go out of our way to put some lesser known, and certainly not too visually impressive, objects in the telescope eyepiece when there are so many impressive objects that are much easier to find? Is it because we like to challenge our observing skills or is it because we like to push our telescopes to the limit to see what they can do?

I think I speak for many of my astronomy brothers and sisters when I say it is…

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26 Aug

It may seem a little out of place to be thinking Blue Snowball in late August, but August is actually a good time to look at the Blue Snowball. I’m talking, of course, about the Blue Snowball nebula in the constellation Andromeda, which is now high enough in the sky to provide a good view for those who want to explore its astronomical treasures with astronomy binoculars or telescopes.

To see the Blue Snowball, you will need a telescope. This planetary nebula is plenty bright enough to be seen in even average sized binoculars, but it is simply too small…

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25 Aug

Zoom eyepieces on spotting scopes are not all created equal. In fact, it’s not even close. Just as there is nothing as optically bad as a cheap zoom eyepiece found on inexpensive spotting scopes, there is nothing quite so optically delightful as some of the zoom eyepieces found on premium spotting scopes.

So, okay, why not take that zoom eyepiece on my inexpensive spotting scope and replace it with a good zoom eyepiece? The problem is that you don’t get that option on inexpensive spotting scopes, because (a) manufacturers don’t offer optional eyepieces on spotting scopes much under $600 or…

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24 Aug

Are you the type that is rough on equipment or the type that doesn’t want to be bothered with a lot of routine maintenance? If so, you need to factor this in when it comes time to choose the right telescope. Absolutely, some types of telescopes require more in the way of care and feeding than other telescopes. Telescope maintenance is not difficult, but some types require more maintenance than others.

Refractor telescopes are probably the most rugged and maintenance free. All it takes is a little cleaning of the objective lens (front lens) with a lens cloth and only…

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23 Aug

A lot of beginners in astronomy, not to mention folks who have never done astronomy, mistakenly believe that astronomy with telescopes is all about magnification and a lot of it.

Nothing could be further from the truth; in fact, even with very large telescopes, magnifications used tend to be on the low side. High magnification does have its uses, to be sure, but on my 12.5” Dobsonian telescope, I only rarely use more than 150x for the things I most like to see – deep-sky objects (star clusters, nebulae and galaxies) and 100x or even less is common. That’s not …

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22 Aug

We feed wildlife on our property, mostly birds, but if you feed birds, you also end up feeding squirrels and, if you have them, also chipmunks. The squirrels and chipmunks do a fairly thorough job of cleaning up under the bird feeders and, of course, the little rodents will be more than happy to climb right up into your feeders and help themselves unless you do some serious squirrel-proofing of your feeders, which we do, of course. Still, we enjoy watching the furry stuff right along with the feathered stuff in the binoculars and spotting scopes and, of course, all …

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19 Aug

I’m sure that anyone who reads my blogs or visits our OP forum and reads my posts (Jne_K) on binoculars, spotting scopes, telescopes or digital cameras, or reads the many how to articles I have written for OP, must assume that I am a techno geek or something. Okay, yes, I have a very detail oriented side to my personality and it has served me well over the years in various professions such as science teacher, writer, musician and so on, but the truth is, I am very much more of a so-called touchy-feely, aesthetic kind of person than a …

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