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Ships and Stars

First views of Horse Head, Cocoon, etc!

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Hi all,

Last Friday we had an excellent forecast, so I spent almost 6 hours DSO observing and took three single DSLR exposures of B33, M42 and M57 which came out surprisingly well I thought for rushed, slightly unfocused record shots...

I loaded the Stargate 500p in the van and went to my Bortle 2 spot, somewhere between 21.91 and 21.94 SQM. I didn't arrive until 9pm, too much stuff on at home these days and it's really been frustrating, so I have to go all out when I get a shot at this.

Weather was bitterly cold and damp, around -5C to -10C at 400m elevation in the Cairngorms, fortunately not a hint of wind. A heavy frost quickly formed on everything. Even my truss rods for the dob instantly stuck to the grass when I carefully laid them down. Despite this, I was assembled, collimated and aligned in about 20-25 min as I already had the coordinates and elevation written down on my cheat sheet and target list. Plus it’s a good way to stay warm moving around like a madman!

The altitude runners were getting frost on them, and when I slewed up and down, it would melt under the friction and then once stopped, would instantly refreeze and stick for a split second.

Needless to say, this made tracking difficult and I had to do three or four more alignments during the night and following early morning hours, but it was quick to do since the coordinates altitude etc were already entered in the synscan, I only had to point north, level and re-enter the time, then used Deneb and Castor for my two-star align. 

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Observing:

IC5146 - I slewed to IC 5146, Cocoon Nebula. I’ve been trying for this one all season, but was never convinced. Using an Astronomik Hb with 17.5mm Morpheus or 20mm 66deg WO binoviewer EP I hunted for the Cocoon and finally got a light patch of reflected nebulosity around several stars, but it was a tough one indeed for my novice eyes, not a great deal to look at, just some wispy traces of nebulosity that grew ever so slightly in dimension with averted vision. I still think I can get a lot more from this difficult nebula with time and a 2" Hb on the 21E or a much cheaper option, buy a 25mm TV plossl to pair with my 1.25" Hb. Quality 2" filters are eye-wateringly expensive...got lucky picking up the 2" OIII this summer. 

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NGC 6995 Western Veil - I popped in the 21E with OIII and then slewed to NGC 6995 to confirm my alignment was still on. After a brief scan and some 'ooh and ahhing' I went for the Wizard.

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NGC 7380 - the Wizard - I picked this one up straight away, a faint band of nebulosity with wispy sweeping extensions. Not in your face, but it was clearly observable with direct vision.

After defrosting my secondary with a 12v hairdryer - a reoccurring problem - I had one thing on my mind - B33 the Horsehead Nebula!

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Orion had risen high enough and I couldn’t wait any more. I spun the dob around and steadily homed in on B33. I had been studying AP pics and knew the surrounding stars, so that took a lot of guesswork out of it. In my rush, I didn’t even pay attention to the flame nebula which flashed across the ep for a split second en route to B33.

B33 - First go was with the 20mm WO eyepiece and Hb filter. After about 30 seconds of getting settled in, I picked up the famous dark notch. Woohoo! Don’t think eyes were fully 100% dark adapted, so I spent some time swapping to the 17.5mm Morpheus and relaxing a bit on B33. I also took a single 20 sec exposure pic at ISO 6400 to confirm. Nice!

It became a small bit clearer with flashes of near-clarity, the back of the horse's neck was visible but I couldn't really make out much detail around the nose, so it took on more of a u-shaped protuberance. Still, I was delighted!

I spent quite a bit of time looking at it, with short breaks in between. Probably getting on 45min to an hour in total. For laughs, I swapped over the UHC and picked it up again straight away, but was substantially lacking in contrast. Had I not viewed first with Hb, I would not have been confident. I found slewing back and forth at Rate 4 on the Synscan worked really well, made it jump out, well, more noticeable shall we say.

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M42 Orion Nebula - couldn't resist. WOW is all I will say about that! See single 8 sec exposure photo below.

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NGC 281 - After that, I went over to the Pac Man with the 21E and OIII. The Pac Man showed excellent detail and was really another enjoyable sight after the 'faint DSO olympics' chasing the Cocoon and B33.

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M76 Little Dumbbell - a wondrous little sight with the 9mm Delite and UHC at 222x. Very nice.

