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Contact:

I'm LinkedIn and Google-Plussed.

Mail and packages, use maildrop:
Norman Sperling
2625 Alcatraz Avenue #235
Berkeley, CA 94705-2702

cellphone 650 - 200 - 9211
eMail normsperling [at] gmail.com

Norm Sperling’s Great Science Trek: 2014

San Luis Obispo
Santa Barbara
Palm Springs
Death Valley
Tucson
El Paso
Corpus Christi
Baton Rouge
Tampa
Everglades
Key West
Winter Star Party, Scout Key
Miami

MARCH 2014:
up the Eastern seaboard
mid-South

APRIL 2014:
near I-40, I-30, and I-20 westbound

MAY 2014:
near US-101 northbound
May 17-18: Maker Faire, San Mateo
May 23-26: BayCon, Santa Clara

California till midJune

JUNE 2014:
Pacific Northwest

JULY 2014:
Western Canada, eastbound

AUGUST 2014:
near the US/Can border, westbound
August 22-on: UC Berkeley

Speaking engagements welcome!
2014 and 2015 itineraries will probably cross several times.

Telescopes

**DRAFT** for Bright-Eye Manual

-- edition of January 1, 2017 --

The Kickstarter campaign for this project ended May 23, 2016, but the site plays on: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1592946658/bright-eye-telescopes. To order now (at the same prices), eMail normsperling@gmail.com .
Bright–Eye®

Between You
and the
Universe

© Norman Sperling
co-designer and producer

2625 Alcatraz Ave. #235, Berkeley, CA 94705 USA

Congratulations! You just launched on the easiest and fastest route to the stars! Bright–Eye® sets up the fastest and lets you find targets the fastest of any newcomer’s telescope. It shows you the widest, richest, most contrasty view. Bright–Eye is compact, portable, rugged ... and cute.

SAFETY FIRST:
DON’T LOOK AT THE SUN!

Even without magnifying, the Sun is painfully bright. Collecting more light makes it so intense that you can permanently burn out your retina in a fraction of a second – faster than you can flinch. That hole in your vision will be permanent; the retina never grows back. If you point your scope at the Sun, even if you aren’t looking through it, concentrated sunlight can melt plastic, and quickly set fire to whatever wanders into its line of sight, such as your shirt or your hair. For telescope users, the Sun is a “no-go zone”.

OUT OF THE BOX

Bright–Eye tubes are made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Bright–Eye spheres are made of acrylic. Each individual shell has its own unique color pattern.
Each individual shell has its own unique color pattern.

EYEPIECE FOCUSER
EYEPIECE
CYLINDER
SPHERE
BASE

The shell has 3 distinct zones:
• The sphere is the telescope’s mounting.
• The cylinder keeps the mirrors and eyepiece all in their proper positions.
• Poking out of the cylinder’s side is the eyepiece focuser.

The cylinder encloses the optical tube assembly. That contains the first 2 optical pieces that light encounters on its way from the sky to the eye.

Set the base on a table, with the base-ring facing up. Gently set the telescope’s ball in the bowl, with the top of the cylinder pointing pretty high.

The dust-cap keeps the window clean when you’re not observing. It’s way easier to keep crud away than to very delicately clean it out later. Cleaning tips are on page \\. The hemispheres that protect big telescopes are domes, so we make our little one that shape too. It’s a simple friction fit. Start your observing sessions the same way the big observatories do: open up the dome.

If there is a plug in the eyepiece hole, pluck it out (but save it to put back when the session is over). The eyepiece itself is probably in a small box. Gently open the box and (avoiding touching glass surfaces) unwrap the eyepiece. Slide it into the eyepiece hole.

RIDE A BEAM OF LIGHT
THROUGH BRIGHT–EYE

Light’s First Encounter: Light goes to the bottom of the tube, where it hits the main mirror. That’s lower in the middle, higher on the rim. The mirror is 41/4 inches (108 mm) in diameter.

To focus starlight, the mirror has a special “paraboloidal” curve: take a parabola, and spin it on its axis. The amount the mirror is curved puts the focus 17 inches (432 mm) up the axis. You could stick an eyepiece at that focus, but if you tried to look through it, your head would block light from entering the telescope at all, leaving nothing to see.

Light’s Second Encounter: Pondering this problem, the great scientist Isaac Newton figured that you could stick a diagonal mirror a little before the focus, and shunt the light out the side. Put your eyepiece there, and look through it without blocking the view.

Newton was a genius! His plan worked. He made the first successful reflecting telescope. For hundreds of years, Newtonian reflectors have been the world’s favorite form of telescope. They collect more light for less money than any other kind. Bright–Eye’s optical pattern is a Newtonian reflector. The diagonal mirror is attached to the “spider” that straddles the top of the tube.

Light’s Third Encounter: The eyepiece is a sophisticated magnifying glass for examining the focused light. Astronomical eyepieces now come in a great many optical patterns. Each has advantages and disadvantages. Bright–Eye’s eyepiece gives a wide view with minimal distortions and comfortable “eye-relief”. It has a standard 1¼-inch (31¾ mm)-wide tube, so any other standard eyepiece can slide in there too. Shorter eyepieces magnify the image more. That’s good for observing planets and the Moon, but it makes the field of view very small, so planets are hard to find, and hard to keep in view. Higher magnification also dilutes the feeble light of comets, nebulæ, and galaxies. Different eyepieces may show wider views (but they’re a lot more expensive), and have less eye-relief (hard to use if you wear glasses, and sometimes hard to find the image even if you don’t), or are cheaper (with a narrow view ... or poor quality). As newer types of optical glass are invented, different combinations of features will be optimized, with different trade-offs.

Magnification (“power”) is the best-known, but one of the least-important, telescope factors. Divide the “focal length” of the big mirror (432 mm) by the focal length of the eyepiece (25 mm). 17 power is our recommended magnification for newcomers. Get used to it to start with. Experienced observers who have many eyepieces will tell you they use low power eyepieces most of the time.

Light’s Fourth Encounter: Your eye. Human eyes are not identical to one another. When reading this description, adapt it to your personal eyesight.

Light enters the dark circle in the middle of your eye, the “pupil”. This may widen to 7 mm (¼ inch) in a young person who has adapted to darkness for at least 30 minutes. That’s how to collect the most light, and therefore see the faintest details. The following factors narrow the pupil and dim the view, depending on dose and time:
• age
• consuming alcohol
• consuming nicotine
• adapting to darkness for less time
• observing from a place that isn’t very dark

If you don’t wear eyeglasses (contact lenses are OK): look straight down the center of the eyepiece. Stay just out of eyelash-distance from the eyepiece.

If you wear glasses but aren’t sure of the technical reasons, here are easy ways to tell.
• Hold your glasses just above something printed. If the lenses act like magnifying glasses, you’re farsighted.
• Hold your glasses at arm’s length in front of you and look through the lenses. If they make things look smaller, you’re nearsighted.
• If you rotate a lens around its middle, and stuff beyond seems to tilt left and right, you have astigmatism.
• If things look fuzzy, your lenses need cleaning, so meticulously follow the instructions on page \\.

If you wear eyeglasses to correct astigmatism: You’ll probably see sharper with your glasses on. Unfortunately, eyeglasses keep you farther from the eyepiece so you see a narrower field of view. Keep far enough from the eyepiece to avoid scratching your eyeglass lens on the eyepiece frame: the easiest way is to unroll the rubber rim on the eyepiece. Experiment with and without glasses, with each eye. You may prefer the way that gives the sharpest view, but if it’s not much different, you may prefer the way that gives the most comfortable view.

If you wear eyeglasses because you are farsighted: Take your glasses off and put them in a safe place, where you won’t lose them in the dark, nor drop them, nor step on them. A buttoned shirt pocket might work, or a zipped jacket pocket. Use the eyepiece just the same as a person without glasses. The only difference is in tweaking the focus knobs a tad one way or the other compared to standard 20/20 vision.

If you wear eyeglasses because you are nearsighted: Read the “farsighted” paragraph above, but there’s an added hassle: When your glasses are off, you can’t see the starry sky well. To point the scope in the right direction, put your glasses on. To see when you’ve got your target in view, leave your glasses on but tweak the focus knobs to sharpen the view. Once you acquire the target, take your glasses off so you can approach almost to eyelash range of the eyepiece, and re-tweak focus to sharpen the view.

