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  1. Date: Friday 8th November 2019. 0300-0600am Scope: Borg 107FL f5.6 (focal length 600mm). Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS. Eyepieces: Plossl 55mm (f2.6 x11). Filters: Chroma 5nm Ha filter. Moon: 0% Introduction. It’s now been over a week since the “never ending” clear skies went away. With the full moon approaching I saw an opportunity to maybe get out for a few early morning hours after the moon had set. The skies were clearing when I went to bed and the Devils Orb was already giving the appearance of daylight outside. I had a short restless sleep with the occasional peek to see if the moon was still lighting the edges of my bedroom curtains. Once I was satisfied that it had gone and having taken a few minutes to “motivate myself”, I slipped out from the warm bed and headed downstairs to get dressed. It was pretty windy outside which meant the roll-off shed would not be used tonight so I prepared the Borg107 for a trip outside onto the patio. It took me 20 minutes to get ready before I relayed my kit outside. I quickly performed a 2-star alignment for the Skywatcher AZGTi mount and headed to M45 to test it out… The Pleiades were all bright and sparkly in my fov set against a lovely black background (“looks good” I thought to myself). I had no real plan for the session, so I decided to look at the brightest areas of Orion plus some of the larger Sharpless from my “Best of Sharpless”. I added the Night Vision PVS-14 to the TeleVue 55mm Plossl and added the Chroma 5nm Ha narrowband filter to the front of my 2” diagonal. NGC2244/Rosette. Where else to start but my favourite nebula – The Rosette! It appeared bright and mid-sized (at x11 magnification). Thin bright lanes seemed to trace out the “petals of a flower”. Multi-toned fainter nebula filled in the gaps, then with the dark black central hole and cluster to complete the view. I lingered a while before slewing down and into three spread-out nebula patches (sh2-280, 282 & 284). They are all different which makes them more appealing. The first is a circular patch with two small dark circular shapes inside (sh2-280), then we have an oblong shaped patch (sh2-282), finally on the other side of a bright star we arrive at the circular patch sh2-284. NGC2264/Cone/Fox-Fur nebula. Now for the first “surprise bonus” of the night. I centred on NGC2264 and when I looked in the eyepiece I found the fov filled with faint multi-textured nebula. I located the MINUTE Cone nebula, it was very tiny but a clear black triangle nevertheless! I traced the parent Fox Fur into what looked like a “comma” shape. This comma shape was sitting above a right angled long thick lane. Below this I found a mid-sized curved lane and followed this down and left to arrive back at the Rosette. I decided to make a sketch of the large area just covered as the individual segments were so clear to see (and you do the daftest things when only half awake!) I found the Xmas tree in the tail (of the comma) slightly brighter. I noted a dark lane running through the comma tail section. IC405 Flaming star/IC410/sh2-230 I have had recent success with the sh2-230 undefined area around IC410/405 with the big dob. So it was time to see what the 4” aperture of the Borg could tease out of this region. This is a beautiful detailed large section that really comes out well under low x11 magnification. IC405 and IC410 are immediately obvious. The magnificence (intricate detail) of the upper head section is not so striking at this low magnification but you then notice that the Flame is larger than expected and in fact has an extra patch that seems to extend the tail section further out. IC410 sits by the side and has the appearance of “a mask”, I see two black eyes cutting into the small bright shape. Above IC410 there are two tiny patches (Spider and Fly) then above them I see a large faint circular patch (unknown). To the left of this and above the Flame is a double curved lane which has several brighter sections visible within it (sh2-230) which I have seen before. But my eye is drawn further left and up where there appears to be a huge circular edge (unknown). NGC1499 California. While looking at Sky Safari, I decide to see NGC1499 (another nebula where the big dob has been working hard recently). Wow, this area is great at low magnification. The “traditional” section of the California is the brightest and easily seen in its entirety but it’s the large extension section to the right (that must be at least the same length again!). Then while examining the tail and crown sections at the left end, I begin to notice a huge structure that seems to sit behind the California nebula. I sketch out what I can see. This background section is vertical where the California appears horizontal. It is faint and has curves under the California where it seems to meet a large faint patch (that has 6 bright stars inside), I add these to the sketch… IC2177 Seagull nebula. Looking for big and bright nebula, I choose to see the Seagull next… The traditional “head and shoulders” fills the fov. I slew around and trace out a large additional structure leaving the “top shoulder” and travelling right and then down to finish at an extended “foot” patch just above the Duck nebula. I sketch out the Seagull and then hunt around for any patches (I know there are plenty to small Sharpless around here). I find two small patches at the end of an extended “leg” section (I thought that one of these was Thor’s Helmet but after slewing to that later then I think I am wrong so I need to revisit and sort out what they are?) Sh2-240 Spagetti. I pick a large nebula from the best of Sharpless, sh2-240 next. It appears as a large circular faint shape. There is a central vertical zig-zag section and I see several hortizontal-ish black lanes travelling through the patch (as I get my eye in). There is definitely lots to see here and its deserving of its place in the “best of Sharpless”. M42/M43/NGC1973, Orion and the Running Man. Okay, I’ve waited long enough! I slew to NGC1973. The only thing you see at the eyepiece initially is M42 of course! It’s so bright and wonderfully detailed. At this low magnification it reminds me of a “bird in flight” with bended wings. The “fish head” is the brightest section but I am fond of the blackness that spews from the fish head and seems to spread out and around M43 next door, it is black as black can be. M43 has an intricate shape inside its almost complete circular patch, but I speed by to seek out the Running man. Tonight the bright patch is clear as day and as I look on a black shape within the bright patch comes and goes, it’s not a “pair of legs” but it’s a black patch within nevertheless. Flame/IC434/Horsehead. I slew directly up from M42 and a bright patch comes into view, over to the right a bit and there is IC434 bright and thick. The horsehead is tiny but clearly visible and having a decent shape tonight. However, I am completely drawn to the long nebula bend section to the left which runs down from the Flame too. I do not remember noticing this section before but it’s been a year since Orion was here and I cannot remember everything that I see! I now manually slew up from the Flame to find a thick horizontal nebula lane running across the full fov. I follow it right and then down and back under until I find myself back at the Orion nebula (M42). I guess this is Barnards Loop. I had earlier searched for it to the left of Alnitak (as that’s where it is with the dob but this “star diagonal” used in refractors regularly sends me the wrong way when I try to retrace the big dob steps! Angel Fish – Huge and bright. Way too big to see the fish at x11 magnification. I do my best to tease out some features but it is just too huge! NGC2174/Monkey’s head. Instead, I move onto the Monkeys Head. It appears small and bright but as usual I see “Mickey Mouse” with the refractor and star diagonal turning things around. I slew around and pick out two patches above, one is sh2-247 the other is unknown. I slew below and find the wonderful tiny triple nebula sh2-254,255 & 257 (another Best of Sharpless member). NGC2395 Medusa – A small shimmering crescent moon shape is observed. M1 Crab – A small shimmering patch. With time at the eyepiece I see a bright circle around the outside and the occasional jumping line details within but cannot hold the interior in my view. NGC2359 Thor – A small faintish semi-circle. IC443/IC444, sh2-249 – The triplet of nebulas all fit into the fov and are a lovely sight that takes a good while to look around and take it all in. The Jelly fish (IC443) has lovely “tenticles” section that breaks backwards RHS. There is a small bright patch directly in front of IC443 (IC444) and then behind this the large oblong nebula structure sh2-249. I see the fine black lanes within sh2-249 next to Tejat Posterior (bright star). Sh2-265 – Picking another large Sharpless object, I headed for SAO 112667. I found a small bright patch (sh2-263) then above that a huge bright nebula that after slewing around, reminded me of a “walkie-talkie”. It had a pointed section at the upper LHS. And an interesting double lane at the lower sections. Sh2-260 – Next I picked sh2-260 (which I have only ever seen with the big dob). I slewed to SAO 112142 where I discovered a very large faint nebula shape. It was larger than the fov and seemed to appear as a “thin teardrop” shape. I cannot find any images of this so at the moment it is unknown to me. Epilogue. I noticed the sky brightening from around 0550hrs so I headed for a last look at the Rosette and Flaming Star regions before deciding to pack up at 0600hrs. I am glad that I made the effort to get up as I felt like I got “more than I imagined” from my session (which sent me back to bed happy, if a little cold – at least I had my hot water bottle to bring my feet back to life). I think that I have concluded that I need to get the widefield Borg 107FL out more frequently, when it’s cold then the dob in the shed is a much more appealing thought. - I have added an unexpected 7 entries to the “Ag1-xx” nebula catalog for the unknown/extra patches that I will need to come back and confirm… (up to 97 entries now). I also now have some lingering memories to help me through the barren spell of the full moon (out here in the dark countryside, the full moon is a real killer!). Hope you enjoyed the read and my sketches! Alan
  2. Dates: 26th thru 30th Oct 2019. (Over twenty hours of observing time!!!) Scope: 20” f3.6 Lukehurst Dob with Paracorr (fl = 2089mm & f4.1). Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS. Eyepieces: Plossl 55mm (f2 x38), Panoptic 27mm (f4 x77). Filters: Chroma 5nm Ha filter. It’s a Miracle! I have been out observing on each of the last five nights racking up a combined time outside of over twenty hours – It’s a long time since I have had such a good run. I have written 17 pages of notes during my sessions too… I have observed many objects of different types during this time outside. So, I am going to divide up this report into object type sections so you can scroll to objects of your favorite kind… Planetary Nebula. First up planetary nebula, this is an object type that I rarely write about but having bumped into a few of these while out nebula hunting with my 5nm narrowband Ha filter combined with my PVS-14 night vision, I decided to build a Sky Safari observing list based on “The Brightest Planetary Nebulae Observing Atlas” by Massimo Zecchin and get out and observe them with a plan. The eyepiece attached to the PVS-14 for these observations was a 27mm Panoptic yielding x77 magnification. NGC6826 (Blinking Planetary) – Very bright solid ball with a thin halo of lighter shade. NGC7027 (Magic Carpet) – small bright ball, there is either a fine line running through it or it is two-toned. Has a detached faint circle around it. NGC7048 (Disk Ghost) – small dim circular patch made up of “dancing lines”. Looks alive. NGC7026 (Cheeseburger) – Tiny and bright. Made of two patches with a haze on either side. Reminds me of an “overhead shot of a rowing boat with oars out either side in the water”. NGC7008 (Fetus) – small dim, almost square shaped patch. Black circle at centre then dominated by thick bright outer layer (does not go all around the outside). NGC6905 (Blue Flash) – tiny, dim patch made of moving lines. Looks brighter on one side. NGC6543 (Cat’s Eye) – small bright patch. Tiny dark spot in the centre. Seems to have a thin layer of lighter dancing lines all around the outside. NGC7662 (Blue Snowball) – tiny. Very bright solid ball. There is a faint detached outer circle. NGC40 (Bow Tie) – Excellent. Very bright with two curved sides. The inside is filled with fuzzy stuff that is leaking out from both ends. There is a small circle at the centre. M76 (Little Dumbbell) – Looks like a “box kite”. Brighter patches at either end, connected by fainter central oblong section. NGC1501 (Oyster) – Tiny and bright. Looks alive. Reminds me of a bright “woolen ball”. IC2149 (Red Sword) – very tiny but bright. Has a small circle around it. NGC1514 (Crystal Ball) – star inside a black circle with multi-toned nebula shell encircling that. Nebula is multi-lined and shimmering. Looks alive. NGC7139 – Small mesmerizing ball. Shimmering jumping lines within. Alive. The "alive" planetary nebulae are great to look at, they are literally moving and dancing around in the fov. Comets. Another object that I has not been on my radar for several months! Well, I managed to find three over the last few nights. C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS) – With the 55mm Plossl (x38) it was small but easily seen. C/2018 N2 (ASASSN) – With the 27mm Panoptic I found a decent sized fuzzy blob to the side of a star. It was easily seen and the best of the three. C/114P Wiseman-Skiff – Even with the 27mm Panoptic, this was a tough object to find. I needed to turn the gain up to the max but I found it exactly where Sky Safari said it should be! Galaxies. Now the great square is in the south, there are some of the brightest night sky galaxies available for observing. I have observed the following NGC6946, 6643, 6503, 6140, 6015, Stephans Quintet, 7331, 185, 147, 278, M110, M32/32, M33, NGC404, IC10, NGC669, 684, 672, 972, 925, 949, 1023, 891, 1160, 1161, 7814, M74. It’s a decent list, but the outcome has been disappointment. The only galaxies that I observed the spiral arms were M33, 31, 74, NGC891, 6643, 7331. Here are a few descriptions from my notes: NGC6946 (Fireworks) – With the 55mm Plossl and no filters, I could see the twin fingered arms coming out from the core around the back. I got hints of a third fainter arm coming out underneath. NGC6643 – A small galaxy. You can easily see the core and surrounding halo. There were some faint anti-clockwise arms beyond the halo but they were tough to see in direct vision. NGC6503 – small and bright. Slightly edge-on. Tiny bright core with large halo surrounding. Hints of black lanes within the outer halo. Stephans Quintet – All 5 galaxies easily seen with the 55mm Plossl (x38). There was even a sixth galaxy in the fov (NGC7320C)! NGC7331 – bright core, slightly dimmer halo surrounding. Swirly fainter disc beyond that. Hints of a lane top-side and a black patch (usually signifies that arms are there) behind core on outer edge. I could see the four “flea” galaxies that sit to the LHS. NGC891 – Wonderful. Large edge-on galaxy with swollen core section and thick black lane running its full length in direct vision. NGC751 – A strange one, with the appearance of a double-core. Sky Safari says its two galaxies NGC750 & 751). M74 – At first I see a mid-sized fuzzy patch but I keep looking. I see a circle around the core appear first, then an arm seems to leave at 3o’clock and curve up and left. Then I see another arm at 9o’clock going out and down anti-clockwise. I note a four star rectangle and add it to my reference sketch. I can see images that confirm the arms on the internet. IC10 - I had already observed this underwhelming galaxy earlier in the session when I happened upon it again by chance (whilst I had the 5nm Ha filter fitted and was just sky scanning) and found it as a pleasing patch, it was only when checking Sky Safari that I found out it was the IC10 galaxy that I was looking at. It appeared so much clearer with the Ha filter that I wondered what the bigger galaxies on offer would look like in Ha? Lets try Andromeda & Triangulum in H-alpha. I have written about my experiences with M31 and M33 many times before, so I won’t be repeating myself today. Instead, I want to talk about an H-alpha experiment that I carried out over a couple of hours with M31 & M33 as my targets. I loaded my Chroma 5nm Ha filter into the Paracorr2, then added the 55mm Plossl for maximum image brightness and pointed at M33. To my surprise there was a very large galaxy sitting in the fov with many fuzzy shapes abounding. It took a few minutes to take it all in and start to recognize NGC604 and work back from there… With no Ha filter then the big reverse S of the main arms is clear in direct vision, now the arms are not clear but if I look carefully then I can trace tiny Ha patches that are marking out the arms in the fov. I decided to start sketching these patches and add the occasional curve where I was seeing “implied” arm structure. It was quite a surprise just how far out from the core some of these Ha patches are located, signifying that actual physical size of M33 is larger that we may think when visually observing our neighbour. Here is my sketch: Onto M31, where the results were less impressive but I was able to see the galaxy and some Ha components within so it was not a waste of time at all. I noted three Ha patches in the upper sections of M31 but it was the lower sections that were a bit of a revelation. Regular observers of M31 will know that it’s a dead loss below the core to see very much at all! Well, in Ha the lower section can match the upper section and in fact I saw a greater number of Ha patches in the lower section including a couple of really big ones. Here are my sketches of the two halves of M31: Nebulae. I spent many hours looking at the many large and small nebulae in the Milky Way from Cygnus to Orion. I have written about them many times before and will not do so today. I was also able to spend some time scanning the “empty spaces” in Sky Safari looking for objects that I could find with the night vision and marking them for the "AG1-" night vision object catalog that I am continuing to work on... I am now up to 82 objects having added a further 38 objects during October. I have also managed to revisit 52 of the objects to confirm their existence and descriptions. Time to catch up on my sleep. The weather forecast seems to say wet weather until full moon, so it looks like I will be stuck inside for the next couple of weeks, guess there is no pleasure without pain! Clear Skies, Alan
  3. 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
  4. 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.
