Only faint prominences this morning, but some details visible after a bit of processing.
Got home from the trustees meeting last night to a glorious clear sky. On a Monday? Really?
I made an aperture mask for my dob over the weekend and was itching to try it out. The idea behind the mask is that on bright targets cutting out a bit of light and diffraction from the secondary struts should improve clarity, even though the aperture is reduced (350 to 160 in this instance).
And so after failing to resist temptation I was setup by 11:20:
Jupiter: Disappeared behind neighbors house. Need to catch it in the gap between house and apple tree 1.
Saturn: Seeing dreadful without mask: boiling away with no clarity at all. With the mask: same but dimmer. Hmmm.
Pluto: Spent ages looking for this. Definitely in the right place. Pluto formed a triangle asterism with two other faint stars. I upped the magnification to dim the sky glow and there was definitely something there. Wobbled the scope – that helped. Averted vision- didn’t make much difference. So- I’ve looked at Pluto but not seen it! Beginning to regret doing this on a work night…
Jupiter again. Behind apple tree 1. That moved quick! Damn!
Izar: At last- some success. Successively improved views moving from Baader zoom to binoviewers to adding aperture mask. In the final view the stars were pinpoint sharp and well separated with the companion showing a lovely blue.
Double double: the same experience. The 2 pairs were easily separated in all 3 configurations, but the binoviewers plus aperture mask gave the best view.
M13: Too dim for the mask, the best view was in the binoviewers- resolving all the way to the core and seemingly spherical, even though at that distance you don’t really have depth perception!
Jupiter again: Gotcha! Just before it snuck behind apple tree 2… Definitely a better view with the aperture mask- slightly dimmer but with much more clarity. 6 bands plus the GRS were clearly visible, with some detailing on the bands, plus the moons spread out as clear disks 3 to one side and one on the other.
Well worth the fatigue today!
Very pleased with the aperture mask- it’s not often an astro upgrade is almost free. It’s only really good for bright objects and with the binoviewers I had to velcro 4kgs onto the bottom of the tube to balance it- bit well worth the hassle!
I couldn’t get my guidescope to focus after Fridays (fascinating) RAG meeting, so my plan to do Ha on the North America Nebula flopped.
I did managed to get some semi-widefield subs of the NAN with my 135mm lens and the 1000D. For some reason the focus drifted off over the first hour until the stars turned into circles, but I caught it in time and got about 130 stackable 30-second subs.
A group of us stayed to observe after the RAG meeting last night. Starting at about 23:30 we continued until approx. 01:00 – at least I had to leave then although some folks continued!
A very big thank you to Rob Leonard for bringing along his 8 inch and 14 inch Dobsonian telescopes. Unfortunately I now find it very difficult to bring my own scopes to RAG meetings although that might change in the near future (hopefully!) Rob’s 14 inch Orion USA Dobsonian telescope gives incredible views – it seems to be much better than my 16″ Meade Lightbridge Dobsonian telescope although may hr it is just better collimated! Certainly the difference in weight between 14″ and 16″ is quite remarkable.
The evening started with a view of very faint noctilucent clouds just about the Belt of Venus in the northeast. These were little more than a fluorescence of the sky at this point between the darker Belt of Venus and higher sky and not as good as those I photographed on Thursday evening and certainly nothing like the spectacular display I saw last year when Damian woke me up at 3:30am one day and said, “Look out of the window!”
The highlights off the evening were some excellent views of Jupiter and Saturn through the two Dobs – Jupiter was so bright in the 14″ that it blew my night vision when I looked at it! The Gallilean Moons were definite discs rather than points and detail was visible in the belts of Jupiter although I could not see the Great Red Spot.
Rob was able to swap between a single eyepiece and a binoviewer on 3.2x Barlow with 20mm eyepieces (Barlow needed to give enough back focus in the Dobs = ca. 6mm). I was able to fuse the images off Jupiter easily but when we looked at a single star I saw two of them! I have noted before that I tend to get problems fusing images with binoculars and Rob’s binoviewer probably has given me one of my best views through such devices in terms of allowing me to easily fuse images that I have ever experienced. Saturn also seen as single image – definitely no issues with the binoviewer itself. Perhaps because I have some difficulties fusing images in these devices I personally prefer a single eyepiece but of course many people (including Rob himself) feel otherwise.
Rob had a go at trying to find Pluto but I think it was asking too much of a misty sky that never got properly dark so we did not get to observe the minor planet…..
M31 and M57 gave spectacular views in the 14 inch. The sky was misty with lot of moisture which limited visibility but it was quite still and M31 showed some of the best detail in the tendrils of stars coming out of its heart that I have ever seen – in a view that occupied a large part of the field off view in this 14″ Dobsonian telescope.
The misty sky affected the view of the Dumbell Nebula which, although visible, was surprisingly faint leading some observers present to say they needed to use averted vision.
The object that really made an impact on me was my first ever view of NGC 6287. This is a compact globular cluster that looked like a bright slight out of focus star that none of us could quite focus to a point in a field where Sky Safari Pro 6 planetarium software told us there were no bright stars. The listed magnitude is 9+ = however being so small we could see that all of this light was focused into little more than a star like point and so the object was a lot brighter than the listed magnitude would have suggested. With extended objected the listed magnitude gives you the integrated light across the object. For galaxies such as M33 and M101 this means that the light is spread out over wide area as these objects are large in the eyepiece and so the brightness at any one point is low. However we could see last night how for NGC 6287 the effect is reversed giving a high brightness level at any given point. I have seen a similar effect in the past with planetary nebulae which are often small and bright as well.
Our June ‘End of Month’ Meeting, this next Friday, 28th, has a ‘double bill’ in terms of Guest Speakers. The room was virtually full to capacity with folks sat on the tables at the back as well as on the chairs.
The beginning of the evening saw the return of Dr Martin Braddock. Many of RAG Members responded to his request for our ideas about the Five Challenges for the colonisation of Mars. Indeed, one of our Mid-Month Meetings held a discussion that produced a plethora of ideas to add to individual replies. Heather sent all these to Martin, who has now collated all his results from a number of Astro Societies. He came along to share with us the results – what is it that amateur astronomers think are the biggest issues facing potential colonisers on Mars? Martin is an exciting and knowledgeable speaker and he expertly addressed a number of questions from the floor afterwards, including some from yours truly!
After the coffee break, our very own Lee Bale continued with his series of talks on stars. Tonight, our brains got stretched somewhat as we tried to grasp how a nebulous cloud contracts into stars that join the main sequence on the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram. It involved learning about four different nuclear fusion pathways……..
Two excellent speakers – my only concern is that we are raising the bar on quality of talks so high that I ask how can we maintain it in the future?
Dr Martin Braddock:
On my way home from work in Tamworth last night, I saw these noctilicent clouds looking towards Lichfield. I only had my Sony Xperia ™ L1 phone with which to take photos so quality is poor but this is first time I have seen them this year!
Images below unprocessed except the first image which has been processed slightly using Photo Editor Pro on Xperia L1 and the other brighter one where attempt at processing slightly using the Sony Xperia L1’s inbuilt photo editor.
Photo taken on Sony Xperia L1 phone, processed in GIMP2:
Photo taken on Sony Xperia L1 phone, unprocessed images:
Photo taken on Sony Xperia L1 phone, processed slightly using the Sony Xperia L1’s inbuilt photo editor:
Photo taken on Sony Xperia L1 phone, unprocessed images: