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  1. Hey guys… just a quick report / comparison. I have been using an ovni bino night vision device for about 8 months now. It has really blown me away. I have always loved galaxies, especially finding structure in them. Of course, the hassle of moving larger dobs always holds me back. Night vision has changed everything- it makes my 8 inch scope more powerful than my 15 inch obsession. Here is my report on a few objects with comparison. I observe in my bortle 3 skies in Basingstoke, and sometimes at exmoor. m51 - 8 inch with night vision - amazing structure seen!! Better than obsession 15. Interestingly - the night vision on the 15 inch does not enhance the image much. M42 - gorgeous- I can see the structure of the nebula, not just the shape. Again - not much better view from obsession scope. night vision has changed how I observe. I have attached pictures through the eyepiece - using iPhone . What can’t be seen is how the stars twinkle and seem “alive “ in the night vision device. I don’t think I need a massive dob anymore. Clear skies everyone!
  2. 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.
  3. Dates: 28th & 29th November 2019. Scopes: 20” f3.6 Lukehurst Dob & Borg 107FL f5.6 (focal length 600mm). Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS. Eyepieces: Plossl 55mm (Dob f2 x38, Borg f2.6 x11). Filters: Chroma 5nm Ha filter. Introduction. Last time outside was the 8th November and I had a great night with the Borg 107FL and Night Vision identifying many new “areas of interest”. See my report and sketches here: But then we have had three weeks of clouds! Anyway, last weekend we got three clear(ish) nights outside so I decided to use the Borg 107FL as a spotting scope to identify further areas to then check out with the Big Dob. It seems that it is easy to look straight through faint nebula and not see the bigger picture with the greater magnification proving a disadvantage with the dobsonian. This report will cover a mix of two sessions (Night one – Borg 107FL) and (Night Two – 20” dobsonian). I will detail my wide field observations and sketch and then follow up with the detailed greater magnification/aperture view of the exact same area accompanied by a photo from Sky Safari with locations marked. Area of interest 1 – Heart & Soul nebula region. Starting with my wide field observations, here is a sketch I made of this area of the sky. The big thing I found was a rectangular structure that is attached to the side of the Heart nebula. It had some brighter areas within it and a smaller parallel line inside it. There was an obvious “loop” coming from the “mole head” part of the Heart and beyond the loop I saw a small patch and a longer snake patch too. I have marked some of the smaller Sharpless (sh) that I saw on the sketch as well. After quite a long time examining the Heart, I slewed to the Soul (foetus) next door, where some nice intricate interior detail and brighter mouth and chin areas were observed together with a couple of small Sharpless just of the sides were also noted. Now, onto the Dob observations from the following night. Here is a Sky Safari view… GSC 4051-1604 – large faintish patch fills fov. Stars have cleared black areas inside. Double star in a black patch stands out. TYC 4054-1657-1 - marks the right angled corner of faint box extension to heart nebula. HD 15022 – Triangular shaped patch fills fov. Some small black areas inside. GSC 4046-0016 – a “line” section. Two brighter patches stand-out. TYC 4050-2042-1 – return section of “loop”. Exiting & returning to the “mole head”. TYC 4056-1055-1 – Long curving corner section of faint nebula lane coming from the Heart. TYC 4051-2885-1 – Junction of two curved loops (curved X shape), brighter central area with black patch & stars inside. TYC 4059-0328-1 – very faint large section of reflection neb. Plenty of black helps the nebula to stand out. GSC 4058-0834 – “house” shaped star cluster set in a large nebula patch. TYC 4052-1055-1 – small nebula patch (part of a long thick curvy lane that winds along here). SAO 012401 – very tiny, bright nebula patch. HD 20798 – small circular patch next to a star (the last in a line of stars). Black circular area too. TYC 4049-0064-1 – double lane of nebula. One side brighter with some brighter patches too. Area of interest 2 – Flaming Star region. It was time to revisit the Flaming star region. I familiarized myself with a look at my sketch from last time out then started to note and sketch further nebula details seen at the eyepiece. I could see a sketch what looked like loops of nebula coming from the main bright blobs (sketched as dashed lines). There was a clear right angled corner piece above IC417. I then hit the multi-patched area of sh2-233/235 which looked great. On the other side there was a sweeping curved section that ended in a double patch (maybe sh2-227). I could see a small bright blob below that (guessed as NGC1778 but may be something else sh2-228?). Finally, I noted a small patch hanging off the side of the Flaming star itself. Here is my sketch from 28th November. Now, onto my 20” dob observations from the following night… TYC 2393-1581-1 – oblong patch to LHS of tail of Flaming star. HD 243596 – patch between IC410 & Spider. HD 36834 – thick lane of nebula brighter section connects to HD35345. TYC2415-0413-1 – large patch connected to HD35345. HD 36212 – large nebula patch with many stars. SAO 058274 – large nebula patch under the pinwheel cluster. More work needed here... Area of interest 3 – Fox Fur & Rosette region. Next, the Fox Fur & Rosette, which is proving to be a great area to explore with a small wide field scope. The Fox Fur is rising rapidly up the list of “great nebulas of the night sky”! Once again, I started by checking my sketch from last time out and then worked to see and sketch further details… Here is what I ended with… It’s really hard to find a decent image of this area wide field. Everyone seems obsessed capturing the tiny Cone and misses out on the vast lush areas greatness! Search for “Fox Fur Nebula Rosette” and you can find some – it’s well worth it. This time I noted some of the black detail inside the thick “comma” shape and also a smaller detached patch above. I cannot reach this region from my shed so there is no dob confirmation text. Area of interest 4 – IC434 & Horsehead region. Onto the expansive region that contains IC434 and the horsehead. Last time out I noted a long extension to the left hand side and down parallel to IC434. This time I was lucky enough to see even more. IC434 was a complete rectangle of nebula surrounding Sigma Orionis in its centre. With more time I began to notice a separate nebula lane running up the left side of this. It was fainter and ended with a curvy section around Alnilam at the top. The bottom end was right angled as shown below in my sketch… I cannot reach this region from my shed so there is no dob confirmation text. Finish with the search for some Comets. I was out again on the 30th November where I managed a couple of hours observing before fog descended. The highlight was that I bagged four comets as follows: Equipment: 20” dob, 27mm Panoptic (x77 magnification), PVS-14 Night Vision. C/260P McNaught – A small fuzzy blob next to a star. No core to speak of. C/114P Wiseman-Skiff – (found WEST of where Sky Safari says it is so beware!) It appeared brighter than C/260P. A small fuzzy patch with wide brighter core (but not a bright “dot” core). C/2018 N2 (ASSASN) – Easy. Bright dot core and halo surrounds. Next to 2 stars LHS. C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS) – Very Easy. Bright dot core and dust halo. Small tail heads NW. Epilogue The above approach proved a success, identifying potential areas for detailed searching with the dob in advance really helped me to focus where I looked with the dob and helped me to linger longer at a location waiting for nebula to pop out at me. I will be relocating the dob to the back of the shed for the next new moon so Orion and the Rosette can be reached. Then I can firm up some more exact locations thanks to the push-to connection to Sky Safari that the dob has (via a Nexus wifi unit). Clear Skies, Alan
  4. 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
  5. Date: Tue 4th September. 2200 – 0220am. Scope: Borg 107FL f5.6 (focal length 600mm). Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS. Night Vision Eyepieces: Plossl 55mm (f2.6 x11), Panoptic 35mm (f4.2 x17), Panoptic 27mm (f5.4 x22). Filters: Astronomik 6nm Ha CCD, Astronomik 12nm Ha CCD. Moon: 37% Problem As “big dob” has been working through the Sharpless catalogue this past couple of months, I have been making use of the Sharpless tables in the back of my Bracken Astrophotography Sky Atlas to track which objects I have seen and add a “tick” rating depending on the “wow factor”. I wanted to make good use of my new “AZ5 GTi” goto mount to aid me in this experimental flight through big dobs favourite Sharpless objects BUT the Sharpless object list is not available in the SysScan handset . Solution I created a spreadsheet of the multi-ticked objects and using Sky Safari I added a reference to a nearby object that was either from the NGC, IC or SAO catalogues that are in the handset (or so I thought – it turns out the SAO catalogue stored in the handset is a bit random and I had to make some “on the fly” adjustments to alternative SAO stars as I went along).? Flight Plan Here is the “updated" flight list of 32 sharpless objects to be targeted, adjusted to only contain SAO stars that actually are in the SynScan handset (shown in the second column should you wish to take the same flight...) Observing Notes - All viewing was done using a 55mm Plossl & Astronomik 6nm Ha filter unless otherwise stated. Sh2-54 – “n” shaped with spikes of nebula coming away from the main shape. A small brighter circular patch is seen within. Sh2-86 – A bright patch of nebulosity with a star cluster inside. Sh2-101 “Tulip” – A small bright patch with two bright stars inside. It was sitting amongst lots of easily seen lanes of nebula. Nice. Sh2-102 – nothing. Sh2-103 “Veil” – The star attraction of the night. The view was nearly up there with big dob, there was just so much to see (in a 107mm scope). I could almost get the whole thing into the FOV of the 55mm Plossl too. It was so good that I have to map it out in sections to get it all down… - NGC6992 – Strangely was not standing out as the brightest bit (like it usually does) all parts seemed to hold their own in the view. - Pickering’s Triangle – Looked lovely with varying strand sections showing the triangle shape. - E, F & NGC6979, G – To both sides of Pickering’s triangle were further bright stand-alone sections of nebulosity. - Thin thread – I could see the thin thread with some averted and concentrated efforts. And to my amazement there was a semi-circular nebula shape to the side of the thin thread that I have not noticed before! - NGC6960 – Was showing the split into three “antlers” at the top and the whole thing just kept on going up and over the top meeting the thin thread which had split into two wider lanes by now. I am astounded at the view as it was nearly up there with the 20” – Stunned and disbelief abounded Sh2-105 Crescent – Lovely and bright in the 35mm Panoptic. The whole of the “9” was not showing but scintillation was hinting where the fainter sections are to be found. Sh2-106 – Possibly a very thin patch around a star? Sh2-112 – small bright patch Sh2-115 - larger, fainter & squarer in shape. Sh2-119 – Three parallel lanes of nebulosity. The centre lane was the thickest, the right side lane was fainter and the left side lane was pretty thick too. Sh2-124 – Large nebulous patch with a small bright “question mark” shimmering shape in the centre. The small shape was sh2-124. Sh2-125 Cocoon – Appeared small & bright. There was a distinct 3D effect going on as it appeared as a “circle” with an additional mirrored side behind it. Sh2-129 Squid – A large curve of nebula with two distinctly thicker sections within it. No sign of “the squid” within it though. Sh2-131 Elephant trunk – A much better view than the other night, the nebulosity was thick and lush. I could make out plenty of large darker sections with averted vision and the gain turned down. The actual trunk sections were quite elusive and I got the best view of them by changing to a 12nm Ha Filter (which brought out some extra stars as a bonus too). Sh2-132 Lion – Not really a lion! I can see the “mane” section bright and clear. Averted reveals a much larger structure behind the mane and below but I don’t see a “lion”. I can see some black lanes within the bright “mane” section. Sh2-135 – Long lane of nebulosity running down to a separate patch of nebula (to one side). There is a small brighter nebula patch seen to the side as you run down the long lane. Sh2-142 Wizard – Bright side section with spikey appearance. There is a black area cutting into the bright section. After some time the black section took on the appearance of a “Wizard with outstretched arms”. In the big dob, I just see a flying horse! This view was very different to the dob. Sh2-152 & sh2-153 – Tiny glistening patch. And seen just below is sh2-149 which is very tiny too. Sh2-155 Cave – The cave is tiny but looks like I expected – triangular shape surrounds the black centre cave section. Sh2-154 shows as a nebula patch in the same FOV. Sh2-157 – Its all there! It appears as a faint and fine elongated circular shape with a mirror image to one side. The top section is thick and lush, the two descending curves are much finer. Sh2-158 Brain – Tiny and very bright. Seen in same FOV as sh2-157 and the Bubble nebula. Sh2-162 Bubble – Small and bright in the 55mm. There is the sense of a “black hole” in the area where the bubble is found. I switch to the 35mm Panoptic for more magnification and the tiny black area takes on a circular appearance. I tried the 27mm Panoptic but the view was too dark. Sh2-168 – tiny, faint patch. Sh2-170 – small circular patch of nebula close-by to CED214. Sh2-171 NGC7822, CED214 – A bright rounded “mask” section with separate nebulosity curve above also has a separate long thick lane underneath. Nice. Sh2-173 Mask – nothing. Sh2-184 Pacman – Large, bright nebula with thick black lane coming in from the side. The black lane was varying edges. The nebula has varying width as you look to the sides of the black lane. Sh2-188 Dolphin – A tiny bright “glistening” curve shape. Sh2-190 Heart – Wow, my first view of the Heart with Night Vision and it’s everything I hoped for. Lovely intricate detail and larger than the FOV. Two brighter patches with variation within them. Breathtaking! Sh2-191 Soul – Just underneath is the leg-less foetus! Large bellied body and head very sharp and clear. That completed my planned observing. I observed 30 of 32 Sharpless objects (in a 4" frac). It was a marathon and only achievable in one night with goto! By now its 0200am and I am getting cold. Everything is wet with dew but the skies are still clear, there is some brightness in the East as the Devils Orb starts to rise… I can see the seven sisters so I decide to “keep on going”… NGC1499 California – Had to see this before I read some NV reports from someone else (to spoil my reveal). Almost a Wow! It sits in the FOV of the 55mm Plossl nicely and shows the thick outer lanes clearly. I can see the pointy centre section of the lower side and I can see the black hole “eye” in the upper side. The outer ends are nice and clear too but there is something lacking (I reckon the sky is filling with water and this is confirmed as I look south to see the “wet haze” of a rising mist. NGC1491 – reveals as a small shimmering bright patch. M33 – I decide to finish of the Triangulum. All these nebula are nice but Galaxies are my thing. I remove the 6nm Ha filter and settle down on my chair. At first look M33 is small and just as with traditional viewing, you need to give galaxies some time for your brain to tune in. The upper arm out the NGC near the star is the first to appear at 12-3 o’clock position. I turn down the gain and then come back up in steps to the point where the upper arm is there and wait… Then a tiny bit more gain and now I see a circle of spirals surrounding the centre core. Keep looking… I see an outer arm curving in the 6-10 o’clock region Now the galaxy is going… gain up… no still going… I look up and to the south the “next village” has disappeared, the mist has descended… I decide to pack up and get into the warm house… Thoughts of the observer The real highlight of the night was the Veil complex for sure, I was expecting something else to jump to the front of the queue but I have never seen the Veil this good in a small frac, I even saw a curve section that I have never noticed in the dob before . [I did not see the section that @jetstream was asking about though]. The Heart was a close second though, it was amazing in all its glory. Many of the flight objects were small or tiny and this is where the big dob cannot be matched. The extra magnification available from the long focal length makes it a killer tool for these tiny nebula! I am most heartened by my early look at M33, its still not best positioned and I had some moon and wet sky to contend with. Still I did see the arms in a 4” frac so that’s not too bad, the 20” dob should also up the game on this object once he has the NVD attached... Clear Skies, Alan
  6. Date: Sunday 9th September. 2145-0100am Scope: 20” f3.6 Lukehurst Dob with Paracorr (fl = 2089mm & f4.1). Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS. Eyepieces: 55mm (f2 x38), 35mm (f3 x60). Filters: Astronomik 6nm. Moon: 0% Be Prepared The last few days have been showery, so I had spent some of the time building a new Observing List in Sky Safari with a target list of 30 Sharpless nebulas. New Moon – Get looking up! As it was new moon and the weather forecast is not good for the next few days, I saw a potential opportunity for some Sunday night observing. I checked outside at 2100 and it was complete cloud so went back to watching the TV. At 2130, I checked again and it was completely clear with a nice Milky Way showing already. I got my bits and pieces together, got changed into warm clothing (now back to 2 layers of everything as it has dropped much colder in the last week or so!) No time to wait, off we go… As I opened the shed, I could see some cloud off to the west so decided to forego collimation and just get setup and started… Within a few minutes, the roof was open and I completed the 2-star alignment for my Nexus push-to system. (This turned out to be a good thing as within 30 minutes, I was clouded out and then had to spend the rest of my 3 hour+ session aiming at holes in the clouds (this is not so bad when you at least have the scope alignment completed as you can still find objects that are in that area of the sky quickly.) Grab some new (to me) Sharpless The night was a bit of a disappointment overall, I spent a few spells just sitting on my chair waiting for clouds to part but I did get the occasional 15-20 minutes of a clear patch now and again. Checking my Sharpless targets off against my list of “visited” targets, I managed six new Sharpless nebulas last night so let’s start with them… Sh2-88 – I was aiming to spend some time of sh2-86 (after reading the “Classic Rich Field” reports of @AllanDystrup on cloudynights.com) and was looking to see a dark notch lane that I had missed on my first observation. By the time I was able to get to sh2-86 (NGC6820) it had passed its peak and the dark lane was “kind of” observed. However as I pushed around the area (fighting the clouds) I happened upon sh2-88 (which was a decent sized patch of nebula) which I have not observed before. [“Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining”? ] Sh2-140 – This is a nicely shaped interesting nebula, I christened it “the cap” as it seemed to have a rounded dome section and I bit of a peak out in front. There was a memorable bright triangle arrangement of stars near the brightest section of this nebula with a bulbous appearance to the right side and a fainter left side. It was a decent size in the 55mm Plossl (x38). Sh2-154 – Appeared as a long streak in a mildly triangular shape. I could see a possible black area within in near some bright spread out stars. Sh2-149 – Appeared in the same FOV as sh2-148. They appeared similar in that they were small bright patches with something fainter/blacker to the side. Sh2-148 had a large ghostly patch of nebula above it. Sh2-187 – Appeared as a small hazy patch in the 35mm (x60). Sh2-186 – was a tiny tiny patch near a star. (Missing from Sky Safari, FOV star SAO 011593). This takes my total (since I started in June 2018) to 63 of 313 Sharpless objects observed so far. What else did I see? Sh2-101 Tulip – Had a couple of decent views of the Tulip between the clouds. This really is a nice bright object with some black lane detail within. It sits within a huge region of nebula lanes and its easy to spend several minutes nudging around in this region! Gamma Cygni – Wonderful views of lush deep nebula with tiny black details occasionally discovered. Sh2-119 – Wonderful long thick bright lanes of nebula lead up the right hand side, fainter nebula see over the top to a bright curvy section. As I nudge down the other side, I think of the shape of “Africa” as I reach a bright corner section and then pass through some fainter stuff back to the start. This is a big nebula well beyond the FOV of the 55mm Plossl. Propeller – I managed to see the propeller but it was a case of line it up and wait for the view to brighten as gaps appeared in the clouds. The “S” shape was clear and the “cross and intersection” pieces were much fainter but they got better after a while… Veil – Wonderful views around the whole structure. Sh2-129 – A thick lane (with black details on the edges and within) goes up and swings right over the top (through a fainter section). Horseshoe like almost. Sh2-132 – Great. Very bright “mountain regions” of nebula interspersed with black “lake/valley” areas. This of course is the “mane” section of the much larger Lion nebula (which covers a huge area especially in the big dob). Wizard – The flying horse was clear within the bright nebula structure. Pacman – Best view for a while, the “Angel” was back, as was the “Cactus” arm. With closer inspection, it is a black patch (with a star) that’s helps give the Angel a thin waist. The Angels wings over the top were nicely defined too. CED214 – Again, a really nice detailed view. Its main section appears like the face of a “space invader” with two bright “eyes” peeping through. The larger “Sausage” nearby was much fainter. Sh2-173 Mask – Cloud affected but I saw a curvy faint patch shape. Something circular and black inside. Faint nebula surrounding. Thoughts of the observer. It was one of those stop, start sessions that was offering just enough encouragement to stay out there. As I look back at my notes, then I did see a decent selection but I was disappointed at the time I made my way back inside. There was a bit of wind about and that at least kept the dew off but humidity was very high and I left the dehumidifier running (as usual) after I left. I did try for sh2-91, sh2-94 & sh2-96 (second Veil) but the clouds were really interfering and although I did pick up the “odd lane” here and there, it was not worthy of reporting here. Roll on the next night out… Clear Skies, Alan
  7. Just had a lovely session on the winter targets that are now coming into view in the early hours. These were the targets that I first tried out my NV monoculars when I got them in November last year so it’s nice to give them another go with the greater experience and better equipment I have now. This was also the first proper go with my Harder Digital Night Vision momoculars and chroma 5nm Ha filter combination. The views were fantastic - I compared side by side with my photonis 4g Night Vision and 6nm Astronomik filter and the gap between the two setups is large. The angelfish was clear and showed good detail with the Harder whereas the photonis was only just showing a trace of the nebula. On Barnard’s loop the full loop was clear and obvious in the Harder whereas the photonis only showed the brighter top half. This was on 21.0 SQM skies. There was just so much nebulosity showing everywhere with the Harder which I haven’t seen like this before. Lots of new things to have a look at in greater detail in the future. With my AP130GTX and 40mm plossl (with 5nm chroma) the views of the horsehead, rosette, monkeyhead, flaming star, heart, California, Pac-Man, the Cone and Lowers were also pretty fabulous. All photos were with my Huawei P20 Pro, unprocessed. I’m really chuffed with my new kit! One of my best sessions ever.
