Observing the best carbon stars.

Of great interest , some are visible by eye and binoculars. They can present stunning wide field views matched with blue white field stars. Thishttps://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/carbon-stars-will-make-see-red1203201401/

is of interest . The Purkinje effect giving our eyes an advantage in observing . These individual beauties are quite fascinating .I’ve not included mu Cephei , the “Garnet Star” as this is obvious by eye at the base of Cepheus and one of the gems of the night sky. Smaller apertures usually pick out more colour. It can be very subjective, defocussing the view can help with a blast of colour,


Actual summer darkness.

9/6/18 Swadlincote C6r refractor, 6.5mm Explore Scientific, 5.5mm Meade UWA , 6mm Circle T, 23mm Panoptic, 11mm 


Set up and the clouds rolled in, went out an hour later and very clear. Caught the GRS transit , the northern belt and the GRS looked incredible at x200. Both very dark, good to catch not only the nice clear pit , but a long thin streamer coming from the GRS. Possibly best views this year of Jupiter.

Looking up and at the zenith , the sky was full of stars. Shapes began to fill in the Summer Triangle and Ophiuchus. Some very surprising views of M57 and the great fluffy M57. Very contrasts with UHC and Oiii filters. Even managed the Eastern Veil , NGC 6695 to NGC 6692 sweep.

For summery open clusters, the “Summer Beehive” and “Graff’s cluster” are little mentioned , but provide stunning entertainment.

Antares ( worth a look for colour and teasing out the close companion) and the claws of Scorpio were low in the south . Have a look at the very bright binary view of the white and blue beta ( Graffias ) and there’s a really beautiful ” double double”, ν Scorpii at 16h12.0m. -19 28′. There’s also another double double here at Xi Scorpii facing Σ 1999 at 16h04m. -11 22′.

Rho Ophiuchi gives an unusual multiple star, lovely at low magnification.

Very unusual to get that amount of darkness and lovely views in June , very clear skies ! Nick.

Observing with small scopes on farmers field on way to Rosliston

11.20pm Saturday 9th June  – 1.50am Sunday 10th June 2018

Damian and I have just returned from a great observing session lasting a good two hours in a quite dark farmers field / public footpath, on the way to Rosliston from Lichfield…

Using only small scopes- Sky Watcher Equinox Pro 80mm and a 77mm triplet fluorite spotting scope, we scooped a range of objects including Jupiter and the Great Red Spot, Dumbbell Nebula, Ring Nebula, M3, M56, Harvard 20, M71, M51 and repeated definite direct vision observations of M101 amongst others……and all this on a night predicted to be quite poor for observing.

I also saw three meteors and what must have been my first ever sighting of an Iridium Flare – wow! I saw the flash of the flare and then looked at Heavens Above website and realised that one had been predicted to occur in that part of the sky at that time.

Just goes to show- you never can tell what a night will be like! I notice that in another post on viewing tonight, Nick has commented how clear the sky became.

The spotting scope put up quite a good show and really demonstrated its great portability. Needs some thought ‘re adding a finder and counter-balance weights though.

We noted the following differences and similarities between the design of the apo-chromatic spotting scope (SS) vs. dedicated app-chromatic astronomy scope (SW) of similar aperture and focal length:

1. The view in the SW was more contrasty with blacker background than in the SS. As a result, objects appeared brighter at similar magnifications in the SW. this may be due to the need for extra optics in the SS to correct the view for daytime viewing so that it is upright and correct way around. In spite of this difference, it did not significantly affect the amount of detail that could be seen in the SS compared to the SW.

2. Both showed similar small amounts residual chromatic aberration on edges of Jupiter, although SW possibly slightly worse.

3. The views were nevertheless comparable at similar magnifications – any differences were really a matter of personal preference and would not cause us to buy one over the other.

