Author Archives: Nick Cox

Review : Skywatcher Sky Fi Adapter.

About £70 and you’ll get a unit that really works with the Synscan Pro ( eq mount) or the Synscan ( az mount ) free app for android or phone. You get two connecting cables , one for an eq mount and the other for an az mount. The unit is powered by the mount and connects directly into the handset socket on the mount. Note that it does draw a bit of power , make allowance in the cold with a battery or power pack.You’ll need an handset socket adapter cable for the eq6 mount. Otherwise you can plug it into another SW mount.

Level and polar align, switch on power and connect to the local wi fi that comes up on your device settings. No need to add time of location. There’s a polar clock as well. The built in gps is very fast. Then Align . You can easily set the direction speed. Up and right directions light up to endure that you finish your alignment with these two directions. Then select your menu , Messier’s , ngc , IC and Caldwells. There’s named stars , tonight’s best and double stars. There’s also user objects , you can put in your own ra and Dec ( easier with a screen stilo ), it’ll store 25 of these.

There’s PEC , backlash etc. There’s even solar , lunar etc. tracking options. Accuracy ? I was really shocked. As good as my recent V4 handset. It appears that PAE is continual with a press on the star button. There are other features , “point and go” . Point your phone at area of sky, press and the scope will move there. ( not through space !)

For the money it’s not a punt , toy or a gadget. It’s a really viable upgrade to using or replacing a handset. At the moment there’s no easy way of using Sky Safari Pro with it ,( Southern stars have their own unit) but the phone app is straight forward to use. There are alternatives at twice the price and it’s a big thumbs up for SW .

Love this unit and can really recommend it for your Synscan mount. There’s a long review on Youtube.


Polar treats

just a few worth finding ,

NGC 40 – Bow Tie Nebula

The planetary nebula NGC 40, sometimes referred to as the “Bow tie” nebula, is located in Cepheus.
NGC 40 was discovered by William Herschel on November 25th, 1788. It is a spectacular object! This planetary is a bright (magnitude 10.7), slightly oval-shaped disk, 48″ across, with a conspicuous magnitude 11.5 central star. Brighter areas along the eastern and western edges mimic the appearance of the polar caps of Mars. The western “cap” seems to run off the disk. The “polar cap” effect is only visible on the best of nights.
NGC 40 is composed of hot gas around a dying star. The central star has ejected its outer layer which has left behind a hot, white dwarf core with a surface temperature about 50,000 degrees Celsius; radiation from this star heats the outer layers to about 10,000 degrees.
NGC 40 is about 3,500 light years away, and about one light-year across. About 30,000 years from now, NGC 40 will fade away, leaving only a white dwarf star approximately the size of Earth. This appeared bright , even in a TAL 100.


NGC 188, “The Ancient One” in Cepheus.

Ninth magnitude NGC 188 is one of the oldest known open clusters. Its estimated age, 9 billion years, is about that of the youngest globular clusters. NGC 188’s brightest stars, 12th to 13th magnitude objects, are yellow class III giants with spectra of G8 to K4. The cluster completely lacks white main sequence stars.

NGC 188 was discovered by John Herschel on November 3, 1831 and cataloged as h 34 in his 1833 catalog. This object subsequently became GC 92 in his 1864 General Catalogue, and finally NGC 188 in Dreyer’s NGC.
This cluster is within 5 degrees of the north celestial pole. It is moderately faint, with a combined magnitude of 8.1. Three dozen pinpoint stars resolve in a rich, concentrated background glow spanning a 14′ area. NGC 188 is a nice but faint, round cluster of fifty to sixty 12th to 15th magnitude stars twinkling in and out of resolution against a granular background. Several dark gaps lie west of the cluster’s center. Several wide star-pairs stand out.
Unlike most open clusters that drift apart after a few million years because of the gravitational interaction of our galaxy, NGC 188 lies far above the plane of the galaxy. NGC 188 is at an estimated distance of 5,000 light year, putting it slightly above the Milky Way’s disc, and further from the center of the galaxy than the Sun.
NGC 1888 is over 5 billion years, and is one of the most ancient open clusters known in our Galaxy. It consists of about 120 stars; the hottest main sequence star is of spectral type F2 V, while the 10 brightest stars are yellow giants of spectral types G8 III to K4 III. These have apparent magnitudes of about 12 to 14, corresponding to absolute magnitudes of +0 to +2. I’m very much drawn to the obscure and unique targets , such as NGC2419 and the Methuselah Star in Libra, this joins those ranks.

