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26 Jan - Big Dob plays Oliver Twist in the darkness before dawn

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Date: Friday 26th January 0400-0645am        Scope: 20” f3.6 Lukehurst Dob with Paracorr (fl = 2089mm)


“Please Sir, I want some more?”

Well, it’s been pretty thin gruel so far in January here in Cumbria, with only three sessions out with the dob. I spotted a potential dawn raid for this morning a few days back and the weather forecast kept changing its mind whether it would be on or off! As is customary for me, I set my alarm for 0300 knowing that the full moon is around the corner to banish me to the TV for another 10 days or so. Last chance saloon...


“The artful dodger…”

I was up at 0300 and the sky was clearing from the North. So I got dressed and headed outside to my shed. The sky above was pretty black with plenty of stars…

I got the scope unwrapped & collimated then rolled back the roof…

Clouds! - I ended up sitting around for 30 minutes as a large bank of the fluffy stuff passed over then it started to clear again :(

I spent the time identifying potential target Comets in Sky Safari and well as heading back to the house to grab my sketches of a couple of supernova that I hoped to check out too (that I had forgotten).

There were soon enough bright stars above to get my Nexus fully locked & loaded (two star alignment completed). The star test on Arcturus was pretty encouraging too.


“Bless their dear little hearts”

M51 glx - Starting with the ethos10 (x200), I pushed over to M51. Two bright spirals encircled the galaxy (pretty large too at this magnification). NGC5195 was big and bright too. The arms were not at their best and the bridge was a challenge too far. I dropped down to the ethos13 (x150) but gained little. I know from my visit on 30Nov what M51 can deliver so I left feeling a little disappointed…

M101 glx – Back in Nov, M101 had not cleared the shed roof. Now it was straight overhead. This was my primary target for the session. With the E13 still loaded, I centred the galaxy on the iPad. At the eyepiece the galaxy started to come into view… Immediately it filled the whole fov of the E13 and I settled to observe and start to work out what I was seeing (thin cloud was still out and about overhead at this stage). I started to make my first sketch of the view in my mind (so I could put it on paper in a few moments…). An arm to the far left, an arm to the far right with bright patches at the end. Another arm coming down underneath. Black bubble upper left. Over to the desk to put it on paper.

Back to the eyepiece. I am now seeing three arms, they seem evenly spaced… Another quick sketch.

Back once more. I am starting to notice small bright areas in averted vision dotted around. Concentrate on those arms, plot out their paths in my mind… Back to the paper for a third iteration. I add these "M101 internal NGCs" to my sketch as "X" marks the spot.

Now a look at an image in sky safari. Not bad. Pretty close actually… :) 


In with the Ethos21, not as good. Back to the E13. This continued for a while until I started to ponder dawn and my other targets… onwards!

Back to M51. No better.

Owl nebula - E13. Unfiltered. Small "cloudy" patch. The "eyes" were coming and going too! :)

M82 – E13. Long and very bright. One clear black “dart” into the side. Cannot find the second “dart” that I have seen on previous visits.

M81 – Shed wall taking away some of the mirror. Its big and round. I can see a clear circular edge but its missing its heart.

M108 – long and thin. I spot a bright sparkle to the far edge, quick check on sky safari, yes its PGC…. embedded in the far edge.

M106 – A lovely “S” shape (not as clear as previously seen) but half the “S” is pretty clear. I spot a galaxy to the side (NGC4248). I nudge it to centre and spot a pair of galaxies to the side (NGC4231+4232) and so on through 4220 – 4218 – 4217 – 4226 :)

[Thought of the day crosses my mind - How do observers with big dobs and no push-to identify all these galaxies, there are just so many ??? – I love galaxy season!]

NGC5981,5982,5985 – I stumble upon a lovely trio of galaxies framed nicely in the E13. A thin edge on, a small side on and a large side on. Worth a look next time you are out! :)

NGC6217 & SN2018gj – The galaxy is not well placed with the shed roof apex in the way. I line it up and head to the eyepiece. I can see the galaxy (its long and faint). I memorize some star patterns from the view and compare them to my pre-prepared sketch. There are three close stars on the sketch but I cannot match them to the view. I see three stars but they see too far apart. FAIL. I am sure the SN was there in the view but I did not identify it exactly. :(


“You’ve got to pick a Comet or two!”

62P/Tsuchinshan1failed, too low in sky.

2016 N6 PANSTARRS – E13. Small and faint but reasonably well packed. Pretty easy to spot. Switched to the E10 and a small dot core appeared surrounded by a compact dust circle. No tail. :)


“We have none of us long to wait for Death. Patience, patience! He'll be here soon enough for us all.”

I decide it’s time for a Globular finale and line up on M13 Hercules cluster.

M13 gc – In the E13 it looks bright and compact. In with the E8 (x250), that’s more like it. Bright and blinding with varying shades of background dust within. Stars all the way to the centre. My mind turns to my new Ethos6 (x348) and I have to give it a go! WOW. Unexpectedly, the stars can be focused all the way to the centre. M13 is now huge (over half the fov) and so many stars. Its also on the move (at this magnification) and nudging is needed. I settle on a side-to-side drift and enjoy the view deep into the centre. :) 

M3 gc – Over to M3. The E6 is not focusing well on this target. Back to the E8, that’s better! Another lovely globular. I watch it for a while…

M92 gc – Time for another. E8. Very nice but not as good as the other 2. I try for M5 but its too low.


"How light a thing will disturb the equanimity of our frail minds"

Dawn is coming in the east, I try another target but its diminishing returns at this point. I decide to call it a morning!

I feel much better now I managed to get one more session in before the full moon.

