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Hot new products for 2006: it's time for us to make our annual selection of the most intriguing new products entering the market.

Around about the dog days of August, Sky & Telescope editors take a mental break from the steamy New England summer and begin thinking about the January issue and our annual selection of Hot Products. We start by making a list of all the new products to have entered the market since our previous roundup, and we keep adding to it until we make the Hot Products selection at the beginning of October. Thanks partly to numerous product introductions by such major players as Meade, Celestron, Orion Telescopes & Binoculars, and Tele Vue, our preliminary list for 2006 was the biggest ever, and it was almost twice the length of the 2005 list. Thus, it was a challenge to make our final selections.

Just because a product is new doesn't mean we consider it "hot." For that, we need to see it as offering something special for our readers, be it a new technology such as Adirondack's Flat Fielder (page 104), a simple solution to an old problem such as Astronomy-Shoppe's Scope Totes (page 106), or a new price-to-performance ratio such as William Optics' ZenithStar 66 Petzval refractor (page 106). Whether or not you agree with our selections, we hope that you enjoy reading about the products that intrigued us the most.

* READY, SET, GO TO

Imagine a telescope that can figure out what bright celestial target you've pointed it at even if you don't know yourself. That's pretty much what the revolutionary new SkyAlign technology developed by Celestron does, and it's redefined and simplified the way you initialize the company's extensive line of Go To telescopes. You just point any telescope equipped with SkyAlign technology at three bright objects (including the Moon and planets), and the internal computer calculates the angular distances between these objects, determines what they are, and initializes the Go To system. Just as the company's ads say, it's as simple as 1-2-3-align. SkyAlign is available with a variety of telescope systems, ranging from 114 millimeters all the way up to an 11-inch (28-centimeter) model.

* Celestron's skyalign technology

Celestron, 2835 Columbia St., Torrance, CA 90503; 310-328-9560; www.celestron.com.

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* ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY HEAVYWEIGHT

Not since the introduction of the Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope more than three decades ago has a mass-produced telescope system been aimed as directly at the astrophotography community as Meade's new RCX400 series of modified Ritchey-Chretien reflectors. They fill a long-empty niche between high-end, custom-built telescopes and the all-purpose Schmidt-Cassegrains. The RCX400 scopes feature the hallmark coma-free images of the Ritchey-Chretien design, and they have large usable fields well suited to the new generation of large-format digital cameras. The new scopes are loaded with astrophotography-friendly features such as electrically controlled collimation and focusing, built-in dew heaters, and thermally stable carbon-fiber tubes. There's even a new heavy-duty tripod designed specifically for this telescope line. The RCX400 is currently available in 10-, 12-, and 14-inch models, and there's a 16-inch scheduled for release later this year. We previewed the RCX400 line in our May 2005 issue (page 86), and our detailed review based on field tests will appear in an upcoming issue.

* Meade Rcx400 Advance Ricthey-Chetien telescopes Prices start at $5,149 (including shipping within the United States). Meade Instruments, 6001 Oak Canyon, Irvine, CA 92618; 800-626-3233; www.meade.com.

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* THIS ONE'S FOR US

It's a pleasant surprise when any leading manufacturer of professional cameras and lenses takes notice of the astronomical community-and an even bigger surprise when the company takes the bold step to modify its top-selling camera model specifically for astrophotographers. That's exactly what occurred this year when Canon announced its EOS 20Da digital SLR. As Alan Dyer stated in his review (last November's issue, page 84), great astrophotography has never been easier! The camera features extended red sensitivity for capturing hydrogen-emission nebulae (without compromising normal daylight operations) and a unique live-focus mode that offers 5x and 10x magnifications on the camera's built-in liquid-crystal display (LCD). The electronics offer lower long-exposure noise levels than the standard 20D model.

* CANON EOS 20DA DIGITAL SLR CAMERA Price $2,199. Canon USA, Inc.; www.canonusa.com; Available from Canon dealers.

