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Swithin StCleeve

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About Swithin StCleeve

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    Star Forming

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  1. Excellent couple of hours observing tonight at the society's Skypod observatory. The first clear night since the 29th May. That’s no good,is it? Three cloudy weeks?Things change so much in such a short space of time. Where has Leo gone?Anyway, got there just after 10pm, it was still very bright. Faffed around with the finderscope for longer than I’d have liked, (this sort of stuff should be done in the daytime, but it’s difficult with a red dot finder). I started the most methodical alignment possible, and still I was off every target by a three second slew on speed five. But at least the distance and direction were pretty much the same the sky over. So I’m going to rattle through these. I may do a proper write-up for the society newsletter, but here’s the ‘fresh in my head’ version, (as fresh as I can get at 2am.As soon as I’ve done the alignment (I’m still using the society’s 8″ Celestron S/C), I go to the brightest Messier object to see how close the alignment is. It's M13 tonight, and it’s pretty close, but I never get that cigar. So I spend some time with M13 and M92, while it’s still quite light actually, (and I forget to visit Hercule's 'forgotten globular' NGC 6229 later....) , then head off in the opposite direction to check how close the alignment is over the other direction. Not too bad.No M56 or Dumbell Nebula yet, the sky too bright, and I'm looking in the wrong (city) direction.The Perseus Double Cluster next, looking pin-sharp but on;y the brighter stars seen. The center of the one cluster displaying what I call the ‘Pawprint’, which I tend to use as a confirmation that I have the double in the eyepiece. I can just about fit both in the field of view in the 32mm eyepiece. This scope must have a hell of a focal length – I should know it, shouldn’t I?The triangle of M103. I love this very distinctive open cluster. Cassiopeia is replete with interesting open clusters, but I’ll wait to re-visit when it’s higher, (and sometime later I took in a very low Andromeda Galaxy for fun, it was faint and large, in comparison to the other more remote galaxies I’ve been seeing lately).11.30-ish and a planet rises, right in the trees S/W. I’m surprised, I was expecting the giants earlier in the morning. Or later in the morning, should I say. I check in the Helios binoculars, and it’s Jupiter, dancing around because they’re like 70X and I’ve got no tripod set up, and my 10X50's are in the van.Anyway, the sky is looking like something near to dark, and I start looking for tonight’s new targets. I specifically wanted to find two galaxies in Canes Venatici. The first is M63. At mag 8.6 it should be brighter than many of the galaxies I saw about three weeks ago in the Coma Cluster, which were quite lower in the sky. But it wasn’t the shortest day of the year then, was it?But I see it, ‘The Sunflower Galaxy’. Well, it needs averted vision to see any kind of shape at all tonight, but there it is, with two starts in the same field of view making it unmistakable, and as usual it’s the 1984 Newton and Teece Cambridge Deep Sky album that affords me the most faithful likeness to the celestial object I encountered for the first time at the eyepiece tonight. I recommend that book unreservedly to any visual astronomer.The next target – the second ‘new’ galaxy in Canes Venatici, is a real surprise. M94, the ‘Croc’s Eye galaxy’, (really?). Wow, it’s bright. My O’Meara Messier book puts it at 8.2, but it seems twice as bright as M63. A very pretty ‘comet like’ face-on spiral galaxy that forms a triangle of sorts with two stars from our own family. The Cambridge Teece book gives it 7.9 mag, and I think I’d concur. It looks like the bright globular cluster M13 through my little 4 inch mirror scope, if that makes sense.I check in on M5, my third globular cluster of the evening and it’s quite a sight. In Serpens Caput. And I always wonder why I don’t visit it more. But it’s in Serpens Caput, and like Canes Venatici, these aren’t great constellations for urban-bound star-hoppers.I try again for M101, the face-on spiral galaxy in And again, I can’t see it. It’s like some cosmic joke, this elusive galaxy. I check my eye-site’s not failing by looking checking out the Whirlpool galaxy, (M51), and it’s all there, and I can even see structure using averted vision. And this is down as 8.4, and yet M101 is invisible at 7.9mag? (yea, I know, magnitude and apparent brightness and all that).Just to check the darkness of the sky, I re-look for the Dumbell nebula, and it’s easily found, and bright amongst the rich backdrop of stars that tells me I’m looking into the summer Milky Way.I had a new globular cluster on my tick-list too, M19. A quite low cluster in Ophiuchus. I like this constellation quite a lot, I didn’t get to know it till a couple of years ago, star-gazing by the White Lady’s Priory. It’s a massive house-shaped constellation that never rises high in the UK. But it contains some fine globulars, (M10 and M12 being in my observation logs, but there are many more). I like the description of these globulars as 'ancient spherical swarms of stars'. On returning home, I see M19 is listed as a very bright cluster, yet it seemed like a mere ghost of the bright clusters like M10 and M12. In retrospect, I may have been looking through some low horizon cloud without knowing it.Jupiter is hedge-skimming, and I try to take a short film, but the camera weighs down the scope and I lose the alignment. No matter, I still have the red-dot finder-scope, but Jupiter is very low anyway, and although the image of the great gas giant is large and steady in the eyepiece, only the main two equatorial belts are seen, but the planet is framed beautifully by all four of its largest moons, two each side, almost equidistant in the eyepiece.It’s been a lovely night and I don’t want to do another alignment, so I just wait for Saturn to creep round the tree, and there is one of the most breathtaking telescopic sights, the remote planet with its magic rings still ‘open’ and to the left (in the eyepiece), a star that might be a moon, but I’ll have to check tomorrow, it’s after 3am now.I took one quick tripod shot of Jupiter and Saturn as I left the observatory. Jupiter’s the bright one, left of middle, Saturn is the second brightest, to the left of Jupiter.
