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Littleguy80

The magic of dark, transparent skies

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Despite having a really nice session at home on Friday, I was a little disappointed that I hadn't managed a dark site trip over the weekend. Monday night looked like the last clear night for awhile and I had to work. The universe was smiling at me on though. Work ended up being rescheduled and so I found myself on the road to the dark site of my local astro society around 8:30pm. A few members were already observing when I arrived. I set up next to a lady with a 20" dob. I have a observed with her before. She is a very experienced deep sky observer and great company. She was targeting faint Abel planetary nebula.

I started my observing with Comet C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS). This comet has been a regular target for several weeks from home. It was superb under the dark skies with a small tail showing. Transparency hadn't looked too good as I was unloading the car but seemed to be picking up now I was observing. The comet is heading towards the double cluster which is also where I headed next. I took in a couple of planetary nebula, M76 and NGC 2371 whilst building up my dark adaption. My first serious target of the evening was the California nebula. I recently purchased a 40mm Aero eyepiece. I'd intended to use it for widefield with my refractor. Using it with my dob gives a large exit pupil, through a filter, on faint nebula seemed like something I should try though. The 40mm Aero combined with an Astronomik H-Beta filter was superb. This is not an expensive eyepiece but it really delivered fantastic views of the California nebula. The whole nebula really stood out against the dark sky. The varying density of nebulosity gave a rich, textured appearance. With the H-Beta in place and the skies showing excellent transparency, there was only one place to go next...

The 25mm TV Plossl was bought last winter as the weapon of choice for seeing the Horsehead. I'd managed to see it using my ES82 30mm but the wide FOV wasn't ideal for this. The moment of truth for the TV Plossl had arrived. IC434, like the California nebula, was benefiting greatly from the great sky conditions. With adverted version, the notch of B33 was quickly identified. It was an observation that I felt very confident of. My observing partner, came over for a look. "It's actually very bright" she said looking through the eyepiece..."You should try to see it without the filter!". I gave a doubtful look and she responded "Take the filter out, you may be surprised at what you see". Despite my doubts, I took the filter out and returned to the eyepiece. The first thing I noticed was the  brightness of the stars. The faint glow of IC434 remained but significantly dimmed. I began searching with averted vision and to my shock caught an edge of darkness. I can't say that I saw the whole thing but I repeatedly picked up the edge along the back of the Horsehead. Amazing! I really didn't think I'd be able to see anything. My fellow astronomer wandered over to see it at my request. I wanted to be sure it was there and I wasn't imagining it. "It's very faint but you can see it" came the confirmation. I was so pleased!

I tried and failed to see Barnard's loop last winter. Using the 40mm Aero and H-Beta, I started at M78 and moved down in search of it. Initially I wasn't seeing anything. I swapped eyepieces to the ES82 30mm and moving down this time I caught an edge. Moving slowly around I started to track the nebulosity. It's such a large object that it's easy to look right through it. Reverting to the 40mm eyepiece, I now found it much easier to track. Like the California nebula, it now seemed quite bright. From here the session went onto many more nebula. The Lumicon OIII and 40mm gave stunning views of the Rosette Nebula, Thor's Helmet (NGC 2359) and Monkeyhead Nebula (NGC 2174) among others.

My final challenge target of the night was the Flaming Star nebula in Auriga. Using a UHC filter and the ES82 30mm, I struggled to see any nebulosity. The 40mm again came out and delivered the best results. I picked out one small faint curve of nebulosity running through 4 bright stars. Many more objects were seen but these were the highlights. I was lucky enough to have several looks through the 20", seeing the Horsehead again and the very faint Abel 2 planetary nebula. I packed up and headed home around 1am. It's nights like last night where the skies are dark and transparent that make this hobby so worthwhile!

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Cracking report Neil! We've certainly been luck with a few good nights recently. I was out last night too, but unfortunately stuck in the back garden sonnothing exotic seen. Well done on the Horsey, must be amazing to see.

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Wonderful report, Neil, and congratulations on your success with observing so many really difficult targets!

Wasn't so lucky last evening with the 18"; clear, but not transparent with SQM-L 20.7. Just enough to spot R Lep (deep orange), the three components of Keid and two unspectacular Eri galaxies, 1637 and 1653. 2024 without structure, and once again, no luck with the Horsehead (24 resp. 30 mmf, UHC). I must confess, I've never tried really hard.... still a challenge waiting!

Stephan

 

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Brilliant report. I'm really pleased for you. 

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Just as with the three other response's Neil, cracking report, really good that like many others on here you got to be able to take advantage of that short clear sky window of opportunity. Setting up alongside your experienced observing colleague was understandably a good supportive asset. Good plan to start with the comet and onto those other targets and then to follow on to some of the more elusive subjects. It took a little time for myself to ease in to a systematic plan on arriving at my dark sky location, eager to get on after such a lengthy period of absence observing anything much. A similar pattern to my own encounters, exploring potential observations with a large exit pupil and filters with interesting results. That is also quite something now you can see the Horse Head without the aid of a filter, next step will be to pick out a more refined definition of the profile, which is completely achievable with gaining in familiarity and experience. 