  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 5th August 2300-0120 Scope: 20” f3.6 Lukehurst Dob with Paracorr (fl = 2089mm & f4.1). Eyepieces: 55mm (f2 x38). Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS. Filters: Astronomik 6nm Ha CCD. Moon: 0% Take every chance that comes along After getting out last night for a short session, it was unexpected to see the skies clearing again last night as I sat watching the TV. I checked outside at 2200 and there was thin wispy stuff overhead so decided that tonight was not going to happen. Back outside an hour later and there were plenty of stars visible with the same wispy cloud scattered about. But I had the urge to get out so decided to get setup and observing. At least with the Dob permanently setup in the shed, it’s no great effort to get started. I decided to forego the collimation as I had only done it the previous night and just proceed with speed to observing. With the roof open, alignment was straightforward as there were more stars than the previous night and so I just picked the same pair to complete the Nexus 2-star alignment procedure. Confirm the observations of the previous night I worked my way through the Crescent, Tulip, sh2-104, sh2-106, Veil, Propeller, and sh2-112 as I retraced my steps from last night. All targets were quickly centred and viewed using the 55mm Plossl, PVS-14 NVD and Astronomik 6nm Ha CCD filter. The plan from the previous night to add stars to my observing list where the “missing Sky Safari nebula” were worked well and the targets were found directly. My observing was only disturbed by the passing thin clouds which made the targets come and go, some were more successful than others. I was also benefiting from having reviewed the previous targets via internet images during the day (as I wrote my previous night’s report) and this also added further interest to my observing of these objects. Continue onto new targets Sh2-115 – Showed itself as a large shapely outline with a clearer black area in the centre. I thought that it looked like a Chinese dragon head or maybe the head of a dog. There was a separate bright blob showing below (which I think is Abell-73 according to the Bracken Sky Atlas! ). Sh2-120 & sh2-121 – Now onto two more targets that are “missing from Sky Safari”. My fight to find them was being hampered by layering clouds above and the visibility was coming and going. In a clear spell I bagged one of them as a small bright circular blob blinking around 2 tight stars. In a further clearer spell a second smaller blob was seen at the edge of the same FOV. Images confirm my observation this morning so I did get them! Brighter targets with clouds above As the clouds were now thickening, I decided to travel through some brighter targets and visited the Cocoon (seen it better), IC1396 (really nice detail seen in the Elephant Trunk and other black areas within) and the Cave (bright leading edge clear but the rest not so good). I have reported on these objects in previous posts so if you are interested then search them out. NGC7380 “Wizard” – Onto something new. It is marked in BOLD typeface in the Sky Atlas meaning that’s is on the imagers bucket list. Sky Safari did not respond to a search for the “Wizard” so I used the index of the Atlas to find out it is also known as NGC7380. With that information, I soon had it centred with the push-to setup and Wow, its good! The nebula is large and fills the FOV of the NVD and it’s bright. Within the nebula I could see black shapes that did not look like a “wizard”. To me the shapes looked more like a “horse”. Checking images this morning the shape is definitely a “horse” so where the “wizard” comes from I have no idea? Bubble nebula – Popping over to the Bubble next, the results were an improvement on the previous night with all three sections of nebulosity visible and the circle of the bubble visible. It took averted vision to get the full circle but then it was cloudy overhead! Sh2-132 – Another good one! It is a large bright nebula that looked a bit like an “arrow head” with three vertical dark lanes running through it. There were also two small brighter patches of nebula within the nebula. Checking images this morning then I see all these features and can’t wait to revisit on a dark night when the clouds are gone! Sh2-135 – Appears as a medium sized bright nebula. What does it look like? This was a tricky one, my thoughts were UFO, Jet fighter or bright triangle. Looking at images then none of these seem a true reflection. I really needed to up the magnification and have the clouds go away. But it was certainly bright and another one for the “must revisit” list. Sh2-146 – small faintish blob Sh2-149 – small brightish patch Sh2-152 & sh2-153 – I have observed these previously but as they were near me on Sky Safari I had to pop over. The larger “whale” was less visible than previously but the small bright “baby” was sharp and clear. This is a nice pair of objects. IC1470 – small very bright patch. Looks like a planetary at first sight. Sh2-168 – A medium sized patch of nebula. There is a brighter central small patch within it. Sh2-170 - Brightish good sized nebula. "Stingray" shaped with dark central area. Worth another look under better conditions. CED214 – At last, an object recommended by @PeterW. The back of my head was rubbing on the shed wall as I squeezed my eye into the eyepiece! I managed to nudge in 2 directions and saw a lovely thick textured nebula (not dissimilar from the beauty of the Gamma Cygni region) with multiple segments/clouds within. Stars appeared to be clearing some black sections within. Definite revisit needed but the scope needs to be more central on the shed floor next time! < CLOUDS ROLLED OVER> Thoughts of the observer I felt pretty chuffed at the end of the session. I had very low expectations when setting off down the garden. The thin clouds were there for the whole session but I managed to eek out several new targets and was very happy as I made my way back inside. It should also be noted that I had a few "fails" on sharpless objects during the night, but the clouds must have been affecting the dimmer objects. I was amazed that I was able to keep viewing when up above I could see mainly clouds and not many stars at all! I am now going to start writing some notes into the back of the Bracken Sky Atlas where the Sharpless objects are presented in a nice table. I can then track which ones I have seen and which ones need to be revisited year on year… Clear Skies, Alan
  7. The weather gods continue to shine on me and I was out again last night ready to target the Fireworks galaxy (NGC6946). I had repositioned the dob in the shed earlier in the day so that the shed wall no longer stopped me getting my head in to the eyepiece. (The eyepiece stack is quite long with the paracorr2, 55mm Plossl, PVS-14 NVD plus my head!) I experimented with both the 55mm Plossl (giving me F2 and x36) and the Panoptic 35mm (giving me f3 and x60) plus trialed Astronomik 6nm and 12nm Ha CCD filters to see what I could get. And I tried the Ethos10 (giving x200) without the NV to see what I got without the Night Vision. With the 55mm Plossl and some time spent at the eyepiece I finally got to see 2 clear arms curving back over the top of the galaxy together with a continuous circle of arm surrounding the galaxy core . I confirmed the view by rotating the image from Sky Safari to match the star pattern in the fov and the arms were where they should be. The third smaller arm underneath the galaxy did not reveal itself however I have been trying to see something in this galaxy for years using various scopes and filters from various locations and to finally see the arms was a great moment for me! For completeness, with the ethos10 and no NVD I could see a nice big patch where the galaxy is. Maybe some variance in brightness within the patch but no arms were seen. With the NVD I could see the arms initially with averted but finally in direct vision once I got my eye in. I also found that the 12nm Ha filter seemed to make the galaxy larger in size but sadly the arms disappeared. Clear skies, Alan
  8. After spending a couple of hours on bright galaxies and comets, I turned my attention to Supernova (as the Plough finally appeared from behind the shed roof). First up was SN2018hna in UGC7534 (mag 14.9) in Ursa Major. - I had observed this one already so I was on a "confirmation" mission. I soon located the oblong of stars (at the centre of the images), one corner of this oblong is the SN. I spent some time and noted another faint close-in star (to confirm on the image today) and everything matches up. - With the 55mm Plossl and Night Vision the core of UGC7534 really lights up and all you see of the galaxy disk is a smudge to the south of the core. Next up was a new SN for me. SN2019va in UGC8577 (mag 16.7!). Its located near the arm of the Plough. - With the 55mm Plossl, I soon matched the star patterns to my sketch (that I made from the images earlier). There was no sign of the galaxy but there are other visible UGCs in the fov (to add confusion). There was no sign of the SN. - I swapped in the Panoptic 35mm (x60 magnification) and the fainter stars got a little clearer. I was now sensing a disturbance in the centre of the fov which must have been the galaxy disk. A point of light blinked in and out three or four times. I noted the position based on the star pattern and was able to confirm the blinking dot in the correct location. Hopefully, SN2019va will get a little brighter by the time I get another shot. Alan
  9. Date: Monday 7th January 2019. 2145-2330hrs & 0100-0230hrs 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 CCD. Moon: 0% Introduction. It was a windy night outside and there was no sign of any of the forecast clear sky as I kept a regular “peep” out of the window as I completed another episode of “Condor” (as I work through series 1!). Finally, sometime after 2100hrs I saw the first stars of the evening and I set about putting together the Borg 107FL ready to take outside. Once outside, it was a case of “dodge the passing clouds” and I managed to get an accurate alignment completed going West-East as a clear patch came past (in that direction). I sat and waited for more clear sky to arrive… At the arrival of the first clear patch, I wanted to see what the new Chroma 5nm Ha filter could do and headed for some quick easy targets, namely M42/43/Running Man, Rosette, Flame/Horsehead. A more settled sky then arrived and I worked through my “Session 1” targets (see below) until I felt some spots of rain on my face and looked up to see clouds and yes, it was lightly raining. First, I slewed the scope away from the west and waited… Then, the rain got a little harder and I quickly unplugged and carried the whole setup back indoors (from the patio). The setup is so light that its easy to throw around without the need for wasting time unplugging this and removing that! I watched TV for a while, then I noticed that it was clearing again. The patio seemed to have dried out (thanks to the wind) and I moved everything back outside once more… Session 2 then took place as I tackled the high numbered Sharpless positioned under Sirius. It became a bit of a battle with the sky conditions as the scope was pretty much horizontal pointing at these low targets. Finally, the sky beat me and targets were getting very hard to see at all. I packed up at this point. I managed to add six more Sharpless objects to my “seen” list and I am now up to 213 of 313 objects. I managed to confirm/fix more SAO numbers for these targets and have updated my Sharpless GOTO sheet for future reference this morning. Observing Session 1 (2145-2330hrs). Sh2-245 (Eridanus loop) – Goto SAO111579. The loop showed as a clear vertical band below. It moves up straight and curves under and around Nu Tauri. Sh2-240 (Spaghetti) – Goto SAO077322. This is a great object in the Dob and the Chroma 5nm seemed to allow me to see more detail than previously. I could see a line of stars on the LHS (left hand side). There was a clear black lane structure within. There were 2 central stars and more nebula to the RHS. I could see a “tentacle” with 3 stars coming out from the RHS. Sh2-229 (Flaming Star) – Goto IC405. The Chroma filter showed the full quotation mark shape of the flaming star. It was framed nicely within the fov. I could see the small “sparkly lines” within the head section. The whole nebula was very clear in direct vision. Below I could just see the shape of IC410. I slewed over and the central black hole of IC410 was steady and clear in direct vision (better than previous visits). Averted vision revealed more black sections within IC410 coming & going. THEN I noticed some NEW STRUCTURE above and right of the flaming star, so I slewed up there… Sh2-230 – This designation is given to the whole region that included IC405, IC410 & IC417. I confirmed the location of this new stuff by goto-ing NGC1907. The new patch was a curved streak leading to NGC1907. There was blackness to one side (sort of jug shaped) then another wisp of nebula on the other side. Checking images this morning, this is definitely part of sh2-230. Another win for the Chroma. Sh2-231/235/232 – Goto SAO058343. Three small Sharpless in a row. A large patch then a bright small patch then a similar sized faint patch. I do not see sh2-233 for the full house. Sh2-264 Angelfish. Goto SAO112921. This is a very large bright nebula (much larger than the fov!), it contains an uneven large dark patch near several bright stars. The outer edges are easily traceable. IC434 Horsehead & NGC2024 Flame. These two targets provided a lovely intricate view. The flame was showing its arms as fine black sleaks leaving the bold black trunk. Surrounding this was a very bright nebula patch that caught the attention of the eye straight away. Below was IC434 trailing down almost all the way to M42. Within IC434 was the black shape of the horsehead. I could see the snout shape pointing back up to Alnitak quite easily. This is the first time that I have seen the snout at only x11 magnification (Chroma 5nm Ha ?). M42/43/NGC1973 Running man. Down we go and into M42, I glance at the bright fish head and the sweeping wing structure behind but my mind says “can you see the Running Man?”. There is M43 looking bright and standing out nicely and yes, there is a clear nebula patch around 3 stars further on (part of the running man). I settle in for a good look. I can easily see a very black section between the 3 stars and M43. I can see a black section coming into the running man from the left too. I cannot see the legs of the running man or the nebula further out on the other side. But this is the best I have managed so far so I am happy with that. Sh2-273 Cone/Fox Fur - NGC2264. Wow, so much nebula that I don’t know where to start! I can see the brightest patch (where the Cone lives) but I do not see the tiny Cone. I can see horizontal swishes of nebula sweeping across the fov. It’s like a giant starfish has surrounded the Xmas tree cluster and there are lanes of nebula shooting in all directions of the compass. I slew around and the nebula just keeps coming in all directions. Eventually I bump into the Rosette (Puppy dog). I move around for some time, this really is like being “lost in nebula”. Rosette sh2-275. NGC2244. Wow, the Rosette is very bright and beautifully framed in the fov. It looks like a “puppy dog”. I play with the gain but can’t get any black vein details out to see. Sh2-254/255/257 – Goto IC2162. Three Sharpless in a row. One larger and two smaller. I cannot tease out the two further tiny companions though. Sh2-261 Lowers Nebula – I move down from sh2-254 and there is Lowers Nebula showing as a bright nebula patch with a wide top, black centre (with rounded underside) and a bright curved lower section (It looks like a front-on view of the starship USS Voyager). NGC1499 California – After my success with the California/Chroma/Dob combination the other night, then I had to re-try it with the Borg. Wow, it appears so much sharper than I have seen it previously with the Borg. Both long edges really stand out as extra bright. The tail section extends out a long way. I get hints of a section falling away lower left. The Whales eye is sharp and round (top centre) but can get lost in the “so bright” nebula that I need to turn the gain down to really see it. IC1805 Heart – After that success, it’s over to the Heart nebula. Probably past its best position but hey, who knows? Its lovely and bright, filling the fov with is “Cinderella Carriage” appearance. I slew around and notice that the arm that shoots out from the Heart seems to go much further and joins another curving arm that sweeps down to re-join the Heart near the “Mole head” (NGC896). I do not remember seeing this section before. IC1848 Soul – After the excitement of the Heart, the Soul was just the Soul. Lovely foetus shape! Sh2-296 Seagull. Goto IC2177. My first impression was one of a bit of disappointment, the seagull was not glowing and knocking my socks off. However, I settled in for a longer look and was able to get my reward. The Head (with mouth) were clear. Below was the long Wing section. I could see sh2-297 sitting brightly on the wing tip. With some averted I could see sh2-293 & 295 sitting off the wing (I did not manage these two with the Borg before). As a follow past the head and then round and down, I find that it just keeps on going! I see a small patch off to the side (sh2-294) then down LBN1036 and end up at Thor’s Helmet (NGC 2359). I repeat this several times as I am amazed at how much nebula there is in this area! Sh2-298 Thor’s Helmet. Goto NGC 2359. Appears as a medium sized bright patch. I am trying to get to see the detail when rain spots start landing on my face… Observing Session 2 (0100-0230hrs). Sh2-310 (New) – I centre on NGC2362 then left into a vertical faint nebula lane. I follow it up and it curves over to the right. Sh2-309 (New) – Goto SAO153062. I see 2 stars inside a black patch. It seems to be surrounded by faint nebula. The brightest patch is just above/side of one of these stars. Sh2-308 (New) – Difficult. 