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  1. Observing log 25/5/14 Andy and Damian, Lichfield. 'David Lukehurst' 222mm 4 Truss-Dobsonian Telescope with single spend MoonLite focuser. Takahashi TS102s triplet APO refractor on a Nova Hitch Alt/Az mount, latter on its first 'proper' night out after delivery from USA. The hand built CNC machined mount has slow-motion controls, integrated 8192 step encoders and a Sky Commander XP4 DSC (Digital Setting Circles) for Push-To operation. Tonight we were able to use this to aid pointing Andy's scope to various objects and compare the view in the two scopes - aided by using heated green lasers on both scopes. Damian also has an Astro Nevices NEXUS WiFi unit to connect the mount up to an iPad (instead of the Sky Commander unit), running (in our case), Sky Safari Pro 4, although tonight I used that for note taking, with Damian opting for the more traditional approach of Sky Commander in conjunction with his own modified (white stars on black); Michael Vlasov's 'Deep Sky Atlas'. This has been laminated and modified further with annotated/bright 'colour coded' stickers (Sasco Wall Planner ones!) to aid picking up on other targets when on a particular page. To keep trailing cables down to a minimum Damian has added a RavPower 15000mAh lithium polymer battery with a 12V output - £40 from Amazon. This is velcro attached underneath the Nova's built in 'Sky Commander tray'. With a 12V source (rather than a small 9V battery), it not only allows the 'SC' unit to run in hi-encoder mode so that encoder tics are not skipped if the scope/mount is inadvertently moved quickly but also powers a small LCD heater element to keep it functioning when the temperature drops. The Li-poly battery will also power the NEXUS device and re-charge an iPad/tablet as well if needed. He still uses though a tradition 12V 'power tank' to run his dew controller and straps. The one fitted to the scope was not required this evening, but the laser pointer/finder we find does require heat to keep it functioning effectively, even on milder nights… Whilst still setting up the Dob, Damian aligned his already levelled mount on two stars - firstly Polaris and then Arcturus, so that the Sky Commander knew where it was pointing. As he does not yet have an illuminated reticule eyepiece he used a combination of the Tak 7 x 50mm finder, 6mm Ethos and laser to get a fairly accurate alignment. As far as I am aware he never re-did the alignment all night (or re-synced on another star), yet every target we viewed was nearly centred throughout four hours of observing - a testament to the device and the orthogonality of the Nova Hitch plus the stability of the Berlebach Planet tripod that it all sits upon. Once done, he viewed a bright Mars in the 6mm Ethos (136x), just discerning two bright regions. He could have done with upping the magnification but by then I had the Dob set-up and was ready to go... After last months presentation where we discussed massive galaxies and despite the lateness of the 'season', Damian directed me to M87 in the Virgo Supercluster (appearing as a large amorphous blob), then onto NGC4435 and NGC4438, better known as 'The Eyes' in Markarian's Chain. Brightness mag 10.8 for 4435. From here I star hopped myself to M84 and M86 and M88 and a couple of other NGCs but the other galaxies more difficult to discern as they are now dropping down into the West and the murk of city lights. Even at this late hour (now past 11, the sky was not really dark, but in the UK we have to take observing opportunities as and when we can get them - and clear over a Bank Holiday weekend is something of a rarity! Damian now directed me to the 'Silver Needle Galaxy', NGC4244 in Canis Venatici (The Hunting Dogs). Just about visible in Takahashi TS102 by averted vision - would we have been comfortable confirming such an 'observation' if we didn't have the knowledge that the mount/DSCs were doing such a good job? In the DL Dob, it was visible by direct vision but still exceedingly faint. The Dob has four times light gathering of Tak, and roughly twice the focal length, meaning my 14mm ES 100 degree eyepiece was delivering 1600/14=115x magnification compared to Damian's 81x 1with his 10mm Ethos eyepiece. He opted to change to his 13mm Ethos at this point. Cor Caroli (THe Heart of Charles) was splendid viewed in the Tak showing vibrant colours. NGC 4485 and 4490 can be located next to the star Chara (the other bright star that makes up Canis Venatici), to the West of Cor Caroli. In the Tak, both galaxies were visible together as bright single galaxy, although just resolvable as two rather than one like a close double star. Looking much bigger and very bright in the DL scope, I remained convinced that the two cores could be discerned and that the proximity