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I'm just warming up with a bowl of cereal, (DOH!) and a cup of tea having had probably my best ever deep sky session from home. I'm always complaining about how bad my skies are, but actually I think they've improved since the new streetlights were fitted. Although it doesn't look great out there tonight, the SQM measured at between 19.05 and 19.23, again my best ever reading at home. Previously 18.5 to 18.7 were about as good as it got. EDIT Further reading of 19.28 later on. I had the Tak out looking at Jupiter from quite early on, while it was still light, something I still find amazing. The seeing wasn't brilliant so I mainly switched to the Portaball on the EQ Platform and have had a....... well if it's not too corny I've had a 'ball! I'm really enjoying the scope, and the platform just makes life so much easier. Although not perfectly aligned, it's still good enough to track objects for quite a period, and having faint objects remaining in the field of view whilst you change eyepieces is really useful. Starting off with M51 again, I settled on a winning combination which was the 24mm Panoptic as a widefield/finder and the Docter 12.5mm for closer observing. This gives around a 2.2mm exit pupil and works very well. I could potentially go a little higher but didn't tonight. Regardless, M51 looked impressive given that it was not yet fully dark. Likewise M3 was lovely in the PB, resolving into a ball of stars with averted vision. M81 and 82 were a little better than the other night, particularly in the 12.5mm M82 showed some very nice structure. The tiny double near M81 was an added bonus, as was NGC 3077 which I have never been able to get here before. Careful identification of the star field pinned it down though, a faint round glow. M97 was also a little better than my previous view, a little more definition. I tried various filters on this PN. The OIII was best, but both the UHC and the NPB did a good job on it too. It was all but invisible without a filter. Interestingly, the NPB did not give me the double star effect I had seen previously and I was very pleased with the performance on both stars and the nebula, despite PNs not being its intended target really. Back to the triplet in Leo, I was determined to get the third Galaxy, and am confident that I did. It was tough going, needing averted vision and scope jiggling but I repeated it several times so I'm happy. Izar split nicely despite the seeing, although the view in the refractor still wins it for me, just perfect! M53 was a relatively easy find, but despite repeated attempts, NGC5053 was a fail. In theory I should have been able to get it at mag 9.5 and good surface brightness, but no luck. For Melotte 111 I used the BO triplet and 30mm ES eyepiece which framed it nicely. The ES seems good, the star images tail off in the outer regions a little but the overall impression is nice. Back to the PB, and up to the Black Eye Galaxy M64, again a relatively easy find and hints of the dust lane giving it the name. The Needle Galaxy took a lot more finding though. It didn't help that I could barely see Gamma Comae Berenices as a starting point, but again I got there eventually. It was a shadow of the view in my 16" at Lucksall in 2015 but rewarding to catch from home, the shape quite clear to see. Getting more adventurous now, I embarked on a star hop across to the Whale Galaxy. Using SkySafari to find my way, I was pretty chuffed to get it. Quite faint, and easily missed but definitely seen. Nearby NGC 4656 was a fail though. Back to M51, and another star hop across to M63 which was relatively bright but with no real structure to it, just the overall shape seen. Down to Cor Caroli and a short hop the M94, then to Chara to catch the Cacoon. More careful star hopping took me first to NGC4449, and then on to M106, both of which are firsts for me. Emboldened by my successes, I thought I would give the Virgo cluster a whirl. Starting at Rho Virginis, I hopped up to M87 which in itself wasn't bright, but I was amazed to also get NGC4478 which I shouldn't have been able to at mag 11.2. I can only assume higher surface brightness due to its small size? From 4478 I hopped across to NGC4461, on Markarian's chain. 