2 bright stars below a faint patch. May have a black curve within it. Sh2-303 (New) – Goto SAO 172588. Difficult. I see a horizontal patch with a sharp black edge running along above some bright stars. The nebula is very faint indeed. Sh2-304 (New) – Goto SAO 172273. It seems to run vertically all the way to M41 above. It runs down too. I see 3 stars in a small black patch at RHS edge then move down and it curves right. I see a faint black fuzzy patch LHS below base star. Sh2-274 Medusa (NGC 2395). Small bright backwards “C” shape. It seems to jump around and sometimes becomes a circle for an instant. It has a large black patch above it. Sh2-290 ARO135 – Goto SAO117301. 4 stars make a wide rectangular pattern (wider on one side). There is a decent sized faint patch inside this rectangle (off centre to one side). Sh2-311 (New) NGC2467 – I more left and up above to see 2 stars with a small patch around. Below there is a larger patch and it seems to have 1 bright star with black surround. Sh2-312 – Goto SAO176833. Appears as a bright 45 degree line of nebula. The sky is failing me now, so I try out a few SAO goto’s from my Excel sheet to confirm if they are present in the SynScan handset. Thoughts of the observer. This turned out to be another decent session in the end, I managed 6 new low horizon Sharpless targets at last and I am pleased with that. The Chroma 5nm Ha filter once again proved to improve results seen at the eyepiece. I also experienced that I needed to once again turn down the gain to get to the finer details (as experienced when using the DOB), the extra brightness of some features can hide other features. I also find that it can boost surrounding nebulosity which can make the fainted targets harder to distinguish so turning down the gain can help to pick up the actual target before then turning up the gain in steps to get the “best view”. I was pleased to finally bag some of the Running Man. I have had quite a few attempts and feel that I finally got more that the patch around the stars. Look forward to getting the DOB down onto this target with the new filter. The Horsehead snout was seen clearly for the first time at this tiny x11 magnification. It was definitely pointing back to Alnitak and an image confirmed that’s correct. I had a few surprise “extra” sections of nebula that I really enjoyed tracing and confirming with Sky Safari – See Flaming Star, Heart and Seagull above. Clear Skies, Alan
  10. Date: Friday 30th November 2018. 1930-2200hrs Scope: 20” f3.6 Lukehurst Dob with Paracorr (fl = 2089mm & f4.1). Eyepieces: Ethos 21mm (x100), Ethos 13mm (x150). Night Vision: Plossl 55mm (f2 x38), Panoptic 27mm (f4 x77) attached to PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS. After five months of concentrating on nebula (Sharpless objects mainly), the time had come to return to my first love – Galaxies. I have been waiting patiently for M33 to make its way into a prime spot over my observing shed and for the moon to go away. Finally the opportunity arrived after what seems like two weeks of clouds & rain! I took two sets of eyepieces down to the shed My Ethos case for conventional viewing... My NV (Night Vision) case with longer focal lengths to attach to my PVS-14 NV device... With the help of my Nexus, I soon had M33 centred and let the battle commence! Ethos13. First up was the Ethos13. Wow, the galaxy was much larger than the 100 degree fov allowed by the E13. I could see a large “S” shape clearly with no averted needed. I settled in and started to look for other arms or some of the many “patches” of bright nebula within the galaxy. As arms and nebula hot spots were seen, I moved to sketch them on paper. After a few trips, it was obvious that I was just “in too close” and needed to step back with the lower magnification of the Ethos21. Ethos21. In with the Ethos21 and peer in. Wow that’s better. The galaxy scale was sufficiently reduced to enable me to see the whole thing. M33 was dominating most of the 100 degree fov and nudging was still required to get around to focus on each section of the galaxy. The main arms were there and also decent snippets of the other arms. I could see several “hot patches” and once again I started to make a sketch of the view. Plossl 55mm & PVS-14. Now it was time to see what the PVS-14 and 55mm Plossl could do. (I have had my night vision since the end of April and learned on M101 that the key to seeing arms with NV is to get the focal ratio as fast as possible, this is achieved with the 55mm Plossl which acts as a x0.5 reducer). I played with the manual gain setting while looking at the main arms to find the position where the arms were showing at their best (too much gain overpowers the view so it needs to be less than the max). Once I was happy, I started to look and sketch the view. What was immediately noticeable was how the arm that runs out to NGC604 was much less visible that with the Ethos. The arm at the other side was much more visible and the several bright Ha patches shimmered on the face of the galaxy. There were fewer snippets of other arms but several Ha hot spots stood out clearly. [The dashed line shows an “assumed” arm rather than a “seen” arm. I got the impression that the arms were there but it contradicts the glass view] Conclusions. Welcome back to the mighty Ethos21! It provided the most enjoyable view and enabled me to get up close and personal with M33 in a way that the Plossl55 and Night Vision had not. The experience of seemingly hovering just over the surface of these large galaxies is just amazing and makes my day everytime! The amount of spiral arms on offer to the observer who is willing to spend time at the eyepiece is astonishing. Its hard to beat M33 and M101 Supplemental. I found that I had really missed the E21 and headed on afterwards to the Pleiades to see more of what I had been missing . The Pleiades and the Ethos21 are made for each other, the view was stunning with great views of the nebulosity surrounding the bright stars on offer. After not using the E21 for nearly six months, I can only conclude that the Ethos21 is one hell of an eyepiece and I need to remember that Clear Skies, Alan
  11. Date: Monday 3rd December 2018. 1950-0100am. Scope: 20” f3.6 Lukehurst Dob with Paracorr (fl = 2089mm & f4.1). Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS. Eyepieces: Plossl 55mm (f2 x38). Filters: Astronomik 6nm Ha CCD. Preparation It was rainy on Sunday so I set about building a “target list” of the Sharpless objects that I have so far failed to observe either because they are not in Sky Safari or they were too faint to see. I built-up a table of 25 targets and spent time marking stars in Sky Safari that almost matched the co-ordinates shown in the back of the Bracken Astrophotography Sky Atlas. I also tried to lookup photographs of “groups of Sharpless” objects on the internet so that I could try to take bearings from “known” Sharpless to point me to potential locations of the missing Sharpless! After 4 hours my table of targets was ready… Time to “boldy go where no-one has gone before”… Monday 3rd December was forecast as potentially clear all night. So after eating my evening meal I set off down to the scope-shed with my night vision case. I quickly setup the big dob and had the two-star align (of my Nexus) completed. Then headed for the first target on my list… Sh2-164 – Found near star TYC 4021-1255-1. A small bright patch sitting next to a star. Sh2-169 – Found near star SAO 020964. Very faint object, can be seen at the edge of the fov if you centre sh2-168. Stars make “3 corners of a square” inside the faint patch. Sh2-176 – Found near star HD 2559. Very faint indeed. A bright cluster (M34/Xmas tree like) has nebulosity around it and a black area inside it too. Sh2-177 – Found near star HD 2654. You see a large star cluster (that reminds me of “a Rocket on a stand”). The cluster has a lane of nebula running along the side of it. Sh2-179 – Found as pneb BV 5-2. Tiny planetary neb bright enough to be easily seen. Sh2-180 – Found near star TYC 4020-0924-1. Bright, decent sized cluster “crab,lobster” shaped with nebulosity surrounding and several black lanes within. The “crab” stars may be part of a larger “butterfly” shaped formation. Sh2-181 – Found near star TYC 4024-0109-1. Small bright patch sitting above two bright stars. Averted reveals a rounded black shape curved nebula over the top. Sh2-183 – Found near star TYC 4029-1063-1. Seems to be a long lane of nebulosity running up from near sh2-181. Sh2-191 Found as galaxy Maffei1. Small patch on top of two stars. Sh2-215 – Found at star HD 276169. Small faint patch sitting above a star. Sh2-250 – Found near NGC 1633. Several stars sit in a clear black lane. Very faint nebula around the black lane! Sh2-251 – Correctly marked in Sky Safari . Several spaced out bright stars up against a wall of nebula. Wall is thick and curves slightly at the lower end. Sh2-253 Found near star TYC 1336-0819-1. Very faint patch seen in a “gap” found in a line of stars. There are 6 or 7 stars in a row, then the “gap”, then a final star. Sh2-272 – Found at star GSC 0738-2191. This is a very tiny patch sitting just at the side of sh2-271. I missed it before (helps if you have seen an image beforehand!) Thoughts of the observer. I managed to find 14 of my 25 targets so I am very pleased with that. I also uncovered an error in the Bracken Astrophotography Sky Atlas where the co-ordinates for sh2-213 are incorrect, (they are duplicates of sh2-212) that’s why I have not found it so far. I got some “new” co-ordinates off the internet this morning so I am ready to try again for this one! My failures were sh2-172, sh2-195, sh2-213, sh2-266, sh2-270. Around 1am the sky just filled up with water and the heaven’s disappeared, this stopped me in my tracks and left a few lower Orion targets not attempted. It was a cold night (I was running eyepiece & secondary mirror heating all night) and the UTA of the scope was frozen in ice by the end of the session. Supplemental. My Sharpless count now comes to 201 of 313 objects. I have created a spreadsheet of the catalog and added all my location information. I am also adding GOTO references to each of the rows (which I am testing on the Borg107 as time allows). Let me know if you want a copy? Clear Skies, Alan
  12. As many of you will know, for the past few months I've been enjoying the views through my scopes with my Photonis night vision monoculars. However, more surprising for me has been how much enjoyment I've had from taking phone photos of the visual views through the NV eyepiece which I've often used to illustrate my observing reports. I posted some of these photos on the US-based CloudyNights forum and a few months back a couple of US-based CN posters approached me to do a joint article on Night Vision Photography. We completed the article about 2 months ago but unfortunately its publication on the CN forum has been delayed. Therefore, the three of us have agreed that SGL should have a scoop and let me post the article on here first! It has been great fun to work with my two fellow NV astronomers, Ray and Moshen, on this project and I hope we can do further stuff together in the future. We do most of our observing at very light polluted sites, so a focus of the article is how well NV 'phonetography' (as its been coined in the States) works in LP sites. Since we finished the article, all three of us have managed to get our NV kit out under truly dark skies and the results have been fabulous imo. I have posted links to all three observing recent reports below but I suggest you read the article first and then come back to the dark site reports to see the contrast between LP and dark sites. https://www.cloudynights.com/topic/618687-city-of-rocks-park-new-mexico-with-friends/ https://www.cloudynights.com/topic/618419-joshua-tree-three-nights-camping-with-night-vision/ So here is the article - I hope you enjoy it. Gavin NIGHT VISION PHONE PHOTOGRAPHY by: Gavin Orpin of London (CN: Gavster) Moshen Chan of San Francisco (CN: Moshen) Ray Taylor of … Modesto? (CN: GeezerGazer) During the past 12 months, more and more photos of deep space objects have been appearing in online forums dedicated to EAA (Electronic Assisted Astronomy). The amazing thing is that these photos are taken with the camera in smartphones, and more importantly, from heavily light polluted regions of the world, where nearly any scope cannot see these objects. This is possible because Night Vision Devices (NVD’s) multiply the light gathered by the telescope effectively doubling the aperture or more. Night Vision (NV) was developed years ago for use by the military and for a long time, hunters have used it for night time excursions. Its cost ranges from $1500 to $4000, but it can be much less expensive than a larger telescope, and even the largest scope cannot see many of the objects that NV reveals. It produces a real-time image that is sensitive to light in the visual spectrum, peaking in the near Infrared (IR) and when used with Hydrogen-Alpha (H-a) narrow pass-band filters, reveals nebulae that are normally only seen with such clarity in long exposure images. When used with long pass IR filters between 600 and 700nm most of the spectrum from light pollution is eliminated, allowing real-time observations of many edge-on and elliptical galaxies and globular clusters under extreme light pollution. You will see EAA, NV, NVD’s, H-a and IR, used in this article… now you know what those letters mean. Astrophotography usually involves a LOT of dedication, equipment, adapters, computer skills and time. But what if you could drop a NV eyepiece into your telescope and get a good snapshot of the real-time image you are seeing? No averted vision. No complicated gear, no computer and no 12v batteries. Most of us don’t even change telescopes from the one we’ve been using for visual astronomy with glass eyepieces. Hmmmm. Is it possible to take a snapshot in a few seconds and use it to preserve the image instead of writing notes about what you’ve seen? Is it even possible to SEE galaxies, globulars and faint nebula from an urban setting with extreme light pollution? We would like to prove that you can. We are three amateurs who use NV and our phones to capture images of globulars, galaxies and nebulae. There is a difference in how photos look when they are taken from heavily light polluted locations compared to darker observing sites because NVD’s do not discriminate about the light they enhance, but imagine being able to see AND photograph these objects between the city buildings in a white zone like London or San Francisco. These are phenomenal achievements in technology. And, it is simple to use. We three all use a telescope, NVD, an IR and H-a filter, a phone and a holder to attach the phone to the eyepiece to take the photo. But there are differences in our equipment… as we shall explain. When we started this collaboration, all three of us used an app to give us greater manual control of the camera - NightCap Pro (on iOS). This application allows us to set ISO, shutter speed, white balance and focus, as well as controls to boost light and decrease noise. It also has a special mode called Long Exposure which automatically stacks photos for up to 60 minutes, although none of our stacked images exceeds 15 seconds. Stacking photos does not make them brighter, it simply averages the photos taken to smooth out the grainy appearance of a single photo. For example, the photo on the left below, was a single exposure of the Horse Head Nebula in Orion, ISO 1250 for 1/2 sec. exposure. The photo on the right was taken at ISO 1856, for 1/2 sec exposure stacked for 4 seconds… which means in 4 seconds, the phone took eight 1/2 second photos which were processed and averaged by NightCap. The image required no post processing. But as technology races forward at an ever faster pace, Gavin now uses a new Samsung phone which allows for single exposures up to 10 seconds instead of iPhone’s 1/2 second maximum. There is a visible difference in this performance improvement, especially when used in conjunction with a tracking mount for longer exposure times. To take a single exposure, you can hold the phone’s camera lens over the NVD eyepiece and click. To take longer photos, we employ a bracket to hold the phone steady over the NVD eyepiece. We each use a different bracket and we’ll