This post upfront has no visuals. Sorry for that. It has no math, no actual science. It is a review of something that I have seen twice in the last week conducting outreach. Last Thursday I had the opportunity to do some outreach with my local club and then again on Saturday. On Thursday I took my XT10 out for a spin and on Saturday, I took the 17.5 out to the club's outreach site in Stansbury Park. The first outreach event was in a bright library parking lot that really drowned out the night sky. Around 10:00pm the lights went out and that transformed the site to a outward suburban site. The club's outreach site in Stansbury Park is a decent site, not a dark site but good for outreach, and definitely better than the Salt Lake Valley that is heavily urbanized and light polluted. Conditions are both nights were transparency very good, seeing below average increasing as the night went on to average. There, you have the conditions
Okay, I lied, I am going to put in two images of SPOC, the home of the Salt Lake Astronomical Society and a copy of the light pollution map from 2014 that shows LP conditions at the site. I have to say that conditions at SPOC in terms of Light Pollution have decreased slightly over the last 3 years and more so over the last 10. Then again, when I look at my home it is going from a yellow zone, to orange zone and red is creeping in as my city expands its development without care to the night sky LINK to LP Maps and SQM data. The good news is my dark sites are staying dark and LP is NOT creeping into them yet. I am sure that will change over the next 25 years.
Above is a Google Map of SPOC. I've labeled where the telescopes are set up by club members for outreach and where the 3 telescopes in the complex are located.
Here is the light pollution map (above) for Stansbury Park and SPOC is the orange dot. Light pollution impacts the site though you can get some decent views for the public at an outreach event there.
Light pollution though is not the subject of this post. It is only in the sense that light domed outreach is going to impact the views I had. Combine these light polluted skies with conditions will determine the overall quality of the image one observes in the eyepiece, when combined with the quality of the optics, but I personally put the impact of light pollution and sky conditions over the quality of the optics until one gets into a dark enough location to where light pollution has no impact and sky conditions and the quality of one's optics can come into play to determine the quality of the image in the eyepiece.
My XT10 then is just a XT10 and I didn't expect anything speculator that Thursday night at outreach. I took it for convenience. Base in the back, tube in the back, eyepiece case, collimation tools and I'm off with a small cooler filled with water. At the library I set up the XT10 quickly and did my collimation check. Love the XT10 as it only needed a very slight correction to be collimated. The mirror was pretty acclimated and I had brought not my Pentax XW's or TeleVue Delos, but my Explore Scientific eyepieces and my Orthos, a Baader Planetarium Classic Ortho 10 mm Eyepiece 1.25" and 6mm, and the University Orthos HD Abbe II 12mm, 6mm & 4mm. In the Explore Scientific I had the 11mm, 24mm & 30mm 82 degrees, and the 9mm and 20mm 100 degree eyepieces. I also had my Paracorr Type I and Type 2. I didn't use the Paracorr on Thursday night in the XT10 (and I had the same eyepieces with the 17.5" dob on Saturday but I did use the Paracorr Type II that night). I began by using the 11mm 82 degree ES to show the moon and received good images, though with a decent amount of coma on the outer edge. Saturn also showed well with the 11mm 82degree ES. I then popped in a 12mm University Ortho and it was like BANG! No coma of course, and the image of Saturn was clear, crisp, and sharp with a clear view of Cassani. The public didn't know the difference but I did.
My friend Jeff Porter was there with his modified XX12i with a Zambuto mirror in the primary and using the Ortho's was very eye opening for him. His scope showed a wonderful view with the Orthos. Clear, sharp and crisp. I would speak for myself, and I think Jeff would agree, that indeed less glass was more this night.
I have to plug this again. My thrill this night was letting kids from about age 8 and up learn to find the moon and Saturn using the XT10. They walked away feeling proud and really that enhanced their experience. If nothing else, they will remember not only seeing the moon and Saturn that night, but using the telescope to find those objects for themselves. Powerful outreach when done that way!
On Saturday as I stated, I took and set up the 17.5, collimating it full tilt with the Catseye tools and confirming with Howie Glatter's 2" laser collimator and TuBlug. I love when the match! I ran a fan for about an hour to cool and then shut it down to observe. I had a wonderful evening showing the moon, Saturn, the Lagoon Nebula, The Swan Nebula, M51 and NGC 5395, and then the night was over. I used the 100 degree eyepieces and the 11mm 82 degree eyepiece a lot this night but I also used the Ortho's, mainly the 12mm University and the 10mm Baader because that is what conditions allowed. Again, in my opinion, the views were crisper, cleaner, and sharper than in the Explore Scientific eyepieces. The Light Pollution had a part in that of course, but still, the Orthos were just fantastic.
My take away again, is that I need to remember that as much as I love that 70 to 72 degree experience, and as much as using the 100 degree eyepieces by Explore Scientific are a treat (with a Paracorr which is needed for me) I have to remember to put in the Ortho's to eek out every ounce of detail I can from the objects I am observing and sketching. I do myself a dis-service if I don't do that in my observing experience. Your mileage may vary from mine, your opinion may be different, but for me, I am putting the Ortho's into the viewing plan from now on. Keep being amazed by all that is above and lets all remember to be just a little more kind, a little more caring, and a little more generous to those around us.
New Feature I am kinda of going to try which is to announce what my next post will be about. I have a review of SkySafari3 and will be reviewing SkySafarri4 in my next post in a new days.