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Me Vs the Universe - A visual explorers log


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First clearish night for a week or so, and nights are coming in earlier so I decided to setup a simpler setup to test some imaging before putting it away.

Little cloud around so I thought, why not look through my C6 at full 1500mm focal length to see what I could do with it as I hadn't done visual in a while. But how to target anything at such a focal length?

Bring on the trusty Rigel Quikfinder, luckily I had some velcro strap at hand to wrap around the Rigel and the whole of the C6 twice over, the scope also handily has the physical stop of the corrector plate cell at the "open" end of the tube so I could align it square by butting it up against it along the OD of the tube before securing it.

The moon was also out so was an ideal target to adjust the settings on the Rigel. C6 was on the Technosky Cubo alt az mount so was easy to manoeuvre. Then I used the only eyepiece I had at hand at the time my Celestron zoom 8-24mm to look at the moon, wonders never cease viewing it at such focal length, seeing was pretty good so I looked at this for a few minutes taking it in:



Then I moved the scope slightly down to have a look at Mars but it was tiny:


The eyes are always drawn to Jupiter at night as it's so bright so I tried that next. Had to sit on the floor to align because my setup was so low but the Rigel performed admirably, watching Jupiter and all four moons pass in the 24mm field of view within 15-20 seconds was a sight to see, the best mag without a Barlow at 8mm just about squeezed this view in with the furthest moon out of view but appearing within seconds from the right (or technically left in real space):


Tried for Saturn but it had disappeared behind some rooflines. Tried for a few clusters and messier clusters M2 and the Double Cluster and Spiral Cluster in Perseus but was difficult to ascertain whether I was looking past them due to the focal length. Finally I took in Pleiades and was a wonder to see more than the usual 7-9 stars within and having to move the scope around to see them all, a bit different to seeing it as one with my 360mm refractor.

Photos by the way were taken with me holding my phone up to the eyepiece and moving it around until I got a lock on the subject, then trying like a rock to stay still less the view blacked out.

Quite an enjoyable short session, unfortunately I'm limited by Bortle 7 conditions to see anything significant DSO wise but it won't stop me trying.


Edited by Elp
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  • Elp changed the title to Me Vs the Universe - A visual explorers log


My first visual session for a while. Decided whilst the Z61 was running to get the C6 out and have a look at Mars as it is currently at close opposition. 

It looked much brighter than last time, took a while to get it into the field of view whilst on the Cubo but the Quikfinder helped. Was hoping to see some detail, alas it was too bright and probably should have used a moon filter. Tried to image it but had issues so one for another night.

Switched to Jupiter as it came back into view, excellent as always and best in the 8.8mm UWA eyepiece showing all four main moons in a line, one of which was in transit in the upper corner (inverted?) against the planet edge. No GRS again, I'll get to see it one day by chance, I dont want to plan for it.

Moved the scope to the west as it's the darkest part of the sky. What should I look at? Thought I'd try Hercules Globular as last time I needed goto to find it. With a bit of focus concentration with my eyes I found two reference stars Her 40 and 44 in Hercules, conveniently the cluster lies on the diagonal line between the two stars. To my surprise a smudge drifted across view and I had to move across a few times to confirm it was there. Was definitely there, tried a few eyepieces but looked best in the 30mm Vixen NPL, at this point I realised this was the best eyepiece for the night as I could use it with glasses. The cluster though remained a faint smudge with no detail, but at least I found it via star hopping.

Next looked at M45 the Pleiades as it's easy enough to find. I'll never stop getting bored looking at this as there's so many stars close together in view, crystal clear. Need to see it again in the Z61 sometime as I can fit it all in.

I realised Orion was now in view, could I see some nebulosity from the brightest nebula target in the sky? The difficulty was finding it, even though it's quite close to Alnitak, at 1500mm focal length its actually quite far away. The easiest solution was to find Rigel by eye and then move slowly East moving up and down to find the distinct triple double sets of stars. After a few minutes I eventually found it, stared at it a while but alas no nebulosity. It was however good to see three sets of close double like stars in the same field of view.

A simple session but eventually cloud ended play, and the Z61 had completed a good four hours so overall a productive night.

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  • 8 months later...


Been a while since I last did visual but had been building up with a few things to try out so decided to spend a few hours whilst another rig was imaging away.

The main thing I wanted to try was my custom phone bracket with a view to using the manual finder app Skeye:


Due to my Cubo vixen saddle my newly acquired to me Starfield 102mm refractor was mounted "sideways" so the phone holder bracket meant I could only see the screen squatting by the side of the scope rather than looking over it from behind, I don't know if this had a bearing on the gyros, I found Jupiter easy enough by eye and centred the app manually by moving my scope and synced. I tried to find other objects but the tracking seemed off, M45 Pleiades should have been an easy azimuth slew from Jupiter but I couldn't see it through the scope (I couldn't align manually either as it was within the airglow of a lamppost so hard to see). Oddly when I moved back to Jupiter via the app tracking, there it was in the eyepiece FOV. The offset of the app was confirmed when I tried to move to M13 Hercules Globular Cluster and it was stating it was below horizon when I knew it wasn't. So, not a good start, but I'll try and persevere with it and try to understand the settings a bit more as a cheaper alternative to Celestrons Starsense.

