Observing Log 15/12/2017 @ 22:36 – 16/12/2017 @ 02:04, LRO, Andy and Damian – first ever views of some faint nebulae

Observing Log 15/12/2017 @ 22:36 – 16/12/2017 @ 02:04.

Andy & Damian


What a night! Incredible views from the centre of Lichfield – we can only imagine what the views must have been like from a dark sky sight. Tonight, we saw things we have never seen before – at least by eye – and only ever expected to see on photograhpic images. Wow! Just goes to show – it is worth going outside in the freezing cold.

  • 10” Orion Dobsonian Telescope with Explore Scientific (ES) 20mm, 14mm, 9mm 100 degree apparent field of view (APOV) eyepieces and Telrad finder.
  • 80mm Sky Watcher Equinox Pro telescope on William Optics EzTouch Alt-Az mount with 31mm Nagler and 6mm Televue eyepieces and 8x50mm finder.
  • Sky Safari Pro 5 planetarium software on iPad

Photos through image intensified eyepiece (IS):

Orion Nebula (M42):

M81 and M82 Galaxies in Ursa Major (below) – note that the Image Intensified eyepiece has significant field curvature and coma towards the edges of the field so the thin smudge of the top left of this image is not another galaxy but a spread-out star:

Double Cluster in Perseus (below):


Orion Nebula – Messier 42, Bright Nebula in Orion,15 Dec 2017, 22:36:35, Using my ten-inch Orion Dob in my back garden, standing in the snow, after tripping over the remains of the snowman built by Rhys and Hannah, and survived the treacherous and very slippery icy steps (and having put salt on them to keep myself alive), my first target was Orion’s nebula. Magnificent and stretching over half the field of view in my 14mm Explore Scientific (ES) 100-degree AFOV eyepiece. My eyes are poorly dark adapted, but the nebula looks green rather than grey tonight, suggesting the sky is very clear after the snow falls.

NGC 1975, Bright Nebula in Orion, 15 Dec 2017, 22:42:48, Visible other side of the fish-mouth, little detail visible.

Flame Nebula – NGC 2024, Bright Nebula in Orion,15 Dec 2017, 23:00:41, Definite observation of the Flame Nebula nebulosity. Once our eyes were relaxed, we could see filaments and tendrils over 1+ fields of view growing in brightness towards the main part of the Flame Nebula. Realised again it is a question of learning to observe this very faint object.

Messier 78, Bright Nebula in Orion,15 Dec 2017, 23:04:08, First ever observation of M78. Two stars with definite nebulosity. I thought it was an open cluster at first, but Damian realised what it was, and we star hopped around the area to confirm it.

Orion Nebula – Messier 42, Bright Nebula in Orion,15 Dec 2017, 23:05:20, Image intensified eyepiece – we could see tendrils curling around in circle behind M42 from tips of the wings of the nebula, these were not obviously visible in ES eyepiece. M43 also showed more detail in image intensified eyepiece BUT we could not see the Flame nebula in the image intensified eyepiece.

Messier 78, Bright Nebula in Orion,15 Dec 2017, 23:07:31, Seen in image intensified eyepiece (IS) but nebulosity less obvious (although still visible) than in ES.

Barnard’s Loop – Sharpless 2-276, Bright Nebula in Orion,15 Dec 2017, 23:25:05, I thought I could follow part of this – a C-shaped lightening as a strip at centre field of view – which I followed upwards and then right on to right in next field of view. Damian was not convinced so we will call this a possible observation only……

NGC 2244, Open Cluster in Monoceros, 15 Dec 2017, 23:29:33, First seen as definite smudge in Vixen 2.1x binoculars by myself! I am doing well tonight, as I have seen first most observations above. Damian mentioned NGC 2244 in his talk at RAG end last month. These Vixen binoculars are really growing on me as they do such a good job of identifying such objects. In ten-inch with 14mm ES, we saw definite structure in the Rosette Nebula itself and not just the star cluster. Wow! What a night! And from the centre of Lichfield. But it does require one of the clearest skies we have ever seen. In the IS only the stars of the cluster could be seen and not the nebulosity. This appears to show that the IS responds very poorly to very faint diffuse objects.

Messier 35, Open Cluster in Gemini,16 Dec 2017, 00:39:12, Damian tried out my Skywatcher Equinox Pro on his William Optics EzTouch alt-az mount. He found M35 with his Nagler 31mm, one of the most famous eyepieces of all time.

Pleiades – Messier 45, Open Cluster in Taurus,16 Dec 2017, 00:41:34, In 80mm with 31mm Nagler, masses space around stars just like binocular view. Never seen like this in telescope. Like binocular view -magnification 500mm/31mm = 16x magnification with excellent field of view much better than most binoculars.

