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About this blog

Starting out - again! My journey into Astronomy.

Entries in this blog

 

First view of the Moon in the 20x80's . . . .

So, been another busy week, but not so much travel – just been pottering around the local area which makes a nice change! Also means I get home at a reasonable hour! Had a good weekend – my 10 year old son and I went to the Donnington Car Museum for a look around. He is mad about F1, and when we saw two of Senna’s cars, he was over the moon! I read that it is closing down for good on November 5th, as they can’t afford to keep it open any more – such a shame, as there is so much history there.   Anywho – on to other things. The weather has been fairly kind this past week, but it wasn’t until the end of last week I managed to get out under the starts with my 20x80’s. it was my first look at the moon through them, and I was very pleased with the view – the moon as just coming up to half full, and the detail along the terminator was crisp and sharp. I was able to make out Mare Imbrium. It was half illuminated, and some of the mountain peaks on the far side where just starting to be hit with sunlight. Further down, there were two craters in amazing relief – I think they were Eratosthenes on the left, and Copernicus to the right. Copernicus as in deep shadow, apart from the far left crater wall, which was bathed in sunlight. Overall, I was really pleased with the views, and have decided to learn as much about the Moon as I can, in readiness of the Explorer 150PL I shall be getting at Christmas. Further afield, I kept getting pulled back to the area around Cassiopeia, and Andromeda. I still don’t know what I am looking at really, but once back in the house, I am using Stellarium to work it out!! I found two clusters, close together below Cassiopeia – turns out it was N884 and N869, and each showed a mass of stars. I went back again to M45 to marvel at the sea of stars I could see. It is still fairly low from where I am, so hopefully the view will improve in the coming months. Next out, I want to try finding some globular clusters, such as M13. Time to start ticking off the Messier objects I think! Looks like it will be good again tonight, up till about midnight, but the Moon is nearly full, which might makes things tricky – we shall see!

Nigeyboy

Nigeyboy

 

Where did those 3 years go . . . . ?

Well, it appears to have been over three years since my last Blog entry . . . . . so what's been happening? Well, shortly after I my last entry, I was made redundant from my job as a Projects Coordinator. When I say 'Redundant', I was contracting, and the work dried up which was pretty crap. However, I wasn't out of work for long - got some more contracting work, and then just over a year ago I got a perm job with Greene King Pub Co. as a Regional Systems Manager - basically, I look after about 500 pubs IT equipment. My region is East and West Midlands, and the North East of England - so anywhere from Kidderminster in the South, to York and Scarborough in the North. It's a lot of driving (about 35,000 miles per year), but I love it! I get to see loads of the country, and always manager to catch Pop Master on Radio 2 now!! So, back to it - last time I blogged I was after a new scope. Well, I still am!! I have got myself a pair of Celestron Skymaster 20x80 bins as a stop gap, and have managed a couple of evenings out with them since I got them on my Birthday a few weeks ago! I still have the EQ3-2, and have now decided to get myself a Skywatcher 150PL OTA. I have been doing lots of research, and I think it is a good compromise between aperture and focal length. My 10 year old son is now getting interested in space and astronomy and to be able to see the planets is especially important!! Looks like I will have to wait from Crimbo for the scope - I have sent my letter to Santa already, and I am pretty sure I have been a good boy this year!! So, I hope to start Blogging weekly again now, to start with, with observations with my new bin's, and the in the new year, with my shiny new scope! Thanks for reading! Nige   

Nigeyboy

Nigeyboy

 

Wide Field Ambitions . . . . . .

