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Astronomy With An Opera-Glass

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#1 bumm

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Posted 08 June 2013 - 07:40 PM

If there's one book in the world that's my favorite book, it has to be Astronomy With An Opera-Glass by Garrett Serviss... There are many, many, astronomy books for amateurs out there, old and new, but if there's one that can be called "charming," it's this one. I've had the 1903 8th edition for many years, but today, on a whim, I blew 50 bucks and ordered the 1888 first edition. I'm sure there will be very few changes, if any, but somehow I like this book so much that I had to have one that rolled off the press in 1888. It's the kind of a book where I can read a description of some observation that would otherwise be completely mundane, and then I go out and get an unforgettable view with new eyes from long ago.
No big deal, just had to tell somebody... :)
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#2 blb

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Posted 08 June 2013 - 08:00 PM

Wow! Someone else likes that book. I read it for the first time about four years ago and loved it, but then I love astronomy with my binoculars.

#3 droid

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Posted 08 June 2013 - 10:56 PM

I've got this book also.
Its charm is , to me at least, that it was written at a time when galaxy's were not known to be such.
And before virtually every amateur astronomer had access to a good scope.

#4 GlennLeDrew

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Posted 09 June 2013 - 12:20 AM

I would very much like to be able to read this book. I've been aware of it for decades...

An interesting contrast would be afforded by a modern treatment, where filters and updated astrophysical knowledge could be brought to bear.

I have a modern 2.3X40 opera glass (of the Galilean configuration) which would be a nice complement to Serviss's (and an update's) treatment.

#5 operascope

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Posted 09 June 2013 - 12:23 AM

I had that book out of the library as a kid. Then, 25 years later I found it at a book store...ex-library copy, missing a page, but I treasure it all the same.

#6 bumm

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Posted 09 June 2013 - 10:47 AM

While the out of date science can be interesting, one does have to be just a little careful not to "learn" the wrong things from old books. :) The real charm of the book is in the writing. I copied the following passage about Scorpius from the free online Gutenberg thingy:

We shall presently see some examples of star-clusters and nebulæ with which the instruments we are using are better capable of dealing than with the one described above. In the mean time, let us follow the bending row of stars from Antares toward the south and east. When you reach the star Mu, you are not unlikely to stop with an exclamation of admiration, for the glass will separate it into two stars that, shining side by side, seem trying to rival each other in brightness. But the next star below, marked Zeta, is even more beautiful. It also separates into two stars, one being reddish and the other bluish in color. The contrast in a clear night is very pleasing. But this is not all. Above the two stars you will notice a curious nebulous speck. Now, if you have a powerful field-glass, here is an opportunity to view one of the prettiest sights in the heavens. The field-glass not only makes the two stars appear brighter, and their colors more pronounced, but it shows a third, fainter star below them, making a small triangle, and brings other still fainter stars into sight, while the nebulous speck above turns into a charmingly beautiful little star-cluster, whose components are so close that their rays are inextricably mingled in a maze of light. This little cut is an attempt to represent the scene, but no engraving can reproduce the life and sparkle of it.

The accompanying woodcut, while crude, is in some ways more attractive than a photograph. You see it in the book, and go outside and look, and there's that woodcut come to life...
This book was in print for a long time, and good copies can be had cheap. And it's FREE online, and maybe free for a Kindle. (Of course, these don't "smell" right.) Still, while I've never been into "first editions," for this beloved old book, I somehow had to have an original 1888 copy.
Marty

#7 GlennLeDrew

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Posted 09 June 2013 - 10:18 PM

What is the range of instruments discussed? I presume Galilean glasses are the norm; I wonder if prismatic binos are mentioned...

