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Littleguy80

Dark skies and the Milky Way

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The perfect tonic to a busy weekend is a relaxing evening under the stars, which is precisely how I spent my Sunday night. Arriving at my local dark site around 9pm, I looked up and was immediately taken with the bright Milky Way over head. With so few dark site trips in recent months I'd forgotten just how good it could look. I got the 10" dob out, collimated it and aligned the finders. I had an initial look at Jupiter and Saturn. Despite tube currents from the still cooling scope and some average seeing, the Cassini Division showed up in Saturn's rings. 

I hadn't arrived with any kind of plan as to what I wanted to observe so my eyes wandered across the sky seeking inspiration. Altair caught my eye and I decided on my first target. Barnard 142 and Barnard 143 are dark nebulae in Aquila. Together they are known as Barnard's E. Using my lowest power EP, a 40mm Aero, I moved across the star field until I found what I was looking for, a curved dark section in the star field, conspicuous for its absence of stars. This forms the lower part of the E with a straight section further up creating the top. The 40mm EP framed this perfectly. These dark nebulae are great in binoculars too. Next I moved onto a large planetary nebula down low in Aquarius, the Helix nebula. The TeleVue Bandmate OIII was a lockdown purchase and was destined to get a good workout during this session. The Helix responded really well to the TV OIII, I picked this target early on in the session as I knew it would quickly be lost behind the trees. The 13mm APM HDC gave the best views. I decided to try the 40mm Aero for its large exit pupil which showed a bright Helix nebula just about to reach the trees. Good timing!

The TV OIII now went on a tour of nebula in Cygnus, starting with the Veil. One of the benefits of experience is you're prepared to slow down with your observing, a slow study of a well known target can reveal new details. This is how I felt observing the Veil last night. I used the 13mm APM and slowly worked my around, becoming aware that there was nebulosity in areas that I'd never noticed before. Subtle variations in the density of the thicker nebulosity. I'm not sure if it was the TV OIII or good transparency but it made for some memorable views. Similarly, the Crescent nebula, which had been a little disappointing on my last trip was superb. The full crescent could be seen, including what I think of as the barb in the centre. I tried to pick up some of the finer nebulosity stretched across it but it was beyond me. The North American Nebula and Pelican followed and we both excellent. During this time I also saw a couple of bright meteors shoot across the sky near Cygnus.

It was now a little after 11pm and the intense concentration was taking its toll. After several yawns, I decided to take a break and have a snack bar and some water. The next half hour was spent with the Saturn nebula, M2 and M15. Some easier targets to rest my eyes a little. Feeling a bit more rested, I hunted down Neptune. Using the Vixen HR 3.4mm, I let the little blue disc drift across the eyepiece. I adjusted position so it would drift further down the FOV. This time I caught a fleeting glance. The next time I looked in the same area with averted vision and it became clearer. Now I had the position nailed, I kept going and I was rewarded with consistent views of Neptune's moon Triton. This was by the far the best I've even seen Triton. Seeing the little moon has been a goal of mine for a long time so I was really excited to have finally had a proper view of it.

Feeling bold after my success with Trition, I moved into Pegasus. My starting point was the galaxy NGC 7331 with an intention to observe Stephan's Quintet. This was to be the big test of my other lockdown purchase, a 10mm Delos. Previously I've found with the fainter targets that my 100 degree Lunt XWA 9mm was being consistently beaten by my 9mm Baader Genuine Ortho. The BGO is just so much more effective at pulling those faint galaxies out. I'd seen the Quintet with the BGO but never the Lunt. The 10mm Delos was bought as an eyepiece to give ortho performance but with a 70 degree AFOV. There's a useful triangle of brighter stars around the Quintet and then a dimmer pair that sits below the galaxies. Using these markers I set about trying to spot the galaxies. I was getting two brighter galaxies for sure and maybe a third above. I switched to the 9mm BGO and felt it had the edge on the Delos but only just. I was more confident of the third galaxy with the ortho. Two of the galaxies are very close but I can't say that I could definitely see two cores so I decided that I had most likely seen 3 of the 5. Not bad at all!

Inspired by a recent report on the planetary nebula NGC7354, I headed over to Cepheus. I observed the Garnett star and the lovely triple star of HR 8281 before finally hunting down NGC7354. I found it quite challenging to find but eventually spotted it. Increasing the magnification showed some nice detail too. A new target for me and a really good one too. It was now after 1am and I was all too aware that I had work in the morning. However, I couldn't leave without observing Mars. The Nagler zoom was coupled with the Baader Contrast Booster filter. The polar ice cap was bright and well defined and brought the same sort of joy that seeing the GRS on Jupiter does. What struck me was how much more detail I was seeing in the other surface features. I don't have much experience observing Mars so I'm not familiar with the names but the longer I looked the more that I could see. Really stunning detail and the perfect footnote to a lovely September night.

 

Edited by Littleguy80
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Excellent report Neil and some really good, challenging targets achieved :thumbright:

 

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3 minutes ago, John said:

Excellent report Neil and some really good, challenging targets achieved :thumbright:

 

Thank you, John and thank you for the repot on NGC7354. Really enjoyed the report and the PN itself :) 

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Agree, excellent report, you put my rambling posts to shame! Certainly a successful night.  Barnard's E and Stephen's Quintet will have to go on my wish list. I picked up the 20/13/9 APM XWAs and a 10mm BCO back in Feb (or March?) and haven't had a lot of time on them yet. The 10mm BCO is excellent for planetary nebulae from what little I've used it thus far, but I really like the 9mm XWA as well. Looking forward to more reports 👍

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18 minutes ago, Ships and Stars said:

Agree, excellent report, you put my rambling posts to shame! Certainly a successful night.  Barnard's E and Stephen's Quintet will have to go on my wish list. I picked up the 20/13/9 APM XWAs and a 10mm BCO back in Feb (or March?) and haven't had a lot of time on them yet. The 10mm BCO is excellent for planetary nebulae from what little I've used it thus far, but I really like the 9mm XWA as well. Looking forward to more reports 👍

Thank you. I enjoy your reports :) The 9mm XWA is a great eyepiece but for the Quintet, I think you’ll be reaching for the BCO. They compliment each other well. 

