Thursday, February 9, 2006

Two Eyes ARE Better Than One!

I could quickly become a convert.

I've been a cycloptic observer for a long time now. 8", 10", 14.5", 18" and 20" Dobs. I use them in monocular fashion, no Denkemeir insertion. My friends, several of them, use binoviewers on their APs, and yeah, cool views of the moon, Jup and Sat... but... proper observing etiquette says one should not hog views on other's scopes, so my bino-ing has been in small doses.

Last night I decided to try out a Miyauchi 20x100 binocular, which I am semi-seriously trying to sell. That means, I'm not making much of an effort... I may decide to keep them...

Early in the evening, I looked through the bino at the moon. Should that be capitalized? Okay, Moon. La Luna. A found couple things interesting. My eyes are not what they used to be. I swear my astigmatism is worsening. The bino has nice individually focusing eyepieces... and an excellent interocular adjustment... I tweaked them both, but still, I felt the images never quite merged. I'm going to get an eye exam. :-( Still, the low power view of the moon has a really nice 3D feel to it, the mare nicely shaded and smooth, stark relief in the craters along the limb... very enjoyable. Reminded me of my lowest power telescopic views, using my 10" Dob, except.... look at all that space around the moon! There must be a three degree FOV there... I'll have to read up on the spcecs. The FOV would come into play later in the evening.... Meanwhile, I did notice color fringing the moon, yellow and purple. Noticeable, but not annoying enough to be unpleasant.

I wanted to look at Saturn and Mars, in and near the nice big open clusters. Saturn was too low, Mars was up in the tree. So I went inside, had a glass of wine, and watched "What The Bleep Do We Know" via Netflix. Trippy show, if you haven't watched it. Afterwards, and after the backyard lights went off (on a timer), I went out again. This time to sit in the spa, along with some observing. Nice way to do it...

Looking up at Saturn, it was a puny little ringed world compared to the pump-it-up views I am used to in my scope. But there it was, ringed, clearly, with a large portion of the Beehive Cluster to its east. The Beehive was fun to see this way, there is almost an L shape to its brightest stars, with the bottom leg of the L pointing toward Saturn. Lots of double stars, paired off in a pleasing way. At the end of the bottom leg of the L is a threesome of stars... but Saturn is not in the hive, it floats outside, among the dimmer and more sparse cluster stars. The whole show fit into the Miyauchi FOV.... and it began to dawn on me, but I think subconsciously at first...

I looked up at Mars. Small, red, alone. I thought about it heading toward M45 in a sprint. Think I'll watch it over the next week, as it gets closer and close. I panned toward the cluster and, wow... this is one spectacular group in a 4" piece of glass.

Then it dawned on me, all the binoviewing my buds do, this setup is so portable, and I've got two 4" "refractors" going at once. I never get views like this through any of my Dobs... in terms of FOV. This was just great.

I moved over to M42. Holy Moley! The region is one gorgeous view... the gas and dust cloud easily visible, glowing softly, enveloping the Trapezium. The sword stars were in the FOV as well, along with dozens, of other bright field stars.

Oh, and all this from a bright backyard in downtown San Jose... literally, in downtown. I was astonished.

I panned around Orion's bright belt stars... nice chains of dimmer stars winding in large loops between the three. Very cool view.

I soon realized this binocular can open up an entire new dimension to observing. The expanded FOV and nice light grasp... I remembered Greg Edwards, up at Bumpass Hell parking lot, at the old Lassen Star Parties, using a big Vixen bino. Greg, you were on to something.

So, if I keep them, I think a season of bino observing is in the works. I had fun a few years back looking through Steve Gottlieb's scope up at Lassen, doing some of the dark nebula... which, I am sure, would be wonderful targets for an easy set up like this.

I can't wait for some dark skies...

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