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All observing logs for month 2005-10 (earliest log first).

2005-10-01


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-10-01 14:30 UT
To: 2005-10-01 14:46 UT
Equipment: Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Naked Eye
Notes:

Decided to have a go at looking for Venus during the day.

Venus

From: 2005-10-01 14:30 UT
To: 2005-10-01 14:46 UT

Decided to have a go at finding Venus during the day. Not the best of days to try given that there was a lot of cloud around — I'd estimate that at least 75% of the sky was covered with cloud.

I first checked the location of Venus with Starry Night to be sure of where I needed to look (roughly South and about 20 above the horizon). I positioned myself against the wall of our garage so that I was in its shadow — that way there was no chance of me accidently looking at the Sun while scanning with the binocular.

By about 14:33 UT I found Venus. I made sure that no cloud was going to get in the way for the next minute and then put the binocular down and looked with the naked eye. I could find Venus with no problem. I looked away for a few moments and looked back again and could still see it.

I popped indoors to make the above note and then popped back out again. This time I couldn't find the planet either with naked eye or with the binocular. I think this was probably because it was being obscured by cloud.

By 14:46 UT more cloud was moving in, some of which was looking like it might give rain, so I ended the session. Had the weather been more favourable I would have taken the 130M out into the garden and had a look though that.


2005-10-03


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-10-03 07:36 UT
To: 2005-10-03 10:18 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Notes:

Annular solar eclipse — partial from my location in the UK. Sadly, a total no-show.

Partial solar eclipse

From: 2005-10-03 07:36 UT
To: 2005-10-03 10:18 UT

The morning started totally overcast and this never changed during the period of the whole event. Sometime around 08:43 UT until about 09:19 UT (around the time of maximum coverage here) I did note that light levels seemed to drop outside but I'm not really sure if this was down to the eclipse or if it was just a coincidental thickening of the cloud.


2005-10-04


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-10-04 19:26 UT
To: 2005-10-04 21:15 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Tento 10x50 Binoculars
Notes:

A rather cold and damp night. Some mist about, especially obvious towards the horizon. Most of the sky doesn't look all that dark although, above me, I can see the Milky Way with little trouble.

Decided to have a simple evening of binoculars and chair, just sweeping about to see what I can find. No real point or target for the session.

Kemble's Cascade

Time: 2005-10-04 19:50 UT

At around 19:50 UT I stumbled upon Kemble's Cascade in Camelopardalis. Fantastic little asterism.

Although I've read about it a number of times before this was the first time I'd seen it for myself and I was quite surprised at just how straight the line of stars appeared to be. I was very happy to have finally seen it.

At 19:58 UT, while looking with the binocular, I saw a very faint satellite pass right through the cascade, about two thirds of the way "down" the line.

Mars and M45

Time: 2005-10-04 20:17 UT

Noticed that Mars and M45 had now risen above the roofs to the east of me. Looking at them both with the binocular I estimated that they were no more (and perhaps slightly less) than two binocular field widths apart.

Mars, in the binocular, was interesting in that it was obviously a non-stellar object. I'm not sure if this was just down to brightness/contrast or if I actually was seeing a hint of a disc. The colour in the binocular was a rather vivid orange.

By 20:27 UT there seemed to be more mist forming. It was getting increasingly hard to see M45 with the naked eye. The sky above me, however, seemed as clear as ever — perhaps a little darker and clearer than it was at the start of the session.

Mist and smoke

Time: 2005-10-04 20:27 UT

By 20:27 UT there seemed to be more mist forming. It was getting increasingly hard to see M45 with the naked eye. The sky above me, however, seemed as clear as ever — perhaps a little darker and clearer than it was at the start of the session.

Also, around this time, I noticed my first hazard of winter observing: smoke from people's fires. Given that nights are getting colder now and given that I'm surrounded on three sides by people who have and use open fireplaces I wonder how much of an obstacle this will be?

NGC 1502 and testing dark adaption

Time: 2005-10-04 20:56 UT

After checking a couple of books, a couple of charts, and some pages on the net I realised that, earlier, when I'd been looking at Kemble's Cascade, I'd also been looking at NGC 1502.

At this point I realised that the cascade is also an interesting test of how dark adapted I am. I'd popped indoors to check the books, charts and the net and, obviously, I'd exposed myself to normal lighting and so had ruined the dark adaption that I'd built up earlier. When I came back outside and went to look at the cascade again I could hardly make it out — initially all I could see were the brighter stars that are around it.

As the minutes passed the cascade again became more and more visible in the binocular. I think this might serve as a useful gauge of how dark adapted I am (and how transparent my skies are) during the course of winter.

The Hyades

From: 2005-10-04 21:11 UT
To: 2005-10-04 21:15 UT

At 21:11 UT I noticed that the Hyades (AKA Melotte 25, Caldwell 41) had cleared the roofs to the East of me. While they were hard to make out with the naked eye due to the rising mist I could clearly see them with the binocular.

