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Ships and Stars

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Everything posted by Ships and Stars

  1. I was showing the moon photos above to my four year old, and she said was he on the moon when he took those? I said no, no and pointed to the photo of the telescope. She exclaimed 'whoa, that's a good one!' I'd love to have a nice Telementor, I've a soft spot for vintage things that are functional.
  2. Scope Nights uses Met Office data - I've found Met Office to be the most reliable, with Ventusky cloud cover prediction my second port of call - Ventusky is helpful to see which way cloud is moving (can be the opposite of the wind direction on the ground) or where it's developing. I have noticed Met Office will sneakily change the forecast from clear to partly cloudy literally on the hour if it doesn't clear, but at least they are paying attention! Met Office does a cloud cover forecast, but the imagery is really low res and grainy, Ventusky shows much better. I'll have to compare the two. I think I spend more time looking at weather forecasts than through the telescope. No, actually, I'm sure I do!
  3. I put in a lot of time looking at the weather and planning. I'm in NE Scotland, we are fortunate to be in a bit of a rain/cloud shadow as the West coast of Scotland and Cairngorms tend to catch and block a lot of the precipitation, but it's by no means 'dry' here! I use three forecasts: Met Office, FLO Clear Outside and Ventusky, specifically their cloud cover/precipitation maps. You'll want to use Ventusky on a laptop or desktop PC, not a phone, it shows a LOT of information. I then roughly average the three. If they are all in agreement for clear skies, I will consider making a road trip to my dark sky spot about an hour and a half away. If it's all clear on one weather site but marginal on others, I'll head to a spot closer to home. As I view DSOs like nebulae and galaxies, the moon must be down or I'm wasting my time, sky is too bright. I'll use moonphase and mooncalc to pick the upcoming window around the new moon. For example, in December I'm looking at the 8th through the 22nd, with longer viewing around either side of the new moon on Dec 14. So between some late hours and driving (up to 50-60 miles one way if we aren't in lockdown!) to clearer parts of NE Scotland, I usually manage to squeeze in at least one or two decent nights of DSO observing a month, anything over three and I'm feeling lucky. Just to wind myself up, I have a location in Western Nevada on my saved locations on FLO, I'll look at it but it just always shows clear all day and night, year-round
  4. Very nice! I like widefield too more and more. Often too windy here even for observing, so I imagine imaging must be challenging. Good call on the 200mm lens!
  5. My TS Optics fork-mount arrived for the giant obsy bins from Germany in under 48hr. I went for it now in case things get pricier after January. So much uncertainty. This is a much more refined set-up than my home-made fork mount and holds the 7.2kg bins near zenith effortlessly. So far. It seems well made though. The max payload is 8kg I think, so I'm nearing the limit, but will report back if there are any issues in a binocular observing report soon. I also picked up an 80mm Vixen rail to attach the bins to the mount, a dimmable low power red LED torch and a large sheet of red film from RVO as it was all in stock, quick shipping there too, thank you!
  6. Hi Peter - the fork mount arrived yesterday from Germany in under 48hr! Amazing. It's quite nice overall for the price, this was by far the cheapest one at around £202 with exchange rate commission and DPD shipping, these things are a bit dear. The anodising/powdercoat is a little thin perhaps compared to the higher end fork mounts, APM etc, but they cost 2x to 4x more and I've not seen them in person. I'm using it for now on a trusty old Velbon Sherpa medium duty alloy tripod with a 1/4 to 3/8 camera thread adapter and an 80mm Vixen rail. There are no interference issues when viewing at zenith, but while it's stable, the balance point is set back a bit far for my liking, I'd prefer a larger tripod soon but my main viewing position with be sitting down on a very short stool so the tripod will only be 2/3 extended, about 1m high. I think you might be able to get away without a pier on a SW steel tripod, but can't say for sure at the moment, I can take some measurements from the centre of my tripod once it's all set up. I'm doing a minor repair on one of the tripod legs with some JB Weld, so waiting for the epoxy set before I mount it again this afternoon. Digital scale shows the fork weighs 3.43kg. It holds altitude with the 7.2kg bins very nicely and seems quite stable. So that's around 10.7kg for the bins and fork mount. I'll post more when I've set it all up, work is pretty hectic at the moment but I might do some lunar this evening to test it out...
