Weekend Stargazer: November 17 – 19

Use this chart to locate globular clusters M2 and M15.
Use this chart to locate globular clusters M2 and M15.

Evenings over the weekend are moonfree and ideal for taking in some deep-sky sights. How about a couple of globular clusters? Although these massive conglomerations of stars are most numerous in the summer sky, a few outliers are in prime position early on autumn evenings. Two of the finest are M15 in Pegasus and M2, nearby in Aquarius. Continue reading “Weekend Stargazer: November 17 – 19”

Review: Canon 10×30 IS II Image-Stabilized Binoculars

Canon 10x30II
Canon’s updated 10×30 image-stabilized binoculars remain a fine choice for stargazers and birders.

Canon recently refreshed their line up of image-stabilized binoculars with new versions of their venerable 10×30 and 12×36 models. (They’ve also released three completely new binoculars utilizing a different image-stabilization mechanism: 10×32, 12×32, and 14×32, due out some time in November, 2017.) The 12×36s go from version II (reviewed here) to III, and the 10×30s are updated to version II. What are the differences and are the changes a reason to upgrade? To find out, I obtained a 10×30 IS II to evaluate. Continue reading “Review: Canon 10×30 IS II Image-Stabilized Binoculars”

Review: Canon’s Image-Stabilized Binoculars

Canon 15x45s

Over the years I’ve tested virtually every affordable image-stabilized binocular on the market for reviews appearing in Sky & Telescope magazine. Canon is the clear leader where astronomy is concerned. The company currently offers six models, each with something to interest the backyard stargazer. Some of these binoculars are among the very best available for astronomy, while some are more general purpose. (Fujinon also makes 14×40 image-stabilized binos. You can read my thoughts on this model here.)
Continue reading “Review: Canon’s Image-Stabilized Binoculars”

A Tracking Platform for Astrophotography

Tracker lead image

This simple, easy-to-build mount provides the perfect introduction to long-exposure astrophotography.

Round stars. That’s the difference between astrophotos captured with a camera that tracks the sky’s motion versus one that doesn’t. Traditionally you’d make a tracked photo by placing your camera piggyback on a telescope with a motorized equatorial mount. But that’s a lot of equipment to deal with if all you want are some nice-looking constellation portraits or a shot of a newly discovered comet — especially if you have to travel to reach your favorite dark-sky destination.
Continue reading “A Tracking Platform for Astrophotography”

No-Tools Telescope Collimation

Telescope front view

For optimum performance, precisely aligned optics are a must. Luckily, achieving this goal doesn’t have to be difficult.

Most telescope users know that the only way to get every last drop of performance from a reflector telescope is to ensure that the optics are in good collimation. Here’s a method that’s simple and doesn’t require tools or even a centre-dotted primary mirror.
Continue reading “No-Tools Telescope Collimation”

Five Reflector Performance Killers

Reflector telescope front view

The Newtonian reflector is one of the most versatile optical configurations ever created. Whether homebuilt or commercially manufactured, a good Newtonian can rival the performance of any optical design.

Knowledge is power. The more you know about your Newtonian reflector’s potential and its pitfalls, the better equipped you’ll be to ensure it’s delivering peak performance.
Continue reading “Five Reflector Performance Killers”

Building the Outback Travelscope

Me at Uluru

Me, the Outback Travelscope, and a bloody big rock.
(Photo courtesy George Brandie)

When I was preparing to travel to Australia for a total solar eclipse and some dark-sky observing sessions in the Outback, I decided it was finally time to rebuild my 8-inch travelscope so that it could go into my suitcase and arrive safely at my destination.
Continue reading “Building the Outback Travelscope”

Getting the Most From Astro Binoculars

Bino user

Binocular stargazing is full of surprises. Sometimes you stumble across a pretty cluster and wonder how you’d previously missed it. Other times, you hunt and hunt for a galaxy listed at 8th magnitude, only to come up empty handed. It’s enough to make you wonder — what makes one object a binocular standout and another difficult challenge? Compiled here are the five most important factors that determine whether or not a deep-sky wonder will turn out to be binocular trash or treasure.
Continue reading “Getting the Most From Astro Binoculars”

Build This Simple Binocular Mount

Bino mount in use

Requiring only a few parts, this simple and effective setup provides stable images for detailed views of the night sky.

“This is the best binocular mount I’ve ever used!”

Those were the first words out of my mouth as I came indoors from testing my just-completed binocular rig. It’s rare that I build something that actually works better than expected, but finally I’d come up with a binocular mount that provides steady views, is easy to use, very portable, and simple to build. It was a good night.
Continue reading “Build This Simple Binocular Mount”

A Beginner’s Guide to Collimation

Front view

I’ve been building and using telescopes for more than three decades and I’ll share with you a secret: collimating a Newtonian reflector is easy. So why does it seem so difficult when you’re just starting out? Probably because you’ve done your homework by Googling the subject and have read and re-read everything you’ve found. And now, you’re lost in a forest of information — some of it contradictory, some of it densely technical. Truly, sometimes less is more.
Continue reading “A Beginner’s Guide to Collimation”