by Ralph Kantrowitz

Description

The eyepiece comes with an RCA cable and a generic 9V battery. It can also be powered by a 12V male power supply. I’ve been using American brand 9V alkaline battery as a power source and have had 2-3 two hours of viewing time without a noticeable diminution in the image brightness. The device has a plastic 1.25 inch coupling at one end to fit into a standard focuser. There is an on-off button, a contrast switch and a color correction switch labeled MWB. Repeated presses on the color correction switch moves the image tones from reddish to greenish. The contrast switch increases the brightness of the image.

Viewing

I tried the eyepiece on Jupiter (setting in the west), the Moon, Sun and Mars. I hooked the RCA cable to the video input jack of a 13″ TV VCR that I set up on a wooden chair on my balcony. The best object was the moon. Using a 2.4x barlow, increased the image scale enough to make out the Hyginus Rille and central peaks of several craters. A 5x Televue Powermate provided huge dimmed images, with very noticeable atmospheric turbulence. This was the equivalent of at least 600x.

The southern highlands (l) and Hyginus Rille – Mare Vaporum on the terminator (r).

Jupiter was setting in the west, less than 30 degrees altitude, during my Jovian imaging sessions. The Galilean Satellites were barely visible, even with the gain turned up. The GRS near the limb appeared as a widening of the South Equatorial Belt and satellite shadow transits were barely visible. I blame part of this on the low altitude, but most of this lack of quality was due to the eyepiece CCD and the low resolution of a standard TV screen.

Jupiter in June 2003, Mars in early July 2003 and Mars in early September 2003.

Mars was imaged over several months between June and September. The polar cap and hints of albedo features were visible in June and July. It was not until near closest approach in late August and early September that Syrtis Major became clearly visible. A late September view of Solis Lacus was poor, on a par with views of Jovian satellite shadow transits.

Sunspots were visible without a problem using a Baader solar filter and a Short tube 80 refractor. This was the first celestial object I imaged and I did not spend much time on it. However, I could see the umbra and penumbra of larger sunspots without difficulty.

I showed segments from a tape of the various sessions at a cloudy public night and during a teacher’s astronomy workshop. Both showings were well received. The audience especially liked the view of clouds moving across the face of the moon – might make for a good Halloween video!

Summary

I don’t think that this is really a good investment for an experienced amateur astronomer / astrophotographer. The best use of this ‘eyepiece’ is for family / public viewing and education. It might also be useful in creating an astro-oriented science fair project. Is it worth $120? Yes, but you only get what you pay for. A higher quality astro or security camera will give much better images but cost also cost several times as much. I don’t regret my purchase.