  7. I'll take a note of what readings I get. I have a baseline of sorts from previous readings but not much in the way of notes, etc. Here's the fork mount - this is the cheap one! They seem like a lot of money for what they are, but everything works so much better than what I was using. My DIY forkmount was never completed, didn't have the time but I prefer the TS Optics as it mounts on a Vixen dovetail. https://www.teleskop-express.de/shop/product_info.php/language/en/info/p6384_TS-Optics-Binomount-DX---stable-fork-mount-for-binoculars--telescopes-and-spotting-scopes.html More pics to come of that in action! PS my Quantum 5.1s are 7.2kg and the mount holds them just off zenith no problems. I've just tried it indoors, chasing children in circles at the moment!
  8. No problems all! Thank you @scarp15 @PeterW and everyone else who has commented as well. That's why I'm here, lots to learn. I am especially interested (bordering on obsessed!) in light pollution and SQM-L readings I'll have to dust off my calculator, though that still doesn't mean I'll know what to punch in Family things and work have been flat out past two days - I've just popped on here for a minute but will try back later this evening if I get a break. PS tripod fork mount arrived today from TS Optics for the big obsy bins - it's a work of art!
  9. I've used both the Baader 31 and 36mm without a coma corrector in a f4 scope. The edges would make a sailor seasick if you were looking at star clusters! But for large nebulae, they will do the trick, assuming exit pupil is optimal for a particular person's observing eye. At f5 they are passable. but far from perfect. Relatively cheap secondhand however, and light. I still have the 31mm which I use on occasion, but I'd choose the 30mm APM as I can't afford TV or Pentax now. However, I have the 20mm APM 100deg so the fov is the same as the 30mm APM. The only caveat is exit pupil depending on which scope I'm using. For really faint objects I lean towards a 6mm plus exit pupil while my eyes are still capable. Weight and balance is secondary to me, there's always a way to stick a few hundred grams to offset balance with a big eyepiece, though my solutions have not always been elegant. I once left my counterweights at home with the 20"dob and strapped a tool bag to the base instead. That was the best alignment I've had! Field expedient method
  10. Thanks Peter! it feels like the Hb filter can be a bit too restrictive for the 15x70s aperture but it is always worth testing on different nights. It does of course work better in the 12" dob as long as I have a decent sized exit pupil with an EP in the 25-32mm range. In the f4 20" dob, the Hb really works and can hoover up the dark stuff nicely. The Nebustar lets though the Hb and OIII wavelengths fully from what I understand (I'm no real expert on filters!) and it really seems to shine on the 15x70s with a quality UHC on the other side. I'm tempted to buy another 1.25" Nebustar someday, but I also need a 2" Hb and a 2" Nebustar... Indeed, the LP map is a good rough guide, but since I've had the SQM-L meter, I've noticed a wide range of readings from the same spots on different clear nights with no moon. I was surprised it only went up to 21.03 at this spot, should have been much darker, but perhaps the aurora was bumping things up a bit? The town of Montrose in the distance does pump out a lot of light, there is some heavy industry on the edge of town that is always lit up to the max. I think the mass rollout of cheap, ultra-bright LED lights and the relentless march of 'progress' have meant that readings from even 5 years ago may be permanently brighter now unfortunately. The only place I have been able to approach the readings indicated by the LP map are deep in the Cairngorms, miles away from the nearest homes and roads (a consistent 21.85 one night!). I'm finding anything over 21.00 with good transparency can yield great results for visual. Anything over 21.50 with excellent transparency is a sight to behold. The 15x70s with filters have really impressed me lately for their size and aperture, can't believe the views with those. As a result, I finally brought my 20/40x100mm Quantum 5.1s (the older ones) up to speed by making filter threads for both the 20x and 40x eyepiece sets as no other 1.25" EPs will come to focus without machining off the bases a considerable amount. Yesterday, I also ordered a nice fork mount from TS Optics to mount it properly and have a way to lock it steadily when viewing objects at higher altitudes. I can't wait until the next new moon in December as I have yet to use these under dark skies since I bought them in March! Hoping to report back some successes next new moon, weather willing.
