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A bit of Help and Understanding for a Noob


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Hi all, 

As the title suggests I am a complete noob to this hobby.  I recently purchased a SkyWatcher 130p telescope to go exploring the skies.  The first time I took it out, really to align the red dot sight I got to see Saturn and was blown away.  Fortunately I had done my research so knew that I was never going to see Hubble quality images but, wow.  The feeling I got when I could see her rings was just mind-blowing.  I have observed the moon but so far, not much else.

So anyway, I went out again Saturday night, I live in Worcestershire, UK and found a field in the middle of nowhere.  I was massively under prepared as I hadn't even planned what I wanted to see (if there was anything out to see) but the skies were clear and worst case scenario it was more practice.  This experience has left me with a couple of questions, the first regarding light pollution and time of year.  Whilst stood in this field, with no llght around I realised how light it was.  I mean, I could see the floor beneath me.  It was clear skies and no moon but is this simply because I will never truly get dark skies where I live?  I mean, yes it was dark and I had a head torch but without it I wouldn't have struggled to see where I was going.  Also, one of the things I really wanted to see was M31.  I managed to do some star hopping within Andromeda and with the 25mm wide angle lense saw what I think (hope0 was M31.  It was almost like a dust cloud a fuzzy blob through the eye-piece, would this have been M31?  I then used my 10mm lense but this was actually a worse image?  Am I expecting too much to be able to make out more detail?  Is this a lense issue or environmental conditions?

Anyway, enough from me.  A brief hello and a question or two.  Any help/advice greatly appreciated.

Thanks

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Yes, lots of new people refer to eye pieces as lenses.

Were you at the site after the onset of astronomical dark? Lool up he different twilights; civilian, nautical and astronomical. If so, then if you could clearly see the ground without a head light, there is light coming from somewhere else other than the sun. Again look up on google "light pollution map uk" - there is a site which i can't remember the name of, but it has some maps (which are truly enormous) and show different types of light pollution, you can zoom into your chosen spot and see how badly it is affected.

Regarding M31, use the field of view calculator to pick your scope, and te eye pieces you have, and click on a chosen target and see what it should look like. To me, not really know what scope or eye puece you have, a 20mm EP will result in M31 filling the field of view. If you double the magnification by swapping the 20mm EP for a 10mm one, you will only just get the core in the field of view and you won't be able to makr out any detail at all;

http://www.12dstring.me.uk/fov.htm

Good luck.

James

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Firstly, it's nice to see that you started off with realistic expectations, and Saturn is always a cool first object!

I would say that you see the ground, with good dark adaptation is reasonable. When you look up, does the sky have an orange (usually orange) glow? If so, that is the light pollution.

With regards to M31, I have to say upfront that I'm a southern hemisphere dweller, and can't see it from where I am, but the description you gave is pretty common, so I would say that was it. It's a massive object (nearly 3 degrees across) so low power eyepieces are the key here. A) it just won't fit in the field of view of a low power eyepiece, and B) it will become dimmer as you go up in magnification.

As for expectations, just bask in the knowledge that you are viewing another distant galaxy.

HTH

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Hi and Welcome,

I think you've had a successful night out in all honesty, my first time out I managed the moon and that's about all really.  Took me 5 attempts to get M31, which suspect  found. 

M31 would appear as you have described it, brighter core should be evident in your 25mm EP.  M31 is best with lower power/wider field of view EP's so stick with the 25mm as it allows you to see more of it, and the more longer you look, the more your eye will adapt and show you greater detail.

In terms of light pollution, you maybe away from any direct light source but the ambient sky glow from local towns and city's' can still have a big impact.  Its darkest at the moment between 11pm and 3am (ish) so if you were out between those hours its probably sky glow your contending with.

Keep up the good work, and maybe, to find out what's out and about at the moment use a pocket atlas and do a bit of planning before hand, plenty of resources on here and on line..

Clear skys

Fozzie

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It certainly sounds like you did see M31. It's not that spectacular with smaller scopes - an elipical blob with a brighter centre about sums it up.

It's a large object though (3x larger than the full Moon in total extent) so low power is the way to view it. Your 10mm eyepiece would show a slightly enlarged fuzzy oval blob but it's not going to impress any more - probably less.

I don't get a lot of detail with M31 even with my 12" scope. I can just about make out a couple of dark dust lanes when I concentrate in the right place and my back garden sky is dark and the seeing transparent (ie: good for galaxies).

At low power you should be able to see what looks like a fuzzy star very close to M31 and that's M32, a satellite galaxy of M31. Another galaxy, quite a bit fainter is on the other side of M31 and thats M110. It's a faint fat oval of light that, under dark skies (again !) and with some practice your scope should just about be able to make out. With the 25mm eyepiece you may well be able to see all 3 galaxies in the same field of view !

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M31 was my target last night. I found it and as I went up in power it got worse so I stuck to my 25mm Eye piece. Still a lovely sight and hope to image it one day. Nice find though ...only took me 10 months lol.

Sent from my GT-I9505 using Tapatalk

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Congratulations. It certainly sounds like you have seen your first Messier object. Low magnification is the key on extensive objects such as M31. Light pollution is not the only problem. The seeing was poor at the weekend, certainly here near Glasgow. The atmosphere was very unsteady. Try again and spend a little time observing the Galaxy. It takes more than a quick glance to see fine detail.

Edited by laudropb
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Wow, thank you all so much for your replies.  This truly is a helpful and insightful forum.

Jambouk, to be completely honest that is the first time I've heard of the term "astronomical dark" but thank you for the links.  Looking at my location I would only have to travel 10-20miles to get away from all the light pollution in the area.  Thank you.

