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My First Light and I'm hooked!


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With some great advise from this forum, I have been saving up for a nice pair of Oberwerk 10x50 Ultra's. In the meantime I purchased a heavy duty tripod (which i wanted for my camera anyway), and set out in earnest learning the night sky with the help of Stellarium and Turn Left at Orion.

Earlier this week I happened to stumble across a garage sale and bought a broken pair of "broken" 15x70 Celestron Sky Masters for $5. The owner told me they had a double image. It seemed to me one of the objective lenses wasn't screwed in properly. With some effort I was able to unscrew the lens and noticed that the washer underneath was slightly bent. I straightened it and screwed back together. A quick search here led me to a thread about collimating binoculars. A few turns of one of the set screws and voila! Now I have no frame of reference but they looked fairly well aligned to me during the daylight using a distant fence as reference. 

Tonight I finally had a chance to use them on a clear night (new moon).  I live in a fairly rural area, and even thought last night was not completely dark (i'm not sure any night during the summer is?) but I was able to just make out the milky way with the naked eye. First I tried to handhold the binoculars, but I couldn't hold them steady no matter what I did - although I did enjoy the double star near Vega while lying on my back. So I mounted them on my tripod. This was really my first night with binoculars or aided stargazing, so I started with what I knew I could find easily, Andromeda. As soon as I found the great grey smudge - I was mesmerised. Yes I know it doesn't look anything like HST images, but here I was with my (almost) free binocular rig looking at a galaxy 2,000,000 light years away! I enjoyed it for some time - maybe 30 minutes or so. I believe I may have see the faintest smear of M110  - is this possible with binoculars or was it just my imagination from using Stellarium too much??

I decided to search for M23 and M25 open clusters, since these have a four binocular rating from Turn Left at Orion.  I began my search at Antares (what a beautiful colour through binoculars!!). It didn't take me very long to spot both M23 and M25. I found M23 particularly fascinating to inspect. Actually I swept the entire portion of the sky between Altair and Antares for a long time, as I found it just beautiful through binoculars! I also located M22.  I did also get a quick look at Saturn, but couldn't see much except maybe titan nearby? It was very bright though. Unfortunately an overcast layer cut my night short - but maybe that's a good thing as I do have to sleep at some point!

I wanted say thanks to all those who've pointed me in the right direction here. I also wanted to yell at them for getting me into a hobby I'll no doubt spend unreasonable amounts of time and money on - at least from my wife's point of view!  :grin:

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I wanted say thanks to all those who've pointed me in the right direction here. I also wanted to yell at them for getting me into a hobby I'll no doubt spend unreasonable amounts of time and money on - at least from my wife's point of view!  :grin:

Sounds like a great night out! I've only just dipped my toe into the world of Bino observing. Couldn't believe how much I could see!

On the cost and time front. As hobbies go, it doesn't have to be expensive, a good session under the stars is free and you can do it while the family are asleep! I play golf. £100 a month fees, 3 or 4 balls @ £3.50 each every time that I play, weeks of negotiating with local government if I want to swap in 6 hours of family time to play on a weekend.

Provided that you can stay awake. Astronomy seems to tick a lot of the boxes.

Or, if you like gourmet optics or fancy some serious DSO imaging, scrap all of the above!! :)

Paul

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Had a few more nights observing now. Bins are holding up OK! I'm starting to learn the sky pretty well - Stellarium has been fantastic to help plan my viewing sessions.

Last night was great. A good 5 minute flyover from ISS as it passed over W-NE - couldn't really make out any details in the 15x70's and the moon was still quite high in the sky at this point. Fantastic views of the Perseus Double Cluster last night! I followed it most of the night as it rose in the north-northeast. Managed to also grab a quick look at M34, although I have to admit I kept coming back to the double cluster because the view was so rich. As the night wore on the views became better and better!  As a result, I stayed up quite late and waited until after the moon had set  (02.30) and caught my first look at M45. This is the first time i've seen the Pleiades with anything but my unaided eyes. WOW,  Can't wait until it rises higher in the sky to get a good look on a dark night. It was very low in the east. Thanks again everyone for the encouragement and advise! :smiley:

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Back to the Double Cluster: from the CAS end, there is a couple of strings of stars going off to the north, connecting it to a stick-man figure, Stock 2, aka "The Muscleman Cluster", so-clled becaus eof his posture (as he rips the strings of stars off the PDC)!

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  • 3 weeks later...

Nice report :smiley:

I have just moved to a rural part of Northumberland in the UK and on my first clear night bagged M33 with my 10x50s.

I now feel very lucky moving from very polluted to very dark skies and just looking up and seeing the Milky Way in all its glory :icon_eek:

Mark.

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Moving from a city to the country is what sparked my interest in stargazing; especially the view of the MW!

The biggest difficulty has been keeping moisture and dew off my lenses. As it turns out the free celestron 15x70s have a more serious problem - one of the metal spring tabs that holds a prism in place is not secure and they go out of collimation with any rough handling. They need to be opened and the prism repositioned on almost a nightly basis!

In frustration I ordered a pair of 12x50 Pentax PCF II for  the measly $130 I had saved. They have been a pleasant surprise. To me they seem easier to focus, have a sharper image and just look/feel far more robust than the Celestrons. I've had some decent dark nights leading up to the new moon. My general routine is to look at Saturn/Mars and the Saggitarius DSO's early in the night from my front yard (faces S and W) and then moving around to my back deck (faces N and E) to have a good look at the DC as well as the "muscle man cluster" which Steve mentioned. Managed to find the Comet Jaques passing CAS. Couldn't see a tail, but a fairly well defined nucleus with an conspicuous cloud surround.  It was great to keep checking it's position - I used http://theskylive.com/c2014e2-tracker.

If up late enough I get to catch sirius and M45 rising in the east. Haven't made it late enough to see Orion yet - I need to sleep sometime!! Biggest struggle has been keeping dew/condensation off my lenses and staying warm as the nights are getting quite cold.

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 Biggest struggle has been keeping dew/condensation off my lenses and staying warm as the nights are getting quite cold.

Re Dew: I have an article in Sept S@N on making dew shields for binos. Essentially bits of cheap, thin exercise mat with velcro stitched onto it. Very effective.

Re Self: This thread is pretty useful.

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Nice report. Astronomy is rewarding from naked eye to HST. I am also fascinated but the region of the sky close to the Scorpio constellation. There is a lot to take in. Beautiful star colour contrasts, fuzzy objects and the Milk way. $5 is a very cheap ticket to the Universe. \:)

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Try the Double Cluster in Perseus a bit later in the season.

Great advice. I had first light with my first "proper" pair of binoculars last night and the double cluster was a definite highlight. It was truly beautiful - so much richer than when I've observed at low power through my 9" Newt.

I'd be interested in what others have to say about how the visibility of M110. I thought I'd glimpsed it in my 20x80s, but when I referred to the star atlas later it suggested that M110 was to the north slightly; the smudge I'd convinced myself I could see was just to the south.

Paul

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I'd be interested in what others have to say about how the visibility of M110

In binoculars, I find M110 to be easier than M32 to identify. That's probably because its size makes it more obviously a galaxy and it's against a slightly darker background. With the added magnification of a scope, I find M32 easier, probably because of its higher surface brightness.

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  • 2 weeks later...

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