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M57 - I often use M57 to check tracking is still on. It's getting quite low in the sky now this time of year but always a welcome sight. It's a faint iridescent blue in the 20" dob by the way!

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IC1396 Elephant Trunk/IC405 Flaming Star/NGC 7635 Bubble Nebula - I struggled with these, fatigue, freezing dob runners and frosting secondary started to take their toll, but... 

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M52 - I missed the bubble nebula by a hair but couldn't miss this one in the same neighbourhood! Another wonderful sight, absolutely brilliant little cluster of stars. 

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M31/M32/M110/M33

What can I say, big scope, excellent seeing - M31 was enormous and full of detail. I was picking up the outer belt long before the centre came into view. Even M32 and M110 just jumped right out and had lots of detail as well, I've never seen them so clearly!! M33 was also nice and clear with detail I have not picked up on before.

I think I could have easily used binoviewers for all of these. 

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NGC 869 and M45 - the double cluster was another brilliant sight. Lack of a coma corrector and the shortcomings of the 36mm Baader did really show on these - must remember to bring CC the next time and if lucky, chase down a big 30-something mm Nagler or Panoptic soon on the secondhand market. The Pleiades were another joy to look at under such conditions, intense would be a good description.

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NCG7000  - I finished off with my 12x70 binos on the NAN which showed up nicely when scanning back and forth, but by this time I was wavering on my feet and still had to take down and pack the scope and do a long drive back.

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Photographs - single DSO images at ISO 6400, very light editing.  This is the first time I have used the 500p or my DSLR to take pics of DSOs. Even with the dark conditions and larger aperture, I was surprised what I was getting out of a single shot - bear in mind I wasn't trying for focus too hard and the dob runners were constantly freezing up. A 20" exposure minutes before with no star trails would quickly drop to a poor 4" exposure.

Next time I will work on focus and ensure altitude runners are gliding smoothly. Deicer? 

I hope I can get out again soon under these sorts of conditions, amazing night, but unfortunately things are looking even busier on the home front...

I want to relax a bit more next time and take in more details, but observing too calmly in subzero temps is difficult, even with a ton of insulation! 

Clear skies all.

 

 

 

Horse Head.jpg

M42.jpg

M57.jpg

1-1.jpg

1-1-2.jpg

3-1.jpg

Edited by Ships and Stars
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Excellent!

Great report and also images S&S!

Perfect description of the HH and other targets. You are now ready for a nice little challenge seeing as you were in the M52 area... the Bubble is not hard to see, but harder to get detail out of. This however is not the challenge.

In your 20" SH2-157-the Lobster Claw will be readily visible as well as a nice LBN. This is the challenge.

The Wizard also has more to offer- congrats for getting it straight away!

You hit a couple of favorites- the beautiful Flaming Star- are you sure an OIII is your friend here?:dontknow::grin:

Again congrats for a fine cold weather session, I was out myself last night observing the HH etc with temps dipping below -15c. Some of the best conditions are in this weather, particularly if there is little or no snow.

Eagerly waiting reports S&S!

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4 minutes ago, jetstream said:

Excellent!

Great report and also images S&S!

Perfect description of the HH and other targets. You are now ready for a nice little challenge seeing as you were in the M52 area... the Bubble is not hard to see, but harder to get detail out of. This however is not the challenge.

In your 20" SH2-157-the Lobster Claw will be readily visible as well as a nice LBN. This is the challenge.

The Wizard also has more to offer- congrats for getting it straight away!

You hit a couple of favorites- the beautiful Flaming Star- are you sure an OIII is your friend here?:dontknow::grin:

Again congrats for a fine cold weather session, I was out myself last night observing the HH etc with temps dipping below -15c. Some of the best conditions are in this weather, particularly if there is little or no snow.

Eagerly waiting reports S&S!

Thanks Gerry! I'll go for SH2-157 for sure, I was right there with M52. I seem to enjoy these challenges.To me, the Horsehead was markedly easier than the Cocoon, mainly because of confidence in knowing I was looking in the right spot.  

I used the Hb unsuccessfully seeking out the Flaming Star, but now am a little uncertain I didn't have the UHC in instead, though I'm 90% certain I was using the Hb. I probably slewed right past it, hate being in a rush!  I have a list of DSOs for the Hb filter I found online (CN) but didn't spend a lot of time chasing it  - must do more research on that. I was so close to the Bubble Nebula, but M52 caught my attention and that was that... haha. It's always a nice surprise when some unexpected DSO comes into sight.

