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Ships and Stars

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Everything posted by Ships and Stars

  1. Oh wow, that sounds truly wonderful, if not incredibly challenging! I barely scratched the surface in my short time there. From what I've read they have a superb hut and xc ski network, my wife wants to go when the children are a bit bigger, but we'll definitely stay indoors at night so I'd better start saving now! I met a couple dog sledding in Reisa, they used to run a tourism centre but keep a lavvu set up on their land and invited me to visit again. I should say hello online, been a few years now. Norway in winter is really something else, and everything is done to such a high standard. I'd love to return. PS having the lights overhead in the Cheviots must have been jaw dropping!
  2. Thanks for reading through all this, ha, I start typing and that's it... I love the 20" dob, want to find a home for it outside of town on a farm or estate so I can relax a bit and really study things. PS your 10"dob will act like a much larger scope under really dark skies have fun!
  3. Thanks Robert, yes the aurora is amazing on nights when it's really alive, but it can take the edge off the faint DSOs lower down in the sky. I don't know if you've seen it, but it rarely looks like what you see in photos unless you are in a prime location, they are long exposures and really brighten things up, but when it's high up or even overhead, it's a sight to behold with the naked eye and will show intense colour when it's really booming. Thanks Epick, I managed to pick up a 20" Skywatcher dob (500p) a few years back when work was really busy and I quickly sold off some other equipment from an old hobby. The original 500p owner fell ill before he could use it, but owned a small observatory with a number of other scopes and was into astronomy for many years. His son in law listed it on ebay at a good starting price. I think people were unsure if it was a scam, or the scope was just too far to collect, but I was the only bidder after emailing the seller back and forth a few times. It was my first telescope! lol, we have some dark skies around here and I do a lot of winter camping, so I just decided to go for it - definite aperture fever if there ever was! I won it but was faced with another dilemma, how to get it home. It was a 600 mile, ten hour drive away, not mega by Australian standards, but far enough by UK standards to make things a little complicated. I was going to hire a van collect it myself, but found I was so busy with work, minus the cost of van hire and insurance/fuel, I simply hired a private courier to bring it up to Scotland after checking he was insured and the seller would disassemble it carefully. I was sweating bullets until it arrived, then quickly hid it outside under a tarp literally minutes before my wife returned home She knew I was buying a telescope, but I didn't really stress how big, haha. She was actually ok with it! Her dream was to be an astronaut when she was little, so I guess that sentiment helped me survive the day. She's not into astro, but will pop outside for a second when there's something really cool in the EP like M42. When I had my first light with the scope, I simply moved it randomly around the night sky going 'wow' because I didn't know where anything was except Orion. You could point it at a dark part of the sky with no visible stars, and through the eyepiece it felt like it was just packed with them, they kept going and going deeper into space. I accidently stumbled across my first nebula that night, I had no clue which one it was, but turned out to be M27 the Dumbbell Nebula. Stock 28mm LER eyepiece, no filter. The rest was history. I was hooked. If you witness a strong display, it is a very remarkable phenomenon. In Feb 2016 I got a cheap flight to Tromso, Norway up above the Arctic Circle to try and see them from one of the best spots in the northern hemisphere. I was on a very tight shoestring budget (Norway is infamously expensive as you've probably heard) and camped in a small tent for 8 nights down to -35C. Some nights I just slept in the back of the hire car (still about -25C inside). I had excellent clothing and always liked winter camping, so I was in absolute heaven. I drove all around Arctic Norway, Lyngen Alps, Alta, Kautokeino, etc and down into Northern Finland, the winter roads are packed snow, but all cars have studded snow tyres which worked amazingly well, no problems. Hardly any traffic by UK standards, especially at night. It was too cold for my cook stove to work so I ended up eating frozen lapskaus from a 1kg tin most nights and buying a hot dog and two cups of coffee from every Statoil petrol station I passed, haha. I settled upon an area just outside Reisa National Park in Finnmark, about as remote as you can get. A lot of Norwegians I met in Oslo had never heard of it. It was a bitterly cold inland location but largely free of cloud in comparison to coastal locations, and the aurora displays I saw there were just mind-blowing despite the near-full moon a few nights, like massive neon icicles slowly floating overhead. I'll never forget it! Tromso or Alta is the place to go, but take your coat Here are some (sorry, a lot) pics from the Norway Aurora trip @Epick Crom and @Robertl, people say to go when there's no moon but the aurora is so strong at that latitude it doesn't make much difference!
