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I've been puzzling over the bits of Virgo that are filled with galaxies on and off for the last three months & always seem to get lost and confused among barely-visible smudges in the eyepiece of my 127 Mak.
Whilst not the ideal galaxy hunting tool, I have really enjoyed views of M81 & M82 and the Leo Trio so figured I ought to at least be able to identify the whereabouts of some of the Virgo cluster even if there's no real features or structure to be even dimly seen with this aperture. To date I'd positively identified M86 & M84 and noted a couple of NGCs in the same field and other smudges within a couple of panning fields distant - but beyond that it was all "might be" in terms of identification.
There is I admit a part of me that is motivated to "tick off" Messier objects but I want to be positive on my identification, so with this in mind I hatched a plan to tour the area in a more structured way, inspired by this great thread on the topic from @MercianDabbler https://stargazerslounge.com/topic/375174-easter-2021-attempting-galaxies-with-an-sp102/?tab=comments#comment-4074628.
Recon sessions with the ST80 while the moon has been dominant over the last couple of weeks had led me to a chain of mini asterisms that I reckon I could follow from Vindemiatrix as a pathway to identify specific galaxies - even though they would be little more than un-resolvable fuzzy stars in my 'scope. I went as far as running through my star hopping "moves" a couple of times in Stellarium during the afternoon and making step by step instructions in my notebook (I find paper & a red headtorch easier in the field than trying to manipulate an App under a redlight). Saturday's forecast wasn't perfect for this purpose but looking ahead, looked like the only usable night for a while so I spent a happy few-bank holiday hours in the afternoon packing gear, charging batteries and prepping.
All observations with a Skywatcher Mak 127, Baader Hyperion 24mm (68 degree AFOV delivering a shade over 1 degree TFOV), Baader Neodymium Filter added for good luck!
Saturday May 1st /Sunday May 2nd was clear over Bortle-5 Winchester and seeing was very steady, transparency was fair and at times poor with high cloud building gradually to the SW by midnight when I set out. There were a couple of hours before the moon became a factor so I got to work aligning (Vega, Arcuturus) and slewing to Vindemiatrix.
Tracked a couple of fields of view (1 degree field) SSW to a faint "crown" of stars [Stellarium says HD111132 is at the head of the curve] which I've been calling mini-Corona and from there on W to a 4 star asterism with Rho Virginis at its centre which I've been calling the "plane" as it looks like a clear delta-wing shape (like an old dinky toy Dassault Mirage I had as a kid!)
M59/M60 - Put the "nose" of the plane in the centre-bottom of the field and pan up half a degree and there was M59 & M60, the first a dim fuzzy point, better in averted vision, the second notably brighter and with haze around a central point, could stand direct vision.
Putting the nose of the "plane" this time in the right hand side of the finder (RACI view on the Mak) and tracking a full field West brings the first of two pairs of stars in a just about horizontal line [Stellarium says these are HD109815, HD109684, HD109486, HD109401].
M58 - Putting the first pair of "the line" in the bottom R of the finder and tracking up 1/2 a field brought me a fuzzy patch with a star bottom R [later confirmed star as HD109771]
M89 - Putting the second pair of "the line" in the bottom R of the finder and tracking up just over a field, passing a small triangle of stars, brings in M89 - a fuzzy star, not much else to note.
M90 - Putting M89 in the bottom centre of the field brings in M90 in the top of the view, dim fuzzy but a bit more of a vertical line than a point this time. Makes a nice field with M89.
M87 - Placed M89 top R in field and swing W. M87 - not as bright as expected, nebulous patch, no detail to speak of.
M86 - Placed M87 in far R of field and tracked W I full field (1 degree) - quite apparent fuzz with brighter core - easier to see than M87 which is odd.
M84 - Placed M87 in far R of field and tracked W I full field (1 degree) - faint, best with averted vision when focussed on M86.
I then tracked one field of view NE of the M84/M86 view and this gives a really humbling view full of tiny fuzzy patches.
