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alanjgreen

9 June - Night Vision helps the Borg blow the Sharpless catalogue wide open!

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Posted (edited)

Date: Sat 9th June 0020-0215       

Scope: Borg 89ED f6.7 (fl 600mm) on SkyTee-2.   Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS.

Eyepieces: 55mm (f3.2 x11), 35mm (f5 x17)

Filters: Astronomik 6nm Ha CCD.

Introduction

We are now into June and up here in Penrith that means no darkness and about an hour of “deep dusk” before the sky brightens once again from 2am onwards. To the North the sky never goes dark at all. This creates about a 2-hour observing slot where at least I can see the main constellation stars to enable me to use the red dot finder to align the scope to something in the sky.

 

Start Low…

I had the 55mm Plossl and 6nm Ha CCD filter loaded together with my PVS-14 Night Vision Device (NVD) attached to the eyepiece with the TNVC/Televue afocal astronomy adapter. This turns my Borg into an f3.2 scope with a magnification of x11. The NVD provides a 40 degree field of view (fov).

I’ve had three sessions on Sagittarius since late May and last night after an initial alignment on Antares and a pan around the low summer targets (Lagoon, Triffid, Swan, Eagle) revealing that wet sky conditions low down were rendering the view inferior to previous sessions, we had had heavy rain around 4pm and the sky still remained in a wet state.

 

…Then Aim High!

I decided to re-align to a new target area of the Milky Way around Cygnus (higher in the sky).

I used the red dot finder to align to Deneb and started to move down using the SkyTee-2 slow-mo controls until I found the North American nebula which was bright and showing its whole structure. It was just slightly bigger that the fov of the eyepiece so I had to use the manual controls to investigate. I discovered a whole wispy section moving off the north side of the nebula that I did not know was there.

Having spent many years looking at these targets with much larger scopes, it’s hard to really comprehend how easily they are seen with tiny aperture when you add Night Vision and a decent Ha CCD filter into the equation.

Sitting to the left of the North American was the Pelican, the vertical streak of its “beak” was clearly visible alongside two other straight sections, and it looked like an “F” rotated at 45 degrees to the right. There was plenty more nebulosity on view but this basic “F” shape kept catching my eye. At the edge of the fov I could see a curvy section just off to the left of the Pelican (IC 5068) and centred it to observe it. IC 5068 appeared brighter than the Pelican and seemed to make the shape of an “opened palm of a hand that was holding the Pelican in place in the sky” :)

Next, I opened the clutches of the SkyTee-2 and changed to “nudging” the scope by hand to see what other shapes I could “discover”...

Below the North American, I bumped into a “backward C shaped nebula” (near 68 Cyg) which was almost large enough to fill the fov (Sh2-119). This nebula was less clear than the others observed so far but still easy to see.

I headed back to Deneb to start a pass into Cygnus. As I found Deneb, I immediately noticed three spread out patches of nebulosity, two were small and circular while the third was a longer streak of nebula (Sh2-115 & Sh2-112). I panned right into Cygnus. Wow, there is just so much nebula! I ended up doing a “grid sweep” style manoeuvre with the scope as I panned and stepped my way down through the Cygnus region. The star attraction was the thick black lane section around Sadr which was bright and beautiful. But there was so much more nebulosity than “just this Sadr bit!” The clouds of shape was varying in brightness and density and the size of the area covered was HUGE. Sh2-108 stood out brightly.

At one point I happened upon the Crescent nebula, it was pretty small but bright and showing the full curve (at x11) around three bright stars.

Now it was time to head left over to the Elephant Trunk and Sh2-131. I returned to the North American nebula first then used this to get my height correct as I panned left and eventually straight into the sh2-131 nebula. It appeared as a large fuzzy “brain” to fill the whole fov. The centre section was much harder to see and appeared as a “dark hole within the surrounding fuzz”. I could see several black lanes coming and going within the nebulosity and used the nearby Garnet star to try to orientate myself with Sky Safari. I do not believe that I saw the Elephant trunk within the nebula but there was plenty of darker “black bits” at other locations within sh2-131 (using a mirror diagonal was also adding confusion to my brain! [I hope to get it later in the season when I get the 20” mirror and NVD onto this target]

I panned up from sh2-131 looking for Sh2-129 (Bat wing nebula). It was easily located but was pretty faint compared to some of the other nebula that I had picked out so far.

