The Night Sky Observer Guide Series

When I started attending the Practical Astronomy Show held at Kettering I picked up my first copy of “The Night Sky Observers Guide Volume 4 – The Glories Of The Milky Way to -54Β°” written by George Robert Kepple and published by Willmann-Bell inc. These were sold at the Kettering show by the very helpful and knowledgeable staff of The Webb Deep-Sky Society for around Β£20.

Then in December 2019 ‘The Global Human Malware’ happened and the world went nuts, the Astronomy shows were cancelled year on year and I forgot to complete acquiring the rest of the series. Then suddenly in late 2020 it was announced that the publishers Willmann-Bell had closed and their entire portfolio went out of print.

Unfortunately I did not see the announcement until late Jan 2021, however I managed to obtain a copy of “Volume 2 – Spring & Summer” (ISBN 0-943396-60-3 (V2)) from Zoltan at 356 Astronomy but he told me he was out of stock for the rest of the series.

I contacted the Webb Deep-Sky Society to see if they had any available copies in stock. The president of the society Owen Brazell very promptly replied but informed me that they had sold their remaining stock just days before. He was extremely helpful in trying to help me source any remaining stock but eventually to no avail ! I recommend any avid astronomer should consider subscribing to the Webb Deep-Sky Society here …… I just did πŸ™‚

Example of Webb Deep Sky Society Digital Issue

Fast forward to 16th August 2021 and it was announced that the American Astronomical Society would acquire the inventory and related assets of Willmann-Bell. Luckily by January 2022 I noticed that FLO (First Light Optics) in the UK had managed to obtain a few copies and I promptly ordered a copy of “Volume 1 – Autumn & Winter” (ISBN 0-943396-58-1 (V1)) for Β£35.

Well, it arrived this morning and I apologised to my regular postman for having to carry it around by hand all morning.

As with the other volumes the information, maps, diagrams and descriptions are very useful for planning imaging or observing sessions.

The King of the Northern Winter Constellations – Orion
The fantastic Perseus Galaxy Cluster

I now have only Volume 4 “The Southern Skies” left to purchase but as that would only be a reference for objects I can’t see from the UK it would go mostly underused unless I start using my remote telescope account or travel around or below the equator.

I would like to thank Owen Brazell for all his time and for the ongoing activities of the Webb Deep Sky Society and hopefully we will see them at the next Practical Astronomy Show in March 2022 …. fingers crossed !

Viewing Report 17th July 2021 – IMT3b

19:00 – 02:40

GingerGeek, Alan and Bob came over. GingerGeek brought over his 4″ dob and set it up on the patio slab tower. Alan Lorrain then went about aligning it on the Moon.

Alan finds the Moon with Bob watching
Target acquired
Moon through Dob

So with the Moon successfully acquired and whilst GingerGeek started looking at other targets through the scope, I opened the dome and slewed the 12″ to the Moon too.

Moon through 12″

Alan, Bob and GingerGeek found a small bright mountain inside the terminator. We decided to try and find it through the 12″. When we did find it we then tried to work out what it was.

Mountain inside the terminator
It looks like the island of La Palma!

It transpired to be Mons Piton, named after the top of mount Teide on the island of Tenerife. We would need to view it the news night to see it in full daylight.

Sky Safari

Next up was a quick look at the Ring Nebula M57.

M57

We then wanted to seed if we could make out the central white dwarf.

M57 Red

However through the Red and Blue filters and the Luminance filter we could not see it. Finally through the Green filter it stood out very well.

M57 Green

Whilst slewing around with the 12″ in the dome, I had also setup the travel scope with the Mak 180 on top. I wanted to grab some data on Jupiter in particular and Saturn just as it was nearby,.

Jupiter being imaged with Mak 180
Saturn through Mak 180

I took a whole bunch of data for the next hour or so which I will process at a later time.

Viewing Report 31st May 2021 – IMT3b

19:25 – 03:28

Bob came over again tonight which is great company. He setup his Skywatcher AZ-GTI portable mount with his Tak FS60 on it so we could do visual throughout the night on a goto mount along with my star hoping through the 100mm binos.

