For lovers of astronomy and those dreaming of one day seeing proof of alien life somewhere out in the universe, recent word from NASA’s top scientists may well be igniting fresh hope. With two new telescopes ready to be launched by 2018, NASA is confident that alien life will be found within the next twenty years.
However, for those hoping for proof of little green men, there may be disappointment. Not only are the first signs of life not necessarily going to be anything we are familiar with, but the space agency expects that when life is found it will be outside the limits of our own solar system.
The chances of us being alone in the universe are rather remote. After all, with 300 billion stars in the milky way alone, many of which have multiple planets orbiting them, and with billions of galaxies in the universe, the chances of life only being found here on earth are rather slim. With a mind-boggling number of planets out there on which life could have begun, it is both myopic and somewhat megalomaniacal to believe that ours can be the only planet hosting life.
What life is likely to be found is still a mystery. It could be as simple as alien bacteria or as troubling as an intellectual species with far greater capabilities than our own. After all, our own sun is relatively young and in turn the life on other planets may well have been given a very impressive head start.
Up until now, scientists have been limited as to what they can observe in the universe. Whilst Kepler found hundreds of new planets in just a matter of months, a number of which had the potential to pay host to some form of life, the telescope could only see very large worlds and could give no indication as to the makeup of the planet or its atmosphere.
This is where new technology will come to the fore. Two new telescopes due for launch in 2017 and 2018 are expected to make Kepler pale by comparison, between them being able to locate hundreds of thousands of new worlds and understand the conditions on the planets. In turn, spotting biological markers and knowing if alien life resides or has resided on a planet will be far easier, and it is therefore likely to be only a matter of time before we discover signs of life somewhere out there in the universe.
At Sherwoods, we are constantly turning our eyes to the skies, and while we might not be competing with NASA in terms of how far we can see and how easily we could spot alien lifeforms, with so much still to see in our own galactic backyard, and with amateur astronomical telescopes improving all the time, there is no denying that now is one of the most exciting times in history to set our eyes on the universe. Who knows, there might even be creatures out there somewhere staring back at us.
For lovers of astronomy and those dreaming of one day seeing proof of alien life somewhere out in the universe, recent word from NASA’s top scientists may well be igniting fresh hope. With two new telescopes ready to be launched by 2018, NASA is confident that alien life will be found within the next twenty years.However, for those hoping for proof of little green men, there may be disappointment. Not only are the first signs of life not necessarily going to be anything we are familiar with, but the space agency expects that when life is found it will be outside the limits of our own solar system.Near CertaintyThe chances of us being alone in the universe are rather remote. After all, with 300 billion stars in the milky way alone, many of which have multiple planets orbiting them, and with billions of galaxies in the universe, the chances of life only being found here on earth are rather slim. With a mind-boggling number of planets out there on which life could have begun, it is both myopic and somewhat megalomaniacal to believe that ours can be the only planet hosting life.What life is likely to be found is still a mystery. It could be as simple as alien bacteria or as troubling as an intellectual species with far greater capabilities than our own. After all, our own sun is relatively young and in turn the life on other planets may well have been given a very impressive head start.LimitationsUp until now, scientists have been limited as to what they can observe in the universe. Whilst Kepler found hundreds of new planets in just a matter of months, a number of which had the potential to pay host to some form of life, the telescope could only see very large worlds and could give no indication as to the makeup of the planet or its atmosphere.This is where new technology will come to the fore. Two new telescopes due for launch in 2017 and 2018 are expected to make Kepler pale by comparison, between them being able to locate hundreds of thousands of new worlds and understand the conditions on the planets. In turn, spotting biological markers and knowing if alien life resides or has resided on a planet will be far easier, and it is therefore likely to be only a matter of time before we discover signs of life somewhere out there in the universe.At Sherwoods, we are constantly turning our eyes to the skies, and while we might not be competing with NASA in terms of how far we can see and how easily we could spot alien lifeforms, with so much still to see in our own galactic backyard, and with amateur astronomical telescopes improving all the time, there is no denying that now is one of the most exciting times in history to set our eyes on the universe. Who knows, there might even be creatures out there somewhere staring back at us.
