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  1. Date: Friday 8th November 2019. 0300-0600am Scope: Borg 107FL f5.6 (focal length 600mm). Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS. Eyepieces: Plossl 55mm (f2.6 x11). Filters: Chroma 5nm Ha filter. Moon: 0% Introduction. It’s now been over a week since the “never ending” clear skies went away. With the full moon approaching I saw an opportunity to maybe get out for a few early morning hours after the moon had set. The skies were clearing when I went to bed and the Devils Orb was already giving the appearance of daylight outside. I had a short restless sleep with the occasional peek to see if the moon was still lighting the edges of my bedroom curtains. Once I was satisfied that it had gone and having taken a few minutes to “motivate myself”, I slipped out from the warm bed and headed downstairs to get dressed. It was pretty windy outside which meant the roll-off shed would not be used tonight so I prepared the Borg107 for a trip outside onto the patio. It took me 20 minutes to get ready before I relayed my kit outside. I quickly performed a 2-star alignment for the Skywatcher AZGTi mount and headed to M45 to test it out… The Pleiades were all bright and sparkly in my fov set against a lovely black background (“looks good” I thought to myself). I had no real plan for the session, so I decided to look at the brightest areas of Orion plus some of the larger Sharpless from my “Best of Sharpless”. I added the Night Vision PVS-14 to the TeleVue 55mm Plossl and added the Chroma 5nm Ha narrowband filter to the front of my 2” diagonal. NGC2244/Rosette. Where else to start but my favourite nebula – The Rosette! It appeared bright and mid-sized (at x11 magnification). Thin bright lanes seemed to trace out the “petals of a flower”. Multi-toned fainter nebula filled in the gaps, then with the dark black central hole and cluster to complete the view. I lingered a while before slewing down and into three spread-out nebula patches (sh2-280, 282 & 284). They are all different which makes them more appealing. The first is a circular patch with two small dark circular shapes inside (sh2-280), then we have an oblong shaped patch (sh2-282), finally on the other side of a bright star we arrive at the circular patch sh2-284. NGC2264/Cone/Fox-Fur nebula. Now for the first “surprise bonus” of the night. I centred on NGC2264 and when I looked in the eyepiece I found the fov filled with faint multi-textured nebula. I located the MINUTE Cone nebula, it was very tiny but a clear black triangle nevertheless! I traced the parent Fox Fur into what looked like a “comma” shape. This comma shape was sitting above a right angled long thick lane. Below this I found a mid-sized curved lane and followed this down and left to arrive back at the Rosette. I decided to make a sketch of the large area just covered as the individual segments were so clear to see (and you do the daftest things when only half awake!) I found the Xmas tree in the tail (of the comma) slightly brighter. I noted a dark lane running through the comma tail section. IC405 Flaming star/IC410/sh2-230 I have had recent success with the sh2-230 undefined area around IC410/405 with the big dob. So it was time to see what the 4” aperture of the Borg could tease out of this region. This is a beautiful detailed large section that really comes out well under low x11 magnification. IC405 and IC410 are immediately obvious. The magnificence (intricate detail) of the upper head section is not so striking at this low magnification but you then notice that the Flame is larger than expected and in fact has an extra patch that seems to extend the tail section further out. IC410 sits by the side and has the appearance of “a mask”, I see two black eyes cutting into the small bright shape. Above IC410 there are two tiny patches (Spider and Fly) then above them I see a large faint circular patch (unknown). To the left of this and above the Flame is a double curved lane which has several brighter sections visible within it (sh2-230) which I have seen before. But my eye is drawn further left and up where there appears to be a huge circular edge (unknown). NGC1499 California. While looking at Sky Safari, I decide to see NGC1499 (another nebula where the big dob has been working hard recently). Wow, this area is great at low magnification. The “traditional” section of the California is the brightest and easily seen in its entirety but it’s the large extension section to the right (that must be at least the same length again!). Then while examining the tail and crown sections at the left end, I begin to notice a huge structure that seems to sit behind the California nebula. I sketch out what I can see. This background section is vertical where the California appears horizontal. It is faint and has curves under the California where it seems to meet a large faint patch (that has 6 bright stars inside), I add these to the sketch… IC2177 Seagull nebula. Looking for big and bright nebula, I choose to see the Seagull next… The traditional “head and shoulders” fills the fov. I slew around and trace out a large additional structure leaving the “top shoulder” and travelling right and then down to finish at an extended “foot” patch just above the Duck nebula. I sketch out the Seagull and then hunt around for any patches (I know there are plenty to small Sharpless around here). I find two small patches at the end of an extended “leg” section (I thought that one of these was Thor’s Helmet but after slewing to that later then I think I am wrong so I need to revisit and sort out what they are?) Sh2-240 Spagetti. I pick a large nebula from the best of Sharpless, sh2-240 next. It appears as a large circular faint shape. There is a central vertical zig-zag section and I see several hortizontal-ish black lanes travelling through the patch (as I get my eye in). There is definitely lots to see here and its deserving of its place in the “best of Sharpless”. M42/M43/NGC1973, Orion and the Running Man. Okay, I’ve waited long enough! I slew to NGC1973. The only thing you see at the eyepiece initially is M42 of course! It’s so bright and wonderfully detailed. At this low magnification it reminds me of a “bird in flight” with bended wings. The “fish head” is the brightest section but I am fond of the blackness that spews from the fish head and seems to spread out and around M43 next door, it is black as black can be. M43 has an intricate shape inside its almost complete circular patch, but I speed by to seek out the Running man. Tonight the bright patch is clear as day and as I look on a black shape within the bright patch comes and goes, it’s not a “pair of legs” but it’s a black patch within nevertheless. Flame/IC434/Horsehead. I slew directly up from M42 and a bright patch comes into view, over to the right a bit and there is IC434 bright and thick. The horsehead is tiny but clearly visible and having a decent shape tonight. However, I am completely drawn to the long nebula bend section to the left which runs down from the Flame too. I do not remember noticing this section before but it’s been a year since Orion was here and I cannot remember everything that I see! I now manually slew up from the Flame to find a thick horizontal nebula lane running across the full fov. I follow it right and then down and back under until I find myself back at the Orion nebula (M42). I guess this is Barnards Loop. I had earlier searched for it to the left of Alnitak (as that’s where it is with the dob but this “star diagonal” used in refractors regularly sends me the wrong way when I try to retrace the big dob steps! Angel Fish – Huge and bright. Way too big to see the fish at x11 magnification. I do my best to tease out some features but it is just too huge! NGC2174/Monkey’s head. Instead, I move onto the Monkeys Head. It appears small and bright but as usual I see “Mickey Mouse” with the refractor and star diagonal turning things around. I slew around and pick out two patches above, one is sh2-247 the other is unknown. I slew below and find the wonderful tiny triple nebula sh2-254,255 & 257 (another Best of Sharpless member). NGC2395 Medusa – A small shimmering crescent moon shape is observed. M1 Crab – A small shimmering patch. With time at the eyepiece I see a bright