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Planning my first Observations


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Ah yeah, definitely, I used to fly quite a bit so am well used to the dark arts of weather forecasts! The android App doesn't seem to have the date/time of the forecast, whereas the web version does, so that's what made me wonder if the app was old/out of date. They both show cloudy skies until Thursday unfortunately, but hopefully that'll change. I'm checking out Nightshift now, 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! ūüėÄ 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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39 minutes ago, Jasonb said:

Clear Outside is currently telling me the next clear skies will be Thursday!

... and if you monitor those forecasts, you'll see that they shift about quite a bit. In these conditions I wouldn't get very excited about anything more than a couple of days out, unless they're forecasting a whole week of clear stuff. If you turn on "experimental features" on CO, you get some extra lines sourced from other places, displayed as "alternative forecasts".

Nightshift is also worth a look as suggested. Then there are:

https://www.meteoblue.com/en/weather/outdoorsports/seeing/london_united-kingdom_2643743
https://meteoradar.co.uk/
https://www.accuweather.com/en/gb/london/ec4a 2/weather-forecast/328328
https://www.ventusky.com/
https://www.windy.com/51.501/-0.109?51.109,-0.113,8,m:e4Zaf8Y
https://www.wunderground.com/weather/gb/london

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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 very happy with it, for what is basically a beginners scope, it seems to have a very good build quality. I spent a while putting it together this afternoon, getting it balanced etc. Have no way of collimating it yet (don't have a collimator or a cap) but it was good to get it all together. Only issue is the RDF doesn't seem to be working, no matter what I did I couldn't get a little dot to appear. I've contacted FLO about that and based on my experience with them so far I'm sure they'll get it sorted for me!

Anyhow, when it arrived not only was it completely cloudy, but it was foggy as well, just for good measure, so the cloud rule held true. I got lucky though and some gaps appeared later, so I took it out the back. The EQ mount that comes with it can also be used as an Alt-Az mount (one of the reasons I had my eye on this scope) so I left it in Alt-Az mode for now and soon started looking around. I caught a glimpse of Jupiter (with my naked eye) for a second but then it went behind clouds for good. I also saw ISS flying overhead the exact minute I was bringing out the scope, but had no hope of viewing that without being ready! Then Mars came out so I got it in the scope, at 25x first and then my current max of 65x. At this magnification it was still a white 'star', but I could see it was a disk, not a pinpoint of light, so that was cool. Also found the SlowMotion controls very handy, even in Alt-Az, to keep it in the eye piece. Was very surprised to see how bright it was, I could see why filters might be needed. Focusing seemed to be good, I could get it fairly well focused so if the secondary mirror is off (the primary can't be adjusted) I don't think it's off by much.

The moon made an appearance from behind some clouds so of course I had to look. I took advantage of the tripod to go to its fullest height as the moon was low and I wanted to see over the back garden wall. The moon, even when almost full, was stunning. 25x showed so much detail and with 65x it filled the eyepiece completely, you almost had to move you eye around a little to see the edges of the moon. Once again, you could see why filters would help, or even the lunar terminator which would show up so much detail. My 7 year old daughter was amazed by the moon, telling me she could see the craters and everything. Being able to rotate the scope tube in the rings really helped make it easier for her to see compared to my height.

I looked around a bit more but didn't have long and the conditions were poor. But all in all I'm just delighted, it looks like a lovely scope and it's working great. I love how versatile it is for me, with the EQ/Alt-Az mount, being able to use the slow motion controls, rotate the tube and lower/higher the tripod all made it easy to get the best viewing position depending on the height in the sky of what we're looking at, and the height of the person looking! I can only image what views I'm gonna get out of this on a better night, when I bring it to a darker site, and when I use an 8mm eyepiece with a Barlow on it! :)

Thanks for all the help and advice here, I assure you the questions are only starting! :)

 

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8 hours ago, Jasonb said:

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.

...

The moon made an appearance from behind some clouds so of course I had to look. I took advantage of the tripod to go to its fullest height as the moon was low and I wanted to see over the back garden wall. The moon, even when almost full, was stunning. 25x showed so much detail and with 65x it filled the eyepiece completely, you almost had to move you eye around a little to see the edges of the moon. Once again, you could see why filters would help, or even the lunar terminator which would show up so much detail. My 7 year old daughter was amazed by the moon, telling me she could see the craters and everything. Being able to rotate the scope tube in the rings really helped make it easier for her to see compared to my height.

...

I can only image what views I'm gonna get out of this on a better night, when I bring it to a darker site, and when I use an 8mm eyepiece with a Barlow on it! :)

Glad that you and your daughter are pleased with the scope and found some gaps in the clouds. The moon gets a lot better in the middle phases. I find it interesting trying to find the various Apollo and unmanned probe landing sites.