On the plus side, “Galaxy season is upon us” but on the negative side, “its only 8 weeks until the clocks change”, I hope my weather luck changes in February…

Clear Skies,


(Embedded a few quotes from "Oliver Twist" by Charles Dickens, I reserve the right to change the odd letter or word :) )

Edited by alanjgreen
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That's dedication Alan, as you imply whatever it takes to gain a good deep sky session period. I like your approach to sketching and to verify some of those internal NGC features. I to enjoy the thrill of looking for galaxies when they are overhead as you had with M101. Last week it was for NGC 2403, but the arrival of thin cloud diminished the potential - hugging the dob though has become a technique. I shall note that trio of galaxies. To quote another passage from Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist "There is a passion for hunting something deeply implanted in the human breast". 

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That made an excellent read Alan - very nicely put together report :icon_biggrin:


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On 26/01/2018 at 16:07, scarp15 said:

 I like your approach to sketching and to verify some of those internal NGC features.

Thanks. It's amazing how you see more the longer you look. I find identifying key sections then allows you to zone in more on each section. Once your brain knows "it's" there, then you keep seeing it again easier and easier. It's a bit like doing a jigsaw :) 

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Brilliant  !

That's problably the best ad (!) that I've seen for big aperture ,used under decent skies. Almost pressed the aperture button !

Old eyes and aching muscles will mean the rare peep at the real Universe !

old Nick.

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Great read Few galaxies in there I would like to view through my 8 inch especially M51. Dark site in March so here's hoping. 

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Awesome report, Alan. The section on M13 in the Ethos 6mm really got me! I think that eyepiece is going to give you a lot of WOW moments :) 

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    • By alanjgreen
      Date: Friday 8th November 2019. 0300-0600am
      Scope: Borg 107FL f5.6 (focal length 600mm).
      Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS.
      Eyepieces: Plossl 55mm (f2.6 x11).
      Filters: Chroma 5nm Ha filter.
      Moon: 0%
      It’s now been over a week since the “never ending” clear skies went away. With the full moon approaching I saw an opportunity to maybe get out for a few early morning hours after the moon had set.
      The skies were clearing when I went to bed and the Devils Orb was already giving the appearance of daylight outside.
      I had a short restless sleep with the occasional peek to see if the moon was still lighting the edges of my bedroom curtains. Once I was satisfied that it had gone and having taken a few minutes to “motivate myself”, I slipped out from the warm bed and headed downstairs to get dressed.
      It was pretty windy outside which meant the roll-off shed would not be used tonight so I prepared the Borg107 for a trip outside onto the patio. It took me 20 minutes to get ready before I relayed my kit outside.
      I quickly performed a 2-star alignment for the Skywatcher AZGTi mount and headed to M45 to test it out…  The Pleiades were all bright and sparkly in my fov set against a lovely black background (“looks good” I thought to myself).
      I had no real plan for the session, so I decided to look at the brightest areas of Orion plus some of the larger Sharpless from my “Best of Sharpless”.
      I added the Night Vision PVS-14 to the TeleVue 55mm Plossl and added the Chroma 5nm Ha narrowband filter to the front of my 2” diagonal.
      Where else to start but my favourite nebula – The Rosette! It appeared bright and mid-sized (at x11 magnification). Thin bright lanes seemed to trace out the “petals of a flower”. Multi-toned fainter nebula filled in the gaps, then with the dark black central hole and cluster to complete the view. I lingered a while before slewing down and into three spread-out nebula patches (sh2-280, 282 & 284). They are all different which makes them more appealing. The first is a circular patch with two small dark circular shapes inside (sh2-280), then we have an oblong shaped patch (sh2-282), finally on the other side of a bright star we arrive at the circular patch sh2-284.

      NGC2264/Cone/Fox-Fur nebula.
      Now for the first “surprise bonus” of the night. I centred on NGC2264 and when I looked in the eyepiece I found the fov filled with faint multi-textured nebula. I located the MINUTE Cone nebula, it was very tiny but a clear black triangle nevertheless! I traced the parent Fox Fur into what looked like a “comma” shape. This comma shape was sitting above a right angled long thick lane. Below this I found a mid-sized curved lane and followed this down and left to arrive back at the Rosette.
      I decided to make a sketch of the large area just covered as the individual segments were so clear to see (and you do the daftest things when only half awake!)

      I found the Xmas tree in the tail (of the comma) slightly brighter. I noted a dark lane running through the comma tail section.
      IC405 Flaming star/IC410/sh2-230
      I have had recent success with the sh2-230 undefined area around IC410/405 with the big dob. So it was time to see what the 4” aperture of the Borg could tease out of this region. This is a beautiful detailed large section that really comes out well under low x11 magnification. IC405 and IC410 are immediately obvious. The magnificence (intricate detail) of the upper head section is not so striking at this low magnification but you then notice that the Flame is larger than expected and in fact has an extra patch that seems to extend the tail section further out. IC410 sits by the side and has the appearance of “a mask”, I see two black eyes cutting into the small bright shape. Above IC410 there are two tiny patches (Spider and Fly) then above them I see a large faint circular patch (unknown). To the left of this and above the Flame is a double curved lane which has several brighter sections visible within it (sh2-230) which I have seen before. But my eye is drawn further left and up where there appears to be a huge circular edge (unknown).

      NGC1499 California.
      While looking at Sky Safari, I decide to see NGC1499 (another nebula where the big dob has been working hard recently). Wow, this area is great at low magnification. The “traditional” section of the California is the brightest and easily seen in its entirety but it’s the large extension section to the right (that must be at least the same length again!). Then while examining the tail and crown sections at the left end, I begin to notice a huge structure that seems to sit behind the California nebula. I sketch out what I can see. This background section is vertical where the California appears horizontal. It is faint and has curves under the California where it seems to meet a large faint patch (that has 6 bright stars inside), I add these to the sketch…

      IC2177 Seagull nebula.
      Looking for big and bright nebula, I choose to see the Seagull next… The traditional “head and shoulders” fills the fov. I slew around and trace out a large additional structure leaving the “top shoulder” and travelling right and then down to finish at an extended “foot” patch just above the Duck nebula. I sketch out the Seagull and then hunt around for any patches (I know there are plenty to small Sharpless around here). I find two small patches at the end of an extended “leg” section (I thought that one of these was Thor’s Helmet but after slewing to that later then I think I am wrong so I need to revisit and sort out what they are?)

