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Let's Stop Coddling our Binoculars

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#1 milt

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Posted 07 July 2005 - 01:26 PM

This is an issue that has been nagging at me practically ever since I started using binoculars for astronomy. In a recent thread it was proposed by a well-intentioned member that CN create its own binocular observing list. This suggestion immediately raised counter currents. What types of objects should be included? Can they be borrowed from other lists? Should there be different lists for small and large binoculars? Why do a list at all? Here was that old issue again. Why are we coddling our binoculars?

First of all let me state that I enjoy sweeping the summer Milky Way eye candy with binoculars as much as any other member here. However, in my view creating special categories just for binoculars infers that they are fundamentaly different from mono instruments for astronomy and better suited to some objects than others; that they are in fact limited in some way that other astro instruments are not. I disagree.

Let's say that you had only a 70mm spotting scope with a 25x maximum power eyepiece to use for astronomy. Would you do a special list for it? Probably not - remember, this is your only instrument. Most likely you would first start by attacking the Messier objects. You would immediately discover that mag 10 galaxies were a challenge and learn to not try for mag 11. Likewise, small planetary nebulae would prove difficult to differentiate from the background, but large nebulae and star clusters would be easy to resolve in dark skies. In short, you would fight for everything the instrument could give you.

Now let's say that your only one telescope was a 200mm with a 50x minimum power eyepiece. Would you do a special list for it? No, you would start by going after the Messiers just like before. You would find that while the Messier galaxies were easy, mag 12.5 NGC galaxies were a challenge and learn to not try for mag 13.5. Likewise, large nebulae and star clusters would be difficult to differentiate from the background, but small planetaries would be easy to resolve at higher magnifications. Again, you would fight for everything the instrument could give you.

What if this hypothetical only one 200mm telescope had an Amici correct-image prism. Would it change anything?

In my humble 5 years of observing, I have logged about 600 different deep sky objects. About 10% of these were first seen using a 50mm binocular or 100mm binoscope. Were these 60 objects first seen in a bino instrument because the bino was better suited for those objects than one of my telescopes? Absolutely not; at 4.5° my 101mm apo had a larger field than my 50mm binocular! No, those 60 objects were first seen in binos because and only because on those particular nights, I made a deliberate decision to leave my telescope inside and find new objects with my bino.

One might guess that after having logged 600 DSO's, I have used up pretty much every object available to binoculars. Guess again. Last night, I again made that periodic decision to leave the telescope inside and took only my binocular, the 32x82 Kowa, out and set up a table with my star charts next to my observing chair. In 3-1/2 hours of observing under mag 5.7 skies (measured by star counting in Cygnus), I found 18 objects that I had never seen before in any instrument, including a small mag 10.6 open cluster (NGC6756) and mag 11.2 planetary (NGC6445). On the planetary, I confirmed by "blinking" with an OIII filter, the same as I would have done with a small telescope.

You will get no argument from me that binoculars bring some special qualities to observing. For example, last night I discovered that open cluster NGC6823 was riding the top of a 1° tall star chain shaped exactly like a '2'. I would have never seen that in my telescope with a 1/2° field; of course my telescope would have resolved the cluster better. But why is this any different than the difference beteween a rich field refractor and an MCT?

I say it's time to stop coddling our binoculars as special-purpose instruments and make them lift some weight. Whether you have 10x50's or a 150 binoscope, fight for some new objects!

#2 Guest_**DONOTDELETE**_*

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Posted 07 July 2005 - 02:39 PM

I think I have missed your point about what "coddling" and considering bins as "special-purpose instruments" have to do with each other, but that's ok. My beef: With regards to your second paragraph, I think you are making a mountain out of an ant hill. I do not believe that just because a list is created which is taylored to bins implies that "they are fundamentaly different from mono instruments for astronomy and better suited to some objects than others". It is more of a statement of the common belief that your typical bin provides modest light grab and relatively wide FOVs, UNLIKE other instruments. So, in a way it is not surprising to see a special list. Should we limit ourselves to this "bin only" observation list? Of course not!

So I agree that one should, and could, observationally challenge yourself, but I can't imagine being surprised or even bothered by limited or special observing lists for bins.

#3 Guest_**DONOTDELETE**_*

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Posted 07 July 2005 - 03:05 PM

infers that they are fundamentaly different from mono instruments for astronomy and better suited to some objects than others; that they are in fact limited in some way that other astro instruments are not.


No more than a f/6 6" Dob is "fundamentally different" from an f/10 11" SCT. The designs are different, they operate differently in different environments and perform better at certain tasks. It makes perfect sense to provide a dedicated area where SCT discussions can take place separate from reflector discussions, just as it make sense to provide an arena for folks to discuss issues and techniques specific to the art and science of binocular viewing.

I believe this is why there are separate hardware forums and "object" forums. You'll find a full cross-section of equipment owners in the DSO forum, for example. I doubt anyone is going to exclude binos.

#4 Glassthrower

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Posted 07 July 2005 - 05:52 PM

What inspired me to suggest a CN Bino observing program was two-fold :

1) I enjoy the sense of community here, as I am sure many others do as well. I recognize the wealth of knowledge and observational experience present in this community. In particular, I find there is a certain "attitude" present amongst those who strictly use binocs versus those who stargaze with scopes or both. In a world that lacks GoTo capability and motorized tracking, bino users must learn to rely upon older, simpler, and more ephemeral methods of celestial navigation. This necessarily creates a sub-group of stargazers whose mode of observing differs from those who use widely-differing instruments. Creating a observing list that caters to the inherent nature of binos and bino users seemed like a no-brainer. This is especially true given that it has already been done a million times by everyone from the Astronomical League to Bob's Neighborhood Astro Club.

