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Nearly Reduced to Tears!


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Clear night #7 of the month, what to do? My wife Sarah fancied a brief observing session – a few globs would do! - before leaving it to me to carry on into the wee hours. Mindful of my wife’s limited time and taking into account my navigation skills - I once got lost going to the local garage picking up some milk for visitors (“Where is he?”) - I placed my faith in the goto mount.

I’ve grown fond of the HEQ5 since it complimented me last time out. “Alignment may be inaccurate”, it had commented. A few words of encouragement can mean a lot from our electronic friends. My HEQ5 has never been as rude to me as that coffee machine at a local pub. Then, no coffee had been forthcoming after I had made my selection. So I tapped a few other buttons to try and get my coffee out of the stubborn thing! “I’m not a pinball machine”, it objected. I got a coke instead from the soft drinks machine. It may not be very talkative, but at least it gets the job done.

Anyway, last time out with the Edge 8 had been lovely, but I had not given the open clusters much time. “Save them for when you use the 0.7x reducer”, I thought. Also, last time I had put a 1.25" diagonal on. This time I put on the reducer and a chunky 2” Baader diagonal, the latter so that I could also use my 21mm Ethos eyepiece if I wish. Tonight, I wanted to really impress the HEQ5 with my alignment skills. Instead of using the 40mm Plossl this time, I decided to use an instrument of higher precision: a cheapy 7-21mm zoom. “Alignment successful” said the delighted HEQ5. Why, thank you! And may I say, you slewed very nicely yourself.

Our polite conversation was interrupted by a noise. Was it the hedgehog? Surely too early. Ah no, it was my wife. Off to the globs we go! We take in I think M13, M92, M10, M3 and M5. My wife enjoyed M5 the most, loving some of the brighter stars in the middle of it. We had started out with the 10mm Delos eyepiece, at 140x mag. But we ended up with the 6mm Delos, yielding 233x mag – we both preferred the views with the 6mm. Happy with the globs, we darted off to a few other targets, including the Blinking Planetary nebula (“It’s been years since I’ve seen it!”), and a few of the brighter galaxies – the highlight galaxy-wise for my wife was M82, the Cigar galaxy.

Once my wife had gone in, I fancied turning to some open clusters. M44, perhaps? But the view had been so good and nicely framed with my ED120 the other night. Why ask this poor SCT to show such a wide target? Well, let’s give it a go with the 21mm Ethos… “Oh my!” It’s one of my favourite clusters, so perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised by how enchanting the view was. I felt quite emotional seeing it, for some reason, and I hadn't even had any single malt or put on War of the Worlds. Not as nicely framed as with the ED120, but it was one of my favourite views of the night. Thank you, 0.7x reducer and 2” diagonal!

I didn’t notice anything negative about using the reducer through the night. The stars looked sharp to me across the entire view with the 21mm Ethos. And at the other end of the mag scale, I didn’t feel high power was suffering at all. Our 6mm Delos was now in play frequently, whereas I had topped out with the 8mm last time. So it was nice to have increased our eyepiece selection by one. Could be at some point I’ll go higher still, but the 6mm felt a nice balance between being close in and feeling like the stars were still reasonably sharp and not too tricky to focus.

I took in about a dozen open clusters, including M29 and M39 in beautiful Cygnus. I particularly enjoyed M67 over in Cancer, which I don’t think I have viewed that much in the past! I think that’s partly because until recently I couldn’t pick out Cancer in the night sky, though I'm not sure why. I find it fairly easy currently. I was enjoying the 21mm Ethos so much that I revisited some earlier targets to see them in a wider context, such as M81 and M82 in the same field of view. One of the highlights though was the Dumbell Nebula, which took on a lot of depth once I popped on a UHC filter. Using a filter reminded me of a challenge I had failed at last time out with the Edge 8 – seeing the Veil nebula!

That night, I had manually slewed to the Veil, as I didn’t have a number to hand to punch into the handset. Tonight, after popping on the OIII filter, I entered “6992” into the handset. Hmmm. There might be something there. Maybe. I pan around slowly a bit, which sometimes helps to tease out details for me. Yes! I can see it. I can see the orientation of it and I know that if I head this-away, it will take me to the Witch’s Broom. Let’s pan over there now!

And into view comes the bright star that sits on the broom, 52 Cygni. It’s funny how bright the brightest star can seem when it’s near a fancy object. I pan around and try to see the broom. I think I can make out some detail, but it’s very hard to tell. It’s borderline and I can’t be certain. I will have to revisit on another night. Still, I am pretty chuffed I have bagged the Eastern Veil! I head back to the Eastern Veil and I try to see it with three other options: no filter, UHC and Neodymium. I’m tempted to say I see it with the UHC, but it’s a blank for sans filter and Neodymium.

Over the night, a few other things that stood out were seeing Alberio – the colours of this double star really zinged out. And the pair of galaxies M65 and M66 are really growing on me this year. It’s been a lovely night again. It was great Sarah popped out for a bit and I hope next season she’ll be able to join in the fun more often. Bagging the Veil seems like a decent stopping point – it’s about 3am. I think I’ll call it a night, though I haven’t seen any meteors, and have seen a couple of great ones in April. But little do I know that there is one final lovely sight in store!

I go to unplug my extension lead from the external power socket, and there is a little rustle. Just a few feet from the plug is Hedge! Hedge has stopped and curled up a little. Hedge is just a few feet from home. “Night, Hedge, have a good kip!” It’s a perfect way to end the night.

Edited by Luke
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Excellent report and it sounded a great night out with your wife; my wife also prefers clusters. Great you managed a glimpse of the Veil as well (as a newbie of 5 months in the hobby, it is on my to-see list). 

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A great fun read there Luke, had me chortling into my morning tea a few times 🤣🤣.

Well done on the Veil. That’s the benefit of staying up til the early hours, you catch those targets not yet accessible in the evening. It’s a fabulous sight when conditions are right.

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That was a great read - thanks a lot for sharing!

I love the veil nebula - up there as one of my favourite objects and the OIII can turn it from totally invisible to really quite spectacular. Keep at it - it's an object I've returned to again and again.

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Thanks for the kind comments!

Kon, best of luck with catching the Veil, it's so exciting seeing these things for the first time and thankfully it doesn't seem to wear off much!

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