  8. Date: Monday 17th September. 2345 - 0300am. 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: 0% Sharpless Trek, the final frontier. These are the voyages of an astronomer with Night Vision… "A continuing mission: to explore strange new nebula; to seek out the arms of galaxies and resolve globular clusters to the core; to boldly go where no visual astronomer has gone before…” Its Observing Jim, But not as we know it... The forecast for last night was for a clear night with high winds. After a week with no action, I was not about to let a bit of wind keep me inside. (I have not been outside since 9th September, the weather here has been wet and cloudy). I went out at 10pm and assessed the situation, the wind was quite strong. I decided too strong to open the shed roof so I would be going with the Borg 107FL. It was still pretty breezy on the patio, so I tried a few other places and decided to tuck in behind the greenhouse where the boundary fence and the shed would offer some protection. I still had the Milky Way from 20 degrees one side to 45 degrees the other side. I went inside to gather all my gear and clothes for the night... Make It So... By 11pm it was a bit cloudy so I decided to wait… By 1130pm, I decided that I was going out anyway to get setup and let the scope cool. It remained partly cloudy for the next hour or so, but I had enough stars to get the 2-star alignment completed on my Skywatcher AZ5 GTi at the second attempt (on the first attempt, all the 2nd stars disappeared behind clouds so I had to restart). I used the Ethos 3.7mm (x166) as my alignment eyepiece and made sure Altair & Polaris were defocused to large round blobs for the final UP and RIGHT alignment movements. “Alignment Successful” said the handset. I entered M13 and slewed over, to my surprise – it was there in the FOV! I then got setup with the 55mm Plossl, 6nm Ha CCD filter and added the PVS-14 NVD. Ready… Captains Log (Mission Achievements) As most of my Sharpless targets are not available in the GOTO handset. I worked from Sky Safari and identified SAO stars in the FOV or as close as I could get. These allowed the GTi mount to get close enough to find the target. I have included the SAO star reference number with each target, should you wish to GOTO some of these Sharpless nebula yourself! 13 "new" Sharpless objects observed for the first time. Sh2-133 (SAO019425) – Large faint patch. There was a faint “tail” coming away from the patch at an angle. Sh2-137 (SAO019827) – Two thick curves lead to a black cave section. There is a small brighter area with a “triangle” shaped star formation. Worth another visit! Sh2-134 (SAO034149) – Series of patches of varying sizes in a general 45 degree line. Small bright patch seen which could be sh2-135? Sh2-160 (SAO020483) – Faint, large curve of nebulosity. Sh2-161 (SAO020567) – Large faint patch. Bubble nebula and sh2-158 seen in the same FOV. Sh2-221 (SAO039819) – Elongated blob, faint. Sh2-216 (SAO039724) – faint shape. Sh2-217 (SAO039799) – Small, easily seen. Sh2-219 – Very small. Next to sh2-217. Sh2-211 (SAO039799) – If you pan in the opposite direction from SAO 039799 then you come to a small, easily seen blob. Sh2-205 (SAO024300) – Large, faint “crossbow” shaped. There is a small bright patch nearby. Sh2-202 (SAO024054) – Very large, faintish patch near the Soul nebula. Sh2-203 (SAO023991) – Large faint patch with a black cut-out to the left. There is a black hole shape to right hand side. Captains Log (Supplemental) Here are details of all the other objects observed during the session, with SAO reference if you want to use Goto... Veil (NGC6995) – The Veil was good (I have seen in better in this scope). The western veil was only splitting into two “horns” at the top. The eastern was bright and all there. Pickering’s triangle was there with strandy detail within plus extra pieces at both sides. The thin thread was just about visible with the semi-circle piece to the side. The western was coming up over the top to the bright star. So, not too bad. Propeller (SAO049336) – First time for the Borg. The propeller sits in a region with so much other nebulosity that it is only its extra brightness that makes it stand out. The “S” shape was obvious but the two cross pieces were hard to tie down. There is definitely a lot to be missed in this area with the tight FOV of the big dob! Crescent (NGC6888) – small and bright. Just the semi-circular crescent was seen. The extra fainter bits that make the “9” were not seen. Sh2-101 Tulip (SAO069116) – Bright small semi-circular filled in shape with two bright stars. Dark sections were cutting in the shape centre right. Sh2-91 (SAO087385) – I caught a glimpse of a long thin curve while shaking the scope. I could not hold it in direct vision. Sh2-94 (SAO068384) – nothing seen. Sh2-86 (NGC6823) – This has become a challenge for me to see with its “Pillars of creation” type details. Tonight, the cluster was sitting in a very bright nebula patch. I could see a clear long black section to the side with a line of several bright stars within. I could see a second black patch inside the bright section with 2 stars inside. Checking images this morning, both of these “black” features are clearly seen and it seems the “pillar” is much smaller and deeper within the nebula. This maybe a feature that needs the big dob? Definitely a nice object to revisit. Sh2-87 – Short thick lane of nebula above sh2-86 Sh2-88 – circular patch of nebula above sh2-87 NGC7000 NA & Pelican – The Pelican was lovely and clear. It was framed nicely in the FOV. The North American was much brighter and just larger than the FOV. I could see the brighter curves within but they were not standing out as well as previous visits. Still a great object though! Sh2-119 (SAO050690) – A large object. Two thick vertical lanes with a smaller third to the side. They all seem to join together at the bottom and maybe on top too. Sh2-118 (SAO051167) – nothing seen Sh2-124 (SAO033665) – A large nebula with plenty of stars inside. Brighter centre section with a bright small curve. IC1396 Elephant Trunk – My best views of IC1396 with the Borg 107 so far. The nebula was white and lush. There were several black areas seen within, most noticeably in one corner where three long black lanes were seen (opposite end to the bright star). The elephant trunk was seen after spending some time at the eyepiece and interestingly it was the outer trunk piece that was easier to see. The inner trunk took more averted to get it and hold it. The inner is always the easiest in the dob? Sh2-129 (SAO033210) – Had an overall “bean” shape. Two brighter sections around the rim then dimmer sections seemed to make a “complete” shape. sh2-154 (SAO020281) – Slightly elongated brightish patch. Sh2-155 “The Cave” is seen just to the side in same fov. Sh2-157 – Wonderful “heart” shaped with lovely detail. Sits just to the side of the Bubble. Sh2-190 IC1805 Heart – Superb. My best views to date. Lovely thick outer shape easily seen. NGC696 appears like a “large bubble” just off to the side. Bright star cluster within the heart looks like a “scorpion”. Sh2-199 IC1848 Soul – Lovely foetus shape. Small separate patch under the “bottom”. Sh2-185 IC59/IC63 – Disappointing after the view in the big dob. Small faint curve and separate larger curve close-by. CED214/NGC7822 – Bright upside-down “egg cup” with varying brightness leads to a large thick “umbrella” section. Sh2-184 NGC281 Pacman – Bright nebula. Dark “cactus” cuts into it. Another small dark section seen inside the bright nebula. Interestingly, there seems to be a huge black patch that “runs up the side of NGC281” that I have never noticed in the big dob? Sh2-220 NGC1499 California – Superb views. Long bright parallel lanes. Interior has varying darker shapes along its length. I see the dark hole centre right and the bright corner centre left too. Sh2-142 NGC7380 Wizard – Great. Bright with multiple black sections within. Beam Me Up Scotty! The winds blew for the whole session but had little impact on my viewing. I packed up at 0300 because I could see some clouds coming and did not want to have an “accident” carrying all the kit back inside... Thoughts of the observer. It was a great night that was made even better with the use of goto. I have not counted the targets observed but without goto it would have been impossible in just three hours to cover all these objects. I really enjoyed my best ever views of IC1396 and I have added a few more Sharpless to the “must revisit” list – sh2-137, sh2-205, sh2-203, sh2-86 & sh2-129. If you have night vision then why don’t you “boldly go” and look these up too? Clear Skies, Alan
  9. 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
  10. 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
  11. I have been working my way through the Sharpless objects aided by the "Astrophotography Sky Atlas" by Bracken and Sky Safari v5 Pro. I was looking at Sharpless objects around the Bubble nebula when I came upon a nebula (one of many Sharpless) that are "missing" from the Sky Safari catalog. I have been adding the missing ones by adding a central background star to my observing lists in Sky Safari as I build my own observing lists. Last night, I used Sky Safari to navigate to the beautiful sh2-157 with no issues. I pushed on to sh2-158 (as listed in Sky Safari) and made notes of my observation ( which was "obvious patch of nebula" ) then noticed another nebula at the edge of the fov... I pushed over and noted my observation ("mystery nebula patch near the Bubble. Looks like two circles together. Two stars peeping through one circle. Brighter patch to the left of the two stars"). I looked at Sky Safari and noted a star in the centre of the FOV (SAO 20502) and moved on... When I look on the internet this morning then it appears that my observation of the mystery nebula is in fact a pefect description of sh2-158 which means my observation of sh2-158 is actually sh2-159. Sky Safari lists sh2-158 co-ords as RA 23h16m DEC +61 12 Bracken lists sh2-158 co-ords as RA 23h13m DEC +61 31 and sh2-159 as RA 23h15m DEC +61 07 (Wikipedia seems to agree with Bracken). It seems Sky Safari has them mixed up! Certainly had me scratching my head this morning. I will try to confirm this next time I get out. For completeness SAO 20502 is located at RA 23h14m DEC +61 40 Just thought I would share my experience! Clear Skies, Alan
  12. 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
  13. 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
  14. Date: Tuesday 17th July. 2320-0150 Scope: 20” f3.6 Lukehurst Dob with Paracorr (fl = 2089mm & f4.1). Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS. Eyepieces: 55mm (f2 x38), 35mm (f3 x60), 27mm (f4 x77). Filters: Astronomik 6nm & 12nm Ha CCD. It’s a CRAZY world! According to my notes, my last time out with Big Dob was 17th May! That’s a whole two months of “resting” for the big scope. In the meantime, I have been out for regular sessions with my Borg frac on the planets and of course on Nebula with the aid of my night vision, but still I was not expecting it to be two months of a gap. It also explains why it was hard to remember all my well-rehearsed setup steps for collimation etc. I had to seek out the Paracorr2 in a cupboard as it was not even in my eyepiece box. Preparation as always is key… I had been out in the shed earlier in the week and had re-positioned big dob into one corner so I could get a clear shot at Cygnus and the Milky way. I set out early just after 2300hrs as I wanted time to collimate and had more kit to carry down the garden than usual… As it turned out collimation was a breeze, just one screw on the primary needed half a turn. I was soon setup with the roof rolled back and Nexus 2-star alignment completed. Some early targets… but it’s not dark yet! I replaced my alignment 10mm eyepiece with the 35mm Panoptic and attached the PVS-14 Night Vision Device (NVD). I started with a quick tour of some well-known targets to get my eye in, with the intention of coming back to them once again later when it was darker (Ho Ho Ho). Fireworks glx - I centred the Fireworks galaxy using the push-to and Sky Safari. The galaxy appeared as a faint decent sized patch. No arms were seen. Comet 21p Giacobini-Zimmer – A very easy target. Comet had a bright good sized core with some surrounding fainter dust cloud. North American & Pelican – I added my recently acquired 12nm Ha CCD filter and moved to the North American. These big targets are much harder to get oriented on than when using the wide-field Borg. At x60 it was just so big that I did not get the same overall viewing experience as when I can see the whole thing. The Pelican was good though , there was plenty of intricate detail available in the beak section that you just don’t get when “zoomed out”. Elephant trunk – Not a lot to see here Cocoon – The Cocoon was great (even before dark), I could see the whole thing and it was easily compared to the image (on Sky Safari), the “whole thing” was visible. Cave – The Cave was easily located and the bright frontal section was seen in direct vision. The outer parts were fainter but the cave section was very black. Bubble – Onto a target that the Borg cannot handle. At first I struggled to orientate myself to what I was seeing. I could see a bright star with a bright “comma” shaped small nebula piece next to it. Time at the eyepiece seemed to reveal a small “black circle/hole”. I persisted… Time to BLOW THE BUBBLE! Midnight, now it’s getting a bit darker… I could sense that the sky was finally getting a bit darker and the Bubble is a target that I have never seen so I stayed and played with combinations of eyepieces and Ha filters. 27mm Panoptic & 6nm Ha filter – Wow, what a difference! As soon as I threw in the 6nm filter the Bubble Nebula trebled in size. Two large patches of nebula appeared under the two stars. The circle of the bubble appeared (or so I thought at the time!)