It will be a challenge for me to get back to this site anytime soon, it's a 1.5hr drive and a close family member is needing a fair bit of care, but hoping for another go before the new year. Moon coming back into play and forecast for next five days is a no go...maybe one small window of opportunity here next week. 

Rest assured when I get another go, I'll be on the road asap!

I thought of your location when I was complaining about the cold and thought you'd get a laugh! I haven't broken out my goose down parka and trousers and Sorels yet, but definitely wearing them next time. 

Cheers!

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Yes, UHC it is! for the Flaming star anyway- I flipped back and forth on it with the filter slide- the OIII killed it for me. You can also make it out no filter. I take filter recommendation with a grain of salt these days- I try them all ie IC1318, listed as hb I think but both the OIII/UHC are go tos.

The Hb is top for Barnards Loop though, to my eyes, California neb too. For me the list of Hb targets is small. I dislike the Cocoon neb lol! not really a showcase object IMHO.

If you can find a good DGM NPB filter, ours is, they can be a great lower cost option. They might show stars a bit differently but the Flaming Star/HH etc are no problem in it.

Cold is cold! Last night just had the long johns on over jeans but no gloves... my bad. Those Al ladders will suck the life right out of bare hands. I hope your family member is OK and you can get out to obs. BTW your scope has potentially the best mirror support for cold weather IMHO.

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Fantastic report S&S - it would be great to be able to use a 20" Dob at a really dark site. Seeing your frozen finderscope I made a very long dew shield out of neoprene fixed together with velcro - it certainly helps keeping the objective clear.

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Wowsers! Great report and excellent results. 20" certainly does the trick under dark sky!! Love the photos too!

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44 minutes ago, jetstream said:

Yes, UHC it is! for the Flaming star anyway- I flipped back and forth on it with the filter slide- the OIII killed it for me. You can also make it out no filter. I take filter recommendation with a grain of salt these days- I try them all ie IC1318, listed as hb I think but both the OIII/UHC are go tos.

The Hb is top for Barnards Loop though, to my eyes, California neb too. For me the list of Hb targets is small. I dislike the Cocoon neb lol! not really a showcase object IMHO.

If you can find a good DGM NPB filter, ours is, they can be a great lower cost option. They might show stars a bit differently but the Flaming Star/HH etc are no problem in it.

Cold is cold! Last night just had the long johns on over jeans but no gloves... my bad. Those Al ladders will suck the life right out of bare hands. I hope your family member is OK and you can get out to obs. BTW your scope has potentially the best mirror support for cold weather IMHO.

Thank you again  - I was trying to think of the NPB a month ago when I mentioned the Orion ultrablock. The NPB is actually relatively affordable - they do cosmetic seconds, and do both 1.25" and 2". I have friends in the states who could post them to me or take the plunge and see what customs would be. I think I'll go for those!

The filter wheel is the other thing I need to pick up - like you mention, sometimes I think it's too easy to get hung up using a certain filter, e.g. Hb when one of the others would do a better job. Plus they are really fiddly to change when hands are numb, so I am less inclined to experiment. A filter wheel and NPBs are on the list...

I took my gloves off to do something the other night for a minute, and ended up working without them for 10-15min. Oops! Had to start the van up to restore circulation...

Thanks again for the advice!! Hoping for some clear weather again soon 👍 

13 minutes ago, Mark at Beaufort said:

Fantastic report S&S - it would be great to be able to use a 20" Dob at a really dark site. Seeing your frozen finderscope I made a very long dew shield out of neoprene fixed together with velcro - it certainly helps keeping the objective clear.

Thanks, that was definitely the darkest, clearest conditions I've encountered thus far with the big dob. Just need to watch that frost getting on everything! I'm thinking I'll use ski wax on the altitude runners! Will also take your lead on making a small shield for the finderscope. I have a Telrad which is just superb, but there's no obvious place to mount it on the 500p. I'm working on that, haha. 

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6 minutes ago, Stu said:

Wowsers! Great report and excellent results. 20" certainly does the trick under dark sky!! Love the photos too!

