Schroters Valley and the Gruithuisen Domes.

Looking at the Moon from the “window-sill observatory” last night, the lunar phase looked suitable to observe Mons Rumker. Unfortunately the exact phase and unfavourable libration precluded this, but as compensation there was a nice view of Schroters valley and the Gruithuisen domes. Better images of the domes than the last time I tried! (https://roslistonastronomy.uk/more-domes)

Hunting the Teapot

I have always wanted to see the Sagittarius “Teapot” from the UK, but never have done. You need a very dark sky and a very clear low southern horizon. Our recent Wales visit gave us the dark skies, but not the low horizon (too many hills!).

Anyway, last night, couldn’t sleep again. One palliative for this is to go for a walk. It was 03:30 AM and Sagittarius was just about culminating, so on with the dressing gown and boots for a trek to the bottom of the garden where you can see a low southern horizon. I also put my camera in my pocket, just in case. I knew where the “Teapot” was – between Jupiter and Saturn, but the Moon was up and it was just beginning to get light.

So, Jupiter and Saturn and Antares were obvious, but could only see the odd star where the “Teapot” was supposed to be – nothing resembling a teapot!

Out with the camera to see if a bit of image processing would show anything. After a bit of fiddling with the exposure, I got an image that might have potential.

So here is the processed image, and I am quite pleased with it. The elongated line near the teapot is a plane. Still haven’t seen the “teapot” visually though!


Moon, Methane and Messiers

Splendid night of observing and (hopefully) imaging last night.

Sam had his mate James round, and then Andy T came over to join us as well. Due to the long evening twilight and the terminator being in a prime position on the moon, we started there. Once they’d got the hang of it the 2 lads were thoroughly enjoying scanning up and down the terminator taking videos of moonscapes, which when I get some time will hopefully become some nice images.

The areas we looked at were the craters around the South Pole (Scott and Amundsen!) then worked our way down (the image appeared upside down in the mark/planetary camera) past Cuvier, Stofler, Albertegnius and Hipparchus toward the smoother area that’s more dominated by mare. The highlight for me was Albertegnius which was just in the perfect position to be in complete darkness, but with the sun illuminating just the summit of the central peak.

By this time Andy had set up his spectroscopy rig and took a reading from the moon- and matched in to an internet reading of the sun- explaining to the lads that this was because all the light coming from the moon was reflected from the sun, and how the technique enables us to derive what the elements are in the star.

We also did some visual exploration of the terminator- and no matter how amazing the views of the moon through the planetary camera, there is nothing for comes close to the stunning HD quality through the eyepiece. Even at 465x through the zoom the view was sharp and full of contrast; a really stunning view.

It was, by this time, bed o’clock for the boys, but Andy and I carried on. First step was swapping the mak for the 130pd-s and setting some imaging runs going on globular clusters with the planetary camera as I felt that the glare from the moon made any other targets a bit unrealistic. I’ll post these when I get the chance to do some processing!

For the same reasons I decided to go for similar targets visually whilst Andy did his spectroscopy and we shared the results with each other. First up, though, was the double-double- it didn’t split as easily as normal which suggested the seeing wasn’t great (I already knew my scope was both cooled and collimated). Nonetheless I pressed onto some globs:

– M13 Obvs! Always a lovely sight. Whilst there Andy moved the scope onto NGC 6207- a new one on me, and just next to M13. It was a struggle to see and needed averted vision to spot, but at Mag 11 the skies cannot have been too bad to pick this up.
– M92 It’s a bit smaller, but somehow feels more compact and symmetrical than its big brother.
– M3 Again- like M92, more compact and symmetrical. It was nice going through these one after the other- on their own globs are all similar, but when looking at them one after the other you really start to see the differences.
– As we were in the neighbourhood popped over to see the Whale galaxy- several club members have been imaging this lately so it was good to have a proper look. With proximity to the moon it was quite an effort to find this and I had it in the eyepiece for quite a while before I was sure I had it. By relaxing and just looking around the target it became obvious how huge it was- nearly filling the ep at 210x. I couldn’t make out the distinctive shape, however, and neither could we spot NGC4656
– Next stop as M5, which was visibly smaller, but with a dense bright core and was pleasingly circular.
– The next Messier glob easily visible looked to be M9. Whilst aiming the scope Andy asked about the bright light in the same direction- which is over towards East Mids airport- and we both agreed was clearly a plane- although not moving too much. Realising that this meant it was heading towards away from us I tried to aim the scope at it, because sometimes it’s a great view in the eyepiece. This plane turned out to have horizontal banding and 4 moons. JUPITER IS BACK!! Albeit hugging the horizon in a boiling atmosphere. Because of this the views were not brilliant, but it was great to see after a long break. Andy quickly headed back to his spectroscopy gear and lined it up- the result was a mixture of the same elements we’d found from the moon, plus a couple of lines for methane. Very pleasing! I then moved onto M9 and caught a quick glimpse, but was kneeling uncomfortably over the telescope by this stage and was getting decidedly cold so we decided to head in for a cup of tea in the warm and to look at Andy’s spectroscopy results.

Suitably refreshed, and with the moon down near the horizon the sky was darker, but also more hazy. We decided to look at some summer targets and started off with the Ring nebula. I think the effects of time and cold were beginning to set in by this stage as I struggled to get it in the eyepiece- not helped by the fact that everything was dewing over. Andy quickly rectified this and we were rewarded with some lovely rich views and spent some time comparing the views in the Baader zoom with Andy’s Binoviewers. The conclusion was that the binoviewers offered a different experience- more natural and pleasing to look at, but also there was some loss of detail. Partly this is caused by the higher magnification available to the Baader, but we also thought it may be down to the greater number of optical surfaces involved on the binoviewers. We returned to M13 to see if we’d find the same outcome- and it was pretty much the same; although the binoviewers rendered the glob as a sphere- a wonderful view.

I’d have liked to try them out on Jupiter, but by this point it was behind the neighbours house, so we returned to deep sky targets instead- trying for M51. Unfortunately, by this point, the sky was pretty hazy and despite being certain I had the dob in the right place, I could not see the galaxies. Spent a while trying to remove dew from EPs, finders etc, but it was pretty clear that the sky was lightening and it was time to pack up. Big thanks to Andy for coming over- observing in company and sharing ideas adds so much to an evening and the output from the spectroscopy was really interesting!

Starry night in Pembrokeshire – Observing report 03/05/2019

Brilliant starry night with very dark skies in Pembrokeshire!

Out with my 15X50 IS binoculars observing lots of old favourites given a new perspective in the ultra dark skies here.

Started with the Coma star cloud – Melotte 111 Stunning as usual.

M44 Praesepe in Cancer just like it says on the tin – a swarm of bees!

M13 in Hercules – I could almost fancy seeing some resolution into stars.

M92 nearby – very clearly seen

M3 also nearby in Canes Venatici, also very clear

M65 and M66 in Leo . Could just make these out.

M81 and M82 in Ursa Major. Brilliant! Not just blurry smudges, but could see their shapes!

Then out with the Sony HD 60 compact camera for some star fields. So many stars!. I have added some constellation outlines in case you are bamboozled with all the stars, as I was!

All were 30 sec exposures at f/3.5 and ISO 3200.


Observing Log 25/4/2019 @ 23:43-26/4/2019 @ 01:46. Galaxies are us – mostly!

Observing Log 25/4/2019 @ 23:43-26/4/2019 @ 01:46.

Lichfield, 800m from Tesco store, sub-urban location

Andrew Thornett

Galaxy hunting (mostly)


  • Orion UK 10 Dobsonian Telescope
  • Orion USA Premium Linear Binoviewer
  • 7mm and 18mm eyepiece pairs
  • Sky Safari Planetarium Software                                                             

Galaxies in Leo

NGC 2903, UGC 5079, PGC 27077, MCG 4-23-9, CGCG 122-14, IRAS 09293+2143, SDSS 093210.09+213008.2,2MASS 09321011+2130029. Starting at 23:43 my back yard using Orion ten-inch Dobsonian. 18mm eyepiece. Star hopped using sky Safari. Very pleased with ease with which I found this object as previously Damian was expert at finding this galaxy and usually directed me tonight – but alone I did it tonight. When found reasonably bright by direct vision. Entirely star hopping starting with Regulus and moving around the inverted question mark of Leo. Interestingly (and just to prove that one should not get too proud of oneself), when I tried to repeat the star hop, I could not find it!

