Nick Cox

Recent targets , January 2019.

A decent kick off to the year.i had read so much about variable nebulae and was very surprised to see for the first time , from home , NGC 2261 in Monoceros.This is “Hubble’s variable Nebula” around and illuminated by the star R Monocerotis. Although not directly visible , the Nebula is produced by the star’s birth pangs . Quite obvious at x50 and it took up to x100.The brightest part even looks stellar .

The seeing looked ace , I had not caught a 1″ binary separation for some time. Σ1338 proved astonished easy using a 5mm Vixen LVW eyepiece. I moved the pair around the field of view to check that it wasn’t imagination !

Seeing as Taurus is well placed as darkness falls , a further exploration gave great views of some of the many binaries here ,

Some details for searchers ,

Σ7 and Σ401 appear closed towards each other . SAO 75970
H 1V 98, a bright pair of eyes , facing another pair. SAO 111698
Σ559, a nice close even pair . SAO 94002
Σ749 , close at 1.2″. At 05h37.1m. +26 55′
β87 , close with a faint companion,1.9″. SAO 76571
Σ517, close with a lovely delicate companion. SAO 111705
88 Tauri, a wide view , yellow and red. At 04h35.7m. +10 10′
Σ479, a fine triple with differing magnitudes , lovely view at 04h00.9m. +23 12′.Again , the seeing gave a delightfully open 1.2″ clean split.

Clear skies ! Nick.

Eq6 rail mod .

Xmas goodie, overcomes the steel adjustment bolt versus Aluminium mount problem. Shouldn’t be much of a problem if folk supported the weight of the mount whilst adjusting the altitude to get polar aligned. However , eventually the adjustment bolt will begin to make its slippable groove into the mount head. Modern Astronomy used to sell a cumbersome and well overengineered fix.

The rail mod is much cheaper at about £130 and very easy to fix. Takes about 15 minutes , including time to gather a 16mm wrench and spanner.

Heres what you get ,

It’s beautifully made and you get a choice of self adhesive side plates. First job is to remove the existing glued on ones.. I ended up using a soldering iron to melt my way through. Make sure that you’ve marked your zero on the alt. Cover. Loosen the 16mm bolt on this side at the same time as loosening the holding bolt the other side. Slacken off the three 2mm Allen grub bolts. 

Then remove the bolts and gently ease the head apart . Note where the plastic spacers and metal one go. Clean everything up. Grease the mod and insert it , best remove the adjustment bolts first. Then insert the bolts , ensure the rear bolt enters the hole on the rail barrel. Put plenty grease here, metal to metal. Ensure everything is secure , the rail stops and fits exactly into the bed of the mount, easy.

This shows how it works,

Slide the base into the head . Grease on the plates will hold them in position . Ensure the adjusting bit of the head is between the barrel and the front adjustment bolt . Replace the main bolt . Tighten to give no movement if you jiggle the head. Tighten up the retaining nut and snug up the three grub bolts. 

Fix the side plates on , I used a couple extra strips of self adhesive tape.

The stock bolts are soft steel to stop over grauching of their action on the mount head . The rail mod moves the altitude delightfully easily . Use the front bolt just as a stop, it doesn’t need to be overtightened.

There’s a rail mod for the Heq5 mount in the pipeline.

Easy and it actually works. Polar alignment does not have to be spot on for visual observing and alignment . Accuracy here does allow the fov to stay still at high magnifications.

Very pleased to recommend this mod. For those with plenty time and resistance to repetition , there’s a guide on YouTube.


Tegmine and views to Cancer.

Here’s an easy to find and glorious sight. Having finished exploring the overlooked M44 (Praesepe) cluster , scan over to Tegmine (Zeta Cancri) SAO 97645. It’s halfway between Pollux and beta Cancri.

Classically described as a multiple , it’ll open out to give a great triple star. It’s closed down to 1.1″ separation , but the brightness of these lemon yellows gives smaller apertures a chance of opening it up. Comparable to beta Monocerotis, it’s always fun to point out a bright star , then increase magnification to open it up.

Exploring Cancer for similar challenges, I’d check out 57 Cancri , a light orange pair , splitting open 1.5″.

Σ1187 , another orange pair opens up at 3.0″. I can’t leave Cancer without looking at iota Cancri . This wide pair is so colourful that it is a contender for “winter Albireo”. The colours were stunning last trip , better than the other “Albireo” in Canis Major ( h3945) SAO 173349. Although I was seriously diverted by “Hind’s Crimson star ” in Lepus and “La Superba” in Canes Venatici.

A closer look at M44 will show you a few binaries in the buzz of this cluster, these include SLe337,336,332, Σ1249 and Σ1254. My skies can be poor , but most clear nights the buzz of M44 is spottable by eye from the top of Gemini.

As we’re heading off there , don’t forget our most distant Milky Way target , way out of our halo. The faint globular ” intergalactic wanderer” , NGC 2419. It’ll appear as a faint fuzz without easily resolvable stars. It is 300,000 light years from here and the galactic centre, twice the distance of the large Magellenic clouds . I think this is a thrilling sight , quite bright , look for the fish hook of bright stars and head off eastwards. This was with a 4″ Vixen refractor .

Hoping for clear skies ! Nick.

The difference that dark sky makes.

Dark skies rule !

Star-hopping with a chart is easy . Constellations can melt into the background. Very often the sky can look almost brown and granular with stars. The Milky Way becomes a huge , torn and twisted ribbon across the sky. In Galloway , I could only find Cepheus by the Milky arm leading to it. In addition , even a small scope will pick up sights impossible from light polluted sites.

Through binoculars for instance , the spiral arms and knots of M33 can be picked out. Another example is the galaxy NGC 4449 in Canes Venatici. It’s an irregular star burst active galaxy, with a high rate of star formation. A halo of hydrogen indicates it’s reactions with other galaxies. From here , at the edge of town , it appears just as a smudge . By averted vision it does appear irregular. However , dark sky and a bit of aperture and it’s possible to resolve its stars . A stunning glistening sight !

What really pained me on return home was NGC 891 . I had found and observed this in a 10″ Dobsonian. Not only was the central dust lane there , but the pronounced halo. From home , I couldn’t find the pointer star ρ Persei. Goto with an 8″ Newtonian and there was just nothing there !

Its worth persevering with faint fuzzies , there are good bright targets , like Bode’s and M94. I was surprised to get the whole Leo triplet a few nights ago. Otherwise   It’s back to those inexhaustible binary stars , clusters, planets and brighter nebulae.

As for aperture , it makes little difference in town , but opens up to give more detail depending on the viewing conditions. Good indicators are M33 and Searching for those familiar constellations , under ,

clear skies ! Nick.