Home Gallery Tutorials Equipment About




astronomer's toolbox

    Finally, after weeks of researching and looking (or drooling) at all the varieties of telescopes, your new pride and joy arrives.  It's time for some eyepieces, filters, barlows and other astro-goodies to help you get the most out of your new telescope.

    As you start to start to acquire an assortment of
accessories for your scope, you will want to keep them safe frombreakage and moisture etc., but also, at the same time, keep them handy and portable.

    I found that an ordinary fisherman's tacklebox works very well for this purpose.  It's available in different sizes, so it can grow or change as your storage needs change, it's lightweight, it keeps everything organized (which helps when searching for things in the dark) and it's also, very portable...

    When I first started star-gazing, all I had was a couple of eyepieces, a cheap barlow, and a star diagonal, you know the stuff that usually comes standard with a lot of scope packages, and I had a
few filters for enhancing my views.


    After a few months and more research...I started to upgrade to a wider variety of eyepiece magnifications and, of a better quality, with larger fields of view.

    My personal preference is for higher magnification eyepieces.  My lowest magnification eyepiece is a 25mm Plossl.  So my eyepieces are medium to high power in respect to my own assortment of observing tools.


Celestron barlow and a Telvue powermate

Celestron Elux and Ultima eyepiecesYou can have just a few
eyepieces of a lower magnification and use them in conjunction with a 2x barlow, (or equivilent, such as a Telvue powermate, or a Meade tele-extender just to name a few...) and essentially double your eyepiece collection.  This is usually the best way to go, especially if you're on a tight budget.



Meade 13.8mm        Meade 8.8mm ultra-wide


Meade series 5000 eyepieces

    The Meade Series 5000 Ultra-wide (82° FOV) are an excellent upgrade from standard eyepieces.  They offer very large fields of view, so much in fact, you have to literally rotate your head while looking through one of these to see the whole field of view.  The sky background is considerably darker, while the stars appear to be brighter, all the while, the stars are nice pin-pricks of light all the way the the edge of the field of view.  The twist-up eyecup is a nice feature to help block stray light, and about the only "con" I could possibly see with these eyepieces, is they are considerably heavy, especially the lower magnification eyepieces.


    There are also other brands of eyepieces that I've read about that receive high marks, such as Nagler, Speers-Whaler, Pentax, and Explore Scientific just to name a few.

    Whether you chose to upgrade, or just to stick with some standard eyepieces, for certfiltersain objects such as the Moon, planets and nebulae, you will get the most out of your eyepieces with the use of certain filters.  

      The Moon is extremely bright, especially at or near full Moon.  It is extremely hard to view without having to squint through the eyepiece.  For viewing the Moon, you will definitely need a polarizing filter.  These are available in different percents of light reduction, as you would need less light reduction when the Moon is just a crescent, and more light reduction when the Moon is at or near full.  I have also seen on the market, adjustable or variable polarizing filters.  With just a twist you can adjust the polarity of the filter "on the fly" so to speak, to save time instead of having to remove the eyepiece if you want to change the amount of polarization.

    For planetary viewing, there are a whole variety of colored filters.  There are even more filters specificly designed to help bring out the detail of certain planets, such as Mars and Venus.  This will take some experimentation to figure out  which filters work best on what planets.  For instance, some will enhance Jupiter's bands, or help bring out Saturn's rings a little more, the Moon even looks different when viewed through a No. 58 green, or a No. 21 orange filter.  And to add to the fun, filters are also stackable to achieve even more color variations.

    For viewing nebulae, there are several different kinds of filters meant to help one see more detail in faint nebulae, or to bring out detail in nebulae having certain qualities.  Such as an OIII nebula filter, or H-beta filter.

    Another filter to consider, especially if you live in a suburb of a large city or other light polluted area, is a light-pollution filter or UHC (ultra-high contrast) filter.  For imaging under light polluted conditions, it is a must have.

Orion filter wheel


    With all that filter changing and swapping, you may want to invest in a filter wheel.  You can load some filter wheels with up to as many as 10 different filters to save time, or maybe just a small filter wheel, that will hold 5 or so of your favorite filters.  Later should you decide you want to try your hand at astro-photography or planetary imaging, you can use it for narrow-band, or LRGB filters.



Dielectric star diagonal Another little item I found that seemed to help me squeeze a little bit more out of my scopes is a dielectric coated star diagonal.  Average stock star diagonals are usually only about 90 to 92% reflective.  Whereas a dielectric coated diagonal is 99% reflective.  This means fainter stars and objects are about 7 to 9% brighter when viewed by using a dielectric diagonal.  If you're like me, and hate craning your neck to look straight through the scope without using a diagonal to gain that extra 1%, then this is a good investment.


SCT Crayford Focuser   


     If you have a SCT optical tube, I can recommend upgrading it with a crayford style focuser.  Pictured is a GSO model, but there are several other brands such as Moonlite and JMI, or if it's within your budget, you may want to check into an electronic focuser.  

    My C9.25 has a little bit of "mirror flop" this makes focusing a bit of a pain when trying to image.  With an external focuser, all I have to do is get the focus close by using the focus knob on the SCT, then I can fine tune the focus using the crayford focuser.  This has definitely made focusing much easier on the C9.25.


    Per my above suggestion, I was finally able to afford an electronic focuser.  I chose the JMI event horizon EV-1cM motorized focuser for Schmidt-cassegrains.  This is a finely crafted focuser, I could immediately tell that the tolerances were much tighter than on my cheaper crayford.

    It's operation is smooth as silk and now having the ability to be able to focus by simply pushing a button on the hand control is a real plus.

  For planetary imaging it's fantastic.  I used to look like I was doing 'palettes' excercises while staying on top of focus, but no more.   It can however still be operated manually with the simple turn of a thumbscrew which will engage/disengage the motorized gear that is controlled via the hand control unit.



Powertanks    Another accessory that for myself is a must have, is a 12 volt power source.  For this I currently have two "powertanks" that I use to power the scope if I'm just observing, or to power the "Dew Zapper" dew heaters I have attached to my scopes.  One is a small 6 amp hour Celestron model, which powers the CG-5 mount fine for about 4-5 hours depending on how much "slewing" I do while observing.  It will power the smallest dew heater well for a couple of hours, after that it starts getting weak.  Dew heaters drain the power much quicker than the mount.  It also has a power indicator which keeps you alerted as to the status of the battery which is a real plus. (unlike hooking up to a regular deep-cycle marine battery, and much lighter too.)

    The Orion Power Tank 17 amp hour model is a real hoss.  It has the same features as the smaller powertank plus a few extras, and will power a dew heater for about 6 hours which usually will cover one of my imaging sessions.  A big plus for this powertank is it has battery jumper cables which enables it to be used to jump-start a vehicle.  I have used it for this purpose more than once, and it works the best. 

    Returning to the astronomer's toolbox, you should keep a red flashlight and a few tools handy just in case something goes amiss or gets a little loose.  Either in transport or through normal use, these things happen, but they don't have to ruin a night under the stars.  A little forethought goes a long way.

    Over time, I have wound up with an additional "astronomer's tool-box."  I call it the "spare parts-box." In this box is where I keep extra screws, batteries, back-up flashlights, tube-extensions, accessories I rarely use, or anything I feel for some reason might at some point come in handy. 

spare parts-box



Home Gallery Tutorials Equipment About


Copyright 2010  All Rights Reserved