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10Dec - Big Dob stars as "Mary Dobbins" in "Super-Gala-Nebulistic-Ethos-Ali-Horsey"

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Date: Sun 10th December 1915pm – 0100am        Scope: 20” f3.6 Lukehurst Dob with Paracorr (fl = 2089mm)


Setting the scene

The sky had been slow to clear through the afternoon, I had the occasional glance skywards and a sigh to reflect the slow parade of the clouds given the light winds of the day.

We have been so lucky to miss all the snow that has instead decide to descend on our southern relations so I take this opportunity to remind them of their favourite slogan “its grim up north!” – Maybe, but not so tonight! :):) 

I was planning to start around 8pm, but the thought of a wet sky and possible deterioration led to me “giving in” and heading out just after 7pm.

The shed was already showing minus 3 as the temperature as I set the scope up!


Revisit old friends

As is now usual (in this long running spell of nights outside, please may it continue!) I started with a trip around some galaxy favourites, M33 and then onto NGC891.

M33 glx – Starting with the Ethos10 (x200) I was greeted with my first Wow of the night (there will be quite a few!). The galaxy surface area was really standing out well and at this magnification if more than filled the E10 FOV. There was so much surface on show that finding the NGCs was going to be a challenge! I dropped back to the Ethos13 (x150) to try to get a better scene. Wow the view was good. I could pick out five arms :) (including a new one coming out under the core to the left of the NGC near the star!). The main “S” just swept back behind the core then back through the core in a bar type style before bending tightly and sweeping back out into the distance. There was the (seen it before) small arm coming out to the right of the outward main arm and a long arm that was breaking from the centre and passing out to the left of the NGC near the star. Within all this there was just loads of surface brightness. I threw in the Ethos8 (x250), the arms were gone in all the surface that was visible. I let M33 drift across from outside FOV on one side to the other. As the bright surface drifted in and across it was like “I was in a spaceship approaching the galaxy from above, marvelling at its size & splendor shimmering below” (unforgettable view).  And in all this I seemed to find a new NGC to the top-left of the outer rim of the galaxy (the image shows as IC132 – that a new one for me!) :)


NGC819 glx – With “a spring in my step”, I hopped up to NGC819 hoping for a similar Wowser. The E10 was in the focuser as I centered the long vertical streak of dust and Wow the centre lane was there top to bottom. The bright core area stood out and the centre black strip was easy to see here, it needed a bit more averted to bag the blackness as it passed out to the outer edges. In with the E8 and the galaxy will not fit in the FOV :) (its so long) but the centre lane is harder to see so a win for the E10 here. E13 showed a nice view too but x200 was the sweet spot tonight.

Last time out, I had spent so long on galaxies that Cassiopeia had passed me by. “Not tonight Josephine!”, I spun the big scope around and watched Sky Safari as the Cave came into view…

Cave nebula – Not tried the Cave in a month or two, and its about to say goodbye for another year so I thought why not? After some trial and error, I settled on the Ethos21 with Astronomik O3 filter combo. The gas along the top edge of the Cave swept in from the right, then a sharp 90 degree turn throws it back out to the top. The gas lane was thick and clear. When traced off to the right, the lane just goes on and on and on (“just like my wife”, did I hear you say?). This is probably the best I have seen this area. I swapped to the Astronomik UHC, and the black cave area was easier to pin down but the gas lane along the top was better with the O3.

Bubble neb – I have had a mixed bag with this planetary, so I determined to get over there early with the Ethos8 (while all my EPs were warm and I still had a selection to choose from, soon the cold would take over and I would be down to one EP in the focuser wrapped in a warm heated blanket). The Ethos 8 was a success (x250) and managed to give me my best view (but it still needs higher mag than this really! With the UHC I found my best view using averted vision, a pretty clear “comma” shape of gas is seen around the bright star. With some staring a black appears that “hints” at the bubble – that’s the best I got.

Carolines Rose – I take my open clusters only when I have to, they are not why I stand out here freezing my bits off! But I make an exception for Carolines Rose, it’s a wonder of the night sky for sure. How did Messier miss this? In with the Ethos13 and WOWSER, the cluster takes on a 3D appearance as the nebula is ripped up by the new stars bursting through! :) The cluster also showed some notable red stars that caught the eye as the cluster drifted across the view. It was the “depth” of the view that was astounding and I spent a good few minutes loving the view.