As any stargazer will know, the bigger you go, the better things get. And it now seems that amateurs are taking this ethos to the extreme by building their own behemoths in their own back gardens.
Whilst most backyard telescopes will measure somewhere between 3 and 12 inches, one American amateur has decided to go that little bit further, building his very own telescope, with the primary mirror measuring 70 inches and the casing around it measuring up to 35 feet. Whilst this doesn’t beat the record-breaking 72 inch home telescope made by Lord Reece in the 19th century, it is certainly a very worthy contender.
The sheer scale of this telescope goes someway to prove just how popular amateur stargazing is becoming, and just how far those passionate about studying the sky will go to get the perfect view of the stars.
For most, however, financial, spatial and storage constraints will mean that dreams of 70 inch mirrors will indeed remain just dreams. However, with new technology appearing on the market all the time, even very affordable astronomical telescopes will now give an extremely good view of the cosmos, and all without the cost, hassle and indeed logistical nightmares that will accompany the task of building your own.
Yet, the extremes that people are willing to go to in trying to get a better view of the cosmos remain inspiring, and those who wish to use the best telescope or any other form of modern technology to see the universe in unique ways and in all its glory should always dream big. However, knowing where to start is also important and the more you can learn about how a telescope works and what makes a certain type perfect the better, and such an approach will certainly help those who do one day want to branch out and create their own stargazing monster.
For retailers selling telescopes and binoculars, sales generally stay steady throughout the year. But every year there are specific events in the night sky which might result in extra sales, particularly of astronomical telescopes. To help you prepare for such occasions and perhaps even leverage them to your advantage, here’s a quick run-down of some of the most significant celestial events visible in UK skies over the next couple of months.
Peak of the Leonids meteor shower – 16th-17th November
Though meteor showers are of course best viewed with the naked eye due to the limiting field of view of binoculars and telescopes, they are events that provoke interest in the night sky. Those watching the meteor shower may be inspired to purchase astronomical telescopes or binoculars to view further celestial events. The annual Leonids shower is visible this year from the 6th to the 30th of November, with a peak of around 15 meteors per hour on the night of the 16th/17th. December meanwhile sees the more dramatic Geminids meteor shower, peaking on 13th/14th December.
Comet ISON – 28th November
Late November sees the closest approach of comet ISON to the sun. The comet was discovered just last year and has since caused quite a stir among skywatchers. Though early speculation suggested that it might be visible at dawn with the naked eye, this is now seen as unlikely. For astronomers though, ISON is certainly one to watch well into December.
Good views of the Andromeda Galaxy
Those with astronomical telescopes should get a good view of the Andromeda galaxy in November, with it appearing high in the sky at around 20:00 GMT. This spectacular galaxy is our nearest celestial neighbourhood and can also be seen with the naked eye, but would-be astronomers may prefer to view it through binoculars before graduating to a telescope.
Binoculars are considered to be one of the best tools you can use for observation because they are so simple to use and unlike telescopes, they can be carried around easily without the need for a lot of other equipment such as stands and tripods. They aren’t too expensive and they are long-lasting too.
However, not all binoculars are the same and so, as with any other visual aid such as glasses or a new camera, you need to spend some time looking into the different types available and finding the right binoculars for you. Below you’ll find some useful information and tips to help you when looking for your new pair.
Different Types of Binoculars
As we’ve said, not all binoculars are the same, although they fall into two main types. These are classified by the type of prism that they use, and so are known as the Porro Prism and the Roof Prism Binocular respectively. The former is the most common and is a good alternative to astronomical telescopes. The latter are usually more expensive and are effectively two telescopes side by side with a prism system which corrects the image.
