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Hello, For those that don't know I am very green when it comes to star gazing. However, I have a great enthusiasm to try and bumble my way across the sky and see if I can stumble across something whether accidentally or intentionally. So my session on 12th September 2018 started out like all my 5 previous sessions started, collimating unnecessarily and checking the weather looking for a gap in the clouds. I got lucky, there was a window between 9 and 11 shown on the app, it actually turned out better than the app initially suggested which goes to show that even when we know a lot we don't always get it right. I placed my 200p dob outside 30 mins before at 830, went back in and started planning my session. I was determined to finally find M13, I haven't seen it yet, and in all my previous sessions I have dedicated almost an hour in each one to unsuccessfully finding it. I made a list of some others in my app including the double cluster in Perseus. I went outside, popped the dob on my shoulder and walked about 50 m to the bottom of my garden to a spot that provides the best views of the night sky. I sat down and got ready. The sky at this point was still in that end of twilight period where it's not yet fully dark but some of the brighter stars are beginning to show up. Not to worry I thought I'll get the finder scope on Vega and then gradually start working my way across to M13. So the way I do this is to make sure I'm at a place in the sky I know, like Vega, and then gradually looking through the finder scope star hop slowly matching the constellations I see with my sky safari app. I'm painstakingly working my way toward M13 and it's slow work, 20 minutes later I'm still there moving my telescope cm by cm. Through my finder scope I see a fuzzy glow. Strange, I thought to myself, it's what I thought M13 should look like but not where I thought M13 was supposed to be. Not really caring too much what it was I dived onto my 21mm lens and had a look through. It was a site to behold, the more I looked the more I could see. The density of stars was spectacular, I loved being able to stare into the middle and try pick out individual ones. This for me was a big moment because deep sky wise I have only ever been able to see Andromeda, with my star gazing confined to lunar and planetary. I checked my app, and discovered that I had stumbled onto M92, not purposefully but accidentally because it was on the way to M13. What's that saying about destination and journey? I got back down to my telescope to carry on my quest. Unfortunately I Knocked the telescope with a wayward elbow and went out of position. Not having the heart or resolve to carry on I decided to try a different target. So M13 remains to be ticked off for now. Onto the double cluster. This was a comparable walk in the park to find. Finding it only 15 minutes. I first started trying to find the W in the sky and I was going to work my way down. I struggled. I probably saw one of the stars from cassiopeia plenty of times through the finder scope but because it is so dense there I never really know for sure if its one of them or something else. I opted to approach it from the bottom. Mirfak is much easier for my to find so I started from there, and very quickly worked my way up to the double cluster. Again I was amazed, the view was spectacular, the stars looked crisp and I was really happy with the variety of stars I could see. I could make out some reds which was really cool. Lens wise, I was using a Baader Hyperion 68 Degree 21mm Eyepiece, the FOV was just about perfect, and the brightness was where I wanted to be. Here is where I started experimenting, I thought I would try out my 9mm Takahashi Abbe Orthoscopic eyepiece. I thought I would magnify onto one of the clusters and see them one at a time. I was disappointed, the brightness was less and I found the image I was seeing a lot less crisp. I don't know but I assume that such eyepieces are for mainly planetary observing. I popped back in my other eyepiece and carried on observing. By this point I was happy, and also cocksure. I thought i'll go tackle a Nebula next. I saw that the soul nebula was nearby and listed as a bright nebula, which made me think there was a chance I could see it. I failed miserably even with being in the right place with the right FOV and an Olll filter I couldn't see anything. Not too sure why, I just assume that nebula's are tough to see. I finished off going back to Andromeda in a way a child hood sweetheart of mine being the first deep sky object I ever found. I gazed at it's fuzzy obscure shape and reflected on my session "How far have I come, and how much further have I got to go." Attached are some really poor quality photos I took on my smartphone of the double cluster. They are incidentally some of the first images I have ever captured of the universe. Who knows I might be better in a years time, or I might not! Thanks and good luck with your observing, Shaan
Last night the skies were mostly clear, but the devils orb was high and bright . I checked the weather forecast and it was showing a mixed bag all night. I had a decision to make? (a) Take 2 hours now (with the moon) maybe some doubles or (b) go to bed and come out when the moon had gone home for the night? - -Whilst watching an old episode of Prime Suspect, I pondered my quandary… Then, decision made = go to bed and GAMBLE! Set the alarm for 3-30am and off to bed I went... I awoke at 2-50, scanned the room for moon light, not too bad so up I get & head downstairs to check outside… - -Oh, it’s gloomy. Only the main constellation stars are visible and there is a misty low cloud. - -Well I’m up now, I can give it 30mins (ever the optimist!)