4. The manufacturer-specific eyepiece fitting used in the SS means that standard astronomical eyepieces can not be used. This limits the magnification to maximum 60x because that is the highest magnification eyepiece available for the telescope. At 60x both scopes showed a similar level of detail on Jupiter’s disc and the Great Red Spot was just visible. However I was able to increase the magnification in the SW to x125 by changing eyepieces and a wealth of detail on Jupiter’s disc became visible and the Great Red Spot became large and obvious. The benefit of magnification on a planetary disc was less useful for deep sky objects where the limited aperture meant that the object would become diffuse and become difficult to focus at higher magnifications suggesting that for most astronomical observations the 60x magnification limit on the SS is probably sufficient.

5. The 45 degree diagonal on the SS was not as useful as the 90 degree one on the SW for night time viewing, especially when looking at objects near the zenith or when trying to find things in the sky. The scope definitely needs an extra finder shoe attached to it in some way to facilitate the use of a finder.

6. The SS had a small inbuilt dew shield which was insufficient at night. It needs a bigger one made – an easy task.

7. The SS is incredibly portable without all the paraphernalia that went with the SW and this makes it as excellent choice to take on holiday or as the ultimate grab and go scope.

8. The excellent light weight tripod that comes with the SS is good but had its limitations. My heavy duty Mandrotto tripod and mount on my SW out-performed the smaller Manfrotto one with the SS but those can be changed and this simply the limitation of the physics – light weight tripods and heads are limited in what they can do. I was actually very impressed with how stable the tripod was with the SS on it. A bigger issue is balance – the SS was not properly balanced and needs some counter balance mechanism for night time viewing where it is going to be pointed upwards rather than horizontally as occurs during its intended daytime use.


A few additional notes from Damian:

Both instruments showed varying amounts of field curvature towards the outer 15-20% of their FOV.

The SS showed a whiter Jovian disc whereas the SW had a more creamy appearance – nothing wrong with either, some would say the whiteness was more ‘clinical’, others would say the creaminess offered a more pleasing and natural view. Could be from the objective or the eyepieces used.

The 20-60x zoom used with the SS was not as good as the Baader on the SW. Checking reviews of the unit online highlighted it’s shortcomings (“a narrow FOV at 20x” – like looking down a straw – makes me realise just how accustomed Andy and I have become to fantastic 100 degree views – and “pretty useless above 40x”). The 32x eyepiece also available was a “much better corrected optic” – wider and ‘cleaner’, although still showed some field curvature and chromatic aberration at the extremes of the FOV.

Jupiter on axis though through the SS was very sharp at 60x with four bands visible and the GRS clearly defined. Could not see the ‘streamer’ that Nick mentioned though in his post (but he was using 6” of aperture and over 200x mag!)

The Background sky displayed in the SS was not as black and the view not as contrasty (using the zoom, should have tested the 32x eyepiece) and this was rather disappointing considering the make of the SS and it’s fluorite Lens (which refractor nuts on the Astro forums go nuts over!)

I also now wonder just how quickly the objective had started to fog up into the evening… did this effect the contrast..? I suspect yes to a small degree but I think, having ready many reviews online with regards to using a SS for Astro uses, that even the best SS’s from the ‘big brands’ have until recently not been up to the quality of telescopes. Many times it was mentioned that for a long time astronomical telescopes have undergone the dreaded high power star test whereas SS objectives are rarely scrutinised in such ways… but again, it could be the eyepiece units used on SS are not up to the quality of astronomical units…?

The SS also had a very limited depth of field and I found it quite difficult to nail focus.

The 45 degree angled eyepiece was comfortable… up to a point, then it became a pain to have to raise a tripod leg to reach higher areas without breaking your neck.

Star hopping was great – the views matching directly to Sky Safari (of course you can switch them around as needed), which also meant that your manipulation of the scope was intuitive. This made it easy to locate faint objects – M101 for example (a notoriously dim object).

Other limitations are the lack of using filters.

Advantages are it’s extreme portability (one trip from the car up the track – carrying the SS in it’s case over the shoulder with a chair in one hand, eyepiece in a pocket, food and drink in a bag carried in the other hand with a tripod under that arm, ruggedness – manufacturer quoted as ‘shockproof’, waterproof to 3 metres, use of a travel tripod – the unit that Andy used for a similar sized telescope would have taken your entire luggage allowance! A lighter unit for the SkyWatcher would have made it very wobbly and negated much of it’s high power views.