      Sh2-240 Spagetti.
      I pick a large nebula from the best of Sharpless, sh2-240 next. It appears as a large circular faint shape. There is a central vertical zig-zag section and I see several hortizontal-ish black lanes travelling through the patch (as I get my eye in). There is definitely lots to see here and its deserving of its place in the “best of Sharpless”.
      M42/M43/NGC1973, Orion and the Running Man.
      Okay, I’ve waited long enough! I slew to NGC1973. The only thing you see at the eyepiece initially is M42 of course! It’s so bright and wonderfully detailed. At this low magnification it reminds me of a “bird in flight” with bended wings. The “fish head” is the brightest section but I am fond of the blackness that spews from the fish head and seems to spread out and around M43 next door, it is black as black can be. M43 has an intricate shape inside its almost complete circular patch, but I speed by to seek out the Running man. Tonight the bright patch is clear as day and as I look on a black shape within the bright patch comes and goes, it’s not a “pair of legs” but it’s a black patch within nevertheless.
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      I now manually slew up from the Flame to find a thick horizontal nebula lane running across the full fov. I follow it right and then down and back under until I find myself back at the Orion nebula (M42). I guess this is Barnards Loop. I had earlier searched for it to the left of Alnitak (as that’s where it is with the dob but this “star diagonal” used in refractors regularly sends me the wrong way when I try to retrace the big dob steps!
      Angel Fish – Huge and bright. Way too big to see the fish at x11 magnification. I do my best to tease out some features but it is just too huge!
      NGC2174/Monkey’s head.
      Instead, I move onto the Monkeys Head. It appears small and bright but as usual I see “Mickey Mouse” with the refractor and star diagonal turning things around. I slew around and pick out two patches above, one is sh2-247 the other is unknown. I slew below and find the wonderful tiny triple nebula sh2-254,255 & 257 (another Best of Sharpless member).

      NGC2395 Medusa – A small shimmering crescent moon shape is observed.
      M1 Crab – A small shimmering patch. With time at the eyepiece I see a bright circle around the outside and the occasional jumping line details within but cannot hold the interior in my view.
      NGC2359 Thor – A small faintish semi-circle.
      IC443/IC444, sh2-249 – The triplet of nebulas all fit into the fov and are a lovely sight that takes a good while to look around and take it all in. The Jelly fish (IC443) has lovely “tenticles” section that breaks backwards RHS. There is a small bright patch directly in front of IC443 (IC444) and then behind this the large oblong nebula structure sh2-249. I see the fine black lanes within sh2-249 next to Tejat Posterior (bright star).
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      Sh2-260 – Next I picked sh2-260 (which I have only ever seen with the big dob). I slewed to SAO 112142 where I discovered a very large faint nebula shape. It was larger than the fov and seemed to appear as a “thin teardrop” shape. I cannot find any images of this so at the moment it is unknown to me.
      I noticed the sky brightening from around 0550hrs so I headed for a last look at the Rosette and Flaming Star regions before deciding to pack up at 0600hrs.
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      I think that I have concluded that I need to get the widefield Borg 107FL out more frequently, when it’s cold then the dob in the shed is a much more appealing thought.
      -          I have added an unexpected 7 entries to the “Ag1-xx” nebula catalog for the unknown/extra patches that I will need to come back and confirm… (up to 97 entries now).
      I also now have some lingering memories to help me through the barren spell of the full moon (out here in the dark countryside, the full moon is a real killer!).
      Hope you enjoyed the read and my sketches!
    • By alanjgreen
      Dates: 26th thru 30th Oct 2019. (Over twenty hours of observing time!!!)
      Scope: 20” f3.6 Lukehurst Dob with Paracorr (fl = 2089mm & f4.1).
      Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS.
      Eyepieces: Plossl 55mm (f2 x38), Panoptic 27mm (f4 x77).
      Filters: Chroma 5nm Ha filter.
      It’s a Miracle!
      I have been out observing on each of the last five nights racking up a combined time outside of over twenty hours – It’s a long time since I have had such a good run. I have written 17 pages of notes during my sessions too…
      I have observed many objects of different types during this time outside. So, I am going to divide up this report into object type sections so you can scroll to objects of your favorite kind…
      Planetary Nebula.
      First up planetary nebula, this is an object type that I rarely write about but having bumped into a few of these while out nebula hunting with my 5nm narrowband Ha filter combined with my PVS-14 night vision, I decided to build a Sky Safari observing list based on “The Brightest Planetary Nebulae Observing Atlas” by Massimo Zecchin and get out and observe them with a plan. The eyepiece attached to the PVS-14 for these observations was a 27mm Panoptic yielding x77 magnification.
      NGC6826 (Blinking Planetary) – Very bright solid ball with a thin halo of lighter shade.
      NGC7027 (Magic Carpet) – small bright ball, there is either a fine line running through it or it is two-toned. Has a detached faint circle around it.
      NGC7048 (Disk Ghost) – small dim circular patch made up of “dancing lines”. Looks alive.
      NGC7026 (Cheeseburger) – Tiny and bright. Made of two patches with a haze on either side. Reminds me of an “overhead shot of a rowing boat with oars out either side in the water”.
      NGC7008 (Fetus) – small dim, almost square shaped patch. Black circle at centre then dominated by thick bright outer layer (does not go all around the outside).
      NGC6905 (Blue Flash) – tiny, dim patch made of moving lines. Looks brighter on one side.
      NGC6543 (Cat’s Eye) – small bright patch. Tiny dark spot in the centre. Seems to have a thin layer of lighter dancing lines all around the outside.
      NGC7662 (Blue Snowball) – tiny. Very bright solid ball. There is a faint detached outer circle.
      NGC40 (Bow Tie) – Excellent. Very bright with two curved sides. The inside is filled with fuzzy stuff that is leaking out from both ends. There is a small circle at the centre.
      M76 (Little Dumbbell) – Looks like a “box kite”. Brighter patches at either end, connected by fainter central oblong section.
      NGC1501 (Oyster) – Tiny and bright. Looks alive. Reminds me of a bright “woolen ball”.
      IC2149 (Red Sword) – very tiny but bright. Has a small circle around it.
      NGC1514 (Crystal Ball) – star inside a black circle with multi-toned nebula shell encircling that. Nebula is multi-lined and shimmering. Looks alive.
      NGC7139 – Small mesmerizing ball. Shimmering jumping lines within. Alive.
      The "alive" planetary nebulae are great to look at, they are literally moving and dancing around in the fov. 😀
      Another object that I has not been on my radar for several months! Well, I managed to find three over the last few nights.
      C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS) – With the 55mm Plossl (x38) it was small but easily seen.
      C/2018 N2 (ASASSN) – With the 27mm Panoptic I found a decent sized fuzzy blob to the side of a star. It was easily seen and the best of the three. 😀
      C/114P Wiseman-Skiff – Even with the 27mm Panoptic, this was a tough object to find. I needed to turn the gain up to the max but I found it exactly where Sky Safari said it should be!
      Now the great square is in the south, there are some of the brightest night sky galaxies available for observing. I have observed the following NGC6946, 6643, 6503, 6140, 6015, Stephans Quintet, 7331, 185, 147, 278, M110, M32/32, M33, NGC404, IC10, NGC669, 684, 672, 972, 925, 949, 1023, 891, 1160, 1161, 7814, M74.
      It’s a decent list, but the outcome has been disappointment. The only galaxies that I observed the spiral arms were M33, 31, 74, NGC891, 6643, 7331. Here are a few descriptions from my notes:
      NGC6946 (Fireworks) – With the 55mm Plossl and no filters, I could see the twin fingered arms coming out from the core around the back. I got hints of a third fainter arm coming out underneath.
      NGC6643 – A small galaxy. You can easily see the core and surrounding halo. There were some faint anti-clockwise arms beyond the halo but they were tough to see in direct vision.
      NGC6503 – small and bright. Slightly edge-on. Tiny bright core with large halo surrounding. Hints of black lanes within the outer halo.
      Stephans Quintet – All 5 galaxies easily seen with the 55mm Plossl (x38). There was even a sixth galaxy in the fov (NGC7320C)!
      NGC7331 – bright core, slightly dimmer halo surrounding. Swirly fainter disc beyond that. Hints of a lane top-side and a black patch (usually signifies that arms are there) behind core on outer edge. I could see the four “flea” galaxies that sit to the LHS.
      NGC891 – Wonderful. Large edge-on galaxy with swollen core section and thick black lane running its full length in direct vision.
      NGC751 – A strange one, with the appearance of a double-core. Sky Safari says its two galaxies NGC750 & 751).
      M74 – At first I see a mid-sized fuzzy patch but I keep looking. I see a circle around the core appear first, then an arm seems to leave at 3o’clock and curve up and left. Then I see another arm at 9o’clock going out and down anti-clockwise. I note a four star rectangle and add it to my reference sketch. I can see images that confirm the arms on the internet.