I panned down from IC1396 and located Sh2-132 which appeared as a bright patch of nebulosity.

A quick look at Sky Safari revealed that the Cave was nearby so I used Sh2-132 as a marker to pan left over to the Cave (sh2-155) and soon bumped into it. I have never seen the Cave region with such low magnification before so the view was hard to recognise! The nebula was a nice size within the fov but there was so much nebulosity that I found it hard to see “just the usual bright bit”. There was a “clear dark side” to the nebula but the nebulosity’s appearance was more of a “cloud” or “cauliflower”. I tried switching to the 35mm for more magnification but the loss of focal ratio caused some of the brightness to be lost.

By now, it was starting to get light and the sky was brightening, I decided to head for the Bubble nebula. I can only imagine how tiny it must be at x11 as I never managed to locate it!

It was time to pack up. I returned to my eye piece box to discover standing water on top, the dew was really bad!

 

Sky Safari Flight Path

Here are some screenshots from Sky Safari with my observing list highlighted

3.jpg.7885642d43750e3dc80cff8f1ff1f401.jpg

2.jpg.f212a4e702e550bd5bcf30ba5e2fb745.jpg

1.jpg.590e5254076fcd1111ad9dd95994948e.jpg

 

Conclusions

Writing this report has been a discovery in Sharpless objects! Most of those mentioned in the report are new to me and I have had to spend time using the internet just to find the names for the objects that I observed.

It is clear that there must be very few nebula beyond the reach of NV (if they have a Ha component that is) and I am looking forward to getting my big dob onto some of these tiny faint Sharpless objects (for some increased NV magnification).

However, it seems Sky Safari do not expect anyone to see these objects as it’s been a real pain to find the names this morning. Looks like I need to “search” for each Sharpless in turn and add them to an observing list to get Sky Safari to show them, a job for the next rainy day.

 

Clear Skies,

Alan

Edited by alanjgreen
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Nice report Alan, getting some great results despite the light nights!

I don’t think this totally solves your problem but may help.

If you do a search for Sharpless in SkySafari then it shows (on my version) 228 objects. You can then turn this into an observing list. If you then go to observing lists and select the one you’ve just created, you have the option to highlight those objects which will show all the Sharpless objects in the catalogue held by SS. It seems some that you viewed are missing but at least it shows all that are available. Might be useful.

AF9ADE5F-7D76-4BAA-988B-5288D06A7708.png

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Great report, when I grow up I want night vision! :)

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Great report Alan, you getting the most out of these grey nights with the help of your NV.

Nice objects.

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Great report, Alan. I bet you never imagined you’d be working your way through Sharpless objects with the Borg while the big dob sat in the shed!

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15 hours ago, Littleguy80 said:

Great report, Alan. I bet you never imagined you’d be working your way through Sharpless objects with the Borg while the big dob sat in the shed!

Ha Ha Ha, you're right :) 

Still Big Dobs chance will come once the Milky Way swings around a bit more to be better placed from the shed.

Main thing is that (1) cooling is no problem with the Borg and (2) I can get down to the southern horizon easily too, for instance last night I managed to pick off M6 for the first time with night vision, it was small but clearly a Butterfly! M7 was stuck low behind my shed so probably need another month before it clears it to pick that off.

Shows that one scope is never enough...

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54 minutes ago, alanjgreen said:

Ha Ha Ha, you're right :) 

Still Big Dobs chance will come once the Milky Way swings around a bit more to be better placed from the shed.

Main thing is that (1) cooling is no problem with the Borg and (2) I can get down to the southern horizon easily too, for instance last night I managed to pick off M6 for the first time with night vision, it was small but clearly a Butterfly! M7 was stuck low behind my shed so probably need another month before it clears it to pick that off.

Shows that one scope is never enough...

Nice one. Good points. It was definitely easier to get lower down with my old scope on the tripod compared to the dob. I’m still hoping I can get M6/M7 in the dob though.

I read a really interesting article recently that put forward the idea of one eyepiece and multiple scopes. Change the scale but keep the exit pupil the same. 

