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Observing report 2 Part 1 - Saturn 22-4-11

So my Skyliner 200p had finally arrived, and after assembling and modding bits to it during shoddy weather, it got is first light last night. What a night it was! I checked the collimation before packing all my kit up into my car. I wasn’t going to waste a night of good seeing with my new scope, stuck in a garden filled with light pollution. I drove 15 mins to my local site, with my dad clutching onto a wooden stool and a rug. We have been trying to find a seat higher as with objects at the zenith, the dobsonian focuser was just too high for camping chairs. After setting up and taking what felt like 3 seconds to get everything ready, we set up the binos to allow the scope to cool down. We are both very pleased with the ease of use with this dob, it is exactly what I should have started with to begin my journey into serious amateur astronomy. There were 3 main environmental bonuses last night, they were that the dew didn’t come down at all, the moon hardly rose above the horizon and that the temperature was perfectly mild. This made a great difference to last time we were out and our coffee was freezing to the top of the cars! I spent 1 minute aligning the optical scope and telrad to my highest power eyepiece, centred on polaris for least movement. This REALLY helped for the rest of the night and enabled us to bath through a giant list of objects that would have definitely proved more difficult to locate. I recommend this to any new starters like me. While I was looking at polaris I also checked the collimation by defocusing and I was more than happy with the results. Firstly we zoomed to Saturn, there was still a little light in the sky so I knew it would be 3 or 4 hours before it reached its optimal height in the sky for viewing. Nevertheless my mind was blown away! For the first time in my entire life I could see the cassini divison J This beautiful gap in the rings was visible on both sides of the planet and I was so chuffed to have seen it! The 8mm televue plossl had really proved it’s worth. Obviously the contrast and sharpness was second to none, but what I am consistently impressed by is the way in which Televues make it really easy to focus into a crispness, something essential for planetary observing – buy this eyepiece! While spending around 30 mins so that my dad could also say he has seen cassini, we tried to catalogue the moons that were currently visible. We thought that we could make out 7, but I had remembered from previous sessions with my old scope that looking on stellarium afterwards had proven some of them were stars. I can now clarify that we saw Rhea and Dione very close to each other, Tethys and Titan the other side and bright. But for the first time a new moon as well, Mimas! Mimas was all but a tiny pin ***** of light, but it was definitely apparent, very close to the plane of the gorgeous rings. Through my new scope and eyepieces such lovely detail we observed. As well as Mimas and cassini being firsts, the increased detail showed horizontal shadow of the rings on the planet as a lovely thin black line. The rings were very obviously moving in front of the planet on one half of the semi circle, and moving behind the planet on the other. The rings were slightly brighter than the planets sphere so it was possible to make out them passing in front of the edges on the planet. Likewise, the planet cast a very small shadow one of the far side of rings, indicating they were behind. I mention this in depth because before my new purchases, it was impossible for me to detect which side of the rings were passing in front and behind of the planet. The current dark band on the planet was really confusing before now, it and the storm slightly above were causing a confusing optical illusion whereby both sides of the rings appeared to be passing in front of the planet. But now it was like witnessing a 3D hologram in space! Although my session featured Saturn and lots of deep sky objects, I have chosen to split it into two parts and I realised I have already droned on for far enough...!




