Recently Browsing 0 members
No registered users viewing this page.
By Putaendo Patrick
William John Macdonnell was one of the leading amateur astronomers in late 19th century Australia. Since he was a child, Macdonnell was fascinated by the the stars and went on to own several good refractor telescopes, two of which have survived.
In the 1880s Macdonnell was branch manager of the Bank of New South Wales at Port Macquarie and constructed an observatory in the backyard of the bank! Around 1885 he bought a 6" Grubb refractor which was imported from Dublin and cost 250 pounds. By the 1890s however Australia was in severe economic recession; Macdonnell was forced to sell his telescope and left the bank. He found new work as a financial consultant in Sydney with a salary of 50 pounds per year! The Grubb refractor changed hands several times, at one point being used by another important amateur, E H Beattie, until it was put in storage in 1921. Fast forward to 2005 when the telescope was finally bought by the National Museum of Australia and restored to its original condition.
The link below shows a video of Hermann Wehner demonsrating how the telescope was set up and used:
It appears that Macdonnell's fortunes slowly recovered and in retirement he was able to purchase a 4.75 inch refractor made by James Parkes and Son of Birmingham in November 1907. Macdonnell died in 1910 and the telescope was subsequently bought by Sydney industrailist Ernest Wunderlich who later donated it to the New South Wales branch of the British Astronomical Association. It is now preserved by the Sydney City Skywatchers.
Macdonnell with his Parkes telescope
Imagine how good it feels when you visit your new born Grandson 9420 miles away from the UK in Cairns Australia... Then imagine how good it feels to realise the view from their balcony points South :-)
What does that mean to a very amateur stargazer like me? It means my friends that I get to see the wonders of 'Crux' the southern cross and all the wonders that surround it every evening that it is clear (which is most of them)
After much deliberating I decided to take my newly acquired Helios Apollos 15x70 wonderful wonderful binoculars. Packed in my hand luggage safely wrapped in towels and packed tightly around a flight pillow and jumper I took them aboard the Airbus A380. The pistol grip and monopod packed lovingly in my superb bullet proof travel case in the hold at the mercy of the baggage handlers at Heathrow, Abu Dhabi, Brisbane and finally Cairns.
I've been here a couple of weeks now and have enjoyed every day and night so far... I have another full week and a day to go (lucky me) I have spent a few evenings on the balcony with bins freehand and on monopod, I even used a sun lounger by the pool to lay back on one evening and wonder at the sky... At first I could clearly see the southern cross and the false cross which is a combination of four stars from Carina and Vela constellations. The main difference is the false cross is a bit larger in size than the real southern cross.
So my first easy target was the jewel box NGC 4755 laying just off beta Cru. A lovely little open star cluster with colour. Next swinging down to the Southern Pleiades IC 2602 I can see why this cluster is named as such. Yes with all the bright stars shining brightly it resembles very much our own M45. Moving up to a whole buffet of beautiful targets... At first far too many to identify so I just enjoyed the view for several evenings. I have since downloaded stellarium to my daughters laptop and can now see what I've been looking at in more detail. What a great resource that is!
The wishing well cluster is an absolute joy to gaze at with bright colours and quality sparkles, the pearl cluster is another delight and there are more NGC's in the area than you can shake a stick at... Wonderful!!
It's worth mentioning that I also bumped into NGC 5139 Omega Centauri which is huge through the bins @15x It looked like a huge circular fuzzy... Amazing. Mars and Saturn were up, Mars looking like a bright red disc which I initially thought was a giant red star, but should have known better Doh!! It's also a really weird thing to see Orion directly overhead early evening and an ecliptic totally different to what I'm used to... I'm in temperatures of + 31° during the day and the seeing is superb even from this partially light polluted complex in town.
I'm due to go to a look out spot this week where the skies will be darker than a dark thing in dark land on international dark day I'm told. I have yet to see the Magellanic clouds which I am so excited about and a must before I return home.
I consider myself so lucky to be here in this location with my new Grandson and owning these Helios Apollos. My son in law is very excited about what he's seeing through the bins for the first time so yesterday I bought a pair of Pentax 20 x 60 WPs after reading rave reviews which I was to leave here for him to use. However, I'm planning to take them back today as the extra mag and smaller openings leave a very dark and limited view, especially as they are only 2.2° fov as opposed to the wonderful and generous 4.2° of the Apollos. I'll hopefully be able to exchange for a pair of 15x70's and something else...
That's it for now my friends, I'll report back later in the week once I've bagged the LMC and SMC...
Beaut..... As they say down here!
P.S I managed to exchange those 20x60s for two pairs of bins... a lovely pair of 15x70s and a great pair of 8x42 Bushnell trophy XLTs. The 15x70s are as you would expect perfect for stargazing letting in lots of light and showing beautiful clusters in perfect collimation. Now these 8x42 Bushnells are really lovely... they are so light and easy to hold, pin sharp stars and a delightful FOV capturing the whole of the Southern Cross in one FOV including that little gem, the Jewel Box. They will also be my new and first birdwatching bins to accompany me on many walks in the future. I have to say that the Pentax 20x60s were a lovely piece of engineering and quality and came with a delightful padded bag - but not for my star gazing I'm afraid, let in very little light and far too much mag to go free hand (sorry, that's just my opinion)
That's it for now, I`ll hopefully report back after seeing the Large and small Magellanic clouds.... Any other tips for targets??