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Ask Santa for a copy of.... 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Astrophotography-Sky-Atlas-Charles-Bracken/dp/1517687802

the NV users skychart (apart from the reflection nebulae). Cygnus has too much nebulapus fluff in. Pity you didn’t get across to ngc7822 /ced 214 in Cepheus, rarely ever mentioned even by imagers.

cool stuff, seems like you’re a convert now!

PEter

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      In terms of filters, I’ve tried a few, but now seem to have settled with a 6nm Ha astronomik for nebulae and a baader 685 ir pass for stars, galaxies and clusters. I have 2 inch filters to attach to the bottom of the 55mm plossl and 1.25 inch filters to attach directly to my pvs-14 for 1x and 3x viewing using adapters from rafcamera.
      Why did I decide to try NV?
      Use of NV vision technology is very rare in the UK (I know of only two other users) due to ITAR restrictions and difficulty of getting NV tubes good enough for astronomy. However, fortunately, the other user of NV tech in the UK is also a member of my local astro club, so I was able to use some kit before I purchased mine. His tube uses an older green tube and does not have manual gain, and I found the scintillation distracting, but I could see the benefits. So once I found a European supplier for the white photonis 4g tubes I decided to go for it and I’ve been delighted with the results. I think for someone who usually observes from a LP area, NV is a real benefit since it expands the types of objects you can see so much. Its really reinvigorated my observing.
      Before getting my NV kit, I was a strictly visual only observer. However, when I ordered my tnvc adapter from the US, I decided to go for the tnvc photo adapter and televue fonemate as well since it was available as a package deal from tnvc. My brief thoughts on this is that this would allow me to potentially keep a photo record of the objects I observe (both with and without NV) that I can refer back to over time, without taking notes or sketches at the eyepiece. I am not a talented artist (in fact art was my worst subject at school!) and I don’t have the inclination for note taking at the eyepiece. So the idea of getting a file of iphone images over time really appealed. I have an iphone 7 that I use with the fonemate adapter.  I have also recently received the newly launched Samsung S9 which has better low light performance and, in particular, is able to do a full 10 second exposure (unlike the Iphone which is limited to less than 1 second).
      Pros and Cons of NV and NV phone photography
      The main advantage of NV astronomy has, for me, been the ability to see many more objects from my LP back garden than previously. It shows bright stuff better (with some exceptions, see later) and it shows some previously invisible stuff such as the horsehead nebula. Seeing difficult to see objects has been a real thrill for me. NV is best on emission nebula, using a suitable Ha filter. However, I’ve also found it provides significant benefits on globular clusters and galaxies using a 685 IR pass filter.
      In terms of disadvantages, NV is a bit more cumbersome in afocal mode than a normal eyepiece (but no more really than a heavy 2 inch eyepiece) and NV is not suitable for planetary, lunar or double star viewing. So I still need my normal eyepieces for these. Probably the main disadvantage for me is that it is tricky to get high magnification views with NV due to the focal length of the NV monoculars being around 26mm the requirement to keep the f ratio reasonably fast on most objects. Typically on nebula I operate at around 10x to 50x and for galaxies and globulars maybe push it up to around 90x. Higher than 90x in my largest 11 inch scope results in the image quality breaking down due to the high f ratio.
      Before getting the fonemate adapter, I had tried to take the occasional iphone photo, but with little success. I struggled to get the iphone at the correct distance from the lens and completely level so the photos were not satisfactory. When I received the fonemate adapter in December, this all changed, suddenly taking phone pictures was very easy. It was this ease of use that got me hooked on taking a record of my observations and I immediately wanted to improve the quality of them by experimenting with camera apps.
      I’ve been delighted with the output from my phone. I know that my photos are not going to win prizes but they provide an easy visual record of my observing and I get a lot of pleasure from taking an attractive image. I’m also beginning to learn some basic photography techniques such as iso control. The adapters to attach the phone to the NV device are a bit fiddly and it adds a bit of weight to the eyepiece setup, but other than that, I think this approach is easy to use and convenient.
      My experience
      I’m very new to NV, having only received my NV monoculars in November 2017. But I’ve been so impressed, that virtually every clear night I’ve had since, I try to get out and do some NV astronomy. Its been quite a steep learning curve, but quite soon I had managed to capture an ok photo of my key initial target, the horsehead nebula. From there, I expanded into other objects I hadn’t heard of before, such as the rosette, monkeyhead, heart and soul, California and cone nebula.
      In terms of learning experiences, I’ve found that my images either come out grey, in which case they are a bit washed out, or if I set the iso lower, they come out an attractive (in my opinion) dark blue and have better contrast. With practice, I’m gradually improving my technique. 
      It also became quickly clear to me that have a range of different aperture scopes is required to get the right image scale for each object. I now use a 72mm refractor, 160mm refractor and an 11 inch SCT (the C11 was bought just for NV on galaxies). In contrast, I use less eyepieces, my key ones being the 55mm and 32mm plossl and the 18.2mm delite.
      Some examples of my photos (all unprocessed) on different types of object are as follows:
      Horsehead nebula – iso 1700, ½ 15 seconds (nightcap), iphone

