Out this evening to find MEV-2 and Intelsat 10-02. Whilst some of the society is providing images to DSTL (MOD) within the UK on the MEV2 satellite, I thought I would have a quick go and capturing. Unfortunately due to the small chip the FoV was not large enough to capture useful images so instead I thought I would capture a movie. Gingergeek joined me by Zoom.
So after polar aligning I slewed to Intelsat 10-02 and with a small nudge of the mount the 2 satellites popped into view. The above image shows The Sky X I used to track the satellites on the left and on the right the capture software, firecap, of the individual frames.
I captured a fair amount and will publish a video from it shortly. Gingergeek and I then slewed to the Moon and took a leisurely stroll around the surface. It did to be fair, take us a while to work out the FoV indicator in The Sky X and set it correctly so we could then move to the areas of the Moon we wanted.
I pulled out the Mak180 tonight to see if I could image the Moon. After setting up I did not bother with polar alignment due to it really only being the planets which are less picky about tracking. However pointing is another matter.
I have decided I really must get a decent flip mirror. At the moment with the polar alignment not being completed and the chip on the ZWO ASI290MC being so small, I have to take the camera out to then eyeball the planet before putting the camera back in so that its light lands on the chip. Now with the Moon that is not a problem so tonight I did not have to worry.
Given the short imaging session this evening and the realisation that I had not gotten rid of all the dust from last years dust intrusion I took a single video run of a yet to be identified piece of the Moon.
I then moved decided to take some video footage of various parts of the Moon to also discover how much dust I had and how much of a problem it was going to be. Also I just like roving around the surface of the Moon.
I must also buy another ASI290MC as the one I have had its chip cover fall off and I have been unable to remove the dust from Coombe Gibit, so for guiding this is not an issue but for Moon and planets it is. Given I currently take the camera off the Skywatcher Esprit setup where it is used as a guider I might as well have another and then I won’t ever get dust in the new one which I would use on the Mak. As I’ve said before and will say again, Brendan would say it is cheaper to burn £50 notes than get into astronomy! How true indeed.
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.
Tonight I traveled 50mins and 26 miles to Combe Gibbet, a high point for us in the South of England called the North Downs in Berkshire, which at 940ft above sea level places it in the wind, so it is cold but affords a distance from many towns, so it is dark. The is indeed a Gibbet at the top if one should want to take a hanged man or woman and display them for all the surrounding villages to see ? very barbaric, but part of our history.
The car was packed with various astronomy gear, the Mak180 for Lunar and planets.
The Esprit 120 ED Pro.
And of course the Altair Astro 4″ binoculars with my Paramount MyT mount.
I met a a social distance my friend Lawrence who was in a much better car than myself more suitable for the off-road terrain of getting to and just past the gibbet. Lawrence brought his trusty binoculars and his deck chair. Meanwhile I setup the 4″ Altair binoculars, the Mak180 OTA on the Paramount MyT and my Canon 6D on a tripod.
As the Sun set from this location we spied Venus first and took a look through the binos.
I captured some frames in the Mak180 with the ZWO 294MC camera. We then moved to the sliver of a Moon 2.8% illuminated and 1.6 days old. I placed the Mak180 on this for a few frames also. Lastly we moved the binos to Mercury, which is unbelievably small. Very faint in the twilight sky and surprisingly faint in the binos. I once again slewed the Mak180 and captured some 4GB files.
We then went a hunting for comet C/2020 F8 SWAN but it did not appear in the star field where it should be despite being able to see Mag 8.9 star. The comet was purportedly magnitude 5.8 but this was not the case. I checked my ephemeris on both SkySafari and The SkyX and I wass definetly in the right part of the sky and confirmed the star paterns from my star hoping, but alas no comet.
So although the wind was now dying down both Lawrence and I were cold so at just gone midnight we packed up and set off home. I must remover by coat tomorrow!
Addendum, I had read an article the following day that the comet may have broken up but I cannot yet confirm this.