Visual this evening on the 22″ Dob. The 120 Esprit is still off the MEII so the IMT3b observatory is out of action for a few weeks whilst it is not balanced. The MyT and 120 Esprit are now packed away for the Tenerife trip which is really exciting, first time in over 2 years!
Bob came round this evening and we explored the rather bright sky given the time of year with the dob. So what what did we see?
M5 seen 23:21 31mm and 13mm better than M3
M3 resolved easily 23:17 31mm and 13mm more compact than M5
M51 massive filled fov in 13mm much smaller in 31mm
M92 seen both eyepieces and very bright
M57 13mm only very large AV central star, very big ring
Opened the dome and setup the 22″ Obsessions telescope for visual.
I have gone with a recommendation of Mark Radice this evening andI will both image and perform visual on M46 including the planetary nebula Herschel H39-4 that resides within it.
So with the 120 Esprit inside the dome imaging away on M46, now that it is to the East of the Meridian, I connected the Argo Navis to the 22″ and set about aligning the scope. After a few minutes and with the alignment complete, I pushed to M46.
M46 Observing Notes
31mm Nagler 75x Mag. M46 Open Cluster fills the view. Apparent instantly is the planetary nebula Herschel H39-4 towards the 5 o’clock position. A small ring can be seen with direct vision and with averted vision the contrast increases. I am not using any filter yet.I can resolve many stars. With the 13mm Ethos 180 x Mag H39-4 becomes much larger and you can resolve easily the star within the centre of the ring. Now only several handfuls of stars can be resolved.
M42 Observing Notes
31mm Nagler 75 x Mag. M42 steller nursary and hydrogen nebula is very bright with the wings sweeping outward. The trapezium is clearly seen. With averted vision much more gas is forthcoming around the area within the FoV. Moving to the 13 Ethos 180 x Mag the trapezium is resolved pleasantly into a much wider set of 4 stars. The hydrogen gas now takes on structure and lingering on this one can make out dark features within it give the nebula a 3 dimensional feel. Now you experience a warm glow within the eyepiece that seems to draw your eye towards the gas in which the trapezium stars sit.
At this point I cam back into there Warmroom to write up my notes and review the images being taken in the observatory. I have now taken 21 x 300s of M46. Now switching to M48.
I then joined the BAS Zoom call to speak with Derek, Nigel, Bob and Mil Dave. We discussed M44 taken by Bob and suggested if I could see the UGC 4526 galaxy. So I went out to take a look.
M44 Observing Notes
Looking at M44 with Nagler 31mm at 75x Mag…..
I landed up finishing M48 at 23:47. I took 30 x 300s but then checked through the last few when the dome closed and I actually got 26, I might have lost the guide or the dome slewed incorrectly or shut, not sure which.
Addendum – It turned out to be loosing the guide star and because the camera wears not in focus, so connecting the focuser and moving from 14000 to 21000 position fixed it. The star profile was much better and SNR was 25-30 instead of 10.
After a glorious sunny Sunday where I spent a lot of the day building the new decking for the Summerhouse for my wife, I planned on a short, sharp observing session until 9:30pm (turned out to be nearer to 10pm) starting after dinner at 7pm. In preparation for this I setup the 22″ dob on the observing patio and opened the dome for the 12″ to start to cool down whilst I ate with the family. My daughter and her boyfriend’s famous pasta dish was for dinner tonight which was great 😋
With dinner finished I headed to the sofa and set the 12″ running on NGC 1999 in Luminance so I could then go out and observer with the 22″. It took a while to do the usual, sync and centre on a star, get the focus right and set the imaging run up. But after 45 mins I was then able to wrap up warm and head outside.
I have read an article in Sky and Telescope of visually observing NGC 1999. With that information I opened my newly acquired Interstellarum Deep Sky Atlas to look at the area where NGC 1999 resided. I then referred to the Deep Sky Guide to look at the photos and drawings of the objects in the vicinity including this reflection nebula.
There was a potential to observe two Herbig-Haro (HH) objects but I was afraid the sky would be a little to bright given the Moon rising at 9pm, in order for me to see them. I placed the 31mm Nagler in the 22″ and then dialled in NGC 1999 into the handset and pushed the scope until the numbers for Azimuth and Altitude were as close to zero as possible and looked through the lens. Surprisingly I could see a small fuzzy object with a star embedded to one side just off centre in the eyepiece. I reviewed the star chart on my phone using Sky Safari 4 and confirmed this indeed was NGC 1999. I guess it was just off centre due to my alignment and next time out I will use the 13mm Nagler to centre and align the scope during the initial setup.
On looking at the reflection nebula I could tell there was something to one side of it due to the offset nature of the nebula to the star. I changed to the 13mm Nagler and set the Paracorr accordingly back to H from the A setting for the 31mm Nagler. I then recentred using the Argo Navis computer and too a peak through the eyepiece. I could now see a distinct whole in the nebula, but clearly not as good as the Hubble image I had looked at, however it was there. I ten went looking for the two HH objects but I must say I could not confirm them at all. There were two star like objects near by but again looking at my Sky Safari star chart I was not convinced. I would leave this for another night when the Moon was goner and I had cooled the mirror with the fan, that is still not connected to power yet.
