Great Astronomy Gift Ideas

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"Great Astronomy Gift Ideas"
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Call me a big kid if you want but there's just something intrinsically exciting about receiving a gift in a solid metal briefcase. Like a sci fi treasure chest, reassuringly heavy.

It was as a Christmas present I received the Scopeteknix eyepiece & accessory kit and while I had secretly hoped the locked briefcase had been stuffed with unmarked high denomination notes the contents has proved no less valuable to me over the years.

The metal case may seem a little overboard for housing 4 plossl eyepieces, 5 coloured filters for the planets and the moon and a torch and perhaps it is, but the thick aluminium used does keep the contents safe while remaining light enough to be transported easily to darker skies. If I'm being honest I'd still want the case even if it didn't serve a practical function, how else am I going to pretend I'm an intergalactic spy working for the British Government?

Thankfully, when opened, the kit is far from a light hearted joke, bought individually (and without the case) the lot would cost in the region of £200, as it is, it's a steal at just under £80.

Onto the more serious matter of quality I was impressed by each of the four plossls, the 10mm, 15mm, 20mm and 32mm. They are manufactured to GSOs typical high standards. GSO being perhaps the most prolific of eyepiece manufacturers in the far east (Taiwan is known for producing quality plossls in the budget range).

These eyepieces if bought on their own would cost around £20 each, the views I've had have been worth that ten times over. You do get a little image degradation towards the outer 10% or so of the field of view but this is only really noticeable on large open star clusters and even then the effects are tolerable. Not only are these plossls surprising optically but they are also quite comfortable to look through with a large eye relief.

The Scopeteknix e&a kit introduced me to the world of filters in Astronomy. Since then I have used filters of all prices and qualities and have to say that considering you're paying less than £10 per filter the filters perform very well.

They include an Orange 23A, perfect for pulling out atmospheric banding in Jupiter and Saturn. A yellow-green 11, provides a heightened contrast between red and blue features on Jupiter as well as observing the darker patches on Mars. A yellow 12 filter for improved lunar contrast as well as drawing out red and yellow features on Jupiter. Red 21 is the last of the planetary filters and is best used to sharpen up the features on Mars. The final filter is a lunar one, ND96. This filter reduces the glare given off by the moon making it easier and more comfortable to observe.

Because of low light transmission in some of these filters (light transmission is 25%,78%,74%,46% respectively and 13% for the lunar filter), the Orange 23A and Red 21 as well as the ND96 should only be used on a telescope of 6 inch aperture or above otherwise the images obtained will be far too dim to be useful or enjoyable.

So that makes up the bulk of this little box of tricks. The last item may well be considered by many to be the least useful, on the contrary! The red bulbed torch means I no longer have to ruin my pupils dark adaptation with bright white light whenever I need to locate an eyepiece or piece of equipment. It can take up to an hour for the sensitive rods and cones in your eye to reach their optimum sensitivity so having such a useful piece of equipment nearby has become a necessity, one that I can no longer do without.

More about this author: Matt Kelly

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