In the binocular Aldebaran was interesting to watch as it was twinkling between red and green. I took from this that the mist really was making a mess of things and that the air wasn't very steady at all. Earlier I had been thinking about getting the 130M out to have a look at Mars but at the time the rising mist put me off. If the view I had of Aldebaran in the binocular was anything to go by this was probably a good decision.

By 21:15 UT the cold and the damp was starting to get a little too much so I decided to call an end to the session. I wasn't really that well dressed for the conditions — I'm going to have to dig out some of my winter gear for future sessions.


2005-10-09


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-10-09 20:26 UT
To: 2005-10-09 22:40 UT
Equipment: Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Temperature: 8.8C
Humidity: 78%
Notes:

Reasonably clear night with some mist hanging around — mostly noticeable as I looked towards the horizon. The sky wasn't as dark as it can be but I could still clearly see the Milky Way.

The main aim for this session was to have a look at Mars. At the start of the session it had already cleared the roofs to the East of me and it was almost clear of the worst of the murk and mist.

I set the telescope up and opened it for cooling at the very start of the session and then spent some time preparing and letting my eyes dark adapt a little.

Mars

From: 2005-10-09 20:46 UT
To: 2005-10-09 22:05 UT

First located Mars with the 25mm eyepiece. Even with such a low power (x36 on the 130M) I could easily tell that I was looking at a disk that seemed to be displaying a bit of a phase. The image was bright and displayed spikes corresponding to the arms of the spider that hold the secondary mirror in the 'scope. The image seemed very steady.

Switched to the 6mm eyepiece. The image looked huge and rather unsteady. Quite a bit of false colour was visible around the edge of the planet. The image didn't look very crisp and was rather unsteady. Without any sort of filter in place the surface still seemed very bright and rather washed out. However, there did seem to be an obvious variation in the colour of the disk hinting at some sort of surface feature.

At first glance the feature had the appearance of a short, thick line across the face of the planet.

Added the #21 Orange filter to the 6mm eyepiece. The image now seemed a lot sharper and the false colour was gone. However, there did appear to be an occasional fringe to the edge of the planet. The "line" that I mention above now seemed a bit more obvious and, with the Orange filter, seemed to take on a more "arrowhead" appearance.

The sight of the marking seemed to come and go and was rather fleeting. One moment it seemed very obvious to the eye and then the next it was rather indistinct. While the shape didn't appear to change as the view came and went I noted that it would have been very difficult to sketch.

Next, I combined the #21 Orange filter with the #15 Yellow/Orange filter but I was unable to detect any difference in the image.

After that I tried the #56 Green filter with the 6mm eyepiece. No real detail of any sort was obvious with this combination. I'd have said that the image seemed about the same as with the unfiltered 6mm eyepiece — only greener.

Around this time (21:25 UT) the house below where Mars was positioned lit a fire and there was a fair bit of smoke coming from the chimney. None of the smoke appeared to be getting in the way of my view of the planet but I imagine that the warm air that was rising from the fire interfered with subsequent views.

Now switched to the 6mm with just the ND13 filter to see what effect it would have. The view didn't seem any different from the view without a filter expect that it was dimmer (which was pretty much what I expected to see).

Despite not being able to tease any extra obvious detail out of the image the thing that was most impressing me by this time was the difference in the size of the image of Mars when compared to the first time I looked at it in the 130M. Even though I knew this was going to happen (that the apparent diameter would increase over time) the difference was still quite striking.

Next I tried with the 6mm and the #11 Yellow/Green filter. For a few brief moments, when the image seemed very steady, I was sure I could see slightly more detail than I had earlier. This was, however, a very brief view. I wasn't sure if this was down to the choice of filter, a lucky moment of very steady seeing or simply that Mars was now higher in the sky than when I'd started the observation session. Could simply have been a combination of all of the above.

Finally I decided to try with the 10mm eyepiece and the 2x barlow plus the #21 Orange filter. This seemed to be a good combination. Now I could see what appeared to be two darker areas on the surface. One seemed to be a vaguely rounded but linear feature (sort of an elongated oval) and the other appeared circular and smaller. The contrast wasn't great and, as with other filter and eyepiece combinations, the view seemed to come and go but there was no doubt that I was seeing slightly more than I was before.

What was most surprising about this combination was that, in the past, I've had focus trouble with the barlow and had more or less given up on using it. However, this time, the image seemed to come to a pretty crisp focus.

Double Cluster

From: 2005-10-09 22:11 UT
To: 2005-10-09 22:20 UT

Given that it was now very well positioned for me to view with the 'scope I pointed the 130M at the Double Cluster (AKA Caldwell 14 or NGC 869 and NGC 884) in Perseus. At first glance it looked like a rather sparse grouping of stars with two obvious areas of concentration. However, as my eyes adjusted both areas of concentration seemed to become richer and richer. I noted that both of the main concentrations fitted in the field of view of the 25mm eyepiece.

M1

From: 2005-10-09 22:26 UT
To: 2005-10-09 22:40 UT
Temperature: 7.9C
Humidity: 79%

Although it was still very low, just above the houses to the East of me and still in the thin mist, I couldn't resist trying to have a look for M1 (AKA The Crab Nebula or NGC 1952) in Taurus.