  4. I love my 2" 28mm LET eyepiece, the design of the eyecup and overall feel is basic but brilliant in my opinion. Most comfortable one I own. Plus at 28mm it gives a large exit pupil for faint objects on dobs. I think it's a highly underrated eyepiece and if I drop it on concrete or it gets scratched somehow, it's not the end of the world. You can pick them up for peanuts.
  5. Thanks faulksy, this winter was looking like a bit of a write off altogether, at least I've had a couple of decent nights now. If I can get two or three more really good nights in by April I'll be happy. What a hobby! I have four really good 1.25" filters but only one 2" filter, an excellent Astronomik OIII. I want to add a 2" Nebustar (love the 1.25 I have) and 2" TV Hb filter to the arsenal, but that's a few £££. I'd forgotten about slides, that would work better perhaps than a wheel. Thanks for the tip on that. I have a great Astronomik UHC 1.25" but it doesn't get much use. I could take the money from that and put it towards a 2" filter, might list that on abs this week. Will look at filter slides now, cheers
  6. If they're students they might be ok with turning the sensitivity setting down on the motion light, probably not a big deal for them? One of them might even be into astronomy?? Long shot but who knows. If it's adjustable, it's just a small dial on the bottom, there are normally three - one to set switch on time at some point between dusk (max) and darkness (min), one for light duration when activated (usually between 15sec and 1 min) and one for sensitivity. Alternatively, a small, discreet 1cm wide piece of duct tape could mysteriously appear along the bottom edge of the PIR sensor, that would perhaps prevent it from being activated by small furry objects passing underneath but still activate when something human-sized passes by. I'll get you in trouble here! Haha. I'm not sure what banning takeaway orders will accomplish. Hate to hear that, I'm still able to work (it's been really slow though) but for those who have to completely shut, I really don't know how people are surviving.
  7. Aye that's it! I've never paid that much attention, shows what I don't know!
  8. Is it between two of the stars in the Belt of Orion? Alnilam and Mintaka I think - looking now on Stellarium in DSS mode.
  9. Those are frustrating nights! The same happens here if the businesses next door forget to turn their lights off. They are actually pretty good about switching lights off now. I've had really clear nights at home totally scuppered by a couple of blazing lights next door as they are all high mounted in the vicinity of my only clear view of the sky. I don't know how well you get on with your neighbours, but they might be persuaded to turn the PIR sensor on the light down a notch, a lot of PIR lights have a sensitivity switch on the bottom. Might help? Or drug the cats for a few hours! Better not... They have tightened restrictions in Scotland today, but not to the extent I anticipated. It's mainly to do with click and collect, only shopping for essentials, no outdoor alcohol sales, and no entering a takeaway, they'll have to bring orders out to you now. I suppose we are essentially back to the first lockdown requirements though. Hang in there, hoping for some clear nights and sedated cats next door!
  10. Thanks Iain, I didn't consider at first I might have been winding people up with reports, but thought that might have been the case after I posted the report. Good to hear it's kept a few people happy. That's why I was thinking about live stacking photos online so others could see them as the images were captured (live streaming EEVA from home), but never got that far with the weather. By the way, that's a useful, detailed roadmap for the loop, thank you! I have a feeling I'll be mainly observing from home or this one local spot now until summer hits. From home, I've been doing 8 second exposures with my DSLR on the 500p and stacking those with great results actually. I've been able to identify some really obscure, faint galaxies that way. I'll have to dig up a photo from April last year, some of the galaxies I've picked up aren't even on Stellarium, and looking through the eyepiece, there's no way I'd be able to see them no matter how dark the skies, so that's one upside to having to do astro from home. Hoping everyone else is ok by and large in the astro community and beyond, it's been a challenging year across the board. PS the DSLR photos below are stacked shots from my dob back in early April, 8 sec exposures, Bortle 5, no filters or fancy stuff, just a fair bit of aperture and 2000mm focal length.
