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Belated observing report from Sixpenny Handley, October 23rd to 26th.


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Thurdsay 23rd October 10pm to 1am.

Arrived at the camp site around 5pm, set up the caravan and unpacked the scopes. Got them collimated and set out to cool. We waited a while for the clouds to disperse, then around 9pm it was looking good. Plugged my son into the laptop to watch Quantum of Solace then realized I'd left my Pocket Sky Atlas at home - grrr! Felt it was too mean to pinch the laptop back, so I just enjoyed the freedom of movement offered by the space available on the campsite, which is so lacking when I am observing at home. I was swinging the Lightbridge all over the place, looking at everything I have memorised so far.

The double cluster in Perseus looked fantastic, so bright and filling the EP with its magnificence. This still elicits a selection of Ooohs and Ahhhs each time I look at it. M13 in Hercules is one so far my favourite globular cluster, but this was so low in the sky that there was too much going on to get the best view - I'll have to get out earlier or wait for next summer maybe. M15 was looking really dense in the centre, fading out towards the edges. I added my 2 x Barlow and tried to resolve some of the stars in the core. Not sure I succeeded!

Next up were M81 and M82 - the spiral galaxy was a distinct oval shape and there was a dense core to the cigar galaxy. I love seeing both these objects in the same FOV, so no Barlow lens here.

The freedom of movement due to the open space was amazing - no bathroom extension, soil stack, fence or rooftops to compensate for :p

Carl spent time on his polar alignment while I tried out my Skywatcher OIII filter for the first time. My first target was the Veil nebula. I have to say I was underwhelmed with the outcome - and this is what I was looking forward to viewing with the filter the most. It did help the snaky shape appear more silvery as opposed to the dark, smoky smudge I can usually discern. 'Near photographic view?' Not on this object, that's for sure!

Used the filter on the Ring nebula and I was impressed with the difference it made to this object. No averted vision was required as it appeared so much brighter with the filter. The contrast of the centre dark patch was much more apparent and the ring itself actually looked turquoise with the filter in place.

I was just getting into the swing of things when the clouds moved back in. I was a bit tired so I put the scope to bed and made a hot drink. Came back out half an hour later to find totally clear skies again! *sigh*

I decided to just sit taken in the Milky Way - and watch for the Orionid meteor shower. We were not disappointed. We saw several huge streaks flash across the sky, followed by twinky golden trails of sparkles. Very pretty and a memorable, breathtaking sight.

Friday started cloudy and windy and ended up persisting it down all evening and night! No viewing for us, although once Toby and the Salisbury lads, Rob and Amanda, and finally Steve and his 16" Lightbridge had arrived we ended up having a party in the awning, which was much fun :D

Saturday 24th October 10pm to 3am.

A cloudyish start to the evening which sent Rob and Amanda home, but the clouds started to break up and by the time the moon had set around 10pm it was lovely and clear. Time to try and bag me some new Messiers. I had been trying in vain to view the three in Auriga at home for some time, so this seemed like a good place to start. M37 between the bottom two stars and down a little bit is a lovely open cluster, quite large in my 26mm wide angle EP. I was very pleased to finally get to see this, as there is a tree and an extension blocking the guide stars from my view at home. About the same distance above the same two stars is M36 a smaller open cluster that appeared to have 'spikes' or linear patterns of stars emanating outwards from its centre. Upwards from this cluster is M38 which sits as far up as half way between the two bright stars on the right hand side of Auriga. This is larger than M36 and very pretty.

Flushed with my success I try for another new Messier. M97 or the Owl nebula in Ursa Major. This appeared as a round smudge which became more apparent with averted vision. There was no discernable evidence of the eyes. I have yet to try the OIII filter on this object - I'll save that for another night.

M31, M32 and M110 looked good all sitting in my FOV. I was surprised at how bright M110 appeared in the darker sky. M32 looked very dense and the nebulous outer smudge of M31 spread from edge to edge in my EP.

Steve came over for a chat and he showed me the most amazing cluster I have yet seen NGC 7789, the White Rose cluster in Cassiopeia, which is a very large open cluster with dark banding running through it forming the shape of rose petals. Just stunning - this is one I will return to again and again. Steve also showed me my first view of the Crab nebula, M1. This appeared as a largish nebulous smudge, circular in shape with a 'bite' out of the right hand side. I guess this shaping is what makes the crab's claws? I was pleased to see this new Messier, but will not claim it for the count until I have found it for myself (my own unspoken rule!) He also showed me the Blue Snowball, an object I had tried in vain to find on my own before now. At first I found this hard to make out from the surrounding star field, but with the 2 x Barlow I could see it as a distinct round shape different to the stars nearby. Averted vision brought out the blue colour slightly - I think I'll have to spend more time observing this planetary nebula at a later date.

Mars was rising in the north, so I had my first proper look at our neighbouring planet. It was resolved into a definite disc in the 26mm with a distinct reddy/orange colour.