  11. You may struggle a bit with a 127mak. Also go for the 10" dob if you can, that's a huge step up in aperture. Find some dark skies if you can get away - you've plenty in Australia, though perhaps more so at the other end in WA Once you see certain objects under good, dark conditions and gain experience, it becomes easier to see them in poorer or brighter conditions though they'll never look as great as they do out in the sticks somewhere. Some objects like galaxies and nebulae though just need dark(er) skies full stop to see them at all. Oh and many nebulae will want at least a UHC if not OIII filter to make the most of them or even detect them. The really tough ones like reflection nebulae might call for an Hb filter, but that's another topic really. Then there is exit pupil and dark adaptation, I generally go for an eyepiece that gives between 4mm to 6.5-ish mm and I stay away from my phone and any and all light sources for some time (up to half an hour) to get fully dark adapted. PS Going to dark skies will make any telescope behave like a much larger one!
  12. Pretty good conditions here in NE Scotland. Seeing ok by me but transparency good to excellent. I was only using binoculars (15x70s and 20/40x100s) so not typical telescope high magnifications, but enough to say it's decent enough here anyway.
  13. I really like the laser - it's a doddle and going by the Cheshire, it works very well! Have fun!
  14. Do you have someone to help you? If so, look through the Cheshire while someone gently turns one primary screw at a time until the crosshairs are centred on the circle. If it starts to go the wrong way, have them immediately stop of course and pull it back the right direction. You can do this yourself by making a small adjustment, then checking the Cheshire and so on, but it takes a lot longer than having someone do the fine tuning to the primary. If I'm talking cobblers here anyone, please let me know! Once you've set it, it becomes a lot faster to do in the future should you need to.
  15. It doesn't look too bad in my humble opinion, a wee bit off in the centre, but I don't get too fussy if the stars will focus down to decent points of light. They can look like fuzzy, almost boiling blobs if the seeing conditions (not transparency) are poor. For example, nights when the stars really twinkle - that's actually a sign the jetstream is overhead or the atmosphere is unsteady. Also the mirror might not be cooled down or there are heat thermals rising off a roof or area you are viewing over, etc. Just thinking of other things that might affect this. I can see one of the primary holders in the bottom of the pic but not the other two, most guides call for all three showing equally, but I recall reading somewhere about secondary mirror offset and that some reflector telescopes may never have all three clamps showing in the Cheshire. But I am not 100% sure on that! I'm a 'lazy collimator' and just use a cheap, non-barlowed laser to make sure the secondary is properly aligned so that the laser hits the centre of the primary mirror's white circle, then collimate the primary with the three screws on the bottom to get the laser into the bullseye on the collimator tool. I then sometimes check it with a Cheshire, but don't think it was ever out enough to bother me. I'm a nebula and galaxy observer, no photography, so not too fixated on tight star points, but I do want things reasonably sharp. I tell a bit of a lie, I did stack some photos from an f4 dob which requires good collimation, and the stars were nice and tight on those, so can't be too far off to notice visually! I'm sure others will weigh in here on this, it's a common topic that has a lot of different answers and opinions!
  16. Simple non-motorized dobsonians are absolutely brilliant and a doddle to use. Collimation or fine adjusting the mirrors for the sharpest image is a little bit of a learning curve at first, but there's really not a great deal to it. An 8" (200mm) dobsonian is a winner all-around for a family scope in my opinion. You can still take photos of bright objects like the moon, I found simply holding my mobile phone to the eyepiece gives better lunar photos than my full frame Nikon in my smaller dobsonian.
