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.



Observing Log 29/3/2019 @ 20:40 @ 30/3/2019 @ 01:30, Rosliston Forestry Centre, Swadlincote.

Observing Log 29/3/2019 @ 20:40 @ 30/3/2019 @ 01:30, Rosliston Forestry Centre, Swadlincote.

Andrew Thornett

Last night was AGM night at RAG and, after the AGM, we experienced one of those incredible nights – a clear sky that had been predicted all week so that many of us came prepared with telescopes, coats and hats, the latter two probably being the more important as the temperature dropped as the evening wore on!

Those RAG members who went outside to observe included Lee, Rob Leonard (with Sam and James), Nick Rufo/ Bob Williams, Angella and Alan, Ed/ Dave/ Chris Howe/ Chris Ford/ David Dugmore/ Adam/ Roger/Jon Pendleton/ Geoff/ Paul B / Paul Simkins /Pete Simkin /two new Members – Darren and new member Martin (Martin stayed right till the end), Heather, Neil Wyatt and myself.

Neil had bought along a whole imaging setup which was taking subs all night of a variety of targets and provided quite a talking point for astrophotographers and non astrophotographers alike. It still left him plenty of time to observe with the rest of us.

For me, observing started with an ISS pass over the forestry centre, observed from the car park behind the seminar room where we held the AGM. I wish I had bought along my hand held amateur radio to see if we could hear any of the astronomers on the ISS – sometimes they will speak to schools and other groups by ham radio.

I bought along my trusty Sky Watcher Equinox Pro 80mm scope, as it is difficult for me to fit anything bigger in the car on Fridays these days – now that I cart two six foot lads and their kit to school daily and my car boot is full of medical examination equipment. Sadly, there was no time for me to go home and collect a scope after work before RAG started. Although this scope is a trusted workhorse, and I had a great view of the Beehive Cluster through it, last night was not the night of small scopes but a time for the big Dobsonian light buckets. I could not see any galaxies in the Virgo cluster with my small scope last night – contrast this with Rob’s scopes below….

Rob Leonard bought along his 8 inch Sky Watcher Dob, in my view the best value telescope available new in the UK today, and we observed M51, M65 and M66, and M81 and M82, in that telescope. Rob also found clusters in Auriga, amongst others. I was quite proud to have found the Owl Nebula using this scope and my OIII filter. At this time of the night, this object was very faint.

The evening was initially partially cloudy but it cleared around midnight and for those of us that stayed the fun then really began. Rob erected his USA Orion 14 inch Dob and this scope was simply fantastic. It became a galaxy feist – I found nine galaxies within two fields of view around M86/Markarian’s Chain within a few seconds and the issue became identifying which was which. I could see the third NGC galaxy in the M65/M66 trio, Rob found the Sombero Galaxy, the Needle Galaxy and the Black Eye Galaxy. He even showed us the core of M101 – a very difficult object indeed to find.

I really just congratulate Rob on his excellent scopes and on his impressive star hopping abilities. This particular Orion USA Dob is an intelliscope version that he purchased second hand without intelliscope digital setting circle so he does rely currently on his abilities and as the above list shows it does not stop him at all!

I had to leave at 01:30 am due to commitments the following day but I left Rob and Neil with their scopes, continuing to observe and image the night sky. I wonder what great sights they saw after I left?


Galaxy Quest! Observing Report 25/3/19

A clear sky and a free evening coincide at last!

First up was setting up the 200p for an imaging run on M101 (still stacking!) and then a nice little session with Sam and the 8 inch Dob.

Betelgeuse was first up and discussing how if it was where the Sun was we’d be in it!
The Orion Nebula at 48x was a nice site, with the 4 brighter trapezium stars quite distinct.
We then moved onto the Double Cluster which filled the eyepiece at the same magnification- so many stars!
Finally we had a look at M65 and M66 in the Leo Triplet.

A bit of family time and then back out with the 14″ for a more serious session.

In Auriga- M36, M37 and M38 were a good place to start, they’re sliding off to the West now and in a better place for comfort and (from my location) light pollution and seeing. I was swapping between the 24mm Baader zoom and the 35mm Orion that came with the scope, and whilst the 35mm offered a better Field of View the 24mm had better contrast and brighter stars. It became clear during this time that whichever eyepiece I was using, the seeing was good and conditions were better than they’ve been for weeks.

Next up I returned to Leo and the triplet. As usual M65 & 66 were quite easy to see, but whilst the 35mm needed averted vision to see NGC3389, it was quite clear in the Baader zoom with direct vision and that eyepiece remained in the scope for the rest of the session. M105 and friends were quite clear and continued the evening’s theme of multiple galaxies in a single field of view.

And so- over to Virgo- starting at Vindemiatix and hopping up to M60, with M59 again in the same view. Whilst looking around and enjoying the pairing, with both galaxies showing a bit of shape, NGC 4638 popped out at me as well. With the conditions better than for weeks I then embarked on a wander through the wonders of Virgo that went well past bed o’clock but where the next object was rarely more than a Field of View away. From my notes:

M84 Bright Core, no Shape
M86 Bright with some shape
M88 Yeah! Bright, some shape
M89 Core very bright- but no shape
M90 Clear flat elipse; some shape with AV
M91 V faint- no shape
NGC4638 Quite easy to distinguish
NGC4564 Clearly seen
NGC4568 AV Only
NGC4477 Direct Vision
NGC4479 AV Only
NGC4473 Clearly seen with DV
NGC4458 AV Only
NGC4461 AV Only
NGC4435 Clear and distinct from other Eye
NGC4438 Clear and distinct from other Eye
NGC4388 Flat shape
NGC4413 V Faint but direct
NGC4402 Faint- AV only
NGC4476 Quite clear next to M87
NGC4478 Quite clear next to M87
NGC4486a Quite clear next to M87

Altogether that’s 30 galaxies observed in quite a small segment of sky. I was discussing with my wife afterwards my fascination with looking at these. In many ways they’re no spectacle at all- fuzzy patches of lighter sky, some of them little more than mottling against darkness. Yet when viewing them with the knowledge of what they are, of the vast eons across which this light has travelled, and of the journey we have been on as a species to reach our present knowledge plus the many open questions that remain about them they are, in the most literal sense, awesome. All this was combined with a little buzz of achievement- several times last year I tried to galaxy hop through Virgo to Markarian’s and always found myself losing track somewhere and returning to the start point. There were a few shaky moments last night but the feeling of accomplishment at the end was quite immense.

I spent today at a corporate event needing to look bright eyed and bushy tailed which required rather a lot of coffee. I’m not sure I was making much sense by the end, but it was well worth it!

“Electronic eyepiece” Visual experience – – – more

I have now mounted the screen (with Velcro) on the scope mount, which seems the best place for it. Last night’s almost full moon was on display, so here are some photos of the screen, Obviously nothing like as good as proper imaging, but it IS a computer-free visual experience!

The first one is with a focal reducer, the second straight into the camera, and the last two with a X2 barlow.


Window-sill astronomy

To all you doubters out there, there is an article on this subject in April’s Sky at Night magazine – – -!

The article says “Observing through a closed window is not recommended due to reflections and distortions”


A closed window prevents air currents and that is much better than an open window. If you are in a dark room and the telescope objective is close to the window the “reflections and distortions” are minimised.

Take a look at some of my window-sill images if you don’t believe that!