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About jasonbirder

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    Newark on Trent
  1. Was it the ISS that passed over last night about 22:50 west to east tracking through Ophioucus, Sagitta, Delphinus etc? Very bright but seemed to move alot slower than i expected?
  2. I've a 200P Dob and the OTA goes across the back seat - my Dob base normally goes in the boot (i've an estate) but when the boot is full the Dob base fits on my front passenger seat...don't know if that helps!
  3. Great stuff! Can't wait for my first view of Saturn and its rings!
  4. Another clear night gave me the opportunity to get out with my scope to my local dark (ish) site in some nearby woods. I've got packing the car, unloading and setting up pretty organised now...so its down with the blanket - to protect my knees and make sure I don't lose anything before getting the scope out and leaving it to cool. The 200P is pretty manageable and the dob mount is a doddle to set up - It can be ready within a few minutes of unpacking it...get it on level ground...drop the scope into its mount, attach the Telrad and do a quick alignment check of finderscope and Telrad and I'm good to go...easy-peasy! Since my last observing session i've invested in a new eyepiece so I'm itching to give it a try...a Celestron Omni 32mm Plossl which is a real beast in size compared to the 25mm which came with my scope...I'm hoping it'll give brighter wider field views than the basic EP i've been using to date! Looking round with the naked eye and binoculars while I wait for my eyes to dark adapt is a habit I've disciplined myself to - hopefully it'll mean that not only am I ready to observe once I get to my scope...but it'll help me to become more familiar with the constellations and the night sky...which can only help a beginner like me! Dominating the western sky is Venus low and extremely bright - impossible to mistake for anything else! With a decent southern horizon and clear skies I'm able to get a first look at the southern section of Canis Major, the so-called "hindquarters" a crucifix pattern of bright naked eye stars centred around Delta CMa or Wezen. Mars is beginning to rise in the East just below Leo and I can glimpse a faint tiny blur that is M44 Praesepe in the centre of Cancer...which occupies the large barren area between Gemini and Leo. Eager to turn my new eyepiece to something spectacular M45 The Pleiades was my first target - they looked brilliant in the 32mm; the bright naked eye stars set amidst a dazzling spread of fainter stars - all a uniform shiny blue-white, quite simply overwhelming! Unfortunately despite letting my eye wander and concentrating on the region around Merope there were no hints of faint nebulosity - quite what i've got to do to see this famous reflection nebula is beyond me! Looking up from the eyepiece for some reason the sky seems quite bright even though it looks very clear...so maybe some moisture in the air is brightening the skyglow and reducing contrast? Don't know if that's true...but it sounds good doesn't it!!! I observed all three open clusters in Auriga - M36, M37 and M38 - in my scope M37 is definitely the most impressive; its stars range in brightness down to a barely visible background like a sprinkling of icing sugar - M36 is smaller and containers fewer but individually brighter and well resolved stars. M1 The Crab Nebula was easily found tonight...I think I'm starting to get the hang of this object! I've worked out the starhop in my mind (M1 is just north of the equilateral triangle of stars containing Zeta Taurus) looking like a small fuzzy oblong in the 32mm EP - and as a big lozenge of grey fluff in the 10mm. It was as nice to observe M42 and M43 in Orion as ever. Whether it was the sky or the new EP it looked clearer and brighter than usual, M43 seemed more obvious and separate wrapped around a single faint star. All four stars of The Trapezium visible in the 10mm EP but still no sign of E