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About Swift

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    Maidstone, Kent
  1. Thanks folks. I've played gigs over in Brecon but have never been able to take the 'scope with me. Next year! I was lucky enough to grow up on the Shetland Islands and it's hard to find something that compares to that sky (especially with the odd Aurora popping up) but the Dob used to do well looking out across the Channel when I was on the South Coast, so maybe the answer is to head towards the sea again.
  2. Hiya folks, I've been fairly quiet on the forum since moving to light-polluted Maidstone. However, after recently taking a driving course and buying a first car, I'm keen to get on the road with my scope and do some observing. Quite a few of my students are keen to come along, but I'm not sure about the best places to go just yet. I could drive around at night for ages looking for a decent spot, but I just wondered whether anyone here knows any good dark places less than 45 minutes' drive from Maidstone? I'd mainly be going for DSOs with a big Dob, visual only, so any pointers on favourite dark-sky spots from local astronomers in the know would be much appreciated! Thanks in advance, hope everyone's Christmas preparations are going smoothly, Swift
  3. Swift

    Swift 831

    Hiya Tosh, Didn't know Swift was a brand of scope! It's been my handle online for years ... the things you learn. Welcome to the forum from a fellow newbie, it's well worth your time being here. Cheers, S
  4. Hi Ivor, If you're up for an observing session at around 5am (or patient enough to let a few months pass so that they're fairly high in the sky), have a crack at M81 and M82, I'd say that they're good "starter galaxies". They're fairly satisfying, the different shapes will be obvious and M82 has surprisingly high surface brightness, showing some mottled structure. Still, for nearly all the galaxies up there, dark skies are a must if you want to see anything at all. Worth making a trip though, your 200mm scope should show plenty of them under the right conditions Cheers, S
  5. Bagged it for the first time three nights ago, it's a belter isn't it? At 9th-mag it appeared to have higher surface brightness than 8th-mag M27 thanks to the size difference.
  6. Ouch. Streaks in the eyepiece are one thing, but streaks on your painstaking 20-minute images? That's gotta hurt.
  7. Hiya folks, I've been getting back into the swing of things this week after years without a scope, and I'm really enjoying the 10" Dob I just picked up and browsing through all the interesting and informative posts on the forum boards. However, during my observations it seems like every other time I point the scope at a DSO, a satellite is bimbling its merry way across the starfield, and they're often glaringly bright on dark-adapted eyes that are straining to see faint nebulous wisps. It's not as if I'm using particularly wide fields, I've mainly been at mid to high power for the globulars and PNs. There was one particularly harsh instance where I was checking out M82 at 120x power - this was low over Eastbourne in the most light-polluted area of my backyard sky at around 4am, so the galaxy was fairly faint but still appearing somewhat mottled around the centre. I was trying to let my eyes adjust, peering intently at and around the detail when an insanely bright satellite tore across the field. I stepped back, blinking, then went back to the eyepiece. A few seconds later, whoosh - a second, even brighter one ripped across the same track and there was much blinking and swearing. Bit annoying really, and there have been dozens of other less extreme instances. Just wondered if any of you guys and girls with similar (or larger) sized scopes get this a lot? Should I expect to see satellites scooting around by the minutes now that my instrument is a lot more powerful than I've been used to thus far? I didn't realise that there were so many of them up there, maybe I've just pointed the scope at the wrong places at the wrong times this week! Cheers, S
  8. Friends back home in Shetland have been posting some mind-blowing shots on Facebook, just taken with ordinary household cameras. I've seen some good displays up there and one stunning show where the whole sky was like a river of swirling colour from east to west - looks like the one they saw tonight was another one for the ages.
  9. Swift