It was frantic at times but the conditions were excellent. I probably had too many targets to squeeze in, but managed ok. I was surprised the HH was revealed in the photo - that was a 20" exposure at ISO6400, no filter. It's grainy and not of any quality, but at least I know I was on the mark, sort of a 'finder photo'. I might start doing some grainy high ISO reference shots with the harder nebulae so I can be more confident I am lined up properly. 

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Really enjoyed your report. I will try and get my 20 inch dob to a dark site one day.

Mark

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2 minutes ago, mdstuart said:

Really enjoyed your report. I will try and get my 20 inch dob to a dark site one day.

Mark

Thanks Mark, no doubt it's a bit of work but worth it when conditions are right (and time permitting). The Stargate is actually quite portable once the rocker and mirror are removed from the base, about 32-33kg each if I remember correctly. The truss rods and secondary assembly are a piece of cake to transport. Still it's a bit of a workout but I can load in about 20-25 min and the same for setup, second nature by now. I use tiedown straps to gently hold everything in place in my van and take it nice and easy to the site. Fortunately there isn't much traffic at the times I'm out roaming around, especially on the way back. 

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Cracking session S&S, as Gerry has implied, the Bubble will slip into your eyepiece 'window' next time. Both Friday and Sunday night would had been quite epic here to, that almost intense deep blue as the sun sets. Gloves are quite imperative, I was actually out on a fell walk on the border over looking the Kielder moors, took my gloves off for a short period to take some photos and suffered painful fingers for quite some time afterwards, fancy forgetting my mittens. 

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Congratulations S&S. A very nice report on a very productive session. I was out with scopes last night too, but only lasted an hour or so in the -7C temperatures. So well done for sticking it out. The thought of a nice hot living room and a glass of the amber nectar was just too much for me.

 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, scarp15 said:

Cracking session S&S, as Gerry has implied, the Bubble will slip into your eyepiece 'window' next time. Both Friday and Sunday night would had been quite epic here to, that almost intense deep blue as the sun sets. Gloves are quite imperative, I was actually out on a fell walk on the border over looking the Kielder moors, took my gloves off for a short period to take some photos and suffered painful fingers for quite some time afterwards, fancy forgetting my mittens. 

Ah thanks, definitely hoping to pick up bubble nebula next time! I don't think there's ever going to be a great deal of visual enjoyment in the Cocoon nebula, that's one for the imagers. Friday was great here, early Sunday was good but I was still recovering from Friday, only had 2 hrs sleep Sat morning. Lots of layers and lots of coffee! My right hand without glove for a bit went really numb from messing around with EPs and camera, didn't realise it until a bit late! Oops. Close call with frostnip... great evening though.

 

52 minutes ago, laudropb said:

Congratulations S&S. A very nice report on a very productive session. I was out with scopes last night too, but only lasted an hour or so in the -7C temperatures. So well done for sticking it out. The thought of a nice hot living room and a glass of the amber nectar was just too much for me.

 

 

 

 

Thank you! I'd love to be able to view from home, but LP just gets worse and worse. I can see a little, but only if lights are off next door, a rare event...

I was definitely on a mission, could be some time before another chance like that. Studying targets in advance is a huge timesaver, especially if tracking plays up. Don't blame you on the amber nectar, I'd have liked one if it was a bit warmer out! Or wear thicker gloves, ha.

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Hardcore! Some great finds. We were out in -2C on Friday and were beginning to suffer, dew bands did their job for most of the session. Great to hear that the Cairngorms host such dark skies (though the climate isn’t exactly perfect for observing all the time).

My boots (rated to -40 were beginning to let me know that the ground wasn’t exactly warm),surprisingly even though I kept losing one glove my hands were fine (no breeze, which would have blown the dew away).

I’d be interested in long down coat or good glove recommendations... areas to improve if I’m going to survive another cold one.

The Cocoon is just an even round blob.. nothing to write home about. Interesting to do averted vision on the Horsehead from two different directions… one way the back of the head was easier, the other way the notch was. Orion with all its billowing detail was the best sight by far.

 

Peter

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The Flame Nebula is a notable subject worth considered scrutiny. It would actually be quite spectacular but for its proximity and impact from the glare of Alnitak (Zeta Orionis). There is a distinct dark central lane and if transparency is very good, branch lines can be detected. It is also known as the Tank Track Nebula and is interesting for experimenting with different magnifications and alternating between a UHC filter and no filter. Applying mid to high power can gain good contrast. My best observation has involved a 10mm Delos, 14" dob. Anyhow your report has got everyone in conversation concerning Orion and the cold air, a combination to hope for again later this month.

