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26-30 Oct - Big Dob enjoys five cold nights of nebulae, galaxies and comets (Night Vision)

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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,


Edited by alanjgreen
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Wonderful report Alan, the Ha experiment was very interesting, another plus for NV!

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Fascinating to read about your achievements with your set up. Thanks for posting. Mike

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Excellent report Alan. Interesting that you’re going as narrow as 5nm with your dark skies. I can only imagine the results you’re getting. I’m now using a 1.25” Chroma 3nm filter exclusively on nebulae from the city. They really are superb - though haven’t stretched to a 2” yet. 

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22 hours ago, Highburymark said:

Excellent report Alan. Interesting that you’re going as narrow as 5nm with your dark skies. I can only imagine the results you’re getting. I’m now using a 1.25” Chroma 3nm filter exclusively on nebulae from the city. They really are superb - though haven’t stretched to a 2” yet. 

Yep, the Chroma filters are great.

I like the way they give higher performance at low gain settings, this really helps to pull out the black features within nebulae (as you lower the gain then you increase signal to noise ratio). This really helps tease out the finer details.

It would be nice to test out a 3nm but I can’t imagine that I would get a great jump in extra detail over the 5nm for the cost outlay.

I am happy with my current equipment and it will soon be a whole year since I spent any money on Astro kit !!!


