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Mostly Planetary Session and Eyepiece Comparison


PeterC65
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My first visual session since the later Spring, as I've been trying out EEVA recently. I used the Skymax 127 with the intention of concentrating on the planets since they are well positioned and bright at the moment and I wanted to see if the BCO eyepieces I got last Christmas are any better than my usual ES eyepieces.

No cloud initially, wispy cloud later. No Moon. Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Mars.

A few days before I had adjusted the mount for horizontal. It was out slightly due to ground movements probably (I place the mount each time in holes drilled in the patio, and the tripod is screwed up tight). I re-aligned the mount for the first time in a while, using the Brightest Star method and selecting Jupiter, Mirach and Markab (two stars were needed with the planet). The alignment was very good throughout the session.

I fitted the scope with the colour filter wheel throughout and with the Baader Zoom initially to carry out the alignment.

Jupiter

The view was good with both the BCO 10mm and 6mm, hard to say which was best as the 6mm gave more detail but was less clear. There wasn’t much difference between the views with the BCO 10mm and 6mm and with the ES82 8.8mm and ES82 6.7mm respectively, but the ES eyepieces gave a wider field of view which I found more compelling and they are much easier on the eye as the eye relief is much better. The ES82 4.7mm also gave a good view, but the higher magnification made things less clear.

The yellow filter was best, better than no filter as it brought out detail of the bands but without changing the colour appreciably. The green filter was just as good. The blue filter also brought out the bands but the colour change was off-putting. The orange filter seemed to darken the image too much.

I could see the north and south cloud bands but the GRS was not on display. If it had been I felt sure I would have seen it as this was the best I’ve seen Jupiter. Other than with the BCO 6mm, four of the Jovian moons were visible, Europa, Io, Ganymede and Callisto.

Saturn

I’d spent quite a while looking at Jupiter so I moved on to Saturn before it disappeared behind some trees.

Saturn being that bit smaller, the ES82 6.7mm gave the best view. The BCO 6mm was similar, but harder on the eye again. On balance, the BCO eyepieces offer no advantage over the ES eyepieces for planets I would say on the basis of this session. Both the yellow and green filters brought out more detail and were better than no filter. The green filter just had the edge over the yellow filter this time.

I could just persuade myself that I could make out the Cassini Division some of the time, and I could see where the rings crossed the planet, but otherwise no detail of the planet. I didn’t notice the moons but that was probably because I wasn’t paying enough attention to them and because the whole group is smaller and fainter than the Jovian group.

Neptune

I can’t be sure that I saw Neptune. The disc is tiny and hard to distinguish from a star. I used the ES82 8.8mm with no filter.

Uranus

The disc of Uranus is bigger and so more obvious, and it has a slight blue colour. I used both the ES82 6.7mm and ES82 8.8mm with no filter. The view was no better with the BCO 6mm and BCO 10mm but these eyepieces were less compelling and harder on the eye so I stuck with the ES eyepieces.

Mars

This was the first time I had observed Mars with a telescope!

It was clearly visible with the naked eye. It was bright enough to take the ES82 4.7mm, but even at this magnification I could just see a bright disc with no detail. Lower magnifications didn’t help. The colour filters didn’t help bring out any detail and just turned the planet the colour of the filter. I’ve read that Mars is underwhelming and that is certainly the case.

M45

It was such a clear night that I decided to take a quick look at some DSOs. I had the colour filter wheel fitted so stuck with stars clusters and galaxies rather than nebulae.

I started with M45 which as usual was much too big to fit into the field of view even with the ES68 24mm, but I could see some nebulosity around the brighter stars even without any filter (I usually use the UHC filter for M42).

M31 / M32 / M110

Using the ES68 24mm I could see more of the centre of M31 than I remember from last year. It may have been a particularly clear night and it was at 41° so perhaps that helped. I scanned around the area and picked out M32 easily and M110 fairly easily. Again these looked better than I remember from last year.

M33

Encouraged by the view of M31 and its companions, I tried for M33 which I’ve found hard to see in the past. This time it was fairly easy to make out. Very faint but visible, and obvious when the scope was wobbled a little, again using the ES68 24mm.

M15

With the ES82 8.8mm I could just make out some of the individual stars.

NGC 884 / NGC 869 Double Cluster

This was a great target with the ES68 24mm and no filter. I could see masses of stars with two definite clusters. It might have been better with a wider field of view when the density of stars would have been more obvious, but I could see both clusters at the same time (just) with the ES68 24mm and slewing around the area gave some context. A great target for the Skymax 127.

Jupiter (again)

At this point, right at the end of the session, I remembered that I was planning to try the binoviewer on the planets so I returned to Jupiter.