circle around the outside and the occasional jumping line details within but cannot hold the interior in my view. NGC2359 Thor – A small faintish semi-circle. IC443/IC444, sh2-249 – The triplet of nebulas all fit into the fov and are a lovely sight that takes a good while to look around and take it all in. The Jelly fish (IC443) has lovely “tenticles” section that breaks backwards RHS. There is a small bright patch directly in front of IC443 (IC444) and then behind this the large oblong nebula structure sh2-249. I see the fine black lanes within sh2-249 next to Tejat Posterior (bright star). Sh2-265 – Picking another large Sharpless object, I headed for SAO 112667. I found a small bright patch (sh2-263) then above that a huge bright nebula that after slewing around, reminded me of a “walkie-talkie”. It had a pointed section at the upper LHS. And an interesting double lane at the lower sections. Sh2-260 – Next I picked sh2-260 (which I have only ever seen with the big dob). I slewed to SAO 112142 where I discovered a very large faint nebula shape. It was larger than the fov and seemed to appear as a “thin teardrop” shape. I cannot find any images of this so at the moment it is unknown to me. Epilogue. I noticed the sky brightening from around 0550hrs so I headed for a last look at the Rosette and Flaming Star regions before deciding to pack up at 0600hrs. I am glad that I made the effort to get up as I felt like I got “more than I imagined” from my session (which sent me back to bed happy, if a little cold – at least I had my hot water bottle to bring my feet back to life). I think that I have concluded that I need to get the widefield Borg 107FL out more frequently, when it’s cold then the dob in the shed is a much more appealing thought. - I have added an unexpected 7 entries to the “Ag1-xx” nebula catalog for the unknown/extra patches that I will need to come back and confirm… (up to 97 entries now). I also now have some lingering memories to help me through the barren spell of the full moon (out here in the dark countryside, the full moon is a real killer!). Hope you enjoyed the read and my sketches! Alan
  2. Dates: 26th thru 30th Oct 2019. (Over twenty hours of observing time!!!) 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 27mm (f4 x77). Filters: Chroma 5nm Ha filter. It’s a Miracle! I have been out observing on each of the last five nights racking up a combined time outside of over twenty hours – It’s a long time since I have had such a good run. I have written 17 pages of notes during my sessions too… I have observed many objects of different types during this time outside. So, I am going to divide up this report into object type sections so you can scroll to objects of your favorite kind… Planetary Nebula. First up planetary nebula, this is an object type that I rarely write about but having bumped into a few of these while out nebula hunting with my 5nm narrowband Ha filter combined with my PVS-14 night vision, I decided to build a Sky Safari observing list based on “The Brightest Planetary Nebulae Observing Atlas” by Massimo Zecchin and get out and observe them with a plan. The eyepiece attached to the PVS-14 for these observations was a 27mm Panoptic yielding x77 magnification. NGC6826 (Blinking Planetary) – Very bright solid ball with a thin halo of lighter shade. NGC7027 (Magic Carpet) – small bright ball, there is either a fine line running through it or it is two-toned. Has a detached faint circle around it. NGC7048 (Disk Ghost) – small dim circular patch made up of “dancing lines”. Looks alive. NGC7026 (Cheeseburger) – Tiny and bright. Made of two patches with a haze on either side. Reminds me of an “overhead shot of a rowing boat with oars out either side in the water”. NGC7008 (Fetus) – small dim, almost square shaped patch. Black circle at centre then dominated by thick bright outer layer (does not go all around the outside). NGC6905 (Blue Flash) – tiny, dim patch made of moving lines. Looks brighter on one side. NGC6543 (Cat’s Eye) – small bright patch. Tiny dark spot in the centre. Seems to have a thin layer of lighter dancing lines all around the outside. NGC7662 (Blue Snowball) – tiny. Very bright solid ball. There is a faint detached outer circle. NGC40 (Bow Tie) – Excellent. Very bright with two curved sides. The inside is filled with fuzzy stuff that is leaking out from both ends. There is a small circle at the centre. M76 (Little Dumbbell) – Looks like a “box kite”. Brighter patches at either end, connected by fainter central oblong section. NGC1501 (Oyster) – Tiny and bright. Looks alive. Reminds me of a bright “woolen ball”. IC2149 (Red Sword) – very tiny but bright. Has a small circle around it. NGC1514 (Crystal Ball) – star inside a black circle with multi-toned nebula shell encircling that. Nebula is multi-lined and shimmering. Looks alive. NGC7139 – Small mesmerizing ball. Shimmering jumping lines within. Alive. The "alive" planetary nebulae are great to look at, they are literally moving and dancing around in the fov. Comets. Another object that I has not been on my radar for several months! Well, I managed to find three over the last few nights. C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS) – With the 55mm Plossl (x38) it was small but easily seen. C/2018 N2 (ASASSN) – With the 27mm Panoptic I found a decent sized fuzzy blob to the side of a star. It was easily seen and the best of the three. C/114P Wiseman-Skiff – Even with the 27mm Panoptic, this was a tough object to find. I needed to turn the gain up to the max but I found it exactly where Sky Safari said it should be! Galaxies. Now the great square is in the south, there are some of the brightest night sky galaxies available for observing. I have observed the following NGC6946, 6643, 6503, 6140, 6015, Stephans Quintet, 7331, 185, 147, 278, M110, M32/32, M33, NGC404, IC10, NGC669, 684, 672, 972, 925, 949, 1023, 891, 1160, 1161, 7814, M74. It’s a decent list, but the outcome has been disappointment. The only galaxies that I observed the spiral arms were M33, 31, 74, NGC891, 6643, 7331. Here are a few descriptions from my notes: NGC6946 (Fireworks) – With the 55mm Plossl and no filters, I could see the twin fingered arms coming out from the core around the back. I got hints of a third fainter arm coming out underneath. NGC6643 – A small galaxy. You can easily see the core and surrounding halo. There were some faint anti-clockwise arms beyond the halo but they were tough to see in direct vision. NGC6503 – small and bright. Slightly edge-on. Tiny bright core with large halo surrounding. Hints of black lanes within the outer halo. Stephans Quintet – All 5 galaxies easily seen with the 55mm Plossl (x38). There was even a sixth galaxy in the fov (NGC7320C)! NGC7331 – bright core, slightly dimmer halo surrounding. Swirly fainter disc beyond that. Hints of a lane top-side and a black patch (usually signifies that arms are there) behind core on outer edge. I could see the four “flea” galaxies that sit to the LHS. NGC891 – Wonderful. Large edge-on galaxy with swollen core section and thick black lane running its full length in direct vision. NGC751 – A strange one, with the appearance of a double-core. Sky Safari says its two galaxies NGC750 & 751). M74 – At first I see a mid-sized fuzzy patch but I keep looking. I see a circle around the core appear first, then an arm seems to leave at 3o’clock and curve up and left. Then I see another arm at 9o’clock going out and down anti-clockwise. I note a four star rectangle and add it to my reference sketch. I can see images that confirm the arms on the internet. IC10 - I had already observed this underwhelming galaxy earlier in the session when I happened upon it again by chance (whilst I had the 5nm Ha filter fitted and was just sky scanning) and found it as a pleasing patch, it was only when checking Sky Safari that I found out it was the IC10 galaxy that I was looking at. It appeared so much clearer with the Ha filter that I wondered what the bigger galaxies on offer would look like in Ha? Lets try Andromeda & Triangulum in H-alpha. I have written about my experiences with M31 and M33 many times before, so I won’t be repeating myself today. Instead, I want to talk about an H-alpha experiment that I carried out over a couple of hours with M31 & M33 as my targets. I