17 Lyrae Double star challenge

After dusting off my Bedford catalogue book by Admiral William H.Smith, I felt compelled to start seeking out some of the early observations. 1st on the list was a lesser known double star in Lyra called 17 Lyrae. Many observers go straight to the double double close to Vega for a test of optics. Yet , like with many constellations, there are some lesser known doubles which are hidden gems. So lets have a look at the star 17 Lyrae.

This is an easy object to find, just a star hop from Gamma Lyrae as shown on the image (courtesy star-splitters, word press . com).  According to the older Beford catalogue the magnitudes are 6 and 11 with a gap of 2.9 arc seconds, where one of the latest updates quotes as 5.1 and 9.1 with a gap of 3.5 arc seconds. The combination of a narrow gap, and the large range of magnitudes makes this a challenge for many amateur scopes and the UK seeing conditions.  According to the Bedford catalogue this beautiful and delicate object was discovered with the Dorpat refractor.

So on to my own observation of this double star. To repeat, its an easy star hope from Gamma Lyrae with the finderscope. My telescope used was my trusty Skywatcher 12″ Dobsonian. Once centred, I used my 5mm TMB supermonocentric eyepiece. This gem of an eyepiece is my number one choice for high magnifications. Owned it now for about 30 years and never used a better planetary eyepiece. On the Dob, this gives 300x magnification. The bright glare from the primary, dwarfed the dimmer companion, making this a test of optics. But the gap was clear (if tiny), and I was able to clearly make out the secondary star. I spent some time looking at this double star, which had a few other stars in the same field of around 8th – 10th magnitude, making for a beautiful cluster of stars.

It is looking at objects like this, that remind us about the appeal of visual observations, at a time where many budding astronomers who purchase a new telescope are only interested in astro imaging. Go out yourself and try and capture this double star. I am guessing a well collimated 4″ of greater aperture and 250x magnification will be needed

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North Lincs Astro meeting 5th August 2019

It was great to see 4 new faces at the North Lincolnshire astronomy society meeting at Barton Upon Humber for the August 2019 meeting. This was one of our workshop type sessions, with Steve outside setting up a telescope and mount from scratch for the benefit of those who need help. Inside the building, a few of us gathered around the table , where Charles ran through some software available to help find you way around the night sky, and gave tips on camera settings and techniques.

We found it a very enjoyable evening, with the informal approach going down well.

For more info on the society and future meetings, visit the North Lincs astro society website

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Hawke Endurance 8×32 ED binoculars. Blog post July 2019

A customer visited the Northern Optics Optics weekend looking for a lightweight set of binoculars for use when out cycling. After trying a number of 25mm and 26mm options, they ended up getting a slightly larger set in the form of the Hawke Endurance 8×32 ED binoculars . Despite being around twice the weight of the 25mm binoculars, they still only come in at 539g, making them ideal for use while cycling.

A padded comfort strap also was a benefit , as they made them comfortable to wear if used on a long session. Another factor was the bright image the larger 32mm objectives gave over the small sets. Lastly despite being a little heavier than other binoculars tested on the day, the larger body meant they “felt right” according to the customer.

As with all our customers who visit our North Lincolnshire Optics Weekends you get the added benefit of trying before you buy. You do not get this by purchasing on-line

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Hawke Frontier HD X 8×42 binoculars vs Hawke Frontier ED X 8×42 binoculars

At first glance when you look at these Hawke Frontier binoculars, the ED-X and HD-X 8×42 look pretty much identical. Both have the same case, straps, lens caps etc. The body is exactly the same , other than the badge and minor cosmetic changes . They both have the same field of view , eye relief, and prisms etc.

But the major change you can not see unless looking through them is that the ED X has the all important ED glass.