Edited by scarp15
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On 02/12/2019 at 21:15, PeterW said:

Hardcore! Some great finds. We were out in -2C on Friday and were beginning to suffer, dew bands did their job for most of the session. Great to hear that the Cairngorms host such dark skies (though the climate isn’t exactly perfect for observing all the time).

My boots (rated to -40 were beginning to let me know that the ground wasn’t exactly warm),surprisingly even though I kept losing one glove my hands were fine (no breeze, which would have blown the dew away).

I’d be interested in long down coat or good glove recommendations... areas to improve if I’m going to survive another cold one.

The Cocoon is just an even round blob.. nothing to write home about. Interesting to do averted vision on the Horsehead from two different directions… one way the back of the head was easier, the other way the notch was. Orion with all its billowing detail was the best sight by far.

 

Peter

Thanks Peter! SOunds like you had a good night as well. One item I often wear - I bought an older Rab down expedition parka off ebay in the summer for £45 and used nikwax down wash, came out like new. Tumble dry very low or no heat with tennis balls - breaks up the down clumps and makes it loft right up. I like the hood as well, it blocks stray light. Down lasts for years. You can find down trousers as well. The Montane Extreme salopettes and anorak are very warm - fleece too, so if it gets damp, no big deal.

Basically, any quality used down gear off ebay is usually excellent - Rab or Mountain Hardwear, etc, or much more affordably, an insulated boiler suit with lots of layers underneath is fine. Mine is Swedish, Fristads, but it's not really anything special.

Thanks for the tip on the Horse Head! Hoping to revisit soon. I agree, the Cocoon is not going to set the visual astro world on fire any time soon, haha, I've decided now I'm probably not going to squeeze much more out of it, unless I was looking in the wrong place again!

23 hours ago, scarp15 said:

The Flame Nebula is a notable subject worth considered scrutiny. It would actually be quite spectacular but for its proximity and impact from the glare of Alnitak (Zeta Orionis). There is a distinct dark central lane and if transparency is very good, branch lines can be detected. It is also known as the Tank Track Nebula and is interesting for experimenting with different magnifications and alternating between a UHC filter and no filter. Applying mid to high power can gain good contrast. My best observation has involved a 10mm Delos, 14" dob. Anyhow your report has got everyone in conversation concerning Orion and the cold air, a combination to hope for again later this month.

I feel guilty now I didn't stop and spend some time on the Flame Nebula  - so caught up in the HH I basically forgot about it! The conditions were excellent - hoping for a repeat before New Years once the moon is out of the picture again. I will definitely try these tips with different magnification and filters - a filter wheel is next on my list!

Cheers all!

 

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Thanks! The Rosetta, lowers, monkeyhead and jellyfish are all round there and worth a peek. 

Peter

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20 hours ago, Ships and Stars said:

I feel guilty now I didn't stop and spend some time on the Flame Nebula  - so caught up in the HH I basically forgot about it! The conditions were excellent - hoping for a repeat before New Years once the moon is out of the picture again. I will definitely try these tips with different magnification and filters - a filter wheel is next on my list!

Cheers all!

 

No that is quite understandable, the circumstance for detecting Barnard 33 and IC 434 for the first time, can override more than a passing across the Flame. B33 will become easier to detect each time that it is suitable to do so and other regions of the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex, such as the Flame will gain attention. Close to IC 434 are reflection nebulae such as NGC 2023.

Rab equipment is great, I have down sleeping bags and garments that have been used for 25 - 30 years, washed occasionally of course.  

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Excellent report. I have observed the brighter ark of the bubble nebula with my 12 inch dob previously on a night of good transparency from our dark site in the Lincolnshire Wolds. I would Imagine it should be easier in my 20 inch. 

From what I have seen of M31 through the 20 I can only say wow and that was on an average night. I am sure your view was outstanding, especially as it is so high now.

I would be interested to hear more of your observations of M33.

Not tried the Horse Head yet but your report certainly gives motivation to give it a try.

Some really interesting targets in your report. Can`t wait to give them a go.

 

Mark

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