... 55mm Plossl & 6nm filter – With the increased speed offered by using the 55mm Plossl, the whole Bubble nebula appeared. There was now a long upper section reaching out towards a third star. I began to realize that I had oriented myself incorrectly and the two stars I thought were the Bubble stars were in fact not them. The second star was further away and the scale of the object was much larger than I had anticipated! As I turned down the gain on the NVD, the bubble appeared and it was BIG. I held the image from Sky Safari in my hand to the side of the eyepiece and finally got the two to match. Literally, I could see “everything” that was in the image. Amazing, I smiled with satisfaction. Bubble Nebula = CHECK! Feeling a little Sharpless… I enabled my Sharpless observing list in Sky Safari. The area around the Bubble was littered with Sh2 objects. Time to get some of those smaller ones into the eyepiece. I had the 55mm Plossl and 6nm Ha CCD filter loaded. Sh2-157 – Beautiful large shape that had to be nudged to see the whole thing. It really looked like a “Heart”. There was a small bright blob seen inside the upper part of the “heart”. The uneventful patch shown in sky safari did not do justice at all to this fantastically detailed nebula. I encourage everyone to google an image of this nebula – it’s wonderful! Sh2-158 – Small and very bright nebula. Left side brightest part then two looping block sections. It looked like a face lying on its side. Great. Sh2-163, sh2-165, sh2-166 – Faint patchy stuff. Sh2-168 – Small bright patch with some lovely detail in its structure. Nice. Sh2-152 & sh2-153 – I decided that this was a “whale and child”. There was a very bright little “baby” next to a much fainter and larger “mother” patch. Nice. Sh2-149 – Bright little patch of nebula. Sh2-146 – Less bright little patch. Sh2-132 – Wow, large bright patch with shape and structure. Seemed to look like a “bat”. Very nice nebula. Elephant trunk – Now it’s darker, it’s time to revisit the Elephant trunk and see if I can see it? Wow, it’s just so big and bright too. I nudge around and see lovely black lanes and then yes, the elephant trunk is big and clear. I get a picture up to view on Sky Safari and orientate myself by turning the iPad on its side. Now the view and the image match. I nudge around and tick off each and every black patch and lane seen in the image. The trunk section near the centre is eye-wateringly beautiful. The second outer trunk section is a bit less defined around the edges but I am now a very happy man. It is literally just like an image! Sh2-129 – Another lovely nebula. It appears as a bright traceable curve. Very large. Looking at images on the internet this morning, this seems due another visit in August when darkness returns! Sh2-126 – Another good one. A very long faint line of nebulosity. Requires plenty of nudging. Cocoon – Time to revisit some old favourites. Wow. The Cocoon is framed beautifully in the 55mm and it just like an image. I compare to Sky Safari and I can see it all easy and in direct vision! Bubble – Had to go back to the highlight of the night for a second viewing now its darker. Fantastic. With the gain turned down a bit the bubble is clear and black. IC1470 – Tiny elongated bright blob. A bit like a planetary nebula. Cave – 55mm & 6nm Ha gives the best view. Its like a tsunami washing across the sky. The leading edge is wide and bright. Lovely. <CLOUDS ROLL IN> Thoughts from the observer As you wander through the Sharpless objects, it’s amazing how BRIGHT some of them appear, much brighter in fact than some of the well-known and better labelled objects. It just seems amazing that we found them hard to find and see. With a narrowband Ha CCD filter these objects come to life and form a seemingly never ending list of nebula to astound us with their beauty. I thought I had “seen it all” of the summer objects but NVD is opening up a whole new world of objects to see and with a list this LONG, it’s going to take me several summers to get through them all. Please do google some of these wonderful objects and get a flavour of the night sky we have been missing all these years… Clear Skies, Alan
  15. Date: Thursday 19th July 2330-0100 Scope: 20” f3.6 Lukehurst Dob with Paracorr (fl = 2089mm & f4.1). Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS. Eyepieces: 55mm (f2 x38), 35mm (f3 x60). Filters: Astronomik 6nm Ha CCD. Moon: 49% Desperate to get out again... After having a GREAT night out on Tuesday, I was desperate to get out and view more Nebula with Big Dob as soon as possible. The sky was partly cloudy (mainly to the west) so I set the fans running early and went out anyway! Once I had 2-star alignment completed (for my Nexus push-to) I headed straight into Cygnus as I had ignored this area on Tuesday night and wanted something different… Crescent – First up was a revisit to the Crescent. I was using the 55mm Plossl and had the 6nm Ha CCD filter attached to the Paracorr2. The view was lovely with the whole of the crescent showing. I could make out black detail within the whiteness of the crescent nebula. The centre section was particularly eye catching. I upped the magnification by switching to the 35mm Panoptic and the view was even better, slightly darker (so I had to turn the gain up on the NVD to compensate) but the black details within the nebula were more easily viewed. NGC 6857 – Looking at Sky Safari, I moved quickly to NGC6857 which was seen as a small bright nebula with a slightly elongated shape. I could see another blob of nebula in the same fov… Sh2-100 – Checking Sky Safari the “other blob” was identified as sh2-100. It appeared slightly larger and fainter than NGC 6857. Sh2-99 – Onto a nearby neighbour sh2-99. Just outside the same fov as the previous two targets. This nebula was the hardest to see of the three. It was also the largest appearing as a ghostly patch. Sh2-101 – Quickly centered sh2-101 which was a decent size. I switched back to the 55mm Plossl. The nebula appeared to be “mushroom shaped” (lying on its side) and was pretty transparent except for a brighter leading edge. Nice. NGC 6842 pneb – A planetary up next. It appeared very small but was of reasonable brightness and easily seen in direct vision. Veil nebula WOW WHAT A SURPRISE! Last time I visited the Veil (with my Night Vision and the big dob) it was low in the sky and the view had been underwhelming compared to that seen previously in the Ethos21 and Big Dob. Well tonight, it was a different story all together NGC6992, 6995, IC1340 – Wonderful bright structure to trace and comparable to that seen in the ethos21 previously. “Pickerings triangle wisp” was magnificent. Also see NGC 6979 (very bright), “E” also very bright. “The thin thread” was not as bright but easily followed, passing both “G” and “B” on the way up. NGC6960 – this was vastly improved over my previous NVD attempt at the Veil. I could see the split into 2 parts at the top (I see a split into three parts with the ethos21), so still not quite matching. “J” and “I” were visible along with “B” and “A” Sadr region of Cygnus Before I begin, let me say that the view was so good that it made my eyes water! (no, I am not lying). If you have ever seen M42 in a big dob and been wowed by the sheer texture and 3D of the Orion nebula then “you aint seen nothing yet!” I was completely blown away by the texture and variations in density visible in the eyepiece. Put this together with the sheer size of the Nebula – you just keen panning and panning and more and more beautiful 3D depth nebula just keeps coming and coming. This was a real highlight of all my years in Astronomy. I cannot overstate how good it was! Surely, couldn’t get better unless you were there in person! Sh2-104 – A small roundish patch was seen. Sh2-112 - Beautiful. This decent sized nebula is split by a thick black lane of Hydrogen running through (or in front of it). There is a bright nebula to the right hand side of the Hydrogen which looks like a letter “C” on top of a stick. ( I thought of the Rolls Royce silver spirit on the bonnet of a car as I looked at it! ). Very nice. Sh2-115 – A big nebula with lots of intricate detail. The upper sections were billowy in nature. Underneath was flatter with more straight lines. I could see a bright blob within this lower section too. Checking images this morning, they reflect what I saw very closely! I still can’t believe that I can see “the same as images” with my eye at the eyepiece – MIND BLOWN! AR0352 – Yes I know, what is AR0352? It was there on Sky Safari next to where I was so it would have been rude to not go over to take a look! It turns out to be a decent sized planetary nebula. Not too bright but easily seen in direct vision and bigger than most planetaries that you see. North American nebula After Sadr, I had to come revisit the NA & Pelican. Another moment to look away if you don’t want to know how good it was I am afraid! The North American nebula was INCREDIBLE. The Bay of Mexico so black, the bright leading edge to the trunk bit was very bright. Another bright curvy bit seen towards the top side. So much texture and variation in “whiteness”. Beautiful. Pelican – Wowsers. I had a pic of the Pelican open in Sky Safari and once rotated to match my view. I was able to eek out every (and I do mean every!) detail. If was much fainter than the North American but it was all there. Its just a shame that you have to pan around and I can’t get it all into the fov but it seems inappropriate to complain when you get the view that I had. < CLOUDS ROLLED IN> Thoughts of the observer When the clouds rolled in cutting my session to just 90 minutes, I shrugged my shoulders and said “oh, well”. What a journey I had just had, too good to be dampened by a few clouds coming over. I am still stunned and eyes welling up again this morning when I remember the view of the Sadr region, it really was a highlight of all my astronomy years. Can’t say that I will die a happy man because of it but I will certainly never forget it! Clear Skies, Alan
  16. Date: Thursday 1st November. 2100-0115hrs. Scope: Borg 107FL f5.6 (focal length 600mm). Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS. Night Vision Eyepieces: Plossl 55mm (f2.6 x11), Panoptic 35mm (f4.2 x17), Panoptic 27mm (f5.4 x22). Filters: Astronomik 6nm Ha CCD, Astronomik 12nm Ha CCD. Moon: 0% The Borg is back in town! After a couple of short sessions with the dob since I returned from holiday, I decided that tonight I would go with the Borg 107FL. I got the scope mounted and setup as best I could inside, then opened the double doors and carried the whole lot outside on the patio, where I left it to cool down. I was once again surprised by how light the whole setup is to pick up and carry outside (and my back was most grateful). After a couple of false starts (with passing clouds), I finally got changed (into three layers of clothing) and headed outside just before 9pm. I am out of practice with the AZ5 GTi 2-star alignment which resulted in a failure on the first attempt, I chose stars too high in the sky and the extra contortions needed to look through the red dot finder at the zenith were not appreciated. In the end, I restarted my alignment and selected stars better placed around 45 degrees or so. Anyway, this time it all ran smoothly and when I selected M31 as a test, sure enough, there it was just off centre in the fov. It was a cold night! I had my heater tape installed on the scope from the start (and running on half power), later in the evening I had to add the eyepiece heater tape as the view started to deteriorate. By the end of the night scope, mount, battery box and eyepiece box were all iced up and all needed a towel to remove the water once I was back inside. It was a great night! I have four pages of notes to go through this morning. My targets were varied and placed across the sky (The Borg on the little goto mount does give me more freedom to move around the sky than I get when using the big dob which is restricted by the shed walls as to where I can target on any night. I had a general plan in mind, start on galaxies, then head to some of the larger objects in Cygnus, across through Cassiopeia and maybe into Orion if the sky is still clear and time is on my side. A Galaxy appetiser M33 - I started with M33 (one of my favourite objects) as I am keen to see what I can achieve with the 107mm scope. I had the 55mm Plossl (with Night Vision device attached) in the scope and no filters. I could see a single sweeping arm going out from the core at the top and over to the right, out to NGC604. Around the core was a circle of arms with clear blackness between the circle and the core. Under the core the galaxy was indistinct and all I got was a fuzzy patch. With averted the full extent of the galaxy was revealed but the detail within was lost to my eyes. 6946 – Onto the fireworks galaxy (with which I had finally seen the arms with the big dob and night vision recently) to see what I could achieve. First impression was one of how small this galaxy was in the fov. I could see the hazy patch of the galaxy (and another hazy patch nearby). As I spent time at the eyepiece then a similar circle of arms started to be hinted around the core of the galaxy, but as much as a tried I could not pick out the “2 fingers” of arms that I see with the dob. I got more of an impression of one big swooping arm. 891 – …was my next target, but some clouds had moved across and I had to move into Cygnus early. I intended to come back but forgot all about it (as you do). A trip through the large nebula… IC1396 – I started with the Elephant trunk. With the 55mm Plossl (x11) and 6nm Astronomik Ha filter, IC1396 filled the fov and I had to nudge around the get at the edges. The view was filled with a nebula cloud. The cloud was fairly dim but there were several black sections within incl. the black centre patch. Below the centre patch I could clearly see the two