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A little about myself.  I got started into astronomy when I was a little boy more than 40 years ago.  I saw Saturn for the first time through a small 60mm refractor and was hooked.  I went to the library, checked out many astronomy books and enjoyed every page.  My parents helped me buy my first telescope, the venerable Dynascope RV-6.  Over the last 37 years, I’ve made many observations with telescopes as small as 2.4” and as large as 48”.  The rest is history.

Now I observe with telescopes ranging from 22” to 48”.  My main observing targets are generally the more obscure deep sky objects, such as VV catalogue of interacting galaxies, galaxy trios, Shakhbazian galaxy groups, super thin galaxies to name a few "lists".  

I'm a star hopper at heart and apparently very experienced at it.  My buddies sometimes wonder how I can find stuff so fast by just using a zero power finder and 24mm Panoptic (my general low power eyepiece).  I just chalk it up as experience.  In fact, I did try digital setting circles (DSCs) and found that it took more time finding stuff than just star hopping.  Figure that most of the objects I look for are not even in the built in catalog of the DSCs, so I need to enter in the coordinates.  Those of you who own these things understand the pain of entering RA and Dec manually one digit at a time.

My observing "style" is to find the object with the zero power finder (Telrad or Rigel QuikFinder), then center the field using a low power eyepiece. Once centered, I generally up the magnification of at least 230x, generally higher.  Medium to high power observing yields detail that one would miss if it is observed at low powers.  Sometimes tight galaxy pairs, trios or groups need high powers to "bust" them apart.  I observe between 230x and 500x more than 90% of the time.

I not only observe at high powers, I prefer to use very high transmission eyepieces.  My current favorites are orthoscopic eyepieces as I use those 90% of the time.  If I need to go wide field, I’ve found that the TeleVue Delos is the best in class in terms of observing threshold objects, which I’m at pretty often.  The wide field eyepice goes in my focuser when I observe very star poor regions, where very little if any field stars are visible at high powers.  There was several times where I was looking at something in Cetus or any star poor region at 500+ power, I was getting lost due to the lack of field stars, so I had to pull back and throw in the Delos.  You can see a little more detail in the eyepieces section, which I discuss which eyepieces I use and why. 

Once I’ve located the object, I generally observe with several eyepieces and note detail visible.  Sometimes some detail are visible at higher powers and other at slightly lower powers. My notes generally is a composite of what I saw with varying magnifications, hence when I write my notes, I generally include not only the telescope and atmospheric conditions, but the magnifications as well.  When I used to sketch objects, I generally observe at several magnifications, then sketch in the details as a composite of the different magnifications.  Since I observe at the edge a lot, I use different magnifications and with mostly orthoscopic eyepieces. 

Our observing sites are generally in the Sierras of northern California at 5,000 feet and higher with fellow TAC and TAC-Sac observers.  Our most used site at 7,600 feet elevation under NELM 7.0+ skies.

For major star parties, I regularly attend the Texas Star Party, the Oregon Star Party and the Golden State Star Party.  I'm associated with TAC, Austin Astronomical Society and the Sacramento Valley Astronomical Society

I’m not just a visual observer, but like to build telescopes.  I haven’t built one in more than 5 years though.  My most used telescope is the 22” I built more than 15 years ago.  I’ve build several smaller and larger telescopes, ranging from 16” to 28” reflectors.  Some detail can be seen in Telescope Components tab.

I spoke at some major star parties when asked to do so.  I was invited to speak at others, which I had to decline due to work commitments.  Some that I did speak at are:
  • 2010 and 2012 Texas Star Party  – afternoon speaker
  • 2011 Oregon Star Party – evening speaker
  • 2009 Golden State Star Party – evening speaker
  • 2010 SVAS Star-B-Que – evening speaker
  • 2012 NCA speaker

This is one award that I was blown away when I received it.  The TSP Lone Star Award in 2009.  I was very shocked!  Thank You to the organizers of TSP.

- 22" f/4  home-built reflector    I personally use this telescope the most as it is fairly light and very transportable.  I feel that 22 inches of high-end glass is a good balance of aperture and portability.  I even pack this telescope with all of my accessories and camping gear into my Volkswagen New Beetle.  The primary was figured by John Hall of Pegasus Optics and resulted in a very fine figure.  I've used up to 1200x with full aperture with zero image breakdown, so it meets the 50x per inch quality guarantee.  I recently started using the Crossbow Platform and it works GREAT! 