M 66, NGC 3627, PGC 34695, MCG 2-29-19, CGCG 67-57, Arp 317, Arp 16, IRAS 11176+1315. On a roll! Star hopped straight to this. 18mm eyepiece.

M 65, NGC 3623, UGC 6328, PGC 34612, MCG 2-29-18, CGCG 67-54, Arp 317, VV 308. Easily seen in same field of view as M66.

NGC 3628, UGC 6350, PGC 34697, MCG 2-29-20, CGCG 67-58, Arp 317, VV 308, IRAS 11176+1351. Got this but boy was it difficult to observe. Needed careful start hop from M65 and then once I knew precisely where it should be careful study revealed a very faint slash bought out by nudging the scope (knocking it gently to bounce image around send better bring out faint objects).

M 105, NGC 3379, UGC 5902, PGC 32256, MCG 2-28-11, CGCG 66-18, SDSS 104749.60+123453.9,2MASS 10474959+1234538. Continuing my run of unusually successful star hopping success tonight – in this relatively dark and clear sky for suburban Lichfield – I star hopped to M105 one using the 18mm eyepiece. Larger and much brighter with 7mm Nagler.                               

NGC 3384, NGC 3371, UGC 5911, PGC 32292, MCG 2-28-12, CGCG 66-21, SDSS 104816.91+123745.8, SDSS 104816.88+123745.3. Similar findings for this galaxy in Leo adjacent to last one. Are the two interconnected? In the telescope tonight it looked as though there was bridge between them. Sounds unlikely from what I read on internet that these galaxies are connected – one is thought only to be apparently close to the other by line of sight.                                                                               

NGC 3389, NGC 3373, UGC 5914, PGC 32306, MCG 2-28-13, CGCG 66-22, SDSS 104827.90+123159.5, SDSS 104827.90+123159.4. Try as I might, I could not observe this third member of the galaxy trio tonight with either 18mm or 7mm eyepieces. 

M 96, NGC 3368, UGC 5882, PGC 32192, MCG 2-28-6, CGCG 66-13, IRAS 10441+1205, SDSS 104645.67+114911.8. Found this by star hopping from last galaxy.

M 95, NGC 3351, UGC 5850, PGC 32007, MCG 2-28-1, CGCG 66-4, IRAS 10413+1158, SDSS 104357.69+114213.6. I was surprised to find that this galaxy was approximately one whole field of view in the 18mm eyepiece away from M96, and hence nearly missed it, thinking I could not see it until I moved the telescope a little further to the side!

Leo II, UGC 6253, PGC 34176, MCG 4-27-5. I am reasonably certain that I have seen this for the first time ever tonight but as it required very careful star hopping and was extremely faint there is a possibility that I was seeing what I wanted to observe….

NGC 3607, UGC 6297, PGC 34426, MCG 3-29-20, CGCG 96-21,2MASS 11165465+1803065.Took a bit of moving back and fore but eventually got definite observation of this galaxy with 18mm. I tested idea that magnification helps with faint objects and certainly changing from 18mm to 7mm eyepiece made this galaxy brighter and bigger and more obvious. Testing idea that a binoviewer would help, I changed from single eyepiece to my Orion Premium binoviewer with 2x 18mm eyepieces…. the jury is still out on whether this helped tonight with NGC 3607 and 3608 below….

NGC 3608, UGC 6299, PGC 34433, MCG 3-29-22, CGCG 96-22, SDSS 111658.94+180855.2,2MASS 11165896+1808547. In same field could also see NGC 3608 as well as NGC 3607. These two galaxies are the two brightest in the area. Possible indications of a couple of other faint galaxies in the eyepiece, but too faint to be certain.

Virgo Cluster of Galaxies

Using a binoviewer is more relaxing on the eyes once my eyes adjusted to it and I got the inter-pupillary distance right – more difficult to achieve than it sounds – and the contrast is better in the Binoviewer. However, one eyepiece on its own without the Binoviewer is also clearly more sensitive, making it easier to observe faint objects and detail within those objects – or at least this was my conclusion tonight.