sections of the Elephants trunk in direct vision. I spent time exploring the whole structure until I was satisfied that I had seen it all. Sh2-119 – This is a nice target for a small scope with Night Vision. It is large enough to fill the fov and you see a “three pronged fork” like structure. Two prongs are thick and the third a little thinner. NGC7000 NA – The North American was looking good and very bright to boot! I scanned around then over to the Pelican which looked perfectly formed as it looked back at me. I just can’t get enough of the Pelican, its just mesmerising. I nudged further across and into IC5068 IC5068 – I passed through several line sections in a curve shape. Looked like “Morse code” trying to tell me something? LBN289 – Onto LBN289. I have been trying this target in the big dob (see my previous post 29-Oct) and wanted to see what the Borg would make of it. I was pleasantly surprised. I saw a long thick horizontal section of nebula (longer than the fov) there was a break at 45 degrees part way along back towards 7 o’clock direction. At the bottom of this section was a patch of nebula that looked like a “mitten”. The “mitten” had a long vertical lane of nebula passing up behind it. There was even more nebula off to the right hand side. Which of this nebula is LBN289 I do not know, some of it or all of it? Either way, it was a satisfying result for the Borg. IC1318 – What a view! I nudged through endless nebula covering a huge area! Thick lush lanes in all directions. Intricate black fine details on show within. I bump into the Crescent and the Propeller as I nudge around. (Some lovely detail to be had in the Crescent both in the detailed shapes of the curve - there is a clear notch in the centre of the curve as it moves out from the centre – and in the curve itself where the edges are non-uniform and variations in thickness and brightness can be seen). I then bump into sh2-112 and sh2-115 out near Deneb. Veil – Not as giving as it was in the Borg’s last visit, the central area was mostly blank. I could see the east, west, Pickering’s and the curve that’s sits next to the thin thread, but the thin thread and some brightness was missing. There was a wide expanse at the top of the Veil and several bright patches here and there. Sh2-86 – Onto a “target of interest” for me. This nebula has a “pillar of creation” style black finger poking into it, so far I have not seen it. It has now passed beyond the reach of the dob from the shed. Anyway, I goto NGC6820. With some study I can discern two black fingers but the actual scale of the target is unknown to me. I note a long black finger with a line of 5 stars within – scale is as large as the cluster. I also note a smaller black lane with three offset stars more in the cluster itself. I don’t think it was either of these and the “pillar or creation” is smaller still and maybe needs the dob to see it. If I get another chance then more magnification is needed. Bubble and friends – I head over to bubble and from there observe, sh2-157 (nice size and easy to see but less bright than the Borg’s last visit), sh2-158 (small and bright), sh2-159 (faint patch), sh2-162 (bubble seen and nebula extending all around), sh2-161 (patch to side of bubble & sh2-158). IC1805 Heart – Magnificent. Bright. Stands out like Cinderella’s carriage! I can see the tiny “mole head” nebula to the right in nice detail. There is a bright spot below the Heart (sh2-192/3). IC1848 Soul – Less bright than the Heart but clearly a “Baby on its head”. I can see brighter patches at the “Nose” and “Chest” making a nice “Bay of brightness”. There is a separate small patch just off the baby’s backside (sh2-198). The Flame is on fire Its now 2330 and I can see Orion in the East. I enter “IC434” into the goto… IC434 Horsehead – I am using the 55mm Plossl and 6nm Astronomik Ha filter. I look into the eyepiece and I can see the long lane of IC434, the horsehead, Alnitak and a large Flame nebula all in the fov. The Horsehead is more than a “notch”, a definite nose shape is there – but it’s very small. My eye is attracted to the Flame, it looks majestic and does not know why we all lust after seeing the Horsehead. “The Flame is on fire”. As I look at the flame, the shape becomes a “T-Rex”, it is beautiful. Barnard’s Loop – Some x1 naked eye Night Vision viewing. I have just attached the eyepiece heater and I wait for it to take effect. I nip back inside and get my 1.25” 12nm Astronomik Ha filter. I attach it directly to the front of the NVD using a 3D printed adapter. I switch on and look to Orion… Barnard’s Loop – Wow, there it is! Direct Vision and its huge. It sweeps right down the left side of Orion, curls underneath and heads back up the right side (maybe the Witchhead). It must be enormous. My eye is then drawn to a very bright nebula seen to the left of Orion (must be Rosette) and then another even larger nebula patch just to the left (it seems to be 4 nebulas in one), this must be sh2-273. I pan upwards and there is the Flaming Star, a little further and there is the California. Up again and into the Heart and Soul. I am having so much fun…! Barnard’s Loop – With the scope, you just keep bumping into the wide bright endless vertical highway. It’s traceable with ease and just goes on and on. X1 handheld was the best way to “see it”. Back to the many Nebula within and around Orion. Right, Back to the scope and it has to be the Rosette to confirm my x1 sighting. Rosette – Wow! Speechless. I already love the Rosette with the Dob but now I am in love with the Rosette. It’s a beautiful Rose, the lanes make the outlines of the petals and the blackness is the petals. It fills the fov and it’s the highlight of the night for me. I can’t wait to get the dob and night vision on this target – it may blow my mind? Sh2-173 – Right, the Cone. Firstly, when you point the scope, night vision and Astronomik 6nm filter at NGC2264 you are not prepared for how large this nebula is. The Cone and its cluster are lost in a sea of nebula. Its much bigger than the FOV! I am used to seeing the Cone with the Dob and I am just lost in all this nebula – where exactly is the cone? Gradually, I orientate myself and realize that NGC2264 is the medium sized brightest blob just below centre. I start to map the bright stars from a picture in Sky Safari to the view and there is the Cone. But it is so, so tiny at x11 magnification. I feel bad saying that I can see it because it is just so small. When I consider this wonderful huge nebula in front of my eyes, I am lost as to why we are all so excited about this tiny spec. I remember my quest for the “pillar” in sh2-86 and I know why we do it… I go through a period of trying Pan35, Pan27, Astronomik 6nm & 12nm Ha filters but I cannot get a better view of the tiny Cone than with the 55mm. I was amazed at how sh2-173 almost disappeared when I put in the 12nm Ha filter then jumped back again when the 6nm Ha filter was re-inserted. There is no doubt that 20” and Night Vision is going to get the Cone. But I re-iterate that sh2-173 is so much more than “the cone”. Flaming Star – The sky is brightening slightly (maybe the moon is starting), I head up to the Flaming star and it’s a lovely sight at the eyepiece (but it’s not alone), its thick shapely right angle is sharp and clear. As you look into the eyepiece there are several other clumps of nebula and you need to orientate yourself to what is there. I can see the right angle shape of the Flaming Star. Below is another bright circular nebula (sh2-236/IC410) which has some lovely black central shapes coming and going. To the right I see two more less significant but clearly visible nebula (sh2-234/IC417 & sh2-237), I nudge right a little farther and three separate nebula appear (sh2-232, sh2-235 & sh2-231/3) 235 is large and quite faint, 232 small and bright. M42 – I was not sure whether the brightness of M42 would be too much for the NV but I have to have a look! I turn down the gain and set the goto. WOW! It is small (x11) but perfectly formed. I can see M43 easily to the right and in-between is a jet black cloud of gas. M42 appears as a fish head taking a bite out of this blackness. The upper wing of M42 curves all the way back and connects into a billowy cloud structure. The lower wing extends out and down and away from the main nebula. I could go for more magnification but why bother, this is a lovely view and I stay a while. Sh2-261 Lowers Nebula – Two central stars emerging from what looks like a “tunnel of nebula”. Stars are in a black area and the nebula surrounds but extends on one side. NGC2174 Monkey head – This is a great nebula. I thought that it looked like a side-on view of Mickey Mouse’s face as I looked at it. It was really nicely framed in the fov. The “face” had the palid appearance of white skin with some darker stuff around the sides. The nose seemed to have a “bobble” on it. IC443 Jellyfish – A clear half-moon shape with a brighter curved side was clearly seen. This is a SN remnant also known as sh2-248. Time to call it a night. By now I was cold and everything that I took outside had a thin layer of ice on top.The Devils Orb was also rising. It took a few trips to get all the stuff back inside. I found that I “still had the buzz” so I attached the 1.25” 12nm Astronomik filter and went back outside for a couple of minutes of x1 handheld! Thoughts of the observer It was nice to finally get the Night Vision onto IC434 and see the horsehead with ease. I already knew that the Flame was a better target than the Horsehead and it was nice to have this confirmed once again. The Flame has so much to give, don’t waste too much of your time on the Horsehead. The x1 experience around Orion was great. I knew Barnard’s Loop was big, but it really is BIG. I did not know the Rosette stood out so brightly as it actually does. At the eyepiece the Rosette was wonderful with NV. Sh2-173 (area around the Cone) is just so big. Even at x1 it looked like four nebulas in one. The Cone seems a sideshow when you see just how big and expansive sh2-173 actually is (with a wide fov). It was fairly featureless but endless. It was quite difficult to focus on NGC2264 as it was so small and insignificant inside this huge structure. (Can’t wait to see the Cone with the Dob though ). Luckily I did find my Hot Water Bottle after my last outing and I was able to put it near my feet at the bottom of the bed (as I lay there still wearing my inner layer of clothing) waiting to warm up and fall asleep… Clear Skies, Alan
  17. Date: Wednesday 14th November. 2230-0430hrs Scopes: 20” f3.6 Lukehurst Dob & Borg 107FL f5.6! Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS. Night Vision Eyepieces: Plossl 55mm (f2.6 x11), Panoptic 35mm (f4.2 x17). Filters: Astronomik 6nm Ha CCD. The weather forecast showed there would be a slowly clearing sky later in the evening with a possibility of clear sky during the early hours so I made a tentative plan that involved using both the big dob and later the Borg 107 if the opportunity arose. The clearing sky was late arriving and I did not get my first view of the departing moon (through a gap in the clouds) until after 9pm. I stayed in front of the TV for another hour and by 10pm there were stars visible with clouds remaining to the North and East. After two barren weeks this was enough to trigger me to start getting changed and then carry my equipment down to the shed to make a start on the Milky Way overhead with the 20” dob. Thoughts of the observer. I thought that I would start with the conclusion/outcome of the evening which was that I managed to find and view 30 new Sharpless objects! I am now looking through my six pages of notes taken over the 6 hours of viewing I managed last night. I was forced inside by an increasing wind, tired eyes and a few cold finger ends. The night started with a three hour big dob session where I managed to collect nineteen new Sharpless objects as well as having a few memorable re-visits of some recently viewed with the Borg107. With the dob, the standout objects included the Sharpless cluster (sh2-254 to sh2-258), surprisingly the Crab nebula (sh2-244) gave a completely different view in Ha! The large size of the supernova remnant sh2-223 was wonderful. Finally seeing the huge circular nebula sh2-278 that circles around Polaris. And the amazing Medusa (sh2-274) which I have never managed to see before. I then had a two hour session with the Borg 107 where I managed to collect another eleven new Sharpless objects. With the 4” frac, the standout new objects was sh2-265 which looked like a massively magnified Orion Nebula with a similar winged appearance but over a huge area much greater than the FOV at x11 magnification. I also managed to put my finger on why the Monkey Head nebula (sh2-252) looked like a side view of Mickey Mouse with the frac – the mirror diagonal flips the image! Last night’s first view (for me) of the Monkey Head with the big dob and NV was astonishing. I just said “Wow” out loud – it was just like an image of a Neanderthal man. Later with the Borg 107, I was again treated to the alternative “frac view” of Mickey Mouse as “the penny dropped!” Right let’s get into the detail of the new (to me) Sharpless objects. Part1: Big Dob targets “some of the gaps” remaining in its Sharpless journey. I had the TeleVue 55mm Plossl and Astronomik 6nm Ha CCD filter loaded. Sh2-228 – a small bright patch. Averted reveals a fainter surrounding section too. Sh2-226 – a small faint patch. Sh2-227 – a large faint patch. When I turned down the gain intricate dark lanes/patches were revealed within. Sh2-225 – a medium sized patch (next to a “W” star formation). The centre seemed to be a slightly brighter patch. Sh2-242 – a medium sized bright fuzzy patch around a star. Star is offset, closer to one side. Sh2-241 – Decent sized but faint triangular shaped patch with a small bright blob to the right hand side. Sh2-233 – tiny patch around a star. Sh2-247 – medium sized, easily seen patch. Sh2-249 – very large patch. Faintish and seems to be falling away from a bright star above. Oblong shape with black vertical lanes within. Nice. Sh2-254 to sh2-257 – A great target. A bit like Stephan’s Quintet but much easier! There are three patches in a line. The first is larger than the other two which were a similar size. I saw a tiny patch in between the first and second and slightly above them but I could not find the fifth member of the group. M1 crab (sh2-244) – I was not expecting much from M1 but boy was I in for a surprise! The crab appeared to me as a “multi-celled organism” being totally made up of many small bright circles/bubbles throughout its whole surface area! Sh2-223 – A very large supernova remnant. A large curve in the shape of a semi-circled can be traced but you need to nudge around as its very large. Sh2-224 – Another supernova remnant. This one appears as a small curve seen close to a bright star. Sh2-178 – Encouraged by Jeff Morgan, I finally remembered to point the big dob towards Polaris. I was rewarded by being able to trace the edges of what is a huge nebula that encircles Polaris at a large distance. The edges were easy to see and easy to nudge along. Sh2-204 – Showed as a thick lane. This image looks like more of a curve so I will need to revisit for another look… Sh2-274 Medusa – I managed just about to get down to the Medusa from my shed. There must have been a very tiny percentage of the big mirror on the target as it was very low behind the shed wall BUT what a lovely view! I saw a wonderful, bright crescent outline with jagged edges. It seemed to shimmer at the eyepiece. Time to swap scopes. By now, it was around 0130am, the skies had completely cleared and I was running out of new targets to challenge the dob (from its current location within the shed). So I packed up, returned my gear back inside. Unpacked and setup the Borg, then headed back outside. I had the Skywatcher AZ5 GTi goto aligned and was ready to start at 0230am. Part2: Borg 107 fights back and shows that it has much to offer in the Night Vision Sharpless search. Sh2-265 – Huge! It looked like a tsunami wave sweeping across the sky! It reminded me of the winged shape of M42 but this was on a completely new scale. It really is huge and I had to pan around even at only x11 magnification with the Borg. I could pick out black detailed section withing the central section of the nebula. Rosette – This is not a new target but I have to include it as the view through the Borg appeared to resemble the “face of a young puppy dog” (remember that its flipped by the mirror diagonal), I could see two black eye sockets, the nose and open oblong mouth. The only thing missing was the ears! I revisited a couple of times later for another look and the puppy dog was still there! Sh2-280 – This is an easy patch visible just below the Rosette nebula. Patch seems to have 2 eyes in black sockets and averted vision shows that it extends out to one side. Sh2-282 – Easily spotted just below sh2-280. More of a thin oblong shape. Sh2-284 – a large easy patch below and left a bit from sh2-282. Sh2-293 & sh2-295 – A visit to the Seagull nebula was next to try to spot two tiny Sharpless just off one of the wings. With averted I could make the tiny nebula out but if you did not know they were there then you would miss them (as I did on my previous visit). Sh2-278 – This was very hard. With averted and plenty of effort then I can make out a faint curved shape. Sh2-304 – Very large nebula. Long and thin. The edges can be traced. Very faint. Sh2-312 – Huge squared! Lanes of nebula can traced over an immense area. Sh2-306 & sh2-302 – I can see one tiny bright patch then just out of the fov I see a medium sized patch too. I was able to confirm that the medium sized patch was gum6 using the goto. A night to remember My sharpless count now stands at 153 of 313, so nearly half way there... During the night I revisited many other “favourite” objects with both of my scopes but I don’t have the stamina to write any more notes on them now as they have been described before. I managed a handheld x1 viewing session once I had got all the kit packed away back inside and I performed a comparison between the 1.25” Baader 7nm Ha filter and the 1.25” Astronomik 12nm Ha filter as they were fitted directly to the front of the NVD with a 3D printed adapter. I concluded that the 7nm Ha filter provided more contrast and a little more detail as I scanned through Seagull, M42, IC434, Flame, Angel fish, Barnards loop, Rosette, Cone, Jelly fish, IC410/Flaming star, California and the Heart & Soul. I found the x1 nebula a little less giving than my previous night out so the conditions must not have been at their best, it was certainly windy by this time. Clear Skies, Alan
  18. Date: Wed 29th August 2018. Scope: Borg 107FL f5.6 (focal length 600mm). Eyepieces: Ethos 6mm (x100), Plossl 55mm (f2.6 x11). Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS. Filters: Astronomik 6nm Ha CCD. Moon: 90% It’s all a bad memory! I’ve had the luxury of my roll-off shed for three years and all my observing has been in the shed apart from the occasional manual push-to Borg session on the patio. During that time I had forgotten what a pain in the ass it is to setup a goto scope outside when all the gear has to be brought outside! Seems to be similar to the experience of visiting children, surely my kids were not as bad as this lot! Sky conditions were not the best. When I got outside the lower southern sky was lost in cloud. Above me were a few main stars and there was a covering of thin high cloud mostly everywhere else. But when you have a new scope what does any of that matter! Onwards… Setting up the new scope and mount. I secured the Borg 107FL to the Skywatcher AZ5 GTi, added the red dot finder and the diagonal and carried it out onto the patio to begin to cool… Back inside, I rustled up my 4” dew heating tape, Tracer battery, Synscan handset + cable. I made some swaps in my eyepiece case replacing the 10mm Ethos with the 6mm, adding the 3.7mm Ethos, removing the Paracorr2 etc. I put my PVS-14 and 6nm Ha Filter into the case. On top of the case I had my IPad (in waterproof case), notebook, Bracken Astrophotography Atlas, red torch, pen which I then carried out in one go and onto the Patio table. Back inside, grabbed the power cables and battery. I started to connect the mount then realised I needed a cigarette splitter box and I needed a cable to take power to the dew tape! Back inside, grabbed the missing cables from a drawer in the study and finally got everything plugged in and switched ON Red dot finder, Doh! I walked straight into my first problem, the red dot finder did not match the stars in the sky into the eyepiece! Back inside to find a screwdriver. ( At least the Baader Sky Surfer V is a joy to adjust, isn’t it? ). Time is now lost to holding Mars in the eyepiece and then looking through the red dot finder and making some adjustments with the screwdriver. After a few iterations, it was good enough. 2-star alignment woes and then some! If the red dot finder was an inconvenience then the six iterations of failed alignments was a nightmare that eventually drove me back inside AGAIN to view the internet for inspiration! I had no problem choosing a named star and getting it into the eyepiece and then centred. I had no problem choosing a known second star and watching the scope slew to about an inch away (through the red dot finder view). I had no problem getting the second star centred. “Alignment Successful” “Warning: some words about NPE defaults” (What???) The skywatcher synscan handset is not very user friendly and you seem to have to press “ESC” to be able to choose a target once alignment is complete. When pressing “Esc” you are re-prompted “Alignment” – Leaving you wondering "Did it align or not?" ( I was very unimpressed with SynScan, Nexstar+ is much easier to use ) Anyway, every time I selected a target, the scope would slew to a position in the Sky at the wrong Altitude. I repeated this six times, on one occasion I chose Mars as the first target and the scope ended up pointing straight down at the ground. I was having a heart attack trying to stop the slew (with Nexstar+ its easy, just press one of up, down, left, right and the scope stops) but nothing seemed to stop it from going where it wanted. This was when I swore loudly thanking skywatcher for producing a mount that was beyond my capabilities and headed inside for some internet browsing. God save the internet! Firstly the NPE Warning, seems to be something to do with EQ mounts (why Skywatcher cannot just code this out for AZ mounts seems to be an reflection on them rather than me), I had to go into the NPE menu (which is hidden in the middle of the Alignment menu that you only see when choosing the alignment – Doh!) and set all values to “0” (Annoying warning FIXED) I need to have the clutches super tight (Check) I need to finish with up & right movements (I had been trying to do this but the scope works in reverse to the up/down button pressed so I was doing down and right). Readers should note that Nexstar+ allows you to reverse the up/down buttons from the menu – Skywatcher are you listening?? I could try defocus the star to a massive blob for centring (check) Make sure the stars you pick are between 15 and 60 degrees high (check) One final try before I cry and go inside a failure… After repeating the 2-star alignment process once more and implementing all my learnings from the internet, I got the usual handset lie of “Alignment Successful”. I entered a target “M34” and a short slew occurred… I looked into the eyepiece and to my wonder, there was the “dancing man” of M34 (Success at last). The time was 0030, I had been at this now for almost three hours and the alignment was finally complete!!! During this process, I had been into every menu item and made changes that will help in the future such as enabling the slew limits and dimming the handset but I have to say that Skywatcher have a lot they could learn from “copying” some of the Nexstar+ functionality, Synscan seems a bit of a “toy” in comparison. Let the observing begin? More test slews M52, M103, M15, M27 and all with success! I was overcome with joy until I put my glasses back on and looked up – the clouds were everywhere, there was the occasional thinner section but I had no intention of stopping now and admitting defeat for the Borg’s first light… Borg Star Test. I did a few star diffraction ring tests now. The Borg presented lovely diffraction patterns on both sides of focus. Stars could be focused to lovely tiny bright dots. I looked for field curvature in the 6mm Ethos, I did not see any. I will repeat this on a better night. Ready for Night Vision. I added the Astronomik 6nm Ha CCD filter to the diagonal, threw in the 55mm TeleVue Plossl and attached the PVS-14 NVD to the eyepiece. IC1396 – Elephant trunk – This was probably a bit optimistic as the sky was so bad, I could make out a large faint patch of nebula but nothing within it. Heart nebula – Two small bright patches of nebula stood out against a very faint nebulous patch. Soul nebula – Decent sized faint nebula patch. NGC281 – Pacman – Yes, I can see it! At last, something to view. I could see the full patch of nebula surrounding the tiny star cluster. North American + Pelican – Not a lot on the first visit but I did come back later and was treated to a decent view of the North American with its two brighter sections within. The full shape of the NA was framed nicely in the Borg FOV. I saw most of the Pelican, its beak was clear and most of the body. Gamma Cygni – Yes, I can see it. Another sort of success, I could at least see and trace nebulosity around this region. Crescent – Yes, its there. Small and bright. Not my best view but under clouds I guess that I should not complain too much. I scroll around and see two further patches of nebulosity south of the crescent. NGC6995 Veil – Yes, I can see 6995. The rest of the veil is lost in the clouds above me. Bubble – Two small patches of nebulosity in the FOV. One is the Bubble, which I can just about make out with a dose of wishful thinking and the other ??? Cave – Yes, there it is. Small and bright. By now the clouds are really taking over and the 90% moon has made it to the SOUTH, so I decide that I have had enough. Its 0210am. Thoughts of the observer. I cannot remember ever having a satisfactory “first light” experience in the past but this has to be by far the worst. The goto fiasco was painful but I learned a few good tips that hopefully will make next time a little (or a lot) better. At least my handset defaults are now what they should be, I can’t believe they have slew limits disabled as a default, I nearly had a heart attack when the scope headed straight down towards the ground! On a positive note, the mount coped easily with the Borg 107FL. I managed to get a nice balanced setup and I did not hear the motors struggling at any point. If the mount had been delivered with the Azimuth clutch tight then I would not have been so worried about over tightening it and maybe some of the goto inaccuracy could have been avoided. Anyway, today is another day. I have all the leads etc that I need now stored in handy Jiffy bags so I should be able to cut out some of those unwanted trips back inside. The dew tape worked admirably, everything was soaking with dew when I came inside EXCEPT FOR THE SCOPE THAT IS! Clear Skies, Alan P.S. I thought of something I liked about SynScan (to be fair), it remembers my location & elevation(?) so I did not have to enter it again & again. And the thing I missed most about Nexstar+ handset was the "raised ridge up/down/left/right" buttons which made them easy to find with your fingers without any need to look at the handset, last night I kept hitting "2" (rate) when I wanted "down" (maybe skywatcher can think of this for SynScan v5?)
