Sketching Light for Astronomy: Black Diamond Spot, Rigel Starlite or Photon Freedom II

As a sketcher, I am always in search of a better lighting source that will preserve my dark vision while allowing me to sketch. So of late I have gathered three items to help do so. I am going to present them here and discuss their pro's and con's.

First come an image of all three together. They are on the bottom: 1. The Rigel adjusting red light; also called the Starlite here.  2. To the top the BlackDiamond Spot Headlamp.  3. The Photo Freedom Light which is on the right.

1. We'll start with the Rigel Starlite as seen below (with a Lego Darth Vader Key Chain).

This light is about four inches long by about 1 1/2 inches wide. It has a wheel that turns on and off the two LEDS inside the clear plastic on the front. I question in the build if the wheel will endure but some people on some of the forums like CloudyNights swear by them. One guy reinforces his with duck tape.  I would use the red lanyard to make sure it isn't dropped or better yet, I'll probably make a wrist loop so it stays on my wrist for sketching. The light varies in intensity and here is an image in a darken hall during the day of the dimmest setting of this light. The hallway was darken, no flash went off but it sure seems bright there! Here is the Rigel Starlite a couple of inches from the door to the garage. It's dimmest setting is workable for sketching but not something to float around. I would keep my observing eye closed on this one.

Here is the Rigel Starlite in the dark with a clipboard and an actual sketch.  The first is at the brightest setting. This is way too bright for sketching and for keep dark adaptation.

Here is the Rigel Starlite at its dimmest setting. The light is spread out more evenly on the sketch and allows one to see the two galaxies that are close to each other here, along with the bright core. It didn't really allow for me to see the mottling on the galaxy with the bright core. Not bad, but you need something to hold it in position over your sketch.

2. Here is a headlamp made by BlackDiamond and it is called Spot. It puts out 130 lumen on the white light, and if your the last one cleaning up at the end of an observing session, it is bright, very, very bright.The build quality is good to very good, it is built more sturdy in my opinion than the green Energizer headlamps I have and it swivels into 3 positions; straight on, 45 degrees and near 90 degrees, more like 75 degree probably. Adjustable headband. The only thing I do NOT like about this is when you go to change the batterys' it is REALLY flimsly on the piece of plastic that connects the two parts. It would be easy to break. So I would watch the battery meter and change it at home before going into the field or you'll need white light to change the batteries.  Better to change these ones out at home.
Both the red and white light have a variable in how bright they are. Depending on the mode, you simply push down the button and the light dims down to its lowest levels.You can view a lot of the details to this product at this Black Diamond video at YouTube: LINK. Again, it doesn't show the red light dimming which it does. This is a workable headlamp for me.

Here is the dimmest setting for the red light. The light from the Spot at its lowest setting was low enough that the DSLR I was using would not register the light, so I had to move to the wall next to the door. It was very dim, so dim that at night I cannot leave it on my head at the lowest setting an illuminate the clipboards I use for sketching.

Here is the Black Diamond Spot in the dark on its highest setting. Again, this is too bright to maintain dark adaptation and to not bother others around you. It does show the 3 galaxies and the stars I had put in place though .

Here is the Black Diamond Spot at its lowest red setting. Still a little brighter than the Rigel, but it does light up the paper but the two rings from the two LED's do show up on the paper in the dark, even visually. This one would work if one had to use it.

3. Photon Freedom

The Photon Freedom is about the size of a fifty cent piece though in the shape in the middle of the picture above.It comes with a clip, a tie on clip, and I ordered a finger clip. You can see those above on the packaging. I also ordered mine in red as they do come in many colors. This one like the Rigel, is red only.
I also have a regular lanyard that it will clip on to if I want to use it that way.

The Photon has the following items to it. A pulse, that flashes red. A safety mode, actually 5 of them, 4.5 lumens,  about 18 to 20 hours of battery life; waterproof, and variable brightness. I love the size, the ease to use it, and the ease of use. It's build is okay, I'll see how it holds up over time. My only worry on he build is how enduring is the switch in it.  At the price though, I can't beat it, and I love the size, the light it puts out and the ease of changing the battery. It is the lightest of the three and as such, after a few moments, no matter where I am wearing it, I cannot tell it is on my finger, around my neck, or clipped to my sketching clipboard.  Here is a link to the WebSite and there are two videos you can watch in the lower right. In terms of brightness here it is at the end of the hall during the day.

Dim, and what I like is a nice even oval of light.  Here is another in the dark of the Photon at its highest setting. Again, it is way to bright but it does show the galaxy and the stars though with enough bright red light to make your night vision running away for around 30 to 60 minutes.

Here is the Photon at its dimmest setting. I love how it is an even light, spread out on the black paper and it feels comfortable to my eyes. Out of all three, I like this one the best as long as it holds up and I surely hope it will.

So the winner for me is the Photo Freedom II followed by the Rigel, then the Black Diamond Spot. Don't take me wrong, the Black Diamond Spot will be the headlamp I use for observing when I need one. The Rigel will work on some big projects but I simply love that I can clip the Photo Freedom II to my clipboard, use the magnets to attach it, or put it on my finger and give the perfect illumination to my sketching. Lastly I can hang it from my lanyard and it illuminates the paper quite well. Here it is on my finger. I'll do a follow up post to this in a few months when I get some good time observing to ensure these play out well with intensive use. I like all three, but so far prefer them in the order I have listed. We'll see if that holds up with time.


