Lenses: Celestron Plossl 20, TeleVue Plossl 8, Meade 2x TeleXtender
Location: Dark Site
Light Pollution: Low
My wife and I took our scope and some friends up to the dark site to check out the meteor shower and have a look at some of the more 'touristy' celestial objects which we had been dying to see, but which haven't risen past the trees in our own garden yet. And so we set out armed with coffee, cheesy baked potatoes, crisps and beer!
As we approached the dark site I was relieved to see that someone had filled in the trenches in the road that plagued us on our last visit - phew.
When we arrived the sky was filled with clouds but we set up anyway and by the time we were ready the sky cleared up beautifully and remained clear for the entire session - what luck!
We had a great time watching the shower and saw too many meteors to count, some of them, really bright with good trails. I have only seen a couple of 'shooting stars' before so this was a real treat.
The first object we viewed in the scope was Andromeda, which I had been dying to see. Saw the bright core of it and thought wow, then realised that the dimmer surounding area extended off both sides of the view - huge! Everyone took a look and made suitable 'impressed sounds'; we also located its neighbour M110 while we were at it.
Next I swung over to M13 to show everyone a globular, for me M13 was even more impressive under these wonderful dark skies.
Some clouds seemed to be menacing us so I decided we should take a look at Jupiter quickly and moved on; in fact the clouds never reached us but hung out in the same spot, low on the horizon, all night. Wow, our first look at Jupiter and it was absolutely fantastic. There it was with its four largest moons; it was actually too bright and I added the lunar filter so we could make out more detail. We could clearly see the Northern Equatorial Belt and make out some subtle colouring over the surface. The view was good up to 112.5x using the 8mm lens but became a little blurry when I pushed it up to 250x.
Next was the double cluster, another I had been waiting to see. There is something very pleasing about seeing a nice open cluster and they are a favourite of my wife's so the double cluster was a real treat. I especially liked viewing the centres of the clusters where a huge number of very tiny stars could be seen. We took a look at another open cluster after this, M103, which was a pleasing tight little open cluster.
One of my friends and I decided to have a look for Triangulum, we calibrated the setting circles on Capella and went searching for it. I found a very faint, extended object but it didn't seem to be a galaxy so we checked the setting circles on Capella and returned to find the same object. We spent a little while looking at it but in our fairly modest aperture scope and with a minimum magnification of 45x there was not much we could see. Since returning home I have looked up M33 and found that it is the object we saw. Not particularly impressive galaxy to see in a small scope it seems.
I took a look at Mizar and then at Alberio to show my friends a couple of doubles. At this point time was wearing on and a couple of my friends had work the next day so we took a farewell look at Jupiter and called it a day.
A memorable night indeed. My wife has not stopped talking about Andromeda since, I think we finally found a galaxy which impressed her!