Double Cluster – NGC 869, Open Cluster in Perseus,16 Dec 2017, 00:44:33, Likewise with 80mm Equinox and 31mm Nagler this gives excellent binocular view without aberration unlike most binoculars. Obvious uni-ocular view.

Stock 2, Open Cluster in Cassiopeia,16 Dec 2017, 00:49:03,80mm Equinox plus 31mm Nagler best view to view this. Looks like a man with Double Cluster at edge of field of view.

Double Cluster – NGC 869, Open Cluster in Perseus,16 Dec 2017, 00:50:17, Every bit of kit has its place. That includes a ten inch Dob with 20mm ES -spectacular!

Pinwheel Cluster – Messier 36, Open Cluster in Auriga,16 Dec 2017, 00:53:12, What a way to pan M36/37/38 in Auriga – the 80mm Equnix+31mm Nagler. Wow! Wow! Wow!

Pinwheel Cluster – Messier 36, Open Cluster in Auriga,16 Dec 2017, 00:54:39, Throw away the 80mm binoculars!

Double Cluster – NGC 884, Open Cluster in Perseus,16 Dec 2017, 00:55:41, Lovely view through 80mm Equinox with 14mm ES. More magnified at 37.5x although of course will not match light gathering and therefore brilliant diamond like quality of ten inch Dob. But 80mm is a lot more grab and go. Damian thinking of something similar for American trip in 2019.

IC 1805, Open Cluster in Cassiopeia,16 Dec 2017, 01:04:47, Started by identifying the cluster and checking it was correct by panning around and checking location. Once this was certain started looking for Heart Nebula.

Heart Nebula – IC 1805, Bright Nebula in Cassiopeia,16 Dec 2017, 01:05:59, Once we identified cluster we could then identify nebulosity. This is certain observation with tendrils of nebulosity evident. However, one criticism is applicable. If we did not know from or planetarium maps that this was the correct location could we be sure this nebulosity was not background star fields, too faint to resolve individual stars? Answer is we couldn’t as brightness only slightly different from elsewhere but once location established fact is we could see the nebulosity with certainty. Is this only going to be tonight when sky so clear? Possibly but in fact it is starting to mist up now so perhaps this is part of the skill-set l-learning to recognize things for what they are in the sky. Note all our observations so far have been by direct vision. Averted vision has not been required so far tonight.

Soul Nebula – IC 1848, Bright Nebula in Cassiopeia,16 Dec 2017, 01:13:01, Adjacent to Heart Nebula, also seen initially via cluster stars. Again, once identified, we could then start to see the nebulosity – becoming more obvious as we spent more time observing it – particularly one bright patch. Both Heart and Soul Nebula seen with ten inch and 20mm ES.

Messier 65, Spiral Galaxy in Leo,16 Dec 2017, 01:22:28, Failed to find these,

Bode’s Nebulae – Messier 81, Spiral Galaxy in Ursa Major,16 Dec 2017, 01:23:00, Neat little objects in centre of field inn 80mm – of M81/82 and M42 – with 31mm Nagler.

Damian then changed to 6mm Ethos for M42 inn 80mm. Masses of detail. Quite bright. The combination of Equinox and WO mount seems to work well.

Orion Nebula – Messier 42, Bright Nebula in Orion,16 Dec 2017, 01:37:54,80mm through IS M42 bright but M43 not visible. Smaller image means less affected by field curvature and coma inherent in the IS.

Finished observing @ 02:04 – sky too misty and its too cold and my secondary has fogged up!

Polar treats

just a few worth finding ,

NGC 40 – Bow Tie Nebula

The planetary nebula NGC 40, sometimes referred to as the “Bow tie” nebula, is located in Cepheus.
NGC 40 was discovered by William Herschel on November 25th, 1788. It is a spectacular object! This planetary is a bright (magnitude 10.7), slightly oval-shaped disk, 48″ across, with a conspicuous magnitude 11.5 central star. Brighter areas along the eastern and western edges mimic the appearance of the polar caps of Mars. The western “cap” seems to run off the disk. The “polar cap” effect is only visible on the best of nights.
NGC 40 is composed of hot gas around a dying star. The central star has ejected its outer layer which has left behind a hot, white dwarf core with a surface temperature about 50,000 degrees Celsius; radiation from this star heats the outer layers to about 10,000 degrees.
NGC 40 is about 3,500 light years away, and about one light-year across. About 30,000 years from now, NGC 40 will fade away, leaving only a white dwarf star approximately the size of Earth. This appeared bright , even in a TAL 100.


NGC 188, “The Ancient One” in Cepheus.

Ninth magnitude NGC 188 is one of the oldest known open clusters. Its estimated age, 9 billion years, is about that of the youngest globular clusters. NGC 188’s brightest stars, 12th to 13th magnitude objects, are yellow class III giants with spectra of G8 to K4. The cluster completely lacks white main sequence stars.

