Author Archives: Nick Cox

24-25th February 2018 observing report.

Vixen 102, Heq5pro, SkySafari 5pro. Swadlincote.

Cold and very cold, but clear with the bright Moon up. Ending my seventh session this month.

Good time of year to get under Leo to long Hydra. Having enjoyed the spectacular NGC 3242′, “ghost of Jupiter” , decided to have a look of some favourite binaries here. Some lovely colours and treasures to find. ( The “ghost” is very bright , from dark sites it has shown handlebars on each side , with a ghostly green blue colour)

Σ1270 at x100, gave a lovely pair. (SAO 136242)

epslion Hydrae, really lovely yellow and deep blue (SAO 117112)

Σ1290 ,a good 2.8″ split at x200 (SAO 117208)

Σ1347 , nicely wide at 21″

Here’s the double double low power field, with splits to 1.9″, SAO 117661 and 117704

Some spectacular colours to tau 1 Hydrae, yellow with a ” small plum” , yes ,got that .

Just on the borders of Leo, I spotted Subra on the app,( omicron Leonis ) SAO 98709, wide , but stunning colouration. One that I no references to, or noticed before. Plenty targets in this area,under Clear skies !


Lunar X and V.

Photo from my good observing buddy , Stu Davis. Taken at Walton on Thames with his phone. My own photo efforts are hardly worth seeing ! Also on SGL.


In the course of adjusting the suddenly seized Ra on the mount ( in the freezing dark), Lee pointed out the lunar X and V along the terminator. The Moon was above a roof top and a bit thermal wobbly. That was at x100 with a 102 scope. Kick off time was 18.07 (22nd February ) we got there a bit later, due to technical gremlins , catching just the finale of this view above.

Using android devices ( doesn’t seem to work with iOS), we managed to piggy back SkySafari pro 5 onto the sub £60 Skywatcher wifi adapter. Last time out , I noticed that SS5 gave wonderful named details on the moon . The app directed the scope onto these, much easier than mapreading in the dark. The technology is amazing and I am always in awe of its use.

Next visible.

22nd April from 19.18 at 57 degrees alt.

20 th June from 18.42 to 11.03 , sinking from 40 to 20 degrees.



Observing report 15th -16th /2/2018.

Wonderful night at Swadlincote   C6r refractor.

Wonderful crisp night , like stepping out into a planetarium, decided to explore the usually bright southern sky over town.

NGC 3242 ” Ghost of Jupiter” at x 50 without filters it shone amazingly bright and blueish. No change with fitting filters.Really surprised at the sight, probably one of the brightest planetary nebulae,well worth finding. Above this ,

NGC 3115 ” Spindle galaxy” , bright , long and spindly.

“La Superba “, Y CNv,what an amazing sight , just filled the view with cheery warmth. In the area of CNv caught the bright M63 “Sunflower galaxy”.

Other bright sights : M64 “Blackeye galaxy” in Coma B. Virgo A ( NGC 4486), M66 , but no triple to M65 in Leo. Caught the wide Porrima , now easy even at low power.

Back to back binaries with spectacular views in UMa, including the delicate triple 65UMa , look for the faint companion next to the bright star making a ra Triangle , neat ! It requires a little care to find . A  bright Alula Australis and a tight Σ1559 headed a mass of binaries , including the colourful Σ1695.

Leo. Go for Regulus , Algieba and Denebola. 54 Leonis looked spectacular at x50, ( yellow and blue here )as did Σ1521. 90 Leonis gave a lovely triple at x50. 83 and τ give a wide view double double. The companion to 49 looks really ghostly.

Sextans . Made a note that at this time of year , it’s high in the south. 35 Sextans gave an orange and blue pair at low power. Onto some new ones, including the orange and blue 9 Sextans and a close Σ1457. Really exciting to explore this area.

Some inspiring views , plenty go research into, kept returning to the “ghost “, remarkable under

Clear skies ! Nick.

Southern clusters , what a £30 scope can do.

12/2/18 Swadlincote Helios 102 f10 refractor, 11mm Nagler, 23mm Panoptic and  frost.

Clear night with curious seeing , lot of twinkling stars in some areas. Have. Good around before kickoff , even high up there were signs of turbulence.Tried iota Cassiopeiae as a tester , it just glued itself together. Others up there split fine , including the delicate B and C to Psi Cassiopeiae, a real treat. A delicate dusting showed Carolines Rose is quite accessible in small aperture.

On the other hand Tegmine split and iota Cancri showed beautiful colour . Even caught the other “winter Albireo” , h3945 in Canis Major .

Monoceros gave the magnificent beta and the more delicate and challenging 15 Mon, bright star at the base of the “Christmas tree “(NGC 2264).

Really surprised to get down low in the south to Puppis. Picked up a spectacularly bright M47 , worth finding and an adjacent faint M46.

M50 in Monoceros looked like a dog with a long neck ! Also caught M48’in Hydra and a very low M93.

Some real challenges for a 4″ refractor,

53 UMa (Alula australis) caught at x182. Now opened to 2”, lovely bright near twin pair.
65 UMa at x150, just a delightful triple, really pleased to pick this up.
Sigma 2 UMa at x150. Lovely delicate visual double .
57 UMa at x180, just a glimpse of the very delicate companion.

UMa shows a multitude of wonderful binaries.

Had a shot at some trending carbon stars, “Hinds crimson” being a good start .

BL Orionis was orange and bright.As was W Orionis. Brightest orange was UU Aurigae. Both X Cancri and S Cephei were bright.

Sight of the night was M47 , lovely views and not bad from a hardly used , old school rescued ebay £30 Helios 102 f10, under
Clear skies ! Nick.

January 2018 ,amusings of the month !

