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Stiff Necks and the Zenith

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#1 Tony Flanders

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 09:24 PM

In a recent thread, I challenged user "Sarkikos" to post a photo of himself viewing the zenith using tripod-mounted binoculars from a seated position. He did indeed take the photo and e-mailed it to me, inviting me to start a new thread including it, since the original thread was locked.

As you can see, his binoculars were indeed aimed almost exactly at the zenith. He reports that he couldn't quite get close enough to the eyepieces to see the entire field of view, and the position was fairly uncomfortable. But reducing the angle 10 degrees or so made everything much easier.

I decided to repeat the experiment -- you can see the photo of that, too. I certainly got within 20 degrees of the zenith, and possibly 15 degrees. I continue to feel some neck and shoulder pain as I type this, but I'm pretty sure it will go away by tomorrow. The closest I can get to zenith with any semblance of comfort is about 45 degrees.

My preferred method of viewing the zenith with tripod-mounted binoculars is to tilt the tripod back, turning it into a bipod, as shown in the third frame. In case you're wondering, this is still a lot stabler than a monopod.

The moral is that people vary greatly in how much they can bend their necks. And the degree to which you can bend your neck will probably determine how happy you are with tripod-mounted binoculars. My own experience is that most of the things I want to look at are uncomfortable to view, and some of the things I want to look at are impossible to view.

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#2 Tony Flanders

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 09:32 PM

By the way, you don't need binoculars and/or a tripod to test this. Just sit in a regular chair indoors and see if you can view the ceiling directly overhead.

Alternatively, lie on your belly and see if you can view the wall in front of you.

#3 Sarkikos

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 10:04 PM

Here is a pic of me seated looking at zenith through 25x100 binos mounted to a 501HDV head on a 055XB Manfrotto tripod. I'm sitting on a three-leg fold-up camping stool.

As I told Tony, this is an uncomfortable position. I can't get my eyes close enough to see more than about 80% of the FOV. But I am looking through to zenith, nevertheless. As soon as I point the binos a few degrees down from zenith, it becomes much more comfortable and I can see the entire FOV.

When I was younger, I used to do yoga and weight lifting, including neck curls. Maybe that made my neck more flexible and prepared it for the bino limbo? :thinking:

DISCLAIMER:
Don't try this unless you have everything locked down tight on the mount and tripod. You don't want the binoculars falling down onto your eyes. And please don't try it at all if you've had previous problems with your neck. Maybe you should consult your chiropractor or masseuse first. ;)

:grin:
Mike (Sarkikos)

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#4 Jawaid I. Abbasi

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 10:06 PM

Tony;
Atleast I can not view the zenith comfortably and even at or above 70 degree therefore, I built P-mount for binocular.

#5 Special Ed

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 10:07 PM

Tony,

I like your solution of tilting back the tripod on 2 legs.

I found that viewing objects close to the zenith was more confortable using a p-gram mount. The pic is from Green Bank StarQuest 4. I'm looking at the Sun with a pair of 15x70 binoculars equipped with Baader AstroSolar filters.

Still not real comfortable, though. I prefer to catch objects when they are at an altitude of 40-60 degrees if possible.

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#6 Jawaid I. Abbasi

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 10:08 PM

Mike,
That is very impressive.

#7 Sarkikos

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 10:12 PM

I don't think I'd want to tilt back a big pair of binos like the 25x100's. But that sounds like a good idea for 15x70's and smaller.

Actually, when I take out the 15x70's and smaller binos and I want to look at the zenith, sometimes I just remove them temporarily from the tripod. It's pretty easy to do this with a quick-release plate such as on the 501HDV head.

Mike

#8 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 10:25 PM

The moral is that people vary greatly in how much they can bend their necks. And the degree to which you can bend your neck will probably determine how happy you are with tripod-mounted binoculars. My own experience is that most of the things I want to look at are uncomfortable to view, and some of the things I want to look at are impossible to view.