For a laugh I then pushed to the Horse Head but could not see it, not surprised given you need a Ha filter. I will buy one.
I then had a quick look at M42 again which is a wonderful sight in the scope. Orion was now getting low with NGC 1999 and M42 at +18 degrees at about 9pm. I then started to pack away the scope to head in doors and look at the 12″ and see how it was doing.
I reviewed the set of images for NGC 1999 on the 12″ and now due to the altitude I switched and set the scope running on M61 for Luminance and RGB as it is on my list for my Messier wall chart.
At 10pm I left the dome capturing M61 LRGB frames and hit the sack.
So after a successful day at The Practical Astronomy show it was time to head on out to play with my new toys. In this case a new 31mm Nagler Type 5 2″ eyepiece that I purchased from Owen Brazzel.
The other aim tonight was to setup the Argo Navis computer to allow me to find objects in the night sky on the 22″. Owen had said to me at the show that this is a must else I would find it difficult to star hop from one object to another without it, which was proved out the last time Bob and I ventured out.
So I went to the Workshop where the Dob is stored and took it out onto the observing space and started to put it together. It only takes about 15-20 mins and then I set about collimating quickly with the laser collimator.
Once done I fitted the Paracorr optical corrector followed by the 2″ eyepiece. I then set about putting the cables in for the Argo Navis computer and clipping it onto the side of the 22″.
It took me over an hour to finally setup the computer, in the main I did not RTFM and finally succumbed like all good blokes to reading the manual. It was them extremely straight forward. I had a good look through the menus to familiarise myself, but really the only thing to do was to identify 2 stars. The process for this must be followed for it to work correctly.
So I selected Mode Align Star option form the menu clicking the Enter key, then selected a star using the Dial, in this case BETELGEUSE came up. Now DO NOT PRESS ENTER!! Put the star in the centre of the eyepiece and then press the Enter button. Then WARP= +0.00 (1) should appear briefly meaning 1 star is aligned. Now using the Dial select another star (in this case SIRIUS) and repeat. Once you select ENTER then you see WARP= +0.00 (A) which means aligned. Now you are good to go and use the catalogue to tour the night sky.
I then selected some objects including M42, which looked lovely but low, the double double which really allowed the eyepiece quality to show off its abilities. I went round few other objects and Luke came out too, In fact to be fair he helped me get the computer working and then we shared the views in the scope. It was a good evening. We then between us took the scope apart and put it back in it’s home.
So for the first time in a while the observatory is back up and running and it’s Friday and it’s clear! So Bob came over and we set about imaging an exoplanet and getting the 22″ Obsession dob out of the warmroom where it had been sitting since November, and moving it down to the observing plateau by the IMT3b observatory.
A few nights back, during the week I had managed to get the 12″ in the dome balanced with my original 2004, 5″ Skywatcher 130 reflector as a guide scope and the Skywatcher Esprit 120 ED on the other side. The 5″ now guides, however the QHY camera on the 120 is not currently connecting so I need to investigate. Also the MEII hand controller is sending erroneous signals to the mount so I needed to disconnect as it kept saying ‘joysticking’ and moving the mount. Unfortunately the 5″ was pointing at the dowel so I used off-axis guiding instead.
I selected an exoplanet on the Exoclock website, and set about imaging. Unfortunately due to my profile on exoclock being set to UTC +1 and me not noticing I started 45 mins into the transit! I will now use this as a test run and process the data and submit.
So first up was moving the 22″ down to the plateau so it could cool down. I had planned on taking it back up to the Warmroom, however it is so heavy I have decided to keep it in the workshop. I will make sure I connect the electric up for the workshop this weekend thus allowing for the new dehumidifier to be switched on and operational.
Whilst the 22″ cooled down, we went back indoors and setup the 12″ in the observatory to image the transit. The focus point was 25,000 and I made sure I selected the Red filter. I slewed and aligned on the exoplanets host star and then settled on a 5min exposure due to the low brightness. I started imaging at 9:24pm, the transit start was 8:45pm 🙁
Whilst imaging continued we went outside and set about setting up the 22″. Things I learnt from this first public outing were;
Remember to put the shroud on
Remember to pub the secondary shield on
Remember to collimate the secondary first
Remember to fit the Telrad dew heater
Remember to find a 40mm eyepiece
Remember to download and print the Parracor chart
Remember to set the Parracor to the correct setting
Remember to buy a 12v battery powered hair dryer
Remember to buy a secondary dew heater
We collimated the scope and then went on to look at M42 which with the 24mm Panoptic looked great. We then slewed to M45 the Pleiades but of course the open cluster is too wide for the for I was using. Then we tried find M81 and M82 but I found this difficult due to the lack of bright stars in the area. So instead we went to the Trio in Leo.
