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  1. I was in two minds whether to observe Saturday night after a very late astro-night on Friday and quite a few sessions over the last week - all hampered by transparency to a greater or lesser degree. A glance at this week’s forecast however showed that the run of clear nights is sadly coming to an end, convincing me to forego (or at least postpone!) my Saturday night red wine and drive out to my darkest local site to see if I could even the odds a bit with this haze. I loaded the car with both the Mak 127 on AZGTi/Berlebach 312 and the ST80 on a Manfrotto 55. The main weapons of choice were the Baader Hyperion 24mm in the Mak giving 63x and just over a degree fov occasionally dropping in the BCO 18mm for 83x and with the Baader Mk IV zoom on hand for alignment and higher power. Had a Celestron 40mm Plossl in the ST80 all night giving a crisp, bright 4.3 degree field with 10x. Having got the backpacks to my usual spot around 10pm, I switched off my red head torch and took in the surroundings. There was a weird sky glow from the lights of Southampton docks and away to Portsmouth in the East. Naked eye was a Mag 2 sky up to 30-40 degrees but above that, much better - all of Ursa Minor visible and the Beehive and Coma star clusters easily visible naked eye. I took my time levelling the scope and using high magnification to align on Arcturus & Capella. While waiting for my eyes to fully aclimatize, I took a quick GoTo tour of M36/7/8 in Auriga and then on to a spectacular view of M35 in Gemini. Then on to the familiar lost-in-space view of the M44 Beehive and the, to me at least, mysterious M67 both in Cancer. All of this verified year the GoTo was smack on tonight and a combination of the slightly darker site (normally SQ 21.04, solid Bortle 4) and I would say somewhat better transparency than earlier in the week encouraged me to get to the intergalactic business in hand. M65/6 - immediately apparent fuzzy cores in the same field and some wider nebulous form on a long look. Hunted in vain for NGC3628 to complete the trio but couldn’t pull it out. Weird as I would say it was immediately apparent in a worse night earlier in the week. M95/6 faint grey ovals, slightly brighter at the core. M105 - detectable again with some extent beyond the core no detail & couldn’t confirm its companion NGCs tonight. Mizar- good seeing, lovely clean split & starfield confirming alignment still accurate before going after… M101 - got myself in the right spot looking at the bisecting line of 3 7th Mag stars just below 86UM. A faint fuzzy core and in AV a wider mottled patch. Couldn’t see a spiral but confirmed my dim view from earlier in the week. M106 - better view tonight and noted it’s position in the middle of reasonably prominent triangle of 6th-8th Mag stars. Reminded me of a dim M82. M108 - identifiable as another faint grey stripe within a dogleg line of stars. Another Messier ticked but really just list checking this one as no detail. Also picked up the circle of M97 just off the edge of the same field. Both really faint - the Owl jumped out a little more due to its distinctive circular shape which registers more easily. No sign of the Owls eyes for me. Was done craning at the Zenith by this time and given how faint these last few had been didn’t fancy my chances on M109 tonight so swung in search of targets at a more comfortable elevation. Re-centred on Spica then Porrima and dropped into the haze at 25 degrees with low expectations. Delighted to immediately make out M104 the Sombrero galaxy! Super view with a prominent quadruple star group as a pointer to the NW & sitting in a rich field. Clear “flying saucer” form and a hint of dust stripe in AV. Thrilled, I even went back to the car for my notebook & made a (very) rough sketch. Looked at this for a long time. M84/6 & Markarian’s chain - drank in the view of multiple smudges, picking up 5 in the field tonight. I reckon were M84, M 86, NGC4435,4438 & 4388. Not the most I’ve picked up here but a mind blowing view nevertheless. Getting cold by now I swept some clusters with the ST80 - Berenices Hairclip in Coma Berenice looking great & it’s yellow stars contrasting with the white of the Beehive M44. Had a quick tour of some favourites - great AV resolution on M13, mistier M3, nice crisp ring on M57. Went back to the Leo Trio but was still unable to definitively claim the Hamburger, NGC 3628, hints only. Finished with another visit to M104, definitely on my Messiers for the Mak 127 highlights list from now on. Cold but really pleased I drove slowly home at 01.30 only to discover it was 2.30! (I find I always drive really slowly back after a good session, this time listening to the slow movement of Brahms 1st piano concerto on the radio, whose last note died away as I pulled into my drive. Perfect.)
  2. Thursday January 13th was one of the those rare days in Winchester where an azure blue sky persists to the horizon. As dusk fell the moon was tantalisingly crisp naked eye but I hadn't got my hopes up as thick fog was forecast from 7pm with a Met Office weather warning. After supper Kathy (spouse) suggested I go out as she 'd noticed the sky was still crystal clear (very thoughtful & she has a good book on the go obviously...) so I put the Mak out to cool. By the time I started at around 9pm, seeing looked very steady in all but the last 10 degrees or so above the rooftops to the S & SE. It was around freezing and dropping fast and it got better all the time. Transparency was initially good and only started to worsen after midnight as the threatened fog began to build, thankfully five hours late. After some detailed Messier hunting in the last couple of sessions I was happy to align the GoTo (Procyon & Sirius, the latter in that low zone and flashing away like a Christmas tree, back there later...) & linked the SynScan app to SkySafari on my phone to work through the Orion area stars in the app's "Best Doubles" list for a lazier un-prepped tour. Reading on SGL made me keen to visit some of the Orion doubles I'd either missed or only picked out the obvious in last winter. Rigel, Beta Or (Mag 0.1 & 6.7, Sep 9", PA 203°) - always start here to benchmark seeing and tonight despite being still quite low down the pale white dot of the secondary popped out immediately, going to be a good night! Alnitak, Zeta Or (Mag 2 & 3.7, Sep 2.2", PA 167°) - the Eastern most belt star, have never actually tried to split this one as a double star before and was a main target having read about it on SGL. Was showing elongation at 100x & a clean split close white pair at 224x. Lovely view! Mintaka, Delta Or (Mag 2.3 & 6.8, Sep 52.5", PA 0° - the Western most belt star, easy split at 100x, secondary is faint but the wide separation makes it easy - White & Blue white. Saiph al Jabbar, Eta Or, (Mag 3.3, 4.7, Sep 1.7", PA 77° - love the arabic star names, this one means "sword of the giant" apparently although its not now considered part of Orion's sword being further West, a quarter of the way between belt-star Mintaka & Rigel. This yielded a clean split at 224x with a nice black separation between, slightly yellow white compared to the hot blues so far & lovely overlapping diffraction rings on both. Spent a good while on this view and will be back. Na'ir al Saif - Iota