or F! Sigma Orion as impressive as ever below Alnitak in Orion's belt: All four components visible including the faint and close companion C (c10mag) nestling in the glare of the primary A. M78 popped out nicely! It appears as a comet-like triangular wisp of nebulosity - there was no sign of any further nebulosity associated with Alnitak though. Visually I find Monoceros a really obscure constellation - only Beta and Gamma are obvious to me naked eye stars situated midway along a line from Orion's Belt to Sirius. One of the two; Beta Monoceros is a beautiful multiple star, last time I was able tio view it as a triple, but for some reason tonight I was unable to split it completely and had to content myself with viewing A & B/C as a bright attractive double star in my 10mm EP. It isn't hard to find Castor - which split easily as a bright and obvious double...I still forgot to check for a fainter more distant third companion - doh! After finding it easily from my light polluted back garden on my last session I was suprised not to be able to pick up NGC2392 The Eskimo Nebula. Previously it was obvious - so we'll put this down to observer error/impatience...next time I'll persevere with the 10mm EP! I'd been looking forward to viewing M35 with my new 32mm EP and it didn't disappoint! It was as spectacular ever and looked perfect in the brighter, wider field of view. Well resolved bright stars against a background of lots and lots of fainter stars fading almost to the invisibility...its definitely my favourite Open Cluster! An Open Cluster I'd not seen before in my telescope was M41 in Canis Major - previously only seen in binoculars! Its easy to find the southern point of a triangle made with Sirius and Mirzam - obvious in the finderscope and an attractive cluster of nicely resolved stars. After an unsuccessful attempt on my last observing session - I returned to M50 in Monoceros, it was extremely difficult to find in an area sparsely populated with naked eye guide stars, but once located partway between Sirius and Procyon it was obvious. Not particularly rich - a loose scattering of white stars. Finally to look for some Open Clusters in Puppis - not even a constellation i've noticed before! M46 and M47 easier to star hop too from the bright stars in Canis Major - along a line drawn from Sirius and Muliphen - not easy to pick up as not immediately obvious in the finderscope and in a "clumpy" area of the milky way - so identification was tricky! For such a close pair of clusters they were completely different in character M46 fainter but larger richer and with a grainy nebulous appearance, whereas M47 was merely a sparse scattering of bright stars. That brought an end to another interesting observing session in which i was lucky to find a number of new Messier Objects and return to some old favourites! Roll on the next clear night...this Astronomy lark can be addictive!
  5. You're already know open clusters are a good option for the urban astronomer...so I'll assume you've seen M44 and M67 in Cancer which are nicely situated to view at the moment... M3 is a spectacular northern Globular Cluster in Canes Venatici, while the famous M81 and M82 in Ursa Major and M51 The Whirlpool Galaxy in Canes Venatici and M64 The Black Eye Galaxy in Coma Berenices are all bright and relatively easy to find (or ill be when the moon disappears! While not a Messier object NGC2392 The Eskimo Nebula in Gemini is a bright and easy to find planetary nebula that's worth a look too!
  6. Fingers crossed it has an effect! Signed!
  7. With the moon being so prominent at the moment alot of DSO's (Deep Sky Objects - things like Star Clusters, Nebula and Galaxies) will be very washed out anyway...thats without taking into account the light pollution you'll have. Probably a good time to enjoy the planets and the moon and maybe a few double stars...have you tried Iota Cancer and Cor Caroli (Alpha Canes Venatici). M44 The Beehive cluster in Cancer is bright enough that it might be worth a look to!