    I caught some ridiculously bright meteors around 3.30-4am this morning, one around mag -2 which travelled north-south through Monoceros and one that had to be mag -4 or -5! This one ripped east-west through Cetus leaving a scorching violet trail which took several seconds to fade - awesome sight. Anybody know of any special reason why there might be stupidly bright meteors in the southern sky at the moment? That tool bag is one heck of a tiny object to be able to say you've seen, especially through binos!!!
  10. My first scope was a 60mm Tasco refractor. As John says, I wouldn't recommend it to anybody starting now, it had fairly naff .965" eyepieces and the mount was dire, so that positioning was a pain and the slightest breath of wind made viewing impossible. Still, for its size and cost it was (optically) a decent little planetary and lunar scope once you got used to its quirks, and it was enough to get me hooked at an early age. You could make out the Cassini division at its widest, and Jupiter displayed both equatorial belts and reddish patches at the poles. Chromatic aberration was an issue though.
  11. Belting pic, Graham! Pretty much tallies with what I've seen of Jupiter these past few nights. Checked out M31 myself a couple of hours ago, I recently bought a 40mm Vixen NPL eyepiece to try and get as much of the galaxy as possible into the field at 30x. Still nowhere near all of it, but the view's great nonetheless - it was my first galaxy too, and I'm sure we're in good company!
  12. Agree with those recommending a UHC filter for your 4" refractor, it's a trade-off of overall light-gathering versus contrast and the OIII may be a tad severe on the overall brightness of the image. Your scope should eat many of the sky's showpiece nebulae for breakfast, start with the big, bright, easy ones and always check the unfiltered view first. Cheers, S
  13. My first scope was a 60mm refractor. The mount was truly awful, but I spent years with it and got used to "working with the wobble". It outperformed my second scope (an 80mm Newtonian) for planetary views, despite the slight chromatic aberration. My best views of Jupiter and Saturn with that scope were always obtained just after sunset, when they just started to poke through the blue sky - if they're ideally placed and you know where they are, you can pick them up in a finder before they're visible to the naked eye. The glare of the planets' discs was massively reduced this way, and it did wonders for Jupiter in particular where the more sharply defined belts and zones appeared chocolate brown and pale yellow in the dusky sky, instead of brick red and harsh, eye-watering white. It was nice not to have to peer intently at a very bright object trying to make out surface features, and I never saw as much detail near the poles when viewing the planet late at night. Another thing that stuck with me from those days with the refractor was the way that diffuse nebulae appeared intensely green in the eyepiece, whereas my Newtonians have always showed them up as whitish. Possibly just chromatic aberration and I can see far more detail with the Newtonians, especially with my new 10", but there was just something about that green colour that made you feel as if you were looking at something that was glowing spookily in space, instead of observing patches of smoke against a starfield. Small scope views are special in their own way.
  14. First thing I ever saw through a scope. I'd have been about six or seven but I'd already seen a drawing of Jupiter through the eyepiece of a small telescope in the Ladybird Guide to the Night Sky, so when my dad pointed our new little 60mm refractor at "Sirius", I took a peek and shook my head. "That's Jupiter, Dad." "Give us it here ... it's definitely Sirius, son, it's too bright to be anything else ... what are those points of light in a line?" "They'll be the moons, Dad." He didn't believe me until we stepped up to 175x and the two equatorial belts became obvious. Poor bloke was missing the Champions League to be shown up by his kid. Still, I caught the bug and showed him Saturn the following week! Glad to hear that Jupiter lived up to your expectations, Lee!
  15. Thanks, dudes. In the end I settled for leaving the 50mm aperture stop off the dust cap, and the mirror was like new this morning. Phew! Probably a bit stupid of me to panic like that, I guess it must've just been a fine coating of streaky dew after all - but from the other end of the tube it looked horrific, exactly like the kind of tough watermark or mineral deposit commonly left on cutlery and glasses by washing them in "hard" water. I'm a minute's walk from the sea here, and the guys in the shop did tell me that I'd have to be careful with salt in the air, so I freaked out slightly when I saw it! I'd been told that the Pyrex mirrors and solid tube design of this Dob would help with any dew issues, so it's a bit annoying to find that it's affecting the primary. I may have to look into dew prevention soon - for now, my bank account's taken a big enough hit from the scope! Even if I sort out a fan or dew heater or similar, I'll probably still need something that'll blow warm air over the finder, which also got really damp. I never used to bother with my old finders that much, but I'm finding this big fat scope much harder to point by eye without using the finder than the small thin ones I used to have, even at low power. I reckon Specman's right, for the moment I'll need to plan whether I want to observe late or early in the evening and then get in as much time as I can before the dew sets in - I probably won't be able to take it out a second time during a single night. Shame, I never had this problem in Shetland ... maybe the lack of dew had something to do with the total absence of trees and bushes up there? I wonder whether it's worth finding some breathable material to fit over the aperture stop, just to keep out the dust as the dew steams off, maybe a chunk of some women's tights held on with a rubber band? Or maybe peering at the thin, gauzy nebulosity across M57's central "hole" last night is giving me daft ideas. Whatever, as long as M27 doesn't inspire me to start weight-lifting! Thanks again to all, S
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