A little observing in France

We’ve had our last few summer holidays camping in France under wonderfully dark skies. As my interest in the night sky has grown I’ve wanted to bring my scope along- but as this would have involved deciding which of the children to leave behind, Mrs Leonard has said no! Inspired by what I’ve seen some of the club members achieve with much smaller scopes I found myself on eBay and eventually came away with a Meade ETX105. It has a nice sturdy mount with it, but with space really at a premium I was forced to use an alternative mount on this trip, otherwise known as a collapsible camping cupboard! It worked reasonably well, but rather lacks the heft and stability of the proper tripod…

Week 1 was something of a loss, with my not having accounted for the tall trees that covered the whole area, but one morning the moon did drift across the clearing our tent was pitched in and I ended up with a little audience of observers who came across from the playground to take a look. Also managed to get a couple of pictures…

Week 2 was rather better- the campsite was next to a busy road and rather light polluted, but a short drive to the beach (with Sam for company) solved that. The skies were pretty dark from 10pm onwards and once the scope was aligned we spent a long time looking at Saturn. It was noticeably higher in the sky than at home and the view was really clear and crisp in the 7mm eyepiece. It was only Sam’s second observing session so I spent the rest of the session teaching him the controller and looking at M13 Hercules Cluster, M31 Andromeda and M57 Ring Nebula. Hercules and Andromeda were bright and clear but the 4 inch struggled a bit with M57. The real highlight, though, was the great views without the scope of the Milky Way- clear and bright from out over the Atlantic 2/3 of the way across the sky to where the onshore light pollution washed it out a little. I’ve taken quite a few photos on various settings with the camera on a simple tripod and it’ll be a cloudy evenings project to try to turn them into something decent, but in the meantime a rather noisy jpeg is attached!

Canon SL1 / ISO 800 / f5.6 / 18mm / 60 secs exposure.
Rudimentary telescope mount…
Meade ETX105-EC / Canon SL1 ISO200 1/60 Sec


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