loaded my Chroma 5nm Ha filter into the Paracorr2, then added the 55mm Plossl for maximum image brightness and pointed at M33. To my surprise there was a very large galaxy sitting in the fov with many fuzzy shapes abounding. It took a few minutes to take it all in and start to recognize NGC604 and work back from there… With no Ha filter then the big reverse S of the main arms is clear in direct vision, now the arms are not clear but if I look carefully then I can trace tiny Ha patches that are marking out the arms in the fov. I decided to start sketching these patches and add the occasional curve where I was seeing “implied” arm structure. It was quite a surprise just how far out from the core some of these Ha patches are located, signifying that actual physical size of M33 is larger that we may think when visually observing our neighbour. Here is my sketch: Onto M31, where the results were less impressive but I was able to see the galaxy and some Ha components within so it was not a waste of time at all. I noted three Ha patches in the upper sections of M31 but it was the lower sections that were a bit of a revelation. Regular observers of M31 will know that it’s a dead loss below the core to see very much at all! Well, in Ha the lower section can match the upper section and in fact I saw a greater number of Ha patches in the lower section including a couple of really big ones. Here are my sketches of the two halves of M31: Nebulae. I spent many hours looking at the many large and small nebulae in the Milky Way from Cygnus to Orion. I have written about them many times before and will not do so today. I was also able to spend some time scanning the “empty spaces” in Sky Safari looking for objects that I could find with the night vision and marking them for the "AG1-" night vision object catalog that I am continuing to work on... I am now up to 82 objects having added a further 38 objects during October. I have also managed to revisit 52 of the objects to confirm their existence and descriptions. Time to catch up on my sleep. The weather forecast seems to say wet weather until full moon, so it looks like I will be stuck inside for the next couple of weeks, guess there is no pleasure without pain! Clear Skies, Alan
  3. Date: Monday 7th October 2019. 2340-0350hrs. 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 filter, Astronomik UHC, Baader 610nm Red. Moon: 70% (until 0100am) Introduction With the full moon quickly approaching, the chances of getting outside under a dark sky are diminishing rapidly (for the next two weeks anyway). Last night was forecast clear and by 10pm it was 80% clear with a big old moon shining brightly in the south at about 40 degrees above the horizon. I checked the clearoutside website and saw the moon setting time was 1am so decided to wait a while before going outside… By 2320, I checked again and could see the Moon was behind some clouds so decided to head outside. After spending the last few months in the rear corner of the shed, I had yesterday re-located the big dob more centrally so I could access Cassiopeia (overhead) unimpeded by the shed roof apex. It took me 10 minutes to get the big dob setup & connected to Sky Safari 5 (via my AstroDevices Nexus) ready for the 2-star alignment. I pushed back the shed roof and looked for alignment stars, I noticed that the Great Square was now high and Southern and the thought of M33 popped into my head. Perhaps I would chance a visit to the big galaxies (even though the moon was up). Part 1 - Galaxy Appetiser. Once 2-star alignment was completed, I fitted the PVS-14 Night Vision device to a TeleVue 55mm Plossl and put it into the focuser. I nudged over to M33 using Sky Safari as my guide and centred it up. M33 (unfiltered) – At first I could see what appeared as a large dust cloud, I looked for NGC604 out on the tip of the spiral arm but it was not easily spotted… As I continued to look, I noticed a long curved spiral arm headed south from the central core and it dawned on me that I had forgotten just how large this galaxy is at the eyepiece (even at x38 with the 55mm Plossl), as I traced the arm then I found NGC604 which was small and bright sitting next to a star! The next thing I noticed was a tiny NGC/IC patch sitting at 9’o clock from the core. I looked hard for the upper arm but there was not much showing on the upper side of the central core patch. M33 (Baader 610nm Red) – I decided to try to filter the moonlight out of the view and added the Baader Red filter to the front of my Paracorr2. Once I had refocused, I immediately noticed an improvement in the upper arm view but the lower arm seemed to be less visible than before. I could however see two clear NGC small patches in the path of the lower arm. M33 (Astronomik UHC) – I swapped filters for the Astronomik UHC visual filter which has a slightly wider bandpass than the Baader red and was rewarded with my best view. The upper arm improved once again and I could now see a faint (& large) backwards “S” curve in direct vision. M110 (Astronomik UHC) – I decided to checkout Andromeda and pushed the scope to its location. When I looked in the eyepiece, I saw a mid-size oval patch (it had to be M110). Unusually (at least as I remember it) M110 had a two-tone core, there was a bright small central piece which was surrounded by a mid-brightness halo and finally the fainter oval of the outer galaxy. This may have been my best view of M110! [It is worth noting that I changed my secondary mirror in July from 104mm to 120mm and I am seeing many objects better than I remember seeing them before so I am putting the improved M110 down to the increased secondary mirror size – the 55mm Plossl requires loads of out-focus so I decided to send a wider light cone down the focuser] M31 (Astronomik UHC) – I nudged right to M31 and found a super large central core with 2 vertical black dust lanes sitting on the LHS. I traced the dust lanes up, the first cuts across through the galaxy just after M32 whilst the second continues up to a sharper point further up. The curve of the dark lane at the upper tip seemed to curve back down out beyond M32 (as if M32 sits within the M31 disk), this dark lane quickly disappears so I could not trace it down as far as M32. Below the core, it was much harder to trace the dark lanes but I could trace the edges of the galaxy disk which were faint but noticeable. Part 2 – Search for visible nebula (not in the Sharpless catalog). My latest project is the creation of a new catalog of nebula objects that are visible with Night Vision plus Ha narrowband filter and not present in the 313 Sharpless catalog. The AG1-x catalog has 56 objects so far... With the Dob in its new central location, it was time to resume my push-pull systematic scanning of the Milky Way above me. I added the Chroma 5nm Ha narrowband filter to the Paracorr2. Unfortunately, I could not easily access my planned starting point as Cygnus was now quite westerly and the shed wall was blocking plenty of the primary mirror in that direction. I reset my starting point higher towards the zenith but still westerly and started to scan backwards…up then forwards… up NGC 7008 – I found a tiny bright “flying saucer” which I identified as NGC7008 by glancing at Sky Safari. GSC 4258-1810 – At this location there is a small patch which Sky Safari seemed to indicate might be galaxy NGC6952. But as I looked around the fov, I found that I could see a second patch (the galaxy). Checking the internet, I see that NGC6952 is also classified as NGC6951, I can see an image of NGC6951 where there is nebula visible to the side. TYC 3194-1302-1 – At this star location, I found two bright “angel wings”. They were mid-size in the fov and were bright. Nudging around, I could see that they were part of a much larger structure (which turned out to be sh2-119). NGC 7048 – I found a small bright circle at this location. A planetary nebula. It was very interesting many shimmering lines and variations seen within the small visible circle. Sh2-129 – Next I bumped into a beautiful thick curved section with nice detailing on the edges of the large nebula. Checking Sky Safari, I found it to be sh2-129. It’s a lovely object (one half is similar to the Witch’s Broom in the Veil) while the second curve is much less defined but wide and easily