Hunting the Teapot

I have always wanted to see the Sagittarius “Teapot” from the UK, but never have done. You need a very dark sky and a very clear low southern horizon. Our recent Wales visit gave us the dark skies, but not the low horizon (too many hills!).

Anyway, last night, couldn’t sleep again. One palliative for this is to go for a walk. It was 03:30 AM and Sagittarius was just about culminating, so on with the dressing gown and boots for a trek to the bottom of the garden where you can see a low southern horizon. I also put my camera in my pocket, just in case. I knew where the “Teapot” was – between Jupiter and Saturn, but the Moon was up and it was just beginning to get light.

So, Jupiter and Saturn and Antares were obvious, but could only see the odd star where the “Teapot” was supposed to be – nothing resembling a teapot!

Out with the camera to see if a bit of image processing would show anything. After a bit of fiddling with the exposure, I got an image that might have potential.

So here is the processed image, and I am quite pleased with it. The elongated line near the teapot is a plane. Still haven’t seen the “teapot” visually though!

 

Moon, Methane and Messiers

Splendid night of observing and (hopefully) imaging last night.

Sam had his mate James round, and then Andy T came over to join us as well. Due to the long evening twilight and the terminator being in a prime position on the moon, we started there. Once they’d got the hang of it the 2 lads were thoroughly enjoying scanning up and down the terminator taking videos of moonscapes, which when I get some time will hopefully become some nice images.

The areas we looked at were the craters around the South Pole (Scott and Amundsen!) then worked our way down (the image appeared upside down in the mark/planetary camera) past Cuvier, Stofler, Albertegnius and Hipparchus toward the smoother area that’s more dominated by mare. The highlight for me was Albertegnius which was just in the perfect position to be in complete darkness, but with the sun illuminating just the summit of the central peak.

By this time Andy had set up his spectroscopy rig and took a reading from the moon- and matched in to an internet reading of the sun- explaining to the lads that this was because all the light coming from the moon was reflected from the sun, and how the technique enables us to derive what the elements are in the star.

We also did some visual exploration of the terminator- and no matter how amazing the views of the moon through the planetary camera, there is nothing for comes close to the stunning HD quality through the eyepiece. Even at 465x through the zoom the view was sharp and full of contrast; a really stunning view.

It was, by this time, bed o’clock for the boys, but Andy and I carried on. First step was swapping the mak for the 130pd-s and setting some imaging runs going on globular clusters with the planetary camera as I felt that the glare from the moon made any other targets a bit unrealistic. I’ll post these when I get the chance to do some processing!

For the same reasons I decided to go for similar targets visually whilst Andy did his spectroscopy and we shared the results with each other. First up, though, was the double-double- it didn’t split as easily as normal which suggested the seeing wasn’t great (I already knew my scope was both cooled and collimated). Nonetheless I pressed onto some globs:

– M13 Obvs! Always a lovely sight. Whilst there Andy moved the scope onto NGC 6207- a new one on me, and just next to M13. It was a struggle to see and needed averted vision to spot, but at Mag 11 the skies cannot have been too bad to pick this up.
– M92 It’s a bit smaller, but somehow feels more compact and symmetrical than its big brother.
– M3 Again- like M92, more compact and symmetrical. It was nice going through these one after the other- on their own globs are all similar, but when looking at them one after the other you really start to see the differences.
– As we were in the neighbourhood popped over to see the Whale galaxy- several club members have been imaging this lately so it was good to have a proper look. With proximity to the moon it was quite an effort to find this and I had it in the eyepiece for quite a while before I was sure I had it. By relaxing and just looking around the target it became obvious how huge it was- nearly filling the ep at 210x. I couldn’t make out the distinctive shape, however, and neither could we spot NGC4656
– Next stop as M5, which was visibly smaller, but with a dense bright core and was pleasingly circular.
– The next Messier glob easily visible looked to be M9. Whilst aiming the scope Andy asked about the bright light in the same direction- which is over towards East Mids airport- and we both agreed was clearly a plane- although not moving too much. Realising that this meant it was heading towards away from us I tried to aim the scope at it, because sometimes it’s a great view in the eyepiece. This plane turned out to have horizontal banding and 4 moons. JUPITER IS BACK!! Albeit hugging the horizon in a boiling atmosphere. Because of this the views were not brilliant, but it was great to see after a long break. Andy quickly headed back to his spectroscopy gear and lined it up- the result was a mixture of the same elements we’d found from the moon, plus a couple of lines for methane. Very pleasing! I then moved onto M9 and caught a quick glimpse, but was kneeling uncomfortably over the telescope by this stage and was getting decidedly cold so we decided to head in for a cup of tea in the warm and to look at Andy’s spectroscopy results.

Suitably refreshed, and with the moon down near the horizon the sky was darker, but also more hazy. We decided to look at some summer targets and started off with the Ring nebula. I think the effects of time and cold were beginning to set in by this stage as I struggled to get it in the eyepiece- not helped by the fact that everything was dewing over. Andy quickly rectified this and we were rewarded with some lovely rich views and spent some time comparing the views in the Baader zoom with Andy’s Binoviewers. The conclusion was that the binoviewers offered a different experience- more natural and pleasing to look at, but also there was some loss of detail. Partly this is caused by the higher magnification available to the Baader, but we also thought it may be down to the greater number of optical surfaces involved on the binoviewers. We returned to M13 to see if we’d find the same outcome- and it was pretty much the same; although the binoviewers rendered the glob as a sphere- a wonderful view.

I’d have liked to try them out on Jupiter, but by this point it was behind the neighbours house, so we returned to deep sky targets instead- trying for M51. Unfortunately, by this point, the sky was pretty hazy and despite being certain I had the dob in the right place, I could not see the galaxies. Spent a while trying to remove dew from EPs, finders etc, but it was pretty clear that the sky was lightening and it was time to pack up. Big thanks to Andy for coming over- observing in company and sharing ideas adds so much to an evening and the output from the spectroscopy was really interesting!

Spectra of Moon, Vega and Jupiter taken with CCDSPEC on Sky Watcher Equinox Pro 80mm scope with Rob Leonard 11-12/5/2019

Rob kindly invited me around for an evening of observing. The Moon was half full and high and the humidity level high with mosture all over our telescopes but we still had a whale of a time – quite apt description as Rob found the Whale Galaxy for an amaxing view in his 14 inch Orion US scope – all star hopping – well done to him!!

I took some spectra of the Moon, Vega and Jupiter, using my CCDSPEC spectroscope on my Equinox – I know manual alt-az mount is not ideal but it is transportable so I used my Manfrotto mount tonight manually guided and star-hopping to targets – limiting me to bright targets. I would still like to take spectra of the Ring Nebula but I can’t see it in the CCDSPEC so I do need my EQ6 or HEQ5 mounts up and running to have a chance with that….

Particularly exciting tonight was our spectra of Jupiter, showing methane absorption lines – Jupiter’s spectrum is essentially that of reflected sunlight but its atmosphere does absorb light in the methane bands.

Rob and I were able to identify two of these bands in our spectrum this evening of the planet.

Andy

In spectra below my spectrum from tonight is in red and reference spectrum is in blue.

Moon – essentially this is a solar spectrum from reflected light:

Vega – Balmer series lines very obvious:

Jupiter – showing two methane absorption lines – one of main features that are different between Jupiter’s spectrum and the solar spectrum (In spectra below my spectrum from tonight is in red and reference spectrum is in blue).