BRIGHT–EYE ON DAY ONE

For your first look through your new telescope, go outside during daytime, as long as the weather won’t hurt yourself or your scope. Set your base on a table, gently set the sphere in the ring-stand, and point the window up, but nowhere near the Sun. Then gradually swivel the top end down to where the sky disappears behind a tree, building, mountain, or whatever ... the farther away, the better. Looking straight down through the eyepiece, gently turn the focus knobs till the image sharpens. Now notice 2 things about your scope:
• Lean down behind the sphere, and look at where the top of the sphere, and the top of the eyepiece, line up with what you’re seeing through the eyepiece. That’s your line of sight.
• Also, notice how far the eyepiece stands above the flat that it pokes into. The nearer the thing you focus on, the higher up the eyepiece must be. Don’t look at objects within about 10 meters (33 feet) because the eyepiece could literally fall out of the tube. The farther away the object you focus on, the farther down the eyepiece must be. Farther than a kilometer (½ mile) or so, all objects beyond that are simultaneously in focus. That’s nicknamed “infinity”. Start your nighttime explorations with the eyepiece sticking out just that amount, so you’ll be very close to true focus.

While it’s still daylight, scan your scope around and look at everything you can see. Each time, notice where the top of the sphere and the top of the eyepiece are, compared to the thing you’re observing. Notice how far in or out the eyepiece is, and relate that to the distance of the thing you’re observing.

Practically all astronomical telescopes “invert” the view. There’s no up or down in space so that doesn’t matter. For looking at things on the ground, it can matter a lot, so here’s a way to make things look upright.
• Stand behind the scope, with the scope right in front of you, and the thing you’re looking at much farther away in that same direction. When you bend down to look through the eyepiece, the image looks upside down.
• Now move to the side of the telescope and look through the eyepiece. From that angle, the image looks sideways.
• Now move again, till you’re almost in front of the scope, with your back to the thing you’re looking at. (If you get exactly in front, you block the view yourself.) Look through the eyepiece. From that angle, the scene looks upright.
Trees, bushes, and rocks often look very esthetic even at unaccustomed angles. Experiment. If you like the view, that makes it “right”.

FIRST NIGHT, FIRST LIGHT

The first time a telescope shows you an astronomical object (like the Moon or stars) is called that telescope’s “First Light”. We recommend that you use a marker to write “First Light” and the date somewhere on the cylinder, or on the sphere close to the cylinder, or on the base. \\illustrate\\

Start observing astronomical objects, guided by the accompanying book To Know the Stars. At first, most targets will take some searching. Start with bright and big objects. They’re easiest to find, and very rewarding to examine. They’ll catch your eye instantly as you scan by. 5 seconds to look over each field of view is plenty to notice bright objects.

Develop a scan pattern: up and down, or side to side, or spiraling out ... whatever you please. To spot fainter objects, scan slower – 10 or 15 seconds to examine each field of view. It’s not a race, so take your time and enjoy whatever swims into sight. Use a “star-hopping” reference to show you the route from a bright star, past nearby faint ones, to your goal. Even if you can’t find your target, enjoy examining the neighborhood ... and often the target will turn up in the process.

Objects are usually easier to find the second or third time than the first time. They haven’t grown bigger or brighter, of course, but now you know what to look for. As you gain experience, try for fainter and smaller challenges.

While you watch sky objects, Earth’s rotation is magnified by the same 17 times as the view, so objects “drift” out of view after a couple minutes. While watching through the eyepiece, gently tap the upper end of the scope to push it in the direction you want the image to move. Think of yourself as pushing the image rather than pushing the telescope. You’ll soon get enough experience to keep stars in view for as long as you want. \\illustrate\\

Using a high power eyepiece makes things move out of view much faster, and chasing them becomes frustrating. That’s why bigger telescopes have clock drives and electronic-driven finders. You can grow into handling those. But while you’re just beginning, stick to the low-power eyepiece we supply. It minimizes frustration while maximizing brightness, contrast, and field of view.

FAR OUT

From suburbs, Bright–Eye can spot 8 planets and at least 7 moons (4 of Jupiter and 2 of Saturn, and of course Earth’s). It can show you the entire Messier catalog of the finest clusters, nebulæ, and galaxies. The farthest findable object is probably Messier 87, a giant elliptical galaxy roughly 55 million light years away.

Moving from suburbs to dark skies makes every one of those objects easier to find and better-looking, and allows glimpsing even farther galaxies. It’s worth going to the darkest place that’s safe and convenient.

BRIGHT–EYE MODELS

• NEWCOMER MODEL: Everything you need to get started: complete telescope, base, dust-cap, dew shield, eyepiece, skywatching book, carrying strap.

• CHECK-OUT MODEL, for libraries, clubs, and classes to check out. Complete telescope and carrying strap. For people using it unsupervised, we make pieces harder to lose: we bolt the eyepiece in, and tether the base and dust-cap with wires. Such groups already have skywatching books so we don’t make them buy another.

• QUICK-GRAB MODEL: a “second” telescope for experienced observers, when the occasion doesn’t call for big equipment. Complete telescope, base, dust-cap, and carrying strap. Such people already have their own eyepieces and skywatching books so we don’t make them buy more.

• The OPTICAL TUBE ASSEMBLY (including eyepiece focuser) is a useful component to add to large telescopes as a finder, and for photographers to use as a “telephoto lens”. It can also be a long-distance microscope. For technically-advanced users who already have the fittings, mountings, eyepieces, and skywatching books they prefer, so we don’t make them buy more.

• YOUR CUSTOM MODEL, selected from our buffet of features and accessories. Tell us what you have in mind, so we can make suggestions.

Origins: Bright–Eye is assembled in USA from mostly-American-made parts. For the Newcomer model, 85% of the cost and 69% of the parts come from the USA. Tracing back further: 19% of the parts, costing 5% of the dollars, come from Earth’s Anthropocene Epoch. 42% of the parts, costing 20% of the dollars, came from Earth’s Carboniferous Period. Geological origins of the remainder could not be determined. Even further back: cosmically, roughly 5% of the mass originated in the Big Bang, 65% from Red Giants, and 30% from Supernova explosions. We post updates and details on our website.

ADVICE

HOBBY
Amateur astronomy is a hobby. A wonderful aspect of hobbies is that you do only the parts you like. If part of the subject doesn’t interest you, simply skip that. You can also do the interesting parts in the ways you prefer. You decide for yourself how to do things. We suggest how other people enjoy exploring the Universe, but those are never requirements (except the warning to NEVER POINT A TELESCOPE AT THE SUN. That’s a firm rule.) As in all science, and all specialties, you can dig into finer and finer technicalities. Later! Whenever you feel like it. Maybe years later. Maybe never.

ASTRONOMY CLUBS
Astronomy clubs serve every big city and lots of smaller places. Even if you’re not usually a “joiner”, this is where to find people who have already been through the awkwardness of beginning. They know the best observing locations. They know where to buy advanced equipment when you get to that. They are happy to advise you. Most clubs host star parties where everybody can look through everybody else’s telescopes. Every club has its own personality. Visit all the clubs that are easy enough to get to. Join the one that feels best. Astronomy clubs are listed online, and your nearest planetarium probably knows all of them.

RETURN VISITS SHOW MORE
Like other fine art, celestial objects reward return appearances. First, enjoy the brightest and most contrasty parts. On later returns, seek dimmer details – “supporting stars” – in clusters and the Milky Way. Watch for patches and filaments in nebulæ and galaxies. Scout around for wider context. Mercury, Venus, and the Moon are lit from different angles at different times. Jupiter’s and Saturn’s clouds are always churning.

CHILDREN
Skywatching is one of the few activities that children and adults can pursue as near-equals. You can see the same things, and learn the same skills and science, at the same rate. Galaxies are just as stupendous and wondrous to jaded adults as to elementary kids.

Children under 9 or 10 simply haven’t developed enough yet to handle a scientific instrument, even an easy one like Bright–Eye. Of course, children vary immensely in behavior and intellect, and different aspects mature at wildly different rates and ages. If you wonder whether you should leave a child alone with Bright–Eye, don’t. Help them till they convince you they don’t need you. After that, drop by frequently and have them show you what they’re observing.