Or (Mag 2.9 & 7, Sep 10.8", PA 138) - "The Jewel in the Sword". Having enjoyed some spectacular view of M42 under dark skies earlier in the month I was able to pass over the moon-washed nebula where I often get sidetracked and downward to focus on the job in hand. White primary and pale blueish secondary looked great at both 100x & 224x. Popped the 32mm in to enjoy a lovely field with Struve 747 & 745 to the SW, three doubles for the price of one and a stunning view. There's another Struve star, 754 off to the SE but I didn't register this. Read later that Iota has a C star too which I wasn't looking for - Mag 9.7 at 49" separation, as if I needed a reason to go back. Sigma Or - (Mag 4.2, 6.6, 6.6 & 9 Sep AB-C 11", AB -D 12", AB-E 42"). Below and West of Alnitak, I've looked at this almost every time I observe Orion and only noted it as a triple, reading on SGL there's a faint C I was keen to tease it out, and sure enough a pale dot emerged at 224x just outside the first diffraction ring of the AB star (B being wayyy beyond my 121mm of effective aperture at 0.25" distant from A). An amazing system this - (always like to imagine what the sky would be like from a planet orbiting one of those stars) creating a dog-leg line starting with C then the bright AB and on to D and E. The Trapezium - Theta Or. Didn't spend too long in the heart of the Orion Nebula as I look at this so often & was enjoying my voyage of discovery. Checked in to verify seeing and was getting five stars reliably at 100x and the sixth winking slowly in and out of direct vision at 224x. Meissa - Lambda Or (Mag 3.4 & 5.5, Sep 4.2", PA 44°) "The Head of Orion" forming the tip of a broad triangle between Betelgeuse and Belatrix. Nice bright pair to my eye yellowish, close but not difficult, lovely rings at 224x - again have looked at this rich cluster, Collinder 69, many times at low power & with binoculars but never put the power on it to split. I subsequently read that its a quintuple system with other elements down around 9th / 10th magnitude, so yet another where there's more to come back and see. Beta Mononceros - (Mag 4.6, 5 & 5.4, Sep AB - 7.25" AC 2.8", PA 132° & 109°). Hopped South West from Orion to neighbouring Monoceros for the stunning triple. Went up to 250x to maximise the separation and enjoyed the view of 3 fairly even in brightness white discs with steady rings. 32 Eridani - (Mag4.8 & 5.9, Sep 7", PA 347°) Off to the West of Orion in an area I don't often look at is 32 Eridani. After all those shades of blue & white in Orion this is a stunning colour contrast of golden yellow and sea green, a real gem and one I'll often visit. Tried for 55 Eridani but behind a tree! Keid, Omicron/40 Eri - (Mag 4.51 & 9.7, Sep 82.4, PA 102°). Swept quite quickly over this one, a dim wide spaced secondary. Apparently in Star Trek, Vulcan orbits 40 Eri & there are further dim components that should be in reach of the Mak so maybe I have a reason to go back and spend more time here sometime in search of Spock. By this time I was getting cold. After a spell inside to de-ice my fingers and toes I came back out, now a heavy frost and still rock-steady seeing, spent some time on the moon (Gruithissen Domes & Rilles in Gassendi courtesy of tips from @Nik271) then the seeing lured me back to the doubles for a tour of some favourites & nemeses... 55 Eridani - (Mag 6.7 & 6.8, Sep 9"). Out from the trees now & a relatively easy split of an even pair, doesn't stand out so much in the memory. Castor - Alpha Gem (Mag 1.93, 3 & 9.3, Sep AB 5.4", AC 71", PA 62° & 164°). The first double I split with the Mak, Castor was blazing away, I'd read on here about the dim C star and was delighted to pick it up glimmering away to the South at 100x. Sirius - Alpha Ca Ma. (Mag -ve 1.46, 8.4 , Sep 11" PA 70°) by now high in the sky & steady I glanced at Sirius. Have spent many hours on this one and after a quick look in case the Pup was immediately & dramatically more obvious (it wasn't) The A star was so bright with a large apparent disc and bright rings, but steadier than I've seen. I have noticed that when I get a hint of the pup star its often in the first few seconds when I put my eye to the eyepiece - wonder if this is something to do with receptors in the eye - tonight though the longer I looked, the less I saw so I moved on. Theta Aurigae - (Mag 2.6, 7.2, 10.6 & 10.1, Sep AB: AB: 4.0” AC: 55.2” AD: 135.3”. PA AB: 304°, AC: 300°, AD: 351°. Having seen the B star once in my f15 80mm Towa 339, then quite easliy, I've found this one a bit of a nemesis since. The faint C & D stars can be found easily but for me with small apertures, B has needed the best nights. Tonight it sat with very obvious separation in the Mak at 224x , a white dot on the first diffraction ring. Satisfying & a good test of seeing. Achird - Eta Cass (Mag 3.5, 7.4, Sep 13.3", PA 322°). Returning to a favourite, a lovely White/Orange pair. There are apparently more faint companions to tease out so will be back for a closer search. Iota Cass - (Mag 4.6, 6.9 9.0, Sep AB: 2.6″, AC: 7.1″ PA AB: 229°, AC: 116°). Often check out this lovely triple after recommendation from @John a few months back, super view tonight rock steady off-set L shape. I read there's a faint D star a little way off so will be back soon to track that down. Tegmine - Zeta Cancri (Mag 5.6, 6 & 6.3, Sep 1.1" & 6.3", PA 80° & 70°). It was gone midnight now and signs of the forecast fog were building, halo round the moon but seeing still close to perfect. Cancer had risen to the ESE and I was able to pick Tegmine out of the mist in the finder. At 224x I got the best view of this I've had - it sits right on the optical limits for the Mak 127 at 1.1." separation for the close pair and they appeared as a steady figure of eight with a clean black line between, the C star still close in at 6.3" making a spectacular trio with nice rings. I've only fully split this once before and normally see it as a "notched" pair, one night with my son (19) he could see the separation where I only had it as notched, tonight though was definitive. Elated with both telescope performing at diffraction limits, a good night for the observer and with freezing fog finally building, I looked at one final star before a brew & bed... Algieba - Gamma Leonis (Mag 2.2, 3.5. Sep 4.4", PA 127°). Along with Castor a favourite from my first tries at double stars, Algieba's golden orbs shining through a circular halo of mist looked like an owl's eyes peering back at me. Lovely way to end a great session. A note on equipment: I'd taken out my set of Baader Classic Orthoscopics -18mm, 10mm & 6mm, a Televue 15mm Plossl plus the Badder 2.25 Barlow that is built for the Hyperion Zoom. I found myself gravitating to the TV 15mm to start giving 100x & barlowing it down to 6.67mm to give 224x for the closer pairs, occasionally dropping in the BCO 6mm to give 250x to confirm the closest splits. The TV+ Barlow combination was working superbly - nice and bright and better ergononmics than the BCOs in the Mak. I wear contacts so am ok with close eye relief but the TV + Barlow combo was more comfortable from both this perspective and the longer tube made viewing easier on the Mak with less headbanging against the finderscope & Telrad and consequent time spent waiting for vibration to settle. A session to remember.
