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Astroegg

Skysafari success to find Uranus in 20x80 binos with shakey

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I'm fairly proud of myself... in a grab and go moment, I ventured out the door for a glimpse at the sky with my Celestron 20x80 binoculars, but couldn't be bothered to setup the tripod. With the Square of Pegasus in front of me I thought it would be a good game to try and fix the Andromeda Galaxy in my view through the binos. Shortly after I had the fuzzy smear of M31 centred in the field of view but my shakey grip on the heavy binos without tripod or in fact any support was beginning to tell - and my neck and arms were beginning to ache too!

Having achieved a satisfactory observational aim, I reached for my phone then used the Skysafari Pro app to have a look at and identify the visible star field around me. When I caught sight of the name Uranus on the screen I was intrigued. I had observed the planet before through my 11" scope when it was auto-aligned and picking out objects using the GOTO. I had also had success observing Uranus with a small 3" telescope (Skywatcher 76P) which proved nearly impossible as it had no finder scope or tracking, and was mounted on a bowl (!!!!) - Yes, it's the "Pingu scope" if anyone is familiar with it.

But trying to pick out a mag 5.8 object amongst a sea of sparkling stars whilst my arms were shaking like a break-dancer’s under the strain of the mighty 20x80 binos, nearly causing me epilepsy from the jittering image I was peering at, proved to be an entirely different exercise of futility altogether. Determined to avoid a certain divorce if I dared to suggest to my better half I needed image stabilising binoculars, I persisted in trying to locate and centre the gas giant with a bit of tightened elbow control and some star hopping assistance using the Skysafari Pro app to try and pinpoint any mini-asterisms I caught sight of in the view.

By chance, a reasonably straight line of stars with another reasonably straight line of stars at near right angles to it was close to a tree line and proved easy to relocate in the binos if I lowered them to give momentary muscle rest and tried to find them on the star map. This is where Skysafari Pro first showed me my most expensive phone app was actually pretty cool! (Apologies to Southern Stars but I always found their twenty-five quid asking price rather steep when there were other similar apps available for free.) Anyway, low and behold, the mini-asterism I has spied in the binoculars just by the treeline showed up on the Skysafari app when I pinched the zoom in and out a bit. What a stroke of luck - I now knew where I was looking and where Uranus was in relation to that spot...

Zooming in the display on the phone app, I picked out a star hopping trail I could follow with the binos and end up with Uranus in the field of view. Up with the binos, hop along the stars a bit, back down check the map, and back up with the binos and so on... Following the trail I eventually had the icy world which is currently a little over 19 times further than our Sun from Earth right in view! It was at that moment I suffered a slight spasm in my neck, nearly lost my grip on the binos and almost sent my phone on a drop test too. Then I stepped on the cat who had probably come to investigate why I was ruining his street-cred and decided I'd better pack in my observations before my neighbours get disturbed anymore and think I am a pervert with a giant pair of binoculars prowling around in the dark! Astronomy heh?

For those interested, I used some stars in the 'tail of the whale' of Cetus to help locate Uranus... Using Skysafari Pro and starting with '13 Cet' (or 'HIP 2762 A' according to Stellarium) I moved in a straight line to 'HD 2995' ('HIP 2612') and on to '12 Cet' ('HIP 2352'), then the other straight line of stars veering off nearly at a right angle took me to 'HD 2593' (HIP 2312'), 'HD 2612' ('HIP 2323'), 'HD 2830' ('HIP 2496'), continuing upwards until I saw another straight line of equally spaced stars: '15 Cet', '14 Cet' and 'HD 3024' ('HIP 2994', 'HIP 2787', and 'HIP 2641' respectively). I then got a fix on '10 Cet' ('HIP 2100 A') before moving into the constellation of Pisces and finding '44 Psc' ('HIP 2006') and hooking back Eastwards (or left in the bino view) to finally locate the target Uranus.

Neptune would have tempted me to brave being arrested for prowling if only it wasn't hidden by the trees, but perhaps that's a blessing?

I wish you all clear skies.

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