Wednesday afternoon I drove out to my favorite observing spot, Forest Road 006 and nature greeted me with a wondrous surprise that I have not seen in all my years driving out there. Hundreds, if not thousands of Indian Paintbrush showing their orange color on the desert floor and in some cases, up into the mountains.
The pictures due to the cloud cover do not do the Indian Paintbrush justice. They are bright orange this year and they are like pictures of the red poppies in France, these are just orange. I enjoy my trips out to the deseret, and the beauty that the deseret offers. When conditions are right, the celestial views in the sky are just tremendous. However, equally beautiful, are the treasures that are found in the terrestrial realm. I think there is a life lesson there. In our quest to obtain something of worth, we often overlook the simple beauties, the simple discoveries that add joy and wonder to our daily trips wherever we go.
I was pleasantly pleased to find that the Forest Service had had a grader team out grading the roads out on the Forest Land. The crews spent the night out there in trailers near where FR005 ends in a T. I had the thought, and I should have followed through on it, to invite them up to take a look through the telescope. Anyway, you can see those roads here:
The ruts are gone and I was able to drive at speed, 50mph easily down them. The top pictures is just after the cattle guard and is MUCH better than what had occurred from all the ruts during the winter season.
These were the skies that greeted me driving out to FR006. You can see a few whisps of Cirrus clouds, and for the first part of my observing evening, those clouds would impact the views.
Above you can see the high level clouds that began to work their way south out of Idaho, impacting northern Utah. The forecast was clear, except for SkippySky Astronomy (best amateur astronomy weather forecast I use).
I had originally planned to spend two nights and observe for two nights for Wednesday and Thursday. The forecasts were calling for warming temperatures and clear skies. Well, temperatures warmed, but the cloud forecast was off. Here you can see my Outback, my 17.5" dob, and then the tent with a cot that I had to move in at the end of the night to sleep in. I would say that is perhaps my biggest take away. IF I am staying over for 3 or more days, than using the cot and the tent combined with a ground air mattress and my memory foam pad (3 inches thick) makes sense. If I am only staying overnight or staying over two nights, it is better for me to simply use an air mattress, then the memory foam and sleep in the back of the Outback. I can slightly crack a window if I need, which I don't usually since I live in such a dry climate. It means I pile the eyepiece cases in the front seat at night, but that works. So this trip taught me to stick to sleeping in the back of the Outback!
Oh, I have sleep apnea and I sleep with a machine and a mast at night. I have found a means of using a battery from a portable mobile chair, that powers my machine for four to five nights. I cannot use the humidifier but that is okay. I also have to have a fan blowing on me during the night, and this battery and the cables that connect to it to the electrical appliances, allow me to run the fan at full power off the battery while still getting four to five days out of the charge. I am glad I won't have to restock on D batteries now!
The two pictures above show that the site is very much green, though there are hints of brown starting to come in. It was a beautiful location except I have noticed that more and more people are coming out here. I did not expect to find all but one site occupied on a Wednesday. A few left Thursday morning but more arrived. I guess with it being Memorial Day weekend some people extended their vacation. It also means that as I observe moving forward in the summer, I will have to secure a site earlier in the day1
The high level clouds in the picture above are the ones I fought up until around 2:00a.m. I observed from 9:30pm until 1:00a.m. when I laid down and took an hour nap. Conditions were clear, totally clear at 2:00a.m. so I rechecked my collimation, put my finder back on, aligned it and got observing.
I started the night taking what the atmosphere would give me. I knew due to conditions being an Antoniadi IV or V I would not be doing a lot of sketching. I did make about five sketches, and when I take their photographs I will add them here. Anyway, I decided to use this night to evaluate the TeleVue Delites, 7mm and 11mm that I have, and also to evaluate the 22mm Nagler Type 4 and the 26mm Nagler Type 5. I began by going where the seeing and transparency were holding at an Antoniadi III, Dob's hole. I know many people don't like managing dob's hole, but with my 17.5" I have the capability of managing Dob's Hole fine. M51 was up in the heart of the hole, and so I put in the 26mm Nagler Type 5 (26mm Nagler from now on) to take a look. BAM! I knew when I saw M51 that this was my finder eyepiece. I love my 27mm Panoptic and the views it gives. This eyepiece was a gift from my daughter to me, so I will always keep it (sentimental, that's me). However in the 26mm Nagler, the two arms were clearly apparent, as was the bridge. The core was bright in M51 and in the companion. The field was beautiful. I could stop in my evaluation, my eye showed me everything I needed to know.