Getting Older, Habits, Changes . . . and Astronomy

I have been out twice in the last week so I will be posting some observing reports sometime in the next several days! Yeah!  I just wish the weather was going to cooperate over the next couple of days while I am off for spring break. Alas, it isn't.  Well maybe the refractor will be a go in the backyard. I was hoping for one more night of good observing on my list I am working.

One thing I have to say that I've noticed as I get older is the sins of our youth catch up with us as we get into middle age and beyond. I have reached a point in my life where I have to lose weight. Yep, I am a rather big guy, a combo of bad lifestyle choices and genetics. I will never be a slim Jim so to speak. However, I am going to have to get real serious and lose some weight to stop some major issues from developing. My heart is slightly enlarged, the beginning of heart disease and related to higher blood pressure. To correct means diet modification, exercise and a blood pressure pill. My goal is to lost a total of 100lbs in 20lb increments over the next 18 months.  I want the weight to stay off. How? I eat a healthy diet, since my celiac disease demands that, fruit for breakfast, fruit and veggies for lunch with some protein, a normal dinner (I have hadto change my portion sizes at dinner though) but I have not really given up soda, Powerade or Gatorade. The sugar drinks have to go my doctor say. I love cold water so that shouldn't be a problem.

Next, is my weight has caused my knees to begin to have minor arthritis in them. I can reverse this through exercise and losing weight so there is another reason to do so. I suffer from sleep apena and the hope is as I lose weight that will lessen to where I hopefully don't need to sleep with a mask.

So how do all these things deal with astronomy? Well, I figure my choices are to keep my habits, bad as they are and let my knees go bad and heart go bad and perhaps lose the one thing I really love about the hobby, going to the dark sites that are so close to where I live.  Second, modify my habits so  lose weight and continue to enjoy the aspects of the hobby I love, going to dark sites.  Last, sell everything off, accept that I refuse to change and leave it at that.  Well of the options the only one that makes sense to me, is the second one, to modify and change my habits so I am healthy and can enjoy the things I can do. Luckily for me, we have a new elliptical we bought for this purpose, since due to a long time knee injury and a very bad back injury, I cannot run or bike, the two exercises I did in my youth.

So I guess from this I have learned that keeping one's body physically up is very important in this hobby. If I want to enjoy what I love about this hobby, then I will make changes. So I am going public on the blog to express that I am going to do that, to post from time to time how my progress is going so I can be accountable to someone, and hopefully gain some support.  Here's to starting to make changes so my wife, my adult children, my future grand-children, and my love and enjoyment of this hobby can continue for a long time. Cheers and thanks for enduring this post.


Utah Star Party August, 2014

Well, I made a decision without consulting with anyone. I moved the Utah Star Party this year to Thursday, September 25th through September 28th .  I will not be able to be out at the site on Thursday, September 25th and will drive out the afternoon of Friday, September 26th and observe Friday evening, Saturday evening and perhaps Sunday evening.  Others may come out on Thursday and set up their camp and observe that night and everyone is welcome to leave when they want. The sole purpose of this experience is for amateurs to gather, enjoy each others company, observe and then share what they want to.  This last year we had a wonderful experience and hope to repeat that.

So why the move from October to September? First, I had thought of July but the new moon weekend falls on the weekend of July 24th, and July 24th is a large holiday here in Utah, and the sites will be full.  I opted not for October after last years experience of freezing at night.  August can be monsoon so we agreed to bypass August, and because in September you have longer nights, both summer and fall objects are up, and if your up late enough, winter objects, can we say hello to Orion?

Here are some photos of the area.  The car and the telescope have been replaced . . .

Looking South: 

A small tent under a Juniper Tree . . . 

Looking from the tent to the observing area. 

Looking north to northeast. 

Looking west (zoom on the camera). 

Looking south-southeast

Looking south to southeast

Looking east. 

Looking south

Well, that's the site.  No registration. I have updated the website to Utah Star Party 2014 and that is at this link.  For some information if your interested.

1. No toilets at the site. Your on your own kinda of. I will have a portable toilet with a bad under it and you are responsible for bagging, zipping and getting rid of any poop you put into a bag.  Here is a view of the portable toilet I have: Link. IF you want to use my toilet that is fine but you will need to bring a bag which is at this link to know what to bring. You have to dispose of the waste and don't bury it at the observing site.

2. Forest Service Toilets and trash are available at the Vernon Reservoir 4 miles to the east.  Quick drive and the toilets there are actually really good. I've used them.  They also have some great camping sites at the reservoir and you can set up your equipment on the field and we can watch it (I leave my equipment set up and covered) and then drive away when your done (have your car ready to pull out where the lights don't impact us) and go to your RV at the reservoir. We also had two RV's at the ite last year and that worked fine for us.

3. Bring your own water/drink and food.  What you bring in, you need to pack out.  I'll have some extra large black garbage bags but feel free to bring your own and haul them out when your done.

4.  We are not light freaks but some etiquette is expected.  Let the site know if your leaving early, park your car so the lights are pointing west toward an exit. Use a red light like me to sketch? Don't set up near me if you don't like that and I won't bring to your observing area if your observing and not using lights. Just live the golden rule please.

5.  Quiet on the field til 10:00 a.m. each day.  It's okay to talk etc, just be quiet and perhaps use a whisper level voice and be away from sleeping tents.

6. No tents on the observing field please.  Set up on the edges of the field.

So that's about it.  If you want to discuss this event, please go to this link over at astronomyinutah. I know I am a little more open there. I really hope to see a good turn out, to see old friends and make some new ones also!