Nick Cox

Before the “Snow Moon” got going.

21/2/19 Swadlincote C6r on Neq6 mount.

A short session before the Moon glow got going. This time it was the “snow Moon”, big bright and silvery as SWMBO pointed out .

Very surprised to get a lovely unfiltered view of NGC 2440, a bright +9.3 planetary Nebula in Puppis. Discovered by Herschel , it bears the hottest central white dwarf. Continuing with obscure a lucky view pulled out by averted vision of 15 Hydrae . The B companion giving a 1.2″ split with two further faint companions. Staying in Hydra and a great view of M48.
Two further challenges in Gemini , Σ1037 and Σ1081. Looking at the Trapezium , the E star was quite obvious , but no sign of the F . Probably as Orion rested on the town lights. We’ve got led streetlights, the glow is pretty fierce , but doesn’t give that horrible orange glow. Just a few clusters worth observing ,M46, M47 , M50 and the compact NGC 2420.

From here a six inch aperture (f8)gives equivalent views to my 8″ Newtonian (f6) , but with increased contrast and more defined diffraction discs on bright stars and planetary views. The seeing and transparency of the atmosphere dominate , but it is possible to get down to below one arc second separation. It’s quite surprising to get so much detail from simple equipment . The Eq6 holds the 11.5kg ota weight of the six inch refractor, with a carrying capacity of 25kgs , there’s room for more !

Lovely early session under ,
Clear skies ! Nick.

Observing session 11th-12th February 2019.

Swadlincote C6r refractor , Neq6, 13mm Nagler ,5.5mm Meade UWA.

All my apps and net forecasts  gave massive cloud cover. Listening to radio 4 , I heard “clear breaks” and a touch of frost. Heading out at 10 gave three lovely clear hours . The opposite situation from the night before , when setting up in clear sky to find it clouded over completely , a few minutes later.

Transparency wasn’t up to much , I usually don’t look south west , but Gemini looked great and I had one of the best views of NGC 2392 , the “Eskimo Nebula”. X216 really brought out the central white dwarf star ,the bright core and the dimmer halo.

Not much luck with the Coma Berenices galaxies , M64 (“black eye”), M85 with a star like centre, the faint M88,M91 ,M99 and M100 by averted vision, no great things there ! NGC 4725 at +9.4 did look bright as did the “needle galaxy”, NGC 4565. M53 did show as a globular , but not much contrast. Better luck with binaries, very surprised to see the secondary of 35 Comae Berenices at low power, it opens out into a stunning triple. What secrets these low power views hold !

Cold hovered around zero degrees , no breeze and still clear.
Porrima ( gamma Virginie ) showed as very open at 2.8″, a stunning sight.Not so long  ago , it was a struggle to get even a glimpse of a split. Adds some interest finding binaries opening and closing as they move.

Up to Canes Venatici and a lovely view of “La Superba” one of the brightest red stars , on its way to becoming a planetary Nebula. 25 CNv gave a wide 1.7″, a bit wider for Σ 261 . Followed this with a view of the colourful “Cor Caroli” . There’s only two visible stars in Canes Venatici , with M94 being between them . Come off that line and there’s a plethora of galaxies .

Just a few years ago and with less light pollution , I’d scan the remarkable CNv galaxies. Nowadays they are hardly a streak ( “whale galaxy”) , but there are plenty of accessible targets , under ,

Clear skies ! Nick.

Stunning February views.

There’s nothing more relaxing than sitting at the eyepiece with a red headlamp and some simple drawing equipment .

Not only does it relax the eye , but enables more detail to be observed. Monoceros has been well placed, with “Hubbles variable Nebula” NGC 2261 providing superb views, well worth finding. Here are some show case targets, some spectacular binaries including 15 Monocerotis, the brightest star of the Christmas tree cluster , NGC 2264.

The winter Albireos provide a lot of colour as does ” Hind’s crimson star” SAO 150058 , a glowing deep red coal in Lepus.

Temperatures have dipped before midnight and just a few hours has been adequate. My sky has not been bright enough to catch much galaxy action just yet. Here’s to clear skies ! Nick.

Gaps in the clouds.

Swadlincote cloud lands. 200 f6 Orion optics and C6r.

28/1/19 early hours were wonderfully clear , the evening just gave an hour of useable sky. Determined to get something done on the lists building up .

NGC 2420 in Gemini gave a wonderfully compact centre . It’s a Trumpler class I1r open cluster some 2 billion years old . There are very few open clusters of this age. Not only is it found way above the galactic disc , but the stars are odd. They are half the age of our Sun , but similar composition. Thought to be either expelled from the disc or captured by galactic cannibalism. Wait until it gets high to capture its full features.

Zeta Cancri (Tegmine) is a wonderful sight , give it plenty to split the 5.9″ separation into a little over 1″ companion triple element.

Early evening and Auriga rises giving a wonderful view of the Messier clusters , M37 bring the finest. To one side of the constellation you’ll easily find .NGC 1664 ( kite cluster) , think that’s the first time that it actually looked like a kite , quite stunning.

NGC 2281 is a rich favourite Auriga cluster , lots of chains there .

A trip to Ryman’s and I found a Pentel Hybrid white pen. The Works has A5 spiral bound heavy black card notebooks. All we need now is more

clear skies ! Nick.

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.