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Excellent report Neil!

Seeing the HH is an accomplishment, congrats! If your obs partner is who I think it is you will be shown much, maybe ask her about seeing the sky "background" texture... a few of us see it on here. I can also say I see the HH in the VX10 no filter and repeated viewing makes it so much easier. Again congrats!

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It's good to read a report of somebody with the same scope as me who has managed to use it under a good sky. It's been a while since I have, often a nice dark sky can lack the transparency. I remember a cracking view of the flame nebula with a UHC filter under good conditions. I don't even try it from my back garden.

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One of those “special nights” which give up their secrets! Having a 20” about always helps too! Sky “background texture”... I fear one for those super special nights from super good sites... which bits of texture would you suggest and with what field of view?

PEter

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Great to see someone can get to dark skies and come up with a cracking report felt like I was there looking through the eyepiece with you.

Brilliant just brilliant.

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7 hours ago, Stu said:

Cracking report Neil! We've certainly been luck with a few good nights recently. I was out last night too, but unfortunately stuck in the back garden sonnothing exotic seen. Well done on the Horsey, must be amazing to see.

Cheers Stu. I’d been feeling a bit like I hadn’t taken full advantage until last night. The HH is fab. I’m very lucky to have the skies to see it. 

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7 hours ago, Nyctimene said:

Wonderful report, Neil, and congratulations on your success with observing so many really difficult targets!

Wasn't so lucky last evening with the 18"; clear, but not transparent with SQM-L 20.7. Just enough to spot R Lep (deep orange), the three components of Keid and two unspectacular Eri galaxies, 1637 and 1653. 2024 without structure, and once again, no luck with the Horsehead (24 resp. 30 mmf, UHC). I must confess, I've never tried really hard.... still a challenge waiting!

Stephan

 

Thanks Stephan. I’ve really come to appreciate what good transparency can do to the views over the last year or so. I’m sure you’ll get the Horsehead. I don’t think a UHC filter is quite as effective as an H-Beta on Horsehead but I’m sure that won’t hold you back. 

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6 hours ago, domstar said:

Brilliant report. I'm really pleased for you. 

Thanks Dom. I’m spoilt having such a good observing spot less than 30 mins drive from my house. 

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42 minutes ago, PeterW said:

which bits of texture would you suggest and with what field of view?

There are a few things... you need to be dark adapted, no TV, NV, no tired eyes etc. Full dilation and chemical adaptation. Dark, transparent skies are a must. Under these conditions some see this all over the place. I'm beginning to believe this stuff is very faint dust and nebulosity- IFN and others.

On the other hand some very well educated people say this is impossible to see... and that it must be "noise" in the eye/brain system.

Peter, your NV is hurting your ability to see things "raw glass" IMHO. Try a 5mm exit pupil in whatever scope you have with a low scatter eyepiece. Hyperwides rule here IMHO.

 

Edited by jetstream
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5 hours ago, scarp15 said:

Just as with the three other response's Neil, cracking report, really good that like many others on here you got to be able to take advantage of that short clear sky window of opportunity. Setting up alongside your experienced observing colleague was understandably a good supportive asset. Good plan to start with the comet and onto those other targets and then to follow on to some of the more elusive subjects. It took a little time for myself to ease in to a systematic plan on arriving at my dark sky location, eager to get on after such a lengthy period of absence observing anything much. A similar pattern to my own encounters, exploring potential observations with a large exit pupil and filters with interesting results. That is also quite something now you can see the Horse Head without the aid of a filter, next step will be to pick out a more refined definition of the profile, which is completely achievable with gaining in familiarity and experience. 

Thanks Iain. Your report was very much in my mind during this session. I specifically packed the 40mm after your recent success with the 41mm Pan. The cheap Aero 40mm massively exceeded my expectations. I didn’t expect such a clear view of Barnard’s loop. I’m glad I had someone to steer me towards trying unfiltered. I don’t think I would have done otherwise. 

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4 hours ago, jetstream said:

Excellent report Neil!

Seeing the HH is an accomplishment, congrats! If your obs partner is who I think it is you will be shown much, maybe ask her about seeing the sky "background" texture... a few of us see it on here. I can also say I see the HH in the VX10 no filter and repeated viewing makes it so much easier. Again congrats!

Thanks Gerry. Your name came up when my observing partner told me the idea of seeing the HH unfiltered came from Canada. Your influence is strong among the Norwich Astromical Societies observers!