From here I swing over to M101 and after a few minutes, I found it. Again arms were evident and to me, it seemed like the 26mm Nagler was made to show this object. Arms in evident, core and structure and H2 regions evident. I wanted to sketch it, I REALLY wanted to re-sketch this item in this eyepiece but I moved on. I put in the 22mm Nagler Type 5 and found I needed to adjust to the eye placement, but when I did, I enjoyed the view of the 22mm Nagler, but not as much as the 26mm Nagler.
The next object or objects were Markarian's Chain, in Virgo. I focused here on the eyes and did get a sketch in with them using the 26mm Nagler. The Nagler brought in both galaxies, and you could detect that they were interacting. I loved the view here! M87 was easily detectable as were several of the other galaxies in the area. M85 and M84 showed great contrast for this two giants of galaxies. I again put in the 22mm Nagler to compare and again, it was very, good, but the 26mm Nagler, just melted to my eye, and made finding objects so much easier.
From Virgo and playing there I took a moment to go over to M66, M65 and the Hamburger Galaxy in Leo. the 26mm Nagler put all three barely into the FOV, though I had to play with it. Presentation was sharp inner cores, some structure evident with the dark lane on the Hamburger.
I next went over to Ursa Major and looked at M108, M97, M109, and then to M81 and M82. More of the same in the 26mm Nagler. The 22mm Nagler does show a larger magnified image, and now that I have the eye placement down, I can tell that it is a keeper. I give it a nod over the 27mm Panoptic with a sharper image overall in the Type 2 Paracorr, with the larger field of view. If I didn't have an emotional attachment to the 27mm Panoptic, I would sell it, but that won't be happening.
I looked at M6 and M7 and the 26mm Nagler showed them beautifully. The 22mm was good, just a tad too much magnification.
I now moved on to the DeLites, and I was shocked by what I found. I compared them to my 10mm Delos, 10mm Pentax XW and the 11mm DeLite. The skie wasn't good enough to give a good review of the 7mm that night. Now I want to state up front that the difference between the 11mm DeLite and the 10mm Delos and Pentax XW could be slightly shown to be the sky that night. It was boiling at times, and you had to wait for the transparency and seeing to settle. High altitude winds played havoc with conditions that night. I went to Jupiter which was beginning its westward descent. The 11mm DeLight provided a smooth and wonderful view of the mighty giant. The red spot was clearly in evident. The 10mm's held their own on Jupiter, but I think the DeLite on planetary rule over by just a nudge over the 10mm Delos and Pentax XW. Same thing occurred on Mars and on Saturn. Cassini was really evident with the wide opening and tilt of the rings. Mars showed surface structure and on the DeLight, we got a hint of blue atmosphere that night.