The view through the binoviewer (with the standard WO 20mm eyepieces) blew away all of the single eyepiece observing I had done earlier. The best view was with the x1.6 Barlow as the magnification with the x2.25 Barlow was just a bit too much. The view with no Barlow was also good.

I could see four of the Jovian moons again, but this time the North and South cloud bands were very clear and I could see more than one of the North cloud bands. This was by far the best I had seen Jupiter. The binoviewer is so easy on the eyes too and is definitely the way to observe the larger planets. I was using the yellow filter throughout which was better than no filter.

Saturn was unfortunately behind trees by now, but I tried the binoviewer on Mars. I could see the disc more clearly (larger) but still no detail, and perhaps because it is just a small disc, it was hard to merge the images.

M42

Right at the end of the session I notice that Orion had just appeared above the Oak tree so with the binoviewer still in place and with no Barlow or filter, I took a look at M42 for the first time this year. Not the best I’ve seen it but I could split the Trapezium and see the shape of the nebula.

 

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2 hours ago, PeterC65 said:

This was the first time I had observed Mars with a telescope!

It was clearly visible with the naked eye. It was bright enough to take the ES82 4.7mm, but even at this magnification I could just see a bright disc with no detail. Lower magnifications didn’t help. The colour filters didn’t help bring out any detail and just turned the planet the colour of the filter. I’ve read that Mars is underwhelming and that is certainly the case.

Lovely observing report, thanks 👍

I felt the same way about Mars when I first observed it (also with a Mak127), however when it was at it's best around Sep/Oct 2020 (I recall) and using my StellaMira 80mm f/10 and the Mak127 this time, I was able to see a larger disc, dark (dust?) markings and also a very obvious polar cap 😮 This was a massively impressive view for me.

I think therefore the key is to observe when it's close again... not sure when that will be, but it's well worth it.... so certainly don't give up on Mars 🤞

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Nice report.

Mars opposition is December 8th.
Of course, in terms of the apparent size, Mars benefits from opposition more in relative terms than the other planets.
And then, specifically this year, it is in a better area of the sky (Taurus) than either Jupiter or Saturn, and so it will benefit from higher maximum altitudes (and in December, it will be at a more convenient time of the evening, in northern latitudes).

I agree about the double cluster, I had a similar view last time out with my Skymax and a 24mm UFF, it frames them very nicely.

 

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1 hour ago, HollyHound said:

I felt the same way about Mars when I first observed it (also with a Mak127), however when it was at it's best around Sep/Oct 2020 (I recall) and using my StellaMira 80mm f/10 and the Mak127 this time, I was able to see a larger disc, dark (dust?) markings and also a very obvious polar cap 😮 This was a massively impressive view for me.

I think therefore the key is to observe when it's close again... not sure when that will be, but it's well worth it.... so certainly don't give up on Mars 🤞

I will keep trying with Mars. I believe it's due to be at its best in December. I also have an Explorer 150 and the extra bit of aperture may make a difference.

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Excellent and interesting report @PeterC65, enjoyed reading that.

Do persevere with Mars, particularly at opposition. I picked up dark markings and some hints of a polar cap recently with a 76mm, you should do better with the 127mm. Seeing needs to be good though to get the best out of it, and use as high a power as it will take.

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2 hours ago, Zermelo said:

Mars opposition is December 8th.

Thank you for this, I wasn't aware.... hopefully some clear skies around that time, and if so will be good to get a chance to view it again with my new kit 🤞

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Great report and interesting comparison of eyepieces and filters. I have also found that binoviewers transform the planetary viewing experience.  Regarding Mars, as others have said, it can be spectacular when it’s at opposition, with lots to see, including the occasional dust storm, so give it a go later in the year! I had some fantastic views (see here and here ) with my 102ED refractor in 2020 so I would hope your 127 Mak can give similar views. Interestingly, reading my old report, I had noted that a yellow #12 filter helped a bit with Mars, which I’d forgotten. 

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Great report and very interesting to read your eyepiece and filter comparisons. I tried a set of cheap filters with my first telescope (star travel 102) a couple of years ago and whereas I felt some of them showed slightly more detail on Jupiter, I found the false colour very off-putting! Totally agree with you on Binoviewers. They're fantastic and worth the extra faff!

Malcolm 

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13 hours ago, RobertI said:

Interestingly, reading my old report, I had noted that a yellow #12 filter helped a bit with Mars, which I’d forgotten. 

I often use the Baader yellow filter for the larger planets and the Moon. It's closer to #8 than it is to #12 and I think makes the view less yellow. I always use it when observing the Moon as it brings out detail without appreciably changing the colour (unlike the light blue filter which also improves detail). I'd say that after the Astronomik UHC filter the Baader yellow is my most used filter.

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