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9 June - Night Vision helps the Borg blow the Sharpless catalogue wide open!

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Posted (edited)

Date: Sat 9th June 0020-0215       

Scope: Borg 89ED f6.7 (fl 600mm) on SkyTee-2.   Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS.

Eyepieces: 55mm (f3.2 x11), 35mm (f5 x17)

Filters: Astronomik 6nm Ha CCD.


We are now into June and up here in Penrith that means no darkness and about an hour of “deep dusk” before the sky brightens once again from 2am onwards. To the North the sky never goes dark at all. This creates about a 2-hour observing slot where at least I can see the main constellation stars to enable me to use the red dot finder to align the scope to something in the sky.


Start Low…

I had the 55mm Plossl and 6nm Ha CCD filter loaded together with my PVS-14 Night Vision Device (NVD) attached to the eyepiece with the TNVC/Televue afocal astronomy adapter. This turns my Borg into an f3.2 scope with a magnification of x11. The NVD provides a 40 degree field of view (fov).

I’ve had three sessions on Sagittarius since late May and last night after an initial alignment on Antares and a pan around the low summer targets (Lagoon, Triffid, Swan, Eagle) revealing that wet sky conditions low down were rendering the view inferior to previous sessions, we had had heavy rain around 4pm and the sky still remained in a wet state.


…Then Aim High!

I decided to re-align to a new target area of the Milky Way around Cygnus (higher in the sky).

I used the red dot finder to align to Deneb and started to move down using the SkyTee-2 slow-mo controls until I found the North American nebula which was bright and showing its whole structure. It was just slightly bigger that the fov of the eyepiece so I had to use the manual controls to investigate. I discovered a whole wispy section moving off the north side of the nebula that I did not know was there.

Having spent many years looking at these targets with much larger scopes, it’s hard to really comprehend how easily they are seen with tiny aperture when you add Night Vision and a decent Ha CCD filter into the equation.

Sitting to the left of the North American was the Pelican, the vertical streak of its “beak” was clearly visible alongside two other straight sections, and it looked like an “F” rotated at 45 degrees to the right. There was plenty more nebulosity on view but this basic “F” shape kept catching my eye. At the edge of the fov I could see a curvy section just off to the left of the Pelican (IC 5068) and centred it to observe it. IC 5068 appeared brighter than the Pelican and seemed to make the shape of an “opened palm of a hand that was holding the Pelican in place in the sky” :)

Next, I opened the clutches of the SkyTee-2 and changed to “nudging” the scope by hand to see what other shapes I could “discover”...

Below the North American, I bumped into a “backward C shaped nebula” (near 68 Cyg) which was almost large enough to fill the fov (Sh2-119). This nebula was less clear than the others observed so far but still easy to see.

I headed back to Deneb to start a pass into Cygnus. As I found Deneb, I immediately noticed three spread out patches of nebulosity, two were small and circular while the third was a longer streak of nebula (Sh2-115 & Sh2-112). I panned right into Cygnus. Wow, there is just so much nebula! I ended up doing a “grid sweep” style manoeuvre with the scope as I panned and stepped my way down through the Cygnus region. The star attraction was the thick black lane section around Sadr which was bright and beautiful. But there was so much more nebulosity than “just this Sadr bit!” The clouds of shape was varying in brightness and density and the size of the area covered was HUGE. Sh2-108 stood out brightly.

At one point I happened upon the Crescent nebula, it was pretty small but bright and showing the full curve (at x11) around three bright stars.

Now it was time to head left over to the Elephant Trunk and Sh2-131. I returned to the North American nebula first then used this to get my height correct as I panned left and eventually straight into the sh2-131 nebula. It appeared as a large fuzzy “brain” to fill the whole fov. The centre section was much harder to see and appeared as a “dark hole within the surrounding fuzz”. I could see several black lanes coming and going within the nebulosity and used the nearby Garnet star to try to orientate myself with Sky Safari. I do not believe that I saw the Elephant trunk within the nebula but there was plenty of darker “black bits” at other locations within sh2-131 (using a mirror diagonal was also adding confusion to my brain! [I hope to get it later in the season when I get the 20” mirror and NVD onto this target]

I panned up from sh2-131 looking for Sh2-129 (Bat wing nebula). It was easily located but was pretty faint compared to some of the other nebula that I had picked out so far.