      IC10 - I had already observed this underwhelming galaxy earlier in the session when I happened upon it again by chance (whilst I had the 5nm Ha filter fitted and was just sky scanning) and found it as a pleasing patch, it was only when checking Sky Safari that I found out it was the IC10 galaxy that I was looking at. It appeared so much clearer with the Ha filter that I wondered what the bigger galaxies on offer would look like in Ha?
      Lets try Andromeda & Triangulum in H-alpha.
      I have written about my experiences with M31 and M33 many times before, so I won’t be repeating myself today. Instead, I want to talk about an H-alpha experiment that I carried out over a couple of hours with M31 & M33 as my targets.
      I loaded my Chroma 5nm Ha filter into the Paracorr2, then added the 55mm Plossl for maximum image brightness and pointed at M33. To my surprise there was a very large galaxy sitting in the fov with many fuzzy shapes abounding. It took a few minutes to take it all in and start to recognize NGC604 and work back from there…
      With no Ha filter then the big reverse S of the main arms is clear in direct vision, now the arms are not clear but if I look carefully then I can trace tiny Ha patches that are marking out the arms in the fov. I decided to start sketching these patches and add the occasional curve where I was seeing “implied” arm structure.
      It was quite a surprise just how far out from the core some of these Ha patches are located, signifying that actual physical size of M33 is larger that we may think when visually observing our neighbour.
      Here is my sketch:

      Onto M31, where the results were less impressive but I was able to see the galaxy and some Ha components within so it was not a waste of time at all.
      I noted three Ha patches in the upper sections of M31 but it was the lower sections that were a bit of a revelation.
      Regular observers of M31 will know that it’s a dead loss below the core to see very much at all! Well, in Ha the lower section can match the upper section and in fact I saw a greater number of Ha patches in the lower section including a couple of really big ones.
      Here are my sketches of the two halves of M31:

      I spent many hours looking at the many large and small nebulae in the Milky Way from Cygnus to Orion. I have written about them many times before and will not do so today.
      I was also able to spend some time scanning the “empty spaces” in Sky Safari looking for objects that I could find with the night vision and marking them for the "AG1-" night vision object catalog that I am continuing to work on...
      I am now up to 82 objects having added a further 38 objects during October. I have also managed to revisit 52 of the objects to confirm their existence and descriptions.  
      Time to catch up on my sleep.
      The weather forecast seems to say wet weather until full moon, so it looks like I will be stuck inside for the next couple of weeks, guess there is no pleasure without pain!
      Clear Skies,
    • By alanjgreen
      Date: Monday 7th October 2019. 2340-0350hrs.
      Scope: 20” f3.6 Lukehurst Dob with Paracorr (fl = 2089mm & f4.1).
      Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS.
      Eyepieces: Plossl 55mm (f2 x38).
      Filters: Chroma 5nm Ha filter, Astronomik UHC, Baader 610nm Red.
      Moon: 70% (until 0100am)
      With the full moon quickly approaching, the chances of getting outside under a dark sky are diminishing rapidly (for the next two weeks anyway). Last night was forecast clear and by 10pm it was 80% clear with a big old moon shining brightly in the south at about 40 degrees above the horizon.
      I checked the clearoutside website and saw the moon setting time was 1am so decided to wait a while before going outside…
      By 2320, I checked again and could see the Moon was behind some clouds so decided to head outside.
      After spending the last few months in the rear corner of the shed, I had yesterday re-located the big dob more centrally so I could access Cassiopeia (overhead) unimpeded by the shed roof apex.
      It took me 10 minutes to get the big dob setup & connected to Sky Safari 5 (via my AstroDevices Nexus) ready for the 2-star alignment.
      I pushed back the shed roof and looked for alignment stars, I noticed that the Great Square was now high and Southern and the thought of M33 popped into my head. Perhaps I would chance a visit to the big galaxies (even though the moon was up).
      Part 1 - Galaxy Appetiser.
      Once 2-star alignment was completed, I fitted the PVS-14 Night Vision device to a TeleVue 55mm Plossl and put it into the focuser. I nudged over to M33 using Sky Safari as my guide and centred it up.
      M33 (unfiltered) – At first I could see what appeared as a large dust cloud, I looked for NGC604 out on the tip of the spiral arm but it was not easily spotted… As I continued to look, I noticed a long curved spiral arm headed south from the central core and it dawned on me that I had forgotten just how large this galaxy is at the eyepiece (even at x38 with the 55mm Plossl), as I traced the arm then I found NGC604 which was small and bright sitting next to a star! The next thing I noticed was a tiny NGC/IC patch sitting at 9’o clock from the core. I looked hard for the upper arm but there was not much showing on the upper side of the central core patch.
      M33 (Baader 610nm Red) – I decided to try to filter the moonlight out of the view and added the Baader Red filter to the front of my Paracorr2. Once I had refocused, I immediately noticed an improvement in the upper arm view but the lower arm seemed to be less visible than before. I could however see two clear NGC small patches in the path of the lower arm.
      M33 (Astronomik UHC) – I swapped filters for the Astronomik UHC visual filter which has a slightly wider bandpass than the Baader red and was rewarded with my best view. The upper arm improved once again and I could now see a faint (& large) backwards “S” curve in direct vision.
      M110 (Astronomik UHC) – I decided to checkout Andromeda and pushed the scope to its location. When I looked in the eyepiece, I saw a mid-size oval patch (it had to be M110). Unusually (at least as I remember it) M110 had a two-tone core, there was a bright small central piece which was surrounded by a mid-brightness halo and finally the fainter oval of the outer galaxy. This may have been my best view of M110!
      [It is worth noting that I changed my secondary mirror in July from 104mm to 120mm and I am seeing many objects better than I remember seeing them before so I am putting the improved M110 down to the increased secondary mirror size – the 55mm Plossl requires loads of out-focus so I decided to send a wider light cone down the focuser]
      M31 (Astronomik UHC) – I nudged right to M31 and found a super large central core with 2 vertical black dust lanes sitting on the LHS. I traced the dust lanes up, the first cuts across through the galaxy just after M32 whilst the second continues up to a sharper point further up. The curve of the dark lane at the upper tip seemed to curve back down out beyond M32 (as if M32 sits within the M31 disk), this dark lane quickly disappears so I could not trace it down as far as M32. Below the core, it was much harder to trace the dark lanes but I could trace the edges of the galaxy disk which were faint but noticeable.
      Part 2 – Search for visible nebula (not in the Sharpless catalog).
      My latest project is the creation of a new catalog of nebula objects that are visible with Night Vision plus Ha narrowband filter and not present in the 313 Sharpless catalog. The AG1-x catalog has 56 objects so far...
      With the Dob in its new central location, it was time to resume my push-pull systematic scanning of the Milky Way above me. I added the Chroma 5nm Ha narrowband filter to the Paracorr2.
      Unfortunately, I could not easily access my planned starting point as Cygnus was now quite westerly and the shed wall was blocking plenty of the primary mirror in that direction. I reset my starting point higher towards the zenith but still westerly and started to scan backwards…up then forwards… up
      NGC 7008 – I found a tiny bright “flying saucer” which I identified as NGC7008 by glancing at Sky Safari.
      GSC 4258-1810 – At this location there is a small patch which Sky Safari seemed to indicate might be galaxy NGC6952. But as I looked around the fov, I found that I could see a second patch (the galaxy). Checking the internet, I see that NGC6952 is also classified as NGC6951, I can see an image of NGC6951 where there is nebula visible to the side.
      TYC 3194-1302-1 – At this star location, I found two bright “angel wings”. They were mid-size in the fov and were bright. Nudging around, I could see that they were part of a much larger structure (which turned out to be sh2-119).
      NGC 7048 – I found a small bright circle at this location. A planetary nebula. It was very interesting many shimmering lines and variations seen within the small visible circle.  
      Sh2-129 – Next I bumped into a beautiful thick curved section with nice detailing on the edges of the large nebula. Checking Sky Safari, I found it to be sh2-129. It’s a lovely object (one half is similar to the Witch’s Broom in the Veil) while the second curve is much less defined but wide and easily seen/traced.
      IC1396 – Next, I bumped into an old favourite, the Elephant Trunk. I was expecting a good view with the dob relocated but what I got was a WONDERFUL view. I spent many minutes slowly combing this large object and noting the many black hydrogen holes and lanes visible seemingly all over this large bright patch. I also noted several bright highlights that stood out as brighter than the general bright background. I opened up an image of IC1396 from Sky Safari and made a second sweep across the object to check out each and every one of the black patches seen on the image.  The two sections of the elephant truck were very clear and there was a third dark lane sitting alongside them that kept taking my eye too.
      [Time now 0140hrs – Moon has gone]
      TYC 3968-1328-1 – At this location, I found a faint vertical lane of nebula. It led into a curved horizontal piece higher up.