NGC 188 was discovered by John Herschel on November 3, 1831 and cataloged as h 34 in his 1833 catalog. This object subsequently became GC 92 in his 1864 General Catalogue, and finally NGC 188 in Dreyer’s NGC.
This cluster is within 5 degrees of the north celestial pole. It is moderately faint, with a combined magnitude of 8.1. Three dozen pinpoint stars resolve in a rich, concentrated background glow spanning a 14′ area. NGC 188 is a nice but faint, round cluster of fifty to sixty 12th to 15th magnitude stars twinkling in and out of resolution against a granular background. Several dark gaps lie west of the cluster’s center. Several wide star-pairs stand out.
Unlike most open clusters that drift apart after a few million years because of the gravitational interaction of our galaxy, NGC 188 lies far above the plane of the galaxy. NGC 188 is at an estimated distance of 5,000 light year, putting it slightly above the Milky Way’s disc, and further from the center of the galaxy than the Sun.
NGC 1888 is over 5 billion years, and is one of the most ancient open clusters known in our Galaxy. It consists of about 120 stars; the hottest main sequence star is of spectral type F2 V, while the 10 brightest stars are yellow giants of spectral types G8 III to K4 III. These have apparent magnitudes of about 12 to 14, corresponding to absolute magnitudes of +0 to +2. I’m very much drawn to the obscure and unique targets , such as NGC2419 and the Methuselah Star in Libra, this joins those ranks.

Dont forget , the bright “Cat’s Eye” nebula in Draco, NGC 6543,


Steve on Skye.

My wife was born and raised about half a mile from Trumpan church . It’s quite remote on north Skye. I know the skies very well there , having seen auroras many times . I was pleased to see this reported , occurring on Saturday 18th of November, Nick.


Observing Log 17/11/17 @ 21:30 – 18/11/17 @ 03:00, LRO, Lichfield, Andy, Damian & Rhys

Observing Log 17/11/17 @ 21:30 – 18/11/17 @ 03:00

LRO, Lichfield

Andy, Damian & Rhys


Damian came around to my house in Lichfield for a great observing session. We both used our Orion ten-inch Dobsonian telescopes. Rhys joined us for an hour and then we continued for another 4 and a half hours.

We must really enjoy this astronomy lark! 5 and a half hours shot past as though only minutes – and this was after a long day at work and school for all of us.

Tonight’s session rates in amongst one of our best – with a number of unusual targets and the very successful use of our home-made image-intensified eyepieces – we made these years ago and had moved away from using them in favour of more “modern” equipment (video cameras) but tonight, on the Dobsonian telescopes, in a head-to-head with my Watec video camera the image-intensified eyepieces won for shear ease of use, fun and “at the eyepiece” experience – and boy were they good at helping us to observe galaxies!

I will add a post in a few minutes after this one with photographs taken through the image intensified eyepiece.


Photos below of Damian and Andy and telescopes tonight – Andy looks like he is falling asleep!





  • Orion Dobsonian 10 Telescopes x2
  • Vixen SG 2.1×42 Widefield Binoculars (Damian and I both made use of a discount at the International Astronomy Show this year to buy ourselves a pair of these amazing devices)
  • Explore Scientific and Televue Ethos eyepieces & Televue Paracorr coma correctors on both scopes.
  • Homemade image intensified eyepieces.
  • Watec 120N video camera




All objects tonight found by star-hopping, with the help of Sky Safari Pro 5 on my iPad and Damian’s Sky & Telescope Pocket Sky Atlas.


Pleiades – Messier 45, Open Cluster in Taurus,17 Nov 2017, 21:30:12, Whilst Damian aligned his laser pointer to his red dot finder on Capella in Auriga, I took the opportunity to use my new Vixen SG binoculars to observe the Pleiades – with my slight short sightedness I only see a blur with the naked eye but with these binoculars I was able to see 15 stars. Wonderful! My slight short sightedness (only about 0.75 dioptres) means I am usually reluctant to wear glasses (especially outside where I would be taking them on and off to look through an eyepiece) but it is sufficient to blur detail during naked eye observing. The Vixen SG binoculars give me back the ability to see the sky in focus and their individually focusable eyepieces allow me to compensate for the slight difference between my eyes.

Messier 37, Open Cluster in Auriga,17 Nov 2017, 21:33:28, Visible with Vixen SG binoculars with averted vision – I hope that will improve as I dark adapt. 21:36:14, Update to previous comment – I have just been able to observe M37 with direct vision through Vixen binoculars. Damian took a look himself and saw a meteor go through the field of view of the binoculars – always a spectacular sight in the Vixen SG. We then used 21mm Ethos with Paracorr to observe M37. Beautiful!


Pinwheel Cluster – Messier 36, Open Cluster in Auriga,17 Nov 2017, 21:43:27, Comparing the view in my Explore Scientific 20mm vs Damian’s Ethos 21mm the view is very similar.


