Let the Hype Begin!

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Let the Hype Begin!
Posted by DaveMitsky on Friday, August 30, 2013 10:55 PM

I must admit that the four pages of cover advertising for The Great Comet of 2013 in the October issue of Astronomy is a bit troubling, if not surprising.  No one knows at this time whether Comet ISON will be merely a good comet, a great one, or the "comet of the century".  One can only imagine the letdown of the general public, if reality does match the hype.

The fact that Celestron is promoting a line of inexpensive "Cometron" binoculars and small telescopes is similarly no surprise.

http://www.celestron.com/astronomy/series/cometron-telescopes-binoculars/

Remember the last apparition of Comet Halley and the often substandard telescopes that were rushed on to the market?

Dave Mitsky

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Posted by Aratus on Saturday, August 31, 2013 7:49 AM

I'm afraid this is the kind of world we live in.   Wishful thinking on the one hand, and the frantic need to sell products on the other.   It is shame we don't get help from the astronomical magazines in this.    I'm already getting inquiries about 'The Great Comet'.   Some people are already stepping out in the evening expecting to see something.   Ironically, if it is as good as the hype suggests then neither binoculars nor telescopes will be required.Sigh

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Posted by stepping beyond on Saturday, August 31, 2013 8:26 AM

We'll just have to be prepared Aratus, You're talking about "ISON" right? I get a lot of my info from STScI and NASA but, the hype is out there and weather it's needed or not : I'm alumn Boyscout { motto } "Be Prepared".

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Posted by Antitax on Saturday, August 31, 2013 9:02 AM

  Hype and pessimism are both remote from facts, each on an opposite side. "Wait and see".

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Posted by DaveMitsky on Saturday, August 31, 2013 10:12 AM

Here's a link to the publication for people who don't subscribe to the magazine.

retailers.kalmbach.com/magazine.aspx

Dave Mitsky

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Posted by chipdatajeffB on Saturday, August 31, 2013 1:31 PM

Dave: I saw this new Cometron line first-hand at the product launch in June. There are a couple of different levels of quality in the line.

If you consider the typical "department store" scope as a bottom level, then both the Cometron levels are above this. Celestron (like Tasco and Meade) make most of their money from the lower-quality, "budget" line of scopes and binos typically found at places like Wal-Mart. Any time there is, or is predicted to be, a naked-eye comet coming around these companies gear up production well in advance to take advantage of the hype.

In my opinion, if they sell enough budget equipment to get even very few new people into the hobby, it's a good thing.

Celestron (I can't speak about the other companies) has done a couple of good things here (besides ramp up production to ensure ready availability). Their Cometron binos are reasonably well made, especially for the price. I purchased 10 sets of the new 7x50s for use with our Couch Potato Telescopes (Sim Picheloup's "bino chairs") after using one at the product rollout. These are going to be available some places around $20. They are lightweight, but strong-ish, have very clear coatings, and include a separately-focusable eyepiece as well as center-post focusing. The center post is threaded for a tripod adapter. They are "reasonably" free of CA as judged by daytime use and nighttime lunar viewing. There are larger sets in the lineup and they appear to be a bit higher quality, as well.

The Cometron telescope is quite compact, with decent optics, and reasonably wide-field. There is, of course, the "too-lightweight" feel of construction, but given the intent and the price it's not a bad deal. It should provide superb views of comets

I've used the word "reasonably" here several times, on purpose. Celestron calls its "Wal-Mart" product catalog its "value" line. The Cometron line is one or two levels of quality up the chain from that, and provides imho a much better value to the consumer. A bit pricier, but not inordinately so. And well below their products like the NexStar 5 et al.

If Meade were in better financial shape, no doubt they would follow suit. Telescope companies do much better when bright comets are around ... and these days they need all that kind of help they can get.

Who knows what comets, in general, are going to do? This one, in particular, is a member of a group that's famously unpredictable. Let's hope it really pops! If it does, I think everybody wins ...

The universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it's stranger than we CAN imagine. --- JBS Haldane

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Posted by DaveMitsky on Saturday, August 31, 2013 3:49 PM

Jeff,

I certainly have no objection to entry level gear that gives novices good value.  However, resorting to a product name that's obviously meant to cash in on a comet that may or may not be that big a deal* could be counterproductive.

www.google.com/imgres

* There's a chance that Comet ISON may display an impressive tail in the predawn sky from December 10th through December 14th.

Dave Mitsky

Sic itur ad astra!

Chance favors the prepared mind.

A man is a small thing, and the night is very large and full of wonders.

