Viewing Report 10th December 2021 – IMT3

04:00 – 06:53

Comet C/2021 A1 Leonard. The last day to get this lovely little comet. Dave Boddington had captured a wonderful image yesterday through his 6″ and 4″ refractors. I was was never going to be able to do that with my 5″ refractor due to my broken foot and not being able to move it from the Warm room to the verge on the other side of the lane at the front of my property.

Space boot πŸ™‚

So instead I settled for the good old Canon 6D on a tripod. I had slowly gone up and retrieved the kit the day before in the light and now at 4am set off out the front, crutches in hand, camera on tripod strapped round my neck, in the dark at 1℃.

After getting comfortable standing on the verge, I extended the tripod legs balancing on 1 foot and set the camera on Arcturus to focus at 100mm. I had chosen the 100-300mm lens for maximum flexibility. After achieving focus by hand and by using the zoom function on the camera screen, I placed the camera roughly in the direction of where the comet should appear just below Corona Borealis in the faint constellation of Serpens. This is the shot I got.

Comet C2021 A1 Leonard

I then changed focal length going to 300mm on the zoom lens, switched back to Arcturus to focus and then, after a few attempts, actually some 20 minutes, I managed to get the comet back on the chip. Result!

Comet C2021 A1 Leonard – 300mm

I packed up the tripod, hung it round my neck and headed slowly and gingerly across the lane and back up the drive to the house. When I had removed my one shoe, cleaned my boot and my crutches I looked at the camera lens and was not surprised to see a lens full of dew πŸ™„

Dew on the lens

I then set about opening the dome of the observatory as the comet would have now cleared the tree line. However it would not open 😳 On closer inspection, meaning I went back out in the cold and up the garden, I found the shutter would not operate. Some time spent investigating led me to believe the battery in the shutter box was dead πŸ₯Ί so I removed and took back to the house for further investigation later today. That meant no comet photo through the 12″, however I was pleased with my results given the challenge.

Battery box for shutter

Viewing Report 22nd July 2020 – IMT3

21:28 – 23:24

I opened the dome at 8:30pm and then went off to do some more work. A few calls later and it was time to come back and see if I could grab comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE which had now moved further West and further in altitude over the past week, meaning it should be visible from the dome. Below is Arcturus as I performed a quick sync.


Below you can see Arcturus on The Sky X with the dome slit showing and the obstructions from the horizon also present.


Comet NEOWISE can be seen just above next doors tree.


A quick peek with the camera and I could just make out the comet.

Quick peek of the comet but clouds

Clearly more clouds rolled in which is typical

More clouds!

Looking at the cameras in the dome I could see the cloud bank of cloud (picture top right)

Cloud bank approaching

Fortunately the comet could be seen at the back of the cloud bank.

45 second exposure of Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE

So I set about quickly taking some images before the comet disappeared behind the tree.

90 second exposure of Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE

The other useful thing tonight was using the monitoring GingerGeek put together. Below are a selection of shots from the website.

IMT3 Conditions

The chart below shows the light cloud cover and the sky temperature is representative of the sky clarity and relates to cloud coverage too. The scale is inverted to -18℃ is a cloudless beautifully clear night sky, which tonight was not!

IMT Conditions Summary – Fisherprice style πŸ™‚

At least there was no rain πŸ™‚

IMT3 Rain Radar

This image below shows the cloud bank just North West of Reading that was a problem.

IMT3 Cloud Cover

This next chart is from the data produced by the AAG CloudWatcher weather station. Note the sky temperature is nowhere near the -18℃ to be clear.

IMT3 AAG Cloudwatcher weather station

And finally the all sky cam just as I packed up showing the clouds clearing

IMT3 All Sky Camera

Viewing Report 17th July 2020 – IMT3

22:05 – 02:00

Crop of M57 in Ha 600s 12″

Tonight I thought I would take some more images of M57 through the 12″ in OIII and then Ha. I first got the OIII filter focused at position 62,500 with a temperature of 22.42℃, I took 10 more images at 600 seconds.

