A common sense piece that I am sure gets overlooked by most. I have only missed two Hanna Park outreach nights in the past two years. I say that not to brag, but to more comment on I do see mostly the same 10 - 20 NEFAS members with telescopes set up. When I arrived at my first Hanna Park outreach my telescope had been purchased, but had not yet arrived. I met a number of members and got my first taste of what an outreach event could be. I was hooked from the start.
During the COVID period, most of the outreach events were cancelled because everyone was worried about getting sick. Let me ask, how many eyes have looked into your telescope eyepieces (EP) since you last cleaned them? In the two years I have been involved in NEFAS outreaches, I have had a few guests shove their eye deep into the EP, possibly touching the lens. I even had one guest, a boy about 10, lick the EP. Yes, I wrote lick. I politely told him “Don’t do that, that EP cost over $350.00”. His dad snatched the boy up and both disappeared into the night. I cleaned my EP the best I could and the next day cleaned it properly. That was about a year ago.
A few weeks ago, NEFAS was involved in a solar viewing outreach. We had a few hundred guests, many trying hard to see sunspots and asking questions. As I was putting my telescope equipment away, I noticed the EP shields were covered in…. stuff. What stuff? Make up, eye goop, salt spray, and sweat. How gross.
I got home and searched the internet to research EP maintenance and cleaning. Why is EP maintenance important? We spend a lot of money on EP’s, filters and other optics. We should and need to make sure they remain in good working condition. If we allow even just dust to accumulate, our visual experience is reduced. If we allow contaminates to accumulate, now we are potentially damaging the EP and worse, sharing possible eye infection causing viruses. Damaging? Infections? YES, the cheaper EP’s have little if any, coatings to protect the lens from getting etched due to chemical reactions or scratched. Even with more expensive EP’s the protective coatings can only do so much. Why else is EP maintenance important, we can actually transmit eye infections from one user to another. Which carries more importance to you? Look inside and you decide. In either case, I hope you keep reading.
The first comment and bit of advice has to be … KEEP your EP’s from environments that promote mold growth. Prevent dirt accumulation by limiting how, who, where, and how often your EP’s are handled. Store your EP’s in correct containers. FOLLOW the manufacturers advice for cleaning your EP. (I can’t repeat that enough.) This might all sound like common sense, but I have witnessed some disturbing handling of EP’s from experienced, amateur astronomers.
Keep your EP from being stored in places that promote mold. Once mold is allowed to grow, good luck getting it removed. The more complex the EP, the greater the chance you will never remove the mold without returning the EP to the manufacturer or retiring the EP to the nearest landfill.
What is needed to keep your EP in its best condition? Again, I suggest follow the manufacturers recommendations, but here are a few very common items all them tend to agree upon.
Microfiber Cloth, blower brush or puffer bulb, cotton swabs or cotton Q-Tips, and a cleaning solution. There are many different cleaning solution options. Here is a concept to think about… we spent a lot of money on EP’s, don’t get cheap on what kind of cotton swabs are Q-Tips you use or how many you use. Most all the manufacturers suggest use the swab once and dispose of.
The cleaning of your EP is again an interesting topic of discussion on the internet. The general consensus is. Prevent as much as possible the EP from getting dirty. Clean your EP’s in a clean environment. Follow manufactures instructions. NEVER soak your EP in any liquid for cleaning. A damp Q-Tip or cotton swab over a wet one. If the excess cleaning fluid is allowed to collect inside the EP housing, you will be required to fully disassemble the EP to remove any excess. Don’t use microfiber cloths with lanolin as they will cause smudges. Periodically clean your microfiber cloths to prevent cross-contamination. Finally, make sure the EP’s are dry before putting them back into storage. I recommend you take some time to look up some great tutorial videos on YouTube for additional direction on EP care.
We impress participants who attend our outreaches with what telescopes we have, EP’s we use, and the knowledge we share. Let’s not add to that experience sharing poor visuals and eye infections. Stay safe and keep looking up. AL
I follow the cleaning instructions from Tele Vue. Bulb blower to blow off particulates. Then a Q-tip dampened with Isopropyl 90 alcohol. https://www.televue.com/engine/TV3b_page.asp?id=103#:~:text=On%20smaller%20lenses%2C%20use%20a,edge%2C%20using%20a%20circular%20motion.