Image Intensified astronomy is very effective in light polluted skies.
Generation 3 image intensifiers are very sensitive to near infra-red light and as result of that, by using a long pass filter, a filter that only passes deep red and near infra-red light, almost all man made light pollution is very effectively suppressed.
Also, an image intensifier can produce as much limiting magnitude gain as tripling the aperture of a scope. A 6" scope can show as many stars as faint as can be seen in an 18" scope.
With narrow pass filters, nebula that you would struggle to see even from very dark skies, can sometimes be seen from semi-urban locations. I live in a red zone, and the first time I ever saw the Horse Head Nebula in 30 years of trying was from my light polluted front yard, sitting on the curb, holding a $225 Comet Catcher in my lap.
I paid $2300 for every thing you see here, and with it, I have seen crazy amounts of stuff from my light polluted yard.
Image intensified astronomy is probably the fastest growing segment on Cloudy Nights. At the end of 2019 I did a census and we had 49 people using image intensifiers (which was almost double from the year before) and in the last seven months, we have added about 34 more people and will probably pass the 100 mark before the end of the year.
Using an image intensifier is very much a visual observing experience. There are no laptops or software involved, no external power cables, or anything else. In the picture above, there is an image intensified eyepiece in the focuser of the Comet Catcher, and to use it, I point the scope at the subject, turn on the eyepiece, focus it, and look in to see the subject. The view is real time. There is no integration time, no shutter speed, no ISO or white balance or anything.
From my red zone, I can see all of Marcarian's Chain of galaxies, I can see striking detail in the Dumbell, Nebula, and using a 10" scope, seeing the Pillars of Creation, even from a light polluted yard is possible.
On a very clear night (it happens when strong cold fronts move through) I can see incredible detail in Barnard's Loop.
On a decent night, the Milky Way is resplendent with the Great Rift being beautifully detailed, and the rich star clouds easily visible. Night Vision observers spend a lot of time using very low power eyepieces because there are lots of big nebula and most many of these are visible even from semi-urban environments (California Nebula is huge and bright, Barnard's Loop is huge and it has a fish over it...)
Now it takes patience to find a nice used Gen 3 monocular but they come along in the $2000 price range sometimes, and with even a $300 6" imaging Newtonian, there is a staggering amount of stuff you can see. Spiral arms of M51? Maybe not every night, that depends on your actual sky conditions, but I see them regularly from my red zone sky. using a 6" reflector.
Image intensifiers are saving astronomy for a lot of CN members. I have been doing it for five years and of the 35 years I have been doing this, the last five have been by far and away the most productive and most fun of all of the 30 years before that put together.
This is a cell phone picture. The phone is simply held up to the eyepiece. There is no processing or enhancing. It is essentially about a 2 second snapshot and I can tell you that the view in the eyepiece is much better than what this picture shows. At the eyepiece, it is simply spectacular. The level of nebulosity and the amount of detail is not really captured by this cell phone picture. This was taken from my red zone sky 4 miles from down town Austin and pointing toward the down town light dome. Again, the picture fails at showing the sublime amount of detail that was visible (scope was a 12" dob, but even in a 6" reflector it is pretty outrageously beautiful.)
This is not imaging, though you can image with it, but most people are attracted to it because it is real time, so you can sit down, look in, and see amazing things.
And if you can get to dark skies, I will take your breath away. I have been doing this for 5 years, and every time I go to darker skies, I still get humbled by majesty of our home galaxy. Everyone should see the Milky Way through an image intensifier at least once in their lives.
If you want to know more, we have a dedicated forum here (Night Vision). One of our newest members just posted some of his first session results. He lives jut north of Los Angeles. You might want to see what he has to say!
Edited by Eddgie, 03 July 2020 - 06:59 PM.