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Posted by stepping beyond on Saturday, August 31, 2013 7:22 PM

Thanks Dave that's some good info.

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Posted by stepping beyond on Saturday, August 31, 2013 7:24 PM

Very well said Chip, thanks for your reply vto this post

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Posted by DaveMitsky on Saturday, August 31, 2013 9:04 PM

As a person who has observed more than a fair number of comets over the years, I'm still hoping for the best regarding Comet ISON but at this point I'm not exactly optimistic.

www.skyandtelescope.com/.../Comet-ISON-Updates-193909261.html

Dave Mitsky

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A man is a small thing, and the night is very large and full of wonders.

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Posted by wannnabe64 on Sunday, September 01, 2013 10:34 AM

It would be nice if it turns into a comet of the century but if not I just hope I have my new scope here in time for whatever it becomes!!

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Posted by chipdatajeffB on Sunday, September 01, 2013 12:28 PM

Agree, Dave! At least they learned from their former "HalleyScope" ... or whatever they called it back then.

The universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it's stranger than we CAN imagine. --- JBS Haldane

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Posted by Aratus on Sunday, September 01, 2013 12:42 PM

stepping beyond

You're talking about "ISON" right?

That's the one.  It was detected while still very far away which can give an indication that it might be bright. (or not)   We will see it just before it whips around the Sun at the end of November, and again as it comes out of the Sun's glare at the beginning of December.    It won't brighten much beforehand, and it will fade quite quickly afterwards.    When it is at its brightest it will be very near to the Sun in the sky.     Then, I think, we are more likely to see the tail poking up out of the horizon after sunset, or before sunrise, than see the actual comet head.   That could be fun though.   

The best view of the whole comet might be in mid November or early December when although it will be alot less bright, it will be visible higher up in the sky.  

Thanks Dave for the 'Halleyscope"  - I wonder who thought that one up? Smile !

Trying to cash in on a comet, which might not happen in a big way, might sell a telescope now but it not likely to lead to follow up purchases if the thing gets put into the attic out of disillusionment.Sad

Aratus

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Posted by chipdatajeffB on Sunday, September 01, 2013 1:41 PM

Aratus, I agree. The marketing decision is partly "let's cash in now" and partly "let's inspire people." The former is a sure bet, while the latter is "betting on the come."

It happens to some extent every time we get a bright comet that's spectacular and makes mention in the popular press. Hype helps, in that way, as astronomy club memberships also tend to spike at such times. We did a study at our local club a few years ago to find ways to increase membership. We noted the trend upward in membership, followed by a plateau, then a gradual decline, coincided with such events as Comet Hale-Bopp, Comet Halley, the two closest approaches by Mars (2003and 2005), etc.

At Celestron and similar companies which have both mass-market and "high-end" telescope lines, selling a few hundred thousand instruments each costing under $150 in a season makes for a much better bottom line than selling a few hundred instruments between $500 and $2,500.

Almost inevitably, at least a few of the recipients of the cheaper scopes will make their way to club meetings and, possibly, memberships (not to mention magazine subscriptions).

The universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it's stranger than we CAN imagine. --- JBS Haldane

Come visit me at Comanche Springs Astronomy Campus (we're on Google Maps) in Texas.

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Posted by Aratus on Sunday, September 01, 2013 5:10 PM

Feeding in the latest absolute magnitude figures in Starry Night suggests it may not become a naked eye object at all in the run up to perihelion (closest to the Sun).   This is because although it will be fairly bright, it will only be seen in a brightening sky.   For instance on 30th November it will be 1st magnitude but only 4 degrees from the sun.  (Less than a hand width at arm's length!)  It will be 2nd magnitude on 1st December but will rise only 35 minutes before the Sun.   3rd December will see it at 3rd magnitude about 40 minutes before sunrise.   4th and 5th December will see it in darker skies but at 4th and 5th magnitude.  By the 12th December it will be 6th magnitude.

It is early days yet, and I would love to be proved wrong, but I advise turning down the expectation to 'low'.  Sad

There is always a chance it will flare up as it gets nearer.  It is getting pretty near the sun this time, and anything might happen.

Aratus

Location:  North West Devon, UK

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Posted by DaveMitsky on Tuesday, September 24, 2013 1:32 AM

Recent magnitude estimates seem to be fairly close to those in the IAU ephemeris and are somewhat more optimistic than the figures mentioned in the previous post.  According to the IAU ephemeris, Comet ISON may reach naked-eye visibility after the second week of November and may shine at magnitude -4.5 (a peak brightness of magnitude -6.0 may briefly occur, according to another source), about as bright as the peak magnitude of Venus, at perihelion.  If it survives its trip around the Sun, the comet may have a brightness of magnitude -0.2 on November 30th, magnitude 1.1 on December 1st, magnitude 3.0 on December 4th, and magnitude 4.6 on December 12th.