of two galaxies explained the apparent brightness, especially as they are listed as mag 11.89 on Sky a Safari 4. I agree with Damian, he did very well to 'find' such a dim galaxy pair in the four inch scope even with the help of DSCs! M94 in a Canes Venatici - bright in the Tak and VERY bright in the DL. Quoting Damian "the Tak on Nova Hitch makes a brilliant (if somewhat expensive) finder scope for the DL!" His shiny new Nova Hitch is really great. Worth all the wait. It looks amazing as well, like Damian has taken something out of the Millenium Falcon from Star Wars and brought it back down to Earth to help him look back at the stars!! I am very excited! I successfully star hoped to the galaxy M108 and the adjacent Owl Nebula M97 in Ursa Major, showing the two darker 'eyes' set within a bright circle - hence the name 'owl'. Then, in an about turn, Damian used his scope to confirm my finding, his laser pointing right at the target once the 'units' on the Sky Commander and counted down to it. He then took me to M106. This galaxy, also in Ursa Major, was significantly brighter and wider than M108, although about the same length. It's core was much brighter and hence a lot easier to see in the Tak than M108 had been. The Sky Commander helped us identify M101 also. Although this has very low surface brightness (not helped by a dark grey rather than black sky), my biggest problem is the star fields around it - not much difference in magnitude. The Tak did well to show the galaxy even with only four inches although more detail in the DL as we expected. I had a go at drawing M101. Just to East of Cor Caroli in a Canes Venatici, Damian found NGC 5005/Caldwell 29 and NGC 5003 which Damian felt was much fainter in his scope. Viewing through the refractor, and 13mm Ethos both were visible within in same field of view - separated by a faint star. In the DL Dob with it's longer focal length, I had to cross about two fields to see both. Again, easier to see in DL and although there was a brightness difference it wasn't so obvious as both pretty 'bright' in DL. In the Tak, I initially couldn't see the the fainter one until Damian helped me out. I'm glad he persisted as I was so happy when I saw it at last. Damian dropped straight down to the globular cluster M3 half way between Cor Caroli and Arcturus in Bootes. Compared to NGC 5003, this burnt our eyes out it was so bright! In the DL stars could be resolved well into the core. Wow! Typed M53 (a globular cluster at bottom Com Berenices) into the Sky Comander and again it appeared in the centre of the 13mm Ethos. Bigger and brighter in DL with stars resolved unlike the Tak, although it is worth bearing in mind we had both been using similar focal length eyepieces, so Damian's scope, at half the focal length of the Dob, doing it's best to 'compete' against the increased light collecting area of DL using a lower magnification/brightness and its better inherent contrast. Close by this is NGC 5053. Another faint globular cluster, but even with the Sky a Commander/laser pointer directing the DL, neither of us could see it. Shame! Just below Arcturus we observed in both scopes 'Picot 1', Napolean's Hat. A little asterism of seven bright stars that really does look like the hat he wore! It does not even appear on the search function in SkySafari 4 - something nice missing from their database. Damian tried looking for NGC 5466, another faint globular cluster, to the Northwest of Picot 1. It sits at a similar altitude to Izar and is between that star and M3....... but without success in either scope this time. At a recorded magnitude of 9.1, it should have been easy to spot...? We will have to return. NGC 5557 is a faint galaxy (mag 11.10) just off Seginus in Bootes. This time we were able to obverse the galaxy. Round in shape. Obvious in DL but boy was it faint in the Tak, needing patience and adverted vision. That make it even more puzzling why we didn't locate the previous target. Certainly the Sky Commander/Nova Hitch was aligned otherwise we never could have confirmed 5557's location. Damian's new observing chair, an ironing chair by Leifheit from Amazon did a great job - for less than £40 you can't go wrong! It collapses into easily portable and storable dimensions making it easy to transport in the car, it provided adjustable height and was quite stable. I have got to get one....actually I have already ordered it! Damian headed off to try and resolve the triple star system - Mu Boötis, better known perhaps as 'Alkalurops' in Bootes using his 6mm Ethos (136x) eyepiece on his scope. He found a beautiful close double with a blue and a white star. It was now 01:36 and there was an unusual site for our area - I could see all the stars of Ursa Minor by naked eye without difficulty. Demonstrating that the sky was now