      Sh2-132 – Next, I bumped into a very bright and interesting nebula (Sky Safari shown sh2-132) which turned out to be the “Lion”. The bright mane section really seemed to fill the fov with some lovely black detailing and the occasional brighter line. I traced the back and then the tail, down past the hind quarters and left through the faint legs area to just about see the faint head/snout section. Nice.
      Sh2-135 – Bright set of “angel wings”.
      Sh2-134 – Covers a huge area. Not a complete structure, you just keep bumping into small sections here and there.
      Sh2-138 (GSC 3995-1279) – tiny patch next to a star.
      Sh2-139 (GSCII N0123010-13835) – small faint patch near a star.
      GSC3997-0919 – I found a large faint patch at this location.
      Sh2-152 & sh2-153 – Next, I came upon a nice nebula combo (“Whale & baby” as I call them).
      Sh2-154 – I thought I had found a bright new piece of nebula when I happened upon a bright star cluster with a long leading edge running behind (LHS). It was wide and very bright but Sky Safari was happy to inform me that it was sh2-154!  
      Cave – I saw the Cave nearby on the IPad and nudged over. Wow, maybe my best view. Not because the Cave was good. The Cave was the Cave but because of all the extra nebula that was visible out to both sides over large distances. There were some nice black cut-outs within this expanded large area.
      [Time now 0217hrs]
      NGC7380 Wizard – The Wizard is my next unplanned target. Instantly recognizable. Bright and beautiful with so many intricate details to examine, it really takes a few minutes to do it justice. As I drink up its finery, I am drawn to a large black “t-shirt” section that is standing out just to the LHS of the Wizard, so black, its keeps drawing my eye…
      Bubble – Wowsers, I had a great view (my best ever) of the Bubble last new moon, it was memorable not for the bubble itself but just for the huge “head” and “torso” of the “Gladiator” that filled the FOV. My luck was in, the full Gladiator was back and I spent a few minutes taking it all in. Its strange that 12 months ago, the joy was seeing the “bubble” but now the bubble is just seen as part of this larger Gladiator and does not really stand out from the remainder of this large beautiful area!  
      Sh2-158, sh2-159, sh2-157, sh2-161 & sh2-163 – I move around this rich area of nebulosity. Sh2-157 (the pincers) is always worth a lingering visit, there is some exquisite detail in the wide head section and it’s always nice to bump into the tiny star clusters out at the “sharp” end. Sh2-161 is the Sharpless designation for this whole area encompassing all these smaller brighter objects, as you nudge around then you can still find smaller separate unclassified nebula sections that belong to sh2-161.
      ARO115 – I scan around and bump into a tiny faint patch, Sky Safari says “ARO 115”.
      Sh2-165, sh2-170 – After passing by sh2-165, I find sh2-170 which is in my “best of Sharpless” list. It’s a beautiful mid-size patch with a central black patch with two “eye like” stars within. The black patch is surrounded by a wide nebula halo. Nice.  
      Part 3 – It’s late, time for some “bright” eye candy…
      Pacman – Another recent Wowser from new moon revisited. I am not disappointed! The black lane looks like an upside down “sleek black cat” with 2 pointy ears. The nebula to the LHS is huge and almost white with brightness whereas there is “not a lot” to the RHS of the black cat. The outer edges are a fainter shade and extend way out to the LHS. The lower edge is a lovely multi-shaded section that really attracts my eye.
      Heart – With the dob relocated, I can now reach the Heart & Soul. And I am not disappointed except for the fact that it’s just so big, it really is a nudge-nudge challenge to get around the whole object and not miss anything! The “mole head” is upside down but I see a small patch just to the side and a black hole section. It looks like “the mole is trying to post a small patch into a round bucket”. Over in the central “bright city” section, I see many shimmering small curvy lanes, it’s hard to count them as they overlap and shimmer over each other. I notice many small Sharpless objects dotted around the outer edges “like little boats anchored just off the beach” but I am too short of energy to note and name them individually.
      Soul – I centre the head and instantly notice that it has a black eye section and a jagged mouth section cutting back into the head. (I can’t remember these but it’s been a year!). I notice a small black hole within the arm/elbow section too.
      Monkeys Head – Bright and picturesque. I scan around but don’t notice anything that I have not seen before.
      M1 Crab – The crab is a strange object and improves the longer you look at it. It starts out as a patch with shimmering lanes inside. But if you stop and look the lanes turn into five bubbles that shimmer and jump around as you look at them. This object seems to be “alive”.
      IC410 – Wowsers. It’s the “Stay Puft Marshmallow Man” from Ghostbusters . A large “Mr. Fluffy” face fills the FOV. It’s so white and it has two black eyes and a black nose hole. Two small bright curvy “tadpoles” sit nearby.
      California – After visiting the Spider and the Fly, I head over to the California nebula. I am rewarded with a final “best ever” viewing for the night. Wow, I have never seen IC1499 like this! The nebula is literally 3D at the eyepiece. I have to step back and process what I am seeing before heading back to my periscope to spend some time enjoying the view. The sides are seen as white hot almost horizontal lanes then the inner section just seems to fall into the eyepiece which my brain perceives it as steep curving section in then back out at the other side. The small black eye just stands out centrally. I head out to the LHS where the California has a bright “crown” section and look up for the “flap” which is bright and clear. I trace out into deep space of both ends as the nebula seems to never end but just fade away fainter and fainter until it’s gone from view.
      By now, clouds are coming and going as is the view from the eyepiece. I check the time -0345- and decide that I have had a great night and I will get the roof closed just in case there is a “shower”.
      I am not too cold, which makes a nice change from last new moon when I felt frozen at the end of my last marathon session. This had prompted me to get out my full winter wardrobe of thick observing clothes and I was happy that I made the right choice.
      There was a bit of dew when I turned the light on and I had to towel the UTA dry before I packed up and turned on the de-humidifier.
      Thoughts of the observer.
      I had not planned on any galaxy viewing so it was nice to get back into them after what seems like 6 months of nebulas. I was pleased with what I saw given that there was plenty of moon about. Do try out your old “Astronomik UHC” as a moon blocker if you have one! I found 6 non-Sharpless nebula and added them into the fledgling “AG1-x” catalog ready for confirmation revisits (I now have a tentative 63 entries). It’s clear from last night sweeping of Cassiopeia, there is nowhere near as much of the Milky Way visible in this area when compared to Cygnus so I will need to work harder and longer to find new (to me) stuff to observe. I can see Orion moving South and now have a burning desire to test out the bigger secondary on the many bright nebula waiting for me in that area of the sky… Hope you had a clear night too.
    • By Michele Scotti
      Hi everybody,
      i'd like to share with you the design, making and progress of a project my astro club endeavoring to. I'll post here relevant info in a run-up  to where we got to so far.
      Here is the mission: 800mm in diameter. That's it. A lot of inspiration out there but it needs to be able to do science. So it's a relatively fast Newtonian capable of tracking for tens of minutes.
      So we realized that we were facing 2 projects in one. The mirror on one side and the mount on the other. Shall we start with the mount? What's the best compromise in terms of ease to build and cheap components and the chance to have a stiff yet light structure. An alt-az, like the biggest telescope! - or rather a glorified dobsonian in this case.
      Ambitious? Definitely
      Any comment/suggestion is welcome!

