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Planning my first Observations


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Hi all,

Newbie to the site and to the hobby, though if the hobby goes as well as the site has gone so far I'm in for a treat! I'm looking for some advice for my first night observing.

I have a telescope ordered and hopefully it'll be delivered soon. It's a Skywatcher Starquest 130P on an EQ mount (that can also be used as an AZ mount). It comes with two eyepieces, 25mm and 10mm, so I can get 26x and 65x out of the box. I will be getting a Barlow and other bites and pieces as time goes on, but my first while with the 'scope will just be those two eyepieces and nothing else.

I'll be using it in my back garden, which faces SW, and I live in an urban estate on the edge of a town, so there will be light pollution kicking in too. Of course I will venture further afield (literally a field, I'm lucky enough to live near a large open expanse of fields that should be a lot darker) but I want to try to get used to everything at home first.

So, basically, where do I start? I'll do my best to focus the RDF, check collimation etc. during the day. I know it's hard to know depending on how clear the sky is, what's up above that night etc. etc., but I'd like to have some sort of a plan of what to look for, what do I try to find? The Moon obviously (if it's up) and any other planets (I spotted Mars, Jupiter and Saturn just while I was driving home last night), but are they other good beginner stars/clusters/whatever etc. that I should see if I can find? Do I plan some star hopping from a particular star and take it from there?

Like I said, I'm a newbie (as is probably clear!) so any advice is welcome.

Thanks!

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Well, I just had a cold but nice half an hour outside! Just had a look with binoculars (7x50) and was impressed with what I could see. Unfortunately Clear Outside had promised very clear skies for a c

And now I've just learned that I may need more than one type of view finder in the future! 😀 Am doing lots of reading, learning about things like averted vision etc. I'm really starting to get a sense

Well my Starquest 130P arrived today! I was a little doubtful it would until I finally got the 'Out for Delivery' update late in the morning, and it got here in the afternoon. Have to say I'm ver

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Hi Jason,

if your scope arrives very soon, then the moon will be quite prominent, so you might as well have a look 😀 
It will also restrict your chances with the "faint fuzzies", so you might like to have a look at some double stars:
Beta Cygni (Albireo)
Gamma Andromedae
Eta Persei
Iota Cassiopeiae (a triple!)
Lambda Orionis

There's also the Perseus double cluster and the Pleiades.

You won't get a lot of magnification with the stock eyepieces, so don't expect to see too much with the planets - the discs will be small. Jupiter and Saturn are low down and not ideally placed, but you should be able to see Saturn's rings and the larger moons of Jupiter.
 

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Garden looking south west is good ! If  you can get them before they dive too low to see at all, try Jupiter (lower but brighter, so easier to find first as you will be getting used to the RDF). You probably won't see any detail with it so low, and with the stock eyepieces , but possibly some indication of colour bands if you are lucky, and maybe some of the moons will be visible too. Then move to find Saturn : it was the first thing I saw on the first use of my 150 dob (with the same EPs as you will get) and despite it appearing tiny, the rings were clear to see. That first vision of a tiny distant shiny bauble is a memory I treasure.

For easily recognised and found features I'd say the Pleiades are a beautiful sight , and the nebula in Orion M42 is easy to find. The Moon is an obvious target, but don't think a crescent is less interesting than the full disc, the interest is often the terminator, the line between light and dark, where shadows and side lighting show the detail most dramatically.

For further guidance, as (still) a newbie myself, I downloaded the old 'Moore Winter Marathon' info from this page :

http://astrog80.astro.cf.ac.uk/mwm/

Altho' it dates back to 2013, all the info apart from that for the planets still holds. Beneath each chart is a tab with 'observing guide PDF' , I downloaded bot the first set (binocular & naked eye objects) and the telescopic ones. Print them out and you have a nice set of targets chosen for you , with helpful little maps and some basic information about what exactly you are seeing. I started working my way through them before getting diverted by Mars ...

If you've not already done so, explore one of the neat, computer, tablet or smartphone based sky map programs . You can set your location and direction of view, which will let you anticipate what will be up to see from your garden . I like Stellarium , but there are plenty of others.