Skywatcher AZ-GTI

I started the evening whilst light, measuring for the replacement T2 (M42) adapter for the camera train. Given the 0.083 microns per movement of the FLI Atlas focuser I need to reduce the image train length by 3mm. So the new adapter needs to be 31mm, current M42 adapter is 35mm. Meanwhile my AstroCat Fluffy decided to get some more sleep before dark.

Fluffy taking a hard earned nap

Next up was writing the Lat Long on the dome so I can give it to anyone that visits. With that done I started testing the rotation of the dome to make sure the dome no longer slips since I put the anti-slip tape around the edge. After spending some 15mins rotating the dome it seemed ok, it would be fully tested later when I redo the Tpoint model. This is due to the 2.1 arc minutes of error in my azimuth polar alignment that needs adjusting by 4.2 tics.

I adjusted the mount as above and ran a 20 point model. This told me the error int he azimuth was less than 1 arc min and that there was no need to adjust the mount any further, however it had low confidence. So now I will run a full 212 Tpoint model to see what it reports.

212 TPoint Model map

On starting the run I hit another problem, the mount hung and beeped. This was due to a balance problem on the tube which is weird as I thought it was fine. However maybe I had not rebalanced since adding the rotator properly. I removed a little weight at the front of the OTA and shifted it backward. I then tried again but again it hung and beeped. It transpired to be the same loose cale I had before, the focuser cable which had come loose. I applied some more white electrical tape to hold it in until I get round to changing the 2.1mm adapter.

At 23:40 I started a new TPoint run and am now 7 stars in and all is well. That did not last for long, around 47 Tpoints and I kept getting blank images. It seems the dome had lost its position. The Home sensor does not seem to be registering. I slewed the dome manually to Home at 123 degrees and synced that back into the dome controller. Starting the TPoint again resumed stars being seen.

Meanwhile Bob was moving from object to object without the AZ-GTI mount. M5, M57, M10, M12 along the way. We easily split Albeiro although Bob was slightly worried about my eyesight as I initially struggled. We saw the head of Scorpius pop up above the tree line but we didn’t get M4 from the IMT Plateau and Antares only just made it above the tree line. So I decided to relocate my bins to another spot in the garden by the Sun Plateau so we got M4 through them. M17 was seen through he 100mm binos also, looking remarkably like a Swan! Finally as it got light just after 3am we nabbed Saturn, Jupiter and the Moon.

We could see the star HD 200329 and Titan along with Saturn

By the end of the night I was at 187 TPoints so not enough for me to be confident the whole sky was mapped, nor enough to fix the model and have Protrack running. I will continue the mapping when dark tomorrow night.

Viewing Report 30th May 2021 – IMT3b

19:30 – 03:19

GingerGeek came for a visit with his kit for a night observing.

Ioptron CEM60, FSQ85, QHY OAG, SX Lodestar, QHY268C CMOS, Pegasus UPBv1

So whilst he sets up I have been testing the rotation of the dome as it still jams. After some testing I now believe the only fix is to find some grip tape that will add as friction to the inside of the dome between the dome itself and the thruster wheel. I have found some anti-slip tape on Screwfix which is 50mm wide and 18M long for Β£10, which will do the trick.

New Anti-Slip tape

Just watched the ISS go over, first time for GingerGeek. Videoed it using the iPhone 8 and it came out great. Also have the lovely noise of an owl in the background.

ISS passes overhead

Started Tpoint at 11pm. Used 30 second exposures and image scale of 0.33 arc/pix. I am performing a 212 point Tpoint model.

Tpointing near a globular cluster

Well TPoint model complete, of course I forgot to initially do around 25 TPoints, adjust the polar alignment which is our in Azimuth by 2.1 arcmins and then rerun.

TPoint results

Meanwhile before we finished I ran one of GingerGeeks M13 images through PI as a single frame from his new camera.

M13 from GingerGeek (60 seconds, Mode0, Gain 0, Offset 30)

Started to pack up at 3:19am

Viewing Report 29th May 2021 – IMT3b

20:30 – 01:30

What a glorious day

Another long pause between observations, after what seems like 3-4 weeks if not 1-2 months of storms, gales force winds and rain. However, tonight Bob came over and now that I have the new rotator installed with the new adapters I could use the 12″.

