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Pluto and a 10"?

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Sorry, not visually with a 10" scope, I think, unless you were at altitude over 3000 ft and in a very dark location. Pluto is a possible photo target with this size of scope, but you won't see more than a faint dot on the image, and you will need a very good star chart to track it down.

Saturn is much more fun - at least you can see some detail and track the moons and rings, etc.


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Technically, you could just see Pluto with a 10" under clear, dark skies.

However, the big problem right now is that it is currently located in an incredibly rich starfield (and will be for the next few years) with literally hundreds of stars of similar magnitude nearby within the same field of view. It would be a real challenge to pick it out amongst them. I managed to image it last year with my 8", but I wouldn't have found it without checking the image afterwards. Here it is!


Edited by lukebl
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The target indicated by the two right angle lines? ...

Indeed. The field of view is about one degree from top to bottom, to give you an idea of scale.

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It is possible to see Pluto in an 8" scope, but requires a lot of patience and luck (i.e. excellent seeing and with Pluto in a relatively blank region of the sky). Here is a copy of the relevant part of my observing report from 2002.

Date: Sat/Sun 1/2 June 2002

Location: Club dark sky site on the Dengie Peninsular, Essex

Telescope: VC200L (8" cat reflector) with SS2k

The evening started off badly with strips of low cloud appearing in the west covering Venus &

Jupiter. As the planets set so the clouds disappeared.

Pluto was my main target for the night. I had printed a finder chart using Skymap Pro. Once it was

properly dark I used SS2k to get to the right region of the sky. It was quite easy to recognise a

pattern of 4 stars near the predicted position of Pluto and hence see where Pluto should be. As

expected nothing was visible. I had started using my favourite eyepiece, a 22mm super wide

Lanthanum but as the background was not very dark I x2 barlowed it which gave better contrast.

Still no Pluto. For about half an hour I tried averted vision, shutting my eyes completely for a time

before viewing and avoided using even the dimmest of red lights as much as possible as it had a

distinct effect on what I could see. Eventually a faint tiny point of light came into view for just a

moment and then go. This happened a few times. According to Skymap Pro there was a star of

magnitude 14.2 quite close to Pluto (mag 13.8) so I decided that I could not be sure to have seen

Pluto unless I could see the pair of them at the same time. They were also in line with a bright star

TYC5651-1680-1 mag 6.96. After about another 15 mins or so the two did briefly pop into view. This

happened about 5 or 6 times in the next half hour. So I feel justified in claiming to have seen Pluto.

So it is just possible but you need to be determined and lucky with the conditions. You would have no possibility of seeing it by chance.

After that session, I remember that my eyes were so well dark adapted that it almost seemed like daylight. That is an odd sensation when at a dark site.


Edited by Dave Smith
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