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Ships and Stars

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Everything posted by Ships and Stars

  1. I try to buy everything second hand and then look after it well, that way there's no real hit on depreciation. I'm now at the point I have two dobs and a nice, but not over the top, eyepiece collection, with three main eyepieces that cover 95% of my observing. All sorted on binoculars! As long as I stay away from astrophotography...
  2. Pentax 20x60 S-series WP binoculars from ABS arrived just over a week ago, I've used them non-stop, mainly on ships and boats though have done some lunar. I seriously, seriously love these binoculars and primarily use them handheld, wearing glasses, with no issues. Compact power and quality sums it up. The optics are the closest thing to perfection I have used, despite the somewhat limited 2.2deg FOV which isn't at all bad like it sounds - probably a function of their small overall size. CA is very well controlled I though and only visible on high contrast views if you hunt for it. Feeling a bit greedy now with the growing collection, but each pair have their own niche. The 12x70 Celestrons (cheap and cheerful with glasses, decent optical quality and light-gathering ability) the 15x70 Apollos (heavy at 2.5kg but great FOV and take filters) and the 20/40x100 Helios Quantums (filters+aperture and power but quite a rig) The Pentax 20x60 are perfectly sized for my hands and weigh only 1.4kg, the same as the Celestrons and well below the c.2.5kg of the Helios Apollos. Will try and do a write up later in the binocular discussion section. PS apologies for the horrendous lens distortion on my phone which quickly and easily turns any circle into a nice ellipse! All the bins look squat or stretched out as a result, except in the centre of the frame.
  3. I think the Pros are fully coated optics vs 'multi-coated' for the regular binos. I don't think there's a lot more to them then that, but not 100% sure. The tripod mount and of course rubber outer shell are slightly different. I've only used an older pair of 12x70 Celestrons and a pair of 25x100 Skymaster obsy bins. I find them decent for the money even when compared to higher end binoculars like 15x70 Helios and Pentax, though these do start to pull away in quality. I sold the 25x100s because I couldn't reach focus in one eye due to the limit of dioptre adjustment but it was very close. Still have the 12x70s, great widefield views with tons of eyerelief for glasses. I'd be happy trying either the standard 20x80s or pros if not a lot more. Hopefully someone on here will provide a direct comparison!
  4. Before lockdown, I did almost all my observing from rural spots, frequently staying in my small van overnight. My trick up here in NE Scotland is to go to the Walkhighlands website for hill walkers using a PC or laptop, scroll down to the interactive map, hover over it with the mouse and find the area you want to view from, and see what walks are shown on their maps. They will include the start location which is normally a rural carpark or large passing place well away from busy roads. The hillwalkers carparks/parking places are normally great as locals are used to seeing non-local cars parked up there and don't blink, plus they are generally fairly isolated and quiet. Another trick is to go to Pastmap (interesting in itself if you like archaeology), click on Scheduled Monuments (i.e. Bronze Age cairns, Neolithic standing stones, Iron Age hillforts, etc) in the left toolbar, the zoom in on the map to the area you want to view from. Some of the more famous, more spectacular Scheduled Monuments are very popular with day trippers and will also have their own little carpark in rural isolated areas which is open to all and almost always free.
  5. That was me on the carrots topic a while back. While they don't give you 'extra' dark adaptation over normal eye health, they help ensure dark adaptation is functioning properly, that's why I eat them. Red peppers also. The carrots/night vision aspect comes from WWII when British pilots didn't want the Germans to know about radar, they leaked false information saying carrots were giving them greatly enhanced night vision. Agree on the breathing, the eyes require a good flow of oxygen to work at top efficiency.
  6. Oh that one's pretty low - I just used Stellarium, haven't seen M83 before. I just checked now and it's only about 8 deg above the horizon max around 10:50pm. Not sure if earlier/later in the year changes this much?
