(Slightly delayed) First Light report on 14 Inch Dob

The American humourist Will Rogers once observed that there are 3 kinds of men: Those who learn by reading, the few who learn by observation and the rest who have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. I’m joining the third category, as, against the advice of just about everyone I’ve discussed it with I’ve decided to get myself a large(ish) Dob.

Although in the last nine months or so, I’ve become interested in Astrophotography I also really enjoy visual observing, and especially hunting for objects. When I saw a 14 inch’er on Astrobuysell that was relatively portable there was only so long I could avoid temptation. Gotta have something to do whilst taking subs…

I’ve managed one short session between the clouds last week, which was a good reminder of the tribulations of getting to know a new scope but also a promise of fun to come. I could not find anywhere convenient to mount my Quickfinder- I put it too close to the eyepiece and managed at one point to head-butt it clean onto the grass. I also found that the 35mm Eyepiece that came with the scope gives truly horrible views (it may have a future career as a paperweight) and that the Azimuth adjustment is pretty sticky- especially near the zenith. All of these things are going to need some sorting. Attempts to observe M42 and M31 were both scuppered by banks of cloud rolling it at the wrong moment, but just as the frustration levels were rising I got M81 in the eyepiece and saw for the first time with my own eyes detail beyond the galaxy core. Next up was M51 and here I could see both cores quite clearly and some of the material that joins them. In five minutes I had swung from irritation to elation and with the clouds now rolling in I went for the Leo triplet, something I just haven’t been able to see from my location before. Just in time I found them- no detail, but the shapes quite easy to see even without averted vision. That was pretty much it, as the clouds rolled over and haven’t really parted since, but enough that I’m very excited about the next clear night…

PS- I’d like to apologise to everyone for invoking “The Curse of the New Scope” and ruining the weather for a few weeks.

Observing – 25/2/18

After a busy weekend and several sessions where I’ve either been trying to take photos or improve my skills at finding objects I thought I’d have a bit of a night off, let the mount do the work, and just enjoy observing a few objects that I’ve been inspired to look at by other reports on this site. The setup for the evening was HEQ5 mount using the Wifi dongle, with the OTA from my 200p Dob (now working well on this mount due to extended counterweight bar- thanks Pete) and mostly with 40, 25 and 7mm EPs.

After a cold day the seeing was pretty good but the moon was bright so I decided to focus mainly on clusters. The objects were:

  • I started off during the alignment trying to see if I could spot Sirius’ companion, but no joy.
  • M35- looked good in the 40mm
  • M46- looked good in the 25mm, spent some time looking for the planetary NGC2437 but couldn’t find it, possibly due to the bright moon which wasn’t too far away in the sky.
  • M47- very pretty in the 25mm.
  • M48 – another new one for me- loved it in the 25mm

I then spotted that Uranus was still just visible from my location so I put the 7mm on and spent a while observing it. I’m still not quite sure if I imagined the green hue or whether it was really visible. Having moved onto solar system objects I thought I’d have a look at Ceres but couldn’t find a way to get to it through the Synscan app on my phone. I was getting a bit cold so I headed in to see if I could work it out and also warm up a little. The way I eventually managed it was by connecting Sky Safari to the Synscan app, however in the hour I was inside, the mount seemed to have moved a little out of alignment and it proved quite fiddly to get to the object- some thoughts on this below. I then returned to clusters:

  • NGC2264 – The Christmas Tree Cluster
  • NGC1502 – Kemble’s Cascade – needed the 40mm for this one, but very pretty and brilliant to see it with my own eyes after failing to star hop to it a couple of weeks ago.
  • M52
  • Eta Cassiopeiae
  • Garnet Star- this was just visible from my location, a stunning red and a great way to finish off the session.

Some thoughts on the WiFi dongle:

This is my fifth/sixth session using it, and whilst I’m still very pleased with it (especially the ease of setup) there are a couple of reservations from the last couple of sessions, primarily based around touchscreen devices in the cold. First point is that the battery level drops much faster in the cold, even when putting the phone in your pocket between adjustments- you really need to make sure there’s a good level of charge before you start. Secondly, the touchscreens seem to become much less responsive in the cold, often needing several “presses” to make them work and on one occasion still seeming to think I had my finger pressed on a button long after I’d let go, resulting in the scope slewing way across the sky away from what I wanted to look at. This is all quite frustrating and can be a bit fiddly. I didn’t experience any of these issues in the first few sessions, where the temperature was 3-6 degrees, but in the last couple where it was zero or below it was really quite frustrating. On the upside, having SkySafari connected to it was brilliant and quite straightforward to do.

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 !


Solar Light Pillar

Forgot to post these…

From the morning of Wednesday 14th Feb.

Hand held Nikon D3 and Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8

The first at 7.22am

70mm ISO 200 1/125sec f/5.6


and the second at 7.26am

70mm ISO 200 1/160sec f/6.3


A light pillar..?

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

An atmospheric optical phenomenon in the form of a vertical band of light which appears to extend above and/or below a light source. The effect is created by the reflection of light from numerous tiny ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere or clouds. The light can come from the Sun (usually when it is near or even below the horizon) in which case the phenomenon is called a sun pillar or solar pillar. It can also come from the Moon or from terrestrial sources such as streetlights.


See here for more details:





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.

An Unexpected Session…

I’ve been working a couple of hours away from home a lot recently and have become accustomed to driving home in what look like great conditions for a bit of star gazing only to arrive to clouds, rain etc…

The BBC weather page definitely wasn’t optimistic, but after dinner the skies were clear (if not especially transparent) and so I decided go for it. I thought in for a penny and set up the photography rig. Target number 1 was to try and get some images of M51, but on setting up I found that it was hiding behind a tree (all 160 billion solar masses of it!) so I looked for something a bit higher in the sky and decided to go for the Double Cluster:

The images is built from 10x 5min guided subs. I left the camera clicking away whilst I put the kids to bed, and by the time I was back  M51 had come out from its hiding place and I attempted the same exposure time. Unfortunately, with the temperature showing -3 in the back garden my camera batteries gave up quicker than usual and I only got 8 before it gave up the ghost. Enough for the results below, however:

M51 Whirlpool

Whilst the camera was working on M51 I got the Dob out for some visual observing. I spent a good few minutes on M42 (does anyone else do this every time they observe? I can’t get enough of this target) and then moved up to Alnitak where the sky was good enough for a hint of nebulosity where the flame nebula is. It then took me a while to find the Crab but I got it eventually before moving onto Andromeda and M110. I decided to go for some new (to me) targets and spent some time looking for M101. I definitely saw something in about the right place but not 100% sure so maybe something to have another go at. I decided to go up towards the zenith and see if I could find Kemble’s cascade, but really struggled to see the stars nearby and couldn’t locate it. It was about then that the camera failed so I got the spare battery out and decided to point the camera at Kemble’s Cascade instead. The first sub wasn’t quite aligned correctly (see below)  and when I tried to re-align the mount my tablet decided it had had enough of the cold as well (touchscreens don’t work well with frost on apparently) which left me unable to control the mount. I was getting properly cold by now, but at least I’d had a bit of an astro-fix….

Kemble's Cascade

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.