Inspired directly by Matt Wedel and his exact same post (hey, I never claimed to be clever or original), and inspired indirectly by a “show-and-tell” of my case I did recently for a brand new DAS member, I thought I’d do a “mini-review” of my non-scope astronomy equipment. Okay, I’m not ashamed to admit it, I’m totally ripping off Matt. Just straight up stealing. But please go and check out his blog, you’ll enjoy it.
I’ve already done reviews of most of the things in my eyepiece case over the years, so I’ll update those reviews here as needed.
So here it is, my eyepiece case:
This is actually a pistol case from Amazon, which is currently down to less than thirteen bucks. Hard to get a better deal in astronomy than that! The foam is terrific, and you just cut out what you need yourself. Rather than cut out an individual slot for each of the smaller, “Plossl-format” EPs, as you can see, I instead just cut two long slots out for them all. As you can also see, I did not score very highly on scissor-use in Kindergarten.
One of the first things you’ll see in the case is an eyepatch. An eyepatch?!? I heartily recommend using one to all astronomers. You can use it to cover your observing eye before you go out, while you’re gathering your stuff to get ready, so as to be better dark-adapted once you get outside. Then you switch it to your non-observing eye while observing. This is so that you observe with both eyes open. When you observe with one eye closed, it introduces strain into your observing eye. The eyepatch allows you to keep both eyes open and eliminates that strain.
Next, on the top right, is the headlamp. I just got this a couple of weeks ago, and it’s really good. The white light is blindingly bright – good for the end of the night packup. Just be careful not to shine it in anyone’s eyes, because they will not enjoy that. At all. Really. (The white light would also be good for night bike riding, if I were to dare.) It’s the red light that makes this headlamp terrific. It’s great for hands-free reading of observing lists (which I prepare in advance before going out using Stellarium), or finding eyepiece caps that you’ve dropped, without ruining your night vision.
Across the top are the three anti-vibration pads. Okay, so I don’t EVER keep these in the case with the eyepieces, for the obvious reason that they’re dirty from being on the ground all the time. And, number one rule: you don’t want dirt anywhere near your eyepieces. (I cleaned them off to take the photo, natch.) These are the same ones from Home Depot that I bought for less than two bucks. (Okay, they’re actually a second set from Home Depot, because I left the first set in Prospect Park. a year or so ago.) You just cut out some firm, but squishable, foam into circles and tape them into the cups. Voila! Anti-vibration pads for two bucks instead of the FORTY-FIVE BUCKS that Celestron wants for them. Yikes!
Up front, we’ve got a couple of filters. On the left is the Orion Polarizing filter, which I use exclusively on the moon. If this isn’t the best moon filter out there, I don’t know what is. It lets through an infinitely variable amount of light from 40% all the way down to 1%. It even does a great job increasing contrast – and therefore detail – on the otherwise obnoxious full moon. What’s also nice about it is that it’s in two parts: one part gets screwed onto the diagonal, the other on the EP. Then you just twist the EP to get to whatever amount of transmission you want.
The filter on the right with the “U” is the Orion Ultrablock. I’ve previously described this one here. This one is okay, but as I’ve also described, it will be useless in a few years, due to the ongoing and continuing switchover to full-spectrum LED lighting.
Not pictured in the case is the Baader Moon & SkyGlow filter, which I described in full here. That’s because that filter lives permanently on the end of my diagonal. I almost never take it off. I’m not sure if it does anything to SkyGlow, and it’s not a moon filter like the Polarizing filter, but what it does do is to increase contrast. My understanding is that it does this similarly to the way a regular old 80A blue filter does it – by reducing blue light, which I understand somehow interferes with your eyes’ ability to bring the rest of the colors of light to a focus. It also reduces glare, so that contrast features stand out, with the result that the M&SG makes seeing planetary detail much, much easier than observing without it. With the M&SG, I’ve seen 1) Jupiter’s Great Red Spot; 2) the Cassini Division dividing Saturn’s rings; and, 3) albedo features on the surface of Mars.
Okay, now that we’ve cleared away the detritus littering the top of the EPs, let’s get to the EPs themselves. All the way on the left is the 10mm Celestron Luminos. As I’ve discussed before, I don’t use this one too much. I don’t really care for having to move my head around to have to see the full field of view that this one offers. Plus, the view doesn’t quite look as sharp as other EPs, including 10mm Plossls, which give the same magnification.
To its right is the 15mm Astrotech Paradigm. I like this EP as a medium-power “wide-field” EP, but, like the Luminos, it also isn’t quite as sharp as my Plossls. It has another drawback, one you don’t notice until you take it out to an outreach event. This one is subject to kidney-beaning, big time. I don’t notice this myself, because I know where to put my eye to look through the EP. But at outreach, people who have never looked through a telescope before have considerable difficulty lining up their eyeball into that sweet spot that lets them see the view.
