Beginners Portable Astronomy

Though I’d planned to take my Skywatcher 130 telescope with me on holiday to the highlands of Scotland, unfortunately it turned out too impractical to transport everything we needed for a weeks stay (plus one Greyhound!) so I started looking at alternative options.

Armed with a budget of £100, I started looking into the options. Another smaller telescope seemed the wrong solution, if I was intending to do astrophotography with the smaller ‘scope then I’d have to transport extra bits ‘n pieces. I needed true portability to view the skies, but with the compromise of not being able to attach a camera. So I resolved to achieve two things:-

1. Buy a pair of binoculars to get good views of the skies.
2. Take the digital camera with tripod, but try to get an adapter/bracket to help me utilise both the binoculars and camera on the same tripod.

After looking around, I settled on the ‘Helios Nature Sport Plus’ pair of binoculars, 10×50 wide angle. They came recommended by ‘Sky at Night’ magazine and at £84 with case/neck strap, they fitted nicely into my budget. A suitable camera tripod adapter came in at £9 and I picked up the items from a local dealer, Sherwoods Photographic

Helios Main View.jpg

Out in the field, I’ve found that using the binoculars in daylight, they offer a very high quality view, objects are clear and crisp. The only issue I found with them is the line of the horizon was tinged with a faint reddish/yellow line. However once I fine-adjusted the focus wheel, this disappeared almost completely.

The binoculars have eye-relief caps that twist to extend so that they can be used by glasses-wearers, though I usually take my glasses off any to look through the eye-pieces. Having a rubber coating, the binoculars are easy to handle.

Helios Eye Piece View

For stargazing, I have found the binoculars a very useful pair to use. Jupiter and its four main moons can be seen easily, stars with distinct colouration such as red giants are clear and the field of view is excellent (being 6.5 degrees). Even through light pollution, the arc of stars that form the Milky Way can be distinguished. Satellites have regulary crossed my field of view and even M31 the Andromeda Galaxy can easily be seen.

What I find useful is the ability to grab the binoculars and scan the night sky for five minutes, rather than having to haul the telescope outside and hence feel frustrated that I can’t view the night sky as I would like. It has also proved its worth on holiday to look at scenes and objects in the daytime.

The binoculars come with a useful padded carry case, a short guide how to use the binoculars and a cleaning cloth.

The bracket that allows me to attach the binoculars to a camera tripod has proven useful in two ways, not just whilst attached to the tripod, but has an additional way of holding the binoculars as the bracket attaches via a thumbscrew to the centre screw hole at the front of the binoculars.

In addition to to the binoculars, I also found taking a small field compass, notepad, red LED light and of course several magazines and books with star maps essential for finding my way around the night sky. Useful (for the sake of ease) having a GPS enabled mobile phone to give me my current position also helped star-finding.

I must admit that I was skeptical when I first seriously took up astronomy of the value and usefulness of a pair of binoculars. However after reading a lot of amateur astronomers experiences, magazines and tried it out myself, having a decent pair of ‘bins’ is a worthwhile piece of equipment in the astronomer’s tool kit.

Posted by Wordmobi


Bits and Pieces

Lots of short mentions in this post, so I’ll jump right in.

My subscriber copy of ‘Sky at Night’ magazine has arrived and I’ve read it death already. Useful stuff:- Jupiter observing tips, astro photographer of the year results, observing forms for the planets to print. Will hit the newstand on Thursday the 22nd of September.

I’ve ordered the special offer kit from Optical Vision Ltd, where if you buy a Skywatcher telescope you can order (in a carry case) a complete starter kit of lenses, red light torch and filters. It has to be ordered within four months of purchase of the telescope, so I’m hoping for delivery very soon!

In a previous post I waffled about the ultimate mobile browser. In the past week or so I’ve upgraded two on my E71; Skyfire and Opera Mini.

Skyfire has reached version 1.1 and there is a noticeable improvement in speed. A difference I’ve found with it is that on a ‘live’ website that updates in realtime, Skyfire handels it fine. This was useful when tracking the ISS (see my latest post below).

Opera 5 Mini Beta – only just installed it, first impressions very good, very fast rendering of webpages except for one major annoyance. Because its written in Java, there seems to be a major omission in that you cant copy and paste from the system clipboard. Therefore getting web addresses from Gravity (the S60 Twitter client I use) is a no-no… Along with anything else stored on the clipboard. Hopefully there is a workaround hidden somewhere, or it will be added in a full release.

Posted by Wordmobi