  2. I completely get that, well said. Sometimes I get to list-ticking and not really considering the 'cosmic geography' of it all, writing down faint fuzzies in a blase way in my observing book.. then you see something like the crescent of Venus, and realise you're looking at another word, and you can see the direction of the sunlight falling on it, and you see the part where the Venusian day meets the night, and you wonder why everyone on Earth isn't looking at this stuff, so fantastic it is! Here's my photo of last night. I have a Skywatcher 4" table-top dob in the back of my van all the time, it's a £99 scope and I bloody love it! I connected my Canon DSLR with a T ring and took two shots of Venus and Mercury because they were just out the field of view. I used a panorama program to stitch them together. It's not a great astro-photo as Venus is over-exposed, but I'm pleased with it.
  3. I saw a satellite flare up very bright, but didn't note the time. Lovely to see Mercury...
  4. I'm actually a seasoned star-hopper, and it's taken me years to commit to using a go-to. But there's no way I'd have found those faint Virgo/Coma galaxies in a Bortle 5 sky by star-hopping. It'd have taken hours. I'm coming round to thinking go-to mounts are essential in these light-polluted times. And isn't astronomy about making use of tech anyway? As Julian Cope said once, "if Beethoven would have had an electric guitar, he'd have been playin' it!"
  5. With last week’s somewhat disappointing session with my 8″ reflector (and the damn dew), I decided to use the society’s go-to 8″ Celestron Schmidt–Cassegrain tonight. It was much warmer, and with no dew problem, I managed to get in a very productive couple of hours deep-sky observing. Am very, very pleased.I started by looking at the great globular cluster M13, just because it was about the brightest deep-sky object I could think of, while it was still twilight. Then I returned to M65 and M66, galaxies in Leo (I’d done a quick sketch of these last week.) I still couldn’t see the third galaxy of the famous ‘triplet’. I never can! Then I looked for M105, and the mount took me to a bright-ish face on spiral, with another nebulous galaxy-looking object near. I’m glad I made a sketch, as I’m able to see that I saw NGC 3384. These were a pretty pair, and it wasn’t even dark yet. Staying in Leo, I tried for M95 and M96, and both were easily found, and I expected them to be in the same field of view. They’re close, but even in the 25mm eyepiece, not close enough for keeping in the same field.Leaving Leo for a moment, I had a quick look at the Own Nebula in overhead Ursa Major, (M97) then tried the galaxy M108, in the same constellation, which I’ve never been able to find*. Wow! I could easily see a structured edge-on spiral galaxy, (sketch forthcoming…). At mag 9.8, it’s little wonder this galaxy has been elusive, but with Ursa Major right overhead, it finally showed itself.There’s no official astronomical darkness now, we only get ''nautical darkness this time of year. But with Virgo in perhaps the darkest part of the sky, towards the south (in between the sky-glow of Wolverhampton and Telford I think), I tried to view a few of the Messier objects in that area which I’ve always struggled to find by star-hopping.The area known as …. (drum roll!), The Realm of the Galaxies!M85 was my first attempt, and it was lovely to see! A face-on spiral, with a star right next to it. Quite bright, and very pretty, and only a mere 41 million light years away. This is actually in Coma Berenices, but it’s part of the Virgo cluster, (or is that the 'Coma Cluster')Next, M58 …which is the brightest of the Virgo group, according to my Cambridge Messier book, but my notes from tonight describe it as a "ghostly spectre", quite large and wispy.I really was in the Realm of the Galaxies by now, the sky was dark enough to allow me to navigate the galactic cluster with gusto. Next stop was, M60, and M59 almost in the same field of view.The usually dependable website Clear Outside had forecast cloud cover around midnight, so I was mindful of getting the most out of the time I had. M49, one of the southernmost galaxies in Virgo was next, an obvious face-on spiral, with averted vision suggesting structure…Oh, to see this through the 16″ mirror under a truly dark sky!With the clouds threatening, galaxy M88 was another ghostly apparition, (inside a triangle of stars according to my sketch), more averted vision started to really bring out some detail, and it was there … then it was gone. And when I looked at Leo hovering over the lake I saw Regulus had lost its sparkle, the stars were dimming and the clouds and mist had scuppered my chances of seeing any more of those elusive Virgo galaxies.But how lucky I’d been to see fourteen galaxies in one evening! How many millions and billions of stars would have made up the faint light that entered my retina tonight, as I drunk instant coffee and listened to the owls and the fish splashing in the nearby lake?———-*I’m afraid I’ve uttered a falsehood. M108 is in my Messier list. I can only think I must have entered it in my journal in the 90’s when I was using the mighty ten-inch Dob.Or perhaps I saw it in my 4.5″ Tasco?
