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All observing logs for month 2005-07 (earliest log first).


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-07-09 20:45 UT
To: 2005-07-09 21:14 UT
Equipment: Cheap Telescope

Test of a very cheap "spotting scope" type telescope against Jupiter. As with other recent observations of Jupiter this was done when the sky was still light due to the fact that Jupiter disappears from view quite early for me now.

There was quite a lot of high-level cloud kicking about so this session didn't last very long. I did want to get the 130M out as it got darker but it wasn't worth it as the cloud cover kept increasing.

Note that this isn't a "serious" observing session — it's more of a quick and dirty equipment test.

Test of telescope against Jupiter

From: 2005-07-09 20:45 UT
To: 2005-07-09 21:14 UT

First some notes about the telescope itself. I purchased it on a whim a couple of weeks earlier (in Woolworths of all places) when I noticed that they were trying to get rid of them for 10.00. They'd been selling them (or trying to sell them) since around Christmas 2004 (they were generally stocked in the "gifts for blokes when you don't know what to get the bloke" section; alarm bells should be ringing right now).

Normally I wouldn't have given such a thing a second glance but I wanted to get a toy telescope for my son and this, at 10.00, seemed as good a thing as any.

It claims a diameter of 50mm and a focal length of 350mm. It comes with a 45 diagonal, three eyepeices (17.5mm, 12mm and 9mm), a 3x barlow and a very small tripod.

With the 'scope mounted on a photographic tripod I had a look at Jupiter first with the 17.5mm eyepeice, then the 12mm and the 9mm. In each case it was obvious that Jupiter was a disc but no hint of any sort of detail, and none of the moons, was visible. To be fair failure to see any moons probably came down to the fact that the sky was still very light.

Next, using the 3x barlow, I went back through the eyepeices. The image was terrible. Very dark and almost impossible to focus. I'd say that the barlow is next to useless (I didn't expect anything else).

What really horrifies me about this is that it is sold as an "Astronomical Telescope" (it even says so on the 'scope itself). Something like this, especially when sold at 25.00, could put someone off the hobby for life. I suspect that it might be ok for some daytime work and will probably be ok for some simple views of the Moon but it isn't much use for anything else.

Still, that's what I purchased it for: a toy 'scope for a child who can use it to look at the Moon now and again.


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-07-12 20:17 UT
To: 2005-07-12 23:23 UT
Equipment: Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M

Reasonable evening's observing. Started out while the sky was still very light (not even sure that the Sun had set when I first set up) because I wanted to align and test the new Red-Dot Finder that I'd purchased from Scopes'n'skies.

Also wanted to try the chance to test out a set of Lunar Filters that I'd recently purchased.

Despite there being a fair bit of high-level "misty" cloud kicking about I stayed out for quite a while with a view to trying to see M57.

Align and test Red-Dot Finder

Time: 2005-07-12 20:17 UT

It took a while to get the finder properly aligned — I originally made the mistake of trying to use a reasonably distant object on the horizon but when I then tried to use the finder to line up on the Moon I just wasn't getting it. Finally gave up on that I used the Moon as the alignment target. That worked a treat.

After the alignment I slewed the 'scope away from the Moon and used the finder to get me back on it. The Moon was in the eyepiece (25mm) first time.

Very impressed with the finder, it's so much easier to use than the finder that came with the 130M.

The Moon and aborted filter test

From: 2005-07-12 20:27 UT
To: 2005-07-12 20:42 UT

Started to have a proper look at the Moon with the 25mm eyepiece. Noted that the image was quite unsteady even at this low magnification. This probably had as much to do with tube-currents as anything else given that the telescope was still very warm and I'd not been out that long.

Around 20:42 UT, just as I'd attached the ND25 filter to the 25mm eyepiece and reinserted the eyepiece into the telescope, I started to lose the Moon behind the house nextdoor so I had to give up on that test.

Jupiter, testing new finder and ND25 filter

From: 2005-07-12 20:50 UT
To: 2005-07-12 21:11 UT

Noticed that I could now see Jupiter with the naked eye so decided to use this as a second target for testing the new finder. Lined up with the finder and then looked through the 25mm eyepiece. Almost spot on first time! Took the opportunity to fine-tune the alignment against Jupiter.

Switched to the 6mm eyepiece but found it hard to get reasonable focus and the image was very unsteady (again, probably tube-currents combined with unsteady air in general and seeing not being terribly good).

Added the ND25 filter to the 6mm eyepiece and, surprisingly, found that it seemed easier to pick out a good point of focus.

At 21:11 UT Jupiter was obscured by a cloud.

Summer Triangle

Time: 2005-07-12 21:12 UT

Noticed that, while the sky was still quite light, and while there was some thin cloud above me, I could now clearly see the Summer Triangle.

Also noted that Arcturus was easily visible.


From: 2005-07-12 21:20 UT
To: 2005-07-12 21:22 UT

Jupiter became visible again. Went back to it with the 10mm and 2x barlow. This time the image was reasonable. The two main belts were obvious and I also noticed a moon very close to the planet.

