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A Winter's Tale on the South Downs


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Having been too tired to go out on the clear night of January 4th after a long day in the car driving my son back to Uni, I was keen to make the most of last night and loaded the Mak to cool in the boot early, ready to drive out to a darker spot. 

I arrived at my South Downs site about 8.30 pm to find seeing fairly steady and transparency good in clear bands, moderate in between.  As I set up and got dark adapted I could count 7 stars in Ursa Minor and 30+ naked eye within the boundaries of Orion. M31, the double cluster and the Auriga clusters all immediately apparent to the eye and the constellations from Orion through Taurus, Perseus and Cassiopeia appeared connected on a glittering band. Magic night. 

I set up a Mak 127 on AZGTi used mostly with a 24mm Baader Hyperion fixed 68 degree giving 63x mag., & occasionally dropping in an 8-24mm Hyperion Zoom to give up to 188x.  Alongside I had an ST80 with a 2inch focusser and Hyperion 31mm Aspheric giving a AFOV of over 6 degrees for widefield views. 

Started with a sweep around the Pleiades, Hyades and the belt & sworrd of Orion in a single field with the ST80. 

Set up the Mak and aligned on Sirius & Procyon then looked at M42 which was stunning, lots of texture & a greenish glow filling the 1 degree field. 

Moved over to Taurus to hunt for M1 - The Crab Nebula & sure enough there it was!  Bigger in the eyepiece than I think I'd expected and very faint but undoubtedly there as a misty grey oval.  I have looked here so many times from the garden and park without success even though I must have been staring straight at it - the additional contrast available with a darker sky (SQM 21.04) made it just visible in the Mak 127 - no sign of it in the finderscope but once located I was able to move away and reliably re-acquire.  

Next up another of those "well it should be here somewhere" objects - M33.  I oriented on M31 (which was looking great, especially in the ST80's wider view. In the Mak I could see M110 beautifully alongside but couldn't really discern M32) and tracked across the same distance the other side of Mirach toward Triangulum & nothing...    Going back to the 9x50 finder I could see a fuzzy patch which sure enough I could find well with the ST80 & locate in the 10x50s - faintest of ovals. Back to the Mak again and realised that it was actually filling much more of the view than I'd expected, just really, really faintly, a denser core with the slightest hint of gradation within its wider oval. I would say this was as faint as the dimmest of the Virgo galaxies I tracked down in the spring. 

Took a quick break from hunting ghostly shapes to marvel at the Perseus Double Cluster and environs viewed in the ST80s 6 degree field - just a superb star field. 

Jumped up and down a bit to warm up then directed the Mak over to the Plough to hunt for the Owl Nebula M97.  Picked this up pretty much straight away - again very, very faint but an unmistakable circular shape and in the Mak at 63x very reminiscent of the Ring Nebula, M57, in size - only less bright and without the hole...  no sign of the owl's eyes though. 

I then went on to fail to find the UM Messier galaxies but I think the cold was getting to my extremities by this time, gear coated in frost and patience maybe not what it had been earlier in the evening. 

Took a long look a Sirius, flashing slowly to the East and with the usual "did I, didn't I?" experience with the Pup (I am fairly sure I am seeing this now on a couple of occasions). 

Finished as I started, drinking in the view of M42 which after hunting down the faintest of fuzzy things seemed even more dramatic than before & a great way to end a memorable session. 

As  I packed up and headed home for warmth & a hot chocolate I reflected on a great night but that these faint Messiers are at the very limit of the Mak 127's performance, its a bit early to break my "no new telescopes" resolution yet but there may have to be more aperture in my future...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_1804.jpg

Edited by SuburbanMak
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What an excellent report of what sounds like a fabulous night.

I have had similar experiences hunting for M1 in the past. Spent years looking for it from mediocre and poor sites, first time under a dark site there it was, easy.

I’m sure you would have got M32, but it can look quite stellar, a bit like a fuzzy star so whilst it is easier than M110, it’s not as obvious I find.