quite dark and more importantly transparent. M10 and M12 in Ophiuchus showed resolved stars in these bright globulars into the core. M5 in Serpens turned out, when we looked at it, to be a more compact globular cluster with a particularly bright core, and again stars could still be resolved well in towards the core structure. NGC 6058 in Hercules in a faint planetary nebula at magnitude 13.0 - even with the Sky Commander this was difficult to find and confirm! Required the additional help of Stellarium on my laptop to double check the starfield, but when we eventually found it with the 9mm Explore Scientific eyepiece in the DL it was obviously non-stellar - BUT it did require these high magnifications to show it as non-stellar object. The 9mm on the DL gives a magnification of 1600/9=155.5x. Damian could only see the faint star by it, at mag 13, the planetary nebula was beyond the limit of the refractor. We went looking for NGC 6207, a faint slash of a galaxy we saw in Hercules a week or so ago. This should have been easy given the sky conditions I described above. However it was only just visible and only then with Sky Commander showing the us the way and using the DL scope with 9mm eyepiece. No joy in the refractor. Looking at Ursa Minor we could see why. It was now 02:35 and high moisture levels in the sky had led to the obscuring of most of the stars of Ursa Minor. This time of year, in any case, the sky does not ever truly go dark. Backwards 5 asterism just off the keystone 'Star 23' in Damian's little asterism book he found online, looked so different in the two scopes as one is reflected compared to the other! In spite of this, the view of M13 with 9mm through the DL was simply stunning. A cross shape with masses of stars I just had to have a go at drawing it! Meanwhile, Damian found 'Markov 1', the mini-teapot asterism north-northwest of the star Xi Hercules, itself southeast of the keystone asterism. This did indeed looked like a mini version of the famous teapot in Sagittarius. We viewed it through the Tak. With a brightening sky we finished with old (relatively bright) friends: Firstly, M57, The Ring Nebula in Lyra - in the DL with 9mm this was very bright and large. clearly the ring itself was wavy around its circumference rather than an exact circle and the centre of the ring, although lighter than the circumference, was not as dark as the surrounding sky, reflecting the fact that this area is also filled with gas expelled from the central star. I could not observe the central star itself, not surprisingly considering it's extremely faint magnitude. The Tak offered the classic 'wide-field' view showing the polo mint residing in a fantastic starfield. Dumbbell Nebula, M27 - big in the DL! using the 9mm. Alberio -yellow primary, blue secondary at the head of 'The Swan', we've been out so late we're viewing late summer targets now! More colour in the Dob but not as sharp as the Tak, both well collimated tonight, although looking at double stars with 9mm shows you the fact that DL not as well collimated as the TSA. We called it a day at 03:02. Dawn starting to really lighten the sky in the east, stars and contrast disappearing and the Blackbirds starting to sing. Surprisingly two things we did not observe together we're Mars early in evening as behind a tree for me with the DL - plus we were more interested in galaxies at the time, and Saturn as it never got high enough to clear a bush at the side of Damian's garden! Forgot to re-visit Comet PanSTARRS too! A good half hours worth packing away - it's amazing just how much gear you accumulate over the years(!), then the customary whiskey and cheese and tomato on toast to finish (breakfast this time)! Thanks for reading, clear skies... Andy and Damian
  2. Lichfield observing session Sat 31st May - Sun 1st June 2014 Lovely crescent moon right over in the West around 10pm - grabbed the Nikon D3, 70-200mm f2.8 VRII and 1.4x teleconverter to grab a few shots hand held out of the upstairs window... see pic An unexpected clear spell, not what the forecast on BBC weather website had predicted at all! To go out or not? A decision not helped either by the fact we'd had a late session the previous night with the Rosliston Astronomy Group's May get-together and then a follow-on 'committee meeting'. On my own this evening too, as Andy was preparing for his 8 mile Sutton Fun Run the next day and it would be too late for him wait for the night to get dark enough to observe and then have enough sleep to do a run! Round 2 then for the new Nova Hitch alt/az, Berlebach Planet tripod, TSA-102s and Sky Commander XP4 DSCs Leveled and aligned on Polaris using the 6mm Ethos (136x mag), heated green laser pointer and Tak 7x50 illuminated finder scope. Then swung to Arcturus (as previous session) for the second