M51

This is my go at Messier 51 from Thursday night, using the 200p f5 Newtonian that I picked up earlier this month. My first effort at deep sky with the scope had a few issues with collimation and focus, but a bit of time spent tuning it up seems to have yielded a much better result. This is one of my favourite targets, both for observing and images. To get a grandstand view of a galactic collision with an 8 inch dob in my suburban garden is one of those special moments that makes me love this hobby. In images, I love the stream of stars flung out into space from the encounter- this is the first time, after 3 attempts, that I’ve caught a bit of it.

This image is 35x 4 minute subs with 20 each of flats, darks and bias. Camera is a modded Canon 600d, stacking is in DSS and processing is in Pixinsight.

Observing Log 29/3/2019 @ 20:40 @ 30/3/2019 @ 01:30, Rosliston Forestry Centre, Swadlincote.

Observing Log 29/3/2019 @ 20:40 @ 30/3/2019 @ 01:30, Rosliston Forestry Centre, Swadlincote.

Andrew Thornett

Last night was AGM night at RAG and, after the AGM, we experienced one of those incredible nights – a clear sky that had been predicted all week so that many of us came prepared with telescopes, coats and hats, the latter two probably being the more important as the temperature dropped as the evening wore on!

Those RAG members who went outside to observe included Lee, Rob Leonard (with Sam and James), Nick Rufo/ Bob Williams, Angella and Alan, Ed/ Dave/ Chris Howe/ Chris Ford/ David Dugmore/ Adam/ Roger/Jon Pendleton/ Geoff/ Paul B / Paul Simkins /Pete Simkin /two new Members – Darren and new member Martin (Martin stayed right till the end), Heather, Neil Wyatt and myself.

Neil had bought along a whole imaging setup which was taking subs all night of a variety of targets and provided quite a talking point for astrophotographers and non astrophotographers alike. It still left him plenty of time to observe with the rest of us.

For me, observing started with an ISS pass over the forestry centre, observed from the car park behind the seminar room where we held the AGM. I wish I had bought along my hand held amateur radio to see if we could hear any of the astronomers on the ISS – sometimes they will speak to schools and other groups by ham radio.

I bought along my trusty Sky Watcher Equinox Pro 80mm scope, as it is difficult for me to fit anything bigger in the car on Fridays these days – now that I cart two six foot lads and their kit to school daily and my car boot is full of medical examination equipment. Sadly, there was no time for me to go home and collect a scope after work before RAG started. Although this scope is a trusted workhorse, and I had a great view of the Beehive Cluster through it, last night was not the night of small scopes but a time for the big Dobsonian light buckets. I could not see any galaxies in the Virgo cluster with my small scope last night – contrast this with Rob’s scopes below….

Rob Leonard bought along his 8 inch Sky Watcher Dob, in my view the best value telescope available new in the UK today, and we observed M51, M65 and M66, and M81 and M82, in that telescope. Rob also found clusters in Auriga, amongst others. I was quite proud to have found the Owl Nebula using this scope and my OIII filter. At this time of the night, this object was very faint.

The evening was initially partially cloudy but it cleared around midnight and for those of us that stayed the fun then really began. Rob erected his USA Orion 14 inch Dob and this scope was simply fantastic. It became a galaxy feist – I found nine galaxies within two fields of view around M86/Markarian’s Chain within a few seconds and the issue became identifying which was which. I could see the third NGC galaxy in the M65/M66 trio, Rob found the Sombero Galaxy, the Needle Galaxy and the Black Eye Galaxy. He even showed us the core of M101 – a very difficult object indeed to find.

I really just congratulate Rob on his excellent scopes and on his impressive star hopping abilities. This particular Orion USA Dob is an intelliscope version that he purchased second hand without intelliscope digital setting circle so he does rely currently on his abilities and as the above list shows it does not stop him at all!

I had to leave at 01:30 am due to commitments the following day but I left Rob and Neil with their scopes, continuing to observe and image the night sky. I wonder what great sights they saw after I left?

Andy

A Virgo galaxy selection 28-29/03/2019

As Rob alluded to the other day – so much choice, so little time!

Anyway here is a selection of images from last night.

Firstly a nice pair NGC 4762 and NGC 4754.

 

Then on to NGC 4222, NGC 4216 and NGC 4206, a nice triplet of edge-on galaxies. This one is a mosaic of 3 images, in fact.

A nice dust lane is visible in NGC 4216.

 

 

NGC 4216 has a 15.4 magnitude companion – PGC 39247

Then on to NGC 4608. This is a barred spiral, but I could only get the bar.