At 21:22 UT I started to make a sketch of Jupiter and its moons but I lost it behind the house nextdoor so the sketch didn't get finished.

Testing effect of filters on a star

From: 2005-07-12 21:37 UT
To: 2005-07-12 21:50 UT (approximate)

Decided to test the effect of the ND25 and ND13 filters on a bright star. Selected Deneb as a suitable target.

Using the 10mm eyepiece on its own the star seems to be "too bright" to see well. There is an obvious four-pointed flare caused by the spider in the scope.

With the addition of the ND25 filter things get a lot better. While I can still see the flare caused by the spider it is nowhere near as obvious as it is without the filter.

With the ND13 there is no flare at all. It is, however, obvious that I'm not seeing a pin-point of light. I suspect that this comes down to a number of things: collimation (still need to get around to making a habit of doing this), possible lingering tube currents, a general unsteadiness of the atmosphere and the fact that there is still a hint of high-level haze around.

Based on that little test I get the impression that the ND25 and ND13 filters might come in handy when trying to split a reasonably close and reasonably bright binary.

Mizar in Ursa Major

From: 2005-07-12 22:00 UT
To: 2005-07-12 22:26 UT

Had another look at Mizar again. While doing so I noticed a 4th star very close that I'd not noticed last time. Checked with Starry Night it seems that it is TYC3850-257-1, a magnitude 7.56 star. I noted this down because it's interesting that I didn't seem to notice it last time

Did a rough sketch of what I saw:

Sketch of Mizar

Also note the faint star to the far right of the sketch. Not sure what that is; I need to check. It would estimate that it is somewhat fainter than TYC3850-257-1. Checking later with Starry Night it is TYC3853-654-1, a magnitude 9.56 star.

At 22:26 UT, just as I was finishing up the above and removing the 10mm eyepiece from the telescope, I managed to drop the eyepiece onto hard paving! Blast! As best as I could tell it didn't damage the eyepiece although it did leave a rather nasty looking scuff mark on the metal barrel.

Finding M57

From: 2005-07-12 22:31 UT
To: 2005-07-12 22:44 UT

Decided to go looking for M57 (the Ring Nebula) in Lyra. First lined up in the general area using the new Red-Dot finder then looked through the telescope itself with the 25mm eyepiece. Nothing immediately stood out. However, while initially looking, a satellite passed right through the field of view. I turned round to look with the naked eye but couldn't see it at all.

Back at the telescope, I moved the field of view around a little and almost immediately saw what I thought must be M57. My initial impression was that, in contrast to the stars in the field, there was a faint, ghostly gray "blob". Noted that I could only see it with averted vision. With the 25mm eyepiece there didn't appear to be any hint of it being an actual ring (this might not have been helped by the fact that the sky still wasn't fully dark and that there was still some high-level haze about).

Made a rough sketch of what I could see, marking some of the brighter stars I could see in the field. This was made a little difficult by the field being partially obscured from time to time by some of the cloud/mist:

Sketch of M57

M57 with 15mm eyepiece

From: 2005-07-12 22:52 UT
To: 2005-07-12 23:01 UT

Switched to the 15mm eyepiece. With averted vision a good hint of the ring structure could be seen. A couple of minutes into looking at it another satellite went through the field.

There's no obvious hint of any colour to the ring, although with the 15mm eyepiece (compared to the 25mm eyepiece) it did seem to be more of a faint "bluish gray" rather than just gray. Also noticed that the nebula seemed to be very elongated in one direction.

At around 23:01 UT I made the following sketch of what the nebula looked like with the 15mm eyepiece (note that, again, I simply marked some of the more obvious stars in the field for reference):

Sketch of M57

M57 with 10mm eyepiece

From: 2005-07-12 23:08 UT
To: 2005-07-12 23:23 UT

Switched to the 10mm eyepiece. The ring structure was now very obvious (again, with averted vision). It seemed much less "blueish". The center doesn't seem as dark as the background sky but it is obviously darker than the edge of the nebula.

Around 23:14 UT started the following rough sketch:

Sketch of M57

By 23:23 UT it was starting to get very misty so started to pack up for this session.


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-07-16 21:27 UT
To: 2005-07-17 00:15 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Meade 10x50 Binoculars

Another reasonable night's observing. Sky seemed quite clear, I think I'd have rated the transparancy as "pretty good" and seeing seemed "very good". The temperature was cool but pleasant. Waxing gibbous Moon.


From: 2005-07-16 21:27 UT
To: 2005-07-16 21:40 UT

With the naked eye I noticed that on the terminator of the Moon there was an obvious and significant feature jutting into the night-side. For some reason I don't think I've ever really noticed something as obvious as this before.

Using the 130M and a 25mm eyepiece I could see that it was part of Montes Jura, which partly surrounds Sinus Iridum.

I was contemplating trying to make a sketch of the scene when I started to lose the Moon behind a neighbour's house.


