Two Years on M13

While listening to the election results last night I had a go  a t combining my M13 data from last week (2 minute subs) with my June 2018 data (30 second subs). On average the June data wasn’t quite as high scoring because of the shorter exposures, but I was ruthless in getting rid of poor scoring frames from May (I’d already culled last year’s data). The combination seems to have been effective in keeping detail right to the middle of the cluster.

M13 Globular Cluster in Hercules two years data
M13 Globular Cluster in Hercules two years data

Spectroscopy with CCDSPEC 27/4/2019 Vega and Deneb and failed attempt to get M57

Using CCDSPEC spectrometer with Equinox Pro 80mm hand guided on Manfrotto mount.

Calibration pictures – Compact Fluorescent Bulb:

I use the following picture which I prepared using data from Wikipediato help with calibration using CFL bulbs.

Vega – I took spectra of Vega at two points tonight:


Failed attempt to obtain spectra of M57 Ring Nebula (As you can see lines do not line up especially 5800A hydrogen line which is very bright in the nebula = I think what I thought was M57 was in fact another star – I need to get a flip mirror to help finding faint objects for CCDSPEC.

Continuing to fix roof on our log cabin observatory

This post follows on from our previous post:

Next stage of putting new shingles on roof of our log cabin/observatory in Lichfield

Rhys and I completed the rows of shingles on our observatory roof in our garden. The most difficult bit was the final row at the apex, which involved particular cuts of the shingles (as per IKO video on YouTube).

Rhys did most of the difficult work up on the roof of the log cabin today – and the final look of the roof is excellent due to his carefulness re: alignment, etc.

We tested the roof afterwards using a hosepipe and not a drop of water leaked inside so looks like a job well done. Very pleased.

Now I need to finish off the edges. I am going to paint the cabin with creosote (the real McCoy) and get it up into all the nooks and crannies I get reach under the edges of the shingles before tacking them down along the edge. I will then screw batons along the edges to hide the edges of the shingles and improve the look. I still need to pop into Tippers in Lichfield and buy these batons.

Today, Rhys and I walked down to Wilkes to buy paintbrushes, including an extendable one and another for getting around corners. All this effort is because the last time I painted the log cabin with creosote I got a little bit on my arm and it irritated it for a week. I will be wearing goggles and I have also bought some of those veterinary gloves that go right up your arms to protect me this time. Horrible stuff – but then since I painted the cabin with it three years ago there has been no more fungus appearing.


A Year of Observing

“You’re writing a blog about a spreadsheet???” My wife has just discovered that not only have I adopted the habit over the last couple of years of sitting in the garden on clear dark nights and then making notes about it, but I’ve then been putting it into a spreadsheet and getting statistics about it. And now I’m sharing it in public. She’s giggling at me with what I hope is affection…

Last year I bought a 14 inch dob and after a few months enjoying the views and wandering through the skies I decided I wanted to be a bit more rigorous and start planning my sessions, so I started making notes on my phone of what I wanted to look at after reading observing reports on the web. I quickly moved onto recording the success or otherwise of these observations on a black notepad on my phone (to minimise disruption to my dark adjustment, although to be honest, in Bortle 5 skies it doesn’t make a huge difference), and it was a short step from there to Excel. I just spotted I’ve been doing this for around a year so I thought I’d share it, partly out of curiosity to see how it compares with others experiences…

Stating the obvious: we get quite a lot of cloud.

If it’s clear, I’m not doing family stuff and work’s not in the way then I’ll go out and observe. Altogether I’ve recorded 26 sessions. I’m pretty sure there have been more than that- if I’m observing in company I’m much less diligent about recording it. I also sometimes have quick sessions with my 8 inch for half an hour and I’m a bit rubbish about recording those too. So: 26 is roughly the number of ‘proper’ sessions where I’ve sat outside with a target list and written it down. From this I reckon twice a month is a good working average for how often I can do a ‘good’ session.


No of Objects 149
Messiers 65
No of Observations 280

If I was a bit disappointed to realise how infrequent observing sessions are, I was quite surprised by how many objects I’ve managed to record during that period- including quite a good chunk of the Messier catalogue. I suspect I’ve managed to get through most of the easier ones. From my location, although my southern horizon goes down to a few degrees in places, I’m looking directly over rooftops and at the dome of light pollution of Burton on Trent and often the orange haze makes finding reference stars to hop from very difficult, so I’ll probably need to make more effort to get to dark sites to grow this list a bit.


I wasn’t surprised to find that there are some objects I come back to again and again, but I was quite surprised to find the Leo triplet at the top of the list, although on 3 of those occasions I couldn’t find NGC3628. M13 is less of a surprise, I never get tired of looking at it and trying to resolve as far as possible into the core. I notice that over time I’ve been less inclined towards the higher magnifications. The Double Double is a favourite first port of call, both because it tells me how good the seeing is, and also whether my mirror has cooled. Plus, I love the idea of it as a vast interstellar executive toy- with six components that we can’t see. I’m sure M42 would have overtaken all of these if it were visible for more of the year and not so subject to winter weather.


Something I’ve not done much of is logging how often I can’t find or see things. The Horsehead is conspicuous by its absence (I picked up an H-Beta filter in March, but just missed out on the HH) and I really want to see Stephan’s Quintet visually- this will need darker skies! I suspect that if I was logging more diligently the times I’ve failed to find either of those targets they’d be quite high up on the list and I’m going to start doing that. I’m also going to record a bit more about where I observe (usually my back garden) and what equipment used.

I’ve attached the spreadsheet I’ve used in case anyone wants to re-use the format- it’s pretty basic and has just sort of grown organically as I’ve added bits and pieces to it. It’s a bit of effort to keep it up to date, but I’m glad I did it as it’s been interesting to look back over it and remind myself of what I’ve seen- It’s also a reminder of how great visual astronomy can be when you’re suffering the frustration of several weeks of cloud cover.

I’m going to brush over the slightly worrying and repeated experience, of reading about targets, thinking they sound great, then finding I’ve already seen them…

Log 18-19


New illuminated eyepiece for CCDSPEC Spectrometer

I am quite excited about this new Meade Illuminated 9mm eyepiece – it has adjustment screws which can Chang ether XY position of the cross hairs and allow me to align the cross hairless exactly over the spectrometer slit on my CCDSPEC spectrometer overcoming a problem I have using it at Night – the fact that i can’t see where the slit is in the dark!! Up until now I have relied on the fact that a star separates into a small spectrum when it reaches the slit but this can be hit and miss at Night.

I have tried 12.5mm illuminated eyepiece without adjustment screws (also shown below for comparison) – that is OK but the cross hairs are not quite on the slit so still can be difficult in practice getting single star in correct position.

Can’t wait to try this out under the stars….


CCDSPEC with new Meade 9mm illuminated eyepiece in position:

Photos with Samsung S7 phone through illuminated eyepiece showing slit and cross hairs of eyepiece with and without being adjusted so they are in correct position:

Photo of 12.5mm illuminated eyepiece for comparison:

Spots from the Window-sill 23/05/2019

Jupiter again from the window-sill

Poorer conditions than last night. Lots of thin cloud wafting about. PD camera this time but image poorer. However the GRS was predicted to do a meridian transit at 01:08 UT, so this time the dark blob on the SEB IS the GRS! I think the light spots are real too. See:

I consider that despite the poor quality of the image, it a minor triumph that I can see the GRS at all from the window-sill!

Must get the proper scope out, without forgetting that “The best telescope is the one you use the most!”