Starfish Cluster – Messier 38, Open Cluster in Auriga,17 Nov 2017, 21:45:25, Another nice view of an easily seen open cluster in the Orion Dobsonian telescopes.


NGC 1907, Open Cluster in Auriga,17 Nov 2017, 21:46:02, However we preferred of this cluster to that of M38 close by. Faint but we readily saw it. Not really challenging…now this would be a good one to spot in the Vixen binoculars! Not that we saw it with these binoculars tonight!


North America Nebula – NGC 7000, Bright Nebula in Cygnus,17 Nov 2017, 21:53:03, I read the other day that nothing is brighter than the naked eye view and that magnification does not increase contrast contrary to the popular view – instead it increases the number of retinal sensory cells covered by the image and hence increases visibility. Therefore, for extended large faint objects, they are easier to observe at low magnification, as long as sufficient retinal receptors are covered. Therefore, there is an optimal magnification for each object which is the best compromise between the benefits and negative effects of magnification. For many larger objects, this optimal magnification is a lot less than many of us usually think.

I decided to put this information to the test tonight by trying to observe my nemesis – NGC 7000 – I can never see it in Lichfield. I used the Vixen SG binoculars on NGC 7000 to see if they would break my run of bad luck with this object….


22:04:47…..Success with the Vixen binoculars! NGC 7000 was elusive but definitely visible with averted vision. It popped in and out of view – lasting only a moment each time but then my eye would automatically wonder towards it and it disappeared immediately. Another wow for tonight!


IC 2149, Planetary Nebula in Auriga,17 Nov 2017, 22:06:28, Well done to Damian for finding this! Drop down from Capella to Menkalinan – slightly NE from there. Clearly blurred with 8mm Ethos, but must have been a nightmare for him to find by star-hopping tonight with his lower power eyepieces. UHC filter made it slightly clearer. We did not have access to an OIII filter tonight to compare, which is supposed to work better.


NGC 7814, Spiral Galaxy in Pegasus,17 Nov 2017, 22:20:24, Found by myself and successfully observed – a great success! Wow! Very faint in these Lichfield skies. Slight darkening. I think this is the brighter of the Pegasus cluster galaxies. I have been reading about observing this Sky and Telescope. Perhaps something really for darker skies than ours but nice to have made a foray into this group.


Crab Nebula – Messier 1, Bright Nebula in Taurus,17 Nov 2017, 22:27:27, Big! Even in 17mm Ethos.


The ‘Leaping Minnow’ asterism and the ‘Cheshire Cat’ Asterism in Auriga,17 Nov 2017, 22:40:34. Damian showed me the Leaping Minnow asterism and the Cheshire Cat Asterism in Auriga, both of which are in his presentation for RAG next week after he found references to them in previous magazine articles I’d sent him. Both of these required considerable imagination on my part to see the things they are meant to look like(!) It’ll be interesting to see what other RAG members think come the November RAG meeting!


Andromeda Galaxy – Messier 31, Spiral Galaxy in Andromeda,17 Nov 2017, 23:16:39, I tried observing this galaxy with my Watec 120 video camera and seven-inch screen. This was a failure in the Dob. I had to ask Damian for his help to track the scope on Capella whilst we tried to attain focus. Too much magnification and not enough in-focus when I tried to make use a focal reducer. Stars were shooting past the screen. Not practical.


However, the image intensified eyepieces we made years ago did well. M31 was crisp and bright (but perhaps not as impressive as we’d expected considering it relative ‘brightness’…? In fairness though, Damian pointed out the dust lanes in the ‘green’ image we were viewing which was not something easily seen through our eyepieces.


‘Mirach’s ghost’ NGC 404 a Mag 10.2 elliptical galaxy showed up better in the image intensified eyepiece than in the normal eyepiece! Damian found this fairly easily in this 17mm Ethos, even with the star in the same field of view, thankfully it was just out of the range of secondary mirror’s diffraction spikes.


NGC 752 in Triangulum – this is a big open cluster found easily with whatever we used. Damian tells me he often heads to this after all the unsuccessful attempts he has had to view M33 !


Damian found M33 using the image intensified eyepiece after trying with his 21mm Ethos and heated laser pointer. Then, averted vision with 17mm Ethos allowed us to identify its enormous size and Damian claimed he could see a part-spiral structure – he did not require Lord Rosse’s enormous scope to see it! (William Parsons, 3rd Earl of Rosse (17 June 1800 – 31 October 1867) was an Anglo-Irish astronomer who had several telescopes built. His 72-inch telescope, built in 1845 and colloquially known as the “Leviathan of Parsonstown” was famously used to observe spiral structure in M51. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Parsons,_3rd_Earl_of_Rosse)


Almach – Gamma1 Andromedae, Double Star in Andromeda,17 Nov 2017, 23:43:32, Beautiful open pairing – a main yellow/orange with a smaller sapphire blue – Nick will be proud of us looking at double stars!