      Rosette nebula – iso 1700, ½ x 15 seconds exposure (nightcap), iphone

      Monkeyhead nebula – iso 200, 10 second exposure, Samsung s9

      Needle Galaxy, iso 50, 10 second exposure, Samsung s9

      California nebula, TEC160, iso 50, 10 second exposure, Samsung S9

      M13, C11, iso 50, 10 second exposure, Samsung S9

      Phone adapter
      The televue fonemate adapter is straightforward to use. You loosen the locking nut, centre the phone camera lens over the hole in the middle, push the adjustable rods so that the phone is held tightly in place and then lock the nut again. Then the fonemate uses a dioptrix fitting to attach to the custom tnvc adapter which then locks onto the eyepiece of the PVS-14. The first time I used it I was all setup in a couple of minutes. It’s a solution that works well and is sensibly executed.
      Conclusions
      I’m still a newbie to NV observing and I’ve got a lot still to learn. But I’m having the most fun I’ve ever had since I started astronomy 5 years ago. Just being able to see the horsehead nebula clearly with direct vision in my back garden in London has made it for me.
      However, the real surprise is the NV phone photography. This element was meant to be secondary (I have no interest in astrophotography), but the ease of use coupled with the great results has been amazing. I’ve really enjoyed sharing my photos with friends and family and I’ve got a nice visual record to look back on in the future.
      The next steps for me are to get to a dark site at new moon and see what impact this has. I’m also really looking forward to the late summer nebulas. Roll on the Veil!!!
      Moshen Chan, known on CN as Moshen
      Background
      I live in San Francisco, just three miles away from downtown. Light pollution maps put me in a white zone. Naked eye limiting magnitude is generally no better than 4.0. Doing any kind of visual observing beyond the solar system objects and the brightest Messiers in my location requires a minimum of one hour driving to reach a green zone.
      I’ve had an interest in astronomy since I was a kid and while growing up I’ve owned a few small refractors and a small reflector (Edmund Astroscan). The largest aperture scope I own is a Celestron 9.25” SCT. I’ve had it for over a decade and have used it in my backyard in San Francisco for planetary imaging and visual. It gets out to darker skies when I bring it on camping trips but its mostly been used in the backyard working within the limits of the light pollution. After a few years I found I rarely did any observing because dragging out the scope, tracking mount, counterweights, dew shield, dew heater, battery and waiting a few hours for the scope to cool-down wasn’t worth the effort given what I could view in the city. 
      It wasn’t until I added a 4” APO refractor coupled with a light alt-az mount and a fast cool down that I found casual observing fun again. It was much easier to carry everything out and back in with one trip and required no planning for thermal cool down. The only problem was an even more limited reach from the much smaller aperture. Having some previous background in astrophotography I discovered the EAA (Electronically Assisted Astronomy) forum that promised the appeal of observing deeper in urban skies with less of the hassle of astrophotography. Through that forum I learned about those who were doing real-time visual observing with the help of military grade image intensifiers.
      Investing in NV
      While I was researching the experiences of those using night vision image intensifiers I also discovered they were very expensive. These aren’t digital devices which follow the advances and declining costs of silicone chipsets over the years. Instead, they’re extremely complex and hard to produce analog devices and costs have generally remained the same over the last decade with only performance specs increasing over the years. When I discovered all the advantages and versatility in use cases these presented for astronomy I decided to make the investment. I had hopes of combining the advantages of small easy to use refractors with the effective reach of a much larger scope in dark skies along with the convenience of observing from home. In addition to using the NVD as an eyepiece I could also use it at 1x and 3x with small lenses, a setup that can fit in my jacket pocket.
      My equipment
      I currently have three scopes, a 4” refractor (Takahashi FC-100DF) 5” refractor (Astro-Physics 130GTX) and a 9.25” Celestron SCT. My night vision device is a L3 un-filmed white phosphor tube in an AB NightVision Mod3 body.
      I generally run the image intensifier eyepiece with a 2” 0.5x reducer and a 1.25” filter wheel. The filter wheel contains a 610nm long pass filter, 645nm long pass filter, 6nm Ha filter and a 2x barlow modified to fit in a filter cell. This allows me to quickly switch between different filters as well as the ability to quickly double the magnification. I’ve found the filter wheel to be a huge convenience as you can experiment with how different filters and magnifications effect the view.
      I’ve switched from a GEM mount to a light alt-az mount for visual use. All three scopes are able to mount on a Stellarvue M2 alt-az mount modified with DSC encoders from Astro Devices on top of a 5 series Gitzo carbon tripod. The entire setup with the 4” refractor, filter wheel, NVD, mount, tripod and Nexus DSC weighs only 26 lb out the door.