alignment star - no need for a change as the pointing accuracy had been spot on previously... With the sky still 'bright' and the 6mm in the diagonal from alignment, I centred upon Mars, sinking slowly into the West and heading towards the branches of a large bush in the garden! Could make out some dark detailing edging the two bright polar regions and slightly brighter side edges. Swapped to 3.7mm SX Ethos (220x mag). Used a star roughly NE of Mars to nail focus. At first I wasn't too impressed with the view of this star as it looked at bit blurry (scope still cooling?). Then realised (as focus tweaked) it was a double with a nice clean split! Back to Mars. Single orange star to the lower left of the planet within the same FOV. Two bright polar regions with different shapes, the bottom being bigger but more shallow than the upper. Dark markings around both with a central column (Syrtis Major) rising from the lower dark 'collar' towards another dark band at the top, that appeared thicker to the left of centre. Also two bright semi-circular regions on opposing sides of the planet. All set with a large circular 'flare' in the centre of the eyepiece. With next months RAG presentation including a talk about sketching, I thought I'd better make a contribution, so produced a 15-20 minute sketch to record the observation! Switched out the 3.7mm in favour of the 13mm Ethos for Galaxy M94 (Mag 8.2) in Canes Venatici. Unfortunately sky still light. Galaxy visible with direct vision and circular in appearance. Bright central core, almost 'stellar' in a fuzzy kind of way and resembling a a faint globular cluster! Couple of stars to the left and right punctuate the FOV. Headed in a straight line towards star Alkaid (the first star in the 'handle' of The Plough), straight on M51. Very difficult. With extended viewing both cores could just be made out, no chance of the 'bridge' though. Another 'challenge' The Whale Galaxy at Mag 9.3, NGC 4631 / Caldwell 32, sits between Canes Venatici and Coma Berenices and is an edge-on spiral. Thankfully, Sky Commander and laser are doing their job again tonight so far... galaxy very, very faint using averted vision - need Andy and bigger scope here on this one! A diagonal slash noted with a big question mark on observing notes to check orientation of said diagonal - confirmed later via Starry Night Pro Plus 6. Much brighter is M63 The Sunflower Galaxy (mag 8.6), sitting back above Canes Venatici (yep, we're zig-zagging around the sky for some reason). Nothing of note to say. Perhaps a slightly extended shape with a brighter core region. Nestled up against a bright star to the left in the eyepiece. Bootes next and a re-visit of Alkalurops / Mu Bootis. Why? Well despite Andy's notes from the previous session stating a split of this star system I had remained unconvinced. This led to some research on the web to confirm my suspicions and a re-visit - more magnification needed. Checked alignment by flicking the laser on/off, bang-on! Fitted the 3.7mm Ethos and carefully checked focus. Alkalurops is blinding in a beautiful kind of way, shimmering within multiple diffraction rings courtesy of the triplets optics. Slight yellow hue. Beneath I could see the star 'u2 Bootis' split into it's component parts B and C. The fainter upper of the two looking slightly blue and the bottom one, possibly yellow? Produced a sketch. Down to Arcturus just for a look in the 3.7mm and then Picot 1 - Napoleon's Hat! Needs 13mm Ethos for FOV! Viewed this with Andy over the Bank Holiday and mentioned at May's Rosliston Astro Group presentation. In the 13mm, Arcturus is still in the field - shinning brightly with diffraction rings that resemble a star pattern. Made a quick sketch. Then over to the West (back to Coma Berenices!) and Globular Cluster M53 (Mag 7.7), perhaps a tad off centre after counting down the digits on the Sky Commander - still really pleased with the mount accuracy though - like GoTo, but without the motor noise distraction! Difficult to resolve any meaningful detail. An amorphous sphere with the hint of a 5/6 pointed 'star shape'. The odd star resolving in and out of vision in the outer regions and core - the faintest pin-[removed word] of light. Noted two stars to lower right at about 4 o'clock, another at a quarter past 6 and another just after 'nine'. Upper left around 10.30-11 o'clock sits a string of three bright stars that help frame and enhance the overall view. Just visible in Tak finder scope as well. Produced another sketch for June's presentation, time 12.45am - it is (1st) June! NGC 5466 Glob (mag 9.10). Same sort of height as Izar, West of Bootes, found on an arc towards M3. Just visible using averted vision - looked for it for nearly 10 minutes and used black shroud and still not sure... Noted that I could see a horizontal 