Moderately cloudy and not even completely dark at 2340hrs up here at 55N. Still, there were some clear patches so I tried out the portable Zenithstar scope on a camera tripod. Looked at Mars and Saturn then the Summer Triangle of Vega, Deneb and Altair.
Thought the views were excellent with Televue Nagler 22 and Panoptic 27mm eyepieces and sharp to the edge. Tried a Baader Hyperion 36mm which was certainly very wide angle but very marked coma at the edges. This was just pure star navigation with no GoTo or polar alignment. Nice, simple fun which gave me a big grin.
Probably should scout with my 10×30 binoculars and then use the scope. A red dot finder would be helpful to aim the scope, maybe even a green laser?
Too bright for any faint fuzzy DSOs tonight and the eyepieces I was using would only give 15-18x magnification anyway so this was double star hunting territory and I got nice views of:
Zeta 1 and Zeta 2 Lyrae – Spectral classes: A0 (blue) and F0IV (turquoise)
Omega 1 and Omega 2 Cygni (Ruchba) – Spectral classes: A0 (blue) and M2 (red)
Some cloud on and off but it cleared about 10pm. I set up the Altair 80mm refractor. I was planning to align it really well and then test some longer exposures.
its only has an alt-azimuth mount so it’s not at all in the same class as an equatorial mount but I wanted to see if I could stretch out to 2-3 minutes.
I set up 2 star alignment and the scope chose Albireo (a beautiful orange and blue double star) and Aldebaran. I’d only just done that when it clouded over.
it cleared up again later so I took my 10×30 IS binoculars out and looked at the Hyades and Pleiades. I could count roughly 50 stars in the Pleiades group.
I’ll have to wait for a better night to do my little experiment.
A great night. Very clear views of the Milky Way, a few Perseid meteors and the ISS as well.
Tried to find M33 Triangulum galaxy which only appeared later in the night when it got really dark.
The Lagoon nebula was fairly easy to find.
Caldwell 55, the Saturn planetary nebula was next, then the rocking horse open cluster and the asterism, Kemble’s cascade.
That brings me up to 90 Messier objects – Im not sure if I can find many more from my back garden – the lower bits of Ophiuchus and Sagittarius seem a little too low in the South for me to locate up here at 55 North. My neighbours’ houses also raise my Southern and Western horizons quite a bit.
What to do? Maybe a nice Summer astronomy holiday in the South of France (Messier did his observing at 49 North in Paris).
M33 GLX Triangulum
M8 OC EN Lagoon nebula Sagittarius
Caldwell 55 PN Aquarius
NGC 6804 PN Aquila
NGC 6910 OC Cygnus
Collinder 419 OC Cygnus
Kemble’s cascade Asterism
Almach double star Andromeda
The constellation of Ophiuchus is not well known.
It lies across the ecliptic and is best seen in UK in the Summer.
The name means “Snake bearer” and has been linked with the greek physician/god of medicine Asclepius who bore a snake-entwined staff – the Caduceus (both Poison and Medicine). Older records suggest a link with a Babylonian man/snake god.
Up here in Limavady at 55 North , Ophiuchus is still lying pretty much on my horizon but last night, I did catch the upper part of the constellation and saw Messier 12 – a globular cluster.
The snake carried by the good doctor is the constellation Serpens – the head bit – Serpens Caput is also just about above the horizon and contains another globular cluster Messier 5 which was observed.
I also worked at trying to see the Cassini division in Saturn’s rings. I tried my Vixen NLV 5mm (x400 eyepiece) but focusing was difficult maybe due to atmospheric turbulence or just the difficulty in focusing a SCT scope under high magnification. My 9mm (x222) Meade 5000 HD60 eyepiece gave a much steadier image with the division spotted. A light blue (Wratten 80A) filter helped considerably and even brought out a little banding in Saturn itself.
Just messing about with eyepieces, I looked at M57, the Ring nebula with an 18mm (x111) Meade 5000 HD60 and appreciated a large view of the smoke ring-like planetary nebula.
A pretty double pair – Cygni 61 was also observed, this time with a Vixen NPL 30mm.
Most of Cassiopeia and Andromeda still lie too far North for me to see from my garden but I might try shifting my scope to the patio at the bottom of the garden and looking North (gap between two houses) next time.
There was a lot of moonlight tonight and it was a bit hazy but I was keen to see M57, the ring nebula in Lyra. I also wanted to try out my 8×50 finderscope.
I found the finder (!) very helpful. The GoTo took me straight to M57 but I was able to check that in the finder – it lies half way between beta and gamma Lyrae.
I used a Baader click stop zoom plus a UHC filter – with averted vision, I could see a pale, small smoke ring (24 and 18mm stops) – but not the glorious colours seen in the famous Hubble image.
With so much background light, I spent much of the evening looking at double stars such as beta Lyrae itself. M13 and M3 globular clusters looked dull with so much light pollution.
Earlier in the evening, I tried out my Vixen 5mm NLV eyepiece (x400 magnification) – great close-up lunar views. A nice specialist (planetary) eyepiece.
GoTo function was quite poor last time so even though it wasn’t a great night, I wanted to just test my scope. I thought that looking for double stars would be good since they are bright and easy to spot. Glad to say everything checked out okay.
Herschel 1 009 Spiral galaxy in Virgo
Herschel 1 035 Spiral galaxy in Virgo
Double stars (all resolved with 30mm Plossl):