I made a rough sketch of a pronounced Scalene Triangle of resolvable stars [based on Stellarium I think these are three 10th Mag stars just into Coma Berenices, TYC 880-659-1, TYC 880 567-1, TYC 880 505-1, whatever that means...] with an elongated "M" shape of fuzzy blobs interweaving. I am not 100% sure which I was seeing but reckon given the slightly off transparency conditions I wasn't able to see as deep as the scope's limiting magnitude of 13.1 so am fairly sure I was looking at "The Eyes" - NGC 4435 & 4438 and then probably NGC 4459, NGC 4461, NGC 4473 & NGC 4477.
M56 - I was getting spots before the eyes by this time and noted that transparency was better behind me to the NE, I took a quick look straight down from Lyra & found M56, a fairly diffuse & dim globular that I am not at all sure I would have spotted had I not just spent a couple of hours tracking down the faintest of fuzz-patches!
Finally looking around I noticed Serpens looked clear and did an opportunistic GoTo for a quick look for M5 before calling it a night.
M5 - Wow! After all that faint stuff this is an absolute corker, tight globular and bright with faint diamond dust at 63x - although it was late I switched to the Baader Zoom & upped the magnification enjoying some super views at around 150x.
Decided to end on this stunner and returned home on a bit of a high for a glass of wine and some poring over the Cambridge Star Atlas and Stellarium on my phone to confirm sightings and then read up on some of the amazing objects I'd glimpsed. Tonight I'd upped my personal "distance record" to around 70 Million light years and was amazed to find that M56 is almost as old as the universe itself at 13.5 Billion years, and even better used to be part of something called the "Gaia Sausage" - who knew?
As often is the case I finished up by reading some of the history of the objects first categorisation, marvelling again at what Messier, Mechain and the Herschels achieved.
Mind blown again...Clear (dark) skies!
I almost hesitate to ask this but ahem, here goes...
My EBay white light filter turned up today & I scurried out into the garden like an excited child on Christmas morning.
After a bit of faffing I have it clamped to the ST80 and using the equally cheap but pleasingly effective SV-Bony pinhole projector finder (can’t believe it just slotted in and is aligned as there’s no way to adjust) there is a lovely big, crisp, solar disc.
Can’t see any sunspots though - and here’s the dumb question - is there just nothing doing today or am I missing a trick?
Any beginner tips on white light observation gratefully received...
I don't expect any replies - think I'm just braindumping for the mental wellbeing aspect of a frustrating night.
Having been ill through the week, Saturday found me feeling well enough to get outside and see if I could hook some things together and try to get FirstLight through some of my recent purchases. I've been using my Star Adventurer mini-rig [SA non-wifi, Canon 200D (unmodified), >30yr old Tamron 200mm f3.5] but knew things were going to be very different, and was keen to get going.
So the kit was all lined up:
> Laptop (Win10), Raspberry Pi4 with Astroberry
> EQ6-R Pro
> SW 80ED-DS Pro (Kit), SVBony SV106 190mm/50mm Guide Scope
> ZWO ASI 224MC, Canon 200D, SVBony SV205, 7TC ASI 120MC clone
> USB GPS Dongle (G72 G-Mouse Glonass Beidou GNSS) for location
and mains power for all via various PSUs with enough USB cables to circle the planet
Didn't take too long to get both Win10 (ASCOM) or Astroberry (INDI) talking to the mount and progress was being made - RA/DEC all seemed fine so onto the cameras. Found a distant object and SharpCap gave me images for all three USB devices once I had the SVBony as a Windows WebCam (RESULT!) and the same through INDI on the Astroberry, all three displayed images when enabling Streaming.
Settled on EQ6-R, SW 80ED, ASI224MC for imaging, SV106/SV205 for guiding
That's it (I thought!) and I broke down the rig and moved it to the lawn - I say lawn, more like a mossy bank but serves the purpose - and wait until dusk where a simple Polar Align and I'll be grabbing images of M51 Whirlpool in no time ...............