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* WIRELESS ISN'T JUST FOR PHONES

Anyone who has tripped over an unseen wire in the darkness knows that there's a down side to coupling computers with telescopes. But now there's a way to eliminate one potential hazard if you use an Orion, Celestron, or Meade Go To telescope with an RS-232 (serial) connection. The new BlueStar adapter from Orion Telescopes & Binoculars offers you a wireless way to join the computer and telescope. Just plug the BlueStar into the RS-232 port on your telescope and any Bluetooth-enabled computer can link with it over distances of up to 10 meters (30 feet). Have a computer without built-in Bluetooth technology? Don't worry. Most computer outlets sell low-cost Bluetooth transmitters that connect to any USB port.

* ORION BLUESTAR ADAPTER Price $149.95. Orion Telescopes & Binoculars, PO Box 1815, Santa Cruz, CA 95061; 800-676-1343; www.oriontelescopes.com.

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* BLUE HOT

Aside from massive young stars, blue isn't a color we traditionally associate with "hot." But when we examined Coronado's new SolarMax 70 CaK telescope, we were convinced otherwise. The latest in Coronado's line of dedicated solar telescopes, it combines the simplicity of the company's hydrogen-alpha 70-millimeter model with a narrowband filter that transmits light at the blue-violet end of the spectrum centered at 393.4 nanometers. This is the wavelength of ionized-calcium light in the solar chromosphere, which emphasizes the active regions called plages around sunspots. Some bright prominences can also be seen and photographed through this scope, as explained in our review of the Solar-Max 70 CaK in the November 2005 issue (page 90). Coronado has also announced a 40-mm version of this instrument based on the same design as its popular PST hydrogenalpha system, which should bring calcium solar viewing to the mainstream.

* CORONADO SOLARMAX CAK 70 SOLAR TELESCOPE Price $2,999. Coronado, 1674 S. Research Loop, Suite 436, Tucson, AZ 85710; 866-786-9282; www.coronadofilters.com.

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* AFFORDABLE DOBSONIAN TRACKING

Everyone loves Dobsonian telescopes for their simplicity, unbeatable stability, and (perhaps above all else) low cost. But one thing that got left behind in the Dobsonian revolution was motorized tracking. If you wanted your Dob to follow the sky you had two choices: spend some serious money on an equatorial platform, or modify your scope to accept computerized tracking motors. Most Dob users opted to continue nudging their scopes along, one field of view at a time. But thanks to a new low-cost tracking platform from Johnsonian Designs, that just might change. The Johnsonian Designs Type 6 Equatorial Tracking Platform offers 45 minutes of continuous tracking and can be reset simply by pressing down on one corner of the platform. It will support scopes weighing as much as 60 pounds (27 kilograms), is adjustable to work at latitudes from 0[degrees] to 55[degrees] north or south, and runs off six AA batteries or AC power. And the best part is that all this comes with a price that with the low-cost Dobsonian ethos.

* JOHNSONIAN DESIGNS TYPE 6 EQUATORIAL TRACKING PLATFORM

Introductory price $495. Johnsonian Designs, 3466 E. County Rd. 20 C, Unit B-20, Loveland, CO 80537; 970-219-6392; www.johnsonian.com.

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* BETTER SOLAR VIEWS

Looking for unsurpassed white-light views of the Sun's surface through a refractor? Then consider the Herschel Safety Wedge Solar Prism from Baader Planetarium. The manufacturer claims it delivers views that have superior resolution and contrast compared to those obtained with the best solar filters available. Such claims might be dismissed as advertising hype were it not for the fact that Baader Planetarium's own AstroSolar Safety Film (a Hot Products pick in 2000) is already considered one of the best filters in the world. One look through the Herschel Wedge and we agreed. The unit acts like a conventional 2-inch star diagonal except that most of the sunlight is diffused harmlessly out the backside of the unit. A built-in solar continuum filter enhances image contrast. Visual and photographic versions of the Herschel Wedge are available; see the Web site for details. Because there is no objective filter to reduce sunlight and heat entering the telescope, the Herschel Wedge is recommended for use only with refractors-heat buildup can damage the mirrors in reflectors and especially the adhesives often used to hold secondary mirrors in compound systems.

