A long anticipated arrival has occurred, and the Oberwerk 120XL-SD binocular telescope has returned to my Team BT, which now includes the full Oberwerk XL line-up (70XL-ED, 82XL-SD, 100XL-SD, 120XL-SD, and 127XL-SD). I evaluated the proto-type 120XL-SD several months ago but returned it to Kevin Busarow at Oberwerk for product photos and exhibition at the NEAF Space Expo in April. A production model arrived on Tuesday afternoon, June 6, 2023. I had a splendid first light session with it from my driveway that evening, despite somewhat indifferent, hazy skies (thanks to Canada wild fires).

I rolled out the Eastern light shield and also set up the Farpoint p-gram with Maven b.5 12x and 15×56 binoculars in supporting roles. The 120XL is shown here on a Manfrotto 475B tripod with an NT612 video head.

I started with Mizar in Ursa Major, easily resolved with the Morpheus 12.5s (52x / 1.46 degree FOV). And also observed Cor Caroli and M 3 in Canes Venatici, but these constellations were already somewhat disadvantaged from my driveway, so I shifted to the East. I could not(!!) see M 57 in Lyra. 😏 (The skies were that crappy.) But then shifted up to Hercules, first wandering around in the 100 Herculis region, which was fun. Then I decided to have a peek at NGC 6210 (a planetary nebula) which was a good idea since the Kornephoros star field is wonderful. Kornephoros is a Greek word meaning “club-bearer.” At 2.77 magnitude it is the brightest star in Hercules, but is designated Beta Herculis. Rasalgethi, the alpha star, is actually 3.36 magnitude.

The planetary was easily seen as non-stellar with a grayish blue tint. I also noted a distinctly orange star near it (TYC 2058-0280-1). Then noticed STF 2087, which is part of the triangular asterism used to locate the planetary. AND also STF 2079, which is a fine binocular double for 20x – also resolved with the 12x and 15x Mavens. Might be doable at 10x on a good night. And a splendid asterism that looks like the constellation Cepheus can be viewed between Kornephoros and NGC 6210, STF 2079 forms one corner of the asterism.

STF 2087
16h42m +23*40′
8.84/8.90 sep 5.3″ pa 287*
Optical double star
Distance: 175.66 LY / 181.54 LY
Spectral Type: G5IV / G8IV
Color Index: +0.71 yellow / +0.76 yellow

STF 2079
16h39m +23*00′
7.56/8.13 sep 16.7″ pa 91*
Physical double star
Distance: 454.66 LY / 453.88
Spectral Type: F0 / A5
Color Index: +0.38 yellow-white / +0.36 yellow-white

The Kornephoros / NGC 6210 experience captures what is so fun about binocular astronomy compared with telescopic observation. First, the planetary was a snap to find. Almost no effort at all. But, second, in all the years I have observed it (which is decades) not one single time(!) had I noticed the nearby doubles or the Cepheus asterism or paid anything more than cursory attention to Kornephoros — all of which is as much fun as the planetary itself. More, even. The difference to me is seeing the sky as a whole, instead of only looking at tiny fragments.

I had intended to make it a brief session, but observed for several hours and did not stop until after midnight. I am delighted with the 120XL. Its balance and stability on the relatively light Manfrotto 475B tripod is remarkable, even at higher magnifications. It is 5 pounds lighter than the 127XL, and also an inch longer (thanks to an f-ratio of 5.6 versus 5.1 for the 127XL). The difference might not sound like much, but the stability gain is significant. It was also one of my first sessions with the Morpheus 12.5s, with which I am equally pleased. They are comfortable to use and provide a wide field (the apparent field of view is reportedly closer to 78 degrees than the specified 76). The 120XL / Morpheus 12.5s / 475B+NT612 head is a dream setup. Easily moved around despite substantial aperture. A superb choice for suburban binocular astronomy.