Heather

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Excellent advice you two, thanks! Really appreciate the suggestions of actual things to go find, gives me some targets! Didn't think I'd be able to see Saturn's Rings with the basic eye pieces. Even if tiny that would be amazing. And I'm looking forward to discovering even just other categories of objects, I know so little about them.

I've been spending some time using Skysafari and that's beginning to give me a sense of what's out there, and will hopefully help me find your suggestions.

Not sure when I will get the Scope, still waiting for the 'dispatched' email from Flo.

Thanks again!

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I would suggest another good target for you would be M31 the Andromeda Galaxy, it’s our nearest spiral galaxy and  fairly easy to find using the Square of Pegasus as a guide. M31 is a good object to practice getting your eye in and one of the most well known objects in the northern hemisphere sky.

I wish you well in your new hobby and hope you find it as enjoyable and rewarding as we all do.

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15 minutes ago, Moonshed said:

I would suggest another good target for you would be M31 the Andromeda Galaxy, it’s our nearest spiral galaxy and  fairly easy to find using the Square of Pegasus as a guide. M31 is a good object to practice getting your eye in and one of the most well known objects in the northern hemisphere sky.

It might just be me being particularly useless, but I had a hugely frustrating time trying to see M31 in my telescope from my suburban back garden. With dark adapted sight after an hour of lying on the grass meteor watching in the summer I'd accidentally caught sight of something in the right area with averted vision, and  realized it had to be Andromeda : yes, a fuzzy grey something showed in the 10x50 binoculars, but I had a nightmare trying to get the RDF on my 'scope lined up: every time I looked at where the dot was M31 vanished as I was looking straight at it , and when I averted my eye ... I couldn't get the dot lined up .... aaargh.

And that's why I got on the internet and ordered an optical finder the very next day ! Not sure if the instrument Jasonb has ordered has an RDF or an optical finder though.

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1 hour ago, Tiny Clanger said:

It might just be me being particularly useless, but I had a hugely frustrating time trying to see M31 in my telescope from my suburban back garden. With dark adapted sight after an hour of lying on the grass meteor watching in the summer I'd accidentally caught sight of something in the right area with averted vision, and  realized it had to be Andromeda : yes, a fuzzy grey something showed in the 10x50 binoculars, but I had a nightmare trying to get the RDF on my 'scope lined up: every time I looked at where the dot was M31 vanished as I was looking straight at it , and when I averted my eye ... I couldn't get the dot lined up .... aaargh.

And that's why I got on the internet and ordered an optical finder the very next day ! Not sure if the instrument Jasonb has ordered has an RDF or an optical finder though.

As you have already discovered an RDF is not particularly helpful when trying to locate feint DSOs such as M31, you really need a Finder scope and I see that you have already ordered one. Happy hunting!

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2 minutes ago, Moonshed said:

As you have already discovered an RDF is not particularly helpful when trying to locate feint DSOs such as M31, you really need a Finder scope and I see that you have already ordered one. Happy hunting!

Thank you.

Experience is a great, but often annoying,  teacher. The need for more than one sort of finder hadn't really occurred to me until that moment, I'd not properly appreciated the practicalities . It took quite a lot of searching to locate an RACI finder during lockdown #1 , much that was available seemed to be close to the outlay I'd made on the entire heritage dob itself ! Eventually I tracked down a reasonably priced 6x30 in stock at an obscure camera shop's website.  It was almost as elusive as Andromeda .😀

So, a happy ending to the tale, I now find M31 is easy to line up on. It is indeed a good target, and an amazing thing to be able to see with your own eyes .However, checking FLO's site, it looks as if the 130p the OP has ordered comes with the RDF ...

 

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5 hours ago, Tiny Clanger said:

Thank you.

Experience is a great, but often annoying,  teacher. The need for more than one sort of finder hadn't really occurred to me until that moment, I'd not properly appreciated the practicalities . It took quite a lot of searching to locate an RACI finder during lockdown #1 , much that was available seemed to be close to the outlay I'd made on the entire heritage dob itself ! Eventually I tracked down a reasonably priced 6x30 in stock at an obscure camera shop's website.  It was almost as elusive as Andromeda .😀

So, a happy ending to the tale, I now find M31 is easy to line up on. It is indeed a good target, and an amazing thing to be able to see with your own eyes .However, checking FLO's site, it looks as if the 130p the OP has ordered comes with the RDF ...