Sounds like you are starting to plan your next shopping list too... slippery slope :)

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Yep, for a first run it went well, I think. I loved it, and my Daughter was suitably impressed by the huge moon! I think tonight is might to be cloudy and wet, so I doubt I'll get out. Typically, I might not get out for a few days, we're redecorating a room, and there's a lot to be done. But fingers crossed I will get out for a bit now and then.

A quick stupid question, but when I'm leaving the scope outside to cool down before using it, do I leave the covers on the tube and the eyepiece, or take them off? Thanks!

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1 hour ago, Jasonb said:

A quick stupid question, but when I'm leaving the scope outside to cool down before using it, do I leave the covers on the tube and the eyepiece, or take them off? Thanks!

It might rain while you are not looking. Personally I just set up the big stuff, cover it with something if there is the slightest suspicion of wet stuff descending and keep the eyepieces indoors until I'm going outside. My scope is a refractor so you might want to take the end cover off your tube but then leave it horizontal perhaps with a sheet of something over it so that it can't become a water bucket instead of a light bucket. Usually the tube is the first thing to go outdoors and is put to one side somewhere safe while I set up the mount.

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2 hours ago, Jasonb said:

Yep, for a first run it went well, I think. I loved it, and my Daughter was suitably impressed by the huge moon! I think tonight is might to be cloudy and wet, so I doubt I'll get out. Typically, I might not get out for a few days, we're redecorating a room, and there's a lot to be done. But fingers crossed I will get out for a bit now and then.

A quick stupid question, but when I'm leaving the scope outside to cool down before using it, do I leave the covers on the tube and the eyepiece, or take them off? Thanks!

That can't possibly be a stupid question, as it is one I've wondered about myself ... ūüėÄ

The dob cools pretty fast , and I leave the big cap on the front and have substituted a kodak type film pot (black body, grey overlapping lid) instead of the supplied skywatcher cap, which has a hole in the middle, collimation for the use of. Helpful to collimate,  less so to protect the 'scope (I can see why they did it tho' as when the sliding section is closed, the EP tube is above solid metal, so for general closed down storage hole/no hole makes no difference). I have two (not needed for their proper use) rucsac waterproof covers which make good temporary covers for the scopes, they have cords to gather the edges so won't blow away.

I've tried just the fabric cover as well as fabric plus caps, and found no difference . Bear in mind though that half the length of my dob tube is space with a gappy ill fitted foam plastic shroud !

Edited by Tiny Clanger
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Yeah, I think leaving caps off but rotating the scope correctly is the way to go.

Next stupid question, cold weather! Ignoring me (I can wrap up well!) what's it like for scopes? Tonight is going to be hopefully clear, but also very cold. Probably below freezing. I'm keeping my fingers crossed I might get out for a while, is there an issue with using a scope below freezing, assuming the temps go that low?

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If it's truly arctic, metal can get cold enough for skin to stick to it ... ūü•∂

Shouldn't be a problem for most of us in the UK unless up a mountain somewhere, but another reason rubber eyecups are a good thing !

As long as the 'scope has cooled suitably, it should be fine, just the human suffers. Might get dew forming on the cold surfaces of the device , which is why dew shields are a good idea. Oh, and in the spirit of 'I made this stupid mistake, so you don't have to  ' , try to not breathe on the eyepiece while faffing around , it mists up !

Heather

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Thanks a lot Heather, I should just aim my questions directly at you, you always end up answering them anyhow!

I think if it go to the temperature where sticking to the scope was a possibility I will be happily indoors staying warm! ;)

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I've been out in the cold for a while and have come in waiting for the clouds to pass!

So. can someone tell me what I've been watching? I was looking at Mars and noticed something flashing to its bottom left (top right in the scope). It was quite faint and hard to see when it wasn't flashing, but I sometimes caught a glimpse of it between flashes. The flashes had a definite rhythm to it, you'd get one, then a second or two would pass, then another flash, sometimes this one was brighter, and then it would start to repeat those two flashes again maybe 6 or 7 seconds later.

it was also moving, it took about 10 to 15 minutes or so to move from close to Mars down past 73 Piscium and past 77 Piscium. I'm guessing it's some sort of satellite, though it was much fainter than any I've seen (I couldn't see it with the naked eye) and moving much slower too.

I'm sure it's something quite routine, but would love answer. Thanks!

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Well, I'm no help with this one, sorry !

I've run stellarium back & forward , and it didn't show a satellite passing particularly close to Mars (there was the ISS some way off just after 6pm, but that zaps along a lot faster and I'm sure you'd have I.D.'d that )

I'd guess either a satellite or bit of space junk with flat faces rotating so the sunlight reflects off it, or the Martians letting us know they are invading ...

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Sounds like a tumbling satellite. I've seen a few - some with the naked eye.

