Observing

Observing Log 9/1/2021

Orion UK 10 inch Dobsonian

Explore Scientific 9mm 100 degree AFOV eyepiece

9/1/2021

 

Wow! I have just had my best ever view of M36, 37 and 38. Never expected that tonight. Using ten inch Dobo with Explore Scientific 9mm 100 degree FOV eyepiece, each cluster fills the field of view of the eyepiece. The views of M36 and M38 are extremely bright with that diamonds on velvet appearance that makes the Double Cluster in Perseus through a 10 inch Dobsonian scope such a wonderful view – it is just that I have never seen it before with these three open clusters, which often disappoint,  but not tonight! M36 is entirely different, with loads of fainter white stars, also filling the field from end to end. What a comparison! I guess this must be related to how high Auriga is riding tonight, at about 75 degrees for these clusters. Not the clearest of nights, but not too bad either – 7/10 on my personal “visibility of Orion’s sword” scale (I resort to this because the local seeing conditions are almost always poor so it is a question of how poor they are tonight….) There is minimal scintillation and, at this elevation, the constellation is above most of the light pollution.

Looking at Pleiades, can see that the sky has lot of moisture with halo around the brightest stars.

I have been photographing the Tadpoles with my imaging rig, but Orion now cleared the trees. At the RAG astrophotography SIG last night, Rob Leonard suggested this months target should be something in Orion, so I have now moved over to Orion to photograph the Horsehead and Flame Nebula. Only once have ever photographed those in colour and it is an awful picture. Since then I’ve taken a half-decent black and white photo – hopefully, if the clouds hold off, I can add a reasonable colour photo to that tonight…….although of course today’s reasonable becomes tomorrow’s awful as our standards improve with experience (I also very happy with my previous photo when I took it!)

I am quite excited about tonight. I must go for my Covid vaccine tomorrow at 9am so sadly can’t keep going so in a minute I am going to put the kit away. However I have managed 2 hours straight in Horsehead. This is first time that I have ever been able to keep imaging one object for that long on single night, either because of cloud or because the object I am imaging goes behind trees in my garden. And its a great object too – the Horsehead and Flame plus my stars look round(!) So hopefully I can produce something decent.

Cloud dodging my way to an old friend…

One of those nights where you know from the forecast it isn’t going to be great, but you’re also suffering withdrawal and go for it with the 14″ anyway…

Started off with Mars. I’ve recently discovered that the best view of it in the dob is with a variable polarising filter. It really cuts the glare down and doesn’t seem to lose as much resolution as the aperture mask. Lovely clear surface detail and the polar cap still just visible. Kicking myself that I didn’t discover this combination back in October!!!
Next over to the Pleiades and it’s a fabulous sight- lots nebulosity and texture between the stars. Love it.

Then it clouds over….

90 minutes later Sam suggests that if he gets his PJ’s on then maybe the sky will clear- and sure enough it did ten minutes later! I can hire him out at if anyone’s interested…

Transparency isn’t so good, but stars can be seen!!! M42 has cleared the house for my first proper view this season. A brilliant sight and we spend some time drinking it in. The main nebula is bright and clear at 55x and really pops with the uhc filter in. It’s like having an old friend back. Even the Running Man is quite prominent. Swap over to the 7mm for 236x and the core is like a whole new object, lots of texture in the bright area with the fainter stuff dropped out by the higher mag. The trapezium is bright and clear with E and F stars just about there floating in and out of visibility.

Pop the 30mm back in for a trip to Alnitak, but the sky is getting murkier by the minute. I can see hints of nebulosity, but not the dark lane that means I can chalk up the flame.

In view of the conditions I decide to look at some brighter stuff. Sigma Orionis is a good sight- 4 stars easy. It looks to me like the A star has a companion. Lots of checking and double checking and a bit of a read on the internet- it does have one and was discovered in a 12″ scope. In view of the conditions I find it very unlikely that I’ve seen it, but one to go back to. Has anyone else on here snagged this one? Really good view in any case.

Next I had a look at Betelgeuse. I know it’s just a big fat red star but I love the colour and so did my son.

Moved down to Rigel. I really like it-it’s a nice split and a good example of uneven stars without being anywhere near as difficult as Sirius.
One last view on the faint stuff- over to M31/2. A nice view, but too murky to pick up 110.

Thicker cloud now so scanning the sky to find gaps…

Iota Cass- easily found and split.
Achird a nice split with some hints of colour.

A nice session- shame it clouded over, but a bit of a fix to keep me going!!!!

Turn Back to Orion

Recently I’ve been struggling for ideas for visual observing. When there’s a clear night I keep going back to the same old targets, and whilst this is enjoyable, it doesn’t carry the same excitement of discovery. I think the root cause of this is not doing the leg work beforehand- I normally build target lists (often from other’s observing reports), but I’ve dropped out of that habit a bit of late.

A couple of days ago, whilst contemplating a tricky work problem, I picked up my old battered copy of “Turn Left at Orion” and started flicking through. In my first year of observing it was this book that really got me going, giving me target ideas and helping me to find my way around the sky. As I’ve become more proficient it has gradually fallen out of use, but flicking through it I found I’d done what everyone probably does and gone straight for the showpieces. There are a wealth of other targets along with nice little narratives.