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    • By alanjgreen
      Date: Friday 17th April 2020. 2320-0410hrs
      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), Panoptic 27mm (f4 x77), DeLite 18.2mm (f5.8 x115).
      The last three sessions outside have been focused on Supernovae, tonight I wanted to focus on the grade 3 (rated by me “the best of the best” galaxies to view based on my experience with Night Vision on >150 galaxies).
      I did not get through the whole list as the sky just keeps on turning and some targets were deserving of long lingering looks!😀
      After connecting Sky Safari to my Nexus wifi unit, I completed 2-star alignment and loaded the 55mm Plossl (for fastest possible “effective” focal ratio of my system), selected my Grade 3 observing list (using Sky Safari) and headed to the nearest target…
      Observing Report.
      NGC4051 – The galaxy showed as a superb “S” shape. The core had a tiny black circle around it, straight bar and arms curve away both ends. A good start! NGC4449 – bright core, bright-ish inner halo, fainter larger outer halo with a detached arm curving on the lower side. NGC2403 –large mid-brightness circular central region, long arm exits @3 (o’clock), curves back over top and down left hand side (LHS) to 6 (o’clock). M81 – large with a bright core section & inner halo. Long arm sweeps from 6 up LHS to 10. Much fainter arm exists (just visible) exits 12 and comes down RHS to 4. NGC3631 – Mid-size faintish patch. Tiny core & hazy spiral structure (hard to see directly). Looks like a circle then glimpses of “more”! NGC3726 – Faintish bar-spiral galaxy. Tiny bright core, bar and arms on both sides come & go from view. NGC3893 – Nice. Tiny but has a clear arm running underneath 3 to 9 (o’clock). Time check – 2356hrs
      NGC3953 – small and bright. Dot core & brighter inner halo (seems to be circular). Averted reveals the galaxy as a bright oblong shaped patch suggesting more content further out too. M109 – Bright bar and plenty of arms to view. One (then two) arms seen exiting @9 and up over top to 3 (& beyond). Lower arm seen intermittently. No arms seen leaving the bar @3 end. M106 – Super bright galaxy. “S” shaped arm structure and central bar. Lower arm clearer to see, upper area has more brightness hiding the arm although thin bright lane is visible within the upper area with averted. NGC4217 – small but perfectly formed edge-on galaxy. Bright core seen in upper section. Long black dust lane runs along the leading edge full length. NGC4618 & NGC4625 – Two galaxies (one small and one tiny), both displaying clear arm structures. 4618 is larger and has a long single arm RHS which seems to leave the lower end of the bar. 4625 is tiny but has a clear circular structure surrounding it. Nice.😀 Time check – 0031hrs
      M94 – 55mm = Bright core & inner halo. Seems to be surrounded by a black circular area with a faint circular section around that. 27mm for more magnification to see detail within the bright halo but not much to see. Black circular section and outer ring disappear (due to loss of “effective focal ratio” caused by change to higher power eyepiece). NGC4216 – A lovely trio of edge on galaxies in the same fov (all different sizes) dominated by the largest/brightest 4216. I see a bright core on the topside, tiny spec underneath (a field star). A long flat disk with black dust lane running the full length. Nice.😀 M61 – 55mm = Small & beautiful. Bright bar spiral galaxy with obvious arm structure. With some time a long arm is seen exiting at 8, it runs right and up past the other end of the bar. Shorter arm exits at 2 and runs down LHS to 10.  35mm Panoptic and was surprised that there was still plenty of arm structure on offer + increased scale. It was harder to see the arms than with the 55mm Plossl though. M99 – 35mm = Large galaxy with clear anti-clockwise arms. 55mm = Like a "two legged octopus" (if there was such a thing), long arm leaves at 4 anti-clockwise over top to 10. Second arm leaves at 10 and heads down to 6 (a less curvy arm). M100 – 35mm = inner spiral arms clear. Outer arms partially there. Upper arm heads out to a field star. Tiny galaxy patch at 5 o’clock catches the eye. 55mm = Outer arms are easier to see. Lovely elongated arms! M98 – 55mm. Bright core and bar section. “T” bar at top end. Hints of circular arms but not clearly seen. NGC5248 – small bar spiral. A long arm appears to leave @6, swings up RHS and over top and back down to 9. NGC5746 – Lovely edge-on. Core seen on the top-side. Black dust lane runs full length of the leading edge. UGC10528/SN2020ekk. SUCCESS. Supernova observed using 27mm Panoptic and my star chart notes from last time out. This is a bright supernova set well away from the galaxy disk (once you know where it is!) M13 globular – It would be rude not to pop in and see M13 while sitting nearby! With the 27mm eyepiece it almost filled the fov with stars resolved right to the core. The propeller (more of a “1970s space invader”) was obvious. Hope to spend more time on globulars next week… M101 – 27mm = Surprisingly showing a large amount of arm detail, mostly faintish but more as you keep looking. Galaxy completely fills the fov at this magnification. All the arms are there plus a couple of internal NGC/IC patches too. 35mm = Harder, 27mm view was better. 55mm = Brightest view with reduced scale but the arms are all there and the internal NGC/IC too. Reckon 55mm wins then 27mm second place. Time check = 0258hrs.
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      By now my fingers were pretty chilly and all I could see was the bright wide Milky Way rising South to North and constantly pulling my attention away from the scope. On the 15th I had moved to some x1 handheld Night Vision with an 7nm Ha filter. Tonight it was all too much and I added a Chroma 5nm Ha filter to the front of the Paracorr2 and targeted the scope for some much magnified views of the few parts of the spiral arms that I could get to over the tall side of the shed...
