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Back to basics

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Well tonight I decided it was time to go back to basics.

I removed the video camera from the scope and spent the entire night just looking through a 20mm eye piece.

I am now frozen to the bone and the happiest I have been for a while.

Sitting in the nice warmth of my obs taking videos it had somehow all become too machanical, sort of, video game astronamy.

Sure I get imense satisfaction of getting good pictures but I had forgotten the sheer pleasure of just, well, looking.

To set up the scope I started of with Mizar and her partner then wandered off to look at the brilliant orange colour of Dubhe.

After that it was Rigel and them on to capella to complete my star alignment.

Now for some exciting stuff I was on the hunt for some Galaxies.

I started with M101 but as in all prievious attempts I could not for the life of me find it.

One day I will get this one.

I then went searching for a new target for me, M82.

One heart stopping moment soon followed as I saw it for the very first time.

Faint but very visible and to top it all an added bonus in the form of M81 sitting just in the field of view.

I spent an age just slewing gently back and forth from one to the other.

I was extreamly tempted to load up the video camera but I reminded myself of what I was doing tonight and why and managed to contain the temptation.

So as a compromise I tried ramping up the magnifacation with a 5X barlow. Although it increased the image size dramatically it also made it very dark so the barlow was discarded and I went back to using just the 20mm EP.

I then turned my attention to Mars.

The last time I looked at her was a couple of weeks ago through the video camera and I was not that impressed to say the least but tonight she was very impressive indeed.

A lot lot bigger and far more colourful. I could just make out the ice cap.

From Mars I wandered off into the maze of galaxies in Virgo to try and see what I could find.

Unfortunately my search was to be in vain as the moon was now washing out my entire South Eastern horizon.

So after a quick de-ice of the finder scope and the secondary mirror I went back to M81 and 82 just to check I wasn't dreaming before.

Sure enough they were still there and I spent another lengthy period of time just staring in wonder.

They say all good things must come to an end and they are right. With the ice reforming and the clouds forming even quicker I decided to call it a night.

I think the lesson learnt tonight is that you just cannot beat being upclose and personel with the vastness of the night sky.

Sitting in the warmth of an observatory detaches you from the reality of why we do this.

Well I am off to bed with a stupid grin still frozen on my face.

I cannot wait for the next chance of a camera free session.


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Interesting what you say about M101 as I was going to have a stab at that tonight before the clouds rolled up. Stellarium says thats its Mag 7.7 but I dont know how bright that is. Haven't got my head round the mag scale yet. Nice to hear that you did it old school and put away all those expensive whizbangs. If I could persuade a plastic surgeon to give me 8" eyes then I wouldn't need a scope at all.

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Sounds like you had a fantastic night. My friend is a "indoor recorder" , I just prefer to get outside and freeze to death. Each to their own I suppose. Glad you had a good night with m81 & m82.

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I did the same on thursday, sat there for an hour and half, cuising around slowly with a 32mm.

Been wasting time trying to get a start with afocal phtotgraphy, my gear just not quite up to it ! got some nice results the odd time but will wait now until the c8 sct arrives.

Another clear night tonight to gaze at andromeda and orion, it's like pure star **** up there lateley !!!!

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Nice report, a great read.

M101 is tough make no mistake about that, if your sky has LP you will really struggle to see anything at all.

I have observed it from near my home with my 10", I can just about see the core with averted vision on good nights. On not so good nights, nothing.

It's a different beast from dark skies.

Regard Steve

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One can be misled by magnitudes allocated to nebulae and galaxies.

The magnitude is an integrated one, which combines all the light of the galaxy or neb. calculates the whjole as a point source.

When the light is spread out over its whole area, you can appreciate it becomes a much dimmer object to find.

M33 is a good example. Such objects are better sought visually with faster objectives, and even binoculars will afford some success when seeking these faint guys out.

Of course, the cameras of today are more than a match for these almost invisible targets. Although it always a good feeling if the old Mk1 eyeball can spot them too :).


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