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Why new up and coming amateur and professional astronomers around the world should endeavour to get familiar with the all American Vernonscope Brandon Orthoscopic eyepieces, (handmade in the U.S.A).
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Dear Cloudy Nights,
My name is James Howes and I have the privilege of living in the Greenwich Borough not far from the Royal Observatory in London, UK. I have a lifelong interest in astronomy, and over the years have had the honour of owning many scopes ranging from the Sky-watcher, Meade, Celestron, progressing to the Vernon Scope and TMB/APM.
Images below of my TMB/APM 130 /f9.25 super planetary and TMB 80 /f7.5 on my Sky-watcher EQ8 mount/tripod
Article by: James Howes with contribution from Ted Harrison. 1st March 2018
Why new up and coming amateur and professional astronomers around the world, should endeavour to get familiar with the all American Vernonscope Brandon Orthoscopic eyepieces, (handmade in the U.S.A).
I have felt compelled and driven to write a small article about the all American Vernonscope Brandon Orthoscopic eyepieces. This is simply because I fell in love with these oculars over a good number of years, and I have come to the sad realization from a present day UK perspective, that so little seems to be known about them on a world scale - certainly in light of new up and coming professional and amateur astronomers alike.
So, my intention in this short article is to attempt to address this with the help of a friend I will introduce shortly. As a perpetual student and lecturer of fine art, I am filled with an ever present desire to learn, always with a strong sense of curiosity and need to look at the world around me. My approach to astronomy is quite simple. I set up a telescope, point and look and on a good clear night the sky will always reveal something new which I have never seen before or I will look at the moon and unpick new details. Essentially the night sky keeps me coming back for more.
My own experience of these connoisseur Vernonscope Brandon planetary oculars is nothing less than exquisite. Through my eyes they display a non-compromising performance that boasts sharp contrasting images of the night sky and planetary observations. I continue to have the privileged opportunity to engage with a number of apochromatic telescopes from the 80/7.5, 100 f8, 130 /f9.25 super planetary and the 152 /f8. These world class oculars mated to these telescopes have in my opinion presented unforgettable experiences.
My TMB/APM 130 /f9.25 super planetary and TMB 80 /f7.5 on my Sky-watcher EQ8 mount boasting both my world famous legendary Star Diagonals, by Vernonscope & Company (Classed by many, as the finest Star Diagonal in the world,) housing my 24mm and 48mm Brandon oculars. (Refer to plates: 1 to 5)
The Vernonscope Brandon orthoscopic eyepieces are suited to telescope designs that offer focal ratios of F/7 and beyond. The quality of the views through these oculars does not in my humble opinion, get any better than this. The images are breath taking – cool, tack-sharp and highly contrasting tones right to the edge of the field of view displaying textbook images. From an artist’s perspective, I’m a stickler for visual detail and my expectation is nothing less than wanting perfection. These oculars do not disappoint. I have tried other well-known eyepiece brands but for me none have come up to the Vernonscope Brandon performance.
Many of you out there, and rightly so, will want to hear about the oculars specifications, and just that little bit more. As such I have chosen to ask a very good friend of mine from `Harrison Telescopes Ltd’ based in the UK to help me out. Let me very briefly introduce my good friend:
Ted Harrison has a long standing experience in the field of using astronomical instruments amounting to 30 years plus. His experience has further extended in the field of telescope engineering in repairing some of the most advanced computerised and complex optical systems and has this ever critical eye for recognizing optical perfection.
The Vernonscope Brandon Orthoscopic eyepieces are excellent planetary eyepieces. They produce an ultra-sharp image and dark backgrounds by using a very high contrast design, allowing impressive resolution of double stars. Low narrow angle scattering and single coating results in dark backgrounds and very sharp resolution. Brandon’s are chosen by Questar for their legendary telescopes made in Pennsylvania. Brandon’s are made in the USA to a superb level of quality that makes them highly desirable for serious observers.
Brandon's design uses a pair of cemented achromatic elements in an air spaced configuration and is considered one of the sharpest designs ever made. They give incredibly sharp views of the moon and planets with very low scatter.
I have used them for many years in various telescopes and have never been disappointed in their performance.
