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Astro Night Vision Buyer's Guide

I put together this Buyer's Guide because night vision is a relatively new technology in astronomy, with a plethora of technical choices along many dimensions.

This is meant as a guide for those who are getting started with night vision astronomy. This is not meant to be comprehensive, nor do I guarantee that it's kept up to date, although I'm sure if anything's seriously out of whack, someone will have alerted me via Cloudy Nights (my username is "Pwang99"). I welcome any and all constructive feedback about this!

The information here is drawn from my own posts and my own experiences, as well as posts from other astro night vision advocates on Cloudy Nights. Special props to Eddgie, Vondragonnoggin, The Ardent, cnoct, jdbastro, and many others there for their tips, advice, support, and feedback as I've been learning about this aspect of astronomy.


Step-by-step (PVS-7)

So, as a reference for other people, here is my "night vision" build-out/journey.

Step 1. Getting Started - Total cost $1700

This filter just fits inside the objective lens on the PVS-7, but does not thread into the PVS-7. So you have to hold it in with your finger, which is a little ghetto.

In order to solve this thread mis-match, you should get this 1.25" to PVS objective adapter from RAFCamera which is about $25.

So, to get started with NV, I spent less than $1700.

Step 2. Next, I wanted to put the goggles into my telescope - Total cost ~$150

Scopestuff sells 1.24" and 2" adapters to "C-mount" thread:

In order to use C-mount on the PVS-7 goggles, I had to get an adapter like this one off eBay, which costs about $70. To use this adapter, I have to unscrew the entire 1x objective lens assembly off the front of the PVS-7, and then screw on this C-mount "nose".

So, now I can stick the goggles in my Celestron 11" telescope. But the C11 is a bit PITA to drag out and set up. How do I get somewhat more zoom, but still have the portable convenience?

Step 3. More zoom, but handheld - $100

After doing some reading here on CN and research, I decided to get the 3x afocal lens that fits over the objective of the PVS-7. I found a decent used one on eBay for about $80.

For better viewing of the Milky Way, there's also these cheap 55mm infrared filters that fit inside the 3x afocal lens. This is about $10.

Since I'm an SLR photographer, I also got a C-mount to Canon EOS adapter, so I can screw my camera lenses into the night vision goggles. It costs $20. Similar adapters are available for Nikon and other camera platforms. I'm very much looking forward to some nice Micro-4/3rds lenses being able to be adapted for astronomy!

Step 4. Move to C-mount for the 1x objective - $100

So, you can see from the above that C-mount is the primary thread for switching out various adapters for the goggles. However, the default 1x objective is not C-mount. I am tired of switching between the 1x objective "nose" and the C-mount "nose", because this exposes the PMT tube, and potentially introduces dust onto the tube. So, I ordered an ENVIS objective, which is basically a 1x objective that threads into the C-mount. Got this from NVdepot, for $98. (Sorry, no web link - you have to call them to order it.)

Step-by-step: Mod 3 Monocular

Coming soon!

Green or White Phosphor?

There is no right answer. Most people who have looked through both express a preference for the hue of the white phosphor, but they will also in the same sentence express that you mentally stop noticing the "greenness" of the green phosphor views very quickly.

A complication is that the PVS-7 is the most common green phosphor device, and it uses tubes that typically have lower specifications than the filmless white phosphor tubes people are putting into their NVD Micro and Mod3 devices. (Additionally, the optics of the PVS-7 reduce clarity a little bit compared to the monoculars.) I have not yet seen an apples-to-apples comparison of filmless green vs. white phosphor, although I have see vendor tube spec sheets that show some green tubes of higher quality than the white tubes. In that circumstance, if the difference was significant, I would opt for the green tube over a white one. Signal-to-noise ratio, low background illumation, and resolution all matter a lot more to me than the aesthetics of green vs. white phosphor.

Other threads/posts about this:

List of Notable Vendors

You can also put together your own system a la carte. In this thread jdbastro and cnoct talk about buying filmless White Phosphor tubes directly from Ident Marking Services, and then installing it into a housing yourself as shown in this video.