      The Night Vision Experience
      The first nights out with the night vision device I used it as a 1x monocular with the 1x objective (Envis lens). I used a 1.25” 645nm long pass filter in front of the 1x Envis lens to block most of the light pollution. The views that I got in my backyard with just a 1x lens were incredible. Because there was no magnification I could comfortably keep both eyes open but while one eye was seeing the typical bright San Francisco sky with only a few stars visible, the other eye through the night vision device was looking into a star field as rich as I’ve seen it from some of the darkest locations I’ve ever camped. I could see down to 8th magnitude stars and M33 (Triangulum Galaxy) was a direct vision sight. This turned my typical Bortle 9 (Inner-city sky) into Bortle 1 (Excellent dark-sky site).
      By attaching a standard military surplus 3x night vision lens over the Mod3 monocular I was able to get the three major open clusters (M36, M37, M38) in Ariga in one field of view. And by knowing exactly where to look even all three members of the Leo Triplet galaxy group were spotted. By using a 6nm Ha filter I’ve gotten near photographic views of the Rosette, California and Orion nebula along with stretches of Barnard’s loop. All of this in a device that could fit in the pocket of a jacket.

      Mod3 monocular with 3x afocal lens attached
      Some of the most experienced night vision users have estimated a doubling of aperture (at minimum) when a telescope is combined with a night vision eyepiece. From my urban white zone skies I found this to be a very conservative estimate. For example globular clusters that were a faint smudge in my 9.25” SCT were bright and fully resolved in my 4” refractor. Similarly, galaxies that were averted vision targets in the 9.25” SCT were visible with direct vision in the 4”. I think a lot of this has to do with the huge gains in contrast when light pollution is nearly completely filtered out with long pass filtration. I felt like I was getting the combined effects of the doubling of aperture and the gains in contrast one gets when viewing from dark skies.
      I remember one night sweeping through the Virgo galaxy cluster with the 4” and seeing the field of view littered with tiny galaxies. I found it incredible that not only was I doing it in real time from my backyard but I was also seeing down to 13th magnitude galaxies with only 4” of aperture.
      Markarian’s Chain, 4” refractor, iPhone X - 2.3s, ISO 160