* BAADER PLANETARIUM HERSCHEL SAFETY WEDGE SOLAR PRISM Price $529 (visual model), $619 (photographic). In North America, Alpine Astronomical, PO Box 1154, Eagle, ID 83616; 208-939-2141; www.alpineastro.com.

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* TOTALLY TUBULAR

You might imagine that something as basic as good, inexpensive tubing for amateur telescope makers would be readily available. And yet it isn't. For years most telescope builders have made do with tubes designed for something else-usually heavy cardboard forms from the construction industry for poured concrete. Fortunately ProtoStar, a company known for its secondary mirrors and spider assemblies, has come to the rescue with its BlackLite line of tubes. These are made from resin-impregnated kraft paper, which results in a rigid tube that is 50 percent lighter than cardboard and up to 40 percent lighter than aluminum. The outside is primed and ready to paint. But best of all, BlackLite tubes come pre-lined with ProtoStar's highly regarded light-absorbing black flocking. ProtoStar offers 50-inch-long tubes suitable for 6-, 8-, and 10-inch mirrors, and custom lengths and tube extensions are also available.

* BLACKLITE TELESCOPE TUBES Priced from $78. ProtoStar, PO Box 448, 108 E. Granville Rd., Bldg. F, Worthington, OH 43085; 614-785-0245; www.fpi-protostar.com.

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* Book or software, the sequel

When we selected the first edition of The Handbook of Astronomical Image Processing as a Hot Product for 2001, we mused whether it was a tutorial about image processing that included a software program, or software that came with a great background reference book. Well, with the newly updated 2nd edition we still don't know the answer. But we do know that this pairing is a great product for anyone doing, or contemplating doing, astronomical imaging with digital cameras, including DSLRs. The software-Astronomical Image Processing for Windows, or AIP4WIN for short-is packed with features for creating beautiful pictures, both in color and in black and white, as well as performing scientic measurements for astrometry and photometry. The book isn't a manual for the software (for that there's extensive online help within the program). Rather, it's a comprehensive reference work covering the breadth of astronomical imaging from basic camera and telescope information to the advanced math behind imageprocessing routines.

* HANDBOOK FOR ASTRONOMICAL IMAGE PROCESSING Price $99.95 ($59.95 upgrade for registered users of 1st edition). Willmann-Bell, PO Box 35025, Richmond, VA 23235; 804-320-7016; www.willbell.com.

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* A MORE SENSITIVE DSI

Meade Instruments broke new ground with its Deep-Sky Imager (DSI), which was one of our Hot Product picks last year. The low-cost, single-shot color CCD camera and Meade's nontraditional approach to imaging software successfully introduced countless astrophotographers to the rewarding field of deep-sky imaging. You've likely seen the company's ads highlighting the stories of many individuals throughout the past year. Now there's the DSI Pro, a monochrome version of the original that features a more sensitive CCD detector and additional software functions. As reported in our detailed review of both cameras in last October's issue (page 76), the DSI Pro has the potential for making accurate scientific measurements as well as dramatic deep-sky images.

* MEADE DSI PRO CCD CAMERA Price $399 ($499 with optional filters). Meade Instruments, 6001 Oak Canyon, Irvine, CA 92618; 800-626-3233; www.meade.com.

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* LOOK MA, NO WIRES

With the new Wireless AutoStar II hand controller from Meade you can eliminate worries about snagged cords as your LX200GPS or RCX400 telescope spins about in its quest for celestial targets. Just plug a tiny radio-frequency receiver into the handbox port on the telescope mount, and the wireless AutoStar II operates exactly like the wired version over distances of up to 100 feet (our test results). Well, almost exactly the same. With the Enter, Mode, and Go To keys positioned at the bottom on the wireless keypad, it's less likely that you will accidentally press one of them (especially the Mode key) when you mean to press one of the four direction keys. And that's a good thing.

