The Year in Review

Plotina: the author’s 130mm f/5 travelling Newtonian sampling the beautiful autumnal skies of Dumfries & Galloway, southwest Scotland.

Anno Domini MMXVIII

We’ve reached the end of yet another year; and boy do they come round fast and furious! It seems like yesterday when the freezing Beast from the East was upon us, and that gave way to a unusually warm summer. Our family ventured across the waters to visit my brethern remaining in the south of Ireland and to catch up with old friends and acquaintances. But it was also a year where I made considerable progress establishing how good the British Isles are for doing all kinds of astronomy, having completed a survey of a dozen or so different sites across the British Isles. Despite the prognostications of casual observers, Britain and Ireland possess many prime locations to conduct visual astronomy, and in particular, high-resolution double star astronomy using small and medium-sized Newtonian reflectors.

In August, I conducted a month-long observational program to establish to what extent the Jet Stream affected my ability to resolve a variety of double stars ranging from between 1 and 2″ angular separation, finding no real evidence in support of its alleged effects and that it need not deter a determined observer to enjoy visual astronomy. It was, to my knowledge, the first such survey to be conducted on the subject.

My scepticism concerning the virtues of small, expensive refractors grew ever stronger throughout 2018, when I finally rid myself of the last remaining apochromatic refractor in my stable. As I have exhaustively shown, a much simpler and less expensive 130mm f/5 Newtonian proved superior to a 90mm ED glass on all sky targets. The former instrument has become my grab ‘n’ go telescope of choice, based solely on optical performance.

I will not be updating my book on refractors, as my conscience will not countenance the continued cultivation of untruths about their supposed virtues in the field.

I’m a Newtonian convert!

In another project, I tested a variety of optical devices that enable observers to use Newtonian reflectors during daylight hours, finding that the 130mm f/5 Newtonian coupled to a Vixen erect image adapter to be a fine, cost-effective alternative to large, expensive ED spotting ‘scopes.

Schmokin; the Vixen terrestrial image adapter.

My continuing blog entitled: the War on Truth: the Triumph of Newtoniasm, I have collated the opinions of a large volume of observers and authorities in the field from around the world, both historical and contemporary, which clearly show that Newtonian reflectors in the 8- to 12-inch aperture class will outperform smaller refractors at a fraction of the price, in sharp contradistinction to two decades of nefarious promotion by so-called ‘experienced’ amateurs. One of the key reasons for this blurring of the truth pertains to my suspicion that many refractor enthusiasts either don’t know, or are unwilling, to accurately collimate these instruments and/or are too lazy to allow adequate thermal acclimation of the same.

That being said, I have been very encouraged by the response of the amateur community to this legitimate protest. It seems many more former refractor onlyists are willing to consider the Newtonian once more and that’s a good thing!

2018 has also been a year where I have re-discovered the considerable virtues of binoculars. As a series of recent blogs showed, I have found a range of optically excellent roof prism binoculars that suit the budgets of many more amateurs, enabling the hobby to grow and not stagnate. Although I have certainly not spent a small fortune buying every other model, as others have done, I quickly gravitated towards two instruments, both made by Barr & Stroud, a 10 x 50 unit for dedicated binocular astronomy using a monopod, and a most excellent 8 x 42 Savannah wide-angle instrument for casual stargazing and nature observation. The latter has become a constant companion on my long country walks. I sincerely wish that others will test these binoculars themselves and spread the love.

An amazing, general purpose binocular; the Barr & Stroud  Savannah 8 x 42 wide angle.

I intend to drastically cull my current crop of astronomy equipment in 2019 as it has weighed heavy on my mind of late. I have retired mighty Octavius, my 8 inch f/6 Newtonian reflector, as it has achieved everything I intended for it and much more besides. My intention is to eventually gift it to some keen amateur who will use it productively. My 5 inch f/12 refractor is similarly retired. The little Orion SpaceProbe 3 alt-azimuth reflector and my old 7 x 50s were bequeathed to Gavin, a very enthusiastic young man of 8, who showed unusual interest in astronomy, and uses them regularly to stargaze from his home just outside our village.

I plan to use just three instruments in the coming year:

A 12″ f/5 Newtonian(Duodecim)

A 130mm F/5 Newtonian(Plotina)

Binoculars.

These three instruments will enable me to enagage with the full gamut of amateur astronomy. They are all I could possibly want!

Duodecim: a fine 12″ f/5 Newtonian reflector.

I would like to produce more blogs on binocular astronomy in the coming year, Lord willing, as well as produce new reports with both the 130mm f/5 and 12″ f/5 instruments.

2018 marked the end of a long slog to get my new book into shape; Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy. It’s been five years in the making, but it was an enjoyable and worthwhile project, bringing together the selected works of many amateur and professional astronomers across four centuries of time, who used their telescopes, both great and small, to create the wonderful hobby we enjoy today. What I learned from their diligent adventures under the stars is incalulable and I have tried hard to capture the essence of their life and researches in this large, historical work. It is my fondest hope that it will be well received by my peers. Please check out the reviews as they appear.

A work dedicated to the heroes & heroines of our hobby.

Finally, I am in the process of writing a new book dedicated to the ShortTube 80 achromatic telescope which ought to be available at the end of 2019. I have amassed a large body of notes from several years of using this quirky little telescope in the field, which I hope will be of interest to the many amateurs, young and old alike, who use or have used the instrument in the past.

So, there it is!

God bless you all!

Neil.

 

De Fideli.

3 thoughts on “The Year in Review

  1. I’m the online editor, maintaining its website amongst other things, and on the Council of the Society for the History of Astronomy.

    I’m also Co-Archivist for the BAA and part of the team that run its website. I am involved with the placing of the Journal on the website and have written several reviews for the journal in the past. One of these was a Springer Book by Kate Russo, called Total Addiction.

    I would be very glad to do a review of your latest book. Would this be of any interest to you?

    • Hello John,

      Thank you for your message and for your kind offer.

      I would be delighted to accept.

      I will arrange to have a hard copy of the work sent to you if you can forward me your postal details.

      Season’s Greetings,

      Neil.

      • Dear John,

        Further to your email message, I have instructed Springer to send you a hard copy of the book for review, so it ought to be with you soon!

        I hope you enjoy it!

        Merry Christmas!

        Neil.

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