Coatings & Filters

Can an O III nebula filter be called “oh-three”?

I have an ongoing dispute with everybody. I say an O III nebula filter cannot be “oh-three,” since O III stands for doubly ionized oxygen atoms. I call it an “oh-two” filter. Who’s right? Sorry Philip, you lose. Not only is “oh-three” the universal usage; it makes sense. Well, sort of. A neutral, non-ionized...

Differences between nebula filters and light-pollution filters

What’s the difference between nebula filters and light-pollution filters? Nebula filters block out most of the visible spectrum while transmitting the handful of finely tuned colors that emanate from the most luminous constituents of cosmic gas clouds: hydrogen atoms and oxygen ions. Light-pollution filters, by contrast, are designed to block the colors emitted by...

What to do when your telescope mirror is dusty

I took my new scope out last night and pointed a flashlight down the tube. My mirror looks really dusty. What should I do? The answer is simple: Don’t shine a light down the tube at night! Seriously, it only makes the dust look a lot worse than it is. If you clean your...

Why do you need a hydrogen-alpha filter to see solar prominences?

If I can see solar prominences with the naked eye during a total eclipse, why do I need a hydrogen-alpha filter to see them at other times? During a total eclipse the Moon completely blocks the Sun’s photosphere, or visible “surface,” allowing prominences (and the corona) to shine in all their glory. Without the...