* MEADE WIRELESS AUTOSTAR II CONTROLLER Price $249. Meade Instruments, 6001 Oak Canyon, Irvine, CA 92618; 800-626-3233; www.meade.com.

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* SPEEDY ASTROGRAPH

Takahashi's long-revered flat-field Hyperbolic Astrograph has been updated for the digital age. The new Epsilon-180ED system has a 500-mm focal length and a remarkable f/2.8 photographic speed (effective aperture 180 mm). Its 44-mm-diameter image is large enough to cover a full-size 35-mm CCD and is especially well suited for today's popular DSLR cameras. Numerous adapters are available for connecting popular DSLR and astronomical CCD cameras to the Epsilon-180ED astrograph. The astrograph is shown here on Takahashi's heavy-duty EM-200 mount ($5,595).

* TAKAHASHI EPSILON-180ED F/2.8 ASTROGRAPH Price $4,595. Texas Nautical Repair, 3110 S. Shepherd, Houston, TX 77098; 713-529-3551; www.takahashiamerica.com.

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* STARRY NIGHTS

Three years ago, one of our top picks for Hot Products was Main-Sequence Software's Desktop Universe, which broke new ground by utilizing a huge mosaic of CCD images to depict the entire sky with a realism hitherto not seen with a computer planetarium program. But as great is the image was, the program was hobbled by rather mediocre planetarium functions and a need for state-of-the-art computer power to run smoothly.

This year, Imaginova and Main-Sequence Software teamed up to produce Starry Night Pro Plus 5.0. It combines the original all-sky mosaic image with extensive catalogs of more than 65 million stars and the Principal Galaxy Catalog (PGC) of 1 million galaxies, to name just a few new features. The image-display software has been rewritten to run quickly and seamlessly on average computers. Now you can tour the heavens from your Mac or PC with a full-color photographic image of the entire sky. Different packages are available through Orion Telescopes & Binoculars, depending on your personal needs-one package includes MaxIm DL Essentials, a basic version of the popular CCD image-processing software.

* STARRY NIGHT PRO PLUS SOFTWARE Price $249.95. Orion Telescopes & Binoculars, PO Box 1815, Santa Cruz, CA 95061; 800-676-1343; www.oriontelescopes.com.

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* WATCHING METEORS

What astrophotographer hasn't dreamed about setting up a camera that continuously makes time exposures throughout the night to record meteors? This is one dream that can be a reality with the new Meteor Camera from Santa Barbara Instrument Group (SBIG). Housed in a weatherproof enclosure, the system monitors a 90[degrees]-by-140[degrees] swath of sky with a modified version of the company's ST-402ME CCD camera mated to a 2.6-mm f/1.6 lens. It uses special electronics that allow a USB connection to a controlling computer up to 50 meters (160 feet) away. Software snaps continuous 10-second exposures and automatically searches them for linear streaks, saving the ones that contain likely candidates. There are even algorithms that eliminate false alarms caused by aircraft lights. The camera can also be configured to monitor clouds (see the company Web site for details).

* SBIG AUTOMATIC METEOR CAMERA Price $1,995. Santa Barbara Instrument Group, 147-A Castilian Dr., Santa Barbara, CA 93117; 805-571-7244; www.sbig.com.

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* RX FOR YOUR EYEPIECES

While backyard observers with less-than-perfect vision because of nearsightedness or farsightedness can simply adjust the focus of their telescopes and enjoy views at the eyepiece without having to wear glasses, amateurs with astigmatism can't. But now astigmatic observers can enjoy glasses-free views thanks to Tele Vue's Dioptrx astigmatism correctors. Custom made to fit more than 20 Tele Vue eyepieces (see the company's Web site for a complete list), they are available for eyeglass prescriptions from 1/4 to 21/2 diopters and are stackable to accommodate virtually any level of astigmatism. Each is fully coated and crafted with the same optical care as the company's eyepieces.

* TELE VUE DIOPTRX Price $98. Tele Vue Optics, 32 Elkay Dr., Chester, NY 10918; 845-469-4551; www.televue.com.