Good catch on the Owl neb, M97, not 87 just for the record. I suspect the issue is perhaps more related to exit pupil rather than aperture. The Maks are good for higher power, but can be a bit dim on the fainter, larger objects. As you found, it is also easy to look through larger objects, not at them!

I must say, you really notice the difference in positivity and activity on the forum as soon as we have one or two clear nights! It’s really good seeing all these observing reports! 👍👍

Hopefully we can all start using our kit and not keep buying more because we are bored! I’m skint! 🤪🤪🤣🤣

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Lovely report, and congratulations on seeing the  pup star, which you almost certainly got.  I saw it last night   with my 5" f15 refractor, very brief appearances but solid enough to be sure.

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Thanks @Stu   - was a great night and all the better as there's been slim pickings over December.  Duly noted on M87/97 & edited thank you! 

On the gear buying front I completely agree on getting out and using what I've already bought - determined to finish the Messier list with the set-up I have now. 

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2 minutes ago, SuburbanMak said:

... was a great night and all the better as there's been slim pickings over December.....

 

Excellent report, and I think your comment above is spot on. Two clear nights "back to back" after around 3 weeks of frustratingly rubbish observing conditions. No wonder we are all out enjoying ourselves :grin:

Edited by John
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Great report there, proving the 127 mak is a lovely scope to use, one of the best scopes I ever 'owned' it will be on my list afain to own at some stage. Clear skies and good luck completing the messier list 👍

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32 minutes ago, Saganite said:

Lovely report, and congratulations on seeing the  pup star, which you almost certainly got.  I saw it last night   with my 5" f15 refractor, very brief appearances but solid enough to be sure.

Thank you - Sirius is an odd one, when I've split most doubles there's been a definite "Aha!" moment, this is much more intermittent & uncertain. I have looked at it for hours and am starting to see some consistency in the "hints" of a pale dot, last night at around the 3 o'clock point, relative to the line of 9th/10th mag stars to the immediate W (which last night were certainly the crispest I've seen them).  The Mak is great for doubles on the whole but has a slight messiness to the diffraction rings compared to my Towa 339 f15 which is why I'm not "claiming" this as a definite. May well be that this is as good as it gets on this one :)

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3 hours ago, Saganite said:

Lovely report, and congratulations on seeing the  pup star, which you almost certainly got.  I saw it last night   with my 5" f15 refractor, very brief appearances but solid enough to be sure.

Is this the first time with that scope Steve? Or one of many?
 

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3 hours ago, SuburbanMak said:

Thank you - Sirius is an odd one, when I've split most doubles there's been a definite "Aha!" moment, this is much more intermittent & uncertain. I have looked at it for hours and am starting to see some consistency in the "hints" of a pale dot, last night at around the 3 o'clock point, relative to the line of 9th/10th mag stars to the immediate W (which last night were certainly the crispest I've seen them).  The Mak is great for doubles on the whole but has a slight messiness to the diffraction rings compared to my Towa 339 f15 which is why I'm not "claiming" this as a definite. May well be that this is as good as it gets on this one :)

This was the view that I got with my ED120 refractor in Feb 2021 which should correlate with the view through your Mak-Cassegrain. You are quite right that splitting Sirius is quite unlike other double star observing. The challenge is not the "gap" (11 arc seconds currently) but spotting a faint point of light amongst the glare / light halo from Sirius A which can easily have a radius of 20 arc seconds.

sirius270221.jpg.ec37b1cadea90b0336060313c5495691.jpg

 

Edited by John
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35 minutes ago, JeremyS said:

Is this the first time with that scope Steve? Or one of many?
 

Hi Jeremy,

Only the second time for absolute certain I am pretty sure, the last being about three  or four years ago , on the same night as Dave ( F15 Rules) got it, as we conferred at the time.

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5 hours ago, SuburbanMak said:

... its a bit early to break my "no new telescopes" resolution yet but there may have to be more aperture in my future...

Well there is an OO VX10 in the For Sale section ... surely you can't resist that? ;)

Great read by the way!

Magnus

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1 hour ago, Captain Magenta said:

Well there is an OO VX10 in the For Sale section ... surely you can't resist that? ;)

Great read by the way!

