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  1. 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
  2. I recently bought an Astrodon 3nm Ha filter for my new mono camera. It was half price so I couldn´t resist and 2 nights ago I got to try it for the first time. Yep, it delivers! The image was a breeze to edit. The only thing I have to fix is a backfocus issue (I think) that gives me elongated stars in the corners. So, this is 44*5 minutes with the ASI 1600MM-Cool and the Astrodon 3nm hooked up to a Samyang 135mm lens @f/2.8. My guider malfunctioned so I thank the short focal length for allowing me to shoot 5 minute subs Can´t wait to catch some OIII to make a bicolour version! Oh, I forgot - no darks, flats or bias frames used since I haven´t made them yet
  3. Another quick snap from last night (15-Dec-2017), and the first time I've imaged the Christmas Tree cluster / Cone nebula. Hyperstar 9.25" with Baader UFC and IDAS P2 filter Avalon M-Uno guided and dithered with Nebulosity 15 x 120 seconds (30 minutes total) Lightly (and, no doubt, incorrectly, processed in PI) Help for improvement much needed.
  4. Date: Sun 10th December 1915pm – 0100am Scope: 20” f3.6 Lukehurst Dob with Paracorr (fl = 2089mm) Setting the scene The sky had been slow to clear through the afternoon, I had the occasional glance skywards and a sigh to reflect the slow parade of the clouds given the light winds of the day. We have been so lucky to miss all the snow that has instead decide to descend on our southern relations so I take this opportunity to remind them of their favourite slogan “its grim up north!” – Maybe, but not so tonight! I was planning to start around 8pm, but the thought of a wet sky and possible deterioration led to me “giving in” and heading out just after 7pm. The shed was already showing minus 3 as the temperature as I set the scope up! Revisit old friends As is now usual (in this long running spell of nights outside, please may it continue!) I started with a trip around some galaxy favourites, M33 and then onto NGC891. M33 glx – Starting with the Ethos10 (x200) I was greeted with my first Wow of the night (there will be quite a few!). The galaxy surface area was really standing out well and at this magnification if more than filled the E10 FOV. There was so much surface on show that finding the NGCs was going to be a challenge! I dropped back to the Ethos13 (x150) to try to get a better scene. Wow the view was good. I could pick out five arms (including a new one coming out under the core to the left of the NGC near the star!). The main “S” just swept back behind the core then back through the core in a bar type style before bending tightly and sweeping back out into the distance. There was the (seen it before) small arm coming out to the right of the outward main arm and a long arm that was breaking from the centre and passing out to the left of the NGC near the star. Within all this there was just loads of surface brightness. I threw in the Ethos8 (x250), the arms were gone in all the surface that was visible. I let M33 drift across from outside FOV on one side to the other. As the bright surface drifted in and across it was like “I was in a spaceship approaching the galaxy from above, marvelling at its size & splendor shimmering below” (unforgettable view). And in all this I seemed to find a new NGC to the top-left of the outer rim of the galaxy (the image shows as IC132 – that a new one for me!) http://www.seetheglory.com/star-clusters-and-nebulae-in-the-triangulum-galaxy-m33/ NGC819 glx – With “a spring in my step”, I hopped up to NGC819 hoping for a similar Wowser. The E10 was in the focuser as I centered the long vertical streak of dust and Wow the centre lane was there top to bottom. The bright core area stood out and the centre black strip was easy to see here, it needed a bit more averted to bag the blackness as it passed out to the outer edges. In with the E8 and the galaxy will not fit in the FOV (its so long) but the centre lane is harder to see so a win for the E10 here. E13 showed a nice view too but x200 was the sweet spot tonight. Last time out, I had spent so long on galaxies that Cassiopeia had passed me by. “Not tonight Josephine!”, I spun the big scope around and watched Sky Safari as the Cave came into view… Cave nebula – Not tried the Cave in a month or two, and its about to say goodbye for another year so I thought why not? After some trial and error, I settled on the Ethos21 with Astronomik O3 filter combo. The gas along the top edge of the Cave swept in from the right, then a sharp 90 degree turn throws it back out to the top. The gas lane was thick and clear. When traced off to the right, the lane just goes on and on and on (“just like my wife”, did I hear you say?). This is probably the best I have seen this area. I swapped to the Astronomik UHC, and the black cave area was easier to pin down but the gas lane along the top was better with the O3. Bubble neb – I have had a mixed bag with this planetary, so I determined to get over there early with the Ethos8 (while all my EPs were warm and I still had a selection to choose from, soon the cold would take over and I would be down to one