Pacman neb – Starting unfiltered, I found the pacman not that easy to pick out but once I added the UHC it jumped out at me. The E13 framed it nicely and it was another lovely object. The centre blackness did not leap out at me as it has on other occasions so maybe this was not my best view of it.

Heart & Soul neb – This was a bit of a “damp squid” the other night, I was too late onto it and lost some mirror to the shed roof. Tonight I was “on time” and with the UHC I found both nebulas to be bright and the edges were well defined and easily traceable. Bright patches were seen within but not as bright as I have seen them in the past. Maybe it was the E13 that was bringing out that little extra due to the extra mag?

Pleiades (& Merope) – After reading an observing thread from @Mark at Beaufort and @jetstream , the Pleiades was next on my list, with the added twist of the "Merope nebula". I had zoomed in on Sky Safari and seen the Merope star surrounded by the nebula so I knew where I was going. The E13 was loaded and the initial view of the nebula was underwhelming. I threw in the UHC and now the nebula appeared, there is plenty of it above the star and once you get your eye in, you can follow it down the right side and there you find the black finger passing back under the Merope star. In with the O3, the nebula is not as clear now but the star itself sits in a thick black circle (is this the bubble I wonder? – I can see a ring on Sky Safari around the star). Back to unfiltered view. Now the Merope nebula is easier to see (I know where to look), I can see it as it borders the finger and see it pass close-by under the star. Now staring at the Merope star, I see a thin black circle come and go in my view – I bet this is the bubble! :)


Time for a break

By now (2220ish) both feet and one hand feel like they are below freezing :smile: . I can feel the need of some warmth... I look up and wonder if the conditions will be gone by the time I return? But given the choice of freeze to death or live? I choose life, and pull the roof closed on the shed :( 

I put my eyepatch over my observing eye, and head inside to boil the kettle…

Twenty minutes, two warm drinks later and a hot water bottle for my stocking feet later, I am ready to head out for part 2…


A Winning Rosette

Its 2245 and I still have a couple of hours before the Devils Orb busts up from behind the Pennines. After re-opening the roof, re-connecting sky safari to Nexus, I head back to the Pleiades to check my alignment has survived the break. Everything remains dead centre (got to love Nexus) and I can ONLY SEE ORION moving into viewing position.

Flaming Star neb – After my previous success, I decide to start off with the Flaming star. I have a nice warm Ethos13 and the Astronomik Hb filter loaded. I locate the 4 and 2 stars that show the location and position them top-left in the FOV and start to seek out the nebula. It takes a while to get my eye back in, but the gentle ripple effect of the nebula waves start to appear. I decide to try the huge “comma” shaped tail and after some initial difficulty, my eye must have opened up and the red glow of the wide (at x150) tail comes into sight. I follow it up and around to the right, it covers a very large area. A couple of times I got lost following other gassy shapes and needed Sky Safari to get me back on track. Now as I returned to the flame section, the view had improved and more wavy nebulosity was there to see. The tail section is easier than the wavy section for sure.

IC410 neb – I ran out of time the other night due to the pesky moon, but tonight I had the time so back for more of IC410. E13 and O3 filter loaded. The nebula is pretty easy to trace. It has some brighter bits within it with the best bit being near a cluster of a few stars within the region. Nice. :)

IC417 neb – Smaller and harder to see than IC410. You can tease out the edges but its an odd shape and easy to miss some of it. More revisits needed to tie it down in my mind for sure.

Rosette neb – “I have been waiting for this!”, I think, as I move the big dob around and point it to the Rosette nebula in Orion. I am stuck with the Ethos13 as my only warm EP ( the E21 would have been my weapon of choice ). I have the O3 loaded. :)WOW and double WOW! :) What a nebula this is! At x150, you need a lot of nudging to scan the area that this nebula covers but the detail to see is overwhelming. Its impossible not to stay for several minutes at the eyepiece as you scroll around following wavy lanes of think bright gas. Then fainter lanes of gas. If you could get the whole thing into the FOV at this magnification then you would have a “picture” to rival anything from Hubble any day! :) I swap over to the UHC, and find the view not as good as the O3. There is still plenty to see but  the darker background with the O3 made for a better view.


