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Monthly Archives: November 2007

29 Nov

Customers frequently ask the light transmission percentage on various models of binoculars, since this is a spec rarely specified by the manufacturers. I suspect there are several reasons for light transmission percentages not often being posted as a spec for a binoculars. One, there is no standardized way of measuring light transmission, so even if posted, it means relatively little unless it is the result of a test where there was a direct comparison with other models. However, the percentage means little outside of this test since no one has devised a test that is universally used by all manufacturers. …

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28 Nov

A common astronomy question I get this time of year from beginner’s is, “What can I see?”. To answer, I patiently explain that it’s not so much a matter of “What” as it is “How much”. This is true in binocular astronomy as well as telescope astronomy. For instance, you don’t even need a binocular to see Saturn or Jupiter or Mars. You can see those without any optical instrument at all. All a binocular or telescope does is show you more detail. In fact, if you are observing from a truly dark sky site, you can see the Andromeda …

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27 Nov

Definitely starting to see some birds moving through the area. Last week, for instance, on Thanksgiving day, impressive numbers of Sandhill Cranes moved over the Chicago area suburbs, moving south. As usual, I heard them long before I saw them, but I did stop pedaling my bike long enough to admire them through my Zeiss Victory 8×20 binocular. Sandhill Cranes are special to me, since I spent so many years in central Nebraska, where they are a spring phenomenon. There, in March and April, you can see them by the many thousands, standing in fields along highways and roads. No …

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26 Nov

Being citybound under light polluted skies has forced me to take what is given to me as an astronomer and one of those opportunities has been the moon. The last time I got serious about observing the moon was when I began astronomy some nearly … oops! Let’s just say a long time, ago. Friday night, though, I cheated a bit, though. I could see the full moon through my walk out window and since it was cold and windy, well, I just got a pillow, laid out on the floor, grabbed my Nikon Prostar 7×50 binocular and my moon …

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23 Nov

It’s been awhile since I have had clear skies, but the clouds finally parted last night and I was able to check on Comet17P/Holmes. In the week since I have seen it last, the comet has expanded, yet again, and as its light continues to expand over a wider area, the comet becomes harder to see. With the full moon last night, I could just see it in my Nikon 7×50 Prostar binocular. Thinking I’d get a better look with my 10x binocular, I then tried my Nikon 10×70 Prostar. Still visible, but the even that little bit of extra …

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21 Nov

What does a binocular astronomer do when the skies refuse to clear? She plays with her collection of star maps, not only because she loves star maps, but also to be ready with a menu of objects to be seen when the skies clear. For appetizers, my binocular astronomy list typically begins with some lunar work (touring marias and some of the larger craters), checking on the observable planets, splitting some of the season’s best double stars, and admiring the colors of some of the season’s brighter stars. (Yes, Virginia, stars do have color and, in a quality binocular or …

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20 Nov

The current trend in astronomy binoculars is more magnification. Today, for instance, the best seller in an astronomy binocular is the 20×80 and for many types of binocular astronomy, this is a great choice. Let’s not forget, though, that with magnification there are trade-offs. Yes, sometimes less is more. For large open clusters and extended nebulae, my favorite is still the venerable old 7×50. With the super wide field of view of a 7×50 astronomy binocular, it is much easier to delineate the outline of large Collinder, Stock and Melotte open clusters. In fact, it is nearly impossible to separate …

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19 Nov

The rain, drizzle and clouds are stubbornly staying with us, here in the Chicago area. Didn’t stop me from doing 80 miles on the bike, this weekend, but it did prevent me from checking up on the comet. Last time I Comet 17P/Holms, last week, through my astronomy binocular, it had expanded, considerably and, as such, appeared a bit less brilliant. This is, of course, a matter of its light being spread out over a larger area – I could still just see it as a nebulous puff of fog, even in my light polluted sky. What will the comet …

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15 Nov

As “no brainer” advice goes, “use the strap” on your binocular is near the top of my list. It is something I preach and practice, religiously. The number one reason binoculars get damaged is not from wear and tear, but from being dropped or banged against a hard object. This is especially true when using astronomy binoculars. Look at it this way. You are in the dark, fumbling around with a star map, flashlight or, perhaps, also dealing with a telescope. Believe me, it’s easy to lose your grip on a binocular under these circumstances. This is especially true on …

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14 Nov

A lot of parents want to buy a binocular for their kids for the holidays, but are reluctant to spend the money it takes to get a decent binocular. Let’s face it, a quality binocular can be expensive. The good news, though, is that OpticsPlanet picked up a special run of the Bushnell Hemisphere 8×32 binoculars from Bushnell with less expensive lens coatings than the standard Bushnell 8×32 Hemisphere. The result? You can now buy one of these mid sized binoculars – small enough for a youngster to hold – at a great binocular price. In fact, at this low …

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