Understanding Power and Light
When you look at binocular specifications, you will notice a set of numbers. These refer to the power range and objective lens size, which affects light. Depending on what you want to use your binoculars for, the power range is usually the most important factor. The first of the two numbers listed indicates the magnification (or power range) that you can expect from your binoculars. So, in a pair listed as ’10×42′, for example, the magnification you can reach is 10 times the size of the original image. Don’t be fooled into picking the largest number you can thinking that this will give you the best chance of a clear image, however. The higher you go, the more steady you will have to hold them to get a clear image, so if you plan on bird watching in all weathers, for example, you might not end up seeing that much!
The second figure is the diameter of the lens objective (the larger end) in millimetres, and a larger number will allow more light to enter, which is particularly important if you plan to use your binoculars when there is poor visibility, such as at night or in bad weather. Again, however, bear in mind that bigger isn’t always better. A bigger lens means a heavier pair of binoculars, so if you are going to be carrying them around a lot, this is something you should bear in mind and consider if you actually need it.
When weighing up the different technical specifications of a pair of binoculars, don’t neglect to consider the comfort element. Ensure that you have a wide enough strap or lanyard so that it won’t cut into your neck – and if it does, invest in a new one! Also check what kind of a grip the binoculars offer – a rubber coating is the most comfortable.
Night vision was once something referred to only in James Bond movies and the offices of private detectives, but now everyone can take advantage of the benefits of night vision binoculars. But just how do they work? Read on to find out more.
In layman’s terms, any night vision device or technology works by amplifying all available light to provide an image. Even when our eyes feel like an area is pitch black, there is still light present on the lower portion of the infrared light spectrum which our eyes cannot see. Much equipment now also has a built-in Infrared illuminator which provides additional light for when there is none or little to take advantage of.
As light is collected by the objective lens, it is sent to an image intensifier photocathode tube, which usually runs off battery power. This converts the photons from the light energy into electrons, which then pass through the tube and cause atoms in the tube to release similar electrons, meaning that there are thousands more than there were originally. These thousands of electrons hit a screen coated with phosphors at the end of the tube, which then generates the release of photons and create the green image that we associate with night vision.
This green image is seen through another lens, known as the ocular lens, which then allows for some magnification and focus. However, unlike bird watching binoculars, for example, night vision binoculars are not designed for magnifying remote objects, and usually have a very low degree of magnification. Consequently, the larger the object you want to view, the easier it will be to see, and details depend on how much natural ambient light you already have. The purpose of night vision binoculars should simply be to see in the dark, rather than to see great distances or great details as you would with a regular pair of binoculars.
All night vision devices are classed by their ‘generation’. The generation refers to the type of image intensifier tube which is used, and which ultimately is responsible for creating the image. 1st generation devices are the most popular and provide bright, sharp images at a low cost. 2nd generation devices are commonly found in professional applications, such as in use by the police or armed forces, and the subsequently cost a significant amount more. Meanwhile, 3rd generation devices are the ultimate in night vision technology and use gallium arsenide to give a sharper and brighter image. Again, these devices are significantly more expensive than a 1st generation device.
Here at Sherwoods Photographic, we are specialists in digital night vision equipment and have anextensive range of night visiongoggles, monoculars, binoculars and gun sights available. Whatever you want to use your night vision device for, whether it be for hunting at night or for observing nocturnal wildlife, we have something to meet your needs. We’re always happy to help if you have any questions too, so don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Many budding astronomers want to view the skies in the best way possible, but with notoriously fickle cloud cover in the United Kingdom and light pollution from nearby cities and facilities, the chances of even glimpsing anything beyond the moon are almost zero. So what can you do to maximise your chances and keep your interest in astronomy flowering? The first step is naturally to invest in good astronomical telescopes but it can also benefit you to simply be sensible.