  3. From the album: Lunar

    Moon 18/11/2013 via Canon EOS 1100D and Celestron 127SLT
  4. A little late in posting this one due to work and the arrival of a new/old ‘scope but wanted to record my first solo trip to a darker site and a memorable observing session. As dark fell last Thursday (May 6th) there was a deep clarity to the sky that convinced me to do something I'd been threatening to do since the end of lockdown, put the gear in the car and drive 15 minutes out of town to a local country park. Farley Mount is a favourite viewpoint around Winchester and I'd previously clocked its near 360 degree horizon and elevated position away from immediate lights. The dis-incentive to date had been a ten minute walk from the car park through deep and ancient Yew woodland to the observing site, but the sky conditions, largely moonless night, & a lighter day in the diary at work Friday convinced me to bite the bullet. I don't mind admitting I was bit nervous for no rational reason, I'm a big lad and despite any local superstition all I'm really likely to run into up there is the occasional poacher (I took the chance the cold would keep al fresco couples and any attendant, ahem, spectators indoors). Nevertheless I was glad of the relaxed Canadian astro-dude banter of the Objects to Observe in May edition of the Actual Astronomy podcast in the car on the way up there and as an extra precaution took my heavy and very bright night-watchman style Maglite torch/truncheon for reassurance. I was pleased to find the car park deserted, no steamy cars or worse still, blood-stained pickups with deer in the back in evidence. The sky was mesmerising however, good seeing and good to excellent transparency. By the time I'd walked in, selected a spot allowing use of a handy bench as observing table and gone through the familiar routine of set-up I’d got very happy with my isolated situation and ready to track down some more spring Messier objects. This site is about 10 miles from Southampton and with a clear line of sight down to the dockyards and the ships strung out along the Solent and on toward Portsmouth. Beautiful in its own right but casting a glow to South and South East up to about 50 degrees. Basingstoke glows dimly over the Northern horizon about 20 miles away but only seemed to be affecting a dome up to about 15 degrees. All other directions were dark to the horizon and no local lights at all. This is a big step up from the local park! The Milky Way was very plainly visible along with M13 and 10+ stars in Ursa Minor. I used a Mak 127 on an AZ GTi, Baader Hyperion 24mm giving 63x magnification, a Neodymium filter and occasionally switched in a Baader Zoom 8-24mm to up the power. Aligned Vega & Arcturus then slewed to Vindemiatrix as a start point for some of the galaxies I haven't yet spotted in Virgo & Comma B. Took a quick look at M86 & M84 region first to gauge conditions against my last session in that area of sky and it was immediately clear the darker site and clear sky made a huge difference. The galaxies sprung out in 9x50 finder and I could see more of the nebulous regions surrounding the core. Took a quick sweep NE along Markarian's chain from there and it was dotted with 7 or 8 fuzzy patches in the same field, amazing. By this time I was getting dark adapted and relaxing into the new environment, so turned to new targets.I orientated myself through the finder in a triangle between Vindemiatrix, Porrima and Omicron Virginis and started hunting for a fuzzy patch between a diagonal pair just off centre right (in RACI view) of that region… M49 – Spent quite a while hunting this one before realising I’d aligned on the wrong fuzzy patch between a diagonal pair & had to resort to Stellarium on the iPad to find an optical triple in the bottom right of field which confirmed I was in fact looking at NGC4526/NGC4560 – “The Lost Galaxy” apparently now found. A quick sweep up and West found a wider spaced pair and there was a faint fuzzy cloud with a slightly brighter centre, surprisingly dim though. Not a lot of features so moved on but M49 located. M85 - found to R of 11 Coma Berenices, verified by the presence of dim star on lower R edge. Not much detail but nice to find. M100 – moved to 6 Coma Berenices as a reference then up and W to place a pair bottom L and look for M100 top right, eventually perceived as much as saw this – to my eye was only visible in averted vision – some sense of circular shape, apparent but really dim, brought home the vast distance (55 Million light years). M99 – back to 6 C.B. and put it in the top L of the field and a little down to the right, along the base of a low triangle of dim stars was M99 – a highlight of the night, whilst very faint showing some spiral structure- took a long look at this one. M98 – back the other side of 6 C.B an oblique egde on clearly visible as a “stripe” – reminded me of a dim M82. M61 – Looking half way along the line between Porrima and Omicron Virginis this one took me ages to find. I kept going to the spot where I thought should be and panning around not finding much. Tried a GoTo and that landed me in the dark. Eventually used Stellarium live on the iPad to confirm I had 16 Virginis and a line of 3 stars above in the field then moved up & found M61 between its 2 bridging stars. Another one very faint, and with averted vision some cloudy spiral form was visible. That all took a while and I was a bit cold so I decided to just hit GoTo on some targets of opportunity and see what I could find. Transparency up at the Zenith and over into Lyra and Cygnus was by this time superb. I had a bit of globular-fest alighting on: M13 which looked superb with many stars resolved and not for the first time a hint of dark lanes. M92 – smaller area than M13 and dimmer with less resolution but still lovely and a new “M” for me. M3 – Jumping around a bit but this is the first globular I found in binoculars and I wanted to compare. M5 – Tighter than M13 but I think slightly more spectacular, may be my favourite so far. M10 & M12 in Ophiuchus – easily popping into view in the finder. Have to confess I’d stopped really making notes by this stage. After all that galaxy hunting at the limits of both scope (and more to the point observer), the GoTo was behaving and the globulars look like celestial fireworks and are so easy to spot – great fun! Couldn’t resist a look over at M57 and things were so crisp and transparent over there I tried for M27 also and there it was, bigger than M57 and with a discernible double sphere shape. I rounded off with a super view of M81/82 with a sense of shape in M81 and of dark band across M82. Also notable was that where the other galaxies I’d viewed that night were grey mists of varying density – these appeared both brighter and golden in colour. Really amazing view. Just one more… (it was gone 2.30 am by this time and getting a bit blowy which wasn’t helping tripod stability or my core temperature!) M51 – great view with twin cores, a discernible spiral and a lane of connecting stars between the two centres. Amazing way to finish. An unashamed Messier-ticking session then but some unforgettable views and firsts, I am already plotting my next darker sky run, now, how far do I have to go to lose the glow from all those dockyards…?