Observing Report 1. - 06.04.11

Hey all, So while waiting for my Skyliner 200p to arrive after it’s many, many delays, I could see a good patch of clear skies coming my way – typical I thought. After feeling that I had outgrown them, I decided to try out my Revelation binoculars for another go and wow, just wow! I had completely forgotten how great these 15x70’s are. When I started zooming around the heavens, the giant field of view and really easy to use camcorder tripod made finding and looking at targets an absolute dream. One other pleasure was to view these objects the right way round and exactly how the naked eye (and stellarium + books!) shows them. I could only observe from home, which is somewhat light polluted but I cannot quite believe how much I accomplished! This is the first time I have observed with the aim to actually ‘cross off’ some messier targets and oh my did I get somewhere! I started with some targets I already knew and had observed before. M1 crab nebula in Taurus – very dim in my light polluted garden but still recognisable, obvious oval shape. M31 Andromeda galaxy – On its way out for another season but I just caught its giant expanse in the sky. M42 Orion nebula and running man – Targets just before they also cleared off below the horizon, lovely shapes in the peripheral view. NGC 1432 The Pleiades (seven sisters) – Jaw dropping in binoculars, the sharp pins of blue light were a gorgeous sight in binoculars, especially since it was optically the same way round as the naked eye. After viewing this, I realised with the binoculars I should concentrated on finding and getting to know the messier objects that were globular and open clusters. I can leave the fuzzy deep sky objects for when my dobsonian arrives. M36, M37 + M38 Clusters in Auriga – Situated perfectly from my garden I viewed these and tried to make comparisons in between them. M37 (the furthest left in the constellation) was the easiest for me to find and then simply panning right from it enabled me to discover M36 and M38. M35 in Gemini – Easily found from the leg of one of the twins, quite bold when I stumbled across it. I tried to find the cone nebula after it but failed and thought I would be better off trying with the dob. M67 in cancer – My first time learning and discovering cancer, it’s not a bright constellation, at least not from my situation. There seemed to be a bright collection within the cluster, towards the top left. M44 Praesepe beehive in Cancer – Holey moley! This was my first time viewing what I had heard many others mention before this. It was a jaw dropping sight for the eyes, just as good as the seven sisters, I cannot believe I hadn’t noticed it before! M13 in Hercules – I turned my attention to trying to view some globular clusters for the first time. Crikey when I found it I couldn’t believe how bright it was! The shape was also really impressive to the eye, I can fully recommend this to new observers! M3 cluster above Arcturus – A very easy to find globular being straight up from the very bright star, Arcturus. Not as bright as M13 for me, I later checked on stellarium and it is nice to have that confirmed by the software. I was starting to get cold so I thought I would try a few harder subjects that I had heard a lot about and then call it a night. I spent some time learning Leo as it was another constellation I didn’t have a clue about. I had seen many images on the forum featuring the Leo ‘triplet’ of galaxies so decided to give them a go to find. With the light pollution around me it was possible that I could just see M66 (the brightest). But the other two (M65 + NGC 3628) within the field of view of my binoculars evaded me completely. Finally, I had also heard a lot about the Bodes pair of nebula (M81 + M82). Located roughly between Ursa major and minor, finding them wasn’t easy. M81 is more face on and much brighter, I could easily make it out. However M82 was much more difficult and will be subject to a lot more study by me when the moon decides to clear off. So to round off my knowledge has expanded tremendously since I first started observing and it all just reinforces my decision to buy a dobsonian next with complete enthusiasm! Some of my next planned objects to discover are: > Juno > M56 ring nebula > Owl cluster > Cats eye nebula