 

Glad to see that you are now able to easily find M31, it’s quiet a sight isn’t it?  Of course the other “must see” object just has to be the M42 Orion Nebula. Even though it’s only a colourless patch of mist it’s amazing to think you are looking at a star making factory. Blows my mind.

Clear skies!

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9 hours ago, Tiny Clanger said:

It might just be me being particularly useless, but I had a hugely frustrating time trying to see M31 in my telescope from my suburban back garden.

A challenge for M31 in particular is that it's just so big. You may have it centred perfectly, and it will fill the FOV. But with a modest scope it may not show any obvious detail, so it seems you're just looking at space. You can try nudging off in some direction and you may then see a distinction between the galaxy and background (or possibly you can see the difference between the central and outer areas, as it extends some way). Selecting a long focus eyepiece with low magnification and wider field of view might help, if you can then see the shape more clearly against the background. The possibly difficulty there is that if you have to contend with light pollution, you often need a certain level of magnification to reduce the exit pupil and darken the background, to improve the contrast with the target object.

Oh, and congratulations on finding a RACI finder - I've been looking for weeks!

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And now I've just learned that I may need more than one type of view finder in the future! 😀 Am doing lots of reading, learning about things like averted vision etc. I'm really starting to get a sense that apart from all the tools and good conditions etc. observing is also a skill that should be practiced and improved. That hadn't really occured to me. Even the idea of watching something for a while as there will be moments of more clarity due to conditions changing was new to me.

The good news is I got my dispatched email today, and all going well the scope should be with me on Tuesday! After researching for weeks and not being able to find the scope I wanted in stock anywhere, I had given up on getting anything this side of Christmas and was wondering what Brexit might do to my telescope budget with potential new customs charges etc. I'm so lucky to have found this forum, especially a day or two before the FLO sale!

Have been looking up light pollution too, I'm living in a Bortle 5 area apparently, though there is a bright street light out the front so I need to stay in the back garden. Once I get used to all the equipment I'm only a 5/10 minute drive away from some countryside that looks to be Bortle 4.

So much to learn, but that's cool, I love learning things!

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13 hours ago, Tiny Clanger said:

Thank you.

Experience is a great, but often annoying,  teacher. The need for more than one sort of finder hadn't really occurred to me until that moment, I'd not properly appreciated the practicalities . It took quite a lot of searching to locate an RACI finder during lockdown #1 , much that was available seemed to be close to the outlay I'd made on the entire heritage dob itself ! Eventually I tracked down a reasonably priced 6x30 in stock at an obscure camera shop's website.  It was almost as elusive as Andromeda .😀

So, a happy ending to the tale, I now find M31 is easy to line up on. It is indeed a good target, and an amazing thing to be able to see with your own eyes .However, checking FLO's site, it looks as if the 130p the OP has ordered comes with the RDF ...

 

A tip that often served me well is that when trying to find feint DSOs while looking through the scope try giving the top of the scope a very gentle tap, the resulting judders will help the moving image stand out more clearly than it does when still.

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13 minutes ago, Jasonb said:

And now I've just learned that I may need more than one type of view finder in the future! 😀 Am doing lots of reading, learning about things like averted vision etc. I'm really starting to get a sense that apart from all the tools and good conditions etc. observing is also a skill that should be practiced and improved. That hadn't really occured to me. Even the idea of watching something for a while as there will be moments of more clarity due to conditions changing was new to me.

The good news is I got my dispatched email today, and all going well the scope should be with me on Tuesday! After researching for weeks and not being able to find the scope I wanted in stock anywhere, I had given up on getting anything this side of Christmas and was wondering what Brexit might do to my telescope budget with potential new customs charges etc. I'm so lucky to have found this forum, especially a day or two before the FLO sale!

Have been looking up light pollution too, I'm living in a Bortle 5 area apparently, though there is a bright street light out the front so I need to stay in the back garden. Once I get used to all the equipment I'm only a 5/10 minute drive away from some countryside that looks to be Bortle 4.

