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  1. Hi everybody, i'd like to share with you the design, making and progress of a project my astro club endeavoring to. I'll post here relevant info in a run-up to where we got to so far. Here is the mission: 800mm in diameter. That's it. A lot of inspiration out there but it needs to be able to do science. So it's a relatively fast Newtonian capable of tracking for tens of minutes. So we realized that we were facing 2 projects in one. The mirror on one side and the mount on the other. Shall we start with the mount? What's the best compromise in terms of ease to build and cheap components and the chance to have a stiff yet light structure. An alt-az, like the biggest telescope! - or rather a glorified dobsonian in this case. Ambitious? Definitely Any comment/suggestion is welcome!
  2. Date: Monday 3rd December 2018. 1950-0100am. Scope: 20” f3.6 Lukehurst Dob with Paracorr (fl = 2089mm & f4.1). Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS. Eyepieces: Plossl 55mm (f2 x38). Filters: Astronomik 6nm Ha CCD. Preparation It was rainy on Sunday so I set about building a “target list” of the Sharpless objects that I have so far failed to observe either because they are not in Sky Safari or they were too faint to see. I built-up a table of 25 targets and spent time marking stars in Sky Safari that almost matched the co-ordinates shown in the back of the Bracken Astrophotography Sky Atlas. I also tried to lookup photographs of “groups of Sharpless” objects on the internet so that I could try to take bearings from “known” Sharpless to point me to potential locations of the missing Sharpless! After 4 hours my table of targets was ready… Time to “boldy go where no-one has gone before”… Monday 3rd December was forecast as potentially clear all night. So after eating my evening meal I set off down to the scope-shed with my night vision case. I quickly setup the big dob and had the two-star align (of my Nexus) completed. Then headed for the first target on my list… Sh2-164 – Found near star TYC 4021-1255-1. A small bright patch sitting next to a star. Sh2-169 – Found near star SAO 020964. Very faint object, can be seen at the edge of the fov if you centre sh2-168. Stars make “3 corners of a square” inside the faint patch. Sh2-176 – Found near star HD 2559. Very faint indeed. A bright cluster (M34/Xmas tree like) has nebulosity around it and a black area inside it too. Sh2-177 – Found near star HD 2654. You see a large star cluster (that reminds me of “a Rocket on a stand”). The cluster has a lane of nebula running along the side of it. Sh2-179 – Found as pneb BV 5-2. Tiny planetary neb bright enough to be easily seen. Sh2-180 – Found near star TYC 4020-0924-1. Bright, decent sized cluster “crab,lobster” shaped with nebulosity surrounding and several black lanes within. The “crab” stars may be part of a larger “butterfly” shaped formation. Sh2-181 – Found near star TYC 4024-0109-1. Small bright patch sitting above two bright stars. Averted reveals a rounded black shape curved nebula over the top. Sh2-183 – Found near star TYC 4029-1063-1. Seems to be a long lane of nebulosity running up from near sh2-181. Sh2-191 Found as galaxy Maffei1. Small patch on top of two stars. Sh2-215 – Found at star HD 276169. Small faint patch sitting above a star. Sh2-250 – Found near NGC 1633. Several stars sit in a clear black lane. Very faint nebula around the black lane! Sh2-251 – Correctly marked in Sky Safari . Several spaced out bright stars up against a wall of nebula. Wall is thick and curves slightly at the lower end. Sh2-253 Found near star TYC 1336-0819-1. Very faint patch seen in a “gap” found in a line of stars. There are 6 or 7 stars in a row, then the “gap”, then a final star. Sh2-272 – Found at star GSC 0738-2191. This is a very tiny patch sitting just at the side of sh2-271. I missed it before (helps if you have seen an image beforehand!) Thoughts of the observer. I managed to find 14 of my 25 targets so I am very pleased with that. I also uncovered an error in the Bracken Astrophotography Sky Atlas where the co-ordinates for sh2-213 are incorrect, (they are duplicates of sh2-212) that’s why I have not found it so far. I got some “new” co-ordinates off the internet this morning so I am ready to try again for this one! My failures were sh2-172, sh2-195, sh2-213, sh2-266, sh2-270. Around 1am the sky just filled up with water and the heaven’s disappeared, this stopped me in my tracks and left a few lower Orion targets not attempted. It was a cold night (I was running eyepiece & secondary mirror heating all night) and the UTA of the scope was frozen in ice by the end of the session. Supplemental. My Sharpless count now comes to 201 of 313 objects. I have created a spreadsheet of the catalog and added all my location information. I am also adding GOTO references to each of the rows (which I am testing on the Borg107 as time allows). Let me know if you want a copy? Clear Skies, Alan
  3. Date: Friday 30th November 2018. 1930-2200hrs Scope: 20” f3.6 Lukehurst Dob with Paracorr (fl = 2089mm & f4.1). Eyepieces: Ethos 21mm (x100), Ethos 13mm (x150). Night Vision: Plossl 55mm (f2 x38), Panoptic 27mm (f4 x77) attached to PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS. After five months of concentrating on nebula (Sharpless objects mainly), the time had come to return to my first love – Galaxies. I have been waiting patiently for M33 to make its way into a prime spot over my observing shed and for the moon to go away. Finally the opportunity arrived after what seems like two weeks of clouds & rain! I took two sets of eyepieces down to the shed My Ethos case for conventional viewing... My NV (Night Vision) case with longer focal lengths to attach to my PVS-14 NV device... With the help of my Nexus, I soon had M33 centred and let the battle commence! Ethos13. First up was the Ethos13. Wow, the galaxy was much larger than the 100 degree fov allowed by the E13. I could see a large “S” shape clearly with no averted needed. I settled in and started to look for other arms or some of the many “patches” of bright nebula within the galaxy. As arms and nebula hot spots were seen, I moved to sketch them on paper. After a few trips, it was obvious that I was just “in too close” and needed to step back with the lower magnification of the Ethos21. Ethos21. In with the Ethos21 and peer in. Wow that’s better. The galaxy scale was sufficiently reduced to enable me to see the whole thing. M33 was dominating most of the 100 degree fov and nudging was still required to get around to focus on each section of the galaxy. The main arms were there and also decent snippets of the other arms. I could see several “hot patches” and once again I started to make a sketch of the view. Plossl 55mm & PVS-14. Now it was time to see what the PVS-14 and 55mm Plossl could do. (I have had my night vision since the end of April and learned on M101 that the key to seeing arms with NV is to get the focal ratio as fast as possible, this is achieved with the 55mm Plossl which acts as a x0.5 reducer). I played with the manual gain setting while looking at the main arms to find the position where the arms were showing at their best (too much gain overpowers the view so it needs to be less than the max). Once I was happy, I started to look and sketch the view. What was immediately noticeable was how the arm that runs out to NGC604 was much less visible that with the Ethos. The arm at the other side was much more visible and the several bright Ha patches shimmered on the face of the galaxy. There were fewer snippets of other arms but several Ha hot spots stood out clearly. [The dashed line shows an “assumed” arm rather than a “seen” arm. I got the impression that the arms were there but it contradicts the glass view] Conclusions. Welcome back to the mighty Ethos21! It provided the most enjoyable view and enabled me to get up close and personal with M33 in a way that the Plossl55 and Night Vision had not. The experience of seemingly hovering just over the surface of these large galaxies is just amazing and makes my day everytime! The amount of spiral arms on offer to the observer who is willing to spend time at the eyepiece is astonishing. Its hard to beat M33 and M101 Supplemental. I found that I had really missed the E21 and headed on afterwards to the Pleiades to see more of what I had been missing . The Pleiades and the Ethos21 are made for each other, the view was stunning with great views of the nebulosity surrounding the bright stars on offer. After not using the E21 for nearly six months, I can only conclude that the Ethos21 is one hell of an eyepiece and I need to remember that Clear Skies, Alan
  4. Date: Sunday 5th August 2300-0120 Scope: 20” f3.6 Lukehurst Dob with Paracorr (fl = 2089mm & f4.1). Eyepieces: 55mm (f2 x38). Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS. Filters: Astronomik 6nm Ha CCD. Moon: 0% Take every chance that comes along After getting out last night for a short session, it was unexpected to see the skies clearing again last night as I sat watching the TV. I checked outside at 2200 and there was thin wispy stuff overhead so decided that tonight was not going to happen. Back outside an hour later and there were plenty of stars visible with the same wispy cloud scattered about. But I had the urge to get out so decided to get setup and observing. At least with the Dob permanently setup in the shed, it’s no great effort to get started. I decided to forego the collimation as I had only done it the previous night and just proceed with speed to observing. With the roof open, alignment was straightforward as there were more stars than the previous night and so I just picked the same pair to complete the Nexus 2-star alignment procedure. Confirm the observations of the previous night I worked my way through the Crescent, Tulip, sh2-104, sh2-106, Veil, Propeller, and sh2-112 as I retraced my steps from last night. All targets were quickly centred and viewed using the 55mm Plossl, PVS-14 NVD and Astronomik 6nm Ha CCD filter. The plan from the previous night to add stars to my observing list where the “missing Sky Safari nebula” were worked well and the targets were found directly. My observing was only disturbed by the passing thin clouds which made the targets come and go, some were more successful than others. I was also benefiting from having reviewed the previous targets via internet images during the day (as I wrote my previous night’s report) and this also added further interest to my observing of these objects. Continue onto new targets Sh2-115 – Showed itself as a large shapely outline with a clearer black area in the centre. I thought that it looked like a Chinese dragon head or maybe the head of a dog. There was a separate bright blob showing below (which I think is Abell-73 according to the Bracken Sky Atlas! ). Sh2-120 & sh2-121 – Now onto two more targets that are “missing from Sky Safari”. My fight to find them was being hampered by layering clouds above and the visibility was coming and going. In a clear spell I bagged one of them as a small bright circular blob blinking around 2 tight stars. In a further clearer spell a second smaller blob was seen at the edge of the same FOV. Images confirm my observation this morning so I did get them! Brighter targets with clouds above As the clouds were now thickening, I decided to travel through some brighter targets and visited the Cocoon (seen it better), IC1396 (really nice detail seen in the Elephant Trunk and other black areas within) and the Cave (bright leading edge clear but the rest not so good). I have reported on these objects in previous posts so if you are interested then search them out. NGC7380 “Wizard” – Onto something new. It is marked in BOLD typeface in the Sky Atlas meaning that’s is on the imagers bucket list. Sky Safari did not respond to a search for the “Wizard” so I used the index of the Atlas to find out it is also known as NGC7380. With that information, I soon had it centred with the push-to setup and Wow, its good! The nebula is large and fills the FOV of the NVD and it’s bright. Within the nebula I could see black shapes that did not look like a “wizard”. To me the shapes looked more like a “horse”. Checking images this morning the shape is definitely a “horse” so where the “wizard” comes from I have no idea? Bubble nebula – Popping over to the Bubble next, the results were an improvement on the previous night with all three sections of nebulosity visible and the circle of the bubble visible. It took averted vision to get the full circle but then it was cloudy overhead! Sh2-132 – Another good one! It is a large bright nebula that looked a bit like an “arrow head” with three vertical dark lanes running through it. There were also two small brighter patches of nebula within the nebula. Checking images this morning then I see all these features and can’t wait to revisit on a dark night when the clouds are gone! Sh2-135 – Appears as a medium sized bright nebula. What does it look like? This was a tricky one, my thoughts were UFO, Jet fighter or bright triangle. Looking at images then none of these seem a true reflection. I really needed to up the magnification and have the clouds go away. But it was certainly bright and another one for the “must revisit” list. Sh2-146 – small faintish blob Sh2-149 – small brightish patch Sh2-152 & sh2-153 – I have observed these previously but as they were near me on Sky Safari I had to pop over. The larger “whale” was less visible than previously but the small bright “baby” was sharp and clear. This is a nice pair of objects. IC1470 – small very bright patch. Looks like a planetary at first sight. Sh2-168 – A medium sized patch of nebula. There is a brighter central small patch within it. Sh2-170 - Brightish good sized nebula. "Stingray" shaped with dark central area. Worth another look under better conditions. CED214 – At last, an object recommended by @PeterW. The back of my head was rubbing on the shed wall as I squeezed my eye into the eyepiece! I managed to nudge in 2 directions and saw a lovely thick textured nebula (not dissimilar from the beauty of the Gamma Cygni region) with multiple segments/clouds within. Stars appeared to be clearing some black sections within. Definite revisit needed but the scope needs to be more central on the shed floor next time! < CLOUDS ROLLED OVER> Thoughts of the observer I felt pretty chuffed at the end of the session. I had very low expectations when setting off down the garden. The thin clouds were there for the whole session but I managed to eek out several new targets and was very happy as I made my way back inside. It should also be noted that I had a few "fails" on sharpless objects during the night, but the clouds must have been affecting the dimmer objects. I was amazed that I was able to keep viewing when up above I could see mainly clouds and not many stars at all! I am now going to start writing some notes into the back of the Bracken Sky Atlas where the Sharpless objects are presented in a nice table. I can then track which ones I have seen and which ones need to be revisited year on year… Clear Skies, Alan
  5. The weather gods continue to shine on me and I was out again last night ready to target the Fireworks galaxy (NGC6946). I had repositioned the dob in the shed earlier in the day so that the shed wall no longer stopped me getting my head in to the eyepiece. (The eyepiece stack is quite long with the paracorr2, 55mm Plossl, PVS-14 NVD plus my head!) I experimented with both the 55mm Plossl (giving me F2 and x36) and the Panoptic 35mm (giving me f3 and x60) plus trialed Astronomik 6nm and 12nm Ha CCD filters to see what I could get. And I tried the Ethos10 (giving x200) without the NV to see what I got without the Night Vision. With the 55mm Plossl and some time spent at the eyepiece I finally got to see 2 clear arms curving back over the top of the galaxy together with a continuous circle of arm surrounding the galaxy core . I confirmed the view by rotating the image from Sky Safari to match the star pattern in the fov and the arms were where they should be. The third smaller arm underneath the galaxy did not reveal itself however I have been trying to see something in this galaxy for years using various scopes and filters from various locations and to finally see the arms was a great moment for me! For completeness, with the ethos10 and no NVD I could see a nice big patch where the galaxy is. Maybe some variance in brightness within the patch but no arms were seen. With the NVD I could see the arms initially with averted but finally in direct vision once I got my eye in. I also found that the 12nm Ha filter seemed to make the galaxy larger in size but sadly the arms disappeared. Clear skies, Alan
  6. I managed a couple of hours with the 20" big dob last night (11pm till 1am) minus some "cloud passovers". My goal was to test M100 views (in Leo) with varying Televue eyepieces and Photonis Night Vision (PVS-14). - (Any eyepiece longer than 27mm increase effective focal ratio of your scope. 35mm is like a x0.7 reducer. 55mm is like a x0.5 reducer). With the sky darkening all the time, the views got better and better... I was rewarded with my first sight of the complete arm structure of this galaxy (very happy). - I found that the 55mm plossl (x38) showed the complete inner arm structure in direct vision, with the long outer arms coming with averted and "gain" adjustment. - The 35mm Panoptic (x60) gave better image scale, but needed averted for the arm structure. - The 27mm Panoptic (x77) gave great image scale but slightly less arm action than the other two. I concluded that faster focal ratio really helps pull out the arms from face-on Galaxies, and I look forward to further experimentation in this area in the coming nights. My favourite view was with the Pan35 but it needed some proper observation techniques. Less experienced observers would probably prefer the "easier" view in the 55mm. This really is a beautiful galaxy. Alan p.s. I will write up an explanation of "afocal" night vision theory and usage in a separate thread.