4458 was a fail, too faint, but I went down to 4473 and 4477 successfully, before heading back through to the Eyes Galaxies 4435 and 4438 and finally to M86 and M84. NGC 4387 and 4388 were fails, too faint. I thought I might get 4388 at mag 11.1 given my success with NGC4478 but no. Surface brightness again? These were all pretty challenging and largely just were seen as classic fuzzy glows, but highly rewarding none the less from this site. Plenty more up there I could have gone after but tiredness and the cold were getting hard to ignore. Three final targets before bed. M57 which looked fabulous with the OIII filter in. The double double was nice in the PB, but nicer in the Tak, lovely stuff. The last surprise was Mars which just got itself into a position where I could get the Tak on it. Given the low elevation and proximity to houses, I was surprised by the detail seen. Polar cap, and two large areas of dark markings which matched the view on SkySafari. A great way to finish an excellent session, my best ever at home. I shall spend more time in future exploring the Virgo cluster as there were plenty of visible galaxies which I missed. Thanks for sticking with me if you got this far!! Stu EDIT How could I forget M13 which was fabulous, and M92 just a little less fabulous but still great. In accordance with tradition, I tried and failed to split Zeta Herc!
Here is my little report from SGL11, a bit of a combination of equipment commentary and observing report. Staying true to my current minimalist approach to observing (thanks guys ), I just had my Tak FC-100 and 8" Portaball with me. Last year I was armed with a 16" Sumerian, so I was interested to compare just how much I could see under a dark sky with so much less aperture. I managed to do a fair bit of observing each day apart from Saturday night really when it was clouded out. During the days, I did a nice amount of solar observing using the Tak with a Herschel Wedge and my TS binoviewers. On the Vixen GP mount the sun was tracked quite well even without polar aligning, and being able to pan around the surface using the motor drives without touching the scope was an excellent benefit over a manual alt az. Having never really got on with binoviewers before (this is my fourth pair), I'm delighted to say that I found the TS ones excellent. The self centering eyepiece holders were easy to use, as was the individual focusing and I had no problems merging the images even at higher powers. The sun took on a richer tone than single eye viewing, and when the seeing allowed, the detail was wonderful both in and around the active regions and also the surface granulation. Nice regions of faculae were visible in several places near the limb. As usual it was interesting to watch the sun over a period of a few days to watch how the features developed. Areas of faculae on the first day began to show small sun spots on subsequent days. The other revelation with the binoviewers was the moon. My floaters were much better controlled, and I did find viewing more relaxing than normal. The whole thing had a 3D feel to it and I felt like I was able to access more detail. The terminator was particularly lovely, and the contrast very strong. No false colour that I could see. I was using 25mm Ortho eyepieces and an AP Barcon to give higher magnification. I've got a pair of 15mm Vixen SLVs on the way so hopefully that will give me comfortable high power viewing. I do feel like I've found a great setup now. I will use the GP mount whenever I'm doing high power Lunar, Solar and planetary viewing. For everything else I will most likely use the Giro-WR as I find star hopping much easier in alt az. Onto night time observing... Until Sunday, my main viewing was of Jupiter due to the conditions. I used both the Tak and the Portaball and it was interesting to compare the views. The Tak was reliably good all the time. The image was stable and sharp with good detail at all times which got better when the seeing stabilized. With the Portaball, the view was more variable with the seeing. When poor, the view was blurry and worse than the Tak, but when the seeing was excellent, the resolution was clearly higher and there was lovely colour and detail visible. GRS was visible on all three nights I observed and showed a lovely dark orange colour to it with separation from the SEB. Not quite as good as the views a few weeks back but none too shabby. Finally DSOs. On the previous nights I had a quick scoot around a few of the more obvious objects. M42 looked lovely but I was only able to get hints of the E star in the trapezium due to the variable seeing. I did use my 22x85 binos on it too, with UHC and OIII filters fitted, with