NGC 2158, Open Cluster in Gemini,17 Nov 2017, 23:46:15, ‘the more difficult ‘companion’ to M35 easily seen in both scopes. I used a little higher mag than Damian, preferring 14mm Explore Scientific to his 21mm Ethos.


IC 443, Bright Nebula in Gemini,17 Nov 2017, 23:48:10, Had a look – couldn’t see – ridiculous attempt really at mag 12 – far too faint an object for these skies. I always live in hope though that we can push the boundaries!


Orion Nebula – Messier 42, Bright Nebula in Orion,17 Nov 2017, 23:49:55, First view through branches of tree. Poor view will be better later but worth recording – at 23.45.


Little Dumbbell Nebula – Messier 76, Planetary Nebula in Perseus,18 Nov 2017, 00:00:50, Damian also found this. Really does look like a miniature version of the Dumbbell nebula M27. Bright in eyepiece. Also shows up with structure in the image intensified eyepiece.


BREAK TIME – Seasonal mulled wine (Nick would not be impressed with our consumption of alcohol… perhaps less so with the warm muffin!) After Damian had warmed his toes on the kitchen radiator, we headed back out…


Little Dumbbell Nebula – Messier 76, Planetary Nebula in Perseus,18 Nov 2017, 00:35:10, Appearing larger in the 8mm Ethos, significant structure visible.


Back to the Orion Nebula – Messier 42, Bright Nebula in Orion,18 Nov 2017, 00:36:13 how sitting between an opening in the garden trees, Very long ‘wings’ in 14mm Explore Scientific 100 degree eyepiece. Unfortunately, collimation problems showed up in my scope when I used 6mm Explore Scientific – I could only see four stars. Too much of a seagull of the stars from coma. Damian could still only see four stars with 10mm Ethos in his better collimated scope, so sky conditions had part to play here. Plenty of detail though to be had including M43 brighter region around the ‘fish mouth’.


Double Cluster – NGC 869, Open Cluster in Perseus,18 Nov 2017, 01:05:46, Do you prefer the view of the Double Cluster in 17mm Ethos or 9mm Explore Scientific? Tonight, we could see that the former resulted in a view showing more of the context of the surrounding stars, the latter left a view of spectacular diamonds (the stars) on velvet (black background). Tonight, I preferred the latter but accept it is a matter of taste. Damian went to hunt for the ‘Muscle Man Cluster’ (also in the November talk), but had forgotten just how big this asterism is so couldn’t identify him – basically the majority of Stock 2 Open Cluster!


Uranus, Planet in Pisces,18 Nov 2017, 01:16:24, Too late! By time we thought of looking at this it was behind the house.

Messier 81 & Messier 82, Galaxies in Ursa Major,18 Nov 2017, 01:21:22, Excellent view with 17mm Ethos and amazing view with image intensified eyepiece, showing detail and dust lanes in the Cigar Galaxy. Incredible!



We also had a go at the RAG November ‘Christmas Night Sky Challenge’ (regurgitated Damian tells me from his 2015 talk!)….


Messier 108, Spiral Galaxy in Ursa Major,18 Nov 2017, 01:23:00, Also showed up nicely in image intensified eyepiece. In the Ethos eyepiece, it was a much fainter slash – significantly more difficult to find using normal eyepiece than with the image intensified eyepiece. Conversely, the close-by Owl Nebula M97) was much more obvious with the Ethos eyepiece and significantly fainter in the image intensified eyepiece – interesting how different objects respond differently to different modalities of observation.


Eskimo Nebula – NGC 2392, Planetary Nebula in Gemini,18 Nov 2017, 01:38:38, Suddenly expanded in size when we looked away from it (averted vision) then shrank down again when we looked directly at it (direct vision) in 17mm Ethos – this was quite a profound effect. With the 8mm Ethos, it was very fuzzy and Damian noted two shells around this planetary nebula, and some hints of detail within these shells. The 10mm Ethos showed a slightly different appearance emphasising the two layers at the expense of loss other detail. I am quite excited that I found this object first – although the truth is that I was helped by having seen it in the past with Nick using GOTO scopes, so I was aware of what it looked like and recognised it as I panned past it with a lower power finder eyepiece. This was perhaps the biggest and brightest of the ‘fuzzy stellar-like planetary nebulae’ that we observed this session.


The festive… Christmas Tree Cluster – NGC 2264, Open Cluster in Monoceros,18 Nov 2017, 01:53:41, First time seen this upright just like its name! Seeing this tonight makes me feel that Christmas is coming soon. Big object, fills a good portion of a 17mm Ethos.


