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CNers have asked about a donation box for Cloudy Nights over the years, so here you go. Donation is not required by any means, so please enjoy your stay.
Traveling to the southern hemisphere is a topic that pops up frequently on Cloudynights and other amateur astronomy discussion groups where northern observers and imagers congregate. I’ve written this piece to try to share some of what I learned about doing amateur astronomy in Chile and Argentina. Obviously, even in six months it is impossible to do everything or go everywhere so this isn’t a comprehensive guide. Still, I hope it’s helpful and that it inspires a few people who have been wavering in their decision to head south.
Successful binoviewing entails one major requirement: both eyes must receive light from the objective. Now this sounds kinda obvious, right? Well it's not that easy. Most astronomical binoculars and binoviewers are hinged. This allows the two eyepieces to be spaced so that light enters both eyes. Some of us have a narrow IPD and facial structure that prevents optimal eye placement. In my case, the nose. It won't fit between some binocular eyepieces. It won't fit when binoviewing with complex, wide body eyepieces.
At some point we all wish we had a chair to plant our bum on while at the scope. I’ve written this little ditty to share what I’ve learned so that perhaps you can make mistakes totally different from the ones I made (and I seem to continue making them). Like any woodworker I have my biases, preferred ways to do things (e.g. mortice and tenon joints) but for the observing chairsI present here there are lots of options open to you; consider your budget, skills and available tools to make your choices.
I’ve wanted to interferometrically test the two C14s that I have in my shop to get some good data on their optical quality for some time but gathering all of the equipment needed for such a test isn’t easy and I was hesitant to take my scope out of action when the skies were clear. Since it would probably be cloudy for months on end in winter, December seemed like a good time to try to get it done.
What is a System of Binoviewing? An assembly of common observing equipment that’s powerful, portable, easy to use, effective, and fun to use. In my experience Binoviewers enhance the observation of Targets of Excess Light (moon, safe solar, and planets) I believe that given a half-decent telescope, most amateurs will see a much greater benefit from Binoviewing than upgrading any single optical component.
I’ve received several private messages from a few people on CN who have seen some pictures I’ve posted of the telescope I made, which is also my icon picture, and asked if I had a build thread. I didn’t. But all along I had an idea of writing this article because while I have seen many pictures and build threads of outstanding scopes built by people who are obviously either machinists, carpenters or engineers or just very experienced builders with a full suite of shop tools, I am none of those and I only have a couple of hand tools and minimal skills & experience. But I built this thing and it’s outstanding, so I figure that maybe there are folks out in the world who would like give telescope making a try but might be a little intimidated by some of the beautiful work displayed, especially on the DIY forum. This is NOT another “How to Build a Telescope” article. Rather, it’s more of an idea on why I built what I did, some of the planning and thought processes involved and how to get around the lack of tools or skills. (Hint – subcontract the hard stuff.)
This scope has been reviewed at great length in a comprehensive essay by William Paolini (http://www.cloudynights.com/page/articles/cat/user-reviews/first-impressions-of-the-lunt-152mm-f8-ed-apo-r2889), and I strongly recommend that prospective buyers study his excellent article. I will not repeat what he said except to emphasize that the scope has great optics, and nice fit and finish. It gives razor sharp views with no hint of false color. Definitely this is a great scope for visual or photographic purposes! Using this scope is fairly intuitive for anyone familiar with common telescopes. Unfortunately the scope does not come with any sort of manual, so there are a few items that may not be obvious when you take delivery of it. Here I wish to bring up two matters that may be of interest to prospective buyers.
More than four decades ago I happened upon dark skies quite by accident while on a cross country trip with my good friend Mike. The memory of that experience that has remained all these years is how the common Messier Objects and other DSO were all apparent with the naked eye, looking like bright fuzzy patches against the dark sky. Since then, my observing has primarily been only from suburban sites where the Milky Way is only rarely detectable. Today, I like many others, wonder what it would be like to observe at a truly dark site. We also wonder about what equipment we should take, whether it would be a waste to take such a trip and not acquire and bring the largest aperture telescope possible, and of course we wonder just how different the celestial objects we observe will appear at these darker skies.
This spring’s favorable placement of three major planets got me to thinking about how to put my scope on wheels. I was getting tired of lifting that awkward monster a few inches off the pavement and going umph-unk-umph-unk all the way up the driveway, hoping I wouldn’t snag a tripod foot between a pair of paving bricks (there is no such thing as flat ground in my suburb, par for the course around Denver).
Here I describe a 160mm apochromatic binocular telescope complemented by a mount and tripod aiming at a well-balanced compromise between optical performance, size and weight. I started the project already several years ago, the first version is described here at Cloudy Nights. Meanwhile a new, lighter and stiffer mount and tripod are finished and I think it is the right moment for describing the whole instrument.