      iPhone Photography
      I’ve been an amateur photographer for many years and have done some astrophotography in the past. Astrophotography is probably the most technically demanding form of photography that exists and doing it well with any amount of proficiency can require a huge time commitment. I started seeing the results of a CN member (Gavster) using his iPhone to take photos through his night vision eyepiece with great results. Some of the photos looked like traditional eyepiece sketches that represented the view an observer would see instead of the typical astrophotography images with detail and color that’s never visible to the eye. Where as astrophotography was a complex activity and one that’s usually mutually exclusive to visual observing, taking quick photos with a phone camera seemed simple and complimentary.
      I decided to get the Orion SteadyPix EZ Smartphone adapter. I’ve found it to be a great design that fits a variety of phone and eyepiece sizes. There are four clamps on the front that can be slid for sizing and position. Once the ideal position is found, it includes rubber strips to lock two of the clamps in place. This makes subsequent placement very easy. You only need to slide the phone against the locked clamps then slide the remaining two clamps in place and lock everything together with a knob in the back.
      There is a large knob on top of the device that opens and closes three rubber lined prongs to grip the eyepiece. The design allows for automatic centering of the eyepiece over the camera lens. While it’s not as secure as designs that are designed to screw into the night vision eyepiece, in practice it’s secure enough that I can use it in monocular mode where the entire adapter and phone is hanging below the night vision device.
      Because I don’t use a tracking mount exposures are limited to about 2 seconds before trailing blurs the image. Additionally, if the alignment of the camera and eyepiece isn’t perfect some uneven vignetting or aberrations with stars at the edge of the field of view can be seen. A short exposure also means there can be plenty of noise in the image from the small camera sensor. Unlike traditional astrophotography where great effort is put into making the images perfect, I view phone photography as a casual way to catalog what I’ve seen.  All of my photos are unprocessed and straight from the device and there isn’t pressure to produce the best looking photo. I think they definitely show how much can be seen under major urban light pollution and small aperture telescopes. Even a photo with slightly trailed stars due to too long of an exposure can get the essence of the image and observation across.

      California Nebula, 4” refractor, iPhone X - 5.6s, ISO 2112

      Small aperture scopes can give fantastic views of globular clusters
      M13, 4” refractor, iPhone X - 1.0sm ISO 160

      Open clusters can look sparse and empty with glass under urban light pollution but filled with stars with night vision.
      M38 & NG 1907, 5” refractor, iPhone X - 2.2s, ISO 320

      Because generation-3 image intensifier tubes use a gallium arsenide photocathode that is less sensitive towards the blue range of the visual spectrum objects such as galaxies see less of a boost with these devices. However the ability to filter out light pollution with a strong long pass filter means the gains can still be significant. Despite a small image scale I’ve found galaxies (and especially galaxy clusters) and small refractors to be an excellent combination.
      Leo Triplet, 4” refractor, 2.3s, ISO 160

      Conclusion
      Despite the short amount of time I’ve had my night vision device I’ve viewed more deep sky objects from my backyard in white zone light pollution than I would have ever imagined was possible. The image intensification and ability to filter out light pollution has literally brought the universe into my backyard. The ability to quickly take photos of the eyepiece view without effort or planning has enabled me to start building a library of images to look back as references and to share with others. While many amateur astronomers have given up on the ability to observe at home because of increasing light pollution, I’ve found night vision has given me the dark skies I wish I had with the ease of use of smaller scopes and the convenience to observe right at home.
      Ray Taylor, known on CN as GeezerGazer
      I live in Modesto, the central valley region of California, at an elevation of 82 feet, with a population of 250,000.  This is part of the largest intensive agricultural region in CA, extending from Redding to Bakersfield, more than 400 miles north to south.  My home is in a bright red zone on the light pollution maps and all too often, I am lucky to see the brightest 5-10 stars in the sky.  In winter, our weather can serve up some of the thickest tule fog imaginable.  In the spring, late summer and fall, agricultural mechanization and sometimes wind will raise atmospheric dust to 600+’.   This is not prime astronomy territory and for this reason, I almost never observe from home.  Light pollution is bad enough on its own, but when it is combined with particulate pollution, it makes observing difficult at best.
      I’m almost 70 and have been interested in astronomy since 1970.  I have read Sky & Telescope monthly since 1973.  My first scope was a 90mm Mak in 1987.  Since then, I’ve used and sold many refractors, two SCTs, other Maks, two Dobs, and a Dall Kirkham.  For the past 8 years, my primary telescope has been a TEC 140mm, f:7 APO used with a Baader-Zeiss Prism diagonal which I previously used primarily for planetary and double star observing… less regularly for filtered nebula and open cluster observing.  I built my own portable pier and manual alt/az mount.  Combined weight of the mount and pier is 28 lbs., and they are rigid and smooth in operation with my TEC.  I designed the mount/pier for fast setup because I almost always drive 40 miles from home, where I observe from a green zone, 900’ higher, located in the Sierra foothills, near Copperopolis, CA.  Most often, I observe with a friend & veteran observer at the dark site.   I also observe with a group of seasoned astronomers once a year when we all travel to a dark site for a week of camping and observing. 

      You can see in the below photo that the NVD is no larger than many glass eyepieces.