Guiding was good even though there was high level cloud, seeing was good

Ha was then started at 00:44 after meridian flip. I spent some time looking at comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE through 100mm binoculars with Helen, Ezri and her boyfriend Luke. Then we took some photos with the 50mm lens on the 6D.

Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE

I went to bed at 2am and left it running. In the morning I noticed I had 10 good images then the image moved due to guiding problems due to cloud.

Full frame 600s Ha M57

Viewing Report 25th May 2020 – Travel Setup

19:00 – 05:00

Alan and I

So back off to Combe Gibbet again tonight for hopefully a full night until dawn and with a coat. I met with my friend Alan for once again some social distancing astronomy. Again Alan had a much better 4×4 car to get up to the gibbet than my little electric Nissan Leaf, however once again I managed to make it there.

Sunsetting with Esprit 120 and Alan in his chair

After setting up, it quickly became apparent that I forgot the guide camera as it was still attached to the Mak180 that I thought I would leave at home tonight ?

Quick look and focus on the Moon

So despite the slight setback I polar aligned on the uneven ground and managed to get the scope pointing in the right direction. It took me a while to work out why it was not pointing at the objects when slewing with a perfect alignment, then I realised I had the location set incorrectly. A quick look at my GPS on my phone and I input the coordinates into The SkyX and the target was nearly spot on. I adjusted, performed a sync and then was able to slew continuously thought the night with the object in the FoV.

As I was challenged with no guider I could only take 2 minute images and if in the West low down then 1min. So I stetted for those 2 exposures along with 30 seconds for one particular object.

Below are the lost of targets I went after and imaged. I tried to get 15-20 minutes in total for each. We had some early night high cloud, the wind had again dyed down after sunset and although cold, we were both wrapped up warm, although later in the night Alan became cold so wrapped himself up in the dog blanket from the car ?

First up was M44 Beehive Open Cluster, which filled the view nicely so I took 20 x 60 seconds, careful not to saturate the stars. The QHY168C camera was set to Gain 7 and Offset 30 with a temperature of -20℃.

M44 60s

I then tried SH2-129 emission nebula but no luck, it was not registering at all at such short an exposure. I had a similar issue with SH2-155 Cave nebula. Both of these I will try again when I have my guider.

I then slewed to NGC 6888 Crescent nebulaΒ and took 20 subs of 120 seconds.

NGC 6888 Crescent 120s

Next tried to image Trio in Leo M65, M66 and the NGC but I realised I had already imaged, although not processed and the image trailed at 1 minute due to its westerly location. So instead I headed for NGC 7243, a lovely Open Cluster in Lacerta and part of the Herschel 400 at 60 second exposure.

NGC 7243

Next I looked at the double cluster in Perseus and decided to quickly take a few images with the Esprit 120 ED even though it was not on my original target list. Due to its bright stars I took 40 x 30 seconds.

Doublers Cluster in Perseus

Now it was time to grab an image of Comet c/2017 T2 PANSTARRS which was located near a galaxy called the Coddington Nebula. I purposely got the comet at the very edge of the frame to get the galaxy in, although I noticed the tail was pointing in the opposite direction than shown on Sky Safari.

Comet C/2017 T2 PANSTARRS and Coddington Nebula

The night wass really dark, even though it is not true astronomical darkness, the location really helps. The image quality is also much better. I slewed to NGC 7000 the North American nebula that Alan was also imaging. Again 60 seconds was probably not long enough so I need to come back to this object when I get my guide camera fitted.

NGC 7000 North American Nebula 60s

Finally just as dawn was approaching and the light was clearly increasing, I took a few images of Comet C/2020 F8 SWAN to see if I could see it. Was was apparent was it was super faint even at 60 seconds !

Comet C/2020 F8 SWAN

So as dawn approached, Alan and I took flats, darks and flat darks.

During the night we viewed through the 4″ binoculars the Moon, Venus, Mercury, Double cluster, M39 Open cluster, M57 Ring Nebula, Alberio, M56 Globular Cluster, Saturn and Jupiter. Unfortunately I packed up the binoculars before I remembered Mars was up ! So packed up the car, ands drove very tired 50 minutes home.