So first lets look at the levels of Chromatic aberration , or colour fringing. Testing on a very challenging target with dark tree branches against a bright back lit background, the HD X 8×42 showed a very small of CA in the centre. But unless you have a keen eye , from years of reviewing binoculars like myself, this is hardly noticeable , and in lower contrast situations is pretty much zero. Going off centre there is a little red CA on the right side of high contrast objects, but again very low levels. Turning to the ED X 8×42 on the same field of view, the colour fringing in the centre was completely gone. Looking away from centre , a little CA appeared, but vastly less than the Frontier HD X.

Secondly I looked at low light performance, by picking some a heavily darkened lower tree trunk a very shaded area. To the point where any detail was invisible to the unaided eyes. With the Frontier HD X 8×42 I was able to pick out lots of detail on the bark. Very impressive. But when I put the ED X 8×42 to my eyes, the difference was instantly clear to see. The level of contrast and brightness was vastly improved with the ED glass. Checked this several times, switching from one set to the other, with the difference in brightness obvious with every viewing.

So summing up, is it worth paying £100 extra for the ED glass offered by the Hawke Frontier ED X 8×42 compared to the non ED glass HD X ?. If you are very critical about reduced chromatic aberration and wish to observe in dark situations such as dusk and dawn, then the extra outlay is £100 well spent. But on the other hand the Hawke Frontier HD X is a very capable performer for the price, and will be money well spend if your budget is sub £300 (price as of 2019)

Available to purchase from Northern Optics

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North Lincs astro meeting 1st July 2019

Due to summer holidays and day trips to SW19, those that turned up for the July 1st , 2019 meeting at the North Lincs astronomy society were treated to a stunning visual / audio presentation by Peter Rea about the Apollo Moon missions, and in particular Apollo 11.

As per all Peter,s talks, it came over very clear to understand, with amazing images , videos. Some of which many of had never seen before.  In particular, we got an in depth description of the Hassleblad camera used. No digital imaging here or even a view finder to look through. So given all this, it made the images of the Moon walk even more amazing.

Thanks to Steve for stepping in to do the teas and biscuits, which went down well, and to the Lincs wildlife trust for the use of the venue

More more info on future meetings and more about the society, visit the North Lincs astro society web site


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Hawke Frontier ED X 8×42 binoculars. Blog post June 2019

It was the Hawke Frontier ED-X 8×42 that were the binoculars of choice when a customer visited Northern Optics . The Optics weekend display in North Lincolnshire gave him the chance to test high end binoculars with views over a nature reserve lake.

The first thing the buyer mentioned was the edge of field quality of image . Compared to a set of Sapphire 10×42 they preferred the wider field the 8x option offered. After maybe thinking of the green model, they agreed compared to some on display, the grey colour scheme was much more pleasing on the eye , or less loud as I put it.

They was impressed with the case and strap + the lifetime warranty, which he had already looked at. But as always with our customers, we fully go through the warranty T&Cs with all of our customers at the point of sale.

The Hawke Frontier ED X replaced the older open hinge Frontiers, to make a much more compact set, with better prism coatings. Yet at a very attractive price point

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Hawke Endurance ED 10×25 binoculars . Blog post May 2019

A compact set of binoculars ideal for bird-watching. That was the requirements for a couple visiting the Optics weekend at the Waters` edge visitor centre, Northern Optics display. They tried out a number of sets, before realising that 25mm compacts were best for putting inside the coat pocket.

If they had not seen any other sets, they commented on how the Hawke Vantage would have been adequate. But the Hawke Nature-Trek and Endurance ED seemed much more of a draw, with the Endurance ED giving a noticeably brighter image in their opinion. After 1st going for the 8×25, they ended up going for the Hawke Endurance 10×25 binoculars. The extra magnification was a factor. But also the fact they still gave a wide field of view was a major plus point.

From our point of view, these feel very solid despite the lightweight body. Eye relief is good, chromatic aberration is low , plus contrast is very good. Perhaps the focus wheel is a little small for use with gloves on, but due to the design, this is something you get with all double hinge 25mm compacts.