seen/traced. IC1396 – Next, I bumped into an old favourite, the Elephant Trunk. I was expecting a good view with the dob relocated but what I got was a WONDERFUL view. I spent many minutes slowly combing this large object and noting the many black hydrogen holes and lanes visible seemingly all over this large bright patch. I also noted several bright highlights that stood out as brighter than the general bright background. I opened up an image of IC1396 from Sky Safari and made a second sweep across the object to check out each and every one of the black patches seen on the image. The two sections of the elephant truck were very clear and there was a third dark lane sitting alongside them that kept taking my eye too. [Time now 0140hrs – Moon has gone] TYC 3968-1328-1 – At this location, I found a faint vertical lane of nebula. It led into a curved horizontal piece higher up. Sh2-132 – Next, I bumped into a very bright and interesting nebula (Sky Safari shown sh2-132) which turned out to be the “Lion”. The bright mane section really seemed to fill the fov with some lovely black detailing and the occasional brighter line. I traced the back and then the tail, down past the hind quarters and left through the faint legs area to just about see the faint head/snout section. Nice. Sh2-135 – Bright set of “angel wings”. Sh2-134 – Covers a huge area. Not a complete structure, you just keep bumping into small sections here and there. Sh2-138 (GSC 3995-1279) – tiny patch next to a star. Sh2-139 (GSCII N0123010-13835) – small faint patch near a star. GSC3997-0919 – I found a large faint patch at this location. Sh2-152 & sh2-153 – Next, I came upon a nice nebula combo (“Whale & baby” as I call them). Sh2-154 – I thought I had found a bright new piece of nebula when I happened upon a bright star cluster with a long leading edge running behind (LHS). It was wide and very bright but Sky Safari was happy to inform me that it was sh2-154! Cave – I saw the Cave nearby on the IPad and nudged over. Wow, maybe my best view. Not because the Cave was good. The Cave was the Cave but because of all the extra nebula that was visible out to both sides over large distances. There were some nice black cut-outs within this expanded large area. [Time now 0217hrs] NGC7380 Wizard – The Wizard is my next unplanned target. Instantly recognizable. Bright and beautiful with so many intricate details to examine, it really takes a few minutes to do it justice. As I drink up its finery, I am drawn to a large black “t-shirt” section that is standing out just to the LHS of the Wizard, so black, its keeps drawing my eye… Bubble – Wowsers, I had a great view (my best ever) of the Bubble last new moon, it was memorable not for the bubble itself but just for the huge “head” and “torso” of the “Gladiator” that filled the FOV. My luck was in, the full Gladiator was back and I spent a few minutes taking it all in. Its strange that 12 months ago, the joy was seeing the “bubble” but now the bubble is just seen as part of this larger Gladiator and does not really stand out from the remainder of this large beautiful area! Sh2-158, sh2-159, sh2-157, sh2-161 & sh2-163 – I move around this rich area of nebulosity. Sh2-157 (the pincers) is always worth a lingering visit, there is some exquisite detail in the wide head section and it’s always nice to bump into the tiny star clusters out at the “sharp” end. Sh2-161 is the Sharpless designation for this whole area encompassing all these smaller brighter objects, as you nudge around then you can still find smaller separate unclassified nebula sections that belong to sh2-161. ARO115 – I scan around and bump into a tiny faint patch, Sky Safari says “ARO 115”. Sh2-165, sh2-170 – After passing by sh2-165, I find sh2-170 which is in my “best of Sharpless” list. It’s a beautiful mid-size patch with a central black patch with two “eye like” stars within. The black patch is surrounded by a wide nebula halo. Nice. Part 3 – It’s late, time for some “bright” eye candy… Pacman – Another recent Wowser from new moon revisited. I am not disappointed! The black lane looks like an upside down “sleek black cat” with 2 pointy ears. The nebula to the LHS is huge and almost white with brightness whereas there is “not a lot” to the RHS of the black cat. The outer edges are a fainter shade and extend way out to the LHS. The lower edge is a lovely multi-shaded section that really attracts my eye. Heart – With the dob relocated, I can now reach the Heart & Soul. And I am not disappointed except for the fact that it’s just so big, it really is a nudge-nudge challenge to get around the whole object and not miss anything! The “mole head” is upside down but I see a small patch just to the side and a black hole section. It looks like “the mole is trying to post a small patch into a round bucket”. Over in the central “bright city” section, I see many shimmering small curvy lanes, it’s hard to count them as they overlap and shimmer over each other. I notice many small Sharpless objects dotted around the outer edges “like little boats anchored just off the beach” but I am too short of energy to note and name them individually. Soul – I centre the head and instantly notice that it has a black eye section and a jagged mouth section cutting back into the head. (I can’t remember these but it’s been a year!). I notice a small black hole within the arm/elbow section too. Monkeys Head – Bright and picturesque. I scan around but don’t notice anything that I have not seen before. M1 Crab – The crab is a strange object and improves the longer you look at it. It starts out as a patch with shimmering lanes inside. But if you stop and look the lanes turn into five bubbles that shimmer and jump around as you look at them. This object seems to be “alive”. IC410 – Wowsers. It’s the “Stay Puft Marshmallow Man” from Ghostbusters . A large “Mr. Fluffy” face fills the FOV. It’s so white and it has two black eyes and a black nose hole. Two small bright curvy “tadpoles” sit nearby. California – After visiting the Spider and the Fly, I head over to the California nebula. I am rewarded with a final “best ever” viewing for the night. Wow, I have never seen IC1499 like this! The nebula is literally 3D at the eyepiece. I have to step back and process what I am seeing before heading back to my periscope to spend some time enjoying the view. The sides are seen as white hot almost horizontal lanes then the inner section just seems to fall into the eyepiece which my brain perceives it as steep curving section in then back out at the other side. The small black eye just stands out centrally. I head out to the LHS where the California has a bright “crown” section and look up for the “flap” which is bright and clear. I trace out into deep space of both ends as the nebula seems to never end but just fade away fainter and fainter until it’s gone from view. Epilogue. By now, clouds are coming and going as is the view from the eyepiece. I check the time -0345- and decide that I have had a great night and I will get the roof closed just in case there is a “shower”. I am not too cold, which makes a nice change from last new moon when I felt frozen at the end of my last marathon session. This had prompted me to get out my full winter wardrobe of thick observing clothes and I was happy that I made the right choice. There was a bit of dew when I turned the light on and I had to towel the UTA dry before I packed up and turned on the de-humidifier. Thoughts of the observer. I had not planned on any galaxy viewing so it was nice to get back into them after what seems like 6 months of nebulas. I was pleased with what I saw given that there was plenty of moon about. Do try out your old “Astronomik UHC” as a moon blocker if you have one! I found 6 non-Sharpless nebula and added them into the fledgling “AG1-x” catalog ready for confirmation revisits (I now have a tentative 63 entries). It’s clear from last night sweeping of Cassiopeia, there is nowhere near as much of the Milky Way visible in this area when compared to Cygnus so I will need to work harder and longer to find new (to me) stuff to observe. I can see Orion moving South and now have a burning desire to test out the bigger secondary on the many bright nebula waiting for me in that area of the sky… Hope you had a clear night too. Alan.
