Nick Cox

The best of Ophiuchus.

Ophiuchus (” serpent bearer”) is below Hercules, it divides Serpens into two halves, heading for the galactic centre here. A realm of globular clusters, some 22 , most are detailed here. Some surprising other deep sky targets as well.

Globular clusters.
M9 – to the galactic centre, M10, M12, M14,M19,M62,M107, NGC 6273 (+6.7) , NGC 6304 (+8.2),NGC 6316(+8.4),NGC 6333(+7.7),NGC 6356(+8.2),NGC 6355(+9),NGC 6402 (70 variables here)(+7.6),NGC 6401(+9.4),NGC 6325(+10.3),NGC 6293(+8.2).

Open clusters.
IC 4665 (“summer Beehive”), stunning large cluster, unusually this is 15 degrees off the galactic plane.
NGC 6633 .

Planetary nebulae
NGC 6369 (“little ghost” +11.5),NGC 6572 (+8.0) the stunning very blue and bright “blue racquetball”), central star visible as a glow, NGC 6309 (+11.5) “box nebula”, NGC 6366 (+9.2).

Individual stars
Carbon star , V (SAO 159916) from +8-+9.4.
Barnard’s star, second nearest star to us, with an astounding 10.3″ proper motion per annum.

Marfik (λ) 1.6″ separates this bright pair (SAO 121658)
Rho (ρ) a group of companions, nearest at 2.9″(SAO 184381)
Σ 2048 dusky companion at 5.6″ at 16h28.8m. -08 08′
61 Ophiuchi , bright pair at 20.6″ (SAO 122690)
69 Ophiuchi,(τ), challenging 1.5″ (SAO 142050)
Σ 2276 twins at 6.9″ (SAO 103373).

A packed constellation, the most stunning view being the very bright “blue racquetball”, a summer showpiece, under clear skies ! Nick.

Summer blast.

Some ace targets as we look into our galaxy, include the Cygnus clusters. Lucky to get a decent view of the Great Red Spot on Jupiter. It seems to have developed a long fine streamer. There is also a noticeable barge to the northern belt.

Plenty of planetary nebulae around. In Cygnus and Delphinus  , two specials. NGC 6826 , the “blinking planetary ” which blinks vividly in and out .All bright planetaries do this trick , but this is the best one ! NCC 6905, the ” blue flash”  catch it right and it is a vivid blue. Not a time for galaxies , but I keep a note for later on as the Summer Triangle is with us into late autumn.Nick.


Great Hercules !

At last , Jupiter settled to give some x150 magnification views, lovely crisp bands and shading. An aperture mask is as good as anything to take off any brightness. Taken to using a large notebook instead of sheets of paper .

Hercules and Serpens are well placed. M5 is a spectacular globular cluster, however the night belonged to “Graff’s Cluster”, IC 4756. A beautiful scattering of stars , filling the eyepiece.

As it didn’t get much darker to midnight , I returned to some of the finest binaries in Hercules. OΣ 341 gives a lovely view of this multiple group , almost like an open cluster. Sarin is probably my favourite here. Expect to use some averted vision to get some of the faintest companions in summer skies. A bit more magnification will darken the field of view, under

clear skies ! Nick.

Hercules , summer views.

Something different from M13 and M92. The two planetary nebulae are very bright and obvious at low power . They both blink into invisibility and return , great to show everyone. Look for the bright , but fuzzy nebulae, focus on the stars, these won’t focus. Higher magnification shows more of the halo and core, but I like the contrast at low power.

NGC 6210 “Turtle nebula” some great excitement as this was one of the first Hubble images , taken to be a turtle eating a shell ! Discovered by Wilhelm Struve looking for binaries. To the south east there is the binary Σ 2016, separated by 7.4″.

“Webb’s Wreath ” is a magnificent ring like asterism. (SAO 85678)

NGC 6229 is a globular cluster some 99,000 light years on the galactic halo.

Very pleased to get these in bright summer and

clear skies ! Nick.


The Veil.

There are few deep sky objects which get the excitement going , this huge (six times the size of the full moon) supernovae remnant is one of the finest. The whole remnant is the “loop” is 100 light years across . Discovered by William Herschel , this must have been some find .

The forces unleashed in supernovas created by nuclear fusion , heavy elements. Gold is an admirable and readily available element thus formed , so is much of ourselves ! These supernova clouds can be recycled to form stars and planets. These gaseous , particulate and glowing clouds are thrilling to trace and observe. Even M1, the ” Crab” nebula looks quite spectacular in darker skies.