  17. A beauty of a scope, I bet the views are razor sharp with the binoviewers and TV eyepieces. Panoptics? I've learned to live with a bit of coma and miscollimation from time to time in my dobs, but looking through binoculars makes me wonder about the sharp views through a nice refractor. Someday perhaps!
  18. I had the exact same blue Skywatcher scope in 8" with the same older EQ5. It has the older single speed focuser which is a bit meh, but otherwise a decent scope with good optics. I don't get on with EQ mounts as I do visual only, so I sold it and went with a dob and haven't looked back, but if you plan on taking photos, learning how to set up and use an EQ mount is essential. You can get motor conversion kits for those so it tracks stars, but I never used mine, just the slow tracking hand adjusters. I think I sold mine with EQ5 and tripod for £275?? Or £250? It was 8" though. PS I'm guessing near 20 years old for this one.
  19. @scarp15 sorry to hear that about visiting your parents! That's a long time indeed. I haven't kept up with restrictions in England, so hope I haven't wound anyone up with observing reports if people are stuck at home. I've had a lot of bad weather here lately, so trying to make up for it while I can! I was wondering why there weren't many new observing reports...assumed it was weather related, certainly has been here. I didn't realise Hb filter was the way to go on Barnard's Loop? Thank you! Saved me some frustration there! I had no clue on filters for that to be honest. Hopefully we will all have some luck here soon.
  20. As @vlaiv remarked above, dark skies are crucially important and cannot be overestimated. You can try and slug it out under light pollution with sheer aperture and a big scope, depending on your situation, but that's an expensive way to get mediocre views. I have a 20" dob, a 12" dob and 15x70 binoculars. I can see some of the fainter stuff, M51, Flame Nebula, etc from home under town LP (20.3 SQM is about as dark as it gets) with the 20" on a good night when the local lights are down. Andromeda and M42 are both fairly easy under moderate town LP with pretty much any sort of telescope or binoculars, but it's often only a mere shadow of what it looks like under rural skies. You'll want to shield yourself from any direct light from neighbours. Under brighter urban/city lights, I can't say, but that must be difficult going on impossible. Under fairly dark rural skies here in NE Scotland, I can use the 15x70s to see my best widefield views some of the larger faint objects - the entire E&W Veil and the Rosette last night for example (using UHC or Nebustar filters). The list goes on and on. Pretty astonishing for a pair of relatively small binoculars - using both eyes equates to a 1.4x to 1.8x larger aperture scope with a single eyepiece by most accounts, depending on who you ask. If you have a car to get you to darker skies, a 10" dobsonian or larger offers the most light-gathering aperture for DSOs and the 10" model is a very popular size. Any size decent scope under darker conditions will be a sheer pleasure to use. Try the light pollution map to find a darker place near you. If you have the desire, the money, the storage space and the back to lift one, get the largest dobsonian you can within reason, but the size, weight and cost all go up exponentially in a hurry. My 20" fits easily in a small van, but even disassembled, I'd have to take the passenger seats out of my car to fit it in there. And add to that a small ladder on top! It takes a lot of motivation to take one out to dark sites and be prepared for the weather to be uncooperative at times after all the effort. My 300p flextube (a 12" dob) is much more forgiving to use but still gives great views. If you don't have a car, perhaps a pair of binoculars like 15x70s, 20x80s, 22x85s or 20 or 25x100s that accepts filters will let you use public transport to get to those elusive darker skies. Filters help tremendously for nebulae, no filters are the way to go for galaxies. I use my 15x70s handheld, or lay on a camping mat for things near the zenith. I rarely use a tripod with them, but they get rather heavy in a hurry. A monopod is another highly portable option. The downside to binoculars is the fixed magnification if you want a closer look at something like M57 for example, it's quite small in most binoculars. A good 80-120mm refractor might be nice as well. I've never used one so can't comment, but they seem popular for many. I wouldn't mind owning one someday Good luck there!