  8. Think you might struggle to find it for a while now because of the moon which will really wash it out. I have moderate light pollution in my suburban back garden but have seen it a couple of times from here...so shouldn't be too tricky for you - not a difficult object to find, just north of Zeta Taurus, good directions in Turn Left at Orion - I find it by centering my finder on Zeta Taurus, then a nudge north till I can see two fainter stars that make up an equilateral triangle with Zeta - M1 is just to the west of that triangle, it looks like a tiny oblong wisp of smoke in my SW200P
  9. Keep your eye out on the secondhand market - Astro buy and Sell, Ebay, Gumtree etc... I picked up my Skywatcher 200P Dob for £150 second hand...not perfect cosmetically, but brilliant optically and giving me loads of enjoyment for the money... Of course my problem was - as soon as i got it I wanted to invest in a Telrad, eyepieces, filters etc etc...so it never stops at £150 <LOL>
  10. Seems like an absolute age since I last managed to get my scope out under clear skies...and indeed the diary says its over a month ago! I've been itching for an opportunity to get out...Christmas had bought goodies including a Telrad Finder and plenty of additions to my burgeoning Astronomical library! Out in the Light Pollution trap which is my back garden - and having given stern instructions to the ladies of the household not to put the bathroom light on while I'm outside I get the scope put up and leave it cooling. In use on the side of the scope the Telrad seems huge and getting it aligned properly is a pain...its mounted on the far side of the OTA to my Finderscope - so stretching and straining is needed to get a good straight through view...AND it weighs a ton...I've had to re balance my scope on its mount as its so nose heavy with the Telrad in place! Time for some naked eye observations while my Scope cools and my eyes adapt, Jupiter is high and dazzlingly bright in the constellation of Aries, the "kite shape" of Cepheus is obvious over the roof of my neighbours bungalow to the north and I am able to pick out two naked eye stars in Monoceros (Gamma and Beta I believe). Picking up the binoculars its easy to pick out the three Messier clusters in Auriga (M36, M37 and M38) as tiny condensations in the background Milky Way, they actually seem more difficult to spot in the finderscope...perhaps that's down to its narrower field of view? In the Dob M37 is the most obvious and the one that appears to be outside the traditional lines of the constellation; M36 is a tight bright scattering of resolved stars and M38 is more scattered and nebulous. I was again surprised to pick out M1 The Crab Nebula relatively easily from my back garden because of the skyglow and light pollution - one thing I've discovered already is that the Telrad makes it so much easier to find things...I was straight onto Zeta Taurus with no problems or scanning around whatsoever! Compared to the last time I viewed it, it appeared larger more extended and slightly lozenge shaped...it was still only a very faint puff of smoke though! The Orion Nebula M42 & M43 looked as spectacular as ever - but I do seem to be having real difficulty identifying M43 as a separate object, to me it definitely merges into the nebulosity between the horns of the main M42 for me...A,B,C and D all visible in the trapezium _ I will have to make an effort on a steady night with a better eyepiece to try and resolve some of the fainter members! Using the Telrad in conjunction with some newly printed finder charts it was easy to identify the location of M78 just north of Orion's belt - but was pleasantly surprised to be able to view it as a small comet-like triangle of sparse grey smoke sweeping away from an embedded faint star - my first ever reflection nebula...yippee!! Adding the 10mm EP with the x2 Barlow it was time for a second look at Sigma Orion - I do find this combination unpleasant to view with - I look forward to investing in more and better eyepieces! The Multiple Star system was viewable as a quadruple star this time - the tiny faint companion C visible next to the Primary A/B...all four stars like a chain of different sized white pearls on a bead. Having viewed Monoceros for the first time as a naked eye constellation (or two of its members anyway) - it was time to turn the scope on Beta Monoceros which was thankfully easy to find mid-way between Orion's belt and Sirius - the star itself was an attractive triple system A bright primary and nearby two fainter stars almost merging together they are so close - all an attractive "ice white". Castor is the fainter of the two bright "twins" in Gemini and an impressive double star, in the 10mm EP it splits to two equal bright white companions (after reading about it i realise there is a third fainter companion I missed...something to look out for in future). I've always been interested in Planetary Nebula - and with inferior optical equipment I have unsuccessfully tried to spy The Ring Nebula and The Dumbell Nebula in the past...now I've finally acquired