  11. Thanks Domstar, I don't have many chances between the weather and family commitments to observe DSOs, and it just seems to become more and more difficult lately. Getting out to this local spot under excellent conditions was a real psychological boost for me, even if I didn't get to see many new objects. Not a complaint in comparison to what many others in the UK have to contend with in the way of light pollution and travel restrictions. I suspect we will be in lockdown here in mainland Scotland until beginning of April. The guidance on driving to a particular spot for recreation/exercise is not exactly clear based on what I have read, and I have re-read it closely several times. Scotgov website says to stay within 5 miles of the boundary of my local authority area which is all of Aberdeenshire (huge), but stay as close as possible to home. The forecast is not looking great for the next week so I won't be doing a repeat anytime soon I guess...
  12. Thanks for the information Gerry, I'm thinking about getting a filter wheel if I have enough focus travel, but would like to upgrade or repair the focuser on the 500p anyway, it has a rough spot right where I normally reach focus which is kind of annoying. Might just need a little internal clean and re-grease. The filter wheel would help confirm observations when chasing some of the fainter objects. I read somewhere Barnard's Loop is an emissions nebula, ionised by the stars within M42 apparently. I only have one 2" filter at the moment, the Astronomik OIII, but would love to get my hands on both a 2" TV Hb and Nebustar. Not cheap, but I can't stop now I only have those in 1.25" which makes comparisons tricky. I suppose I could just as easily swap between the 17.5 Morpheus with Hb/Nebustar and 20mm APM/OIII to make quick comparisons. I wasn't able to see right across the width of the loop in the 20mm, too small a FOV, but came into a strip of faint but increasing nebulosity which gradually came and went as I panned left with the scope. Maybe 1.5 to 2x the FOV of the 20mm in the 500p, so that's 1.5 to 2 degrees of sky according to Stellarium/Ocular view/DSS overlay. That's a pretty handy tool. I see on the DSS overlay that the star cluster NGC2112 lies within one of the brighter portions of the loop, so the next time I can get out to a decent site I'll chase it up and play around there with different filters. Although a few galaxies were easily visible, it wasn't the best night for observing in Leo, probably due to a number of factors. I forgot to mention the LP dome from Aberdeen in the distance was directly below Leo, which was only about 25 deg above the horizon when I was looking around the triplet etc, so that's probably the main factor, M108 up in UMa was actually decent. On the other hand that night, anything nebulous, emissions, reflection or dark, seemed superb, don't recall having many nights like that in my short time observing. I did actually pan around Rigel briefly towards the Witchhead but it was only about 20deg up and I didn't stay there long, just one or two quick sweeps, so that's on the list. I'm not familiar with the neighbourhood immediately around Meissa, that's another one to look at. It's frustrating only having two or three nights like this a year and having to be in a huge rush on top of it. If I could only get a few nights like this a month and relax a bit, it would make a massive difference for confidence on relocating faint objects. If only! I'm still hoping to see ANY of the HGCs this winter/spring, but not holding my breath. I'm working on finding a home for the 500p someplace close but dark so I have a semi-permanent observatory, that would really allow me to make the most of good nights here but that could be a challenge. Thinking large estate or similar.
  13. Thanks Iain, I was pretty frustrated with the weather and LP from home so was happy to get out a little. Barnard's Loop was a last minute idea, this site has a fairly limited view of much of the lower sky but Orion was still just above the horizon. Bartels has a ton of information, I didn't think about using an Hb filter on the loop, but last night I was able to see both the HH and California nebula with the nebustar as well, although contrast was lower. Odd conditions I thought, anything nebulous was unusually bright it seemed, but galaxies or unfiltered views were the opposite of what I last recall. Probably a combination of things. Hope you are doing well there and perhaps getting a few more clear nights than we are here 'up the coast' haha. Cheers PS thanks for reading through this, it's a long winded report, even by my standards!
  14. I don't do any real AP (yet) but it looks like a nice clean image, very sharp with low noise. I imagine the white balance just needs a bit of a tweak, good work though, that's a long integration time!
