Well, Sunday for some is a day of rest and today, literally, it was a day of rest. Tired and somewhat fatigue, I took a nap this afternoon. Yesterday, I did the same thing only to find out that when I awoke and eat dinner, and then headed out for awhile, it was literally pouring. It was raining as hard as it did when I lived in Florida! So Saturday was wash and I expected Sunday to be a wash also. When I awoke though, the evening was rather incredible. Now take in mind, incredible right now is a clear sky with Antoniadi III at zenith (later became a II after the heating of the day settled). So this night I decided to do something I haven't done in a LONG time. I packed up the old XT10 along with my University Optics 4mm, 6mm, 12mm Orthos and the 9mm and 20mm Explore Scientific 100 degrees and the 11mm 82 degree Explore Scientific and the Paracorr Type I and headed out.
I really should have frozen as I broke all my personal rules for observing as I only had a couple of layers on, but the evening was fresh, mild and inviting. The XT10 set up quickly and I had a fan blowing on it to speed cool down. Collimation from the March Star Party at my school was still basically right on using my Glatter Laser collimators, and only needed a few adjustments. I was able to get aligned quickly, and I realized how much I have missed the ease and use of my XT10 solid tube dob. I put in the 20mm 100 degree eyepiece as a finder and blam, there was my first target Venus. Venus was nice to view but as a gibbous nothing I haven't seen before so over to Jupiter. Jupiter easily was found using this eyepiece and I have to say, I think it is going to give my 30mm 82 degree Explore Scientific a run for its money as a finder and wide field eyepiece. The stars were crisp, and with some fine tuning focusing on the XT10 the band and stripes of Jupiter popped right out. I then switched over to the 9mm 100 degrees and found that BAM, I liked that view even more. Detail sprung out and the four Galileo moons were visible as were several more moons around Jupiter (maybe background stars, I didn't check). Next I left the 9mm 100 degrees in, and using the Telrad hit Saturn. Saturn was still rather low and that impacted the seeing, but there were moments when Cassini stuck out wonderfully so and I could detect with averted vision some banding. So at this time I put in the 12mm University OpticsH.D. 4-element Abbe Orthoscopic eyepiece. Saturn's size of course faded down but Cassini was even more evident here. The view was crisper and provided even more detail. So I put in the 6mm and when the seeing allowed, I was deeply impressed with this set of 3 eyepieces I had purchased. I liked them better then the Baader Orthos I have. The 4mm did show some excellent views also, but that was way pushing it with the seeing tonight. I don't imagine using the 4mm that much, but I do want it on those nights when I can push the seeing and details come out on DSO's.
From here I went over to Ursa Major and had a view of M51 and it's companion using the 9mm 100 degree ES and the University H.D. 4-element Abbe Orthoscopics in the 12mm and 6mm. Again, I found myself reflecting on Darth Vader's famous words "Impressive, most impressive." From M51 I went to M81 & 82 and used the 20mm 100 degree ES as a finder and bam, nailed the star hop with this incredible eyepiece. The 9mm 100 ES showed excellent detail, hint of spiral arms in M81 and a bright core region with M82 being the better of the two in show tonight. M82 showed knots in the outer layers and the bright core area showed structure as well. By now seeing had improved and I was out of astronomical twilight. The 12mm & 6mm Univeristy Abbe Orthos did a bang up job here, providing more detail for me.
After this run I went over to M108 and M97 in Ursa Major. Both were found with the 20mm 100 degree ES and the 9mm 100 degree ES showed M108, but it left some detail out. At this time I realized that the trade for the 9mm 100 ES is brightening of an object and I found that the Pentax 10mm XW and the 11mm 82 degree ES showed better contrast and darkening in the background with the Pentax XW winning hands down.
From here I went over to M65 & M66 and had a good view of these two spirals in Leo. Core's were bright and structure was viewable, but again I felt a better contrast was to be had with my 10mm Pentax XW and even the 11mm 82 degree ES. I bought the 11mm 82 degree ES for outreach, but I am quite impressed with it. It also provided more detail then the 100 degree eyepieces.
After M65 & 66 I decided to head over to Virgo and take a run at Markarian's Chain. Here the 20mm 100 degree ES really showed its stuff by bringing a lot of the chain easily into view, with parts just outside the FOV until I nudged the scope. The 20mm 100 degree makes a fine finder eyepiece I have decided after tonight, but I need to take it head to head with the 30mm 82 degree to see which I prefer. I have a sneaky suspicion which one will win, but I also am leaning that each will have their own unique use in my focuser. More on that later after I compare them (I am thinking the 20mm 100 will be a finder and the 30mm 82 degree will be my wide field viewing eyepiece when I really want the best view or I may elect to keep a 26mm Televue Nagler for that as well).
Anyway, M84 & M86 were well viewed and nicely placed in the field of view with the 9mm 100 degree. The 12mm University H.D. 4-element Abbe Orthoscopic provided the best detail for me out of the ones I used on the chain (I was not using the 10mm Pentax XW or Delos on purpose here). I found that again, less is often more when looking for detail in DSO's as I liked the view from the University Abbe Ortho 12mm the best on M84 and M86, and on the eyes. I may have to compare the 12mm University Abbe Ortho to the 12mm Delos I have on another night.