Damian informed me of another addition to his November presentation build, Hubble’s Variable Nebula – NGC 2261, Bright Nebula in Monoceros,18 Nov 2017, 01:59:13, I am proud! I found this using the 17mm Ethos when Damian had more difficulty! It is usually the other way around (Damian is significantly better at star-hopping that I am) so hence my excitement. I did use his scope though, after I had tripped over his power pack and injured my shin – Damian would say, “Only you, Andrew!” (it looked pretty bad to be honest after we had finished for the night – taken a lump of skin off, ouch! – Damian).


Damian notes here: he was in the correct vicinity and just needed the more detailed SkySafari map to find the nebula (which was also his suggestion!). He’s also ‘not great’ at star hopping, but a nice low magnification/wide-field eyepiece, sky map/red head lamp  and heated laser pointer all flatter his supposed ‘skills’!


We also looked at Hubble’s Variable Nebula in the image intensified eyepiece and found that it was visible there but the view was better in the Ethos eyepiece. With the 10mm Ethos, the nebula is clearly triangular. Similarly, in 17mm, the triangular shape is obvious – like a fat tailed comet.


Beehive Cluster – Messier 44, Open Cluster in Cancer, 18 Nov 2017, 02:31:50, Vixen SG binoculars made it a breeze to find this. Large ‘smudge’ in Cancer.


Messier 101, Spiral Galaxy in Ursa Major,18 Nov 2017, 02:36:26, Amazingly I think I could just see this with Vixen 2.1x binoculars by averted vision – although very faint and the view in this direction was where light pollution was maximal, so I am not 100% sure of this observation.


NGC 2903, Spiral Galaxy in Leo,18 Nov 2017, 02:37:26, Just to the SW of the

inverted questionmark that forms the head of Leo . Good view in eyepiece and image intensified eyepiece. Lesson from tonight: image intensifiers work well on galaxies, and provide an alternative to filters which do not work well on galaxies but better on nebulae.


Whirlpool Galaxy – Messier 51, Spiral Galaxy in Canes Venatici,18 Nov 2017, 02:40:54,

02:46. Damian asked me to find it then in the scope, still fitted with the image intensified eyepiece. For the first time I used this device to actually locate and then view the galaxy – just two faint cores, no ‘bridge’ visible linking them.


I saw a fantastic bright meteor coming out of Gemini with a persistent trail.


03:00. Called the session to a halt as a large bank of cloud rolled in and covered the sky.



Sensible winter observing.

Following hours in observing and too much time fishing in winter ,here’s a few ideas.

Some advice for this time of year . Wrap up ! Most body heat leaves at your neck. A buff or scarf are ideal.Thick socks are essential, a thin inner and thick outer are ideal, cardboard insoles hold heat and are free.Thin gloves are useful. A thick down jacket is lovely ( I use a Trespass Igloo jacket), matched with base layers, top and bottom. Don’t struggle on , a few hours will leave you pleased ,instead of fed up.

Be aware that bringing in refractors from severe cold to central heating can in extreme conditions , crack the objective. This is particularly the case with fluorite . Similarly don’t overtighten fixing bolts , metal contracts in the cold. A chap a few years ago managed this and his mount slid off the mount. The cheap grease often found in focusers can gel at lower temperatures. It’s an easy job for Lee to strip them and change to a light Lithium grease. Be aware that cold will zap battery power, an insulated box or an old blanket will keep voltage up. Very often GOTO will suffer when voltage drops, you might be surprised to check the voltage on your handset reading the ubiquitous 11.3v. I use a trickle charger connected up to the battery .

Although the best viewing is after midnight , when the air settles, it’s coldest just before dawn. Often you’ll find the deep frost creeps in then. Watch for air currents that you generate yourself , these can come from hugging a Dobsonian for example. Dew is not much of a problem, until spring and autumn ,there will be a greater heat difference between ground and air on a hard surface than from grass.This will add to heat currents and dew through temperature difference. The coldest month is probably February, you’ll find snow to be a nuisance, throwing light upwards.

A hot drink is always welcome , beware of opening the fridge door for milk. Your dark adapted eyes will lose night vision, it’s that fridge light that stays on all the time ! I avoid coffee, it has an adverse effect on vision and although you’ll get a caffeine high , you’ll soon be back to below par !

Beware of 4am . Your body is at its lowest , its equivalent to being over the drink drive limit. It’s when you do silly things ! Appreciate that your body needs at least 7 hours sleep, too little can seriously affect your health and even affect your DNA. This might lead to a different species , Homo astronomensis ! Sleep is a restorative process for your body and mind.

There are no medals for suffering out there ! Make your list of objectives and enjoy these long , dark and clear nights ( whenever), Nick.

Highly transparent sky , winter treasures.

Swadlincote 12/11/17 Celestron C6r Heq5pro mount.

