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The darkest skies I’ve enjoyed for years!


Sky-J
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Last weekend we stayed in a Shepherds hut down in East Sussex, the reviews said that the stars there were amazing, so with kind permission from the Mrs, I packed the 4” Tak and WOW!

These were the best skies I’ve been under for years!

Easy naked eye objects included M31 & the Double cluster and I could easily make out M81 in the finder scope!! Is this witchcraft??? So different from SE London…

Set-up
Tak FC100DC
Vixen APZ & Hal tripod
Baader MkIV Zoom & Morpheus 4.5
Sky Safari for star hopping

 

The first night
Time: 19:00 - 22:25 (with a break for supper in the middle)
Transparency: Excellent
Set-up: as above

M31 - This looked great in the finder and even better through the scope.
M32 (couldn’t see M110) 
M81 & M82 - M81 looked great and I managed to see some good detail in M82
M51 - It was brilliant I could see both components pretty well - I spend some time playing with averted vision to see if I could pull more detail out.
M52 - An interesting cluster esp. at higher magnification.
M103 - some great colour in this cluster
M34 - Always a bit underwhelming for me
I ended the evening on a couple of DSO's I’ve never been able to see:
M59 - Not much more than a bright, concentrated smudge, but that's most galaxy through the 4"....
M60 - I was initially confused as it looked like 2 galaxies, but when I checked the app, it was indeed a pair. The second more difficult to make out but definitely there!
NGC 4638 - a smudge of a Galaxy making a triangle with M59 & M60 & at Mag 11.12 it’s the dimmest object I’ve seen through the 4” to date.

 

Second night started with (drum roll please)….The Leo triplet!!!
Time: 20:15 - 21:45 
Transparency: Excellent
Set-up: as above

I knew that Leo would wonder behind the trees fairly soon so I decided to see if I could catch the Leo triplet, via m95 & M96. I star hopped over from Rho Leonis.

M95 -  I could defiantly see some structure in the galaxy and spent some time trying to tease out more. 
M96 - I found this one a little bit harder to see but soon started to make out a rough shape. 
M105 - What a brilliant surprise & finally! I’ve never been able to see even a hint of these from home. It was amazing finally see these galaxies as well as M 95+96, what a brilliant start a session!
Trumpler 2 - A nice cluster to stop in on on the way over to the Double Cluster from Miram
NGC 869 & NGC 884 -  (Double Cluster) Always a joy to spend some time with the double.
IC 1804 - Maybe the slightest hint of the Heart nebula, 
M31 - always enjoyable to stop by
M110 - which I was finally able to see a hint of, I had to use star patterns in Sky Safari to pin point my location but is was in the right place and it was the smudge of M110.
M51 - checked back in on the Whirlpool galaxy and I wasn't making it up last night, it still looks great with some good detail.
M94 - From the whirlpool galaxy I panned over to Cor Caroli then it was an easy hop to M 94, this was an enjoyable visit, it’s nice and bright and easy to make out the shape and a small amount of detail within it.
M63 - Hopped down from M94. The Sunflower wasn't as enjoyable as M94, good to see but I couldn't pull much detail out of it.
C 39 - I finished the weekend by popping in on the Eskimo, who appeared to be wearing a shiny new hood! So much more detail from a dark sight!!! I think that I actually managed to see some blue in it.

All in all the best weekend’s observing for a long time!!

All Photos - 1 of 1.jpeg

Edited by Sky-J
typos / wrong Sussex
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  • Sky-J changed the title to The darkest skies I’ve enjoyed for years!

Superb! Great that you had two clear nights, so often our efforts are clouded out. Must have been lovely to be out in the country, with your shepherd's hut and your simple (but quality) setup. Back to basics. 👍

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6 hours ago, Sky-J said:

M51 - It was brilliant I could see both components pretty well - I spend some time playing with averted vision to see if I could pull more detail out.

Excellent report. 👍

What sort of mag were you using on M51?

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A great read @Sky-J, and what luck to get two clear nights! Under a dark sky it’s amazing what the Tak will show you. M110 can be tricky can’t it, quite low surface brightness, well done for getting it.

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3 hours ago, RobertI said:

Superb! Great that you had two clear nights, so often our efforts are clouded out. Must have been lovely to be out in the country, with your shepherd's hut and your simple (but quality) setup. Back to basics. 👍

Thanks Rob! I couldn’t believe my luck when the clouds started parting the way down and I never even dreamed of 2 consecutive nights! Yes it’s a wonderfully simple set up, when at home it’s lets then 10 minutes from the cupboard upstairs to pointing at the stars. It’s also very quiet which is perfect in these situations.

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1 hour ago, jetstream said:

Excellent report. 👍

What sort of mag were you using on M51?

Thanks - it’s great to be able to write one!

I was using the Morpheus 4.5 which is about x165 on the Tak.

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51 minutes ago, Stu said:

A great read @Sky-J, and what luck to get two clear nights! Under a dark sky it’s amazing what the Tak will show you. M110 can be tricky can’t it, quite low surface brightness, well done for getting it.

Thanks @Stu it’s the first time I’ve got anywhere near to seeing it - no chance from my London garden. I’m constantly amazed what this little scope delivers!

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Posted (edited)
47 minutes ago, Justin P said:

Great to hear that there was plenty to see ! Out of interest is that within the South Downs ‘dark sky reserve’ by chance ?

 

https://www.southdowns.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/145_Dark_Night_Skies_Zones_SD8_rev2.pdf

 

 

 

Actually @Justin P I got the wrong Sussex in my report - it was actually East Sussex so further along from the National Park. However I’ll have to aim us in that direction in the not to distant future!

Edited by Sky-J
Typo
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49 minutes ago, Sky-J said:

Thanks - it’s great to be able to write one!

I was using the Morpheus 4.5 which is about x165 on the Tak.

Great observing Sky-J . I was wondering because I've found that M51 can not only take high mag, like you used but it also responds to differing mags, each revealing different levels of features. My 90mm, under similar skies offers 2 bright puff balls, the larger with a brighter core.  It might be useful to try your zoom to see the effect of different mags on this object.

Oddly enough M51 can be kind of hard to really bring out the spirals and not just increase the "glow" but playing with the mags and therefore exit pupil really helps IMHO.

Keep up the great observing/reports!

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