TABLES
Most people set their Bright–Eye on a picnic table or card table. Car hoods are no longer horizontal, but some car trunk lids are horizontal enough. The eyepiece (when the scope is pointing straight up) should be a little lower than your eye, for whatever you’re sitting on. If you have to bend down awkwardly, you won’t be comfortable while searching for or observing objects. You may not even find certain objects, if looking in their direction is too awkward.

An alternative is to use a tray that hangs onto a car window. 1950s-style “car hop” trays are available from eBay, Etsy, and other sources. Considering our use, I think they’re “star hop” trays. If the tray shakes a little, damp that with a gentle finger. Get the “large” size from Meritt Tool & Die, 203 W. Third Street, Vermontville, MI 49096. I bought mine through their store on Etsy.com.

Those trays’ hooks only hang on the windows of some cars. Back in the heyday of car hops, almost all cars had windows that had straight horizontal tops. No longer. A lot of car window tops are now curved and sculpted in ways that these trays simply can’t hook onto. For these trays to work well, they have to hook onto windows, at positions 11½ inches (28 cm) apart, that are at the same height above the ground. Measure your car windows before ordering a tray!

SIT OR STAND
Bright–Eye is easy to cradle in your lap while you sit in a chair, on a bench, or on the ground. You can brace it with your lap, with an arm hugging it, and with the shoulder strap helping hold it tautly. That’s stable enough for personal enjoyment, especially a leisurely scan along the Milky Way.

You can even hold Bright–Eye stable enough while standing up, if you lean against a building or car. Hold steady using your strap, arms, chest, and abdomen.

SEEING RED
The only color of flashlight to use while skywatching puts out red light. All other colors destroy your dark-adaptation. After using white light at night, it may take 10 minutes to re-adapt fairly well, and 30 minutes to adapt completely, to seeing the faintest objects.

Red lights are widely available in bicycle shops, outdoor outfitters, and elsewhere. You can also cover a white-light flashlight with red cellophane (available as gift-wrapping) or red nail polish.

SHOW OTHERS
Once you know your way among the stars, and know what you’re looking at, use your Bright–Eye to show other people what celestial objects look like. Tell them something about the objects you show. You could do this as part of an organized event like Astronomy Day or Sidewalk Astronomers, or as a Halloween treat, or for people from a school, or elder care, or friends, or anybody. It doesn’t matter who or when, but it matters a lot that you do some such thing.

ADVANCED SKY BOOKS
After you learn what you want from Guy Ottewell’s To Know the Stars, you’re ready for a higher level of sky guide. There are many, each with a different attitude. Examine all the ones your library has, and all the ones your astronomy club members have. Since the stars and constellations don’t change much, consider older editions from online listings.

Richard Berry: Discover the Stars
Guy Consolmagno: Turn Left at Orion
Terry Dickinson et al: NightWatch
Alan Dyer: Backyard Astronomy, also called Advanced Skywatching
Robert A. Garfinkle: Star-Hopping
Phil Harrington: Star Watch
David Levy: Skywatching
Alan MacRobert: Star-Hopping for Backyard Astronomers
Fred Schaaf: 40 Nights to Knowing the Sky

Smartphone and computer apps abound. We hear good things about Sky Safari.

The yearly Observer’s Handbook of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada has an excellent list of wide-field sights in the sky.

ADORNMENTS: OVALS
Tourists adorn their cars with oval bumper-stickers proclaiming where they traveled. You’ve probably seen them. They’re part tally, part brag: “Been There, Done That”.

I supply a sheet of oval stickers, so you can show where you have traveled ... across the sky: “Looked There, Seen That”.

When you observe an object, especially if it’s part of a project, you can write its name or number on an oval. I couldn’t guess whether you’d want to call the prettiest star cluster the “Pleiades”, “7 Sisters”, “Subaru”, or “M 45”. All of those are correct. But I don’t have to guess. Do it any way you want.

The classic observing project is to find every Messier object. Charles Messier was a French comet-hunter in the late 1700s. He was annoyed by blotches in the sky that looked fuzzy, like comets, but never moved across the background of stars like comets do. Therefore they weren’t comets ... therefore they were a waste of time. He listed over 100 of them to alert astronomers to skip these distractions!

Later telescopes revealed details in each object. Many Messier objects are clusters of stars. Many others are gas clouds; the Latin word is “nebulæ”. Most the rest are galaxies like our entire Milky Way, but much farther.

Messier had charted the best “deep-sky” objects. Some astronomical groups award certificates to members who see them all. Bright–Eye shows every Messier object.

... and more! I plan to publish 2 new categories from very creative authors.
• An “asterism” is any star pattern that isn’t one of the 88 official constellations. Your Bright–Eye reveals hundreds of them. Some have geometric shapes, so find a line, triangle, square, circle, etc. Some look like letters, so spell your name with stars.
• “Birthday stars” lie farther and farther numbers of light-years away. Help 8-year-olds see light that left its star when they were born 8 years ago. The next year, see light that left a different star 9 years ago, and so on.

You can record every sight you see on an oval. Stick its oval on your telescope cylinder or base, or in an observing log, or a wall or appliance. Maybe arrange them in the order in which you saw them, or separately for the solar system, Messier objects, asterisms, birthday stars, and other projects.

If ovals aren’t your way of doing things, you’re perfectly free to ignore them.

ADORNMENTS:
DECORATION
Decorate your Bright–Eye any way you wish, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of using the scope. Brownish scope: a Steampunked version by Artist/Astronomer Richard Miles. He accepts commissions in several artistic styles. StarBaseOne@outlook.com . Bluish scope: one painted in the style of Piet Mondrian.

DETOURS AND DISAPPOINTMENTS

DO NOT TOUCH GLASS SURFACES
The eyepiece and all mirrors are sensitive to the slightest smudge. Cleaning optical glass is so finicky that you’d rather not need to.

IT GETS COLD
Dress as if it’s 15º colder than you expect. That’s because you’re mostly standing still, not exercising, while wind-chill blows away your body heat. Wear a warm head cover and warm socks. Dress in layers, so adding or subtracting is easy. Insulation comes from the air trapped between layers. Keep warmth handy if you’ll be out longer than half an hour – a warm car, hot beverage, or other source.

LIGHT POLLUTION
The famous astronomer Caroline Herschel complained that town lights veiled a good look at Halley’s Comet ... in 1835! Light pollution grew ferociously in the 1900s and remains ghastly in the 2000s. Some fancy filters help a bit. But since your Bright–Eye is extremely portable (even adding a card table), get out of town! Your astronomy club has already scouted surrounding areas and will recommend the best one for you. If you don’t get such advice, examine a regional map. Notice where all the towns are. Go as far from them as you can. Mass transit only goes where masses of people go, so you’ll need a car. Bring food, warmth, pest repellant, red light, and star maps. Experience and club members will help you build your own checklist.

THE FULL MOON
The brighter the phase, the worse it makes viewing clusters, nebulæ, and galaxies. But there’s definitely a lot to see: the Moon itself! It is by far the most detailed celestial sight. Many books, magazines, and websites tell you all about its features. Since it’s uncomfortably bright, dim the view by covering most of your scope’s top opening – taping cardboard across ¾ of the open area helps. If it’s not exactly Full Moon, you can see surface detail in the long shadows on the sunrise/sunset line. For several nights before and after Full Moon, “rays” from geologically-recent cratering impacts show up wonderfully. The lava-seas are dark, but notice that patches are different shades of grey. You can recognize many large craters even without shadows.

CLOUDS
Forecasts help you plan your next clear evening. For hour-by-hour predictions for cloudiness and temperature, start at www.cleardarksky.com. Then you might watch the clouds on Venus, Mars, Jupiter, or Saturn, and the deep-space clouds called nebulæ. When Earth’s clouds block the sky, there’s still something to see, at least by daylight, no scope needed: Earth’s clouds themselves. There are several types. Which ones are left over from the last weather system that passed? Which are portents of the next one coming?

INSECTS AND OTHER WILDLIFE
They’ve used this habitat since long before humans arrived. Some ignore us, some avoid us. Some consider us as food, others treat us as rivals to expel or fight. Ask several local people how to minimize hassles.

FUZZY VIEWS
Look at the sky to see if clouds or trees are impinging on your view. You can still see bright objects through thin clouds and trees.

Dew can collect on your window and eyepiece. Some people use an electric hair-drier to blast dew away. Don’t wipe dew off the optics directly! You could scratch the optics, and you can leave a film that demands delicate cleaning.