  5. I've been puzzling over the bits of Virgo that are filled with galaxies on and off for the last three months & always seem to get lost and confused among barely-visible smudges in the eyepiece of my 127 Mak. Whilst not the ideal galaxy hunting tool, I have really enjoyed views of M81 & M82 and the Leo Trio so figured I ought to at least be able to identify the whereabouts of some of the Virgo cluster even if there's no real features or structure to be even dimly seen with this aperture. To date I'd positively identified M86 & M84 and noted a couple of NGCs in the same field and other smudges within a couple of panning fields distant - but beyond that it was all "might be" in terms of identification. There is I admit a part of me that is motivated to "tick off" Messier objects but I want to be positive on my identification, so with this in mind I hatched a plan to tour the area in a more structured way, inspired by this great thread on the topic from @MercianDabbler https://stargazerslounge.com/topic/375174-easter-2021-attempting-galaxies-with-an-sp102/?tab=comments#comment-4074628. Recon sessions with the ST80 while the moon has been dominant over the last couple of weeks had led me to a chain of mini asterisms that I reckon I could follow from Vindemiatrix as a pathway to identify specific galaxies - even though they would be little more than un-resolvable fuzzy stars in my 'scope. I went as far as running through my star hopping "moves" a couple of times in Stellarium during the afternoon and making step by step instructions in my notebook (I find paper & a red headtorch easier in the field than trying to manipulate an App under a redlight). Saturday's forecast wasn't perfect for this purpose but looking ahead, looked like the only usable night for a while so I spent a happy few-bank holiday hours in the afternoon packing gear, charging batteries and prepping. All observations with a Skywatcher Mak 127, Baader Hyperion 24mm (68 degree AFOV delivering a shade over 1 degree TFOV), Baader Neodymium Filter added for good luck! Saturday May 1st /Sunday May 2nd was clear over Bortle-5 Winchester and seeing was very steady, transparency was fair and at times poor with high cloud building gradually to the SW by midnight when I set out. There were a couple of hours before the moon became a factor so I got to work aligning (Vega, Arcuturus) and slewing to Vindemiatrix. Tracked a couple of fields of view (1 degree field) SSW to a faint "crown" of stars [Stellarium says HD111132 is at the head of the curve] which I've been calling mini-Corona and from there on W to a 4 star asterism with Rho Virginis at its centre which I've been calling the "plane" as it looks like a clear delta-wing shape (like an old dinky toy Dassault Mirage I had as a kid!) M59/M60 - Put the "nose" of the plane in the centre-bottom of the field and pan up half a degree and there was M59 & M60, the first a dim fuzzy point, better in averted vision, the second notably brighter and with haze around a central point, could stand direct vision. Putting the nose of the "plane" this time in the right hand side of the finder (RACI view on the Mak) and tracking a full field West brings the first of two pairs of stars in a just about horizontal line [Stellarium says these are HD109815, HD109684, HD109486, HD109401]. M58 - Putting the first pair of "the line" in the bottom R of the finder and tracking up 1/2 a field brought me a fuzzy patch with a star bottom R [later confirmed star as HD109771] M89 - Putting the second pair of "the line" in the bottom R of the finder and tracking up just over a field, passing a small triangle of stars, brings in M89 - a fuzzy star, not much else to note. M90 - Putting M89 in the bottom centre of the field brings in M90 in the top of the view, dim fuzzy but a bit more of a vertical line than a point this time. Makes a nice field with M89. M87 - Placed M89 top R in field and swing W. M87 - not as bright as expected, nebulous patch, no detail to speak of. M86 - Placed M87 in far R of field and tracked W I full field (1 degree) - quite apparent fuzz with brighter core - easier to see than M87 which is odd. M84 - Placed M87 in far R of field and tracked W I full field (1 degree) - faint, best with averted vision when focussed on M86. I then tracked one field of view NE of the M84/M86 view and this gives a really humbling view full of tiny fuzzy patches. I made a rough sketch of a pronounced Scalene Triangle of resolvable stars [based on Stellarium I think these are three 10th Mag stars just into Coma Berenices, TYC 880-659-1, TYC 880 567-1, TYC 880 505-1, whatever that means...] with an elongated "M" shape of fuzzy blobs interweaving. I am not 100% sure which I was seeing but reckon given the slightly off transparency conditions I wasn't able to see as deep as the scope's limiting magnitude of 13.1 so am fairly sure I was looking at "The Eyes" - NGC 4435 & 4438 and then probably NGC 4459, NGC 4461, NGC 4473 & NGC 4477. M56 - I was getting spots before the eyes by this time and noted that transparency was better behind me to the NE, I took a quick look straight down from Lyra & found M56, a fairly diffuse & dim globular that I am not at all sure I would have spotted had I not just spent a couple of hours tracking down the faintest of fuzz-patches! Finally looking around I noticed Serpens looked clear and did an opportunistic GoTo for a quick look for M5 before calling it a night. M5 - Wow! After all that faint stuff this is an absolute corker, tight globular and bright with faint diamond dust at 63x - although it was late I switched to the Baader Zoom & upped the magnification enjoying some super views at around 150x. Decided to end on this stunner and returned home on a bit of a high for a glass of wine and some poring over the Cambridge Star Atlas and Stellarium on my phone to confirm sightings and then read up on some of the amazing objects I'd glimpsed. Tonight I'd upped my personal "distance record" to around 70 Million light years and was amazed to find that M56 is almost as old as the universe itself at 13.5 Billion years, and even better used to be part of something called the "Gaia Sausage" - who knew? As often is the case I finished up by reading some of the history of the objects first categorisation, marvelling again at what Messier, Mechain and the Herschels achieved. Mind blown again...Clear (dark) skies!
  6. Hello everyone, I've got a question. I want to upgrade the visual back on the Mak 127. The standard back on the Mak is not pleasant to work with as seen in the image. I need to get rid of this plastic thing. I purchased a mak to sct adapter when I bought the scope, I never got around to doing anything until now as I've just acquired a Baader 2.25x barlow as shown in the image. Now, I've had a go of attaching the the Baader Barlow into the original plastic thing on the mak, it works .... but I'm not happy with the connection being made with the two locking screws, as there is still movement when the barlow, t-ring and Canon DSLR are all in the train. I've been having a look on FLO for some work around, does anyone have some input as to whether this will work. Mak to sct adapter-> Baader 2 inch to 1.25 reducer adapter->Baader 2.25x barlow + T ring & DSLR https://www.firstlightoptics.com/adapters/baader-2-to-125-reducer-adapter.html https://www.firstlightoptics.com/adapters/BaaderT2ext-1508153.html Any input or a better way of securing everything is greatly appreciated! Another option I've come across is this , Baader ClickLock 2"-1.25" Adapter and Baader T2 Extension Tube to bring it to 40mm when attached to the mak to sct adapter. Anyone have any experience with this?
  7. Hi all - looking for some advice on eyepieces. I have seen beautiful views of Jupiter with its moons and Saturn and of course the moon. I have two extra 32mm and 10mm plossls but am looking for better lenses for planets which will show more detail? Which ones would you suggest? Many thanks in advance!
  8. I saved the original packing for my Mak127 and have supplemented it with a cut-up foam sleep mat and a strip of sticky Velcro. Now all fits snugly in a standard sports bag with room to spare for finders, diagonal etc. Star Adventurer tripod + AZ GTI an easy carry - all seems safe, ready to Grab and Go!