Ready for darkness

We setup under clear, warm and light skies. For the first time we put a couple of chairs and table down by the IMT3b. Bob helped setup the 6″ dob and the 100mm binos. We opened the dome and awaited darkness.

100mm Binos

I wanted to make sure that the rotator worked well, that the Field of View, FoV, worked within TSX and that I setup a small amount of Points on the scope. We also decided to see if we could visually see the Intellsat satellites and that I could track on them with the 12″.

Whilst waiting for darkness, Bob found what looked like a planet rising in the East, however it turned out to be Vega. We noticed in the corner of the IMT area by the IMT shed that you could see not only Polaris, now the Sycamore had been removed, but also low in the East and thus Vega at +11Β° altitude.

Bob then spotted Polaris first! Amazing! I normally find stars first, especially Polaris. However given Bob was in my garden and unfamiliar with the his bearings it was astounding he found Polaris so quickly. Well done keen eyed Bob πŸ™‚

Soon darkness fell and we pointed the binos and scopes towards Intelsat. It became apparent quickly that we were not going to be able to eyeball it due to not having a good enough understanding of the surrounding star field. Meanwhile on the 12″ we slewed and quickly found the satellites. We then use the rotator to move the FoV so that we could fit 4 satellites on the chip which was pretty cool.

Intelsat and Thor satellites

We then star hopped to M5 with the bins, then with the 6″ and finally with the 12″. The view through he 100mm binos was of course fantastic, fair superior to the 6″ dob. The image through the 12″ showed a dense star field.

I then set about collecting a half dozen Tpoints just to make sure that objects we in the FoV, however the first slew proved the polar alignment was good enough to do this. I produced a small TPoint model and stuck to that for now. I will need to go out later this week and perform a much longer automated TPoint. For that I need to fix the dome this is currently jamming.

We then sorted the rotator out, making sure the angle and FoV represented in TSX was correct. After changing the x and y values for the FoV indicator it worked perfectly.

About midnight we saw the best fireball ever cross in towards South East just below Arcturus. It was very orange and stunning.

After then slewing the 12″ to M81 to make sure the rotator reflected what we actually wanted to see, Bob and I called it a night. The Moon was due to rise shortly.

A good night for us and welcome after the rain and a harsh Covid-19 lockdown.

Viewing Report 5th March 2021 – Travel Setup

23:38 – 00:18

Orion NSOG Finder Chart

A short trip out tonight and only with the binoculars. I wanted to start my journey through Orion star hopping using the Night Sky Obervers Guide as my bible.

With the tagging of objects as follows I setup the binos and went about looking up

Sp – Showpiece

Bs – Binocular Sky

Bo – Binocular Objects

34 Delta Ori (Bo) – The first object for tonight. Given the time I started and taking Orion’s belt as a reference, the middle star called Alnilam or 46 Epsilon Orionis was at an altitude of +09 vs if I had gone out earlier at say 7pm of +37 so this was a challenge before I started.

Belt stars Finder Chart from NSOG

I did however see 34 Delta Ori (Mintaka) at Mag 2.2 and instantly knew it was right as I could see its double star companion around 1’oclock shining at Mag 6.8. It was a lovely sight seeing this visually tiny companion next to this larger and brighter star. Was very pleased I had started observing visually again.

34 Delta Orionis

41 Theta Ori (Bo) – Not seen as set

42 Theta Ori (Bo) – Not seen as set

43 Theta Ori (Bo) – Not seen as set

41 Iota Ori (Sp) – Not seen as set

48 Sigma Ori (Bs) – Another lovely little double star, just South West of the first of the belt stars from the left, Alnitak, 48 Sigma Orionis is a Mag 3.8 star and I could clearly make out the Mag 6.7 at around 10 o’clock.

48 Sigma Orionis

B 35 – Not seen as expected due to lack of aperture

Basel 11B – This is a really tiny open cluster of stars, I knew it was there as I star hopped from Mu Gemini that I could see clearly at Mag 2.9. I could see Chi1 Orionis and Chi2 Orionis that form the upper stars in Orion’s club but it was easier to star hop from Mu Gem.