It was fun having people to share the night with and we all had a look through each other's scopes at various objects. Toby was imaging and it was great to see the data he was collecting as it appeared on the LCD screen.

I have waited patiently for my first view of my next new Messiers. Orion has been hidden behind our neighbours house at all reasonable hours so far this year. Carl has badgered me to stay up and see it, but I like my sleep and have so far resisted. So it was with great anticipation that I waited for the constellation to rise higher in the sky, ensuring I got the best possible first view of it. Carl's patience was less enduring than mine, however, and I returned from chatting to find my scope pointing towards Orion. I could have moved it and waited a little longer as had been my intention, but no - actually I couldn't! Overcome with the desire to finally see what all the fuss is about I bent down over the EP.......:(:D Wow! Jaw-droppingly awesome - now I understand his impatience. M42 smacks you in the eye with its great arc of bright nebulosity which stretches up above and and below, gradually fading from view. A dark patch nestles around four stars in the centre of my FOV. Above this sit four more stars in an angular formation, these surrounded by the great nebulous cloud. A dark lane separates M43, who's bright star seems to illuminate the nebulosity that sweeps off to the right. I spent a long time just taking it all in, fairly noisily from what I remember! :p

I decided to try out the OIII on it. Even if I were never to use it on anything else I think it is worth its cost for the difference it makes here. The nebulosity stretched up further and out of the EP downwards, the lower section showing a distinct bulge in the shape of the cloud. The dark lane between the two objects was much more defined and the nebulosity of M43 was larger and brighter. The odd effect of the filter is to make the stars appear green, but I can forgive it this foible for the improved contrast elsewhere.

I spent the rest of my time sweeping between the new (preferably higher in the sky - all that bending over was starting to tell!) objects I have seen, cementing their positions firmly in my minds eye. I gave up for the night when I realized my feet were frozen into the shape of my wellies, making it hard to walk!

Sunday 26th October 5pm to midnight.

Everyone else went home today, so we were very pleased when Dana and Marion pulled up in the next pitch and unpacked the 8" Dob. The day had been warm and sunny in parts. As the clocks had changed last night we didn't have to wait so long for the dark. We got the scopes out early to cool and I did get a good look at the moon and Jupiter in the day light, something I have never done before. I found it was more comfortable to view the moon in this way, as I find it too bright without a neutral density filter when it is dark. The moon was waxing gibbous and the detail on the section where it goes from light to dark (I believe this is called the terminator) was fantastic with the 2 x Barlow. There were two craters near the centre of the sphere very close together, one directly above the other, both about the same size. One appeared darker inside and the other was lighter, making one look concave and the other convex.

Jupiter was very bright in the fading light and three of the moons were clearly visible. It was interesting to see this against the daylight setting.

As darkness fell so the cloud increased, frustratingly. It was not at total white out however, just wisps of high cloud that blew over quickly, and the beauty of a Dob is you can just swing it round to the gaps that are available. M56 was one such opportunity, the open cluster appeared faint due to the effect of the moon, but clearly visible. On to M27 - the Dumbell nebula was there but not at its best due to the conditions. I popped in the OIII and was pleased to see the bow shaping more clearly and more of the nebulosity was evident, fading out further. I think this may be a good combination for a later date.

A chap camping across the field popped over for a nosy, so we showed him some sights and had a good chat. The moon had almost gone by the time he went, so back to some serious viewing.

Dana had M33 in his 8" Dob, so had a look out of interest. I am impressed with the view - I got the object in my 12" to compare the two, and although the core was slightly more defined through my scope, the difference was minimal. I think he was using higher magnification than I am able to at the moment. It will be interesting to get myself some more EPs at some point - I'll add them to the list! Reece (our 11 year old son) had fun with Dana's scope - it is just the right size for him. He is saving up for one similar which will be fantastic :D

I went back to look at M36, M37 and M38, just because I can! I like M37 best, it is larger and stands out better I think. Looking at Stellarium I can see the open cluster NGC 1907 sits just below and to the right of M38, so I have a scout for it. It is quite similar in size and luminosity to M38 - I flit between the two for a while to make sure I am not mistaken.

The clouds start to thicken, so I swing over to find M1 for myself and cross it off my list. There it is, sitting just above the lowest star in Taurus, a roundish patch of nebulosity with the distinctive 'bite' taken out. The OIII extends the visible nebulosity much further, but darkens the interior so the 'bite' is less easy to discern. I think I prefer the object without the filter. However I did get to see a meteor shoot through my FOV, leaving a twinkling trail and a lasting impression. Awesome sight!

I know M35 sits nearby, indeed Dana claimed it this night and kindly showed it to me, a pretty open cluster, but by the time I got back to my scope to find it I was foxed by the increasing cloud cover. Another one for another night...