  9. My objectives on getting a new Skymax 127 were purely visual observing having parked imaging for a far-off time when I have time on my hands but, on taking delivery of a Baader Hyperion 8-24mm Zoom and fixed Hyperion 24mm 68 degree, I noticed a photo on the box and was intrigued.. My DSLR hardly gets an outing these days with an iPhone camera always on hand but I thought it has to be worth a go so I ordered a Baader M43-T2 thread ring and a Nikon T ring to connect it all together, perhaps this could be quick and dirty way of getting into basic imaging at low cost. It all connects incredibly simply in seconds and although I'm only using the supplied SW plastic-bodied diagonal feels nice and secure when its on the 'scope. It makes quite a chunky load on the little AZ GTi mount but with the Vixen bar at its extreme balance point the mount performs fine at what I reckon is the very top end of its published 5KG payload. Initially I just wanted to establish if there's a decently bright and focusable image that makes it to the CCD & given the absence of stars due to current weather and this being a bit of an operation to put together, a daylight test seemed a good idea. I have a very handy church spire about 500m away (about the maximum possible distance from a church in Winchester) and poking it all out of an upper storey window in failing light on an extremely windy Saturday I captured the orb below on a 2.5 s exposure - (distance view included for scale, the spire is centre frame partially in the trees). Verdict: focussing is tricky, as you can see, but on the Skymax 127 there's definitely plenty of leeway either side with the focuser which answered my initial exam question, it just takes some focus to focus! I've ordered the Baader heavy duty quick release system pictured on the box which should make this much safer and more practical in the dark and cold, although it does make this not quite the bargain-basement option it is with just the 2 rings. Given the light & time limitations of the test Id say its definitely worth trying on nighttime targets, if the clouds ever clear... Will post any results up here but this looks like a really promising way of resurrecting a Nikon D90 that has been on the dole for a while (it shoots RAW video too!) Any hints, tips or suitable targets appreciated!
  10. Hi All, I hope you are well. Since I have downgraded motor and hand controller firmware I haven't seen the error message below. Both Axes...No Response! however I do experience something else: During the Initialization (if it takes longer than usually) it throws this error message: No link to mount. Stand alone mode. And this is happening quite often, 1/3 of times I initialize my MAK. Also the hand controller is hanging during operation. 1. The lights are lit but the keys stop responding and I have to power cycle the whole think again. 2. while slewing in one direction it can hang and continue slewing even if I release the button Hand Controller firmware ver. 03.36 Database 3.28 Motor firmware ver. 02.08.95 So far my conclusion is that there must be something wrong with the wiring or there is insufficient Amps according to what people say here and there. The thing is that I was always using these 8x Duracell rechargeable batteries since the beginning and I wasn't experiencing this erratic behavior. Please advise.
  11. A quick test on the moon April 30th Zwo ASI 533 Mak127 Software: Firecapture, Pipp, autostakkert , Photoshop 2 pane mosaic , 1500 frames each panel, with the 10% best frames used in each stack. Combined and edited in Photoshop. I made the mistake(I think) of capturing in fit format instead of Avi, although it turned out ok.
  12. After family pizza night and an evening in front of the TV it was a bit of an effort of will to head out at midnight to my now regular rugby-field stance. However, it’s been a while since my last “proper” session with the Mak & I’ve been inspired to stick at it to find some fainter objects after recent reports in here so the urge “to boldly go” won out and I duly stumped off to the park with my big kitbag... A dipping crescent moon with earth-light to the West & steady burning stars between translucent skeins of cirrus meant that by the time I’d walked-in & gone through the familiar set up & alignment routine (N. aligned Vega & Arcturus) I was mentally ready to hunt for some new targets. Notes: Skywatcher Mak 127, Baader Hyperion 24mm, 68 degree (1.04 degree TFOV). Thin high cirrus bands about with occasional patches of great transparency between. Seeing steady. Align Vega, Arcturus - confirmed really good seeing outside of the thickest haze. M13 - twinkly, looking good. Even at 63x points of light especially with averted vision. Cor Caroli - split at 63x, lovely steady white pair with neat rings. M63 - fuzzy core, wider nebulosity appeared with viewing time. Averted vision showed something brighter within/aligned [checking the charts I think this can only have been the galaxy’s core itself] “Perseus” shaped asterism at 5 o’clock in finder. Diagonal pair close to L in eyepiece. M51 - twin cores! Dark Lane & some connecting glow. Narrow triangle asterism to upper right with brighter apex & faint pair as left hand base point [Stellarium confirmed these as around Mag 11.7 & they were reasonable bright points not “ghosts”] Centred Vindemiatrix for Virgo tour - couldn’t pick 86 or 87 out of haze though so moved on. Leo - M65 & 6 but no hamburger! M95/6 probable but not a good view. Brighter star to L with faint twin at 11 o’clock High cloud now getting quite generalised then noted a clear area around Lyra to NE. [Switched to Baader Zoom 8-24mm.] Epsilon Lyrae Double Double. Southerly star, secondary at 5 o’clock, dimmer/smaller than primary though not by a large margin. Northerly star a closer pair & dimmer secondary at 1 o’clock. Best (& lovely) view 10mm, 150x dim star making triangle to lower R. Occasional views of other very faint stars, one on the “hypotenuse” & another in the middle of the triangle. Can’t immediately identify these in Stellarium however. Haze by now all over & thickening. By this time it was gone 2 am & quite cold. I packed away and as I did so a few holes appeared in the murk and gave way to aswathe of noctilucent mackerel sky through Cassiopeia and Eastward to a horizontal Cygnus & rising Aquila - the Summer Triangle pointing downward toward the South & East. It was quite beautiful & still. I lingered a while & broke out the 10x50s for a quick sweep of the Milky Way parallel to the Northern horizon and up in to Hercules, marvelling at how bright the Great Globular looks in binoculars when fully dark adapted. Highlights has to be M51 & Epsilon Lyrae but a really satisfying session on a patchy night that’s left me with that tired, mild euphoria I get the day following (is it just me?) Hatching a plan to drive somewhere that gives me a better chance at Virgo to the SE, maybe tonight...
  13. The promised hole in the sky duly materialised tonight over Hampshire and, barring the odd drifting bank of high cloud, delivered some fantastic views before moon-rise. I'd been mulling over upgrading from the supplied SW prism for a while and having enjoyed splitting doubles over the full moon plumped for a Tak prism which arrived in the week. Tonight I was keen to test this on some familiar winter clusters and add a few of the Messier objects I'd missed before they slip over the spring horizon. I've done enough trips to the park unmolested to now feel quite comfortable & so took my time aligning (AX GTi N. align Arcuturs, Sirius). I slewed confidently to my first target M48 and... nothing. A bank of cloud had drifted in and covered the E/SE sky. I headed West without a plan, lingering on M42 until the cloud caught up and then across to M36-8 in Auriga, Mars, M45, a quick couple of doubles Eta Cassiopeia looking really stunning with the new prism - subtly contrasting yellow/white colours, nice separation and apparent "size" difference. The Double Cluster confirmed that either tonight was exceptional or that I've invested well. Really loving the combination of the Baader Hyperion 24mm, Mak 127 with a nice new prism (did I mention that?) Very crisp pin points in faint cluster stars, easier to define focus and inky black backgrounds - gorgeous views. I'd initially worried that the Mak's narrow field of view meant I'd made a "wrong" choice for a main scope but I am getting so much out of clusters and doubles that it does seem much more usable than just a lunar/planetary specialist - thank goodness. I'd swung well round toward the North West by now and with cloud still obscuring my intended targets to the SE I decided to take another swipe at M81/2 Bodes & Cigar galaxies having been assured these are realistic urban targets with my setup (thank you @Nik271). The goto kind of worked and I picked up a faint smudge in the finder almost by accident then confirmed with more deliberate averted vision. I centred M81 and was very chuffed - a galactic first for me outside of M31. I tried all the magnification possibilities I had in my pockets but it didn't really yield much beyond a central core and an outer halo. The best view was at 63x when I adjusted slightly and pulled M82 into the same frame - I looked at this for a long time, it was almost overhead and neck-ache became the limiting factor or I'd still be out there. Heartened, I took another look for the Leo triplet as the constellation was perfectly placed to the E but nope - that one is still out there... The cloud by now had moved off so, by way of a stop off at M3 as I passed Arcturus (lovely, dim, diamond-granular ball at 150x) I moved on to my intended target list in the hinterland between Procyon & Sirius and bagged a few more Messier clusters. I ended the evening with a cruise back up through M67 & the Beehive, sneaky extra peek at the Double & Owl clusters in Perseus then back to M81 - just to prove it was real. As I walked back at frosted midnight all was silent, the line of Orion's belt was setting, a couple of degrees above the rooftops and the cloud was closing in from the East.
