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Found 7 results

  1. The weather has been settled for the last 5 days or so, with pleasant Spring sunshine on most days. The ongoing battle of lighter evenings, resulting in later nights conflicting with 6 am wake up calls for dog walks mean that at the moment, opportunities for observing have to be carefully selected. The day and night of 18th April had an excellent forecast. Barely a cloud crossed the sky all day, but the breeze was very evident. I set up the dob out the back garden just after the sun set. The astronomy forecast was looking good with wind slightly decreasing through the night. Whereas the wind can prove to be a nuisance with seeing conditions sometimes, it does keep the dew away from the optics and Telrad. First task when I went outside was to line up the Telrad which I did on Jupiter. However, I noticed some very strange 'smearing' in the bright image. A collimation check with the laser collimater showed that the secondary was way out of line. Thankfully, one of the original upgrades I did on the scope was to fit thumbscrews to the secondary to make collimation much easier. Less than 2 minutes later, I was all aligned, up and running and ready for a great nights observing. The constellation of Leo had already risen high enough in the sky for me to see it in its entirety. There are two well known collections of galaxy target to look at in Leo. Both of them can be found across the belly and body of the lion. My first objects to look at were the Leo Triplet of M65, M66 and NGC 3628. The galaxies clearly through the eyepiece of the telescope. The moonless night and very good seeing conditions meant that they were easily picked out against the darker background of the night sky. The Leo triplet were one of the first collections of galaxies I looked at through the new dob, and at over magnitude 9 shows what the scope is capable of. It gives an excellent benchmark. The other well know collection of targets in Leo that were next on my list were part of the Leo group of galaxies, M95, M96, M105 and NGC 3384. These are two spiral galaxies and two elliptical galaxies. The 4 targets were a little too big to fit in a single field of view using the 32mm Panaview eyepiece. I made a brief sketch in my notebook which showed M95 as I looked at the collection was just above and left of the field of view as I looked through the eyepiece. At first, I didn't really know for sure what target was what, especially taking into account the strange things two mirrors and a bunch of lenses in the eyepiece does by flipping the image back and forth. However, from the sketch in the notebook, and using Stellarium, I was able to confirm the targets after the session. Up until that point, the session had been spent re-visiting targets that I had seen before. With nothing planned for Sunday, and good clear weather forecast all night, I knew that I could take my time. This proved to be a good thing given the amount of light pollution caused by the neighbours insecurity light in his back garden. I knew that it would be a test of will and patience, From my semi-reclined position, slumped in my camping chair next to the scope, I decided that I plenty of both. During that time, I noticed the constellation of Virgo had also climbed above the roof tops and was now easily view-able. I set about looking through my Telrad charts and star atlas to look for more targets. The first new target for the night was M100. It's a spiral galaxy in the constellation of Coma Berenices just above Leo and Virgo. Though slightly less well known than the other constellations to many, it is the home to another vast array of targets, many of which are beyond the limit of even the SBT! Taken from my notes from the evening... "Faint but with defined almost perfect round core in centre". The core was easily picked out against the smudge of the rest of the structure, in turn showing up nicely against the blackness of the surrounding sky. M99 is another spiral galaxy in the same constellation. It's is of higher magnitude than nearby M100 meaning that it appears dimmer through the eyepiece. Again, back to the notes from the evening... "Slightly dimmer than M100. Appears smaller too. Possibly see structure @25 mm but hard to say for sure." For this target, I changed the to the 25 mm BST eyepiece. I expected to lose some of the brightness of the structure, but I couldn't really detect any loss in quality of the image. It is a target that I would like to return to in the future and spend more time observing at different magnifications. Now, onto the highlight of the observing night for me. My notebook gives a little description of what it was like. But, there was so much more going on in the eyepiece. I had switched back to the 2 inch Panaview eyepiece ready to start observing around Virgo. "Virgo - wow! Counted 9 other galaxies + possibly more! Just amazing. Problem with big dob here - too much to see." The three constellations of Leo, Virgo and Coma Berenices hide vast riches of galaxies and other targets. A positive treasure trove of targets for galaxy hunters with big light bucket gathering dobsonians. So, here's the list of targets I think I observed. It's very hard to be absolutely sure at my skill level, without the help of a computer or Go To abilities to positively confirm