Accessories

The extras can make or break an observing session

Tools & Miscellany

I keep most my stuff in a Craftsman large tool tote with wheels and extension handle, real easy to drag around.  It is large enough to carry all the parts for my NGT-18 and LX-200, except truss rods, scope covers, some books, lights and tools.  Tools include wrenches to fit EVERY nut and bolt on all my scopes, #1 and #2 Phillips and a couple straight screwdrivers, metric and SAE allen wrench sets, pliers and a butane soldering iron w/gas and solder.  12v battery pigtails and splitters.  Spare batteries to fit every device are a must, as are needed fuses and replacement flashlight bulbs. The one item you think is excessive and leave at home is the one that you will need.  (The soldering iron has been used to repair a focuser hand control and a few cables here and there.)

Collimation

A Kendrick 2" laser collimator and an Orion 1.25" Cheshire eyepiece make up my collimation arsenal.  I use the Cheshire the most, even though the Orion version does have very heavy crosshairs, making it somewhat difficult to use.  The laser is handy to quickly adjust the NGT-18, since you can see the face of the laser from the bottom of a truss-tube scope you can see adjustments real time, eliminating the running back and forth while trying to remember which adjustment to turn which way.  A little practice with either one will enable you to easily, and rapidly, adjust your collimation when ever you feel the need.  Either tool will get it close enough that further adjustment is rarely needed.  A quick tweak at high power on a bright star will fine tune it if you must wring the last level of performance out of your scope, even though most people really can't see the difference.

Sky Tent

Portable rotating dome. Minor hassle to assemble, great once it’s up. Not for the short observing session, save it for the star parties. Dad has left it and the LX-200 set up in the back yard for quick imaging sessions. Now we are seriously looking at some kind of permanent dome.

Tables

Roll up or folding tables readily available at any of the Borg stores, one per observer

Light

A clamp on desk lamp converted to a 12v bulb with a piece of red Plexiglas for a lens is super for illuminating the table for charts, books, notes, etc… much easier than trying to hold a flashlight while using a book

Chairs

Conventional chairs for use at a table, lounge chairs for meteor and binocular observing, adjustable observing chairs for use at the scopes

Radio

A little sound can go a long ways, I like Coast to Coast when out in the dark by myself – especially his Ghost to Ghost programs – keeps you on your toes. An IPOD or other MP3 player is also great, I download various podcasts to listen to when the radio reception is poor. I've also added XM radio to the RV, great for getting ballgames, Coast to Coast, etc., no matter where I am camping.  Keep in mind that your star party neighbor may not appreciate your program selection so bring and use headphones.

Binoculars or spotting scope

Quick looks and as a wide field instrument – some folks actually prefer this low-tech approach to astronomy

Books & charts

The Night Sky Observers Guide is my current favorite reference, Sky Atlas 2000 is a very good system of charts for getting around, Nightwatch is an excellent guide for beginners and a very useful reference for the more advanced user – all three are always in the field with me

Dew fighting

Try dew shields, heaters, and 12v hair dryers. We rarely need them on the plains of Colorado, however, we did get zapped once in a while and it sent us home early. When we started attending star parties in other areas we discovered they are mandatory items. We are now better equipped. Weekend Under the Stars, in August, normally has frost. Doesn't bother me at all. ‘Nuff said.

Scooby Snacks

Caffeine, water, solid foods – keep alert and keep the blood sugar stable

Bug repellent

If you find one that consistently works well – LET ME KNOW.  Be careful using any product that contains DEET, it will dissolve plastics.  The OFF candles that use a small candle and a repellent pad in a hurricane style lantern seem to work real well.  I've had no luck using citronella products, unless I am sitting right next to them.  Camping stores have a granular product, I've seen both yellow and white, in one gallon jugs that smells like moth balls.  It works extremely well, just very obnoxious to use.

Heat

Simple little hand held heaters can be an immense aid in staying warm, or at least thinking you are warm.  The chemical packs work fairly well, though they are a low heat output and you need to keep them constantly in you hands.  A Jon-E-Heater works very well, has a higher output so it is warm whenever you pick it up, but, the burning fuel stinks.  My favorite is the charcoal hand warmers.  They can be hard to light in a breeze, but the higher output works better for occasional warm ups and they don't smell near as bad as the liquid fuel ones.  Care is required when you open them to insert a fresh stick, a breeze can blow embers out on the ground.

Toilet Paper

Kinda obvious

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