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Winter Wonders

Whistlin Bob

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Strange conditions tonight in the aftermath of Storm Arwen. Nothing doing earlier in the evening, but by ten the sky was quite clear. 

Got the 8 inch dob out and used Betelgeuse to set up.
Had a look at the Pleiades to start, nebulosity clear, really nice view.
M42 for first time this season at 8mm, nice tight view of trap.

Then it clouded over. Forecast wasn't great, went in to put the kids to bed etc, came out to pack up and the sky was now pristine! I decided Go Big or...  well I'm already home, but I got my 14" out.

M42 40mm with UHC, superb view, Full shape clear, with patience I could even make out some of the fainter bits near the back. Running Man also seen and all the little jewels around Nair Al Saif. I spent a long time here. The first time each year feels like a revelation.

Next up to Alnitak area for some more subtle attractions. The star was easily split even with that filter and eyepiece. I could make out the central dark neb in the flame with some confidence, but no other detail.  The bank that the Horsehead sits in was definitely there, confirmed with a dob wobble. Did I see the HH? I've only had once at home where I was sure. Definite hint of darkening in the right place. Tried to relax and enjoy a really nice view with sigma o top left and lots of small sharp stars down to Alnitak (the filter does a good job of tightening the stars up). I reckon this time I'm going to have to call it a 'probable' rather than a 'definite' on the HH.
Ngc1981- under-appreciated (by me at least) pretty little cluster among the riches.
Over to the zoom for some tighter views.

Sigma Orion lovely. 2x4 stars readily pulled out.

Core of M42 at around 200x bright and spectacular, a fov full of textured reflection nebula. Trapezium sharp at the core, e and f seen but not distinct, drifting in and out of view.

Rigel- crisp view with mask, easy split, little companion at 11 o'clock

Switched to 30mm ep.

Pleiades in 14"- diamonds in the mist.  Gorgeous view- stars bright pinpoint white, with misty textured reflection nebulosity between them.
Sky was quite weird by this point- long thin banks of cloud with mostly poor transparency, but a few patches full of stars. To the east, the darkest bit of sky for me, Mirach was shining steadily, and was that patch of fuzz M31? Yes it was!!!
M31 Core very bright. M32 very obvious nearby. Dark lanes picked out and seen well. M110 also visible without av. Can just about get all 3 cores in 30mm fov. The galaxy was almost vertical in orientation by now- drifting the dob up and down and taking my time , I could see some sort of presence across 3 fields of view. Incredible object. Wow.
M33- not as spectacular, but a good view. Unable to discern spiral, but core was obvious, and with extended viewing most of area became clear. After some time and effort I was able to see NGC604- a faint spot appearing only with averted vision. A nebula in another galaxy. I am agog!!!
Sky was deteriorating fast now. I moved up to Caroline's rose in Cass. Hard to see due to diminishing transparency, but seeing steady and hints of it were there. 
It was late and cold now, but Sirius was approaching it's southern high point so I tried to split it. No chance- it was like a disco glitterball!

Seven years in this hobby now, and this was one of the best sessions. It's very confounding- you have to put in the effort and make the opportunities happen, but also have the patience to let it come to you. Last night's forecast was very unpromising- yet these were some of the best views I've had of stuff I've seen many times before. 

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The cold northerly airstreams are often good quality, less pollution, dust etc. 

A bit of snow last night and cloudy.

Tonight should be clear for a while the further east you are.

Edited by scotty1
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Great report !

Well done on NGC 604 - it always gives me a thrill to see that little blob of light thinking how immense and far off it is :shocked:

Despite the cold blustery wind, the transparency was pretty good last night but the seeing was none too steady.


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