Finder chart for just North of Orion

Basel 11B sits just North West of the club and reportedly has 12 stars, I could only see it with averted vision due to the aperture of the 100mm binos, however I would say 3-4 were visible, given they are Mag 10+ so pretty faint for this instrument.

Basel 11B

Berkeley 21 – I was really not sure if I could see this, even with averted vision. The cluster is about Mag 11 so right on the limit of my instrument. I kept going back and forth, I was in the right area as it is fairly next door to Basel 11B. I jiggled the binos about but I could not be certain. I will have another go when Orion is higher earlier in the night.

Berkerly 21

So that was it for me, Orion was setting so it was time for bed.ß

Viewing Report 12th February 2021 – Travel Setup

18:45 – 00:32

Holiday time! Well at least a week off work. It’s been a cold and cloudy Winter so far. So a night where I can get out the travel telescope and setup in the vegetable patch, the construction site of IMT3b is a good thing. The challenge I have is my ribs still hurt somewhat from being broken after an unfortunate accident 4 weeks ago. So I will go careful.

Earlier in the day I had Luke help me setup the equipment in the garden. First the binos to have a good look round.

Altair Astro 100mm Binoculars and APM Mount

Then we setup the Skywatcher Esprit 120 ED on the Paramount MyT.

Travel scope with QHY168C camera

Lastly we setup a “warm room” temporary in nature and fairly cold I would later find out πŸ₯Ά in the greenhouse.

Lovely new table with my cool astronomy chair and MacBook Pro

So the night came and after Pizza with my wife I set off out to the garden to start imaging.

Imaging M42 Orion Nebula

I connected the Polestar camera first to see what my alignment was like after placing the tripod down in a fashion I though condusive to being polar aligned.

This is where polaris landed up which is not bad.

I then set about measuring the difference in Polaris to determine how much I would need to move the scope to align it.

White cross is where it needs to be

I then fiddled with the altitude and azimuth knobs to align the scope.

Perfect alignment

Next I slewed to the first object for the evening which was M45, the Pleiades, the Seven Sisters. I started EZCap and look at the focus which was not far off from the last time I was out a few weeks and it is good enough.

EZCap focus control

I then took an image of M45 to make sure it was in the field of view. I also setup the Planner in EZCap to with the sequence for capturing the data. I set the camera to Gain 7 and Offset 20 with a temperature of -30℃.

EZCap Planner

I set PHD running and that was when I hit a problem. To cut a long story short, I had forgotten to plug in the ST4 guider cable into the ZWOASI290 camera and then into the Versa plate of the Paramount MyT. Without this there is no successful calibration within PHD. It took me 1 hour to work out I needed a cable and a further 45mins to find it since the move of house. Your IQ really does drop when it is dark and cold!

Guiding started, but gusts of wind!

Eventually the calibration completed once the cable was fitted and I could start to see the gusts of wind in the data. I set a sequence running for M45 and was impressed with the results. I took 10 x 90s and 10 x 180s.

M45

I then switched targets and headed over to M42 and M43 along with the Running Man nebula, also known as SH2-279 and NGC 1977. I took 30 x 60s, 30 x 30s and 10 x 180s.

M42

Next and what would be last on my list tonight was M35 along with NGC 2158. I took 10 x 90s and 10 x 60s starting around 23:45.

M35

Now the clouds at a high level started to roll in. So I decided to take some Flats and then take the darks tomorrow morning.

Flats

So I packed up and had one last look up at the night sky.

M45

CPRE Star Count 2021

The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) was running it’s annual star count for 2021 from 6th – 14th February.

Basically in order to assess the effect that unnecessary man-made light pollution has on the quality of our life’s the CPRE want people to count the stars they can see within a box formed by the brightest stars in the constellation of Orion (not including the four main stars that form the box) and submit their observations.

Source – CPRE

A couple of us arranged to get together remotely and count the stars we could see at 8pm on 10/2/2021 when Orion was near it’s highest point in the South. Of course at this time of night the light pollution is also fairly high πŸ™

Suburban Sites

ObserverStar Count
Jim9
GeekBoy10
GeekGirl11
Neil 12
Observation – 20:00 10/2/2021

The SQM (Sky Quality Monitor) reading for our (GeekBoy/GeekGirl) location at that time was 19.92 mags/arcsec2 which places it around a Bortle class 5 sky (NELM 5.6-6.0). Of course later on during the night, once the causes of light pollution subside I normally get a reading of 20.6 mags/arcsec2.