After spending some time in Virgo I had time for one more object. So Lyra was up and I went to M57 the Ring Nebula for my first look of 2015 at this object. The 20mm 100 degree ES found it easily and the view in the 9mm 100 degree ES did not disappoint. The ring looked wonderful in the 9mm and I appreciated the extra time to study the planetary here. One thing I do want to point out is I do wear glasses and with the 9mm 100 degree ES, I do need to remove them and stick my eye right up to the lens to take in the view in the eyepiece. Not a big deal for me. The 20mm 100 degree ES does allow me to get away with leaving the glasses on if I want, but the view is better if I remove them. With the University HD 4 element Abbe Orthos I also found removing my eye glasses provided a better experience, but I could also get away with leaving my glasses on. Then again, I really don't have horrible eyesight so that helps also.
My take away from this night are several:
1. I need to use my 10 inch XT10 more often for a quick get away night for observing when the night allows. I like the XT10 and thought not as smooth as my other dobs, it does the job and I enjoyed using it A LOT tonight. I won't be getting rid of it and I think if you are observing, keeping a 8 or 10 inch solid tube dob for a quick night is a great thing. I love my AR102 ES Refractor and I use it quite often, but the 10 inch just provides a little more magnification and detail that I like when observing.
2. The 20mm 100 degree Explore Scientific eyepiece I am keeping. It is a great finder as an eyepiece and provides great wide field views with clear crisp stars. I had no problem adjusting to using it and the only negative for me is I will have to switch out the 1 1/4 inch holder when I move from the 20mm 100 degree to a Pentax XW or Delos. No biggie really, just a minor inconvenience that I can endure . . . The background is somewhat lighter than I like, I like a blacker or darker background thus providing more contrast and thus giving me more detail. Thus that magic area for me is that 70 to 72 degree FOV. YMMV of course, but that is my personal preference. Eye relief is somewhat short, but someone with a slight modification via prescription glasses will find they can leave them on for finding, but will want to remove them if using this eyepiece for detail gather in the objects you find. Then again, I find I usually bring magnification to bring out detail but in some wide field objects this is not going to work. Bottom line, this is a wonderful eyepiece and a keeper.
3. 9mm 100 degree Explore Scientific. I actually can state up front here I could see myself at times, using the 9mm 100 degree and the 20mm 100 degree ES eyepieces over the course of a night as my only two eyepieces. This would be especially true if I wasn't going to sketch or go after observing detail. IF I want that detail I am going to use my Pentax XW or TeleVue Delos eyepieces as I like the contrast they provide which springs more detail to my eye. Again, less is more here in my opinion. In terms of the eyepiece, the stars were crisp across of the FOV and in the center, marvelous. Explore Scientific has done an excellent job on these eyepieces. I was able to see detail and structure easily. I will be keeping my 9mm 100 degree ES and will offer to loan to a few friends who may want to use it or the 20mm 100 degree ES when I am not using them. Bottom line, both ES 100 degree eyepieces are excellent to very excellent eyepieces. I think the Ethos has them on contrast but for the cost and money if you don't want to spend for an Ethos, as so many others have said, the Explore Scientific 100 degree line is a very excellent set of eyepieces to own and to use. I won't be getting the 14mm 100 degree ES as I don't see a need for it as I like the 9mm just fine.
4. I didn't mention it much but I was impressed with the 11mm 82 degree ES eyepiece. Weight is nice, size is nice, stars are crisp across the entire field for me using a Paracorr Type I and though I bought it as an outreach eyepiece, I could see it getting time in my focuser from time to time. A solid and excellent choice again if price is something one is concerned about and one wants excellent performance. It doesn't equal the 10mm Pentax XW or Delos or the 12mm Delos though. I would take them anyday but the cost is like 3x that of the 11mm 82 degree ES. So one has to decide based on cost and I would never put anyone down for choosing and using this eyepiece in their focuser. Another winner by Explore Scientific.
5. University H.D. 4-element Abbe Orthoscopics, 12mm, 6mm, 4mm. Okay, I can hear someone saying why not just barlow the 12mm? Well, I have an Explore Scientific 2x something or other and that tells you how much I use it. I use it in outreach for my son so he can get higher magnification when I don't want to swap out a high end eyepiece. So I like to use the individual eyepieces as I do believe that having less glass is often more. Here that is true. These eyepieces wowed me, and I mean I REALLY was wowed. Eye relief is something one has to watch out for on these, but they are comfortable to use, provided the best view of the planets and of structure in the galaxies I used them on, were crisp across the narrower FOV and I am SO GLAD I purchased these. I won't part with them and in my Lunt Solar Scope form earlier today, they showed a prominence and flare wonderfully, with in depth detail! These are keepers and there is a place when viewing DSO's when I want to maximize my observing of details in a DSO by using less glass. I would re-purchase these in a heart beat.
I'll try to add pictures later and perhaps a sketch or two that I did to compare views. But what a wonderful night to just get out and view and evaluate some eyepieces. It was a fun night and since this is a hobby, it should be fun! Here is hoping I can get a few more fun nights in over the next two weeks!