My first proper 'Star Party' - 29.03.11

Hey all, I thought I should finally get around to writing about the adventures of my observing parties so far. I have been observing for a long time since I was young right up to now where my dad and me still regularly go out together. But recently when he cannot come, I take the opportunity to invite my friends along instead, and what an adventure it is now turning into! __________ My first session was at my local site with a good friend of mine and his girlfriend. He has a Meade SCG of about 6" and at the time I had an f/5 8" reflector. Before this we had spent many an evening trying to figure out each others equipment and getting to know how to achieve great viewing. Whenever possible we would stay up for meteor showers and other events. But this stargazing about a month ago took on a new feel when his girlfriend decided to come along this time. It was really refreshing to see her genuinely impressed with the knowledge and the views of objects my friend and me where able to provide. I found myself enjoying pointing things out and explaining what they meant. The information was coming from this forum, my current astronomy course, books and also Brian Cox. It is such a rewarding feeling and one that is addictive too! _________ Spurred on by this newly found enjoyment, I set about organising something proper. My first 'Star Party'. Helpfully, word had travelled around where my friend and me are employed and to my surprise, many, many people were interested in a star gazing session! So I set about looking up the weather and thank the lord there was a definite confirmed night of clearness. (clever me had forgotten to check up on the moons current stage and it was 1 day off a full moon!) I called and emailed everyone about the date and told them to meet at a friends boat mooring, the perfect place. It had unobstructed views, plenty of ground space and was not near any direct light pollution. I loaded up my scope and everything else into my little corsa (it is amazing what you can get into one if you put your mind to it) and drove a fair way to the boat place. Collimated nice and early and I had also prepared a flask of tea and one of coffee with two massive packs of biscuits (no jaffa cakes, please don't kill me!) which believe me didn't last long. It was all set up on the table with some books and many chairs. My powerpack thrusting a large amount of red light out over the meadow to help people. When people had finished arriving I finally realised how were actually here, about 15!!! So I had my work cut out and couldn't wait to see some of their reactions. I must stress that every single one of my friends had a real interest in astronomy and viewing the cosmos. There were male and female, old and young and lots of teens like I still consider myself :) So there was a great feeling of universal interest in staring at things that make you realise you are very small :evil6: With the moon being at a stage it was, everyone wanted to see it first through the scope. But I had to reiterate that it should be the last object for our party as it will really kill the night vision! As it was washing everything out and the temp was quite cold with the frost, I decided to just stick to some bigger, more impressionable targets that I could competently lend my knowledge on. So I adjusted my scope with different eyepieces appropriate to the object and its brightness, and made my best efforts to make sure every person had a good view of each object. I decided upon (not in this order) Saturn, m1 crab nebula, M42 and the running man,beetlejuice, sirius, m31 andromeda, double cluster in persius, misar and alcor and also the moon. I also had my binos set up on a tripod, allowing anyone to scan around the sky with them while I explained the shape of a certain constellation. Some of the reactions were nothing short of priceless. I couldn't have made them up if I tried. One of my female friends absolutely refused to believe she was actually looking at Saturn. (the focus was spot on and the rings are at a lovely impressionable angle) She exclaimed "Ad seriously this isn't funny. You are misleading people here. Where have you stuck the photo inside this tube!?" It is those kind of things that stick with you and make these parties worth while :evil6: Also viewing the moon everyone seemed to find particularly amusing. Even with the cover on the front of my scope with only a small opening allowing light in, and the moon filter on my eyepieces. People were still dashing back to their cars to grab the sunglasses! Some of the people that came didn't dress up enough like I had asked so I decided to call it a night when the cups started freezing to my car roof. After this we all went back to mine as I had a free place and drunk the night away. But remember the important point to my rendition, all these people were interested and my star party was a success, yay! Star gazing live eat your heart out! I welcome any feedback you guys have, perhaps for improving things next time. I hope it has been a good, if biblically long read. Cheers, Adam ps. It's a good thing Johnathan Ross didn't show up to mine, he would have ended up in the river! :evil6: pps. I will try to get some pictures taken of us all next time if you guys would like to see.




My best night ever - 11.01.11

Well what I story I have. I decided to visit my local (quite well known) observatory for the Stargazing live event they were holding with the local club. I showed up with my kit but a presentation had begun early so I decided to leave my stuff in the car. The presentation was great, with very down to Earth explanations to many objects within this beautifully clear night sky. Quite a few members of the public turned up and then left in due course as their ill prepared clothes didn't keep the toe warm! The first thing to surprise me was that the local astronomy club packed up and left at 8 o'clock, straight after their presentation! It was the best seeing conditions that I have seen in my area for weeks... this amused me and my dad greatly seeing as we had been waiting for what feels like ages when you have new kit :) Secondly, we queued up for the two giant telescopes in their observatories. They were both giant refractors that I am presuming were quite old. We looked at the Pleides and Jupiter through them and boy was a not expecting this...it wasn't that great! It made me and my 8" reflector so chuffed that I can actually get better results myself :eek: So we went home and decided that if the conditions were going to be this good, we needed to make the most of it. Went to bed early and woke up at 5 for a drive to our local sky viewing area. It was fantastic and there was a slight hint of sunlight coming so we knew we had to get on it! I should mention at this point that it was seriously cold, and this is coming from a guy who has jumped in a frozen lake! I need to get some fingerless mittens... Wondering back to the story, we saw Venus, Saturn and Mercury all in this morning session. I hadn't seen Saturn in my new scope before and the results were STUNNING :hello2: I also had never even seen Mercury or Venus through a telescope before so this was a blast! I could make out a disc of Mercury and the semi circle of Venus. I just had to get this off my chest because aside from my dad, when you tell other people how amazing these experiences a blank face is often the remark :icon_eek: I was so cold I had to get back into the car and warm up, while my dad was trying to persuade me to have a go at taking some photos for reference. I knew they wouldn't be great, but I had a good effort and I am glad I did in the end. We all have to start somewhere right? If you want to see what I managed to take it's here: 2011 pictures by add453 - Photobucket So to conclude I have recently seen Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter, Mercury and Venus. I am also starting an Open University course in Astronomy so wish me luck! Adam



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