Viewing Report 24th May 2020 – Travel Setup

19:00 – 01:12

Tonight I traveled 50mins and 26 miles to Combe Gibbet, a high point for us in the South of England called the North Downs in Berkshire, which at 940ft above sea level places it in the wind, so it is cold but affords a distance from many towns, so it is dark. The is indeed a Gibbet at the top if one should want to take a hanged man or woman and display them for all the surrounding villages to see ? very barbaric, but part of our history.

The car was packed with various astronomy gear, the Mak180 for Lunar and planets.


The Esprit 120 ED Pro.

Esprit 120 ED Pro

And of course the Altair Astro 4″ binoculars with my Paramount MyT mount.

Altair 4″ Binos and Paramount MyT

I met a a social distance my friend Lawrence who was in a much better car than myself more suitable for the off-road terrain of getting to and just past the gibbet. Lawrence brought his trusty binoculars and his deck chair. Meanwhile I setup the 4″ Altair binoculars, the Mak180 OTA on the Paramount MyT and my Canon 6D on a tripod.

All set for tonight
Sun setting

As the Sun set from this location we spied Venus first and took a look through the binos.

Moon, Mercury and Venus

I captured some frames in the Mak180 with the ZWO 294MC camera. We then moved to the sliver of a Moon 2.8% illuminated and 1.6 days old. I placed the Mak180 on this for a few frames also. Lastly we moved the binos to Mercury, which is unbelievably small. Very faint in the twilight sky and surprisingly faint in the binos. I once again slewed the Mak180 and captured some 4GB files.

Lawrence looking at the Moon

We then went a hunting for comet C/2020 F8 SWAN but it did not appear in the star field where it should be despite being able to see Mag 8.9 star. The comet was purportedly magnitude 5.8 but this was not the case. I checked my ephemeris on both SkySafari and The SkyX and I wass definetly in the right part of the sky and confirmed the star paterns from my star hoping, but alas no comet.

Lawrence looking at Mercury

So although the wind was now dying down both Lawrence and I were cold so at just gone midnight we packed up and set off home. I must remover by coat tomorrow!

Addendum, I had read an article the following day that the comet may have broken up but I cannot yet confirm this.

Viewing Report 23rd May 2020 – IMT3

17:21 – 00:21

It is the hope today that the wind will die down and the clouds will clear, allowing us to go after the elusive comet C/2017 T2 PANSTARRS which will be next to M81 and M82 and should nicely fit in the Tak FS102.

I took a set of darks for the Tak whilst waiting for darkness, then I started to image M101, however very quickly it clouded over and shut the dome.

Bob’s viewing report: 6th April 2020 – More Comet chasing

Chineham Scouts say ‘Thank you’ on Zoom session whilst viewing the Moon

After helping with a BAS Outreach event using Zoom to share images from IMT3 of Venus and the Moon with 1st Chineham Cub Scouts (to help them acheive their Astronomy Badge) I joined Dave and GingerGeek for a joint observing session chasing Comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) with Dave’s 12″ OS.

Comet C/2019 Y4 ATLAS through 12″

I continued to observe after both Dave and GingerGeek called it a night, my aim was to get some data from the Esprit 120 of C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) as the previous nights run had been terminated when the clouds rolled in.

Quick 10min Exposure through Esprit 120 Comet C/2019 Y4 ATLAS

I set up another Profile in SGPro for GingerGeeks Esprit 120, adding his Lodestar Guider. C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) was too far from the equator for the Calibration of the guider in PHD2, so I slewed to Bogardus in Auriga, cleared the calibration data for the Lodestar and re-calibrated it. I was then able to get two 10 minute guided exposures with the mount tracking at Sidereal rate before the comet disappeared from view below the roof line of a neighbouring house.

