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Beginner telescopes for night vision astronomy

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#1 mwaller

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Posted 06 May 2019 - 05:12 PM

Hello!

I've been fascinated with night vision equipment for a long time, and recently purchased a PVS-14 with filmless white phosphor tube.  I would like to give night vision astronomy a try, but I have no idea where to start.  I do not own a telescope, and I have very little first-hand experience using one.

 

I'd like something that will work well for real-time viewing with my PVS-14, and is relatively compact and easy to store.  What would give me the best experience for under $1k?  Used is fine.

 

I live in a "red" zone for light pollution, so I expect that filters will be necessary.  I don't mind spending a bit more on filters and eyepieces, provided these accessories are transferable to better quality scope if I decide to upgrade.    

 

Thanks for your input!      



#2 Vondragonnoggin

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Posted 06 May 2019 - 08:29 PM

There is a lot of information in the “Best of NV” sticky thread at the top of the forum.

 

I would start there and see if reading through some of the frequently asked question threads linked can help you decide if you want a refractor or reflector or catadioptric design telescope and whether you want tracking with it for pictures or just manual operation and visual only.

 

Think about activities you want to do - some picture capability with your pvs-14 or just visual use. The mount will make a difference.

 

With a pvs-14, you will be using it afocally connected by some type of adapter to a regular telescope eyepiece. There is information on how that works in the sticky thread.

 

You can use a scope starting as little as $120 up to whatever’s left in your budget after a mount purchase taking up the rest. Deciding on mount and how much of your budget is going to be for the mount should probably be a first consideration.

 

Where are you located approximately? There might be a member close by that could show you some options.



#3 The Ardent

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Posted 06 May 2019 - 08:46 PM

Bring it over one evening and we can go over some things to get you started.
Ray

Hello!
I've been fascinated with night vision equipment for a long time, and recently purchased a PVS-14 with filmless white phosphor tube. I would like to give night vision astronomy a try, but I have no idea where to start. I do not own a telescope, and I have very little first-hand experience using one.

I'd like something that will work well for real-time viewing with my PVS-14, and is relatively compact and easy to store. What would give me the best experience for under $1k? Used is fine.

I live in a "red" zone for light pollution, so I expect that filters will be necessary. I don't mind spending a bit more on filters and eyepieces, provided these accessories are transferable to better quality scope if I decide to upgrade.

Thanks for your input!


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#4 11769

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Posted 06 May 2019 - 10:38 PM

A 3x magnifier, H-alpha filter, and RAF adapter ring is "cheap" compared to a new PVS-14 and provides more than enough entertainment to drop your jaw every time. Unlike a telescope, it's portable enough to steal a two minute glance from your driveway before bed. 


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#5 Jeff Morgan

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Posted 06 May 2019 - 11:27 PM

A 3x magnifier, H-alpha filter, and RAF adapter ring is "cheap" compared to a new PVS-14 and provides more than enough entertainment to drop your jaw every time. Unlike a telescope, it's portable enough to steal a two minute glance from your driveway before bed. 

More opportunity = more astronomy.

 

I think you will find your new NV device to be the most versatile piece of astro gear you own.

 

WRT your original question: use it with whatever scope(s) you already own to get your feet. Then with some experience under your belt plan the next scope move.



#6 mwaller

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Posted 07 May 2019 - 02:14 PM

Thanks for all the comments so far!  I don't currently own a telescope, so I have nothing to work with.  

 

However, I have ordered a H-a filter that I'm looking forward to trying.  I'm still searching for the Litton / Fujinon 3x lens that doesn't vignette.  My ITT lens is pretty bad in this regard.

 

I'm in Kirkland, WA.  If there's anyone in the area who is willing to offer a primer, I'm all ears!

 

One member suggested that a Comet Hunter might be a good scope.  Thoughts on that?



#7 11769

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Posted 07 May 2019 - 08:58 PM

The Litton/Fujinon vignettes less but the difference between it and the ITT lens was not too dramatic for me. Some people are way more sensitive to vignetting though. 



#8 Starman81

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Posted 08 May 2019 - 03:08 PM

One member suggested that a Comet Hunter might be a good scope.  Thoughts on that?

 

You are an odd case here; most people have telescope(s) but not NV while you have the NV but not the scope...