ObserverStar Count
Giles9
Stephen et al13
Observation – 20:00 12/02/2021

Rural Dark Site

Dave got out with his family to star count from his rural dark site and the comparison is stark ! There may be an age effect on the eye sight here as they are from the same time/location but either way it’s shows what can be seen in the absence of excessive light ingress.

ObserverStar Count
Dave23
Daughter & Boyfriend27
Observation – 21:40 10/02/2021

Well that was a bit of fun and a welcome distraction in the current never ending lockdown – thank you guys !

Viewing Report 23rd January 2021 – IMT3

20:20 – 22:11

It is clear! It has been some time, at least for me, when it is clear at a weekend. It is cold. Skippysky.au/europe tells me it is good seeing, the transparency is excellent and the Jet Stream is way South of the UK. The Moon is around 70% and the local temperature is -2 degrees C with a slight frost already. I have come out with my 100mm binoculars to star hope around.

Binos ready and waiting

I had just finished a call with the BASEG society, most whom I had not seen in some time as we are still in lockdown. I came out to a Moonlit garden with a carpet of ice twinkling and crunching as I walked. It is nice to see this new garden at night and get a feel for where I may observe in the future.

I setup the binos in the vegetable patch next to the building works for IMT3b. Not one but twice I stumbled down the trench dug for the cables, so I must be more careful. I then pointed the binos at the Moon and took a look.

afocal Moon

The view was splendid. There is something wonderful about seeing the Moon through binoculars and seeing just how deep you can go. Clavious was crips and easy to spot as was Tyco. I spent some time here and then Luke came out to view. We looked at the Moon first then I moved to M42 which, whilst washed out by the Moon, was still bright enough to see the distinct wings. The trapezium was also very clear indeed.

After a call to Gingergeek, who incidentally was having problems with a disconnected wire in his focuser, I moved onto M45 Pleiades to identify each of the 11 major stars fro Atlas in the West to 18 Tau in the East. Electra, Merope and Alcyone were all rather bright. I then swooped across to Aldebaran before moving across to Mars, the bright planet a small circle in the binos. I then star hopped to M33 to find the surrounding stars without being able to see the galaxy itself.

Mark Radice then called and we chatted about his C11 and the Sinus Iridum mosaic he was imaging tonight whilst sitting in his warm room. We spoke about things to look at and Mark remotely star hoped me to the double cluster, which surprisingly could be seen naked eye, even on this bright Moon night. He then guided me to Uranus which I found in a pattern with 2 other stars making up an isosceles triangle with Uranus being distinctly blue to the bottom right. I was then fairly cold so bid farewell to Mark and headed off indoors to warm up.

Jupiter/Saturn Conjunction Christmas Eve – 24th December 2020

The most funny thing about moving to a new house is assuming you have understood your horizons correctly, well at least I found it funny when I got it wrong. After several attempts to catch the conjunction, traveling out to a nearby field with low horizons, Christmas Eve was no difference. I had set off, this time with the Esprit 120 and QHY168C and on arriving at the location realising that the weather was too cloudy to grab the conjunction.

So off I went back home. I decided to wonder up the garden to see if the weather had cleared when I returned, to find that not only was there a gap on the clouds, but also I could see Jupiter !!! This meant only one thing, that my South West horizon was not +15 degrees but actually +4 degrees! Wow that is good and lucky.

View South West , observatory is going to be in front of the foreground trees

I ran back to the car and started hauling the travel scope to the building site of IMT3b which is currently a vegetable patch, this is around 200 feet away from the car part way down the garden. It took 5 trips to move all the equipment, good for my Apple watch exercise rings, not so good for the setting of the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. By the time I setup and slewed the telescope round the pair were setting behind the ancient forest in the distance but I managed to snap a single image! Perfect.