  7. Date: Sun 6th May 2250 - 0315am Scope: 20” f3.6 Lukehurst Dob with Paracorr (fl = 2089mm & f4.1). Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS. Eyepieces: 55mm (f2 x38), 35mm (f3 x60), 27mm (f4 x77), 18.2mm (f5.8 x115). Filters: Astronomik CLS (Visual IR pass), Baader 610nm Red. Galaxies and Night Vision While Night Vision is a “game changer” for visual observers on Nebula targets WITH Ha CCD filters, the increased brightness potential for galaxies is on a “smaller” (but well worthwhile) scale and so far a “magic” filter has not been identified. Having just got my PVS-14 Night Vision device while galaxy season is still in play, I am making the most of these clear nights to try to get an understanding of the best combination of eyepiece and filters for seeing galaxies with my Night Vision (NV). Choosing Galaxies in Leo for experimentation with Photonis 4g INTENS Night Vision On the two nights out with NV so far, I have focused on Ursa Major so last night’s plan was to get into Leo and see what I can find using a 55mm Plossl (f2 x38) & CLS visual filter. Here are my descriptions of the “best” that I found. This list of galaxies will be revisited whenever I can get out this week but using a different eyepiece/filter combo. NGC3628 - The galaxy was big and bright (even at x38) and showed a lovely black lane running through the centre. M66 - The straight central bar was clear. A distinct “S” shape of arms came and went in the view. I played with the “gain” but could not tune the arms “in”. They came and went as I watched with averted vision. M65 – Revealed a nice bright halo with a black edge to the lower side. Copeland's Septet (Hickson 57) – At x38 I saw “two lines” of galaxies in the fov. One of the lines was the Septet which showed as three tiny thin lines. The other line of galaxies was made up of “other NGCs” nearby. Markarians chain – The chain was easy to follow with all the galaxies showing bright cores. Some longer edge-on galaxies were also seen in the fov as I nudged along. The experience was more like I remember in my 11” SCT and it was nice to find it so easy to move through the chain. (With big dob and x200-x250 there are just too many small galaxies in the fov that the chain is hard to follow, you get distracted and wonder off target!) NGC4535 – Showed as a large ghostly haze. No arms visible. M58 – Bright core & halo. No arms. M88 – Bright core & halo. Some arm detail seen with averted vision. M91 – Bright core and clear central bar. No clear arms. M100 – Spiral arms seen with averted vision, coming & going. M99 – One clear arm “up” and multiple arms hinted “below”. Had to check the Sky Safari image and it was pretty close. The “below” arms needed averted and came & went. The “up” arm was more frequently seen but averted needed. M51 – Arms lovely and clear. Whole bridge seen with some averted trying. The companion core has the black area missing where the arms meet. M101 – A disaster. Just a core and nothing else. Don’t know what happened here as I was picking arms out with relative ease last time out. Early results compared to "Conventional" As you can see above, several Messiers in Leo were showing arms with averted vision. Thats a step forward for Big Dob! Any galaxy with a thick dark lanes should be a winner with NV. Onto some Globulars With my limited experience so far, its clear that NV makes “big improvements” to Globular clusters. They “all” resolve to the core, whether they be bright Messiers or faint NGCs. The NV has no problem seeing all their stars as crisp well defined dots. M53 – 55mm, x38. Resolved to the core. M13 – 55mm. Nice and bright “space invader”. Propeller clear. Resolved to core. M13 – 27mm. Much bigger and now with a “bulging centre section” (That’s more like it). Great! M13 – 18.2mm. Bigger and more detailed. Propeller lost in the view. Less central bulge than the 27mm (more resolved stars?). M92 – 18.2mm. Very nice. Much better than I remember with a “conventional” view. NGC6229 – small & bright. Resolved to the core. Then onto best ever & memorable views of M12, M10 & M14, all resolved to lovely bright shapes of stars. NGC6366 – 27mm. Big, spread out & faint. But fully resolved field of stars. M5 - 27mm. Terrific view of M5. I don't get to see enough of this Globular and I forgot how great it is! Some low power x1, PVS-14 direct to the sky to finish! The Milky Way was clear naked eye above me. I disconnected the NV from the eyepiece and held it to my eye pointing to Cygnus. Wow! The Milky Way was wonderful right down to the horizon, revealing two “white” arms with clear black lane separating our galaxies beautiful arms overhead. As I get higher into Cygnus then the individual nebulas appeared (unfiltered) and on into Cassiopeia. The Double Cluster was really well resolved and Andromeda – Wow! So big and clear (at x1 !) – It stood out “like a sore thumb”. Spent a bit of time watching my cats playing in my garden then decided to head inside as the Devils Orb was now clear of the Pennines and my brain was tired. Hope the Weather Gods are in my Favour. Now I have a “list” of targets with arms, I shall endeavour to revisit at the earliest opportunity for further testing and comparisons… Clear Skies, Alan
  8. Date: Wed 21st February 2230-0245am Scope: 20” f3.6 Lukehurst Dob with Paracorr (fl = 2089mm) As unbelievable as this may seem but Big Dob has been out under the stars for TWO NIGHTS RUNNING! Last night was completely cloudless over these parts. I waited for the moon to move over to the west before heading out. I managed a four hour session. It was colder than the previous night. I had the same wet atmosphere issues as the night before but it got properly dark around 2am and actually conditions had started improving (I could see the wet haze diminish and the sky was darkening) Reading back through my notes, I can see 25 objects/observations described but (unusually for me) I intend to describe only ONE OF THEM here The view of this particular object literally BLEW ME AWAY! It was about 0230am and “the target” was now about 45 degrees high in the EAST. The scope was in good shape and the (heated) Ethos 8mm was in the focuser (with the Paracorr2) providing x250 magnification. Using Nexus to help, I nudged over to centre “the target” on the Sky Safari display… I adjusted the height of my stool and sat down to get comfy. As I settled at the eyepiece, “the target” was outside the field of view and so I pushed the dob westward… A bright patch appeared top-right so I nudged it to the centre... “The target” was very bright and full of stars. The target was layered in an assortment of brightnesses of grey (from white hot through to dull grey). The stars were everywhere and sharp right to the centre of “the target”. As I looked on, the bright centre was bulging out towards me like looking down on a mountain from above. The 3D effect was mesmerizing and so bright. My eye wandered around “ the target”, I could see black filamentary veins of hydrogen weaving through the layered grey shades of the nebulosity… (If I was American then I could truly use the word AWESOME!) As I looked on, the Rosette nebula entered my thoughts, yes that was it, I was looking at THE ROSETTE ON STEROIDS. (Imagine the Rosette but then layered with layer upon layer of bright stars) I kept returning to “the bulge”. I have seen 3D effects with binoviewers but this was WITH ONE EYE. I tried the Ethos 6mm (x348) but could not get decent focus (Grrr) Considering I saw M51 with its spiral arms and the full bridge 30 minutes before (which was GREAT) but this was SOMETHING ELSE entirely. I will leave you to work out which Messier object “the target” refers to? (I am getting excited all over again just thinking about the memory!) Clear skies, Alan
  9. Date: Tuesday 13th February 2045-0130am Scope: 20” f3.6 Lukehurst Dob with Paracorr (fl = 2089mm) [It was Pancake day, so I just had to add a Culinary spin to my nights observing] Get out the Ingredients (Earlier) 1.Create a new “observing list” in sky safari which contained the 5 SuperNova (SN) and 1 Nova targets. 2.Make “identification sketches” for each of the SN with galaxy and nearby star patterns on small pieces of paper based on before/after images from the web. 3.Consider Dob position in the shed = Big Dob was still positioned at the front of the shed aiming back north for Ursa Major & Polaris. Prepare the Pancake Mixture I headed outside at 2030pm with my eyepieces and SN sketches. I removed the AstroSystems Scopecoat from Big Dob, inserted the ParaCorr2 and set about collimating the scope using my Glatter tools, making a few small adjustments to get everything centred in the TuBlug. Time to roll back the roof... The final task was to perform a 2-star alignment to setup the Nexus “push-to”. Fuzzy Comet Pancakes As it was still quite early, I decided to begin with some Comets and using Sky Safari I worked my way through the brightest comets in the sky above. C/2016 N6 (Panstarrs) was out of range C/2010 U3 (Boattini) – I set about searching for the mag 15 comet. I centered up the push-to with the ethos13 (x150) inserted and then moved to ethos10 (x200). I could not find the comet for definite. There were two possible glimpses (1) I did spot a small fuzzy blob near a patch of stars but failed to re-find it (it did not tally with the Sky Safari location but it was close) (2) I thought I saw a tail cutting through the fov (this was the same experience that I had on Sunday when searching for the same object) but the scale of the tail seemed too long and wide to be true. I will keep trying but could probably do with some better conditions. Galaxy Ring Pancakes M81 – starting with M81. E10 (x200). It showed with a bright core with a large dusty area surrounding it. Black patches were seen to both sides and above (maybe some arms on a better night?). M82 – The view was pretty good (better than Sunday). The galaxy was very bright at x200 and stretched out over a decent width. The black dart intersecting the galaxy was clear in direct vision. Sauteed Supernova Pancakes UGC5049/SN2018pc – with the ethos8 (x250) inserted I centred up on UGC5049. The galaxy was a faint streak at the edge of the fov. Straight away there was a faint dot visible within the dusty streak! The star pattern matched my sketch and therefore I notched up a success. NGC2746/SN2018iq – The galaxy was easily found and centred. The SN is tight in but was coming and going as the galaxy drifted across the fov. I switched to the E10 (x200) and the galaxy got brighter, I could see the SN near the centre. NGC3941/SN2018pv – I had seen the SN on Sunday, so back for another visit. With the E10 the bright SN was hard to split from the bright core. With the E8 a clear separation was seen and so another success. My other supernova targets were out of range (due to the shed walls) so I went back to galaxy observing to pass some time while I waited for the earth to spin hoping that targets would come around into view later in the evening. Caramelized Ursa Major Galaxy Pancakes M108 – E10. The galaxy had a long broken shape with a bright patch off to the left. The core is not in the centre. M51 – The E10 revealed nice circling arms which could be traced with averted vision. The first arm curved out into space and the second arm curved around the top. The bridge was not obvious at all but with some concentration a faint wisp of arm could be followed out toward ngc5195. The core of 5195 seemed to be outshinging the core of M51. M106 – Looked good in the E10. Big and bright. No arms. 3990+3982+3972 – A nice triple galaxy in the fov. One big side on, one long thin edge on and a smaller side on made for a nice galaxy combo. 3898+3888 – Little and large side on galaxies. A nice pairing. 3913+3921 – Another pair of side on galaxies 2841 – nice bright side on galaxy More Sauteed Supernova Pancakes NGC3367/SN2018kp – NGC3367 was located under Leo and I had a short opportunity to get it over the shed wall (not with the whole mirror). I quickly matched the field stars to my sketch and saw a bright dot coming from within the area of the faint galaxy. I switched between the E10 and E8. At one point a saw two dots within the galaxy dust and tried to draw two lines showing the dot orientation compared to the field star orientation. These don’t seem to match the images when I check this morning. The core appears as a bright dot so it seems more likely that I was seeing the galaxy core rather than the SN. But checking an image from 10 Feb, the SN has brightened but I cant say I had success at this point. I will try again… One last Savoury Zenith Pancake Mix M101 – Initially a large dusty mist. After a few seconds it started to form into a meaningful structure. I could see the outer arms (containing bright NGC paches). The inner core filled the x200 fov. I could make out three swirling arms. I started to sketch them out on paper. If only the conditions could have been a bit better (Grrrr). Conditions seemed to take another dip as I watched the galaxy detail seemed to dip away. I decided to take a quick snap tour… Keenan system – As recommended by @mdstuart, I headed for NGC5216/5218 and was rewarded with two bright galaxies with dust halos. They looked like a pair of “eyes”. I will have to return on a better night… 4605 – lovely bright edge on galaxy. A clear M82 rival! Cor Caroli – A lovely bright double. One big white star and one small yellow star. I love this double as it seems to look a different colour depending on the aperture of the scope you are using or maybe depending on your aging eyes (I don’t know) but tonight it was white/yellow (for me). Whale – One of my favourite galaxies. It fills the fov at x200. Silver Needle – very long edge on galaxy. Quite dim. Cocoon galaxies – A nice “angular” pair with bright cores and dimmer halos. M3 – To finish a bright globular cluster. Plenty of resolved stars at x200. Lovely. Now I’m stuffed after all those pancakes... By now, the sky has brightened considerably. I had been watching the sky reflections gradually move up from the horizon towards the zenith. Its time to pack up for the night. Just two hours earlier I had seen M101 naked eye averted (with my glasses on) shows how things can change. Oh No! Time for the washing up I close the roof and switch on the light. Thermometer says -2 but my toes say that its colder than that! The UTA of the scope is covered in ice as is the upper shroud – I fetch a towel to wipe it down... After securing the roof and switching on the dehumidifier, I head back to the house and my favourite “hot water bottle”! I did manage three supernovas so you have to be pleased with that! Clear Skies, Alan
  10. Date: 29/10/17 Time: 2315-0330 Scope: 20” f3.6 Dob with paracorr2 After the last month of few observing chances I had been reduced to jumping at an hour here and there in partially cloudy skies during the last week to try to get some viewing in. Last time out it was with the moon and I was on clusters and double stars that’s how meagre the observing had become! With the promise of a clear night on the way, I made a plan of what I wanted to do. As it was going to be cold, the first plan was to not go out too soon so that I would be forced back inside too soon later in the night when the moon had left the party. I decided to aim to start outside at 2300. I nipped outside at 2130 to get the scope uncovered and get the cooling fans started... By 2230 I was pacing around inside (I was half watching a programme on Steven Spielberg) but my mind was to go outside “before those unwanted/unplanned clouds rolled in to spoil my fun!”. I managed to distract myself and 2300 finally arrived so I got all dressed up to go outside. I had dug out my winter thermals earlier in the day so they were the first thing on tonight! Once outside, I just needed a quick collimation using my Glatter tools and then get my heating gear out of the drawer and ready to fit to the scope. My scope has a “so far unused” Kendrick secondary heater and a “so far unused” Kendrick micro dew controller (2 ports) fitted to the UTA. I set the heater to 20% from the start hoping that would help keep the cold at bay. Having completed a 2-star alignment to setup my Nexus push-to system, I stuffed in the Ethos21 and fitted the 4 inch eyepiece heater tape around it to keep it snug. The pesky moon was still up (I have no obstructions from my garden so there is no getting away from the moon – if it’s up then its ON (Devils Lightbulb!). Anyway, I made a start on some of my favourite clusters (to get me in the mood as it were). Carolines Rose – Not at its best due to the moon but still a unique sight amongst the clusters that we have on offer up there Double Cluster – with Cassiopeia high in the sky, a trip to the Double Cluster was a must. It was lovely and bright and plenty of small colourful stars were on offer to see. Had a better view than earlier in the week when I had been fighting gaps in the clouds Followed by Owl cluster, M103 & M52. By now, I could sense the darkness starting to fall as the moon heading (not fast enough) down to the horizon (Hurrah!), it was time to switch targets to Nebulas… Cave – The Cave is one of my targets to get to grips with this season and I have had quite a few visits since the summer to try to get inside it! I fitted the Astronomik O3 filter and got stuck in… The view was similar to what I had been seeing – easily traceable outline, sort of triangular in shape. No new features were seen and there was no sign of the lovely bright right angle shape that I saw on my first attempt a few months back. Perhaps the sky was not excellent and this was a sign that I would not be breaking new ground tonight? (Either way, you have to take what you can get in this game). "This isn't going to go the way you think" (thanks Luke!) Bubble – I tried the bubble with both O3 and UHC. 21E (x100) and 13E (x150) but the bubble was not coming out to play . Best view was probably the 13E & O3 combination where the nebulosity was clear and there was hints of a circle/bubble (or was it wishful thinking?) The 13E and UHC showed more stars and more nebulosity but no hints of bubble. NGC7822 & CED214 – New targets for me, I had them circled in Sky Safari as targets (I had spent the dull cloudy weeks of October created new month by month observing lists in Sky Safari focused on my main observing directions and this was one that I had added for “October”) and I was nearby so popped over for a look… These were actually nice targets and showed plenty of nebulosity with the UHC. The shapes were easily traced in the 21E and covered quite a large area of sky. Worth another visit on a night with better “seeing”. Pacman – Best result of the night was with the Pacman, it was lovely and bright with the UHC and framed nicely in the 21E. Heart & Soul – Another successful target(s). With the O3, they were clearly visible and tracing around them (these are large targets) was straightforward. A couple of darker patches popped out on the way around and although I have had better views, this was a good result. Comet C/2017 O1 – I was now in the vicinity of the comet (I had tried earlier while the moon was receding with no success) so time for another crack. Nexus took me to the right place, nothing! Scan around and there it is – it took movement to find it but once you have it then it was easy to relocate. This really is a hard target, it’s so diffuse and appeared smaller (not as good) than it was in September when I last saw it. I tried higher magnification but it was worse so back to the 21E. Looks like we have had the best of this comet Flaming Star – First time with the big dob on this one. I started with the UHC and there was plenty of nebulosity over a large region. I switched to the Astronomik Hb and saw no real difference really, maybe it was slightly better but at 2am who really knows? By now, I was struggling with my eyepieces misting up. Yes, I did have the heater tape but all this taking it on and off to swap eyepiece or filter was taking its toll. The eyepieces were cold to the touch as I took them out of my box and I think that with the enormous size of the big Ethos that I am going to have to move to single eyepiece sessions when the real cold comes. This way I can focus on just keeping the one eyepiece warm. I tested my heater tape and it wasn’t warm to the touch so I decided to up the heat to 50% on the Kendrick controller. I am wary of putting too much heat into the secondary as I don’t want to affect the view. But trying to look through a misted eyepiece really messes with the view so no choice really. Has anybody got any tips on what settings to run the secondary/eyepiece heater on during a cold night? M33 galaxy – With the E13 x150, the view was great. There was a clear S shape with one half pretty distinct and the other half less so due to there being “more” galaxy on offer. I switched to the E21 but found the view less revealing although it better fitted the FOV of the eyepiece. NGC891 galaxy – Another target from my sky safari targets list and it’s a good one. The galaxy is long and thin but there were hints of a dark lane running thorough it. I switched back to the E13 for a closer look and the dark lane was clear to see. I will be returning to this if I get another chance! Other galaxies included NGC925 & NGC1023 which both showed nicely when the eyepiece was not misted up! California neb – This is an old friend of mine, I had plenty of success with my C11 on this target and it really doesn’t offer much inner detail but its big and pretty easy so I had to call in on my way past. With the UHC it was great. Really big and easy to trace around the shape. By now, my toes were getting cold but I had been waiting for Orion to come around to face the drop-side on my shed and here it was. My first attempt to get the scope on target failed as I hit the side of the shed so I had to close the roof, attach the wheelbarrow handles and reposition at the very back of the shed. Re-open roof and re-align Nexus. Sounds a lot but probably only took 10 minutes. Flame neb – Started with the E13 and Hb filter. As this is the first time for me with the big dob I was not expecting the large FOV to make such a change to my view of this area of the sky which I have frequented many times in the past. With no diagonal, everything is upside down! With the large FOV of the Ethos than Alnitak is a real problem. With the long focal length of the C11 then the bright star could be shuffled out of the view allowing time to tease out the Flame. Now, its right in the view. I could see a small dark patch in the right place and decided not to increase the magnification as I was trying to warm one single eyepiece by this time and fight the cold in my toes. Horsehead – My final planned target of the night. Firstly, I was really struggling with eyepiece misting and had to keep backing off to let it clear. For the Horsey you really need to be relaxed and spend time teasing it out so this was not the best start. Now there was confusion (same as the Flame), with the C11 I had a well drilled procedure for getting to the Horsey and now with everything upside down and wider FOV, I needed to re-learn how to find the Horsey location. Initially I was struggling to even see the nebula lane that runs down (now UP) from Alnitak! But as my eye settled in, here it comes. The lane was much wider than I used to get in the C11 and very easy to see. The Horsey was not “there”. I located the two “pointing” stars and drew an imaginary line from them across to an imaginary line coming from Alnitak up through the two leading stars and placed that point in my mind. The horsey would be UP from here. Concentrate, concentrate… A dark patch came in and out of view (again as this is my first time with this scope/eyepiece combination I have no idea how BIG the Horsey will appear). I am expecting smaller than the C11. Which way does the Horsey face in the dob? So many doubts in my mind as I try to identify what I am seeing… Quick look at sky safari – Horsey points towards the two “pointing” stars. Glimpses of a dark patch was as good as it got. I switched to the UHC filter and probably found the dark patch easier to see but I would say there was more “shape” to the patch with the Hb. I tried more magnification but the conditions and eyepiece misting were all against me. I pushed the Kendrick up to 75% and now I could feel the warmth coming from the eyepiece heating tape in my gloved fingers. It will be another night before I "Fullfill your destiny" (Thanks Snoke!) M42 Orion neb – As the UHC was in the paracorr, it would be rude not to pop across to Orion Neb to finish the night (my toes were crying out for me to finish ). In with the E21 and over we go. Wow – so bright, so clear. "Something truly special" (Thanks Snoke). Now the increased FOV of the combo was really paying off. A fantastic framed view of the nebula was before me. There seemed so much more outlying nebula than I had experienced in the past. Sure the well-known basic winged shape was there but there was more behind that. I shall look forward to further visits during the winter months and an attack on the trapezium crossed my mind… Cries of “no” screamed from my fingers and toes and I finally gave in to the cold. After closing the roof to the sounds of crushing ice on the rails, I switched on the light to see my UTA was covered in ice. I checked the secondary and it was clear. Two things I need to work on: 1. Kendrick heating settings - I need to get more experience with the heating on my dob. Next time, I will start out with the heat set to 50% from the start and probably just stick to the E21. Any recommendations from anyone? 2. Cold fingers – A clear downside of an aluminium truss dob is that the trusses get cold to the touch. And with push-to there is a lot of touching! Using sky safari on the ipad also means gloves off to use the screen. Changing filters means gloves off and on. On the plus side, the “eyepatch” I am using now that I am back to cyclops viewing with the dob proved a success with the additional benefit of keeping a patch of my face warm! I am not convinced the seeing was as good as it could have been. With my glasses back on, walking back to the house there seemed plenty of smaller stars on view but the last hour had been a struggle lower down in Orion. Hope you enjoy the report. I went to bed with my thermals still on as I was freezing cold and I still haven't bought a “hot water bottle” as I had promised myself at the end of last winter – I must get that done! Alan P.S. I got my tickets for The Last Jedi (couldn't resist adding a few sound bytes from the trailer) for Dec 14th. Note that new moon is on Dec 18th so don't book tickets for then!
