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Walking on the Moon

Southern hemisphere skies


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It's a sad fact that having lived all but the last 10 months in the Southern Hemisphere I know the northern sky in much more detail than the skies that dominated most of my life...until now.

I am currently on holiday in South Africa where I've experienced a week of glorious sunshine and clear skies :thumbright: . As a bonus, I was reacquainted with my 10" orion intelliscope acquired shortly before my move to the UK, which my brother in law has been looking after for me :cheers: .

The conditions here are excellent for stargazing with seeing at between 3 and 4/5. The only issue is that for about 10-15 deg above the horizon LP was rather bad. Limiting mag was estimated at 4 just above the LP glow and 5 overhead. All in all, not too bad considering I was 10 miles from the city centre.

Where to begin? With Jupiter being directly overhead it was the natural place to start. High up and seeing at 4/5 the view was superb. The great 'grey' spot was clearly visible with none of the irritating 'boiling' experienced in St Albans.

Next stop: Venus. about 45 deg above the horizon it was a clear crescent and with the excellent seeing after the afternoon thundershower I am sure that I saw some swirling in the atmosphere.

After that the old fav's that most of us try and see: the lagoon and trifid nebulae in Sagittarius. This was reasonably low on the horizon and light pollution interfered, but still excellent.

Then the real fun began...

Swinging the scope almost due south, but close to Canopus I scanned the large magellanic cloud for the tarantula nebula. In a word...WOW. It makes the orion nebula look like cinderella's ugly sister. Even with the LP on the horizon interfering it is absolutely amazing. I cranked up the mag to 400x and the whorls and tendrils of the nebula were clearly visible making the spidery shape come alive. Really excellent stuff.

My next big object was 47 Tucanae. Not being visible from the northern hemisphere it is a real treat. Bizillions of stars densely packed over a massive area and resolvable to the core with very high magnification. I can only describe it as a super-zoomed, super dense version of M13. Awesome viewing. I think I spent over an hour studying the patterns and density of the stars.

I then toured the constellation Carina trying to scry out eta carina. In the process I saw the southern pleiedes (sp?) and another small, but pleasant, glob that I can't remember the name of. With Eta low on the horizon at reasonable hours the pollution was just too bad, so hopefully I will get another crack at it before I return to the snow and cold in London on Sunday.

That's it for now, but I still have 2 more nights of viewing left :)

Happy stargazing and thanks for reading


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Thanks guys...

I am in the south of Johannesburg. Since most of my kit is in the UK I didn't use any filters. Would have been nice though :).

Unfortunately there have been thundershowers in the evenings so no more observing here for me as I leave tonight for the UK :).


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