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Ships and Stars

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  1. 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
  2. Yes the Veil is early evening at the moment, then dropping quickly. You might be able to make a second set of shorter truss rods - a bit of faff, but possible! I'm heading back out tonight, the Cocoon is top of my binoviewer challenge list Thank you Peter! Looks like 20x is the way to go but will try 40x. I just made DIY filter threads for both sets of eyepieces and they look and work ok actually. I will definitely have a close look at the rest. The EMS are works of art! Maybe not that expensive, all things considered. I tend to drift towards the top end stuff, so perhaps that's why they seemed pricey. Noctutec is a new one to me - shall have a look now. Good stuff! Thanks again.
  3. Hi Peter, yes a big binoscope or 'binodob' sounds great but would require some precision engineering and knowledge. Arie Otte seems to have largely sussed it, though I don't know if he's still making them, and Mel Bartels is currently working on a rather insane 30" f2.8 binoscope which may or may not work according to him (if not, he'll simply turn them into two 30" dobs). I still haven't properly got stuck in with the 20/40x100s yet, I need to calculate exit pupil, but don't know how as I don't know focal length or eyepiece mm, just magnification... I'm hoping this weekend I can use them some more, need to rig a temporary altitude brake, or just use some threaded bar and wingnut to lock it and make fine adjustments to track when on target. Was that you that said they built a binoscope? I think someone on SGL has. For refractors, the EMS Matsumoto 'kits' look incredible, but not cheap. I'd thought about a couple of big cheap 150mm achros, but the EMS adapters are some serious money. A Swiss company makes the mounting platform though. Not AYO, is it? Anyway, need to give the Quantum 5.1s a good workout this weekend! I was momentarily tempted to max the credit card on some APM 120mm EDs, but reality quickly came to the rescue...
  4. Thanks Iain, I would have stayed and gone over to Orion as it was up shining brilliantly when I returned home, but from this particular spot the hillside behind me blocks it. I've had a good run with the Veil this autumn/winter, despite the frequently horrendous weather. Although the ES 25mm 100deg gets pretty bad reviews, I'd still like to have one just for the Veil and other big extended targets (nothing else that big springs to mind except Barnard's Loop!) if one falls in my lap for the right price. Sat & Sun night looking good here, but my van is in for repairs so no carting the big dob around. 300p it is then this weekend! I want to keep it simple though, it takes a lot of time to sort the checklist, load, unload, set-up, use, swap eyepieces/filters etc, take-down, load car, drive home, unload car... Really need to contact a big estate owner here and find a good, dark home for the 500p. I'd be willing to pay an annual storage/access fee, like a mooring fee for a (small) boat!
  5. Great report - two nights on the go is what we like to hear! Lots of sights as well. I get too caught up in faffing around comparing equipment etc and end up with a short list some nights. Ending a viewing session with binoculars is my preferred way to wind things down - good call! Hope you get more back to back nights soon. Sat/Sun here is looking possible. It works well for me with the moon setting later as the kids will finally be asleep before I can escape for a wee bit
  6. I think it's just the grandeur at seeing it again! We had really transparent skies last night and it looked almost 3-D with the naked eye, but the massive pine trees to one side blocked it from my observing spot. It is somewhat low, especially at my latitude here.