(I must cut the lawn, even if just to get rid of the blue from spray-painting a new table a couple of weekends ago)
(please ignore the middle dew heater, was there to remind me to put it on the guide scope later)
PA on the Star Adventurer, 30mins (5mins for the alignment, 5mins for remembering which phone app has a PA Clock and the obligatory 20mins to find the flamin' polar illuminator!) - this has been giving me consistent 5min exposures with no trailing.
PA on the EQ6-R is 'interesting' - I have a QHY PoleMaster but am waiting on the adapter from FLO (stock issues) so it was SharpCap alignment.
Wait for it to get dark enough, then get focus, then wait for platesolving in a "change exposure, gain, star threshold, black threshold, platesolve again" loop for over an hour. Woohoo, plate solved ..... oh, rotate around RA ..... and perform the same operation again ..... ARGHHH!
Over two hours later (probably more like 3hrs+) I've got polar alignment to within 12 seconds (wishing I'd screengrabbed that now). I really don't like the adjustment mechanism, the thread pitch is far too high for minute adjustments of alignment!
And onto guiding ........................ or maybe not.
PHD2, Nothing through it at all .... then remembered I'd not refocused the guide scope, then it was taking the Darks library. Still nothing. Opened the SV205 via SharpCap and got focus, switched back to PHD2, still nothing ...... hmm, is this just an unsupported camera (windows 'webcam'). So switched out for the 120MC copy - Amazon 7TC special.
Repeated the SharpCap for focus, then PHD2 Darks library and BOOM I have stars showing up in PHD2 - RESULT ...... I'll leave it at that for a moment and try looking at something, see what I get from the 224MC main camera and what PHD2 gives me in the guide scope.
So onto the next 'learning opportunity' - target selection
Erm, how do I select a target for goto with just two camera apps .... aha, Stellarium
No Telescope selected, easy - it went something like this:
"Open Stellarium, select telescope, select ASCOM ... there we go ... nope, it won't connect ... restart everything (twice) ... redo settings (twice) ... check ASCOM diagnostics (all passed) ... quick google search, aha I'm not the only one, you have to select the scope within the options pane ... what options pane .... oh, scroll down ..."
And I now have Stellarium control of the scope - again a RESULT - it's taking time but I think I'm making progress here .... hmm, it's getting bloody cold, wow, it's midnight!
So I now have an in focus 224MC, an in focus guide scope and control over the mount, here we go ... I'll be stacking images in the morning and making millions from selling prints online
Easy targets for testing were below the horizon (basically M42) so I'll just pick Vega and make sure slewing works, imaging works and can see how guiding works.
Nothing, no bright star at all - okay, bigger target - the moon.
Again nothing, no bright screen - so switched out the camera for a 26mm LER EP and a diagonal and manually aligned the moon - then, and here comes stupid, refocused (!) for the moon.
Stellarium wasn't syncing with the mount - I was 'off' on any selected target and by a lot
Quick google search and I'm no the only one - no sync points on my clean build so wasn't that, but use of the GPS dongle for location and TIME might be the problem.
And at this point it as 2:30am - prime viewing time last night with the moon disappearing in the West behind me - the garden slopes due-West to due-East so I only get Partial-North>East>Partial-South viewing.
Time to give up, have a small glass of Red and look for more things to buy on SGL/Astro B&S.
Today - well I had to break everything down to get it into the garage (too heavy to carry as one with current health) - I'll try to get the ASCOM/GPS element sorted out and maybe this evening try some targeting/lunar rate tracking so see if that major element is resolved.
And, if you've made it this far, please accept this for your perseverance🎖️, you've earned it.
After family pizza night and an evening in front of the TV it was a bit of an effort of will to head out at midnight to my now regular rugby-field stance. However, it’s been a while since my last “proper” session with the Mak & I’ve been inspired to stick at it to find some fainter objects after recent reports in here so the urge “to boldly go” won out and I duly stumped off to the park with my big kitbag...
A dipping crescent moon with earth-light to the West & steady burning stars between translucent skeins of cirrus meant that by the time I’d walked-in & gone through the familiar set up & alignment routine (N. aligned Vega & Arcturus) I was mentally ready to hunt for some new targets.