 

Several NV'ers do have Comet Hunters, but I'm not sure it's the best 'first scope'. If I had to suggest a first scope, it would be a fast achromat, like the Orion ST120. Not as fast as the Comet Hunter but no collimating required and since you have the PVS-14 and will have to go the afocal route, you can choose an appopriate eyepiece to get further focal reduction down from the ST120's native f/5. 



#9 Gavster

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Posted 08 May 2019 - 03:23 PM

As you don’t have a telescope and not much experience, I think a portable refractor is the right option. However, I didn’t like the field curvature that an achro gives when used afocally with a pvs-14, so I’d go for a second hand televue 85. With a 55mm plossl  you can get the speed down to f3.5 which is very satisfactory. And it will be very nice on the moon and planets if you fancy a bit of non NV astro.

Here’s a televue blog post you may find interesting.

http://televue.com/n...ight/#more-4476



#10 Starman81

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Posted 08 May 2019 - 03:47 PM

As you don’t have a telescope and not much experience, I think a portable refractor is the right option. However, I didn’t like the field curvature that an achro gives when used afocally with a pvs-14, so I’d go for a second hand televue 85. With a 55mm plossl  you can get the speed down to f3.5 which is very satisfactory. And it will be very nice on the moon and planets if you fancy a bit of non NV astro.

Here’s a televue blog post you may find interesting.

http://televue.com/n...ight/#more-4476

 

Ah yes, I forgot to consider non-NV astronomy, for which something a bit more premium (like the TV85) would be better suited. 

 

For my own use of fast achros for NV, any field curvature that might be present has not bothered me yet. I think I have just been blown away by what I can see that the edges don't matter so much. 



#11 Vondragonnoggin

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Posted 08 May 2019 - 04:14 PM

I haven’t tried afocal with my 56mm plossl in my fast F/5 achros but did try it in my F/6 ED doublet. I found field curvature moderately bad at the edges until I put the .5x 2” Antares focal reducer on the end of the 56mm plossl. The aberrated edges cleaned up substantially. Center of the field was good either way but there was a remarkable difference at the edges between with reducer/without reducer views. Field of view was smaller with the additional reducer, but edges were better and image was brighter.

 

My other two F/5 achros are used Prime Focus only for now, but if I can ever get a clear night here, I’ll try out the afocal setup on one of the F/5’s (have 120 and 150mm F/5’s) and report back how well it looks. I tend to concentrate on center of field also as the mounts I use are easily maneuvered to put object or parts of the object I’m interested in, in the center of the field.



#12 mwaller

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Posted 08 May 2019 - 04:45 PM

Your photos are really nice - thanks for sharing!

 

What causes the field curvature you describe when using an achromatic telescope afocally?  I'm sure this would irritate me to no end...!

 

As you don’t have a telescope and not much experience, I think a portable refractor is the right option. However, I didn’t like the field curvature that an achro gives when used afocally with a pvs-14, so I’d go for a second hand televue 85. With a 55mm plossl  you can get the speed down to f3.5 which is very satisfactory. And it will be very nice on the moon and planets if you fancy a bit of non NV astro.

Here’s a televue blog post you may find interesting.

http://televue.com/n...ight/#more-4476



#13 Vondragonnoggin

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Posted 08 May 2019 - 04:54 PM

Field curvature is inherent in fast focal ratio refractors. Imagers use field flatteners, petzval designs, or combination of longer focal ratios and field flatteners to combat it. An achromat or apochromat at F/5 will have field curvature. Just like a fast reflector will have coma and need a coma corrector or design like a mak newt using a corrector to reduce it.

 

if you’re sure field curvature will irritate you to no end, stay away from NV with refractors unless they are petzval designs or you are ok with keeping an F/7 or longer focal ratio

 

Otherwise get a reflector like an SCT that has a native focal length of F/10 and use a 55mm or 56mm plossl to get you to F/5 afocally and then further reduce it with a .7x or so reducer to get to F/3.5

 

If you get a fast reflector, you’ll need a coma corrector.



#14 Rickster

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Posted 08 May 2019 - 04:56 PM

I would say to look on Craigslist.  NV will bring to life the types of telescopes that other people will be wanting to get rid of cheap because they were disappointments and are now taking up space. That would be a way to get some experience without spending much.  And that will save you money for filters and adapters. 