The Business End

We are now onto page 3 of my notes for the session! I have an hour maybe before the Orb and I have some serious observing still to do (says the man on a mission)…

Cone neb – After my controversial claims of seeing “the cone” with my C11 last year sparked responses of “oh no you didn’t”. This morning I sit here and tell you “Last night, I saw the Cone and yes, you were right. I didn’t see it with the C11”. I have the Ethos13 and O3 loaded as I centre the cluster using Sky Safari. In the eyepiece, I head off up to the Cone (as I know exactly where it is after several visits last year). The first thing I notice after some time and concentration is that the “nebula is here” :)there is plenty of nebula to the right of the Cone. I deploy Horsehead techniques and let my eye tune into the nebula gas, then pan left to the Cone defining stars and there is just blackness :) . The right side edge (the edge with the double star) of the Cone is pretty easy to see as there is plenty of nebula on the other side of the edge. The left hand edge is harder, there seems to be less nebula over the other side to make it stand out. But for sure, you cannot miss the blackness within the Cone area compared to the nebula sitting off to the right. The key is to let your eye settle on the nebula gas first. I am marking that as a hit but I am more than happy to keep coming back to see if I get even luckier…

Flame neb – I swap in the Hb filter and move to Alnitak. There is the flame straight off. The trunk seems wider than my last visit, the branches are lost in what is really a big dark patch.

Horsehead – I nudge the scope up past the 2 bright stars, then onto the two pointers and “Hello”, no need to find the Horsey – I CAN SEE IT! The horsey is there as clear as day in direct vision :):)

“I don’t know what all the fuss is about”, the Horsey says to me!

“Bug*er me” I respond with a grin! (Well, it IS cold! The mind is allowed a moment of fun now and again)

I watch the large black horsey figure for a moment, then it dawns on me. “Look at the thickness of the nebula lane:) The Nebula running up from Alnitak has  never looked as bright and wide as this before. I can trace it up and up and up. Astonishing. I pan back down and the Horsey trots-by, it’s not even trying to hide – “What’s wrong with you?”, I ask…

Additional notes: I found the UHC filter much harder to see the Horsey than previous visits but with the Hb it was just there! I tried the E8 and Hb (x250) and found the Horsey a struggle. E13 (x150) and Hb = Wham, Bam, Thank you mam.

M42 Orion neb – After the Horsey success and plenty of time saved, I am off to revisit the “baby bird” (Or Fishes head as @John calls it!). I start with E13 and UHC filter loaded. I swing around to M42 and the baby bird is back! It has lost none of its appeal from the last visit. Its face is so big and you just sit and stare at it (Fantastic!). John’s reply to my post “25Nov - Big Dob exposes delights of Orion” comes to mind and I bring up the picture he posted of the baby bird in my mind. I remember there was some mention of the corner of the head and a black patch so I start to look there and notice a this blackness that I missed before. The UHC really brings out the “folds” in the nebula and it has some much more texture than unfiltered.

I now have @John picture up on screen (I will add it to my post too) and I have to say that it’s a poor comparison to what I actually saw (“It’s so much more!” [Luke Skywalker] ). In with the Ethos8 (x250) and even I was not ready for this…

If the Ethos13 reveals a “baby bird”, then the Ethos8 reveals a “hungry seagull ripping a black hot dog from a child's fingers” :) Wow! :)

I make a note of the stars I can see and now comparing them to John's picture, I saw

MT (under the trapezium)

MR & V1230 (under MT)

MV & P1923 + P1972 (under MR & V1230)

Corner Lot was black and very vivid

Either V1399 or V494, I saw one of them.

I missed looking for “thruster”, LQ & LV (in the bird’s cheek) and the “Candle star” – next time John!

I did see 6 stars in the Trapezium.


I’m Done

The 8mm misted up. I looked up over the shed wall and see the Devils Orb :( It was time to call it a night (at 1am).

I was surprisingly warm at this point (warmer than I had been before the end of part 1).

The scope was icy (UTA, Shroud and Mirror box).