Skywatcher Mak 127, Baader Hyperion 24mm, 68 degree (1.04 degree TFOV).
Thin high cirrus bands about with occasional patches of great transparency between. Seeing steady.
Align Vega, Arcturus - confirmed really good seeing outside of the thickest haze.
M13 - twinkly, looking good. Even at 63x points of light especially with averted vision.
Cor Caroli - split at 63x, lovely steady white pair with neat rings.
M63 - fuzzy core, wider nebulosity appeared with viewing time. Averted vision showed something brighter within/aligned [checking the charts I think this can only have been the galaxy’s core itself] “Perseus” shaped asterism at 5 o’clock in finder. Diagonal pair close to L in eyepiece.
M51 - twin cores! Dark Lane & some connecting glow. Narrow triangle asterism to upper right with brighter apex & faint pair as left hand base point [Stellarium confirmed these as around Mag 11.7 & they were reasonable bright points not “ghosts”]
Centred Vindemiatrix for Virgo tour - couldn’t pick 86 or 87 out of haze though so moved on.
Leo - M65 & 6 but no hamburger!
M95/6 probable but not a good view. Brighter star to L with faint twin at 11 o’clock
High cloud now getting quite generalised then noted a clear area around Lyra to NE.
[Switched to Baader Zoom 8-24mm.]
Epsilon Lyrae Double Double. Southerly star, secondary at 5 o’clock, dimmer/smaller than primary though not by a large margin.
Northerly star a closer pair & dimmer secondary at 1 o’clock. Best (& lovely) view 10mm, 150x dim star making triangle to lower R. Occasional views of other very faint stars, one on the “hypotenuse” & another in the middle of the triangle. Can’t immediately identify these in Stellarium however.
Haze by now all over & thickening.
By this time it was gone 2 am & quite cold. I packed away and as I did so a few holes appeared in the murk and gave way to aswathe of noctilucent mackerel sky through Cassiopeia and Eastward to a horizontal Cygnus & rising Aquila - the Summer Triangle pointing downward toward the South & East.
It was quite beautiful & still. I lingered a while & broke out the 10x50s for a quick sweep of the Milky Way parallel to the Northern horizon and up in to Hercules, marvelling at how bright the Great Globular looks in binoculars when fully dark adapted.
Highlights has to be M51 & Epsilon Lyrae but a really satisfying session on a patchy night that’s left me with that tired, mild euphoria I get the day following (is it just me?)
Hatching a plan to drive somewhere that gives me a better chance at Virgo to the SE, maybe tonight...
I've been on these forums a couple of times for the last 2 weeks and ive found amazing advice, on telescopes, mounts and eyepiece. Besides reading countless of information on the internet about various equipments; pros and cons; and i got some queries about how to upgrade my setup.
My original purchase was a 15x70 Celestron Binoculars last year, and boy ive seen amazing things with it, specially globular clusters, Jupiter and Saturn and the Orion's Nebula; for me these were amazing; i still use them given how easy it is to look at the sky with them and how bright and full everything looks. A couple of months ago i got a 70x400mm Gskyer Telescope with an AZ mount (The cheap 99$ one that Amazon is displaying on all its adds for the last two months) it came with a 25mm and a 10mm eyepieces as well as a x3 barlows (which i didnt even count as part of my scope as it is too bad quality and i havent managed a single decent view with it).
Currently My Celestron Binoculars (x15) seem better for visualizing the sky than the 25mm eyepiece (x16) (things seem a very bit dimmer). And since the Barlow is a "no go", the 10mm (x40) eyepiece is what i really use, it has decent zoom and detailed views , it is my go to eyepiece most of the nights.
However from reading all around, ive read that most of the stuff that come with the Telescope (aside from the scope itself) are actually really bad quality, specially no name brands without even webpage, so if i were to maximise my telescope i should update some of those items.