· Four element designs give a flat, beautifully corrected 50° field of view.
· Optical elements are exactingly ground and hard-coated with magnesium fluoride.
· Precision metal parts are black-anodized for antireflection and machined to standard 1 1/4" diameter.
· Parfocal mechanical designs - no need to refocus when changing eyepieces.
Comfortable exit pupil distance for observing ease.
· Threaded at the base to accept all 1 1/4" Vernonscope Mounted Glass Filters.
I would now like to add a little background history reflecting my own understanding of the origins of these ocular marvels, and yes it is quite the pedigree.
Chester Brandon (to his close friends known as Chet) was one of America’s greatest optical designers. Chester Brandon believed he could improve the Zeiss Abbe Orthoscopic lens design, essentially the most expensive eyepieces on the face of the earth. In 1947 Chester Brandon arguably did just that! I’m sure there will be people out there who may scoff at this, but Brandon’s, intention were quite clear. He saw there was an opportunity for improvement to the Zeiss Abbe design and he did just that, hence the birth of the all American Brandon ocular design.
In 1947 Chester Brandon brought the best possible ocular design to the US market accompanied with a social conscience in terms of making his oculars affordable in contrast with other ocular makers (I believe this still stands true today in contrast to other very high end oculars that are available to all.) The 16 and 32mm Brandon orthoscopic planetary eyepieces ‘emerged across the US first in the very late 40s early 50s. Then later would follow the 24, 12, 8, 6 Brandon oculars and the very rare 4mm. (Refer to plates: 6 to 9)
Images of some of the early original Brandon oculars that came on to the US market in the late 40s early 50s.
In addition to the Brandon oculars, Chester Brandon would bring to the market a range of astronomical telescopes and spotting scopes. In addition, Chet would also bring to the U.S market, astronomical Brandon objective lenses in cells, ranging from a 3”, 4” and 6” (advertised in sky and telescopes in December 1947, accompanied with the introduction of the 16 and 32mm Brandon orthoscopic planetary eyepieces). (Refer to plates: 10 to 13)
Astronomical Brandon 4” objective f15 Len in cell by `Brandon Scientific Development`.
A rare classic Brandon 70 – 22 spotting Scope Binocular from 1952 `Brandon Scientific Development`.
By 1963 Mr Don Yeier, President of Vernonscope, who was based in Candor NY would seize the opportunity to purchase the Brandon ocular design from Chester Brandon, along with all the eyepiece machine tooling. From this point on up until 2013, Don Yeier would over the period of 50 years continue to bring to the U.S market the pinnacle of ocular performance design accompanied with modest world market demands as well. The Brandon ocular design had firmly and irreversibly found its place in the psyche of American and many worldwide astronomers both amateur and professional. (Refer to plates: 14 to 21)
Set of vintage 1965 flat top Vernonscope & Company Brandon oculars.
Set of rare vintage 1970s standard Vernonscope & Company Brandon brass oculars accompanied with Dakin Barlow
A one-of–a-kind Prototype sample Field set that never went into production
Rare 50th anniversary Vernonscope & Company Brandon ocular sets (Refer to plates: 22 to 24)
A set of anodized-Gold Brandon oculars commemorating Vernonscope & Company`s 50th anniversary
A one-of–a-kind set of custom Brandon oculars inclusive of the 48mm commemorating Vernonscope & Company’s 50th anniversary
Today the U.S. military continue to make regular orders of the Vernonscope Brandon ocular. The U.S. Navy has a history of making orders for the Vernonscope Brandon oculars. Then there is NASA who has made their request for these oculars (it is my understanding they were used on different space missions. It`s also been suggested that some of the Vernonscope Brandon Ocular are still floating around earth’s orbit – no joke!) We then have the much loved and world renowned `Questar` who Vernonscope have proudly made the Questar Brandon ocular since 1971 to accompany their telescopes.
Finally, the Brandon oculars to this day continue to make their presence strongly known across the U.S, and in minority cases across the world as well. Don had in the past stressed that he did not invest extensively in promotional advertisement of the Brandon oculars on the global stage, it is my understanding he believed the Brandon ocular performance and public opinion would do all the talking and the rest is history. Today all Chester Brandon oculars since 2013 are now proudly made by Liz Mansfield, who is the current President and owner of Vernonscope LLC based in Raleigh, North Carolina.