I panned down from IC1396 and located Sh2-132 which appeared as a bright patch of nebulosity.

A quick look at Sky Safari revealed that the Cave was nearby so I used Sh2-132 as a marker to pan left over to the Cave (sh2-155) and soon bumped into it. I have never seen the Cave region with such low magnification before so the view was hard to recognise! The nebula was a nice size within the fov but there was so much nebulosity that I found it hard to see “just the usual bright bit”. There was a “clear dark side” to the nebula but the nebulosity’s appearance was more of a “cloud” or “cauliflower”. I tried switching to the 35mm for more magnification but the loss of focal ratio caused some of the brightness to be lost.

By now, it was starting to get light and the sky was brightening, I decided to head for the Bubble nebula. I can only imagine how tiny it must be at x11 as I never managed to locate it!

It was time to pack up. I returned to my eye piece box to discover standing water on top, the dew was really bad!


Sky Safari Flight Path

Here are some screenshots from Sky Safari with my observing list highlighted






Writing this report has been a discovery in Sharpless objects! Most of those mentioned in the report are new to me and I have had to spend time using the internet just to find the names for the objects that I observed.

It is clear that there must be very few nebula beyond the reach of NV (if they have a Ha component that is) and I am looking forward to getting my big dob onto some of these tiny faint Sharpless objects (for some increased NV magnification).

However, it seems Sky Safari do not expect anyone to see these objects as it’s been a real pain to find the names this morning. Looks like I need to “search” for each Sharpless in turn and add them to an observing list to get Sky Safari to show them, a job for the next rainy day.


Clear Skies,


Edited by alanjgreen
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Nice report Alan, getting some great results despite the light nights!

I don’t think this totally solves your problem but may help.

If you do a search for Sharpless in SkySafari then it shows (on my version) 228 objects. You can then turn this into an observing list. If you then go to observing lists and select the one you’ve just created, you have the option to highlight those objects which will show all the Sharpless objects in the catalogue held by SS. It seems some that you viewed are missing but at least it shows all that are available. Might be useful.


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Great report, when I grow up I want night vision! :)

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Great report Alan, you getting the most out of these grey nights with the help of your NV.

Nice objects.

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Great report, Alan. I bet you never imagined you’d be working your way through Sharpless objects with the Borg while the big dob sat in the shed!

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15 hours ago, Littleguy80 said:

Great report, Alan. I bet you never imagined you’d be working your way through Sharpless objects with the Borg while the big dob sat in the shed!

Ha Ha Ha, you're right :) 

Still Big Dobs chance will come once the Milky Way swings around a bit more to be better placed from the shed.

Main thing is that (1) cooling is no problem with the Borg and (2) I can get down to the southern horizon easily too, for instance last night I managed to pick off M6 for the first time with night vision, it was small but clearly a Butterfly! M7 was stuck low behind my shed so probably need another month before it clears it to pick that off.

Shows that one scope is never enough...

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54 minutes ago, alanjgreen said:

Ha Ha Ha, you're right :) 

Still Big Dobs chance will come once the Milky Way swings around a bit more to be better placed from the shed.

Main thing is that (1) cooling is no problem with the Borg and (2) I can get down to the southern horizon easily too, for instance last night I managed to pick off M6 for the first time with night vision, it was small but clearly a Butterfly! M7 was stuck low behind my shed so probably need another month before it clears it to pick that off.

Shows that one scope is never enough...

Nice one. Good points. It was definitely easier to get lower down with my old scope on the tripod compared to the dob. I’m still hoping I can get M6/M7 in the dob though.

I read a really interesting article recently that put forward the idea of one eyepiece and multiple scopes. Change the scale but keep the exit pupil the same. 

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Ask Santa for a copy of.... 


the NV users skychart (apart from the reflection nebulae). Cygnus has too much nebulapus fluff in. Pity you didn’t get across to ngc7822 /ced 214 in Cepheus, rarely ever mentioned even by imagers.

cool stuff, seems like you’re a convert now!