  19. 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
  20. Date: Monday 29th October 2018. 1830-2140hrs Scope: 20” f3.6 Lukehurst Dob with Paracorr (fl = 2089mm & f4.1). Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS. Eyepieces: 55mm (f2 x38). Filters: Astronomik 6nm. Moon: 0% mostly. Time to get back on the bus. I have been away in the USA for most of this month so I was eager to get back outside observing as soon as possible. Luckily the Devils Orb is now waning and an opportunity to get out early before its inevitable rise was not to be missed. After the clocks changed at the weekend, it was dark by 6pm and a quick peep outside showed that the Milky Way was already clearly visible overhead even this early in the evening. I set about getting myself and my kit ready for the walk down to the shed… It took little time to get the dob setup and soon the roof was open and a black sky full of stars was overhead. Two star alignment of my Nexus was quickly achieved (Polaris & Scheat), I selected my Sharpless observing list in Sky Safari and nudged over into Cygnus (before it’s too late for another year). Observations. Sh2-99/sh2-100 – Three distinct objects were seen in a triangle formation. The brightest was sh2-100 which was very easy. Sh2-99 was dimmer and smaller some distance away. A third very small but clear object was visible but its not clear what its designation is? Sh2-101 Tulip – Not as bright as previously seen. The Tulip head was clear, I could see the brighter tip and with averted could make out a thin black lane cutting back into the tulip from the right side. I spent some time nudging through the many curving lanes of nebula that lie below sh2-101 too. This is a busy region of the sky. Veil – I had to get in another visit. The western veil was showing the split into three parts so I knew conditions were not too bad. I surveyed all the well trodden features that I have seen many times before but trying to eek out a few extra memories maybe missed on previous occasions. I targeted the area below the eastern veil and could eek out two faint lines of nebula beyond the standard fare. But the area most memorable last night was above where I was able to see a wide expanse of wispy nebula all the way up to a bright star above, which had a clear piece of nebula to the side. Pickerings triangle was very good with three clear black hole sections within and the thin thread showed the two separate intertwined lanes twisting their way up to the top section. Sh2-110 – Very hard. I could see an elongated circular thin black lane. There seemed to be a black “tail” section underneath and a darker black central hole in a triangular shape. The actual nebulosity was hard to see. I could at best “sense it” outside the boundaries of the black lanes. Sh2-111 – Another very hard one. I could just about see a large more oblong shape (it seemed to be flat on top and more curved at the bottom). The stars seemed to be clearing black sections in the area within. Sh2-114/sh2-113 Flying Dragon – I’ve not had much success with this object and NV. I may have finally got somewhere last night though. I sketched out what looked like an upside-down “pear”. The pear had a square corner top left and then headed down in a teardrop like shape to a point at the bottom. At one point I came across a small faint fuzzy patch that seemed to appear more as a “curve” with some time at the eyepiece. Looking at images of the flying dragon, I can see these features in there so maybe I was on the right track! Sh2-112 – A favourite of mine. The bright “C on top of a stick” and the thick black lane running through the nebula make this quite eye catching. Sh2-115 – A wonderful sight, filling the FOV. Thick curvy shapes catch your eye as you nudge around. Lovely. Sh2-149/sh2-152/sh2-153 – All (almost) in the same FOV. Sh2-152 & sh2-153 sitting side by side “little & large” then just out of view the faint but clear sh2-149. Sh2-153 is small but very bright. Minkowski 2-51 – What! Never heard of Minkowski? (Neither had I). Whilst nudging around came upon a planetary nebula and luckily Sky Safari had it logged. My first Minkowski… (I just looked it up and there are 209 of them!) Sh2-135 – A nice bright decent sized nebula. Two thick vertical sides joined by a thinner curved section over the top. Sh2-151 – Largish faint patch just above two bright stars. Easy to miss. Sh2-168 – Bright central patch. Curve over the top. Averted reveals a large circular patch shape. Sh2-163 – A large elongated shape. Sh2-165 – Bright central star. Large faintish round shape surrounds it. Sh2-166 – Large very faint nebula patch around a star cluster (that looks like robo-man!) Sh2-170 – 2 bright central stars in a black patch, inside a large circular patch of nebula. Sh2-173 The Mask – Large patch including a bright star and a decent size black area. Hints of a second black area just above the first black area. Sh2-175 - A star with a tiny nebula patch around it. Sh2-167 – A tiny patch next to a star. Sh2-187 – Another tiny patch next to a star. But if you look for longer then it appears to be covering the star. Sh2-188 Dolphin – A nice size bright curved shape! Pacman – Large and bright nebula. The “Angel” can be clearly seen. Lovely black “cactus” to the side of the Angel. NGC896 – The “mole” fills the FOV. This is a great bright nebula and it really does look like the head of a mole! Sh2-174 – The moon is rising so I head over to Polaris. What! There ain’t no nebula near Polaris… (That’s what I thought too, but what about sh2-174). It is a faint but decent sized patch found over near Polaris! CED214 – Back to CED214 for some lush bright nebula that seems to have a face hidden within it to me. Sh2-207 – Medium sized faint circular patch, easily seen. Sh2-208 – A tiny, tiny patch in the same FOV as sh2-207. So tiny that I missed it on my last visit to sh2-207! Beaten by the Moon and the cold. By now the sky was brightening significantly, my toes were cold and I was hungry so I decided to call it a night and looked forward with hope as I thought of the now steady declining moon over the coming weeks. The dob was covered in Ice and the shed thermometer was reading -2 degrees C. Thoughts of the observer. It’s nice to be back into the cold clear nights. Sure, they will be a killer for the first few nights but I will soon become acclimatized to them once again, just need to go find my “hot water bottle” so I am ready for it next time. Checking my Sharpless log, I have added three new Sharpless objects to my achievements tonight. My Sharpless count now stands at 111 of 313. Still plenty to go… It was cold enough tonight for me to deploy my eyepiece heater tape with the 55mm Plossl which started deteriorating half way through my session, the cold did not seem to have any impact on the NVD. Clear Skies, Alan
  21. 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
  22. 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
  23. Time does not stand still... It has been 17 months since I wrote the original version of the above named article and there have been a few changes in the intervening time period… 1. I now have 17 months more a-focal experience of using a telescope with a night vision device attached directly to the eyepiece. 2. A new forum has been created for the discussion of such “Electronic Assisted” observing equipment on this website. So I decided to revise my article and post it in this new “most applicable” forum. Let us start with the basics… What is a-focal observing? “a-focal observing” simply means that the night vision device is attached directly to an eyepiece (after the focal point of the telescope). You are placing the night vision device’s objective at the exit pupil point in the light path. The easiest way to achieve this is the use the “TNV-14 Eyepiece Adapter” (available from Tele Vue). This adapter has threads on either side to connect (1) any Dioptrx accepting Tele Vue eyepiece to (2) a PVS-14 Night Vision device. http://www.televue.com/engine/TV3b_page.asp?id=36 Here is a picture of a Tele Vue 55mm Plossl connected to a PVS-14 using the TNV-14 adapter. To perform “a-focal” observing we need to simply insert this “stack” into any telescope focuser. If the attached eyepiece can achieve focus then there will be a focused image available to view in the PVS-14. Here we see the stack attached to my 20” dobsonian and my 107mm Borg refractor… What are the advantages of a-focal? The biggest advantage is that you WILL be able to reach focus in any scope. Unlike other options you are simply placing the night vision at the point of the exit pupil. For Newtonians, this is a big point. Fundamentals of a-focal observing. Now we are past the basics, we have some slight more complicated “fundamentals” to get our heads around… 1. The PVS-14 night vision device is designed to work at a focal ratio of f1.2 (which is very fast). To get the most from the device then we need to aim to send light from the eyepiece as fast as possible to take maximum advantage of the night vision device. A faster focal ratio results in a brighter image, a slower focal ratio results in a dimmer image. - Here we have been given a “lucky break”. Because the PVS-14 has an effective focal length of around 26mm, if we use any eyepiece with a focal length greater than 26mm then the “effective” focal ratio of our system gets “magically” increased. [I will show how we calculate this effective focal ratio shortly but think of this on a par with adding a focal reducer into the light train]. Unfortunately, any eyepiece with a focal length less than 26mm will decrease this “effective” focal ratio of our system. 2. The PVS-14 has a fixed forty (40) degree field of view. It does not matter how wide field our eyepiece is, the night vision device will only ever show the centre forty degrees. This means that you don’t need 100 degree Ethos or 82 degree Nagler eyepieces, narrower field of view Plossl, Panoptics & DeLite’s will be fine. - Again, don’t panic! There will be so much to see in the forty degrees that it will feel like 100 degrees. I have come from 100 degree eyepieces and I have never once wondered where my huge FOV went 3. Eyepiece eye relief is important. You need eyepieces with enough eye relief to match the distance from the top lens surface of the eyepiece to the position of the night vision objective lens. Too much or too little eye relief will result in loss or distortion to the outer edges. What is the minimum set of eyepieces that I need? I use a total of four (4) Tele Vue eyepieces with my Night Vision device: 1. Tele Vue 55mm Plossl. This is my main work horse eyepiece. I use this eyepiece for >90% of my observing time. The reason it is my most used eyepiece is that it gives my telescopes the fastest possible “effective focal ratio” (which results in the brightest possible image at the eyepiece). In simple terms think of this eyepiece as being able to double the speed of your telescope (like a 0.5x reducer). I use this eyepiece for nebulae, galaxies & open clusters. 2. Tele Vue 35mm Panoptic. I use this eyepiece occasionally when I want more magnification but still want a bright accelerated image (it acts like a 0.7x reducer for the effective focal ratio). An alternative to this eyepiece would be the Panoptic 41mm - I use the 35mm because it’s half the weight of the 41mm! I use this eyepiece for nebulas, galaxies, comets, large open clusters. 3. Tele Vue Panoptic 27mm. I use this eyepiece again for greater magnification, usually for supernovae, globulars, comets & open clusters. I do not use this for nebulas and galaxies as the effective focal ratio is now too low and details are becoming lost at the eyepiece. 