the targets, but I've done the best I can. M88, M86, M84, M87, M89, M90, M59, M58, M60 and M91. This is certainly an area of the sky that I will be revisiting at the earliest opportunity. Also, hopefully, skies will be clear at Astrocamp in May and I shall spend a good chunk of time observing around these constellations from there too. It really is tricky to convey how crammed this area of the sky is with targets, many of which are observable using my 12 inch dob, but a majority of which are beyond the ability of even that scope I think. Leaving that plethora of targets, I decided to try to hone in on single targets again. So, I started to track down M49, another elliptical galaxy in Virgo. "To cap off an awesome part of the session! Very nice elliptical galaxy. Slightly brighter than the others in the Virgo cluster than I have seen tonight." Though in the same constellation as the others, I could see that the galaxy is a little more detached from many of the other targets. One of the features to keep an eye out for this month is the path of Jupiter passing close by to my next target, M44, or, The Beehive Cluster. It is a target I have visited through the scope many times before, mostly with the 150p. It is a vast open cluster with very bright stars. Conditions were very good. Dark and clear enough so that I could just make out the cluster naked eye. It was sure an awesome site through the 2 inch EP and the dob. "M44 - Beehive Cluster. First time @32mm. V-bright and rich cluster. Poss naked eye tonight..." Leaving M44 behind, I tracked down another cluster. This time the globular cluster of M53. It's much more condensed that M44, but is still very bright and pretty. I decided to stay with the 32 mm EP, but I think with the 18 mm BST I should be able to resolve many more individual stars next time I come across the target. The cold was starting to penetrate through the layers. I had dressed more for a Summers evening observing session than a Spring session. The night time temperatures reminded me that we have barely said goodbye to Winter. I was having such a good session that I didn't want to stop, but I was starting to get a bit cold. It's not often I get the chance to have a fully free session with no considerations for the next day. A couple more targets to finish off and that would be me done for the night. M65 is known as The Black Eye galaxy and takes its name from a very distinctive small black area of dust and gas close to the brighter core of the spiral galaxy. This is sometimes said to be visible in smaller amateur scopes. I'd like to think that I could make out the black eye, but with my own tired eyes, it was hard to confirm. It's a cracking little target though! The final target of the session proved to be a bit of mystery until the following morning. Whilst having a final 'look and nudge' with the dob around Coma Berenices, I came across a very thin and really pretty target. It was surely another elliptical galaxy, but I didn't know what one. That area of the sky only has limited stars of naked eye visibility, so I struggled with the Telrad to identify what it was I had seen. It was all the more tricky when I take into consideration how many potential observable targets there are in that section of the sky. I ended up resorting to drawing what I saw in the field of view on the eyepiece. I was using the 2 inch panaview 32 mm, so I decided to draw around the eyepiece cap that then give me the template to draw in what I was saw. I estimated the target to be above magnitude 9 which I was able to do by comparing what I been looking at throughout the session. I sketched in the main target and relative size. Next, I added the stars that I was able to pick out with ease and put them in their relative positions. I hoped that this would be enough for me to use Stellarium and its ocular feature to pick out the features I had recorded in the sketch. The next morning, I fired up Stellarium and started to browse around the constellation of Coma Berenices. I knew that that target was reasonably significant due to its magnitude and size, so it ought to be listed and perhaps photographed too. After a while, I found what I was looking for, but as it turned out, there is no picture in my version of Stellarium of the target. What I had stumbled across is designated NGC 4565 and C38 - The Needle Galaxy. It's a sideways on spiral galaxy which appears very long and thin. A bit more time looking for images on line confirmed what I had sketched whilst at the EP. With fingers beginning to go numb, and the task of having to transport the SBT back out to the garage, it was time to close the session. It's been the best session for quite a while. For once, free time, weather and opportunity have all come together in my favour. Until next time! Thanks for reading. Tony
  2. Hickson Compact Groups (HCGs) are small, isolated system of four or more galaxies in close proximity to one another. The magnitudes of the galaxies differ by less than 3.0. Hickson identified 100 such compact groups. One is HGC 44 in Leo, sometimes known as the NGC 3190 Group. with members: NGC 3190; 3185; 3187; NGC 3193. This is data from DSW in new Mexico. Takahashi FSQ 106; Paramount MyT; WSI 683 with Astrodon LRGB filters. Lum: 16x900s Red: 17x900s Green: 14x900s Blue: 16x900s Total: 15 hours 45 minutes. Processing in PI and PS.