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1 hour ago, bish said:

It's good to read a report of somebody with the same scope as me who has managed to use it under a good sky. It's been a while since I have, often a nice dark sky can lack the transparency. I remember a cracking view of the flame nebula with a UHC filter under good conditions. I don't even try it from my back garden.

Thank you. The 10” SkyWatcher dob is a very capable scope. I can’t say that I suffer from aperture fever often. Nights like last night remind me just how much can be seen with a 10” dob. It’s easy to handle and transport to dark sites. The flame is a great target. I wrote a report last year on viewing the flame with various combinations of eyepiece and filter. 

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48 minutes ago, PeterW said:

One of those “special nights” which give up their secrets! Having a 20” about always helps too! Sky “background texture”... I fear one for those super special nights from super good sites... which bits of texture would you suggest and with what field of view?

PEter

Thanks Peter. That’s exactly how I felt about it. 

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38 minutes ago, wookie1965 said:

Great to see someone can get to dark skies and come up with a cracking report felt like I was there looking through the eyepiece with you.

Brilliant just brilliant.

Thanks Paul. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Hope you’ve managed to enjoy some observing. 

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Unfortunately Neil I've had no luck one clear night but full of dew moon had rings around it so I never bothered waiting patiently for a clear good seeing night.

I've got about four lists ready to go but as the months go on the constellations move south and I cannot view to the south.

everytime I get a forecast of a clear night I'm looking what's up then making a list up appropriate for that.

Paul

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Excellent report Neil - congratulations on seeing the HH :thumbright:

I've not yet managed it again this winter. 

Your report reminded me of my first sighting of this enigmatic target. I've said this before but do think Jeremy Perez's description is one of the best that I have come across for this one:

".... Really, it's like trying to see a little bit of nothing with a little bit of less than nothing resting over it...."

I agree with you on the 40mm Aero ED - the best of that range and much better than I expected even in my F/5.3 12 inch dob.

Its good enough that I can't see me being tempted by a Panoptic 41 or the newly re-released Pentax XW 40 given the frequency with which I use a 40mm focal length eyepiece with the dob (not all that often).

 

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16 minutes ago, Littleguy80 said:

Thanks Gerry. Your name came up when my observing partner told me the idea of seeing the HH unfiltered came from Canada. Your influence is strong among the Norwich Astromical Societies observers!

Thanks Neil, you have a great club to draw from and contribute to. I love sharing info and learn much from others reports and experiences.

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4 minutes ago, wookie1965 said:

Unfortunately Neil I've had no luck one clear night but full of dew moon had rings around it so I never bothered waiting patiently for a clear good seeing night.

I've got about four lists ready to go but as the months go on the constellations move south and I cannot view to the south.

everytime I get a forecast of a clear night I'm looking what's up then making a list up appropriate for that.

Paul

Sorry to hear that Paul. Fingers crossed that the weather comes good soon for you! It’ll be a special night when you do get out. 

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5 minutes ago, John said:

Excellent report Neil - congratulations on seeing the HH :thumbright:

I've not yet managed it again this winter. 

Your report reminded me of my first sighting of this enigmatic target. I've said this before but do think Jeremy Perez's description is one of the best that I have come across for this one:

".... Really, it's like trying to see a little bit of nothing with a little bit of less than nothing resting over it...."

I agree with you on the 40mm Aero ED - the best of that range and much better than I expected even in my F/5.3 12 inch dob.

Its good enough that I can't see me being tempted by a Panoptic 41 or the newly re-released Pentax XW 40 given the frequency with which I use a 40mm focal length eyepiece with the dob (not all that often).

 

Thanks John. That is a perfect description of the HH. Even in the 20” it was subtle. On the subject of the Aero 40mm, I got it to see if it was going to be a useful focal length but without spending a fortune. I thought I could upgrade to one of the pricier options if I liked it. Now I’m not so sure that the extra money would  gain me very much. It punches well above it’s price tag. 

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8 hours ago, Littleguy80 said:

 The 40mm Aero combined with an Astronomik H-Beta filter was superb. This is not an expensive eyepiece but it really delivered fantastic views of the California nebula. The whole nebula really stood out against the dark sky. The varying density of nebulosity gave a rich, textured appearance. With the H-Beta in place and the skies showing excellent transparency, there was only one place to go next...

 

Quite understand Neil, when you describe the density of nebulosity and rich surface texture conveyed within the California. It is subtle but it is emphatically there. I took a look at some of the recent images of the California when I was reflecting on this and descriptively, though the observation was relatively dim, was quite comparable to my recollection. It is / was the perfect time to observe this subject. Your 40mm Aero is clearly a superb eyepiece to. Anyhow that is great that your club has some dedicated observers and companions, enabling you to advance your observation skills yet further.  

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Which areas round Norwich are the best.. seems like I might need to take a holiday round there... but closer than Scotland!

Peter

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