Oh, yes, the Starfield 102, it's an excellent scope. I was a little shocked as to the larger mass of it compared to my Z61, 4-5Kg doesn't sound like much but the larger volume means more torque and stress on the mount, the Cubo handled it well though on top of my Uni tripod once I got the balance reasonable and the bearings tightened just enough for me to move the scope without it flopping under its weight. I wasn't using a star finder, I found it relatively easy aligning the scope by eye first via azimuth, then angling my head around 45 degrees to look down the side of the scope to align in altitude, then a few sweeps up and down via the eyepiece usually found the reference stars I was looking for, though a little confusing as it was mirrored.

So, first target was Jupiter. I was a bit confused how I was seeing "six moons" ("sixth" was on the other side of Jupiter):


At first I thought it was an optical defect but different eyepieces confirmed not, as have other members in a new thread I made today, I was also seeing background stars at the same time. As I've never seen this looking at planets it was a bit confusing as I believed you could only see the four main moons, even photographically most of the time. I went back to Jupiter a few times during the night, it looked great in any eyepiece I used as the seeing was excellent, the most preferred was the Pentax XW 10mm which had its first major outing during this session (as with the 20mm and my 14mm Morpheus). I even managed to PM 2.5x my ES 6.7mm and get Jupiter in view, though it was moving across the FOV within 10-15s or so and constantly nudging at such a power was difficult.

Saturn was obstructed so I decided to turn to Western skies. I wondered if I could see M13 Hercules Globular, it's one I always test on with new scopes. Took a while but eventually found the smudge, through the Starfield around an S9 on the Smudgometre(TM) scale:


Spent a while looking at this, it looked good in the ES 6.7, though obviously any major detail was lacking but I could look at it directly rather than averted.

I turned my attention to M31, Andromeda Galaxy in the East as it was now above the lamppost light. Found the distinct twin sets of stars in Aries, then Triangulum and found the centre "stalk" on Andromeda and continued up. Was quite easy to do with the TV 32mm, then surprise, another smudge, but with that distinct 45 degree or so tilt and more elliptical. This was my first time seeing the Andromeda Galaxy and I couldn't believe it. Still likely an S9 level smudge, but distinct in form, photons of another galaxy being registered by my eyes, fantastic. At this point as I was using a smallish tripod I was sitting on the ground but sat there a while trying different eyepieces.

Finished off by moving the tripod and trying a few Northern targets but was overwhelmed by the amount of stars so one for another night, so turned back to Jupiter to get my line onto Pleiades, and sure enough I found an open star cluster, I had to sweep back to a fro a few times, as it looked unfamiliar. Previously when looking at M45 I've always seen that distinct 7-9 star pattern shape, this one looked different. Then I saw it, and realised I was also seeing up to 50 other stars within the same FOV as part of the object, something I had never witnessed before. It was amazing being able to resolve so many more stars.

The weather held up all session, maybe 4-5 hours at least, didn't think I'd be out for so long doing visual (2-3 hours) but was. It was great.

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  • 2 weeks later...


I planned on imaging Saturn this session but realised I had no way of attaching any of my other cameras to my Powermate, my 224 was busy on guiding duties on another rig and I didn't want to disturb it.

So I attempted to do some viewing instead with my C6 at native FL (1500mm) on the azgti.

First port of call was the moon for focusing duties, it was also I believe the first time seeing it through my XWs and Morpheus. If anyone else was out last night, I think it was the best seeing I've ever experienced with little to no atmospheric wobbling, the views though the eyepieces of the moon were crystal clear, with shadows deep and sharp as if they had been post processed in software, proper 3D definition (the below have been post processed slightly to echo the views I saw, second image is as close as I could represent the real view). I even saw craters with central mountainous regions due to impact splash (note views are flipped in horizontal through the scope):




The last image is through my ES 6.7, through the Powermate 2.5 the view was even better but I dialled it back and used all the eyepieces natively.

As Saturn was drifting westward toward impending obstruction I unlocked the azgti clutches and manually found Saturn after some toing and froing (it's not really recommended at this focal length unless youre using a finder, I wasn't). This is also the largest I've managed to see it (even though it was in real terms maybe 5mm in size) also saw three of it's moons but I think Tethys and Enceladus (maybe I saw Rhea instead) were the two closest to it on the LHS (RHS in reality), only just managed to video Saturn, the Cassini division was just about visible visually:

Ended up back to Jupiter, always a nice sight, this time no phantom "moons" in sight:


Edited by Elp
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