very good results. On the Induro tripod they can be positioned very comfortably at all altitudes including at the zenith due to the height capability of the tripod. I'm now keeping this one! On Sunday night once the moon had gone down I managed to get stuck into quite a wide range of objects. The seeing was fairly average, and the transparency not the best I've seen, but at mag 21.3 at the zenith the sky was probably as dark as I've been under with a scope of any significant aperture. I've listed all the objects I noted in SkySafari at the end. It's not an exhaustive list as I saw quite a few more galaxies and open clusters than this but was not able to identify them all. I'll just comment on a few notables here. I mostly observed with the 24mm Panoptic which gave x46 with a 4.3mm exit pupil and a 1.4 degree field of view. For higher powers I used the zoom giving anything from x61 to x123. M51 looked surprisingly bright, nicely defined haloes around the central cores of the two galaxies, and signs of the bridge between the two. I would only say there were hints of structure, I wouldn't go as far as to say I could see the spiral arms but it was very nice none the less. M101 was plainly visible, easy to find but just appeared as a large oval glow with a bright centre. No structure unlike with the 16" last year. M97 and M108 looked lovely framed in the same field together. At higher powers M97 showed hints of structure but no clear 'eyes' which I assume was down to the transparency. M108 showed some nice mottling to it. NGC 457 was as fun as ever, very nice in the 8", whilst NGC 2169 (the 37 cluster) was also a delight. The tiny double in the corner of the '3' was nicely resolved, lovely to see. I did see the 'black eye' in M64 though not as obvious as I've seen before, and M63 was just a fairly featureless oval, no hints of structure. Likewise whilst I found all three parts to the Leo triplet, I could not say they were particularly bright. It's possible of course that my secondary was misting up/freezing for some of these targets. I tried to keep it clear but was not always successful. The Needle Galaxy was a very interesting comparison with the 16" last year. In the larger scope it was very bright, and the 'needles' extending out were very long and obvious, extending further with averted vision. In the 8", the galaxy itself and the arms were clear, but a shadow of the view in the 16". Still, it's nice to know I can be hitting these targets with a scope that is easily transportable on holiday and to dark sites. The last thing I'll ramble on about is Markarian's Chain. Again, I had spectacular views of this in the 16" last year so I was interested to see if I could find it in the 8". Of course, I could, and was pleasantly surprised by the views. Quite clear and I was able to trace the chain of galaxies all the way along. I hopped around the area identifying some galaxies by following it in SkySafari, then getting lost after a while and just panning around enjoying the view. I'm very pleased with the Portaball. Lovely views in a scope which is so easy to transport and assemble/break down. I've got some work to do checking out whether the secondary heater is working as the secondary was freezing up so frequently but aside from that it's all good. I was observing stars down to mag 14.47 (that I noted, probably beyond), and galaxies down to mag 12.07, again possibly beyond this in some of the unidentified galaxies. Last year I got a galaxy at mag 14.2 if I remember correctly which shows an indication of the differing capabilities of the scopes. An excellent four days, finishing with a pretty spectacular nights observing and a lovely full English breakfast in the morning before heading home List: SGL11 Owl Cluster - NGC 457 (Open Cluster in Cassiopeia) Double Cluster - NGC 869 (Open Cluster in Perseus) Chi Persei - NGC 884 (Open Cluster in Perseus) Polaris - Alpha UMi (Variable Double Star in Ursa Minor) Pleiades - M 45 (Open Cluster in Taurus) NGC 1502 (Open Cluster in Camelopardalis) Rigel - Beta Ori (Variable Double Star in Orion) NGC 1907 (Open Cluster in Auriga) Starfish Cluster - M 38 (Open Cluster in Auriga) Orion Nebula - M 42 (Bright Nebula in Orion) Messier 43 (Bright Nebula in Orion) Alnitak - Zeta Ori (Double Star in Orion) NGC 2169 (Open Cluster in Orion) Castor - Alpha Gem (Double Star in Gemini) Beehive Cluster - M 44 (Open Cluster in Cancer) Messier 67 (Open Cluster in Cancer) Bode's Nebulae - M 81 (Spiral Galaxy in Ursa