  11. Date: Fri 8th December 1900-2330 Scope: 20” f3.6 Dob with paracorr2 Window of Opportunity With the passing of the full moon (good riddance), the window of opportunity opens for an early evening session before the Devils Orb bursts onto the scene to end the party Checking “Clear Outside” I see that the Orb is not due until 2300 so I eat my tea early and head off outside around 7pm. The sky is lovely and dark with the milky way starting to show overhead, Andromeda is easily spotted high in the sky. Ready, Get Set, Go I open the shed and unwrap the big dob. My Howie Glatter collimation tools reveal that the secondary remains spot on from the last session and the primary needs a tiny tweak on one bolt - Ready. Its already cold, below zero! So I get the eyepiece heater connected and leave it nicely poised, dangling over the red dot finder. Now connect the Ipad to the Nexus wifi network, launch Sky Safari and highlight “Alignment Stars” on the display. Lights Off and push back the roof – Get Set. Once aligned, I push over to M31 to confirm the alignment and take a close note of exactly where in the “eyepiece FOV circle” the galaxy core is located. [ half way out towards 9 o’clock ] This information will help me later when pushing as I will centre all the objects at the slightly off centre position knowing that this puts them in the centre of the FOV – Go! Galaxies a Go Go M31, M32 & M100 glx – Starting with an easy target. I insert the Ethos13 (x150) and trace the double dark lanes up one side, across the top, down the other side and back across the bottom. The seeing is good – I can follow the lanes all the way around the galaxy core, the bottom section is a hard one usually! I am now very familiar with M31, so I check out the bright section on the leading edge and spot something new – a bright section out beyond the dark lanes, on the other side but opposite to M32. [ Can’t see exactly what it was checking images this morning but I have not noted this before – one to check again next time I am out? ] I didn’t think the core of M100 stood out as good as I have seen it once in the past. M33 glx – I started with the E10 (x200) and was greeted with a lovely lower sweeping arm heading into the centre as clear as day. There was a mass of dust heading out the other side, breaking into a small arm and the longer sweeping trailing arm. With some time and averted vision, NGCs & IC belonging to M33 started to come into view... There was too much to see in the tiny FOV (of the Ethos!) so I dropped the magnification and inserted the E13 (x150). This is better, now the galaxy can be framed (just about) into the FOV. Using the dark patches to show me where the arms are, I can "see" 5 arms of varying size – I start to sketch them out on paper – I can pick out the core (looks like a barred core) then the edge of a (brightish) circle of inner dust, followed by the edge of a faint outer circle (the galaxies outer edge) – I add this to the sketch... Now onto the NGCs & ICs within M33. I pick them out in 2s and 3s and add “X” to the sketch (“X marks the spot!”). I bagged THIRTEEN in total (beating my previous total of 11). [ This morning’s job was to map my Xs to the M33 map – linked here ] http://www.seetheglory.com/star-clusters-and-nebulae-in-the-triangulum-galaxy-m33/ I think I bagged NGC604, A71, A66, NGC595 on the lower left. I bagged IC139, IC140 & IC136 under the core. I bagged A48, A14 & IC137 to the right of the core. I got A128 out to the end of the faint upper arm. Finally, NGC592 & NGC588 (which make a nice triangle with the already mentioned A128). Note that all these are best guesses at identity on my part! NGC891 glx – With the E10 (x200) I was rewarded with my best ever view of 891. The galaxy was a tall as the FOV of the Ethos and it displayed a lovely broad black line pretty much through its fill length. The black line got wider/thinner as it ran along the length of the galaxy. It was a view to savour! NGC925 glx – This is a target that I need to revisit. It as flat and bright but it seemed to have a dark patch above it. Looking at images this morning, it could be the dark patch tell-tale sign of an arm? I was using the E10 (x200). I need to come back with the E8 (x250) and see if more is on offer? My other galaxy targets (in this area) were NGC1023, NGC890, NGC949, NGC278, NGC185, NGC147. Of these I would mention that NGC147 seemed to be more visible than last time I was here, where I had found it a real challenge to see this very large faint piece of fuzz. It was still faint but it was easily seen this time in direct vision. Nebula Finale With time moving on, I needed to get some Nebula action before the Devils Orb removed them from sight!. Pacman – Ethos21 & Astronomik UHC revealed a lovely framed view of the pacman. The gas expanse was large of picturesque amongst the stars of the cluster. But what really stood out for me was the blackness of the dark lane that pierces into the nebula. Super. M76 little dumbbell – I threw in the Astronomik O3 and headed for M76. The O3 really pulled out the two end sections well and not much in the centre. It gave a “just pulled Christmas cracker” appearance that I liked. However, in the E21 (x100) it was pretty small and I decided to move on to larger targets. Heart & Soul – These are challenging nebula and I have really worked them hard over the last 3 months. Feels like I know them well! They were not well positioned from the shed and I found it a challenge to trace around them. I did pick out the usual brighter sections but it feels like I need a break of a year to regain my interest in this target. Flaming Star – Now moving into my range was the Flaming Star. This is going to be one of my targets for this season although after my initial visit last month I was left severely underwhelmed! However, tonight was a different story (isn’t that always the way!). I spent time on this target with E21 (x100) and E13 (x150), both coupled with the Astronomik Hb filter and to my amazement it was visible! The nebula seems to be in two parts, there is the faintly “flaming” section that moves away from the two bright stars which frames nicely in the E21 but reveals more detail in the E13. And then there is a broad “tail” section that curves away like a big comma “,”. This comma section is easily seen in direct vision and is a lovely wide feature that is easily traced away from the centre 2 star section. It’s a long tail and cannot be framed in the E21. The wavy flaming section is framed in the E21 and as you sit and stare, the Hb does reveal shadows within the background. Increasing magnification to x150 brought out the flaming section but now you need to pan around it. I am so glad that this was a successful target, the last “dud” session had made me lose some interest in it. I will now revisit it as it gets higher in the sky to see if more detail can be revealed... IC417 – I paired the O3 with the E21 and headed for IC417. I found plenty of gas visible in this area but as I traced around it, it did not seem to match the view on sky safari? I was also short of time with the moon starting to pop its head out from behind the Pennines. I shall need to revisit this but it looks like a worthy target. NGC1931 – I could see this nebula on the sky safari map located nearby so I dropped over to take a look and found a small bright patch of nebulosity within some stars. I need to come back with the Ethos8 (x250) to get a closer look. Another target noted for this season... Ode to the Weather Gods The outlook for the next week looks good (at the moment!). The moon will continue to wane and also struggle to get out of its bed. There seems to be up to 3 clear nights on the horizon And its forcast for cloud on Thursday when I will be at the cinema watching “The Last Jedi” so my Ode to the weather gods might be about to pay dividends… Enjoy, Alan
  12. Date: Friday 15th December 2130 – 0245am Scope: 20” f3.6 Lukehurst Dob with Paracorr (fl = 2089mm) Choosing my time The forecast was for clear skies from 5pm through the night. I decided that I wanted to wait for neighbours to go to bed & had my eye on goodies around Orion from 1am. Therefore a 10pm start was sounding good & I had just downloaded series 3 of “The Tunnel” on Sky. So, we watched the first three episodes (of 6) which took us up to 9-20pm and I decided that “it was time!”. Getting ready Since my last report, I have constructed a small eyepiece case for three Ethos EPs. I planned to make use of this and leave the 21mm and the 8mm in the house where they would remain warm and ready for me to bring them on as substitutes later in the night! The temperature in the shed was -0.5 degrees when I arrived and I quickly got the scope ready. A small tweak to one screw on the primary was needed to get me collimated. Cold Tingle The night turned into a game of two halves, my feet were gone by midnight and with Orion not quite “in range”, I wimped off for a 20 minute warm (hot water bottle for my feet & two glasses of hot water for my body). It also gave me the chance to grab the warm eyepieces that I had left inside earlier. For info, I am constantly running a 2 inch eyepiece heater tape on full power so the EP in the scope is always warm. My secondary also has a constant heat from a Kendrick micro heater set at the minimum 15-20% setting. Conditions Transparency was good, the sky had been reflective all afternoon! My only concern was the humidity, I could see some low glow to the sky to the south and this was surely the hanging water in the atmosphere but would it be a problem higher up? First half report (2130-0000) M33 glx – Always my starting point and it did not disappoint (it has been really giving well these past 2/3 weeks). I as well practised on this target and it was simple to pick out 4 arms straight off. The two main arms were wide and almost 3D like as they seemed to lift up of the rest of the hazy inner disk below. With some concentration, the fifth arm came and went underneath the core. As time passed the vast array of NGCs started to be seen and identified. My focus tonight was to try to bag the 2nd of two NGCs in the top left corner. I had bagged the other one (IC132) last time out. With the Ethos13 (x150), I eventually started to see both of the NGCs (IC132 & IC133) around the location of a single and a double star (from the milky way foreground). I could see an arm swinging through the pair of them but only faintly. Pleased with this I then spent further time letting the galaxy drift in and across my view. It is such a giving target and you really can imagine that you are flying over the surface as this massive galaxy drifts across the EP! http://www.seetheglory.com/star-clusters-and-nebulae-in-the-triangulum-galaxy-m33/ NGC891 glx – My “usual” second target of the night. The central dark lane was not as giving as last time out but the central region with its bright bulge was displaying a lovely thick portion of the dark lane. It was more tenuous out to the sides. I swapped in the E10 and the galaxy grew to almost the full FOV. The central lane was no easier to see but I stayed for some time as I really enjoy trying to get more from this edge on galaxy. M34 OC – With the E10 in the scope, I decided to “add a bit of variety” and centred on M34. I have not been here in a while and it really stood out (Pleiades-esque) in the full FOV (x200). The stars were varied & bright. It’s a nice cluster for sure. California neb – Sticking with the “variety is the spice of life” theme. I decided to head for the California next. I started with E10 and Hb and the view was way too dark, I did not like it so in with the E13 (paired with a UHC), “great, that’s better”. A lovely bright nebula revealed itself. It covers a huge area (plenty of nudging needed) and strands of nebulosity are seen in all directions (up/down strands, left/right strands, curvy strands). The edges of the nebula are well defined and easily traced, revealing the sheer size of this nebula. Nice! (This UHC view bested any Hb view I have seen with the 20” ). Flaming star neb – Back on track and onto the Flaming Star. This target is on my main list for this season and I am determined to catch it at its best! I had the E13 and Astronomik UHC loaded. There was plenty of nebulosity on offer “under and to the right of a bright star”. The lower parts of the nebula were well defined and clear. There was plenty more to see to the upper-right and round/down through the wide “tail section”. This view was “as good as any I remember”! IC410 neb – Another regular from my list. Again E13 and UHC. It showed as a large bright nebula. The best bits are around the edges of a star cluster where it is bold and contrasty against the background. The edges/sides are much fainter but they are clear enough to follow around. IC417 neb – I had two cracks at this target during the night. The first was E13 & UHC with it being a difficult target to tie down. There was nebulosity around. The edges appeared as a black outline but it was easy to miss and head off “out into the wilderness”. I returned later (during the second half) with the E10 (x200) and no filter. Wow what a difference! My best view was achieved, the nebulosity was much easier to see. The edges were better defined and the strange “platypus nose” section was there to see! M1 crab – The E13 & UHC were still in the scope. The crab was clear but hard to define the edges. In with the E10 and no filter. “That’s better”. The central section was brighter with a “shifting shape”, the surrounding outer regions were lighter and provided some contrast against the central region. Neither region had a sharp edge and the nebula just shimmers and changes as you watch it drift by. [My feet are dead, its time for a warm. I close the roof and head inside…] Second half report (0020-0245) I returned rejuvenated by my warming break and armed with the Ethos21 and Ethos8 that had stayed inside so far (to keep warm and USEABLE). The sky seems darker than when I departed and the bright low down glow has also receded. No point hanging about! Orion is now well placed. I drop the southern side of the shed to “get down on it!” Flame neb – I centre Alnitak on sky safari. The E13 is still in the focuser wrapped in its warm blanket and no filter is present. At the eyepiece, the Flame looks fantastic (no filter is the way to go!). I see an “upside-down three pronged cactus” hanging there, suspended in this white cotton wool cloud (or something like that anyway!). This was my best view of the Flame. I throw in the Astronomik Hb filter. The three pronged cactus is gone. Now a shimmering less distinct black patch sits in a bright white patch to the right of Alnitak. The filter has brought out the white section but the black cactus has lost its sharp edges. I revisit later with a UHC and find a view that is neither one nor the other of those above. The cactus is still “less” and the white is “less” too. Horsehead – With the E13 and Hb loaded, I nudge down to the Horsey. It’s not “just there” like it was the last time out when it was “bold as brass” and stood there smiling at me. But, it was there! With some careful positioning in the lower EP, the dark patch section was seen in direct view. The Nebula lane was bright and wide but the Horsey would start to fade as it rose up through the FOV. I tried the UHC. As expected, it was now harder to see the Horsey. But, I could tease out the black area and glimpse it if I tried. M42 Orion – I have a warm Ethos8 (UHC too) and its time to get into M42 & the “baby bird”! WOW , the nebula is fantastic. Is x250 view better than x200? Not so sure, it is great but so was the view in the Ethos10 last time out. (one to ponder!) After nudging around and admiring the “corner lot” & “the valley” at the top of the birds head. I start to map out the stars. First thing, I notice is that I cannot see all those I saw last time out. (MT has gone, [MV, P1923 & P1972 are there but they are faint and much harder to see than before]). The “candle star” is seen in the E8! (Forgot to look for this last time) and I check behind the “valley” to see 2+2+1 stars so that must include KS & LR from @Johnpic. LV & LQ were not seen. I throw in the E10 (& remove the filter), it’s easier to “focus” the stars & into the trapezium we go. Five stars are seen (the sixth is glimpsed occasionally). I notice that the trapezium stars are “different colors!” (A = yellow, B=brown, C=white, D=yellow, E=red, F=maybe red?) Rosette neb – The E21 is in the focuser for this target (with UHC). The nebula is so much smaller than in the E13 that at first I feel underwhelmed with the view. (The E13 view the other night was amazing). Anyway, I get my bearings (thanks to a quick look at sky safari) and now my eye is in. A lovely bright nebula surrounds the inner cluster, thick to the left and thinner below. There is variety in the nebula all around. The E21 frames it nicely but I will be going in “deeper” next time for the real wows! Cone neb – Here we go! I have been on this target a few times recently and tonight was the night, I was determined and the E21 and E8 were “ready and able”. I starting with the E21 and Hb, moved to the E8 and the E13, finally back to the E21. My description is really a summary of what I saw. The best combo was E21 and Astronomik Hb. Although the Ethos8 scores a worthy mention and I will use this combo again. Both bested the E13. With the E21, there was loads of nebulosity to see in and around the whole area. I nudged around, getting my eye in on the nebula gas. I swung up and under the cone concentrating on the nebula. Unlike the other night there was now plenty of nebula to the left of the cone so I focused as I drifted up to the left side of the cone. Still looking at the gas, I let the cone “come to me” and drift in. The first piece I saw was at the wide bottom of the cone. The surrounding nebula was seen above and beyond the cone. A jagged edge was seen marking the end of the cone. The right edge was teased out with not too much trouble and I did see the left edge more than twice (it has a bulgy like appearance if and when it shows up). The view is nothing like the image, there was no bright nebula line. It’s a black edge seen against the dim nebula to the side. The Ethos8 was a surprise, I only tried it as someone in another thread had had success with a 7mm. The Cone fills the FOV in the 8mm. The right edge was seen but without the help of the surrounding nebula its hard to get your eye in. The E8 brought out the glow around the double star at the tip. Seagull neb – My final target was the seagull. A new one for me. It’s very low in the sky so I was only using a sub-section of the mirror (the shed wall took the rest). With the E21 and UHC, I could tease out the long upright section, occasional branches off to the sides appeared. I could not find the head section. With the O3 [The paracorr2 is by now “freezing to the touch” and these filter changes are “killing my fingers”] the view was not dissimilar and I was getting “too cold to care”. Epilogue The side and roof were closed up. The scope was thick with chunky ice. Thermometer reads minus 4. Its been a good night with some “best evers” so with no complaints I head inside thinking of my “hot water bottle” to revive my dying fingers… Clear Skies, Alan