Finally, a pair of ellipticals, NGC 4461 and NGC 4458

All these images were acquired with a senseup of 1024 and are a stack of 20 of these – around 400 sec exposure in total.

Stacked in Registax 5 and processed in GIMP.

Solar scope resolution

Take a look at this image of a prominence:

http://spaceweathergallery.com/indiv_upload.php?upload_id=152690

it is the same one as in my image that I have just posted (although a day or so earlier)

Look at how much more detail there is than in my image.

I have speculated about this before, and concluded it is down to the small 35mm aperture of the Lunt.:

Some solar scope calculations

Anyone out there with more aperture care to prove the point?

Galaxy Quest! Observing Report 25/3/19

A clear sky and a free evening coincide at last!

First up was setting up the 200p for an imaging run on M101 (still stacking!) and then a nice little session with Sam and the 8 inch Dob.

Betelgeuse was first up and discussing how if it was where the Sun was we’d be in it!
The Orion Nebula at 48x was a nice site, with the 4 brighter trapezium stars quite distinct.
We then moved onto the Double Cluster which filled the eyepiece at the same magnification- so many stars!
Finally we had a look at M65 and M66 in the Leo Triplet.

A bit of family time and then back out with the 14″ for a more serious session.

In Auriga- M36, M37 and M38 were a good place to start, they’re sliding off to the West now and in a better place for comfort and (from my location) light pollution and seeing. I was swapping between the 24mm Baader zoom and the 35mm Orion that came with the scope, and whilst the 35mm offered a better Field of View the 24mm had better contrast and brighter stars. It became clear during this time that whichever eyepiece I was using, the seeing was good and conditions were better than they’ve been for weeks.

Next up I returned to Leo and the triplet. As usual M65 & 66 were quite easy to see, but whilst the 35mm needed averted vision to see NGC3389, it was quite clear in the Baader zoom with direct vision and that eyepiece remained in the scope for the rest of the session. M105 and friends were quite clear and continued the evening’s theme of multiple galaxies in a single field of view.

And so- over to Virgo- starting at Vindemiatix and hopping up to M60, with M59 again in the same view. Whilst looking around and enjoying the pairing, with both galaxies showing a bit of shape, NGC 4638 popped out at me as well. With the conditions better than for weeks I then embarked on a wander through the wonders of Virgo that went well past bed o’clock but where the next object was rarely more than a Field of View away. From my notes:

M84 Bright Core, no Shape
M86 Bright with some shape
M88 Yeah! Bright, some shape
M89 Core very bright- but no shape
M90 Clear flat elipse; some shape with AV
M91 V faint- no shape
NGC4638 Quite easy to distinguish
NGC4564 Clearly seen
NGC4568 AV Only
NGC4477 Direct Vision
NGC4479 AV Only
NGC4473 Clearly seen with DV
NGC4458 AV Only
NGC4461 AV Only
NGC4435 Clear and distinct from other Eye
NGC4438 Clear and distinct from other Eye
NGC4388 Flat shape
NGC4413 V Faint but direct
NGC4402 Faint- AV only
NGC4476 Quite clear next to M87
NGC4478 Quite clear next to M87
NGC4486a Quite clear next to M87

Altogether that’s 30 galaxies observed in quite a small segment of sky. I was discussing with my wife afterwards my fascination with looking at these. In many ways they’re no spectacle at all- fuzzy patches of lighter sky, some of them little more than mottling against darkness. Yet when viewing them with the knowledge of what they are, of the vast eons across which this light has travelled, and of the journey we have been on as a species to reach our present knowledge plus the many open questions that remain about them they are, in the most literal sense, awesome. All this was combined with a little buzz of achievement- several times last year I tried to galaxy hop through Virgo to Markarian’s and always found myself losing track somewhere and returning to the start point. There were a few shaky moments last night but the feeling of accomplishment at the end was quite immense.

I spent today at a corporate event needing to look bright eyed and bushy tailed which required rather a lot of coffee. I’m not sure I was making much sense by the end, but it was well worth it!

AR2736 development

AR2736 has developed rapidly, unusual, since we haven’t seen a decent sunspot for a while.

“Spaceweather” says:

“A few days ago, sunspot AR2736 didn’t exist. Now, the rapidly-growing active region stretches across more than 100,000 km of the solar surface and contains multiple dark cores larger than Earth. Moreover, it has a complicated magnetic field that is crackling with C-class solar flares.”

The images are fairly poor due to the extreme acute angle with the double glazing!