Major) Bode's Nebulae - M 82 (Spiral Galaxy in Ursa Major) Algieba - Gamma1 Leo (Double Star in Leo) Messier 95 (Spiral Galaxy in Leo) Messier 96 (Spiral Galaxy in Leo) Messier 105 (Elliptical Galaxy in Leo) NGC 3384 (Elliptical Galaxy in Leo) NGC 3373 (Spiral Galaxy in Leo) Messier 108 (Spiral Galaxy in Ursa Major) Owl Nebula - M 97 (Planetary Nebula in Ursa Major) Messier 65 (Spiral Galaxy in Leo) Messier 66 (Spiral Galaxy in Leo) NGC 3628 (Spiral Galaxy in Leo) NGC 3631 (Spiral Galaxy in Ursa Major) NGC 3953 (Spiral Galaxy in Ursa Major) Messier 109 (Spiral Galaxy in Ursa Major) GSCII 984 (Star in Ursa Major) Markarian's Chain - M 84 (Elliptical Galaxy in Virgo) Melotte 111 (Open Cluster in Coma Berenices) NGC 4387 (Elliptical Galaxy in Virgo) NGC 4388 (Spiral Galaxy in Virgo) Markarian's Chain - M 86 (Elliptical Galaxy in Virgo) Eyes Galaxies - NGC 4435 (Spiral Galaxy in Virgo) Eyes Galaxies - NGC 4438 (Spiral Galaxy in Virgo) Markarian's Chain - NGC 4458 (Elliptical Galaxy in Virgo) NGC 4459 (Spiral Galaxy in Coma Berenices) Markarian's Chain - NGC 4461 (Spiral Galaxy in Virgo) Markarian's Chain - NGC 4473 (Elliptical Galaxy in Coma Berenices) NGC 4474 (Spiral Galaxy in Coma Berenices) Markarian's Chain - NGC 4477 (Spiral Galaxy in Coma Berenices) Messier 88 (Spiral Galaxy in Coma Berenices) Needle Galaxy - NGC 4565 (Spiral Galaxy in Coma Berenices) Whale Galaxy - NGC 4631 (Spiral Galaxy in Canes Venatici) NGC 4656 (Spiral Galaxy in Canes Venatici) Black Eye Galaxy - M 64 (Spiral Galaxy in Coma Berenices) Messier 53 (Globular Cluster in Coma Berenices) Sunflower Galaxy - M 63 (Spiral Galaxy in Canes Venatici) Whirlpool Galaxy - M 51 (Spiral Galaxy in Canes Venatici) NGC 5195 (Spiral Galaxy in Canes Venatici) Messier 3 (Globular Cluster in Canes Venatici) Izar - Epsilon Boo (Double Star in Bootes) Hercules Cluster - M 13 (Globular Cluster in Hercules) Messier 92 (Globular Cluster in Hercules) Vega - Alpha Lyr (Variable Double Star in Lyra) Double Double - Epsilon1 Lyr (Double Star in Lyra) Ring Nebula - M 57 (Planetary Nebula in Lyra)
This is a really frustrating situation having only just recently acquired the Portaball and being very pleased with it. Problem is, I've just had a final diagnosis on my back, and it is pretty shot so I need to stop lifting heavy things. The whole point of the Portaball was for me to take it away to dark sites with me, but if I can't do that I would be better off with another type of scope. So, this is the f5.5 8" Portaball with a lovely Zambutto mirror in it. It has been completely refitted relatively recently with a new Upper Assembly complete with curved vane secondary support, integrated dew heater for the secondary and a Rigel finder. In the ball itself is a battery which can be recharged without removing it, and this powers a primary fan aswell as a boundary layer fan. The Rigel and secondary heater are also powered from the battery so the whole thing is self contained to take out to the field. The original helical focuser has also been replaced with a lovely FeatherTouch, 2" with 1.25" Adaptor. The alloy stand is new, and after some stiffness to start off with, the Teflon bearings have bedded in nicely. The motion is smooth and the eyepiece can be positioned exactly where you want it. When it was serviced, the ball was also weighted with lead shot bonded in place. This allows it to balance with any heavy eyepiece or binoviewers. It just stays where you put it. Problem is, that has made the base just that bit too heavy for me to deal with now so I need something lighter. The performance is excellent, the mirror is very smooth and has lovely contrast as seen by my haul of DSO goodies at SGLII and more recently at home, see my reports. At f5.5 there is very little noticeable coma even on widefield eyepieces. It comes with Zambutto documentation. Not a zygo report, but a serial number guarantee that the mirror meets Zambutto's legendary standards. It also comes with a large cardboard drum incase you ever need to ship the scope anywhere, the packaging for the mirror and instructions. There is even a rubber inner tube to stand the scope on when moving it around, it behaves much like a Weeble on it! I will leave the ad just on SGL for 5 days before putting on ABS. Looking for £1950 collected, happy to deliver up to 150 miles from Walton-on-Thames for diesel costs. Bank transfer or Paypal fees paid please. Any questions please ask, obviously inspection is welcome before purchasing. Cheers, Stu