Dust can also collect. Blow that away with pressurized “canned air”, available at camera stores. Camel-hair brushes can softly nudge dust away. Don’t wipe dust off, because the particles are themselves grit that will scar the optics.

Examine each optical component. It may be time to clean them. Follow instructions on page \\

HIGH MAGNIFICATION
The best uses for high magnification include seeing detail on the Moon and planets, and splitting close double stars. High magnification demands many trade-offs, however. The entire mounting must be very stable, since every vibration is magnified too. The field of view is tiny, so the occasional tap — that works with Bright–Eye’s rich field — loses the target at high power. You need a clock drive or computer-driven scope. And it’s not rare for the computer to fail to find the object. See “Setup Time and Technicality” below.

DETOURS AND DISAPPOINTMENTS
WITH DIFFERENT TELESCOPES

DELICACY
Bright–Eye is deliberately made sturdy. Using it, you may develop habits that are too rough for delicate scopes. Watch carefully how other people use theirs.

SET-UP TIME AND TECHNICALITY
Big powerful multi-task telescopes can do a lot. But they typically need 15-20 minutes to set up, and the same to take down. Learn exactly how each doodad fits into its thingamabob. Watch the owners set up at a few star parties. Carry heavy parts very carefully! Then volunteer to help several times before trying it on your own.

FREQUENT FIDDLING
Every fitting has a purpose. It’s adjustable because it needs to be adjusted. The more complicated the equipment, the more adjustments it needs. The results are superior, but you have to earn them.

AUTOMATIC FINDING
Computerized mountings can usually find objects automatically. How good that is depends on your attitude (as well as how well the gizmo works). Hurrying right to the intended target is similar to a traveler jetting into a city. Watching the sky along the way, as with Bright–Eye, is like taking in the countryside until you get there.

ASTRO-IMAGING
If you’re a newcomer, we echo the advice of tens of thousands of experienced observers to delay the frustrating finicky technicalities of time-exposures for a few years. Yes, years, really! Anecdotes are available at all astronomy clubs.

**DRAFT** for Bright-Eye website

The Kickstarter campaign for Bright-Eye Telescopes ended May 23, 2016, but the site plays on: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1592946658/bright-eye-telescopes

Bright-Eye® Telescopes
© by Norman Sperling
version of January 1, 2017

This is our temporary website, until www.Bright-Eye.com is ready for prime time. GoDaddy's webcrafters find creative ways to bungle every instruction I give. Can you recommend a different webcrafter?

Telescopes and other goods can be ordered right now via eMail: normsperling@gmail.com, to which you may PayPal the payment; or send a paper check by snail-mail to: 2625 Alcatraz Avenue #235, Berkeley, California 94705 USA.

HOME

Home Page

Welcome to the easiest way to start exploring space. Bright-Eye® Telescopes offer newcomers a superior portal to the wonders of the night sky.

• Point and look: Bright-Eye is tailored to be the easiest telescope to use, not the dim wobbly frustration of toy-department scopes.

• Wow, now: Get to the good stuff right away.

• See the Big Picture: Bright–Eye excites you with thrilling views of the Milky Way, the Moon, stars, clusters, galaxies, nebulae, and comets.

• It’s the first novice scope I know of to launch on Kickstarter.com. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1592946658/bright-eye-telescopes/de...

Bright-Eye is a product of Everything in the Universe, 2625 Alcatraz Avenue #235, Berkeley, California 94705 USA.
eMail: NormSperling@gmail.com

People who look into the Universe appreciate learning more about things. I try to tell you satisfying amounts. Read what you feel like, skip what you feel like.

• EASY & QUICK
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• ORDERS AND CONTACT

BRIGHT-EYE IS MADE BY NORMAN SPERLING

I have been popularizing astronomy all my life. I’ve given thousands of planetarium shows, taught astronomy to thousands of college students, and wrote the Sky & Telescope magazine articles that transformed Astronomy Day from a few local observances into a global celebration.

Discouraged by my students’ unenthusiasm with standard telescopes, I figured out how scopes should behave instead. Read my blog posts on the advantages of rich-field telescopes,
www.EverythingInTheUniverse.com/blog/of-pupils-brightness
and creating the first version of this telescope. www.EverythingInTheUniverse.com/blog/astroscan-memories
Those 40-year-old telescopes sell for nearly twice their original price.

The telescope I co-designed eventually went out of production, so I resolved to revive it. It had been a major task for a sizable company to make originally, and harder still for little old me. I figured it shouldn’t be as hard as raising my kids as a single dad. But it demands every bit as much persistence and determination. Many materials, methods, and components have changed.

Most of the world still doesn’t think my way, but that’s their problem. Kickstarter opened up new audiences, and my campaign for Bright–Eye achieved 157% of its goal. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1592946658/bright-eye-telescopes/de...

This telescope has lots of fans because it excites newcomers. You’re next!

EASY & QUICK

HOW DO YOU WANT TO SPEND YOUR TELESCOPE TIME?

Would you rather be overwhelmed by the majesty of the heavens, or by the fiddly details of setting up a telescope?

Set-up time deters most users. Following a centuries-old mindset, big, serious telescopes and accessories take 15-20 minutes to set up, and the same to take down, committing 30-40 minutes of a night just to that. To justify so much preparation, observing often occupies most of the night. Many dedicated observers do exactly that and love it.

A lot more people love the sky’s glories, but not the set-up. Many fans delight in a half hour of sky-watching, but not in all-nighters. Family and friends are a lot more willing to look at a few sights for a few minutes with you.

So I gave Bright-Eye the easiest, fastest set-up.

IT’S TIME TO OBSERVE!

Start
Same-Old: I wanna observe!
Bright–Eye: I wanna observe!

5 seconds
Same-Old: Where’s the base?
Bright–Eye: Bright–Eye’s by the door

12 seconds
Same-Old: Not in the garage
Bright–Eye: Plop the base on the picnic table

20 seconds
Same-Old: Not in the trunk
Bright–Eye: Plop the scope in the base

30 seconds
Same-Old: Try the back yard
Bright–Eye: That cluster is always big and pretty!

1 minute
Same-Old: Spread ground cloth
Bright–Eye: I love this double star’s colors

3 minutes
Same-Old: Haul the base out
Bright–Eye: Scan the Milky Way

6 minutes
Same-Old: Haul out piece B
Bright–Eye: This is the third globular puffball

9 minutes
Same-Old: Haul out piece C
Bright–Eye: The club said to watch this comet

11 minutes
Same-Old: Assemble them in order
Bright–Eye: Follow that satellite across the sky

13 minutes
Same-Old: Hunt dropped wingnut
Bright–Eye: This is the brightest galaxy up now

15 minutes
Same-Old: Calibrate setting circle
Bright–Eye: Neat asterism! Is it in Corder’s Atlas?

16 minutes
Same-Old: Align the mirrors
Bright–Eye: This carbon star is way dimmer tonight

17 minutes
Same-Old: Tweak alignment
Bright–Eye: Venus’s crescent is thinning

18 minutes
Same-Old: Hunt first object
Bright–Eye: Jupiter shows 3 moons. Io’s orangish.

20 minutes
Same-Old: Find first object. Neat!
Bright–Eye: Finish with the bright Moon

THE BEST “SECOND TELESCOPE” IS THE BEST “FIRST TELESCOPE”

Serious observers appreciate these very same factors. On many nights they just want a “quick-grab” scope to check out a thing or 2, not a long list. After they graduate to a big complicated rig, they keep their rich-field scope by the door.

EASY EYEPIECE

Experts in eyepiece design emphasize comfort and ease. This “eye-relief” is one of several qualities traded off to achieve ultra-wide views. It’s also traded off to minimize certain distortions. Experienced, dedicated observers may want those other factors so much that they’re willing to trade off eye-relief. Newcomers prefer an image that they can see easily.

LOTS TO DO

PROJECTS

• The classic observing project is to find every Messier object. Charles Messier was a French comet-hunter in the late 1700s. He was annoyed by blotches in the sky that looked fuzzy, like comets, but never moved across the background of stars like comets do. Therefore they weren’t comets, therefore they were a waste of time. He listed over 100 of them to alert astronomers to skip these distractions!

Later telescopes revealed details in each object. Many Messier objects are clusters of stars. Many others are gas clouds; the Latin word is “nebulæ”. Most the rest are galaxies like our entire Milky Way, but much farther.

