Dark sky report.

Glenluce Bay . Dumfries and Galloway. 11/10/18 15×70 binoculars.

Away from light pollution , the skies here have been stunning .Some greenish glow of northern lights from the north west. These are some of our darkest skies and our fourth trip here.

The clear bright Milky Way ends at Deneb, then switches to the side of Cygnus at Gienah through to Aquila. From Deneb to Albireo it’s bright then ends. The rifts , coalsack and tears of this area are stunning by eye.

Facing Triangulum, M33 is bright and spiralled. Bodes(M81 and M82 )both in the view showing their shapes and brightness. Even M51 shows that it’s more than a single glow.

One span of Cassiopeia, to the left , you’ll find length of “Kemble’s cascade”. It looked like a long straight rod with hockey stick ending . Really stunning sight.

Had a look at some clusters. M39,M34, double cluster, clusters of Cassiopeia including NGC 7789, “Carolines rose” . A scan along Cassiopeia and Cygnus gives plenty clusters. Tried x8 binoculars on the double cluster . Got both with a chain going up to the huge Stock 2. Just a stunning sight.
From Sagitta found M27 , bright and very obvious in the Vulpecula starfield.

Looked for the usually obvious Cepheus , could only find it looking for the bulge from the MW. Mu Cephei , Garnet star very bright at the base. Constellations in the Milky Way just de shape into the background . Even pointing binoculars at a bright known star and it soon melts into the granular star background.
Below Aquila , plenty clusters down to Sagittarius, a packed sky to our galactic centre.

Lovely to easily see the constellations such as Delphinus , Lynx and Pisces by eye. Before packing up got M13 and then up to get a very bright M92.

Wind got up, yellow storm warning on the way.
Really lovely sky , might bring a scope next time,
Clear skies !

Backlash explained.


I found this most useful to explain one of the mysteries of mount alignment. Belt drive and the latest firmware are designed to eliminate this.

All that is required is careful use to a regime. If you can gently adjust your drive to give free running meshing without play , so much the better. The heavy grunge grease found in mounts is there for a reason ! Nick.

Power of dark skies.

Glenluce , Dumfries and Galloway.6-7 th October 2018.

Set up in a holiday cottage some 20 miles from the Galloway star party. Overlooking Glenluce Bay , as soon as it got dark , the sky was awesome. So many clusters by eye, the Milky Way was hugely dominant . The rifts, tears and size of our galaxy were amazing , glowing through the Cygnus star cloud , then coming to the coal sac. Cassiopeia had just disappeared in stars. Spent a long time just by eye, especially down to the Galaxy centre in Sagittarius, occluded by clusters. Following the handle of Ursa Major down I found Arcturus , making a kind to the star studded Vega . Along this line , the huge clear arc of Corona Borealis and the keystone of Hercules with an obvious M13. Looking up to Andromeda , M32 was startlingly obvious with the smudge of M33 at the end of Triangulum. The double cluster glowed from mid stream of the MW.

I only had my 15×70 and 8×60 binoculars and a bird spotting scope, no finder . Just slowly and carefully I got the shapes of “Bodes nebula” . M31 just filled the view. M33 gave the central knots and two dominant spirals. M35 was just lost in the bright stream brushing the feet of Gemini. How fantastic to catch the MW brushing Auriga, Orion and Gemini. Open clusters just sparkled , NGC 7789 was a thrilling sight as were the Auriga clusters and the wonderfully buzzing M44. Taurus was ablaze with stars. Managed a very bright M27, M34 and NGC 752 ( one of Caroline Herschel’s in Andromeda).

I phoned up Paul a couple of times to see how the star party was going and give him a nudge to some targets. He said there were 25 there , with a queue at his 5″ frac to see the double cluster.

Packed in , very happy at 3am. I’ve probably missed out more than I could see.  Not so good weather for the rest of the week, but that sky was just memorable ,


The “Ram’s eyes” and powdered glass !

Swad. 30/9/18 C6r 22mm and 5mm LVW

Set up after 6, four forecasts promised clear skies , wall to wall. Just a thought and I covered the mount . It then rained very hard !

After the rain, a few hours before the moon. These are ace. The Cygnus clusters were just stunning !

Mesartim. What a bright stunning sight at low power. Glaring out of the dark : The “ram’s eyes”!
1 Arietis. (01h53.5 +19 18′ ) a 2.9″ split , giving yellow and blue.
λ Arietis (SAO 75051 ) yellow and blue.
30 Arietis (SAO 75471)

I got 33 Arietis with ΟΣ43 at one side . ΟΣ43 ιs a bit below one arc second. The seeing was ultra stable. I could just about squeeze out a peanut shaped diffraction disc. ( remember that we don’t actually see stars, your Optics squeeze the light into diffraction discs. By slight defocussing you can get very close bright companions to show up) Diffraction discs by defocussing are very handy for testing out refractor Optics.

I’ve marked the best of the little known Cygnus and Vulpecula clusters.They really are most spectacular , powdered glass really hits the mark here in NGC 6819.

I turned to Cygnus high in the south west as it’s opposite the moon glow. The open clusters really showed up. I’ve marked the best ones here with asterisks.There are some favourites here.

The open clusters are temporary . They don’t have the tight centres and gravity of globular clusters to hold them together. Sooner or later they drift apart to leave lonely stars. Be interesting to find out if our own Sun was part of a cluster or constellation !

The targets found are fairly easy and ideal for moonlight and other light polluted skies , Nick.

“Pacman nebula ” and clusters in Cassiopeia.

