Viewing Report 24th& 25th June 2023

23:00 – 02:00

4 Epsilon Lyra Double Double star – 31mm I can see the double but not split the 2 stars; 13mm Ethos allowed me to split the doubles and the 10mm whilst slightly dimmer afforded me a slightly wider split

Cat’s Eye Planetary Nebula – 31mm very small not quite pinpoint of light visible nicely without a filter, OIII filter makes it slightly more apparent and Nebustar filter it looks marginally better; 13mm Ethos provided brighter nebula, again the filters provided a better view with the Nebustar being brightest; 10mm is the best view of them all with a definite oval shape East or West, right to left but now OIII produced the brightest and clearest view although it is pushing the seeing tonight

Turtle Planetary Nebula – Not seen

Rasalgethi Alpha Hercules Double Star – 10mm too much for tonight, could not get good focus but could easily split; 13mm Ethos the best view with brighter primary in yellow, very striking and smaller secondary blue; 31mm Nagler just splittable but both components look yellow.

Albireo Double Star – Bright large yellow primary and smaller but still bright blue star in the 13mm Ethos

M13 Hercules Globular Cluster – lovely in the 31mm Nagler; 13mm Ethos much brighter view and obviously larger with resolving more core stars; 10mm darker background so contrast better and even brighter core and stars more obvious with direct vision, including nice pair at 10pm on the cluster

M57 Ring Nebula – planned but not attempted

61 Cygni Double Star – planned but not attempted

NGC 6891 Open Cluster in Lyra – not seen in 31mm Nagler

NGC 6702 & NGC 6703 Galaxy pair – planned but not attempted

M56 Globular Cluster – 10mm dim resolvable , 13mm slightly brighter resolvable averted vision

NGC 6765 Planetary Nebula – planned not attempted

A really good night overall, the eyepieces lent to me from Bob are excellent and make the viewing more pleasurable being able to switch with my wider field of view ones.

Viewing Report 13th June 2023

23:00 – xx:xx

So the 22″ Dob is still out of action with the encoder cable needing repairing from a recent issue with snagging. I’ve ordered some RJ9 connectors to replace the one on the RA axis that is broken. So instead I thought I would open the dome and given the perfectly clear weather with no chance of rain, I would image Arp xxx with the 12″ that Bob Trevan had recently imaged with his 17″ and leave the scope running.

Due to the brightness of the sky when I started it was impossible to find a guide star, thus I have decided to perform almost lucky imaging of 1min exposures. Again given the background brightness this time of year, if I were to try lucky imaging of this faint object of say 1/10th of a second, it would not appear.

So I have set the scope running with 240 images to take in luminance and will come back in the morning and check the results.

Viewing Report 10th June 2023

22:34 – 01:00

Tonight was a visual night. GingerGeek and I used the 22″ Obsession Dobsonian to view some of the wonders of the late Spring sky.

We started with Venus with the aid of a Moon filter. Whilst Venus is bright and not too overwhelming in the eyepiece, the contrast afforded by the addition of this particular filter aids the clarity of the image as Venus sits on the bright backlight of the night sky this time of year. Venus is in a gibbous phase and you could clearly see a concave arch to the edge of Venus that was missing. The seeing was very steady and we were able to push to 179x with the 13mm Nagler.

Next up was Mars. Whilst it took a while for it to appear in the astronomically twilight sky, I swept the area North East of Venus and landed the target after a few moments. Mars was so very small compared with Venus, obviously red as seen without a filter in this case and slightly shifting in colours due to the seeing. By the time we had finished looking, Mars had appeared in the night sky.

Now the sky was getting darker we wanted to start on the deep sky objects. It became apparent very quickly there was a problem with my alignment. This was a problem I faced the last time out and the trouble is with he RA encoder. The RJ11 cable has been pulled and needs recrimping. So for tonight it was about star hoping only πŸ™‚

We then went on to look at globulars M3, M92, planetary nebulae M57 the Ring nebula and M97 the Owl nebula. We tried to get M101 but the sky brightness would not allow it. We also looked at Mizar and Alcor that I could see from 11:30pm as a double, and we looked at Polaris and it’s double star companion SAO 305 through the scope.

The planetary nebulae were seen through an OIII filter and Tele Vue Nebustar filter. I thought the view was slightly clearer through the Nebustar filter, maybe due to the slightly wider bandwidth which includes H-Beta. The Ring nebula was very crisp and I thought I could discern the central star which is 12th magnitude. Our friend Bob was kind enough to lend me a set of eyepieces he recently acquired. The Tele Vue 10mm Radian eyepiece gives 230x through which we could see the central white dwarf.

Whilst looking at the globular clusters we pushed the magnification to 288x with the 8mm Tele Vue Radian. Both this eyepiece and the 10mm gave fantastic views with the globulars sparking with pinpricks of lights from the 1,000s of Suns!

Venus & Jupiter Conjunction (02/03/2023)

At 18:15 I decided to grab the SkyWatcher Heritage 150 baby Dobsonian and setup it up in the back garden to view the Moon and the conjunction of Venus & Jupiter that were following the setting Sun in the West.

My neighbour saw us in the garden and asked if he could pop over and take a peek. In the 25mm eyepiece we could fit Venus and Jupiter in the same field of view. Venus was way too bright for me to see the slight phase (85.5%) but with Jupiter the two main belts and three moons were clearly visible. In the 10mm we could make out the main four moons with ease.