  14. Skies started to clear as I was finishing work on Friday and checking the Met Office Cloud Cover forecast things looked happier than on Clear Outside for my part of the world, so I took my go -bag out into the garden to cool & crossed my fingers for later. When the rest of the house went to bed I sneaked out through silent streets close to midnight, the crescent moon with its full disc illuminated by Earthlight was dipping in the West near Aldebaran & the Pleiades and there were fine, high skeins of mist with tantalising clear patches between. Seeing was quite steady and transparency good outside of those streaks of high mist which meant about 60% of the sky looked in good shape. I'd made a list of spring galaxies to go for starting with M94 after reading @Pixies report on here, I figured I'd start with that and see how it went, working my way to fainter targets as conditions allowed. I've relaxed into my observing spot in the park and decided I would invest a bit more time setting up & bring both the Mak 127 on an AZGTi and the ST 80 on a photo tripod. I will be doing that again... I was using a Baader Hyperion 24mm 68 degree in the Mak which gives its maximum TFOV of just over a degree and put a Baader 8-24mm Zoom in the ST80. I aligned the Mak on the top 2 stars suggested by Synscan and noted the gradual turning of the season- it was midnight and it had me point at Vega & Arcturus, spring really is well on the way! Focussed in an out on Vega and enjoyed some lovely round patterns either side of focus. On to Cor Caroli which made a lovely clean white pair at 63x, stayed there for a while. Hit GoTo for M94 and after some searching settled on a nice fuzzy patch with a brighter centre and some definite surrounding nebulosity, soaked it in for a bit and made a sketch (ahem, VERY rough). Everything was a bit uncomfortably close to the Zenith - haven't really solved the whole observing position thing yet, not sure I can carry one of those big wooden chairs about but mean to experiment with the cheapo camping chairs in the cupboard and see if it helps, until then a degree of neck-ache remains inevitable (or better target selection!) . Meantime I'd sought out the Double Cluster with the ST80 and was really pleased to get a lovely view with neat round points and some colour apparent in one or two of the orangey members. May just be a novelty but having a break from peering at faint fuzzy things to take in a wide field view of a favourite object really added to the enjoyment for me. With the Mak I went on to search for M51 & M63 but couldn't find anything having hunted around for a bit but was having no joy. Later with Stellarium and the atlas I've become almost certain I'd landed on M63 by mistake - be interested in any opinions based on my sketch (gives the RACI view from the Mak 127 i.e. reversed LR) In the end I gave up and put both 'scopes on M13 and enjoyed my best views of the Great Hercules Cluster yet. I switched the Zoom into the Mak and played with all magnifications from 63x - 188x, much above 120x wasn't adding much but at that power stars were resolving in and out across the cluster - literally breathtaking. The contrasting wide-field view in the ST80 gave scale and context - really enjoyable way to appreciate a real gem. Seeing, heavy dew and numbing toes conspired around the same time to send me home to warm and mull over whether I'd identified M94 or not.
  15. Headed out for the Cancer & Bootes "Full Moon Doubles Match" I'd originally planned for last Friday & that time ended up abandoning due to scrappy seeing , wind & the onset of rain. All observations with SW Mak 127 on AZ GTi, Baader Zoom 8-24mm via Tak prism. Transparency good but a little high mistiness & locally occasional ground mist from the river. Temp around 5 degrees, air quite still. Aligned Arcturus & Capella. Seeing excellent - steady Airy discs and diffraction cones above 30 degrees altitude. Spent some time looking around for & sketching the Cass Nova area, not sure I saw it as M52 not really apparent in the moonlight. Identified a possible candidate in the starfield but needs another look & maybe when better dark adapted/less moon. Castor (Sep: 3.9")- Clean-split white-blue pair with 18mm (83x). Southerly star the larger of the two. Lovely stable view- steady Airy discs with diffraction rings. Confirmed excellent seeing. Iota Cancri (Sep: 30.6") - very pretty, wide-spaced, side by side pair. Split with 24mm from 63x. Orange primary, white/blue secondary. Super view at 16mm *94x). Stable Airy discs. Tegmine, Zeta Cancri (Sep: 6" & 1.1") - Split to 2 stars with 24mm (63x). Peanut shape on B/C revealed at 120x and definitely resolving as 2 faint secondaries with 8mm @ 188x. Overlapping cones/rings but quite distinct central discs. B at 7 o'clock to A. C at 5 o'clock to B, (RACI). Seeing must be really good as splitting the secondary is right on the optical limits of the rig at 1.1". (Chuffed with both the prism purchase - this was essentially why I upgraded - and the fact that I've clearly got lots of astronomy mileage in the Baader Zoom before that department needs upgrading! ) Spent a long time on Tegmine savouring the 83 year old view. Dragged myself away & turning north east the moon was casting long gothic shadows through a low mist, spilling across the field toward me at knee height from the river. Felt like the set of the Thriller video... Aligned back on Arcturus for Bootes orientation - so bright. Golden yellow sun. Lovely. Espilon Bootes, Izar (Sep: 2.9" ) - Split at 8mm, 188x. Once identified could see dialled back to 120x. Brighter yellow primary, smaller bluer second - looked "behind" the other. In each other's cones but distinct. Found it initially quite challenging. Xi Bootes (Sep 7") - Split from 24mm, 63x. Off white primary, small orange secondary at 11 o'clock. Quite lovely. Tawny Owl hooting now to go with the moonlit mist. River mist actually has cleared somewhat. Auriga to West hanging spectacularly. Can hear the town clocks striking midnight across the fields, so still. Gorgeous night. Kappa Bootis (Sep:13.5") - white pair, larger primary, second at 10 o'clock. Also, a pretty trapezium due South, top R corner pair may be double itself. (Confirmed yes, is Iota Bootes (Sep 38.7), with a slightly wider field this would be a double-double). Mu Bootis - Alkalurops (Sep: 108.9 & 2.2") - Wide spaced initial pair, both white. Dim second is at 7 o'clock, maybe double? Shielded moonlight from EP & yes quite sure of it - C faint and at 2 o'clock to B, resolves at 8mm (188x). Clean separation & once achieved almost easier to see with these fainter stars. Another fab one this! 39 Bootis (Sep: 2.7") quite close white pair at 5 o'clock. Struve 1825 (Sep: 4.4) - faint white second at 7o'clock. Clean space between. Lies about 1 fov N of Arcturus (just over a degree). Tired by now I blew out any slight night vision I had by looking at the crinkliest bit of moon I could find, up to max power (428x, 8MM Barlowed x2.25) - turned out to be Mare Crisium region. Views were astonishingly crisp up to c 340x. Apparently there was a TLP square thing I could have seen, certainly enjoyed the shadows from the mountains there and, childishly, the fact that there is one crater named after an Enterprise Captain & another called "Lick" (I know, Jean Picard was a seventeenth century French astronomer...) A few final equipment notes: Telrads dew up really fast. Astrozap shields really do work. Redlight filter for iPhone applied in Accessibility settings & toggled from main control key makes a big difference, no more app alerts popping up with blinding effect! Hometime for a celebratory cup of tea (well it was a school night after all).