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    • By alanjgreen
      Date: Wednesday 15th April 2020. 2300-0400hrs
      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), Panoptic 27mm (f4 x77), DeLite 18.2mm (f5.8 x115).
      I have been on Supernova duty since the moon went away. I have been out on 11th, 13th and now 15th looking at six supernovae in NGC4277, NGC5258, IC1222, NGC4568, NGC5636 & NGC5157. Yesterday, I identified three further targets in UGC10528, NGC5111, NGC6214 using the rochesterastronomy.org website.
      The weather was much warmer last night with the temperature staying just above freezing but I found the conditions to not be as good as on the 13th, there were some fainter field stars that I could see two nights ago that were beyond reach tonight.
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      Observing notes.
      NGC4277/SN2020ftl – SUCCESS. With the Night Vision Device (PVS-14) connected to the Panoptic 27mm eyepiece (x77 magnifiction), the SN was clearly visible and brighter than the galaxy core above it. This is a lovely star field with many galaxies dotted around making for a great vista! NGC4568/SN2020fqu – SUCCESS. With the 27mm eyepiece the supernova was clearly visible within the upper reaches of the large galaxy disk. This supernova however is much fainter that the one in NGC4277 and represents more of a challenge. NGC5157/SN2020ees – FAIL. The best view was with the 35mm eyepiece (use lower power for faster focal ratio and brighter image) where there was a bright dot within the disk. There were hints of a double core but nothing more. I will mark this as a FAIL for tonight but I managed it two nights ago! NGC5635/SN2020fcw – SUCCESS. With the 27mm eyepiece I could see a clear double dot. This is a bright supernova.  
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      The wonder of the Milky Way...
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      I packed up at 0400hrs and headed indoors, my fingers were a little cold and the sky was brightening slightly as the sun headed up in the east.
      The forecast is more clear nights to come 😀 so better to save some energy for another night too...
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    • By alanjgreen
      Equipment Used:
      Scope: 20” f3.6 Lukehurst Dob with Paracorr (fl = 2089mm & f4.1).
      Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS.
      Eyepiece: Plossl 55mm (f2 x38).
      In spring 2019 I created a Sky Safari observing list of 214 highest brightness galaxies in the night sky above.
      I have observed 134 of the 214 (the others have not been well placed over my garden when I have been outside).
      In my first pass through these 134 galaxies, they were graded 0-3 (where 3 means "clear spiral arms" and 0 means "nothing to see here!")
      I have now completed a second pass through the grade 2 and grade 3 galaxies. This has resulted in some movement between bands based on my now greater experience and having a better idea of what I expect to see.
      My latest graded lists contain 38 grade 3 galaxies and 30 grade 2 galaxies (when combined this gives a list of the best galaxies to view when using military night vision technology combined with a low power eyepiece (using the TeleVue PVS-14 adapter).
      [Note that lower power eyepieces give the best spiral arm results as they “increase the effective focal ratio” of the telescope/night vision system which really helps increase the detail seen at the eyepiece.]
      As we are still in galaxy season 2020, now seemed a good time to re-publish my findings so others have the opportunity to observe some of these fantastic galaxies before they become “unavailable” for another 10 months…
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      M51 M61 M64 M65 M66 M81 M90 M91 M94 M95 M96 M99 M100 M101 M106 M109 NGC891 NGC2403 NGC2903 NGC3184 NGC3628 NGC3631 NGC3726 NGC3893 NGC3953 NGC4051 NGC4216 NGC4274 NGC4449 NGC4559 NGC4565 NGC4618 NGC4725 NGC5248 NGC5371 NGC5746 NGC5907 NGC6946  
      Grade 2 galaxies (good but the arms are not quite there…)
      M82 M88 M98 M104 NGC2537 NGC2768 NGC3294 NGC3344 NGC3373 NGC3596 NGC3646 NGC3675 NGC3718 NGC3729 NGC3813 NGC3938 NGC4013 NGC4214 NGC4293 NGC4389 NGC4490 NGC4517 NGC4535 NGC4625 NGC4762 NGC5005 NGC5364 NGC5383 NGC5775 NGC6015 Hopefully someone will find this useful information, next time they plan a galaxy observing session...
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      Grade 3 Galaxies.skylist
      Grade 2 Galaxies.skylist
      1. email them to your phone/ipad,
      2. read the email on your mobile device and after clicking on the attachment, you should be offered the chance to “send to Sky Safari” by your email app…
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      Clear Skies,
    • By alanjgreen
      Date: Friday 20th March 2020. 2300-0305hrs.
      Scope: 20” f3.6 Lukehurst Dob with Paracorr (fl = 2089mm & f4.1).
      Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS.
      Eyepieces: Panoptic 27mm (f4 x77), DeLite 18.2mm (f5.8 x115).
      Unbelievably, I just completed my third straight night outside observing Hickson Galaxy Groups and Supernovae. After months of thin gruel, I am beside myself although a little tired it must be said!
      Conditions last night were the best so far and my results improved as a result...
      Hicksons (3 new to me).
      I spent yesterday making an updated Sky Safari observing list. My aim was to edit the “full Hickson observing list”, remove all those that I have observed to produce a “To Do Hickson” observing list. I will add the steps taken to do this at the bottom of this report in case anyone is wondering how this is done?