4. Tele Vue DeLite 18.2mm. This is my least used eyepiece (as its focal length is smaller than the 26mm of the night vision device). In use, it has the effect of slowing my effective focal ratio and producing a dimmer image. It does however produce about the maximum useable magnification with my night vision a-focal setup and I have been successful using it for faint tiny supernovae and bright globular clusters. What about the huge exit pupils? [Exit pupil is the width of the light beam being emitted from the top of the eyepiece and traditionally astronomers baulk at anything wider that the width of the astronomers own eye pupil as it is not possible for our eye to consume the whole of the light beam] [Exit pupil is calculated as the eyepiece focal length divided by the telescope focal ratio so a 55mm Plossl in an f4 scope will produce a light beam 13.75mm wide] As the night vision objective lens is 20mm wide then it can take all that light in and process it with room to spare! Whilst your eye pupil would be flooded and loads of light wasted, no light is wasted in this case. But as the eyepiece focal lengths get shorter (and the exit pupils get smaller too), the night vision device soon starts to become starved of light. How do I calculate this “eyepiece focal ratio” exactly? Now seems the right time to show the maths to calculate the “effective” focal ratio of your telescope/night vision setup: Effective focal ratio = NVD / (EPFL / TFR) where NVD = night vision device focal length = 26mm EPFL = eyepiece focal length TFR = telescope focal ratio As an example, if we have a telescope with a focal ratio of f4, the 55mm Plossl will produce an “effective” focal ratio of f1.9. [Effective focal ratio = 26/ (55/4) =1.9] Does the focal ratio of my scope actually change? The answer is NO. These changes in “effective” focal ratio that I mention only happen inside the night vision device. If your scope is f4 then it will remain f4. Is a-focal observing, low magnification observing? Simple answer = Yes it is. You need to get as much light as possible into the night vision device as fast as you can get it to go. All of the photons that you can get into the device will be amplified by the night vision device enabling you to see views containing previously unseen detail. In some cases, the amount of new detail on offer will be overwhelming! At first, you will want to change eyepieces to achieve greater magnification but you soon discover that you actually see less detail (due to loss of effective focal ratio and exit pupil) so you soon return to the longer focal length eyepieces. How do I calculate the magnification that each eyepiece will give me? There is no change here. Take your telescope focal length and divide by eyepiece focal length. If your scope has a focal length of 1800mm then you would get the following magnifications from my eyepiece set: - 55mm Plossl (1800/55 = x33) - 35mm Panoptic (1800/35 = x52) - 27mm Panoptic (1800/27 = x67) - 18.2mm DeLite (1800/18.2 = x99) How do I calculate the TFOV? I used Sky Safari for this. I setup my eyepieces in the “equipment” section using a setting of 40 degrees for the fov and it did the rest… Can I use a coma corrector with night vision? If your telescope has a fast focal ratio and you find that you need a coma corrector now then you will still need it for use with night vision. I used a Tele Vue Paracorr2 with my 20” dobsonian before I had night vision and I am still using it with Night Vision. In a big reflector, the best place for filters in the light path remains on the bottom of the Paracorr. What about filters? This brings us nicely onto every astronomers “favourite” topic – filters! When combined with filters, night vision devices can allow us to not only see what was not visible before but also to steal back some darkness by blocking out our old enemy, the moon! In the Cumbrian countryside, the night sky has an SQL of around 21.6, class 4 Bortle. Please take this into account when reading my experiences as your SQM may not be the same as mine. 1. General observing – For general observing, I do not use any filters as the best results are achieved by letting all the light into the night vision device. The PVS-14 has manual GAIN which means there is a knob that can be turned to decrease the gain and darken the image at the eyepiece – this is the only filter that I use in general observing. Moon – If the moon is up then I add a Baader 610nm Red filter into the light path. This is a good filter for reducing the effects of the moon on the sky background. It can also be effective if viewing low to the horizon where light pollution can be an issue. 2. Filters for observing Nebulae For nebulae viewing, a narrowband Ha filter in mandatory. I have tried 12nm, 6nm and 5nm and my preferred choice of bandwidth is the 5nm. As this filter is the “key” to seeing nebula then please do not scrimp of a “cheapie”. If you want to get the maximum from your expensive night vision device then only consider top brands such as Chroma, Astrodon, Astronomik or Baader. I am currently using a Chroma 5nm Ha narrowband filter. Your choice of Ha narrowband filter will directly affect whether you see some of the fainter nebulae objects or you do not see them! 3. Filters for observing Galaxies For galaxy viewing, there is no filter that can improve the unfiltered view. However, if the moon is up then I use either the Baader 610nm red filter or an Astronomik UHC Visual filter. If you are viewing tiny smudges then either are okay, if you are viewing larger galaxies with spiral arms, then I find that the Astronomik UHC Visual filter gives slightly more spiral arms than the 610nm red. Both beat unfiltered viewing if the moon is up. @GavStar is using a “Baader IR pass” (685nm) filter from his city location for all non-Nebula targets to cut out the light pollution. Which night vision units can I connect to my telescope for “a-focal” observing? As a UK based astronomer there are very few options for us to purchase a Night Vision Device with the latest military specifications. The Tele Vue adapter works with the PVS-14 night vision device so this led me in that direction. I purchased my PVS-14 from www.actinblack.com based in Luxembourg. Please do read my article on “Understanding Night Vision Tube Specs a little better” and do be prepared to wait a month or two for actinblack to get a new batch of tubes into stock (from which you can then pick the best one for astronomy use). I had to wait two months for a new batch of Photonis tubes to come into stock before I was sent three tube specification sheets to choose from via email. Having selected my tube then it was delivered to me in under a week from placing the order. Which telescope do I need for Night Vision? This is a good question and one that will be debated long into the future. My opinion is that the best telescopes for a-focal night vision use are telescopes with fast focal ratio. I am using an f3.6 dobsonian and an f5.6 refractor. Our goal is to achieve the brightest possible image at the eyepiece and focal ratio is the key to achieve that. As we can see from above, there is a rather restricted set of eyepieces needed for night vision astronomy but if we pair these eyepieces with telescopes of varying focal lengths then we can get a wide range of actual field of views and magnifications. This drove my minimal set to two telescopes, one long focal length dobsonian with good aperture and largest possible magnifications (with long focal length eyepieces) and one short focal length refractor for wide field with decent apperture (> 4") and light enough for travel. What can I see using Night Vision a-focally? At this point, I want to point you to some of the many posts from @GavStar available on this website. His images do reflect what I can see visually with my two setups. Let me go on to summarize what I have been seeing in the last 17 months since the initial article. Nebulae I have now almost completed the full Sharpless catalog (303 of 313 objects). The only ones that I have not seen are the ones that are too low to my horizon! Galaxies I am working through the 200 brightest galaxies available in the skies above us. This project is more than half way complete and so far I have observed the spiral arms of 68 galaxies with direct vision. Supernovae Last year I viewed 17 supernovae, down to a magnitude of 16.8 Globular Clusters I have so far failed to give sufficient time to Globulars, but their brightness means that I have been able to see some of the smallest and faintest on offer above us. I will get to these once my Galaxy project is completed. Comets Night Vision works well on comets, in a side-by-side test with traditional eyepieces, I saw better results with the night vision device. Open Clusters Night Vision gives great results with open clusters. The smallest ones just jump out at the eyepiece as you nudge around. Planets Failure – night vision is no good for planets. They are too bright. Moon Failure – night vision is no good for the moon. It is too bright. Here are a few links to some of my reports (there are many more if you use the search facility)... Do you still use eyepieces for observing? My eyepiece case has been mostly sold off now. I have a set of short focal length DeLite eyepieces for planetary and I have some eyepiece pairs for solar observing with my Lunt LS60. I use eyepieces to complete the 2-star alignments of my telescopes then it’s become automatic to just switch straight to the Tele Vue Plossl and my night vision to get into my nights observing. With the GAIN turned down it really is no different to using an eyepiece and you just see so much more… Hope this helps somebody, Alan
  24. Scope: 20” f3.6 Lukehurst Dob with Paracorr (fl = 2089mm & f4.1). Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS. Eyepieces: DeLite 18.2mm (f5.8 x115). I was out supernovae hunting last night with three SN targets planned 1= NGC109/SN2019upw 2= UGC11860/SN2019tua 3= UGC11979/SN2019tgm I am happy to report that I observed 2 out of 3. Here are some notes to help others. NGC109 / SN2019upw This one is fairly straightforward as there are few field stars in the area. Once you find the three brighter stars in a triangle then the galaxy is easily seen in the centre. There are 4 faint stars on one side of the galaxy and one on the other. The SN is separate from the core. As I was only using x115 magnification then the split was not straightforward and time was needed to wait and observe for the split to come and go! UGC11860/SN2019tua This galaxy was really well placed at the zenith at around 1830 last night. The galaxy was not seen but the SN is there. It takes time to find the right spot but there is a field star "3D cube" just above, once you find the cube then you can find the SN. (See stars marked A,B,C,D on my diagram, the Supernova is X). UGC11979/SN2019tgm This is the toughest, there are so many field stars that it is hard to find what to match to the internet images. Anyway, it turned out that I was looking in the wrong place but the stars I drew do match the images so I was just a small way off. Look carefully at my sketch and there are two rows of field stars (the 3+2 and the 3, the middle star of the lower 3 is a double), if you can find these two rows of stars at the eyepiece then the SN is in-between these rows as shown by the blue box (added this morning). I was looking further up in a tight cluster of stars where the tiny galaxy appeared to be (my mistake!). Happy hunting! Alan
  25. Today, I received my "Tele Vue TNVC Night Vision A-Focal Astronomy Adapter" direct from TNVC in USA. I have got to say that it is a well made adapter and fits beautifully to any Televue eyepiece that accepts Dioptrx Here are some initial pictures. The adapter is in two parts. The larger "plate" is first attached to PVS-14 Night Vision Monoculars (I don't own these yet) Then the outer ring is "loosely" attached Remove the rubber eye guard from any Dioptrx accepting Televue eyepiece (i.e. 35mm Panoptic pictured) Fit the TNVC adapter over the top and tighten the outer ring until tight Very impressive The only downside is getting hit for £23 by Customs & Excise on the way in Alan
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