  16. Since coming back from hols late August I’ve enjoyed a few back garden planetary sessions on Jupiter & Saturn, due to work & weather though I seem to have missed the nights of best seeing, tonight’s views however have been my best yet. Seeing was mostly steady and contrast seemed really good - not sure but think the proximity of the 95% moon may actually have been helping with this. Saturn looked super with the Cassini division easily apparent around the rings and several cloud bands visible. The shadow of the rings on the planet & vice versa were crisp at the best moments of seeing. 3 moons, 1 always & 2 with averted vision. I fetched my 15 year old son out to look who immediately said “Oh wow there’s a stripe around the rings!”. Jupiter showed many bands and more detail than I’ve yet seen. 2 pronounced dark areas on the upper edge of the Northern equatorial band and lots of swirls and texture in the bands visible at times. Using a UHC filter I was able to locate the GRS and thereafter able to discern it with the more natural colours rendered by the Baader Neodymium. Galilean moons clear with diffraction rings. 1 moon to the West and 3 East, 2 of them looking like a fairly close double star. I find the moons the best way to focus as the planet features come and go a bit with the seeing & if I’m not careful I end up twiddling the focuser all the time to no avail. I started the session with a Baader Mk IV zoom but was soon scurrying off inside to fetch the 18mm & 10mm Baader Classic Orthos & 2.25 Barlow which I have found to be a super planetary setup combined with the Neodymium filter which just adds a bit of punch. Best view was with the 18mm Barlowed to 8mm - 167x by a squeak over the 10mm at 150x. The Mak 127 was a great tool for the job tonight. Will get back to those Messiers eventually…
  17. Had three sessions last night, the first the CPRE Orion star count with my 11 year old daughter, magic. The second was from the light-blighted garden mid evening - successfully picked up M41, M35 and M67 all for the first time - then a neighbour put on more lights so had a go at Polaris, nearly, almost sort of resolved as a double this time. After a tea and warm break I managed to convince myself that the Mak 127 carry over to the park at 11:30 pm constituted allowable lockdown exercise (body AND mind officer...) so headed out to a wider and, it turned out, reasonably darker viewing spot in the park. I haven't yet much comparative experience of conditions but I would say seeing was quite steady while transparency a bit milky. Winchester sits in a river valley and I suspect this may be a local feature until I can get up & out of town. Anyhoo, what started as proof-of-concept of some grab & go bag & padding ideas, turned into a really super session of clusters and doubles, most of which I had never seen before, & fruitless searches for fainter things. Technique-wise I brightest star aligned on Sirius and Arcturus & did have a few accuracy niggles with the GoTo , however a combination of the Telrad + 10x50 Bino sweeps got most of the bright targets quickly in the Finderscope and centred. Highlight has to be the Beehive, M44 which I found breathtaking & can't believe I have never looked for before, Beta Mono triple-star which was amazingly 3D and set me off on a Tatooine sunset imagination-trip and M67, dim & red the kind of place where Klingons might hang out! After much reading on here over all these starless nights I had made a list and although I deviated a bit from it and failed to find ANY galaxies or planetary nebula, the list was a great idea and reminded me that I wanted to go and hunt down the targets in Cancer which I would otherwise have forgotten and missed two of the highlights of the evening. Eventually my phone battery gave out and as I was wi-fi tethered to the AZ GTi this ended my session shortly before frost-bite ensued. That dew shield was a good buy For what its worth, here are my notes, all observations made on SW Mak 127 on AZ GTi, Baader Hyeprion 24mm 68 degree fixed for most & occasional higher mag on Baader Hyperion 8-24mm Zoom. Telrad & SW 9x50 finder, supplemented by Celestron Nature DX ED 10x50 Bins.