report on them individually. We also use different H-a or IR filters to reveal these objects. Our photo examples highlight H-a objects because we can see them in real time with our NVD’s. But NV used in a telescope will also reveal Globular Clusters as many observers have never seen them… they can be stunning and are so bright that the regular phone camera can be used in automatic mode for a snapshot, without using a tracking mount. Galaxies, especially edge-on, are also nicely enhanced. Finally, there is a distinction in how NV phone photography is employed. There are two ways to use the NVD in combination with the telescope. In prime, the telescope is the lens; a 1.25” or 2” nose is put on the NVD, placed in the focuser or diagonal like any eyepiece and the telescope is used to bring the image to focus. Reducers and Barlows are used to reduce or increase magnification which also changes the scale of the image. In afocal, a regular glass eyepiece is used in the focuser or diagonal, then the NVD with its own focusing lens is attached to the glass eyepiece using an adapter; the phone in its bracket is then attached to the NVD eye lens. To change magnification and image scale, you change the eyepiece, but reducers and barlows can also be used with the afocal method. All three of us are amateur astronomers. We paid for the equipment we use and none of us has any financial interest in any business or industry associated with that equipment. Nothing has been loaned to us to test and we have not received any type of benefit for our opinions. We came together to write this article so that those interested in taking astro snapshots with their phone, using an NVD might find a more direct path than we did. So here we go… Gavin Orpin, known on CN as Gavster Background I live in South-West London, UK. It’s not the best place for an astronomy hobby particularly for DSOs. I purchased my first scope 5 years ago, although I was very interested in space as a child of the 70s. I have 8 scopes, 6 APO refractors varying from 60mm to 160mm, one solar Ha scope and a very recently purchased C11 (purchased solely for NV). I am a visual only astronomer and have no experience of taking photos – I operate cameras very much on point and click! Most of my observing takes place in my back garden in London (SQM 18-18.5). However, I do go to an astro club meeting once a month which is 10 miles away and has slightly better skies (SQM 19.5ish). In addition, we have a holiday home on the Isle- of Wight, in southern England, which has much better skies (around SQM 21), but due to space limitations only take a 100mm refractor for observing there. My equipment So far most of my NV observing has been done with either my TEC160 or my C11 depending on the objects I am looking at. Being based in Europe does cause major issues with NV due to ITAR restrictions. I am not able to get the latest Gen3 tubes available in the US, and had a very limited range of options (eg no Mod 3 type available). After a good deal of research, I purchased a PVS-14 from Luxembourg with one of the newly launched European Photonis 4G white phosphor tubes (this is effectively Gen 2 plus technology, but is much closer to Gen 3 in performance than previous Gen 2 tubes). However it still lags behind the best US tubes with a FOM of around 2000. Using a PVS-14 means that I am restricted to afocal observing only. However, it has enabled me to utilise the benefits of NV in Europe, which only last year would have been very tough. In addition, I’ve grown really to like the afocal approach since it allows me to reduce the focal length of my existing scopes to where it really needs to be (ie less than 4). I’ve also started using focal reducers in conjunction with the afocal approach which has reduced the f ratios even further (down to 2-2.5) which has provided even brighter viewing of dim objects. I haven’t found the long eyepiece/NV setup a problem since the PVS-14 is so light. If a focuser can take an ethos 21mm then it can take the plossl/NV combo imo. Another key element of my equipment is my mount. For the first 4 years of observing I used manual alt az mounts which I liked for their ease of use and simplicity. However, last summer I acquired a newly launched skywatcher az gti goto mount – I loved it and found it greatly enhanced my viewing pleasure particularly in my LP skies where it is difficult to star hope. The Az Gti works well for smaller scopes up to around a 4 inch refractor, but I wanted one that worked with my bigger 130mm and 160mm refractors – enter the Panther TTS-160. I’ve only had the Panther for 3 months but again its transformed my viewing with my larger scopes. The goto is great but I also find the tracking extremely useful and enables me to concentrate on objects more without having to move slo mo cables. Another benefit is for taking NV phone photos where the tracked enables me to easily use 10 or 15 second exposures to give better results. Here are a couple of photos of my 160mm refractor on the Panther TTS with the NV in afocal setup with the various adapters. In terms of filters, I’ve tried a few, but now seem to have settled with a 6nm Ha astronomik for nebulae and a baader 685 ir pass for stars, galaxies and clusters. I have 2 inch filters to attach to the bottom of the 55mm plossl and 1.25 inch filters to attach directly to my pvs-14 for 1x and 3x viewing using adapters from rafcamera. Why did I decide to try NV? Use of NV vision technology is very rare in the UK (I know of only two other users) due to ITAR restrictions and difficulty of getting NV tubes good enough for astronomy. However, fortunately, the other user of NV tech in the UK is also a member of my local astro club, so I was able to use some kit before I purchased mine. His tube uses an older green tube and does not have manual gain, and I found the scintillation distracting, but I could see the benefits. So once I found a European supplier for the white photonis 4g tubes I decided to go for it and I’ve been delighted with the results. I think for someone who usually observes from a LP area, NV is a real benefit since it expands the types of objects you can see so much. Its really reinvigorated my observing. Before getting my NV kit, I was a strictly visual only observer. However, when I ordered my tnvc adapter from the US, I decided to go for the tnvc photo adapter and televue fonemate as well since it was available as a package deal from tnvc. My brief thoughts on this is that this would allow me to potentially keep a photo record of the objects I observe (both with and without NV) that I can refer back to over time, without taking notes or sketches at the eyepiece. I am not a talented artist (in fact art was my worst subject at school!) and I don’t have the inclination for note taking at the eyepiece. So the idea of getting a file of iphone images over time really appealed. I have an iphone 7 that I use with the fonemate adapter. I have also recently received the newly launched Samsung S9 which has better low light performance and, in particular, is able to do a full 10 second exposure (unlike the Iphone which is limited to less than 1 second). Pros and Cons of NV and NV phone photography The main advantage of NV astronomy has, for me, been the ability to see many more objects from my LP back garden than previously. It shows bright stuff better (with some exceptions, see later) and it shows some previously invisible stuff such as the horsehead nebula. Seeing difficult to see objects has been a real thrill for me. NV is best on emission nebula, using a suitable Ha filter. However, I’ve also found it provides significant benefits on globular clusters and galaxies using a 685 IR pass filter. In terms of disadvantages, NV is a bit more cumbersome in afocal mode than a normal eyepiece (but no more really than a heavy 2 inch eyepiece) and NV is not suitable for planetary, lunar or double star viewing. So I still need my normal eyepieces for these. Probably the main disadvantage for me is that it is tricky to get high magnification views with NV due to the focal length of the NV monoculars being around 26mm the requirement to keep the f ratio reasonably fast on most objects. Typically on nebula I operate at around 10x to 50x and for galaxies and globulars maybe push it up to around 90x. Higher than 90x in my largest 11 inch scope results in the image quality breaking down due to the high f ratio. Before getting the fonemate adapter, I had tried to take the occasional iphone photo, but with little success. I struggled to get the iphone at the correct distance from the lens and completely level so the photos were not satisfactory. When I received the fonemate adapter in December, this all changed, suddenly taking phone pictures was very easy. It was this ease of use that got me hooked on taking a record of my observations and I immediately wanted to improve the quality of them by experimenting with camera apps. I’ve been delighted with the output from my phone. I know that my photos are not going to win prizes but they provide an easy visual record of my observing and I get a lot of pleasure from taking an attractive image. I’m also beginning to learn some basic photography techniques such as iso control. The adapters to attach the phone to the NV device are a bit fiddly and it adds a bit of weight to the eyepiece setup, but other than that, I think this approach is easy to use and convenient. My experience I’m very new to NV, having only received my NV monoculars in November 2017. But I’ve been so impressed, that virtually every clear night I’ve had since, I try to get out and do some NV astronomy. Its been quite a steep learning curve, but quite soon I had managed to capture an ok photo of my key initial target, the horsehead nebula. From there, I expanded into other objects I hadn’t heard of before, such as the rosette, monkeyhead, heart and soul, California and cone nebula. In terms of learning experiences, I’ve found that my images either come out grey, in which case they are a bit washed out, or if I set the iso lower, they come out an attractive (in my opinion) dark blue and have better contrast. With practice, I’m gradually improving my technique. It also became quickly clear to me that have a range of different aperture scopes is required to get the right image scale for each object. I now use a 72mm refractor, 160mm refractor and an 11 inch SCT (the C11 was bought just for NV on galaxies). In contrast, I use less eyepieces, my key ones being the 55mm and 32mm plossl and the 18.2mm delite. Some examples of my photos (all unprocessed) on different types of object are as follows: Horsehead nebula – iso 1700, ½ 15 seconds (nightcap), iphone Rosette nebula – iso 1700, ½ x 15 seconds exposure (nightcap), iphone Monkeyhead nebula – iso 200, 10 second exposure, Samsung s9 Needle Galaxy, iso 50, 10 second exposure, Samsung s9 California nebula, TEC160, iso 50, 10 second exposure, Samsung S9 M13, C11, iso 50, 10 second exposure, Samsung S9 Phone adapter The televue fonemate adapter is straightforward to use. You loosen the locking nut, centre the phone camera lens over the hole in the middle, push the adjustable rods so that the phone is held tightly in place and then lock the nut again. Then the fonemate uses a dioptrix fitting to attach to the custom tnvc adapter which then locks onto the eyepiece of the PVS-14. The first time I used it I was all setup in a couple of minutes. It’s a solution that works well and is sensibly executed. Conclusions I’m still a newbie to NV observing and I’ve got a lot still to learn. But I’m having the most fun I’ve ever had since I started astronomy 5 years ago. Just being able to see the horsehead nebula clearly with direct vision in my back garden in London has made it for me. However, the real surprise is the NV phone photography. This element was meant to be secondary (I have no interest in astrophotography), but the ease of use coupled with the great results has been amazing. I’ve really enjoyed sharing my photos with friends and family and I’ve got a nice visual record to look back on in the future. The next steps for me are to get to a dark site at new moon and see what impact this has. I’m also really looking forward to the late summer nebulas. Roll on the Veil!!! Moshen Chan, known on CN as Moshen Background I live in San Francisco, just three miles away from downtown. Light pollution maps put me in a white zone. Naked eye limiting magnitude is generally no better than 4.0. Doing any kind of visual observing beyond the solar system objects and the brightest Messiers in my location requires a minimum of one hour driving to reach a green zone. I’ve had an interest in astronomy since I was a kid and while growing up I’ve owned a few small refractors and a small reflector (Edmund Astroscan). The largest aperture scope I own is a Celestron 9.25” SCT. I’ve had it for over a decade and have used it in my backyard in San Francisco for planetary imaging and visual. It gets out to darker skies when I bring it on camping trips but its mostly been used in the backyard working within the limits of the light pollution. After a few years I found I rarely did any observing because dragging out the scope, tracking mount, counterweights, dew shield, dew heater, battery and waiting a few hours for the scope to cool-down wasn’t worth the effort given what I could view in the city. It wasn’t until I added a 4” APO refractor coupled with a light alt-az mount and a fast cool down that I found casual observing fun again. It was much easier to carry everything out and back in with one trip and required no planning for thermal cool down. The only problem was an even more limited reach from the much smaller aperture. Having some previous background in astrophotography I discovered the EAA (Electronically Assisted Astronomy) forum that promised the appeal of observing deeper in urban skies with less of the hassle of astrophotography. Through that forum I learned about those who were doing real-time visual observing with the help of military grade image intensifiers. Investing in NV While I was researching the experiences of those using night vision image intensifiers I also discovered they were very expensive. These aren’t digital devices which follow the advances and declining costs of silicone chipsets over the years. Instead, they’re extremely complex and hard to produce analog devices and costs have generally remained the same over the last decade with only performance specs increasing over the years. When I discovered all the advantages and versatility in use cases these presented for astronomy I decided to make the investment. I had hopes of combining the advantages of small easy to use refractors with the effective reach of a much larger scope in dark skies along with the convenience of observing from home. In addition to using the NVD as an eyepiece I could also use it at 1x and 3x with small lenses, a setup that can fit in my jacket pocket. My equipment I currently have three scopes, a 4” refractor (Takahashi FC-100DF) 5” refractor (Astro-Physics 130GTX) and a 9.25” Celestron SCT. My night vision device is a L3 un-filmed white phosphor tube in an AB NightVision Mod3 body. I generally run the image intensifier eyepiece with a 2” 0.5x reducer and a 1.25” filter wheel. The filter wheel contains a 610nm long pass filter, 645nm long pass filter, 6nm Ha filter and a 2x barlow modified to fit in a filter cell. This allows me to quickly switch between different filters as well as the ability to quickly double the magnification. I’ve found the filter wheel to be a huge convenience as you can experiment with how different filters and magnifications effect the view. I’ve switched from a GEM mount to a light alt-az mount for visual use. All three scopes are able to mount on a Stellarvue M2 alt-az mount modified with DSC encoders from Astro Devices on top of a 5 series Gitzo carbon tripod. The entire setup with the 4” refractor, filter wheel, NVD, mount, tripod and Nexus DSC weighs only 26 lb out the door. The Night Vision Experience The first nights out with the night vision device I used it as a 1x monocular with the 1x objective (Envis lens). I used a 1.25” 645nm long pass filter in front of the 1x Envis lens to block most of the light pollution. The views that I got in my backyard with just a 1x lens were incredible. Because there was no magnification I could comfortably keep both eyes open but while one eye was seeing the typical bright San Francisco sky with only a few stars visible, the other eye through the night vision device was looking into a star field as rich as I’ve seen it from some of the darkest locations I’ve ever camped. I could see down to 8th magnitude stars and M33 (Triangulum Galaxy) was a direct vision sight. This turned my typical Bortle 9 (Inner-city sky) into Bortle 1 (Excellent dark-sky site). By attaching a standard military surplus 3x night vision lens over the Mod3 monocular I was able to get the three major open clusters (M36, M37, M38) in Ariga in one field of view. And by knowing exactly where to look even all three members of the Leo Triplet galaxy group were spotted. By using a 6nm Ha filter I’ve gotten near photographic views of the Rosette, California and Orion nebula along with stretches of Barnard’s loop. All