      Traveling to an observing site imposes its own kind of equipment limitations.  The size of my equipment, and the burden of its weight to load and unload, is of paramount importance to me.  I comfortably handle my equipment, but I want nothing larger or heavier.  I really wanted to observe more from home so in 2012, I purchased a Collins I3, thin film, night vision eyepiece.  In short order, I found it unsuitable for the conditions at home.  Particulate pollution was terrible for the two weeks I had the Collins I3, as almond sweepers were throwing huge amounts of dust into the air in late August; and Sierra forest fires were filling the air with smoke.  My window of opportunity to return the I3 was closing, so I called Bill Collins.  When I explained my situation, he asked me to return it… he said that California’s central valley was known as one of the worst regions in the US for using his NV eyepiece.
      Fast forward to 2016, I began reading reports in the Cloudy Nights/EAA forum about NV and how it was being used so successfully to see more deep sky objects using filters… even under the worst light pollution conditions.  I kept reading… asked questions of those knowledgeable friends in the forum… and talked myself into another NV trial.  I purchased a Mod 3C with a high spec tube, Envis 1x prime C-mount lens and a 3x afocal lens.  I ordered adapters and filters; IR filters at 600nm, 640nm and 685nm to combat light pollution at home, and 12nm, 7nm and 5nm H-a filters to see nebulae.  To use the NVD as an eyepiece in my telescope, it came with a 1.25” nose.  I needed only to unscrew the Envis C-mount lens and screw in the C-mount nose.  Simple.  But to give it a fair chance, I used it almost exclusively at my dark site.
      This time, a whole new window to the universe was opened for me with NV.  My 5.5” refractor acted more like a 9” or 10” refractor.  The NVD with only a 40 degree field of view was so full of stars it was disorienting and it made the views through my Ethos eyepieces look… sparse in comparison.  Even from Modesto, I could see stars, globulars, and sometimes galaxies!  But taking the NVD with the TEC to my green zone made it so much better.  I had never seen so many nebulae.  All I had to do was follow the Milky Way which seemed like an unending parade of nebulae… from Sagittarius past Cygnus, they were everywhere, and, I COULD SEE THEM in real time even at 1x!  One nebula after another, I discovered their names and the form they take in my NV eyepiece.  I often would scan the sky at 1x to see the “bright spots” that would become my telescopic targets.  I looked new ones up later to read about them and see how my NV image compared to long exposure H-a images posted on-line. 
      In late 2015, I purchased the NightCap Pro camera app for my iPhone 5 but did not really use it after initial attempts ended with marginal results through glass eyepieces.  But after using my NVD for about 8 months, I took a snapshot in auto mode of globular cluster M-22 in Sagittarius.  I couldn’t believe that I could take such a cool photo.  I knew at that moment that I was going to learn more about this application and how to apply it to NV.  This image essentially changed my perception about phone photos when used with NV.  It is an unfiltered exposure, taken in automatic mode, hand holding the phone over the NVD eyepiece in my TEC 140.  Meta data reveals that it was taken on August 28, 2017, at my green zone location; the auto settings were ISO-500, 1/4 sec exposure.  Images of stellar objects like M-22 can be delivered in automatic mode with a short, single exposure because they are quite bright in NV.  Below is the photo that changed my perception of astronomy phone photos. 