Swadlincote  29/9/18 Vixen 102 Vixen lvw 22mm and lvw 5.0 mm eps, Oiii filter.

Stunningly dark , just a quick session before the moon climbed up. 4″ aperture catches open clusters , giving good contrast and colour.

Revisited the great number of open clusters in Cassiopeia. A great range here , from wide huge sparse clusters to compact dusty ones. An amusing “Loch Ness Monster ” cluster , Cr 463 showed up rearing it’s head .

I was very surprised to catch nebulosity in NGC 281 ( IC 1590 ) with an Oiii filter. Closing into the central bright star , it resolves into the delicate triple of Burnham 1.

Psi Cassiopeiae (SAO 11751 ) showed as a delightful triple , with the paired companion. I measured h2028 with the astrometric eyepiece , getting 60″ , pretty good ! Clear skies ! Old Nick.


Observing and Imaging 17th September


It’s been a sparse few months for imaging. As well as the short nights of the summer months I’ve also had a few problems with my DSLR, plus the roads around my house have all been fitted with tall bright LED lights (see photo below, showing how much bigger they are) rendering my light pollution filter useless and limiting me to subs <1min. To fight back I’ve invested in the new version of the IDAS filter which offers some relief, plus a second hand Canon 600d with the IR filter removed. Monday was my first chance to use it, and I decided to go for M31 for the purposes of comparison with previous camera and streetlights. After setup I had an hour to try it out and the results are quite promising- I think I’ve gained more from the new kit than I’ve lost from the LEDs. There are some further things that I can do to improve it (I think I can get away with longer exposures, plus I want to try and make a cooling unit for it)- but altogether I’m quite pleased. It’s 20x 180s exposures on a 130 pd-s, with guiding, plus dark, bias and flats.


Whilst the imaging rig was doing its stuff I went for some instant gratification with the Dob. Whilst the LED lighting has hurt the imaging it seems to be better for the visual. At a RAG meeting a while back there was discussion of how counting stars in Pegasus would give you a good indication of your light pollution levels. I went home and found I had a depressing big fat zero. Although the new lights are brighter, they are better directed and I can now see 3 or 4 (faint) stars. This realisation was a good start to an enjoyable session- transparency seemed pretty good, and I doubt there’ll be another session this year where it’s too warm for a jacket. From the observing log:

M71 – Struggled to get my eye in to start with and I found it a tricky find, but satisfying once in.
M15 – Really bright central core and with a ring of resolved stars around it covering around a quarter of the eyepiece at 220x
M2 – Was tighter and not quite so bright or widespread but still a nice view
M52 – Gorgeous open cluster- 30-40 bright stars and many much fainter ones. Tried it at 220x, 70x and 45x and the middle magnification was the best- really filling the view. Highlight of the night.
NGC7789 – Caroline’s Rose – Another nice open cluster- but quite faint, and I couldn’t really see the rose. Maybe it’s like one of those Magic Eye pictures.
M103 – A nice triangular shaped with a lovely red quite central in the Eyepiece.

Monday night’s a bit early in the week to stay up late, and the only downer was packing up as the skies were getting better still. At least I was heading to bed with a full memory card ready for the clouds and rain that have dominated the remainder of the week…


How to turn iPad screen red for observing sessions

Thanks to Damian for these instructions



  1. Settings
  2. General – accessibility shortcut on right at bottom
  3. Colour filters – tick on
  4. General – display accommodations
  5. Colour filters tick on
  6. Choose colour tint
  7. Touch finger on red crayon
  8. Increase intensity right up

Once set up the red colour can be turned on and off by clicking home button 3x in quick succession.

Observing 17-18 th October.

Swadlincote 17-18/9/18 Vixen 102 on heq5pro pro mount.

What 4″ of aperture in light pollution can do.

It is a constant source of amazement and pleasure to observe targets from here. We are surrounded by some nine streetlights , neighbours with security lights and no curtains. Using poles and dark throws has quartered off an observing area. It’s also on the hedgehog highway, they have been known to trundle past through the tripod legs.

The night started very favourably with Saturn below a low yellowish Moon. Mars was still wobbling. It was great to set up about eight and finish about two. Some beautiful targets. I haven’t done the research on their stories yet.

It’s often enjoyable just to look at them. I turned to Cygnus as it passed the zenith and again caught NGC 6811 , ” the hole in the cluster” . There was good dark sky action with M27, the blue snowball, Eastern Veil and even a core to NGC 7331.

Here’s a few targets off the beaten track.

Lacerta gives the most stunning background , set in the stream of the Milky Way. Of the open clusters , NGC 7209 is an old favourite. There are some pretty delicate pairs in NGC 7394 and NGC 7245.

Onto a few binaries here , the inline h ( Herschel)1735 being triple. I was very surprised to catch a tiny field star next to the pair of 8 Lacertae. 13 Lacertae is a ticklish challenge.

Then a Star Trek to the northern constellations. NGC 7510 in Cepheus is a wondrous cluster. There is a dusty triangle at low power, like fairy dust ! NGC 7686 gave a beautiful bright shape in Andromeda. I started on the Perseus binaries . Straight away theta Persei gave the most challenging tiny spec of a companion. ΟΣ 81 and DOO 7 I caught in the same view.

No great aperture here (4″), no great magnification , going from x42 to x77 with one at x182. Next time out it’ll be trying out the Baader astrometric eyepiece, to verify some separations and ensure the capture of those elusive faint multiples, under ,

clear skies ! Nick.