Comet authority John Bortle states in the September issue of Sky & Telescope that C/2012 S1 (ISON) may be detectable without optical aid by November 10th and may sport a bright tail 10 to 15 degrees in length a few days after perihelion on November 28th.  The tail may reach impressive proportions during the period from December 10th to the 14th, the best part of the apparition for northern hemisphere observers due to the waxing Moon.

So there is still a chance for a very good, if not historic, "show".

Dave Mitsky 

Sic itur ad astra!

Chance favors the prepared mind.

A man is a small thing, and the night is very large and full of wonders.

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Posted by DaveMitsky on Tuesday, September 24, 2013 3:39 PM

The following graphics portray what we might be seeing in early and mid-December:

http://waitingforison.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/3rd.jpg (12/3 a.m.)

http://waitingforison.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/6-dec-4pm.jpg (12/6 p.m.)

http://en.es-static.us/upl/2012/10/ISON10thDec6am.jpeg (12/10 a.m.)

http://waitingforison.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/17th-wide.jpg (12/17 a.m.)

http://en.es-static.us/upl/2012/10/ISON18thDec5pm.jpeg (12/18 p.m.)

Comet ISON will be visible in both the morning and evening sky in December.  Full Moon occurs on December 17th.

There are more charts at http://waitingforison.wordpress.com/december-2013/

Dave Mitsky

Sic itur ad astra!

Chance favors the prepared mind.

A man is a small thing, and the night is very large and full of wonders.

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Posted by Aratus on Wednesday, September 25, 2013 5:29 AM

Recent observations do suggest that the comet has performed significantly better since the beginning of the month.   The comet will brighten rapidly during the latter half of November.   If the trend continues it might reach the following magnitudes on these dates.

6 - Nov 14th

5 - Nov 19th

4 - Nov 22nd 

When it becomes 'naked eye' for a particular observer will depend a lot on the light pollution at the observers location.

A main factor later on is that the comet will be seen in increasingly bright skies.   For instance on Nov 22nd the 4th magnitude comet head will not be above the horizon in a dark sky.   By the time it reaches 3rd magnitude the comet will rise only 1 hour before the Sun.   On the 26th November it may well be 2nd magnitude, but it will rise only 15 minutes before the Sun.  (My location)

These are only extrapolations, and there is plenty of time for them to change.

Personally, I think some of these planetarium programs have their tail length and brightnesses set far too high in these illustrations.   I'd love to be wrong mind you!

 

Aratus

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Posted by cooltech on Wednesday, September 25, 2013 12:13 PM

I saw one article propsing the possibility of day light visability if it brightens the way they expected / hoped. I still anticipate a let down. We just don't know 'till it's pass around the sun I suppose.

cooltechCool

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Posted by Aratus on Wednesday, September 25, 2013 4:54 PM

I wouldn't bank on seeing it in daylight.   Given the current trend, at its brightest it will be magnitude -6 which normally would render it visible in daylight if it was well away from the Sun..     However in this case it will be just half a degree from the limb of the Sun at the time.    The Sun itself is only half a degree wide !   It will be completely swamped.  

Having done a fair amount of daylight observing of Venus, I can tell you that even earlier in the day when it is further away from the Sun it will still be far too close. (and a lot dimmer)  I really don't want to even suggest that people go looking for it in daylight, especially with binoculars or telescopes.   The slightest accidental glimpse of the Sun will cause eye damage, and very likely permenant blindness. 

I think it will be a nice looking comet before the Sun rises, and after it sets.   I'd stick to those times to go looking for it. Yes

 

Aratus

Location:  North West Devon, UK

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Posted by kgeakin on Friday, September 27, 2013 11:38 AM

Celestron has used the Cometron name on some of their products, usually lower end stuff, for decades. The last appearance of Halley was certainly a disappointment to many people, especially here in the norhtern hemisphere. However, the boost to the awareness of and participation in astronomy was huge. Many people who became interested in astronomy due to the hype surrounding Halley were in fact disappointed in it's display, however in the process of learning where and how to look for and find it in the sky, they learned that there were numerous amazing objects up there to observe and that many of them were more impressive/interesting to observe than Halley was anyway, and thus became addicted to this fine hobby. I see the potential upside to the hype over this new "comet of the century" vastly outweighing any possible downside.