- 30" f/4.3 Starmaster with Sky Tracker   I use this telescope only at major star parties as it is too big for one person to setup.  It also requires a trailer to transport unless you have an Excursion or something similar.  It barely fits in there, due to the long truss poles and a 12-foot ladder required.  The primary was figured by Steve Swayze and is a very good sample.  I was able to use 1200x at Mars during the 2003 Oregon Star Party.  There was astounding detail and many folks yelled that "You gotta see Mars in the 30."  Lastly, the Starmaster has the best customer support and best optics of any commercial made truss telescope in the market.  Rick Singmaster personally tests each telescope as a system over several nights before it leaves his shop.  The telescope is for sale - please inquire if you are interested.  My email is located at the bottom of this page.

- 4" f/11 AstroTelescopes refractor  This telescope is used mainly as a quick grab and go for quick views out of my backyard.  This telescope features an ultra smooth focuser, feels very close to the famed Feathertouch, and excellent hand figured optics.  During the 2010 Golden State Star Party, I viewed Jupiter at 450x and was astounded by the level of detail with no image breakdown.  Yes, there is very little color in very bright objects.   But the amount of color is less than expected in an f/11 system.  Some folks commented that the views through this telescope rivals those through the famous 4" f/15 Unitrons.  Here is a brief review of this refractor.

- 6" Takahashi TOA-150 apochomatic refractor  I rarely use this telescope and it sits in my closet.  That thing is heavy 45 pounds!  Excellent color free optics.  Here is a brief review of this refractor.


Zeiss ZAO-II (10, 6 and 4mm) and ZAO-I (25mm)  The Zeiss ZAO-II is my favorite Deep Sky eyepiece as it gives me the best chance to observe that last photon or minute detail that I'm attempting to fish out.  The Zeiss gives the highest light transmission, lack of scatter and highest contrast of any eyepiece I've used.  And I've used many different eyepieces.  The only eyepiece that would outperform the ZAO-II is the TMB Supermonocentric, which I used to own.  I regrettably sold them as I initially determined that the TMBs and the ZAO-II's were redundant.  Best of all it is only 4 elements in two groups with incredible polish and coatings.  I use the ZAO-II's most of the time, the only time I don't use them is when I'm observing galaxy clusters or galaxy rich field in star poor regions, where I tend to get lost at high powers...so I employ one of my Delos in that case.

Baader Genuine Orthoscopics (18, 12.5, 9, 7 and 5mm)   I use these to fill in the holes between the Zeiss eyepieces.  Great alternative to the Zeiss Abbe II’s as an entire set costs as much as one Zeiss ZAO-II eyepiece – used.   The Baaders are excellent eyepieces and outperform the Ethos when it comes to the ability to see threshold objects, which is the best ultra wide-field eyepiece on the market now.  A couple beginners at the 2009 Golden State Star Party saw more detail and background stars with the Baader than the Ethos.  We compared a 6mm sample of both eyepieces along with the Zeiss ZAO-II.  In actuality, the UO HD (same as Baader) is closer to the Zeiss than the Ethos.  See results here (scroll to the bottom).

Baader Classic Orthoscopics (10 and 6mm) – I got these just to compare to the ZAO-II and Delos as the focal lengths are exactly the same, hence making comparisons fair.  In a nutshell, I’ve found that the performance of the BCOs fits in between the Delos and the ZAO-II, a little more than halfway between the Delos and the ZAO-II (closer to the Delos).  At $74 a whack, it is a pretty good deal since the ZAO-II and BGO aren’t quite available anymore.  Here are a couple BGO “clones”, but I haven’t tried any of them yet.


Televue Ethos (17, 13, 8, 6, and 3.7) I don't own these as I replaced them with the Delos.  The Televue Ethos is by far the best ultra wide field eyepiece on the planet right now.  I compared several focal lengths with every major brand and the Ethos goes deeper and shows more contrast than any other.  The Pentax XW comes very close and a great alternative if you don't want to spend that much (See note regarding the Delos below).  The Explore Scientific 100 degree series is a good alternative too, but doesn't perform as well.  Those who wants the best should stick with the Ethos. 

Televue Delos (17.3, 12, 8 and 6mm)  The Televue Delos is currently the deepest wide field I've ever tried so far.  I think it has 6 (or 7) elements versus the 9 elements in the Ethos.  As I was told, the Delos and Ethos have very well polished surfaces with glass-matched coatings, giving the highest contrast (or lack of scatter) and transmission for a wide-field eyepiece.  So I've got to see it for myself as the true performance of an eyepiece is what the observer sees through the eyepiece, not theory and numbers.  So...

