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Here is my little report from SGL11, a bit of a combination of equipment commentary and observing report.

Staying true to my current minimalist approach to observing (thanks guys ??), I just had my Tak FC-100 and 8" Portaball with me. Last year I was armed with a 16" Sumerian, so I was interested to compare just how much I could see under a dark sky with so much less aperture.

I managed to do a fair bit of observing each day apart from Saturday night really when it was clouded out.

During the days, I did a nice amount of solar observing using the Tak with a Herschel Wedge and my TS binoviewers. On the Vixen GP mount the sun was tracked quite well even without polar aligning, and being able to pan around the surface using the motor drives without touching the scope was an excellent benefit over a manual alt az.

Having never really got on with binoviewers before (this is my fourth pair), I'm delighted to say that I found the TS ones excellent. The self centering eyepiece holders were easy to use, as was the individual focusing and I had no problems merging the images even at higher powers.

The sun took on a richer tone than single eye viewing, and when the seeing allowed, the detail was wonderful both in and around the active regions and also the surface granulation. Nice regions of faculae were visible in several places near the limb. As usual it was interesting to watch the sun over a period of a few days to watch how the features developed. Areas of faculae on the first day began to show small sun spots on subsequent days.

The other revelation with the binoviewers was the moon. My floaters were much better controlled, and I did find viewing more relaxing than normal. The whole thing had a 3D feel to it and I felt like I was able to access more detail. The terminator was particularly lovely, and the contrast very strong. No false colour that I could see. I was using 25mm Ortho eyepieces and an AP Barcon to give higher magnification. I've got a pair of 15mm Vixen SLVs on the way so hopefully that will give me comfortable high power viewing.

I do feel like I've found a great setup now. I will use the GP mount whenever I'm doing high power Lunar, Solar and planetary viewing. For everything else I will most likely use the Giro-WR as I find star hopping much easier in alt az.

Onto night time observing... Until Sunday, my main viewing was of Jupiter due to the conditions. I used both the Tak and the Portaball and it was interesting to compare the views. The Tak was reliably good all the time. The image was stable and sharp with good detail at all times which got better when the seeing stabilized. With the Portaball, the view was more variable with the seeing. When poor, the view was blurry and worse than the Tak, but when the seeing was excellent, the resolution was clearly higher and there was lovely colour and detail visible. GRS was visible on all three nights I observed and showed a lovely dark orange colour to it with separation from the SEB. Not quite as good as the views a few weeks back but none too shabby.

Finally DSOs. On the previous nights I had a quick scoot around a few of the more obvious objects. M42 looked lovely but I was only able to get hints of the E star in the trapezium due to the variable seeing. I did use my 22x85 binos on it too, with UHC and OIII filters fitted, with very good results. On the Induro tripod they can be positioned very comfortably at all altitudes including at the zenith due to the height capability of the tripod. I'm now keeping this one!

On Sunday night once the moon had gone down I managed to get stuck into quite a wide range of objects. The seeing was fairly average, and the transparency not the best I've seen, but at mag 21.3 at the zenith the sky was probably as dark as I've been under with a scope of any significant aperture.

I've listed all the objects I noted in SkySafari at the end. It's not an exhaustive list as I saw quite a few more galaxies and open clusters than this but was not able to identify them all. I'll just comment on a few notables here. I mostly observed with the 24mm Panoptic which gave x46 with a 4.3mm exit pupil and a 1.4 degree field of view. For higher powers I used the zoom giving anything from x61 to x123.

M51 looked surprisingly bright, nicely defined haloes around the central cores of the two galaxies, and signs of the bridge between the two. I would only say there were hints of structure, I wouldn't go as far as to say I could see the spiral arms but it was very nice none the less.

M101 was plainly visible, easy to find but just appeared as a large oval glow with a bright centre. No structure unlike with the 16" last year.

M97 and M108 looked lovely framed in the same field together. At higher powers M97 showed hints of structure but no clear 'eyes' which I assume was down to the transparency. M108 showed some nice mottling to it.

NGC 457 was as fun as ever, very nice in the 8", whilst NGC 2169 (the 37 cluster) was also a delight. The tiny double in the corner of the '3' was nicely resolved, lovely to see.

I did see the 'black eye' in M64 though not as obvious as I've seen before, and M63 was just a fairly featureless oval, no hints of structure.

Likewise whilst I found all three parts to the Leo triplet, I could not say they were particularly bright. It's possible of course that my secondary was misting up/freezing for some of these targets. I tried to keep it clear but was not always successful.

The Needle Galaxy was a very interesting comparison with the 16" last year. In the larger scope it was very bright, and the 'needles' extending out were very long and obvious, extending further with averted vision. In the 8", the galaxy itself and the arms were clear, but a shadow of the view in the 16". Still, it's nice to know I can be hitting these targets with a scope that is easily transportable on holiday and to dark sites.