Dark early and Auriga rising , it’s always a surprise to catch the whole Summer Triangle in November . Time to sweep up the Messier’s , even M33 showed a fuzzy cloud at x50. Even M1 looked good.Transparency was superb, but especially lower down , the seeing was hard to cope with. I suppose those indoors had stoked up the heating , hot air making it’s presence known. Tegmine didn’t split out into a triple , something I’d been waiting for. I thought something was wrong , either with the scope or the eyes. Seeing to the north was exceptionally poor. Mind you , that’s in the direction of Darbados !

A stunning M57, M27 and keeping the Oiii filter in , a lovely sweep around the Eastern Veil, NGC 6995-2. Up to the Blue Snowball, NGC 7662, a lovely sight . Back to the planetaries and NGC 6543 ,”The Cat’s Eye “nebula in Draco and the challenging blink of the “Bow Tie Nebula”, NGC 40. Catch the open cluster NGC 752 at the end of Andromeda, this is a stunning open cluster , another Caroline Herschel discovery.

A bright colourful Uranus and a dimmer Neptune followed. Waiting for Gemini, I went back to some favourite binaries , the close Zeta Aquarii, split at 1.7″ and the colourful showcase iota Trianguli at 3.8″, a yellow and red here.


Draco gives a mass of binaries.

39 Draconis (SAO 30012) is a seven star system,a lovely bright primary with a +8.1 secondary here.

16-17 Draconis shows a lovely delicate triple (SAO 30012)catch the close 3.0″ companion to the wide 90.0″ secondary.

μ Draconis ( “Arrakis”of Dune ! ) twins at 2.3″.(SAO 30239)

Psi Draconis (SAO 8891)lovely at 30″.

40-41 Draconis (SAO 8994) near twins at 18.6”.

Σ 2348 at 18h33.9m +52 21′ , beautiful.

ο Draconis (SAO 31218) an orange giant with a faint +8.3 companion.Draco is a very rich hunting ground.

Gemini and the massive M35 with the two billion year old cluster NGC 2158. Wasat was challenging ,but gave the delightful companion. The “Eskimo Nebula” NGC 2392 gave it’s very best , transparency showing details of the hood and easy central star at x200.Orion was well up , but seeing bothered the Trapezium, NGC 1981 and the “37” cluster , NGC 2169 looked magnificent .

Over to Monoceros and that huge “Hagrid’s Dragon” , NGC 2301 filling the ep at x100. Both NGC 2264 (“Christmas tree”) and NGC 2244 gave good views.

Sleep called at 1.00, waking early there was the magnificent sight of a high Leo in the south , Spica and Virgo to the east and Mars above the roof tops.

Going to be a later start next time under clear skies ! Nick

November 2017 Night Sky.

We have both Neptune and Uranus up at 3.7″ discs. Then there’s the peak of the Leonids meteor shower. Gemini will give the blue snowball , the smaller bilobed NGC 2371-2 planetary nebula and M35. To the top will be Lynx and NGC 2419, the intergalactic wanderer. Taurus will be up earlier with M1 and clusters. Auriga will give the clusters. Cassiopeia will be high with Perseus and Pegasus to the south.

Should be prime time to spot the Pinwheel galaxy (M33). Some good clusters to Andromeda and binaries to Triangulum. Orion will soon be up , don’t forget NGC 2169 ( the “37” cluster ) and the binary to the end of the “3”.

To the north will be Monoceros ,beta ( best triple) , NGC 2301 ( Hagrid’s dragon), Xmas tree cluster and nebulae here. Leo rises later. Look for Procyon and to the north , the faint stars of Cancer. Here is M44. The huge impressive Praesepe and the lovely compact M67.
I’ve detailed some targets here which are worth observing for drama , colour and their stories,

Perseus. Double cluster NGC884 and 869.
Cassiopeia. NGC 7789 ( “Carolines rose”)
NGC 663
M33 Triangulum Galaxy
NGC 752 And. Open cluster discovered by Herschel.
NGC 404 (g) ghost of Mirach.
NGC 7662 blue snowball.
NGC 6790 (+10.5) planetary nebula
NGC 6709 open cluster , NGC 6760 globular cluster.
Aries NGC 772 (+10.) spiral galaxy.
Auriga , M38 ( background cluster NGC 2158) 36,37. NGC 2281 open cluster. IC 2149 planetary nebula (+10.6)
Cancer , M44 ( Praesepe), M67 compact open cluster.
Draco, NGC 6543 ( Cats eye nebula) , NGC 4125 galaxy +9.8, NGC 4236 galaxy +9.7.
Gemini , M35 , large open cluster .
The “Eskimo nebula “NGC 2393, look for the hood and the central star.
NGC 2419, the “intergalactic wanderer ” Look for the glimmer of this most distant object ( globular cluster) at the end of a fish hook of stars.