Four sessions , some really poor weather, a few years back I recorded 15 sessions. It seems we are servants to the widely whipping jet-stream. It does make seeing awful at full blast .

Eq5 goto mount. A dreadful DEC motor whirring and grinding , out of nowhere and for no reason. This can happen if the balance is badly out or the gear not adjusted for winter chill. Spent a day taking apart the DEC drive , including adjusting the tiny grub screws .

Very worrying was the amount of brown gunk ( SW grease) and the spindle cog jarring against the Drive cog ( new stepper motor is £100 !) Reassembled  . Cleaned with WD 40 ( cleaning agent ) , greased with white Lithium grease . Tried reassembly about three times and still nothing.

Had a search of forums and” Astonomy shed “came up with the same problemo. Dodgy 8 pin DIN cable. Just swapped them over and it worked and tracked beautifully ! These external cables are a pain.  Try the easiest solution, even if it’s not the most obvious ! Less obvious we’re the two brass washers that I found on the patio paving ! An easy solution to a rubbing sound from a cog . Dooh.

I spotted a Helios ota ( prequel SW) 102,f10 on eBay, as new and with a collimation cell. I had long and good views through a friend’s Helios 150, superb.

Paid £30 plus £7.50 delivery . Phone went and the guy is driving from Wrexham to deliver it . Astro folk are really nice. At 9.30 ( clear night ) he arrived.

I fixed up a spare dovetail , finder and dew strip.

First light , very crisp Moon.  Great contrast on the terminator. Great colour in Mu Cephei and iota Cancri. M35 filled the view and it was splitting beta Monoceros and Tegmine. Great big grin here ! Especially as the boss came out to ask how much !

It never ceases to amaze me that nobody wants old school gear. A bit of cleaning and love and it’s back to out performing modern equivalents , cheap as chips.

By sheer chance I found a collimation cell ( ex Celestron SP-C) to fit the Vixen 102. The 114 mm ( diameter) threads being the same. However on fitting , there was more infocus needed. A quick visit to Lee and an inch of the ota was removed ( made sure he was aware which end to cut !!)

The collimation by Cheshire is spot on. Sometimes diagonals can throw this out and it’s easier to adjust the cell than tinker with a diagonal. There is nothing like a straight through view ! If you can get down low ! Still divided with this scope , as the £30 Helios showed perfect diffraction rings and can take a 2″ diagonal. Ouch.

Final highlight, the continuing struggle to get the SW wi fi adapter working with the ace Sky Safari Pro 5 ( 6 is now on 50% offer), it’s an absolutely wonderful app. Must do a review.

Lee put me on track , not had time to visit the shed / obsy, but he got it working easily on an android device. Going to check this out on Apple . First light Optics came up with a solution. Enjoy clear skies , watch out for the Summer Triangle and planets , pre dawn, Nick.

Rosliston March Star Party . 16th of March ( Fri and Sat main days ) at the Beehive campsite at Rosliston. Please book direct. You can verify your booking on the contact form and mention that you wish to meet on the Glade.

Please ensure that you are booked into the Glade , those of us who do ,will be setting up from E ( my pitch) . There are warm pods with double beds on the Glade. You will no doubt be aware of the potential of these skies and great company,


90mm aperture tour.

Swadlincote 24/1/18 90mm achro, 13mm Nagler, 23mm Panoptic , 21mm Hyperion , 7.5 Ultimata and furious barking dog next door .

Vixen 90 f11 my white light solar, out and let’s see what it can do.

Quick tour of Messier’s, lots of contrast and acceptable views of Bode’s, a lovely M35 and “the Eskimo ” NGC 2392 quite obvious in the field. Playing around I managed some views with the Hyperion 21 and 10mm looking impressively sharp across the field.

Cepheus. The “Garnet Star” (SAO 33693) looked spectacularly deep orange, this huge star would fill the orbit between Jupiter and Saturn. It varies from +3.6-+5.0. I caught the colourful triple midst IC 1396.

Canis Major.M41 showed delightful chains.Over to h3945 (SAO 173344) narrower colourful “winter Albireo” at 26.8″ than iota Cancri.

Cancer.managed to split Tegmine, then onto iota (08h47.8m. +28 41′) at 30.1″ and a lovely colourful +4 +6.

Lepus.R (“Hind’s Crimson”) +8.7 SAO 150058 gave not much , over the town with the moon still up. It does vary to become just blood red. Massive enough to fill Jupiter’s orbit.

Monoceros. NGC2301 , still dragon like ! Great tour of binaries and multiples.
Samoht (α) very bright orange (giant x60 diameter of Sol) 148 lys away (SAO134986)
Σ956 ,a very challenging triple ( aperture !)+8 +9+10.7. X9.4 diameter of Sol.
Σ910 orange giant, wide at 66″ +6.9 +8.1
10 Monocerotis (SAO 133299) +5 +9.5 at 77″.
8 Mon.(SAO 113812) 12.3″ split 2 degrees ne of the rosette.Unrelated pair.
Beta Mon. Finest triple in our hemisphere, bright and split clean 2.9″.(SAO133317)
15 Mon, (SAO 114258), base of the tree ,NGC2264.
Zeta (ζ) (SAO 135551) yellow and blue arc of triple stars.
ΟΣΣ 79,lovely orange colour.
V838 lovely red of this variable at 07h04m. -3 50′.

Some very surprising views, contrast and colour. Σ 956 was very pleasing  as Sissy Haas reported as not being seen in 125mm aperture. Long 90 mm achromatic scopes are fairly cheap and for the size and light weight ,give great colour and contrast.

clear skies !


A very lovely M50 with a 21mm Hyperion. 23mm giving x43, 21mm x48 and 7.5mm giving x133.

Edited just now by cotterless45