Hi all,   So a quick blog today, just to keep things ticking over, and to keep track of my ideas etc – more for me to look back on more than anything else!   Foot is a lot better now – I am getting around ok, and have even started a new fitness ‘regime’!! I have lost 6lbs in one week, by cutting out crisps and flapjacks, and doing 20 minutes of high interval training each morning! Go me!!   I’m still scopeless, and will be until at least Autumn I think. Had my hours knocked down at work from 5 days to 4 days. We can still cope on the reduced income, but it means my scope will be delayed slightly!   I’m not too upset about the lack of OTA right now. Nights are still short, and the weather isn’t exactly brilliant either. It will give me time to finally settle on what I actually want to set – newt or frac!! Its either a 130p-ds or ST102. Both have their pros and cons, and I can’t guess the amount of reviews etc I have read on both scopes!!   In the meantime, I have decided to set myself up with a widefield DSLR rig. Budget is key here! I already have the mount (EQ3-2), DSLR with fast and wide lens, and a means to mount it on the EQ. I just need a polar scope and a motor kit. I am keeping my eyes peeled for them to come up on ABS, AB or on SGL (remember key word – Budget!!). The mount is still due its MOT, which hopefully I will carry out later this month. I want to have it all together for my trip to Pembrokeshire in mid August.   With this set up I am hoping to get my first astrophoto’s of the Milky Way, and perhaps some of the larger constellations. From what I’ve been told here on SGL, 2-4 minute subs should be achievable if PA is good, and LP is not too bad. I will update this blog as each stage is completed, and hopefully with my first photos as well, however they turn out!!   I have been doing a lot of reading up both on SGL, and the wider t’interweb about DSLR widefield, and it’s something I can get into fairly easily, and with minimal outlay. As a keen landscape shooter, I am hoping I can use my current skills to create some pleasing images. We shall see - this blog could well turn into a ‘How To Take AP With No Money’ blog!!   Well, that’s all for this entry – thanks for reading, and sorry it a bit dull this time!! Next entry I am hoping to blog about my mount MOT, along with photos!! Ooooo!!!!

Nigeyboy

Nigeyboy

 

In the Wars . . . . . .

Hi all   Been a while since my last blog entry. Following a meeting between my left foot and a rusty nail in the garden a few weeks ago, I contracted a very nasty infection that knocked me out of commission for nearly three weeks!! I am well on the mend now though, and finished my last course of antibiotics yesterday!! Still walking with a limp like some sort of peg-legged pirate!! It does mean on Tuesday I can finally open the bottle of Single Malt I got for Father’s Day!! Three different antibiotics has meant it has had to sit on the shelf – normally I would have had a tipple, but the doctor was adamant that I should not drink any alcohol at all as one type I was on is used for alcoholics on detox!! Nice!!!!   So what’s been happening with me other than nearly losing my foot? Well not much to be honest! The same day I nailed my foot, I had located a nice SW ST102 on ABS that seemed to fit the bill on what I was looking for. However, following arrangements to meet the seller the infection really started up, and I was unable to walk / drive. So I had to let it go which was a bit of a disappointment. The seller was very understanding, but I felt bad having messed him about. So I am still no closer to getting an OTA!! I have set myself the goal though to get one sorted before our family holiday to Pembrokeshire mid August. That gives me 6 weeks or so to get my butt into gear!   I did manage to get my 10x50’s onto the Venus / Jupiter conjunction last week. I had been watching them get closer and closer, and to see them in the same field through the bins was a great view! Am sure it would have looked better through a scope . . . . I will have a trawl through SGL and see if I can find any pics!   I also came across something interesting when reading the latest from New Horizons – something called ‘Pluto Time’. It’s an interesting little item that compares what the lighting is like on Pluto at noon, to your time / place on Earth. I tried it, and was surprised at how light it would actually be on Pluto at noon! Worked out about 20 mins after sunset. HERE is a link if you want a go yourself! Goes to show, that even 4.5 billion miles away, although the sun would be a point source of light, you could still easily read a book by its light.   Well that’s it for now. Clear skies!   Nige

Nigeyboy

Nigeyboy

 

Scopes and Holidays . . . .

