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A spring catch-up; Venus, Luna, SN-2023ixf, familiar PNe and fabulous seeing.

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It was time to make up for lost time last night and put some hours in on the spring sky. What a session it was and a great way to kick off the Bank Holiday weekend. 

The main targets were: Venus (daylight), Luna (twilight transition), the supernova SN-2023ixf, and then whatever else the sky would support till the early hours. In the end the session was fabulous - seeing became awesome in the late early hours and i ended up observing blue sky to blue sky - starting with Venus last night and finishing with Saturn this morning. Everything that follows is via a 5" refractor and various TV wide angles and Tak ortho EPs and observed from a nice quiet semi-rural location (a not very dark SQM 20.7 last night though).

Venus was lovely at 54% phase. The terminator was soft and uneven but it was impossible to pin down exactly where and how uneven. Nothing clear to bring into a sketch. It didn't help that i'd forgotten my filters and its a great shame because seeing seamed to be very steady (supporting x303 even while x200 was sharper) and Venus presented as a perfectly sharp icy (hah - probably not actually icy) white ball. Damn. 

Next up the moon. I wanted to pick some small detail out on the terminator to sketch with more magnification than usual; result posted here: https://stargazerslounge.com/topic/410111-joes-luna-scribbles/#comment-4383227. Unfortunately the forgetfulness had continued as i hadn't taken an atlas out and now i can't identify what i sketched! The big refractor was awesome though - presenting a rock steady sharp view of tinier details than i could ever get down on paper.

With it now dark it was time for the main event. - SN-2023ixf. This is my first supernova and i don't know the sky well at this micro level so i was a bit concerned about achieving a good ID that didn't need an asterix next to it in the logbook (I hate asterix). I planned to follow directions kindly posted on here in other threads and i had put the stars TYC-3852-0274-1 and HD 122601 in a sky safari pro list bookending NGC 5461. SN-2023ixf is on top of NGC 5461 but that doesn't help if you can't see it so the two stars work great as a track to move along. Well it took me an hour and four sketches to be confident i had it securely - my first two sketches being in slightly the wrong place so... ahem. I was also sketching while kneeling on the floor because had hadn't put my tripod up high enough for viewing at Zenith. Doh!  Here's my record of the event. My 3rd and 4th sketches offer up quite well to the star chart published by AAVSO if i hold them back to front against a computer screen (for the effect of the star diagonal) so i'm super happy - secure ID, no asterix!



I tried a few faint fuzzies after this as the moon was getting pretty low but stuff was either a no show or a poor version of itself (even showcases like M57, M56, M27, M82 and M81). M82 and M81 were both grey and very subdued even versus how i had seen this back in February with a little grab n go scope so there's no shortcutting the sky conditions.

Bizarrely I could see the Eastern part of the Veil Nebula though and i saw it much larger than i did in the Cassegrain last year (my only other observation of it). A 31mm EP with UHC at ~4mm exit pupil and even better a 24mm EP with O-III at ~ 3mm exit pupil were both very effective. The 24mm EP is a Panoptic and i could see the eastern veil crescent as long or longer than half the width of the EP (so about 45...50' in extent) and following a curve roughly equal to the 24 Pan field stop. While faint - the outline was raggedy not smudgy and i was over the moon. Strangely i couldn't see anything of the western veil though nor any other nebula in this area.

While occupied high up it was becoming apparent that seeing had really become terrific. Tiny tiny pin prick stars and, as the smudgy stuff other than NGC 6992 wasn't really happening even though by now the moon was fully set, i moved over to a list of "tight" double stars i have. A double star aficionado would laugh at the description tight but basically these are doubles on the Astro League programme that i suspect i can't split in my GnG scope or i have already tried and failed to do so in it (my GnG being my main tool for this programme). I haven't written my notes up but basically these are pairs or systems in the 2"...5" range and all presented absolutely beautifully. I was using a 12mm Delos at 83x for its wider field of view to get on target (and some targets split very aesthetically at this magnification) but  i was swapping out to 200x or 300x anyway for the joy of perfect spots and sharp steady diffraction rings (with some nice blue and bronze colour too). Doubles include TW Dra, Mu1/Mu2 Bootis, Delta Bootis, Sigma Coronae Borealis, Alpha Herc, Zeta Aqr, and others. Brilliant.

It was basically light now and my last double was Zeta1 Aquarii. This wasn't far above Saturn so i thought i would take a quick look while accompanied by the dawn chorus. I had a x200 Tak 5mm ortho in as i did swing onto it and i couldn't believe what i saw. Etched sharp (no hint of atmospheric wobble), a prominent Jupiter like ruddy belt on the planet in the northern hemisphere  more distinct than anything i've seen on Saturn before and best of all - a distinct black shadow of Saturn on its own rings to the west - i didn't even look for it it - it was sharp and obvious. I love Saturn and didn't expect this treat so early in the year.

So blue sky to blue sky - what a treat. 



Edited by josefk
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