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Posted by Oliver Tunnah on Monday, September 30, 2013 7:29 AM

Aratus

I wouldn't bank on seeing it in daylight.   Given the current trend, at its brightest it will be magnitude -6 which normally would render it visible in daylight if it was well away from the Sun..     However in this case it will be just half a degree from the limb of the Sun at the time.    The Sun itself is only half a degree wide !   It will be completely swamped. 

 

Howabout placing a building in the way of the Sun?

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Posted by Aratus on Monday, September 30, 2013 8:28 AM

Oliver Tunnah

 

Howabout placing a building in the way of the Sun?

 

I have done that sort of thing when looking for Venus, but only when it is 10 degrees or more from the sun.   I'll tell you why I won't be trying that with ISON.

Firstly - I don't think the comet will be seen.    It is generally agreed that Venus is not bright enough to be seen when it is less than 5 degrees from the Sun.    Venus is around -4 magnitude at that time.      Comet ISON will only be around magnitude -0.5 at that same angular distance.   It will get brighter when it is nearer than that, but so will the Sun.   So it will always be lost in the glare when the comet is at its brightest.  

The other thing that worries me about using a building is that 5 degrees represents about 8 cm of head movement.    That's all it would take for someone sweeping with binoculars to take themselves out of the shadow and suffer permanent blindness.    It isn't worth the risk.    Placing the horizon in the way of the Sun is the best!   Observe before sunrise, and after sunset. 

Aratus

Location:  North West Devon, UK

-------------------------------------------------

Celestron Nexstar8i (8" SCT).

Celestron Skymaster binoculars 15x70

Other:0.63 & 0.33 correctors. X2 & X4 barlow.

Imagers: Meade DSI & Celestron NexImage.  Canon EOS 550D

 

 

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Posted by BrooksObs on Monday, September 30, 2013 11:05 AM

"It is generally agreed that Venus is not bright enough to be seen when it is less than 5 degrees from the Sun.    Venus is around -4 magnitude at that time."

 

No, that isn't at all true. In fact, it has long been general knowledge among experienced observers that Venus can be spotted in the daylight with just the unaided eye providing that the planet is at least 5* from the solar disk. With binoculars, or a telescope, those with the necessary experience can get MUCH closer without endangering their vision.

I've viewed Venus (at magnitude -3.5) at mid day in a very clear sky only 42' from the solar limb using mounted 15x80 binoculars and obscuring the Sun with an occulting device. I believe that the absolute record is a mere 3' from the limb, accomplished telescopically way back in the 19th century!

Now I would never recommend any novice even attempting such observations, but much more can definitely be accomplished by those who know how to approach the situation with the right preparation and equipment.

BrooksObs

 

 

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Posted by Oliver Tunnah on Tuesday, October 01, 2013 4:18 PM

Aratus
Firstly - I don't think the comet will be seen.    It is generally agreed that Venus is not bright enough to be seen when it is less than 5 degrees from the Sun.    Venus is around -4 magnitude at that time.      Comet ISON will only be around magnitude -0.5 at that same angular distance.   It will get brighter when it is nearer than that, but so will the Sun.   So it will always be lost in the glare when the comet is at its brightest.

The other thing that worries me about using a building is that 5 degrees represents about 8 cm of head movement.    That's all it would take for someone sweeping with binoculars to take themselves out of the shadow and suffer permanent blindness.    It isn't worth the risk.    Placing the horizon in the way of the Sun is the best!   Observe before sunrise, and after sunset. 

 

I was only talking about naked-eye observations, but if even then it's lost in the glare then getting up early to see it at it's best is the best way.

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Posted by Aratus on Wednesday, October 02, 2013 6:13 AM

Oliver Tunnah

 I was only talking about naked-eye observations, but if even then it's lost in the glare then getting up early to see it at it's best is the best way.

It would be great to see a daylight comet, wouldn't it?   There are similarities with Comet McNaught in 2007, in that it was easily visible the day before perihelion just after the Sun set, but during perihelion it was invisible because it was too close to the Sun even though it was technically bright enough to be a 'daylight comet'.  

If the tail is bright enough and long enough there is a possibility that the tail may be seen outside the glare in daylight.    Who knows what will happen when the comet gets that close.    For a while the Sun might appear to have a tail.      I doubt it, but who knows!    It will certainly be worth using a building/roof to hide the Sun's disc at that time for unaided observation.

EDIT:  From the United States, on Nov 28th,  the tail will be pointing towards the west in the morning.   Due south at midday, and pointing east during the afternoon. 