So last night I worked my way with my 14” dob through pages 180-189 of my 4th edition. I used Sky Safari a little to help with the navigation (it makes it so much easier), but otherwise this is a session done Old Skool!

Mars: Alright- this wasn’t on the list, but you can’t ignore it, sitting there so prominently. I’ve become a bit spoiled in this apparition, having had quite a few outstanding views of it. Last night was a bit murky in comparison with the best of those, suggesting thin cloud, but I was still able to make out shading on the surface and the distinct solar cap. It’s been a wonderful target these last 6 weeks and I’ll miss it when it has receded.

Almach: Incredibly I’ve used this star to navigate many times, but never actually looked at it in the eyepiece. What a beauty! Very bright and to my eyes it looked blue and almost white with a hint of yellow!

59 Andromeda: Like two blue cats eyes, nicely separated and evenly matched.

56 Andromeda: This pair was a touch fainter and a less vivid colour, but more of a golden colour with a wider separation. It took a bit more finding, sat on the edge of a relatively sparse open cluster NGC752. With hindsight, I was sticking too closely to the script here and should probably have dropped in a wider eyepiece to enjoy the cluster more. The Baader 8-24 zoom I was using is very good for dropping in and out, but the narrow FOV at 24mm doesn’t give the best view of extended objects like this.

6 Trianguli: A much tighter pair at 3.7”, but quite easily separated at 8mm.

Lambda Arieta: A nice contrasting brightness, TLAO talks about contrasting colours but I can only see a hint of blue in the much fainter companion, whereas the primary seems completely white to me.

1 Arieta: Another tight pair at 2.9”, but quite easily separated at 8mm. Again, I was unable to make out a colour contrast.

Mesarthim: A more comfortable split and a much brighter double star, apparently even brightness (combined mag 3.86). According to TLAO the orientation barely changes, suggesting that we’re looking at the orbit edge on. I was curious about the name of this one so researched a but further- apparently it’s a corruption of nearby Sheraton; and as a star it appears in Chinese and Indian Mythology; in the latter as a doctor to the divine. It also gives its name to an Australian band who specialise in the Depressive Suicidal Black Metal genre. Who knew that was a thing? I’ll probably give it a miss…

M34: Turn the page and here was a more familiar object. To me it looks sort of like a flower stalk, set against the rich star field of the Milky Way. This time I did drop out to the 30mm- a really nice view.

The Double Cluster: Here’s an old friend, it even looks good in the finder. Sticking with the 30mm I was comfortably able to fit both sides in the same FOV. As well as the richness of the Star Field I love the different colours in this one. There are lots of tones of yellow and blue, and then a few deep red ones really stand out. Found myself in disagreement with TLAO here- it claims this is much prettier in a smaller telescope (a 4/4 frac view, but only a 2/4 dob view), but I find the view in my Dob for this one glorious- the number and concentration of the stars make this one of my favourite sights. On the other hand- I do like the way TLAO descriptions lapse into the whimsical- “the view from a planet in one of the clusters would be spectacular: perhaps a hundred stars in the home cluster would be far brighter than the brightest star in Earth’s sky, while the other cluster would be far more impressive than any open cluster in our sky”. Now there’s something for your dreams.

The Pleiades: Having the 30mm in the scope and talk of spectacular open clusters made me take a detour to the Pleiades. Perhaps natives of the Double Cluster have a better view, but this one does me just fine. The electric blue colour and patches of nebulosity still visible even with the strongly illuminated moon. Yum!

Back to TLAO…

Iota Cassiopeia: This again is a familiar target; I find it a good test of conditions, especially when the Double Double is dropping low. I quite enjoy pulling it up at 24mm, when it looks elongated but single, and then zooming. At 20mm it’s already a double, but I’m at 10mm before the third companion starts to appear. By 8mm it’s a clear separation. Sometimes I can see hints of colour, but tonight they all look white.

Struve 163: Another triple, but much greater separation. The A and B stars were showing fantastic colour- deep blue and orange, although the third was much fainter. This was another discovery for me, a lovely sight, I need to make this a regular stop!

Eta Cassiopeia: Another pair of contrasting brightness, I found this quite a straightforward separation. TLAO claims sharply contrasting colours, but I couldn’t get this- just a hint of orange in the secondary for me.

Burnham One: I struggled to find this one a little, and didn’t manage to split the A and B pair (1.1”- which is usually just in range for the dob). I should have tried a mask, but was more excited that the transparency had improved a bit and some clouds to the south were dampening the moonlight to the extent that I could see the PacMan nebula- something I’ve never managed from home before!

Sigma Cassiopeia: This, at 3.2” was an easier split- the clouds were coming closer now…

Struve 3053: Last view of the night and another new one for me. I had to be quick with the star hopping to beat the oncoming clouds, but got there just in time- and very glad I did. Quite startling orange and blue- a really lovely view.

The encroaching clouds ended it there, but really enjoyable to get the buzz of discovery back. I would happily have turned the page for a tour of Cassiopeia’s open clusters, but that’s going to have to wait until the next time!

Sky watching in Flamborough, Yorkshire

Had a couple of chances to do some sky watching when on holiday last week. Mars was clearly visible when the sky cleared. It seemed that it took quite a while for the sky to get dark enough. The moon was looking good. I was able to look out of the velux window in the bedroom, and see the moon out there. On one evening the Milky Way was visible, not too clear, but you could tell it was there.

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