In terms of DSO's we compared M22 and M13. In both cases the 10mm Pentax XW was tops, closely (couldn't tell the difference) by the 10mm Delos. The 11mm DeLight was good, very good and very close but here the wider angle of view came into play, allowing for the observing to see just a tad more. Sharpness was excellent on the DeLight but the Pentax XW 10mm and 10mm Delos were by far in the outstanding or superior range. Contrast goes to the 10mm Pentax XW, then followed by the 10mm Delos and finally the 10mm DeLight. Darkness of the background though I would go DeLite 11mm, 10mm Pentax XW and 10mm Delos. Sharpness goes 10mm Pentax XW and Delos, with the DeLite just a tad behind on the globulars
I was able to compare the 30mm Explore Scientific 82 degree to the 26mm Nagler Type 5 and the ES of course offers a wider field of view as it should, but in terms of details on the Veil Nebula, the eastern and western portions, the 26mm Nagler showed it was the preferred eyepiece. Contrast in the Veil was much improved in the 26mm Nagler over the 30mm Explore Scientific. I was able to pull out wispy details and filaments in the 26mm Nagler that I had to really work at to see IF I could see them in the 31mm Explore Scientific. Twists, knots and other highlights were more easily seen in the Nagler 26mm over the 31mm Explore Scientific. Again, I will make this cavet. The 30mm Explore Scientific eyepiece is one of the top 4 wide field eyepieces out there in my opinion. I rank my top 5 as the 31mm Nagler Type 5; 26mm Nagler Type 5 (and I prefer the 26mm myself) the 35mm Panoptic and the 30mm Explore Scientific. The Explore Scientific is about 85% to 90% of the 31mm Nagler or the 26mm Nagler. For the cost, it is a worthy competitor to the Nagler's if the price of the Nagler's is too high for you. If price is no issue, then you have to choose either the 31mm Nagler or the 26mm Nagler.
I also viewed M27, M57 and the Lagoon Nebula in the 26mm Nagler and the 22mm Nagler. My final takes on these two eyepieces are this. The 26mm Nagler Type 5 is the best wide field eyepiece I have ever used. It has become in one night, my finder eyepiece and my wide field eyepiece. The 30mm Explore Scientific 82 degree probably just got regulated down a notch to be used on super wide field as in my 4" and 6" refractors, or in my dobs when I want a wider field of view. The 26mm has excellent eye relief, I had not problems using my glasses with this eyepiece, and is sharp across the whole field. I used a Paracorr Type II in all observations.
The 22mm Nagler Type 4 I really enjoyed. The magnification is larger than the 27mm Panoptic but with the same field of view, basically. The image is sharp across the FOV and though initially I needed to find where I wanted my eye, once I had my eye placement locked in, this eyepiece really delivered for me. I honestly can say that when I am hunting really faint objects, the 22mm Nagler Type 4 will most likely be in my focuser as I want the added magnification that the 26mm doesn't have. I would highly recommend the 22mm Nagler Type 4 to anyone looking for a good overall and general finding eyepiece. It is worth that cost. Want a finder and a wide field eyepiece, go with the 26mm Nagler.
My final thoughts on the DeLites is this. WOW! The presentation ALMOST, ALMOST gives me what I see looking through a Pentax XW near the same magnification. On planets, these are my keepers. They provided detail that I really enjoyed and gave me views even in so so conditions that were impressive. They are not bad on DSO's, though the 70 degrees of the Pentax XW or the 72 degrees of the Delos is enough to justify the added expense. On a budget, the DeLites will satisfy you minus the narrow FOV, but for some, use to Plossl's or Ortho's these will be a step up. I love the 11mm and the 7mm and why I purchased that range worked out so well the other night. The 11mm DeLite was the perfect eyepiece if you live where the weather is topsy turfy or your under boiling sky conditions a lot. I cannot wait for a night in the next few weeks where I can use the 7mm on Jupiter or Mars or Saturn! I need to give them a go on Lunar observing also. I can share that the TeleVue DeLites are some of the best eyepieces I have observed through in a LONG time. The contrast and blackness of the sky really made objects and details stand out. You will not go wrong owning and observing through the DeLites unless you want a wider FOV. Then go to the Pentax XW's or the TeleVue Delos.
My take away from all this comes down to this. I LOVE my 20mm Pentax XW in my Paracorr II. However, the 22mm Nagler Type 4 or the 26mm Nagler Type 6 are overall superior eyepieces for wide field and for a finding eyepiece. I imagine the 22mm Nagler will sit in the focuser a little more than the 20mm Pentax XW unless I don't want to mess with putting the 1 1/4 inch adapter in. I have added two outstanding eyepieces to my collection and time will tell if the 30mm Explore Scientific stays! Sketches will follow in a few days as I am observing again tonight and again on Sunday night.