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Bad news and good news, or wish I had done plan b or whatever. :(

Looking at the Met website for weather suggested Wed-Fri this last week would be reasonable for some skiing at Aviemore. Mostly cloud with some clear spells thur but definitely the little cloud icons for the nights. I know that things can change and I hummed and hawed about maybe taking a basic scope setup. Then decided not to and just take my good ole 8x42 binocs.

Well Wed was very cloudy to the extent that top of the mountain was practically useless and it got kind of fine sleety to make your gear wet. However, Thur was totally cloudless up the mountain. And it stayed like that till about 21.30

Shock and awe!!! ;)

I have been up there over the years and there's been a few clear nights but that Thursday was astounding. It was so clear that I recollected a phrase from somewhere - my god, it's full of stars!. :D

In the forest just below Cairngorm, although it's 10miles from Aviemore which itself isn't that much of a light pollution source, it might be termed a Dark Sky site. After just 10min eye adaptation at about 1900 I was aware of a vague shadow if I waved my hand close to the car's light body colour. In fact later when Sirius came up over the mountain there was a definite shadow!

But the main awe was about what was naked eye visible. First the Milky Way corridor right above stretching from past Cassiopeia right out towards Orion. A definitive lighter pool with many tiny, tiny sprinkles of light points. And Andromeda, M31. The Pegasus Square was just above the west horizon and easy enough to follow the hops up by Mirach, but I didn't need to do that route. It was just there, left a bit of Cassiopea. I reckoned the albeit misty patch was equiv to a not very good seeing night back down in the central belt - using a scope! ;)

So, now I'm cursing myself for not bringing the works. But the binocs still provided some amazing sights.

Again, M31. I'd asked in a thread about its size and was reminded about it being seen from a dark site with a 20in Dob where it stretched past a widefield EP. Well in the binocs it showed a light grey narrow elliptical shape with a brighter inner patch in which I could almost detect some finer points. Now I can easily see what the photo images are capturing in terms of an overall shape.

From there I went up to Mirfak and that whole Perseus area. Jeez! such an array of stars. Below that back towards Andromeda is M34 a small patch of fuzz but definite tiny lights. And over to Cassiopeia again and the double cluster NGC884,869 just so rich. I also mentioned in a previous report about using the book 'Nightwatch'. It has maps and describes what can be seen with certain gear. I now realise that when it says "...superb...easily seen...individual stars... in binocs" that the author means from a dark site!

Back towards north and the Pleiades of course. I just can't do the 7 of the seven sisters, only six naked eye even here. In the binocs, it's almost like a new find compared to further south. Certainly I've had a great whole view of it in my scope back home but this was totally different.

Best revelation, if you like, of the night was just adjacent. Aldebaran and its surrounding cluster of stars. With Aldebaran just inside the view at about 11 o'clock position, the field of the 8x42's gives the just right view for the rich area that extends "down" from it. It's almost one big "open cluster".

Back to the dark site only views. Going up from Orion towards Capella there's no doubt I caught the 3 M's. M36,37,38. Distinct little patches with tiny lights, sometimes direct and with averted. And going back down towards Sirius, I'm sure I caught M48.

And the other good news was that the skiing was just as awesome. Somewhat less snow than earlier in the month but with the sunshine thur and friday, absolutely brilliant. No threat to Bode Miller though I hasten to add. :D

Not so much bad news as slightly bad choice not taking scope stuff but the few hours with the binocs were umm, brilliant! Just goes to reinforce a couple of basics about stargazing: you can't beat a dark sky site and even humble binocs can show you a great time. :p

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Great post Starguest - makes me want to get leg it to Aviemore right now (bit too far from Berkshire this weekend me thinks).

Think the quote was from 2001 A Space Odyssey but might be wrong!!

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