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. Date: Wed 23rd May 2345-0245am Scope: Borg 89ED f6.7 (fl 600mm) on Sky-tee2. Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS. Eyepieces: 55mm (f3.2 x11), 35mm (f5 x17), 27mm (f6.5 x22), 18.2mm (f9.6 x33). Filters: Baader 610nm Red, Astronomik 6nm Ha CCD. Moon: 68% First Light: Borg assimilated into Black Ops Astronomy (Night Vision) I have owned my PVS-14 Night Vision monocular now for about a month and so far have concentrated on the climax to galaxy season by viewing the biggest galaxies in an attempt to see as many spiral arms as possible before the sky rotates them away and the darkness disappears. All my usage so far has been with my 20" Dobsonian. With my old enemy, the Moon, also now spoiling my dark skies, it was time to get out the Borg89 and deploy some filters to defeat the moon. Proof of Concept I had setup around 9pm to make sure my red dot finder was aligned with the scope (at least the Moon is good for something ), and to test reaching focus with the Televue 55mm Plossl which needs loads of out-focus! I have been using a short 150mm tube on my Borg as I had previously been using it with Binoviewers. I have screwed an extra 50mm tube into the main scope body but even with the draw-tube fully extended, I could only reach focus by lifting the 55mm Plossl eyepiece about 5mm up & away from the diagonal (Luckily, it’s a click-lock diagonal and capable of holding the eyepiece firmly even when lifted). With the initial testing completed, I moved everything back inside to wait for it to get dark later... Always Have a Plan The plan for the night was in two parts (1) grab some Globulars & Galaxies to familiarize myself with the new setup and then (2) move onto the Milky Way later when it swings into view. Part 1: Find some easy Globulars and Galaxies I was using a manual mount (sky-tee2) and Sky Safari 5 (on ipad) where I have field of view circles on screen showing me what I should be seeing in the eyepiece and allowing me to manually jump around the sky using “2 circles up and 1 circle right” type of movements. M13 – With the 55mm Plossl (x11), M13 was easily located and a tiny fuzzy ball was seen. I added the Baader 610nm Red filter which helped to darken the background but it was only when I switched to the 27mm Panoptic (x22) that the outer stars of the globular started to resolve and a decent view was had. The Globular was still tiny in size but accepting smaller scale is part of the price of "Black Ops Astronomy". M51 – I moved onto the Whirlpool. After messing about on my knees with the red dot finder I got the scope to the right area and quickly located the double galaxy at the eyepiece with the 27mm & 610nm Red filter still loaded. I was impressed to see hints of a circle surrounding the galaxy! I upped the magnification to x33 with the 18.2 DeLite but the background became much darker and although the image scale improved, I felt the circle of arms was less visible that with the 27mm. (The Night Vision device is f1.2 so it responds better to faster scope speeds, scope speed is increased by using longer focal length eyepieces – I have added some spec detail to the top of this report). M51 – Right time to increase the speed. In with the 35mm Panoptic and 610nm filter. Now there was a definite circle of spiral arms twinkling around the tiny galaxy (x17 magnification). The bridge to the nearby NGC was not seen. Finally, I moved to the 55mm Plossl (x11) and was surprised to see a tiny circle surrounding the galaxy. Seems incredible that you can pull out arm structure at x11 with a 68% moon nearby! M101 – Onto M101 nearby. With a bit of faffing I finally got the small-ish hazy patch centered. It was still a decent size in the 55mm with 610nm filter but with no detail seen within. I decided to remove the 610nm filter “just for a laugh”. The galaxy became brighter with fleeting glimpses of what looked like a circle arm structure (similar to M51) but thicker/chunkier. This structure was only glimpsed with averted and much concentration but an astonishing result really considering the Moon and tiny magnification. Part 2: Exploring the Milky Way I used the red dot finder to centre the scope on Antares which was pretty low to my southern horizon but easily located. M4 – I had the 55mm Plossl loaded with no filter. When I looked in the eyepiece I could see a large bright well resolved patch of stars next to Antares. “What’s that?”. Consulting Sky Safari, it was M4. It appeared much larger and more resolved than M13. I have never viewed M4 before (it’s too low for my Dob from my Obsy/Shed) so that’s a new Messier for my list! M80 – I navigated over to M80 which turned out to be a disappointment after M4. It was just a tiny fuzzy star at this low magnification. Right, onto the main event. I decided to just pan up through the sky until I bumped into some Nebula. I attached the Astronomik 6nm Ha CCD filter to the diagonal. M17 Swan – 55mm. The first nebula that I happened upon was M17. Although, I did not recognize it as M17. I had to consult Sky Safari to try to work out what I was looking at! (I have viewed the Swan many times and I know what it looks like – or I thought that I did until now. Wow!) It appeared as a white hot upside down “V” surrounded by nebula on all sides (So much more than the usual “tick”). The familiar circle of nebula to one side was there if you looked but it was lost in the full (previously unseen by me) nebula structure. M17 – 35mm. Image scale improved and a second lovely view of this nebula. Maybe it was slightly dimmer with the loss of focal ratio but memorable for sure. (this is the nearest image I can find to what I saw) Now, knowing where I was in the sky meant that a quick pan over to M16 Eagle was next… M16 Eagle - 55mm. “I can see an Eagle”. What more can I say, it looks like an image! I can see the head, the outstretched wings and a very bright body. M16 – 35mm. "I can see the Pillars of Creation". Admittedly, they were tiny! But black gaps in the bright body are there. Never thought I would see them and definitely not with an 89mm scope! (this is the nearest image I can find to what I saw) What could beat that? Well, I only had a few minutes to wait before I stumbled onto the M8 Lagoon nebula. Wow, that just beat the Eagle nebula hands down. I was mesmerized! The view was so good that I am struggling to find an image on the internet to match the view! M8 Lagoon – 55mm. Wow, the nebula is so bright and thick that it stands out and punches you in the face. It looks like you are looking into a swirling black hole. Plenty of variations is brightness within the thick nebula help to give the view real depth. M8 – 35mm. The detail is breath-taking, lovely long dark lanes revealing lovely shapes and structures within the very bright nebula. I could not tire of this view! (this is the nearest image I can find to what I saw) M20 Triffid – 55mm. Seen in the same field of view as M8. It was a poor second to the Lagoon mainly due to its small physical size at the eyepiece (Remember this is x11 magnification). However, the 3 pronged black lanes within were clearly visible. M20 – 35mm. View much improved with larger scale. Lost some brightness from the nebula due to loss of focal ratio but the inner detail was easy to see. (this is the nearest image I can find to what I saw) Beaten back by the Dew I moved onto Cygnus and the North American nebula but the view seemed poor in comparison to what had come before. This surprised me as I can see the bright North American nebula naked eye at x1 magnification using Night Vision and a 1.25” Astronomik 12nm Ha filter. A quick look with my torch down the front on the scope showed that the Borg had succumbed to Dew Final Thoughts I had a great night. The view of the Lagoon will stay with me forever! The weather is set fair here in the UK so I know that it won’t be too long before I get outside again. I still can’t get over the fact that Night Vision can defeat the Moon. I live in a dark place, SQM 21.6 and when the Moon is up then I am forced to stay indoors – NOT ANYMORE! Clear Skies, Alan Note: The images that I added are not mine. They are the closest I can find to what I saw, although I only observed them in black and white (no colours) but with varying shades & brightnesses in-between.