      Hickson 54 – Sky Safari lists this as having one member IC700. I centred the target in the 27mm Eyepiece (with Night Vision device attached) and immediately saw a long thin edge-on galaxy patch. This thin line is in-fact made of 4 galaxies but I was unable to split the line on this occasion. Hickson 50 – (“The faintest Hickson” according to what I have read while doing research the last couple of days). It is also not present in Sky Safari when you search for “Hickson”! I used galaxy “PGC 2485269” to locate the correct area of sky to search for Hickson 50. As I look into the eyepiece a tiny double patch caught my eye straight away! With time, I got glimpses of a third patch to the right of the first two. I knew that I was looking for a pentagon shape of galaxies and there seemed to be a general faint glow in the area where all these galaxies are hiding. I waited but none of the others came into view.😀 Hickson 62 – Sky Safari has a major fail for several of the Hickson catalogue in that it shows them as having too many members (20+) in some cases. I nudged around the oversized Sky Safari search area and came upon a patch of three tiny galaxies, checking my Ipad Sky Safari showed NGC4761, NGC4759, NGC4764 and some research this morning confirms these findings.😀 I came upon a great website detailing the Hickson galaxy group members:
      This information is really useful and I thank the author for publishing this data for me to find!😀
      Supernovae (6 from 7 attempted).
      Okay, onto the main diet for the evening…
      IC738/SN2020vg - SUCCESS. Repeating my observation from the previous night, the galaxy was once again tough to find. Once you have it then the elongated core can be seen within with the 18.2mm eyepiece. Images don't show a split so I am marking this one as a success.  PGC 041887/SN2020cdm – SUCCESS. I located the galaxy successfully in the 35mm, 27mm and 18.2mm eyepieces. It is located to the right of a small, mid-brightness “Xmas tree” star formation. A small patch is easily seen. Then it’s a case of letting the patch drift across the fov many times and watch for activity within using averted vision. With the 18.2mm eyepiece I was able to get 3 of 4 glimpses of a dot within the galaxy patch. NGC5371/SN2020bio – FAIL. I spent a long time on this large side-on galaxy but there was no sign of the Supernova in any eyepiece. I even tried an Ethos 10mm (conventional eyeball viewing) for greater magnification but the SN was not seen. I now doubt my observation from 18 March too. UGC9945/SN2019zhs – SUCCESS. With the 27mm eyepiece I quickly found the galaxy and could see the core within. Using the 18.2mm eyepiece I got occasional glimpses of two dots within the galaxy disk. PGC056547/SN2020dxa – SUCCESS. This is an easy target and it was nice after the work I had to put in on some of the previous ones! With the 18.2mm two dots within a dust patch are easily seen. UGC10661/SN2020awa – SUCCESS. The galaxy sits within a small triangle of stars (one corner of the triangle has 2 stars). With the 18.2mm eyepiece I could make out a dot within. PGC062161/SN2020duu – SUCCESS. This is another fairly easy one. It took a bit of time to find the edge-on galaxy. But once you have it there is a clear dot on the leading edge as it drifts across the fov.  
      After having two nights of not much sleep, I needed to pace myself last night. I delayed going out until 2300hrs so as to be able to stay out later without getting tired too soon. I am pleased to say that it was also warmer last night than the previous two nights (when I had to wipe of ice from the scope before packing away for the night).
      Perseverance is key with supernovae, you need to try them a few times to get the “lay of the land”. It’s amazing how you become familiar with the star patterns in the fov of the supernova’s parent galaxy. It’s like visiting an old friend by the third night. But it takes patience and concentration to get the faintest targets to pop into view and I was pretty tired by the time I packed up just after 3am.
      Clear Skies,
      How to edit a Sky Safari observing list using Ipad & PC.
      Search for “Hickson” in Sky Safari Scroll to bottom of list and choose “create observing list” Use search to open the new observing list and scroll down to the bottom and choose “email observing list” On your PC, save the email attachment to desktop and add “.txt” to the end of the filename Edit the file with Notepad. Remove unwanted objects and save the file Remove “.txt” from the filename and email the file back to your Ipad On the Ipad, choose the email attachment and then choose “Sky Safari” when it asks what app you want to open the attachment with...
    • By alanjgreen
      Date: Sunday 1st March 2020. (2240-0220am)
      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), Panoptic 27mm (f4 x77), DeLite 18.2mm (f5.8 x115).
      Filters: Baader 610nm Red Filter
      Moon: 39%
      Wow, it’s already March and I’ve just completed my first real session of any note in 2020! The weather in the UK has been pants since Christmas. I have managed a couple of two hour dashes between the clouds but that is not enough time to really get into a session and do any real observing on any more than a few objects so I have mainly been observing the more famous and brightest night sky objects.
      Galaxy season is here!
      Yay, my favourite observing season is here. With all this down time, I at least had an observing plan to follow when the opportunity finally came. I had created observing lists in Sky Safari of the Hickson and ARP catalogs.
      Making a start on the Hickson catalog with Night Vision.
      There was a 39% moon in the West so I had to deploy a Baader 610nm Red filter to the front of my Paracorr2 to remove the unwanted moonlight from my view.