Jupiter and Galilean Moons with Saturn below – 120 Esprit and QHY168C
Cropped

Jupiter/Saturn Conjunction Eve – 20th December 2020

GingerGeeks Viewing

The weather forecast suggested that this was the only clear night for some time and the planets were low in the sky. So GeekGirl and I wondered if Jupiter/Saturn were visible from the front of the house to the South-West or if we were going to have to traipse over to the muddy farm fields to view the conjunction.

Conjunction View Facing South – Credit stellarium.org

Luckily for us even though they were less than 10ΒΊ altitude we could see them both between two houses from the front drive. We quickly got some warm gear on and setup the binoculars and the kiddy scope (Sky-Watcher Heritage 150P Dobsonian) on a camping table.

We quickly got Jupiter/Saturn in GeekGirl’s binoculars (Celestron 20×80 SkyMaster). The pairing although not as close as they would be on the 21st still looked nice. The rings of Saturn were discernible and the four Galilean moons were visible in this modest setup and I’m sure the view would be have been better in Dave’s monster binoculars due to the aperature.

Approximate view through 20×80 Binoculars – Credit stellarium.org

In order to get the focus for the planets I used the Heritage 150P on the near half Moon (47%). The views of the craters on the terminator along with the shadows were amazing, we could see the centre peaks of many of the craters.

View via Heritage150P/Super10 eyepiece – Credit stellarium.org

I wonder what they looked like in Dave’s Sky-Watcher SkyMax 180 Pro ?

Our next-door neighbour popped out and we invited him to view the planets and the Moon. I think he was impressed but everyone reacts differently to the experience.

Once we had both wondered over the Moon, checking out the mountain ranges and the changing shades of grey for the Mares we turned to viewing the conjunction in the 150P using the standard eyepieces (SW Super25 & Super10) that came with the scope.

View of Conjunction through Heritage150P – Credit stellarium.org

We could see all four Galilean moons with Io being placed close to Jupiter’s limb. The division in Saturn rings was visible and GeekGirl could glimpse Titan so she was happy. All in all a pleasant experience, which is rare in the current human malware situation. I finished off the evening with a Brewdog IPA ….. bliss !

Dave Shave-Wall viewing

Start time 3pm – End time 6pm

After deciding that I could not get the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter at the new house, I spent the best part of 40 minutes packing up the travel scope to travel locally to view the conjunction. I set off to view about 1 mile away across a field with allow horizon. I took my Mak180 without the Barlow and the ZWO290MC on the Paramount MyT with the Berlebach tripod. On arriving at the side of the road on the narrow country lane in North Hampshire, I was just about to setup when I realised not only had I forgot the travel car battery, but also the laptop. After a few expletives and a good old English, “I cannot possibly believe I did this, oh well carry on”, I jumped back on the Landrover and set off back home to retrieve the important parts. On arriving back home I ran up the garden to the shed for the battery, grabbed the laptop and jumped back in the car as time was against me for capturing the pairing before they set below the local horizon about 6pm. It was not 4pm.

I arrived back at the field and quickly set about fitting together the mobile setup for the 2nd time!

Field with a view

This time I settled the tripod and mount up in quick time, slide the Mak180 with its imaging train into the Losmandy Versa plate and connected the Mac. I manually aligned on Jupiter which by this time I could see with my naked eye, synced the scope and started the imaging software. After a few back fourths I found Jupiter, however Saturn was nowhere to be seen. It soon became apparent that my field of view FoV indicator on Sky Safari 4 was not accurate and indeed both planes on this particular day would not fit in! So rather than waste the occasion I shot some view of Jupiter and then slewed to Saturn for the same.

Mak180 ready to slew

I then packed the setup away, but before heading off grabbed the Canon 6D with the 100-300mm lens and grabbed a few exposures. My first attempts were not good, having not used the camera for some time and forgetting how to set the correct exposure. After a while I grabbed a single good frame, over exposed to see the Galilean satellites.

Jupiter and Saturn near conjunction Canon 6D 100mm
Jupiter and Saturn near conjunction Canon 6D 300mm
Jupiter and Saturn near conjunction Canon 6D 300mm Cropped

I would attempt another go with the larger FoV Esprit 120 a few nights later.

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 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 ….