Dont forget , the bright “Cat’s Eye” nebula in Draco, NGC 6543,


Steve on Skye.

My wife was born and raised about half a mile from Trumpan church . It’s quite remote on north Skye. I know the skies very well there , having seen auroras many times . I was pleased to see this reported , occurring on Saturday 18th of November, Nick.

First National Forest Star Party ,report, 17-19/11/2017

Beehive woodland lakes campsite , Rosliston.

Splendid weekend at the first of these events. We were very lucky with the weather and wonderful Rosliston campsite.

Friday night we had an all nighter , but transparency was poor , Sunday night and gaps in the cloud showed a lot of black sky. This morning from 1.30 until 5.30 we had glorious sky and made the most of it. Using goto and a Dob (Steve) we wound our way around the sights. There were a number that Paul and Sean had never seen. It was a delight to get the right field of view / filter so that we could enjoy the views.

Paul got M33 in his TAL 100, well pleased. The Milky Way was evident and we started off with a lovely Eastern Veil. Moving to get the binary 52 Cygnus and then up to the fast moving “Piazzi’s flying double” of 61 Cygni.

Friday. Globular clusters, a sparkling M5 in Serpens Caput. M15 off Enif and a lovely M2 in Aquarius. Steve was busy resolving this in a 2″ep. We revisited NGC 2419 few times over the weekend to get the glimmer.

Planetary nebulae. NGC 7662, the blue snowball in Andromeda. A surprise for Paul and a bright NGC 40, the “Bow tie “. NGC 6543 ,The “Cats eye” of Draco, we returned to Draco for some spectacular binaries. The “Eskimo” blasted up to x200 to give the hood and the central white dwarf.

We could see Cancer by eye and later the many stars between constellations. Open clusters, Steve was pleased with NGC 2301 , “Hagrids Dragon”, we stayed in Monoceros for the Xmas tree and the cluster (NGC 2244) to the rosette ( filtered)NGC 2237. Orion gave NGC 1981 and the “37 ” cluster, NGC 2169. Sigma Orionis was good , but better on Sunday morning , as was splitting the elusive Tegmine.

The view of M50 in Monoceros was just awesome. A real jewel.

We were treated to Sean’s pineapple Ethos in the C6r, we felt dwarfed by the set up,but the view of Bodes was remarkable.Lepus was just above the trees behind us, Hind’s Crimson just about there.

The site is open with near 360 views if you sit on your own in the middle ! We returned to Draco to get 39 Draconis,16-17 Draconis, μ (Αrakis), Psi and 40-41. Three of us frac devotees were in agreement over the contrast given compared to the Dob. A lot of banter ensued.

There much much much more, it was a long session , hopping between scopes and a lot was learnt . There was either ” what would you like see ?” Or ” wow, you must see this !” Room 101 got filled with non desirable celebrities, we ended up creased up , hardly being able to put forward the likes of Russell Brand (winner) and Craig David( close second). Seb Coe was a late runner, pipped at the post by Gary Barlow.

Saturday night. Set up and watched the clouds flow set up/ upset. Room 101 expanded, Titchmarsh and Milliband being allowed in.

Sunday morning in the tent and temperatures plummeted, frostio ! Sticking my head out , there was Steve nudging his Dob under a very dark impressive sky, hurrah ! Leo was high and we had a fair show of the Leonid aftershower including a trail and two that followed each other.we got 2 of the Triplet in the Dob, managing M105, 95 and 96 in the belly hugging group.

We spent a lot of time just looking at the sky,star hopping was quite easy. M38 showed up by eye. I searched for NGC 2169 , near five minutes in the Dob,then took Steve over and pressed goto. It was a tad faster , but without the thrill of the hunt ( plus frustration) . Dobs nearly went in room 101, beaten by Anne Robinson.

