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A Bit Parky


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Hi All,

Seems like ages since I had a session that was worth sharing with you all, but life has been pure insanity for the last three months. I'm not sure it's going to get any saner in the near future, but at least I managed to grab some time for a spot of observing in the park last night. It was well worth it - crisp and cold, with crystal clear, steady skies - little in the way of high clouds to scatter that light pollution, so for London it didn't get any better that this. In fact I seem to remember hoping for nights like this last January and never getting them, so it was nice to be able to make the most of it. Here's what I managed to pull out of our capital's skies this time:

  • Pleiades - This was more to align the finderscope than anything else. Of course the wretched thing kept fogging up but I'm little less than cautious about wiping away the condensation from it because it isn't the expensive bit. I find that capping it when not in use helps, but there are times when you're having to use it quite a bit and in this kind of weather it fogs up very fast. I was surprised there was no fog in the park - usually it's a mist trap. The Seven Sisters were countless and even with my widest angle EP I can't fit it in the whole field. However I was satisfied that I was ready to rock...
  • Comet Lovejoy - The main event for me was getting the telescope on this comet. In the first two weeks of the year, for various reasons, I haven't had a single chance to observe it with the telescope. I've been following it in bins of course, but I haven't had the opportunity to wheel my 'scope down to the park for it. It did not dissappoint with a huge fuzzy, vaguely green blob, the centre slightly brighter than the rest. Not sure I could see a tail, but the coma seemed extensive and this comet lived up to the expectations!
  • Crab Nebula - Last time I was in the park I couldn't see the Crab, but this time I got a nice oval blur, very faint but a little easier with AV. I tried the UHC filter but the effects were limited. Perhaps they don't work on SN remnants?
  • Orion Nebula - Oh my gosh, to quote the yoof. I have never had such a spectacular view of this. I left the 15mm in with the UHC and lined up on the nebula and the view was simply spectacular. It filled the field, with the main nebula full of detail. Whorls, wisps, dark bands, filaments, the trapezium gleaming away in muted UHC blue. The "wings" arced right across the whole field and the extent stretched out a long way behind. Well worth the bother of wandering down - even without the filter it was a spectacular sight. I also trawled up to forgotten cluster NGC1981, which was fairly pleasing.
  • M41 - On a similar theme I went hunting for this large, populous cluster. It has a rich field of stars, with a few red ones standing out against the blue.
  • Tau Canis Majoris Cluster - Another highlight - a superb cluster that looks like diamond dust around the bright jewel of Tau Canis Majoris. At such a low elevation it was a real find.
  • Caroline's Cluster - I next went looking for M46 and M47. Through a botched attempt at star hopping due to cold setting in, I ended up finding this and mistaking it for M46. It was dim, just a faint sparkling of stars, but rather lovely. I can see why Caroline Herschel named it after herself.
  • Jupiter - It's back! All four moons were lined up in one side while the disc had tonnes of detail with cloud belts, the Great Red Spot etc. all coming out in those moments of stillness. I spent a good ten minutes with it, and it reminded me just how rewarding an object Jupiter is.
  • M78 - Just for larks I thought I'd see if I could find this dim reflection nebula from the park. The UHC filter is no use on it, so I had to use my wits. In the end I lined the telescope up on its vague location and landed straight on it. A rather pleasing little blur and clearer than expected.
  • M81 and M82 - I finished up on these galactic classics - as lovely as ever with a definite brightening towards the centre of M81.

And with two deer duking it out about 100 yards away, drunken slurring drifting through the night and my fingers ready to drop off, I decided to call it a night.

Till next time!


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Great report DD. There's something very special about a good tour of the classics after a quiet period on the scope front. Sounds like you could have got lost in the Orion nebula!

Hope life calms down for you soon, and thanks for posting.


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