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johnfosteruk

(Not quite) First light

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So I've been out a number of times since getting my SW 130 for Christmas but they've been hit and run affairs, specific targets, in the back yard (quite dark but not completely free of light pollution and obstructed views in 3 directions) getting used to the equipment and spending most of my time familiarising myself with using the German Equatorial and learning to star hop. I've shoved the Nikon DSLR on the end and taken a few pretty good images of the moon, even done some sketches, and I've seen some nice quick views but I've not really focused on observing properly. Tonight was different.

I'm in Plymouth and there's some nice spots around the coast that are quite dark, so tonight I bundled everything into the boot and my brother and I took my 9 year old niece who has had a quick look in the garden but has been asking for a proper session for a while to the car park above Bovisand beach for an observing session. And WOW, no DSO's or hard to find targets but totally delightful, the real start to my observing career I think.

It was a lovely clear evening, we got there about 19:45, it wasn't too cold and the sun set as we set everything up. The niece was eager for the sun to set, most annoyed in fact that it hadn't yet!! While we waited I checked the RDF alignment on a distant telegraph pole. I roughly aligned so the little economy motor I bought would be of use for prolonged observing.

As we finished our coffee and snacks, She noticed jupiter twinkling to the south east, so using the RDF I swung around and found it in the 25mm, focused and gave the eyepiece over to my niece who was absolutely delighted to see 3 moons (Ganymede, Europa & Callisto I think) and the north and south equatorial belts of the giant planet.

She spent about 5 minutes at the eyepiece, the motor doing its job quite nicely and we switched to the 10mm, focused and I had to fight her off it about 15 minutes later.

Io (I think) was also clearly visible with the 10mm. She clearly described the moons, the equatorial and temperate belts and various 'swirls'. Totally captivated. We even viewed Jupiter with the 2xBarlow, I was expecting poor quality as I thought we were pushing the limits of my scope's resolving power, but the clarity was still quite good, the seeing was excellent and the observing gods were smiling upon us.

Eventually my brother and I both had a good crack at jupiter as well, the clarity was amazing, totally surprising in fact, given that I wasn't expecting much from my little 130.

After about an hour we swung around to Orion. We'd already observed M42 through the bins to my brother's amazement and after a little bit of mucking around with the finder (next upgrade will be a finderscope) I found the great nebula, very distinctive and immediately recognisable but only a smear in the 25mm at this stage. 

Despite my awesome descriptions (smudgy wing shape around the stars in the middle, etc and so on) my brother wasn't seeing it and then a car pulled in with lights full beam and ruined it for all of us. 

With our dark adaptation ruined we stumbled around for some coffee and after about half an hour wait while we re-dark adapted he had another crack at it. This time he saw it and was totally captivated. After a while he asked about a group of stars he was seeing, so I took my place at the eyepiece for a while - it was the trapezium, clear and crisp. The slightest vibration and you can only make out 3 of the stars, the two leftmost (in the eyepiece view) seemed to blur together with vibration. But when there's no vibration it's as clear as you like, and all the while the nebula was becoming clearer. Absolutely marvellous to be able to recognise what you're seeing, almost like seeing an old friend for the first time in a while.

We spent a good 20 minutes each observing M42, I know it's easy to find and it's big, but wow, the  buzz of seeing it yourself in your own scope, there in the sky in front of you, revealing more of itself as you keep observing  - just amazing. I'm certain I'll see more detail on future observations but what I saw tonight was too much to take in. I think I'll be sketching furiously in future.

All in all 'twas an awesome evening and, yes I've got scope envy when I look at the equipment forums as I want to see Jupiter bigger, and more detail in M42, and find the Horsehead and take hubble quality images of DSOs and guide with pinpoint accuracy for imaging and build an observatory where everything is automated and the mount is rock solid, but do you know what? What I've got is just perfect for now. I think I'll be viewing plenty more of the objects up there in the sky with my scope before I even think about an upgrade. 

All in all a great evening, and thanks to the members of SGL for setting my expectations as I've perused the boards, and keeping me patient. It's this that has taught me what I needed to know in order to make a night like tonight possible.

Clear Skies

JF

Edited by johnfosteruk
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what a great report! thats what observing is all about! I have just had my first night great observing aswell and am buzzing about it!

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9 minutes ago, johnfosteruk said:

.....but wow, the  buzz of seeing it yourself in your own scope, there in the sky in front of you, revealing more of itself as you keep observing  - just amazing....

Very well put John - thats just why a lot of us do this crazy hobby :icon_biggrin:

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6 minutes ago, popeye85 said:

what a great report! thats what observing is all about! I have just had my first night great observing aswell and am buzzing about it!

Me too mate, and the niece. She's stopping at ours tonight and after we got home she spent about an hour describing the session to my wife. Oh and also, while observing M42 I completely freaked. A satellite passed through my field of view (Flock 1E-6 if you must know, as a slightly OCD geek I love that I can find this out) and I have to admit I thought it might be alien invaders or planet 9 on a collision course for a moment!!!

Edited by johnfosteruk
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A very enjoyable read. It's lovely to see your niece getting involved.

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Thanks. It's lovely to have her involved. She's eager to get out again as well which is absolutely brilliant. 

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Great report. And so nice you have your family involved to share your enthusiasm with.

I am also eager to buy a bigger telescope, to use in a dark place, where the difference will be well noticeable.

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Lovely report! :)

M42 is really a nice target a full of surprises depending on sky conditions and darkness! Looking forward to reading your next reports!

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Excellent report, and your attitude regarding your current equipment is spot on.  Years ago, when I first got started, I made the mistake of giving in too quickly to "aperture fever".  I've recently gone back to using smaller aperture instruments again and find myself observing much more.  You could spend the rest of your observing life with your 130mm and not see everything it could reveal to you.

 

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It's always been the way I am. I took up photography with a 'prosumer' or 'bridge' camera and I wasn't satisfied that I'd 'learned the ropes' to a standard suitable to brandish an SLR until 9 years later and I captured (IMO anyway) some stunning images with that first camera. Same with fish keeping, stuck with small community tanks until I'd learned enough to care for more demanding cichlids and marine wildlife. etc and so on with the many hobbies I seem to have accumulated. I don't like doing things half assed, either do it well or not at all in fact it really bothers me to see missed opportunities for wonder, betterment and amazement for the apparent lack of ability to put some effort into learning something. To the point that now I'm an old curmudgeon in my forties I'm starting to comment on it and not caring who hears!!

Add to that the pressures of everyday life and work which mean limited time and you're correct, I don't anticipate observing even half of the lists I've already compiled before my time's up. I will however enjoy every moment of it.

Edited by johnfosteruk

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Great observing report and go with the sentiments, effort in to get the rewards out.

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Great report, I started with a SW 130, gave superb views, just ideal to learn the skies with, 

Nick.

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