  7. Hi all, Finally managed to slip away last night for a quick observing session near home. Family duties have been keeping me flat out at nights and besides, the weather - as many of you know - has not been great past few months. I've struggled to get a decent night out with no moon when it's not literally blowing 30-45mph. Something I've really wanted to do for awhile is play around with the binoviewers and the shorter 'binoviewer setting' on the 300p flextube on several DSOs, namely the Veil. I also took my 20/40x100mm Helios obsy bins on the giant DIY Kraken scaffolding tripod and my 15x70s, so the car was literally stuffed full. I've been on a two-eyed observing kick more and more lately - the joys of binocular summation! As some of you may know, the SW flextube dob binoviewer preset allows binoviewer use without glass path correctors or barlows, thus giving a much wider FOV at lower mag. Normally I use a Baader clicklock 2" to 1.25" adapter over a normal 1.25" adapter to move the BVs as close as possible to the secondary to reach focus. Well, the binoviewer preset on the 300p works so well, I had to revert back to the normal 1.25" adapter to move the binoviewers away from the secondary and increase the light path. This was without a barlow or GPC! This tells me perhaps I can take some accurate measurements and drill a third set of indents in-between, to keep the total obstruction of the secondary as low as possible, as presumably moving it closer to the primary creates a larger central obstruction and reduces brightness/contrast. I also set up the Helios 20/40x100mm obsy bins to compare against the 300p in binoviewer mode, but didn't get to push this too far last night as it moves too freely for my liking. I'll need to install a better altitude bearing/braking system to stabilise the bins and add a red dot finder as pointing them accurately is a lot trickier than I imagined. -------------------------------------------- The Observing Anyway...my hands were full. And it was our first cold snap of the season. I arrived onsite very early at 6pm, set up and surprise, surprise, some last-minute cloud appeared. With a good forecast still predicted (FLO CO/Met Office/Ventusky all showing clear) I waited for it to clear in 0C or 1C temps. And waited. And waited. And some more... Finally, after two hours or so of watching Deneb vanish in the dense high level haze and suddenly reappear, everything was suddenly super-transparent! And not a hint of wind. At last!! Time was limited by this point, so first port of call was the Veil with 32mm Revelation plossls in the WO binoviewers - remember the exit pupil is reduced with binoviewers so these behaved probably more like single 20-25mm EPs. I thought I had screwed in the 1.25" Astronomik OIII on the BV nose, so I was a bit disappointed when the E & W Veil were rather faint and lacking contrast, but there nonetheless. Maybe this wasn't going to work so well... Then I saw the tell-tale green/red stars and instantly knew I had used the UHC instead of the OIII. I call this the 'Christmas effect' and it's just the nature of this particular type of UHC filter. So I swapped over to the OIII and the stereoscopic two-eyed views of the Veil were excellent, including Pickering's Wisp. Plenty of details, structure, brightness and contrast, no eye strain compared to using one eye, and best of all, the 32mm plossls gave tons of eye relief, so I could easily wear my glasses and not lose any views (or my glasses) in the process. In fact, I had to hold my head back slightly. Not touching the EPs meant the scope was perfectly still. Sitting in a chair, this made for excellent observing! I could fit about 50-70% of each side of the Veil into the FOV, so with a little nudge, I could easily sweep across each side. I also swung over to M57 for a nice stereo look as well. A viewing hood when binoviewing DSOs is essential headwear to block out all stray light from the sides - a hood improves the experience dramatically and gives that stereoscopic spacewalk feeling, even with narrow FOV plossls by isolating the views. I then fully extended the truss rods to the normal settting and dropped a single 17.5mm Morpheus with OIII into the focuser to compare views. This was also excellent, naturally it was a fair bit brighter and crisper, but overall not as relaxed, not stereoscopic and not as immersive as using binoviewers. Still, single eyed viewing will squeeze the max brightness out of your particular scope, just that binoviewers vs single EP both have their pros and cons. While the single 17.5mm was in, I went over to the Crescent Nebula and was rewarded with good structure and a view with nearly filled the EP. I had forgotten how large it was! But what I really wanted to do was try for the Cocoon with binoviewers... The Cocoon IC 5146 is what I call my 'observational nemesis' and is probably the most challenging Caldwell object by some margin. It took me ages last night to find the dark lane as I was getting pretty tired and had a lot of difficulty. At last, I got the dark cigar lane in the binoviewers with no filter, and dashed to grab my Hb filter for the win. In doing so, I bumped the scope and it moved way off target naturally! Spent ages trying to get the dark lane back - never did with certainty, but passed M39 about half a dozen times and my hands were going numb by this time and I was getting wobbly, so will have to leave attempts at binoviewing that for next session. I wanted to compare it to the surprising views I got with the 15x70s a month or so ago under very dark skies and make sure it wasn't M39 I was seeing! I do think I bagged the Cocoon with the filtered bins though. More to come on the binoviewers and the obsy bin comparison once I've sorted a few bits. --------------------------------------------- Binoscope Fever Sets In... What's worse than aperture fever? Large-aperture binoscope fever of course! While I had great views through the binoviewers of the Veil, the brighter view with a single Morpheus really makes me want to build a binoscope. I'm tempted to keep my eyes out for another 300p flextube and have a bash someday... I've been reading up a bit on binoscopes, and despite their incredibly stringent collimation and complex build/set-up requirements to achieve a nicely merged image, binoscopes, in my humble opinion, must be the ultimate DSO observing machine. You get a wide field of view, but a gain in aperture similar to a much larger scope (1.4x - ish), all with the benefit of binocular vision. Add night vision tubes someday and... Someday indeed... -------------------------------------------- PS pics below of the holes in the 300p truss rods for the binoviewer setting - dead simple way to reduce the light path by 115mm! Cheers all
  8. Great report, I love to read when someone gets their first views through a decent sized reflector, can't go wrong with a 10" dob!