Weather reports will naturally be your friend, since it is senseless to travel to a dark area only to find that the skies above are opaque with clouds. There will however be times where the weather is ambiguous: some cloud cover, some chance of seeing the desired astronomical phenomena. This will purely be a matter of your discretion, but what might inform your decision to travel is the rarity of the event that you are seeing. Some events only come around once every decade, century or even many millennia, so with a little bit of research on the Internet, you can easily decide whether to travel.
Location is all important. Again this will be largely dictated by the phenomena you are going to see and where is the best location to see it. To see more distant objects it is best to reduce interfering light as much as possible which can mean travelling into the countryside to get away from it completely. It is important to be wary that certain geographical features can actually turn the weather against you, particularly in Britain. Finding a spot that is ideal will be of primary concern and is something that a local astronomical group might have already identified. Joining them is a great idea and one of the best ways to increase your interest in astronomy rather than invest in telescopes only then to leave them in storage.
Night vision could help but it depends on what you want to do. If you are wanting to experience the outdoors as well as the night sky, then this could have uses. Again, interference from light in the form of nearby cities, moonlight, floodlights or even car headlights can ruin everything, even your equipment! So long as the conditions are dark enough, you should be able to see astronomical phenomena without the need for night optics. If you are wanting to use it, however, Cobra Optics offer a great range that can be used for astronomy as well as camping, bird watching, hunting and so on. These devices are particularly sensitive and are often not designed to withstand buffeting or shocks, so you must be careful with night optics, otherwise it will be an expensive waste of money. Optics like this can often be attached to other pieces of equipment.
We have lots of information on our site concerning all manner different pieces of astronomy equipment. If however, you are not finding the answers you seek, please send us an email and we will be only too happy to assist.
Nature has a world of wonder to show us, but it can also present significant challenges to even the most experienced of photographers. Woodlands, forests and even jungles can all be difficult to take proper snaps or image through binoculars or telescopes, so it is reasonable to assume that a little help is needed. At Sherwoods Photo, we have a fantastic range of products that will make light work of even the most awkward of terrain, allowing you to get a truly spectacular perspective on wildlife.
Our Acuter Scopes are designed to be affordable, rugged and of a high quality. The Mak-70, for instance, is sleek and compact but will give you incredible magnification capability, so you don’t have to get up close potentially ruining your opportunity to image. The light transmission is some of the best around due to the Fully Multi-Coated design yielding fantastic resolution and contrast. One of the biggest problems effecting your shot is the focusing, with awkward or stiff operation causing your scope to wobble. The Mak-70 has a super smooth action making zooming a joy that won’t frustratingly impinge on your shot.
If you are wanting to step up in technology when imaging the natural world, then the Acuter DS-Pro ED series is a particularly good option. It offers waterproofing, which can allow you to make the most of a hidden world that exists in rain or snow. The design is all-premium, removing chromatic aberrations from shots while also offering super high contrast and pin-sharp colours. The fine focus Double Speed Focuser will give you a 15:1 ratio to allow you to get those all important shots as perfect as possible for professional grade work. It is an adaptable piece of kit as well since you can attach standard 1.25” Push-Fit telescope eyepieces, while the 20mm eye relief is great for those who are wearing glasses.
If you are wanting to go for bird watching binoculars or scopes, we have a great selection. Celestron are a renowned manufacturer of high quality bird watching scopes, each of which will benefit from the high quality, robust tripods that are available with them. If you are going for the Maksutov C90 Mak, then it is always best to pair it with a tripod especially made for the device. The C90 itself is a dual purpose scope that can be used for astronomy as well as for imaging the natural world. It is built to be compact and portable and will provide you with exceptionally crisp images, living up to its price tag as a premium, professional grade scope. The erect image system creates significant advantages for both terrestrial and astronomical use while the T-Adapter will allow you to attach cameras easily. The scope also offers significant versatility with a 32 mm eyepiece, 45° erect image diagonal and 8×21 erect image finderscope. The Celestron Granite Roof Prism is a great binocular to invest in with ED low dispersion glass offering fantastic resolutions and contrast.