an astronomical telescope I was quite excited about the thought of finding one and was going to try my luck with NGC2392 The Eskimo Nebula in Gemini. My star-hop started at Wasat (the waist star in Pollux' half of Gemini) and with that in the Telrad it was pretty straightforward to find 63 Gemini - a triple star asterism which let me know I was on the right track. I was impressed I could actually make out NGC2392 as a bloated fuzzy star in the 25mm EP (I thought it might need higher magnification) and with the 10mm it was visible in all its glory - a tiny bright disk surrounded by a fainter halo - impressive and a real reward - my first ever planetary! Whilst I was in Gemini I had another look at M35 - definitely my favourite open cluster so far! Looking stunning in my 25mm EP - a nicely resolved and extensive cluster of faint stars with an even smattering of brighter members in the foreground. While trees and a fence meant I couldn't swing the dobsonian in the right direction, but binoculars on the other hand were OK and sweeping south of Sirius in Canis Major meant I was able to pick up M41 as a diminutive patch of light...another new Messier for my collection! I had an unsuccessful attempt to locate M50 in Monoceros - while I had been able to find Beta Monoceros earlier I couldn't pick up enough guide stars to star hop to this open cluster in a rather sparsely populated area of the sky :( A quick look to the west and light pollution was hampering viewing...The bright core of M31 was visible, but no companions and there was no sign of M33. After enjoying them on my last session I revisited a couple of easy to find double stars in Cassiopeia (easy to find with the Telrad that is - I've used mine for a couple of hours and already I wouldn't part with it...worth every penny and more!) Eta Cassiopeia easy to find between Alpha and Gamma Cas - a well separated double with a beautiful yellow/red colour contrast. Iota Cassiopeia a little trickier - just outside the "w" of Cassiopeia an attractive triple system - a bright primary and two fainter companions, B very close to A and probably not separable on less steady night. While in Cassiopeia I have a look for the multitude of open clusters it contains - not nearly as easy as you'd think, with Cassiopeia being firmly in the milky way - there's an awful lot going on once you look through the eyepiece! Hopefully investment in a lower magnification, brighter widefield eyepiece will help in future! I manage to identify M103 close to Delta Cas - more through luck and its proximity to such an obvious guide star than judgement but its visible as a small faint mottled patch of light with a couple of brighter foreground stars in the 25mm EP. A more obvious and visually spectacular cluster is M34 in Perseus - positioning my Telrad guide circle midway between Algol (in Perseus) and Almach (in Andromeda) and it was a surprisingly easy find...nice and obvious in the finderscope. In the 25mm it had a lovely well resolved appearance - a sparse scattering of bright and faint stars spread in an extended fan shape. Well the indoors and normal life was calling and it was time to pack everything away after an exciting session and many new finds - I must remember not to be so dismissive of my back garden - just because I can't get anywhere darker it doesn't mean it'll be a wasted night!
  11. I've not observed it myself...but my copy of Cosmic Challenge - The Ultimate Observing List for Amateurs describes it as a a dim slightly blue star of about magnitude 13 - so probably just out of reach for a 6inch and a challenge for an 8 inch scope (whatever the book says about it being possible with smaller scopes) Of course as it appears stellar - the real challenge will be identifying it! Maybe I'll have a crack at it when Virgo gets a bit higher...just so I can say its the most distant object I've ever spied!!!
  12. Yes, definitely post up a user report as I was interested in the Meade Series 5000 EP's myself! Thanks
  13. Sunday 18th December It seems like an age since I last managed to get the scope out...and looking at my observing Diary has it down as nearly a month ago...was my telescope the worst investment ever LOL! After observing from my fairly cruddy back garden last time I've bitten the bullet, loaded the car and traveled somewhere darker - not far just a pull in by the road in some local woods...found that the scope lies easily across the back seat and the seat belts make perfect tie downs, leaving the boot free for all my gubbins...result! Anyway picnic blanket on the ground scope set up and i'm in business...darker here (but still plenty of orange sky glow near the horizon...how far from civilisation do I actually have to get!) views to the East, South and West are good...though looking North its totally obscured by loads of pine trees looming over me! I manage to discipline myself to have a good naked eye look round the constellations...can I see Cetus before it disappears off below the horizon for the winter? I can make out the uneven pentagram of its head easily enough...but the rest of