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bomberbaz

My best night to date without doubt

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Well in case you hadn't read I went for a weekend up to Galloway Astronomy centre in search of dark skies and new wonders and boy I was not disapointed.

Starting from the time I walked out of the centre door to head for my already cooling scope i looked up with unadjusted eyes and thought wow!, look at all those stars, I had never seen so much in the night sky before, this bodes well. The conditions were inky black skies with only the odd cloud and a breeze that was ok if a little chilly but we didnt mind as it would keep the moisture way. the time was 9.30 and so not to waste any time straight to the scope and start alignment.

Bish, bash bosh here we go, aligned, maybe! Lets go straight to the double cluster and see what we land on. Bingo, bang on the double, or was I? There was a sea of stars where previously there had been an handful. But yes, I was bang on the double and talk about blown away. I had never seen so many stars before, the clusters themselves were so bright it was superb. Now I knew the night was going to be special.

I looked away from the eyepiece to draw breath and decide where next and looked up to the sky and drew breath! The Milky Way was there is all her glory so clear it went from horizon to horizon, just so easy to see, I had only ever seen it like this before in pictures, this was getting better than I could have ever expected, my 2nd wow moment and only 10 minutes in.

Ok what next, Ok Andromeda as it would be rude not to view this beauty under such wonderful skies. Again my flab was gasted, I was only using a 1.5 degree eyepiece and it swamped it. However I have the heart of the galaxy in the centre and structure was jumping out at me for the first time ever dispite having viewed it many, many times. Spiral arms swirling in great arcs from the central brightness. I tried M33 also and there was definate structure with averted vision, not as easy to see as M31 but definate structure but this needed more patience than the previous DSO. I also tried M51 & 101 but these were not so easy. Too low down in the sky and it made viewing strucure to difficult but they were still very easy to identify and a great improvement on the previous fuzzy blobs as seen in the past.

Now it was time to slap in a filter and go Nebular viewing. Elephant, hmm not brilliant but there, same with the heart and soul nebula's although Mike at the centre said these 2 are very hard targets so to get something felt pleasing. Next the pacman and yes got it and definate structure and the shape was there with averted vision and some filaments spreading outwards, my confidence was rising again.

Ok now lets have a go at the Crescent nebula, another one I had never seen. Whirr as the motors skewed to the object, eye to the eyepiece and oh my goodness, this is amazing. Ten times better than what I had been expecting. I have seen pictures of this before and what I saw was the almost the same thing but without the colour, truly stunning. The outside edge of the nebula was very clearly defined with strong filament structure and the curvature around the outside was brilliant. I showed Mike from the centre and he agreed that this was as good as he had ever seen it. wow moment number 4.

I carried on viewing nebula including the N/America, California, Dumbell, Owl and Veil. The latter 3 were excellent again although the Owl being low in the sky didnt stand out as well as I had hoped, The veil simply jumped out at you and the dumbell was as well defined as I had hoped under the conditions. 

By now I have to say cloud nine had been hit and I was still ascending. I had given up with the UHC and was using extensively a O-III filter. The depth of nebula viewed and structure in some of them was just so much more than I could have ever hoped for. I also viewed NGC 7662 (blue snowball), 896 & 604. The first a very pretty and previously unknown to me nebula, the latter two just fuzzies but pleasing non the less.

Anyway, half past 12, Mike and I went in for a warming cuppa, I left my scope back on andromeda where I had been haiving a 2nd view of the great beauty and we went in, had a brew & a chat about how well things were going and went back out for round 2, back to the scope.

Oh blast, in the 20 minutes we were inside the wind had gone and humidity had soared, my scope was dripping, secondary fogged up and eyepiece freezing cold, bad mistake to leave it like this. So after much hairdrying i unfogged the secondary, put the eyepice inside the building to dry out and carried on but the moment had gone. Moisture was ruining visibility to an extent I could not believe. The previous crescent nebula which I went back to for a 2nd view had all but gone and although the skies were still inky black, the conditions were not anywhere near as good.

Still we carried on viewing open clusters and some globulars before we went round to the observatory where Mike had with his 16" dob in to try to get as much as possible from constellation Orion. My view was too obscured and I couldnt be bothered moving everything around, feeling slightly deflated however all this was about to change.

Round in his obs his scope was pointing west and I noticed that the seven sisters were quite high in the sky so I asked him to get his scope on it which he duly did. (he uses a high powered green laser as a spotter and his accurary at finding objects was brilliant) Anyway, I wanted to see how much nebulosity I could see of M45 in dark skies as previously I had seen very little. Eye to the eyepiece and for about the 5th time that night I had a jawdrop moment. Spectacular, amazing, superb, whatever adjective you want to use was what I was being treated too. This was exactly what I had previously only seen in pictures, what must it be like on best conditions. The pale bluey glow extended right out and in places merged with some of the closer brighter stars in the clusters. As i write this the hairs are pricking up on the back of my neck remembering this which along with the crescent were my highlights of the night.

We did wait for orion but the horsehead was not available and based upon the conditions I wasnt that disapointed. I did get my first view of the crab, managed my best ever view of the running man and had a brilliant view of the Orion nebula using a range of filters. You may want to try this for the differing views it gives you but thats for another night.

I decided to call it a night at 3 AM. I was both tired and exhilarated at the same time. I can declare here and now I am a dark sky convert, nothing beats it and it took this visit to really drive this home. I saw things I had previously only seen in pictures and had wow moment after wow moment and really cannot tell you in words what an amazing 5 hours I had. The night after was too cloudy but I didnt care, something new had been awoken within and I intend following it up.

Clear (and dark) skies all

Steve

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very nice!! looking at going up there myself where did you stay?

sorry should have said, the galloway astronomy centre, great place.