A friend of mine had a telescope with a 90 degree diagonal so that the eyepiece at the zenith was horizontal. Viewing the zenith was quite comfortable.. :)

I figure that serious tripod mounted binoculars need 90 degree diagonals.

jon

#9 Andresin150

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 10:38 PM

Or a Starchair 3000... Any bino can be mounted there and you can even pass the Zenith accidentaly.... :)

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#10 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 10:41 PM

Or a Starchair 3000... Any bino can be mounted there and you can even pass the Zenith accidentaly.... :)


Looks like it ought to work nicely but that's a lot of stuff to avoid 90 degree diagonals.

Jon

#11 Andresin150

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 10:54 PM

Its just the way it feels that makes it great, I've never used anything near this chair for scanning in absolute confort and total control without any physical effort. But there are so many ways to observe...

#12 charen

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 02:13 AM

I eventually invested in a 100 BT with the 45 degree E.Ps. I got sick of sore necks when viewing, even from 45 degree's upwards was awkward and painfull for me. I need to be comfortable or really it's just not worth it. I know others will have a better pain tolerances but being relaxed is paramount when viewing.
If you are serious about observing the long term investment is well worth it. [I have tried 90 degree B.T.s but prefer the 45 degrees versions].

Chris

#13 Tony Flanders

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 05:33 AM

I found that viewing objects close to the zenith was more confortable using a p-gram mount. The pic is from Green Bank StarQuest 4 ....


That kind of parallelogram mount helps me not at all. It lets you move your chair back away from the tripod, but you still have to bend your neck exactly the same as if you were sitting under the tripod.

My UniMount is another story. Because that allows viewing at right angles to the p-gram arm, it makes it possible to view from a reclining chair in perfect comfort. The downside is that it's more cumbersome to carry around than a mid-sized telescope.

#14 Tony Flanders

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 05:45 AM

I figure that serious tripod mounted binoculars need 90 degree diagonals.


There are two problems with that. First, the practical one. In practice, commercial binoculars with 90-degree diagonals either vignette the light path so that you're viewing at far less than the nominal aperture. Or they are extremely expensive and heavy -- heavy enough so that you need to move up to a different class of tripod.

The other one is aesthetic. Straight-through viewing cuts both ways. On the one hand, as soon as you introduce any kind of support for the binoculars, it's awkward and/or expensive to arrange to do it in complete comfort.

However, it also provides a direct connection between the naked-eye view and the view through the instrument -- something that's conspicuously absent when using a telescope. With a telescope, I flip from one reality to the other; the naked-eye view is disconnected from the instrumental view. With straight-through binoculars, it seems like a natural continuum, as though I'm just cranking my eyeballs up a notch, but still looking at the same thing.

#15 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 05:53 AM

The downside is that it's more cumbersome to carry around than a mid-sized telescope.



:waytogo:

Indeed. For me, comfort and simplicity is near the top of the list. After having owned a couple of pairs of larger straight through binoculars and used them with a variety of mounting schemes, I decided that I would use telescopes rather than binoculars for my low power, wide field viewing.

I am giving up using both eyes but I am gaining a more comfortable viewing position and a more versatile, more manageable package. I am also able to optimize the optics, binoculars are seriously compromised in terms of field illumination, eye piece quality, focal ratios. It's a question one eye having a near perfect view versus both eyes having not so perfect a view.

I am not big on correct image, for astro, the right-left reversal is fine. My dream is that someday I will follow in Glenn's footsteps and build a pair of dedicated astronomy binoculars based on two telescopes with 2 inch star diagonals.

Jon

#16 kenrenard

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 06:38 AM

My neck hurts just looking at the photos. I'm 41 do Yoga, Swim, Bike, and lift weights and I still find looking a zenith uncomfortable.

I guess it just takes some getting used to. I now see how Mike does it he doesn't push his eyes right to the eyecups. Which I know is one thing a did wrong. I still like Tony's idea of using the tripod tilted back.

Ken

#17 Sarkikos

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 10:22 AM

My preference is for the natural view and two-eyed viewing as often and as far as possible. I'd much rather star hop using the same orientation as my naked eyes and star charts.

