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Littleguy80

A comet, a planet and a moon

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I've just come inside from an hour and forty five minutes of observing and have but three observations to show it. The small number of observations does not tell the whole story though. I started observing around 22:20. I'd been wearing an eyepatch over my observing eye for around 15 minutes before going out to give me a jump start on dark adaption. The first observation of the evening was Comet C/2018 W2 (Africano). I'd observed this a couple of times from my local dark site when it had been very faint, just showing with averted vision. This evening it was placed next to a pair of stars that were close to Delta Andromeda. My 9mm Lunt XWA showed a fairly diffuse comet but visible even in direct vision. An excellent start.

Starting from Gamma Psc, I star hopped my way down to Neptune. My goal was to observe Neptune's moon Triton. I have tried and failed to see Triton more times than I care to remember. Earlier, this very week, I'd spent over an hour trying all kinds of eyepiece and barlow combination in the hope of getting just a glimpse of the faint moon. I'd regrouped for this evening's attempt with a fresh plan. I'd use my 9mm Lunt XWA and the Baader VIP Barlow in 2" mode with three T2 15mm spacers. If my calculations were correct that gave me a multiplier of 2.64. The Lunt would be giving 352x magnification and TFOV of 0.28 degrees. I had decided to try and keep to this combination rather changing eyepieces a lot. Well after 20 mins or so of watching the pale blue disc slide through the eyepiece with no luck, I decided to change the plan. My 9mm BGO has always given better contrast and sharpness than the Lunt so I screwed in a 2-1.25" adapter and started to use the ortho. The TFOV was now halved to only 0.11 degrees. My 10" dob is only manual so this did make tracking a bit more challenging. Time moved on and still no sign of Triton. I decided to throw some more magnification at it. The 9mm BGO was replaced with a 6mm. Things were getting serious now, 528x mag and down to 0.08 degrees TFOV. A few more passes and nothing. I decided to target a specific point above the planet rather than moving my eye around in search of the correct position. On the next pass a dim glow above and to the left of Neptune. My heart quickened. Two more passes and nothing. Then on the third came the same dim glow. It was farther away from Neptune that I'd expected. I set SkySafari up to show the FOV based on my eyepiece/barlow combination. The position of the glow looked good for Triton's position. Once again a few more passes with nothing and then the glow was found again in the same spot. I popped the 5mm BGO, 634x magnification. Tracking was tricky and I couldn't see the glow. I dropped back down to the 7mm Meade RGO, a mere 453x, on adjusting focus a clearer view came through and then more passes with nothing again. My eyes felt tired now so I stopped and just looked up for a couple of minutes. On returning to Neptune, the pattern of seeing nothing and then every few passes catching a dim glow above the ice giant continued. After awhile the glow was lost completely. Looking up showed that hazy cloud was now passing over and the rising Moon was starting to make its presence felt too. I returned to Comet Africano but it was now hidden by the thin cloud and Moon glow. Time to call it a night. Did I see Trition? Not in any satisfactory way but it's the first time that I really felt like it was there. This observation felt like a range finder. I've found the right combination of equipment and know what to expect. With darker skies, I'm sure my views of Triton can be greatly improve upon.

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You have worked very hard on this.

I do not run a Dob,  but I imagine keeping up with the field at this magnification takes experience and skill.

Thank you for the detailed report. 

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Excellent report, Neil. Whilst reading, I was with you at the eyepiece. You described the process of finding an elusive object very precisely. (Had similar experiences last evening, locating NGC 891 under 20.6 SQM-L skies...)

Stephan      

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5 hours ago, Natty Bumpo said:

You have worked very hard on this.

I do not run a Dob,  but I imagine keeping up with the field at this magnification takes experience and skill.

Thank you for the detailed report. 

Thank you. Something about Triton captured my imagination and I was determined to see it :) 

All it takes is a good mount and a lot of practise. A tracking mount would make it a lot easier but where’s the fun in that :D 

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2 hours ago, Nyctimene said:

Excellent report, Neil. Whilst reading, I was with you at the eyepiece. You described the process of finding an elusive object very precisely. (Had similar experiences last evening, locating NGC 891 under 20.6 SQM-L skies...)

Stephan      

Thank you, Stephan. I came indoors and wrote the report straight away while it was fresh in my memory to capture the detail. You did very well with NGC891. I’ve seen it from my dark site which is well over 21 SQM on a good night. It’s really faint there. I’m always trying to get a good view of it’s famous dark lane. 

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Now you've seen it, next time will be a lot easier! A nice report, showing persistence pays off.

I find that with a 180 Mak, it is very much down to conditions - ie both transparency and seeing have to be good.

Chris

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36 minutes ago, chiltonstar said:

Now you've seen it, next time will be a lot easier! A nice report, showing persistence pays off.

I find that with a 180 Mak, it is very much down to conditions - ie both transparency and seeing have to be good.

Chris

Thank you, Chris. I think you’re right about conditions. John made a similar comment on another thread. 