#8 bumm

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Posted 09 June 2013 - 11:00 PM

He pretty much concentrates on opera glasses and field glasses. He has a telescope oriented book called "Pleasures of the Telescope," but of course it's oriented toward what we'd consider SMALL scopes. Also very charming, but while I like it a lot, it somehow isn't as special to me as his Opera Glass book. :)
Marty

#9 auriga

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Posted 10 June 2013 - 08:38 AM

Yes this is a lovely book, I enjoy my copy, even though not a first edition.
Bill

#10 RobertED

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Posted 12 June 2013 - 06:54 AM

Excellent score, Marty!!! Awesome!!!!!

#11 Man in a Tub

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Posted 12 June 2013 - 07:53 AM

FYI: I downloaded a PDF of the book several years ago.

http://archive.org/d...thope00servuoft

It's the 3rd edition.

#12 faackanders2

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Posted 15 June 2013 - 06:05 PM

I would very much like to be able to read this book. I've been aware of it for decades...

An interesting contrast would be afforded by a modern treatment, where filters and updated astrophysical knowledge could be brought to bear.

I have a modern 2.3X40 opera glass (of the Galilean configuration) which would be a nice complement to Serviss's (and an update's) treatment.


I would also like to read this classic. I have 2.3x40 also and have used skyglow filters with sucess to see Lagoon, Orion, and even M27 dumbell as a blinking. I believe I also saw the faint north american nebula. Andromeda looks just like the sky charts. I also love the hands free headset I have for them and enjoy it with my zero gravity chair. Also best wide field view of Milky way, and Pleadies and Hyades in same FOV, etc.

#13 faackanders2

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Posted 22 June 2013 - 09:20 PM

I would very much like to be able to read this book. I've been aware of it for decades...

An interesting contrast would be afforded by a modern treatment, where filters and updated astrophysical knowledge could be brought to bear.

I have a modern 2.3X40 opera glass (of the Galilean configuration) which would be a nice complement to Serviss's (and an update's) treatment.


I would also like to read this classic. I have 2.3x40 also and have used skyglow filters with sucess to see Lagoon, Orion, and even M27 dumbell as a blinking. I believe I also saw the faint north american nebula. Andromeda looks just like the sky charts. I also love the hands free headset I have for them and enjoy it with my zero gravity chair. Also best wide field view of Milky way, and Pleadies and Hyades in same FOV, etc.


Read te first spring chapter last night. Very good book. Mostly about the constellations, not many DSOs, but for that time period did not know what they could see in the spring with 19th century opera glasses. His prose was refreshing and exhilarating.

#14 bumm

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 04:40 PM

A little update, expanded upon with the various pointless ramblings of an old man...

First, the book deal fell through. A good, reputable dealer, but the book I ordered either got lost, sold, or stold. Such is life. I looked around, and found another first edition for only 19.50... not in as good a shape as the 50 buck one, but not bad, and I already have a solid eighth edition from 1903 to be my knock-about copy. I just got notified that this one shipped, so I'm OK. There was another one online at 100 dollars, but no way there.

The biggest upside of all this is that I got serious about duplicating the observations that Garrett Serviss writes about. I did some considerable digging and googling to see just what "field glasses" WERE in 1888, when the book was first published. From what I can tell, prismatic binoculars were invented in the 1850's, but were much improved in the 1890's, so I suspect GlennLeDrew is right in that we're mainly talking Galilean optics here. My guess is that Serviss calls the smaller ones "opera glasses" and the larger ones "field glasses." Over my many years of accumulating all the stuff that my wife wishes I'd thin out, I've run across a couple pairs of each, and I set to work disassembling them and giving the optics a good cleaning. As it turns out, they cleaned up well, and even turned out to be pleasantly decorative. :) The magnification of all of these is low... My biggest pair of field glasses have 55mm objectives, a magnification of about 5, and I'd expect an exit pupil as big as my face. The most suitable opera glasses I own have 35mm objectives and a magnification of 2. A quick trip outside just before the full moon didn't show much, of course, but I COULD see dimmer stars using them. Years ago, I tried using them on the night sky with HODIOUSLY FILTHY optics, and immediately went back inside. It'll be fun to see how they pan out under a decent sky. I usually use modern zoom 50mm binoculars, or more often, 11x80's, so this'll be an exercise in duplicating the views of Garrett Serviss, not an effort to see what I can view in the night sky.