In the UK the tail will straddle the horizon at sunrise, (pointing 'west') but will then be pointing south west for most of the day.    The comet will also be at its brightest after it has set.Sad    The Sun will be low in the sky of course too. 

Aratus

Location:  North West Devon, UK

-------------------------------------------------

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Posted by BrooksObs on Wednesday, October 02, 2013 8:31 AM

Simply as a point of information, the tails of both sungrazing and sun-skirting comets when these objects are within a day or two of perihelion (i.e. visible only in the daytime sky near the Sun), do not appear as the sort of rectilinear features usually associated with comet tails. Rather, they appear as short, violently curved, arcs, due to the very rapid motion of the nucleus along its tightly curving path around the Sun. Except in the instances of the Great March Comet of 1843 and the Great September Comet of 1882, each far more brilliant than ISON could ever hope to be, accounts of significant tail lengths visible in the daytime sky with just the unaided eye are almost nil.

A similar misconception about the appearance of the tail was made in 1965 in regard to Comet Ikeya-Seki. Prior to perihelion there was a wide spread belief, quoted in many newspaper articles, that the comet's tail might be seen sweeping progressively across the western sky after sunset on October 20th like some gigantic celestial searchlight beam. Of course, this would be phyically impossible and nothing of the sort was observed. Helioscope photos from Japan at the time indicated the tail curving in a nearly 90* bend trailing the nucleus.

Only around 2-3 days after perihelion does the long, thin, often brilliant, rectilinear tail typically associated with sungrazing/sun-skirting comets rapidly develop, growing in its length by 1-2 degrees each subsequent day for up to the next week, or two. In instances where the nuclei of these objects have had a relatively high gas to dust ratio the tails attained an ultimate length of over 1.0AU! Comet ISON, however, currently displays a high dust to gas ratio, so the visual aspect of its tail post perihelion in early December is somewhat more open to question.

BrooksObs

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Posted by DaveMitsky on Wednesday, October 02, 2013 12:10 PM

There are similarities with Comet McNaught in 2007, in that it was easily visible the day before perihelion just after the Sun set, but during perihelion it was invisible because it was too close to the Sun even though it was technically bright enough to be a 'daylight comet'.

 

Comet McNaught was, in fact, visible in the daytime, Aratus.  It reached perihelion on January 12, 2007.  From January 12 to January 14, the comet was 5 to 10 degrees southeast of the Sun and could be seen during daylight.  Peak brightness was magnitude -5.5

http://spaceweather.com/comets/mcnaught/13jan07/Vornhusen1_strip2.jpg (image)

http://www.space.com/3353-amazing-comet-visible-broad-daylight.html

http://www.universetoday.com/1208/comet-mcnaught-is-now-visible-in-the-daytime/

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2007/01/14/comet-mcnaught-daytime-comet/#.UkxQQoasjTo

Dave Mitsky

 

Sic itur ad astra!

Chance favors the prepared mind.

A man is a small thing, and the night is very large and full of wonders.

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Posted by DaveMitsky on Wednesday, October 02, 2013 12:28 PM

There's some disheartening information on Comet ISON's dust production at http://www.skyandtelescope.com/community/skyblog/observingblog/Comet-ISON-Updates-193909261.html

Dave Mitsky

Sic itur ad astra!

Chance favors the prepared mind.

A man is a small thing, and the night is very large and full of wonders.

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Posted by Aratus on Thursday, October 03, 2013 4:55 AM

DaveMitsky

 Comet McNaught was, in fact, visible in the daytime, Aratus.

 

 
Thanks for the correction Dave.    I should have clarified by saying that  I did look myself at the time and was unable to see the comet while the sun was up.    As I said it was technically a daylight comet because of its brightness, and it could have been visible at certain times on certain locations on the Earth.   I hadn't seen those reports previously so assumed (wrongly) that it hadn't been spotted.  Oops    
 
However my skepticism is still valid. McNaught was at magnitude -5 while 5 degrees from the Sun according to one of those reports.    ISON will be (predicted) -0.5 at the same angular distance.    I'll leave folk to work out for themselves if it is worth trying.     Of course all this could change either way.   The latest reports you have links to are interesting and show just how a little change in the conditions can make the difference between a spectacular naked eye comet, and a fair binocular object.

Aratus

Location:  North West Devon, UK

-------------------------------------------------

Celestron Nexstar8i (8" SCT).

Celestron Skymaster binoculars 15x70

Other:0.63 & 0.33 correctors. X2 & X4 barlow.

Imagers: Meade DSI & Celestron NexImage.  Canon EOS 550D

 

 

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