  7. I see the US website offers DGM NBP 'seconds' in a 2" and 1.25" set for $165 US. According to DGM they have slight pinholes or 'sleeks' in the coatings which have zero impact on optical performance. Or 'perfect' ones for $205.00 US. No idea what HMRC would slap on top of that! Maybe 20%? I'd think a set of seconds would run about £165 all in. http://www.npbfilters.com/seconds.html
  8. Ah right, excellent so you know the area. I've not been through there I can remember. I lived in the midlands for about 6 or 7 years before moving to Scotland, but mostly went to the Peak District. I don't think 21.76 will be much difference from 21.71. They're both well within what I would look for at a minimum for quality sky darkness. Defo try and stay away from direct lighting, I know it's hard. There always seems to be that one place somewhere really dark that has an unshielded 1,000 gigawatt beacon outside their door! I never asked what scope you were using? My goal this coming winter is to see it with my 40x100mm observation binoculars with an Hb filter on one side and UHC on the other. I reckon I have a decent shot on the right night. The story goes on CN some fellow in Florida claims to have seen it with 15x70s with Hb filters taped on! A few other musings I never got to put in my first post - once you've seen the HH, it becomes easier to see it from then on, and with smaller scopes. Folks are right - if you can see the flame nebula, then you have a good shot at the HH. In fact, once you've seen the HH on that night, don't forget to go back to the flame and spend some time on it - it's really cool. I think Iain pointed that out in a post before. I was so obsessed with the horsehead, I didn't stop to appreciate the flame nebula which is more engaging anyway. The HH is cool though once you've clocked it! Also if there are other faint objects in the area, if you can see the HH then it's of course a good night to see those too. Personally, I find the Cocoon nebula harder than the HH, I still can not say 100% I have seen the Cocoon! The Hb filter will come in handy for other nebulae too. All the visual DSO crew here on SGL helped me with advice, especially Iain and Gerry, John and a whole load of other people Iain - mine have calmed down temporarily! I have to do stuff when I get the chance, it's not easy, haha. That's good advice on M1, it's directly observable, but still fairly faint, a good warmup before B33 to get into the groove. It figures police show up with a torch when looking for the HH! Maybe they got a tip-off I'm looking forward to the HH again, but we've had some nice weather lately.
  9. Hi Steve, Lots of good info above and good idea to think ahead for this one. The HH was a biggie for me so I spent a lot of time planning. Looking back at notes/reports, November 29th last year was the first time for me. It was something I had been really wanting to bag. I saw it a number of times between Nov and Feb, conditions permitting. Even once through binoviewers! There's a long-winded report here on that under deep-sky observing. I used both a 12" and a 20" dob with either a 17.5mm Baader Morpheus or 27mm Orion flat edge EP and Astronomik Hb. With the 12" dob under 21.5-6 SQM I could just 'detect it' for fleeting glimpses until eye fatigue won and I stopped. I never saw it with direct vision. The 20" dob under 21.85+ SQM - bang, right there, but still a very, very dim scene, you have to let it soak in with excellent dark adaptation. Preparation: - I used Stellarium on a desktop PC in 'ocular view' with a 17.5mm Morpheus to get an exact FOV through the eyepiece, and I think this tool makes a big difference. Keep Alnitak well out of the FOV when thinking about EPs and FOV. Alnitak is way too bright. - Stellarium is very, very handy. You'll have to manually enter your scope's aperture and focal length, and manually enter all the specs for the eyepieces you want to try on it, but once you do this, the scope and EPs will be in your Stellarium 'ocular library'. A fun tool. - Again, I wanted Alnitak completely out of the FOV. It's very bright. I try not to even look at it on the way to the HH. - I also downloaded several good astro photos of the HH and surroundings to learn the stars to hop from. - Remember if using a dob, things will be upside down. - Good call on the Astronomik Hb filter - that's what I use. - Weather - try for a night when the Met Office, FLO Clear Outside and Ventusky are all in agreement for clear skies, as you'll have to make a fair journey for dark enough skies. - Dark skies, dark skies, dark skies. A somewhat educated guess, partially based on sites I have seen it from - at least 21.5 SQM, preferably 21.6 or more. I have tried numerous times under 