of this in a device that could fit in the pocket of a jacket. Mod3 monocular with 3x afocal lens attached Some of the most experienced night vision users have estimated a doubling of aperture (at minimum) when a telescope is combined with a night vision eyepiece. From my urban white zone skies I found this to be a very conservative estimate. For example globular clusters that were a faint smudge in my 9.25” SCT were bright and fully resolved in my 4” refractor. Similarly, galaxies that were averted vision targets in the 9.25” SCT were visible with direct vision in the 4”. I think a lot of this has to do with the huge gains in contrast when light pollution is nearly completely filtered out with long pass filtration. I felt like I was getting the combined effects of the doubling of aperture and the gains in contrast one gets when viewing from dark skies. I remember one night sweeping through the Virgo galaxy cluster with the 4” and seeing the field of view littered with tiny galaxies. I found it incredible that not only was I doing it in real time from my backyard but I was also seeing down to 13th magnitude galaxies with only 4” of aperture. Markarian’s Chain, 4” refractor, iPhone X - 2.3s, ISO 160 iPhone Photography I’ve been an amateur photographer for many years and have done some astrophotography in the past. Astrophotography is probably the most technically demanding form of photography that exists and doing it well with any amount of proficiency can require a huge time commitment. I started seeing the results of a CN member (Gavster) using his iPhone to take photos through his night vision eyepiece with great results. Some of the photos looked like traditional eyepiece sketches that represented the view an observer would see instead of the typical astrophotography images with detail and color that’s never visible to the eye. Where as astrophotography was a complex activity and one that’s usually mutually exclusive to visual observing, taking quick photos with a phone camera seemed simple and complimentary. I decided to get the Orion SteadyPix EZ Smartphone adapter. I’ve found it to be a great design that fits a variety of phone and eyepiece sizes. There are four clamps on the front that can be slid for sizing and position. Once the ideal position is found, it includes rubber strips to lock two of the clamps in place. This makes subsequent placement very easy. You only need to slide the phone against the locked clamps then slide the remaining two clamps in place and lock everything together with a knob in the back. There is a large knob on top of the device that opens and closes three rubber lined prongs to grip the eyepiece. The design allows for automatic centering of the eyepiece over the camera lens. While it’s not as secure as designs that are designed to screw into the night vision eyepiece, in practice it’s secure enough that I can use it in monocular mode where the entire adapter and phone is hanging below the night vision device. Because I don’t use a tracking mount exposures are limited to about 2 seconds before trailing blurs the image. Additionally, if the alignment of the camera and eyepiece isn’t perfect some uneven vignetting or aberrations with stars at the edge of the field of view can be seen. A short exposure also means there can be plenty of noise in the image from the small camera sensor. Unlike traditional astrophotography where great effort is put into making the images perfect, I view phone photography as a casual way to catalog what I’ve seen. All of my photos are unprocessed and straight from the device and there isn’t pressure to produce the best looking photo. I think they definitely show how much can be seen under major urban light pollution and small aperture telescopes. Even a photo with slightly trailed stars due to too long of an exposure can get the essence of the image and observation across. California Nebula, 4” refractor, iPhone X - 5.6s, ISO 2112 Small aperture scopes can give fantastic views of globular clusters M13, 4” refractor, iPhone X - 1.0sm ISO 160 Open clusters can look sparse and empty with glass under urban light pollution but filled with stars with night vision. M38 & NG 1907, 5” refractor, iPhone X - 2.2s, ISO 320 Because generation-3 image intensifier tubes use a gallium arsenide photocathode that is less sensitive towards the blue range of the visual spectrum objects such as galaxies see less of a boost with these devices. However the ability to filter out light pollution with a strong long pass filter means the gains can still be significant. Despite a small image scale I’ve found galaxies (and especially galaxy clusters) and small refractors to be an excellent combination. Leo Triplet, 4” refractor, 2.3s, ISO 160 Conclusion Despite the short amount of time I’ve had my night vision device I’ve viewed more deep sky objects from my backyard in white zone light pollution than I would have ever imagined was possible. The image intensification and ability to filter out light pollution has literally brought the universe into my backyard. The ability to quickly take photos of the eyepiece view without effort or planning has enabled me to start building a library of images to look back as references and to share with others. While many amateur astronomers have given up on the ability to observe at home because of increasing light pollution, I’ve found night vision has given me the dark skies I wish I had with the ease of use of smaller scopes and the convenience to observe right at home. Ray Taylor, known on CN as GeezerGazer I live in Modesto, the central valley region of California, at an elevation of 82 feet, with a population of 250,000. This is part of the largest intensive agricultural region in CA, extending from Redding to Bakersfield, more than 400 miles north to south. My home is in a bright red zone on the light pollution maps and all too often, I am lucky to see the brightest 5-10 stars in the sky. In winter, our weather can serve up some of the thickest tule fog imaginable. In the spring, late summer and fall, agricultural mechanization and sometimes wind will raise atmospheric dust to 600+’. This is not prime astronomy territory and for this reason, I almost never observe from home. Light pollution is bad enough on its own, but when it is combined with particulate pollution, it makes observing difficult at best. I’m almost 70 and have been interested in astronomy since 1970. I have read Sky & Telescope monthly since 1973. My first scope was a 90mm Mak in 1987. Since then, I’ve used and sold many refractors, two SCTs, other Maks, two Dobs, and a Dall Kirkham. For the past 8 years, my primary telescope has been a TEC 140mm, f:7 APO used with a Baader-Zeiss Prism diagonal which I previously used primarily for planetary and double star observing… less regularly for filtered nebula and open cluster observing. I built my own portable pier and manual alt/az mount. Combined weight of the mount and pier is 28 lbs., and they are rigid and smooth in operation with my TEC. I designed the mount/pier for fast setup because I almost always drive 40 miles from home, where I observe from a green zone, 900’ higher, located in the Sierra foothills, near Copperopolis, CA. Most often, I observe with a friend & veteran observer at the dark site. I also observe with a group of seasoned astronomers once a year when we all travel to a dark site for a week of camping and observing. You can see in the below photo that the NVD is no larger than many glass eyepieces. Traveling to an observing site imposes its own kind of equipment limitations. The size of my equipment, and the burden of its weight to load and unload, is of paramount importance to me. I comfortably handle my equipment, but I want nothing larger or heavier. I really wanted to observe more from home so in 2012, I purchased a Collins I3, thin film, night vision eyepiece. In short order, I found it unsuitable for the conditions at home. Particulate pollution was terrible for the two weeks I had the Collins I3, as almond sweepers were throwing huge amounts of dust into the air in late August; and Sierra forest fires were filling the air with smoke. My window of opportunity to return the I3 was closing, so I called Bill Collins. When I explained my situation, he asked me to return it… he said that California’s central valley was known as one of the worst regions in the US for using his NV eyepiece. Fast forward to 2016, I began reading reports in the Cloudy Nights/EAA forum about NV and how it was being used so successfully to see more deep sky objects using filters… even under the worst light pollution conditions. I kept reading… asked questions of those knowledgeable friends in the forum… and talked myself into another NV trial. I purchased a Mod 3C with a high spec tube, Envis 1x prime C-mount lens and a 3x afocal lens. I ordered adapters and filters; IR filters at 600nm, 640nm and 685nm to combat light pollution at home, and 12nm, 7nm and 5nm H-a filters to see nebulae. To use the NVD as an eyepiece in my telescope, it came with a 1.25” nose. I needed only to unscrew the Envis C-mount lens and screw in the C-mount nose. Simple. But to give it a fair chance, I used it almost exclusively at my dark site. This time, a whole new window to the universe was opened for me with NV. My 5.5” refractor acted more like a 9” or 10” refractor. The NVD with only a 40 degree field of view was so full of stars it was disorienting and it made the views through my Ethos eyepieces look… sparse in comparison. Even from Modesto, I could see stars, globulars, and sometimes galaxies! But taking the NVD with the TEC to my green zone made it so much better. I had never seen so many nebulae. All I had to do was follow the Milky Way which seemed like an unending parade of nebulae… from Sagittarius past Cygnus, they were everywhere, and, I COULD SEE THEM in real time even at 1x! One nebula after another, I discovered their names and the form they take in my NV eyepiece. I often would scan the sky at 1x to see the “bright spots” that would become my telescopic targets. I looked new ones up later to read about them and see how my NV image compared to long exposure H-a images posted on-line. In late 2015, I purchased the NightCap Pro camera app for my iPhone 5 but did not really use it after initial attempts ended with marginal results through glass eyepieces. But after using my NVD for about 8 months, I took a snapshot in auto mode of globular cluster M-22 in Sagittarius. I couldn’t believe that I could take such a cool photo. I knew at that moment that I was going to learn more about this application and how to apply it to NV. This image essentially changed my perception about phone photos when used with NV. It is an unfiltered exposure, taken in automatic mode, hand holding the phone over the NVD eyepiece in my TEC 140. Meta data reveals that it was taken on August 28, 2017, at my green zone location; the auto settings were ISO-500, 1/4 sec exposure. Images of stellar objects like M-22 can be delivered in automatic mode with a short, single exposure because they are quite bright in NV. Below is the photo that changed my perception of astronomy phone photos. I learned the mechanics of photography 50 years ago in college courses and used manual film cameras for much of my career when needed. But I learned about NightCap one step at a time. When I started with it, I’d read the tutorial but sometimes did not apply the instructions for a week or more, until my next observing session. By then, I forgot half of what I needed to do. So instead, I practiced one setting or one mode at a time. I’d read and then practice in a dark closet during the day, before I observed that night. I’m a slow learner with some technology and this app was not intuitive to me. But eventually, I came to understand it, and now, it seems so simple to me. By January, 2018, I finally started learning about the Long Exposure mode, but using it required a fixture to hold the phone steady. At the beginning of February, 2018, I began using an Orion, SteadyPix Quick smartphone adapter ($25). It is a universal mount that clamps my phone in place without removing its protective case, and with the clamping mechanisms tightened, it holds the phone’s camera lens centered over the NVD eye lens. It is made mostly of plastic, except for the screws in the clamps, and it uses neoprene rubber to protect the phone at contact points. This is a universal adapter, which means it will accommodate any size smartphone and can be clamped to any telescope eyepiece, binocular, monocular or microscope, as long as the top of the eyepiece is cylindrical, with 24-45mm diameter, and not tapered like some Pentax and TeleVue eyepieces. The top part of the holder is circular and when rotated, closes three plastic fingers against the top of the eyepiece. When tightened sufficiently, it holds to support the weight of the phone well enough. In operation, the device does what it is supposed to, with a few caveats. When the phone is clamped in the holder, the circular clamping device must be rotated to clamp the whole bracket to the NV eye lens. This process is a little awkward and care is needed to make sure the eyepiece remains perpendicular to phone as the clamp is tightened. And I often moved the phone off center from the hole that is supposed to align with the camera’s eyepiece during the clamping procedure. The problem is the small thumbscrew used to tighten the arm that clamps to the NVD; it is small and does not hold the arm firmly enough. I remedied this shortcoming (photo on R) by making a stout aluminum “washer” to span the wide edges of the arm, giving more surface area for greater purchase, and replaced the small 1/4”x20 thumbscrew with a T-handle knob that provides much greater leverage to tighten the arm on the mount. This holds the arm more securely and now it doesn’t lose its alignment when attaching to the NVD. I also drilled the aperture hole 1/32” bigger and chamfered the inside of it. Since I leave a heavy protective case on my phone, the camera lens sets farther away from the aperture hole, causing mild vignetting. The aperture hole is now large enough and tapered to prevent vignetting while leaving my phone in its protective case. I would say that for $25, my phone bracket is a good buy and it performs OK as is, but with my simple modifications, it is much more convenient to use. Convenience in use and the safety of our expensive equipment can be priceless in the dark. Because my home suffers from both light and particulate pollution for much of the year and because high levels of humidity are sometimes present during the winter and summer, transparency is often below average or poor. Poor transparency robs NV of performance and it’s not offset by narrow, band-pass filters. I have come to believe that for NV, “transparency” conditions are more important than “seeing” conditions. The power of NV reveals so many small or faint nebula like IC 59 and 63, Gamma Cassiopeia, ISO 2500, 1/2 sec. stacked for 4 seconds. Do you see IC 63?…the little round smudge on the left forms a triangle with IC 59 and the bright star, Gamma Cass. The Bubble Nebula, taken at ISO 3712, 1/2 sec for 4 seconds, do you see the bubble? The bright spot is at the bottom of the Bubble’s sphere with the bottom and right side of the bubble faintly visible. The PacMan Nebula, NGC 281, is very nice in NV; here at ISO 2000, 1/2 sec. for 4 sec. The Wizard Nebula, NGC 7380… but I still don’t see a wizard, ISO 3712, 1/2 sec for 4 sec Ray’s CONCLUSIONS: I have enjoyed astronomy for many years and among the equipment that I have used, I value my NVD as much as my telescope and mount. NV has made it possible for me to see and to photograph DSO’s that were previously beyond my reach. I had no idea when I bought into NV that I would enjoy DSO’s, especially nebulae, so much. I have never had the desire to deal with astrophotography and the assembled equipment it requires. I did try attaching my Nikon D7100 to my NV device using a special adapter… thinking that the results would be superior. But I found the combination burdensome, time consuming to set up and adding more complication than I wanted. I gladly resumed taking NV phone photos. I am a visual observer at heart. Why then, am I having so much fun with NV phone photography? Because like visual observing, it is really very simple and fast… and it doesn’t disrupt the visual experience because it is so uncomplicated… and, of course, I already owned the phone which I often use with the Sky Safari app! The images that I’m compiling are going to be used instead of written notes. I load my photos into my computer, identify them with their common name, NGC, IC, or Sharpless catalogue numbers and add them to an index, so I can find them later. It is a very fast and visual way to record what I observe. The meta-data attached to each photo provides the date and location of my photo along with the settings. If I’m observing many targets during a session, I can photograph all of them… one night I took snapshots of 16 different targets. It is that fast and easy. My phone snapshots won’t win any photo contests, but they are good enough to refresh my memory and are a lot more fun than my written notes… especially when I look at them on a Cloudy Night.