The thermometer in the shed read as minus 7.

Time to boil the kettle, re-fill the hot water bottle and head for bed…

I was feeling elated, what a night! I had plenty to ponder :) while I waited for my feet to thaw out and allow me to fall asleep.



Edited by alanjgreen
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Isn't it great when the sky co operates!

Last night I viewed the Pleiades Bubble using a 2.8 deg to 3.2 deg TFOV and it takes on a 3D quality and is stunning. I see the "bubble" very much like this sketch, which to me gives the best visual representation of it.  I spent an hour on this object last night with the 200mm f3.8, what a sight! For me, with my eyes a filter only kills the view of this reflection neb.

This object is worth pursuing and can be one of the best IMHO.

Seven Sisters Bubble.png

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35 minutes ago, jetstream said:

Isn't it great when the sky co operates!

Last night I viewed the Pleiades Bubble using a 2.8 deg to 3.2 deg TFOV and it takes on a 3D quality and is stunning. I see the "bubble" very much like this sketch, which to me gives the best visual representation of it.  I spent an hour on this object last night with the 200mm f3.8, what a sight! For me, with my eyes a filter only kills the view of this reflection neb.

This object is worth pursuing and can be one of the best IMHO.

Seven Sisters Bubble.png

Thanks Gerry.

It is worth noting that there is a ring around the merope star too (you can see it on your pic). This is what I saw and assumed was what you meant when you said "bubble"


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Another fulfilling report Alan, making the most of the sharp cold air that has been providing good transparency. According to local BBC weather forecast, the temperature had dropped to -7 across the regions Towns including Newcastle (we also had some snow), parts of Northumberland were at -13. Particularly enjoyed your account of the Rosette, one to look forward to the return of as Monoceros climbs higher. Interesting observation for the Cone, I understand that it might respond best to a H-beta filter, based upon your observation of the Horse head, it was a good night for an attempt on the slightly more difficult Cone. The collective observations of the Pleiades have been absorbing to read and the bubble that Gerry mentions is intriguing. I observed on Saturday night without a filter, the Merope nebula was diffuse but the contrast provided by a 21E definitely helped with this profile, I would like to examine this area more with that map that Gerry has posted. Combatting the cold has been fine whilst your so preoccupied observing, then when it suddenly dawns on you how cold you have become, nipping inside for a hot drink and a snack is good to keep going, I recently bought a slightly larger flask for my dark sky trips and I'm so glad that I did. Look forward to more of your winter reports, which I expect may include your intended 6mm ethos.  

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You're enjoying that Dob aren't you?!!

congrats on wonderful night and some terrific catches. M42 in 20" along with an ethos is a truly magical sight! and boy does that rosette fill the the field of view!, tis a beautiful thing

thanks for sharing, clear skies

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1 hour ago, scarp15 said:

Particularly enjoyed your account of the Rosette, one to look forward to the return of as Monoceros climbs higher. Interesting observation for the Cone, I understand that it might respond best to a H-beta filter, based upon your observation of the Horse head, it was a good night for an attempt on the slightly more difficult Cone.

Look forward to more of your winter reports, which I expect may include your intended 6mm ethos.  

Thanks. It's all about timing - being able to observe the chosen object with all your EPs!  The last few objects have to be seen with the EPs that are still working. Later in the season when its earlier in the evening I should be able to get the E21 onto the Rosette.

Noted re the Cone and Hb, I will give it a go next time...

E6 - I think I may have got one sorted :) 

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1 hour ago, estwing said:

You're enjoying that Dob aren't you?

I think I'm starting to get the hang of it :) But it's the combo of the Dob and the Nexus that makes it so much more powerful :headbang2:

"Mixing the 'light side' with a bit of 'dark side' to find the 'balance' and discovering it can be 'so much bigger'" ( Last Jedi quotes, I'm looking forward to see the film on Thursday, can you tell? )

Edited by alanjgreen
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Looking forward to your further reports concerning the Cone Alan, if the winter season continues to provide steady transparent skies. You may have noticed that I have opened up a thread in the observing deep sky section to get more feedback on this subject. Your 20" Lukehurst dob is near perfect for making it a bit easier attempting these very challenging subjects.

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