-Recently i ordered a new Start diagonal to replace to default one (ive heard on Refractors its usually the weakest link next to eyepieces) as well as an economic x2 Barlow lens
Keep in mind i recognize my 70mm cheap telescope will not suddendly become the Hubble Telescope, and that it doesnt matter how hard i push it, in the end such a low scope will be bound to hit its limit pretty fast, thats why i avoid 70$+ eyepieces and barlows for now.
I expect to keep using this telescope for a good couple of months; at least until around August, when Jupiter and Saturn are more in the night sky, rather than morning.
Now, im very satisfied with my current telescope; while the phone mount is garbage and the phone weight and the sound of my heartbeats pretty much shake the telescope out of position, as well as how cheap the mount is; it still gets the job done for seeing interesting stuff in the sky and i have managed to do some AP for some of the globular clusters, bunch of 1-2s images (with the wrong lens), not the best, not even good pictures; but decent overall for my equipment. I am currently interested in stargazing in general and some minor AP (as i dont have a camera, currently an Iphone 7s with the mount) Buuut im interested in borrowing a camera for the low sky photos without a telescope.
I do most 97% of my Skywatching on my backyard, i live in a small country, there is some light pollution, but i can see the pleiades and the orion's nebula core on the naked eye most nights (so i guess its not that contaminated lol)
Now; currently i like finding stuff by myself and show it to the other people around me who cant be bothered to find the moon in the sky, so setting up, finding and seeing stuff is part of what i like.
With all the above in mind..... Id like to plan ahead for my next purchases.
First, im thinking a x3 barlow lens (to replace the original crappy one) and a 15mm lens (to have a bit better view than the 10mm, but less spread than the 25mm) in two or three months (with this id be able to check if my new eyepiece outperforms my default ones, but given the quality of the scope, i dont expect this to be noticeable).
And Afterwards id love to get a new Scope, but im not quite sure what i want... and i would like some advice and help in choosing my next Scope upgrade.
-I entered with and im liking the refractors; however i dont wanna spend 300-400$ on another refractor that is 20-30% better for triple the price
-Ive heard really long focal lenght might bring some distortions; and also make the scope much bulkier, annnd most importantly i know that magnification is not everything; so a 1000mm long tube would prob bring too much magnifications for me to use properly on my backyard skies. So i think id settle for a maximum of 600-700mm.
-Originally i was againts Newtonians in general, those inverted views scared me, i have a hard time of my own with my finderscope. Then i found out that Reflectors are the name of efficiency as they have more value per aperture than refractors; and as someone once mentioned "There is not really up and down in space, you will get used to it" annnd its true... save for references on the ground, like buildings, trees and mountains to help you locate where you are in the sky; once you are on it, you dont need right ups and downs.
-I did see some 90mm Orion's Refractors as well as 90-102 Celestron Astromaster Refractors (these are 350-400$)
-Im thinking a 130mm reflector is what im looking for; i think the 130mm aperture is a nice upgrade for my 70mm, and will keep me occupied for quite a long time; ive read about Orion SpaceProbe 130EQ and Celestron Astromaster 130EQ (ive also read, Power Seekers and Astromaster's are made out of pretty much garbage lol) Ive read that the main issue is the constant collimation required for them; but ive also read its something that can be learned and once you get used to it; its a pretty easy thing to do to keep getting amazing views.
-Ive also seen people recommending 6-8'' Dobsonians; i know the deal with them; if anything i could aim for a 6'' one i found a litter under 300$ ive read they are amazing values for their aperture
So, TL;DR: I have a 70x400mm Telescope, im new to stargazing, im really amazed and excited by what im seeing with my current scope, but would like an stable upgrade before the end of the year that will last me a year or two. I am interesteted both in regular and deep sky stargazing and astrophotography; im not currently interested in an motorized mount; could deal with a regular Equatorial mount. But overall i am looking for more aperture (100-150mm) to have clearer views; than focal lenght for zoom.
Im also open to the fact that at one point i might have to get a scope for stargazing and another for AP; but would like an upgrade that could help me all around for both while i get initiated.
Sorrry for the Huuuuuuuuge post, i was very excited while writing it; please let me know what you think and if there's anything else you'd want me to add to help understand my situation, thanks in advance!