The last thing I'll ramble on about is Markarian's Chain. Again, I had spectacular views of this in the 16" last year so I was interested to see if I could find it in the 8". Of course, I could, and was pleasantly surprised by the views. Quite clear and I was able to trace the chain of galaxies all the way along. I hopped around the area identifying some galaxies by following it in SkySafari, then getting lost after a while and just panning around enjoying the view.

I'm very pleased with the Portaball. Lovely views in a scope which is so easy to transport and assemble/break down. I've got some work to do checking out whether the secondary heater is working as the secondary was freezing up so frequently but aside from that it's all good. I was observing stars down to mag 14.47 (that I noted, probably beyond), and galaxies down to mag 12.07, again possibly beyond this in some of the unidentified galaxies. Last year I got a galaxy at mag 14.2 if I remember correctly which shows an indication of the differing capabilities of the scopes.

An excellent four days, finishing with a pretty spectacular nights observing and a lovely full English breakfast in the morning before heading home ?

List: SGL11

Owl Cluster - NGC 457
(Open Cluster in Cassiopeia)

Double Cluster - NGC 869
(Open Cluster in Perseus)

Chi Persei - NGC 884
(Open Cluster in Perseus)

Polaris - Alpha UMi
(Variable Double Star in Ursa Minor)

Pleiades - M 45
(Open Cluster in Taurus)

NGC 1502
(Open Cluster in Camelopardalis)

Rigel - Beta Ori
(Variable Double Star in Orion)

NGC 1907
(Open Cluster in Auriga)

Starfish Cluster - M 38
(Open Cluster in Auriga)

Orion Nebula - M 42
(Bright Nebula in Orion)

Messier 43
(Bright Nebula in Orion)

Alnitak - Zeta Ori
(Double Star in Orion)

NGC 2169
(Open Cluster in Orion)

Castor - Alpha Gem
(Double Star in Gemini)

Beehive Cluster - M 44
(Open Cluster in Cancer)

Messier 67
(Open Cluster in Cancer)

Bode's Nebulae - M 81
(Spiral Galaxy in Ursa Major)

Bode's Nebulae - M 82
(Spiral Galaxy in Ursa Major)

Algieba - Gamma1 Leo
(Double Star in Leo)

Messier 95
(Spiral Galaxy in Leo)

Messier 96
(Spiral Galaxy in Leo)

Messier 105
(Elliptical Galaxy in Leo)

NGC 3384
(Elliptical Galaxy in Leo)

NGC 3373
(Spiral Galaxy in Leo)

Messier 108
(Spiral Galaxy in Ursa Major)

Owl Nebula - M 97
(Planetary Nebula in Ursa Major)

Messier 65
(Spiral Galaxy in Leo)

Messier 66
(Spiral Galaxy in Leo)

NGC 3628
(Spiral Galaxy in Leo)

NGC 3631
(Spiral Galaxy in Ursa Major)

NGC 3953
(Spiral Galaxy in Ursa Major)

Messier 109
(Spiral Galaxy in Ursa Major)

GSCII 984
(Star in Ursa Major)

Markarian's Chain - M 84
(Elliptical Galaxy in Virgo)

Melotte 111
(Open Cluster in Coma Berenices)

NGC 4387
(Elliptical Galaxy in Virgo)

NGC 4388
(Spiral Galaxy in Virgo)

Markarian's Chain - M 86
(Elliptical Galaxy in Virgo)

Eyes Galaxies - NGC 4435
(Spiral Galaxy in Virgo)

Eyes Galaxies - NGC 4438
(Spiral Galaxy in Virgo)

Markarian's Chain - NGC 4458
(Elliptical Galaxy in Virgo)

NGC 4459
(Spiral Galaxy in Coma Berenices)

Markarian's Chain - NGC 4461
(Spiral Galaxy in Virgo)

Markarian's Chain - NGC 4473
(Elliptical Galaxy in Coma Berenices)

NGC 4474
(Spiral Galaxy in Coma Berenices)

Markarian's Chain - NGC 4477
(Spiral Galaxy in Coma Berenices)

Messier 88
(Spiral Galaxy in Coma Berenices)

Needle Galaxy - NGC 4565
(Spiral Galaxy in Coma Berenices)

Whale Galaxy - NGC 4631
(Spiral Galaxy in Canes Venatici)

NGC 4656
(Spiral Galaxy in Canes Venatici)

Black Eye Galaxy - M 64
(Spiral Galaxy in Coma Berenices)

Messier 53
(Globular Cluster in Coma Berenices)

Sunflower Galaxy - M 63
(Spiral Galaxy in Canes Venatici)