Then come all the “small-format” EPs. First up, in the top slot on the left, is the 12.5mm KK Fujiyama Ortho. I haven’t yet been to a location or had one of those nights where the seeing is extraordinary, or extraordinary enough, to be able to decide whether the claim to fame for orthos – that they are the sharpest EPs out there – is true or not. Still, this one is plenty sharp, and I start off all my planetary observing with it.
Once I start with the ortho, I then move on and put it into the Orion Ultrascopic apochromatic 2x Barlow just beneath the two rows of EPs. The Ultrascopic lets me go from 123x to 246x with the ortho, while retaining all 10mm of eye relief that the 12.5mm ortho has. I understand from reading around the net that the Ultrascopic is a pretty sweet Barlow, and I’m happy to agree – I don’t note any loss of sharpness when I use this with the ortho. That is, providing the seeing cooperates. Unfortunately, this one is discontinued. I got mine as a sort of “throwaway” when I bought my Orion ST-80 refractor used. The seller threw in half a dozen eyepieces and this Barlow. It was a sweet deal for me!
Next to the ortho, one in a yellow cap, the other in black, are a pair of 10mm Orion Sirius Plossls. I use these for binoviewing.
Oops, did I neglect to mention that huuuuge binoviewer on the right? Yeah, that’s the Arcturus binoviewer. Unfortunately, I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it. Something has fallen off the inside of the binoviewers, completely sealed inside the closed off light path, landing on the optics, giving me a nice little black spot on the moon whenever I use the BVs for that. Which I basically don’t use anymore because of that. The only way to remove that piece of dirt, or whatever it is, would be to disassemble the whole thing. I won’t do that – things that I disassemble have an unfortunate tendency to stay disassembled forever. So, now I have a little dark spot in view, and of course, it’s insanely distracting. At the same time, it’s not too bad, because the basic feature of using BVs is that your brain combines the images from both eyes to form one image. This has a tendency to lessen the black spot. But still, my eye is drawn toward it like a moth to a flame.
On the extreme right of each of the two EP slots in the case, in the clear plastic, are the two nosepieces for the BVs. One is 1.85x; the other is 3.0x. They both work well with the BVs to take the pair of included 30mm Plossls that come with them from 63x, to 117x, to 190x, while being very sharp on the moon and planets. I’ve been told that the use of the BVs increases the focal length of the Mak by about 100mm or so, so that I’m really at about 5% higher magnification than that. If the seeing doesn’t permit using the 30mm Plossls with the 3.0x nosepiece to get me to about 200x, I’ll back off and use the pair of 10mm Orion Sirius Plossls instead to get to about 160x or so directly, with no nosepiece.
Rounding out the first slot is a Meade 9.7mm Plossl, which is a leftover from my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Bird-Jones telescope, the Meade DS-2130. As I have that pair of 10mm Plossls, this one just doesn’t ever get used. This is actually labelled a “Super Plossl”, but there’s nothing super about it – it’s just a regular ol’ Plossl, just like all the others. The second EP slot starts with a 9mm Kellner, one of the two stock EPs that came with the Mak. (The other is a 25mm Kellner, which I’ve never used.) Like the 9.7mm, this too does not really ever get used.
Next to the 9mm, in the black top, is the 8mm TeleVue Plossl. In addition to the 12.5mm ortho, the 8mm TeleVue is also my goto EP for high-powered observing, both for lunar/planetary, as well as, well, hmmm, what have I been trying to see lately? Oh, yeah, I’ve been trying to see the E and F stars of the Trapezium. The TeleVue is my 191x stop-off EP before I Barlow the 12.5mm Ortho to get to 246x. Whichever one I end up using all depends on how good or bad the seeing is that night.
Next is the 6mm Meade Modified Achromatic. This is the other one of the two EPs I kept from the clutch of EPs that arrived with the ST-80; the other being the 25mm Orion Sirius Plossl that lives in the ST-80. Like the 9mm Kellner, I only ever use this one on the moon, and rarely at that. And finally, there is a 4mm Celestron Omni Plossl, which basically never gets used. It gives me 385x in my Mak, which is waaaay too high of a magnification, and 100x in the ST-80, which is unnecessary. I ought to get rid of it, and a couple other of these EPs as well, but I’m just sentimental, I guess.
There are a few EPs that are MIA from the case. The most obvious one is the 24mm Explore Scientific that I just got several weeks ago. I gotta cut a new hole in the foam for this one, right beneath that moon filter . Then there is the pair of nine-dollar 23mm Vite eyepieces that I bought for the binoviewer. Since I’m barely using the BV, I’m not using these, either. And, of course, there are the 32mm and 25mm Plossls that live in my Mak and ‘frac respectively as low-powered finder EPs.