  15. Thanks Captain! The 20" is great but lugging it around takes a lot of motivation and my wife is getting less and less tolerant of my late jaunts, though I haven't made many this year. If you have 21.8 at home you are a lucky man! It would make more sense for one of these to have a permanent home, though at my house under 20.4 I can still see quite a lot, just not as contrasty as dark sky sites. 21.8 would be a dream for me! I though the MW would have to make some kind of collective difference on SQM readings, that's a lot of combined starlight and nebulosity. I think there might have been a little high cloud creeping through, not easily visible, so this might have taken the edge off the galaxies a bit. Leo was pretty low though, still a few months to chase that one. Thanks for reading my long rambling reports!
  16. Hi all, With the cloud finally clearing here last night, I was itching to have a decent night with the big dob. My last really good night with it was in October, but even then the high winds forced an early retreat to binoculars. Since my main observing spots are now too far to reasonably drive to under lockdown LXVIII-Phase 3c or whatever it currently is, I decided upon what turned out to be something of a local hidden gem of a dark sky viewing area. I've been meaning to visit this spot for a couple of years, the main issue being tree cover. Still, it's close to home and dark at 21.86 on the LP map, so that matter was settled, and I was able to keep well within local travel restrictions for my course of daily outdoor recreation. This recreation consisted of remote car park weightlifting at night with a large primary mirror assembly, followed by some frosty night yoga, truss rod and secondary assembly stretches, etc, ending with some eyepiece neck rolls/stretches before I disassembled in reverse order. In all seriousness, it is a fair old workout setting this 75kg rig up, not to mention it was on partially icy ground, and breezy. Anyway... ---- The Observing ---- Once the dob was up, Orion was already low on the horizon and it was late and I was in a hurry as always, so I went bare bones, no GOTO, no dew cover, just open truss rods and mirrors, 9x50 RACI and a gentle nudge here and there to drive the scope around. First a quick SQM-L check, 21.42, not bad at all, but given the transparency, I thought it should have been better. Looking at the lower night sky a bit closer behind the trees, I realised there was the aurora again! Argh, a mixed bag. That's the fourth time it's followed me to dark skies since October. More about that and the impact on observing galaxies below. I tried NELM for the first time, picked a faint star in-line between Dubhe and Megrez in UMa with direct vision and checked it on stellarium this morning, mag 5.8 or 5.95 with airmass, so that seems good. Whenever Orion is up and I'm at a dark site, the first thing I tend to do is go straight for the Flame Nebula/Horsehead. It's fair to say I have something of an obsession with IC434/B33 and the Flame NGC2024. I normally use the 25mm plossl or 17.5mm Morpheus on the HH, but after using those I popped the Hb onto the 13mm 100deg APM, and was rewarded with a rather large HH directly observable at 154x and a 3.2mm exit pupil. Sticking with the 13mm APM for a bit longer, IC 434 was fairly easy to follow along for some distance, and the flame nebula was looking brilliant, keeping Alnitak just outside the FOV. Never thought to try the 13mm APM before, very nice! I would rate the HH last night as perhaps my second best view ever, and the Flame was well above average, although it's been a while since I've seen them under really dark skies. Next up was the 20mm APM and OIII for the Rosette, but first a swing past M42 which made me utter a sharp whoop, it was like a bolt of lightning this time. Crikey! Why so unusual? The filter! Ah ha, I don't normally use any filters on M42, not sure why or when I started doing that, but last night with the 20mm APM/OIII combo, it blew me away. Most of all was the circularity that just kept going past the normal extent I observe, which I only noticed because I bumped the scope. I though my eyepiece had fogged up on the edges at first, until I realised it was a huge ring of nebulosity that extended past the main body of M42 right around and formed a complete circle - this was not visible without the OIII. I don't know why or when I got into the habit of not using a filter on M42, but that is going to change. Definitely one of my best views of M42 last night, and the first time I recall chasing all the nebulosity around that far. Simply awesome. Next up was the Rosette, the nebulosity was much better than last time in the big scope thanks to last night's transparency. Lots of subtle edge detail, and lots of nebulosity, full stop (hint - the Rosette is equally impressive in filtered 15x70s under dark skies!). After that it was M97 the Owl Nebula and M108 galaxy with the OIII still in place. M97 was like a little round neon bulb, shouting 'look at me!'