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21/7/2012 from a Balcony


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This is just a log of my observations last night from my balcony. It has quite a restricted view due to it being recessed so the floor above me gets in the way. It faces south-east-east and I have around 80-90 degrees of azimuth view. If you’re prepared to watch the constellations appear it is ok and put up with the streetlights on the paths it’s ok. I have places nearby where I can set up to get a better view of the sky but it’s summers and I could hear some people having a party in the park. I thought I’d leave them to it as it will be cold in the winter and the night time park will hopefully be empty!

I was using my 102mm Mak on an eq2.

I’d been hoping to have another attempt at the Ring Nebula in Lyra but the floor above me was getting in the way. I should have got out a bit sooner – with it not really getting dark enough until ~2330 and it going out of view for my viewing spot I’ve only got a short window of opportunity for this target at the moment.

So I settled for Albireo. This was the first time I’d gone for this double in Cygnus and it’s a lovely sight. A warm orange spot with it’s hot blue partner. It’s not as hard to split as the Double double (which isn’t hard either but it’s the only double I’ve seen so far which I know the name of J ). I then decided to try and find M31 which isn’t visible to the naked eye for my location but the Andromeda constellation was easy to make out by following along from the belly of Pegasus.

M31 proved a hard target to find at first. I’d initially started to use the two stars I could see that formed the waist of Andromeda which seemed from Stellarium could be used as a pointer up towards M31 but no amount of wriggling the scope whilst moving up worked so I consulted Stellarium again. Although I can’t see Polaris to polar align I can get a good enough polar alignment by pointing the polar axis north and the latitude for my location. So I could see that if I went up to the centre of the cross of Cygnus (Sadr), moved my declination up a couple of degrees and then scanned back with RA I might hit M31. Whilst getting my up and down mixed up on my declination axis, I happened across a star cluster which took me by surprise a bit. It seemed that I’d mistakenly found M29 after checking with Stellarium.

After M29 I decided to put the scope in the right position I’d intended to scan back to M31 from Sadr in Cygnus. This approach didn’t help either! Back to the drawing board. I used the star near the head of Andromeda as a guide next and moved my declination up whilst giving the scope a wiggle and M31 came in to view. In my little Mak it was only the smudge of the centre but I was surprised how big the smudge was. I was expecting the core to appear smaller but I would estimate that I could see around 0.2 to 0.3 of a degree (I was using a 20mm Erfle which gives me ~1 degree in my scope).

Having found M31 I was starting to notice more stars in the sky now. I could see the two brightest stars of Aries and the Triangulum so decided to attempt M33. I spent ages trying to find this but couldn’t do it. After doing some research today though it seems that M33 surface brightness is very low so maybe my scope is too small and I have to be a bit more patient when scanning the sky. The same research threw up the obvious question as to why I didn’t see M32. I should have been able to see it with M31 however I probably mistook it for a star. Now I know how to get M31 I’ll look out for it next time.

My next target for the night was M34 as I felt this would be easy to find by scanning in RA from Almaak in Andromeda. Whilst lining up on Almaak I noticed this was double with a small companion. This was a double that I was going to put a name to! I’d seen a few without naming them but it’s so easy to find in Stellarium that I had no excuse although I was a bit thrown out when Stellarium didn’t show it as a double in ocular view. Some wiki research today confirmed this though and Almaak’s companion is a double itself but they are seperated by less than an arc second so not sure if I have the resolving power to try this when I go back to it. I found M34 after looking at the Almaak double. It wasn’t hard to find this time. Whilst the open clusters are nice and I like the way they jump out at you as you’re scanning across I must admit I preferred viewing M13 when I first found it. Even though I couldn’t really resolve stars in M13 I just found it a more exciting target. I suppose as it seems like a galaxy within a galaxy.

I could now see Jupiter rising through some trees in the distance so tried to get the double cluster but I was just restricted by the floor above again and I could only see the southern half of Cassiopeia so I went to M45 which I could just see as a smudge 20 degrees or so above the horizon. There’s no way I can get all of the Pleiades in my FOV but it was fun scanning around it and all the other stars appear within it. Finally Jupiter had cleared the trees so I concentrated on this now. The seeing was quite bad, the transparency was getting worse (a haze was starting to develop around the planet) and Jupiter was still quite low.I found that my 10mm plossl was giving me a bit too much magnification and I was better of using my 15mm or my 20mm erfle with the barlow cap in the end to give ~100x magnification. Detail was hard to make out though and I was restricted to seeing 2 bands of brick colour on against the cream background. Unfortunately the moons were nicely spread out this time; I’d been hoping for a repeat of when I watched one of the rise from behind Jupiter a week ago. I’m looking forward to when Jupiter starts rising earlier in the autumn so I can view it higher in the sky to beat the seeing before the Sun rises.

So that was last night on my balcony waiting for the earth to spin. Next week looks good my way for weather so hopefully I can repeat it soon.

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A great report.

Must be quite frustrating waiting for objects to come into such a restricted viewpoint. It sounds like you are making the most of it.

Definitely woth getting into the park for all around views.

I am looking forward to a binocular session or two when I tour Southern and Central Sweden in just three weeks time. It'll be mostly cities unfortunately (at least for Astronomy) but I will have three nights by the lakes.

Happy hunting!

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A great report.

Must be quite frustrating waiting for objects to come into such a restricted viewpoint. It sounds like you are making the most of it.

Definitely woth getting into the park for all around views.

I am looking forward to a binocular session or two when I tour Southern and Central Sweden in just three weeks time. It'll be mostly cities unfortunately (at least for Astronomy) but I will have three nights by the lakes.

Happy hunting!

Yep the park is the way forward!! I know a couple of great spots there with unrestricted views all round however when I walk to work there's been some evidence of much frivolity and I could hear them the other night. Just kids having a bit of fun but not sure if I fancy walking in to them discovering alcohol with all my gear - might do a night time scout without equipment one night. Don't get me wrong, it's safe round here but some of the things that have been spray painted on the path makes me think that some of them think they are straight out of Compton, LA not Lund, Sweden. The bonus is that it can get mighty cold here in winter!

Hope you have a good time on your visit to Sweden, it's a lovely place. I haven't made it up to the lakes yet but it's definitely on the to-do list. Although you'll be visiting cities they're relatively small so hopefully you'll have a chance to get some decent skies by not traveling too far. Southern Sweden holds most of the population so as you get up in to the central region it might be looking good.

A very good report. Considering how restricted your view is I am impressed with all the sights you have seen

Good job.

Thanks. The view is restricted but if you're preapred to wait for the earth to spin I think it has lots of potential. I think that I may need to plan my nights a bit better though. This night was more of just plonking the scope out and then deciding what to look at where if I'd researched it a bit better I could have got more out of each section as it appeared. It also bugs me that maybe the seeing is like doing astronomy out of a window from my balcony but since the predicted seeing of the atmosphere has always been bad as well I haven't had chance to compare yet

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