      On the first object, I tested out all the eyepieces listed above to see which produced the “best” view. There is a trade-off with night vision devices of image brightness and image magnification and I wanted to identify the best eyepiece option up-front as I intended to attach my eyepiece heater tape and then stick with the one eyepiece for the session.
      I settled on the Panoptic 35mm as my chosen eyepiece as it was giving decent image brightness resulting in more galaxy halo and the magnification (x60) was enough to provide something to see from these tiny objects.
      Hickson 37 – I could see three galaxies in a row close to two field stars. One galaxy was a longer edge-on and one had a bright core with faint halo. I found the fourth group member nearby just the other side of a field star although this one was a challenge to hold in vision for long. The final galaxy was glimpses occasionally with a real effort and concentration needed.
      Hickson 44 – Two small bright galaxies were immediately obvious, I soon located a third slightly separated galaxy of mid-brightness out in front. The final galaxy was the faintest of the four and was sited at 90 degrees to the side. All four galaxies were easily seen in direct vision.
      Hickson 46 – This group was hard to locate initially then I spotted two cores appearing close together in the field of view. After letting my eye settle in the other two galaxies appeared one on either side of the first two.
      Hickson 47 – Two cores were immediately obvious in the fov then one more emerged lower (near a field star). I did get glimpses of the fourth member which was in close to the third galaxy staggered to one side.
      Hickson 38 – Another group that was tough to find. Found just above left of two bright stars. Time reveals three galaxies in a triangle formation. The lower galaxy was the easiest with a nice halo. The upper two were smaller and fainter.
      Hickson 36 – The toughest so far! I found a possible very faint patch just below 6 stars. It looked like two groups of three galaxies but looking at images this morning then this looks incorrect so this goes down as a fail.
      Hickson 35 – Found inside a triangle of field stars. Three galaxies easily seen in a flat triangle formation. There was a possible fourth galaxy glimpsed to the left which was fainter.
      Hickson 41 – Two galaxies easily seen (one has a core and halo). The third was tough and appeared just under the fainter of the first two. No sign of the fourth member.
      Hickson 60 – A small patch is easily seen in the fov. One core dot is seen within the patch off–centre.
      Hickson 56 – This tiny group is located next to two much larger and brighter galaxies (NGC 3718, 3729) that overpower your vision as you reach the eyepiece. Once I was settled on my actual target then I saw two tiny bright galaxies first. Then the third was seen slightly separated to the RHS. Then one appeared LHS fainter giving a 3+1 appearance to the group.
      Hickson 55 – The small patch was quickly located in the fov. I could see two dot cores appearing on and off within the patch but not much more.
      Hickson 49 – not found.
      Hickson 61 (Box Galaxies) – A nice sight. Three bright galaxies make up three corners of the “box”. A fainter larger galaxy sits at the other corner. The two brightest galaxies were at the top side. The bright lower galaxy has a halo.
      Hickson 51 – Five galaxies are easily seen in the fov, appearing as 3+2. The galaxies appeared well spaced but were small.
      Hickson 57 (Copeland Septet) – A very nice galaxy group! I could see 7 galaxies appearing as 3+3+1 formation. All easily seen.
      Hickson 53 – I saw three galaxies in the fov in a 1+2 formation. The fourth member (off to the right) was not seen.
      Hickson 52 – Two galaxies were easily seen. Another galaxy is glimpsed intermittently near to the second galaxy with time at the eyepiece.
      Hickson 59 – 3 of 5 galaxies seen. Two are bright and easily seen. The third appeared at a right angle to the first two with the gain turned up.
      Hickson 58 – Four galaxies are easily seen in a 2+2 formation. The fifth needed further exploration but clouds starting passing and my session was cut off in its prime!
      I make that 18 Hicksons attempted last night which seems like a good start and I am pleased with that.
      Most of the observations were taken with the Moon up so it will be interesting to try them again on a new moon to see if more can be seen…
      It was great to be back outside after nearly two months of slim pickings!
      Clear Skies,
      Some Technical Background (Voluntary reading!).
      This section is added for anyone wondering why I was only using x60 magnification with my setup and maybe “more would be seen with greater magnification?”.
      While that would be true with traditional observing, night vision is best used with eyepieces with large exit pupils as the more light you get into the device then the more light it has to work with. Longer focal length eyepieces (greater than 27mm) also have a side-effect of increasing the effective focal ratio of your telescope system (as far as the attached night vision device is concerned) and as the NVD works at f1.2 then the closer we can get to that speed the better the results will be.
      So the facts are that the 55mm Plossl with always show the brightest view possible with the most galaxy details possible seen within that view.
      But when tiny objects are tightly packed then you may need more magnification to separate them (this is usually true for supernovae hunting for example).
      But as you increase magnification and decrease the exit pupil/effective focal ratio of the system then galaxy detail will be lost from the view. I only ever view galaxies where I hope to see the spiral arms with the 55mm Plossl as I want maximum brightness and fastest effective focal ratio.
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