  9. 9x50 RACI and Telrad for me, love the Telrad but need the riser base. It does have a large footprint/base compared to the Rigel. I'd probably be as happy with the Rigel anyway as the Telrad is difficult to mount without riser on the 500p truss dob and 300p flextube due to space limitations. If you have the room for the Telrad, then great, if not, the Rigel is essentially its peer from what I gather...
  10. Just squeezed in 3.5hrs here in NE Scotland for the first time in awhile. The past three or four weeks has not been good! New moon for Oct was a write-off. Moon was brightening up sky a bit tonight until 10-ish, then fairly dark from home (20.25sqm). I use Met Office, Clear Outside and finally, Ventusky on desktop PC to predict cloud cover. Met Office might show clear, but if there's high cloud or haze they don't pick up on it all the time. FLO CO can be good, and I use it frequently. Ventusky is the one that really tells me if the other forecasts have much truth to them. I view cloud cover across Scotland on Ventusky and see which direction the clear areas are moving, usually W/NW to E/SE and plan accordingly. If all three are in agreement for very clear skies and there's no moon, that's when I'll go to all the trouble of loading the big dob in the van and head for the hills. If it's a bit so-so or uncertain, I'll take the 12" dob instead to my local spot. If it's a tiny window, then I'll stay at home with the 12" 300p flextube, or a surprise clear spell at home is usually sorted with a quick binocular session.
  11. I know this sounds overly simplistic, but being a taller scope, is it possible you are holding your head at a slightly different angle than before? Or maybe the focuser is mounted at a slight angle in relation to the secondary and needs some adjustments there? Just trying to eliminate simple things first...
  12. Hello and welcome. I'm a visual astronomer, but the Mesu has an excellent reputation. That looks like an incredible set-up! Hoping you have clear skies soon.
  13. I know what my next pair of binoculars are going to be!
  14. Argh! That looks awful, I honestly feel for you! I'd still say it's possible to have something done. I'm so sorry this has happened. I'd still class it as a statutory nuisance, it's preventing you from enjoying your property. How hard would it be to switch them off while you're out! What about the other sides of your house? Any access for the scope or shielded areas there? I'd consider talking to a solicitor regarding options if he doesn't budge. Is it open land past your property boundary? Put in a small gate and carry the scope away a bit? Just trying to think of other options. Maybe some evening they'll see you out there with a scope and decide to switch them off for a bit. Maybe. One last resort would be to perhaps offer him a view through the scope and just say the lights wash everything out? Don't know... sorry the env health person didn't press them more, the lighting is overkill.
  15. As others have said here, viewing the moon through binoviewers is in itself breathtaking. My best lunar views hands down have been through my 300p flextube with some second-hand Williams Optics BVs and their 20mm eyepieces. I also have some cheap 25mm, 32mm and 40mm Revelation plossl pairs for my binoviewers but I often prefer the 20mm WO EPs unless I'm looking at really faint stuff then I'll drop to 32mm or 40mm. At high mag planetary etc binoviewers reduce the impact of floaters in your eyeballs, something I really notice with one eye at high mag (probably 222x on up, definitely over 300x). Eye strain for me is also greatly reduced using binoviewers as well for extended viewing and I can really settle in and observe with them for longer periods than a single EP. As you mentioned, the 300p flextube has a handy binoviewer setting which allows the use of BVs without a 1.6x or 2x glass path corrector by lowering the secondary down to the first click stop on the truss rods. Apparently the downside to this is the secondary becomes a larger obstruction as it sits closer to the primary mirror reducing image brightness, but you get a considerably wider field of view. I haven't used this setting much - need to try it more, especially on faint DSOs but I keep forgetting! The main drawback for DSO junkies like myself is that the light is halved to each eye making already faint DSOs fainter, but binocular summation makes up for a fair bit of this in my opinion. One thing to be aware of, the exit pupil for EPs in binoviewers is also greatly reduced. It works out a lot different than using a single EP. I was able to see the Horsehead with direct vision using binoviewers in a 20" dob under dark skies but it was still a challenge. I wrote a long-winded report on this below - a tip from @jetstream helped a lot as I ended up using a pair of cheap 40mm plossls to see the Horsehead that night. Normally a 40mm plossl gives a ridiculous 10.6mm exit pupil in my f4 dob with no GPC. However, in binoviewers on the same f4 scope with a 1.6x GPC, the 40mm plossls had an approximate exit pupil of 4.49mm. Otherwise I'd never bother with 40mm EPs in any of my dobs. My suggestion is perhaps find some decent second-hand ones if you can and see if you like them, if not, you can sell them on quite easily, or just pick up a set from OVL etc. It takes a little bit to set them up and get individual focus, but once you've done it a few times it's easy enough to do.