  18. After a day of mixed weather skies looked very clear Thursday 11/3 so headed out around 9pm to take advantage of a moonless night. Walking in straight from bright lights seeing & transparency were looking good - double cluster & beehive were naked eye visible with direct vision and some Messier dustiness in Auriga with an averted view. I had a vague plan to have a proper go at the Leo Triplet & had spent a bit of time on stellarium to plan how to star-hop in via Chertan & L73. First though I North aligned SynScan on Sirius and Mars (the top 2 suggestions thrown up by the app) & slewed to the the Pleiades to check alignment, which was good. Couldn't resist having a look at the double cluster from there which was so crisp and deep, then via M34 also looking good, to M42 (of course). The Orion nebula was the best I've seen it yet, looking directly at the Trapezium I could see 5 stars & real cloudy swirls above and below, panning upward there was a hint of dust in the running man area, couldn't discern the running man shape, but haven't seen this much before. Moving on up, Sigma Orionis was such a perfect little system & I toyed with the idea of binning galaxy hunting altogether and going after some close Doubles - Sirius even looked quite steady. I resisted as dark adaption was by now starting to work, before leaving the area though I had a quick go at finding M79, a low-down globular in Lepus most of which constellation was just about visible merging into the LP above the centre of town to the South. I keyed it into the GoTo & was surprised by a short slew to the E. Looking in the eyepiece I saw...something, very faint, grey glow around two dim fuzzy stars with a hint of dark lane between, not the expected Globular - checking again it turned out that I had entered M78 by mistake but there it was, a bonus nebula - not visually spectacular but nice to find & fascinating to look-up later. I made a quick sketch to confirm and tried for M79, but no, far too low by now. I figured night vision was by now good enough to have a crack at the Leo Triplet and took a GoTo to Regulus & centred. I had manually added Chertan and 73 Leonis to the app and duly centred them to get the best possible local alignment. Putting L73 in the top L of the field I should be able to pick up M66 bottom right. I couldn't be sure so moved in a pattern around & picked up a fuzz patch. Small adjustments gave me a field with two luminous patches to L & R with a star at the top, I couldn't work this out and they were faint enough to be on the borders of imagination. Everything passed behind a bank of thin cloud for a few moments and I used the time to sketch (incredibly roughly) what I had seen so far. As the cloud cleared away it weirdly helped confirm that the two luminous patches were absolutely real & I gave them a bit more concentrated attention with averted vision. As I did so a third area top R of field made itself vaguely apparent. My expectation management on galaxies is now starting to get a bit more realistic so I let this one sit for a while and added its general position to my sketch. Still baffled by the field related to what I was sure was L73 I made as good a sketch as I could of both the EP & finder fields for later confirmation ( struggling with glasses on/off, red headtorch & not wanting to fire up the bright phone app as magnitude was so marginal). I took a last long look and resolved to figure it out with the atlas & app back home. I later realised that what I had done is, after panning around, manage to confuse the star L73 with a fainter close by star (HD98388-apparently) and had absolutely been looking at all three galaxies in the Leo Triplet - the sketch, although crude, gave me no doubt that I had landed in the right spot this time, just the satisfaction was deferred until I was back inside - something I am fast learning goes with the territory of galaxy hunting with a small scope! 36 Million light years though, a new personal space-travel record I moved on to other Leo Messier galaxies & took a quick look at M95 & M96 which I found relatively easily, a dim pair of headlights but no detail, then wandered across to Makarian's chain and marvelled at the sheer number of little fuzzy signatures that wouldn't resolve to points. Concentration was waning a bit by this stage so I decided to save trying to identify precisely what I was seeing to another night when I could be out later and see them higher out of the murk. I finished with the Mak back on M81 & 2 which looked bright by comparison and gave hints of some spiral & shading detail on this night of exceptional transparency - amazing crisp view with them both in the widest field the Mak can deliver (just over 1 degree with a 24mm Baader Hyperion fixed, 63x). As I packed up the scope the naked eye panorama was just fab and seemed after so much dim fuzzy concentration, incredibly bright. I finished with a 15 minute tour of open clusters with a pair of 10x50s that was really stunning. So many stars in the double cluster, the Alpha Perseii , Pleiades, Hyades & Orion's belt just gorgeous whilst the Beehive lived up to its name like a swarm of fireflies. Starting to enjoy galaxy hunting for its own sake but for sheer beauty the binoculars had it tonight. A great couple of hours that left my mind in time & space for a long while after I got back. M78: Leo Triplet:
  19. Hi, I bought this T-Ring from e-bay for $18, and it had good reviews, people saying they just used it without an extension etc. But I'm having trouble working it out. It fits great to the camera, but when I try to put it on the back of the scope its nowhere near fitting. Obviously, I am new to this. The diameter of the hole scope side is 1 and 5/8"s or around 43 mm. What am I missing? Here's a pic of the t-ring and the description on the packet. Many thanks!
  20. Hi from Winchester in the U.K. I've been an on and off observer of the skies since I was a kid & owner of a couple of disappointing starter telescopes along the way (Tasco 4VTE anyone?). I have recently passed an, ahem, significant birthday and the family wanted to club together and buy me something. I've plumped for the Skywatcher Skymax 127 Mak, AZ GTi mount, Baader Zoom & a Baader Hyperion 24mm fixed. It arrived at Christmas and I've been able to use about 4 times so far with the weather we've been having - despite my light-polluted location (town centre + neighbouring property is like Blackpool illuminations!) I am completely re-hooked. I seem to have kind of missed the boat on Mars (tiny disc at 188x) but immediately had great views of M42 (first time I'd ever seen the trapezium), M36, M37 & M38, the Perseus double cluster & a couple of double stars to test (Castor easy, Polaris, not so much). The Moon is also stunning & has been a hit with the kids! Posted a couple of shots here acquired by the not so technical iPhone-manually-hovered-over-the-eyepiece method. So far I've also failed to locate any globular clusters (M3) or galaxies (M33, M81) for which I'm blaming light pollution rather than the impact of my garden's proximity to the wine rack on late-night rising objects. The moon has also provided the ideal target for setting up finders etc (after a single evening of rolling around on the floor craning my neck to align the supplied RDF I quickly upgraded to a Telrad + SW 9x50 finder which both aligned in seconds & coupled with the very effective Point & Track feature on the AZ GTi seems to be the way forward). Suffice it to say the ghost of the Tasco is laid to rest and I look forward to an end to lockdown not least so I can get out from under these lights & find some dark skies.
  21. Hi guys. Recently I had the opportunity to restart my hobby with a short astro-imaging test run in the back yard - a nice quiet little playground actually, near the place where I live. My setup consists of an eq mount (AVX), a dslr (EOS 550D), and either a classical M42 manual focus photo lens (anywhere from a Takumar 35 to a Tair3S 300mm, sometimes aided by a 1.5x or a 2x TC), or an ED refractor (C80) most of the time reduced with a 0.8x FF/FR. Since the area where my observing spot is falls within a +5 NELM around Zenith, I always use a LP filter (IDAS LPS P2 2", or Optolong CLS 1.25") for better results. Unfortunately my mount isn't PEC'ed yet, but I'm quite confident that i'll soon be able to achieve this goal, as it is rather imperative if I am to get any useful >120s subs. Guiding is not my main objective, as I do not have all the possibilities to do that - technically, logistically, financially... etc. A couple of nights ago I went for a test run with a rather unconventional "weapon" - the SW 127 MC. Yes, that's right, a Mak for DSO. Now, I know some of you have already played with this kind of instrument before, and had some pretty decent results. I also know that many imagers with higher standards have the habit to blame this little scope for its limitations. But who cares.. It's all about experimenting and having some late night fun. I used mine with a 0.63x FR, set at 0.73x due to the actual chip-to-lens distance I got, which brings down the focal ration from an infamous 11.8 to a more usable 8.6, which is quite doable exposure-wise, but a little inconvenient when it comes to star shape and vignetting (although the latter can be dealt with by means of flat frames). With a MC-SCT thread adapter and a custom made rotatable SCT-2"-M42 adapter, I could use both the Celestron reducer and the 2" LP filter with the dslr on the Mak127, for a couple of dozens 50/50 hit rate 30s subs for each object, along with a set of correction frames (darks, flats, bias). I really hope next time, with PEC, the hit rate (percentage of usable subs with round stars) will increase, and subs will be longer, so I can take better images. Until then, this is what I managed to get. Processing is done in a "keep-it-simple-son" manner: DSS & PS CS5. I didn't bother shooting RAW, although I am aware of the limitation of using JPG correction frames. Maybe next time Clear skies, everyone!
  22. Quick view of the moon at 7am this morning, as it’s been too cloudy since my 150p arrived earlier this week. Getting happier with my setup now, more of what I envisaged a few months ago when I purchased the mount & Mak. There is quite a lot of overlap with the two scopes, but using the Mak a lot for Bino viewing & enjoying it. A few bits of tweaking with the 150p ( flocking, RACI, RDF, motor focuser & cooling fan) over the coming months are planned. Looking forward to the darker nights, but not the cold
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