First Light Report: Sketching with TriCo Sky Window
and 16x70 Fujinon Binoculars
Equipment used: TriCo Sky Window with the â€œgoldâ€ level mirror; Fujinon MT-SX 16x70 4 degree FOV binoculars
Conditions: hot and hazy; 90 deg F; a few wispy clouds
My eyes: 20-40 at best with mild stigmatism; Iâ€™m not young in body
Sketch link (referred to in the text several times):
After observing Ronyâ€™s (a fellow sketcher) success using binoculars with a TriCo Sky Window and binoculars and in view of our requirements, we obtained a Sky Window and the 16x70 Fuji binoculars from another CN member who was not using them much. Our first light on June 7 2008 was a test for itâ€™s suitability as a paired system to observe wide field and sketch.
Assembly of the Sky Window is a no-brainer and operation is nearly as simple. The pieces fit together in an obvious manner; all machining is excellent; moving the optical quality mirror itself is easy; center of gravity is low; 3 feet are beefy and rubberized so they grip as well as damp any vibration. We are not binocular experts by any means but we know the reputation of these Fujiâ€™s. As far as attaching them to the Sky Window: it is quick and easy. (Nearly any binocular can be fit; it only requires the proper length adapter that can be ordered from TriCo.) Portability of the whole setup is excellent (one of our requirements) and the nominal height of the set up permits one to look down even if you are short (my wife is â€œheight disadvantagedâ€) IF the table surface being used is low. You can put it on anything really, but the price of the gadget and binoculars means something stable ought to be used.
Finding things is not hard--even without a laser pointer. We did not use one, but know it can be easily incorporated with the company-made laser holder (an extra) that only has to be adjusted in elevation). We just eyeballed the front line of the window to be orthogonal to the object then changed the mirror angle in elevation until we found the target. Left and right movement (azimuth) means rotating the Window assembly (metal base). It is also easy as one can grip the nearest left and right points on the base to make a slow rotation while peering through the binoculars. This means star-hopping techniques are relatively simple in a localized region of the sky. I can see the process will get quicker as I get a little more practice.
Sketching with the Sky Window is a treat. Of course, the field is wide with a binocular; your eyes are nearly at the same angle as a sketch pad placed on either side of the Sky Window. These two things alone mean that body and eye movement is minimal and you donâ€™t lose any concentration fooling with equipment issues. While it was a hot humid night for our test run, condensation was much less than what we experience with a C8 telescope. If there is condensation, a quick pass with a hair dryer to get rid of any moisture ought to fix the problem. Fundamentally, disciplined observing and sketching is made easy for wide field two-eyed viewing.
After a brief orientation, I raced for the moon that was setting behind the first ridge of hills before the Blue Ridge Mountains. The wide field and low power view made a delightful scene as the moon set below the highest tree line (see the sketch link). Mars and the moon were well within the FOV.
After laying out the moon sketch I flipped the chair around to the opposite side of my small table to hunt for M13. It took me just a few minutes to get oriented and find it (getting accustomed to inverted view using the Sky Window, the FOV of the binoculars, and star hopping by rotating the Sky Window base as well as changing the mirror angle). I could see Mag 6.5 to 7 stars with my older eyes that have a slight stigmatism because I found the â€œboxâ€ NE of M13 and captured it (see the sketch). On a better night (it was hazy and hot) I probably could have resolved a few stars but even without resolving them the cluster was a nice little snowball with a relative magnitude that made sense. I checked the Sky Atlas 2000 with my sketch today and found things as they should be for the stars I had located.
I star hopped to M92 in just a few minutes and sketched it. Itâ€™s magnitude and size compared to M13 seemed right on. Using averted vision (remember that mine is not that good and it was hazy) I could see the two closest stars to M92 very faintly winking in and out. I briefly went back and forth between the two objects to compare but also to get a little practice.
Bottom line: nice system set up. Rony is correct: it is a great sketching base. It should be very good for wide field viewing parts of the sky while requiring minimal body positioning and movement. It makes studying/sketching/note-taking under wide field conditions extremely easy and portable with no tripod, scope, or power requirements.
A detractor: my eyes. Binocular views for me, while delightful, mean I have to get my eyes in exactly the right position and they cannot be tired. Fine focus for the Fujiâ€™s is not that easy for me. Bright objects tended to be elongated in orthogonal directions on either side of focus and one eye acts a little differently than the other. My single eye performance is a little easier. But if my eye position was perfect for me, the view made up for the trouble. Glasses donâ€™t help. All of this takes away a little bit from the value of the system, but the wide field at low power makes up for my limitations. So, if someone that might have similar vision limitations, they might find the same thing. I donâ€™t think it has anything to do with the binoculars. My wife found it a bit easier to see things in good focus than me but her eyes are better than mine also.