At OSP 2011, I've borrowed the 6mm Delos from Televue rep, John Rhodes.  The skies were very dark, NELM = 7.5.  I've observed two objects namely Hickson 99 (components D and E) and IC 1296.  For more detailed notes, click here.    To sum it up, I found that it noticeably outperforms the Ethos, but not the Zeiss, while observing extended objects.  The objects used in threshold observing are Hickson 99, component E (mag 17.7) and IC 1296 (a good low surface brightness galaxy by M-57). 

The Delos is basically a narrow field Ethos with extra eye relief with even more contrast and transmission.   Very impressive.  The end result is that after my experience at OSP 2011, I sold all of my Ethos and acquired the above Delos.   This French test report confirms my observations (The title of the article is “Six oculaires à grand champ de 10 mm au banc d'essai”).

The Delos is my wide-field of choice when it comes to observing deep. 

Televue Panoptic (24mm)  This is my primary finder eyepiece as I leave the 2"/1.25" adapter in my focuser 100% of the time.  This is the widest practical 1.25" eyepiece.   I would like to see a 22-24mm Delos in 1.25" format in the future, but given the basic understanding of how the Delos is made, I don't think it is physically possible.

Several thoughts of eyepiece comparisons when observing faint deep sky objects.

I generally compare several eyepieces at the SAME focal length against each other.  Even 1mm of focal length difference especially at high powers makes a huge magnification difference.  Test objects are generally threshold objects, such as a mag 17.7 example I used at OSP or a very low surface brightness object.  Also the larger the scope, the wider the difference between two given eyepieces.  For example, the difference between the Ethos and the BGO is pretty obvious through the 22” reflector, while I could not discern the difference in my 6” refractor.  The diagram below shows that the difference between eyepieces increases as aperture increases.  The graph is a bit exaggerated, otherwise there wouldn’t be space to insert text or brackets.

Other Visual Accessories

TMB Barlow 1.8x ED  Wow, this barlow is excellent.  The coatings is so well made that the glass is very hard to see under normal light.   The glass is made at the famous Zeiss Jena facility and is regard by many to be in the same league as the famed Zeiss barlow, a few think it is actually even better.  It has only two elements in one group as far as I know!  Someone on CloudyNights.com has recently performed the transmission test with a laser and sensor...has determined that the TMB barlow has a greater than 99% transmission! 

Lumicon O-III filter – Workhorse planetary nebula filter.  I think this is one of the best, if not the best O-III filter.

Orion Ultrablock filter
 – The original, made in Japan, back from the early 90's.  Not the current version, which is made in Korea.  Solid everyday nebula filter (can't find the filter profile, but it is identical to the current UHC filter)

Omega Optical NPB Filter – Outstanding filter and a great alternative to the Ultrablock or Lumicon UHC filter.  The stars appear natural versus greenish as this filter also passes some red.  Some observers sometimes prefer this over the O-III for planetary nebulae.  You can pick it up here or here.

Lumicon H-beta filter – The well-known "Horsehead Nebula" filter.  Best used on the "redder" nebulae, such as the California, IC405, IC 5146 (Cocoon Nebula), etc

Astronomik CLS filter
– Good filter for protoplanetaries and reflection nebula where the Ultrablock/UHC doesn't work.  Outstanding filter for the younger (bluer) galaxies, such as NGC 253, M-33, etc.  Don't let the "budget" marketing label fool you.  This filter actually passes quite a bit more than your standard broadband filter, while rejecting a majority of the light created by artificial light sources, such as street lamps.  Jimi and I have used this filter to enhance the view of Hanny's Voorwerp with his 48" reflector.

Baader Moon and Skyglow filter – Interesting filter that really works in enhancing the lunar and planetary contrast.  I have not tried it on deep sky objects yet.

Mickel's self-centering collet 2"/1.25" adapter with both 2" and 1.25" filter threads.  This adapter lives in my focuser.  This adapter is no longer available in the market.

Glatter Parallizer 2"/1.25" self-centering adapter.

I'm still considering the AstroDon Sloan G filter for visual use as my buddy, Jimi, and I have found it effective for protoplanetaries or objects like Hanny's Voorwerp (offical site of discoverer or an image).

Collimation Tools

Catseye sight tube, Cheshire and Autocollimator

Lasermax holographic collimator – Got this 15 years ago and was the best one out there back then.  There are many current offerings from Glatter, HoTech, etc are also very good.  I haven’t tried many of them as I got one that work and works well for me.  It is also very hard to find anywhere now.

Glatter’s The Blug barlowed collimation plug – Great tool for those time I arrive a bit too late to use the autocollimator, which requires a bit of ambient light to work.  It works great. 

Contact me by email at alvin dot huey @ faintfuzzies period com


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