Hi all,   Another week seems to have flashed past, and I am still scopeless lol!! However, I am not too unhappy about it. It doesn’t seem to get dark properly here now, and despite the weather showing signs of improving, I am not missing much I don’t think.   That being said, I am of course looking on all the used sites for an appropriate bargain. I have been giving things a lot of thought, and taking advise where its offered (ie on here!!). I said in one of my previous posts that I had decided on a Newtonian – either a 130 or 150p-ds. While the long term plan (when I say long term, I’m looking ahead 12-24 months!) is to get a good AP set up together, the shorter term plan is to just get out under the stars for as little outlay as possible. So, I think I have now gone full circle, and have landed back at my original plan to get a small 4” frac. The reasons are:   Small and portable
Little in the way on set up required (ie collimation)
‘Grab and Go’
Will be able to use it as Guide Scope when the time comes
Used, it’s cheaper than both the 130 and 150
Hopefully a little more stable on the EQ3-2
Money saved on used ST102 can help go toward enhanced drive system for mount to enable some wide field DSLR AP   I have seen a used ST102 on ABS for £120. It comes with an AZ3 mount and tripod. I would possibly sell on the mount though to get perhaps £20 quid back!! It doesn’t come with EP’s, but again I can pick up some used to get me started. Can anyone recommend suitable EP’s for a fast F5 frac? I have been looking at the SW Plossl range, but it says on FLO that they are best suited for F6 or slower.   Another exciting event has happened – we have booked out first proper holiday abroad!! Since the children came on the scene, we have always holidayed in the UK, mostly in North Norfolk where my mum lived. It was a great way to get away on a budget, and for my mum to see the grandchildren!! We normally spent two weeks every August down there.   Sadly, mum passed away 18 months ago so we haven’t been back since we cleared and sold her bungalow last year. So myself and Charlotte decided it was time to have a ‘proper’ holiday, and last night we booked a week in Puerto de la Cruz in Tenerife for August next year. We are doing it ourselves, rather than through an agency. For a little over £600 we have booked a fantastic 3 bed, 3 bathroom villa on the hillside overlooking the town. It’s got its own private pool, garage, outdoor kitchen and BBQ area and gym lol!!   It may seem trivial to most, but this is a big thing for us. Money has always been really tight and every break we have had we have had to really watch the purse strings! Even a package holiday to the Costa Del Sol has always been way out of reach, and we are not the types to bung it on a credit card and spend years paying it all back at 17%! However, things are a little better now, and we can now look forward to next August. Wonder if the ST102 will fit in hand luggage . . . . . ??   So things are slowly but surely coming together! A big thanks to all of you that have read my blog and posts so far. And thanks for all the replies, advise and recommendations. It is very much appreciated, and to know there is always going to be someone here who can answer my questions is a big comfort!!   Thanks   Nige   Post Script – just seen that my blog has had 1001 views!!!! Wow!!!

Nigeyboy

Nigeyboy

 

Patience, and taking stock. . . . .

The time since my last blog entry has been a little turbulent. Some close to home family problems have had my entire focus and energies. Coupled with a week in the Lake District, the time has flown by!   I had really hoped to have a scope to take with me up to Windermere, to make the most of the dark skies on offer up there. However, due to circumstances this didn’t happen. My EQ3-2 is still scopeless in the dining room. That said though, and with hindsight I didn’t miss out – the typical weather, while ok-ish during the day was pretty wet through most of the evenings. It also doesn’t really get dark now here in the UK at this time of year, and with the solstice still 3 weeks away, that won’t change anytime soon. But, hey! The stars have been there for a few years, and they aren’t going anywhere are they?!?!   So I can take stock for a few more weeks, and read, and reread as much info as I can before laying down my Sterling on a OTA to adorn my lonely EQ3-2 mount. But what OTA to get – that’s the million dollar question. The more I read, the less certain I am!! I started out with the plan to get a SW 80 or 102 ST. That then changed to a SW 130p-ds, after seeing the thread here on SGL about its imaging prowess. But I am not getting back into Astronomy for AP- at least not yet. One must walk before one can run! I have plenty of time to build up to AP if and when it takes me. I can settle for looking at the great images here on SGL for the time being.   I want to immerse myself in the visual aspect. I want to be able to find those fuzzies by knowledge of the sky, and not have to rely on a computer doing the hard work for me. Sure, I would love to go out and buy an EQ6 with imaging and guiding OTA’s, and all the bells and whistles that go with it. But here’s the thing – I am a keen photographer, and have learnt that you don’t need all the latest camera bodies and lens to get on with the hobby. You make do with what you have, and use it to its full capability. Give a novice a £10k camera and lens set up, and they will still take novice photos. Give a £40 compact camera to a master, and they will still turn out the goods.   The same is true for Astronomy, and especially the AP aspect of it. Only when you have outgrown what you have, should you even consider upgrading! And for those of us starting out in this amazing hobby think about this – don’t jump in and get what could possibly be thousands of (insert your currency here!!) on equipment that you may well not be able to make the most of. Even worse, it could put you off for life! While the eagerness is always there to get that huge mount and photon hoover, can you really, really use it to its full potential?   Astronomy teaches us the wonders of the sky – and it also teaches us patience. Learning curves can be step, but you can make it easier on yourself by taking it one step at a time.   Thanks for reading –   Nige

Nigeyboy

Nigeyboy

 

Reconsidering Equipment Choice . . . . .

