Observing

Observing Report 25/9/20

I really wasn’t expecting much last night after the RAG meeting, as the forecast was iffy and I was tired. It was only Sam nagging that got me out really. I’m very glad he did.

Got the 14″ out (in for a penny…) and started off with some broken cloud and a nice view of Mars- it really is very good at the moment. Polar caps and surface shading were very prominent- and that colour- wow!

Decided to try and do an imaging run in the Dob on it- it’s harder than it looks!!! I barlowed it up to get some detail, and at 5m focal length keeping it on the screen, never mind in the middle, is harder than it looks!!! Eventually realised that the seeing wasn’t going to support anything special so we abandoned that idea and started observing instead.

Next went for the Pleiades, and at that point the penny dropped that seeing might be a bit wobbly, but the sky was very transparent. The nebulosity was evident all over the place, a gorgeous electric blue around the brighter stars. We both found that by gently wobbling the scope you could bring out the granularity right across the cluster.

Moved across to Andromeda, and just sat taking turns drinking it in- with the bright core centred the disk reached out beyond the fov of the 30mm EP. Even m110 was pretty straightforward.

Time for Sam to go to bed, so I said goodnight and then took a break to set an imaging run going.

Next up- Uranus- clear green disk. Lovely view.

M33 best ever view from home. Superb in 30mm. Core was clear with hints of the outer regions.

Ngc752 lovely rich cluster. Almost rose like. Gorgeous.

NGC 891 – Nope- even with this sky I couldn’t catch this at home.

I fancied some more galaxies so next up was Mirach and its ghost. At around 200x this was clearly visible.

NGC 7814 in the corner of Pegasus was really faint but there.
Ngc7331 above the north west arm of Pegasus was nice and obvious.
Worth going for Stephans quintet? YES! First sight at home in 30mm just a smudge, but definitely seen. Spent a long time on this one. I must have liked for this 10+ times and I’ve only seen it once before on a special night in Cumbria. It was only the faintest lightening of the sky without real shape, but the concept of seeing this galaxy cluster with my own eyes blows my mind.

Over to Cepheus for the Garnet star- like a glowing coal, with hints of nebulosity
Ngc7380- my imaging target for the night. No nebulosity seen but a nice v shaped cluster.

Caroline’s Rose. This was inspired a bit by Andy’s picture. On hazy nights I find this can be a bit meh- but tonight the hundreds of faint stars and were a wonderful sight.

Time for bed now, but went back for a last peak at Mars. Just a terrific sight. I spent a while looking for the moons without any joy- the planet was just too bright, the glow prominent even when the disk was edged out of view.

Tearing myself away from the eyepiece on a night like this was not easy!

Observing on 14th August at Rosliston

Had a really good time at Rosliston last night. Everything seemed to go safely and smoothly (after we managed to get in!)

The gaps in the clouds made it worth going and Jupiter and Saturn kept us company for much of the time. The owls were hooting and planes going over head. The odd meteor made us happy too.

It was great be able to chat and chill together. Thanks to Heather for organising it, and to everybody who attended.

Alan and Angella Rodgers

RAG observing session at Rosliston Forestry Centre 14/8/2020

Our first observing session after Covid 19 pandemic lockdown. Predicted to be cloudy, it partially cleared, allowing us to view Jupiter, Saturn, M27, M57. Other attendees saw several meteors, most of which were consistent with a Perseid radiant – I missed all of them as I was always looking in the other direction!

Photos of Jupiter below taken with hand-held Samsung S10+ phone through Orion UK 10 inch Dobsonian telescope by myself.

Andy

Comet Neowise

Went out last night in Tamworth and managed to get the telescope onto Comet Neowise. It was an achievement, but I think I liked the view through binoculars just as much. I was delighted that after my posting on my FaceBook page at least 4 of my friends and relatives went out and looked at it too. Two close friends came to the garden last night, bringing warm clothes and their own binoculars. It was great to see how delighted they were with what they saw.

Sadly it looks like we won’t get a chance to see it tonight. Perhaps the forecast for tomorrow night might be exaggerating the cloud cover. Hope so.

Comet Neowise from Tamworth

We were delighted to see Comet Neowise very clearly through binoculars at about 11pm on the evening of 19th July 2020. We followed the bottom right line of Ursa Major and there it was, just where it was supposed to be. As it got darker the comet stood out very clearly. There was a clear core-like section at the bottom, and a long tail pointing upwards. It was icy white.