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What a wonderful read, great report and very inspiring as usual Neil. Glad you had a great time observing some tricky targets. As you say seeing the milky way is a sight to behold, I wish we could only see it more often.

Baz

Edited by Barry-W-Fenner
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1 hour ago, Barry-W-Fenner said:

What a wonderful read, great report and very inspiring as usual Neil. Glad you had a great time observing some tricky targets. As you say sering the milky way is a sight to behold, I wish we could only see it more often.

Baz

Thanks Baz, glad you enjoyed. It was a fab night. I was looking at the Milky Way last night from my garden. It really highlighted the difference between dark skies and suburban skies and why dark site trips are special. 

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Good to hear you got a dark sky trip in Neil, wholesome report, gaining use out of a broad range of eyepieces. After John had described encountering the Planetary NCG 7354, I leafed through old notes to see if I had referenced it. No indication therefore also something to consider if possibly out on Thursday.  

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Great report Neil I totally forgot about Neptune and Uranus Sunday night hopefully I will get a chance sooner rather than later.

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5 hours ago, scarp15 said:

Good to hear you got a dark sky trip in Neil, wholesome report, gaining use out of a broad range of eyepieces. After John had described encountering the Planetary NCG 7354, I leafed through old notes to see if I had referenced it. No indication therefore also something to consider if possibly out on Thursday.  

Thanks Iain. Only my second dark site trip since lockdown. Starting to get my eye in again. NGC 7354 is a nice PN and well worth looking up. Fingers crossed for Thursday. 

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5 hours ago, wookie1965 said:

Great report Neil I totally forgot about Neptune and Uranus Sunday night hopefully I will get a chance sooner rather than later.

Thanks Paul. They’re both positioned quite well at the moment. Hope you get some clear skies soon :) 

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Great report of a wonderful sounding session Neil- oh for some proper dark skies! I now have more targets added to my ever growing list though i fear a few of them will be out of reach unless I venture far away from home! Thank you 😊 

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1 hour ago, markse68 said:

Great report of a wonderful sounding session Neil- oh for some proper dark skies! I now have more targets added to my ever growing list though i fear a few of them will be out of reach unless I venture far away from home! Thank you 😊 

Thanks Mark. I came away a happy man. Always worth a try with these targets. I’ve picked a few up at home against expectations :) 

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On 14/09/2020 at 15:29, Littleguy80 said:

I'm not sure if it was the TV OIII or good transparency but it made for some memorable views.

Great report Neil!

Ok, what filters are you currently using? the new Televue OIII by Astronomik? ans also the Nebustar II?

While near Sadr IC 1318 is a great and huge object and for a challenge go for the LBN near the Crescent.

Very good observing Neil.

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Great report. I've spent the last three sessions trying to catch a glimpse of Stephan's Quintet. It seems to be beyond my capabilities. It's funny, I used the main Deer Lick galaxy as my marker but had trouble lining up the stars from stellarium. Every failure has drawn me closer to the exact location. We'll see- I might need a bigger telescope. Excellent to hear about Triton. I can only dream of it. 

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6 hours ago, jetstream said:

Great report Neil!

Ok, what filters are you currently using? the new Televue OIII by Astronomik? ans also the Nebustar II?

While near Sadr IC 1318 is a great and huge object and for a challenge go for the LBN near the Crescent.

Very good observing Neil.

Thanks Gerry. I now have the TV OIII made by Astronomik. I use an OIII more than anything so decided it was worth splashing out on the TV. I have an original Lumicon UHC right now. I may replace this with the TV Nebustar II at some point.  

I’ll definitely give those both a try. I’ve found the big exit pupil with the 40mm to be really good for getting a first look at the large fainter targets. Forecast is looking good for tomorrow and Friday so should be able to get another dark site trip in :) 

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5 hours ago, domstar said:

Great report. I've spent the last three sessions trying to catch a glimpse of Stephan's Quintet. It seems to be beyond my capabilities. It's funny, I used the main Deer Lick galaxy as my marker but had trouble lining up the stars from stellarium. Every failure has drawn me closer to the exact location. We'll see- I might need a bigger telescope. Excellent to hear about Triton. I can only dream of it. 

Thanks Dom. The Quintet needs good transparency, even under dark skies in my 10” dob. I suspect it’s a stretch in a 100mm frac but then I’m constantly surprised at what’s possible :) Triton is great to observe. Seeing a moon that far away is mind boggling. It’s another target that has taken years for me to get my observing skills good enough to see! Just gotta keep practicing!

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5 hours ago, Littleguy80 said:

Thanks Gerry. I now have the TV OIII made by Astronomik. I use an OIII more than anything so decided it was worth splashing out on the TV. I have an original Lumicon UHC right now. I may replace this with the TV Nebustar II at some point.  

I’ll definitely give those both a try. I’ve found the big exit pupil with the 40mm to be really good for getting a first look at the large fainter targets. Forecast is looking good for tomorrow and Friday so should be able to get another dark site trip in :) 

The new TVs are top tier IMHO... nice choice. I'm going out in a bit to obs- thanks for the motivation!

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