So much to learn, but that's cool, I love learning things!

I live in a Bortle 4 area and there is a huge difference between a 4 and a 5 so the few minutes it takes you to get there will be well worth it. I don’t know if your EQ mount is driven or not but if it is you will of course need to consider  your power source while away from home, if not driven then no probs.

let’s hope you get clear skies when your scope arrives. Sadly though  I have to tell you now that it’s a law of the universe that whenever you get any new kit the sky will immediately cloud over for at least a month unless you transfer a huge wad of cash over to me in which case my monastery contacts can arrange clear skies for you. I am a well known and trusted Nigerian banker, I was very careful with the spelling there!

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6 hours ago, Zermelo said:

A challenge for M31 in particular is that it's just so big. You may have it centred perfectly, and it will fill the FOV. But with a modest scope it may not show any obvious detail, so it seems you're just looking at space. You can try nudging off in some direction and you may then see a distinction between the galaxy and background (or possibly you can see the difference between the central and outer areas, as it extends some way). Selecting a long focus eyepiece with low magnification and wider field of view might help, if you can then see the shape more clearly against the background. The possibly difficulty there is that if you have to contend with light pollution, you often need a certain level of magnification to reduce the exit pupil and darken the background, to improve the contrast with the target object.

Oh, and congratulations on finding a RACI finder - I've been looking for weeks!

I found mine at Bristol Cameras, they seem a decent outfit :

https://www.bristolcameras.co.uk/p-sky-watcher-6x30-right-angle-erect-image-finderscope.htm

only a 6x30, not the larger one generally seen as ideal, but I'm cheap and it was in stock  ...

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Ha, I had heard of the connection between buying new equipment and cloud cover, FLO have a blog about it! It's a manual EQ Mount, though there is an optional drive available for it, so power source won't be an issue for me yet anyhow. I am looking forward to trying a darker site too, but I definitely want to get used to the equipment first, I'll feel very self-conscious setting up somewhere in public!

I was actually talking to Bristol Cameras a week or so ago, they had a 1145P in stock online but when I rang them it had been sold a few hours before! They were very friendly and helpful though, and in the end it worked out well as I got a 130P instead.

By the way @Tiny Clanger, it is wrong that I keep humming Tiny Dancer by Elton John whenever I see your username? 😀

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10 hours ago, Jasonb said:

I've been spending some time using Skysafari and that's beginning to give me a sense of what's out there, and will hopefully help me find your suggestions.

Not sure when I will get the Scope, still waiting for the 'dispatched' email from Flo.

Bear in mind that once you have your scope and have waited for clear skies, and relatively moonless too if you want to find faint misty smudges you will get all set up and then find yourself under pressure to make good use of that rare opportunity... and fretting over what you might be missing.

Do as much homework as possible beforehand using things like Stellarium (which has a web and a PC version as well as a tablet app), the Messier list and whatever else you fancy looking at. Make a list of targets and figure out how you are going to find them (star hopping, setting circles, GOTO etc). Make a 'Plan B' and 'Plan C' - for example you may get a night when clouds are intermittently obscuring the target for 'Plan A'.

The moon and planets are more forgiving in terms of conditions - you can do those on most clear nights. Even if they are not 'your thing' they will help you get to know your scope and be more practiced when those elusive dark skies appear.

 

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45 minutes ago, Tiny Clanger said:

Yes, it's wrong 😀

This is the proper sound: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-OvefhhMbbg

 

An excellent clip from an excellent show, thanks! 😀

@MercianDabblerYep, am starting my planning now, though it's possible that the first night ot two will just be having a look around with a couple of things in mind, while i get used to stuff, and then I'll have a more planned session and see how that goes.

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1 hour ago, Tiny Clanger said:

I found mine at Bristol Cameras, they seem a decent outfit :

https://www.bristolcameras.co.uk/p-sky-watcher-6x30-right-angle-erect-image-finderscope.htm

only a 6x30, not the larger one generally seen as ideal, but I'm cheap and it was in stock  ...