M65 and M66 looked fairly bright and you could make out the dark dust lane in M65. NGC 3628 was visible with direct vision, however with adverted vision it was much easier. It appeared very long and thin.
We had to use s hairdryer on the secondary a lot. The Telrad also dewed up as did the eyepiece. The primary mirror was fine, although with direct headtorch light looked like it was dewed, but upon inspection this was not the case.
At midnight it was time to pack up before I had to do a meridian flip. Bob helped my dismantle the 22″ dob and then place inside the workshop. I could not move it into the room without dismantling which was a shame. It is far too tall.
Once done, Bob headed off home for a well deserved rest and to warm up due to it being 0℃. I headed indoors and performed the meridian flip at 0:23am.
I then left the observatory running until 2:30am whilst I wrote this blog, had a glass of wine and ate an easter egg 🙂 I also went back out to the workshop to tidy up the telescope eyepieces etc that I had not put away.
At 3pm I went on to take luminance for M85 that I needed to complement the RGB data I had processed. I let this running and went to bed.
I took flats and dark flats in the morning, although I had to increase the exposure to get the required level for the flats. This is strange as they should be the same. I am now concerned the camera my be playing up and causing an issue. I will investigate.
So with short notice a couple of my friends booked a cottage just outside the Kielder Water park boundary in Northumberland. This was booked for same weekend that Storm Eunice and Storm Dudley hammered the UK, the drive from the South of England to the North was very gusty and interesting at times.
Suffice to say that during my short stay in a farm cottage I saw more of Pubs such as the local warm, very friendly and welcoming Star Inn and comfortable cottage fireplaces than I did clear nights.
On the first evening it was broken fast moving cloud so we settled on taking in the various views of the 17 day old moon (94.2%). Although it was very bright being just after full moon, we scoured the edge of the disc looking at the shadowed craters. The first evening’s session was cut short by the cloud and rain, which seemed to set the mood for the week.
On the next few cloudy nights, I spent the time upgrading to ASCOM 6.6, the latest NINA beta and SGPro 64bit. Of course this required me to make sure I had the latest 64bit drivers installed. Once done, I began testing the various bits of hardware within the applications.
However on my final evening whilst nestling a Talisker Single Malt in front of the fire. I just happened to peer outside and it was clear, breezy and cold but clear. So since the weather report said it would cloud up I grabbed the Baby Dob (SkyWatcher Heritage 150) and headed outside for a quick sky tour.
With Laurence and Laura we finally saw why astronomers come to the Northumberland National Park. The Milky Way was so obvious stretching from Orion in the South, through Perseus and Cassiopeia and the sheer number of stars was breath taking.
We started looking in Orion, the Orion Nebula (M42) which the 150P does not do it justice and really a 200P and decent eyepiece would be needed to show the wispy cloud structures. We looked at the stars Betelgeuse and Sirius (Canis Major) just to show the colours of these giants before moving along to view the Pleiades (M45) and the star clusters in the constellation of Auriga.
The Double Cluster (NGC 889/NGC 884) in Perseus in the 25mm wide field eye-piece was beautiful. From the Perseus/Cassiopeia border we moved through the milky way and across to Canes Venatici hunting down The Whirlpool Galaxy (M51) which we saw as two misty patches, one smaller fainter patch and a larger patch with a faint core.
Moving southwards we hunted for the globular cluster M3 which was low on the horizon and effectively in the trees but we managed to locate it. Again it was a misty patch and looked like a comet. Switching to the 10mm eye-piece I tried to resolve the patch as stars but I was unable to, maybe due to it’s low altitude but Laura was able to do so with averted vision.
Of course I also forgot that objects I can see from The South Of England are higher up in the sky compared to The North Of England by almost 4 degrees altitude.
Not long after we headed in doors to warm up, the clouds rolled in, the wind picked and the snow started falling as a precursor to the incoming Storm Franklin. Such is life but at least I got a few hours under dark skies even if it was visual and not deep sky imaging.
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 -54°” 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 £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 🙂
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.
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 !
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.
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.
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.
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.
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″.
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.
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 +11° 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 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So that was it for me, Orion was setting so it was time for bed.ß
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.
Then we setup the Skywatcher Esprit 120 ED on the Paramount MyT.
Lastly we setup a “warm room” temporary in nature and fairly cold I would later find out 🥶 in the greenhouse.
So the night came and after Pizza with my wife I set off out to the garden to start imaging.
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.
I then set about measuring the difference in Polaris to determine how much I would need to move the scope to align it.
I then fiddled with the altitude and azimuth knobs to align the scope.
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.
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℃.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
So I packed up and had one last look up at the night sky.
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.
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 🙁
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.
Stephen et al
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.
Daughter & Boyfriend
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 !
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Luckily for us even though they were less than 10º 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
I would attempt another go with the larger FoV Esprit 120 a few nights later.
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.
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 ?
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℃.
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 nebula and took 20 subs of 120 seconds.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 !
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.
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.
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 ….