25mm simulated view (credit Stellarium)

Moving to the Moon we used both the 25mm and 10mm eyepieces to view the craters on the shadow terminator. We tried to grab a mobile phone picture but the baby Dob really isn’t up to the task and all attempts were disappointing.

10mm simulated view (credit Stellarium)

Using the Televue x3 barlow and the 10mm we could see craters in the shadow terminator nicely along with Clavus and the craters within.

10mm & 3x Barlow simulated view (Credit Stellarium)

Although the baby dob is great for grab and go I feel that SW 8-inch Dobsonian with a really good eyepiece would have done Jupiter more justice but hey the views were good enough and the experience enjoyable.

Viewing Report 7th August 2022

22:30 – 02:37

Tonight John Barrie-Smith and Bob came round to observe with me from Mirador Ellisfield. The temperature has been warm +24c and the humidity average. I assembled the 22″ dob and brought out the 100mm binos.

Bob had a pair of tiny binoculars which whilst we were waiting for darkness to arrive we thought we would try them out. To our surprise when looking at the Moon we could see a star to the East which transpired to DSschubba, a mag +2.2 star in the constellation of Scorpius. This is top star above Antares in the scorpion. This was unseen with the naked eye.

We then realised that the Moon was going to occult this star and that we could watch it happen. So with Bob on the Binos, JBS on the 22″ and I with my Canon 6D with the 300mm lens, we set about watching the event.

We caught the star being occulted by the Moon, but then we struggled as the Moon was setting behind the trees in the distant forest. However around 22:13:20 the star reappeared just as the Moon was setting around +4 degrees altitude. A good result!

Moon setting with the star hidden behind

So after a thrilling and unexpected chase, we set about using the 22″ for some visual. I had started SkyTools 4 for the first time earlier in the day and created my first observing chart. I printed a list of objects to go after and we used this to work through some very appealing and easy targets.

SkyTools V4

M21 was seen by JBS and I before it quickly set behind a tree, however this open cluster looked great.

M102 was easy to see with direct vision. This galaxy looked splendid through the 13mm Ethos eyepiece. This was a long thin galaxy with a slight bulge to the centre. Whilst SkyTools did state the 24mm Panoptic was the best eyepiece to see this with, we felt that the 13mm Ethos was a good option and provided the best view.

John then wanted to go to M101 the Pinwheel galaxy. This is a face on spiral that has a low surface brightness and was rather hard to see. We tried all 3 eyepieces, so the 24mm Panoptic, 13mm Ethos and 31mm Nagler. To prove that this was because it was a harder object to see with relatively low surface brightness and thus did not appear on my SkyTools list of Easy and Obvious objects to see, we set about looking for M51 with it’s associated NGC NGC 5195 interacting galaxy. This was as we noted fairly faint to see also but rather distinct with the 2 objects being visible.

We also looked at an open cluster called the Cooling Tower, M29 or NGC 6913, Bob could see the cooling tower in this little cluster of stars which was bedded into the Milkyway’s rich star field.

We then looked at the Blue Flash nebula, NGC 6905 which did indeed resemble a flash in the pan of oil.

We then went to M5 a glob that was very low down and did appear on the list. The scope was all but horizontal but provided a good view despite the seeing.

Finally we stole a look at M13 which was to compare with M5 and wow it was really bright and steady and the details of the stars within especially with the 13mm Ethos were amazing. It is worth noting that it was fairly high in the sky unlike M5.

Once Bob and JBS packed up and went home around 12:30am I slewed the 12″ in the dome to NGC 6905 the Blue Flash and too a single 2 min Luminance exposure to see what we had seen.

Blue Flash Planetary Nebula NGC 6905
Blue Flash cropped 2 min

I then loaded my sequence for NGC 6765 and took a set of LRGB and OIII 300s exposures, x 5 each until 3:45am. I left the scope running until morning and went to bed at 2am. A really good night with friends.

NGC 6765 Planetary Nebula by the arrow 300s Lum

Viewing Report 1st June 2022

22:40 – 00:31

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?

Observing Notes

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

Viewing Report 26th March 2022

19:47 – 03:00

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 and UGC 4526 from Bob

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.

Viewing Report 20th March 2022

20:00 – 21:52

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 πŸ˜‹

22″ Obsession ready to go

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.

Deep Sky Atlas

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.

31mm Nagler

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.

NGC 1999

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.

M61

Viewing Report 19th March 2022

20:00 – 23:00

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.

31mm Nagler

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.

Argo Navis

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.

Laser colimator

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.

Obsession in use with the light on for the photo of course πŸ™‚

Exoplanet HAT-P-66b (25/2/2022) – IMT3Β + Visual with 22″ Dob!

21:24 – 03:00

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.

Blue 5″ scope pointing at the dome

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.

Exoplanet schedule

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.

22″ UC Obsession telescope

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 πŸ™

HAT-P-66 b

Whilst imaging continued we went outside and set about setting up the 22″. Things I learnt from this first public outing were;

  1. Remember to put the shroud on
  2. Remember to pub the secondary shield on
  3. Remember to collimate the secondary first
  4. Remember to fit the Telrad dew heater
  5. Remember to find a 40mm eyepiece
  6. Remember to download and print the Parracor chart
  7. Remember to set the Parracor to the correct setting
  8. Remember to buy a 12v battery powered hair dryer
  9. 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 πŸ™‚ 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.

M85 Lum 300s

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.

Viewing Report – Kielder Water (18-20/02/2022)

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.

Very welcoming when it is wet, windy and foul outside

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.

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.

Credit – https://cpre.org.uk

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.