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We have a fledgling Astronomical Society at my place of work and we're intending to have some telescopes available for colleagues to view the transit of Mercury in November. While the majority will use appropriate solar filters it would be good to have at least one set up for projection. However, we only have reflectors and Schmitt or Maksutov Cassegrain scopes among the members. I was considering buying a small refractor second hand to use for this but thought I'd ask for advice here first. Which is the best type of scope to use for projection? What do we need to look out for (overheating & fire risks for example)? What is the best umbrella to protect kit from the inevitable deluge on the 11th November? Thanks Mark
I thought that a Helios 10x50 review may be useful to others and I had occasion to buy 3 pairs of budget astro binos (two as gifts), so took the opportunity to run a comparison for the benefit of others tonight, after they arrived from FLO and there were finally clear skies tonight. I've done no daylight terrestrial testing. I tried to run a 'Semi-blind' comparison by unboxing in a dimly lit room, ignoring packaging and immediately taking all three binoculars outside, to compare in the dark as objectively as possible, noting and ranking as I went. There was initially mediocre seeing, with intermittent to heavy high cloud cover, followed by full cover and then clear, good seeing for a while (Kemble's cluster, M52, NGC7789 etc) and then heavy cloud cover again. Obscured, low 1st quarter moon, which rose and later outcompeted stars in the south Sky. During the first minute of observing, it was a fairly quick process to separate the three instruments into order of my own preference. I tested and noted usage individually and then compared against each other, finally coming inside to identify which model was which, in the light. Initially, early evening, the quarter moon was the obvious target, partially shrouded by cloud. Then a greater number of stars, in between high cloud, followed by terrestrial tests on distant streetlights across the town, and hills with isolated houses on the horizon. I followed this with a close focus test on a garden led solar lamp and later returned to a clear sky for slightly deeper observation, before it clouded over. Final Rank (my preference): 1: Helios Naturesport-Plus 2: Helios Weathermaster III 3: Helios Fieldmaster Specifications are from FLO and, apart from what I paid, plus weight (an interesting comparison of manufacturer's quoted weights v actual), I've not checked other specs, but simply repeated what's on FLO's site. For info, I weighed without eyecaps etc and the manufacturers seemed well off (I checked my scales). 3: Helios Fieldmaster (£49.90) Quoted: 5.5°, 180mm, 825g (I weighed these at an accurate 845g) Small and light, making them very easy to handhold. Really good high friction rubberised texture over the entire binocular. Push on tripod bush cover. Overly heavy central focuser (moving 'backwards' to me: clockwise to get closer), with a tiny 'slop', it felt a little difficult to get diopter and focus right in the dark. Eye relief ok (although, unusually, I folded the eye cups down to get my eyes a little closer - I believe I got a better image this way) . Noticeably high internal reflections, especially terrestrial lights or lunar viewing. Not particularly sharp or defined at edges. Easiest to hold, but least rewarding night time viewing, not quite so robust feeling as the other pair, however great value for money (considering it's £30 or 60% cheaper than the Naturesport). 2: Helios Weathermaster-III (£69) Quoted 6.5°, 190mm, 890g (I weighed these at 960g), "waterproof/fogproof, nitrogen filled") Larger and a little heavier, but still relatively light. Again, fully rubberised body but much less nice grippy texture than the cheaper Fieldmaster. Central focus not as stiff as with the Fieldmaster - and easier to operate and find focus (but 'backwards' to me: clockwise to get closer). Right eye dioptre adjust smooth and just the right resistance. Tripod bush cover (labelled 'Bak4') stiff to begin with. On use, feels larger in the hand, less stable than Fieldmaster, but with better image quality: a noticeably wider field of view, with better light transmission and greater contest. Better edge to edge viewing with a overall good 'feel' to the image. 1: Helios Naturesport-Plus (£79) Quoted 6.5°, 170mm, 790g (I weighed these at 930g - significantly different). Small, feeling solid & robust, a rubberised body; not as grippy as Fieldmaster, but more than made up for with a very grippy thick rubber ridged band across the centre, knurled central focus knob with a medium action. Dioptre adjustment is a strange twist ring, which I'm not convinced has a fell range on the model I received, I may check this with FLO, but i's fine for now. It has Twist-up eyecups, although I prefer deep eyecups for astro to block out stray light, they work fine and I'll get used to them. They were on a par with the Fieldmaster for their size / feel, but felt easier to hand hold because of the rubber banding. On viewing, they were immediately and obviously the most rewarding binoculars: a crisp, clean, immersive view of star fields, with best light gathering / transmission, contrast etc. I don't know the eye relief or exit pupil figures for these, compared with the Weathermaster, but they felt easier on the eye. Image was sharp (sharp enough for me) to the edges. I'd like to compare against the Apollo 15x70 another night). Back to night sky viewing examples: The Moon looked good in the Fieldmaster, through passing cloud there were occasional good patches and it was overall a nice view, with insignificant Chomatic Abberation (I thought less than my Apollo 15x70, but I didn't have them to hand to compare just then. The Weathermaster was better again, brighter and showing clearer views of the terminator and higher relief on the mare. Naturesport pipped the Weathermaster again, with an even brighter image, with best contrast. By far the brightest, clearest image of the three. Kemble's cascade (follow from Beta Cassiopeia > Epsilon Cass for same distance): fair viewing in the Fieldmaster, although a little dim. Good in the Weathermaster, brighter. Much crisper and illuminating in the Naturesport. NGC7789 - off beta Cassiopeia. I found it in the Weathersports as a clearly visible light nebulous patch, but which was dimmer and less obvious