  16. Hopefully you'll reach a resolution! Security lighting does make it easier for people to break in ironically. Motion lights are the way to go, as is a simple switch! Surprised he rejected a switch installation if you were going to pay. That's not a good sign! Hopefully env health will persuade him to go that route. I'd gladly pay for my neighbour to have a switch installed. Sorry to hear that and good luck there, let us know how it pans out.
  17. I've been through this and managed a successful result, though it was with a local business and not a residence. I know that sinking, almost sick feeling when you look outside and see a blaze of artificial light shining right at you. After I was initially ignored, I got the Senior Environmental Health Officer involved who sided with me after looking at my photos. The lights may be considered a statutory nuisance which prevents you from enjoying your home and property and be injurious to your health and well-being. The light can be intrusive, encroach on your property or constitute 'light trespass' - yes, that exists! Don't get into a verbal confrontation but don't be mild or meek in your complaint unless the neighbours are truly frightening thugs. Their lives won't be ruined if they have to use a motion sensor or switch off some lights. They will get over it. Take the gloves off and tell the officer the lights are driving you nuts, interfere with you and your children's sleep and are so bright (in my case), they dazzle you trying to walk down the stairs at night and may cause a fall. Tell then they are utterly ridiculous and extremely bright for the small area they need to light. etc etc. I wouldn't push the astronomy side too far, most people wouldn't understand that or consider it to be a minor factor unless you are lucky enough to have an environmental health officer into astronomy! Take some photos at night that highlight the extent and intensity of the LEDs - use the slider bar on photo developing software to increase the photo brightness until it looks right or mimics what it feels like to look at them, etc. I am sure the environment health officer has dealt with these sorts of complaints before and I would push for shielded, downwards facing lights on a motion sensor that doesn't go off when you walk in YOUR garden. Sorry your neighbour is like that, some people don't care if their actions disturb others, I know that well! Good luck. Let me know if you want any pdfs or data on the topic. I have a few!
  18. Well, relatively speaking, compared to a 30" f5 behemoth with a 2" think mirror...
  19. Oh wow, that's some knowledge gained! I may have some questions for you one of these days Peter. I think my starting point would be to double up my 300p when one appears for a good price. I'd need to do more research first, the OTAs might be the cheap part!
  20. It certainly feels like more than 1.4x to me and the contrast factor definitely shoots up. I think my years of squinting through a camera viewfinder with my right eye has inflicted a bit of permanent loss of sensitivity to a small degree. Using both eyes just seems to boost everything across the board to me while reducing eye strain immensely. I can observe with a high degree of concentration much longer with two eyes than one. I know some don't get on with binocular vision, but it seems to suit me well.
  21. PS Mel Bartels claims the contrast boost with binoscopes is markedly larger than the gain in perceived aperture. Combine those two factos (aperture+contrast), and it starts to sounds really, really appealing. I've been comparing one-eyed views through my binoculars against using both eyes, and the difference of course is massive. I can only imagine what 20" stereo views would look like... even with the mass-produced SW mirrors.
  22. Just need the land, the house and a few other things first!! Land here isn't cheap either... it's nice to dream though. I think a 300p flextube binoscope would be a good starting point to learn from. I could pick up a £500 second-hand 300p, a couple of diagonals and a few bespoke, custom parts to mate things up. I make it sound so easy....
  23. Yes when Mel Bartels says something is very challenging to make, it does kind of take the wind out of my sails. If another 300p flextube or 500p comes up for sale for the right price, I might have a go at it just because I already have one in hand. The 300p flextube would be fairly easy to mate up though because of the simple altitude bearing design. The fine adjustment part to collimate the two views is probably the crux. I may never make one, but I've decided that a 20" binoscope is more realistic for me than a monster dob and ultimately cheaper. I probably wouldn't tackle it unless we moved to a rural location however and I had a permanent observatory. Even my late night treks across the countryside have a practical limit! PS I wonder why Mel says the secondary mirrors have to be larger?
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