Beanersa, I was actually in awe when I looked up, I had never really seen such a clear sky.  It could've been my imagination or maybe because I;m starting to find my way around the skies but I swear I could make out the Milky Way, faint at best but still beautiful.

Astro Imp, I have heard of that software and will get it downloaded tomorrow and have a look around it.  I need all the help I can get.

So, it sounds like low power eye pieces are key for Messer objects and I'm certainly at the mercy of my environment when it comes to the things I may (or often may not) see.

Again, thanks all for your replies.  I will no doubt have more questions to fire your way.

Really appreciated, clear skies.

Jon

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I go out of my way to rid my eyes from street lighting? With LP (light pollution) emanating outside my garden observatory, M31 is , well nothing really, just a shade of light grey against the night sky, nothing spectacular! and I wondered what all the fuss was about, but folk on here say the Skyliner is better than that? Get away to one of my dark sites, and the view is stunning through my 32mm 70°afov EP. Yes, my 200P will collect more light than a 130, but nevertheless, the darkness and seeing conditions rule the observing session, for ANY scope.

I can often read a Newspaper, some nights, from my darker sites? The shadows created by the Milkyway is a strange experience! I'm of the understanding, that when we talk of dark sites, were merely intent on ridding any and all external lights and any Town/City glow. It then doesnt matter how bright the Stars are or the Milky Way, as thats the subject of interest!

Edited by Charic
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I would agree with the above posts that you were looking at M31.

To help you plan a little better in future download Stellarium a great free planetarium program that is used by a lot of us forum members. Get it here :- http://www.stellarium.org/

BTW welcome to the best forum on the net.

Good luck and clear skies.

It's great to see a newcomer who did his homework! Very cool indeed. Many are confused by advertised claims of "398X Power!!" when the finally get a telescope. Then they try for this - and all they get is a headache. A telescopes' real glory isn't in the magnification factor - it's the light-gathering ability that allows us to see things very ancient and distant in time & space.

I also highly recommend Stellarium to you (and everyone). In fact, here's the Cut & Paste for shamelessly plugging it:

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 This is a huge software-program that you can set for your exact location, set it to your own preferences of what it will show you (it has massive libraries, and more available on-line), and give you a full-screen view of what your night sky has available to you. Very realistic, too.

It takes awhile to download due to it's size. So wait until you have a bit of free time to load it. And to set-up may take you anywhere from 10 minutes to 10 days - depending on what you wish to do! Did I mention it's big? So here's the link:

http://www.stellarium.org/

And there is a user's manual on-line (follow the directions on the download site). As well as one you can download and read at your own pace:

http://barry.sarcasmogerdes.com/stellarium/stellarium_user_guide-new.pdf

The on-line manual is here:

http://www.stellarium.org/wiki/index.php/Stellarium_User_Guide

This won't cost you a penny. Stellarium is FREE. And we are honoured to have one of the developers here as a member.

Congratulations on your telescope purchase. Astronomy is a wonderful science!

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

So there you go - Enjoy!

Dave

Edited by Dave In Vermont
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I live at a very dark site and once you are dark adapted it isn't, in fact, dark in terms of seeing your way around. If the sky is really clear it's easy. When there is cloud then you can't manage without a torch but under a clear sky you certainly can. Starlight is light...

Olly

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It's great to see a newcomer who did his homework! Very cool indeed. Many are confused by advertised claims of "398X Power!!" when the finally get a telescope. Then they try for this - and all they get is a headache. A telescopes' real glory isn't in the magnification factor - it's the light-gathering ability that allows us to see things very ancient and distant in time & space.

I also highly recommend Stellarium to you (and everyone). In fact, here's the Cut & Paste for shamelessly plugging it:

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 This is a huge software-program that you can set for your exact location, set it to your own preferences of what it will show you (it has massive libraries, and more available on-line), and give you a full-screen view of what your night sky has available to you. Very realistic, too.

It takes awhile to download due to it's size. So wait until you have a bit of free time to load it. And to set-up may take you anywhere from 10 minutes to 10 days - depending on what you wish to do! Did I mention it's big? So here's the link:

http://www.stellarium.org/

And there is a user's manual on-line (follow the directions on the download site). As well as one you can download and read at your own pace:

http://barry.sarcasmogerdes.com/stellarium/stellarium_user_guide-new.pdf

The on-line manual is here:

http://www.stellarium.org/wiki/index.php/Stellarium_User_Guide

This won't cost you a penny. Stellarium is FREE. And we are honoured to have one of the developers here as a member.

Congratulations on your telescope purchase. Astronomy is a wonderful science!

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

So there you go - Enjoy!

Dave

Dave, 

I'm usually quite impulsive but from what I read this isn't something to step into lightly but the benefits are huge.  I've always been fascianted by the universe and now was just the right time to pursue what may become an obsession.  Thank you so much for the links, I took a quick look at Stellarium a few weeks ago but no more than that.  based on your shameless plug I'll get this installed tonight and take a look.  Being an IT geek I'll hopefully get my head around it.

Thank you so much for your help and links, truly appreciated.

Jon

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I'm simply thinking out loud now but regarding LP and other factors are there better months for observing throughout the year?  I guess I'm only really talking about here in the UK?  Is winter more suited than summer for example?

Jon

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.......for about the last three Months, its too light here at N57° to warrant taking the Dobsonian out, so only the binoculars get an airing! but Winter is drawing closer, the longer, darker nights are more beneficial for my needs.

Edited by Charic
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