  9. 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
  10. 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
  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: Thursday 13th December 2018. 1940-2230hrs. Scope: Borg 107FL f5.6 (focal length 600mm). Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS. Eyepieces: Plossl 55mm (f2.6 x11). Filters: Astronomik 6nm Ha CCD. Moon: 33% Introduction. After a run of sessions with the big dob, it was time to get the Borg107 out and try to confirm some of my Sharpless object finds with the smaller aperture scope. I have created a spreadsheet of the Sharpless catalog objects with the sizes and Sky Safari locations together with a SAO star reference of a nearby bright star (these need to be confirmed as available in the Skywatcher SynScan handset too as not all SAO numbers are present). I missed going out on Wednesday night having just had a wisdom tooth removed and therefore not wanting to get out in the cold. But tonight I was going out whatever… Lets get ready to rumble. At 1900hrs the sky was not too promising, there were visible stars to the East and North, but the West was clouded out and the south disappearing from the West. The wind seemed to be from the West so I was expecting the clouds to come over. However, having spent the afternoon on preparation and with a printout to hand, I decided to get out and make a start as there are many Sharpless that the Borg has not yet attempted! I setup the scope & mount indoors, attaching the dew strips and handset etc, then carried it outside in one go (its so light). I then had my eyepiece case (pre-loaded with what I needed) and my books and Ipad (in waterproof case) to set out on the patio table. Setting up, the 2-star alignment worked first time and my test of M34 put it just off centre in the Ethos 6mm. I setup for night vision by adding the Astronomik 6nm Ha CCD filter to the diagonal and changing to the 55mm TeleVue Plossl & attached the PVS-14 with the TNVC afocal adapter. Onto the Sharpless target list... I started overhead at the zenith and then moved through my target list down towards the East/South East (where the sky was clearest). I attempted to enter the SAO number from my print-out into the SynScan handset (if it was present then great, otherwise if not then I needed to refer to Sky Safari and select another bright star close to the target and try that in the handset …). There were five targets where the chosen SAO was not in the handset but I was able to find a replacement without too much time lost, each time updating the print-out so I can fix up my spreadsheet today... Sharpless targets seen by the Borg107 for the first time: Sh2-204 – circular patch under 4 stars. Sh2-205 – Huge “heart” shaped structure with a brighter curved edge. A small bright blob was seen half way down one side. Pretty faint but the edges can be traced. Sh2-218 – A new one for me. Very large triangular shaped patch. Black shapes seen inside. One corner seems to extend out in a “open wings” shape. Sh2-220 – California nebula appeared bright and fitted nicely in the fov. It was brighter along the outer edges and I could see the brightest central edge and the black eye opposite. Sh2-221 – A large structure with traceable edges. It was narrow at one end, then expanded out to a wider opposite edge. There were lanes passing across at the larger edge that seemed to split the whole shape into two sections. Images this morning are similar but not exact, I will need to revisit this target. Sh2-222 - A small bright blob around a star. Seemed to extend out more to one side. Sh2-223 – Seems to be huge. Several curved edges seen. Seems to go up more than across. I see a square looking corner. Hard as there seems to be plenty of nebulosity around in this area. Sh2-224 – Again, lots of nebulosity in this area. I see a small bright straight up section (going past a bright star). Sh2-225 – Faint patch with a black area inside (I see stars making “3 corners of a square” shape). Sh2-228 – small bright patch near to a star. Sh2-227 – faint patch. Smallish size. Star pattern at the top looks like a “sword handle”. Sh2-232 – Decent sized faint patch. Smaller brighter patch to the side. Sh2-240 – Fills the FOV. Plenty of faint nebulosity. Black patch with some double stars within. Several black lanes running through. Sh2-242 – small bright patch. Sh2-241 – smallish faint patch above a star. Sh2-243 – faint smallish patch with black central area with 2 stars. Sh2-246 – A large patch, fills fov. 7 bright stars in staggered line running through inside a black lane. Sh2-250 – A cloud of faint nebula surrounds 2 bright stars. Sh2-268 – A decent sized patch. Black central shape with a star inside. A bit like a “poor man’s Rosette”. Including some revisits of old favourites... Sh2-252 – Monkeys Head looking great. Its upside down and if you turn the gain right up then it takes on the appearance of a side-on “Minnie Mouse”! Sh2-248 – IC443 SN remnant. Nice bright curve seen, behind it are very faint tenticles of the Jelly Fish. Sh2-249 – IC444 sits to the right of IC443. It’s a large black shape inside a spreading nebula patch. A bit like “the flame” nebula. Sh2-254 – sh2-258 – I see three members of this group tonight. A large patch to the left and two similar smaller patches to the right. IC410 - Bright patch with multiple dark areas within. IC417 - Less bright patch with some additonal clusters and patches around the fov. Flaming Star - A lovely quotation mark shape fills the FOV. I can just make out some of the brighter wisps within. All good things come to an end. By now, I was getting a little cold in my fingers and the AZ GTi had developed an unwillingness to slew into Orion. The clouds from the West had made their way mostly over the top by now too. As a final hurrah, I manually slewed to the Flame and Horsehead (using the red dot finder) for a quick look - they both appear in the same fov, the horsehead is more than a notch but you cant hold the full head shape in direct vision at x11 magnification - then manually slewed up to the Rosette to see if I could see the “Head of a puppy” once again. The Rosette was not as bright as last time out but the “Puppy Head” shape was there! Supplemental. The AZ GTi refused to slew into the Orion region at all! I tried choosing various NGC, IC, SAO numbers from within Orion, the handset would show “slewing” but the mount just did not move. If I chose any previously visited SAO or NGC then the mount happily made its way to that target but Orion was out of bounds! I have updated my mount software this morning and ordered a lead to update the handset software to hopefully rectify this strange issue. Other than that, it was a pretty decent night. GOTO certainly makes the job of finding those targets much simpler and allows maximum time at the eyepiece. As always, it helps to have a plan prepared and a nice list of SAO numbers to slew to is a real bonus. Clear Skies, Alan
  16. 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
  17. 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
  18. 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
  19. 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
  20. 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 )