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Knowing that you were making the trip I had been wondering how you were getting on.

Well done Steve, a great write up. You captured your excitement and wonder so well and had me wanting to read more.

Thank you for sharing this very special night.

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I was looking forward to your report thanks for posting early. When the penny has dropped it becomes the way to go as dark skies are so seductive. 

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Sounds like you had a good time and as said great write up I enjoyed reading it :smiley:  

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Judging by the length of your report, I guess that the weather played ball!

Looking forward to reading this in detail later.

Paul

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Excellent write up Steve, it sounds the place to visit :smiley: what a great night.

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Stunning and inspiring write up Steve, my skies are pretty good down this end of the country but that sounds in a different league all together!

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Great report, nights like that are the reward for the seemingly endless cloudy nights we have to put up with in this hobby.

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Wow! Stunning report, Steve. If your informative and entertaining write up doesn't inspire more to head out to a truely dark site from time to time, I don't know what will.

There's a tendency for us to hunker down in our gardens or roof tops and quietly put up with second best. This is understandable; we have work tomorrow, a family to look after and relationships to nurture and take care of but as you have demonstrated, from time to time, it really is a good plan of action to pack our gear and flee the concrete walls of our life, to step out into the wild silence and look up.

I admire your enthusiam and passion, Steve and the gods too have smiled upon you. They cleared the rough skies of heavy smudges and rain and awarded your courage with one of the greatest shows any of us are ever likely to see. A moving creation. A sublime "language of little sounds and...whispered revelations."

When we look at something like NGC 2359, we are looking back to that moment when Ug looked up at the night sky and wondered whether tomorrow's hunting would be as good for him as it was for that asterism shaped like a giant which we would later call Orion. When reading through your report, Steve, the same sense of wonder occurs and I hope everyone has the opportunity to a succesful hunt like your own and that like our friend Orion, you in turn have many, many more.

Thanks for a great and inspiring read :icon_salut:

Edited by Qualia
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Wow! Stunning report, Steve. If your informative and entertaining write up doesn't inspire more to head out to a truely dark site from time to time, I don't know what will.

There's a tendency for us to hunker down in our gardens or roof tops and quietly put up with second best. This is understandable; we have work tomorrow, a family to look after and relationships to nurture and take care of but as you have demonstrated, from time to time, it really is a good plan of action to pack our gear and flee the concrete walls of our life, to step out into the wild silence and look up.

I admire your enthusiam and passion, Steve and the gods too have smiled upon you. They cleared the rough skies of heavy smudges and rain and awarded your courage with one of the greatest shows any of us are ever likely to see. A moving creation. A sublime "language of little sounds and...whispered revelations."

When we look at something like NGC 2359, we are looking back to that moment when Ug looked up at the night sky and wondered whether tomorrow's hunting would be as good for him as it was for that asterism shaped like a giant which we would later call Orion. When reading through your report, Steve, the same sense of wonder occurs and I hope everyone has the opportunity to a succesful hunt like your own and that like our friend Orion, you in turn have many, many more.

Thanks for a great and inspiring read :icon_salut:

Wow (number 6) thanks for the praise there Qualia, really appreciated. I have to say when I re-read my report I find myself somewhat drawn into it even though I wrote it. Something worth pointing out is I took my good lady along with me. She managed 3 or four "peaks" into the eyepiece before claiming tiredness from the days journey and retiring. I was dead on my feet before I called it a day.  The day after I took her around the Galloway forest for a walk and then into Whigtown to the book festival to allow her to shop rummage as is her want, thus ensuring the status quo in happiness is maintained as near as possible. The afternoon was hers to command.

To anyone who reads this, I am already planning my next excursion to a darkened site as I cannot overstate how much difference this made. If you haven't done this before, do. The time spent will not go unrewarded!

Edited by bomberbaz
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Ha, ha, excellent!  Also looks like you have the right 'scope to throw in the car.

Our holidays tend to be around new moon to dark rural locations where there is lots to do both night and day :)

D&G is the darkest area that I've observed from in the UK (this includes the SW, Norfolk, Peak District, Yorks Dales, North Yorks Moors, Mid Wales and Northumberland, I've not been in the remotest areas of Scotland when it gets dark).

Hope you get another fix soon :)

Paul

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Good read! Thanks for sharing! Got my inspiration back by reading this. Just need to find the time (and clear sky).

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Glad you enjoyed your trip, I certainly did when I was up there last year. It's a great place and only Namibia has beaten it so far for me.

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I enjoyed reading this ! Great storytelling as I could feel the joy between the lines.

Glad you had such a good time :)

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What a lovely summation of what was obviously a thrilling & beautiful night, thank you!

Gives me a flavour of dark sky viewing that I am so looking forward to when I can get my humble 6" push-to a holiday out of London...which your post gives me incentive to get organised!

(Sheesh, now I have to go look up what the 'running man' is.... :))

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What a fantastic read Steve. Last weekend was my first "proper dark" sky at Dobfest. It has of course completely got me smitten and wanting more. How were the midges? I bet Dan met more than you last week :eek:

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No misges rusty, just an abundance of cloud day 2. Didnt mind though, one good night is worth a shed load in my lp'd garden

Already sounding out the mrs for my next night out under black skies. Next time i want to b able to spend a little moree rime on the dso's i am viewing, eeking out as much detail as possible and experimenting with filters, differing ep's etc

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Wow that was great to read net alone experience first hand, thanks for sharing :-)

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brilliant report steve, you captured the moment well. be nice for you to come to dobfest 3, and compare skies

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Great report. Got me itching to use my scope under dark skies again (and possibly get a bigger scope!)

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Thanks for that report Steve, like everyone else I found it enjoyable reading, I can feel your excitement. Very envious :Envy:

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