    • By alanjgreen
      Date: Tuesday 29th Jan 2019. 2015-2315hrs
      Scope: 20” f3.6 Lukehurst Dob with Paracorr (fl = 2089mm & f4.1).
      Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS.
      Eyepieces: Plossl 55mm (f2 x38), Panoptic 35mm (f3 x60).
      Filters: Chroma 5nm Ha filter.
      Moon: 0%
      Make Hay While The Sun Shines.
      The Weather forecast changed and was now showing as two clear cold nights coming my way. I have had a couple of sessions already but we all know that you must “make hay while the moon is away” in this game!
      My plan was to hit Orion hard and make up for the disappointment of the windy night last Sunday which kept me inside until Orion had passed the drop-down side of the shed.
      Tonight I also planned to bring the Panoptic 35mm into play for a little more magnification (x60) on my chosen Ha nebula targets.
      An Initial Run with the 55mm Plossl.
      I had myself setup (in the shed) and aligned (Nexus 2-star) by 2015hrs and loaded the Chroma 5nm Ha CCD filter onto the Paracorr2. Then inserted the 55mm Plossl and attached the PVS-14 Night Vision Device to it using the TNVC a-focal astronomy adapter.
      Flaming Star – First up was the Flaming star. It provided a decent view with some wispy fine detail including the two right angles of the back corner and multiple bright fuzzy lines at varying angles within). The 3D view of “my best outing” was not repeated on this occasion so I determined that the sky was not “at its best”.
      IC410/417 – I nudged over to IC410 which was looking good with three black holes on one side and another large black hole on the other side. The nebula was more lush than the Flaming star and I enjoyed the view. Over to IC417 where the “spider” was visible but again not “at its best”.
      M1 Crab – I headed down to the Crab and was rewarded by 5 nice ovals shapes interlinked in a bubble like structure. It took time and averted to tease out the outer bubbles whereas the central bubbles were much easier.
      NGC2174 Monkeys Head – Over to the Monkeys Head and I was greeted with a very bright and “in your face” view of a neanderthal man. The edges of the facial features showed several bright areas. There was a tiny nebula spot set away from the mouth and a bright spot around the “ear”. The larger right patch to the neck (that I have seen previously) was there but took some averted to see it.
      Sh2-269 – small bright “angels wings” shape.
      Sh2-267 – medium sized faintish patch.
      Sh2-268 – Faint and large. Like an upside-down pear drop. I could see black detailing inside around a line of bright stars.
      Sh2-270 – FAIL. I am missing this Sharpless object and I failed to find it once again! I found a “candidate” but internet research this morning says that it was not it. I have compared sky safari location to an image and it seems they are slightly out so I have added a marked into sky safari ready for my next attempt. This object is only 1’ x 1’ size so maybe I need more magnification?
      HorseHead IC434 – Up to IC434 and Wow it’s really wide and bright.  I nudged above Alnitak and there was a lovely shapely horse head. The head showed the snout and neck but I was also attracted to the bright white line that was running through IC434 as it was really standing out. As I nudged around, it really was amazing to see just how long and wide IC434 actually is. The whole of this region is just full of a faint nebulosity glow.
      Flame – I nudged down to the Flame and at last it was a view to savour. My last couple of visits have been underwhelming but tonight it was standing out bold as brass. I could make out many wispy black details to the RHS and see the small black circle to the LHS. It really was nice but I had to go back to the horsey as it was probably “beating it” for loveliness tonight!
      M42 – Fantastic. I swore out loud as M42 swung into view. God its bright and God its lovely. The swirling, looping nebula behind the fish head is overwhelming. The ray of black hydrogen spewing out of the mouth of the fish head is like an “oil leak”. There is so much to see that I settle in on my chair and let it float across my fov several times as I try to tease out a detail that I have not noticed before. Tonight I settled on a couple of black areas to the LHS lower of the fish head. I even though that I could see the Candle Star sitting in the fishes mouth. I could see all 4 trapezium stars clearly so maybe the transparency was improving…
      Running Man NGC1975 – Time to get into Orion and start with my on-going challenge to see the Running Man. I am gradually building up more mental notes to help with seeing this difficult target. I could easily see a very bright patch sitting over three stars below M43. I could see a black finger coming down the LHS of the 3 stars. I got distracted by further nebulosity down underneath an open cluster below and became confused as to where the black legs of the running man actually are?
      Sh2-278 – Triangular kite shaped nebula but faint and time needed to get to grips with it.
      Time to Increase the Magnification with the 35mm Panoptic.
      The image presented by the 55mm Plossl (when used with Night Vision and a fast focal ratio scope) leaves a lot to be desired especially around the edges of the fov. The 35mm Panoptic does not suffer from these issues and provides a sharp edge-to-edge view. However, the 35mm only acts as a 0.7x reducer so some image brightness is lost compared to the 55mm Plossl. Therefore, you need to use more “gain” (a knob on the PVS-14) to compensate for the darker image. From my experience the 55mm Plossl seems to always win out because the brighter image just shows more stuff and I just ignore the outer edges of the FOV.
      Flaming Star – Back to the Flaming star and I could see some nice texture and details within. The larger image scale meant more nudging was needed and I felt that I preferred the 55mm on this object.
      IC410 – Very nice and the extra brightness of the nebula meant that nothing felt lost on this target. I felt the 35mm was the winner here.
      M1 crab – A nice view. The bubbles were now a little larger but I felt that I was not seeing more than with the 55mm so I will call this one a tie.
