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Ships and Stars

The Veil and a 'glowing' North America Nebula

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Due to very strong winds, I left the dobs at home and took a quick binocular trip to darker skies last night  - 21.19 SQM according to the Unihedron (LP map says 21.50...), not exactly world-class, but decent enough to see the Milky Way quite clearly. I couldn't go to my normal 21.7 or 21.9 spots due to cloud cover, but was thrilled to see dark skies once again. Think February or early March was the last time I saw the Milky Way.

This is a mix of a brief observing report and binocular 'trials'. It's by no means a detailed report or product review, but I did a quick running comparison between several pairs of bins on this outing - my trusty cheap and cheerful Celestron Cometron 12x70s which punch well above their weight,  the all-around wonderful Pentax WP 20x60s and the astro-champs, the Helios Apollo 15x70s with filter attachments.

Also along for the ride were a pair of Helios Quantum 20/40x100mm observation binoculars and my massive 'Kraken' scaffolding tripod, but the wind was absolutely howling a steady 30-35mph - even more on high ground to the point I had trouble standing at times - and in the end I didn't set it up as I already had my hands full with the three other pairs.  

I've had the 12x70 Cometrons for a few years now. Despite some poor comments out there online, I absolutely love mine as they are light and offer excellent wide-angle views, even with glasses. If the true aperture is reputedly less than 70mm, I can't tell!

The Apollo 15x70s and Pentax 20x60s are relatively new additions, as are the 20/40x100 Quantums, and I've been itching to give them a proper run under dark skies post-lockdown.

Last night's highlight was the East Veil and especially the North America/Pelican nebulae using UHC/OIII filters on the 15x70s. The NA/Pelican were absolutely alight through the filtered Apollos, just buzzing with energy and full of contrast. The North America nebula in particular just looked like it was battery-powered, situated against an inky-black background. Electric!

The Astronomik UHC filter proved a perfect match for binocular viewing, offering a bright, high contrast image over unfiltered views. The OIII was a bit much for the modest aperture, though it did really isolate the East Veil. Overall, the view though the 15x70s framed everything around Deneb, etc brilliantly. I'll have to pick up another 1.25" UHC so I'm using UHC with both eyes, though mixing filters does provide its own unique aspect as the brain combines the two images. 

If you've never seen the entire North America nebula or Pelican though UHC-filtered binoculars under dark skies, may I humbly suggest you put it on your must-see list!

The difference between unfiltered and filtered was massive. I've only seen bits of both it and the Veil through a telescope, albeit with more detail, but never soaked up the entire view at once. Widefield binocular vision is wonderful if the sky darkness is there!

Again had some excellent filtered views of the Veil with the 15x70s bins, but was pleasantly surprised to also see the east Veil without filters in the 12x70s, 20x60s and 15x70s, with hints of the west veil and Pickering's Triangle considerably fainter, going in and out of vision.

I also had a nice long look at Andromeda through all three. Somehow, the lowly Celestrons offered the brightest view of Andromeda, closely followed by the 15x70s, but here the smaller aperture and higher mag of the Pentax had a slightly noticeable dimming effect, though they are no slouch either and all three have their own style. In fact, the unfiltered views of the East Veil were brighter in the 20x60s than the Celestrons. This back and forth difference suggests there's a lot more going on here with various binoculars in regards to exit pupil vs surface brightness/contrast when viewing extended objects.

For astronomy, the 15x70s ruled the roost last night. They come into their own with the filter attachment which sets them apart from the others, but be warned, these are some robust, heavy binoculars. They weigh around twice as much as the Celestrons, despite being roughly the same dimensions. 

I didn't use a tripod or any support all night - a good workout ;)

The Celestron 12x70s continue to amaze me for the money. Maybe I landed an exceptional pair, but they provide wide, crisp, contrasty views, are comfortable with great eye relief for eyeglass wearers and are light. True sky-cruisers. Wish they had filter attachments!

The Pentax are superb do-it-all binoculars for terrestrial and astronomy. Excellent Pentax build-quality and optics, plenty of magnification, central focus, light and compact with a ton of eye relief. They only have a 2.2deg FOV, but in action this quickly becomes clear it's not a deal-breaker.

There was more planned, including the California nebula with Hb/UHC but I spent a long time on the Veil, NAN and Andromeda, then high cloud started creeping in, along with fatigue, as I did quite a bit of driving to find some holes in the cloud here.

More head to head binocular testing with this lot in the near future, vs the 20/40x100 Quantums (David and Goliath? Could be interesting?), hopefully under 21.5+ skies with much calmer conditions.

bino shoot-out.jpg

Edited by Ships and Stars
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19 minutes ago, Ships and Stars said:

but was pleasantly surprised to also see the east Veil without filters in the 12x70s, 20x60s and 15x70s, with hints of the west veil and Pickering's Triangle considerably fainter, going in and out of vision.

The power of binocular summation at work!

There really is something to this and youve tapped the resource, excellent observing Robert :thumbsup:

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15 minutes ago, jetstream said:

The power of binocular summation at work!