  6. I didn't realise you used white paper and inverted the image. I was thinking you used black paper and special white-ink pens! That explains it. Thanks for the info. I'm hoping to get some observing done myself tonight and I'll do some sketches. I'll be using a Skywatcher 200P as well!
  7. These are lovely! Can I ask what paper and pencils you use please? I'd love to have a go at this myself.
  8. Nothing, I'm afraid. I was testing a new lens out. I'd been using a kit lens and someone kindly sent me a higher quality 50mm lens, and I do love constellation photography. I found the picture today because I was looking for pictures of the Coma Cluster, (seeing as Thursday night was the first time I'd been out to dark skies in a couple of months, and it's nice for viewing Melotte 111 around now). Anyway, I found that shot and thought 'where the hell is that!'. Plus, I thought I might re-visit those two stars in the scope to see if the colours are evident in the scope. The picture might be saturated, but they look very nice together in a wide field shot, Albereo like.
  9. Wow, that's impressive. And I'd have never figured that out, so I feel a little less foolish now. Thanks so much!
  10. I found this photo on a memory card of constellation photography I did in April 2018. I don't think it's cropped, so it's just a constellation photo with a 50mm lens. I've been looking at it for ages and I don't know which constellation it is. Anyone recognise it? It's driving me up the wall!
  11. Oh man, you have my respect. I've kept astro-diaries since the early nineties and still have a sackfull of Messier objects I've never seen. I just don't have the skies, and when I do, (out in Shropshire), I can only get to see one or two new ones every night, if I'm lucky. I suppose I could join some mid-Wales star party and look through some guys* high-tech go-to, but that's not me finding them, is it? I've seem M33 with the naked eye only twice ever - Wiltshire in the early nineties and the Elan Valley eighteen months ago. You must be mad for it james! *It might be a girl. But it's going to be a guy, isn't it?
  12. Cool. I think you're spot on with that. Especially the first paragraph. Just out of interest, the 110 Messier Objects in your sig, did you find them with a go-to? (I only ask because I'm trying to cross them off by finding them star-hopping and I doubt if I'll ever find some of those Virgo galaxies this way).
  13. I've been doing the same thing for years, and thinking it noble to spread the word about the fantastic science of astronomy, (particularly as one school I go to has the vicar going in regularly telling them about creationism, but that's a different debate for another time). But when I was asked to do a talk for this other school, and I wasn't even offered a tenner for petrol, or even a cup of coffee, I have to say I felt a bit of a mug, knowing that they pay other visitors. But then, perhaps they're paying 'experts', and I, as an amateur, don't warrant payment? I dunno. Regarding speakers for Astro societies, most of the people we book (I'm on the council for our local society), have a fee, which isn't much. Some come for nothing, but they're usually part of Universities that encourage 'outreach', so I think they get their fee in a roundabout way. We have had people at our society who have asked for nothing, and we've given them something out of plain civility.
  14. The head teacher has said a few times that she usually has to pay people to come in and give talks. And as for text books, that's a bit of a joke at the schools I teach at, they have too many! Seriously. If they don't order so many, they get their allowance cut. I've seen the storeroom, they have loads! Obviously all schools are different.
  15. Would people consider it 'bad form' to charge a fee then? If you work in the week and have to take an afternoon off to visit a school, I don't think asking for a fee would be remiss. I do free talks at the schools I teach at, and that creates goodwill, so I don't mind that at all. Because I'm involved with the schools already it's no different if I was a Dad with a kid in the school. But one school last year which I'm not involved with, did ask me to go in, and I spent ages setting up scopes and stuff, and was there most of the afternoon, and they were very pleased. Yet I did come away thinking 'they should have at least offered me something'. If only for the diesel I'd used! Perhaps it's because I'm self-employed I'm constantly thinking of a 'time is money' thing.
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