Messier charted the best “deep-sky” objects. Some astronomical groups award certificates to members who see them all. Bright–Eye shows every Messier object.

• An “asterism” is any star pattern that isn’t one of the 88 official constellations. Your Bright–Eye reveals hundreds of them. Some have geometric shapes, so find a line, triangle, square, circle, etc. Some look like letters, so spell your name with stars.

• “Birthday stars” lie farther and farther numbers of light-years away. Help 8-year-olds see light that left its star when they were born 8 years ago. The next year, see light that left a different star 9 years ago, and so on.

• Watch the Moon go through its phases. The sharpest detail lies along the sunrise/sunset line, in a different place every night. Notice eye-catching features: the flat dark lava plains, the fresh craters with rays around them, sunrise and sunset creeping across mountains and craters ...

After you try out the skywatching book that comes with your telescope, seek even more suggestions from:
• The World Wide Web.
• Astronomical magazines like Astronomy, and Sky & Telescope.
• Your friendly local astronomy club.

When you’re ready: ADVANCED SKY BOOKS. There are many, each with a different attitude. Examine all the ones in your library (call numbers 520-523) and all the ones your astronomy club members have.

• Richard Berry: Discover the Stars
• Guy Consolmagno: Turn Left at Orion
• Terry Dickinson et al: NightWatch
• Alan Dyer: Backyard Astronomy, also called Advanced Skywatching
• Robert A. Garfinkle: Star-Hopping
• Phil Harrington: Star Watch
• David Levy: Skywatching
• Alan MacRobert: Star-Hopping for Backyard Astronomers
• Fred Schaaf: 40 Nights to Knowing the Sky

FOR COLLEGE AND HIGH SCHOOL ASTRONOMY CLASSES

Bright–Eye is educational as well as entertaining. Bright–Eye is meant to check out to students to use at home on their own. It shows the entire Messier catalog of objects. It boggles students who roam the Milky Way. It demonstrates how Newtonian reflectors work. It lets an instructor deploy a telescope with uncommon qualities in showing the evening’s targets.

DECORATE YOUR OWN

Decorate your Bright–Eye any way you wish, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of using the scope. Brownish version: a Steampunked version by Artist/Astronomer Richard Miles. He accepts commissions in several artistic styles. StarBaseOne@outlook.com . Bluish version: painted in the style of Piet Mondrian.

TOURIST OVALS

Tourists adorn their cars with oval bumper-stickers proclaiming where they traveled. You’ve probably seen them. They’re part tally, part brag: “Been There, Done That”.

Bright-Eye supplies a sheet of oval stickers, so you can show where you have traveled ... across the sky: “Looked There, Seen That”.

When you observe an object, especially if it’s part of a project, you can write its name or number on an oval. I couldn’t guess whether you’d want to call the prettiest star cluster the “Pleiades”, “7 Sisters”, “Subaru”, or “M 45”. All of those are correct. But I don’t have to guess. Do it any way you want.

You can record every sight you see on an oval. Stick its oval on your telescope cylinder or base, or in an observing log, or a wall or appliance. Maybe arrange them in the order in which you saw them, or separately for the solar system, Messier objects, asterisms, birthday stars, and other projects.

If ovals aren’t your way of doing things, you’re perfectly free to ignore them.

IN CONTRAST
TO PLAYING VIDEO GAMES

Bright–Eye is analog, not digital. The image is powered entirely by the photons you collect from outer space.

Bright–Eye is manual, not motor-driven. You steer it yourself. The instructions tell you how.

Bright–Eye is mechanical, not electronic.

Bright–Eye keeps working for decades with less servicing than any other kind of telescope.

Bright–Eye casts its web vastly beyond merely “worldwide”; way beyond our solar-system, way beyond our Milky Way, to galaxies more than 50 million light years away.

Even if you look at billions of stars, that will not jam Bright–Eye. If you look at something in an unexpected format, Bright–Eye will show the object anyway. If you look at photons that have traveled millions of years, through Bright–Eye they look as good as when they were fresh.

The celestial objects you view are real. They are not virtual or fictitious. Many of them were beyond the imaginations of their discoverers. They still invoke superlatives.

The celestial objects you view are not © copyrighted, ® registered, patented, or licensed. Look at them as much as you please, without paying for a license, ticket, membership, or bribe.

BRIGHT-EYE TELESCOPES

BRIGHT–EYE TELESCOPE MODELS

Mirror diameter: 4.25 inches. Focal ratio: f/4. Standard eyepiece: 25 mm focal length, 52º apparent field. Sphere diameter: 10 inches. Tube length: 17 inches. All telescopes come with a manual, which is also online.

• NEWCOMER MODEL: Everything you need to get started: complete telescope, base, dust-cap, eyepiece, skywatching book, carrying strap. $599.

• CHECK-OUT MODEL, for libraries, clubs, and classes to check out. Complete telescope and carrying strap. For people using it unsupervised, I make pieces harder to lose: I bolt the eyepiece in, and tether the base and dust-cap with wire. Such groups already have skywatching books so I don’t make them buy another. $599.

• QUICK-GRAB MODEL: a “second” telescope for experienced observers, when the occasion doesn’t call for big equipment. Complete telescope, base, dust-cap, carrying strap. Such people already have their own eyepieces and skywatching books so I don’t make them buy more. $549.

• The OPTICAL TUBE ASSEMBLY (including eyepiece focuser) is a useful component to add to large telescopes as a finder, and for photographers to use as a “telephoto lens”. It can also be a long-distance microscope. For technically-advanced users who already have the fittings, mountings, eyepieces, and skywatching books they prefer, so I don’t make them buy more. $499.

• YOUR CUSTOM MODEL, selected from the buffet of features and accessories. Tell me what you have in mind, so I can make suggestions.

SHIPPING
If you have an account with a shipping company (like UPS, FedEx, DHL, ...), simply tell us your account number. I don’t have to reckon the price, you don’t have to front the money, and they put it on your regular bill,.

If you don’t have a shipping account number:
• In the “lower-48” US states, $60 for the Newcomer, Check-Out, and Quick-Grab models; $40 for the Optical Tube Assembly.
• Everywhere else on Earth: Reckoned case-by-case.
• Delivery to other planets is expensive, sporadic, and undependable. Don’t go there.

SALES TAX
Orders delivered within California must add sales tax.

THE RICH FIELD SWEET-SPOT

This very-short-focal-ratio (f/4) telescope delivers a very wide 3º field of view with a conventional eyepiece. This delivers many advantages while costing only a few ... though those aren’t trivial.
• A wide view is breathtakingly beautiful because you see more stars, especially with open clusters and along the Milky Way. Many people devote entire observing sessions to roaming the Milky Way because there’s always so much to see.
• The wide view concentrates the light of nebulae and galaxies and faint clusters. Compacting their light makes each one more contrasty so it’s a lot easier to notice.
• This same contrast enhancement makes comets a lot easier to see. Rich-field telescopes are nick-named “comet seekers” because comets stand out, and also because you cover more sky in each view while hunting them.
• A wide view means that celestial objects appear to cross the view more slowly. We all perch on Earth, which rotates, and carries our view across the starry sky. It’s not much bother to nudge the scope to keep up once in a while. If you accidentally “lose” the object, it’s easy to “sweep” all around the neighborhood and find it again, usually in a few seconds. Scopes with narrow views have to use clock drives to keep a star centered. That forces the expense and weight of motors and gears and the computer that controls them. It also forces spending set-up time for the telescope to learn how it’s oriented among the stars. Those systems take frustratingly long to get working. That can ruin your mood, or even the whole observing session.
• Because the view is so wide, you see a lot of sky at once. It’s easy to search for the next target quickly because you cover so much sky so quickly.
• Bright–Eye’s view is so wide that you can hold the scope steady enough by cuddling it in your lap! You don’t need a table or the base.
— That all works fine for eyeball observing. It does NOT work for astrophotography. A lot of people are attracted to astronomy by seeing the most beautiful photos taken by the most accomplished astro-imagers. Realistically, astro-imaging is so complicated, and has so many ways for things to go wrong, that most experts agree that newcomers shouldn’t try it at all. Get a year or 3’s experience before diving into that time-sink.

PORTABLE

You can wear Bright–Eye home on a school bus. You can wear Bright–Eye while riding a bicycle or motorcycle to get to a better observing spot. Wear a Bright–Eye farther into a field than would be convenient for a heavy scope. Bright–Eye fits into any car or train or bus, and many backpacks.