  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: Sat 9th June 0020-0215 Scope: Borg 89ED f6.7 (fl 600mm) on SkyTee-2. Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS. Eyepieces: 55mm (f3.2 x11), 35mm (f5 x17) Filters: Astronomik 6nm Ha CCD. Introduction We are now into June and up here in Penrith that means no darkness and about an hour of “deep dusk” before the sky brightens once again from 2am onwards. To the North the sky never goes dark at all. This creates about a 2-hour observing slot where at least I can see the main constellation stars to enable me to use the red dot finder to align the scope to something in the sky. Start Low… I had the 55mm Plossl and 6nm Ha CCD filter loaded together with my PVS-14 Night Vision Device (NVD) attached to the eyepiece with the TNVC/Televue afocal astronomy adapter. This turns my Borg into an f3.2 scope with a magnification of x11. The NVD provides a 40 degree field of view (fov). I’ve had three sessions on Sagittarius since late May and last night after an initial alignment on Antares and a pan around the low summer targets (Lagoon, Triffid, Swan, Eagle) revealing that wet sky conditions low down were rendering the view inferior to previous sessions, we had had heavy rain around 4pm and the sky still remained in a wet state. …Then Aim High! I decided to re-align to a new target area of the Milky Way around Cygnus (higher in the sky). I used the red dot finder to align to Deneb and started to move down using the SkyTee-2 slow-mo controls until I found the North American nebula which was bright and showing its whole structure. It was just slightly bigger that the fov of the eyepiece so I had to use the manual controls to investigate. I discovered a whole wispy section moving off the north side of the nebula that I did not know was there. Having spent many years looking at these targets with much larger scopes, it’s hard to really comprehend how easily they are seen with tiny aperture when you add Night Vision and a decent Ha CCD filter into the equation. Sitting to the left of the North American was the Pelican, the vertical streak of its “beak” was clearly visible alongside two other straight sections, and it looked like an “F” rotated at 45 degrees to the right. There was plenty more nebulosity on view but this basic “F” shape kept catching my eye. At the edge of the fov I could see a curvy section just off to the left of the Pelican (IC 5068) and centred it to observe it. IC 5068 appeared brighter than the Pelican and seemed to make the shape of an “opened palm of a hand that was holding the Pelican in place in the sky” Next, I opened the clutches of the SkyTee-2 and changed to “nudging” the scope by hand to see what other shapes I could “discover”... Below the North American, I bumped into a “backward C shaped nebula” (near 68 Cyg) which was almost large enough to fill the fov (Sh2-119). This nebula was less clear than the others observed so far but still easy to see. I headed back to Deneb to start a pass into Cygnus. As I found Deneb, I immediately noticed three spread out patches of nebulosity, two were small and circular while the third was a longer streak of nebula (Sh2-115 & Sh2-112). I panned right into Cygnus. Wow, there is just so much nebula! I ended up doing a “grid sweep” style manoeuvre with the scope as I panned and stepped my way down through the Cygnus region. The star attraction was the thick black lane section around Sadr which was bright and beautiful. But there was so much more nebulosity than “just this Sadr bit!” The clouds of shape was varying in brightness and density and the size of the area covered was HUGE. Sh2-108 stood out brightly. At one point I happened upon the Crescent nebula, it was pretty small but bright and showing the full curve (at x11) around three bright stars. Now it was time to head left over to the Elephant Trunk and Sh2-131. I returned to the North American nebula first then used this to get my height correct as I panned left and eventually straight into the sh2-131 nebula. It appeared as a large fuzzy “brain” to fill the whole fov. The centre section was much harder to see and appeared as a “dark hole within the surrounding fuzz”. I could see several black lanes coming and going within the nebulosity and used the nearby Garnet star to try to orientate myself with Sky Safari. I do not believe that I saw the Elephant trunk within the nebula but there was plenty of darker “black bits” at other locations within sh2-131 (using a mirror diagonal was also adding confusion to my brain! [I hope to get it later in the season when I get the 20” mirror and NVD onto this target] I panned up from sh2-131 looking for Sh2-129 (Bat wing nebula). It was easily located but was pretty faint compared to some of the other nebula that I had picked out so far. I panned down from IC1396 and located Sh2-132 which appeared as a bright patch of nebulosity. A quick look at Sky Safari revealed that the Cave was nearby so I used Sh2-132 as a marker to pan left over to the Cave (sh2-155) and soon bumped into it. I have never seen the Cave region with such low magnification before so the view was hard to recognise! The nebula was a nice size within the fov but there was so much nebulosity that I found it hard to see “just the usual bright bit”. There was a “clear dark side” to the nebula but the nebulosity’s appearance was more of a “cloud” or “cauliflower”. I tried switching to the 35mm for more magnification but the loss of focal ratio caused some of the brightness to be lost. By now, it was starting to get light and the sky was brightening, I decided to head for the Bubble nebula. I can only imagine how tiny it must be at x11 as I never managed to locate it! It was time to pack up. I returned to my eye piece box to discover standing water on top, the dew was really bad! Sky Safari Flight Path Here are some screenshots from Sky Safari with my observing list highlighted Conclusions Writing this report has been a discovery in Sharpless objects! Most of those mentioned in the report are new to me and I have had to spend time using the internet just to find the names for the objects that I observed. It is clear that there must be very few nebula beyond the reach of NV (if they have a Ha component that is) and I am looking forward to getting my big dob onto some of these tiny faint Sharpless objects (for some increased NV magnification). However, it seems Sky Safari do not expect anyone to see these objects as it’s been a real pain to find the names this morning. Looks like I need to “search” for each Sharpless in turn and add them to an observing list to get Sky Safari to show them, a job for the next rainy day. 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: Fri 31st August 2018. 2145-0010hrs. Scope: Borg 107FL f5.6 (focal length 600mm). Eyepieces: Ethos 3.7mm(x162) & 6mm (x100) Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS. Night Vision Eyepieces: Panoptic 27mm (f5.4 x22) & 35mm (f4.2 x17), Plossl 55mm (f2.6 x11). Filters: Astronomik 6nm Ha CCD, Astronomik 12nm Ha CCD. Moon: 80% Second time lucky? After my problematic first light attempts on Wednesday, I was very keen to get outside again and see if I could turn things around. The weather had been nice all afternoon and the skies remained clear at 2100hrs as twilight came down. I got the Borg 107FL setup & mounted in the house, this time I had the dew strap and handset on as well, then opened the French doors are carried it out to the patio (it’s as light as a feather (almost))! Still a couple more trips needed After identifying all the bits needed to get going (on Wednesday), tonight I was more prepared and had my eyepiece case lid laden with the books, torches, pens etc that I needed. The night vision was setup and inside together with my Astronomik filters. Which just left my Battery box and the two power cables for scope & dew strap. Three trips needed in total (an improvement on the other night). Am I in sync with SynScan? Nervously, I powered up the scope, and entered the date & time into the handset. I had the 6mm Ethos loaded for alignment so pushed on and selected Altair (I have the star names coming up in Alphabetic Order now so this was an easy choice – another first night improvement!). I centred the star in the finder and it was nicely in the 100 degree FOV, I defocused it to a big ball then centred, down, left, up, right (as per my learnings from first light). Next, onto Arturus and repeat the above. “Alignment Successful” the handset announced. I pressed the “Messier” button