  13. Date: Wed 23rd May 2345-0245am Scope: Borg 89ED f6.7 (fl 600mm) on Sky-tee2. Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS. Eyepieces: 55mm (f3.2 x11), 35mm (f5 x17), 27mm (f6.5 x22), 18.2mm (f9.6 x33). Filters: Baader 610nm Red, Astronomik 6nm Ha CCD. Moon: 68% First Light: Borg assimilated into Black Ops Astronomy (Night Vision) I have owned my PVS-14 Night Vision monocular now for about a month and so far have concentrated on the climax to galaxy season by viewing the biggest galaxies in an attempt to see as many spiral arms as possible before the sky rotates them away and the darkness disappears. All my usage so far has been with my 20" Dobsonian. With my old enemy, the Moon, also now spoiling my dark skies, it was time to get out the Borg89 and deploy some filters to defeat the moon. Proof of Concept I had setup around 9pm to make sure my red dot finder was aligned with the scope (at least the Moon is good for something ), and to test reaching focus with the Televue 55mm Plossl which needs loads of out-focus! I have been using a short 150mm tube on my Borg as I had previously been using it with Binoviewers. I have screwed an extra 50mm tube into the main scope body but even with the draw-tube fully extended, I could only reach focus by lifting the 55mm Plossl eyepiece about 5mm up & away from the diagonal (Luckily, it’s a click-lock diagonal and capable of holding the eyepiece firmly even when lifted). With the initial testing completed, I moved everything back inside to wait for it to get dark later... Always Have a Plan The plan for the night was in two parts (1) grab some Globulars & Galaxies to familiarize myself with the new setup and then (2) move onto the Milky Way later when it swings into view. Part 1: Find some easy Globulars and Galaxies I was using a manual mount (sky-tee2) and Sky Safari 5 (on ipad) where I have field of view circles on screen showing me what I should be seeing in the eyepiece and allowing me to manually jump around the sky using “2 circles up and 1 circle right” type of movements. M13 – With the 55mm Plossl (x11), M13 was easily located and a tiny fuzzy ball was seen. I added the Baader 610nm Red filter which helped to darken the background but it was only when I switched to the 27mm Panoptic (x22) that the outer stars of the globular started to resolve and a decent view was had. The Globular was still tiny in size but accepting smaller scale is part of the price of "Black Ops Astronomy". M51 – I moved onto the Whirlpool. After messing about on my knees with the red dot finder I got the scope to the right area and quickly located the double galaxy at the eyepiece with the 27mm & 610nm Red filter still loaded. I was impressed to see hints of a circle surrounding the galaxy! I upped the magnification to x33 with the 18.2 DeLite but the background became much darker and although the image scale improved, I felt the circle of arms was less visible that with the 27mm. (The Night Vision device is f1.2 so it responds better to faster scope speeds, scope speed is increased by using longer focal length eyepieces – I have added some spec detail to the top of this report). M51 – Right time to increase the speed. In with the 35mm Panoptic and 610nm filter. Now there was a definite circle of spiral arms twinkling around the tiny galaxy (x17 magnification). The bridge to the nearby NGC was not seen. Finally, I moved to the 55mm Plossl (x11) and was surprised to see a tiny circle surrounding the galaxy. Seems incredible that you can pull out arm structure at x11 with a 68% moon nearby! M101 – Onto M101 nearby. With a bit of faffing I finally got the small-ish hazy patch centered. It was still a decent size in the 55mm with 610nm filter but with no detail seen within. I decided to remove the 610nm filter “just for a laugh”. The galaxy became brighter with fleeting glimpses of what looked like a circle arm structure (similar to M51) but thicker/chunkier. This structure was only glimpsed with averted and much concentration but an astonishing result really considering the Moon and tiny magnification. Part 2: Exploring the Milky Way I used the red dot finder to centre the scope on Antares which was pretty low to my southern horizon but easily located. M4 – I had the 55mm Plossl loaded with no filter. When I looked in the eyepiece I could see a large bright well resolved patch of stars next to Antares. “What’s that?”. Consulting Sky Safari, it was M4. It appeared much larger and more resolved than M13. I have never viewed M4 before (it’s too low for my Dob from my Obsy/Shed) so that’s a new Messier for my list! M80 – I navigated over to M80 which turned out to be a disappointment after M4. It was just a tiny fuzzy star at this low magnification. Right, onto the main event. I decided to just pan up through the sky until I bumped into some Nebula. I attached the Astronomik 6nm Ha CCD filter to the diagonal. M17 Swan – 55mm. The first nebula that I happened upon was M17. Although, I did not recognize it as M17. I had to consult Sky Safari to try to work out what I was looking at! (I have viewed the Swan many times and I know what it looks like – or I thought that I did until now. Wow!) It appeared as a white hot upside down “V” surrounded by nebula on all sides (So much more than the usual “tick”). The familiar circle of nebula to one side was there if you looked but it was lost in the full (previously unseen by me) nebula structure. M17 – 35mm. Image scale improved and a second lovely view of this nebula. Maybe it was slightly dimmer with the loss of focal ratio but memorable for sure. (this is the nearest image I can find to what I saw) Now, knowing where I was in the sky meant that a quick pan over to M16 Eagle was next… M16 Eagle - 55mm. “I can see an Eagle”. What more can I say, it looks like an image! I can see the head, the outstretched wings and a very bright body. M16 – 35mm. "I can see the Pillars of Creation". Admittedly, they were tiny! But black gaps in the bright body are there. Never thought I would see them and definitely not with an 89mm scope! (this is the nearest image I can find to what I saw) What could beat that? Well, I only had a few minutes to wait before I stumbled onto the M8 Lagoon nebula. Wow, that just beat the Eagle nebula hands down. I was mesmerized! The view was so good that I am struggling to find an image on the internet to match the view! M8 Lagoon – 55mm. Wow, the nebula is so bright and thick that it stands out and punches you in the face. It looks like you are looking into a swirling black hole. Plenty of variations is brightness within the thick nebula help to give the view real depth. M8 – 35mm. The detail is breath-taking, lovely long dark lanes revealing lovely shapes and structures within the very bright nebula. I could not tire of this view! (this is the nearest image I can find to what I saw) M20 Triffid – 55mm. Seen in the same field of view as M8. It was a poor second to the Lagoon mainly due to its small physical size at the eyepiece (Remember this is x11 magnification). However, the 3 pronged black lanes within were clearly visible. M20 – 35mm. View much improved with larger scale. Lost some brightness from the nebula due to loss of focal ratio but the inner detail was easy to see. (this is the nearest image I can find to what I saw) Beaten back by the Dew I moved onto Cygnus and the North American nebula but the view seemed poor in comparison to what had come before. This surprised me as I can see the bright North American nebula naked eye at x1 magnification using Night Vision and a 1.25” Astronomik 12nm Ha filter. A quick look with my torch down the front on the scope showed that the Borg had succumbed to Dew Final Thoughts I had a great night. The view of the Lagoon will stay with me forever! The weather is set fair here in the UK so I know that it won’t be too long before I get outside again. I still can’t get over the fact that Night Vision can defeat the Moon. I live in a dark place, SQM 21.6 and when the Moon is up then I am forced to stay indoors – NOT ANYMORE! Clear Skies, Alan Note: The images that I added are not mine. They are the closest I can find to what I saw, although I only observed them in black and white (no colours) but with varying shades & brightnesses in-between.
  14. 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
  15. Secret Mission to see more stuff - Codename "BigDob" Base>“BigDob, locate Papa-Victor-Sierra-Fourteen in shed at bottom of the garden, confirm?” BigDob> “Roger that” Base> “Collect intel and move to extraction site, confirm?” BigDob> “Roger that, approaching shed location now, plenty of cloud cover!” … BigDob> “Fraser, get that shed door open!” … BigDob> “Entering shed now” … BigDob> “Papa-Victor-Sierra-Fourteen located - it’s already in the focuser!” Base> “Take photographs and gather all available intel” BigDob> “Roger that, taking photographs now” … BigDob> “Mission accomplished, we are heading to the extraction site now” Base> “Roger, Extraction team arrival imminent” to be continued...
  16. Date: Sun 13th May 2300-0245am 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), 18.2mm (f5.8 x115). Filters: Astronomik CLS (Visual IR pass), Baader 610nm Red, Astronomik UHC, Astronomik 6nm Ha CCD. Astronomik 12nm Ha CCD. UK in for a Clear Spell! The next few nights are forecast clear for us in the UK, so I was able to get out last night for a bit more galaxy experimentation… Leo under Darkening Skies Obviously at this time of year the problem is that it does not go dark until very late, even at 2300hrs I could only see the main constellation stars visually, but as I have learned “that won’t stop the Night Vision from seeming MORE…” Tonight, the plan was to compare unfiltered with the Astronomik UHC views of face-ons using the 55mm Televue Plossl. M66 – (Unfiltered) Eventually, after some playing with the “gain” (of the PVS-14) and using averted vision techniques, I got to see the “S” shape of M66. The best method to get the arms out seemed to be to turn the gain down low then inch it back up. At some point the arms would come and then stop there. It was hard to hold the arms in view for very long though. (UHC) With the UHC fitted, the background was darker and presented a better view. The arms could be teased out as above but to a lesser extent. M65 – (Unfiltered) Presented a “swirling halo” with a black streak running under the front edge. (UHC) Similar view with the UHC too. NGC3628 – Long wide side-on with thick black lane running through. Slightly better unfiltered. NGC4535 – This is going to be a good one at the right time of year. It has a beautiful intricate arm structure. Unfiltered I could see a small circle created by the arms around the core. With some time and averted the outer arms did come and go! Again, slightly better unfiltered. M99 – (Unfiltered) I could see one clear arm swinging out over the top. With some time and averted then I could pick out the two arms underneath too. UHC not tested. M100 – Two long spiral arms coming and going. I did not get to see them as well as the other night M88 – (Unfiltered) There was a definite “swirling” effect seen within the halo along with tiny black bits within the halo. I could see a longer black area over the top. M91 – (Unfiltered) Showed a bright central bar with two black sections on either side. No arms seen. M58 – (Unfiltered) Showed a bright central bar with hints of tiny arms close in to the bar. Time for Ursa Major M108 – (Unfiltered) Long thin with varying brightness and texture. A nice bright view. Will visit again with the 35mm tonight! M109 - (Unfiltered) Bright central bar. Delicate arms hinted and occasional sighting of two very thin arms leaving the central bar near a close in foreground star. Black areas to each side of bar. Occasional circle arm seen. M106 – (Unfiltered) Big bright halo in a sweeping “S” shape. Swirling effect visible in the halo. Lovely. M51 – (Unfiltered) Wonderfully sharp and clear view of the arms and the black intersection within the halo of the nearby NGC. Specs of tiny black dust lanes within the spiral arms (although I was seeing them more towards the side of the arms !!) Clear view of the bridge. M101 – (Unfiltered) Lovely arm structure on offer! Three main arms with real definition in shape. One arm has a separate section that breaks off. Internal NGCs seen to both right & left extremes.This view was “up there” with my initial view of M101 when I first used my night vision. I had had a couple of “fails” on M101 recently and now I know that this was due to inaccuracy in my Nexus alignment. I was in fact viewing a nearby galaxy on those other night rather than M101 itself! (I need to choose some alternative alignment stars tonight!). Golden rule = If it doesn’t look like M101 then it probably is not M101. M101 – (UHC) Lost the outer arm details. Arms still there in centre section. (610nm) Nothing much on show. Conclusion = Unfiltered > UHC > 610nm. I also tried the 35mm Panoptic but the arms were “less” than with the 55mm Plossl. Time to Scan the Milky Way at x1 with the 12nm Ha filter As my favourite galaxies continued their drift into the West, I decided it was time to put the PVS-14 direct to my eye and scan the Milky Way. I installed my Astronomik 1.25” 12nm Ha CCD filter into the front lens and placed my Sacrificial Window over the top to hold it in place then looked up. After focusing the PVS-14 and turning the gain all the way up, I was awed at the great Nebula on offer... Within Cygnus I could see the North American (Faucet) nebula as bright white, I could see the cloudy blob of the Elephant Truck to its left. Within Cygnus the intricate detail of the Gamma Cygni was wonderful. But the best surprise came as I scanned South and bumped into four bright nebulosity blobs in Sagittarius (Eagle Nebula for one!). I am going to try my 1.25” Castell UHC tonight and see what that does to the view of the Milky Way… I noticed that Andromeda was much harder to spot with the Ha filter installed. It was massive the other night at x1 with no filter. Clear Skies, Alan
  17. Date: Saturday 4th August 2230-0010 Scope: 20” f3.6 Lukehurst Dob with Paracorr (fl = 2089mm & f4.1). Eyepieces: 55mm (f2 x38). Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS. Filters: Astronomik 6nm Ha CCD. Moon: 0% Make a decision and have a Plan With a clear night forecast, I had spent the afternoon deciding between (a) Borg89 and planets, Sagittarius or (b) Big Dob and Cygnus? I even thought about doing both! Anyway, I decided on Big Dob and taking on more nebula in and around Cygnus. My plan was to use “The Astrophotography Sky Atlas” (by Bracken) and try to find nebula that are missing from Sky Safari (which seems to be quite a few!). I marked the pages of interest with yellow post-it notes so I could find them quick with my torch later. Alignment Woes Last time out I was not quite happy with the collimation, so I spent an extra iteration with my Howie Glatter laser & TuBlug to get everything spot on. Note that I always collimate with the Paracorr2 in the scope as it does move the laser pointer when added to the light path. Once happy with the collimation, I pushed back the shed roof and was greeted with thin wispy clouds passing over . Finding two nicely spaced alignment stars for my Nexus push-to was not going to be easy. Luckily after a couple of minutes Alderamin appeared and I quickly aligned to it as the first star, I then get Albireo as the second star and was good to go. I confirmed my alignment with a quick look at M56 with the Ethos10. Straight into Gamma Cygni I swapped the ethos for the 55mm Plossl and attached the PVS-14 NVD to the eyepiece. I attached the Astronomik 6nm Ha CCD filter to the Paracorr2 and pushed the scope onto Gamma Cygni. To my surprise the nebula was sharp and clear, so I nudged around to get my eye in playing with the “gain” (on the NVD) to get the most contrastiest view possible. As the gain is lowered, then the Signal to Noise Ratio is increased so more of the target becomes visible. You still need averted vision to tease out those finer details though… Gamma Cygni gave out some great textured views and I lingered on the areas where the lush texture of the nebula was interspersed with thick black hydrogen lanes. These are the areas that catch my eye every time . Heading West It was time for my first referral to the Sky Atlas (p15) and I decided upon the Crescent and Tulip nebulas as my next targets. Crescent – The crescent filled the 40 degree FOV of the Plossl and showed lovely bright structure within which I could see black shapes and cut-outs that revealed its finer features. With some averted vision I could begin to make out the circular upper structure and it began to appear as a “backwards number 9” shape. The detail kept revealing itself the longer I stayed at the eyepiece. Tulip (sh2-101) – Onto the Tulip (which I have observed before but at that time I did not know it was called the Tulip just sh2-101). The view was of a “backwards C” shape filled with nebulosity. With averted vision I could see what looked like a “grasping