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How to see better in the dark!

PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 2015 10:26 pm
by edward-fraini
All the following thoughts can be garnered from good internet resources. I am listing a few I have discovered over time by experimenting and reading a lot of good articles.
Here are some things to consider if you want to go after the faint objects that make up many of the Astronomy League Observing programs.
Collimation, Collimation, Collimation! I have nearly exclusively used Reflectors both Newtonian and Dosonian for my observing sessions. I make a very serious attempt to collimate at the beginning of the observing session. I use a Laser but honestly I have three and they don’t give the same result. I tend to believe the Howie Glatter’s over the others. I follow up with the Auto-collimator from Astrosystems if there is enough daylight left to see the image. Repeat with star tests ever couple hours! The hardware will keep changing. My mirror is reasonable large and fast at F3.9 so it needs a little more attention.

If you are looking for a faint object consider not using that high priced Nagler you bought. Think about it do you really need a wide field once you have the correct piece of sky centered in the optical train. My reason for saying this is that every element of glass in the eyepiece costs you about 1% in light transmission. Or worse depending on quality of the coatings, some Naglers have as many as seven elements of glass compared to a Ortho which typically has three. Get you a set of three eyepieces to do your work load. For Columbus skies I would recommend roughly 50, 150 and between 225 and 250 magnification. Here is an important lesson I learned from Amelia Goldberg who has helped me locate many difficult objects. Her advice is to get the field right first then concentrate on powering in and searching for the desired object.

We often speak to using averted vision. Occasionally my log will note “..had to use averted vision.” Our eyes are constructed such that the rods around the edge of the retina are more sensitive to light. It is not two difficult to learn to focus on an object that is not in the center of the field of view and you can practice this in the daylight. You can also use the technique of bumping your scope. Grab it and gentle shake it. It is in our DNA to detect objects in motion and it works well at the eyepiece.

I have become a slave to the red screened laptop. Ever notice in those beautiful TSP pictures that the field level is awash in red light. This is probably the worst thing you can do if you are trying to see faint objects. Sure it is red but it is also really bright and technically you are not looking at just RED light. I am trying to make a habit of covering my observing eye when glaring at the screen of my laptop. I started out using small charts at the eyepiece but not anymore. A candy bar will help you seeing ability and unfortunately coffee will hurt it. One of these days I want to get an observing hoodie but right now it just seems to hot.

Next time out think about some of these things, read more and push yourself to try for that faint galaxy or Planetary Nebula.

Ed F

Re: How to see better in the dark!

PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 2015 10:33 pm
by bram-weisman
Great stuff, Ed.

I bought an eye patch from a vendor at TSP. It comes in real handy at the top of Larry Mitchel's orchard ladder when you need one hand to hang on, and another to focus so you put the patch over your weak eye and relax and enjoy the view with your dominant eye. I suppose you could move the patch over to the dominant eye to preserve the
night vision while you are at the computer. Hoodie not required.

Re: How to see better in the dark!

PostPosted: Fri Jun 12, 2015 9:46 am
by edward-fraini
If I had noticed the patches I would have picked one up. Is it really comfortable and who made it?
Ed F

Re: How to see better in the dark!

PostPosted: Sun Jun 14, 2015 2:17 pm
by rene-gedaly
I love my observing hood & I love my eye patch. Did not know about candy bars. Doggone you, Ed.

The red lights are killer, though. To avoid them I've been observing without lights, no computer, and I try to avoid charts in the field. I've been doing a constellation survey at home where I pan an area trying to memorize the neighborhood. Next day, I check the charts. Slow going, but I am seeing progress.

I also swallow Occuvite.