Yes, that was the one I was trying to find.
I did contacting Bristol Cameras previously but they don't keep any stock of that item, and they didn't seem certain that they would be able to source it.
I see it does say "available to order" now, so I might give it a punt.

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Just now, Zermelo said:

Yes, that was the one I was trying to find.
I did contacting Bristol Cameras previously but they don't keep any stock of that item, and they didn't seem certain that they would be able to source it.
I see it does say "available to order" now, so I might give it a punt.

It can't hurt to ask them what 'available to order' actually means for this specific item at the moment. 

I'm afraid I don't recall if the listing said that when I bought mine, or if it actually said 'in stock'. Good luck  !

Heather

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Well, I just had a cold but nice half an hour outside! Just had a look with binoculars (7x50) and was impressed with what I could see. Unfortunately Clear Outside had promised very clear skies for a couple of hours, but I'd say about 50% or so of the sky was cloudy, with the moon sometimes being covered and sometimes not.

That said, I found the moon easily enough! 😀 Found Polaris as well, using Ursa Major, and saw Sirius for a little while before it was covered, twinkling away like mad. Unfortunately Orion was covered the whole time.

Mars came out so I looked at that for a few minutes, marvelling at how many other stars appeared once I was using binoculars. Then a strange thing happened. I've always been good at maps, and it suddenly clicked with me that a starmap is exactly that, a map (well duh!). So looking around Mars, I was able to follow some stars and shapes that different stars make, and identify 60 Piscium and 62 Piscium. Nothing major, nothing fancy, but I knew that's what they were, and it was cool that I could figure that out.

I thought I'd try to see if I could find Uranus, even though I reckoned it would be tough with just Binoculars and so close to a bright moon. I had fun looking, and used some more star hopping to get from Hamal to Sheratan to Mesarthim and then Iota Arietis. I knew Uranus was on a line between that and the moon, closer to the moon. I didn't find it, I barely glimpsed some small stars in the area (giving averted viewing a go) but nothing I could positively say was Uranus. But that didn't bother me at all, the fun was correctly getting to the ball park.

So all in all i had a lot of fun (clearly, or I wouldn't be writing this!) and I'm looking forward to giving it another go tomorrow if the skies are clear!

Edited by Jasonb
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On 27/11/2020 at 15:22, Jasonb said:

observing is also a skill that should be practiced and improved. That hadn't really occured to me. Even the idea of watching something for a while as there will be moments of more clarity due to conditions changing was new to me.

Nice report Jason, glad you got out under the stars even if only for a short time.

Your point above is absolutely right. Some people seem to consider visual astronomy as just something to pass through on your way to imaging. This couldn’t be further from the truth, and you can easily spend many fulfilling years building your experience and skills in observing. This definitely allows you to see more; I certainly see more these days despite my eyes not being as good.

Patience and perseverance seem to be the key! Put in the hours at the eyepiece and you will get your rewards, particularly on planetary observing. I’ve had quite a few multi hour sessions on Mars over the last few months and often at first sight there is little to see, but over time some quite amazing detail becomes visible.

I have a few little scopes (63mm and 65mm) and do enjoy trying to see just what can be achieved with them, so it is not all about aperture.

Enjoy!

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18 hours ago, Jasonb said:

The good news is I got my dispatched email today, and all going well the scope should be with me on Tuesday!

You mean this Tuesday: image.png.5fc9080aa8ea591b3f84058550c2b60e.png

It's always clouds or full moon!

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@Stu Yeah, I really enjoyed just having a look around, and I'm already hoping for some clear skies tonight, though Clear Outside is currently telling me the next clear skies will be Thursday! Speaking of which, the App seems quite old, is it still ok to use, or should I be using the website version?

@Pixies Ah, I won't mind too much, it's my first proper telescope, I'll put up with a bright moon! ;)

 

 

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22 minutes ago, Jasonb said:

Speaking of which, the App seems quite old, is it still ok to use, or should I be using the website version?

Both use the same  data. I do find the website easier to use, though. If it's Android you're using, I find Nightshift quite useful too. When Nightshift and Clear Outside agree, it's usually reliable. But I wouldn't rely on any forecasts more than a few days ahead.

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