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    • By alanjgreen
      Date: Wednesday 14th November. 2230-0430hrs
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      The weather forecast showed there would be a slowly clearing sky later in the evening with a possibility of clear sky during the early hours so I made a tentative plan that involved using both the big dob and later the Borg 107 if the opportunity arose.
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      Thoughts of the observer.
      I thought that I would start with the conclusion/outcome of the evening which was that I managed to find and view 30 new Sharpless objects!
      I am now looking through my six pages of notes taken over the 6 hours of viewing I managed last night. I was forced inside by an increasing wind, tired eyes and a few cold finger ends.
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      When I consider this wonderful huge nebula in front of my eyes, I am lost as to why we are all so excited about this tiny spec. I remember my quest for the “pillar” in sh2-86 and I know why we do it… I go through a period of trying Pan35, Pan27, Astronomik 6nm & 12nm Ha filters but I cannot get a better view of the tiny Cone than with the 55mm. I was amazed at how sh2-173 almost disappeared when I put in the 12nm Ha filter then jumped back again when the 6nm Ha filter was re-inserted. There is no doubt that 20” and Night Vision is going to get the Cone. But I re-iterate that sh2-173 is so much more than “the cone”. Flaming Star – The sky is brightening slightly (maybe the moon is starting), I head up to the Flaming star and it’s a lovely sight at the eyepiece (but it’s not alone), its thick shapely right angle is sharp and clear. As you look into the eyepiece there are several other clumps of nebula and you need to orientate yourself to what is there.
      I can see the right angle shape of the Flaming Star.
      Below is another bright circular nebula (sh2-236/IC410) which has some lovely black central shapes coming and going. To the right I see two more less significant but clearly visible nebula (sh2-234/IC417 & sh2-237), I nudge right a little farther and three separate nebula appear (sh2-232, sh2-235 & sh2-231/3) 235 is large and quite faint, 232 small and bright. M42 – I was not sure whether the brightness of M42 would be too much for the NV but I have to have a look! I turn down the gain and set the goto. WOW! It is small (x11) but perfectly formed. I can see M43 easily to the right and in-between is a jet black cloud of gas. M42 appears as a fish head taking a bite out of this blackness. The upper wing of M42 curves all the way back and connects into a billowy cloud structure. The lower wing extends out and down and away from the main nebula. I could go for more magnification but why bother, this is a lovely view and I stay a while.
      Sh2-261 Lowers Nebula – Two central stars emerging from what looks like a “tunnel of nebula”. Stars are in a black area and the nebula surrounds but extends on one side.
      NGC2174 Monkey head – This is a great nebula. I thought that it looked like a side-on view of Mickey Mouse’s face as I looked at it. It was really nicely framed in the fov. The “face” had the palid appearance of white skin with some darker stuff around the sides. The nose seemed to have a “bobble” on it.
      IC443 Jellyfish – A clear half-moon shape with a brighter curved side was clearly seen. This is a SN remnant also known as sh2-248.
      Time to call it a night.
      By now I was cold and everything that I took outside had a thin layer of ice on top.The Devils Orb was also rising.
      It took a few trips to get all the stuff back inside.
      I found that I “still had the buzz” so I attached the 1.25” 12nm Astronomik filter and went back outside for a couple of minutes of x1 handheld! 
      Thoughts of the observer
      It was nice to finally get the Night Vision onto IC434 and see the horsehead with ease. I already knew that the Flame was a better target than the Horsehead and it was nice to have this confirmed once again. The Flame has so much to give, don’t waste too much of your time on the Horsehead. The x1 experience around Orion was great. I knew Barnard’s Loop was big, but it really is BIG. I did not know the Rosette stood out so brightly as it actually does. At the eyepiece the Rosette was wonderful with NV. Sh2-173 (area around the Cone) is just so big. Even at x1 it looked like four nebulas in one. The Cone seems a sideshow when you see just how big and expansive sh2-173 actually is (with a wide fov). It was fairly featureless but endless. It was quite difficult to focus on NGC2264 as it was so small and insignificant inside this huge structure. (Can’t wait to see the Cone with the Dob though ).  
      Luckily I did find my Hot Water Bottle after my last outing and I was able to put it near my feet at the bottom of the bed (as I lay there still wearing my inner layer of clothing) waiting to warm up and fall asleep…
      Clear Skies,

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