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Second night with the new scope


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Is there such a thing as 'second light'? The scope's second night under the stars. I was lucky enough to have two weeks of holiday from work and not a single night of it was without cloud. Then last night, despite solid cloud being predicted all day, the satellite picture suddenly showed a small gap across the Midlands and sure enough it was clear for a good few hours. It was also pretty good seeing from what I could tell. The four corner stars of Ursa Minor were all visible and I usually struggle with the mag 5 star, especially when it is low in my polluted northern sky. I haven't done any serious observing from other locations but I was wondering whether my sky was typical or unusual. The north and east are quite poor due to nearby towns, but the zenith and the south are inky black as there is nowt but fields for many miles to the south. I am literally on the border between good sky and bad sky.

I put the scope outside to cool (the garage was reading 2 celcius, but it was more like minus 2 outside), but made sure the red dot finder was going to work with a quick align on Betelgeuse. I wasn't dressed for the cold at that point so I got the finder somewhere close to being aligned before my hands went numb with the cold and I retreated inside to let it cool properly.

Back outside my first target was M81 and M82. Still quite low in the north but despite the red dot finder being a hundred times easier to use than the right angle finder, I couldn't spot them. Quickly spun to the next target (got to love the dobsonian mount!) M37 cluster. Wow. My 32mm EP used to give about 24x magnification but on this scope it is twice that. The smaller field of view makes navigating a bit more difficult, but the cluster fit perfectly in the field of view and boy were there a lot of stars, resolved right to the core.

I wasted a bit of time trying to find M1, which I have never seen. I didn't have a map so I was guessing the location. I think I was about 2 degrees out, and a similar near misses with M35 and the Eskimo nebula, both of which I was again guessing at. And also struggled with M109, M108, M97 which were all eluding me in the stupid pollution. Almost petulantly added the stupidly easy and seemingly pointless M40 to my list so that I didn't come away empty handed. To ease the frustration I couldn't resist a second look at M31. Wow. So stupidly bright with this telescope. It filled the 32mm EP and I had to track left and right to see all of it. M32 was obvious but overshadowed, and M110 actually showed detail, with a brighter core and almost a circle of light surrounding it.

Final try at M81 and M82 before bed. I knew it had to be visible, given the brightness of M31. Hunted for a good while (I really should start taking maps out with me!) and found a galaxy. But it looked about like M81 used to look through my old scope, and no sign of M82 next to it. Then suddenly... the third wow of the night. There were M81 and M82, clear as anything. I memorised the location of the fainter galaxy and of another that was close by and they turned out to be other members of the M81 group - NGC3077 and NGC2976. With M82 I pushed to 250x magnification and the dark bit in the middle was quite obvious.

I only bagged one new Messier despite aiming for five. I shall have to wait for Ursa Major to rotate a bit higher and the realm of galaxies to get to a reasonable height in the east. And start reading my star maps! It was a fun night and an unexpected treat to end the holidays.

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Ahhh, sorry I missed this!!

Great report Julian - I really hope we'll get some more clear nights soon.

Try and catch M42 soon, if you are able. It is absolutely mind blowing through the 12". I'm still stoked from my last session a couple of nights ago!

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