  21. Thanks Iain @scarp15 I was very happy (and relieved) to have seen the Cocoon again with the binoculars, thought I was being overly optimistic on my trip to Glenshee last new moon when I spotted it the first time. I'm still pretty amazed with the bins on that and the Rosette! Maybe I can pick up a hint of Barnard's Loop with them under ideal conditions? Worth a shot I suppose. I'll ponder a 2" Nebustar or a 2" Hb, can't afford both at the moment, tempted to go for the Nebustar and then an Hb when one comes up secondhand (rare though!). It's a hard call, the Nebustar works so well. Just happy to get some observing in, hoping the NE doesn't go to full lockdown soon, I can't keep up with the restrictions anymore it's changed so much! Hope you get a break soon, I won't have the big dob out again until mid December most likely.
  22. M108 is a bit tricky at times even under fairly dark skies as last night confirmed - it often simply appears as a faint sliver that is slightly bloated in the centre unless conditions are right. On a transparent night in the 20" it looks impressive, but other times it's just a small grey blip. Galaxies like aperture, dark transparent skies and they definitely dislike filters! I will use an OIII to enhance the Owl, but can fit M108 and the Owl into the FOV with the 20mm APM and no filter quite nicely.
  23. Thanks all! @John - your advice on exit pupils last year or two are proving particularly valuable as of late. My fully adapted pupil is somewhere around 6mm, maybe a tick larger I'm hoping, so I need to really approach that for the really faint stuff - doesn't matter if it's an expensive EP or not, exit pupil is critical it seems. I very nearly packed up early on when the moon was still up - glad I didn't. The wind settled down and the cloud that was expected never materialised so it worked well. I've been getting readings much lower with the SQM than the LP map suggests. I know conditions change and readings go up and down, but the readings seem a lot brighter than I was expecting. I'm thinking about another late jaunt this evening if my energy holds up - I want to test a few other things now. I think I was struggling with the 300p because of exit pupil, eyepieces and lack of 2" filters. A plossl in some cases gives too narrow a FOV to provide contrast with the surrounding sky (I run into this with the 10mm BCO vs the 9mm APM) and my wider EPs in the 1.25" range are too high mag/too small exit pupil, i.e. the Morpheus. I wish Baader made those in the 2" range. The 15x70s bins aren't brighter, but they offer contrast on low brightness extended objects by showing tons of the surrounding sky and I can locate new targets with more confidence. I'll perhaps consider taking the plunge on some 2" Hb and Nebustar filters and a wide field 24-28mm EP. Ouch! £££ On second thought - I might dust off my 2" 28mm SW LER eyepiece and the 2" 31mm Baader and carefully tape a 1.25" filter on top to test tonight Or will that just be the same FOV as a 28mm 1.25" ep? Hoping for another interesting night tonight - the scope is already in the car, that will spur me on.
  24. Hello all, Typing this up while it's still fresh in my mind, very late here. Out tonight with the 300p flextube and the trusty 15x70 Apollos on the edge of the Eastern Glens in NE Scotland. The big dob was left at home, van is in for repairs Slow to start, nearly quit before any successes, freezing cold and gusting to 30+mph at 300m elevation, quite a shock stepping out of a warm car into the elements, but things really picked up as the night progressed. Around 8-9pm the moon was still ablaze, so I messed around with the binoviewers a bit, chasing the Cocoon again (determined if nothing else!). I had a possible patchy glow to the left of M39, but it was still 20.45 sqm in what should have been up to 21.75 according the LP map. The binoviewers went back in the car for the night, and I reverted to single EP viewing. Despite very clear rural skies, the Owl and M108 were extremely faint - not a good sign. I'd even cleaned the primary and secondary mirrors on the 300p today and they were absolutely spotless, along with a careful collimation on site. Back in the car for a quick coffee and the 20mm APM - next up was Andromeda, M32 and M110 - now these were looking excellent! Conditions improving - perhaps a bit of high cloud was lurking earlier and the distant lights of Montrose were dimming slightly as the evening progressed (Montrose is a VERY bright town for its