hand” darker shape within the overall structure. Back to the East Back to the Atlas, and selecting sh2-104 & sh2-106 as I close to the shed wall and needed to go back the other way. Sh2-104 – It appeared as a quite small brightish blob. There was some undefined shape and varying brightness within. With the sky still showing wispy cloud I did not want to waste any time changing eyepieces so pushed on to the next target. Sh2-106 – This is a target missing from Sky Safari so I had to nudge around and hunt for it. Eventually I found a small bright patch. The patch was made of three sections. A brighter middle section and then two outer sections (one either side) of a dimmer nature. [ To make it easier for next time, I picked a star in Sky Safari that was in the centre of the circle showing my FOV and added that star to my observing list! ] Checking images on the internet this morning, there is no doubt that I saw sh2-106 so I am happy about that. Vdb-133 – next came an unsuccessful search for vdb-133 which is next to sh2-106. I hunted around but could not locate it. Sh2-107 – then another unsuccessful search for sh2-107. It is in Sky Safari but when I centred the scope on the target there was nothing there to be seen. I nudged around a while but nothing. [ Looking on Wikipedia this morning it seems much fainter than sh2-106 so I need to try again under pristine dark skies… ] Nudge down to the Veil I did wonder whether to skip the Veil as I have seen it many time before BUT it’s just one of those objects you HAVE TO SAVOR! (image oriented to match my view at the eyepiece) Western Veil As soon as I put my eye to the eyepiece I knew I was in for a treat! The upper section of NGC6960 was showing the split into three parts (I only saw a split into two on my last visit). I journeyed down the bright lane of nebula past the star to the tip, then across to Pickering’s Triangle. Pickering’s Triangle was stunning. The wispy lanes and finer details within the triangle were just brilliant. I could see the small “E” curve to the left and the long bendy NGC 6979 to the right very clearly. Below NGC6979 were a further two small patches (one labelled “F”, the other below that). Moving up I could see both “G” and the wispy lane to the left of “G” too. But the most memorable piece for the night was “The Thin Thread”. On my last visit I could just make it out and follow it up but tonight it was clear as day and also showed multiple threads! [ We have had a lot of rain over the past week so maybe the sky is extra clear for once? ]. Continuing up the thread it split into two forks at the top and I was able to see “D”, “C”, “B” and “A” over the top. [ I missed out looking for these last time so made extra effort tonight. I also bagged “H” as I header right to the Eastern Veil. Eastern Veil As I dropped down onto the IC1340 & NGC6995, it looked like the roof of a VW Beetle! Two parallel curvy lanes with some cross pieces and a couple of brighter blob sections (IC1340 was one of them). It was so bright, there was a lush patch of nebula bottom right just before the long bright NGC6992 came into view. This section was very bright and detailed but I kept returning to Pickerings and the Thin Thread. NGC6979 really did show its shape very well last night. Propeller Nebula (DWB111) Right, after that excitement and a check of the Atlas, I decided to seek out the Propeller nebula. This is another object missing from Sky Safari. I had had a go at finding it last month with no luck but tonight is another night! With the aid of NGC6866, I nudged down SW and my luck was in, I found it . It was big and very bright, an unmistakable “S” to the eye. I nudged around and discovered that this area of sky is rich with long lanes of nebulosity which are mostly quite bright and traceable. Back to the propeller and with time at the eyepiece the initial “S” started to take on the look of a “double S”. I spent some time observing the Propeller and once again picked a central star from the FOV shown in Sky Safari and added it to my observing list (to make finding it easier next time). I will be back as this area was so full of nebula but the wispy clouds were returning so I pushed onto the next target… Sh2-112 – I recognized it immediately from my previous visit. I was greeted with the “letter C shape on top of a long stick” that I had seen before but it didn’t last long. After a few seconds it faded into haze. I looked up and the clouds were thickening. North American & Pelican – Onto something brighter. The North American is probably too big for the big dob. But I managed to nudge around and see the brighter sections before the clouds took over and my view progressively diminished more and more… Thoughts of the observer. So much for the forecast clear night! It was a pretty short session of around 90 minutes. I felt disappointed as I closed the shed roof as I was “on a roll” and had been successful finding some new (to me) targets. The views of the Veil had been my best ever so I took heart from that and I had managed to find the Propeller which was definitely worth the effort. The area around the propeller was full of nebulosity so I will be sure to return. I was glad that I had added some star markers into my observing list to make my chances of revisits that much higher. It is nice to find objects but I really want to spend as much time as possible observing them. The sky did seem a little darker last night so I think the worst of the bright summer nights may finally be behind us! Clear Skies, Alan
  18. Date: 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
  19. Date: Saturday 23rd Feb. 2230-0005am 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 35mm (f3 x60), Panoptic 27mm (f4 x77), DeLite 18.2mm (f5.8 x115). Moon: 80% (after 2330) After a long wait. This had been a depressing week as far as stargazing goes. First we had the full moon to spoil the party and then the recurring excitement of “clear weather forecasts failing to materialize” (Thur, Fri and seemingly Saturday too). After consoling myself by working through the many series of “Prime Suspect” during the week and making regular trips to the window to peep outside “Is it clear yet?”. I was finally taken by surprise last night at 10pm when I saw a CLEAR SKY looking back at me! At least I had a plan prepared! A couple of days back, I had done some research on http://www.rochesterastronomy.org/supernova and identified six potential supernovae to target (when the moon was not there!). I had setup an “observing list in Sky Safari 5” and had make sketches of star positions from images where available. It seemed that most of my targets have not yet been imaged but Rochester gives the distances from the galaxy core so I could see they were all “close-in”. As my dob uses Nexus push-to then it’s a simple job to nudge over to the galaxy target once 2-star alignment has been completed! Let the supernovae hunt begin... UGC3554/SN2019rz/Type IIn/Stated mag 16.5 Located 0.6”W and 0.1”N and one image available (Thanks Cedric!). I was not sure whether I would still be able to get the dob onto this most westerly of my target list (due to the time and dob location in the shed) but luckily it was still available to me! I started with the 35mm Panoptic (x60 magnification) and the galaxy disk was easily seen and centred in the fov. I could see a clear dot in the galaxy haze. I tried more magnification with the DeLite 18.2 but the view was not as sharp as seen with less magnification (The sky was very “wet” last night and the scope was damp after only 20 minutes outside!). I then moved to the Panoptic 27mm (x77) and got the best view of the galaxy and tiny bright dot centred within. UGC4642/SN2018hfg/Type IIn/ Stated mag 16.5 I tried 35mm, 27mm 18.2mm and 55mm eyepieces. They all showed the galaxy disk and a central dot. Surprisingly the 55mm showed a double dot within the tiny galaxy (one of the dots is the SN). The 27mm provided a better scale for the galaxy and with time at the eyepiece, the double dot came in and out of view. NGC3304/SN2019aik/Type 1a/Stated may 15.9 NGC3304 appeared as a very tiny galaxy in the 55mm Plossl, I was distracted by a much larger galaxy just outside the fov (NGC3294 – which showed clear structure and I noted it for a return visit). As I nudged right the tiny NGC3304 was just discernible and showed a bright central dot. I switched to the 27mm Panoptic and the galaxy was much larger and easier to see and centre in the eyepiece. The bright central dot stood out within. I could not separate the core from the SN in this tiny galaxy so we need to try again. My other three targets had not yet reached points in the sky where I could get the big dob pointing at them, so that was that for my supernova search for tonight. Let’s see what traditional higher power observing can do? I removed the NVD and eyepiece and switched to the Ethos10 (x200) only. I settled at the eyepiece and started to make out the galaxy in the fov. The FOV felt huge compared to the 40 degrees of the NVD but the galaxy was more of a challenge to grab with my eyeball. It was certainly larger in this fov but was so much fainter that I struggled to hold it in my vision. I nudged back to UGC4642 and attempted to see SN2018hfg with the ethos10. The experience was similar again with the galaxy now much fainter than with Night Vision and much more of a challenge to see anything within the galaxy disk. Of course, the sky was wet (as stated earlier) and by now the Devils Orb was brightening the sky too, so I will make the same attempt and comparison again in the coming week of darker skies. Thoughts of the observer. It’s amazing what you can see with the 55mm Plossl (and night vision) at only x38 magnification. You assume that more magnification is better but with NV the faster focal ratio of the 55mm Plossl (when used a-focally is key). These tiny galaxies are very faint but they are just obvious when viewed with NV. Supernovae hunting is proving that the extra magnification of the 18.2 DeLite and 27mm Panoptic are useful tools too, sometimes you just need the extra scale to reveal fainter stars that are just not seen in the 55mm Plossl. This is the first time, I have gone after SN before images are available so it was intriguing to see if I could spot them “first”! Of course, close in to the core SN are hopefully more easy to discern and further out SN would surely need the star chart sketch to confirm if you see them or not? It is also clear that Galaxies are greatly improved with Night Vision (mostly – there are exceptions where the core seems too large and over powers the disk or the galaxy does not give off enough red for the NV to improve the view or the galaxy is just too large and spreadout over the fov) they are much easier to pick out and most bright galaxies reveal details in the disks that are a joy to see. Generally, I have been surprised at the quality and detail of the galaxy views on offer so far this galaxy season plus those beyond reach previously that are now “in play” too. NGC3294 was a surprise to me, it is not in my “brightest galaxy list” but it was large and detailed in the 35mm Panoptic (I have now added it to my “Brightest Galaxy observing list” to ensure future revisits when the moon is gone). Lets hope we get more clear sky over the next 2 weeks when galaxies will be our main focus of attention and before the Orb waxes once more! Clear Skies, Alan
  20. Date: Tuesday 1st January 2019. 1845-2200hrs. Scope: 20” f3.6 Lukehurst Dob with Paracorr (fl = 2089mm & f4.1). Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS. Eyepieces: Plossl 55mm (f2 x38). Filters: Chroma 5nm Ha CCD Filter. Moon: 0% Introduction. Seems like a long time since I saw a cloudless sky (because it is!). But last night was forecast clear and sure enough by 1830 the sky was clearing from the North via a light NE wind. I had repositioned the dob for some Milky Way action earlier in the day and I quickly got setup with my Ethos10 to complete the 2-star alignment for my Nexus wifi device connected to Sky Safari 5. I had a quick look at M33 to confirm the alignment and was pleased with the detail on offer, decent arms and several nebula patches showed within the galaxy at x200. The stars were pretty sharp too which is nice since the mirror still needed to cool to the outside temperature. I switched to Night Vision, I added my new Chroma 5nm Ha filter to the bottom of the Paracorr2, then inserted the 55mm Plossl (and added the eyepiece heater tape that would surely be needed later), then finally attached the PVS-14 Night Vision directly to the Plossl using the TNVC/Televue a-focal adapter. Observing report. The Milky Way had not quite cleared the shed roof so targets were limited to begin with, the California nebula was available so I started there! California nebula – WOW what a start! I was treated to my best ever views of NGC1499/sh2-220. Both long edges appeared 3D like real texture. There were occasional brighter sections along the edges. The “Whales Eye” seemed to have extra hollowness and depth. I discovered a new protruding section to one end that I have not noticed before. I found that I preferred the view with the gain down as more features were easily seen than with the gain on full which made things a little too bright for my observing eyeball. LBN749 – Barnard 3 and 4 – Not sure that I have ever observed this target before but it was nearby so rude not to. I saw a decent sized nebula patch around the star Atik. The nebula surrounding the cluster was easily seen in direct vision (Barnard 3). Averted revealed a line of nebula out (Barnard 4) to a single star the other side of Atik. It was hard to see any nebulosity near Atik itself as the star was so bright. Sh2-238 – Hinds Var neb – A challenging object. I was able to see a faint patch next to a star. I played with the gain but was unable to get much more from the target. Sh2-246 – I observed a long vertical patch. It had a curved bottom and the top left corner seemed to come to a point. The outer edges were easily seen and traceable. Many black sections had been cleared by stars incl. a nice multi star patch bottom left. Sh2-215 – A faint patch embedded in a star pattern. Tough one. Sh2-213 – Two double pairs of stars with a faint patch in-between them. The patch is nearer the left pair and there appears to be a star with black surrounding it within the patch. Sh2-216 – The nearest planetary closest to the sun. It was bigger than the fov of the Plossl! It seemed to be almost half moon shaped. The edges were clear. Sh2-221 – Large “Africa” shaped patch with clear edges. Upper section contains intricate black lanes within. Sh2-219 – Small bright patch with a central star (sits at the side of sh2-221) Sh2-217 – Medium sized patch easily seen. Central star in a small black central region. Sh2-212 – Very bright fuzzy patch of medium size. Two stars seen within the patch. Sh2-211 – Small bright patch easily seen. Sh2-210 – Large nebula patch with a black area inside it. It sits next to a very large area of nebula making it hard to separate which is sh2-210! Sh2-207 & sh2-208 – A medium size patch easily seen with a very small patch to the side (easy to miss). Sh2-209 – Patch with a central dark area (to the right hand side). A black elephants trunk is entering from the left hand side. Sh2-206 – Nice. A star appears almost entirely surrounded by nebula (just a tiny gap is there). A very bright section dominates the view. Turn the gain down to reveal a fainter section around the star. This one deserves a revisit with more magnification (but once the heater tapes/gloves are on then I cannot be bothered with changing eyepieces!) Sh2-218 – Sky Safari has this correctly located. It is large and is shaped like a “fat sausage”. The top section appear pretty empty of detail. Flaming star (sh2-229) – WOW! Almost 3D like appearance. Wonderful bright “line” details within and plenty of “bellowy clouds”. New detail (for me) seen as we enter the tail section. I can see a double corner section and tiered sides to the tail. This has always been a disappointing target for me but last night I appear to have broken my duck – it really was wonderful. I now need to revisit and see if I can tease more out of the surrounding area (sh2-230). IC410 – Another best ever view, so much more contrast on offer. The nebula is thick and lush. There are two black eyes peering out at me (one eye is actually made of three dark patches with averted). The left cheek is very bright as are the tadpoles. There is a horizontal line seen underneath (not noticed this before) that seems to underline IC410. Great. IC417 – Another nice target. With the gain turned down, I can see a beautiful spider (or maybe an octopus?) with two stars for eyes. Nice. Sh2-237/NGC1931 – “The fly”, small and very bright. Sh2-235 – bright, decent sized patch easily seen Sh2-231 – sitting next to 235. Larger patch but quite faint. Sh2-233 – sitting next to 231. Tiny patch. Faint, has a central star. Sh2-232 – sitting next to 235. Large faint patch. Seems to have two horizontal lines running