So pleased we persisted. Sadly our photo we took with a smartphone was just a reminder of the direction we looked. We didn’t capture the actual comet.

See its location here – https://www.nasa.gov/feature/how-to-see-comet-neowise/ . It will be closest on 22/3 July, and then will be about 64 million miles away.

Angella and Alan Rodgers

Observing in Lichfield on 10-11 July 2020

Had a super time with Andy observing (socially distanced) in his garden. We had great view of the moons of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn. Saw lots of other objects in the sky too. Andy is so deft at finding things. It was fun to introduce his neighbour to the night sky too. He was quick to pick things up and was soon using an app on is phone to identify what he could see in the sky. Thanks to Andy for inviting us.

We had the added drama on the way home of seeing a lorry extricate itself from the railway bridge by Lichfield City Railway Station! Good job it was 2am-ish, so not many of us waiting for it to clear the bridge.

This feeble picture of Saturn and Jupiter will remind us of the evening! Shame I didn’t capture the splendid views we saw through the telescope!

Angella and Alan Rodgers

Observing Feast

Had the 14″ out as the forecast looked good and no work today… Before joining the others for the virtual star party Sam and I tried splitting a few doubles that were emerging in the twilight. It’s funny how your observing develops- doubles didn’t really interest me much to start with, but as time has gone on I’ve become a little addicted to it. I’ve found with my gear an aperture mask and (if the seeing will take it) really high magnification (470x last night) works well.

Epsilon Lyra: you could drive a bus through there!

Izar: Ok more like a road bike (with skinny tyres) but still a nice clear split.

Next spent a bit of time setting up an imaging run, then rejoined the club online call on audio and we tried to look at the same features on the moon. The seeing was superb. Great to share these highlights with others:

Lunar X- my first observation.

Lunar V- likewise!

Walther- spectacular shadow reaching from central peak and picking out features on the crater floor.

Ptolemaeus- wow! Just perfectly placed with the crater rim picked out as a shadow across the crater floor. I spent ages on this trying to imagine the sight at the edge of the shadow as the sun crested the 2.5km high ridge above the crater floor. Reading today that the crater is close to 100 miles wide it isn’t quite as I imagined. I suspect for 95% of the lunar day this crater is a bit meh to observe- but so perfectly placed tonight with all sorts of textures and features in the floor it was an awesome sight.

Ok so now it was darkish, time to go deep space…

M13- familiar, but a wonder every time. Propeller visible.

ZetaHerc- split came and went in the seeing, but pretty clear at times. Credit card split, not road bike.

M81 Central shape, hazy outlying areas
M82 a sleek line, some mottling despite proximity to the moon.

Now Cygnus was over the rooftops to the east. Time for a summer target feast:
Full veil complex in oiii & 30mm. Lovely view, witches broom much the brighter bit, wonderful to have it back.
Crescent nebula- yes! First sight!!! Faint but just visible in oiii. Only really sure because of the keystone asterism framing the wisp.
M27 dumbbell- in Baader zoom and Oiii filter. Apple core shape prominent with fainter view of the outer lobes.
M57 the ring – very bright in oiii, still easily visible with no filter.
M71- quite faint but pleasing
M56- very nice- quite faint but with even distribution.

Ok- now 2am and only Andy and I left so one last object and the sky is now darkest around Ursa Major.
M51- spiral arms!!! Yes! Drifting in and out of perception and requiring AV but a very fine view.

So- packed up the dob and the imaging rig and was just locking up and about to go to bed when Jupiter popped round the side of the house and said “You don’t want to do that!” Quickly grabbed the 8 inch:

Jupiter- 4 moons and stripes oh yeah!!! Couldn’t make out much detail with it being so low in the sky, but great to see it again.
Saturn- My log says “& Titan” but looking at Sky Safari now I think it was more likely to be Iapetus. I couldn’t see the Cassini division but there was a hint of banding.

Wow- one of those super awesome sessions that come along so rarely. A real pleasure and such a range of stuff seen. Would have preferred to do it at Rosliston, but a good alternative to share it virtually with other club members.

Best not plan anything too demanding today!