Taurus was full of stars, a sleep walking Sean passed us pointing out the number of stars above the Hyades.Paul slept on in the pod , we didn’t think that Karen would like us knocking the door at 1.30 ( that’s am!) he did say that he looked out at 4.30 and it was very dark, come on down that man !

We did a tour of some of Caroline Herschel’s findings , the “Rose” and the beautiful NGC 225 ( “sail boat”) . One that I recalled was the “Dancing Man ” cluster ,its in two halves, the runner being NGC 1528. NGC 1502 looked like it’s name (“Jolly Roger”) at that end of Kemble’s cascade, NGC 1502, the “Blue Oyster” popped in and out of direct vision.

M1 looked cracking , Steve the hopper found it straight away .NGC 1647and 1746 were pleasing.

Oh my goodness, UMa and a super view of the eyed M97. With a dull M108 ( we compared that to the non Messier contender. NGC 2903). Steve found Bodes in his 82 degree ES and we agreed it was one of the best of views.

Getting into CNv,M51, M94,M63 and M106. Steve was pleased to easily find M3 and resolve it in 2″ grenades. Vega was up and I got M13 in the Keystone along the line to Arcturus.Mars surprised us with a clean red disc in the frac, very cool.
We swept into Virgo ,catching a few brighter galaxies from Denebola, a spring preview. Again, there was so much more, with surprises and views to linger over.A very worthwhile and fascinating star party .

Special thanks to Lee arrived to expertly adjust and fix things ( not mentioning one mount here !) If you feel like a star party ,holding it or going,don’t hesitate.
Clear skies !

Sensible winter observing.

Following hours in observing and too much time fishing in winter ,here’s a few ideas.

Some advice for this time of year . Wrap up ! Most body heat leaves at your neck. A buff or scarf are ideal.Thick socks are essential, a thin inner and thick outer are ideal, cardboard insoles hold heat and are free.Thin gloves are useful. A thick down jacket is lovely ( I use a Trespass Igloo jacket), matched with base layers, top and bottom. Don’t struggle on , a few hours will leave you pleased ,instead of fed up.

Be aware that bringing in refractors from severe cold to central heating can in extreme conditions , crack the objective. This is particularly the case with fluorite . Similarly don’t overtighten fixing bolts , metal contracts in the cold. A chap a few years ago managed this and his mount slid off the mount. The cheap grease often found in focusers can gel at lower temperatures. It’s an easy job for Lee to strip them and change to a light Lithium grease. Be aware that cold will zap battery power, an insulated box or an old blanket will keep voltage up. Very often GOTO will suffer when voltage drops, you might be surprised to check the voltage on your handset reading the ubiquitous 11.3v. I use a trickle charger connected up to the battery .

Although the best viewing is after midnight , when the air settles, it’s coldest just before dawn. Often you’ll find the deep frost creeps in then. Watch for air currents that you generate yourself , these can come from hugging a Dobsonian for example. Dew is not much of a problem, until spring and autumn ,there will be a greater heat difference between ground and air on a hard surface than from grass.This will add to heat currents and dew through temperature difference. The coldest month is probably February, you’ll find snow to be a nuisance, throwing light upwards.

A hot drink is always welcome , beware of opening the fridge door for milk. Your dark adapted eyes will lose night vision, it’s that fridge light that stays on all the time ! I avoid coffee, it has an adverse effect on vision and although you’ll get a caffeine high , you’ll soon be back to below par !

Beware of 4am . Your body is at its lowest , its equivalent to being over the drink drive limit. It’s when you do silly things ! Appreciate that your body needs at least 7 hours sleep, too little can seriously affect your health and even affect your DNA. This might lead to a different species , Homo astronomensis ! Sleep is a restorative process for your body and mind.

There are no medals for suffering out there ! Make your list of objectives and enjoy these long , dark and clear nights ( whenever), Nick.

Highly transparent sky , winter treasures.

Swadlincote 12/11/17 Celestron C6r Heq5pro mount.

Dark early and Auriga rising , it’s always a surprise to catch the whole Summer Triangle in November . Time to sweep up the Messier’s , even M33 showed a fuzzy cloud at x50. Even M1 looked good.Transparency was superb, but especially lower down , the seeing was hard to cope with. I suppose those indoors had stoked up the heating , hot air making it’s presence known. Tegmine didn’t split out into a triple , something I’d been waiting for. I thought something was wrong , either with the scope or the eyes. Seeing to the north was exceptionally poor. Mind you , that’s in the direction of Darbados !