EP in the focuser wrapped in a warm heated blanket). The Ethos 8 was a success (x250) and managed to give me my best view (but it still needs higher mag than this really! With the UHC I found my best view using averted vision, a pretty clear “comma” shape of gas is seen around the bright star. With some staring a black appears that “hints” at the bubble – that’s the best I got. Carolines Rose – I take my open clusters only when I have to, they are not why I stand out here freezing my bits off! But I make an exception for Carolines Rose, it’s a wonder of the night sky for sure. How did Messier miss this? In with the Ethos13 and WOWSER, the cluster takes on a 3D appearance as the nebula is ripped up by the new stars bursting through! The cluster also showed some notable red stars that caught the eye as the cluster drifted across the view. It was the “depth” of the view that was astounding and I spent a good few minutes loving the view. Pacman neb – Starting unfiltered, I found the pacman not that easy to pick out but once I added the UHC it jumped out at me. The E13 framed it nicely and it was another lovely object. The centre blackness did not leap out at me as it has on other occasions so maybe this was not my best view of it. Heart & Soul neb – This was a bit of a “damp squid” the other night, I was too late onto it and lost some mirror to the shed roof. Tonight I was “on time” and with the UHC I found both nebulas to be bright and the edges were well defined and easily traceable. Bright patches were seen within but not as bright as I have seen them in the past. Maybe it was the E13 that was bringing out that little extra due to the extra mag? Pleiades (& Merope) – After reading an observing thread from @Mark at Beaufort and @jetstream , the Pleiades was next on my list, with the added twist of the "Merope nebula". I had zoomed in on Sky Safari and seen the Merope star surrounded by the nebula so I knew where I was going. The E13 was loaded and the initial view of the nebula was underwhelming. I threw in the UHC and now the nebula appeared, there is plenty of it above the star and once you get your eye in, you can follow it down the right side and there you find the black finger passing back under the Merope star. In with the O3, the nebula is not as clear now but the star itself sits in a thick black circle (is this the bubble I wonder? – I can see a ring on Sky Safari around the star). Back to unfiltered view. Now the Merope nebula is easier to see (I know where to look), I can see it as it borders the finger and see it pass close-by under the star. Now staring at the Merope star, I see a thin black circle come and go in my view – I bet this is the bubble! Time for a break By now (2220ish) both feet and one hand feel like they are below freezing . I can feel the need of some warmth... I look up and wonder if the conditions will be gone by the time I return? But given the choice of freeze to death or live? I choose life, and pull the roof closed on the shed I put my eyepatch over my observing eye, and head inside to boil the kettle… Twenty minutes, two warm drinks later and a hot water bottle for my stocking feet later, I am ready to head out for part 2… A Winning Rosette Its 2245 and I still have a couple of hours before the Devils Orb busts up from behind the Pennines. After re-opening the roof, re-connecting sky safari to Nexus, I head back to the Pleiades to check my alignment has survived the break. Everything remains dead centre (got to love Nexus) and I can ONLY SEE ORION moving into viewing position. Flaming Star neb – After my previous success, I decide to start off with the Flaming star. I have a nice warm Ethos13 and the Astronomik Hb filter loaded. I locate the 4 and 2 stars that show the location and position them top-left in the FOV and start to seek out the nebula. It takes a while to get my eye back in, but the gentle ripple effect of the nebula waves start to appear. I decide to try the huge “comma” shaped tail and after some initial difficulty, my eye must have opened up and the red glow of the wide (at x150) tail comes into sight. I follow it up and around to the right, it covers a very large area. A couple of times I got lost following other gassy shapes and needed Sky Safari to get me back on track. Now as I returned to the flame section, the view had improved and more wavy nebulosity was there to see. The tail section is easier than the wavy section for sure. IC410 neb – I ran out of time the other night due to the pesky moon, but tonight I had the time so back for more of IC410. E13 and O3 filter loaded. The nebula is pretty easy to trace. It has some brighter bits within it with the best bit being near a cluster of a few stars within the region. Nice. IC417 neb – Smaller and harder to see than IC410. You can tease out the edges but its an odd shape and easy to miss some of it. More revisits needed to tie it down in my mind for sure. Rosette neb – “I have been waiting for this!”, I think, as I move the big dob around and point it to the Rosette nebula in Orion. I am stuck with the Ethos13 as my only warm EP ( the E21 would have been my weapon of choice ). I have the O3 loaded. WOW and double WOW! What