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.

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

Current early “Double doubles”.

In addition to the current early morning Lyra giving the” double doubles “of epsilon and the wider Σ 2470 Σ2474, there are some earlier and easier “double doubles. ” These are bright , easy to find and easy with small aperture.

Σ7 ( appears as Σ17 on the map ) with Σ401, paralell pairs.(SAO 75970)     (Near the Pleiades)
Σ742 paralell to Σ740 ( near M1)
Σ674 and Σ680 , pairs with near identical separations and magnitudes.

Σ1088 and Σ1087, nicely angled.
Σ1007 and h3288 in a full field.  

These rare wonderful sights will hopefully spur you on to the pleasures and treasures of binary stars,

under clear skies !

Observing report 19/1/18

Swadlincote, Celestron 150 f8 frac.

Welcome the unexpected visitor armed with binoculars, cake and plenty questions. No panic, the sky to me ,wasn’t it’s best. Fourth session this year , a couple of years back I managed 15 in January.

You can’t really ignore the guy a few doors away who starts cutting up patio slabs at 9, the eye watering intoxicating fumes of smokey substance wafting across. Then there’s the 10,000 Watt security light next door that bleaches Orion out. Ignore constant freight air traffic to EMS.

Questions ? “Winter Albireo, can we have a look , we won’t get the one under Sirius yet ?” ” Can you show me where “Kemble’s Cascade “is ? ” Can we look at some colourful and interesting binaries ?” Err, that’ll be a big grin and a yes from me. First comment “wow , what a sky , you’re lucky”.

Walk this way , open the light absorbing curtains to the observing arena. Don’t move around too much , one day I’ll replace the slabs with concrete, just before Hell freezes over. Ignore the guy with the angle grinder and don’t breathe in too deeply as you’re driving back . Just close your eyes when everything goes white and ignore the sky in the south west, arc lights from the golf driving range . Ignore the fact that folk don’t have curtains , enjoy.

Enjoy by constellations.

Auriga. The lovely overlooked diamond and colours to the open cluster NGC 2281. M37. Always a treat.

Gemini. ” The Eskimo” NGC 2392, take it up to x216 for the central star and the hood . No better with an Oiii filter. It’s some 3000 light years away.M35 , stunning.  Mu Geminorum,good red primary. Wasat , spot the companion out of the primary glare, historical star , nearby Herschel found Uranus in 1781. 38 Geminorum ,great triple.

Perseus. Double cluster at x30 ” could just sit here and look at this”.

Cepheus .The “Garnet Star”, gasp of wow. I put a 4.5inch aperture mask on ( looked better on the scope!) to pull the colour out.

“Kemble’s Cascade”, top span on Cassiopeia. Go that span to the left. As it’s now upright .That’ll be above it,a bit of neck ache and a few nearly fallings over ,but the chain to the pole is there. Good in 8×40 bins, easy find.

Monoceros. Again NGC2301, “Hagrid’s Dragon”, fill the eyepiece at x100. Wings , neck and landing wheels.  Beta Monocerotis, our most beautiful triple, but seeing wasn’t that good. NGC2264 and the Christmas tree,bit bleached by town lights. Humidity was taking away some contrast.

Orion. We put in the Oiii, but there was plenty green colour to nebulosity without it.NGC2169 and the reversed “37”. NGC 1981, sigma Orionis and a binocular view of Meissa. New one for me, go half a degree south of Betelgeuse and there are the lovely wide twins of Σ817 (SAO 113266) , with Betelgeuse to the side of the view, tasty .We dropped down to Lepus to get “Hind’s Crimson”, not at its best guessing it was at the low bit of variability.

Cancer, iota, the other “Winter Albireo “, another wow, on with mask and a long lingering observe of this most glorious of colourful wide pairs. M44 filled the view, now visible by eye, sky was getting better. A fine view of Ceres, we checked against SkySafari, caught by a triangle of stars.

Taurus. ” those two close stars in Hyades are they binary ?”, yep , only a few visible by eye. Time to point out that Aldebaran is half way to us and not a member of the cluster. 59 Tau gave blue and gold (SAO 76573) and it was a delightful stunning view of another double double ,Σ7 and Σ401 (SAO 75979) that kept us looking. These are paralell and different. Why folk try to chase fuzzy things from the edge of town escapes me, when there are easy and beautiful targets given by clusters and binaries.

Ursa Major . 65 UMa (SAO 43945), an old favourite and a lovely triple. Σ 1603, because they are alone in the fov, they do look like headlights in the dark. “Bode’s”, M81 looked better than its neighbour.

If you collect info, it’ll come in useful to share the views. Here’s some I made earlier !
Light cloud was coming in and within minutes , it went from nicely dark to gone. Very interesting session,we managed a few more of the best and most colourful binaries. We hit quite a few of the 200 most beautiful double star  list.

To have a very appreciative observer is a great bonus, to select from the very best of the sky gave us some great views, under clear skies !

Observing report 19/1/18

Swadlincote. Celestron C6r 

A chilly morning with some surprises. First was a very bright fireball just before 2.25am falling from the area of Bootes in the east . It left a long bright orange trail, one of the best I’ve seen. Quite amazing to see the sudden white flare out of nowhere.

A tour around the Messier’s , including the Virgo, Coma Berenice’s , Leo and Canes Venatici galaxies. Sky was slightly Milky with contrast suffering , but it did improve very much later on ,enough to catch the lovely open cluster NGC 2281, really stunning for brightness and colour. Managed to split “Tegmine” at x216, always a favourite.