A stunning M57, M27 and keeping the Oiii filter in , a lovely sweep around the Eastern Veil, NGC 6995-2. Up to the Blue Snowball, NGC 7662, a lovely sight . Back to the planetaries and NGC 6543 ,”The Cat’s Eye “nebula in Draco and the challenging blink of the “Bow Tie Nebula”, NGC 40. Catch the open cluster NGC 752 at the end of Andromeda, this is a stunning open cluster , another Caroline Herschel discovery.

A bright colourful Uranus and a dimmer Neptune followed. Waiting for Gemini, I went back to some favourite binaries , the close Zeta Aquarii, split at 1.7″ and the colourful showcase iota Trianguli at 3.8″, a yellow and red here.


Draco gives a mass of binaries.

39 Draconis (SAO 30012) is a seven star system,a lovely bright primary with a +8.1 secondary here.

16-17 Draconis shows a lovely delicate triple (SAO 30012)catch the close 3.0″ companion to the wide 90.0″ secondary.

μ Draconis ( “Arrakis”of Dune ! ) twins at 2.3″.(SAO 30239)

Psi Draconis (SAO 8891)lovely at 30″.

40-41 Draconis (SAO 8994) near twins at 18.6”.

Σ 2348 at 18h33.9m +52 21′ , beautiful.

ο Draconis (SAO 31218) an orange giant with a faint +8.3 companion.Draco is a very rich hunting ground.

Gemini and the massive M35 with the two billion year old cluster NGC 2158. Wasat was challenging ,but gave the delightful companion. The “Eskimo Nebula” NGC 2392 gave it’s very best , transparency showing details of the hood and easy central star at x200.Orion was well up , but seeing bothered the Trapezium, NGC 1981 and the “37” cluster , NGC 2169 looked magnificent .

Over to Monoceros and that huge “Hagrid’s Dragon” , NGC 2301 filling the ep at x100. Both NGC 2264 (“Christmas tree”) and NGC 2244 gave good views.

Sleep called at 1.00, waking early there was the magnificent sight of a high Leo in the south , Spica and Virgo to the east and Mars above the roof tops.

Going to be a later start next time under clear skies ! Nick

November 2017 Night Sky.

We have both Neptune and Uranus up at 3.7″ discs. Then there’s the peak of the Leonids meteor shower. Gemini will give the blue snowball , the smaller bilobed NGC 2371-2 planetary nebula and M35. To the top will be Lynx and NGC 2419, the intergalactic wanderer. Taurus will be up earlier with M1 and clusters. Auriga will give the clusters. Cassiopeia will be high with Perseus and Pegasus to the south.

Should be prime time to spot the Pinwheel galaxy (M33). Some good clusters to Andromeda and binaries to Triangulum. Orion will soon be up , don’t forget NGC 2169 ( the “37” cluster ) and the binary to the end of the “3”.

To the north will be Monoceros ,beta ( best triple) , NGC 2301 ( Hagrid’s dragon), Xmas tree cluster and nebulae here. Leo rises later. Look for Procyon and to the north , the faint stars of Cancer. Here is M44. The huge impressive Praesepe and the lovely compact M67.
I’ve detailed some targets here which are worth observing for drama , colour and their stories,

Perseus. Double cluster NGC884 and 869.
Cassiopeia. NGC 7789 ( “Carolines rose”)
NGC 663
M33 Triangulum Galaxy
NGC 752 And. Open cluster discovered by Herschel.
NGC 404 (g) ghost of Mirach.
NGC 7662 blue snowball.
NGC 6790 (+10.5) planetary nebula
NGC 6709 open cluster , NGC 6760 globular cluster.
Aries NGC 772 (+10.) spiral galaxy.
Auriga , M38 ( background cluster NGC 2158) 36,37. NGC 2281 open cluster. IC 2149 planetary nebula (+10.6)
Cancer , M44 ( Praesepe), M67 compact open cluster.
Draco, NGC 6543 ( Cats eye nebula) , NGC 4125 galaxy +9.8, NGC 4236 galaxy +9.7.
Gemini , M35 , large open cluster .
The “Eskimo nebula “NGC 2393, look for the hood and the central star.
NGC 2419, the “intergalactic wanderer ” Look for the glimmer of this most distant object ( globular cluster) at the end of a fish hook of stars.