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* GET IT RIGHT

One reason commonly cited for the explosive growth of short-tube refractors is that these scopes are as well suited for terrestrial observations as they are for celestial viewing. Couple this with the increasing popularity of high-quality 2-inch eyepieces and you can see why the folks at William Optics developed their new 2-inch erecting prism "star" diagonal. Unlike ordinary diagonals that produce upright but mirror-reversed views, this one presents a completely natural scene that's ideal for all types of terrestrial observations as well as star-hopping at night. This is the first erecting prism we've seen that offers unrestricted use of 2-inch eyepieces, and it features the fine, all-metal craftsmanship for which William Optics is known. A 11/4-inch adapter comes standard.

* WILLIAM OPTICS 2-INCH ERECTING PRISM Price $248. William Optics, 4200 Avenida Sevilla, Cypress, CA 90630; 714-209-0388; www.william-optics.com.

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* SEEING MONITOR

Have you ever planned your observing based on sky conditions? Everyone knows that a roiling atmosphere ruins views of the Sun, Moon, and planets, but even deep-sky photographs suffer if the atmospheric seeing turns stars into bloated, fuzzy blobs. It's easy to check seeing when you're at the eyepiece of your telescope, but what if your telescope is at a remote site (an increasingly common occurrence in the age of computerized telescopes and the Internet)? Enter the SBIG Seeing Monitor, which, except for its 150mm f/5.3 lens, is based on the same hardware as the company's Meteor Camera (above). Once permanently mounted and pointed at Polaris, the camera measures the star's apparent position several hundred times per second. "Jitter" in the sequential positions is used to calculate the astronomical seeing. Over time it might be possible to spot daily and seasonal trends tied to weather patterns, which could allow predictions for a given site.

* SBIG SEEING MONITOR Price $1,995. Santa Barbara Instrument Group, 147-A Castilian Dr., Santa Barbara, CA 93117; 805-571-7244; www.sbig.com.

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* SIMPLE FLATS

Many advanced astrophotographers working with CCD cameras will tell you that the biggest challenge in image calibration is making suitable flat field frames, which are needed to remove image artifacts due to dust, optical vignetting, and sensitivity variations across a CCD chip. While flat field frames are conceptually easy to make-just aim your optical system at a uniformly illuminated surface and snap a picture-obtaining a suitable target surface has been a stumbling block for many. To help, the people at Adirondack Astronomy spent more than a year developing their Adirondack Flat Fielder. This 16-inch-square frame has a circular 13-inch (33-cm) panel that glows by electroluminescent technology. Its brightness is infinitely variable from 1 to 10 lux with the standard analog power supply or in 127 discrete steps with an optional computer-controllable digital power supply.

* ADIRONDACK FLAT FIELDER Price $625. Adirondack Astronomy, 72 Harrison Ave., Hudson Falls, NY 12839; 518-747-4141; www.astrovid.com.

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* CADILLAC OF PLANETARY CAMERAS

Inexpensive webcams have firmly established their own niche in amateur astronomy. They can record high-magnification movies of solar-system objects, and the movie frames can be stacked to create supersharp portraits of our closest celestial neighbors. For observers in pursuit of the best images, it's now possible to step up from webcams. Several astronomy dealers have bundled appropriate video software with Lumenera Corporation's high-end computer cameras to create systems that produce video clips for processing with popular astronomical software. The most popular system involves the Lumenera Lu075M monochrome camera with a 640-by-480-pixel CCD array and StreamPix software for controlling the camera and creating video .les. The .les have greater bit depth (up to 12 bits) than standard webcam .les, and the camera's high sensitivity allows shooting up to 60 frames per second of uncompressed video.

* LUMENERA LU075 CAMERA PACKAGE

Price $1,445. Adirondack Astronomy, 72 Harrison Ave., Hudson Falls, NY 12839; 518-747-4141;www.astrovid.com. Price 790 euros. Astromeccanica, Pernice 71-54100 Romagnano, MS, Italy; +39 0585 831130; www.astromeccanica.it.