NGC 2301 open cluster ( “Hagrid’s Dragon) very dragon like .
NGC 2237 Rosette nebula , surrounds the cluster NGC 2244.
NGC 2264 cone nebula with the Xmas tree cluster.
NGC 2361 Hind’s variable nebula. Illuminated by R Mon.
M50 fine open cluster.

NGC 2169 the “37” cluster, note the binary in the top of the 3.
NGC 1981 open cluster.

Other notables November
Plasketts star , V640 Mono. Massive spectroscopic binary. 06h37.4m. + 06 08′.x100 mass of Sun

November 2017
Planets , Neptune in Aquarius and Uranus in Pisces.
Meteor shower.
17th is the peak of the Leonids.

Comet. ASSASN is faintly around the pole, about +12 and dimming.



Binary stars, I have includedthe six figure SAO numbers and separations in arc seconds, where available, colour , difficulty and beautiful views abound here !

Almach , colourful in Andromeda 9.7″
Alpheratz 89.3″ 073765
36 Andromedae 1.2″. 074359
56 Andromedae. 202″. 055107
Σ 3004 13.5″. 052927
κ And. Triple 053264
Ho 197 triple 23h11.4m. +38 13′

Zeta 1 Aquarii. 2.3″. 146107 22h 28.8m. -00 01′
94 Aquarii 12.2″. 165625

15 Aquilae 39.3″. 142996
57 Aquilae 35.7″. 143898

Mesartim (γ Αrietis) Rams eyes 7.5″ 096280
Epsilon Arietis 1.3″. 075673
Lambda Arietis 37.3″. 075051
1 Arietis 2.8″. 01h 50.1m. +22 17′
14 Arietis triple 075171

59 Aurigae 22.2″ 059571
41 Aurigae 7.6″ 040924
Σ644 1.6″ 057704 Αuriga.
14 Aurigae faint triple element 057799
Theta Aurigae 4.0″. 058636, triple Bogardus.

Tegmine ( triple) Zeta cancri 097645
Iota Cancri 30.7″ ( winter Albireo) 30.7″ 08h46.7m. +28 46′
Phi 2 Cancri 5.2″ 080188

h 3945 CaMa. 26.8″ 173349 ( another winter Albireo)


1 Camelop 10.3″ 024672
HR 4893 21.4″

11 Camelop 178″ 025001
Σ400 1.4″ 024111
Σ485 17.7″ 013031 in NGC 1502
HR 4893 21.4″ 002102 (Camelop)

“Tegmine” ( triple) Zeta cancri 097645
Iota Cancri 30.7″ ( winter Albireo) 30.7″ 08h46.7m. +28 46′
Phi 2 Cancri 5.2″ 08h26.8m +26 56′

Canis Major
h3945 CaMa. 26.8″ 173353 (another winter Albireo)

Delta Gemini , Wasat 5.8″ 079294
Pi Gem. 060340 Multiple.
Propos , eta Gem.triple 1.8″
Kappa Gem.7.2″ 079653
63 Gem. 43″ 079403
Castor 4.2″ 060198

Monoceros .
Beta . Finest triple , bright. 133317
15 Mon. Multiple 114258
Σ1029 mini Castor . 134234.
Sigma, multiple with Σ 761 to the northwest ( triple), 132406
Meissa (λ) multiple 112922
Trapezium, theta , E &F stars.
Betelgeuse, 176″ wide companion.
Rigel (β) 9.5″ 131907
Mintaka ,52.8″ 132220
Alnitak, wide triple.
33 Orionis 1.9″ 112861
32 Orionis 1.2″ 112849.
Hind’s crimson star (R Leporis) 150058.


From this small total , I would select the following favourites , “Tegmine” ,beta Monocerotis and sigma Orionis. I look forward to “Tegmine” in particular,happy hunting , under ,

clear skies ! Nick.




Swadlincote 1/11/17

Vixen 102 Eq5 goto.

Huge Moon , but so calm out there . Still trying to stretch the 102, cooled and dew heater on the go. Tester in Cassiopeia , Σ65 very clean at 3.3″ and a few more binaries in the fov.
Andromeda and ΟΣ 21,this is 1.2″ , but widening enough for a clear split showing the difference in magnitudes at a stable x222. Very very good seeing . A few more wider doubles in the fov here.

Over to my challenging , 36 Andromedae , (SAO 74359) twins and widening at 1.2″, a lovely split at x222. Being bright I picked it up at with both a 6mm circle T and the 5.5mm UWA.

Some clustiferous stars in Cassiopeia, great views here of these multiples,https://bestdoubles.wordpress.com/2013/12/14/a-cluster-of-clus-tiferous-stars-σ-3037-eng-88-oσ-496shj-355-and-σ-3022/

Clear skies !Nick.