  13. Date: Thur 30 November 0250-0600am Scope: 20” f3.6 Dob with paracorr2 Preparation is Everything After an early morning session on Tuesday had shown me that Orion has passed (the sheds drop down side) by this early hour I had made a plan to get stuck into Ursa Major on Thursday morning as the weather was expected to be clear AGAIN! Yesterday, I put the wheelbarrow handles on and re-positioned the scope ready. Seeing that the devils orb (moon) would be gone by 0315, I set my alarm for 0230 (to allow me some time to get setup, collimate etc) so I could maximise my no-moon time before dawn would start to break. I have also added a 1cm thick layer of foam to the top of my eyepiece box to hopefully protect the unused eyepieces from the cold Not a good start It was 0250 by the time I opened the roof, having setup & collimated the big dob. I quickly performed the 2 star align for Nexus and tested it out on M37. Working! The pesky moon was still casting its milky shadow so I had a peek at a couple of targets from Tuesday morning to make a comparison of the conditions – Intergalactic Wanderer and Eskimo nebula. Neither were as good as Tuesday morning but I was fresh outside with tiny pupils and milky moon so I hoped it would get better… I was looking at the Eskimo in the Ethos8 and it was surprisingly easy to get a sharp focus so I decided to make this my goto eyepiece for this session and wrapped it in the heater tape to keep it in a useable condition. As I can’t keep all the eyepieces warm I decided that E8 and E13 would be my two of choice tonight. Darkness finally fell as the moon finally decided to go bother someone else… Planetary Appetiser Eskimo planetary – Ethos8 (x250) With the darker sky, the Eskimo came to life. The unfiltered view showed the centre star surrounded by two circular disks of nebula, an inner brighter disk and an outer dimmer disk. With some time spent at the eyepiece a thin black circle developed between the two disks. I tried the UHC which made the nebula brighter and the disks more distinct, the star was now harder to see. The black circle was not there but I saw a black blob or mouth shape coming and going with averted. Looking at the images this morning the blob could have been one side of the black ring I was seeing earlier. This target will need a re-visit or more power… NGC2372 planetary – Ethos8. As the target came into view I thought it was a merging galaxy, it had 2 cores surrounded by some elongated dust. I checked sky safari to discover it was a planetary nebula! Its an unusual target for sure. Medusa nebula – Ethos8. This planetary took me by surprise as it is so Big. I had to double check the sizes in Sky Safari and change the eyepiece to the E13 (x150) to get it into the FOV. Unfiltered it was pretty faint but the UHC helped to improve the clarity and shape of this large cloud. I pondered why it was called the medusa as I couldn’t see why? I did ponder the O3 but decided I could not be bothered with all the on/off and changing my gloves, it was UHC or nothing from now on! Galaxy group NGC2294,2291,2289,2288,2290 – I came across these on Tuesday morning and they were quite a treat at x200. This time I had the E8 at x250. The galaxies are not easy to see and that makes getting them into the FOV a bit of a challenge. With Nexus to help it was soon accomplished! The galaxies make a nice semi circle shape, three of them are easy to locate and with some concentration, you can see that they are decent size. I managed 4 on Tuesday, but now I could see all five of them. 2291 is a toughie due to its larger size and 2288 is small in comparison (this is the one I did not see on Tuesday). If you have decent aperture then these are worth a visit, it’s a view to rival Stephans Quintet with the plus that each of the galaxies also appears larger to the eye. Owl neb – Ethos8. The owl is large at x250. It is circular with undefined edges. Inside the shape you can easily see two dark circular blobs (the eyes). I threw in the UHC and felt that there was no real improvement. The two eyes remain ghostly and it’s a target that takes some concentration as it drifts across the view. It felt like I had the right eyepiece for this target as it was nicely framed in the E8. This is what I waited for! With the new dob, its going to be like “the first time” all over again as I will hopefully get a new experience with my favourite targets – galaxies. M82 glx – Ethos8. What a way to start! M82 fills the FOV with its massive cigar like shape. The centre core is wide and bright to the top of the galaxy centre. There is a surrounding lighter grey cloud going out both sides and under the bright core. Two black”darts” pierce into the galaxy from outside. The view is so “image like” that I have to spend a decent amount of time trying to see more and more. M81 glx – Ethos8. M81 fills the FOV at x250. The large bright central core sits in a pool of dust that surrounds it. This central area is surrounded by blackness as a gap in the lanes is discerned. There is an outer circular halo that marks the galaxies faint outer edges on two sides. I can sense an arm circling on one side of the galaxy. The other side edges are less clear and the arm there remains unseen. Ethos13 – At x150, the galaxy is better framed but the detail does not match that seen at the higher magnification. M108 glx – Ethos8. The galaxy has no central core, the brightest area was to the left of centre. I could see darker central areas inside a larger dusty cigar shape. My notes concluded that it was an unusual view! Intriguing – I will be back for more! M109 glx – Ethos8. Another side-on galaxy. It had a large bright core with dark areas above and below (arm gaps) The gas arms were faint but they was there sweeping around the edges. Averted helped with the arms but I could not see the direction of spin so they were “incomplete arms”. M106 + 4248 glx – Ethos8. M106 fills the FOV at x250! It appears as a stretched out “S” shape. The lower S is bright and clear but the upper S is much fainter. What a great target You can also see NGC4248 sitting just off the lower arm. M51 glx – Ethos8 (x250) = WOW! Now I know why I moved to a 20” dob! You move the galaxy into the FOV and THERE IT IS, IN ALL ITS GLORY! Just like a photograph, the two huge spiral arms wrap around the central core (no averted vision needed – they are just there in front of you!). I sit there loving the view. Then you start to see little NGC5195 at its side and look for the “bridge”. Actually the bridge was only clear with averted! In direct vision there was a section missing out towards 5195. I remained for quite some time and the galaxy seemed to be fading away as I watched, the dawn was coming I dashed over to the Sunflower and M94 but was underwhelmed after M51 so back I went for some more… It was fainter now AND THE COLD WAS STARTING TO BITE INTO MY TOES I decided to call it a night, it was 0600. Epilogue After I closed the roof and turned the light on, the UTA was covered in real ice crystals, chunky ones. The shroud was sparking in the light as the ice droplets reflected the light. The thermometer in the shed read as -4 Walking back to the house, I glanced up at Ursa Major. To my surprise I could see M101, M51 and a mystery third patch by the side of the ploughs handle – A SIGN OF THE GOOD CONDITIONS. (As I observe without my glasses, the only time I see the sky naked eye is during initial alignment or on the walk to/from the shed - another plus for Nexus - no need to wear my glasses!) When I got inside my house, I saw my new APM 16x70 EDs sitting on the desk and the enthusiasm to go see those grey patches beat off the cold chills. I got back outside and saw both M51 & M101 through binos FOR THE FIRST TIME. I ran around the house and bagged the Double Cluster and Andromeda for good measure. The cold north wind caught me and I felt the “Brrr, its time to go inside” feeling flood over me... Clear Skies, Alan
  14. Date: Tuesday 1st January 2019. 1845-2200hrs. Scope: 20” f3.6 Lukehurst Dob with Paracorr (fl = 2089mm & f4.1). Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS. Eyepieces: Plossl 55mm (f2 x38). Filters: Chroma 5nm Ha CCD Filter. Moon: 0% Introduction. Seems like a long time since I saw a cloudless sky (because it is!). But last night was forecast clear and sure enough by 1830 the sky was clearing from the North via a light NE wind. I had repositioned the dob for some Milky Way action earlier in the day and I quickly got setup with my Ethos10 to complete the 2-star alignment for my Nexus wifi device connected to Sky Safari 5. I had a quick look at M33 to confirm the alignment and was pleased with the detail on offer, decent arms and several nebula patches showed within the galaxy at x200. The stars were pretty sharp too which is nice since the mirror still needed to cool to the outside temperature. I switched to Night Vision, I added my new Chroma 5nm Ha filter to the bottom of the Paracorr2, then inserted the 55mm Plossl (and added the eyepiece heater tape that would surely be needed later), then finally attached the PVS-14 Night Vision directly to the Plossl using the TNVC/Televue a-focal adapter. Observing report. The Milky Way had not quite cleared the shed roof so targets were limited to begin with, the California nebula was available so I started there! California nebula – WOW what a start! I was treated to my best ever views of NGC1499/sh2-220. Both long edges appeared 3D like real texture. There were occasional brighter sections along the edges. The “Whales Eye” seemed to have extra hollowness and depth. I discovered a new protruding section to one end that I have not noticed before. I found that I preferred the view with the gain down as more features were easily seen than with the gain on full which made things a little too bright for my observing eyeball. LBN749 – Barnard 3 and 4 – Not sure that I have ever observed this target before but it was nearby so rude not to. I saw a decent sized nebula patch around the star Atik. The nebula surrounding the cluster was easily seen in direct vision (Barnard 3). Averted revealed a line of nebula out (Barnard 4) to a single star the other side of Atik. It was hard to see any nebulosity near Atik itself as the star was so bright. Sh2-238 – Hinds Var neb – A challenging object. I was able to see a faint patch next to a star. I played with the gain but was unable to get much more from the target. Sh2-246 – I observed a long vertical patch. It had a curved bottom and the top left corner seemed to come to a point. The outer edges were easily seen and traceable. Many black sections had been cleared by stars incl. a nice multi star patch bottom left. Sh2-215 – A faint patch embedded in a star pattern. Tough one. Sh2-213 – Two double pairs of stars with a faint patch in-between them. The patch is nearer the left pair and there appears to be a star with black surrounding it within the patch. Sh2-216 – The nearest planetary closest to the sun. It was bigger than the fov of the Plossl! It seemed to be almost half moon shaped. The edges were clear. Sh2-221 – Large “Africa” shaped patch with clear edges. Upper section contains intricate black lanes within. Sh2-219 – Small bright patch with a central star (sits at the side of sh2-221) Sh2-217 – Medium sized patch easily seen. Central star in a small black central region. Sh2-212 – Very bright fuzzy patch of medium size. Two stars seen within the patch. Sh2-211 – Small bright patch easily seen. Sh2-210 – Large nebula patch with a black area inside it. It sits next to a very large area of nebula making it hard to separate which is sh2-210! Sh2-207 & sh2-208 – A medium size patch easily seen with a very small patch to the side (easy to miss). Sh2-209 – Patch with a central dark area (to the right hand side). A black elephants trunk is entering from the left hand side. Sh2-206 – Nice. A star appears almost entirely surrounded by nebula (just a tiny gap is there). A very bright section dominates the view. Turn the gain down to reveal a fainter section around the star. This one deserves a revisit with more magnification (but once the heater tapes/gloves are on then I cannot be bothered with changing eyepieces!) Sh2-218 – Sky Safari has this correctly located. It is large and is shaped like a “fat sausage”. The top section appear pretty empty of detail. Flaming star (sh2-229) – WOW! Almost 3D like appearance. Wonderful bright “line” details within and plenty of “bellowy clouds”. New detail (for me) seen as we enter the tail section. I can see a double corner section and tiered sides to the tail. This has always been a disappointing target for me but last night I appear to have broken my duck – it really was wonderful. I now need to revisit and see if I can tease more out of the surrounding area (sh2-230). IC410 – Another best ever view, so much more contrast on offer. The nebula is thick and lush. There are two black eyes peering out at me (one eye is actually made of three dark patches with averted). The left cheek is very bright as are the tadpoles. There is a horizontal line seen underneath (not noticed this before) that seems to underline IC410. Great. IC417 – Another nice target. With the gain turned down, I can see a beautiful spider (or maybe an octopus?) with two stars for eyes. Nice. Sh2-237/NGC1931 – “The fly”, small and very bright. Sh2-235 – bright, decent sized patch easily seen Sh2-231 – sitting next to 235. Larger patch but quite faint. Sh2-233 – sitting next to 231. Tiny patch. Faint, has a central star. Sh2-232 – sitting next to 235. Large faint patch. Seems to have two horizontal lines running through it! Sh2-241 – A triangular patch. I see a small black crescent inside. There is a small bright patch on the bottom corner. Sh2-242 – A bright patch. There is a bright star just off centre which has black surrounding it. Sh2-243 – FAIL. A triangle of stars seen but unable to get any nebula. M1 crab – Wonderful but small. I counted six elonged bubbles with bright edges within the overall patchy shape. Nice. Needs more magnification but I’m too lazy to change eyepieces. NGC2174/sh2-252 – The Monkeys Head was superb with new detail on offer to me. Firstly, there was a new bright circular section obvious at the lower/back of the “cheek”. There were two curved black lanes running from the forehead backwards and curving down “like hair line”. There were a number of brighter sections down the face “eyebrow, nose bridge, lips, bright dot near ear”. There was also a new fainter section below which seemed to “fall away” from the main face features. Great! Sh2-247 – Faint, decent sized patch easily seen. IC443/sh2-248 – Another great view of this SN remnant. The front “Jelly fish” was bright and clear in direct vision with texture and fine details seen within. The tendrils that fall back towards the bright star was clearer than I have seen them before with no averted needed. The Jelly fish seems to be pushing against two waves of nebula as you pan to the right. If you keep going then you come to a large patch of IC444 which was also easily seen. I had been noticing clouds building to the west and it was now that they were mostly all over, I had a play with the Rosette, Flame, Horse head and M42 through the clouds before I decided to call it a night and go watch the final of the Darts instead Thoughts of the observer. This was the first real run out for the Chroma 5nm Ha filter and it could be co-incidence that I had several “best ever” views of some targets that I have visited many times and am familiar with but I don’t think so. It seems this filter is a step up on the Astronomik 6nm Ha filter. The Chroma filter works well with very low gain without scintillation and this allows the user to get the gain down to remove some of the overly bright features that may be disguising fainter darker features around them – I like it. The Horse head really came out as a black horse once I got the gain down but I need to do more experimentation without the clouds. I really enjoyed finally getting some mileage out of the “Flaming Star” which has never really blown my socks off. It really had depth and a 3D feel to it! I look forward to exploring that whole area next time out… The Chroma filter really made IC410 better as the central black areas were just there in direct vision, previously I have needed some averted to get into the blackness. And the spider IC417 was just “in your face”. I thought I had seen as much as I could from the Monkeys Head but apparently there was more to be seen and it really was a joy to suddenly encounter several new features. Wishing you a happy 2019 & clear skies, Alan
  15. Date: Friday 10th August 2230-0245 Scope: 20” f3.6 Lukehurst Dob with Paracorr (fl = 2089mm & f4.1). Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS. Eyepieces: 55mm (f2 x38), 27mm (f4 x77) Filters: Astronomik 6nm Ha CCD Moon: 0% Before we get started This is a long report. I will mark the most interesting stuff with underline should you wish to scan it and just digest the meaty parts… It’s clear and dark! I head outside just after 10pm and get the big scope setup & check collimation (all ok). I have a plan to continue to view nebula using Sky Safari 5 (wifi connected to my Nexus) and have a marked up copy of “Astrophotography Sky Atlas” by Bracken on the desk ready… Start with some brighter stuff, its still early… With the roof pushed back and two-star alignment completed, I head for Gamma Cygni (IC1318a, b & c) – There seems to be a mismatch between Bracken and Sky Safari where Sky Safari has the IC1318 labelled a, b, c top to bottom but Bracken labels the top nebula as IC1318b? I added the Astronomik 6nmHa CCD filter to the Paracorr2 and inserted the 55mm Plossl then attached the PVS-14 NVD to the Plossl. The views were wonderful! (even without full darkness), the nebula was showing as bellowing white clouds with real texture, occasional black patches and lanes could be seen within the lush whiteness. I took my time and nudged around finding myself first of all bumping into the huge bright Crescent nebula at one end and the fainter but intriguing Pelican at the other end. IC1318a – I specifically targeted the “a” top section and was rewarded with a lovely bright “dagger” shaped nebula. There were black patches seen within the varying brightness shape and I had to nudge around to see the whole thing. NGC6914 – I moved across to the nebula NGC6914 closeby and saw lovely lanes of nebula in all directions. There were some very bright areas within this nebula. A real treasure! Propeller – Next up, the Propeller which was easily seen as an “S”, with a bit of time at the eyepiece the other cross sections came into view. Maybe it was still a little early to see it at its best but I forgot to come back later. Veil – Onto the Veil and it was a sight to behold, equal to my best ever viewing of the other night. The western section was showing the split at the top into three parts (so I knew it was going to be good). I traced my way around the now familiar parts of this huge complex. For the first time I noticed that the lower western section has a “broken claw” shape within it (just below the bright star). The other highlight was seeing two intertwining strands of nebula along “the thin thread” section, like someone was twisting two wires into a twisted-pair. I noted wonderful bright details and outlines in the eastern veil and enjoyed the holes and knots within Pickering’s triangle. Sh2-128 – Its getting visible darker now so onto some Sharpless. Sh2-128 was seen as a very small patch but easily seen. Sh2-127 – slightly larger “double patch” but fainter than sh2-128 IC1396 Elephant trunk – I have visited this a lot recently, but