As for cold weather. I can recommend a podcast called "Actual Astronomy" - it's 2 Canadian chaps just chatting about visual astronomy (twice a week) and I find their descriptions about observing at -20degC makes me feel that I have less to complain about when there's a hint of a frost around!

https://actualastronomy.podbean.com/

Edited by Pixies
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I'd forgotten about the time feature, I did that on Skysafari with the same results, no satellite in that area at that time on that track, or at least none listed. I should have done a better job of observing it (like noting the exact time, naming the smaller stars it went past etc.) but I'm not used to that kind of stuff yet. Probably just some spinning space junk as you say, which is kinda cool and also disappointing at the same time!

Despite the forecast, the clouds don't seem to want to go away, so I might be restricted to just that 30 minutes or so of viewing!

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Just saw your message now Pixies, I assume a tumbling satellite is basically a dead one that's now just spinning around in orbit?

Thanks for the podcast recommendation, I'll give it a go as I love listening to them when driving...

 

 

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1 minute ago, Jasonb said:

Just saw your message now Pixies, I assume a tumbling satellite is basically a dead one that's now just spinning around in orbit?

Thanks for the podcast recommendation, I'll give it a go as I love listening to them when driving...

 

 

Try "Awesome Astronomy", too.

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Well that was all kinda frustrating in the end! It didn't help that I had a stressful day and evening and was hoping to relax with some observing, and it was a bit rushed etc.

Anyhow, I put the scope out about a half an hour before I went out, with the caps/covers off and the scope turned upside down in case it rained. it was pretty clear though, with some occasional passing clouds.

When I did get out I kept the tripod at its smallest height at first, and had a look at Mars for a couple of minutes. I was fumbling a bit, trying to get used to the layout of the scope and axis and controls, and the best angle of the OTA for the eyepiece and finder (the RDF is still dead, FLO are sending a replacement, but I can try to use it as a kinda eyepiece anyhow!). It's an EQ mount but it can be used in Alt-Az mode, which is what I'm currently doing to keep it relatively easy.

I then decided to move the scope to a different point in the back garden, and raise it to its full height, as I was bending over a bit (I'm 6'1"). This involved more adjustments to things to try to get it all comfortable and intuitive. That's when I started looking at Mars, finding it with the 25mm and then having a good look with the 10mm, and when I found my flashing object. I switched back to the 25mm as I wanted to try to get a sense of the stars around it and its path. I really struggled with this due to the image being upside down. With the binoculars I was able to intuitively see the shapes and patterns some of the stars form, and follow them, but this was much harder to do while transposing them at the same time.

Messing with Skysafari (in Red mode, which reminds me, bloody house security lights!!! Five different ones went off in the space of half an hour!) I found out that I could swap its orientation too, but that still didn't seem to help. So I was struggling to picture which way the object was going, which stars it was passing etc. I eventually identified 73 and 77 Piscium, which helped. I then decided to try to judge how fast it was moving (for when asking the question here) but couldn't think of a way to measure the distance. I started a stopwatch when it passed between two stars, and the stopped it two minutes later when it passed between two others, in a kind of mini 'rectangle shape' of four stars that I identified. And then, of course,  when I went back to Skysafari I couldn't find those four stars again! I know now I can mark them as Observed and it'll keep a record, but that's no help to me now. Not being able to remember the orientation of the Skysafari map to match my telescope view doesn't help either.

After that i decided to give Uranus a try, but once again I was struggling to star hop when the clouds came in, and an hour later hadn't left. So I gave up at 11 and brought the scope inside, seeing that the primary mirror was covered in condensation. I'm guessing this happened when I brought it into the warm kitchen?

So, lessons learned... I need to get more used to Skysafari and what it can do, like mark what stars I've observed. I need to find my sweet spot for setting up the OTA and tripod. Speaking of which, back in the kitchen I realised that while adjusting the tripod/scope I'd knocked the 90 angle needed for it to be Alt-Az off a good bit, which meant my left/right and up down were a bit more diagonal than that. That wouldn't have helped with me trying to get my orientation and direction right, and explains some of my issues. I also need to write some stuff down, even onto my phone, to keep some notes. 

I obviously haven't used a working RDF yet, but I did find the view through the finder window varies greatly depending on exactly what angle you are behind the finder. If that's true with the dot on too, I don't really see how it's all that effective, it just gets you in the ballpark area really.

Using the eye piece I'm trying not to squint with one eye closed, but I can't leave the other open as there's just too much light outside with security lights coming on etc. So I was basically leaving it open but covering it with my hand, and also shielding my viewing eye to drown out more light, which helped. 

Anyhow, this is far too long a post now! It was still good to see something, a tumbling satellite or whatever it was, as I'd never seen one on my life. And it amazes me when I look in the eyepiece and suddenly so many more stars are just there. Hopefully my next session will go a little smoother.

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