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SCASTRO meeting observations 2/9/10


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Last night played host to the first meeting of my local astronomical society (SCASTRO) after a hiatus for the summer months due to the light evenings. Surprisingly and rather thankfully the night was forecast to be, and turned out clear as a bell which is a very rare occurrence seeing that we only have meetings once a month.

The first part of the evening was spent having a lecture from a helioseismologist from Birmingham Uni about resonant sound waves inside the sun. Remarkably interesting stuff and I learnt a load of info about how long frequency sound waves propagate inside the sun and other stars and how they are measured for research.

That portion lasted until the skies got reasonably dark from our dark site (Ravensmoor church hall) and when it was over, a large portion of the people attending made their way to our observing site which is a farmers yard 50 metres down the road (quite fatiguing carrying an 8" dob that distance fully assembled!!!)

Since no-one else had brought a scope along mine was commandeered by the majority of the people there which left me to find the objects and give up the eyepiece for someone else, only returning to nudge the object back into the FOV.

I didn't really have a set list of objects to observe, I was just taking suggestions from the more senior members who bought up a few of the old favourites of the summer sky.

First up was M13 which was easily discernible in the eyepiece view with slight resolved stars on the edges at mid power with the 14mm Speers-Waler with a few more resolved when my new 6mm/200x SPL was inserted. Overall a good viewing, the view got a few gasps from observers which was good to hear :o

Next up was Albireo which was easily split at 85x and showed the usual stark colour difference. This object didn't get much appreciation from the observers so I quickly moved on to M57. Much brighter in the eyepiece than any other time I've observed it, the hole in the middle clearly visible but still not much reaction from the crowd but i still quite liked looking at it which I guess is the best bit.

M92 was also gazed upon last night which was the first time since September last year when I first found it using Turn Left. Appearance is similar to M13 but the cluster is more compact, a few stars resolved again but nothing spectacular.

I then tried to go hunting for a new object, in particular the Cat's Eye Nebula in Draco which at the time was riding high in the sky above Hercules. Found after trying to follow asterisms marked out in the pocket sky atlas, missed it at first but eventually pinned it down as a bloated star that seemed brighter than what I thought it'd be. Certainly a small nebula, similar in size to the blue snowball and the eskimo nebula. No detail visible even at 200x, I am not sure what aperture is required to see detail but I guess I don't have it it.

This one didn't attract the crowds but a few of the senior observers came over to have quick look.

The night ended fairly soon after when I had made quick observations of a few double stars; eta cass, epsilon lyrae, mizar and gamma delphini and also the planet Jupiter had a quick look as it had risen to about 20 degrees by the time we started packing away. Some good banding visible plus a few moons but nothing amazing, must have a proper planet gazing night to try and tease out some more subtle detail on the disk.

Last night also provided me with my first opportunity to try out my FLO special Celestron 15x70s which I received the day before. Couple things to say, I really need a mount to use these, it seems I have terrible handshake and no reduction technique seems to help. The supplied plastic tripod adapter flexes too much so is no real use to me, I might try lying down and observing or alternatively purchase or build a suitable mount for them.

Handshake aside these are astounding binoculars, the views through them are so bright and crisp. The milky was through Cygnus is absolutely amazing with these, I never realised how bright the stars are around that area and how of them there are when I am restricted to a <1 degree FOV with a telescope. The double cluster really stands out in comparison to 10x50s and the same is true for M31, M13 was visible as a large hazy blob in Hercules and I even managed to track down he dumbell nebula which I had never done with binoculars before.

All in all a great night and an amazing turnout for the club mainly thanks to a news story in the local paper. I wonder how many though will attend subsequent meetings?

Thanks for reading :)

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