tonight it was later and darker than previously this week. I was rewarded with superb white nebula and easily spotted black patches of varying shapes and size. The centre elephant truck was lovely and sharp, the outer trunk has less defined edges and I worked to see a right angle notch in the corner of the nebula for the first time. NGC6946 Fireworks glx – After my success of getting the arms on the previous night, I had to come back for another look. This time I found the arms harder to see. I got them with averted vision but I don’t remember it being as hard the night before? Although I did note a faint showing of the third small arm underneath as what seemed like two small globular like patches pointed the way. Wizard – Up next, the wizard. I picked out the “horse” and “camel’s back” and the brighter areas noted on previous visits. Bubble – The bubble was really good. It was surrounded by a larger, fainter nebula structure not seen the previous night. It really is quite a large area. The bubble was round and bright with the central brighter section really shining brightly. Really enjoyable. Sh2-159 – uneventful blob of nebula. Sh2-158 – Nice. Double circle of nebula. Two stars peeping through and very bright section to the left hand side. Also confirmed that Sky Safari has this area as blank – it labels the area around “sh2-159” as “sh2-158”! M52 cluster – bumped into this lovely tight cluster as I roamed around this area of sky. Sh2-170 – Large textured nebula patch. Two stars in the central blackness. NGC7822/sh2-171 – After resolving some confusion as to what was sh2-171 (it’s the same as NGC7822), I found a thick lane of nebula with a bend in it. Bracken describes it as “Cosmic Question Mark). Up close in the dob then the question mark was not really how I would describe it (but I did some x1 NVD viewing later and IT IS more like a question mark at very low magnification). Nice bright nebula. CED214 – A real treat but seemed much smaller than on my last visit. Lovely 3D texture and varying white/grey/black colors. Looked like a “fist and knuckle duster” to me. IC63 – Right angled corner of bright nebula. Small. (Bright star nearby causing reflections so would ideally need more magnification to get it out of the fov). IC59 – Right next door in same fov. Straight thick patch of nebula. (Same star reflection problems as above). Sh2-173 – Decent sized nebula patch with a big hole in the centre. On images this morning, it looks like a “mask”. I did not note that so I now I will have to return for another look…! Sh2-175 – tiny nebula patch around a star. Pacman – This was the highlight of the night for me. First time that I have managed to get the whole of the big mirror onto the target (shed walls reducing aperture on previous attempts this year). Wowsers! It looks absolutely nothing like the view through traditional eyepieces with the 20”. I saw an “angel” not a “pac-man”. A white, textured angel shape, there was a black cactus under the left arm. Cactus splits off with a small side branch. Two small black holes seen in the whiteness. I held the sky safari image to the side of the eyepiece and did a side-by-side comparison. Lovely. Sh2-132 – bright arrowhead shape. Two black lanes cut into it. There were two small brighter sections, one left side and horizontal and one right side and vertical direction. Sh2-135 – small space triangle. Sh2-157 – One of my favourites, a very large “heart” or “space squid” with an extra bright small circular patch within it. It has lovely outer edge detail all around. There was an extra small line piece of nebula out to one side. Sh2-158 – small patch just to the side of sh2-157 Sh2-163 – small faint patch Sh2-166 – small even fainter patch Sh2-168 – Triangle of stars shaped like a “segment” overlayed with a semi-circle of larger nebula on top. Very bright central area. Great. Images this morning do not reflect what I saw. The prominent “segment” does not come through on images. There is some black gas coming into one side, this must be part of the segment? Cave – I bumped into the Cave by chance and it was looking great against this dark sky. Better view than on previous nights this week. The black cave section stood out well against the surrounding nebula. The leading edge like a tidal wave pushing through the sky. Galaxy Comparison I removed the Ha filter and headed for my first NVD viewings of Andromeda and accompanying companions. I began by switching to the Ethos10 and removing the NVD to get some views to compare against. M31 was great in the E10, with the two black lanes extending well out into space. M31, 32, 110 – The central part of M31 was really sharp in the 55mm Plossl and NVD. The core was a lovely bright circle. The two black lanes were really sharp as they passed though the bright central dust. As the lanes moved out into space they became harder to trace than with the E10 previously. M32 and M110 were both clear and sharper with NV. M110 was larger with the E10. NGC147 & NGC185 glx – Another side by side comparison yielded similar results to M110. I found them larger in the E10 (but I was using x200 magnification) yet they were just the same patches in the sky with the NVD (yet only at x38). Hard to say which was best. They certainly had more contrast and were easier to hold with the eye with NVD. But I was starting to get tired by now. Stephans Quintet – Onto one of my favourite night sky objects. With the E10, I saw the central triangle of galaxies and centred the group. There was another galaxy close-by. I do not remember seeing both cores in the merging galaxy (which I have seen before with big dob). With the 55mm Plossl and the NVD the quintet are obvious (at x38 magnification), NGC7331 appears in the same fov. I nudged them central and one of the central triangle of galaxies is missing, there was a central two galaxies. I could see 4 galaxies in the area, one was next to a star. I need to come back when I am more awake and repeat this exercise once again. Interestingly, when I centred NGC7331 I could pick out the same 4 flea galaxies to the side at x38 magnification that I saw with the E10 at x200 (mind boggling). Box kite in the Sky M76 – In the area I saw M76 and nudged over. I am glad I did! What a surprise. I was expecting a mini dumbbell and instead got a “box kite in a circle”. The box kite had a white box at either end with a larger central black oblong shape. The whole thing appeared to be within a circular structure. At x38 it was very small to the eye. The view did not resemble anything I have seen with traditional eyepieces. Another one to revisit with more magnification on another night. Tiredness gets us all in the end! By now I was really tired and decided to close up the shed and grab some x1 milky way views by attaching a 1.25” 12nm Astronomik Ha filter to the front of the NVD. It was 0230, so I had managed 4 hours and the list of targets had been huge. I have not mentioned many old friends that I happened upon during the night, just those that made it into my notes. The wonders of x1 with NVD and Ha filter I scanned the sky holding the NVD direct to my eye and looking up. I focused the NVD by turning the front objecting using the Seven Sisters as my target. Bang! There’s a big log of nebula next to the Pleiades (California), Boom! There a multi patched nebula coming up over my neighbour’s house, looks like a flying bird (IC410 & Flaming Star). Moving up a nice pair of nebula (Heart & Soul). Into Cassiopeia and several smaller blobs of Nebula (maybe Pacman). Keep moving, and there is the IC1396 Elephant trunk (some black detail within), onwards to very bright North American and Pelican next door. Into, Cygnus and very bright detailed blobs around Gamma Cygni. The main drawback of x1 is the wear and tear on your neck! Dawn is not breaking It was 0245 when I made my way back inside and looking up the Milky Way was still clear and wide. The black streak between the two arms still looks really black and stands out lovely against the sky. Only a month ago the Sun was forcing me inside at 0200 and now it’s nowhere to be seen… Seems the astronomy window is opening once again and I am a happy man! Clear Skies, Alan
  16. Date: Saturday 4th August 2230-0010 Scope: 20” f3.6 Lukehurst Dob with Paracorr (fl = 2089mm & f4.1). Eyepieces: 55mm (f2 x38). Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS. Filters: Astronomik 6nm Ha CCD. Moon: 0% Make a decision and have a Plan With a clear night forecast, I had spent the afternoon deciding between (a) Borg89 and planets, Sagittarius or (b) Big Dob and Cygnus? I even thought about doing both! Anyway, I decided on Big Dob and taking on more nebula in and around Cygnus. My plan was to use “The Astrophotography Sky Atlas” (by Bracken) and try to find nebula that are missing from Sky Safari (which seems to be quite a few!). I marked the pages of interest with yellow post-it notes so I could find them quick with my torch later. Alignment Woes Last time out I was not quite happy with the collimation, so I spent an extra iteration with my Howie Glatter laser & TuBlug to get everything spot on. Note that I always collimate with the Paracorr2 in the scope as it does move the laser pointer when added to the light path. Once happy with the collimation, I pushed back the shed roof and was greeted with thin wispy clouds passing over . Finding two nicely spaced alignment stars for my Nexus push-to was not going to be easy. Luckily after a couple of minutes Alderamin appeared and I quickly aligned to it as the first star, I then get Albireo as the second star and was good to go. I confirmed my alignment with a quick look at M56 with the Ethos10. Straight into Gamma Cygni I swapped the ethos for the 55mm Plossl and attached the PVS-14 NVD to the eyepiece. I attached the Astronomik 6nm Ha CCD filter to the Paracorr2 and pushed the scope onto Gamma Cygni. To my surprise the nebula was sharp and clear, so I nudged around to get my eye in playing with the “gain” (on the NVD) to get the most contrastiest view possible. As the gain is lowered, then the Signal to Noise Ratio is increased so more of the target becomes visible. You still need averted vision to tease out those finer details though… Gamma Cygni gave out some great textured views and I lingered on the areas where the lush texture of the nebula was interspersed with thick black hydrogen lanes. These are the areas that catch my eye every time . Heading West It was time for my first referral to the Sky Atlas (p15) and I decided upon the Crescent and Tulip nebulas as my next targets. Crescent – The crescent filled the 40 degree FOV of the Plossl and showed lovely bright structure within which I could see black shapes and cut-outs that revealed its finer features. With some averted vision I could begin to make out the circular upper structure and it began to appear as a “backwards number 9” shape. The detail kept revealing itself the longer I stayed at the eyepiece. Tulip (sh2-101) – Onto the Tulip (which I have observed before but at that time I did not know it was called the Tulip just sh2-101). The view was of a “backwards C” shape filled with nebulosity. With averted vision I could see what looked like a “grasping hand” darker shape within the overall structure. Back to the East Back to the Atlas, and selecting sh2-104 & sh2-106 as I close to the shed wall and needed to go back the other way. Sh2-104 – It appeared as a quite small brightish blob. There was some undefined shape and varying brightness within. With the sky still showing wispy cloud I did not want to waste any time changing eyepieces so pushed on to the next target. Sh2-106 – This is a target missing from Sky Safari so I had to nudge around and hunt for it. Eventually I found a small bright patch. The patch was made of three sections. A brighter middle section and then two outer sections (one either side) of a dimmer nature. [ To make it easier for next time, I picked a star in Sky Safari that was in the centre of the circle showing my FOV and added that star to my observing list! ] Checking images on the internet this morning, there is no doubt that I saw sh2-106 so I am happy about that. Vdb-133 – next came an unsuccessful search for vdb-133 which is next to sh2-106. I hunted around but could not locate it. Sh2-107 – then another unsuccessful search for sh2-107. It is in Sky Safari but when I centred the scope on the target there was nothing there to be seen. I nudged around a while but nothing. [ Looking on Wikipedia this morning it seems much fainter than sh2-106 so I need to try again under pristine dark skies… ] Nudge down to the Veil I did wonder whether to skip the Veil as I have seen it many time before BUT it’s just one of those objects you HAVE TO SAVOR! (image oriented to match my view at the eyepiece) Western Veil As soon as I put my eye to the eyepiece I knew I was in for a treat! The upper section of NGC6960 was showing the split into three parts (I only saw a split into two on my last visit). I journeyed down the bright lane of nebula past the star to the tip, then across to Pickering’s Triangle. Pickering’s Triangle was stunning. The wispy lanes and finer details within the triangle were just brilliant. I could see the small “E” curve to the left and the long bendy NGC 6979 to the right very clearly. Below NGC6979 were a further two small patches (one labelled “F”, the other below that). Moving up I could see both “G” and the wispy lane to the left of “G” too. But the most memorable piece for the night was “The Thin Thread”. On my last visit I could just make it out and follow it up but tonight it was clear as day and also showed multiple threads! [ We have had a lot of rain over the past week so maybe the sky is extra clear for once? ]. Continuing up the thread it split into two forks at the top and I was able to see “D”, “C”, “B” and “A” over the top. [ I missed out looking for these last time so made extra effort tonight. I also bagged “H” as I header right to the Eastern Veil. Eastern Veil As I dropped down onto the IC1340 & NGC6995, it looked like the roof of a VW Beetle! Two parallel curvy lanes with some cross pieces and a couple of brighter blob sections (IC1340 was one of them). It was so bright, there was a lush patch of nebula bottom right just before the long bright NGC6992 came into view. This section was very bright and detailed but I kept returning to Pickerings and the Thin Thread. NGC6979 really did show its shape very well last night. Propeller Nebula (DWB111) Right, after that excitement and a check of the Atlas, I decided to seek out the Propeller nebula. This is another object missing from Sky Safari. I had had a go at finding it last month with no luck but tonight is another night! With the aid of NGC6866, I nudged down SW and my luck was in, I found it . It was big and very bright, an unmistakable “S” to the eye. I nudged around and discovered that this area of sky is rich with long lanes of nebulosity which are mostly quite bright and traceable. Back to the propeller and with time at the eyepiece the initial “S” started to take on the look of a “double S”. I spent some time observing the Propeller and once again picked a central star from the FOV shown in Sky Safari and added it to my observing list (to make finding it easier next time). I will be back as this area was so full of nebula but the wispy clouds were returning so I pushed onto the next target… Sh2-112 – I recognized it immediately from my previous visit. I was greeted with the “letter C shape on top of a long stick” that I had seen before but it didn’t last long. After a few seconds it faded into haze. I looked up and the clouds were thickening. North American & Pelican – Onto something brighter. The North American is probably too big for the big dob. But I managed to nudge around and see the brighter sections before the clouds took over and my view progressively diminished more and more… Thoughts of the observer. So much for the forecast clear night! It was a pretty short session of around 90 minutes. I felt disappointed as I closed the shed roof as I was “on a roll” and had been successful finding some new (to me) targets. The views of the Veil had been my best ever so I took heart from that and I had managed to find the Propeller which was definitely worth the effort. The area around the propeller was full of nebulosity so I will be sure to return. I was glad that I had added some star markers into my observing list to make my chances of revisits that much higher. It is nice to find objects but I really want to spend as much time as possible observing them. The sky did seem a little darker last night so I think the worst of the bright summer nights may finally be behind us! Clear Skies, Alan
  17. Date: Thursday 8th March 2018 2150-0210am Scope: 20” f3.6 Lukehurst Dob with Paracorr (fl = 2089mm) Waiting for a Sign! Signs were that I may get out for a session (after a two week barren spell). Skies were cloudy at 8pm and the cat came in a little on the damp side so I was a little disheartened. I got up and looked outside at 9-30pm and the sky was clearing so I started to get ready… Not a Good Start Once setup and aligned, I decided to start with some comets. Using Sky Safari I found three well placed comets overhead: C/2015 O1 PANSTARRS C/2010 U3 Boattini 74P/Smirnova-Chernykh I failed to locate any of them and so that was a depressing start. Time for a Nebula! I switched to planetary nebulas. Fitted the O3 filter and headed for the Eskimo in Gemini. Using both the Ethos6 (x348) and Ethos8 (x250) I could see the central star surrounded by a bright circular disk which was itself embedded in a dusty halo. The circle was bright with the E6 but harder with the E8. I headed over to the Medusa and was surprised by its size. I ended up with the Ethos13 (x150) where I could see the large curved leading edge. The actual finer detail was hard to tease out and I tried both the O3 and UHC to try to see more. I found the UHC best but this was a difficult target and I felt like I had not seen as much as I should have? Now onto the Owl. E13 unfiltered. A nice circular cloud was seen with the two big black eyes coming & going from view. I tried the UHC and it improved but I have seen it better. Six Supernova Anyone? Having spent some of my spare time (in the last two weeks) setting up a “supernova” observing list in Sky Safari. I asked the app to highlight my list and was presented with a clear galaxy hopping trail ready to be explored… I also made pre-prepared sketches of the SN galaxies and surrounding star patterns so I have something to refer to as I try to orientate myself with the sky region. NGC3158 & SN2018aaz – After checking my sketch, I quickly had the galaxy centred in the E8. It was a nice size but I could not see the three close in dots from my sketch. Switching to the E6 (x348) revealed more of the smaller stars and I matched the star pattern. Inside the galaxy halo I could see two dots. One of these could have been the SN? UGC5049 & SN2018pc – At my first attempt last month, I got this SN easily with the galaxy showing easily on that night. Two further attempts had failed to reveal even the edge-on galaxy! Tonight I could see the galaxy and sure enough there was the SN tucked nicely into the centre. SUCCESS NGC2746 & SN2018iq – With the E8 loaded, I quickly located the galaxy next to a star. There was no sign of the SN until I swapped in the E6. SUCCESS NGC3367 & SN2018kp – I have had a couple of goes at this SN already with no success. My shed wall was obscuring my view on those occasions but tonight I seemed to drop lucky and I could get a good view of it. I tried with E6, E8 & E10 eyepieces. The star pattern was easily matched and I had learned a lot from my previous attempts too. I think I finally did glimpse the SN but it was only brief glimpses of a “second dot” in the right place within the galaxy halo. The halo was showing particularly well last night (maybe the extra magnification of the E6?). SUCCESS NGC3384 & SN2018yn – I quickly located the host galaxy and then discovered that I had not made a sketch of what to look for! I made a star chart of what I could see ready for verification this morning instead. The galaxy was a good size and showed a nice halo. I managed to see a dot within the halo. Looking at the images this morning it seems more likely that I saw the core than the SN as the core is much brighter on the images. NGC3941 & SN2018pv – Onto the brightest of them all. I have seen the SN several times already and I must say that it was very hard to split it from the core last night (harder than on previous visits). Even with the E6, the centre looked more like a dual core. A “clear gap” was not seen. SUCCESS (almost) Oh well, four from six ain't too bad. Worthy of a Mention I spent the rest of my session taking in galaxies from Ursa Major down to Leo. Some targets worthy of a mention were... NGC3163+3159+3161+3150+3151 – Five galaxies in the FOV. All of them pretty easy to see. A group of three and a group of two. Ethos8 (x250). A very nice vista. NGC5350+5353+5354+5355+5358 – Another five galaxy view! This view had the bonus that two of them were interacting with each other. Great! M87+4478+4476 – A nice “curvy” trio of bright galaxies. Forever the Optimist Lets hope for a few more clear nights as the new moon approaches! Alan