A quick pan across the area between Virgo and Leo identified four galaxies with a single 18mm eyepiece within seconds – no effort required. Spending a few more minutes, I identified more than 20 galaxies – my biggest problem was trying to identify which ones they were!

Ursa Major Galaxies

M108. Easily star hopped to this with 18mm from bowel stars in Ursa Major – sky made this star hopping easy tonight. I think our skies are often so poor that we forget what a good night is like!

PGC 4550815, SDSS 111109.42+553944.4, SDSS 111109.42+553944.5, SDSS 111109.43+553944.6. I saw hints of this feature within M108 tonight with 7mm Nagler eyepiece. First time I have recorded this observation.

Owl Nebula, M 97, NGC 3587, ARO 25, PK 148+57.1, PN G148.4+57.0, VV 59. Although tonight is a galaxy hunt, I could not slip past this area without looking at the Owl Nebula – clearly not a galaxy! Still it is a faint object which is difficult to see as soon as sky loses any clarity, so I was keen to see what it looked like in this good sky (for Lichfield). Not using any filters tonight which help with Owl when used, but still the clear sky meant that I saw a relatively bright and quite easily identified Owl Nebula, star hopping from M108. Some elements of structural detail. Again, through binoviewers, the view was more relaxing (as not having to ignore one eye) but not so bright. The Binoviewer optics degrades the image a little in my view – makes sense = more glass = less light.

M 109, NGC 3992, UGC 6937, PGC 37617, MCG 9-20-44, CGCG 269-23, IRAS 11550+5339, IRAS 11549+5339. I love this clear sky! Not having to strain to see these galaxies tonight. Star hop to M109 and there it is – easily seen.                                                                                                               

Bode’s Nebulae, M 81, NGC 3031, UGC 5318, PGC 28630, MCG 12-10-10, CGCG 333-7, IRAS 09514+6918,2MASS 09553318+6903549. M81 and M82 observed with and without binoviewer, 18mm and 7mm eyepiece. After the relatively faint galaxies I have been observing so far, looking at M81 & M82 was like turning on the headlamps on the car! Big and non-subtle they appeared. On other nights when the sky is not so good, I can only just pick them out – but tonight – how could I miss them? Just goes to show how much sky quality differs from night to night.

NGC 3077, UGC 5398, PGC 29146, MCG 12-10-17, CGCG 333-13, IRAS 09592+6858, IRAS 09593+6858, SDSS 100318.13+684400.2. Located near M81, I have never seen this galaxy before but able to observe it tonight. Nice little galaxy that I recommend RAG members add to their observing lists.

M 101, NGC 5457, UGC 8981, PGC 50063, MCG 9-23-28, CGCG 272-21, Arp 26, VV 344. Unable to find this tonight. 

Canes Venatici Galaxies

Whirlpool Galaxy, Lord Rosse’s Nebula, Question Mark, M 51, NGC 5194, UGC 8493, PGC 47404, MCG 8-25-12, CGCG 246-8, Arp 85, VV 403. The smaller object is M51B or NGC 5195.Tonight, very bright and in 7mm very big with the periphery surrounding both cores. I still can’t see any evidence of spiral arms although some members of RAG claim they can observe this visually.                                                                                 


Ring Nebula  M 57, NGC 6720, ARO 9, PK 063+13.1, PN G063.1+13.9, VV 214. Again, not a galaxy, but how could I not observe this magnificent object? Summer is on its way when you can see the Ring! Splendid view of M57 through 18mm and 7mm but this was where the binoviewer really came into its own. With 18mm eyepieces, the Ring hung in space like an alien warship on its way to Earth. To me, this is the definition of feeling like I am out there with the objects I am viewing – the Binoviewer was worth buying for this view alone!!


NGC 6811. Open cluster. Quite a beautiful object. Don’t understand why I haven’t looked at this before.

North America Nebula, NGC 7000, C 20, LBN 373. Some variation in intensity with 18mm eyepiece in this area that I am sure represents some of the nebulosity associated with this object – not using OIII or UHC filters which would have helped.         