through it! Sh2-241 – A triangular patch. I see a small black crescent inside. There is a small bright patch on the bottom corner. Sh2-242 – A bright patch. There is a bright star just off centre which has black surrounding it. Sh2-243 – FAIL. A triangle of stars seen but unable to get any nebula. M1 crab – Wonderful but small. I counted six elonged bubbles with bright edges within the overall patchy shape. Nice. Needs more magnification but I’m too lazy to change eyepieces. NGC2174/sh2-252 – The Monkeys Head was superb with new detail on offer to me. Firstly, there was a new bright circular section obvious at the lower/back of the “cheek”. There were two curved black lanes running from the forehead backwards and curving down “like hair line”. There were a number of brighter sections down the face “eyebrow, nose bridge, lips, bright dot near ear”. There was also a new fainter section below which seemed to “fall away” from the main face features. Great! Sh2-247 – Faint, decent sized patch easily seen. IC443/sh2-248 – Another great view of this SN remnant. The front “Jelly fish” was bright and clear in direct vision with texture and fine details seen within. The tendrils that fall back towards the bright star was clearer than I have seen them before with no averted needed. The Jelly fish seems to be pushing against two waves of nebula as you pan to the right. If you keep going then you come to a large patch of IC444 which was also easily seen. I had been noticing clouds building to the west and it was now that they were mostly all over, I had a play with the Rosette, Flame, Horse head and M42 through the clouds before I decided to call it a night and go watch the final of the Darts instead Thoughts of the observer. This was the first real run out for the Chroma 5nm Ha filter and it could be co-incidence that I had several “best ever” views of some targets that I have visited many times and am familiar with but I don’t think so. It seems this filter is a step up on the Astronomik 6nm Ha filter. The Chroma filter works well with very low gain without scintillation and this allows the user to get the gain down to remove some of the overly bright features that may be disguising fainter darker features around them – I like it. The Horse head really came out as a black horse once I got the gain down but I need to do more experimentation without the clouds. I really enjoyed finally getting some mileage out of the “Flaming Star” which has never really blown my socks off. It really had depth and a 3D feel to it! I look forward to exploring that whole area next time out… The Chroma filter really made IC410 better as the central black areas were just there in direct vision, previously I have needed some averted to get into the blackness. And the spider IC417 was just “in your face”. I thought I had seen as much as I could from the Monkeys Head but apparently there was more to be seen and it really was a joy to suddenly encounter several new features. Wishing you a happy 2019 & clear skies, Alan
  21. 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
  22. 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
  23. I have started making changes to my eyepiece collection! Having sold some fantastic "modern" eyepieces (Televue Delos) recently, the postman has delivered me a couple of "old men", the Televue 55mm Plossl & Televue Panoptic 27mm (seen pictured with the Televue Panoptic 35mm that I acquired a couple of weeks back). These "old dudes" are about to "have their day" once again when I get up & running with "Night Vision" later in the year... - the 55mm plossl will act as a 0.5x reducer (speeding up big dob to f1.9) - the 35mm Panoptic will act as a 0.7x reducer (speeding up big dob to f3) I decided to jump on a 27mm Panoptic as an alternative to "buying a Dioptrx adapter for my 24mm Panoptic" and I gain 4mm of eye relief in the process. - Eye relief is important as you have to get the image up to the objective lens of the image intensifier tube - I am assuming that the fast light cone of big dob will be better served with 2" eyepieces so I have stayed away from the 1.25" plossls for that reason (and the fact that a chunky 2" is easier to handle in the dark with gloves etc) Further up the power scale, I have recently sold two fantastic Panoptic 19mm eyepieces, which I have replaced with two DeLite 18.2mm (for the 20mm eye relief that the Night Vision needs plus they accept Dioptrx which is needed for the Televue TNVC Afocal adapter to attach to). A couple of "young guns" to keep the "old men" company! More to follow... Alan
  24. Date: Sat 9th June 0020-0215 Scope: Borg 89ED f6.7 (fl 600mm) on SkyTee-2. Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS. Eyepieces: 55mm (f3.2 x11), 35mm (f5 x17) Filters: Astronomik 6nm Ha CCD. Introduction We are now into June and up here in Penrith that means no darkness and about an hour of “deep dusk” before the sky brightens once again from 2am onwards. To the North the sky never goes dark at all. This creates about a 2-hour observing slot where at least I can see the main constellation stars to enable me to use the red dot finder to align the scope to something in the sky. Start Low… I had the 55mm Plossl and 6nm Ha CCD filter loaded together with my PVS-14 Night Vision Device (NVD) attached to the eyepiece with the TNVC/Televue afocal astronomy adapter. This turns my Borg into an f3.2 scope with a magnification of x11. The NVD provides a 40 degree field of view (fov). I’ve had three sessions on Sagittarius since late May and last night after an initial alignment on Antares and a pan around the low summer targets (Lagoon, Triffid, Swan, Eagle) revealing that wet sky conditions low down were rendering the view inferior to previous sessions, we had had heavy rain around 4pm and the sky still remained in a wet state. …Then Aim High! I decided to re-align to a new target area of the Milky Way around Cygnus (higher in the sky). I used the red dot finder to align to Deneb and started to move down using the SkyTee-2 slow-mo controls until I found the North American nebula which was bright and showing its whole structure. It was just slightly bigger that the fov of the eyepiece so I had to use the manual controls to investigate. I discovered a whole wispy section moving off the north side of the nebula that I did not know was there. Having spent many years looking at these targets with much larger scopes, it’s hard to really comprehend how easily they are seen with tiny aperture when you add Night Vision and a decent Ha CCD filter into the equation. Sitting to the left of the North American was the Pelican, the vertical streak of its “beak” was clearly visible alongside two other straight sections, and it looked like an “F” rotated at 45 degrees to the right. There was plenty more nebulosity on view but this basic “F” shape kept catching my eye. At the edge of the fov I could see a curvy section just off to the left of the Pelican (IC 5068) and centred it to observe it. IC 5068 appeared brighter than the Pelican and seemed to make the shape of an “opened palm of a hand that was holding the Pelican in place in the sky” Next, I opened the clutches of the SkyTee-2 and changed to “nudging” the scope by hand to see what other shapes I could “discover”... Below the North American, I bumped into a “backward C shaped nebula” (near 68 Cyg) which was almost large enough to fill the fov (Sh2-119). This nebula was less clear than the others observed so far but still easy to see. I headed back to Deneb to start a pass into Cygnus. As I found Deneb, I immediately noticed three spread out patches of nebulosity, two were small and circular while the third was a longer streak of nebula (Sh2-115 & Sh2-112). I panned right into Cygnus. Wow, there is just so much nebula! I ended up doing a “grid sweep” style manoeuvre with the scope as I panned and stepped my way down through the Cygnus region. The star attraction was the thick black lane section around Sadr which was bright and beautiful. But there was so much more nebulosity than “just this Sadr bit!” The clouds of shape was varying in brightness and density and the size of the area covered was HUGE. Sh2-108 stood out brightly. At one point I happened upon the Crescent nebula, it was pretty small but bright and showing the full curve (at x11) around three bright stars. Now it was time to head left over to the Elephant Trunk and Sh2-131. I returned to the North American nebula first then used this to get my height correct as I panned left and eventually straight into the sh2-131 nebula. It appeared as a large fuzzy “brain” to fill the whole fov. The centre section was much harder to see and appeared as a “dark hole within the surrounding fuzz”. I could see several black lanes coming and going within the nebulosity and used the nearby Garnet star to try to orientate myself with Sky Safari. I do not believe that I saw the Elephant trunk within the nebula but there was plenty of darker “black bits” at other locations within sh2-131 (using a mirror diagonal was also adding confusion to my brain! [I hope to get it later in the season when I get the 20” mirror and NVD onto this target] I panned up from sh2-131 looking for Sh2-129 (Bat wing nebula). It was easily located but was pretty faint compared to some of the other nebula that I had picked out so far. I panned down from IC1396 and located Sh2-132 which appeared as a bright patch of nebulosity. A quick look at Sky Safari revealed that the Cave was nearby so I used Sh2-132 as a marker to pan left over to the Cave (sh2-155) and soon bumped into it. I have never seen the Cave region with such low magnification before so the view was hard to recognise! The nebula was a nice size within the fov but there was so much nebulosity that I found it hard to see “just the usual bright bit”. There was a “clear dark side” to the nebula but the nebulosity’s appearance was more of a “cloud” or “cauliflower”. I tried switching to the 35mm for more magnification but the loss of focal ratio caused some of the brightness to be lost. By now, it was starting to get light and the sky was brightening, I decided to head for the Bubble nebula. I can only imagine how tiny it must be at x11 as I never managed to locate it! It was time to pack up. I returned to my eye piece box to discover standing water on top, the dew was really bad! Sky Safari Flight Path Here are some screenshots from Sky Safari with my observing list highlighted Conclusions Writing this report has been a discovery in Sharpless objects! Most of those mentioned in the report are new to me and I have had to spend time using the internet just to find the names for the objects that I observed. It is clear that there must be very few nebula beyond the reach of NV (if they have a Ha component that is) and I am looking forward to getting my big dob onto some of these tiny faint Sharpless objects (for some increased NV magnification). However, it seems Sky Safari do not expect anyone to see these objects as it’s been a real pain to find the names this morning. Looks like I need to “search” for each Sharpless in turn and add them to an observing list to get Sky Safari to show them, a job for the next rainy day. Clear Skies, Alan
  25. Night Vision Devices are now being used with telescopes to increase the image brightness and detail available to the user at the eyepiece. They seem to be a revolution when it comes to Ha nebula! - Thanks to @GavStar for opening my eyes to this emerging art of "Black Ops Astronomy" with his revealing phone images of bright nebula from central London. I decided that I wanted to give this a try especially as I own a very fast focal ratio dobsonian. Two main factors were forefront in my mind - the latest night vision technology is very expensive - guidance of "experienced" people in this domain is vital So, I have done plenty of research over on cloudynights.com (our US based friends are well ahead of us in this arena!) https://www.cloudynights.com/forum/73-eaa-observation-and-equipment/ (Look for posts tagged "NV") I found useful information on Mike Lockwood's site and yet more images to build my desire! http://www.loptics.com/articles/nightvision/nightvision.html I also communicated directly with Reimer at ActInBlack to tap into his knowledge of night vision as to what "specification" I should be looking at for my planned astronomy purposes... https://www.actinblack.com/faq/image-intensifier-tubes/ There are two main areas to decide upon: - the night vision device (NVD) - the image intensifier tube (which is fitted inside the NVD) This post will stick to the image intensifier tube. -The NVD for me had to be the PVS-14 as I will be doing "afocal" observing using my Televue eyepieces and additional TNVC Televue adapter (which allows a direct connection of the PVS-14 NVD to the Televue Dioptrx connection on Televue eyepieces). http://www.televue.com/engine/TV3b_page.asp?id=36 (The topic of "afocal" observing is covered in a separate post, * LINK AT BOTTOM OF ARTICLE *) https://www.actinblack.com/product/act-pvs-14/ https://tnvc.com/shop/tele-vue-tnvc-night-vision-afocal-astronomy-adapter/ The above is somewhat "simple" compared to the wonderful world of image intensifier tube terminology! If you are based in Europe then you MUST BUY your image intensifier from countries other than the USA (its illegal to export image intensifier tubes out of the USA). Its even illegal for a US citizen to let a non-US citizen look through their NVD should they be in the USA visiting a friend !!! Luckily, Photonis (France & Netherlands) make first rate image intensifier tubes (also Harder Digital in Germany) which can be purchased safely and without restriction from non-US based suppliers (such as ActinBlack based in Luxembourg). Here is an example spec sheet for an image intensifier tube What is that all about? Here are the main things for Astronomers to look for on a spec sheet... Figure of Merit (FOM) Image Intensification tube specification designation, calculated on line pair per mm x signal to noise. (FOM=Resolution * SNR) -over 1800 is good, over 2100 is great (the higher the FOM then the higher the price ) Signal to noise ratio (SNR) Describes how well faint signal may be distinguished from the scintillation noise floor of the device. This metric is particularly relevant to the performance of the device in the "photon starvation" regime of tight narrowband filtration or very slow optics. I quote " Because SNR is directly related to the photocathodes sensitivity and also accounts for phosphor efficiency and MCP operating voltage, it is the best single indicator of an image intensifiers performance". -High S/N - 30 is excellent, 25 is good, 16 is probably bordering unusable Resolution Measured in line pairs per millimeter, this specification describes the finest spatial frequency that can be reproduced or represented on the phosphor screen of the intensifier. Higher resolution will reveal finer details and tighter, sharper star images, particularly when operating at 1x. -High resolution - 64lp/mm or better Equivalent background illumination (EBI) Describes the contrast potential of the tube. EBI describes how dark the "black point" of the phosphor screen can be (at a standard temperature) when no light is hitting the photocathode. I believe that this metric describes how well dark features, such as dust lanes, will be seen to "stand out" (in terms of contrast) from a more illuminated background. -Low EBI - less than 1.0 desirable, less than 2.5 is mil-spec on a lot of tubes. Luckily Photonis tubes specs have a maximum of 0.25 (But you need to multiply the quoted value by x10, so 0.04 becomes 0.4 in the case of the spec above) Luminance gain Describes the degree of light amplification that the tube is capable of when operating at full gain. I believe that this is rated in electrons. Gain is measured at different wavelength, but a "standard" seems to be 2x10^-6. -A value of around 35000 would be nice in a 4G (multiply the Photonis quoted spec value by “Pi”). A tube with a gain of 35,000 means that a single electron generated at the photocathode results in a cascade of 35k electrons striking the phosphor screen. HALO This is very critical as you want to see the object and not the HALO! -Low halo - less than 1.0 desirable Finally, we have the murky world of "dark spots". All tubes have dark spots! The number of spots, size & location of those spots are a critical measure during quality control and the tubes with fewer & smaller spots in the more central zones are more expensive (surprise surprise!). The 18mm objective is split into three zones: and a spot report is produced. Here is a spot report for a batch of Photonis INTENS tubes which my tube was picked from... After all that, I went for a "Photonis 4g INTENS" white phosphor intensfier tube and my device is due for delivery on Tuesday (Its arrived. Here is the inside of my garage in the dark!) Hope this is helpful to others considering "Black Ops Astronomy", Alan Some other pages that may be of interest...
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