NGC 2301 open cluster ( “Hagrid’s Dragon) very dragon like .
NGC 2237 Rosette nebula , surrounds the cluster NGC 2244.
NGC 2264 cone nebula with the Xmas tree cluster.
NGC 2361 Hind’s variable nebula. Illuminated by R Mon.
M50 fine open cluster.

NGC 2169 the “37” cluster, note the binary in the top of the 3.
NGC 1981 open cluster.

Other notables November
Plasketts star , V640 Mono. Massive spectroscopic binary. 06h37.4m. + 06 08′.x100 mass of Sun

November 2017
Planets , Neptune in Aquarius and Uranus in Pisces.
Meteor shower.
17th is the peak of the Leonids.

Comet. ASSASN is faintly around the pole, about +12 and dimming.



Binary stars, I have includedthe six figure SAO numbers and separations in arc seconds, where available, colour , difficulty and beautiful views abound here !

Almach , colourful in Andromeda 9.7″
Alpheratz 89.3″ 073765
36 Andromedae 1.2″. 074359
56 Andromedae. 202″. 055107
Σ 3004 13.5″. 052927
κ And. Triple 053264
Ho 197 triple 23h11.4m. +38 13′

Zeta 1 Aquarii. 2.3″. 146107 22h 28.8m. -00 01′
94 Aquarii 12.2″. 165625

15 Aquilae 39.3″. 142996
57 Aquilae 35.7″. 143898

Mesartim (γ Αrietis) Rams eyes 7.5″ 096280
Epsilon Arietis 1.3″. 075673
Lambda Arietis 37.3″. 075051
1 Arietis 2.8″. 01h 50.1m. +22 17′
14 Arietis triple 075171

59 Aurigae 22.2″ 059571
41 Aurigae 7.6″ 040924
Σ644 1.6″ 057704 Αuriga.
14 Aurigae faint triple element 057799
Theta Aurigae 4.0″. 058636, triple Bogardus.

Tegmine ( triple) Zeta cancri 097645
Iota Cancri 30.7″ ( winter Albireo) 30.7″ 08h46.7m. +28 46′
Phi 2 Cancri 5.2″ 080188

h 3945 CaMa. 26.8″ 173349 ( another winter Albireo)


1 Camelop 10.3″ 024672
HR 4893 21.4″

11 Camelop 178″ 025001
Σ400 1.4″ 024111
Σ485 17.7″ 013031 in NGC 1502
HR 4893 21.4″ 002102 (Camelop)

“Tegmine” ( triple) Zeta cancri 097645
Iota Cancri 30.7″ ( winter Albireo) 30.7″ 08h46.7m. +28 46′
Phi 2 Cancri 5.2″ 08h26.8m +26 56′

Canis Major
h3945 CaMa. 26.8″ 173353 (another winter Albireo)

Delta Gemini , Wasat 5.8″ 079294
Pi Gem. 060340 Multiple.
Propos , eta Gem.triple 1.8″
Kappa Gem.7.2″ 079653
63 Gem. 43″ 079403
Castor 4.2″ 060198

Monoceros .
Beta . Finest triple , bright. 133317
15 Mon. Multiple 114258
Σ1029 mini Castor . 134234.
Sigma, multiple with Σ 761 to the northwest ( triple), 132406
Meissa (λ) multiple 112922
Trapezium, theta , E &F stars.
Betelgeuse, 176″ wide companion.
Rigel (β) 9.5″ 131907
Mintaka ,52.8″ 132220
Alnitak, wide triple.
33 Orionis 1.9″ 112861
32 Orionis 1.2″ 112849.
Hind’s crimson star (R Leporis) 150058.


From this small total , I would select the following favourites , “Tegmine” ,beta Monocerotis and sigma Orionis. I look forward to “Tegmine” in particular,happy hunting , under ,

clear skies ! Nick.