Available to purchase from Northern Optics

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North Lincs astro meeting June 2019

It was great to see a couple of returning members after going AWOL for a few months, giving us a healthy 20 in attendance for the June 2019 North Lincolnshire astronomy society meeting. After a discussion on future events, plus veering off piste with some err interesting topics, we were treated to an excellent talk on astro imaging by Charles Thody photography . This included some stunning deep space and aurora images , plus easy to understand  tips on camera settings , set up and other useful advice to get you started.

Thank you as always for the Lincolnshire wildlife trust, and Glenys and Malcolm for the teas and snacks.

For more information , you can visit the North Lincs astro society web site. Better still, come along to the next meeting and say hi

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Helios Nitrosport 10×26 binoculars . Blog post May 2019

It was a weekend of customers looking for compact sets of binoculars at the Optics weekend at the Waters` edge centre at Barton – Northern Optics display. In this case, the buyer needed a set for viewing nesting birds near their home.

After trying 4 sets, the helios nitrosport 10×26 binoculars ticked all the boxes, despite being the lowest cost. Great optics, easy to use, and most importantly being lightweight fulfilled their requirements. Having long eye relief was also a plus point.

The Helios nitrosport 8×26 and 10×26 come with a soft case, lens caps, padded neck strap, cleaning cloth and 5 years warranty (ask your dealer for full T&Cs). For the low price you get nitrogen waterproofing, multi-coated optics, BaK-4 prisms and twist eye cups


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Hawke Vantage 8×25 binoculars review #34201

The Hawke Vantage range of binoculars replaced the discontinued premier range. These are designed to be affordable to most users, while retaining the Hawke build quality and back up service.

If I were to sum up the Hawke vantage 8×25 binoculars in 3 words, it would be better than expected. So lets have a look in more detail. The outer box is the same simple design white box that is very strong in construction. On opening, we find a very nice soft case with belt loop and Velcro fastening . The Hawke logo is showing. No shoulder strap for the case is included, or attachments to fit one. You get a simple un-padded  neck strap for the binoculars and a non micro-fibre cleaning cloth. But we always upgrade the cloth to a better one for those who buy at our optics weekends.

Removing the binoculars from the case, I found one thing that stood out straight away. For a budget set, these feel very solid and nicely put together. I actually prefer the grey finish, which is less loud  than the green. The twist eye cups move freely, and stay in place once fully out. These are a single stage movement, and not 3 stages as quoted.

Texture Grip

On the subject of the twist eye cups, the eye relief is quoted as only 10mm. Yet on testing with them twisted down, I could (just) get the full field of view with my glasses on. If eye relief was only 10mm, this would not be possible. So I estimate it to be nearer to 12-13mm. This is a massive plus point.

Handling is very easy, with a ribbed rubber covering aiding grip. The strap connectors are nicely tucked away on the inside and do not catch on your hands like some so. The focus wheel is very responsive, if a little small. On the other hand, the dioptre adjustment wheel is a little stiff. But this means it stays in place once set.

Optics are quoted as fully coated. An inspection does show the eye pieces as fully coated, but I believe the objectives are multi-coated. The difference in anti-reflection compared the the eyepieces is obvious. As with the eye relief, another plus point here. Prisms are BaK-4. These are aluminium coated, rather than silver coatings on the higher spec Hawke binoculars. End result is a pleasant end result with colours and contrast adequate for this price range. Not quite the cutting edge sharpness and the Nature Trek or Endurance ED models, but priced accordingly. Field of view is excellent at 119m @ 1000m . But regarding the optics, I am saving the best till last. For such a low priced on ED set, the low level of chromatic aberration is quite remarkable. For example, red colour fringing only starts to appear around 80 percent from centre, and at very low levels. I have seen more CA through some so called ED glass compact binoculars. Edge of field sharpness is also very good.

Other thing to take note. Close focus is 6m (I tested this). Fine for back garden observations, but not for extreme close up

Summing up.

Plus point. Solid build quality and low levels of chromatic aberration.

Minus point. Poor cleaning cloth and restricted close focus

Recommended, and available to purchase from Northern Optics

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