The 25x100's give me a 3-degree TFOV in natural orientation with both eyes open. This is very nice for locating and observing wide doubles, bright galaxies and nebulae, globs, and open star clusters. One of my favorite browsing areas for the 25x100's is the summer Milky Way from Scutum down through Sagittarius and Scorpio, and over through Ophiuchus. At my latitude this makes for a very enjoyable and comfortable way to spend a summer evening. The winter sky around Orion, Monoceros and Puppis is also wonderful and easy on the neck.

And nothing beats a smaller pair of binoculars for quick grab-n-go views of the sky at any time of year.

But I also realize that there are serious constraints on my preferences. For deeper, more "serious" looks - while still being grab-n-go - I need to bring out the C6 or 5" f/5 Newt on an alt-az tripod. With those scopes, I give up some portability and quickness-of-setup, two-eyed viewing, and the natural orientation, but I gain depth of view, versatility and the ability to look directly at zenith without craning my neck.

Mike

#18 Rich V.

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 11:11 AM

Both of my 70mm binoculars have short eye relief and there's no way I could view like the photo Mike provided with the binos an inch or so from my eyes. For me, about 60-70° neck angle is the maximum I can take. Neck flexibility is a individual thing so we all have differing needs. More power to those who can look straight up!

My trusty old Unimount makes it possible to look through these binos while comfortably seated in my recliner. Yes, it's extra gear but the binos require mounting somehow, so why not make it the most comfortable setup possible to take advantage of excellent binocular optics?

My bulkier, heavier 100mm binos have 45° eyepieces so I can view to zenith with an elevator column tripod and 2-way fluid head while sitting on my Starbound adjustable chair. No p-gram necessary. This setup is grab-n-go!

Rich

#19 ronharper

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 11:21 AM

I lean back in a big comfy armchair with an extra pillow under my back, bracing my head and elbows, steadying the binocular sufficiently up to 12x or 15x, and keeping my neck comfortable while viewing near zenith. (sorry for saying that for about the thousandth time) Granted, the chair itself is a considerable piece of equipment ($140), but it's just a lightweight wicker thing, and lives on my deck.
Ron

#20 Jim Davenport

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 01:34 PM

The marvelous thing about the night sky is that if you wait a while, your object will be away from the zenith. No stiff neck.

#21 rdandrea

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 01:41 PM

My solution to observing objects that are at the zenith is to wait two hours.

#22 hallelujah

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 02:29 PM

My solution to observing objects that are at the zenith is to wait two hours.


:applause:
:waytogo:
:like:

#23 StarStuff1

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 03:42 PM

Then there is always the bino mirror mount where one looks down with the bino. I built one once but it did not work out too well. The reversed image was a little awkward getting used to. My brain said I was using a binocular but the field was "wierd". Actually, I probably could have gotten used to it in a while but the heavy dew that falls here very often was a bigger turn off.

#24 Andresin150

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 04:03 PM

thats what I do when using the Docters with the 501hdv head, zenith is impossible and really not necessary, just wait a few hours...
The chair is just another thing, but I have not take it to darker skies, too much trouble....

#25 Tony Flanders

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 04:06 PM

The marvelous thing about the night sky is that if you wait a while, your object will be away from the zenith. No stiff neck.


You know, it's not really the 10 or 15 degrees around the zenith that's the problem. That's a pretty small chunk of sky.

But I can't view comfortably more than 45 degrees above the horizon through tripod-mounted binoculars -- and even that's pushing it. Sure, I can view higher than that, but only at the risk of being disabled the next few days.

The chunk of sky within 45 degrees from the horizon isn't small at all. And it takes the better part of a night for an object to cross it. And it's the part of the sky with the best viewing conditions.

That's why I usually reserve tripod-mounted binoculars for twilight phenomena like low conjunctions. Where they do indeed work beautifully.

Up to 30 degrees: no problem. 45 degrees: that's pushing it. Above that: it's asking for trouble.






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