  3. In the first half of April we had a few nights with clear skies, so I aimed my rig at the galaxy that Messier missed ... 60 x 80 and 120 second light frames (total integration time approximately 90 minutes), bias frames and flats Imaged over 2 nights; 2/3 of the frames ended up being permanently archived ... Equipment as per my signature. As always, unguided. Processed entirely in Pixinsight. This is still a WIP, TGVDenoise mottled the background and I'm still trying to find the right mix of edge protection and local support. ... and solved with Pixinsight. Note that the image solver in Pixinsight marks the galaxies that should be there, not just the ones you can actually see. Comments / suggestions welcome
  4. Good evening everyone. This is my second light report using my SkyWatcher 300p Flextube. First light was a bit of a rush because the opportunity came without much notice. This time however, I had a bit more time to plan. As you can see, it went well. Very well. I’d been looking forward to Sunday evening for quite a few days. Throughout the latter part of last week, the weather forecast was suggesting that the skies would be clear for a good deal of the afternoon and through into the small hours. The only issue being, work would get in the way on Monday morning. So, in plenty of time, I set the scope up outside whilst it was still light, and then came to wait until darkness. I used that time to get a few more ideas on what I could target for the evening. Following on from first light for the SBT on the 21st, I decided that I would quite like to get back to the constellation of Leo. I also decided that Gemini would be a good area to explore. Armed with my notebook, Telrad chart and pocket atlas, I headed out to the garden and sat in the dark for a while before putting the Telrad on the scope and getting everything lined up. To Leo. I wanted to make sure that what I had seen during first light of the scope was true. I still couldn't quite believe what else was visible through the 12” mirror in comparison to the 6”. I made a note in my book about the seeing. Though not brilliant, it was still the clearest sky around here for quite a while. My first target of note for the evening was NGC 2903 which is a spiral galaxy of magnitude 9.6. I found the target quite easily using the Telrad. However, I couldn't really see much structure if any. A faint fuzzy it certainly was. Around my observing point, there were various lights being switched on and off by the neighbours as people began to settle down for the evening. I think without this minor interference, I could have seen a lot more. The back garden does actually get very dark once people have settled down and gone to bed. Unfortunately, I didn't have the luxury of a late night so it will be a target to revisit in better conditions. Next in Leo, I paid a visit to M65 and M66. They appeared exactly as I remembered them. Both easily visible in the same FOV through the 32mm EP, but again without too much detail involved. Then, I thought it would be worth a quick view of a target visited many times before, M44 The Beehive Cluster. It was pleasing to see it again and is certainly much richer with the aid of the 12” mirror. Having spent a bit of time looking around Leo, I paid a quick visit to Gemini and the cluster of M25. A pretty target that really filled the EP. Not as bright as M44, but still very well defined. I decided to take a seat for a while, and under red torch light, flicked through the atlas and just gazed around the sky spotting as many stars as possible in the constellations of Leo and Hydra. Sometimes, I find it just as relaxing and enjoyable and when it comes to finding targets, a bit more knowledge always helps! Then, it was time to look at the constellation of Ursa Major. Nice and high in the sky, the pocket atlas shows many targets that I've tried for but not managed to locate in the past. M63 was on the list, technically in Canes Venatici, but kind of in the right area of the sky. I’m afraid to say again, probably because of local light pollution and poorly adapted night vision, the target was nothing more than a grey smudge for me. But, it’s definitely whetted the appetite for a revisit under darker skies. While in that locality, I nudged the SBT on to M51, the Whirpool Galaxy. For me, this