Find the Apollo landing sites !

A very interesting site , plenty to watch and ideal for those starting out . The guide to galaxies is one of the best .( I did catch a Discovery Channel, “How the Universe works” on the origin of the solar system. Some very absorbing stuff , in particular how Earth , Venus and Mars got water. Oceans up to a mile deep on northern Mars. )


Of great interest are  the Apollo landing sites. Quite easy to find and at higher magnification, I wonder why they chose what appear to be dangerous ventures !

Something to keep you occupied on those endless summer nights and later on when the “devil’s light bulb ” is the only game in town. Great for showing the grandchildren and us older kids ,

under clear skies ! Nick.




Observing Log 26/5/2018, LRO, Lichfield, UK

Observing Log 26/5/2018, LRO, Lichfield, UK, Andy and Damian.

Damian came around to my house and he demonstrated that the iPad Air 2 that he owns works with my older SkyFi wireless box on my Synscan EQ 6 mount – important as I need to upgrade my very old iPad and have been considering what is the best option to replace it. Earlier today, I had great difficulty getting my Windows 10 laptop to link to it, ruling out the option of a windows-based tablet.

The sky is quite bright tonight with a virtually full moon. For a bank holiday Saturday, the main A38 is quite noise at this time of night – unexpected. Also, it is very windy. Thunder predicted later in the night. On the positive side, Damian is having a whale of a time playing around with his laptop controlling the mount whilst I write this!

ISS (ZARYA), Satellite in Ophiuchus,26 May 2018, 23:22:36, Just watched the ISS rise over my house and brighten greatly as it rises higher until it was a spectacular sight near culmination and then slowly fade as it moved to the east.

Bode’s Nebulae – Messier 81, Spiral Galaxy in Ursa Major,26 May 2018, 23:43:23, Took two attempts at alignment to get scope working well tonight. This is often the case. I have read online that it may be due to backlash when the user must fiddle back and for with the controls to centralise alignment stars, causing errors to creep in. Second time lucky today! M81 proved that alignment had been successful by appearing in the centre of the field of view. It only appeared as faint smudge with brighter nucleus – and looked smaller compared to our usual view, again demonstrating the poor sky. Currently, we are using my Explore Scientific 14mm 100-degree field of view eyepiece.

Hercules Cluster – Messier 13, Globular Cluster in Hercules,26 May 2018, 23:49:41, Top left of view of field so not quite spot on re GOTO but is putting objects in field of view of 14mm eyepiece tonight.

Whirlpool Galaxy – Messier 51, Spiral Galaxy in Canes Venatici,26 May 2018, 23:50: 39, which means that the fact that we could not see this pair galaxies demonstrates again the poor sky quality as we would expect to see it with this scope from this location.

Messier 92, Globular Cluster in Hercules,26 May 2018, 23:51:35, Seen but difficult to resolve stars similar to limitations in our view of M13 – I think sky is not transparent even though can’t see the cloud easily.

Ring Nebula – Messier 57, Planetary Nebula in Lyra,26 May 2018, 23:52:44, Better view but higher in sky. clear Outside app suggested 68-90% cloud by midnight – not that from here but still there is something obscuring view, suggesting the app has identified correctly deteriorating sky conditions.

Double Double – Epsilon1 Lyrae, Double Star in Lyra,26 May 2018, 23:54:44, With 14mm eyepiece we can just about split each of pairs.

NGC 6229, Globular Cluster in Hercules,26 May 2018, 23:57:31, Visible without too much difficult. Mag 9+ so surprising we can see it but prob as high up. This is a globular that we rarely look at – in fact, I can’t remember seeing it before. Not a bad one – recommend folks add it to their observing lists!

Kuma – Nu1 Draconis, Star in Draco,26 May 2018, 23:59:52, Lovely bright easily split double – to me looked like white and yellow/white stars, about same brightness.

Cat’s Eye Nebula – NGC 6543, Planetary Nebula in Draco,27 May 2018, 00:01:04, In Draco too, easily seen as out of focus star.

