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Planets, comets and Messiers


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I've been keen to try some planetary observations in my new 10" Dob, so I decided, optimistically, to set my alarm for 5.30 this morning based on a forecast of clear skies in Devon. I crawled out of bed and peeped between the curtains, to be greeted by a fantastic bright view of Jupiter, Mars and Venus. The excitement of my first chance to see the planets properly was enough to wake me up, so a few minutes later I was dressed, downed an espresso and set up the scope in the garden.

I'm not an experienced observer, but I'd still like to document what I saw on here. Light pollution at my site is moderate, and the transparency and seeing were good.

Straight away, Jupiter and its moons were a sparkling sight. I was able to make out 4 cloud bands on Jupiter, and some kind of darker mark on the first band north of centre (below centre in the inverted image, if you know what I mean!). As it happened, I had two different 5mm eyepieces to compare here, so I spent a little time swapping between a BST Starguider 5mm and a Celestron X-Cel LX 5mm. Overall they were very similar, but I had an inkling of better definition of the cloud features in the BST, as well as slightly better sharpness as the planet drifted out of the edge of the field of view. I'd been unsure of which eyepiece to keep for a while, but I've settled on the BST now. Not too surprisingly, tracking a planet at high magnification (240x in my case) with a Dobsonian was "fun"!

I then turned to Venus and Mars. Venus was a blinding disc about 2/3 full. Mars was a nice pink circle at 240x, but no surface features were discernible.

I had heard about comet Catalina, so I tracked it down in Stellarium and used my Telrad finder to eyeball its approximate position. Eventually I located it and observed a smudge with a bright core in the scope. No tail was visible, although I didn't spend a great deal of time observing it and didn't try my lowest magnification. Still, great to bag my first comet!

Being my first morning session, it was the first time I was able to get a good view of some areas of the sky, particularly Ursa Major (usually behind my house in the evening). I was keen to tick off some new Messiers, including M81 and M82 (Bode and Cigar Galaxies). I located them easily using the Telrad, and enjoyed a nice view of both objects using my 25mm 60-degree eyepiece. Next, I located the Whirlpool Galaxy (M51). M51 was quite a satisfying sight, despite moderate light pollution. I could just about make out spiral structure, although I feel I really need to go to a darker site to appreciate it.

All in all, a very productive morning!

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A very good session.. I'm luckily if I can see a fraction of what you saw in 1 session ( before the clouds roll in).

I didn't set the alarm this morning as last night was raining, cloudy and windy and I didn't give it much hope to clear for the morning,but wish I had now as perfect blue skies at 8am. Would have seen Juipter and Venus for an hour, but not much else!

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Was thinking of getting a 5mm eyepiece and have the same scope as you, so will consider the BST.

The BSTs are good for the price. The only one I didn't get along with was the 25mm, which was awful in the 10" f/4.7 Dob. I replaced it with the XCel LX 25mm, which is excellent by comparison.

Ed

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A very nice report, I was outside at 06.00 this morning with the binos but didn't find the comet as I have no idea where it is apart from somewhere between Venus and Arcturus. I must really find out how to get comet information onto software programs.

Pleased to hear at least some parts of the UK had a clear sky.

Alan

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Brilliant write up. We were hunting similar prey this morning, and it's nice to read your take on it. :-)

You say you're not experienced (I'm not either) but you're picking out some great details. Well done.

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A very nice report, I was outside at 06.00 this morning with the binos but didn't find the comet as I have no idea where it is apart from somewhere between Venus and Arcturus. I must really find out how to get comet information onto software programs.

Pleased to hear at least some parts of the UK had a clear sky.

Alan

Here you go Alan:- http://stargazerslounge.com/topic/113971-adding-comets-asteroids-and-small-bodies-to-stellarium/

Sorry to hijack your thread.

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The BSTs are good for the price. The only one I didn't get along with was the 25mm, which was awful in the 10" f/4.7 Dob. I replaced it with the XCel LX 25mm, which is excellent by comparison.

Ed

Went to my local astronomy shop (Altair Astro) today to pick up a Barlow and also ended up buying a 5mm Altair Lightwave LER 1.25" Planetary Eyepiece.

Better suited to a smaller scope, but in my price range, so will do for the time being.

A Christmas present to myself.

Edited by Norfolk star gazer
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