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A taste from Mt Snowdon


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Well, I have just returned from a week in generally rainy North Wales, but I was fortunate enough to have one perfect night that I thought I'd share.

Firstly, I was extremely glad that I have bought a truss Dob, as if it were solid tube it would only ever really see action at home.  As it was, I was able to pack the ES 12" into to boot with 2 kids bikes and space to spare for a week away.

The weather was a mixed bag during the day, but at night, the clouds rolled in on cue.  All apart from one.

I was heading to bed and thought that I would just have a check out of the window.  It was clear.  I couldn't believe it. 

I rushed to the front door and tried to work out how to get out of the house quietly.  After I completed my silent crystal maze challenge and found out which keys locked which doors, I stepped out into the most glorious night sky I have ever seen.

There was virtually no light pollution (certainly compared to what I am used to).  An inky black sky was littered with purest points of light.  The milky way splitting the heavens in two like a river through the astronomical ether.  Constellations started to look like their drawn images.  It was dark, really dark.  And beautiful.

Setup.  Luckily, I had left most of the scope/accessories in the car, so I didn't need to disturb the sleeping wife.  I put it together on the lawn (mildly moist) and discovered a problem.  Where was my Telrad?  Back into the house I went.  My outdoor fumblings had managed to alert the sister-in-law, who had heard a noise outside on the slate path and was convinced that a sheep had broken in and was ready to ravish her border plants.  Luckily, it was just me so I was given thumbs up to continue.  She was very good about allowing my hobby, and I managed to get her kids some good views in fleeting moments through the week, so did my part for outreach.

New toy time.  I have, not intentionally, turned into a ES fanboy as I seem to be buying their entire range.  I had ordered an 20mm ES 100° from the 24mm 68° bargain thread and was eager to try it out.  Oh my, this certainly adds a new dimension.  I actually felt a little motion sickness as I scouted about the sky looking for fuzzies.  I will need to slow it down a little, but the views are awesome.  I must admit I actually got lost quite a few times, there were so many more stars for me to navigate through.

I started with my summer favourite M57 Ring nebula, this looked great and clearly defined as usual, but as it is high overhead, I get a fairly good view of this from home.  The same was true of M92 and M13 Great globular cluster, the latter showing more definition of the outer stars.  Moving around to M31 Andromeda was a sight I will never forget.  It was pretty close to what you AP boys are able to produce.  It was properly massive and extended way beyond the field of view with M32 and M110 looking wonderfully clear too.  Genuinely a sight to behold.

New toy time number 2.  I had also bought an ES 2" OIII filter.  I know there are not many of these about as I have number 24.  It was my first viewing of the veil nebula so with sweaty palms, I screwed in the filter and pointed at 52 Cyg.  Green tendrils and wisps of the witch's broom flowed into view.  The filter provides a green hue to the nebula and 52 Cyg, but the background stars felt less affected.  Its a ridiculously large target even with 100°.  Both eastern and western parts were fully visible, but I couldn't quite make out Pickering's triangle.  More eye training required I think.  I meant to look at M27 Dumbell nebula, but I forgot - maybe next time!

Filter off I had a quick look at M51 Whirlpool and M101 Pinwheel galaxies.  I was getting tired by this point so didn't spend that much time on them.  It was also getting late, so I thought I would try for some new Messier targets to tick off the list.  Moving down toward the horizon (which was quite high due to the mountainous terrain), I was able to bag M2 and M15, both globular clusters.

You guys with dark skies are truly lucky.  I can see why our ancestors would marvel at the beauty of the universe.  They didn't even comprehend what it was that they observed and I consider myself fortunate to be able to both view and learn so much.

Clear skies,

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Very good report and a joy to read. I am glad you got at least the one clear night under dark skies. It just seems to make everything seem much more worthwhile. After reading your wonderful session I realise it is time to get down to Galloway and see for myself. Thanks for posting.

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Great report! 

A dark sky can push your observation far beyond the limits! 

I was able to spot M101 with my 60mm this summer from a dark sky. No detail of course, but that large mail stamp is still imprinted in my eye! 

I cannot imagine what a 12" or larger apertures can reveal under the same sky conditions! Must be superb!

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