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Posts posted by mike.brightmore

  1. Not getting enough astro fixes in the UK so have come to Arizona. This week near Phoenix and next week going to Sedona. We contacted the Phoenix Astronomical Society and they recommended some good observing sites. The first is known as the Antennas site about 110 miles West of Phoenix way out in the Sonora Desert. Some of their members came along with their big, and I mean BIG, Dobsonians. We could only manage to take an 80 mm refractor and iOptron Smart EQ mount plus 15 x 70 binoculars from the U.K.. The sky at this site was jaw dropping - 2 on the Bortle Scale. The Zodiacal Light was clearly visible and the Milky Way cast shadows in the otherwise pitch black location (don't think about stepping on a rattle snake or picking up a Bark Scorpion instead of a dropped EP cap). 

    Heaven surely can hold no greater delights than being under this sky with a 22 inch Obsession Dob. Galaxies in the eyepiece looked like astro photos and I have never seen such detail on Mars, Saturn and Jupiter. Unfortunately it was too windy for any serious photography but we almost did an 'all-sky' survey with the DSLR.

    Another tremendous highlight was being able to see the globular cluster Omega Centauri. In the binos it looked as big as M13 does in my C11 back home. Through the telescopes it was stunning, although it was quite low at about 9 degrees above the horizon.

    Another night we went out to the Picket Post trail head site about 60 miles east of Phoenix. This was not quite as dark but still stunningly beautiful. Here we could take some better pictures and I've included a quick one of Omega Centauri taken through the 80 mm refractor. I think it looks reddish because it was very low in the sky, but the stars did go down to the horizon in all direction. It's such a delight to be able to pan with binoculars the whole of southern constellations such as Scorpio and Sagitarius which I can barely see in the U.K.

    Anyway here are a few random pictures;










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  2. post-2461-0-74642200-1347551290_thumb.pnSpot on Moonshane. Uranus is next and to the left of the Star 44 Pisces which is exactly the same brightness (Mag 4.7). I also use the little trapezium of Mag. 6/7 stars (inc. HIP 1421) to the right and slightly above to check. See Stellarium image attached.
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  3. I've just borrowed a couple of 4 inch Baader Solar filters and attached them to the front of a pair of Helios Quantum 4 (25x100) bins. The result was surprisingly good with excellent sunspot detail. Surprisingly there was no colour fringing (CA) around the limb. Photo of set-up attached.

    Now for the note of caution. A member of our astronomy group was observing the Sun through a small pair of binoculars whilst wearing solar eclipse glasses. Alerted by a smell of burning she quickly put down the bins and found that the solar film in the eclipse glasses was melting and the magified Sun's rays had burned two small holes in them. Fortunately no damage was done but a few seconds more would have been disasterous.


  4. With the exceptionally clear skies this week I've been able to observe further down towards the Southern horizon so have been panning around Scutum, Sagittarius and Ophiuchus. A few degrees directly below the Wild Duck cluster (M11) in Scutum I noticed a strikingly red little star. It was at the tip of an almost perfect little equilateral triangle of stars and stood out amongst its white and bluish neighbours. In fact it looked like a red pixel in an astro image. I observed it in the binoculars and telescope and it was a very pleasing object in both. Intrigued by it I found it in Stellarium and identified it as S Scuti (SAO 142674, HIP 92442). When I searched this on the net I learned that this was indeed a Carbon Star (one that had used up all its hydrogen and is fusing helium so creating a high concentration of carbon in its atmosphere. This apparently scatters most wavelengths except red light). On the North Central Kansas Astronomical Society website ... http://www.nckas.org/carbonstars/ I found a list of other Carbon Stars giving their HIP and SAO catalogue references. The search facility on Stellarium recognises HIP references and most GoTos use SAO references. Using the HIP catalogue references I located a few of these on Stellarium and then went searching for more of these little red gems. V Ophiuchi was too low to reveal itself properly but VX Andromedae (directly above M31) was a treat, as was T Lyrae (immediately below Vega). Of the ones listed there are only one or two in each constellation so not an unduly long list of targets. Most are around magnitude 6 to 8 so ideal for binos or small scopes and quite easy to find and recognise. I then went to Herschel's Garnet Star in Cepheus as I hadn't previously realised this a carbon star (though in fact it might not be). I have also previously enjoyed observing Hind's Crimson Star in Lepus and La Superba in Canes Venatici without realising why they were so reddish. I look forward to finding more of these and thought I'd share this with anyone who hasn't come across Carbon Stars and fancies a bit of a change from Messiers.

  5. A second crystal clear night so I panned the Universe with the Q 7.4s and DSOs just jumped out at me. I don't often get good transparency towards the Southern horizon but not even the street lights could spoil it tonight. M11 the Wild Duck cluster was magnificent with the left pointing chevron of stars clearly evident. I could make out the outline of the upside down swan in the Omega Nebula (M17) and the Eagle Nebula (M16) was clearly visible. The globular clusters in Ophiucus (M10, M12 and the slightly fainter M14) were a rare delight in Bins. Globulars M15 and M2 were brilliant but M13 at 50x magnification was a show stopper The other Hercules globular M92 also stood out. I could just make out the Ring in M57 at 25x and at 50x it was obvious. The nearby small globular M56 was also clearly visible. M31, 81 and 82 showed their shapes and the open clusters in Cassiopeia were delightful. The shape of the Dumbbell in M27 was clear. Finished off by observing Uranus which at 50x magnification showed its greenish coloured disc.

  6. The Celestron focal reducer screws directly onto the back of the scope. The visual back then screws onto the focal reducer - then diagonal and eyepiece (or camera T-ring) as normal. You will have to check exactly which reducer you need for your scope and image size you want. They are also useful for reducing magnification and increasing the field of view when looking at many of the deep sky objects visually. Here is a link to the Celestron focal reducer ... http://www.firstlightoptics.com/reducersflatteners/celestron-f63-focal-reducer.html

    There are other makes and sizes. I have not had any problem with focus using a variety of reducers and cameras.

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