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)
A white dwarf star in galaxy M82 has exploded. Fed on a diet of hydrogen and helium from a neighbour that was a bit too close, it suffered a terminal case of cosmic indigestion. That little snack pushed it over the Chandrasekhar mass limit (1.4 solar masses) and induced a runaway nuclear reaction – the entire star is blown apart.(Type 1a SN).
Because all type 1a supernovae are of similar mass and composition, when they explode,they are equally luminous and thus act as “standard candles” for astronomers to confirm distances.
M82 lies close to Ursa Major and the Supernova is quite easily seen close to the galactic core. It should get considerably brighter over the next few days and may get to binocular brightness.
I set up my Nexstar 8SE and aligned with a 36mm Baader Hyperion eyepiece. With M82 in view, I swopped to a 22mm Nagler T4. M82 was easily visible – there was 1 bright field star and just beside it was the supernova which looked like another bright star. I tried a 17.3mm Delos but thought the Nagler view was better.
Glad to have a clear night to observe Orion with my Nexstar 8SE. Nice views of M42, M43 and M78 then onto the more difficult stuff. I found the combination of Sky Safari 3 Pro and Deep Sky Browser very helpful in checking I was in the right star field. tracking was good all night.
I compared the TeleVue Delos 17.3mm with the Vixen VLW 22mm eyepieces. The Delos certainly is flat and sharp right to the edge of the image but somehow looked a bit “processed”. Stars looked a little more natural in the Vixen. The 72 degree field of view in the Delos was impressive and appeared wider than the 68 degree field of the Vixen.
I just couldnt see some of the bright nebulae in and around Orion – I suspect I will need long exposure imaging to see them at all. Here’s the list of new targets:
NGC 2022 PN Orion
NGC 1999 EN RN Orion Rubber stamp nebula
NGC 1788 RN Orion
NGC 1977 RN Orion Running man nebula
NGC 1980 EN Orion
NGC 2194 OC Orion
NGC 1647 OC Orion
NGC 2169 OC Orion Shopping cart cluster
Collinder 70 OC Orion
LDN 1616 Dark nebula Orion
NGC 1647 OC Taurus
NGC 1746 OC Taurus
I’m still learning my way around the sky- a “go-to” scope sometimes makes it too easy. Tonight looked promising, so started with binoculars. Having located the “W” of Cassiopeia, I drew a line down from the right-hand “V” to the star, Mirach in Andromeda. About a quarter of the way up and slightly to the right of that line was the fuzzy lenticular glow of the Andromeda galaxy.
Encouraged by my success, I dashed into the house to get my scope, tripod and power pack – by the time it was all set up it was cloudy again!
Still, I was keen to try out a Vixen VLW 22mm versus a Baader Hyperion 24mm eyepiece (both in 2″ mode). So I played chase the star between the clouds. On paper, the Vixen should be better, but I have found the Vixen slightly awkward to use until tonight when I rolled down the rubber eyecup and ditched my glasses- after that it was just as comfortable as the Baader for my eyes. Things looked slightly brighter through the Vixen (better light transmission) – I thought there was a little more chromatic aberration with the Vixen -until I ditched my glasses again when the aberration disappeared. The field of view looked much the same in both.
Overall, I thought the Vixen was slightly sharper and brighter than the Hyperion and I have finally found a comfortable position to use it. No new objects tonight but I can find my way to Andromeda!
The great Hercules globular cluster (M13) is a superb object to view in the night sky. It is composed of about a million really old stars that form a spherical mass, held together by gravity.
It is one of about 200 globular clusters that orbit our galaxy – the clusters are part of our galaxy but tend to reside in a halo around the central galactic bulge rather than in the main galactic disk.
A nice image of M13 can be found here
I’ve observed it though my Nexstar 8SE now on several occasions but with different eyepieces. It appears as a slushy snowball of stars that gets denser and brighter towards the centre.
I recently observed it through a high quality, high contrast Vixen LVW 22mm eyepiece and was a bit surprised to see a number of dark channels running through it. “That can’t be right” I thought, “I’ve never seen that before and you don’t see it in pictures of the cluster”.
It turns out I was looking at a feature known to visual observers as “the propeller” – the feature is made up of some relatively star poor regions which are best seen visually, long exposure or stacked imaging tends to fill in the gaps.
Sometimes it’s difficult to navigate through all the hype about eyepieces but so far I’ve found the wide angle views through my Baader Hyperion 31mm modular aspheric and the high contrast views through the Vixen LVW 22mm to be outstanding.
It got dark at 1230MN so stepped out for some observing. It still wasn’t dark enough to see galaxies well but open clusters and globulars were fine.
After a while, I thought I would try out my new Baader Hyperion 31mm Modular Aspheric in 2′ mode – I thought it was amazing. Very flat, very wide views that made looking at the globular clusters in Ophiuchus a pleasure.
I will try it as my default general purpose eyepiece for a while.
M34 open cluster. DSS image. Image is 30 arcmins across.
M9 GC Ophiuchus
M14 GC Ophiuchus
M34 OC Perseus*
Caldwell 8 OC Cassiopeia
Caldwell 9 EN Cepheus (OIII filter)
Caldwell 11 EN Cassiopeia (OIII filter)
Caldwell 42 GC Delphinus
Caldwell 47 GC Delphinus
NGC 0404 “Mirach’s ghost” GLX Andromeda
NGC 0136 OC Cassiopeia
NGC 7789 OC Cassiopeia *
IC 4665 “Summer Beehive” OC Ophiuchus
NGC 6572 PN Ophiuchus*