20.3 SQM at home with a 20" dob and never felt like I was even close. Don't know your range, but pick the darkest place you can find within an hour or two of home unless you're really lucky on location!! Car parks for hillwalkers are a fav of mine. Make sure you can park there, perhaps visit in advance. Nothing worse that driving half the night and find it's rubbish or not accessible! Garsdale/Garsdale Head in the Yorkshire Dales shows 21.76 SQM and looks potentially the best spot nearest to Burnley. Viewing using every trick (I know) in the book: - Carrots help boost rhodopsin. Probably overkill, but I eat half a carrot a day as soon as I see a weather window approaching. - On the day, avoid bright lights if you can, especially LEDs and intense direct sunlight before heading out on the big night. Wear sunglasses in the daytime, etc. - Know the time of night (using Stellarium again) when the HH is highest in the sky. Closer to zenith = less atmosphere to deal with and that bit darker skies if you are unsuccessful early on in the evening. Even ten degrees higher makes a nice difference I think. - Dark adaptation! No phones, no nothing for at least 20/30min. I even cover the red LEDs on my power supply. I also wear a hood and I consider it an absolute must for maximum contrast. Get comfortable and have fun. - Keep several different focal length eyepieces to hand so you can quickly swap without fuss at the scope if one doesn't work for you. I don't know what scope you are using but yes, exit pupil around 5mm is a good starting point. - The immediate area of HH is really easy to find, but knowing exactly where to look will add a great deal of confidence and eliminate potential frustration and head-scratching, driving home wondering if you really saw it or just think you saw it (note - speaking personally here!) The photo below is what I use. Dropping down from Alnitak, there will be a pair of stars, a gap, then two sets of two stars. Draw an imaginary line from star 1 to star 2, and the HH will fall inline about 1/3rd of the way between them. I will try and update this, I've more to add, but I've a wife and two kids screaming at me for the past 20 minutes while I type and I have to take a break. Hope this helps.
  10. This is brilliant, thank you very much for writing all of this up! I'm on a tight budget at the moment, so trying hard not to make any fundamental mistakes on purchases. There will likely be enough other mistakes or wrong turns along the way... We are on the same page with the primary mirrors. I'd start smaller than 12" but since I have the 300p, I'll try for that. Perhaps a bit ambitious, but we'll see I suppose. I didn't even think about the smell of pitch - that could be a big problem at home. I'm lucky enough in that I have a JSP respirator from metal working and sandblasting, and bought some replacement P2 cartridges before they were wiped off the shelves back in early March. They are hot items these days, can't believe the prices. All the tips on dental ceramic and tools are excellent, especially the spray bottle, that's something I'd find out the hard way in the middle of grinding no doubt. The measuring tools will be another thing to hunt for online and something to ponder for a while. There was actually a mirror grinding machine on ABS a while back, wasn't terribly expensive, but looked like it had a few hard miles on it. I like the sound of the gin-powered test stand build! Again, can't thank you enough for writing all of this. I just need to take the plunge and order from Stathis on Monday. I have realised this is an itch that is not going away. I hope you are able to get yours sorted in time for autumn, I'm not setting any hard, fast timeline for mine, but I'm hoping to move fairly quickly on it when everything is lined up. All the best for now - I'll keep an eye out for updates here
  11. Oh wow! Excellent, thank you very much, please drop me a line when you're sorted, no rush of course. Loch Rannoch and Glencoe must have been amazing though harsh weather at times, I like those sorts of conditions though. The midgies are one thing I struggle with, get a bit of a reaction! Your scope will be tremendous under those skies as you are no doubt aware. My good spot is in the Cairngorms, but it will be late August at least before I'm taking the big dob back out to the countryside. I would love to be able to set it up somewhere near home on a farm or estate perhaps. Thanks as well for the info on the Nexus! Work has been quite slow so that would be on hold anyway. Hopefully things pick up soon and hope you find another place near Rannoch. A friend inherited a small family cottage near the Skye bridge, I always let them know how lucky they are!!
  12. Hi there, looking good! I've been wanting to try mirror grinding since last winter, but never took the plunge. I also made my way to Stathis online. His prices seem good. My end goal is to make a very large mirror someday perhaps. Someday... Since I already have a 12" SW flextube dob, I was thinking about making a 12" f4.9 or f5 copy, so I could just swap out mirrors for star tests etc, and not have to buy a secondary mirror/build another complete dob etc, until I was sure it was right optically. Then if I got it right enough to put into action, I could perhaps fabricate something like a 12" travel dob etc. Could I please ask off the back of your hard-won knowledge - any tips on what to buy from Stathis or what you would do differently regarding materials, tools or testing equipment? Wondering if I need 2x 12" blanks, or if I could get away with using a smaller blank as a tool, perhaps an 8" even. I'd buy his grinding and polishing supply kits as well. I have a good digital caliper and lots of drill bits, but that's about it. No optical test bench etc. I have an air compressor and angle grinder etc and lots of hand tools/air tools. I read glasspusher's excellent thread as well, but need a refresh. Good luck there! Looks like you are on track
  13. BVs are great, aren't they? My best lunar views hands down are through my second hand WO binoviewers. They're not generally well regarded for DSOs, but I viewed M51 with them a few days ago under moderate light pollution and even saw the horse head nebula with them through a large scope under very dark skies late last year. I started with the 20mm 66deg WO eyepieces and later added 25/32/40mm pairs of Revelation plossls. Enjoy!
  14. I've had the Baader 36mm and now own the 31mm for f5 and f4 dobs. They do have a bit of blur around the edges in fast scopes. I'm happy with the 31mm for what I use it for, mainly a finder ep, but if you are looking for a really high quality EP in this range that doesn't break the bank, the hot one to get apparently is the APM 30mm UFF (ultra flat field) for 199euro or c. £175. The 30mm APM is tested down to f4 and suitable for fast scopes. I've currently three APM eyepieces - the 9mm, 13mm and 20mm 100deg XWAs. I would rate them against TV Ethos, having owned the 13mm and the 21mm) and I absolutely love them. I have not used the 30mm APM, but the reviews I've read are all glowingly positive about this eyepiece. When I go to sell the Baader, it will be replaced with the 30mm UFF. https://www.astroshop.eu/eyepieces/apm-eyepiece-ultra-flat-field-30mm-70d-2-/p,60560
  15. Have a look online at the 'suncalc' website and equally 'mooncalc', both really handy. Best viewed on a pc or laptop. I use those two frequently.
  16. Hi Miguel, it does, but it seems that perhaps an hour each side is still dark enough for a quick look through the scope. I'm near Aberdeen, so fairly far north. Last night we had 1.5hrs astro darkness, but after this moon phase, that will be gone until late August here! I'm still going to try over the summer, but only with the smaller dob and binoculars.
  17. Dark Sky Osprey (DSO) love it! Sounds like a good location there on the border. Last night was end of astro darkness, but I did notice a week ago with the unihedron I was still getting largely the same reading an hour after astro darkness was supposed to end, so perhaps I'll be able to view a little over the summer.
  18. Hi Nigel, Omegon also sells these as the 'Pro Triton' and both are on the Astroshop EU website. I looked at them last year and they were immediately very appealing, but the reviews are not very good, seems they had some real problems with the beam splitting mechanism and the inner aperture is quite small, 19mm I think. I'd be interested to hear if anyone on SGL has them, and what they reckon? I looked for the review on S&T but couldn't find it. What did S&T make of them?