(Refer to plates: 25 to 31)
Set of standard Brandon oculars in a walnut case by Vernonscope LLC
Set of flat top Brandon oculars in a walnut case by Vernonscope & Company
A pair of Brandon 48mm oculars in a bespoke walnut case by Vernonscope & Company
The Brandon 48mm ocular in a bespoke walnut case by Vernonscope LLC
Set of flat top Brandon oculars in an Birchwood case by Vernonscope LLC
Liz continues to maintain and rigorously test the non-compromising performance of these exquisite oculars which continue to be handmade and assembled. ‘Since 1991 the Brandon lenses have been made on the latest optical generating equipment and highly polished to avoid cosmetic defects’. These oculars are further made, with additional complementary Vernonscope products such as the world famous Dakin Barlow, along with many other products, as seen below and proudly in my collection (Refer to plates: 32 to 36)
The 2.4X Vernonscope Dakin Barlow by Vernonscope & Company
The world famous legendary Star Diagonal, by Vernonscope & Company
(Classed by many, as the finest Star Diagonal in the world).
The 2” Amici prism by Vernonscope & Company
Vernonscope & Company Binoviewers, (embodying Zeiss Jena optics and Schott glass prisms).
I’m guessing by now you will have come to the realization that I am irrevocably a devout lover of the Brandon orthoscopic eyepieces’ and I should further add that this also includes all the complementary Vernonscope products. Today I’m now the proud owner and collector of the all American Vernonscope Brandon orthoscopic eyepieces, boasting all-known Brandon metal designs and additions, accompanied with many of the Vernonscope accessories which I have collected throughout the ensuing years (all images in this article reference some aspects of my collection). This collection spans a history as far back as the late 40s right up to the present day and is accompanied with a signed declaration made out by the former president of Vernonscope, Mr Don Yeier in 2013. This declaration declares that this collection of Brandon oculars and the historical development of Vernonscope products as a whole is the largest in the world, period.
The full Vernonscope collection (Refer to plates: 37 to 64)
Vernonscope & Company’s, legendary 2” wide angle ocular, fondly known as the; ‘The magnificent beast`.
The 80s version of the Vernonscope & Company Brandon Master Birder. Spotting scope.
The Modern Vernonscope LLC Brandon Master Birder (boasting the Starlight instruments feather touch focuser).
The Legendary Vernonscope & Company 94mm F/7 Brandon apochromatic refractor
Archive Vernonscope box; retaining orginal signed declarations.
Orignal hand writen letter by Chester Brandon (ocular designer) to Don Yeier discussing modification to the barrell of 16mm brandon ocular.
On a final note, I sincerely hope that you have enjoyed reading this article. I’d like to think my personal account of these wonderful oculars (and with the help of Ted Harrison’s contribution) presents persuasive reasoning as to why both amateur and professional U.S and astronomers around the world should get familiar with these all American Vernonscope Brandon orthoscopic oculars.
At some point in the future it would be great to attend a ‘star party’ and be able to share the experience of these oculars with those of you who love these optical marvels as much as I do.
Finally, I wish clear skies and happy viewing to all.
Article by: James Howes BA (Hons), MA, PGCE, with contribution from, Ted Harrison F.R.A.S (Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society), and historical facts endorsed by the legendary former owner and President of Vernonscope: Mr Don.V. Yeier.
Below is a Copy of an email extract from my friend across the pond in 2018, Mr Don.V. Yeier. Don gives his final judgment to the realization of this completed article which started as an idea in 2016.
“After reading your exquisite article in full, all I can say is WOW! What an amazing feat!!
There are times that I wish I was still assembling the Brandon`s, however, I'm now 79 and Liz Mansfield is doing an excellent job of maintaining Chet Brandon's reputation (as well as mine - just to take a bit of credit...) My sincere thanks for doing such a magnificent undertaking!
'best as always, Don V. Yeier” (Sent to me via email at 6:17pm on 28/2/2018)
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