 

If you have many choices, then go for the one with the lowest focal ratio.  Goto would also be good if you are not experienced in finding your way around the stars.  And decent build quality of course.  Examples would be:  A dob, especially if it has "push to" or Goto).  Small travel type scopes are fun, especially if they have a 2" focuser.  My 70mm Televue Pronto with NV will show as much as my 10" dob will with eyepieces (and no NV).  A really good find would be a 6" reflector like an old Comet Catcher, or an Astro Tech AT6in (or one of its siblings). 

 

The thing that makes NV so special is its ability to deliver big scope performance in a small package.  So my personal favorite is an old 50mm finder scope that I adapted to fit a PVS-7 with a 0.63 focal reducer.  It runs about 8x.  It is very light weight and functions as a super binocular.  It is also what I use to introduce people to NV.  It is fun for rubber necking.

 

Really though, you almost cant go wrong as long as it isn't some piece of junk with a .965" focuser. 


Edited by Rickster, 08 May 2019 - 04:57 PM.

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#15 BJS

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Posted 08 May 2019 - 05:30 PM

The way i look at a good scope to start NV with is this...What type of objects would you normally observe?  Planets or Deep sky objects or both?  If planets are not something you are interested in then look for an imaging Newtonian....something like a 6" f4 or 8"f4.  If planets are something you want to look at then look for an 8" sct.  Either way you will need a mount for these scopes.  I know you say that you would probably be irritated by field curvature but like others, i don't really find it distracting....the fov is large enough with a fast achro that you wind up looking at the center which is just fine.  Fast newts have the coma issue...but again its only at the edges and you look at the center most times.  

I have a 6"f5 newt that i want to sell.  If your interested pm me.  Otherwise i would seek out a local astronomy club and see about using you're NV device in there scopes and see what you think.  Another option would be to give us a location that we could check out on CL to see what scopes are even available in your area.  


Edited by BJS, 08 May 2019 - 05:31 PM.


#16 Vondragonnoggin

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Posted 08 May 2019 - 06:25 PM

The way i look at a good scope to start NV with is this...What type of objects would you normally observe?  Planets or Deep sky objects or both?  If planets are not something you are interested in then look for an imaging Newtonian....something like a 6" f4 or 8"f4.  If planets are something you want to look at then look for an 8" sct.  Either way you will need a mount for these scopes.  I know you say that you would probably be irritated by field curvature but like others, i don't really find it distracting....the fov is large enough with a fast achro that you wind up looking at the center which is just fine.  Fast newts have the coma issue...but again its only at the edges and you look at the center most times.  

I have a 6"f5 newt that i want to sell.  If your interested pm me.  Otherwise i would seek out a local astronomy club and see about using you're NV device in there scopes and see what you think.  Another option would be to give us a location that we could check out on CL to see what scopes are even available in your area.  

This is a great idea.

 

One purchase of a 55mm Televue plossl, one purchase of the TNVC adapter, and one purchase of a 2” 7nm or 5nm Ha filter and you can attach your pvs-14 to the 55mm plossl with the Ha filter screwed on the end of the plossl and tote it to a star party. Ask the scope owners if you can try your plossl/NVD stack in their scopes. I’m sure some might jump at the chance just to look through it. It is something you’ll want anyway for whichever scope you end up buying.



#17 mwaller

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Posted 08 May 2019 - 06:26 PM

I've definitely been keeping an eye on CL, but I really don't know what I'm looking for.  

I'm in the Seattle, WA.  Let me know if you see anything that I should be looking at!

 

Thanks!!!

 

The way i look at a good scope to start NV with is this...What type of objects would you normally observe?  Planets or Deep sky objects or both?  If planets are not something you are interested in then look for an imaging Newtonian....something like a 6" f4 or 8"f4.  If planets are something you want to look at then look for an 8" sct.  Either way you will need a mount for these scopes.  I know you say that you would probably be irritated by field curvature but like others, i don't really find it distracting....the fov is large enough with a fast achro that you wind up looking at the center which is just fine.  Fast newts have the coma issue...but again its only at the edges and you look at the center most times.  

I have a 6"f5 newt that i want to sell.  If your interested pm me.  Otherwise i would seek out a local astronomy club and see about using you're NV device in there scopes and see what you think.  Another option would be to give us a location that we could check out on CL to see what scopes are even available in your area.  