Using the 25mm eyepiece on the 130M I found it with little trouble. It was rather hard to make out (most probably due to the conditions under which I was trying to observe it). It had no real obvious shape to it, all I could see was an indistinct but visible "ghostly presence". Given that it was (just) visible in such bad conditions I image that it will make for a good target when it is higher in the sky.

By 22:40 UT I was starting to feel the cold and was also starting to feel tired so decided to call an end to the session.


2005-10-19


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-10-19 21:40 UT
To: 2005-10-19 22:11 UT
Equipment: Cheap Telescope
Temperature: 7.9C
Humidity: 89%
Notes:

A fair bit of cloud about with the sky washed out by a waning gibbous Moon (around 96% illumination). This wasn't really a problem as the purpose of this little session was to see how well a little telescope would perform against the Moon.

Test of telescope against the Moon

From: 2005-10-19 21:40 UT
To: 2005-10-19 22:11 UT

Doing another test of a rubbish little telescope that I first tested back in July this year. The 'scope has been sat doing nothing for quite some time and, having recently purchased a sheet of Baader solar filter, I've been thinking about making a filter for it and using it as a cheap little solar telescope.

I mounted the 'scope on a photographic tripod, lined it up on the Moon and worked through each of the lenses. With the 17.5mm, 12mm and 9mm the Moon easily fitted in the field of view (obviously increasing in size with each lens). In all three cases the image appeared to be sharp with no fringing or false colour.

Next I tried each lens with the 3x barlow that came with the 'scope. In this case there did appear to be fringing and false colour in the image and the focus never seemed to be very sharp. The 17.5mm plus barlow combination gave an image of the Moon that was still fully visible, the 12mm gave an image that more or less filled the field of view and the 9mm gave an image that exceeded the field of view.

Given that a filter for this 'scope wouldn't use up much of the Baader sheet (the objective is just 50mm in diameter) I think I'll have a go at making one and seeing how it performs. Even if the images aren't that good with the barlow in place the size of the images without it are acceptable. It might work out to be a handy tool to have alongside the Solarscope when doing some solar observing.


2005-10-29


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-10-29 20:47 UT
To: 2005-10-29 22:11 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Temperature: 13.6C
Humidity: 94%
Notes:

A mostly cloudy evening but I noticed that there was a good sized gap in the clouds moving in so I decided to set the 130M up and have a look at Mars while I had the chance (this being the evening of the closest approach to Earth for this apparition I wanted to try and get a view no matter how short the session might be). Due to the danger of more cloud moving in I didn't have any time to let the 'scope cool down.

Meteor

Time: 2005-10-29 20:51 UT

I'd just finished setting up the 130M and was just dropping in the 25mm eyepiece when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a meteor. It lasted long enough for my full attention to be drawn to it and I followed it for a good fraction of a second (perhaps a little more).

It moved from east to west and, as best as I could tell, it passed through the Square of Pegasus. It grew steadily brighter until it finally broke up in a shower of smaller pieces which rapidly faded from view. I might even go so far as to suggest it was a fireball.

Sadly, because I was distracted by rushing to set up the 'scope before any more cloud could come over, I didn't spend too much time making any useful notes and double checking the path it took.

Mars

From: 2005-10-29 20:53 UT
To: 2005-10-29 22:10 UT

Got Mars centred in the 25mm eyepiece's field of view and then set up and switched on the motor drive. Once I was happy that everything was set up fine and the drive was running okay I immediately went to switch to the 6mm eyepiece. By the time I'd dropped that in cloud had obscured Mars.

By 20:58 UT it had cleared again.

With the 6mm Mars looked very big and very bright. Hardly any hint of colour, looked very white. Noted that, unlike all the other views I've had of Mars this apparition, there was no hint of a phase visible to me. Even without a filter I could see a slight hint of a mark on the surface that looked like a simple dark line.

After a number of combinations I found, at 21:16 UT, that the 10mm eyepiece with the 2x Barlow and the #21 filter offered the best view so far. The dark line was very obvious but indistinct in terms of figuring out any detail and its extent. I did think about sketching it but decided not to given how little there was to make a note of.

There were some moments where the image (which wasn't that unsteady) seemed to become really steady and I thought I saw a hint of further markings. However, as quickly as I noticed them they'd disappear.

By 21:51 UT I'd tried various combinations of lens, barlow and filter but every combination failed to deliver any extra detail. Happily this wasn't a disappointing experience. There was a lot of fun to be had in trying the different combinations and also in simply comparing the view I had with previous views I've had. Mars was visibly bigger (and brighter) than any observation before this one.

By 22:02 UT I was starting to lose Mars behind some thin cloud (and I could see more cloud moving in). It was interesting to note that the thinest cloud appeared to improve the view. At the time I was using the 6mm eyepiece with the #21 filter.

End of session due to cloud

Time: 2005-10-29 22:11 UT
Temperature: 13.1C
Humidity: 95%

By now the sky was totally covered in cloud and Mars was no longer visible. Also, the wind was starting to pick up. Called an end to the session.


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Dave Pearson <davep@davep.org>
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