… Twenty minutes later, another check… - -There are more stars than before - -Seems less low cloud - -I’ll give it another 10 minutes… Repeat the check, things are definitely improving, so I decide to get all my warm gear on and waste no more time sitting around. Ten minutes later, I’m ready to head outside. I open the door and… its clearer still so “here we go”… Into the shed, setup the CPC1100. Choose the Ethos21 and plug in the eyepiece heater along with the double heater tapes on the CPC. Brrr, it’s cold. Give up with the fingerless gloves and straight to the full gloves – that’s better! Slid open the roof to absolute silence – you can’t beat the middle of the night, it’s so quiet and very few lights I’m pleased to say! - - Had a nervous peep as the roof slid open, it wouldn’t be the first time that it clouds over while I am setting up. But No, it’s still good out there… Fired up the starsense, and had a look around while it did its magic! - - Leo looks well placed. I’ve got the Plough overhead. Alignment complete. Scope’s ready! With the plough above, there can be only one first target… 11. M51 Whirlpool Scope slews around, I move my chair into position and wait… Well, there it is (dead centre of course), two spiral arms on show (with some staring and imagination of course – my eye’s not “in” yet). No bridge visible, maybe I’ll return later 22. M101 One of my favourites since I moved to Cumbria. A hopeless target from my old house, but now… There she is, big and round (No, not the wife!). Two nice clumpy bits (that I’ve seen before). No definable arms but plenty to look at as I take my time and slew around nice & slow, taking in some of the details I can tease out. If the sky stays with me then I’ll be back for another look later (he hopes) 33. M108 Another galaxy that “used to be” crap! Now, its another story, it seems bigger than I remember and bright too. Happy with that, I am! 44. M82 A favourite of mine (since the supernova a few years back). The core was very bright and the length was impressive too (or so I thought…) 55. M81 obvious next target This used to be M82’s poor neighbour, but from my new house it can give M82 a run for it’s money! Not always though!. This morning however, its good – big and round – bigger than the last time (29Jan) The E21 didn’t split the smaller pair in the double double (unlike last time), close but not quite. 66. 4631 Whale glx I have not managed to get to the whale so far this year, so I had it in my mind, get in there early before I forget. It’s a great galaxy. Fills the FOV (bigger the M82 for example) and takes some time to have a good look around. Great! 77. 4565 needle glx I was here in January but the view was not the best. Bam! Tonight it IS a needle across the E21 wide FOV. Definite highlight of the morning. Don’t think I’ve seen it this good before! 88. More galaxies close by M64 (no black eye) & 4559 99. M85+4394 I double take, is that a supernova in M85? Quick, grab the ipad… [removed word], there it is, “a field star”. Never mind, M85 sure looks good sitting there with it’s buddy NGC4394 sitting nearby 110. Sky is getting darker now, I go lower into Markarian’s chain, type M84 into the handset… Right, I look into the eyepiece and the thought “where have all these galaxies come from” enters my mind. 1,2,3,4,5 wasn’t expecting that. Of course, this is my first trip into the chain with a 100 degree eyepiece… Well, it was then as I pan right and up through the chain, galaxy after galaxy. My notes say “M84-> 4-> 3-> 2->1->2”, that’s 13 galaxies. I even got lost at one point as I spotted a big galaxy in the top corner of the eyepiece, went up to have a look and found some more. Had to slew back to M84 and start again *** Now, I see why we need 100 degree eyepieces *** 111. Onto M88, M89, M90, M99 & a nice pair 4550&4551 I’m starting to feel cold now. My toes are “on the brink” but push on… Trying not to think about the skies but thanking the man upstairs for sticking with my plan to get out early! I glance over the side of the shed wall and it’s “Hello Cygnus”, “Hello Milky Way” – conditions have really improved 112. Revisit M51 & M101 Now my eye is “in”, got to go back for another look… M51 had improved. The dark areas in between the dust lanes were much blacker, helping the lanes to stand out. The bridge was in and out but a glimpse is a glimpse is a glimpse! M101 was about the same, couldn’t tease anything extra out of her. 113. On we go! I can sense the oncoming of the light so stay up high with 4244 silver needle glx Very nice indeed. Very long side on galaxy. Not as bright as the needle but I’m not complaining 114. 4490&4485 Cocoon glx’s Two galaxies in the process of merging. One big, one small. They are interesting to view as you ponder the fact that they are distorting each other out of shape as they come around to pass through each other for the second time (according to sky safari!) 115. M63, Bright core and surrounding disk too. 116. M13 globular cluster I’m in the vicinity, & not tried either of the Ethos on it yet so lets give it a go... E21, its lovely and bright. Stars to the core but she will take more power… E13, that’s better. A lovely sight, now “I can see stars”! -- M51 & Ethos13 I wonder? The E13 is in, what would M51 look like at over x200? Only one way to find out. Slew over... M51 fills pretty much the full FOV. I can see spirals but not clearly. It’s hard to draw a clear conclusion. It was a big view but I am not sure it was better than the E21. -- Let’s try M82… over we go. Similar, its bigger but not much better. Closer to the E21 view this time… I need to experiment more. Maybe an E17 would have been the killer view (but I don’t own one of those?) ** My new scope will be 2000mm focal length so the E13 should drop right into the killer view zone, I’ll have to be patient and wait another month ** 117. Nearly finished now, time for M102 spindle (not viewed this too often) It was small & bright. Not really a spindle. Light is coming now, so time for the finale … Jupiter. 118. Jupiter This is my third attempt of 2017, two previous goes were rubbish. Conditions were better and I could at least get a decent focus on the planet with the E21. (E13 was too much for it). I bunged in the Baader Neodymium Filter (which I find useful on planets) and was able to tease out some blue bits in the banding BUT its pretty thin pickings compared to previous years. I had a plan to watch the GRS but my feet are now cold and the view wasn’t promising enough to keep me out there so time to pack up had come. It was 6-00am, I had a bonus two and half hours of galaxy heaven Markarian’s chain was the highlight for sure I slid the roof shut to the sound of breaking ice on the roof tracks confirming what my toes were telling me – it was cold. Switched the lights on. The dew shield and Borg89 (that rides on top) were thick with ice. More ice than the 27Jan report! I left one layer of clothes on and got into bed. I was very cold and it took quite a while before I started to warm up! I hope the weather god’s continue to show mercy as we move into the best time of the year (according to me) – Galaxy season! ** Got news last week that my new 20” mirror is completed and has gone off for coatings. Fingers crossed, I will get to re-tread these steps before this great season is passed. Should be something to savour Hope you enjoyed it, Alan