There really is something to this and youve tapped the resource, excellent observing Robert :thumbsup:

Thanks Gerry, as you say, binocular summation does wonderful things. Firing on all cylinders, so to speak. I used to think an OIII filter was more or less mandatory to see the Veil, but there are so many other factors, i.e. magnification, surface brightness, FOV, contrast etc that come into play. After last night, once you know what to look for, I think any old decent pair of unfiltered binoculars would show the East Veil under dark enough skies.  

I can't wait to try the 100mm Quantums now under dark skies. I modded filter attachments for the 20x eyepieces, but still need to do the 40x EPs, though I might leave those for now as the exit pupil is much smaller at 40x. 

This will be interesting, as setting up the Quantums with my DIY scaffolding tripod requires roughly the same amount of effort as setting up my 300p flextube, though I can leave the tripod outside as it's fully galvanised and no one is desperate enough to steal something that cheap and heavy 🤣

So at some point, it's a widefield battle between the 20/40x100s vs the 300p flextube with binoviewers 👍 You'd think the 300p will run away with it, but who knows? 

 

Edited by Ships and Stars

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1 minute ago, Ships and Stars said:

So at some point, it's a widefield battle between the 20/40x100s vs the 300p flextube with binoviewers 👍 You'd think the 300p will run away with it, but who knows? 

My experience with binoviewers on nebula shows up the beam splitter's effect that  reduces brightness in the eyepiece ie the false exit pupil idea. On lunar /planetary this is not a concern and can be a benefit IMHO. Based on this I believe that the 100mm binoculars will outperform the 300mm/binoviewer set up, of course I could be wrong and probably am wrong lol!

True binocular summation, with no prisms involved (binoscopes) gives much to the observer only hindered by the fact the binoculars are Achromats? this could be an issue but most likely not, depends.

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1 minute ago, Barry-W-Fenner said:

Great report and enjoyable read SAS.

 

baz

Thanks Baz, it didn't go quite to plan with the location or weather, but still an enjoyable night. Found a new observing spot as well with good views all-around, pretty sure it's public access, though I need to knock on some farmhouse doors and confirm this!

 

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4 minutes ago, jetstream said:

My experience with binoviewers on nebula shows up the beam splitter's effect that  reduces brightness in the eyepiece ie the false exit pupil idea. On lunar /planetary this is not a concern and can be a benefit IMHO. Based on this I believe that the 100mm binoculars will outperform the 300mm/binoviewer set up, of course I could be wrong and probably am wrong lol!

True binocular summation, with no prisms involved (binoscopes) gives much to the observer only hindered by the fact the binoculars are Achromats? this could be an issue but most likely not, depends.

Yes I think the results will be interesting. I'll try this at home with the 300p and obsy bins first unless I get a chance to head out again soon, but thinking the binoviewer vs binocular thing might surprise me.

Edited by Ships and Stars
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Good idea to focus on taking your collection of binoculars Robert on a dark sky trip that is otherwise too windy for anything else. Interesting comparisons made between the different pairs and of course the capability for filtered observing. An exposed windy night with binoculars, it's in the spirit of J M W Turner, who had himself lashed to the mast of a steam ship, for four hours, during a snowstorm so that he could complete his work. Not exactly comparable to that extreme, but in the spirit of determination. Those wide field views of nebulae including dark nebulae are engaging, when enabled to observe more of the expanse of their formation.  My last dark sky session also involved using binoculars though with the comet. Hope you gain a chance to take one of the dob's out next time - as do I, fingers crossed for later in the week. Yes actual SQM readings give a true indication to conditions at a specific place and time.

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1 hour ago, scarp15 said:

Good idea to focus on taking your collection of binoculars Robert on a dark sky trip that is otherwise too windy for anything else. Interesting comparisons made between the different pairs and of course the capability for filtered observing. An exposed windy night with binoculars, it's in the spirit of J M W Turner, who had himself lashed to the mast of a steam ship, for four hours, during a snowstorm so that he could complete his work. Not exactly comparable to that extreme, but in the spirit of determination. Those wide field views of nebulae including dark nebulae are engaging, when enabled to observe more of the expanse of their formation.  My last dark sky session also involved using binoculars though with the comet. Hope you gain a chance to take one of the dob's out next time - as do I, fingers crossed for later in the week. Yes actual SQM readings give a true indication to conditions at a specific place and time.

I'll have to read up on this Turner chap, sounds like my kind of guy (edit- ah, THAT Turner, yes, sorry, I could see him doing that!). The wind put paid to any thoughts of setting up a dob. It would have spun around in circles, as my 300p base is set with minimal tension on the azimuth.

The binoculars were definitely the way to go. You can hide behind things from the gusts ripping through! Determined astronomy 🤣 

The NAN is one of the first objects I viewed through a telescope, but in hindsight I think most of the time I looked right through it and don't think I used a UHC at the time as I was using a 2" EP. The UHC really makes a huge difference under good skies. Last night it was like a painting - lots of aperture is great, but you lose widefield views and miss out on some of the best sights I think. Also seeing both east and west veil with binocular vision is something else. I'd like a tripod for that next time so I can study it in more detail.