the constellation remains a mystery to me! Giving my eyes time to get properly dark adapted I take a quick tourists tour of the heavens with my binoculars...nothing too exciting - M31 obvious as an oval haze in Andromeda while turning to Auriga I can spy M36, M37 and M38 as vague unresolved spots of nebulosity. Much more excitingly though careful scanning between Triangulum and Andromeda and I was able to glimpse M33 as a large but incredibly faint ghostly shimmer slipping in and out of view...if I try and concentrate on it it disappears - only to flicker back into existence as I look away...great result! One thing I discover about using the Dobsonian...something that having it on my lawn last session disguised...its tough on your knees! Even with a picnic blanket between me and the ground its decidedly uncomfortable...something that no-one mentions when extolling their ease-of-use credentials LOL! Anyway, ignoring knee-knack I can't help but look first at Jupiter...by far the brightest object in the sky and a doddle to find, I still can't get over the view in my scope...okay its not the Hubble, but its brilliant to see a definite buttermilk coloured disk. Detail seemed to flicker in and out of focus as i watched it (possibly because of seeing) but all four moons were obvious (Ganymede Europa and Io to one side, Callisto far away on the opposite side of the planet like some kind of outcast!) and a faint star huddling nearby as a "fifth imposter". The two dark equatorial bands were obvious and there were hints of two more fainter/thinner bands outside of those. Time to leave the planets behind and look for some Deep Sky Objects! First up and a gentle one to start with M31 in Andromeda, with the darker skies at this more rural site it appeared much larger than on my first session - more shapely and elongated, less of a shapeless and featureless blob. Both of the satellite galaxies visible this time..and under these conditions M110 actually appeared the more impressive, larger and shaped like a thin lozenge, set distinctly away from M31 itself, whereas M32 still apeared as a bright slightly out of focus star super imposed on the core of M31. Frustration with my next target though...there was no sign of M33 in my 200P even with the 25mm EP (I realise low magnification is important for these extended low surface brightness targets) - viewing again with the binoculars I can just glimpse it...and I can identify where it is so I KNOW I'm looking in the right place with my scope...I guess light pollution and low surface brightness don't make good bedfellows! I've never seen a globular cluster before so waste ages looking unsuccessfully for M15 in southern Pegasus - I find star hopping to it incredibly difficult, but it is getting close to the horizon and getting swallowed up in the skyglow of nearby Newark...I'll have to wait for Autumn 2012 to have another crack at this! I suppose its a sign that the sky I'm observing under is of pretty poor quality because I find double stars much easier to find and observe - though I am only looking at the most obvious showcases so far LOL! Almach is easily found in Northern Andromeda - a famous double star system that splits easily and attractively in my 10mm eyepiece, a beautiful pair of uneven brightness and contrasting yellow and blue colours - a real gem! Next up Gamma Aries - again no real problems getting the finderscope on this one - one of three bright naked eye stars in Aries. Mesarthim was just split in my 10mm EP - a dazzling pair of identical twins, 2 bright blue white companions, almost touching - gorgeous! Straight on to Eta Cassiopeia - a faint naked eye star inside the "W" of Cassiopeia, another really attractive double star! Brilliant contrast between a bright yellow primary and a closer faint but strikingly red companion, easily split in my 10mm EP. I must confess that when I got my telescope I didn't think I'd find any interest in double stars (two stars close togther...whats so great about THAT?) but actually they're fascinating and beautiful! Iota Cassiopeia - found by extending the left arm of the "W" northwards towards a slightly fainter naked eye star presents a beautiful triple system - a Bright White Primary with a tiny secondary just touching/elongating its disk and a faint third star alongside. Feel very smug to be able to split such a close double! The view through my finderscope is becoming fainter and fainter at this stage - one of the reasons I've cast my eye towards Cassiopeia - as its easy to find my way around! As star hopping seems to be slipping off the agenda due to the mysterious failure of my finderscope I console myself with another look at M42 which even a duffer like me can find in the eyepiece! Its as beautiful as ever and the four stars that make up the trapezium are all clearly visible. One mystery solved...the reason my finderscope isn't working is DEW! That's why its misted up and I can barely see even the brightest stars through it...something to tackle next time! It means an early bath though and an end to a thoroughly enjoyable observing session!