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* HIGH-SPEED GUIDING

In recent years some of the best high-resolution, deep-sky astrophotography has been accomplished with SBIG CCD cameras and the company's unique AO-7 high-speed guider. Now Starlight Xpress has entered the arena of high-speed guiding with the release of its SXV-AO device. But this one offers a twist: while you need a Starlight Xpress guiding camera, you don't have to image with a Starlight Xpress camera. Using optional adapters, you can couple virtually any brand of camera (DSLRs included) to the SXV-AO and enjoy the benefits of multiple-times-per-second guiding corrections. With a clear aperture of 37 mm, the SXV-AO is suitable for imaging cameras with chip sizes up to APS format.

* STARLIGHT XPRESS SXV-AO HIGH-SPEED GUIDER Price $1,895. Available in the US from Adirondack Astronomy, 72 Harrison Ave., Hudson Falls, NY 12839; 518-747-4141; www.astrovid.com.

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* ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY COMPENDIUM

Interested in photographing the night sky with your digital camera? Author Robert Reeves has compiled the first thorough collection of astrophotography tips and techniques for the 21st century in his new book Introduction to Digital Astrophotography published by Willmann-Bell. It covers virtually everything there is to know about astrophotography with digital cameras, from webcams to digital SLRs. This book does for digital-camera astrophotography what Reeves did for film-based astrophotography in his other great book, Wide-Field Astrophotography, from the same publisher. There's something for virtually everyone, whether you're just starting out in astrophotography or you're an experienced film photographer testing your hand with a new medium. Reeves covers everything from image-capture techniques to processing routines using popular software programs such as RegiStax, Adobe Photoshop, ImagesPlus, and AIP4WIN.

* INTRODUCTION TO DIGITAL ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY Price $34.95. Willmann-Bell, PO Box 35025, Richmond, VA 23235; 804-320-7016; www.willbell.com.

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* DOUBLE DUTY

We're quick to admit that, at first glance, we thought it seemed rather frivolous to build a platform for stereo viewing with a pair of Coronado PST hydrogen-alpha solar telescopes (our lead item in last year's Hot Products selection). But then we took a closer look-literally. There's no question that everyone raves about using both eyes for any astronomical observation-just witness the growing popularity of binocular viewers. There's even an accessory from Denkmeier Optical that adapts its binoviewer to a PST. But with Howie Glatter's platform and a pair of PSTs you get images that are twice as bright. Furthermore, one scope can have its H-alpha filter tuned to show the Sun's surface detail to advantage, while the other is set to show prominences best, and the brain melds the images to produce a view showing both aspects of the H-alpha Sun together. That's cool enough to make this a Hot Product. Also, the platform and second PST together still cost less than some high-end binocular viewers. The setup is seen here on an optional MicroStar mount ($189) from Universal Astronomics.

* HOWIE GLATTER'S PST PLATFORM Price $385. Howie Glatter, 3850 Sedgwick Ave., Bronx, NY 10463; 718-796-3202; www.collimator.com.

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* COOL COLOR SHOOTER

Orion Telescopes & Binoculars makes its first entry into the world of long-exposure digital cameras with the StarShoot Deep-Space CCD Color Imaging Camera. Based on a Sony 752-by-582-pixel detector, the camera connects to a controlling computer (from which it also draws its power) via a single USB 2.0 cable. What sets the StarShoot Deep-Space imager apart from other low-cost CCD cameras is its thermoelectric cooling system, which requires a separate 12-volt DC power source. Cooling the detector reduces electronic noise and improves image quality. The StarShoot Deep-Space imager comes with MaxIm DL Essentials software for controlling the camera and processing images. It will also operate the camera as an autoguider (but it cannot autoguide and take images at the same time).

* ORION STARSHOOT DEEP-SPACE CCD COLOR IMAGING CAMERA Price $399. Orion Telescopes & Binoculars, PO Box 1815, Santa Cruz, CA 95061; 800-676-1343; www.oriontelescopes.com.