As faackanders2 points out, "Astronomy With An Opera-Glass" spends quite a bit of time on the constellations. What I love about this book is when he discusses such things as the beehive, (or the manger, as Serviss usually calls it,) or Berenice's Hair, or M8, or M24, etc. I didn't fall hopelessly in love with this book until I read the passage about Scorpius that I pasted above. It's the kind of a book where one can read something that would otherwise be somewhat dull, and all of a sudden a spark of excitement flashes ahead from 120 years ago... Amateur astronomy lends itself well to all sorts of time travel...

Serviss also wrote "Astronomy With The Naked Eye," 1908, and "Pleasures Of The Telescope," 1901. His "Naked Eye" book concentrates almost entirely on the constellations, with a heavy dose of mythology. It does have half-decent charts for the day. His "Telescope" book, as most other books of the day, discusses some DSO's, and gets into the planets a bit, but it's heavy on double stars, colors of stars, and the moon. I like it a lot, but I don't have the "beyond all reason" love for it that I have for "Astronomy With An Opera-Glass."
Marty

#15 bumm

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Posted 07 July 2013 - 09:04 PM

It came! No big surprises... About the only difference between the first (1888) and eighth (1903) editions is a little four page appendix at the end of the later one telling about astronomical discoveries added in 1890. Also, the first edition is dark green, and the later one, a more attractive blue.
I'm gonna try to add some pics, but I'm not good at this stuff... Hope I do it right...

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#16 bumm

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Posted 07 July 2013 - 09:08 PM

And here are what to me are Serviss' three main observing books...
Astronomy With The Naked Eye (1908)
Astronomy With an Opera Glass (1888)
and
Pleasures Of The Telescope (1901)

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#17 bumm

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Posted 07 July 2013 - 09:10 PM

Hmmm. These pics look kinda BIG... I hope they aren't TOO big... Like I said, I'm not good at this stuff...

#18 GlennLeDrew

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Posted 08 July 2013 - 06:50 AM

Nice photos. I like the inclusion of those old opera glasses especially! Out if curiosity, what are their 'specs'?

As to image size, go with a width of around 800 pixels, and a moderate or slightly high degree of JPEG compression (no more than 5/10 quality.) This will be friendly on those with sloooow connections, or limited data plans on their phones (like me.)

#19 bumm

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Posted 08 July 2013 - 04:21 PM

Nice photos. I like the inclusion of those old opera glasses especially! Out if curiosity, what are their 'specs'?

As to image size, go with a width of around 800 pixels, and a moderate or slightly high degree of JPEG compression (no more than 5/10 quality.) This will be friendly on those with sloooow connections, or limited data plans on their phones (like me.)


Thanks, Glenn!
Garrett Serviss probably knew more about computers than I do. I'm gonna try to post another pic here, partly to try and learn how to DO this. I scanned it at the lowest resolution this thing has, so maybe that'll work better for this group. I don't have a digital camera, and I'm much too stupid to operate one.

As for "specs," I spent some time staring at the siding on my house determining magnification. :) For the exit pupil I simply divided aperture by magnification, and listed it third. I'm sure all of these optics are uncoated. I don't know how old these are... I don't think the design changed much for quite a while. I can't even remember where I got them. Aside from my Celestrons, they're all galilean.

My 1976 Celestron 11x80's A lot of starlight has gone through those.

"Jockey Club Paris France" 1.7x35 20.5mm (!) These have a nice, wide, field, but while they might be nice in the theater, and you can see a few more stars with them, they aren't worth much astronomically.

"Yachting Club - Lindstrom Germany" 3.5x32 9mm These aren't really bad. You can pick up a surprising amount of stuff, and they have little dew caps that slide out.