17 Draconis, Double Star in Draco,27 May 2018, 00:02:55, To me this double star looks like blue white and yellow white pair.

100 Herculis, Double Star in Hercules,27 May 2018, 00:04:03, A little known and little seen double star pairing, Sky Safari says – but we saw it tonight!

Omicron Herculis, Variable Double Star in Hercules,27 May 2018, 00:05:39, I could not split this even with 6mm Ethos, but it did not appear round but oval suggesting the double. These are 0.1 arc seconds apart, so we were asking too much of the scope in this sky to see this.

Nu Herculis, Variable Double Star in Hercules,27 May 2018, 00:10:55, Could not split this either – 0.5 secs.

(With all these double stars, we feel like we are following IN Nick’s footsteps!)

b Herculis, Double Star in Hercules,27 May 2018, 00:12:50, Can’t split this either tonight – 1.4 arc seconds.

Mu Herculis, Double Star in Hercules,27 May 2018, 00:15:31, these stars are 35 arc seconds apart according to Sky Safari app in the iPad. To me, the second one is much fainter than the primary component – easily seen pairing.

Sarin – Delta Herculis, Double Star in Hercules,27 May 2018, 00:20:26, Strange that we could not see this double star at all, even after checking the alignment of the mount to ensure that we were pointing at the correct location in the sky. Possibly the reason we can’t see it is that the sky is deteriorating. It is starting to feel like rain soon and the sky has a varying tint across it which suggests high moisture content and formation cloud. We will try to view M13 again. That will be a good test of sky conditions….

Out last object we viewed tonight: Hercules Cluster – Messier 13, Globular Cluster in Hercules,27 May 2018, 00:23:20, We could just about resolve some stars but not a great view. Time to pack up.


Devil’s light bulb vs iPhone.

Not a fan of either , but very surprised to get startling crystal views. Took over x200, some cracking details and fun to observe . This 35 year old Vixen 102 f10 punches above its weight as a classic achromatic.

So good that I put the phone over the eyepiece and took a few snaps. I have a digital cam holder somewhere. Seems strange that small eye relief eyepieces give results ,against bigger and longer eye relief ones, under ,

clear skies ! Nick.

The best of Ophiuchus.

Ophiuchus (” serpent bearer”) is below Hercules, it divides Serpens into two halves, heading for the galactic centre here. A realm of globular clusters, some 22 , most are detailed here. Some surprising other deep sky targets as well.

Globular clusters.
M9 – to the galactic centre, M10, M12, M14,M19,M62,M107, NGC 6273 (+6.7) , NGC 6304 (+8.2),NGC 6316(+8.4),NGC 6333(+7.7),NGC 6356(+8.2),NGC 6355(+9),NGC 6402 (70 variables here)(+7.6),NGC 6401(+9.4),NGC 6325(+10.3),NGC 6293(+8.2).

Open clusters.
IC 4665 (“summer Beehive”), stunning large cluster, unusually this is 15 degrees off the galactic plane.
NGC 6633 .

Planetary nebulae
NGC 6369 (“little ghost” +11.5),NGC 6572 (+8.0) the stunning very blue and bright “blue racquetball”), central star visible as a glow, NGC 6309 (+11.5) “box nebula”, NGC 6366 (+9.2).

Individual stars
Carbon star , V (SAO 159916) from +8-+9.4.
Barnard’s star, second nearest star to us, with an astounding 10.3″ proper motion per annum.

Marfik (λ) 1.6″ separates this bright pair (SAO 121658)
Rho (ρ) a group of companions, nearest at 2.9″(SAO 184381)
Σ 2048 dusky companion at 5.6″ at 16h28.8m. -08 08′
61 Ophiuchi , bright pair at 20.6″ (SAO 122690)
69 Ophiuchi,(τ), challenging 1.5″ (SAO 142050)
Σ 2276 twins at 6.9″ (SAO 103373).

A packed constellation, the most stunning view being the very bright “blue racquetball”, a summer showpiece, under clear skies ! Nick.