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Some mixed doubles and some doubtful galaxies

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So, a beautiful clear, crisp, cold night here in York, with steady seeing and reasonable transparency (allowing for the moon... ). Best night I've had in ages, and typically one before an early start for work!

I decided to go "old school" for this evening, with a 5" achromat (TAL 125R f9). I have some history with this telescope - I ordered it from Italy, and it arrived with some awful issues visually - soft, unable to come to sharp focus etc., but thanks to the good offices of ES Reid its spherical aberration has been pretty much cured. It is certainly not the most expensive telescope I've ever owned, nor technically the best performing, but the most travelled (well, it was made in Siberia and came to the UK via Italy, and Ive taken it to Skye on holiday with me twice)! It is simple in construction and finish, robust, with a single speed but effective crayford focusser and a fixed plastic dewshield on a plain white tube (the same as the 100mm RS), which flares about three-quarters of the way up its length expanding to accomodate the 5 " objective cell. I have probably spent more time with this scope than any of the others I have owned.

On the right night, this telescope is fantastic. It almost seems that its Siberian origins come into play, as it gets better and better the colder it is. And it is cold tonight!

I started with the moon. Wonderful sharp views along the terminator and I could pile on the magnification to well over x300. Yes, there is some colour spill on the limb, but I can ignore it happily. The differences in the "grain" of the surfaces in the various mare and plateaux, the stark contrast between the shadows on craters and mountains and the various rilles that I can see more than make up for this. As the seeing steadied I was able to resolve down to 4km happily (and a little more with the eye of faith)  - the craterlets in Clavius were a joy to behold and to count - best views I've had in a long time. And now I really need to improve my lunar geopgraphy to understand and name the features I was seeing.

I turned to Orion next. M42 shows real structure - not quite as much as in my 6" ED, but tantalisingly 3d (If that makes sense) and gorgeous nonetheless. Orion is relatively low for me and part obscured by twiggy bare trees, and above my neighbours offshot kitchen with thermal plumes from their central heating boiler vent to deal with. Regretfully, these obsrtuctions and thermal distortions meant that tonight I was unable to pull out the F component of the Trapezium, but I did just get the E part. No luck with Rigel or Sirius. Sigma Orionis did split nicely though.

I then tried a few more nice doubles, including Beta Mon (I really enjoy this system - its a "new" find for me), then went for my main planned target, Tegmine, now that my eye was attuned. I used a Baader 10mm Ortho on a Baader x2.25 barlow to get x253. The A/B pair were cleary resolved, and heavily "notched", but not a split. The target was quite high by now, and the seeing holding steady, so I popped in an 8mm Ortho (same barlow) for x316. And a sliver of clear sky separated the two stars, with one noticeably less bright than the other. Vey happy result.

I decided, despite the moonlight, to go galaxy hunting. Nothing doing in Leo, I just could not see M65 or M66. I turned north to M51, and could just make out a very dim blur, no structure and I couldn't differentiate NGC5195. Similary with M101, a very feint blur and that only seen with averted vision and "tapping" the eyepiece (the movement helped me be certain if the blur was just light spill or "real", if you see what I mean). M81 and M82 were easily seen though. I finished on Mizar, simply because I like it and enjoy seeing that double together with Alcor in one easy field. Sometimes, I really enjoying simply spending some time on "simple" or "easy" targets, which I'll often overlook just because they are somehow "obvious".

All in all, I really enjoyed my night out - its nights like these that make all the frustrations worth it! Clear skies, all!




Edited by Marki
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Lovely report. Sounds like you had a great night with your Tal. Interesting that you had it adjusted by Es Reid, I wonder what kind of magic he performed on it?!

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