Blinking Planetary Nebula  Blinking Planetary Nebula  NGC 6826, C 15, ARO 13, PK 083+12.1, PN G083.5+12.7, VV 242. Can’t seem to find this tonight.


Hercules Cluster, M 13, NGC 6205. Wow! Wow! Wow! That is with the 18mm eyepiece without binoviewer. Loads of stars resolved through to core. Lot of structure. Even more wow with 7mm eyepiece – loads of structure and many streamers – a Catherine Wheel of light. With the Binoviewer, I don’t think it improved the view although possibly the binoviewer is misting up by now on its various glass surfaces. Certainly, I was less able to get stars in focus in M13 whereas the view of the Ring Nebula previously with the Binoviewer was crystal clear with the same eyepieces.

M 92, NGC 6341. This is a beautiful sight with much more condensed core than M13.

NGC 6207, UGC 10521, PGC 58827, MCG 6-37-7, CGCG 197-7, IRAS 16412+3655,2MASS 16430375+3649567. Another one of Damian’s favourites to finish. A small faint galaxy very close to M13 tonight, more easily found with a bit of help nudging the scope.


I am very pleased with my success at star hopping tonight, although I am indebted to some particularly good skies and the magnificent Sky Safari planetarium software.

Stopped observations and packed away at 01:46am.


Some musings on solar scopery

In order to see features on the sun in the presence of its extreme glare, Ha scopes and the like select out a very narrow band of frequencies with an (expensive) filter called an etalon.

In order to do this the etalons have to be “tuned” by various methods. To use them visually you need a very good contrast, and sometimes 2 etalons are used – the so called “double stacking” to narrow the bandwidth (and double the expense!) and improve the contrast. This can show breathtaking visual views.

However this only improves the contrast – not the spatial resolution, I believe. Resolution is controlled by the scope aperture.

Now, when imaging, you can readily improve contrast by signal processing with “Curves” and the like, as long as your camera has sufficient dynamic range. Tuning is therefore a lot less critical, and “double stacking” probably unnecessary.

Have I got this right? Any comments?

Observing Log 13/4/2019 @ 22:30-23:30, Lichfield

  • Orion Optics UK 10″ Dobsonian Telescope
  • Orion USA Premium Linear BinoViewer
  • APM Ultra Flat Field 18mm 65 degree FMC eyepiece pair
  • TeleVue Nagler 7mm 80 degree eyepiece pair
  • Bresser 14mm Plossl eyepiece pair

Predicted to be 50% or more cloudy tonight, I was surprised when the sky was clear – so I took the Orion 10″ and binoviewer outside to given them a spin. Once outside looking at the sky, I realised that the forecast was a lot more accurate than I have initially thought – although the sky appeared clear, transparency was poor due to thin high altitude cloud and a relatively bright Moon made the situation worse.

Nevertheless, the Moon gave a great opportunity to try out the binoviewer again – and I enjoyed some wonderful views of the roughly 60% illuminated disc and terminator.

I do not have a good history of being able to merge the two images in binoculars – tonight I found it easier than before to merge images particularly with the APM Ultra Flat Field 18mm 65 degree FMC eyepiece pair. The Nagler pair were the most difficult – I wonder if this is due to the large apparent field of view? I don’t know a great deal about how these things work but I have read that the field of view of a 1.25 inch binoviewer is limited…….is that relevant to my ability to merge images? Whatever the reason the APM pair seem ideally matched for this binoviewer.

I was also able to see single merged images of start fields in Auriga and Gemini with the APM pair.

This is the second time I have used the Premium Linear binoviewer – my ability to observe merged images was significantly improved tonight over the first time.

What I did notice tonight was a reflection of the secondary mirror which seemed to be coming from the central optics in the binoviewer which combine images from the two eyepieces. It only appeared with the bright Moon and not with the star fields. In addition, there was blue line along the edge on one side of the field of view with the bright Moon, although this did not seem to affect the image of the Moon itself nor detract from my enjoyment of the view. The Astronomy Now review of this binoviewer, although very positive, did mention reflections with bright objects, so I think this is what I am seeing.