  14. Tuesday November 29th First clear night since I acquired my scope and an opportunity to observe from my back garden. Not a perfect observing site by any means - but probably similar to many suburban observers, plenty of light pollution and obscured to the north and east by houses and trees - view south reasonable - but trees on the horizon and to the north the town of Newark gives a lovely orange glow LOL! On a good night I can typically see stars down to about mag 4.5 - I usually look over at Ursa Minor and how many stars I can see gives me an idea how clear/dark the sky is. Anyway after setting up I looked at the night sky with the naked eye to get my eyes dark adapted. While familiar with the famous constellations - some of the smaller/more obscure ones are new to me so I took the time to ID Triangulum (obvious between Andromeda and Perseus) and Aries which was an attractive dog leg of three bright stars just south of Triangulum. I've a pair of 8x42 binocs I've always used for birding...so now was the time to train them on the night sky - M31 was visible as a faint smear of light (not visible with the naked eye from my garden) M42 was visible in the sword of orion and I was able to pick out all three Messier clusters in Auriga (M36, M37 and M38 - I was surprised that they all appeared as tiny unresolved fuzzy stars at x8, M35 in Gemini was easy to find and appeared bigger, brighter and "looser". Time to get "The Big Gun" out and train my SW200P on the sky - first target Jupiter which was stunningly bright and dominating the night sky! Viewed with both the 25mm and the 10mm and to be fair looked similar ith both - bigger in the 10mm EP but no more detail really visible - all four Galilean Moons visible and I was quite surprised at how far out from Jupiter Callisto appeared! Jupiter a bright creamy disk with the two dark equatorial bands visible. Next up that showpiece of the Autumn sky M31 in Andromeda, to be honest - a bit underwhelming! Jut a small bright oval of nebulosity at both x40 and x100; presumably just the bright central core visible , M32 was visible as a fuzzy star super-imposed on the edge of M31, maybe I need to revisit from a darker site or with a LP filter? Despite trying hard and using binoculars, the finderscope and the 220P with the 25mm EP I was unable to even catch a glimpse of M33 in Triangulum! On to M42 in Orion, another gem of the winter sky...easy to locate and impressive even from my light polluted back garden! It was spectacular and bright enough to take x100 power without getting washed out! Compared to all the photo's i've seen it seemed much larger and more diffuse, shaped like two extended horns spreading away from the trapezium at the centre rather than the usual fan shaped images. Could see four stars of the central trapezium with the 10mm EP - the stars appearing to be in a "window" in the nebulosity. Time to view my first double star - Sigma Orion; with the 10mm EP it apeared as a triple star and bright dazzling blue white primary and two fainter but still bright white companions (presumably A/B, D and E). On to the attractive Open Cluster in Gemini I'd already glimpsed with Binoculars - M35 was easy to see as a shimmering glow in the finderscope in the 25mm EP it resolved itself into a sprawling loose cluster of faint individual stars...very impressive! Lastly M1 The Crab Nebula; I was VERY surprised to ID M1 as a tiny diagonally oriented nebulosity just north of Zeta Tauris; no obvious detail or shape was apparent, but obviously longer along 1 axis than the other. That was it for my first nights observing...you may have noticed I stuck to easy to find, famous objects...thats because i was finding it VERY difficult to find anything in the finderscope...and I also found it extremely hard to maneuver the dob mount to find objects passing near the zenith...definitely something to work on next time!
  15. First blog post so thought I'd introduce myself! Always been interested in Amateur Astronomy...though I've never previously owned a scope - at various points in my life i've enjoyed the sky with binoculars and a copy of Nortons Star Atlas (Old Skool I know!) Anyway jealousy over Dark Nebula's huge refractor...(scope envy) has prompted me to invest in a second hand Skywatcher 200P - my first astronomical scope! Its the old style blue tube model, mounted on a very rickety home made Dob mount. I've also got the manufacturers supplied eyepieces - the 25mm, 10mm and x2 barlow. With a copy of Sky and Telescopes pocket sky atlas, and a home modded LED torch...(daughters red nail varnish painted on the lens) I was ready to cast my gaze upon the heavens...the first opportunity was to come on 29th of November. Thought it might be interesting to share my obsrvations with fellow SGL members...so you can all see how I develop and the pitfalls I encounter...If you're a complete beginner like me...you may learn what you need to avoid!!!
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