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Observing report 9.1.08


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The sky was nice and clear yesterday and I knew that a few folk were going up to Kielder observatory so the scope was packed into the car and off I went. All the way up the sky was clear and Venus was shining invitingly. Thoughts were going through my head of a magical night ahead so you can imagine my disappointment when I got to the resevoir and as I climbed the hill to the observatory, the sky was obcured by what looked more like thick, high mist than cloud.

I reached the observatory to be met by Gary Fildes, Kev (moonplodger) who was celebrating his birthday by spending the weekend up there (nice priorities Kev) and Lynn, the association treasurer, we were shortly joined by Malcom from Northumberland astro. These are all experienced astronomers, the kind of people you do well to listen to, and nice folk as well.

The bright almost full moon was poking through the clouds so I set up the scope and spent an hour just looking at the features. By then the mist had cleared a wee bit and the moon was really washing out the sky but I decided to look for my main target for the night which was M51. I suppose it was the effect of the moon and pretty poor seeing but I didn't get to see the galaxy, but while scanning around the area I did find a faint double which didn't show in the finder but in the 32mm resolved into a faint orange star with a fainter white companion. I was dead chuffed with this one.

Lynn showed up and we spent a while looking at some of the clusters in Cassiopae, nice. Lynn then went to join the others who were imaging (3 astrotracs on show) so, in spite of my failure with M51 I thought M31 may be possible, and sure enough it was, again affected by the moon but with a definite core

Orion was well placed but with the moon directly above, I knew the imaging guys were going for the rosette so I decided to spend some time on M42. Again moon affected but the trap stars (only 4 unfortunately) were clearly visible in the 32mm and very well defined in the 10mm. The nebula showed ok but much better with averted vision. There were a few visitors to the observatory so I let them use the scope on M42 and the moon, and they were all well impressed.

By now it was 11 o clock, with snow on the ground and a bitterly cold wind blowing, everything was icing up so I decided to call it a night. I had just put the laptop and eyepieces in the car when Gary shouted that Saturn had just risen above a cloudbank and they were putting the 14" LX200 on it. The view was stunning with one of the moons clearly visible. No hint of any banding but the planet was fairly low and it was murky in that direction. As my 12" was still on the viewing deck, I wanted to try it on Saturn, but I had no EP's which were in the car. Lynn handed me a box, saying try this. It was only a 12mm Nagler !!! put it in the scope, and as I had knocked the finder I decided to re align it on the moon. BIG MISTAKE My left eye was almost blinded and I was still looking at the moon when I took my eye away from the lens. Gary managed to focus the EP and align the finder, I have never seen the moon like this, it felt like you could reach out and rub your fingers over the texture. Lined up on Saturn.....WOW I now know why Naglers are so expensive and I'll never forget the view, brilliant, sharp, and glistening like a yellow diamond. Strangely enough, everyone agreed that the rings were more open than we had thought.

Time to pack up and go home, but with memories of a night that will last a long time.

I love this Flextube, with the addition of a quality focuser and a couple of good EP's, I think I have a scope for life here. :hello2:

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