. The eyes were discernible with averted vision, but the nebulosity was probably the brightest I can recall. Even M108 was visible with the OIII, but I removed it for a better look. Oops! What just happened, M108 has disappeared. High cloud passing though, so coffee time. After the cloud blew over, next was IC405 Flaming Star nebula with the 20mm/OIII, another simply awesome view, can't recall it looking that well before either. Beyond the brighter northern portion, the nebulosity gradually extended downwards for a little bit along the Flying Minnow asterism or 'Auriga Ladder' as I tend to think of it. After this was NGC1499, the California Nebula with the 17.5mm Morpheus and Hb - another wow. The nebulosity kept going on and on to the left of Menkib as it gradually faded, another winner. It extends much farther to the left that most charts seem to suggest. I checked Stellarium this morning and it confirmed that, covering about 7deg of sky with a fainter area comprising most of this S/SW extent. Excellent. After that cleared, I viewed numerous galaxies in Leo, including the Leo Triplet and the area around M105/M96/M95, but something seemed a bit off and dull. I noticed the galaxies just didn't have the punch or contrast I recall seeing on my better nights. There are a number of possible explanations - I wasn't using the dew shield and had open mirrors, so perhaps light from the Milky Way etc was reducing contrast. Plus, I was using low mag around 100x, so maybe more mag would have increased contrast, plus there was the possibility of high cloud and Leo was fairly low on the horizon at this time. I think a lot had to do with stray light from the aurora which was still low in the background. Maybe someone knows what Nm range of the light spectrum the aurora falls within? It doesn't seem to impact filtered nebular UHC/Hb/OIII views, but it definitely seems to reduce contrast on galaxies from what I sensed last night, though the dew shield and higher mag would have helped darken skies though the EP. One more bash on M51 and M101, but the wind picked up all the sudden and it was getting seriously late so for my wild card, I decided to try and pick up a bit of Barnard's Loop (thank you @scarp15 for the idea). Starting from Alnitak, I gradually moved left with the 20mm/OIII until I picked up a faint band of nebulosity that ran like a river from north to south. I say river because it had somewhat poorly defined edges moving into a more pronounced, deeper channel of nebulosity. It wasn't bright, but I definitely think I was onto it. I'll spend more time on this the next go. After I packed the dob in the car I was running on empty but got out the 15x70s and filters because it was such good conditions. I revisited the Rosette, Auriga and the California Nebula (excellent) and visited the double cluster, scanning along the Milky Way. Next time I want to set up earlier and go for some HGC galaxies if another decent evening comes along soon, but glad I finally got a little bit of clear, dark skies. Cheers all!
  17. Hi Roy and welcome, yes the clouds are frustrating, especially with a nice new telescope waiting to see action! We've had similar weather here in NE Scotland, just a few rare, clear nights here and there, usually accompanied by windy weather which makes observing difficult without a dome or sheltered area. Hoping February and March improve and you get to try out that scope.
  18. Yes, some are thinsulate, some are fleece, super warm and not too bulky for the amount of insulation they offer. There are usually loads of gently used ones on ebay, can go from £20 on up for a good one. Highly recommend for the price! Great for lounging around camp as well if camping. They're pretty durable too! Yes washing down is fun. I did mine in the bath tub with nikwax down wash then let it drain gently for about an hour. Our tumble dryer at the time had a down setting which was a stroke of luck, and like you chucked in about half a dozen tennis balls. That ran for a good five hours but it looked so much better afterwards, down will last many years if looked after. Glad I don't have to wash down often however, it's quite a task to do it right. PS agree with you on the wool - it's just hard to beat full stop. Merino is great if you don't like scratchy, but the price goes up. There's always plenty of used woolen items online though. I tend to buy up a size in case it gets washed on too warm a setting, but I generally handwash that stuff. I was trying to think of the name! Thank you. Yeah they're handy for observing, a parka will usually still go over a wooly bear without being too restrictive, so that's a definite cold weather combo for not a lot of ££.