2) I like a challenge. To me, and this is my own opinion, an observing list/program is like a jigsaw puzzle. Or perhaps a crossword puzzle. It gives me something related to do that involves my favorite hobby. It's fun to find all of these objects for the first time, or to rediscover them in the context of other targets in the same FOV. It gives an observer something to shoot for that has a little bit of meaning beyond the personal - it symbolizes a loose fellowship with other stargazers of the same stripe. It is a badge of honor or vanity depending on the observer.

Well, anyhoot, that's my two cents. I would never attempt to author a master list to replace all lists - it would be arrogance and folly to attempt it. No, I just wanna help make a new and interesting list to add to the giant pile of them already out there.

MikeG

#5 Rich N

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Posted 07 July 2005 - 07:21 PM

Good point, Milt!

I'm sure we could see more with our binoculars if we tried some of the DSOs usually "reserved" for telescopes.

Thanks,
Rich

#6 milt

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Posted 07 July 2005 - 09:59 PM

I think I have missed your point



Hi NW,

I was afraid of that - I am not the best at expressing myself. :tonofbricks: However, a few seemed to understand what I was fumbling around to say.

I can't imagine being surprised or even bothered by limited or special observing lists for bins.



I assure you that am neither surprised nor bothered and commend Mike for his effort to come up with a CN binocular object list! Heck, his may improve on all the other binocular object lists out there. :) That said, Mike is clearly passionate about finding new objects in his binoculars and I would much rather that he was out under the skies finding them than making a new list.

As Mike so eloquently pointed out, "In a world that lacks GoTo capability and motorized tracking, bino users must learn to rely upon older, simpler, and more ephemeral methods of celestial navigation." So true, Mike, and I will offer this addition: Those bino users who shun binocular object lists will develop a more intimate knowledge, an intuition even, of what objects on universal lists are worth a shot with their binos.

Three of the best known lists in ascending order of number of objects are Orion's DeepMap 600, SkyAtlas 2000 (Companion) and Uranometria 2000 (Volume III). I work from all three and have already logged a few objects in Uranometria that are in neither of the first two lists. Yes, in binoculars.

So I say again, no more coddling. Put binoculars to work as you would any other piece of astro gear.

#7 edwincjones

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 05:41 AM

"You can see a lot, just by looking"
quote/paraphase by Yogi Berra

I think we focus too much on the optics, brands, comparsions, and theories. Of course better optics, darker skies, bigger scopes/binos help; but when we just get out and look we can be surprised at how much we can see.

binoculars are made to be used
Ed Jones

#8 edwincjones

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 05:54 AM

John Waggner's Binocular Messier Observing Club with the Astronomical League is a good example. The Messiers are generally seen as telescope objects, but this list takes the Ms and organizes them based on binocular size and ease of observing. (the list is a little out of date, because with current larger binoculars available seeing all of the Ms is easier).

Ed Jones

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 07:18 AM

Milt, I do follow your expression and follow it well. Don't get me wrong, I am with you on this. However, I personally would not snear at the creation of observing lists solely taylored for bins. That's all.

For the record, all I do is look at my astronomy calander to read what's up and when. And then go out with my atlas and look around. No formal lists needed. I am very very basic with my routine. On occassion, yes, I will create a short list for special circumstances, but it's rare.

#10 Guest_**DONOTDELETE**_*

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 09:24 AM

I'd like to apologize. I misread the original post, and instead of "observing list", saw instead "list", as in mailing list, which I then spun into "forum". My bad. Sorry Milt.

#11 milt

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 07:08 PM

Zman, Thank you but no apology was necessary. Your post did not offend me in any way.

#12 milt

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 07:37 PM

NW,

My observing approach is similar to yours. I keep a moving seasonal list of new objects to try for but not specific to any instrument type.

My biggest problem was keeping track of what I had already seen. A couple of years ago I started an MS Word index (3 columns/page) of every object I had ever observed through my own equipment. I add newly acquired objects to the bottom of the list and then use the magic "sort" feature to keep everything in alphanumeric sequence. However since I don't differentiate between scopes and binos, I have to look up in my notes to find out what I used.

Maybe we could play good binocular cop bad binocular cop. You can be the gentle advocate and I will be the drill sergeant saying "Gimme twenty new objects." :watching:

Milt

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 10:11 PM

Milt, I don't even keep track of what I have seen before really. Oh, I might stroll to an M object that I have seen before like M43/M42...but hey..who can't resist doing that? Otherwise I just go out and "wing it" you know? Whatever tickles my fancy at that particular night, at that particular time.

#14 Rich N

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Posted 09 July 2005 - 12:36 AM

Milt, I don't even keep track of what I have seen before really. Oh, I might stroll to an M object that I have seen before like M43/M42...but hey..who can't resist doing that? Otherwise I just go out and "wing it" you know? Whatever tickles my fancy at that particular night, at that particular time.


That's my mode of observing. I don't keep records and seldom follow lists. I get the feeling when I'm gone no one will know I was here.

Rich

#15 milt

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Posted 09 July 2005 - 11:36 AM

I don't keep records and seldom follow lists.


Rich, I envy you and NW for that. I almost feel guilty on nights that I just go out and surf eye candy. Almost. ;)

I get the feeling when I'm gone no one will know I was here.


Now that's one feeling we share. When I am gone I hope that my wife will dispose of my records forthwith. But while I am still around, they are a useful reference.

Take care,
Milt


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