Magnus

Thank you. 
And stop it, stop it at once :) 

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4 hours ago, John said:

This was the view that I got with my ED120 refractor in Feb 2021 which should correlate with the view through your Mak-Cassegrain. You are quite right that splitting Sirius is quite unlike other double star observing. The challenge is not the "gap" (11 arc seconds currently) but spotting a faint point of light amongst the glare / light halo from Sirius A which can easily have a radius of 20 arc seconds.

sirius270221.jpg.ec37b1cadea90b0336060313c5495691.jpg

 

Thanks @John - this is exactly the view I was seeing from around 150-188x with the flare from Sirius A overwhelming the dot much of the time.  
 

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Great report again, I’m glad it’s not just me doing star jumps when the cold bites. M31 has been elusive for me from here, I think reading your report confirms that I need to try from a darker spot. The idea of a 127 mak for grab and go sessions keeps crossing my mind, sounds a bit more of a capable performer than I may have given credit for. 

Edited by Stardaze
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1 hour ago, Stardaze said:

Great report again, I’m glad it’s not just me doing star jumps when the cold bites. M31 has been elusive for me from here, I think reading your report confirms that I need to try from a darker spot. The idea of a 127 mak for grab and go sessions keeps crossing my mind, sounds a bit more of a capable performer than I may have given credit for. 

Thank you!  The Mak 127 is a great compromise for grab and go - enough aperture to at least pick out faint objects, resolves doubles down to around 1 sec (Tegmine on one exceptional night is my record close split). Is a superb lunar instrument and gave me lots of detail & pleasure on the gas giants in the summer. As, I suspect, with anything, performance is dramatically improved under a dark sky.  

It is also built like a tank, collimation free, short enough not to flap about in a light breeze and light enough to ride on an AZGTi whilst still of a size that cooling is a minor issue (I leave mine in a backpack next to our draughtiest door or in the boot of the car and it’s 80% acclimatised by the time I get the eyepiece in). 

There is a slight compromise on field of view - just over a degree is the max so the Pleiades for example goes over the lines, M31 you have to pan across and as above M33 filled so much of the view I ended up looking, as @Stu puts it, through rather than at the object at first.   Mine has a 9x50 RACI finder and a Telrad on board which made a massive difference to finding my way around. 
 

I am hankering after a 10inch Dob as my interest in faint things grows but, quite apart from the fact it was a 50th birthday family present, the Mak 127 is a keeper for sure. 

 

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14 minutes ago, SuburbanMak said:

Thank you!  The Mak 127 is a great compromise for grab and go - enough aperture to at least pick out faint objects, resolves doubles down to around 1 sec (Tegmine on one exceptional night is my record close split). Is a superb lunar instrument and gave me lots of detail & pleasure on the gas giants in the summer. As, I suspect, with anything, performance is dramatically improved under a dark sky.  

It is also built like a tank, collimation free, short enough not to flap about in a light breeze and light enough to ride on an AZGTi whilst still of a size that cooling is a minor issue (I leave mine in a backpack next to our draughtiest door or in the boot of the car and it’s 80% acclimatised by the time I get the eyepiece in). 

There is a slight compromise on field of view - just over a degree is the max so the Pleiades for example goes over the lines, M31 you have to pan across and as above M33 filled so much of the view I ended up looking, as @Stu puts it, through rather than at the object at first.   Mine has a 9x50 RACI finder and a Telrad on board which made a massive difference to finding my way around. 
 

I am hankering after a 10inch Dob as my interest in faint things grows but, quite apart from the fact it was a 50th birthday family present, the Mak 127 is a keeper for sure. 

 

I think it would compliment my 10” dob nicely but I’m going to see how budget plays out middle of the year. I’d like a 102 ED-R ideally but the little mak could be the compromise if the budget isn’t quite there. I’ve been surprised by how much the planets have interested this year and even lunar is starting to become more of interest. Thanks for the info, I guess in the end I’ll try one at some point regardless. 
A dob is definitely worth it if you enjoy the faint things, as I do. I just need to suss some darker sites really to get a little more out of it.

 

Edited by Stardaze
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