#18 The Ardent

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Posted 08 May 2019 - 06:38 PM

8" Telescope - It's all in the optics
https://seattle.crai...6883868061.html

Excellent Condition 12" Meade Lightbridge Telescope and gear
https://seattle.crai...6860787532.html

Telescope for sale
https://seattle.crai...6877447557.html

Orion SkyQuest XT10 - IntelliScope Dobsonian Reflector Telescope

https://skagit.craig...6831888257.html

 

others were poor choices or poorly mounted

I've definitely been keeping an eye on CL, but I really don't know what I'm looking for.  

I'm in the Seattle, WA.  Let me know if you see anything that I should be looking at!

 

Thanks!!!



#19 mwaller

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Posted 08 May 2019 - 07:45 PM

8" Telescope - It's all in the optics
https://seattle.crai...6883868061.html

Excellent Condition 12" Meade Lightbridge Telescope and gear
https://seattle.crai...6860787532.html

Telescope for sale
https://seattle.crai...6877447557.html

Orion SkyQuest XT10 - IntelliScope Dobsonian Reflector Telescope

https://skagit.craig...6831888257.html

 

others were poor choices or poorly mounted

That 102mm refractor is very tempting... Does it seem like a solid package for my needs? 



#20 The Ardent

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Posted 08 May 2019 - 08:35 PM

The 102, It would be a nice , portable all around scope. You can always upgrade the mount later. 

 

For strictly NV use, I’d go with the 8” dob. Visual use is generally limited to low power with these. Easy to use. 

 

The 10 and 12” dobs are good buys for the beginner and will work for NV, visual deep sky, and planets (barring any serious issues) Not as portable. 



#21 mwaller

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Posted 08 May 2019 - 11:25 PM

Thanks for the comments!  I'm trying establish my expectations since I have no prior experience in this...

Would it be reasonable to see some galaxies, such as the Leo triplets in real time with night vision, and would their scale be large enough that they appear as more than a dot...?



#22 Gavster

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Posted 09 May 2019 - 02:02 AM

Thanks for the comments!  I'm trying establish my expectations since I have no prior experience in this...

Would it be reasonable to see some galaxies, such as the Leo triplets in real time with night vision, and would their scale be large enough that they appear as more than a dot...?

Yes and yes. Galaxies are one area where aperture really helps since it enables you to get more image scale. Here is a phone pic I took recently of the Leo triplet (6 second exposure) which gives a very good representation of the actual eyepiece views. It was taken with my 11 inch sct from a relatively dark site (sqm 21) but even at LP sites such as my London back garden and with smaller scopes such as my 4 inch frac, I still clearly see the 3 galaxies and with decent structure (not dots). With the monoculars on their own it’s only 1x so galaxies are a bit small! Although I’ve clearly seen m81 and 82 at 1x and m31 is very obvious at 1x.

Attached Thumbnails

  • DF1C81E0-BF5A-44F1-9C9C-AB8BCD0C9EE8.jpeg

Edited by Gavster, 09 May 2019 - 02:04 AM.


#23 BJS

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Posted 09 May 2019 - 10:18 AM

I highly recommend that you seek out members of a local club and look first hand at different setups.  This is really the best advice i can give anyone who is starting in this hobby.  Once you see telescopes and talk to people who use them; you will have a much better idea what you want to buy and use.


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#24 mwaller

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Posted 09 May 2019 - 11:25 AM

Yes and yes. Galaxies are one area where aperture really helps since it enables you to get more image scale. Here is a phone pic I took recently of the Leo triplet (6 second exposure) which gives a very good representation of the actual eyepiece views. It was taken with my 11 inch sct from a relatively dark site (sqm 21) but even at LP sites such as my London back garden and with smaller scopes such as my 4 inch frac, I still clearly see the 3 galaxies and with decent structure (not dots). With the monoculars on their own it’s only 1x so galaxies are a bit small! Although I’ve clearly seen m81 and 82 at 1x and m31 is very obvious at 1x.

Thanks for sharing the picture!  Is there a particular kind of filter that is most beneficial for viewing galaxies in light polluted areas with night vision equipment?

Thanks!



#25 mwaller

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Posted 09 May 2019 - 11:27 AM

I highly recommend that you seek out members of a local club and look first hand at different setups.  This is really the best advice i can give anyone who is starting in this hobby.  Once you see telescopes and talk to people who use them; you will have a much better idea what you want to buy and use.

After discussing with my wife last night, this is exactly the conclusion we reached.  I am going to hold off on any telescope purchases for now until we attend some local star parties and see what is visible with what!


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