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* TOTE THAT SCOPE

Sometimes we come across a product so simple and so handy, we wonder why nobody had thought of it before. Astronomy-Shoppe's Scope Tote is a perfect example. How many times have you begun a night at the telescope by awkwardly maneuvering a heavy scope onto its mount? Scope Totes are custom-made straps with handles that make lifting your telescope tube much easier on your back and on the scope. They are available for scopes up to 16-inch aperture and can be purchased in pairs or individually. Scope Totes are waterproof and are lined with a rubberized material so that even a dew-soaked telescope won't slip from the grasp of a tired observer.

* SCOPE TOTES Priced from $39.99. Astronomy-Shoppe, 3 Elm St., Plaistow, NH 03865; 603-382-0836; www.astronomy-shoppe.com.

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* A LUNATIC'S MOON MAP

This was such a good idea that we wish we'd thought of it ourselves. Hey, wait a minute, we did! The brainchild of S&T's resident lunatic, Gary Seronik, Field Map of the Moon is a large-scale, highly detailed depiction of the lunar surface rendered by master cartographer Antonin Rukl. But that alone isn't what makes this item hot. Seronik wanted the ultimate Moon map for using outside at the eyepiece, and to that end Field Map of the Moon divides the lunar surface into four dew-resistant, 12-by-12-inch laminated panels that are hinged so that individual panels or pairs of adjacent panels can be viewed without unfolding the whole map. There's even a mirror-reversed version for users of Schmidt-Cassegrains and refractors fitted with star diagonals. The map's flip side has an index of nearly 1,000 labeled features.

* FIELD MAP OF THE MOON Price $10.95. Sky Publishing Corp., 49 Bay State Rd., Cambridge, MA 02138; 800-253-0245; ShopatSky.com.

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* PETITE PETZVAL

Small, high-quality refractors have become extremely popular during the last few years. And the new ZenithStar 66 Petzval ED Semi-APO from William Optics caught our eye because of its fine quality and low price. The design offers expansive low-power views with sharp images to the edge of the field. The 66-mm f/6.1 scope features a four-element, .at field optical system, with one element made of extralow-dispersion glass to minimize chromatic aberration. Another noteworthy feature of this scope is its 1.6-inch Crayford-style focuser that is threaded to accept standard Schmidt-Cassegrain accessories. It comes standard with an adapter for 11/4-inch eyepieces and a custom-made soft carrying case. William Optics also offers the ZenithStar 66 as several package deals, including ones with a dual-speed focuser. For aficionados of true apochromatic performance, William Optics has a 66-mm triplet fluorite telescope. For more details, see the manufacturer's Web site.

* WILLIAM OPTICS ZENITHSTAR 66 PETZVAL REFRACTOR Price $298. William Optics, 4200 Avenida Sevilla, Cypress, CA 90630; 714-209-0388; www.william-optics.com.

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* DSLR CONTROL

While users of astronomical CCD cameras have long enjoyed camera-control software that includes focusing, exposure control, autoguiding, and special processing routines, those working with conventional digital cameras, including DSLRs, have been forced to run separate programs to cover the same ground. That changed when a longtime leader in image-processing and camera-control software, Diffraction Limited, introduced MaxDSLR. It brings the power of its premier software package, MaxIm DL, to digitalcamera owners. Complete control of focusing and image sequencing are two of its many features for your DSLR camera. MaxDLSR can also simultaneously control your camera and a separate autoguider. The software supports all major DSLR models from Canon, Fuji, and Nikon, as well as Meade's low-cost DSI and LPI cameras, popular webcams, and Lumenera cameras. MaxDSLR incorporates many of the calibration routines used by CCD imagers, such as dark-frame subtraction and flat fielding, plus processing routines such as unsharp masking, digital development, and deconvolution.

* MAXDSLR SOFTWARE Price $249. Diffraction Limited, 25 Conover St., Ottawa, ON, Canada K2G 4C3; 613-225-2732; www.cyanogen.com.

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Title Annotation:hot product
Publication:Sky & Telescope
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2006
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