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A Rather Strange Observing night at Sutton Bank


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Now that I have gotten your attention, listen to my tale and see what you think!

After, putting my little one to bed I decided to make the best of the clear night that was promised and duly packed the car with my 12.5" dob, EP's, my astrotrac and a variety of other (rather heavy) stuff with the intention of doing some visual observing as well as some wide-field imaging. Car loaded, I headed up the A1M to one of the darkest sites around in Yorkshire at the minute. After a non eventful drive up I arrived at the observing carpark to find some of our society members gathered around doing a mix of observing and imaging. What I failed to tell you in the interim, was I had realized half-way there that I had forgotten my camera (bang went the wide-field imaging)! and I had a car full of heavy imaging stuff, power pack, etc. that I realized I had to pack away again when I got home without using!

Anyway I got out the Dob and set up about half past 9. My first task was to get the finder aligned on Venus (nice starter for the evening ahead) then I bounced over to the Moon! I had seen the crescent on the way up and decided to spend some time admiring its beauty when I got set up while waiting for the skies to darken! I was not disappointed! With the 13mm ethos in I was able to take in the whole crescent and what a sight! Wrinkle ridges  and riles were plainly visible in Mare Fecunditatis, as were the smaller craters in Mare Crisium. As for Petavius crater with the central peak, I was completely blown away be the detail, I could almost reach out and touch it. I have never really been a moon person but this was something else! Coupled by the fact that the Earth shine was so bright I think i will have to spend more time on this strange object next time it happens to be up in the night sky! :wink:

Now the skies were starting to get a little darker I thought to spend some time observing some deep galaxies in and around Virgo and Coma, however there seemed to be a bank of cloud partially obscuring this part of the sky that never seemed to move for the whole night. Ah well onto plan B. Some time at the EP is better than no time at the EP so as it was quite some time since I had gotten the scope out I decided to just do a little star hopping around just to get my eye back in. I was aware at this time that there were a few lights across the carpark from us but paid no attention to these!

First call was the Eskimo Nebula, I'm not quite sure if I got this or not as there was still some very high cloud lingering and the skies were not fully dark yet so I decided to jump to the beehive cluster just to re-aquaint myself with it. What a beautiful cluster of jewels this was, however with the ethos in the tube I was having to move the scope about quite a bit just to take it all in. Whilst viewing this jewel box I smelt the distinct aroma of molten tar! when you are in the back of nowhere and smell tar there has to be something up. I looked up from my EP and noticed that there seemed to be more and more lights congregating at the other end of the carpark! What was going on I hear you ask? Well I can only assume with all the flashing orange lights that suddenly started up that it was either an illegal rave or the whole of the Country's highways maintenance crews decided to have a conference! on speaking to my mates it was decided that as the Tour de Yorkshire was due through in a couple of weeks, the local council had decided to fix all the potholes! We now have an answer to the pothole problem! I can see Tours De... Lincolnshire, Warwickshire, Lancashire... or whatever other shire you live in starting in the next few months.

I digress, but this made for some very challenging observing over the next few hours as my nostrils seemed to be burnt to a crisp from the tar fumes, and my eyeballs were subjected to flashing orange lights, full on beams, etc. you get the picture.

Due to the intensity of the onslaught I decided to just stick to brighter objects for the rest of the night, so a quick traipse over to Auriga saw M38, 37, 36 then 35 fall to the now light polluted 12.5". Beautiful clusters but not viewed to their best tonight! I then jumped across to the other side of the sky to take in another old favorite the ring nebula, looking great with lots of detail and a nice dark core, made all the better with the pollution now being behind me! whilst over in that direction I took in M13. All I can say is wow, at least that would have been my thoughts if a work van with full beam and said flashing orange lights hadn't have crossed in front of the telescope! Almost blinded I had to wait some time to get my eyes back to normal never mind dark adapted!

I decided that with the now gusty wind and luminous onslaught, I would finish the night with a few quick targets. Jupiter was now in a great position and looking rather splendid, far outshining the local light pollution! A finish at Leo saw me take in the triplet, with too many bright lights the contrast was not there so I decided to finish the night with a new one for me. NGC2903! What a sight this was. a beautiful faint fuzzy that wasnt so faint. How in the Dickens did Charles Messier miss this one I'll never know. I could almost make out some faint dust lanes and arms with averted vision. A fitting end to a very interesting night!

Edited by Soupy
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Think I know where you were, not that I was one of the ones causing LP, I use to walk a lot in these areas by day and night. Like you I am not a moon fan but I have to say that with the APO at 805mm and with the 4.7mm 110 degree ethos fitted giving about X160 the whole moon in the FOV does look remarkable

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We were at the visitors car park Alan, it's a lovely area through the day and dark as a cave at night so usually very good. Shame they decided to upgrade the roads on the only clear night we have had for ages! 

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Yes John, I've browsed the moon a few times in passing and at outreach events, but always viewed it as a hindrance due to imaging. However just having a visual night it certainly stole the show!

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18 hours ago, Soupy said:

Yes John, I've browsed the moon a few times in passing and at outreach events, but always viewed it as a hindrance due to imaging. However just having a visual night it certainly stole the show!

I too viewed as a hinderance even before I picked up a camera and pointed it skyward. Due to the amount of clear sky I do get here I never bothered to go outside after it was at 3/4 phase. Much smaller but it was close to overhead last noight and very bright, do like it though when it's thin.

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Great report buddy but sounded like an observers nightmare! 

Always forget something. I've never forgot the camera though :thumbright:

NGC2903 just south of the star Alterf in the head of Leo is a nice view and as you say how did he miss it especially with no road maintenance to put up with :laugh2:

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