  18. Date: Wed 18th April 2210-0230am Scope: 20” f3.6 Lukehurst Dob with Paracorr (fl = 2089mm) Time to Setup The crescent moon had made its way over to the west and the sky was beginning to reveal plenty of stars, so I headed outside around 10pm. [ It was hard to decide exactly what to wear as I had been too warm last time out and it was surely warmer still this evening? ]. There was a slight breeze and there seemed to be less of a wet reflection coming from the lower southern sky than last time out. After removing the scope cover and inserting the Paracorr2, I quickly collimated the scope with just a tiny tweak to one nut on the primary needed. I slid the roof back with ease (its so much easier when the warmer nights arrive!) and locked it down. After performing a 2-star alignment, I tested out Nexus on a nearby bright star and did a quick star test to assess the situation, diffraction rings looked good and not too many bubbles from the air currents in the tube. Be Prepared My targets for tonight were a supernova in NGC4151, Hickson 55 & 56 then to grab a galaxy fest in Leo. No time like the present My first target was a revisit to the supernova in NGC4151 (SN2018aoq) which I had bagged last time out. Tonight it was much harder to get the SN in direct vision. Even with the ethos6 (x348) and ethos8 (x250) the SN came and went from my view. I did revisit this later in the evening but it was no easier to hold the SN in direct vision than earlier. Let the Lion Roar! Next, I headed into Leo to target some different galaxies from Saturday night (when I had been in Ursa Major). NGC3190 + 3193 – Ethos10 (x200), nice pair, one edge-on and the other side-on NGC3226 + 3227 + 3222 – A nice “pair” with a separated companion. NGC3344 – E6,8 & 10. E6 showed black areas where inner arms are located. Seems to be a miniature whirlpool galaxy! NGC3605 + 3607 + 3608 – E8. A nice trio of galaxies. Two bright and one small and faint. NGC3628 – E6,8,10. Huge, thick side-on. Large black lane running through the galaxy off centre. Very nice. M65 – E6,8. Small bright side-on. Seems circular with arm blackness visible. M66 – E8. Huge side-on fills the fov at x200. Arm blackness seen but no curvy ends. NGC3367+3377 – E8. Not quite in the same fov. One bright side-on and the other a fainter fuzzy patch. Nice. Next up, a cruise (nudge) around M60 area bagging NGC4647, M59, NGC4606+4607 Siamese Twins+ NGC4564 – E10. Lovely trio of galaxies. Twins appear a good size and nicely shaped. 4564 is small & bright underneath. NGC4491+4497 – E10. A pair of faint galaxies but well separated. M87+NGC4478+4476 – E10. A bright trio of galaxies. M89+NGC4550+4551 – E10. A nice pair of faint galaxies with M87 standing nearby. M90 – E10. Huge! Lovely side-on galaxy. Markarians chain – Now to try something not done so far with big dob. In with the Ethos21 (x100) and cruise (nudge) around the chain area. I saw what seemed an endless stream of bright small galaxies with the occasional “pencil” shape of an edge-on here and there. Glad I tried this! NGC4762+4754 - E10. 4762 is an incredibly “thin stick” of an edge-on galaxy! Small side-on galaxy 4754 nearby. Back to my “planned” observing Hickson 55 (ARP329) – After taking a while, I found the fuzzy patch in the E13, I slipped in the E8 for a bit more magnification. I was unable to pull any details of the individual galaxies out of the fuzzy patch. Hickson 56 – After locating the patch of galaxies with the E13, I tried E6 and E8 to reveal some galaxy members! With the E6 I saw two (maybe three) cores but with the E8 I saw 4 cores playing a strange glimpsing game. They seemed to appear to me two cores at a time, blinking in and out of vision in a random melody! Ursa Major won't be ignored! M81 – E13. The full scale of the side-on galaxy was apparent. I traced around the outer rim easily but no arm details were observed. M82 – E13. Looking very bright in the centre. The black “dart” was obvious. A better view than Saturday night for sure. I then slipped in the E21 and tried to get them both in the same fov. Alas I did not quite make it and had to see them one at a time. NGC4236 – E13. Back to revisit this huge flat edge-on galaxy that I happened upon on Saturday. I found it less visible strangely but its sheer size was apparent. I tried the E21 and it was visible but fainter. M51 – Time to try the whirlpool with the E21. It was surprisingly good! Appearing bright with arms very clear. The whole bridge was not quite there though. Switching to E13, E10 & E8 I found that both the E8 and E10 showed the full bridge connection to the companion NGC. M101 – Starting with the E21 I found the galaxy easily and could make out the top/right arm. I noticed a couple of NGC “internal to M101” twinkling at me (that I had not noticed on Saturday). Switching to the E13 revealed three lovely curving arms, a view that was not bettered when I tried the E10. Over to Coma Berenices Mice galaxies – E10. Finding the mice was a real challenge! I had found them easy and bright on Saturday (but not tonight). After plenty of nudging I finally located them but they were very faint indeed. NGC4657+4656 – E10. This was an interesting sight. A long thin edge-on with a little “flick” at one end (the companion). Nice. Whale + companion – E10. The whale was big but not as bright as Saturday. The companion was there but again “less” than before. Seems the conditions were deteriorating… NGC4625+4618+IC3668 – E10. There are two galaxies and one of them has a bright nebula superimposed on top of it giving a strange brightness at one end. Moving on through the Silver Needle, Cocoon, M94 & M106… M109 – E6,8 & 13. I desperately tried to get some structure in M109. Nope. I get areas of blackness where the arms are but could not tease out the arms. M13 – E6,8,10 & 13. Over to the Hercules where I found the best view from the E10 (x200). A lovely bright core observed with a nice “bulge” and 3D effect in the centre. The conditions made the higher powers less bright and pleasing. What a SURPRISE to finish! NGC6166 – What a find to finish with. I centred the NGC and noticed some faint patches of “other” galaxies nearby. After checking sky safari, I was surprised to find this area is “packed” with galaxies. I threw in the E8 and could easily pick out 4 or 5 small galaxies around the vicinity of 6166. I have added this to my “observing list” to come back on a better night to see how many galaxies can be teased out in this area. By now my eyes were tired and my ability to stay at the eyepiece was becoming shorter. With MORE clear nights to come (I hope), I decided to head for bed to recharge my batteries… Clear Skies, Alan
  19. Date: Friday 26th January 0400-0645am Scope: 20” f3.6 Lukehurst Dob with Paracorr (fl = 2089mm) “Please Sir, I want some more?” Well, it’s been pretty thin gruel so far in January here in Cumbria, with only three sessions out with the dob. I spotted a potential dawn raid for this morning a few days back and the weather forecast kept changing its mind whether it would be on or off! As is customary for me, I set my alarm for 0300 knowing that the full moon is around the corner to banish me to the TV for another 10 days or so. Last chance saloon... “The artful dodger…” I was up at 0300 and the sky was clearing from the North. So I got dressed and headed outside to my shed. The sky above was pretty black with plenty of stars… I got the scope unwrapped & collimated then rolled back the roof… Clouds! - I ended up sitting around for 30 minutes as a large bank of the fluffy stuff passed over then it started to clear again I spent the time identifying potential target Comets in Sky Safari and well as heading back to the house to grab my sketches of a couple of supernova that I hoped to check out too (that I had forgotten). There were soon enough bright stars above to get my Nexus fully locked & loaded (two star alignment completed). The star test on Arcturus was pretty encouraging too. “Bless their dear little hearts” M51 glx - Starting with the ethos10 (x200), I pushed over to M51. Two bright spirals encircled the galaxy (pretty large too at this magnification). NGC5195 was big and bright too. The arms were not at their best and the bridge was a challenge too far. I dropped down to the ethos13 (x150) but gained little. I know from my visit on 30Nov what M51 can deliver so I left feeling a little disappointed… M101 glx – Back in Nov, M101 had not cleared the shed roof. Now it was straight overhead. This was my primary target for the session. With the E13 still loaded, I centred the galaxy on the iPad. At the eyepiece the galaxy started to come into view… Immediately it filled the whole fov of the E13 and I settled to observe and start to work out what I was seeing (thin cloud was still out and about overhead at this stage). I started to make my first sketch of the view in my mind (so I could put it on paper in a few moments…). An arm to the far left, an arm to the far right with bright patches at the end. Another arm coming down underneath. Black bubble upper left. Over to the desk to put it on paper. Back to the eyepiece. I am now seeing three arms, they seem evenly spaced… Another quick sketch. Back once more. I am starting to notice small bright areas in averted vision dotted around. Concentrate on those arms, plot out their paths in my mind… Back to the paper for a third iteration. I add these "M101 internal NGCs" to my sketch as "X" marks the spot. Now a look at an image in sky safari. Not bad. Pretty close actually… In with the Ethos21, not as good. Back to the E13. This continued for a while until I started to ponder dawn and my other targets… onwards! Back to M51. No better. Owl nebula - E13. Unfiltered. Small "cloudy" patch. The "eyes" were coming and going too! M82 – E13. Long and very bright. One clear black “dart” into the side. Cannot find the second “dart” that I have seen on previous visits. M81 – Shed wall taking away some of the mirror. Its big and round. I can see a clear circular edge but its missing its heart. M108 – long and thin. I spot a bright sparkle to the far edge, quick check on sky safari, yes its PGC…. embedded in the far edge. M106 – A lovely “S” shape (not as clear as previously seen) but half the “S” is pretty clear. I spot a galaxy to the side (NGC4248). I nudge it to centre and spot a pair of galaxies to the side (NGC4231+4232) and so on through 4220 – 4218 – 4217 – 4226 [Thought of the day crosses my mind - How do observers with big dobs and no push-to identify all these galaxies, there are just so many ??? – I love galaxy season!] NGC5981,5982,5985 – I stumble upon a lovely trio of galaxies framed nicely in the E13. A thin edge on, a small side on and a large side on. Worth a look next time you are out! NGC6217 & SN2018gj – The galaxy is not well placed with the shed roof apex in the way. I line it up and head to the eyepiece. I can see the galaxy (its long and faint). I memorize some star patterns from the view and compare them to my pre-prepared sketch. There are three close stars on the sketch but I cannot match them to the view. I see three stars but they see too far apart. FAIL. I am sure the SN was there in the view but I did not identify it exactly. “You’ve got to pick a Comet or two!” 62P/Tsuchinshan1 – failed, too low in sky. 2016 N6 PANSTARRS – E13. Small and faint but reasonably well packed. Pretty easy to spot. Switched to the E10 and a small dot core appeared surrounded by a compact dust circle. No tail. “We have none of us long to wait for Death. Patience, patience! He'll be here soon enough for us all.” I decide it’s time for a Globular finale and line up on M13 Hercules cluster. M13 gc – In the E13 it looks bright and compact. In with the E8 (x250), that’s more like it. Bright and blinding with varying shades of background dust within. Stars all the way to the centre. My mind turns to my new Ethos6 (x348) and I have to give it a go! WOW. Unexpectedly, the stars can be focused all the way to the centre. M13 is now huge (over half the fov) and so many stars. Its also on the move (at this magnification) and nudging is needed. I settle on a side-to-side drift and enjoy the view deep into the centre. M3 gc – Over to M3. The E6 is not focusing well on this target. Back to the E8, that’s better! Another lovely globular. I watch it for a while… M92 gc – Time for another. E8. Very nice but not as good as the other 2. I try for M5 but its too low. "How light a thing will disturb the equanimity of our frail minds" Dawn is coming in the east, I try another target but its diminishing returns at this point. I decide to call it a morning! I feel much better now I managed to get one more session in before the full moon. On the plus side, “Galaxy season is upon us” but on the negative side, “its only 8 weeks until the clocks change”, I hope my weather luck changes in February… Clear Skies, Alan (Embedded a few quotes from "Oliver Twist" by Charles Dickens, I reserve the right to change the odd letter or word )
  20. Date: Sun 13th May 2300-0245am Scope: 20” f3.6 Lukehurst Dob with Paracorr (fl = 2089mm & f4.1). Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS. Eyepieces: 55mm (f2 x38), 35mm (f3 x60), 27mm (f4 x77), 18.2mm (f5.8 x115). Filters: Astronomik CLS (Visual IR pass), Baader 610nm Red, Astronomik UHC, Astronomik 6nm Ha CCD. Astronomik 12nm Ha CCD. UK in for a Clear Spell! The next few nights are forecast clear for us in the UK, so I was able to get out last night for a bit more galaxy experimentation… Leo under Darkening Skies Obviously at this time of year the problem is that it does not go dark until very late, even at 2300hrs I could only see the main constellation stars visually, but as I have learned “that won’t stop the Night Vision from seeming MORE…” Tonight, the plan was to compare unfiltered with the Astronomik UHC views of face-ons using the 55mm Televue Plossl. M66 – (Unfiltered) Eventually, after some playing with the “gain” (of the PVS-14) and using averted vision techniques, I got to see the “S” shape of M66. The best method to get the arms out seemed to be to turn the gain down low then inch it back up. At some point the arms would come and then stop there. It was hard to hold the arms in view for very long though. (UHC) With the UHC fitted, the background was darker and presented a better view. The arms could be teased out as above but to a lesser extent. M65 – (Unfiltered) Presented a “swirling halo” with a black streak running under the front edge. (UHC) Similar view with the UHC too. NGC3628 – Long wide side-on with thick black lane running through. Slightly better unfiltered. NGC4535 – This is going to be a good one at the right time of year. It has a beautiful intricate arm structure. Unfiltered I could see a small circle created by the arms around the core. With some time and averted the outer arms did come and go! Again, slightly better unfiltered. M99 – (Unfiltered) I could see one clear arm swinging out over the top. With some time and averted then I could pick out the two arms underneath too. UHC not tested. M100 – Two long spiral arms coming and going. I did not get to see them as well as the other night M88 – (Unfiltered) There was a definite “swirling” effect seen within the halo along with tiny black bits within the halo. I could see a longer black area over the top. M91 – (Unfiltered) Showed a bright central bar with two black sections on either side. No arms seen. M58 – (Unfiltered) Showed a bright central bar with hints of tiny arms close in to the bar. Time for Ursa Major M108 – (Unfiltered) Long thin with varying brightness and texture. A nice bright view. Will visit again with the 35mm tonight! M109 - (Unfiltered) Bright central bar. Delicate arms hinted and occasional sighting of two very thin arms leaving the central bar near a close in foreground star. Black areas to each side of bar. Occasional circle arm seen. M106 – (Unfiltered) Big bright halo in a sweeping “S” shape. Swirling effect visible in the halo. Lovely. M51 – (Unfiltered) Wonderfully sharp and clear view of the arms and the black intersection within the halo of the nearby NGC. Specs of tiny black dust lanes within the spiral arms (although I was seeing them more towards the side of the arms !!) Clear view of the bridge. M101 – (Unfiltered) Lovely arm structure on offer! Three main arms with real definition in shape. One arm has a separate section that breaks off. Internal NGCs seen to both right & left extremes.This view was “up there” with my initial view of M101 when I first used my night vision. I had had a couple of “fails” on M101 recently and now I know that this was due to inaccuracy in my Nexus alignment. I was in fact viewing a nearby galaxy on those other night rather than M101 itself! (I need to choose some alternative alignment stars tonight!). Golden rule = If it doesn’t look like M101 then it probably is not M101. M101 – (UHC) Lost the outer arm details. Arms still there in centre section. (610nm) Nothing much on show. Conclusion = Unfiltered > UHC > 610nm. I also tried the 35mm Panoptic but the arms were “less” than with the 55mm Plossl. Time to Scan the Milky Way at x1 with the 12nm Ha filter As my favourite galaxies continued their drift into the West, I decided it was time to put the PVS-14 direct to my eye and scan the Milky Way. I installed my Astronomik 1.25” 12nm Ha CCD filter into the front lens and placed my Sacrificial Window over the top to hold it in place then looked up. After focusing the PVS-14 and turning the gain all the way up, I was awed at the great Nebula on offer... Within Cygnus I could see the North American (Faucet) nebula as bright white, I could see the cloudy blob of the Elephant Truck to its left. Within Cygnus the intricate detail of the Gamma Cygni was wonderful. But the best surprise came as I scanned South and bumped into four bright nebulosity blobs in Sagittarius (Eagle Nebula for one!). I am going to try my 1.25” Castell UHC tonight and see what that does to the view of the Milky Way… I noticed that Andromeda was much harder to spot with the Ha filter installed. It was massive the other night at x1 with no filter. Clear Skies, Alan