and entered “13” (which should be close by) Slew… Slew… I looked in the eyepiece and refocused, to my surprise there is was, M13, success at the first attempt! (That’s three hours saved on the first night) ? I popped back inside to inform the Mrs that it was aligned and she was welcome to pop outside for some introductory Night Vision viewing at her convenience. (She is too short to use the dob – has to stand on a block of wood - and hates all the nudging, so this tracking mount is just what is needed). Weather report Moon – the Moon was due to rise at 2215 and I expected maybe an hour before it comes over the Pennines and next door. So, limited darkness. Up above the Milky Way was showing nicely at 2200 with two spiral arms seen meeting in Cygnus overhead with a lovely black band in-between. The Moon was a pain from about 2300 as expected. Clouds – The first hour had clear skies, then cloud filled from the West and passed over. After that a layer of thin cloud remained but occasional patches were available. Observing report of our targets M13 – After viewing with the Ethos 6mm for a short while, I changed to the 55mm and added the PVS-14 Night Vision. M13 presented now as a lovely propeller, small but perfectly formed. Ideally I would have increased the magnification (DeLite 18.2mm) but she wanted to see some nebula. Crescent – Starting with a bright easy target. I added the 6nm Ha CCD filter to the diagonal. With the 55mm Plossl, the crescent was small and clear to see, lacking some detail as I could not see the whole of the reversed “9” shape but it was early. The Mrs had a look after checking an image in Sky Safari “This is what you are going to see…” type of thing… Gamma Cygni region – Very nice. Lush nebulosity was seen and panning round via the handset revealed plenty of lanes of nebulosity. I think I will be able to see plenty of Sharpless nebulas with this setup (but not when my wife is waiting for a sky tour!) North American + Pelican – The NA was lovely and bright with a fainter Pelican sitting to the side. The beak of the Pelican was clear but the body section was incomplete. The brighter sections of the NA nebula stood out nicely. ? IC1396 “Elephant Trunk” – IC1396 was visible tonight after being almost invisible two nights ago but there was still a lack of detail within IC1396 and no trunk. I would try again later when it’s darker. Bubble – This time I had three nebulous objects in the FOV (it was two on first light), the circular bubble was not visible at this low magnification, but I reckon I will get it on new moon with more magnification (Delite 18.2mm?). Sh2-157 was one of the patches in the FOV! - it was just possible to see the “heart” or “squid” shape sitting next to the Bubble nebula in direct vision. ? Veil – The eastern section was very clear. Pickering’s triangle was faint but there and the western section slightly brighter too. At this point, my wife decided she had had enough and cloud was pretty much everywhere. I could see two planets to the south and had no inclination to pack up my new scope until absolutely necessary! You got to pick a planet or two Saturn was up first. I removed the NV gear and inserted the Ethos 3.7mm. Saturn was nice and “contrasty” in the huge FOV but it was wobbly, wobbly, wobbly. I got a decent focus but there was no sign of Cassini division in the wobbly planetary image. Ah well, on to Mars we go. Mars showed as a lovely bright orange disk. It had the wobbles too (just like Saturn) but I did my best to get the disk as sharp as possible and settled down on my chair to observe it. I could see a white patch at the top of the planet and a dark crescent like shape in the central region. I checked “orbit” in Sky Safari to get the current face and there was some dark stuff centrally. As I kept observing a second white cap became apparent on the bottom of the disk too. The 3.7mm Ethos seems a good match to this scope, the exit pupil is larger (0.66mm) than the Borg89 due to the faster speed and I feel that it performed better in this session than I had managed with the smaller sister scope. The planetary images were bright and sharp, just need some decent conditions now… Wonder if Sagittarius is still there? The clearest part of the sky remained the low south, I had no clue whether Sagittarius was still above the horizon, but entered “M16” into the handset to find out… M16 Eagle – The scope slewed to a stop and was clearly above the horizon. I put the 6nm Ha filter back in and the NVD + 55mm Plossl. I looked in the eyepiece and there was the Eagle head and body shining brightly. I could see extra nebulosity (other Sharpless) above and to the left of the Eagle. The edges of the Eagle were a bit fuzzy so the sky wasn’t top notch but at least I could see something. I looked intently at the two central stars for the Pillars and a tiny black “V” was winking from there. I proceeded to change to the Pan35 for more magnification and now the Pillars of Creation were stable, tiny but stable. ? Now I tried the Pan27 for more magnification but found the image a bit dark. I swapped in the 12nm Ha filter for more light to the NVD and was rewarded by a nice sharp view of the Pillars. The rest of the view was more washed out than with the 6nm Ha filter but the detail in the nebula was more easily seen! M17 Swan – 55mm Plossl & 6nm Ha. Nice view of the bright main section with a very black hole in the circular section. The surrounding nebula was visible but not to the same extent as previous sessions with the Borg89. I could see some other Sharpless to the side of the Swan. M8 Lagoon – Down to the Lagoon and the overall shape was large and clear. Again it was not the best I have seen it but it is low and the Moon was up. Triffid – Always a nice object with NV. The black lines stood out clearly in the small flower shape. It looked best with the Pan35. Get outside and look up As Sky at Night like to keep telling us! I looked up and it had semi-cleared overhead, the “big W” was coming over the house and I wanted to try the Heart and Soul… Heart – On Wednesday I got two bright small patches. Now I see lines of curving nebulosity tracing out a shape but it’s not a Heart. I was a bit puzzled but I concluded that there must be some strange reflections or something in this area of the sky as the Heart was “overwritten” by two circles of brightness. I panned around but these bright circular patches remained there in the exact same place each time? ? Soul – That’s more like it, the foetus body was pretty clear, the head less so. By now, the moon was over next door and lighting up the patio. CED214/NGC7822 – The “parachute” was a bit of a let-down. I could see a square patch and a sausage shape next to it but compared to the “wow” I got with the 20” this was pretty thin gruel. I revisit some of the above targets, generally the moon was now in the way along with the ever present layer of thin clouds. At around 0010 I decided to give up. Thoughts of the observer It has been my experience that “first lights” are generally a disappointment but that “second light” gives you your mojo back. This indeed proved to be the case tonight. The SynScan trauma was forgotten and I actually felt some familiarity with the handset and its usage… The 107FL performed admirably on the planets and it seems a good match for the Ethos 3.7mm SX so I was pleased about that. I saw some great targets under a pretty dismal sky (apart from the first hour) and I have now forgetten how hard some of these targets used to be even on good nights. The highlight for me was the unexpected sighting of sh2-157 and I think this bodes well for some serious Sharpless hunting come the new moon. I will target the large Sharpless with the Borg 107FL and the small Sharpless for the 20”… Clear Skies, Alan
  25. 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
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