Canes Venatici the long “Whale” , NGC 4631, the resolvable NGC 4449, M63 (“Sunflower “) and a bright M3. I put on an aperture mask to catch the dark orange of “La Superba” ( Y CnV), what a sight ! Coma Berenices , M53 and the “Blackeye galaxy” M64.

A real surprise was finding Porrima in ( Gamma Virginis) so very wide open at x150, a very bright and beautiful pair, quite unachievable when it closed down to as little as .4″. Now appears just below 3″. Much easier than even last year at lower magnifications . I did manage previously with an 8″ Newt at x200, but this is something else , a beautiful bright open binary , at least 2.7″. A star which was not considered as an observable binary .Really worth finding as you dip into the bowl of galaxies.

I caught the shape of M104 ( “Sombrero galaxy”) in the same view as the quadruple group of Σ 1664. It looks like a little cluster , called “little Sagitta”, does resemble the constellation. Another good view is the red star 35 Virginis . Again a bit of aperture reduction brought out the best colour. A tour of Bootes showed some of the very best binaries including Izar and the wonderful triple Alkalurops.

Finished with a wobbly Jupiter, nice big disc at x150 and a small Mars, both over the heat of town.
I haven’t done much research on the above , but plenty to look up and find out. The fireball was thrilling , but finding an open Porrima topped that under clear skies,


Observing , January.

Some decent nights , but the dreaded Jet Stream is not being kind to provide clear and stable skies.

Swadlincote. Celestron 150 f8 refractor (C6r).23mm Panoptic,13mm Nagler and 5.5mm Meade 5000SWA.


Pisces , constellation of the month.

Pisces is out of the path of the Milky Way , poor for deep sky and often over looked. A lovely early evening target it sits high in the south. Comfy enough to take a seat at the scope and enjoy a mass of binary stars. Sissy Haas gives some detailed 27 , 6 of which appear in the top 200 most beautiful stars.

Σ3009 shows a very delicate companion .(SAO 128160)
35 Piscium, yellow and blue at 11.4″ (SAO 109087)
38 Piscium, this is a multiple with a tight A and a dim third companion. Plenty colour in the AB.
51 Piscium, blue white and blue companion (SAO 109262)
55 Piscium, Orange and blue, plenty colour here (SAO 74182)
65 Piscium , Orange pair.
77 Piscium , Orange and white pair (SAO 109666)
psi1(ψ1 ) Piscium, lovely wide yellow pair.(SAO 74482)
ζ (Zeta) Piscium, lovely wide pair (SAO 109739)
Σ155 Piscium , 4.9″ split picked up in the 102 at x40. Also picked out the delicate companion to 42 Piscium.
There are plenty more targets here , enough for a very pleasant and comfortable evening’s viewing .

The best of Aries.

After some years of chasing fuzzies and easily picking out Triangulum and M33 , it was a joy to drop down and explore the stars of Aries. The last couple of nights I revisited some of the best and a couple of new to me Struves, Σ326 and Σ394.
1 Arietis, gives a yellow and blue at 2.9″.
γ (Mesartim), a favourite and rightly known as the twin “rams eyes”.
λ Arietis (SAO 75051) is wide and delicate.
14 Arietis (SAO 75171) gives a wide triple.
30 Arietis (SAO 75471) gives yellow and blue at 38.7″.
Σ 291 gives a triple.
π Arietis (SAO 93127) gives a straight line triple.
41 Arietis gives a straight line quadruple.
Σ326 at 02h56.7m. +26 56′ gives a 4.8″ split.
Σ394 gives a yellow and blue 6.8″ at 03h29.0m. +20 31′.
Plenty action herd and caught right a comfy seat at the scope to enjoy.

A tour for our granddaughter.

Chilly out there , seeing was decidedly wobbling at times. Started off with our eldest granddaughter appearing and asking for the sky tour. Kicked off with a lovely bright clear disc of Uranus, “can you see it by eye ?”.

Then chose some highlights high up to avoid not reaching the focuser. Started with M31 at x30 , that got a “wow”.Onto Bode’s , told me the shapes and brightness. Quite some detail in M82.

Chose 30 Arietis and the stunning “Piazzi’s flying double” of 61 Cygni. Strange to see the Summer Triangle still up. The “Blue Snowball” in Andromeda provided amusement , not only commented on as being blue, but magically disappearing with direct vision , “magic !” Did the same trick with the “Eskimo” in Gemini.

Our young observer had pointed out the Pleiades and got counting , young eyes ! We had a scanning look at x30. What else to amuse ? The double cluster put the focuser nice and low and got another wow. M35 filled the screen and NGC 2169 ” it’s a 37 !”

Suitably returned to the warm , I continued the tour with the Trapezium, NGC 1981 and “Hagrid’s Dragon ” the glorious NGC 2301 in Monoceros. Caught NGC 2244 and 2264 as in the area. The sickle was up and I found Ceres, the size of India at 1.7AU.

Returning to Aries , I caught Σ326 and yellow and blue Σ394.Difficult serving made it difficult to split Tegmine, but M67 provided a lovely sight.

Good to have keen young eyes out there , quite a challenge to pick out highlights from the usual obscure under clear skies ! Nick.

RAG junior member fun

With a clear (cold) night forecast and no school the next day last night was a great and rare chance to do some family astronomy, so we invited Ben and mum Jules over. Mindful of the plunging temperature I lit a fire in the back garden and set up both the 130 pds with the Go-to and camera and got the Dob out.

Fire or not, it was a bit parky to stay out for long, but we still had the chance to do a round of the Crab Nebula, The Orion Nebula, Betelgeuse and Andromeda and discuss each one.  There was lots of discussion of “that splodge there” and so on, and it was great to be sociable whilst looking up at the sky! Hope the weather is kind to us and it’s not too long before we do it again.