'V' patch of very faint stars. Checked Stellarium later and can see these... is this the NGC...? Need bigger scope! Hercules and M13 - always a good target. Returned though after our failure last week to locate the faint galaxy NGC 6207. Mag 11.6 so pushing it somewhat in this sky. Got it though - thanks to the Sky Commander. It's above-right of M13 (around the 2 o'clock position), whereas it sits below right when viewing with the dob - confusing! Couple of bright stars beneath it in the field. Faintest of marks by direct vision and slightly elongated by averted. Now 1.15am and I'm pointing at the bottom right leg of Hercules - looking for 'Star 7', a Zig Zag asterism. Bit of a weird one (I just can't 'see it' that's all - the 'Zig Zag that is!), needs a bigger FOV than the 13mm offers though. Lower than I first thought, but perhaps that's just the 'tired operator' by now? Thankfully the Sky Commander has a RA and DEC readout, so I was able to use that to double check that I was actually on the target! Delve into Cygnus riding the Milky Way which is just visible... Centred upon star Sadr, the 'Heart of The Swan'. NGC 6910 is a lovely open cluster to the right in the same FOV - a sideways 'Rocking Horse' made up of 10 or so stars! In the upper wing sits the Planetary Nebula NGC 6826. It needs more magnification than the 13mm really (62x), but it is 'fuzzy' and blinks - from a star to halo and back again when switching to averted vision. A slight blue/turquoise look. Tried the Lumicon UHC filter - dims/deletes stars and makes brighter ones bright green - yuck! As for the planetary... more fuzzy, less 'blinky' and I can't see the green laser beam through it either when I decide to double check how good my alignment is! Drop down to the pretty little open cluster NGC6866, NE of Sadr. Jeremy Perez sees a bird, Stellarium calls it The Cooling Tower (from a power station I presume)... as for me.... 'quite sparse, slightly elongated arch of stars in the shape of a letter 'Y', having two strings of stars at the top and another at the bottom - resembling a sparse globular', oh well...! Looked for The Veil (Witches' Broom part), nothing - blamed it on the dark grey sky... Instead, headed a few degrees west to another summer favourite - NGC6940. A large and fairly 'flat' looking open cluster that fills a quarter of the field in the 13mm. Peppered with a few brighter stars running horizontally through the field. The Coathanger asterism (Cr399) next, between Vulpecula and Sagitta and always brings a smile. Only just fits into 13mm so not very 'coathangery' tonight! M29 Southwest of Sadr - a sparse/compact open cluster made up of 8 stars - looks like a butterfly or a lop-sided space invader. Messier... why? No NGC 6888 'Crescent Nebula' tonight either - sky condition and aperture against me. A little further west along 'the neck' sits open cluster NGC 6871. Presents an elongated shape in 'pairs of stars' - the two in middle are at right angles to each other. Up to Lyra and The Ring Nebula M57 sitting in it's star-field. Small but well defined and bright. More pronounced in the UHC filter, but at this lower magnification I preferred the unfiltered view. Lastly, just because I was intrigued by the name I went looking for NGC 6905, The Blue Flash Nebula (Mag 12). It sits at the Eastern end of Sagitta. According to some info on the web; 'The Blue Flash nebula is a wonderful find; a tiny blue gem amongst a field of scattered diamonds. Discovered in 1782 by William Herschel, this planetary nebula is accessible in a 6-inch scope, although it is in the larger instruments that it really shines. Minimum requirements to detect: 4-inch telescope under dark skies.' So no hope for me tonight then! Despite that, I centred on the brightest star (Mag 10.5) close to the location of the nebula, stuck my head under my black shroud and stared concentrating on the area using averted vision. I couldn't detect the nebula but slowly the background stars (Stellarium gives these values of Mag 12-15) came into view around this central star, shimmering in and out of averted vision. Will return with Andy and a bigger scope in tow... A nice way to finish another unexpected night of observing. Damian
