Wednesday, November 18, 2009

First Light: Celestron Skymaster 20x80

Well I decided to try our a set of the Celestron 20x80 binoculars after taking a look though Rick's at Hill Country State Natural Area a week or so ago. I've read many mixed reviews about these. Rick's seem ok. I found that B&H Photo in NY had them for $115 with free shipping. Not bad considering MSRP is around $300.

I figured I'd take my chances and hope for the best so I ordered a set and figured I had about a 50% chance of getting a good set. If not they came with Celestron's No Fault warranty or I could exchange them through B&H. Or if worse came to worse sell them to a pawn shop.

So I rolled the dice and today UPS delivered the binoculars. I have to say before I got the box open I had the same feeling as when I got my 16" Lightbridge from the "brown Santa"...that feeling was kind of like... these are a little bit bigger than I thought it would be.

I paid a little extra for shipping so they would be here today this paid off in more than one way. #1 clouds are rolling in as I type this, #2 our club had our weekly star party at a local park. So I took these and left the telescopes at home.

Binocular Night at the Park (First Light!):
I set the 20x80s up on my very best tripod a Velbon Carbonfiber Model and I took a stool along. I arrived at the park just after sunset and just before moon set. This week our club's weekly star party must have been unoffical binocular night. There were 3 astronomers using binoculars Wednesday night, the most binoculars we've had at the park. Because the moon was about to disappear behind trees first light was on the thin lined moon. I have to say I was impressed with the view. These binoculars really "rock" the moon! The view was excellent and sharp.

Next, I set my sights on Jupiter. I could see the 4 moons and Jupiter. I was a little dissapointed in the amoount of color distortion on Jupiter itself... I got some red on the side of it. I happened to set up next to another astronomer, Ed H., using the Celestron Skymaster 11x70's I called him over to take a look. We compared we agreed the image in my 20x80 was clearer than the 11x70's. (I thought about getting the 11x70's instead so this confirmed my choice). Needless to say this image wasn't that bad and it acceptable in my book as I didn't buy these to use for planetary work.

Then I moved to M31. This was a really nice sight even in the light pollution of San Antonio, TX. I could clearly make out the galaxy and I was totally impressed with the image I got. It was 142.58742221% better than my 10x50 Celestron Close Up Binoculars. I sat there a long time just staring.

I searched around Cassiopeia for a while and then I landed at NGC457 a.k.a. "ET"/"Wall-E". Nice sight the eyes of "ET" looked great.

Then I moved on to the double cluster and that was really nice. It is amazing how small it looked with only 20x. I'm used to seeing it at more magnification in my telescope.

At this point in the night I started to really think my purchase had paid off. I had rolled the dice and actually got an acceptable pair of these discount 20x80 binoculars.

While pondering my gamble it was also about the same time the Pleiades (M45) was high enough to see with the binoculars. These 20x binoculars provided and eye filling view of these 7 sisters. I thought I'd better get a wider set of binoculars like some 11x80's but I think that 20x is nice. I'm still close enough to see things in detail but still wide enough to take in a lot of the sky.

I chatted with folks for a while. People came and took a look though the binoculars and they were all impressed. Bryan T. also was using his binoculars to work on the Astronomy League's Binocular Messier Club. When I walked up to him he was looking up Neptune on his iPhone. I have to say I love these apps on the iPhones... I just don't want the bill! I'll have to look for a used iPod touch! (Rick what are you doing with your old one?) Neptune was above Jupiter and just above 3 stars in a line. I decided to star-hop with the 20x80. I started out on Jupiter moved to Nashira naked eye visible star above and to the left (south) of Jupiter, then to Deneb Algedi which was above and to the left (South) of Nashira. From Deneb Algedi I simply panned to the West to find a line of 3 starts. (I really like lines of stars as the are easy to confirm your in the right place!). Above this line I could see a blueish little "Star" that became more visible with adverted vision. That was Neptune! The line of stars I saw were (45 Cap, 44 Cap, and 44 Cap).

It was getting cold and and saw just about everything I wanted to except Orion's Nebula which was still in the trees. So I packed up left the park. After a quick stop to get a bean and cheese taco at Taco Cabana I was home. Now Orion's Nebula was at a point in the sky where I could get a look, but some thin clouds started to roll in. I set up the tripod and binoculars and took a quick peak before heading in to write this. I was treated with the nebulosity in the Nebula which was a nice sight despite the thin rolling clouds. After a quick look at the red star Betelgeuse I headed in and the clouds did the same!

First light was a blast with these binoculars. I saw one Galaxy, 2 Star Clusters, a nebula, 5 moons, and 2 planets! I'm happy with my el'cheapo binos!


Risk said...

Great write-up Matt. I think that you will find that Neptune is a lot brighter than you mention and that averted vision is not required, once you get out of the city lights. From your back yard, you should be able to see it on any night but Football night.

Ted said...

That was a real enthusiastic post. It's great to hear someone with experience get so excited about first light w/binocs. I am a big believer in using
telescope binoculars since I think more people take them out and use them than will casual telescope owners. It's just easier.

Thanks for the post.