As some of you may know, winter weather here in New York completely blows in terms of observing. In other words, clear nights are very few and far between, and can be counted on both hands for at least a four month stretch between November and February. And on some of those nights you just don’t feel like observing, because it’s a full moon, or it’s too friggin’ cold, or for other reasons, ya know? Well, the last couple of nights it was, shall we say, clear enough. Not that it was all that clear, as there was a haze of high clouds far overhead covering about half the sky. But that was clear enough so that I finally got a chance to see if the Vites would pass the audition.
Jupiter is just a few days past its opposition, meaning that it is at its closest – and therefore largest – it will be all year. The haze wasn’t enough to dim Jupiter – much. So I took a look at around 10pm, when it was pretty high in the sky. As I’ve mentioned before, haze usually means good seeing, and the seeing did not disappoint. I’d finally get to use the Vites in the binoviewer for a good long while, take my time, and see what they were capable of.
Well, they’re capable of quite a lot, my friends. At first, I was comparing them at about 210x with my 8mm TeleVue Plossl at 191x and my 12.5mm KK Fujiyama Ortho, Barlowed for 246x. They were right there with the TeleVue; and the seeing might not have been quite good enough for the Barlowed ortho to handle the extra magnification above the 210x. But the view was terrific; and again, I’m not just talking about “terrific for nine dollars” terrific, either. Three bands were visible, with hints of a fourth – which is about as good as I can ever see here. I could see detail in the North Equatorial Belt – it looks like there were a couple of barges there (straight-line features in the cloud tops), lined up next to each other, on the opposite side of Jupiter from where the GRS is.
I had the same problems I had had before with merging the images with the 23mm Vites – I had to fiddle with both the EPs and the binoviewers some to get the images to line up enough so that my brain could take over and merge them. At one point, I ended up having to flip the binos over. But I think that only added to the 3D effect – which was gorgeous. Jupiter looked like it was just hanging out there in space. As mentioned before, there were still problems with light from my not-so-dark roof bouncing off of the big eye lenses of the Vites and causing reflections in the view. Holding my hand up to block the light worked, but was annoying.
Other than those two relatively minor drawbacks, these EPs are definitely keepers. In the binos at 210x, the Vites were still showing all four moons in the same view, even though Callisto was just about as far away in its orbit from Jupiter as it ever gets. And even though it was at the edge of the field of view, Callisto was still nice and pointlike. The 62 degrees does give a nice immersive view without it being overwhelming – unlike the 82-degree Luminos.
I decided to go back out again just before 2am, as the GRS was rotating around, and ol’ Jove was even higher in the sky. The Vites displayed it very easily, a clear separation between the circle of the spot and the horizontal line of the South Equatorial Belt. I then decided to push my luck a bit and check out the rising Mars, as it too is approaching opposition just 10 weeks from now on May 22. It is currently still about 90 million miles away, and only half the diameter it will be in two months, but it was also only 23 degrees up from the horizon, so it was just a little red blob. At least with Saturn, right behind it at about 15 degrees, I could see the rings, but no details were available on Mars. This doesn’t bode well for the upcoming opposition, as Mars will be culminating at only 28 degrees when it’s at its largest – not all that much higher than its altitude when I was looking at it. That stinks.
I was also able to try out the Vites on the 4-day old moon, but it seems like observing towards the south and southwest over my apartment building’s roof screws up the seeing some. The moon had this shimmering effect, as if I were observing it through the heat rising off of an asphalt road in summer. In one of my more embarrassing suppositions, I’ll admit that when I used to see this effect as a kid through my 6-inch and 8-inch newts, I convinced myself that this was caused by seeing the 250 degree heat rising off of the surface of the moon. Heh, heh, whoops! I have now learned that this shimmering is due to local seeing conditions. In my case, it’s most likely that the tiles on the roof are releasing heat they they’ve absorbed during the day, or that the dozen or so vents on the roof at around 7-8 pm are venting out all the heat from people’s kitchens after they’ve made dinner.
Either way, the moon was shimmering something fierce, but plenty of detail could still be seen. Instead of comparing the binoviewed Vites’ view of the moon at ab0ut 210x against my Barlowed Ortho at 246x – which is known for its excellent lunar/planetary views – I thought, “Why not make this a fairer comparison?” I Barlowed my 15mm Paradigm instead. While the Paradigm is a nice EP, it’s no ortho. The Paradigm has a 60-degree AFOV vs. the Vites’ 62; and the Barlowed Paradigm is at 206x vs. the Vites’ 210x.
I couldn’t see a difference. Again, the seeing left something to be desired, but the nine-dollar Vites were easily keeping up with an EP that costs 7 times as much. Not too shabby.