Observing Log 24-25/5/2020 Lichfield

Observations last night:

22:30. Set up Altair Astro 183M mono camera to take colour data on M106. Camera on my Sky Watcher Equinox Pro 80mm OTA on EQ6 on roll out platform in garden in Lichfield, UK.

Took while to synchronise mount with sky and then GOTO M106.

Guiding working reasonably well most of time – occasional big guiding spikes associated with error just > 3 arc-seconds – I suspect due to wind, settling to 1-2 arc-seconds RMS error on guiding, mostly < 1.

Went for shower before going outside to pull out 10 inch Orion Dobsonian on equatorial platform. Tomorrow is a Bank Holiday so I don’t need to go to work so I cam stay outside. Yippee!

Saw ISS go over to South.

23:48 Just seen spectacular meteor lasting couple seconds going from South to North in area between Great Square of Pegasus and feet of Ursa Major. Stood out for me as appeared to be dropping down although I think this is probably an artifact of where it was in sky – low in northwest.

Definitely the wind that is causing brief moments of worsening guiding accuracy – just witnessed it happen.

00:15. Taking a last look at Virgo cluster of galaxies this year before they drop down in the west – or more importantly drop behind top of my house in the west!

Aimed directly between Denebola and Vindemiatrix. Immediately dropped straight down onto Virgo A – comparing adjacent star asterisks to chart in Sky Safari confirmed location and find.

Virgo A is bright fuzzy blob in 20mm Explore Scientific (ES) 100 degree field of view eyepiece. In 9mm ES of same series it was a bigger fuzzy blob, still without detail – but then sky isn’t that dark, being summer and centre of Lichfield.

It might be summer but time for coat and hat! Getting a bit cold out here…..

Just taken photo of Virgo A using hand held Samsung S10+ phone through 9mm ES.

M57 Ring Nebula, hand held Samsung Note 10+:

I have forgotten which globular cluster this one was (below):

02:52. Sky getting light and more difficult to find objects. Got plenty of colour data on M106 so hopefully it can all be processed to help me get my first colour image of M106, and combine with the luminence data I collected the week before last.

03:30. Just packed away. Dawn definitely on its way with significantly brighter sky. No dawn chorus yet. I am off to bed!

Andy

Observing Log 15-16 May 2020 Lichfield

I started setting up my astrophotography gear at 21:30 in order to collect colour subs for M106. At the same time I pulled out my Orion Optics UK 10 inch Dobsonian and mounted on my Equatorial Platforms USA equatorial platform set for 52 degrees latitude. This allows high power viewing without the need to constantly nudge the telescope to keep an object in the field of view, and, as we discovered tonight, is also a boon for photography through the scope!
Rhys and I viewed a number of objects which Rhys then photographed using my Samsubg S10 Note+ phone hand-held to the eyepiece using a variety of exposure lengths between 1 and 4 seconds.
By this means, he photographed M51 and showed spiral structure, the Cigar Galaxy M82 and demonstrated its central bifurcationg dust lane, M13 and M92 globular clusters in Hercules showing the difference in compactness between them, and the Ring Nebula M57 in Lyra, showing its central hole.
The photographs were mostly through our 17mm eyepiece – lower magnifications tended to work less well as it became clear that he needed a bright star in the field of view to focus lock on and with longer focal length eyepieces stars did not appear bright enough for this purpose.
Phone set to maximum ISO 3200, maximum aperture F1.5.
When Rhys went to bed I continued my observing, as the night remained clear, contrary to the weather forecast.  I was continuing to take subs on M106 with my refractor and Altair Asyto 183M camera, so also continued to observe through Dob as well.
High magnification on the Ring Nebula with my 6mm Ethos eyepiece showed the centre of the ring well.
I followed this with Sunflower Galaxy both with 20mm Explore Scientific and 6mm Ethos eyepieces.  Given how difficult I used to find this object to locate, all of a sudden it seems very bright in the eyepiece, even on a night like tonight which has such a short period of astronomical darkness – although I guess I am in it as now it is 00:55!
M108 located with 20mm eyepiece – the sky isn’t really that dark and M108 looks like a faint slash – an easy star hop though.
Owl Nebula – could not observe tonight! Something obscuring sky at just wrong point – possibly high level cloud but stars there were faint and difficult to make out and the Nebula impossible to detect. Whatever it was would not seem to budge.
I have had a really enjoyable night after a difficult and very busy week at work. Feel a lot better!
Andy