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Well done Neil. Making progress towards an observation that satisfies you I'm sure, but must be great to start glimpsing it. I really don't I have a chance from my skies, but would love to give this a go too at some point. I can relate to the challenge though, I set Skysafari to take me to a number of 1.0 arc second doubles the other night and they were pretty challenging. Some success had though.

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Really nice report. If I can get to a dark site in decent weather I'd like to have a go at Triton.

I spent a long time looking for ngc891 on Friday night and couldn't find it; I'm inspired to try again.

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31 minutes ago, Stu said:

Well done Neil. Making progress towards an observation that satisfies you I'm sure, but must be great to start glimpsing it. I really don't I have a chance from my skies, but would love to give this a go too at some point. I can relate to the challenge though, I set Skysafari to take me to a number of 1.0 arc second doubles the other night and they were pretty challenging. Some success had though.

Thanks Stu. I haven’t done a huge amount of double star observing. I found myself wondering whether more practise with doubles would have made Triton an easier spot. Maybe observing point sources is a different skill to observing galaxies a as nd nebula?

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28 minutes ago, Whistlin Bob said:

Really nice report. If I can get to a dark site in decent weather I'd like to have a go at Triton.

I spent a long time looking for ngc891 on Friday night and couldn't find it; I'm inspired to try again.

Thanks Bob. It’s proved really challenging but that’s part of the fun. NGC891 is a great target. It was always fainter than I thought it would be. 

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40 minutes ago, Littleguy80 said:

Thanks Stu. I haven’t done a huge amount of double star observing. I found myself wondering whether more practise with doubles would have made Triton an easier spot. Maybe observing point sources is a different skill to observing galaxies a as nd nebula?

I definitely think it is a different skill, or just that building experience helps you know what you are looking for and at.

Much of my observing is either solar, lunar or planetary; deep sky sessions are generally limited to a few per year when I manage to get somewhere dark enough so it has taken me maybe longer than usual to build that side of my experience. Doubles are another thing again, and I'm getting the hang of the really tight ones now. I'm sure I'm seeing targets now which are no different in the eyepiece but I just know what I'm seeing! That said I do think the 8" f8 has moved things on a bit scope wise, and I've learnt to chuck more power at these targets just as you were with Triton.

Have you considered an EQ Platform? I do find it really helps on these targets by allowing you to concentrate and the image stays much steadier. Worth thinking about, and it's not cheating because you still have to find the target yourself 😁👍

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5 minutes ago, Stu said:

I definitely think it is a different skill, or just that building experience helps you know what you are looking for and at.

Much of my observing is either solar, lunar or planetary; deep sky sessions are generally limited to a few per year when I manage to get somewhere dark enough so it has taken me maybe longer than usual to build that side of my experience. Doubles are another thing again, and I'm getting the hang of the really tight ones now. I'm sure I'm seeing targets now which are no different in the eyepiece but I just know what I'm seeing! That said I do think the 8" f8 has moved things on a bit scope wise, and I've learnt to chuck more power at these targets just as you were with Triton.

Have you considered an EQ Platform? I do find it really helps on these targets by allowing you to concentrate and the image stays much steadier. Worth thinking about, and it's not cheating because you still have to find the target yourself 😁👍

I think you’re right. It took me a really long time to get the F star in trapezium too. 
I haven’t thought about an EQ platform. Part of the reason for starting with the Lunt was the larger FOV, giving me more time to try and spot Triton on each pass. Something else to investigate 👍

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Nice write up Neil. Always a challenge to verify what you've seen. I like to be sure but some targets and seeing conditions make it more difficult.

On a side note NGC891 is just stunning in the right skies and the 22" brings out so much detail. Impressive and one of my personal favourites.

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I enjoyed your report very much.

But most of all your comment, a tracking mount would make it easier, but where's the fun in that!

That's part of this hobby (obsession) that it takes a bit to grasp. There will be many times you walk inside completely frustrated, wondering why you even attempt this. Then when every thing falls in place, the thrill it gives you is indescribable!

 

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1 hour ago, mapstar said:

Nice write up Neil. Always a challenge to verify what you've seen. I like to be sure but some targets and seeing conditions make it more difficult.

On a side note NGC891 is just stunning in the right skies and the 22" brings out so much detail. Impressive and one of my personal favourites.

Thanks Damian. I think that’s why I described it as not being a satisfactory. I’m confident I glimpsed but it wasn’t a strong observation. I still felt excited to have seen something are so many failed attempts. 
The 10” gives nice views of NGC891. I’m planning on giving that a good amount of attention this winter. It must be stunning with the 22”. 

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11 hours ago, maw lod qan said:

I enjoyed your report very much.

But most of all your comment, a tracking mount would make it easier, but where's the fun in that!

That's part of this hobby (obsession) that it takes a bit to grasp. There will be many times you walk inside completely frustrated, wondering why you even attempt this. Then when every thing falls in place, the thrill it gives you is indescribable!

 

Absolutely, it’s the challenge. I’ve only ever had manual mounts. Finding targets was a real struggle in those early months. On more than one occasion I punched the air in excitement at finally finding a target. It took me 3 sessions to find the Beehive! I can find most things quite easily now. The challenge is to go fainter. Love this hobby :) 

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