STABLE

Most cheap telescopes wobble. They use flimsy tripods. Their mounts vibrate around a small pivot. Wobbly mounts make it frustratingly hard to point a telescope at what you seek.

Bright–Eye pivots on 3 widely-separated felt pads. The distance between those pads confers stability. Most people put the base on a picnic table or a portable table they’ve picked for stability, like a card table.

BARGAINING AWAY THE SOLAR SYSTEM

There’s a big, important class of objects that look better at high magnification, as opposed to the low magnification that makes a wide view possible. They are the planets, Moon, and Sun. But I haven’t traded off everything.
• The Moon looks great through all telescopes, including Bright–Eye.
• The Sun is so brilliant that you should NEVER look directly at it through ANY scope. The safest method is to project onto a white card ... and you can do that just fine with Bright–Eye.
• Mercury and Venus do not show surface details through any amateur telescope. All you can see is the phases they go through, much like the Moon’s. Through Bright–Eye you can plainly see the phase, and that’s all there is to see.
• Mars looks so small that it’s a disappointment through all portable telescopes.
• Uranus and Neptune are faint. The largest amateur telescopes show them as featureless discs. Bright–Eye shows them as small featureless discs.
• Pluto is way too faint to see through portable telescopes.
• That leaves Jupiter and Saturn, which do look better through longer scopes than through Bright–Eye. Bright-Eye shows Saturn’s glorious ring. Bright–Eye reveals a couple belts on Jupiter and sometimes on Saturn (depending on Saturn’s weather). It shows the 4 big moons of Jupiter and the 2 biggest moons of Saturn. It shows the equatorial bulges of both planets. But it shows all that smaller than other scopes do.

This is Bright–Eye’s biggest trade-off. I knew it going in. We bought superior views of 100 deep-sky objects at the expense of superior views of 2 planets. If Jupiter and Saturn interest you the most, Bright–Eye is not the best telescope for you. Seek a telescope that’s f/20 and 1/20-wave, and has a highly technical mount.

IT’S HARD TO MAKE THINGS EASY

Smartphones’ easy simplicity gives portability, instant set-up, and quick finding. But that requires expensive design and construction. Bright-Eye, too, benefits from a great deal of attention, many peoples’ contributions, meticulous design and engineering, and custom-made components.

PRICE VERSUS QUALITY

Everybody knows “you get what you pay for.”

Bright–Eye is inherently a compact telescope. Therefore there’s less material in it, it’s made on smaller machines, and it’s cheaper to transport. All those save money without sacrificing quality.

Though Americans invented and popularized this type of telescope in America, global economic forces lured its manufacture overseas in the late 1900s. The first contractor maintained good quality. But after that, low price was bought at the cost of irregular and undependable quality.

Bright–Eye is not made in the cheapest possible way and therefore does not carry the cheapest possible price. Instead, it works well.

ASSEMBLED IN USA

Bright–Eye is assembled in USA, using mostly-USA-made parts. It is built to American standards ... and my standards. Every part is carefully inspected. Everything does what it’s supposed to.

ORDERS AND CONTACT

BRIGHT–EYE MODELS
All come with a manual, which is also online.

• NEWCOMER MODEL: Everything you need to get started: complete telescope, base, dust-cap, eyepiece, skywatching book, carrying strap. $599.

• CHECK-OUT MODEL, for libraries, clubs, and classes to check out. Complete telescope and carrying strap. For unsupervised borrowers, I make pieces harder to lose: I bolt the eyepiece in, and tether the base and dust-cap with wire. Such groups already have skywatching books so I don’t make them buy another. $599.

• QUICK-GRAB MODEL: a “second” telescope for experienced observers, when the occasion doesn’t call for big equipment. Complete telescope, base, dust-cap, carrying strap. Such people already have their own eyepieces and skywatching books so I don’t make them buy more. $549.

• The OPTICAL TUBE ASSEMBLY (including eyepiece focuser) is a useful component to add to large telescopes as a finder, and for photographers to use as a “telephoto lens”. It can also be a long-distance microscope. For technically-advanced users who already have the fittings, mountings, eyepieces, and skywatching books they prefer, so I don’t make them buy more. $499.

• YOUR CUSTOM MODEL, selected from the buffet of features and accessories. Tell me what you have in mind, so I can make suggestions.

SHIPPING
If you have an account with a shipping company (like UPS, FedEx, DHL, ...), simply tell us your account number. They put it on your regular bill, you don’t have to front the money, and I don’t have to reckon the price.

If you don’t have a shipping account number:
• In the “lower-48” US states, $60 for the Newcomer, Check-Out, and Quick-Grab models; $40 for the Optical Tube Assembly.
• Everywhere else on Earth: Reckoned case-by-case.
• Delivery to other planets is expensive, sporadic, and undependable. Don’t go there.

SALES TAX
Orders delivered within California must add sales tax.

COLORS

For the Bright-Eye KX telescopes produced for the Kickstarter.com campaign, I attempt to customize telescopes using the backers’ favorite colors. Inquire about later models and customizations.

POSTAL ADDRESS

Everything in the Universe
2625 Alcatraz Avenue #235
Berkeley, California 94705 USA

eMail
NormSperling@gmail.com

THANKS TO ALL WHO HELPED

Isaac Newton invented the Newtonian type of reflecting telescope.

The ball-in-socket was developed during the design of the hip joint.

Mike Simmons designed setup to take as little as 15 seconds (with practice). Nobody will ever beat Simmons by more than 15 seconds.

Congratulations to New Hampshire and Missouri for pioneering Library scopes.

A great many people made helpful comments and suggestions. Thanks to:
David Almandsmith, Piers Anthony, Mel Bartels, J. Kelly Beatty, Molly Bentley, Richard Berry, Sylvain Billot, Chris Burt, Shawn Carlson, Sheldon Carpenter, Lucille Chang, Robert Clemenzi, R. L. Dietz, Marisa Edmund, Robert Edmund, Simon Quellen Field, Chris Gervang, Norm Goldblatt, Bob Heddy, Kathy Hedges, Donald Hollenbeck, Steve Johnson, Nick Kanas, Randy Latimer, Larry Lesser, Mark Levy, Lou Lippman, Bruce Mangan, Amelia Marshall, Keenan McGuckin, Richard Miles, Al Nagler, Michele Nur, Jerry Oltion, Nick O’Shea, Richard Ozer, Carolyn Collins Peterson, Bob Sanders, Bob Schalck, Sara Schechner, Caroline Sherman, Gordon Slack, Barry Sperling, Lumin Sperling, Mason Sperling, Clyde Sugahara, Richard Termes, Jason Weisberger, John Westfall, Walter Jon Williams, Lucas Willis.

Astronomy clubs of Eugene, Louisville, Boston, Vermont, New Hampshire, Iowa County (Wisconsin), Central Maine.

Everybody who supported my Kickstarter: Kabo Ad, Sandy Adam, Jason Weisberger, Christian Gray, Joshua Mehlman, Justin Husted, Steve Heath, Taz, Alex Jenny, spongefile, Oscar Lhermitte and Kudu, Christopher Grau, Martin Webster, Patrick O’Reilly, Kent KB, Dan and Jean Ann Chernikoff, Jim Kirk, Steve Kick, J. Wilson, Marcus Kocmur, Hugo Herdav, Lamont G. Kelly, Angela McEliece, Jake Bosley, Bobby Edmonds, Paul Bernardi, Chriss Coffinn, Donald Day, Nicolas Colicchio, Viv White, Joseph Partington, Cara Noverio, Elan Lee, Christopher C. Burt, Tomas Talpa, Bill Welliver, Olya, Trent, Caroline Sherman and Deborah Stanfill, Steven M. Johnson, Steven J. Klinko, Z. Engelbert, Kalypso, Sheldon Carpenter, kokobin, Todd, Eric Truong, Richard Horwitz, Robert M. McCauley Jr, Mike Lynd, Thomas Boyd, Douglas Laycock, Amy Reams, Mike Meenan, Michael and Liz, Jay Raol, Chris Kaiser, P. Edward Murray, Ben, Kevin P., Steven Smith, Spencer Rose, Jason Mansfield, Mary Becker, Caroline Keys, Chris Hagen, Peppa O’Shea, Mike McCool, Peter Beach, METI International, Marius, Chris O’Neil, Erik Sjoberg, Steve McDonald, Jonathan Armstrong, Preevio, Andrew Bleich, Jason Denning, Leo vanMunching, Rev Chas, Alexandra Tinsman, Paul Sponagl, Nora, Greg Spencer, Doctor P., Patrick Brennan, J. McCormick, Martin Hallett, Kuo-Jen Yuan, Kinoss, David Kirsch, Victoria Pawlik, Todd Nilson, Cassidy Napoli, Chris Carroux, Chris Richie, Erwin Estigarribia, Dawn Forbes, Eric Salituro, David Greenberg, Kevin Cassidy, Greg Pfluger, Kat Let.