There is just the slimmest indication of the arc from light polluted skies. I’ve had the pleasure of showing it to three observers from home , who were quite pleased and amazed to see this for the first time. It’s an easy find off Cygnus. Dark skies will open this out into full wispiness. Even here , differences in darkness will give more to the view. It is possible to spot this by eye from the darkest of sites , along with the North American Nebula and the Great Cygnus Rift.

It’s easy to follow the arc right round from the bright Eastern Veil to the fainter Western Veil. NGC 6995  and NGC 6992 give the brightest areas. A UHC filter will enhance views, greatly darkening the background. Cygni 52 illuminates the Western Veil, look closely , this is a binary star. Even small scopes will show the bright loop.

Its a delight to sit at the scope and sketch some detail. It’ll be there to observe right through until autumn.

The Veil is always top of the list for dark site adventures, under clear skies ! Nick.

Lyra , summer targets.

Endless twilight and little Astronomical darkness, nil desperandum !

The Summer Triangle, led by the very bright Vega is soon up to observe. This is packed with full star fields with multiple stars and easy binaries. The seeing and transparency recently have been stunning. Both faint companions and close splits have been teased out using 4″ aperture. Drop down to Cygnus and we have lots of planetary nebulae and open clusters to enjoy all summer long.

To my surprise my £30 Helios 102mm f10 punched out results comparable to my Vixen 102. These early long refractors are worth seeking out, quality control is all there ! Here are just a few of the classic views in this area, under clear skies ! Nick.

Synscan handset , entering coordinates.


Always amazed at folk struggling with their handsets to get coordinates. If you’re not using a wi fi adapter, eqmod or hooked up to SkySafari , then a stand alone handset can be customised for your objects.




Now view your object ! To go back , press Esc. It becomes second nature and is an easy way to store favourites.Press “9” for your option of “new” or “recall object” . It is your “user” button.


7/5/18 Stunning Jupiter.

Very challenging viewing, transient views between photographic clarity and a blur. I put the focus on lock and drew as the clarity came.

The transit of Ganymede showed the pure white pea moon and a black shadow right on the northern limb. Then the dark GRS appeared with a dark wide band preceding. The views cleared and settled later , but the sky just got lighter. I had a look at some favourites in Lyra. Aladfar gives colour and wonderful contrast to it’s dim companion, worth finding and teasing out. Sheliak is a multiple star in a lovely field of stars.

Dont give up with Jupiter , start off with x100 and work up to x200. I found x150-x160 gave good results. I used a Moon filter to take off the glare and played around with an aperture shield. Relax, go for a brew , the views will come. Challenging as it’s quite low, bad enough with hot air bubbles and mount air kicking light around.

Opposition on Wednesday , worth a shot and enjoy the Summer Triangle under

Clear skies ! Nick.

Jupiter 6th May 2018.

Swadlincote C6r 150 mm f8 achromatic refractor. 13mm Nagler, 6mm circle T, 7.5mm Ultima, x2 Vixen Triplet Barlow.

Lightish sky , but Jupiter eventually climbed to a useful position. Even at low power I could see the shadow of Europa. As this reached the limb, the small and very bright moon was easy to see beneath the shadow. A few minutes later it popped out clear of the limb. Seeing was not bad , with some belt and polar details seen.

Best thing to do is focus on the surface and just leave the focus and let the views arrive. It’s a waste to keep fiddling. I used an aperture mask , a x2 Barlowed 13mm Nagler (giving x150)and later a polarising filter. Try the non observing eye , it might give you a filtered view (Damien is a convert to the non observing eye church !) Filters will change your view for contrast , but not always enhance it. Given that low down we’re looking through 90 miles of atmosphere , it’s little wonder it can be wobbly. However last night and this morning everything was non twinkly still. Best views were about 2.10 before it entered the blasted blooming big oak tree down the road.

i was briefly joined by a huge owl sitting on the hedge , hope no one’s lost an eagle owl, it was big. Not as big as the very bright Iridium flash , going to miss these guys.

Looking around and the whole Summer Triangle was up, not much joy for deep sky with a bright sky. Checked out the Messier’s and headed for some brighter planetaries. It’s lovely to see these as non stellar in wide field, catching some open clusters. Opposition on the 9th May , spend a little time out there , under clear skies,