The SQM varies and the night was still relatively young so perhaps more lights were still on. I wasn't far off a town a few miles away and it's built up a bit more, slowly  but surely, as has the general area. I took running SQM readings as I approached home (the roads were empty!) and it was interesting to see the readings slowly drop. It actually remained at 20.9 SQM until I was within a few hundred metres of town which was nice to see.

Thursday night is looking potentially like a winner. No moon, clear skies forecast across the NE and little to no wind. Hope the midges have moved on...

 

Edited by Ships and Stars
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For zenith objects I enjoy lying on the ground, saves the neck and more protected against the wind.

always good to get real SQM data, though new LED lights might give some errors.

 

peter

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2 hours ago, Ships and Stars said:

I'll have to read up on this Turner chap, sounds like my kind of guy (edit- ah, THAT Turner, yes, sorry, I could see him doing that!). The wind put paid to any thoughts of setting up a dob. It would have spun around in circles, as my 300p base is set with minimal tension on the azimuth.

The binoculars were definitely the way to go. You can hide behind things from the gusts ripping through! Determined astronomy 🤣 

The NAN is one of the first objects I viewed through a telescope, but in hindsight I think most of the time I looked right through it and don't think I used a UHC at the time as I was using a 2" EP. The UHC really makes a huge difference under good skies. Last night it was like a painting - lots of aperture is great, but you lose widefield views and miss out on some of the best sights I think. Also seeing both east and west veil with binocular vision is something else. I'd like a tripod for that next time so I can study it in more detail.

The SQM varies and the night was still relatively young so perhaps more lights were still on. I wasn't far off a town a few miles away and it's built up a bit more, slowly  but surely, as has the general area. I took running SQM readings as I approached home (the roads were empty!) and it was interesting to see the readings slowly drop. It actually remained at 20.9 SQM until I was within a few hundred metres of town which was nice to see.

Thursday night is looking potentially like a winner. No moon, clear skies forecast across the NE and little to no wind. Hope the midges have moved on...

 

Yes that Turner 🎨. Thursday night is actually what I am looking at currently to, midges yep hadn't factored them in, will determine location (nowhere close to Kielder) and a breeze, but are steadily I think beginning to diminish down here.

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31 minutes ago, scarp15 said:

Yes that Turner 🎨. Thursday night is actually what I am looking at currently to, midges yep hadn't factored them in, will determine location (nowhere close to Kielder) and a breeze, but are steadily I think beginning to diminish down here.

The midges seem to be easing here, fingers crossed. Now Wednesday and Thursday nights are looking clear and I may have picked up a two or three day job not far from my fav dark site. I am plotting this evening! Haha...

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18 hours ago, PeterW said:

For zenith objects I enjoy lying on the ground, saves the neck and more protected against the wind.

always good to get real SQM data, though new LED lights might give some errors.

Yes agree, often easier to get comfortable on a foam mat or lounge chair for the overhead views than setting up a tripod. A P-mount might be an exception, but I've yet to invest in one of those. 

I do wonder (worry?) about LEDs, they irritate my eyes now even outside of astronomical pursuits. When viewing, I'm usually quite far from any artificial light sources. Miles away, but I suppose that light can filter upwards and travel some distance nonetheless. I can detect glow from Dundee/central belt on the horizon some 60-70 miles away at my really good observing spot. My goal is to make it over to the west coast of Scotland this year, but getting the clear skies there may prove very tricky. I'd almost need to be ready on short notice when a weather window appears. 

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It’s the near horizontal light that rattles bout and spreads its fingers into the countryside. Shield well and the spread should be less and you’d save petrol money.
Angles bins also avoid the need for a P-mount.

Peter

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Thanks for the wonderful report. Very enjoyable read ... I've looked at a pair of those Pentax 20x60s a number of times and look forward to hearing more about them and how they compare to the others...

The only problem is, the pair of 11x70s I have been using were borrowed and had to go back... So reports like this get me thinking...

Mark

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On 18/09/2020 at 22:38, mark81 said:

Thanks for the wonderful report. Very enjoyable read ... I've looked at a pair of those Pentax 20x60s a number of times and look forward to hearing more about them and how they compare to the others...

The only problem is, the pair of 11x70s I have been using were borrowed and had to go back... So reports like this get me thinking...

Mark

I really like the Pentax for all-around use, they're great in the daytime as well and are small and light in comparison to the Helios. Much smaller and lighter, but still substantial, if that makes sense!

I'm hooked on the Apollos for their filter threads however - my TeleVue Nebustar II filter arrived and I finally got to try it last night with UHC on the other side under 21.64 skies. The E & W Veil were easily in the field of view and Pickering's Triangle was very faintly visible - more dark adaptation would have probably brought that out more.

But if you don't find and Apollos, it's still possible to hold some filters up to the eyepieces, so any decent binoculars will do! I plan on keeping my low-end Celestrons, they've been great.

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