  3. As posted in 'Imaging/Sketches' section... (report written for The Rosliston Astronomy Group) Lichfield observing sessionSat 31st May - Sun 1st June 2014Lovely crescent moon right over in the West around 10pm - grabbed the Nikon D3, 70-200mm f2.8 VRII and 1.4x teleconverter to grab a few shots hand held out of the upstairs window... see picAn unexpected clear spell, not what the forecast on BBC weather website had predicted at all!To go out or not? A decision not helped either by the fact we'd had a late session the previous night with the Rosliston Astronomy Group's May get-together and then a follow-on 'committee meeting'.On my own this evening too, as Andy (my observing buddy), was preparing for his 8 mile Sutton Fun Run the next day and it would be too late for him wait for the night to get dark enough to observe and then have enough sleep to do a run!Round 2 then for the new Nova Hitch alt/az, Berlebach Planet tripod, TSA-102s and Sky Commander XP4 DSCsLeveled and aligned on Polaris using the 6mm Ethos (136x mag), heated green laser pointer and Tak 7x50 illuminated finder scope. Then swung to Arcturus (as previous session) for the second alignment star - no need for a change as the pointing accuracy had been spot on previously...With the sky still 'bright' and the 6mm in the diagonal from alignment, I centred upon Mars, sinking slowly into the West and heading towards the branches of a large bush in the garden! Could make out some dark detailing edging the two bright polar regions and slightly brighter side edges.Swapped to 3.7mm SX Ethos (220x mag). Used a star roughly NE of Mars to nail focus. At first I wasn't too impressed with the view of this star as it looked at bit blurry (scope still cooling?). Then realised (as focus tweaked) it was a double with a nice clean split!Back to Mars.Single orange star to the lower left of the planet within the same FOV. Two bright polar regions with different shapes, the bottom being bigger but more shallow than the upper. Dark markings around both with a central column (Syrtis Major) rising from the lower dark 'collar' towards another dark band at the top, that appeared thicker to the left of centre. Also two bright semi-circular regions on opposing sides of the planet. All set with a large circular 'flare' in the centre of the eyepiece.With next months RAG presentation including a talk about sketching, I thought I'd better make a contribution, so produced a 15-20 minute sketch to record the observation!Switched out the 3.7mm in favour of the 13mm Ethos for Galaxy M94 (Mag 8.2) in Canes Venatici. Unfortunately sky still light. Galaxy visible with direct vision and circular in appearance. Bright central core, almost 'stellar' in a fuzzy kind of way and resembling a a faint globular cluster! Couple of stars to the left and right punctuate the FOV.Headed in a straight line towards star Alkaid (the first star in the 'handle' of The Plough), straight on M51. Very difficult. With extended viewing both cores could just be made out, no chance of the 'bridge' though.Another 'challenge' The Whale Galaxy at Mag 9.3, NGC 4631 / Caldwell 32, sits between Canes Venatici and Coma Berenices and is an edge-on spiral. Thankfully, Sky Commander and laser are doing their job again tonight so far... galaxy very, very faint using averted vision - need Andy and bigger scope here on this one! A diagonal slash noted with a big question mark on observing notes to check orientation of said diagonal - confirmed later via Starry Night Pro Plus 6.Much brighter is M63 The Sunflower Galaxy (mag 8.6), sitting back above Canes Venatici (yep, we're zig-zagging around the sky for some reason). Nothing of note to say. Perhaps a slightly extended shape with a brighter core region. Nestled up against a bright star to the left in the eyepiece.Bootes next and a re-visit of Alkalurops / Mu Bootis. Why? Well despite Andy's notes from the previous session stating a split of this star system I had remained unconvinced. This led to some research on the web to confirm my suspicions and a re-visit - more magnification needed. Checked alignment by flicking the laser on/off, bang-on! Fitted the 3.7mm Ethos and carefully checked focus. Alkalurops is blinding in a beautiful kind of way, shimmering within multiple diffraction rings courtesy of the triplets optics. Slight yellow hue. Beneath I could see the star 'u2 Bootis' split into it's component parts B and C. The fainter upper of the two looking slightly blue and the bottom one, possibly yellow? Produced a sketch.Down to Arcturus just for a look in the 3.7mm and then Picot 1 - Napoleon's Hat! Needs 13mm Ethos for FOV! Viewed this with Andy over the Bank Holiday and mentioned at May's Rosliston Astro Group presentation. In the 13mm, Arcturus is still in the field - shinning brightly with diffraction rings that resemble a star pattern. Made a quick sketch.Then over to the West (back to Coma Berenices!) and Globular Cluster M53 (Mag 7.7), perhaps a tad off centre after counting down the digits on the Sky Commander - still really pleased with the mount accuracy though - like GoTo, but without the motor noise distraction! Difficult to resolve any meaningful detail. An amorphous sphere with the hint of a 5/6 pointed 'star shape'. The odd star resolving in and out of vision in the outer regions and core - the faintest pin-[removed word] of light. Noted two stars to lower right at about 4 