Bright-Eye is a registered trademark of Norman Sperling. Astroscan is a registered trademark of Scientifics Direct, Tonawanda, New York.

Must Every Astroscan be Red?

© Norman Sperling, October 15, 2014

Every Astroscan is red. It was Edmund Scientific’s theme color when they created the Astroscan in 1976. I like it, and many others do too.

But colors and designs express a lot to people. Henry Ford was *wrong* to force every Model T he built from 1914 to 1926 to be black. Not every Astroscan ought to be red.

I remember how folks used to decorate Volkswagen beetles. Who will extend that to Astroscans? The body is injection-molded from ABS, a very common and well-known co-polymer. Find paints that stick to that, and won’t have problems with the trivet’s felt pads.

Paint it white? Black? Blue? Green? Pink? Brown? Chrome? Brass?

A patriotic-American design could cover the sphere with a blue field with white stars, and the cylinder with white stripes alternating with the red. A patriotic-Canadian design could use white to outline the maple leaf. Dude up an Astroscan in Steampunk, and another in Art-Deco. What would artists and illustrators and designers dream up?

The Rift, by Walter Jon Williams, HarperPrism 1999.

© Norman Sperling, September 2, 2014

A friend tipped me off that this science fiction book features the Astroscan telescope, which I co-designed, so I knew I’d read at least enough to see how my scope fared. I dove right in and, because it’s a really neat book, I read the whole thing. I was so involved that a few times I’d pause, think “hey, it brought up the Astroscan again” so I’d page back to the reference, mark it, and then plow straight on to see how the story went.

The premise asks what would happen if enormous earthquakes hit Missouri’s New Madrid fault now, as they did in 1811-12. My travels have recently taken me to St. Louis, Memphis, New Madrid, and Reelfoot Lake, and most of the other places in the book. Williams portrays the flavors, weather, accents, and scenery much as I saw them.

Mix in a flooded Mississippi River, failure of the electric grid and most communications, and isolated power-abusing authorities. Detailing the major chaos takes Williams’s expertly-developed characters along paths twisting through hundreds of pages to converge in the mop-up.

The science is quite good. The seismology is excellent, as far as I can tell. So is the hydrology. So is the technology -- from helicopters to nuclear reactors to guns. The major issue of reactionary Whites repressing Blacks has, I hope, diminished since this story was published 15 years ago … I hope.

Also improved today are communications and smartphones and multiple ways to access the www. Most wouldn’t work -- I’ve been in plenty of “no service” areas on this trek -- but there would also be places where you could get through.

One factor that didn’t ring true was radio. Old fashioned AM radio travels thousands of miles at night. Surely someone in this novel could have used a car radio, or scrounged up a battery-powered transistor radio, and listened to outside news. It wouldn’t get a message out, but at least it would get news in, tell that St. Louis and Memphis were flattened, and warn of impending storms and flooding.

Into this stew Williams tossed the Astroscan telescope. He must have asked his astronomical consultant for a portable telescope that could take rough handling. I can tell that the author actually handled one and looked through it. Most of the astronomical objects would look about as described. But he waxed overenthusiastic about galaxies - the ones he listed show up just as grey fuzzblobs. To notice the details he cites requires much larger scopes.

Terrestrial viewing, important to the plot, would work just as described. Characters’ reactions to Astroscan's odd looks sound pretty good. The shoulder strap is meant for exactly the kind of carrying that the hero used it for. The casing is indeed tough enough to withstand being knocked around (and no other beginner scope could). So the scope earned its way into the book, the author understood its special characteristics, and it sparked enough interest that its teenage user could think of going into astronomy. For the Astroscan, this novel is a huge success. And if that teenager enrolls where I teach, I want him in my class.

Just Strolling

© Norman Sperling, Winter Star Party, February 25, 2014

Last night I just strolled among the stars.

I used my Astroscan in laptop mode: long before computers were “laptops”, Astroscan was designed purposely to include that capability. Just sit down, cuddle the sphere in your lap, and scan wherever.

The latitude was unfamiliar so the angles weren’t the “same old” ones. A different eyepiece displayed a different scale factor. I didn’t look up any familiar deep-sky objects or star patterns. I just scanned and wandered. I was usually so unsure of where the scope pointed that whatever showed up was a pure surprise. That gave a wonderful element of discovery and fresh beauty.

The Milky Way is spectacular, but in this really dark sky, even the Hydra Void shows plenty of stars and clusters and nebulae. Many familiar favorites popped out, but I didn’t bother with catalog numbers. The joy was in the freshness, coming at objects from different sides, seeing them in unfamiliar angles and sizes.

Don’t always take the same route. Whether you scan a database, a petri dish, a landscape, or a starscape, take a fresh field of view, a different angle, a different filter for what to notice.

Uncertainty Done Right

(c) Norman Sperling, January 21, 2014

We astronomers KNEW we didn't know what Comet ISON was going to do. We knew its brightness was extremely unpredictable. We knew that fizzling was one major possibility.

This time, as if in a unified front, practically all astronomers told practically all media the same thing. They told it so emphatically and so uniformly that the media had no choice but to tell that to the public, though the media strongly prefer concrete certainties. The public was well served.

So this time there's no backlash against Science, no criticism, praise for the correctness, and praise for the videos and graphics.

What a stunning contrast to the Kohoutek debacle of 1973. Initial computations - wildly optimistic - predicted brilliance, which the media trumpeted. So telescope companies ramped up production, especially because maximum brightness coincided with the holiday season. The media largely ignored later cautions, and the comet's dimness left Science seeming "wrong", and companies with expensive warehouses full of every scope they expected to sell for the next *year*.

Voynich: Spiraling into Folly

© Norman Sperling, December 26, 2012
Part of a set on the Voynich Manuscript:
Great Stories from a Book You Can't Read: The Voynich Manuscript December 23, 2012
Voynich: Turkish? December 24, 2012
Voynich: 2 or More Handwritings? December 25, 2012
Could 2 of Voynich's Oddities Cancel Each Other Out? December 27, 2012
Did Voynich Swindle Mondragone? December 28, 2012
Would You Like to Buy a Copy of the Voynich Manuscript? December 29, 2012

William R. Newbold's 1921 contention that the spiral graphic in folio 68r represents a spiral nebula is wild bunk. The spiral nebula concept was suggested to Newbold by astronomer Eric Doolittle, who really should have known much better. Doolittle was a diligent and much-appreciated expert on double stars, but at f/20 his telescope gave some of the poorest, faintest, least-contrasty views of nebulae (the category from which galaxies had not yet been separated). To be blunt, Doolittle was out of his specialty and didn't know what he was talking about.

While the Great Galaxy in Andromeda is visible to the naked eye as an oval smudge, it does not look spiral through even today's visual telescopes. It doesn't even appear face-on, but is strongly tilted to our view. It was first recognized as a spiral in 1899, by pioneering astrophotographer Isaac Roberts: "[the object is] a left-handed spiral, and not annular as I at first suspected". Photographs of Stars II, p63. Newbold's own book says as much (William Romaine Newbold, edited by Roland Grubb Kent: The Cipher of Roger Bacon, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1928, Chapter XI, p 123).

The very first time any celestial object was recognized as a spiral was 1843, using the world's then-largest telescope, Lord Rosse's new 72-inch-wide "Leviathan of Parsonstown". Even with highly improved telescopes in the 2010s, visual observers are hard-put to distinguish spirality in the highest-contrast, most-vivid spiral - the Whirlpool galaxy in Canes Venatici, M51 - with any telescope narrower than 12 inches. Even then, the focal ratio must be f/8 or less to concentrate light enough. Early-1600s telescopes by Lippershey, Galileo, and others were less than 2 inches wide, and typically f/20-f/40, with notoriously imperfect lenses that smeared light around. For a deeper explanation of focal ratio and surface-brightness, read my essay Of Pupils & Brightness. NO primitive telescope of the Renaissance, let alone some speculated pioneer of the Middle Ages, had the slightest chance of revealing spirality in any object, to any observer, under any conditions.