      Fox Fur/Cone – With the 35mm loaded, I wanted to see if I could get more from the Cone than the other night. I started at the central star cluster and nebulosity was showing all around except for near the bright stars which seemed to have cleared a nice black patch over them. I nudged up and right to the Cone. It was pretty obvious as it came into view and a decent size too. It felt like it was an inch long and both sides were clearly visible running to a sharp multi colored double at the point. (With NV I cannot see colors but I can see shades and it was noticeable that the double stars were not the same color). I played with the gain control trying to get more out of the cone with not much success. It’s a difficult target and although I could see it easily, if the same view had been presented to my wife then she would have said “where is it?”. I nudged left and right in long sweeps for a while as I tried to cover the area of the Fox Fur nebula (Huge) and see the many lanes of bright nebula within. There was plenty to see but I prefer the Fox Fur view in the Borg107 where I can more easily take it all in.
      Rosette – Holy Cow, the highlight of the night! I would have to say this must have been my “best ever” view of the Rosette even allowing for the fact that I had to nudge around it thanks to the extra scale of the 35mm Panoptic. The Nebula was so lush and large. The extra magnification really allowed me to get deeper into the many intricate black lanes that run within the lower and left sides of this nebula. I found further black areas to investigate in the upper RHS. And I noticed three small nebula patches embedded within the centre star cluster (RHS) which I have not noticed previously.
      Sh2-280 – Nudge down to a large nebula patch with two black eyes. The RHS edge was brighter and also below.
      Sh2-282 – Nudge down to a triangular patch on its side. 4 stars were carving out a black area behind the tip.
      Sh2-283 – A tiny bright patch (located at star HD291952 in Sky Safari).
      IC434 – Over to view the horse head with more magnification and I was not disappointed. The Horse was there in all its glory – snout, neck and an ear. I let it drift across the view a few times. I also noticed that if I turn the “gain” down then the outer edges of the horse head took on a brighter glow? A win for the 35mm here.
      Flame – Up to the Flame which was big and bright. I think that the 55mm Plossl view was slightly more feature-ridden and the loss of focal ratio had taken something away. It still looked great though, don’t get me wrong!
      Running Man – Back to the nemesis that is “the Running Man” and unbelievably I was able to tease out some black edge detail. I could see a vertical piece LHS and a longer horizontal piece under the three stars (more RHS). The black lane seemed to reach up and touch the middle of the three stars too. Another win for the 35mm.
      M42 – You have to don’t you? A great view but with diminished resolution compared to the 55mm Plossl IMHO.
      Medusa – An easy black crescent. It had a very bright tip at the bottom and also a less bright tip at the top. The Crescent sides seemed incomplete and I chalked this as another win for the 55mm.
      Sh2-241 – A small bright patch with a central star and a black area within.
      Sh2-242 – A mid-size patch with an off-centre bright star within.
      What Happens when you View an Open Cluster with a 5nm Ha Filter?
      By now I was getting cold and Orion was passed the drop down side of my shed. I headed up towards the zenith and decided to view M37 with the 5nm Ha CCD filter still loaded on the Paracorr2.
      M37 – A lovely bright open cluster fills the fov of the 35mm Panoptic. As I turn the gain down on the NVD something interesting happens… A black lane structure appears running in some of the gaps between the stars of the cluster. It takes on an appearance more reminiscent of Caroline’s Rose with conventional eyepieces. I continue to play with the gain. It seems some stars are within nebula lanes/patches and some stars are within or next to these black (Hydrogen) lanes. I stood there pondering whether the stars were clearing the nebula to reveal the blackness or the blackness was somehow connecting lines of stars within the cluster?
      M35 – Onto another nearby cluster M35. Once again, the same thing. With the gain down then black snaking lanes appear within the cluster. But there are lanes/patches of nebulosity too (or is it reflecting dust?)
      IC443/444 – I finished with a short hop over to one of my favourite objects, the Jelly fish, IC443. Wow, the detail showing within the pancake of the Jellyfish was great. The flat head had two clear sides and dimmer/blacker areas within. There were some shimmering brighter bits too. The outer edges had clear definition as it steps down and curves away. I could see a single thread heading away from the pancake head towards IC444 and followed it away from IC443. I eventually ran into four thick parallel lanes of nebula near the strangely named “Tejat Posterior” star. I went back to IC443 and followed the tentacles running away to the left this time.
      Thoughts of the observer.
      It was nice to get some use from the Pan35 at last. I seem to robotically load up the 55mm Plossl these days. I did prove on several targets that the extra magnification of the 35mm Plossl cannot compensate for the loss of focal ratio provided by the 55mm Plossl. BUT I did also see some benefit on several targets notably the Rosette, Horse Head & Running Man. Looks like I need to use both. The dark lanes in the open clusters M37 & M35 were an unexpected bonus and I think I will be trying the 5nm Ha filter on other non-nebula targets (M45 & M13 for instance) in the near future. I have looked on the internet for some Ha images of the open clusters but nothing was immediately found that showed what I was seeing? Perhaps one of the NV phonetography guys can get a shot of this feature? Its forecast clear again tonight so I packed up early so I could get some sleep in preparation.  
      Hope you are getting some clear skies too?
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