Whirlpool Galaxy - M 51
(Spiral Galaxy in Canes Venatici)

NGC 5195
(Spiral Galaxy in Canes Venatici)

Messier 3
(Globular Cluster in Canes Venatici)

Izar - Epsilon Boo
(Double Star in Bootes)

Hercules Cluster - M 13
(Globular Cluster in Hercules)

Messier 92
(Globular Cluster in Hercules)

Vega - Alpha Lyr
(Variable Double Star in Lyra)

Double Double - Epsilon1 Lyr
(Double Star in Lyra)

Ring Nebula - M 57
(Planetary Nebula in Lyra)

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Nice report Stu. Glad you had some nice clear skies. The portaball sounds like an interesting scope, I just googled it. Zambuto mirrors are very good aren't they? :)

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Thanks Richard. Yes, the Portaball is a very interesting design and it works very well in practice. I think the main appeal for me is the compactness, ease of use and simplicity of transporting it, plus the optical quality of course.

Zambutto mirrors are supposed to be 'the best', it certainly shows lovely contrast and minimal light scatter so I'm very happy.

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I've just noticed that the object list is a long way from complete, I will try to correct that, must have not copied it correctly

EDIT That's better, the list copied correctly and I've removed the formatting so it can be read properly this time!

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Brilliant report ! I was so pleased to see you gentlemen hadn't packed up on Sunday. I was using 8" with similar results, just an inspiring night, as was the company, hurrah !

Anyone wanting to observe should get down to SGL.

Got back home and that night I managed to see 8 stars in the whole of Leo, who ordered that Moon ?!

Nick.

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Nice report Stu.  I'm particularly jealous about markarians chain - one of my dark sky targets. The air was so full of moisture (and my secondary dewed up) that even the brightest of the Virgo galaxies was a struggle on Friday night. 

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Great report Stu and Sunday night sounds like it was the best of the batch. Markarian's Chain must have been great out there.  I can manage quite a few bits of it in moderate LP with the 6" so 8" under dark skies must be fabulous :)

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11 hours ago, Special K said:

Great report Stu and Sunday night sounds like it was the best of the batch. Markarian's Chain must have been great out there.  I can manage quite a few bits of it in moderate LP with the 6" so 8" under dark skies must be fabulous :)

Thanks ?. Yes, Sunday nght was the best of the four nights I was there. I think Wednesday night good too?

I do like Markarian's Chain, the skies make all the difference. From home I have no chance so this is one of the few chances I get to view it.

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Very nice to read that report Stu :icon_biggrin:

I can recall observing Markarian's Chain at a previous SGL star party (last years ?) with my 12" dob. I think I had 10/11 galaxies in the same FoV at one point.

I reckon the combination of quality, practicality, portability and sheer ability will make the Portaball one of your most used scopes :icon_biggrin:

Edited by John
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Thanks John, yes I think you are right. It's lovely to have something so capable on Jupiter in terms of contrast, resolution and lack of diffraction spikes, but also with a bit of aperture for deep sky.

My only trouble is that it is making me want a 31 Nagler again for the field of view!! ??

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Great report Stu, and a nice range of objects.  I'm taking more of a minimalist approach these days with my observing - hence the acquisition of a certain Tal...

I was, for a few years, primarily imaging, but then I decided to go for a big (to me anyway) dob - a 305mm Explore Scientific ultralight.  Fantastic scope.   However, I've been getting into the 'fracs in the last year or so again, and must admit, some of the most gorgeous views I had last September in Kelling were wide filed Milky Way sweeps through my Ikharos ED70 mounted on an AZ4...!

Looking forward to giving the Tal first light :) - for a change, tonight is actually looking vaguely promising...!

Cheers!

Edited by AstroAdam
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12 minutes ago, AstroAdam said:

Great report Stu, and a nice range of objects.  I'm taking more of a minimalist approach these days with my observing - hence the acquisition of a certain Tal...

I was, for a few years, primarily imaging, but then I decided to go for a big (to me anyway) dob - a 305mm Explore Scientific ultralight.  Fantastic scope.   However, I've been getting into the 'fracs in the last year or so again, and must admit, some of the most gorgeous views I had last September in Kelling were wide filed Milky Way sweeps through my Ikharos ED70 mounted on an AZ4...!

Looking forward to giving the Tal first light :) - for a change, tonight is actually looking vaguely promising...!

Cheers!

I'm sure you'll enjoy it Adam, nice scope. Glad that we have rescued you from the dark side ?

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Nice report, Stu. You certainly seemed to get the best of the dark sky on Sunday night and (joking aside) I really liked that minimalist set-up you had with you. I have had similar experience to you with bino-viewers so might give those TS ones a go to see if I can get on with them, even if only for  solar and lunar.

Thanks for the report :wink:

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