So, not bought any further equipment since the EQ3-2. I have been spending perhaps too much time browsing the forums. This has its positives – it gives me other ideas to consider, and on the negative side – it gives me other ideas to consider lol!! But in all seriousness, it has stopped me rushing out and getting stuff that I either won’t need in 12 months, or will not be suited for my needs. A lesson there for others I think – when you have decided what you want, stop and rethink!! Saves money and heart ache in the long run. Plan was for a SW ST80 or 102. However, I found the thread here on SGL about the little SW 130p-ds and am now thinking this may be a better choice. Long term I would like to get into AP, and the 130 seems to deliver very high levels of ‘bang to buck’. I am well aware that I won’t be able to use the EQ3 for AP. However, a new mount such as the HEQ5 for the AP, and the EQ3 for ‘grab and go’ seems to be the way forward, and they will complement each other quite well in this regard. I can then slowly build up the HEQ5 in to a decent imaging system. At this point in time, I may splash out and get the 130 and the ST80 together. When I get to a position where I can get my grubby mitts on a HEQ5, I will then already have imaging and guiding OTA’s, and will have one less thing to worry about buying. It will also give me time to get used to a newt again. I already have the camera – my trusty Canon 400D that I have had for just over 7 years. Its never let me down, and with the battery grip I have attached, can take an amazing amount of pictures on one charge. I have been a keen photographer since I got my first camera when I was 7 – a Halina 110! I favour Landscape photography now. I enjoy the peace and solitude of getting to a site at 4am during the summer to catch the sunrise over some hills. Living next door to the Peak District I am spoilt for choice. You really have the world to yourself at that time of day, and if you are lucky the lighting will have that perfect hue and contrast we photographers yearn for! I would like to add that I am a published photographer! I had the following image published in The Sunday Times travel supplement some years ago!! Go me!! I use the EF-S 17-55mm f2.8 for all my shots – its now my only lens. I don’t need anything else to be honest. I am hoping to use it next week for some wide field fixed tripod shots when I go up to the Lakes (Staying at Low Wray nr Ambleside). Given the darkness there I should be able to get some decent 20 second subs to play with when I get home on the Friday. My first foray into AP lol!! I would like to sign off this entry by saying, the quality of advice and guidance here on SGL is amazing. Likewise, some of the images in the gallery (and on the 130p-ds thread) really give people who are just starting out something to aspire too. Maybe in a week or so I will be able to post my first Milkyway shots here!! Thanks for reading, and Clear Skies!! Nige

Nigeyboy

Nigeyboy

 

Part 1 - The Journey Begins!

I first fell in love with astronomy when I was perhaps 5 years old. I remember my dad showing me some of the constellations one winters evening. I even was allowed to look through his 10x50 bins!! Since then, it has always been a major interest in my life. It culminated 10 years ago, when I got my first telescope - a Helios 150 reflector on an EQ3 mount. Unfortunately, living in the middle of a city, and at the time not being able to drive, the scope got very little use. I used it perhaps half a dozen times, and it just started to gather dust . . . . so i sold it . . . . Move on 10 years, I now have my driving license (didn't pass till I was 30 odd!!), and a renewed interest in getting back under the stars - this time properly, and with a lot more knowledge than I had ten years ago. I can now get out from under the LP dome of Derby, and head out into the Peaks - only a 30-40 minute drive for me - and I can be under dark skies!! So, the current plan is to equip myself with a basic EQ mount, and a small 3 or 4 inch frac for visual observing. I have decided on the frac from a purely practical point of view. I can check a 80mm frac in the back of the car quite easily!! This will hopefully just be the start. My end aim is to have an 80ED on a HEQ5 and begin a quest into AP . . . . but thats years away yet, back to the present!! So - phase one is complete!! I am now the proud owner of a barely used Skywatcher EQ3-2 mount: Shiny lol!! So I'm off the blocks. Next purchase - a SW 80 or 102ST. Not yet decided on which. It will be ordered over the weekend, as I need it for when the family and I go up to the Lakes on 25th May! One really stupid question though - do I need to get a dovetail to fit in here: Cheers all

Nigeyboy

Nigeyboy

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