in the Fieldmaster (which also lacked the FOV to see this in best context), but clearer again in the Naturesport, which provided the best view. M52 - a dimmer version of NGC7789 in this sky tonight (find it by following on from A>B Cass). I saw an indistinct smudge in the Fieldsport, noticeably brighter in the Weathermaster and, again, best in the Naturesport with a milky 'cloudy patch' against a deeper contrast of dark sky with a greater number of pricks of light in higher relief. Plus the Naturesports were better to edge with a significantly wider, richer, star field than the Fm, marginally better than the Wm. By contrast, all of these (I know from experience but didn't compare on the night), are better viewed in the heavy Apollo 15x70. However, it's extremely difficult to handhold the heavy Apollo's but quite possible to handhold any of these 3 models of 10x50s. This portability is their joy. Close up tests (I didn't test closest focus as I'm not interested - plus it was dark) 1) distant streetlights 1/2 mile to 1 mile: again, it was easiest to find focus in the Naturesport, plus it's clearest to the edges and with better resolution. The Fieldmaster had less contrast and a significant distracting glare / reflections from. The Weathermaster have a solid performance only marginally less good than the Naturesport . 2) Garden solar led 15 metres away: even more polarised with the internal reflections from the Fieldmaster. The other two had less to separate them. Naturesport are easier to use, feel significantly better built, plus with a better optical performance than the other two models. On a relative level, they're 60% more expensive than the Fieldmaster. On an absolute level, there's only £30 difference… and it's easily worth it. However I'd buy a rigid carry case for all models. Only choose the Weathersports if you need their weatherproofing / ingress protection. All pairs appear to be well collimated (certainly closely enough for me not to notice any imperfection or eye strain in this short time). Only after coming back in did I look at boxes, cases and accessories and, as could be expected, they varied a little in quality with the extremely inexpensive Fieldmaster and more expensive Naturesport having slim neckstraps, the Weathermaster's was padded, wider, more comfortable, but (although the only one branded Helios) both this and the Fieldmaster had thinner carry bags than the Naturesport. Irrelevant at this stage anyway, because I would fairly quickly find a protective case for any of them. I was surprised that there was so much variation in their boxes, packaging etc. The Weathermaster reminded me of a Swarovski Optic box and the Naturesport looked less impressive than the 'premium' branding on the box (until you use them). Conclusion: unless you also need it to be weatherproof, or longer life for some reason, I don't see a reason to bother with the Weathermaster-III because only a £10 difference separates the, from the £79 Naturesport. However, at £49, the Fieldmasters are certainly worth considering as a budget bino. If you don't own any binoculars and want to spend very little, go for the Fieldmasters… or upgrade to the Naturesport for significantly better optical performance and night sky views. As assumed, I'll keep the Naturesports and give the other two, perfectly capable, pairs away to friends as presents, along with a tripod and Binocular Astronomy book each. I know that they will both get a great starter set of collimated Astro Binos. I do have some photographs of them all together which others may find useful in future. I'll do that tomorrow. For nnow, apart from going to bed, I'd like to compare agInst the Helios Stellar II 10x50 (£149, 6.5°, 185mm, 1150, "waterproof, nitrogen filled")… that's definitely for another day. Night all.
Hi. I am new to astrophotography and want to start using an eyepiece camera with my Celestron eq130. Can anyone recommend a decent camera for a small budget, say £50. Also, do these type of cameras just fit into the telescope, or do they fit into a Barlow lens ??
Hi Stargazers, After a lot of work and help from the great Damian Peach I managed to get some really good images of Jupiter Mars and Saturn despite a total spend of just £100... and I made another bonkers Astrobiscuit video about it which I hope you enjoy. Mr Peach really helped me pick my nights to image and the other big surprise was how good the canon 600D is at planetary. All comments/ advice/ criticisms most welcome...
Zero budget astrophotography... I thought it may be interesting for people wanting a super lightweight and easy to set up form of astrophotography that costs next to nothing. I've taken these three shots with my mobile phone through a pair of cheap binoculars using an ordinary tripod (it belonged to my wife's grandfather). The intergration time for each was only a few minutes. Orion: 157 x 1 sec Andromeda 300 x 2 sec 7 sisters 120 x 2sec I've made a VIDEO of the method and the surprising adventure I had taking them which you can watch here:
Hi folks, this is for the budget AstroPhotography lovers or extremists. Please comment! This picture is one of several attempts and was taken a while back (October 2011) with a Nikon D3100 on a tripod and I recently decided to re-process it after I found out how to nicely play with the histogram in Adobe Lightroom (Since I moved to an apartment just after I bought my scope, all I can do ATM is reprocess my old experiments). Cannot recall the exact settings at the moment, but they should be as follows: - Nikon D3100 on a cheap tripod - Sigma Telezoom 70-300 at 100 mm - Aperture: F/5.6 or more - ISO 800 or most likely 1600 - 15" seconds exposure or less Given the low magnification, star trailing is not showing much. Playing with the histogram in Lightroom allowed me to darken the background getting rid of an orangish gradient / noise caused by the public low pressure lights (see following pic), and to highlight the nebula itself. Noise or I guess hot pixels are showing everywhere in the photo but overal I'm happy with it as it shows that you can see and appreciate what's up there with just few seconds of exposure and without any special equipment worth astronomical prices. Can this be improved any further? The following is the original version I published on Flickr, that is just a JPEG conversion of the original raw file. Any comment / advise will be appreciated. All my pics (including non-astro) can be found on My Flickr Page. Clear Skies