size, but then again, it's extremely dark everywhere else in the vicinity). But wait, what's that glow on the northern horizon? Distant LP? Nope - aurora! I spent some time watching it pulse and ebb faintly, then a big spike of light went up like a searchlight. Then another, with a low hanging curtain of light slowly drifting NNW. This went on for a bit until I resumed my obsession with the IC 5146, the Cocoon Nebula. I've really struggled with this one, until a trip over a month ago to really dark skies where I was sure I saw it with filtered 15x70s (Astronomik UHC on one side and Nebustar II on the other). But then that sensation of doubt began slowly creeping in the past few weeks. Did I see M39 and mistake it for the Cocoon? If I can't see it clearly in a scope, then I've no chance with binoculars, right? So I went for the 300p with 17.5mm Morpheus/Hb filter and worked over the area. I chased the dark lane to the left of M39 and think I had some mottled nebulosity towards the end, but it was nothing to shout about - very faint. Going for a larger exit pupil, I swapped to a budget Revelation 25mm plossl... and success! A nice sub-circular undulating patch of nebulosity. Experimenting with a 32mm plossl, it became even brighter, so this tells me my eyes were doing well with an exit pupil of 6.51mm! Good news there. There was only one thing left to do now - get the 15x70s back out and see if I could repeat my earlier claim of having seen it. Hmmm. Up past Deneb and the NAN with the bins, there was M39 with the two bright stars above (Azelfage mag 4.65 and n2 Cyg mag 4.4). Clear as day to the left of M39 was a dark lane which had a short spur running south. The dark lane narrowed and clearly ran through a patch of stars (9-10-ish mag apparently according to Stellarium) then the dark lane took a slight curve and became fainter until voila, a clear circular patch of nebulosity with three mag 7 stars immediately to the left. I couldn't believe it! It was clearer though the binoculars that it was in the scope! No doubt about it, I dare say the Cocoon was easy to spot with the filtered binoculars and the dark lane stood out sharply. I replaced the UHC on one side with the Hb and while it was still easy to find again, it lacked the punch. So I'm not totally convinced an Hb filter is the way to go for the Cocoon, I may try the Morpheus with the Nebustar next time, but I was satisfied at last with the Cocoon. Now I know where it's at for sure, I'll have a bash with the 20" soon. Then it was Orion and... the Horsehead. After admiring M42/43 for a little bit, I got down to business with the 17.5/Hb combo. Mmmm, not much below Alnitak and no decent sign of the Flame Nebula, so I went off to view some other areas for awhile, then swapped the 25mm plossl in. The Horsehead was visible with averted vision and in and out direct vision as a dark notch, but void of detail - still, I'll take it. Swapping again to the 32mm, it was that little bit more prominent with the larger exit pupil. Good stuff! The 300p doesn't compare to the 20" on the really faint stuff like the HH, but it holds its own and offers a lot of aperture for the money. A truly transportable dob capable of some good DSO results. The Flame Nebula was nicely visible as well this time, getting darker and darker as the moon went down - hit 21.03 sqm. The Rosette was next, 20mm APM and OIII - it didn't pop like I thought it would, but the nebulosity was there, extending past the FOV. So once more, I grabbed the UHC/Nebustar bins and wow - what a nice view - the entire nebula was clearly visible, situated nicely within in the FOV, an excellent sight and another binocular surprise. I will wind this report up, it's past 3am now. I packed everything up and ended with a quick trip through Auriga plus a few other areas, M108 and the Owl looking great at last, and one last look at the Cocoon and the Veil with the bins, excellent! A few other sights, but fatigue prevents me from rattling on any more PS a deer ran out on the way back, then as I moved forward, two more so I did a sudden near-panic stop with the dob base shifting around in the back seat. Oooof, close call. Taking off carefully again, a fourth deer jumped out at the last second. I was only doing 30-35mph instead of my normal 50+ through back roads, good thing, or I would have made contact for sure. Steady on driving back late at night! Thanks for reading. Until next time...clear skies all
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