"Chevalier Paris - Day & Night Glass" 2x48 24mm (!!) Decent daytime view, but the "night" part is stretching things a bit. Like the Jockey Club ones, not much good for astronomy. You could jump up and down and wave your arms inside that exit pupil.

"Busch Jena Special Germany" 4x55 13.75mm These are probably what Serviss would call a powerful field glass. Despite the big exit pupil, they really work pretty well. I had a good time trying them out in Scorpius, and they have slide out dew caps too.

I'm having fun with this. I hope Garrett Serviss somehow knows it. :)

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#20 GlennLeDrew

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 12:25 AM

Note that a Galilean system has its exit pupil *inside*, ahead of the negative eyepiece. This is part of the reason for the always-soft field edge, although that soft edge might be better thought of as the unfocused edge of the objective.

The seemingly ludicrous 'exit pupil' one calculates is really a symptom of the effectively oversized objective, which is what determines the field of view. Try placing aperture masks on one of these to see what happens; the FOV is reduced, while the image may not be dimmed at all.

For example, if the 'exit pupil' you calculate is 14mm, and your iris opens to 7mm, you could mask down the aperture to one-half, the 'exit pupil' will be 7mm, the view will still be at full brightness, but the field will shrink by half.

The incomparable 2.8X40 'Constellation View', which originated in Russia, has that seemingly very oversized 40mm objective just to deliver up to a 28 degree FOV, which is about 60 degrees or so apparent. Your Olde glasses will not approach this!

#21 droid

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 06:16 AM

bum: your images are fine, the first is .018 over but the other two are way under the image size limit, I aint gonna complain about .018 pixels, lol.
Nice collection of opera glasses, I have this book also, the green version, got it at a used book store for 2 dollars, and have been waiting to pick up a used set of opera glasses to play with.

#22 bumm

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 03:57 PM

Thanks for all the info on the binocs, Glenn! I was wondering if those exit pupils were correct, which is why I bothered to say how I calculated them. This may also help explain how the things seem to work OK without any adjustment for how one's eyes are spaced.(?) Obviously snagging a few pairs over the course of my life doesn't make me an expert on the optics. I'm pleased and lucky though, that they cleaned up as well as they did. Many of these old things had to survive going through the "toy" stage, as better binoculars were acquired over the years.
Marty

#23 bumm

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 04:18 PM

bum: your images are fine, the first is .018 over but the other two are way under the image size limit, I aint gonna complain about .018 pixels, lol.
Nice collection of opera glasses, I have this book also, the green version, got it at a used book store for 2 dollars, and have been waiting to pick up a used set of opera glasses to play with.

I appreciate your tolerance on the pics, Andy. If something comes along in the future, I can scan it more like the last one. :) I'm doing pretty good just to make something happen on this laptop. (Just when I figure out how to work a typewriter, they come up with something else...)
And enjoy that book! I've been slowly re-reading it, and it just gets better with familiarity.
Marty

#24 russell23

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Posted 28 August 2013 - 08:13 PM

I was thinking about selling my copy but after reading this thread I think I'll keep it. I like the introduction of the book too. He talks about how most people don't know the main stars and were confused about what Venus was - and that was 1888 so things perhaps have not changed that much in that regard.

Dave

#25 bumm

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Posted 28 August 2013 - 10:07 PM

I was thinking about selling my copy but after reading this thread I think I'll keep it. I like the introduction of the book too. He talks about how most people don't know the main stars and were confused about what Venus was - and that was 1888 so things perhaps have not changed that much in that regard.

Dave



GOOD! The book is full of interesting tidbits, and interesting reflections from 125 years ago. The other night, I was reading the section on the moon where he was discussing the fanciful names of lunar features, and the following line struck me... "who would not like to see the "Bay of Rainbows," or the "Lake of Dreams," or the Sea of Tranquility," if for no other reason than a curiosity to know what would have induced men to give to these regions in the moon such captivating titles? Or who would not desire to visit them if he could?"
Well, in the case of the Sea of Tranquility, that visit came 81 years later.. :)
Marty






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