Comet C/2017 T2 PANSTARRS 10min Exposure Esprit 120

Having lost Comet Atlas for the night, I checked Heavens-Above for other candidates and found C/2019 Y1 (ATLAS) was about to drop below the horizon, but C/2017 T2 PANSTARRS was reasonably well placed, albeit a bit low, and only a short slew from where the telescope was already pointing. After slewing to PANSTARRS and a 5arcminute JOG Up, Left, Down, Right and Down I had it reasonably centred in the FoV. The first 10 minute exposure had star trails, thought I was guiding but found the Mount was still tracking at ‘Custom rates’. The next 10 minute exposure also had stars trailing even though the PHD2 Graph looked fine. I then discovered that with the SGPro profile changes I’d made I hadn’t connected to the ASCOM Telescope Driver for TheSky. The next 10 minute exposure was not much better as by now I’m imaging down in the weeds πŸ™ . Time to find a new target … as it is up and really bright drowning out most objects I slewed to the Moon for a few final shots of the evening.

Moon Esprit 120 Ha with SX814

Bob’s viewing Report: 5th April 2020 – C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS)

I started the evenings session grabbing some frames of Comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) with my Takahashi FS-102 and QHY168C OSC Camera.

After successfully acquiring some data of various exposure times I decided to try and grab some data from GingerGeek’s Esprit 120, the weather station was reporting Haze and I could see wisps of clouds on the All Sky Camera so it wasn’t worth spending lots of time gathering data but worth using the opportunity to work out a procedure for chasing comets. As I hadn’t switched Dome profiles I found that the view through the Esprit was partially obscured so I switched to Dave’s 12″ OS only to find that the last thing he’d been doing was collecting Dark frames and the cover was still on the 12″.

I was in the process of switching back to GingerGeeks’s Esprit when Dave ping’d me on WhatsApp to say he’d woken up and remember that he cover was on and did I want it removed … perfect timing !
I managed to grab some frames for comparison with those I’d taken with the Tak earlier in the evening but aborted the sequence as clouds were messing up the results. So decided to try GingerGeek’s Esprit one more time as the clouds appeared to have passed by.

I found I had to create a new Profile for GingerGeek’s Esprit as the only profile available had the ASCOM Telescope Driver for TheSky selected and as Dave had mentioned to me previously, this was not needed when Tracking a Comet as that would be done by the Mount under direct control of TheSky X.

This does create a problem in that with these profiles you cannot Plate Solve and Centre the object as they is no Telescope for SGPro to work with, so we’ll need to figure out how to do that in TheSky X or start the session with the Telescope selected, centre and frame the comet, set the Tracking Rates to the comet then switch to a profile without a Telescope to run the SGPro sequence.

The weather deteriorated and the Wx Stn Auto closed the slit at 01:27 part way through a 15minute exposure.

Another night of good lessons learnt.

Viewing Report 9th January 2019 – IMT3 Observatory (Visual)

Viewing time period – 18:31 – 19:20

Well after moving house on the last day of November last year, I have finally unpacked enough boxes and have the house straight enough to find my rather large binoculars (100mm refractors) and set them up in the garden where the IMT3 will finally be built.

Tonight was really about testing out the visibility of the new site and making sure the large binos were working for the following days lecture at Basingstoke Astronomical Society, along with seeing if I could see the comet 46P/Wirtanen that my other friends were looking at.

Screenshot from SkySafari of Comet 46P/Wirtanen location

So it took me a while to find the red dot finder, strap that on with a plastic tie wrap from Alan Lorrain and then align it. Once done then it was much easier to find things. So the seeing was not great tonight and the site is clearly not as good as Sherborne St John, however I could easily make out the magnitude +3.3 star, Muscida in Ursa Major. The comet could not be seen visually with the naked eye, this was due to it being magnitude +10.9 as reported by SkySafari. Once I put my 100mm binoculars on it however after star hoping from the main star at the end of the saucepan, Dubhe, then I could just make out the comet there with Averted Vision (AV). With Direct Vision (DV) I could not see the comet at all.

To test the seeing I also referenced the double star HIP 40734 in Lynx (which is where the comet actually resided) and I could make that out with DV as it was magnitude +9.44 for the main component. Therefore I put my visual ability to see objects on this night at around mag +10. I will add further data to this as I progress my visual astronomy from this site with my binoculars, which are now nicknamed the BFB a bit like Elon Musks rocket the BFR, if you catch my drift ….