There was a break in the cloud moving ever so slowly towards the sword of Orion, so we waited, chatted, waited, had a drink, waited some more and then - bingo! M42 and M43 clearly visible for about 20 minutes - a fitting end to an amazing time amongst the hidden treasures of the Dorset skies.

Sadly the next two nights were 100% cloudy, so nothing for it but to write up my notes and update my Messier log ;)

I do apologise for the length of this report and for my sometimes rather vague terminology (I do know about arcseconds and such, I just have yet to learn what they relate to in my EP - next job!)

The trip was fantastic and we all enjoyed ourselves immensely. *note to self - remember your Pocket Sky Atlas next time!*


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Despite the weather you had a great time, saw plenty of new objects and above all saw some old friends and made some new ones, cannot get better then that.

Shame about the O111 and the Veil, looks spectacular in my scope. Did you try it in Steve's 16" dob.

I wonder if it's because you got the skywatcher instead of the Baader, maybe not.

Anyway your report made a great read, well done Steph.

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Hi Steph

Really nice report. I could really get a sense of your enthusiasm straight off the page. Now I can't wait to see M42/M43 again.

Thanks for your report of the iffy performance of the Skywatcher OIII filter. It has helped to put me off of it. The Baader one it is then :-)

Looking forward to your next report.


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Thanks for a great report :icon_eek: that's given me some inspiration for objects to hunt for! Must confess I've never heard of the White Rose cluster, definitely sounds like one to seek out. I'm not sure how good M81 and M82 would be for me at the moment as most of Ursa Major is behind next door's house, but I'd like to have a go at finding them, they look a bit more of a challenge.

Am a bit jealous that you lot "down south" have got yourselves a nice dark sky spot you can get to... have to investigate what we've got round here, I suspect I'd have to head into Shropshire or further though.

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Great report Steph! :icon_eek: Just wondering.. is the O-III filter advertised to give 'near photographic views'? The filter definitely will make the nebulosity 'pop', but not to the point of making it appear photographic.

How was the transparency when you studied the Veil? Using a Lumicon O-III filter with my 8"SCT, i've detected the end tendrils of the western portion, but the transparency had to be above average for me to do it.

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How was the transparency when you studied the Veil? Using a Lumicon O-III filter with my 8"SCT, i've detected the end tendrils of the western portion, but the transparency had to be above average for me to do it.

I guess it could have been better.....

I've only just begun my journey of discovery with the filter, so will not write it off for one night's viewing. I'll try it on the Veil each time I go out and I'll know better when I get a few good nights with a new moon. The difference it made to M42 and M43 was amazing enough on its own though....not to mention the Dumbell and the Ring.

And there are so many more objects to try it on too :icon_eek:


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Thoroughly enjoyable report. Sounds like you got lots of lovely sights.

What a shame about the Veil nebula though. I thought that's guaranteed to please in that scope and those skies. I personally can't get enough of it but perhaps all the comments build it up too much :icon_eek:

Thinking about it, I remember I could barely make it out at Kiedler, using that same filter, but then that was only a 5" scope... I must get the SW OIII filter in the 16" and see how it does then...

Thanks for sharing that.


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I'm not saying the filter didn't make a difference to the Veil - it did - but I am maybe guilty of expecting too much from it on this object :icon_eek:

I'm glad people have enjoyed reading my report - I was worried it was too long. I left loads out or else it'd be really long :)

I hope it's not too long before I get to write another one...


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Steph- what a great report (and I think you did well to remember that little lot !) I felt as though I was there with you.

Oh hang on...I was !

Glad you are a convert to the "NGC 7789 ? Never heard of that" club - isn't it breathtaking - my favourite cluster by a country mile.

Really like the way you write those reports - such total enthusiasm has captured the spirit of the weekend well and look forward to the next time.

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I also really enjoyed your reports and wish I could have been there...

I also love NGC 7789.

You really muct try NGC 7331 a bright galaxy to take you off the Messier drive and find out that there is so much more out there...

Anyway glad you had some great sessions.


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Mark I am starting to realize my Messier obsession is somewhat limiting. I succumbed to the simplicity of the numbering system without giving the consequences fair consideration. Although I will continue in my quest to increase my count I'll also spend more time checking out what else is near these objects.

Steve I spent the latter half of Saturday's session and a fair chunk of Sunday's viewing searching in vain for the White Rose cluster again. Shame I didn't record a better reference to where it is located - as neither Stellarium, the Pocket Sky Atlas (kindly donated by you for the rest of the session, ta) or Carl's PDA star software recognised it under that name!!! Now I have the NGC number I'll be able to find it easy peasy :icon_eek: How much fun will that be??


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Wonderful report Steph. So much detail and well conveyed. Sounds like you all had a great time. It was interesting to hear you found NGC 7789. I posted a thread about it the other week as I spotted it in a widefield photo and thought it looked like it had potential. I'd never heard of it before but it seems to be everyone's favourite. Cannot wait to see it myself. As soon as the moon does one :icon_eek:

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