a nebula this is! At x150, you need a lot of nudging to scan the area that this nebula covers but the detail to see is overwhelming. Its impossible not to stay for several minutes at the eyepiece as you scroll around following wavy lanes of think bright gas. Then fainter lanes of gas. If you could get the whole thing into the FOV at this magnification then you would have a “picture” to rival anything from Hubble any day! I swap over to the UHC, and find the view not as good as the O3. There is still plenty to see but the darker background with the O3 made for a better view. The Business End We are now onto page 3 of my notes for the session! I have an hour maybe before the Orb and I have some serious observing still to do (says the man on a mission)… Cone neb – After my controversial claims of seeing “the cone” with my C11 last year sparked responses of “oh no you didn’t”. This morning I sit here and tell you “Last night, I saw the Cone and yes, you were right. I didn’t see it with the C11”. I have the Ethos13 and O3 loaded as I centre the cluster using Sky Safari. In the eyepiece, I head off up to the Cone (as I know exactly where it is after several visits last year). The first thing I notice after some time and concentration is that the “nebula is here” there is plenty of nebula to the right of the Cone. I deploy Horsehead techniques and let my eye tune into the nebula gas, then pan left to the Cone defining stars and there is just blackness . The right side edge (the edge with the double star) of the Cone is pretty easy to see as there is plenty of nebula on the other side of the edge. The left hand edge is harder, there seems to be less nebula over the other side to make it stand out. But for sure, you cannot miss the blackness within the Cone area compared to the nebula sitting off to the right. The key is to let your eye settle on the nebula gas first. I am marking that as a hit but I am more than happy to keep coming back to see if I get even luckier… Flame neb – I swap in the Hb filter and move to Alnitak. There is the flame straight off. The trunk seems wider than my last visit, the branches are lost in what is really a big dark patch. Horsehead – I nudge the scope up past the 2 bright stars, then onto the two pointers and “Hello”, no need to find the Horsey – I CAN SEE IT! The horsey is there as clear as day in direct vision “I don’t know what all the fuss is about”, the Horsey says to me! “Bug*er me” I respond with a grin! (Well, it IS cold! The mind is allowed a moment of fun now and again) I watch the large black horsey figure for a moment, then it dawns on me. “Look at the thickness of the nebula lane” The Nebula running up from Alnitak has never looked as bright and wide as this before. I can trace it up and up and up. Astonishing. I pan back down and the Horsey trots-by, it’s not even trying to hide – “What’s wrong with you?”, I ask… Additional notes: I found the UHC filter much harder to see the Horsey than previous visits but with the Hb it was just there! I tried the E8 and Hb (x250) and found the Horsey a struggle. E13 (x150) and Hb = Wham, Bam, Thank you mam. M42 Orion neb – After the Horsey success and plenty of time saved, I am off to revisit the “baby bird” (Or Fishes head as @John calls it!). I start with E13 and UHC filter loaded. I swing around to M42 and the baby bird is back! It has lost none of its appeal from the last visit. Its face is so big and you just sit and stare at it (Fantastic!). John’s reply to my post “25Nov - Big Dob exposes delights of Orion” comes to mind and I bring up the picture he posted of the baby bird in my mind. I remember there was some mention of the corner of the head and a black patch so I start to look there and notice a this blackness that I missed before. The UHC really brings out the “folds” in the nebula and it has some much more texture than unfiltered. I now have @John picture up on screen (I will add it to my post too) and I have to say that it’s a poor comparison to what I actually saw (“It’s so much more!” [Luke Skywalker] ). In with the Ethos8 (x250) and even I was not ready for this… If the Ethos13 reveals a “baby bird”, then the Ethos8 reveals a “hungry seagull ripping a black hot dog from a child's fingers” Wow! I make a note of the stars I can see and now comparing them to John's picture, I saw MT (under the trapezium) MR & V1230 (under MT) MV & P1923 + P1972 (under MR & V1230) Corner Lot was black and very vivid Either V1399 or V494, I saw one of them. I missed looking for “thruster”, LQ & LV (in the bird’s cheek) and the “Candle star” – next time John! I did see 6 stars in the Trapezium. I’m Done The 8mm misted up. I looked up over the shed wall and see the Devils Orb It was time to call it a night (at 1am). I was surprisingly warm at this point (warmer than I had been before the end of part 1). The scope was icy (UTA, Shroud and Mirror box). The thermometer in the shed read as minus 7. Time to boil the kettle, re-fill the hot water bottle and head for bed… I was feeling elated, what a night! I had plenty to ponder while I waited for my feet to thaw out and allow me to fall asleep. Enjoy, Alan
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