was probably the best target of the night. Not really appreciating what it looked like from a photo, I made a note in my book that I could see two distinct light spots very close to each other. They didn't look like two completely independent objects given the light areas that seemed to join them. In my mind, I recalled an image I have seen in a magazine of what looked to be a spiral galaxy almost consuming a neighbouring galaxy. I wondered if this is what I was looking at. I was really pleased when I verified what I thought I saw when I came back indoors and saw a similar image on stellarium. What a cracking sight that was. I felt like I was on a bit of role, so I decided to go for two more targets in Ursa Major before calling it a night. The first was M109. In stellarium, it’s referred to as the Vacuum Cleaner Galaxy, a new one on me. Because of its proximity to the star Phecda, I found it very easy to locate, but quite tricky to distinguish. I found it easier to nudge the scope a little so Phecda wasn't in the field of view. This meant that M109 was now towards the edge of the field of view, but it meant that the comparative brightness of the star wasn't detracting from the image of the galaxy. Finally, a little further nudge towards Merak brought the final target into view, M108, the Surfboard Galaxy. In the Telrad charts, it was given as a magnitude 10 object. The first mag 10 object I’d been able to find in my short hobby time as an observer. In the faint grey colouring of the galaxy, I thought I could make out a very small single pinprick of light that stuck out quite well. I assumed this to be the core of the galaxy. So all in all, a very enjoyable and exciting observing session that brought a raft of new objects to my tick list. Whilst I’m sure the scope is capable of so much more again, especially with some mods including a shroud and possibly flocking, it really is demonstrating its brilliant abilities under my ‘back yard’ conditions. As you might have noticed, there was no mention of changing EPs during the session. I made a conscious decision before I started that I would use exclusively the 32mm EP. There are so many new combinations to now try on so many more targets that have now come within observational reach that I haven’t yet started tinkering with getting the best from each target. That will come in time. Thanks for reading.
  5. Jessun

    The Leo Triplet

    From the album: City View

    This is the Leo Triplet; three galaxies about 35 million light years away. To the left is NGC 3628 and to the right M66 and below is M65. They are gravitationally interacting and M66 features a somewhat deformed spiral arm as a result of once being close to NGC 3628. This is a 6 hour total exposure over three nights. 5 minute subs. Location central Lyon, France Orion 8"RC at f8/1600mm SW HEQ5-Pro SXVR-M25C OSC SW ED80 and Lodestar guiding Nebulosity 2.5 Capture PHD Guiding - dithered AstroArt Preprocessing and Stacking PixInsight Stretch and DBE and SCNR PS CS5 Edit
  6. Taking full advantage of a series of clear nights, I couldn't resist some wide-field shots of the sky. Seeing was reasonably good, if not perfect, a few nights after full moon. The temperature was a little cool but pleasant. Here are the fruits of my labor: Orion, 1 second exposure, f/5.6, ISO 1600: Auriga, 2 second exposure, f/5.6, ISO 1600: Canis Major, 2 second exposure, f/5.6, ISO 1600: Leo, 5 second exposure, f/5.6, ISO 1600: The Great Bear, 5 second exposure, f/5.6, ISO 800: Cheers, Reggie
  7. A sky full of stars in this 6 pane mosaic taken from Galloway Starcamp at Drumroamin Farm Campsite near Kirkinner on the Solway coast, bitterly cold with very strong winds blowing. www.drumroamin.co.uk/ In this image planet Jupiter rises in the east within the zodiacal constellation Leo ahead of the back-to-front question mark asterism that is the sickle of Leo. Cars on the A75 in the distance across the bay leave a trail of broken yellow lights along the coast road in this long exposure image while low cloud shrouds the summit of Cairnharrow. Canon 60Da Nikon 50mm AIS lens at f5.6 Exp 300secs per 6 panes of this mosaic iso 1600 PT Lens & PSCS6 18th/19th November 2014 A Sky Full of Stars - Galloway Starcamp by mikeyscope, on Flickr
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