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 😋

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.


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 🙂

Exoplanet HAT-P-66b (25/2/2022) – IMT3 + 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 🙁

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 🙂 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.

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 🥶 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.


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.