From: 2005-07-16 22:00 UT
To: 2005-07-16 22:24 UT

Turned the 130M on AlbireoCygnus) and companion. Started with the 25mm eyepiece. Reasonably wide pair. Noticed that there seems to be a faint difference in colour but I couldn't quite tell for sure exactly what it was. One of the pair seemed to be slightly more blue in appearance (the fainter of the pair) whereas the other seemed much more white.

Switched to the 15mm eyepiece. Now the brighter of the pair appeared to have a faint orange tint to it. The fainter of the pair had a slight blue tint.

With the 10mm eyepiece the effect was the same as with the 15mm but the colours were more pronounced.

With the 6mm eyepiece the colours were even more pronounced. My impression was that the brighter of the pair has an orange/white appearance to it and the fainter of the pair has a blue/white appearance.

Attempt to find M29

From: 2005-07-16 22:31 UT
To: 2005-07-16 22:52 UT

Decided to have a go at finding M29 in Cygnus. Pointed the 'scope in the general location of the cluster. Using the 25mm eyepiece I thought I'd found it after discounting a couple of candidates. I found this very hard-going given that this is a very star-rich part of the sky due to it lying in the "thicker" part of the Milky Way.

Finding it hard to tell if I'd got the right object or not I grabbed my copy of Neil Bone's Deep Sky Observer's Guide to see if that could help me check if I'd got the right object. Sadly there was no illustration for this object but the text described it as a "south-pointing triangle". The collection of stars that I'd finally settled on seemed to fit the bill but I was still unsure that I'd really found M29.

Made a sketch of what I'd found so I could check later against any images I could find:

Sketch of object

Checking afterwards with Starry Sky I found that what I'd sketched wasn't M29. Annoyingly, I had actually seen M29 but had discounted it as what I saw didn't seem to match the description I'd read. What I had drawn (ignoring the brighter star that I'd marked) was, from what I can tell, the following stars: TYC3152-1679-1, TYC3151-955-1, TYC3151-757-1, TYC3151-1782-1, TYC3151-1591-1, TYC3151-478-1, TYC3151-1573-1, TYC3151-1237-1 and TYC3151-550-1. The bright star I marked was 34 Cygni. Seems I was about 1 off.

It strikes me that there are two useful lessons here: the first is that I should do a little more preparation before going hunting for an object such as this (one that could be easily confused in a star-rich area); the second lesson is that when you're unsure about something you think you've found doing a sketch for later comparison is a good thing.


From: 2005-07-16 23:10 UT
To: 2005-07-16 23:20 UT

Noticed that M31 had risen enough to clear the murk of the eastern horizon (not to mention the roofs of the houses near me). Couldn't quite see it with the naked eye (then again there is a street light in that direction and it was still reasonably low down) but found it very easily with 10x50 binoculars. Could see the central bulge rather well with a faint hint of the rest of the galaxy.

I would have turned the 130M on it but, annoyingly, it was obscured by my Pear Tree from where I was set up and I didn't want to get into moving the 'scope and realigning it and everything at that point. I'll save M31 and the 130M for another night when it's higher in the sky.


From: 2005-07-16 23:25 UT
To: 2005-07-16 23:50 UT

Decided to have a go at M51. It wasn't very favourably placed given that it was off in the Western part of the sky and given that that part of the sky wasn't anywhere near fully dark. Using the 25mm eyepiece, after a little bit of effort, I found it. Although all I could see was two faint fuzzy blobs it seemed pretty obvious that it was M51. There was no hint that I was actually looking at a spiral galaxy. With averted vision the blobs did seem a little more extended.

Dropped the 15mm eyepiece into the 'scope and had another look. The impression I got was that it looked a little brighter and, with averted vision, there was the vague impression that the "extensions" to the blobs mentioned above appeared to overlap.

The really enjoyable part about seeing M51 was the realisation that I was looking back in time somewhere in the region of 30 million years or more.


From: 2005-07-16 23:55 UT
To: 2005-07-17 00:15 UT

Decided to have another look at at M57. Given that Lyra was better positioned than the last time I observed it I wanted to see what would be visible with the 6mm eyepiece (I'd tried using it during the last observing session but couldn't see much at all). Also, the sky seemed a lot darker and clearer that the last time (for example, I could now easily see the Milky Way with the naked eye, something I couldn't do the other night).

First located M57 with the 25mm eyepiece, centered it in the field of view and then immediately switched to the 6mm. Noticed right away that the "hole" was very visible, I could more or less detect it with direct vision. Also noticed something that I'd not noticed in the previous observing session: a faint star just to the side of the nebula. I also thought I could detect a faint variation in brightness in the ring but it was hard to pin down exactly where this was and what form it took (this was only really noticeable with averted vision).

Made a sketch:

Sketch of M57

As an experiment I've taken the above, converted it into a gray-scale image and then inverted the colours. This is the result:

Inverted sketch of M57

At 00:15 UT I finished the session.

Page last modified: 2013-04-09 09:19:19 UT
Dave Pearson <davep@davep.org>
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