Newbold speculated about the changes a nebula might show over the 650 years from Roger Bacon's time to his own. We now know that the spirals are galaxies, so wide that light takes tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of years to traverse them. The sharpest photographs of the last century have not revealed any measurable rotation. The only changes are sudden appearances of supernovae, which fade back down. The spiral in 68r is NOT a galaxy.

Trading Cards for Telescopes and Celestial Objects

© Norman Sperling, September 20, 2012
Part of a series on Educational Star Parties:
Star Parties Designed for Students (July 7, 2012)
7 Spectral Types in 1 Big Loop (April 15, 2012)
Telescope Triplets (November 25, 2011)

At observing sessions, students and the public hear a whole lot of information, but don't keep notes, nor remember it too sharply. Remembering the data shouldn't be the main thrust anyway; seeing the objects is.

Prepare telescope trading cards, and object trading cards, to give to all comers:
* On each scope card, show a snazzy photo of the scope, its statistics, interesting background, and its proud owner/operator.
* On each object card, show a visual impression resembling what the observer actually sees; plus a more impressive astrophoto; the object's statistics, and interesting background. Include major catalog designations and nicknames.

Prepare plenty of these cards so scope operators and volunteers can hand out the right ones. Cards should hugely reinforce the educational experience, giving a tangible card to show to others (encouraging them to come); keeping the information from getting pathetically garbled; and reminding visitors how well they observed.

Kids already have LOTS of trading-card display sheets, boxes, and so on. They can handle the cards. And parents ought to strongly encourage these cards. Cards should cost a few cents to produce, are cheap and easy to update and replace, and easy to generate anew. It might cost a buck a kid for star parties and most musea, but should pay dividends in post-visit appreciation and word-of-mouth promotion.

All-day visitors to a big museum could amass a couple dozen cards, if they are given for every planetarium show and exhibit. They'll remind visitors for years of their visit. Visitors to other venues might get cards for flora, fauna, minerals, and cloud types along the way. Perhaps each hiking trail could have one, or even each "look at this" post.

Where attendees have smartphones, give them digital versions instead of cardboard cards.

Rip Van Winkle Meets 2012 Observers

© Norman Sperling, August 21, 2012

For the first time in many years, I attended a major, many-night-long star party. Hundreds of amateur skywatchers set up their telescopes and auxiliaries for nights of dark-sky observing at the Oregon Star Party, east of Prineville.

Their standard array is far more advanced than I remember from 30 or 40 years ago.

It starts on a ground-cloth: a tarp or a sheet or a tablecloth. Some are thin carpeting. Light-colored carpeting would make it easier to find things in the dark. Decades ago we set up in grass, and wasted a lot of time hunting important little things we dropped.

The telescope and several auxiliaries now consume so much electricity that observers lug out a battery, such as a small car would use. Wires from the battery to the equipment are sometimes neatly tied, sometimes run hazardously wild. Sometimes the battery tucks under the scope, inside a tripod leg. Decades ago very few observers had separate batteries, some tapped their car batteries, and most didn't use any electricity.

Tote boxes and padded equipment safes often sport custom-cutouts for specific eyepieces, et al. Most sites had 2 or 3 boxes and some had more. Decades ago observers had a lot fewer eyepieces, and all of those were much smaller than today's huge, massive marvels. So one simple container was all anyone needed.

Almost every site has a folding table or 2. Portable tables have been reinvented, with many patterns and sizes available from discount stores and outdoor outfitters. Some have roll-up table tops. Since the tables carry little more than laptop computers, atlases, and notebooks, light-duty hardware is OK, verging on flimsy. Decades ago the few who brought tables used card tables. We spread atlases out on car hoods and trunks, which were more horizontal then.

Everyone uses folding chairs. These, too, have been reinvented in profuse variety. Decades ago the only types had a flip-down seat as can still be found in schools and churches, and plastic-webbed aluminum-tube lawn chairs.

Tall Dobsonians became popular in the 1970s, and used the teetery ladders of those times. Now far more common, they use newer ladders with safer, wide-splayed feet.

I saw a few "anti-gravity" chairs for binocular use and meteor watching. Decades ago we had plastic-webbed, aluminum-tube chaise lounges.

Everything is carefully folded or furled to fit their vehicle ... or, the vehicle is chosen because it can hold the owner's full set. I remember marveling at how much more a squarish van held than a conventional station wagon. Now, vehicles come in so many configurations that everyone can carry everything they want. A lot of RVs at the star party showed red-light and sealed-window customizations, so many people are very serious about this.

The 2012-era scope site sports a great deal more stuff than its predecessor. The scopes themselves cost a lot more, and so does all the other stuff, and their vehicles. But the expense and the bulk deliver images far surpassing those of olden times, and computer-processed electronic imaging vastly exceeds old film astrophotography. They get what they pay for.

7 Spectral Types in 1 Big Loop

© Norman Sperling, April 15, 2012
Part of a series on Educational Star Parties:
Star Parties Designed for Students (July 7, 2012)
Trading Cards for Telescopes and Celestial Objects (September 20, 2012)
Telescope Triplets (November 25, 2011)

When I teach about stars, the 7 main spectral types usually seem rather abstract. I show their different spectra, but that's hard to relate to what students actually see in a starry sky. I show Planck curves and explain how surface temperature results in color differences that you can actually notice. Star colors aren't the sharp tones of advertising signs, but you can definitely notice the tinges.

Star tinges are less than impressive to the naked eye, because starlight is so dim that it mostly triggers the black-and-white-registering rod cells in your retina. Only the 20 or so brightest stars deliver so much light that they also trigger a few color-sensitive cone cells, and those only barely.

But even a small telescope collects enough light to trigger a whole lot more cones in your retina, making the colors appear appreciably bolder. So a star party that is deliberately planned for student education should use 7 small telescopes to point at a bright star of each of the 7 spectral types, to emphasize their different colors. Arrange the scopes so a single line of viewers looks through all 7 scopes in order, either OBAFGKM or MKGFABO. After everybody has seen that, re-aim those scopes to their next targets.

Yes, A and F stars really do look white, but now you appreciate how real that is, unlike an artifact of not triggering enough cone cells.

For each spectral type, at any position of the sky, you can find examples at third magnitude or brighter.

All 7 spectral types are blatant around the Great Winter Oval:
O: Mintaka and Alnitak
B: Rigel, Bellatrix, El Nath, Alnilam, and Saiph
A: Sirius
F: Procyon
G: Capella
K: Aldebaran and Pollux
M: Betelgeuse

The Great Winter Oval has many advantages. It's accessible late in the Fall semester, late in the evening; all winter long; and just after dusk well into Spring semester. Since it straddles the equator, it's easily seen from practically everywhere that people live. Only in May, June, and July is it not available - parts of it even then.

When part of the Great Winter Oval is hidden by the Sun's glare, here are some bright alternatives:
O: zeta Ophiuchi and zeta Puppis
B: Alpheratz, Algol, Regulus, Spica, and Alkaid
A: Denebola, Alioth, Mizar, Gemma, Vega, Deneb, Altair, and Fomalhaut
F: Polaris, Algenib, and Sadr
G: the Sun, beta Corvi, Vindemiatrix, eta Bootis, eta Draconis, and beta Herculis
K: Alphard, Dubhe, Arcturus, and Kochab
M: Antares, Mira, and beta Andromedae

Decrease the number of telescopes needed, and make the contrast more vivid, by showing wide, bright, color-contrast double stars:
Algieba: K + G
Albireo: K + B
gamma Andromedae: K + B
Cor Caroli: A + F

Bigger scopes show color contrast in:
32 Eridani: G + A
h3945 Canis Majoris: K + F

Don't try to add spectral class W unless you're far enough south to see the only bright one, gamma Velorum, -47 degrees. There are only about 150 Wolf-Rayet stars known in our galaxy. No others are close enough to look brighter than 6th magnitude. The biggest bunch is around the Summer Triangle.

I'll comment more on planning star parties for student education in later postings.

The Journal of Irreproducible Results
This Book Warps Space and Time
What Your Astronomy Textbook Won't Tell You

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