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 🙂

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.

Viewing Report 1st March 2020 – Travel Scope

Viewing time period – 17:35 – 23:00

First time out for a very long time with the travel setup. I need to get the guiding working before the Tenerife holiday in July. I have left Bob to play with the IMT3 whilst I work through the bugs.

The challenge is at first remembering how to set everything up. I found after some effort I was actually missing a cable, it was in the black wheelie case in the garage with the laptop tent and scope daytime cover, but more about that later.

So So after finding a place on the patio where I could feed the USB cable through the Orangery window, I put the Berlebach tripod down and placed the MyT mount on top. I tightened the screws and then placed the Sky-Watcher Esprit 120 ED on top of the Versa Plate. Once in position I balanced the scope then connected the various cables, now all through the mount due to my good friend Bob making up some power connectors for me.

So I tried to guide through PHD2. There was a large wind blowing. On trying to calibrate the scope would not move. After what seemed like an hour I remembered that cable, this was again the ST4 guider cable that is needed on the Mac if you are guiding with PHD2 as there is no ASCOM. So I connected the ST4 cable and it worked.

What I could not achieve tonight was to get the guide graph behaving, it was a mess. The wind was at fault but still there were other issues, not least the slider to control the contrast of the screen was causing anything above 0.5s to become white.

Guiding a mess with PHD2

After many hours I gave up and brought the rig in. I had been using TheSkyX to slew there scope, PHD2 to guide and EzCap to connect to the QHY168C camera and take images. I will try again tomorrow night.

EzCap image of Betelgeuse