  19. They certainly look nicely crafted but don't know anything about them. If you go for one, I'd see if you can get the 1/8pv 96% reflectivity supremax 'professional' mirror option listed on their website, a 413EUR option, that would set it apart from the mass-produced 14" dobs, otherwise it just seems a slightly expensive dob for that aperture. In the mass-produced world, the SW non-GOTO flextube is £675 cheaper and the 350p GOTO is £105 cheaper, though the light weight of the Taurus might make all the difference in being able to use it more and the high-end optics option is quite appealing. The build quality looks a step up form your average mass-produced scope. I'd definitely check reviews, but I'm intrigued myself. Let us know what you find out? PS I see they make a 24" T600! Hmmmm...
  20. I don't think there is really a specific type of scope for asteroids or comets, but if you have the ED80 for imaging and want something for visual, then aperture is your friend as Jonathan mentions. Some people like refractors, but far as I know, they don't go beyond 150mm aperture without spending an insane amount of money. I've owned a number of dobsonians, and most will agree they give by far the most aperture for the money, are super easy to use, and you can view many of the fainter, more difficult DSOs like nebulae and galaxies as well as asteroids and comets. They will do planets as well, so a dobsonian is a good all-rounder except for astrophotography. A 10" dob (254mm aperture) is more or less the standard for deep sky. I have the 300p 12" (305mm) and 500p 20" (508mm) Skywatcher dobs and can't fault them for the price. The 12" SW flextube dob to me is very portable, some might say it's too big, but the 20" is also portable (for a 20" dob, though a workout!) and gives some mind-blowing views under dark skies. You can't go far wrong with a 10" dob, especially for price, and if it's not your thing, then you can always get most of your money back out of it, but they are very popular for a good reason and will show you a lot of deep space objects, plus you can easily take it to a dark site if you drive and really let it show you what's up there.
  21. At 'the ranch' various sites say 20.65 to 20.70, but I've never seen it over 20.42 with the SQM-L and that's with all local business lights off which is highly unusual. 20.20 to 20.35 is as good as it gets, unless it's an exceptional night. Beyond home, I have code names for my dark sky sites (I know, I know...) Dark Sky Charlie is c. 21.4 and is only about 20 minutes away, the difference from home is massive. Like doubling the aperture. Dark Sky Bravo is c. 21.55 to 21.60+ about 35 minutes away, brilliant. Saw (or 'detected') the HH through the 12" dob there without much fuss. Then there's 'Dark Sky Alpha', which I've only been able to measure once. It was 21.85, but I'm sure it would easily crack 21.90 on some of the nights I've been there. It's dark enough there you can easily detect light on the horizon from an urban area 75 miles away. Therefore home is a bit of a struggle compared to what's relatively close by, and once the businesses open back up (they were closed before the outbreak) then it's pretty much game over for visual from home.
  22. My mantra is 'It's easier to beg forgiveness than ask permission' It's worked out well, I have so much stuff now cluttering everything up, I just say I sold something else which easily covered the cost of whatever just came through the door, and no one can tell for sure. PS I am a guy with several of those mirror on the bottom scopes, they are great for really faint DSOs, but am looking at a refractor now for imaging. It won't be as nice as yours however. The Tak is a beauty.
  23. Glad to hear it's up and running, as they say. Also good to hear it's going to live under dark skies! These larger aperture scopes are amazing under dark skies. I'm 20.20-20.45 at home, pretty meh most of the time, and the difference with taking the 20" to my 21.85 site is worlds apart. Like doubling aperture and the sky background is so much darker with more contrast. Are you thinking about selling the Argo/Servo? I wonder if it would fit my 300p flextube. Was thinking about adding a Nexus system to that.
  24. Thanks all. I need to refine the alt/az bearing system, just a matter of finding the right size bearings and perhaps nylon shims etc online. It's relatively crude looking at the moment, but I kind of like the look. Want to add spacer sleeves so the binoculars are away from the forks more, but they don't rub as it is. Nothing comes in contact with the paint of course. I thought about adding counterweights, etc but will try to avoid that to keep it uncluttered and free of snags from walking around it at night. It actually doesn't need counterweights, it's that solid. I'm sure it could easily hold any size refractor as well for a super duty alt/az mount. I've been wanting a 'cheap' 152mm achromatic to try out any way. More to come!
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