o'clock, another at a quarter past 6 and another just after 'nine'. Upper left around 10.30-11 o'clock sits a string of three bright stars that help frame and enhance the overall view.Just visible in Tak finder scope as well. Produced another sketch for June's presentation, time 12.45am - it is (1st) June!NGC 5466 Glob (mag 9.10). Same sort of height as Izar, West of Bootes, found on an arc towards M3. Just visible using averted vision - looked for it for nearly 10 minutes and used black shroud and still not sure... Noted that I could see a horizontal 'V' patch of very faint stars. Checked Stellarium later and can see these... is this the NGC...? Need bigger scope!Hercules and M13 - always a good target. Returned though after our failure last week to locate the faint galaxy NGC 6207. Mag 11.6 so pushing it somewhat in this sky. Got it though - thanks to the Sky Commander. It's above-right of M13 (around the 2 o'clock position), whereas it sits below right when viewing with the dob - confusing! Couple of bright stars beneath it in the field. Faintest of marks by direct vision and slightly elongated by averted.Now 1.15am and I'm pointing at the bottom right leg of Hercules - looking for 'Star 7', a Zig Zag asterism. Bit of a weird one (I just can't 'see it' that's all - the 'Zig Zag that is!), needs a bigger FOV than the 13mm offers though. Lower than I first thought, but perhaps that's just the 'tired operator' by now? Thankfully the Sky Commander has a RA and DEC readout, so I was able to use that to double check that I was actually on the target!Delve into Cygnus riding the Milky Way which is just visible...Centred upon star Sadr, the 'Heart of The Swan'. NGC 6910 is a lovely open cluster to the right in the same FOV - a sideways 'Rocking Horse' made up of 10 or so stars!In the upper wing sits the Planetary Nebula NGC 6826. It needs more magnification than the 13mm really (62x), but it is 'fuzzy' and blinks - from a star to halo and back again when switching to averted vision. A slight blue/turquoise look. Tried the Lumicon UHC filter - dims/deletes stars and makes brighter ones bright green - yuck! As for the planetary... more fuzzy, less 'blinky' and I can't see the green laser beam through it either when I decide to double check how good my alignment is!Drop down to the pretty little open cluster NGC6866, NE of Sadr. Jeremy Perez sees a bird, Stellarium calls it The Cooling Tower (from a power station I presume)... as for me.... 'quite sparse, slightly elongated arch of stars in the shape of a letter 'Y', having two strings of stars at the top and another at the bottom - resembling a sparse globular', oh well...!Looked for The Veil (Witches' Broom part), nothing - blamed it on the dark grey sky...Instead, headed a few degrees west to another summer favourite - NGC6940. A large and fairly 'flat' looking open cluster that fills a quarter of the field in the 13mm. Peppered with a few brighter stars running horizontally through the field.The Coathanger asterism (Cr399) next, between Vulpecula and Sagitta and always brings a smile. Only just fits into 13mm so not very 'coathangery' tonight!M29 Southwest of Sadr - a sparse/compact open cluster made up of 8 stars - looks like a butterfly or a lop-sided space invader. Messier... why?No NGC 6888 'Crescent Nebula' tonight either - sky condition and aperture against me.A little further west along 'the neck' sits open cluster NGC 6871. Presents an elongated shape in 'pairs of stars' - the two in middle are at right angles to each other.Up to Lyra and The Ring Nebula M57 sitting in it's star-field. Small but well defined and bright. More pronounced in the UHC filter, but at this lower magnification I preferred the unfiltered view.Lastly, just because I was intrigued by the name I went looking for NGC 6905, The Blue Flash Nebula (Mag 12). It sits at the Eastern end of Sagitta. According to some info on the web; 'The Blue Flash nebula is a wonderful find; a tiny blue gem amongst a field of scattered diamonds. Discovered in 1782 by William Herschel, this planetary nebula is accessible in a 6-inch scope, although it is in the larger instruments that it really shines. Minimum requirements to detect: 4-inch telescope under dark skies.' So no hope for me tonight then!Despite that, I centred on the brightest star (Mag 10.5) close to the location of the nebula, stuck my head under my black shroud and stared concentrating on the area using averted vision. I couldn't detect the nebula but slowly the background stars (Stellarium gives these values of Mag 12-15) came into view around this central star, shimmering in and out of averted vision. Will return with Andy and a bigger scope in tow...A nice way to finish another unexpected night of observing.Clear skies....Damian
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