  21. Date: Tuesday 20th February 2200-0200am Scope: 20” f3.6 Lukehurst Dob with Paracorr (fl = 2089mm) Not the best conditions Conditions were not the best, a reduced number of visible stars was on offer and an overall greyish look to a normally black sky but it’s been a week since I last got outside so out I went! Comet Boattini Success C/2010 U3 Boattini – I can finally say that I have seen this comet! I managed to confirm the sighting from last week, it had only moved a slight amount and I confirmed this morning that it is very slow moving comet. In the E10 it was a faint small fuzzy patch below a small group of stars (which I recognized from last week). In the E8 (x250) it was an improved fuzzy patch (but still hard work) and finally in the E6 (x348) I got glimpses of a “dot” core but it was very hard to focus as this was too much magnification for the conditions. Still, I am pleased to have finally tied it down! ARP "Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies" Yesterday I created an “observing list” in Sky Safari of all the ARP galaxies. (If you search for ARP to get a list returned then there is an option at the bottom of the list to move them all into an observing list). My mission tonight was to get started on some of them… ARP300 – Chosen purely because it was near to my current sky location. Using the E10, I saw two fuzzy galaxies. One was brighter and more circular. ARP9 – A single galaxy. Bright core with a surrounding dust halo. ARP80 – I saw two round galaxies (2633,2634) and with averted vision a third appeared (2634A). It seems that only 2633 is referred to as ARP80. ARP141 – E10. I saw a “dot” core within an edge-on galaxy. It was faint but obvious. NGC3735 – A nice long edge-on galaxy with a bright core. ARP329 – A chain of 5 galaxies! Very difficult, with the E8 I could see one galaxy and with averted maybe two more. Need to come back on a better night. ARP299 – E8. I could see what looked like a bright galaxy with two cores (two merging). There was also a fainter side-on galaxy off to the side. ARP104 (Keenans system) – E8 (x250). Two obvious bright circular patches. Did I see hints of a bridge or wishful thinking? ARP285 – E8. I saw a pair of circular galaxies. Pretty easy. ARP1 – A big faint side-on galaxy which seemed misshapen off one end? ARP6 (Bear Paw) – A cloudy circular patch. No claw seen. Other galaxies of note NGC2683 - After performing my initial 2-star alignment, I had tested the results on nearby NGC2683 “the ufo galaxy”. In the Ethos10 (x200) it appeared as a bright edge on galaxy with a large fuzzy core. There was a fainter outer halo. Definitely one for a revisit… M82 – In the E8 (x250) it showed as a very bright edge on galaxy filling the fov. The black dart piercing into the galaxy was very clear along with other mottled marks within the brightness. The brightness was greatest along the upper edge. M81 – A bit of a challenge. In the E8 I saw a bright core surrounded by a dust halo. With averted vision I was able to extend the halo out further but it really wasn’t responding well to the conditions. M51 – The time had come to visit M51 for the night. In the E8, the arms were magnificent and pretty obvious. I needed some averted to really trace them out to the sides and around the back. I felt that I could trace the “bridge” using averted too (unlike last time out). The bridge seemed to “kink” into the galaxy in the middle. I tried E10 (x200) and E13 (x150) but they couldn’t match the view in the E8. M101 – In the E8 there was plenty of surface on offer and I had a feeling of hovering over the surface. I could see a nice bright circular central region with arms coming off at 12 and 3 o’clock. (The galaxy was so big that the E8 could not fit it all in). I could see bright NGCs off to both sides contained within “incomplete” vertical arms). M101 was almost as good in the E10 and not as good in the E13. Still have not managed to catch it on the “best” night !! Time to revisit the supernovas! UGC5049/SN2018pc – Unlike last time out, I could not even locate UGC5049! FAIL. NGC3941 & SN2018pv – In the E8 I located the galaxy and I could see the core and SN together of equal brightness. The split was hard to maintain in my vision but coming and going. SUCCESS NGC2746+SN2018iq – I found and centred the faint circular galaxy. An intermittent “dot” was coming and going inside the halo. The core looks brighter on the image but this was a definite “dot of light” so I am marking it as SUCCESS It’s a wrap! With clouds coming and going, I called it a night at 2am. It was still reasonably warm compared to recent nights out and the scope UTA was dry! Clear Skies, Alan
  22. Date: Fri 4th May 2225-0330am Scope: 20” f3.6 Lukehurst Dob with Paracorr (fl = 2089mm & f4.1). Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS. Eyepieces: 55mm (f2 x38), 35mm (f3 x60), 27mm (f4 x77), 18.2mm (f5.8 x115). Filters: Astronomik CLS, Baader 610nm Red, Astronomik 6nm Ha. Make Hay While The Sun Shines! After just two nights, last night turned out to be clear sky all the way (which was not in the weather forecast). As it was a warmer day, I got out at 2100hrs to uncover the scope and turn the fans on. I headed out at 2225hrs with a clear plan to choose a setup and stick with it for the first hour (at least) to view as many Galaxies as possible BEFORE IT GOES DARK! I setup with the Panoptic 27mm (giving x77 @f4) and headed for the tiny Mice Galaxies (visible = Yes), then came Whale, Needle, NGC4725, Silver Needle, Cocoon, M94, 5033, NGC5350+53+54+55+58 (Five in the fov & very nice), M51 (plenty of arms on show), M101 (large hazy patch only), M82 (thick & very bright. Core split by black bar), M81 (very large& bright) Looking up the sky was still a shade of dark blue and over in the west it was much lighter. There was no moon but it’s a surprise to me that all these galaxies are visible when I can only see the main constellation stars! Hickson55 and its not even dark! Here is my observation from 18 Apr for Hickson55 -> And from last night (at only 11pm) -> “With the Pan27 I quickly located a small fuzzy patch and centred it. Then I turned the GAIN up on the PVS-14 and three tiny cores appeared in the view, then a forth came too”. This is with only x77 magnification (mind boggling indeed). Not a Fix All for Everything Emboldened by this success, I headed over to Hickson 56. Here is my observation from 18 Apr for Hickson56-> And from last night (at only 11pm) -> “One small bright blob of galaxies located. Cannot separate the cores at this magnification.” I meant to come back later when it was darker, but forgot! Back To Bigger Galaxies I upped the magnification by moving to the 18.2mm DeLite (f5.8 x115). M106 revealed a “shaped” halo with a distinct curve to the left side. NGC4449 – A very interesting irregular galaxy that looked like its picture in Sky Safari. Closer Study of M101 I now turned my focus to M101 and spent time comparing different eyepieces and 610nm & CLS filters. With my 21.6 skies the best view was “unfiltered”. It seemed that focal ratio was key to pulling out more arm structure. The 55mm Plossl provided the most arm structure. With the 8mm Ethos in the big dob I am able to pull three arms from M101 after spending decent time observing. It seems that even with Night Vision, M101 requires you to “get your eye in”. I was able to see (& sketch) two additional “partial” arm structures that I have never seen naked eye. I have confirmed them on images this morning. Closer Study of M51 Over to the Whirlpool with the 55mm Plossl. Wow, it was a lovely sight with all the arms “plain as day”. The bridge was lovely and the companion NGC had a real “comma” shape. I tried to “see” details within the arms but not sure I did even with the “gain” turned up. Other Notable Galaxies with a Dark Sky (now 1am) Cocoon – Looks very different with Night Vision. The larger galaxy now overpowers its smaller neighbour and seems much bigger than naked eye. The “interaction curve” is very obvious. Nice. Whale – The 55mm Plossl delivered up a treat here as not only could I see the Whale (and its tiny friend) but I got the “curved” interacting galaxies 4657+4656 in the same fov. It was a galaxy sight to remember! Needle – The galaxy was simply stunning against the darker sky. The core was small and sharp. The dark central lane passed across underneath sharp and clear. It’s hard to believe you can see so much at x38 magnification? Milky Way Rising Over in the east I could see the Milky Way wide in the sky. I removed the Night Vision from the eyepiece and put it in direct to my eyeball (x1). Wow! The Milky Way came alive with stars and nebulosity (even in the moon light). I reached for the Astronomik 6nm Ha 2” filter and held it in front of the PVS-14 objective by hand. POW! I was now overcome with Nebula. Cygnus was a revelation; I was stunned at x1 magnification. I had no choice but to move the DOB in the shed and get access to Cygnus TONIGHT! Part2 – Lost in Nebulas After repositioning the big dob, I loaded the 55mm Plossl and screwed the 2” 6nm Ha filter onto the Paracorr. I aligned the scope and chose my “Summer” observing list (Sky Safari). I headed for Sadr. I cannot give a comparison of what I saw around Sadr as I have NEVER seen this nebula before! The whole region is alive with varying brightness nebula. I happened upon some lovely textured brighter areas revealing intricate dark patterns within them. The 55mm Plossl was giving a 1.05 degree view and it was just not enough… I was lost in nebula! Time to try something SMALLER like the Crescent. Wow! Superb finer details seen in the very bright and obvious crescent structure. Like an image! I tried the 35mm (f3 x60) which gave slightly larger scale but some of the detail was lost with the focal ratio decrease caused by change of eyepiece. Back in with the 55mm… North American – Not well positioned from the shed, losing some aperture to the walls but what a view! The Nebula is so thick, it seems almost solid white. It’s like looking at M42 with the dig dob naked eye, that level of obvious nebula to the eye! Saw some new to me brighter bits within it, need to come back. The Pelican was much fainter by comparison but still now an “easy” target (just need more fov). Veil – The Veil was “on a par” with big dob naked eye I would say (it was poorly positioned so will improve with height), the whole complex was bright and visible but then it always is in big dob. Maybe, some areas were “more” but by this time and after all that concentrating, my brain was starting to give up! Blinking Planetary nebula – We NEED A NEW NAME as it does not blink anymore! Dumbbell – Nice and bright image. Very well defined straight edges. Ring – So very very bright. Piercing. Off To Bed With a Smile On My Face By 0330 I was dead on my feet. The sky was still clear and the moon had continued its rise. Yes – all these nebulas were seen with a 70% moon right next door in the sky! (Mind boggles again) Clear Skies, Alan
  23. Date: Thursday 17th January 2019. 0310-0640hrs Scope: 20” f3.6 Lukehurst Dob with Paracorr (fl = 2089mm & f4.1). Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS. Plossl 55mm (f2 x38). Eyepieces: Ethos 13mm (x150), Ethos 10mm (x200). Moon: 75% (until 4am) Introduction. Last night was one of those “nervous” nights when you go to bed early with clear skies outside (including a 75% Devils Orb ?) and set your alarm for 3am hoping the clear skies will still be there (but not the Orb)… I awoke around 0250am and checked outside, still clear! I dressed and headed off down to the shed… Once setup and having completed the alignment for Nexus, I headed straight for the supernova SN 2019np in NGC3254. (I had drawn a star map earlier from some of the posted images!) Supernova SN 2019np ? I started with the Ethos10 (x200) and could see the hazy galaxy patch with a dot in the right place for the supernova. I could pick out 3 other stars and went to check my star map. I recognized the 2 bright stars and swapped to the Ethos13 (x150) for a bit more of the field. I could still see the SN with the lower power but field stars were still at a premium (the moon had not quite gone in the West so the sky was being impacted). I switched to Night Vision and added the 55mm Plossl with the PVS-14 NVD attached. Now I was down to only x38 magnification but the galaxy and SN were clear and easy. I now had many more fainter stars to work with and returned to my drawn star map. I matched up a few more stars and hey presto – the SN 2019np was observed! Now, I sketched out a new map based on what I could see… Brightest Galaxy Observing List I had come across a post on cloudynights detailing a list of 210 brightest galaxies and had used this list to make an “observing list” in Sky Safari 5. Now it was time to highlight that list and see what Night Vision could make of these brightest few… NGC3432 – edge-on. Bright. Seems to have a black mark coming in on one side. Needs more magnification. ?NGC3184 – ARMS! Decent size too. Circle of arms around the core then backwards “S” of arms clearly seen. M108 – Flat edge-on disc. 2 bright patches (1 is core and other on RHS). Two large black areas above and below. ?NGC3631 – ARMS! Core surrounded by circular disk. Playing with the gain, I see what looks like a double arm up over the top. NGC3718 (+ 3729) – both galaxies seem to have delicate faint arms. 3729 is tiny. 3718 has a circular arm shape around the core & black patches on both sides. NGC3917 – faint vertical edge-on. NGC3953 – bright side-on. 2 black patches on either side. ?M109 – ARMS! Central horizontal bar then 2 sweeping arms in a backwards “S” shape. NGC3893 (+3896) – ARMS! 3893 is bright with a clear arm underneath which seems to exit at 12 o’clock and swing left, down and underneath. Tiny 3896 sits nearby. NGC3877 – Long flat edge-on with bright core. ?NGC3726 - ARMS! Bright side-on with circular arms close-in. Averted reveals a second layer of arms outside. ?NGC3938 – ARMS! A fainter galaxy but faint arms can be seen. NGC4111 (+4117) – Small edge-on with a bright core. Underneath lies tiny 4117. Just above I see a large faint edge-on (UGC7089) & another (PGC38276) is also faintly seen (separated by a star). ?NGC4449 – ARMS! This is an interesting one! It seems to have bright patches either side of the core that appear as a “vertical bar”. There is an arm underneath RHS (it seems to exit the lower bar). NGC4490 (Cocoon) – Vertical bar with curve of partial arm at top. Smaller NGC4485 to the side appears to have tiny “flick” arms. ?NGC4618 (+4625) – ARMS! 4618 has an arm to RHS. Tiny 4625 nearby surrounded by a tiny circular disk. Both galaxies are quite faint. M94 – ARMS! Very bright core then surrounding halo then blackness & finally a faint circular disk. Unusual. M63 (Sunflower) – Bright core with a halo then more of a bar style extension. Blackness on both sides. ?M51 (+5195) (Whirlpool) – ARMS!!! Core of M51 shows both arms exciting. The inner arm shows a black dust lane within as it comes down and under the core. Arms make it over the bridge then go beyond and curve back into NGC5195 (which has a bar shape core). ?M101 – ARMS!! As soon as it comes into the FOV, multiple arms are seen in clear view curving over the top of the galaxy. I start to sketch the arms returning for more information at the eyepiece multiple times. I make three iterations of adjustments to the sketch as time passes by… ?NGC4278 – ARMS! A smallish side-on with time at the eyepiece then arms appear as a spiral. [Looks like this is elliptical so the “arms” must have been the outer fainter halo?] NGC4314 – Bright core. Horizontal bar and black patches on both sides. No arms seen. NGC4414 – similar to previous. There is a bright dot in close to the core. ?NGC4559 – ARMS! Bright core and surrounding dust disk. Multiple arms coming & going with averted. NGC4565 (Needle) – GREAT. ?Long sleek edge-on. Bright central bulge. Lovely black dust lane running through. Galaxy gets longer with averted vision. NGC4494 – Bright core & surrounding disk. Blackness on both sides. No arms. NGC4631 (Whale) (+4627) – Long thin edge-on. Has bright line detailing on central lower side and a black dart section to RHS. Tiny 4627 sits underneath. NGC4656 (+4657)(HockeyStick) – Bright core then brighter one side out to a curve (4657). Other side of the core is less bright. NGC5005 – Bright core. Vertical disk side-on. The disk gives the impression of many tiny curved black lanes running within it. NGC4244 (Silver Needle) – Long, thin edge-on. Lacks brightness. NGC4214 – Core with a dust disk. No arms. Galaxies have slipped beyond the shed, what else can I find? ?M3 globular – Fantastic! Looks like an “Olympic speed skater”. It is resolved to the core revealing 100s of stars. There are so many fainter stars just outside the brighter core area too. NGC5466 globular – Faint and widespread with many fewer stars than the “big boys”. I see the shape of “Orion” within it! ?M13 Globular – Lovely and bright. The propeller is easy to see. The globular is resolved to the core with the central section so very bright and shimmery. Again, there are so many fainter stars around the edges of the bright core section. ?M5 Globular – Lovely and bright. I don’t get to bag this one often from the shed. It has an intriguing star formation that looks like there are “chains of stars” busy orbiting the centre in wide looping orbits. M104 Sombrero – Another rare sight from the shed. Its so low that the percentage of mirror on the target must be miniscule! But there it is… Sh2-73 – I notice some Sharpless coming up in the South. I throw in the Chroma 5nm Ha filter and manage to bag the large circular (egg) shaped patch of sh2-73. The edges are easily traceable. It is now getting lighter to the East and I decide to call it a night! Thoughts of the observer. It was a great start to bag SN 2019np so quickly. I love chasing supernovas so that got me into a great mood to start off! The 210 brightest galaxies should be a nice task for the upcoming galaxy season. I am hitting them with the 55mm Plossl as this gives me the fastest focal ratio for my setup and from my testing last April, is the best way to “see the arms” of galaxies, no matter how small they may be. I counted 13 galaxies showing their arms and I have to be pleased with that. Night Vision does just increase the odds of seeing arms in our favour but its not the silver bullet, the galaxies need to be bright and not too small to increase our chances. It was an added bonus to get into some Globulars. I love the way that the absence makes the heart grow fonder and I never tire of that “first night” explosion of brightness (especially after looking at faint galaxies. I even bagged an additional Sharpless for the icing on the cake. Finally, I was pretty cold when I came in. I am sitting in the study now with my feet on a hot water bottle and wearing a bobble hat on my head. The hot coffee is really hitting the spot too. Here is my Sky Safari Brightest Galaxy observing list should you wish to try it too…(you can import it into your Sky Safari - just email it to yourself then when you try to open the file in the email app it should offer you the chance to "open with Sky Safari") ! Galaxy High Brightness.skylist Clear Skies, Alan