      I learned the mechanics of photography 50 years ago in college courses and used manual film cameras for much of my career when needed.  But I learned about NightCap one step at a time.  When I started with it, I’d read the tutorial but sometimes did not apply the instructions for a week or more, until my next observing session.  By then, I forgot half of what I needed to do.  So instead, I practiced one setting or one mode at a time.  I’d read and then practice in a dark closet during the day, before I observed that night.  I’m a slow learner with some technology and this app was not intuitive to me.  But eventually, I came to understand it, and now, it seems so simple to me.  By January, 2018, I finally started learning about the Long Exposure mode, but using it required a fixture to hold the phone steady.
      At the beginning of February, 2018, I began using an Orion, SteadyPix Quick smartphone adapter ($25).  It is a universal mount that clamps my phone in place without removing its protective case, and with the clamping mechanisms tightened, it holds the phone’s camera lens centered over the NVD eye lens.  It is made mostly of plastic, except for the screws in the clamps, and it uses neoprene rubber to protect the phone at contact points.  This is a universal adapter, which means it will accommodate any size smartphone and can be clamped to any telescope eyepiece, binocular, monocular or microscope, as long as the top of the eyepiece is cylindrical, with 24-45mm diameter, and not tapered like some Pentax and TeleVue eyepieces.  The top part of the holder is circular and when rotated, closes three plastic fingers against the top of the eyepiece.  When tightened sufficiently, it holds to support the weight of the phone well enough.
      In operation, the device does what it is supposed to, with a few caveats.  When the phone is clamped in the holder, the circular clamping device must be rotated to clamp the whole bracket to the NV eye lens.  This process is a little awkward and care is needed to make sure the eyepiece remains perpendicular to phone as the clamp is tightened. And I often moved the phone off center from the hole that is supposed to align with the camera’s eyepiece during the clamping procedure.  The problem is the small thumbscrew used to tighten the arm that clamps to the NVD; it is small and does not hold the arm firmly enough.  I remedied this shortcoming (photo on R) by making a stout aluminum “washer” to span the wide edges of the arm, giving more surface area for greater purchase, and replaced the small 1/4”x20 thumbscrew with a T-handle knob that provides much greater leverage to tighten the arm on the mount.  This holds the arm more securely and now it doesn’t lose its alignment when attaching to the NVD.  I also drilled the aperture hole 1/32” bigger and chamfered the inside of it.  Since I leave a heavy protective case on my phone, the camera lens sets farther away from the aperture hole, causing mild vignetting.  The aperture hole is now large enough and tapered to prevent vignetting while leaving my phone in its protective case.

      I would say that for $25, my phone bracket is a good buy and it performs OK as is, but with my simple modifications, it is much more convenient to use.  Convenience in use and the safety of our expensive equipment can be priceless in the dark.
      Because my home suffers from both light and particulate pollution for much of the year and because high levels of humidity are sometimes present during the winter and summer, transparency is often below average or poor.  Poor transparency robs NV of performance and it’s not offset by narrow, band-pass filters.  I have come to believe that for NV, “transparency” conditions are more important than “seeing” conditions.
      The power of NV reveals so many small or faint nebula like IC 59 and 63, Gamma Cassiopeia, ISO 2500, 1/2 sec. stacked for 4 seconds.  Do you see IC 63?…the little round smudge on the left forms a triangle with IC 59 and the bright star, Gamma Cass.

      The Bubble Nebula, taken at ISO 3712, 1/2 sec for 4 seconds, do you see the bubble?  The bright spot is at the bottom of the Bubble’s sphere with the bottom and right side of the bubble faintly visible.

      The PacMan Nebula, NGC 281, is very nice in NV; here at ISO 2000, 1/2 sec. for 4 sec.

      The Wizard Nebula, NGC 7380… but I still don’t see a wizard, ISO 3712, 1/2 sec for 4 sec

      Ray’s CONCLUSIONS:
      I have enjoyed astronomy for many years and among the equipment that I have used, I value my NVD as much as my telescope and mount.  NV has made it possible for me to see and to photograph DSO’s that were previously beyond my reach.  I had no idea when I bought into NV that I would enjoy DSO’s, especially nebulae, so much. 
      I have never had the desire to deal with astrophotography and the assembled equipment it requires.  I did try attaching my Nikon D7100 to my NV device using a special adapter… thinking that the results would be superior.  But I found the combination burdensome, time consuming to set up and adding more complication than I wanted.  I gladly resumed taking NV phone photos. 
      I am a visual observer at heart.  Why then, am I having so much fun with NV phone photography?  Because like visual observing, it is really very simple and fast… and it doesn’t disrupt the visual experience because it is so uncomplicated… and, of course, I already owned the phone which I often use with the Sky Safari app!  The images that I’m compiling are going to be used instead of written notes.  I load my photos into my computer, identify them with their common name, NGC, IC, or Sharpless catalogue numbers and add them to an index, so I can find them later.  It is a very fast and visual way to record what I observe.  The meta-data attached to each photo provides the date and location of my photo along with the settings.  If I’m observing many targets during a session, I can photograph all of them… one night I took snapshots of 16 different targets.  It is that fast and easy.
      My phone snapshots won’t win any photo contests, but they are good enough to refresh my memory and are a lot more fun than my written notes… especially when I look at them on a Cloudy Night. 
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