  19. Ah the joys of winter observing! Off topic a little, but I think I've put together a really good winter system for standing around idle in silly temperatures all night. Winter camping is one of my favs, lots of snow and no one else around. 1.) Baselayer - the absolute best IMO is Brynje Arctic double long bottoms and top, otherwise their super thermo is great too but funny looking, it does work amazingly well. Brynje stuff isn't cheap so in lieu of that, any decent wool baselayer. My Brynje Arctic bottoms were used from Poland for £29, a steal. 2.) Over that I wear a used one piece drysuit thinsulate undersuit for diving, aka a 'woolly bear' (thank you James). £40 ebay. Living the dream in this! 3.) Over that goes a used Rab Extreme down parka off ebay for £50, another steal. Had to wash it to loft the down back up, it had a hard life but is now working great. 4.) For the head, a Varusteleka wool balaclava, thin but nice. £15. Otherwise any wool hat. Wool is good, the scratchy texture promotes circulation. 5.) Any decent chunky wool socks as long as they aren't thin wool dress socks. 6.) Gloves - I find fingerless cycling gloves are a great compromise if you've handwarmer pockets on your parka, but otherwise Lomo winter sailing gloves for £11.50 are grippy, tactile, warm and seriously durable (kevlar stitching). Lomo stuff is very affordable for the quality. 7.) Boots - believe it or not, I wear desert boots made by Alt Berg, they are featherlight like trainers, but somehow are very warm, as I've found out. The wool socks underneath are key I think. Not very waterproof of course, but ok. --- If it's seriously, seriously cold, like -10C or more, I'll wear a Rab expedition down suit that's used on Everest. Picked mine up new with tags for 80% off list, or simply couldn't/wouldn't pay that price! This is a survival suit, full stop. Finally, Sorel Glacier boots I picked up for £50. I've worn that combo down to -35/-40C and was okay as long as I paid close attention to my hands and kept moving. Besides clothing, a bit of food and warm drink is of course important. If there's no heat coming off your body from movement, then no clothing on the planet will keep you warm. Still some cold weeks ahead of us!
  20. Have to love those surprise good nights, especially from home. I was wondering who in the UK might have clear skies past few nights (not us!) and was seeing SW England and much of Wales looking a go on Ventusky. You ticked off quite a list of object there, nice one!
  21. That sounds amazing, particularly considering your location! A rural sky even with a much smaller scope should be mind blowing, don't know how much of a difference it makes, but it should be substantial I'd think. I've a 20" dob but my best views of the California, Rosette and Cocoon nebula were through 15x70s with filters. Go figure! The 20" under dark skies is awesome on galaxies though and most nebulae as long as they fit into the fov, but it's a bit of work loading and unloading and setting up. I'm hoping the price on NV goggles slowly comes down, I'll have to figure out how to get my hands on some. Great report, very thought provoking!
  22. Now I just need to motivate him to use it! He's good at excuses
  23. I'll also try the OIII next time just to experiment, you never know!
  24. A quick update on NGC1499 - I went out two nights ago to the closest dark site just outside of town - it was 21.15 with the sqm-l and great transparency. The 15x70s with Nebustar/Hb filters gave great views of the California Nebula but more detail will require darker skies or the 20x100s (or my widest low power EPs in the dobs). I had the 20/40x100s set up but some high cloud started creeping in. I did manage another view of the E and W Veil early in the evening, but it goes down quickly this time of year after 8pm or so. I'll be observing at home tonight for another bash, forecast looking pretty good. PS as I recall, the Nebustar revealed 1499 nearly as well as the Hb filter, just with a brighter background sky. The nebustar never ceases to amaze me. I'll have to invest in a 2" one but work is worryingly slow at the moment, I'm on a spending freeze for the interim.
  25. M1 is a bit of a tricky one sometimes, it's not especially bright and really likes dark transparent skies like many DSOs. It will go up to 54 degrees above the horizon here at 57N around 10:30 tonight according to Stellarium. At my home under 20.3 sqm-l with the 20" it will show up as a nebulous cloud directly observable with hints of detail. In the 12" dob from home it is just a faint patch unless transparency is excellent. Try and get your eyes fully dark adapted and use an eyepiece in the 24-28mm range if you can to get a good-sized exit pupil around 5-6mm, that might help. Otherwise something around 19-21mm might be another option with a bit more mag. I can't remember which filter I preferred, UHC or OIII or none! If you have these it's worth a try. I'd look at M42/43 after hunting M1 again, M42 is so bright it can reduce dark adaptation! I usually start off with M42, it's hard to not want a quick look at the start I'm setting up the big dob at home tonight, my goal is to try and see the horsehead from home but that's a tough one. I've had some really good SQM-L readings lately with great transparency though. Have fun!
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