  24. Date: Sunday 7th Jan 2030pm-0000am Scope: 20” f3.6 Lukehurst Dob with Paracorr (fl = 2089mm) Now the moon is waning, the big dob is itching to come out and play. I managed a couple of hours on Saturday before the Devils Orb made an appearance and tonight the sky was visibly darker than yesterday but not as giving, the milky way was visible and I could just make out the double cluster lying within but Andromeda was not seen (during my naked eye pre-flight sight check) as I glanced up after I arrived outside. These were new conditions for me and the dob, usually Andromeda is dead easy and M33 has been spotted. Still, I never miss a clear night (unless its full moon ) as you never know when the next one will come along! Attack of the "Comets" Once setup & collimated, I decide to start with some comets as they had been a bit of an afterthought the previous night (and a challenge too). Comet C/2017 T1 Heinze – Starting in Cassiopeia, I centered the Nexus/Sky Safari 5 combo on comet heinze. The Ethos13 (x150) was loaded. It was a challenge to find it at first but once I had it, I recognized the two stars nearby as the same ones I saw the previous night. The comet had moved an inch or so from where it was the night before (and they say that it’s moving fast?) . The comet was best described as a small faint fuzzy patch. It had been brighter the day before but clearly tonights conditions were not as good. I tried more power but the view was too dark. Comet C/2016 R2 Panstarrs – If Heinze was faint, then Panstarrs had fainted! Wow, it took some finding. I could not find it in the ethos13 but got it in the end using the ethos10 (x200) and it was a very faint fuzzy patch sitting above a field star. It was before 2100 so maybe when it got a bit darker then it would be better (but I forgot to come back!) Revenge of the "Nebulas" After a quick look at M35 open cluster, which was nice and bright, I headed for… Lowers nebula – With the ethos13 unfiltered, I could make out some faint edges and trace along them. I tried Astronomik UHC, O3 & Hb and there was no clear winner. This is a difficult target and was made more difficult as I had no idea what it actually looks like (& sky safari had no photo!). Looking at some images this morning then I may do better next time. It seemed to be oblong in shape but I found that it moved off in two directions. What filter is it supposed to respond best to? Cone – I had spent time last night on the Cone and had got the bottom edge then. Tonight was another story and I did not see much at all. I tried the ethos13(x150) & ethos8 (x250). With the E13, I noted that it was surrounded by plenty of gas (but not right up close) except at the bottom edge. The sides were not clear, the best I got was when I let it drift right out to the edge of the ethos fov and then maybe glimpses of the sides came and went? Strangely, I felt that the UHC was working better than the Hb. The Ethos8 proved useful on this target and I am convinced that it can be bagged in this eyepiece on the right night. Flame – The ethos13 and UHC were already in the focuser. As I moved to the Flame, it was disappointing compared to previous visits. I could make out some dark fuzzy shape but could not hold it in direct vision. There was no clear defined shape. Horsehead – E13. Onto the horsehead, not expecting much. But there it was. Yes, with the UHC. It was just visible and better than some previous attempts with the UHC too! It was best seen by moving up past it and then coming back down the gas lane until the dark patch just appears at the bottom the eyepiece FOV. Its easy to hold in averted vision from there. I swapped in the Hb filter. The dark patch of the horsehead was now darker and easier to pick out. I got it in direct vision a couple of times. Flame – Back to the Flame with the Hb. The flame was just visible with no defined shape. M42 Orion neb – E13 & UHC. I got a nice view of the "baby birds head" but it was not as bright as previously (sort of a "dull gull"). It was still nice and I nudged around M42 and enjoyed the scale of the nebula in its surroundings. M78 neb – E13 & UHC. Not viewed this in the dob yet, so centred it up. It was much brighter and larger than the view from my old C11. But remained an underwhelming target. I’ll come back another night to try again. Rosette neb – E13 & UHC. Wow, it looks good tonight. So much so, I wish I had the E21 which I left in the house to keep it warm. This nebula needs the big field of the E21 but last time I was here the darker background of the E13 had proved a winner. Well, my cold feet could do with a walk back to the house… Return of the "Ethos21" Rosette neb – E21 & UHC. Come back E21, all is forgiven! This is the best view of the Rosette that I have had. The E21 provided a lovely dark background (I did say the sky looked dark earlier) and now the nebula was full of texture. I saw several dark lanes within the clouds of nebula gas as I nudged around. I think this is my favourite nebula, there is just so much of it After this, my spirits were right up and I thought that a retrace of my targets with the E21 was needed... Cone – back to the Cone. E21 & UHC. Plenty of gas to be seen in the general nebula. I nudge around and up past the cone. There is a bright blob that catches my eye... Whats that? A quick check on Sky Safari and it’s the Hubble’s Variable Nebula (a new one for me) . I stayed a while longer but no real sign on the cone Flame – back to the flame. Now its much better with the UHC. I can see two dark chunky horizontal lanes. Horsehead – E21 & UHC. Yes, there it is. Dark patch now seen easily I swap in the Hb filter. The dark patch is once again darker and easier to see. Back to the Flame with the Hb. The dark lanes have lost their well defined edges but now I can see three horizontal lanes. M37 open cluster – A lovely cluster in the E21. So many bright stars. Heart warming Pinwheel cluster – E21. Another nice cluster with fewer stars than M37. Starfish cluster – E21. More of the same. Pattern less well defined. Flaming star neb – E21 & Hb. Seen but pretty faint. Visible in large areas. It’s a struggle moving around it as a whole and the tail section is disconnected. Not the best result but pleased to see it on this particular night. 2403 glx – The moon is starting to brighten the sky in the east so I decide to try a galaxy or two before I finish up. NGC 2403 in the E21 shows as a lovely bright patch of a decent size. I spend some time but cannot pick out the arms. With all this brightness it’s definitely one to revisit... With that, I decide that Ive had enough and its time to warm my toes... After closing the roof (which needs a bit of extra oomph to get through the ice now sitting on the track) and seeing the scope covered with a decent amount of ice, I am surprised by how cold it has got. Checking the thermometer in the shed, its showing -4. The top of the desk and eyepiece case have a lovely layer of ice too. It's still cold & clear outside now (as I type up this report), hope it remains so and lets me out to play again later… Clear skies, Alan
  25. Date: Tuesday 29th Jan 2019. 2015-2315hrs Scope: 20” f3.6 Lukehurst Dob with Paracorr (fl = 2089mm & f4.1). Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS. Eyepieces: Plossl 55mm (f2 x38), Panoptic 35mm (f3 x60). Filters: Chroma 5nm Ha filter. Moon: 0% Make Hay While The Sun Shines. The Weather forecast changed and was now showing as two clear cold nights coming my way. I have had a couple of sessions already but we all know that you must “make hay while the moon is away” in this game! My plan was to hit Orion hard and make up for the disappointment of the windy night last Sunday which kept me inside until Orion had passed the drop-down side of the shed. Tonight I also planned to bring the Panoptic 35mm into play for a little more magnification (x60) on my chosen Ha nebula targets. An Initial Run with the 55mm Plossl. I had myself setup (in the shed) and aligned (Nexus 2-star) by 2015hrs and loaded the Chroma 5nm Ha CCD filter onto the Paracorr2. Then inserted the 55mm Plossl and attached the PVS-14 Night Vision Device to it using the TNVC a-focal astronomy adapter. Flaming Star – First up was the Flaming star. It provided a decent view with some wispy fine detail including the two right angles of the back corner and multiple bright fuzzy lines at varying angles within). The 3D view of “my best outing” was not repeated on this occasion so I determined that the sky was not “at its best”. IC410/417 – I nudged over to IC410 which was looking good with three black holes on one side and another large black hole on the other side. The nebula was more lush than the Flaming star and I enjoyed the view. Over to IC417 where the “spider” was visible but again not “at its best”. M1 Crab – I headed down to the Crab and was rewarded by 5 nice ovals shapes interlinked in a bubble like structure. It took time and averted to tease out the outer bubbles whereas the central bubbles were much easier. NGC2174 Monkeys Head – Over to the Monkeys Head and I was greeted with a very bright and “in your face” view of a neanderthal man. The edges of the facial features showed several bright areas. There was a tiny nebula spot set away from the mouth and a bright spot around the “ear”. The larger right patch to the neck (that I have seen previously) was there but took some averted to see it. Sh2-269 – small bright “angels wings” shape. Sh2-267 – medium sized faintish patch. Sh2-268 – Faint and large. Like an upside-down pear drop. I could see black detailing inside around a line of bright stars. Sh2-270 – FAIL. I am missing this Sharpless object and I failed to find it once again! I found a “candidate” but internet research this morning says that it was not it. I have compared sky safari location to an image and it seems they are slightly out so I have added a marked into sky safari ready for my next attempt. This object is only 1’ x 1’ size so maybe I need more magnification? HorseHead IC434 – Up to IC434 and Wow it’s really wide and bright. I nudged above Alnitak and there was a lovely shapely horse head. The head showed the snout and neck but I was also attracted to the bright white line that was running through IC434 as it was really standing out. As I nudged around, it really was amazing to see just how long and wide IC434 actually is. The whole of this region is just full of a faint nebulosity glow. Flame – I nudged down to the Flame and at last it was a view to savour. My last couple of visits have been underwhelming but tonight it was standing out bold as brass. I could make out many wispy black details to the RHS and see the small black circle to the LHS. It really was nice but I had to go back to the horsey as it was probably “beating it” for loveliness tonight! M42 – Fantastic. I swore out loud as M42 swung into view. God its bright and God its lovely. The swirling, looping nebula behind the fish head is overwhelming. The ray of black hydrogen spewing out of the mouth of the fish head is like an “oil leak”. There is so much to see that I settle in on my chair and let it float across my fov several times as I try to tease out a detail that I have not noticed before. Tonight I settled on a couple of black areas to the LHS lower of the fish head. I even though that I could see the Candle Star sitting in the fishes mouth. I could see all 4 trapezium stars clearly so maybe the transparency was improving… Running Man NGC1975 – Time to get into Orion and start with my on-going challenge to see the Running Man. I am gradually building up more mental notes to help with seeing this difficult target. I could easily see a very bright patch sitting over three stars below M43. I could see a black finger coming down the LHS of the 3 stars. I got distracted by further nebulosity down underneath an open cluster below and became confused as to where the black legs of the running man actually are? Sh2-278 – Triangular kite shaped nebula but faint and time needed to get to grips with it. Time to Increase the Magnification with the 35mm Panoptic. The image presented by the 55mm Plossl (when used with Night Vision and a fast focal ratio scope) leaves a lot to be desired especially around the edges of the fov. The 35mm Panoptic does not suffer from these issues and provides a sharp edge-to-edge view. However, the 35mm only acts as a 0.7x reducer so some image brightness is lost compared to the 55mm Plossl. Therefore, you need to use more “gain” (a knob on the PVS-14) to compensate for the darker image. From my experience the 55mm Plossl seems to always win out because the brighter image just shows more stuff and I just ignore the outer edges of the FOV. Flaming Star – Back to the Flaming star and I could see some nice texture and details within. The larger image scale meant more nudging was needed and I felt that I preferred the 55mm on this object. IC410 – Very nice and the extra brightness of the nebula meant that nothing felt lost on this target. I felt the 35mm was the winner here. M1 crab – A nice view. The bubbles were now a little larger but I felt that I was not seeing more than with the 55mm so I will call this one a tie. Fox Fur/Cone – With the 35mm loaded, I wanted to see if I could get more from the Cone than the other night. I started at the central star cluster and nebulosity was showing all around except for near the bright stars which seemed to have cleared a nice black patch over them. I nudged up and right to the Cone. It was pretty obvious as it came into view and a decent size too. It felt like it was an inch long and both sides were clearly visible running to a sharp multi colored double at the point. (With NV I cannot see colors but I can see shades and it was noticeable that the double stars were not the same color). I played with the gain control trying to get more out of the cone with not much success. It’s a difficult target and although I could see it easily, if the same view had been presented to my wife then she would have said “where is it?”. I nudged left and right in long sweeps for a while as I tried to cover the area of the Fox Fur nebula (Huge) and see the many lanes of bright nebula within. There was plenty to see but I prefer the Fox Fur view in the Borg107 where I can more easily take it all in. Rosette – Holy Cow, the highlight of the night! I would have to say this must have been my “best ever” view of the Rosette even allowing for the fact that I had to nudge around it thanks to the extra scale of the 35mm Panoptic. The Nebula was so lush and large. The extra magnification really allowed me to get deeper into the many intricate black lanes that run within the lower and left sides of this nebula. I found further black areas to investigate in the upper RHS. And I noticed three small nebula patches embedded within the centre star cluster (RHS) which I have not noticed previously. Sh2-280 – Nudge down to a large nebula patch with two black eyes. The RHS edge was brighter and also below. Sh2-282 – Nudge down to a triangular patch on its side. 4 stars were carving out a black area behind the tip. Sh2-283 – A tiny bright patch (located at star HD291952 in Sky Safari). IC434 – Over to view the horse head with more magnification and I was not disappointed. The Horse was there in all its glory – snout, neck and an ear. I let it drift across the view a few times. I also noticed that if I turn the “gain” down then the outer edges of the horse head took on a brighter glow? A win for the 35mm here. Flame – Up to the Flame which was big and bright. I think that the 55mm Plossl view was slightly more feature-ridden and the loss of focal ratio had taken something away. It still looked great though, don’t get me wrong! Running Man – Back to the nemesis that is “the Running Man” and unbelievably I was able to tease out some black edge detail. I could see a vertical piece LHS and a longer horizontal piece under the three stars (more RHS). The black lane seemed to reach up and touch the middle of the three stars too. Another win for the 35mm. M42 – You have to don’t you? A great view but with diminished resolution compared to the 55mm Plossl IMHO. Medusa – An easy black crescent. It had a very bright tip at the bottom and also a less bright tip at the top. The Crescent sides seemed incomplete and I chalked this as another win for the 55mm. Sh2-241 – A small bright patch with a central star and a black area within. Sh2-242 – A mid-size patch with an off-centre bright star within. What Happens when you View an Open Cluster with a 5nm Ha Filter? By now I was getting cold and Orion was passed the drop down side of my shed. I headed up towards the zenith and decided to view M37 with the 5nm Ha CCD filter still loaded on the Paracorr2. M37 – A lovely bright open cluster fills the fov of the 35mm Panoptic. As I turn the gain down on the NVD something interesting happens… A black lane structure appears running in some of the gaps between the stars of the cluster. It takes on an appearance more reminiscent of Caroline’s Rose with conventional eyepieces. I continue to play with the gain. It seems some stars are within nebula lanes/patches and some stars are within or next to these black (Hydrogen) lanes. I stood there pondering whether the stars were clearing the nebula to reveal the blackness or the blackness was somehow connecting lines of stars within the cluster? M35 – Onto another nearby cluster M35. Once again, the same thing. With the gain down then black snaking lanes appear within the cluster. But there are lanes/patches of nebulosity too (or is it reflecting dust?) IC443/444 – I finished with a short hop over to one of my favourite objects, the Jelly fish, IC443. Wow, the detail showing within the pancake of the Jellyfish was great. The flat head had two clear sides and dimmer/blacker areas within. There were some shimmering brighter bits too. The outer edges had clear definition as it steps down and curves away. I could see a single thread heading away from the pancake head towards IC444 and followed it away from IC443. I eventually ran into four thick parallel lanes of nebula near the strangely named “Tejat Posterior” star. I went back to IC443 and followed the tentacles running away to the left this time. Thoughts of the observer. It was nice to get some use from the Pan35 at last. I seem to robotically load up the 55mm Plossl these days. I did prove on several targets that the extra magnification of the 35mm Plossl cannot compensate for the loss of focal ratio provided by the 55mm Plossl. BUT I did also see some benefit on several targets notably the Rosette, Horse Head & Running Man. Looks like I need to use both. The dark lanes in the open clusters M37 & M35 were an unexpected bonus and I think I will be trying the 5nm Ha filter on other non-nebula targets (M45 & M13 for instance) in the near future. I have looked on the internet for some Ha images of the open clusters but nothing was immediately found that showed what I was seeing? Perhaps one of the NV phonetography guys can get a shot of this feature? Its forecast clear again tonight so I packed up early so I could get some sleep in preparation. Hope you are getting some clear skies too? Alan
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