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Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-06-28 14:55 UT
To: 2006-06-28 15:00 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Temperature: 22.9C ...
Dew Point: 10.5C ...
Humidity: 47% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1018.7hPa ...

Today has been similar to yesterday in that the day has mostly been overcast except for a brief spell of broken cloud in the afternoon. During this brief spell of sunshine I took the Solarscope out to do a sunspot count.


From: 2006-06-28 14:55 UT
To: 2006-06-28 15:00 UT

Area 897 was more spread out when compared to yesterday (hardly surprising given that it has rotated further into view) and I could count 5 spots in the region. The darkening I noted yesterday wasn't evident today.

New area 898 has come over the limb and comprises of a single, large, circular spot with quite a pronounced penumbra.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-06-28 21:35 UT
To: 2006-06-28 23:34 UT
Equipment: Antares 905
Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Temperature: 16.8C ...
Dew Point: 9.0C ...
Humidity: 60% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1019.1hPa ...

Calm, clear evening with some thin cloud about. The sky wasn't very dark yet but given that I could see Jupiter from my usual observing spot I decided to get the 905 out and have a look.

Jupiter, including a transit event

From: 2006-06-28 21:35 UT
To: 2006-06-28 22:59 UT

Started out with the 905 and 6mm eyepiece. The image was awful. I could only just see the two main bands. The reason for this was probably down to the quality of the sky and also down to the fact that the 'scope hadn't had much time to cool down yet.

I could see all 4 Jovian moons (one of them was very close to the planet) and I could also see a reasonably bright background star that could have been mistaken for a 5th moon (later checking with Starry Night showed that it was HIP70714 ).

I then added the #80A Medium Blue filter to the 'scope and had another look. While this dulled the image a little it did also appear to improve the contrast. The two main bands stood out a little better, darkening towards the poles became obvious and in moments when the image was steady there was obvious mottling in the bands.

I'd say that tonight's view of Jupiter is the worst one I've had this apparition.

I've never compared the view of Jupiter in the 130M with that in the 905 so, at around 21:53 UT, I brought the 130M out and left it to cool off. A short while later (probably with too little cooling-off time) I lined Jupiter up in the 130M and used the 6mm eyepiece to have a look. The imagine was really terrible — much worse then the image in the 905. While the view was much brighter there was hardly any detail to speak of, almost as if it was impossible to get sharp focus.

I switched from the 6mm to the 10mm eyepiece and things looked a little better. This time the quality compared more favourably with that as seen in the 905+6mm but, even then, I'd say that the 905 won out in terms of detail that could be seen. It would appear that I need to give the 130M a good check-up at some point. While I did give the collimation a quick check when I brought the 130M out I guess I need to have it a really fine tweak some time soon.

I'm also seeing why planetary observers tend to prefer a refractor rather than a reflecting telescope.

Back at the 905 (with the 6mm), at around 22:19 UT, I noticed that the moon closest to Jupiter had apparently got even closer. Compared to when I started observing this evening it was harder to see it, the gap between it and the planet being obviously narrower. I stepped into the office to check what was going on and I confirmed that the moon was Europa and that it was due to start a transit of the planet at around 22:38 UT. My first ever transit of a Jovian moon! Annoyingly, when I came back out of the office, I noticed that some thin cloud had moved in the way and was dulling the view of Jupiter.

By 22:31 UT the image had improved again. I could just see Europa but it was impossible to see a gap between it and the planet — it looked more like a bump on the limb.

By 22:36 UT I had lost sight of Europa. From then until 22:59 UT I kept observing to see if I could detect Europa in front of the planet but I never got a hint of it. This was made harder by the fact that more thin cloud was moving in the way and significantly dulling the view.

Random sweeping of the Milky Way

From: 2006-06-28 23:00 UT
To: 2006-06-28 23:34 UT

To finish off the session I decided to use the 905 for one of the main purposes I intended: just sweeping around the sky and seeing what I can find. Using the 32mm eyepiece I started to have a random sweep and, almost right away, stumbled on The Coathanger (an asterism I first observed almost a year ago).

After spending some more time just sweeping around (mostly around The Milky Way in and around Cygnus) I decided to call it a night at 23:34 UT.


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

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.


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-08-29 21:07 UT
To: 2005-08-29 22:30 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Tento 10x50 Binoculars

Decided to have another night out with a chair, binoculars and naked eye. Sky was nicely dark when I went out, the Milky Way was very obvious overhead. Some haze about in parts of the sky. Temperature was reasonably warm.

Satellite in Cygnus

Time: 2005-08-29 21:15 UT

Saw a satellite in Cygnus. Moved roughly South to North along and more or less parallel with the "body stars" of the Swan. First saw it in binocular while doing a general sweep of the Milky Way and then followed it with naked eye. Was easy to see and reasonably bright. I wouldn't have put it any brighter than any of the "body stars" but I wouldn't have put it much fainter than the faintest of them.


Time: 2005-08-29 21:29 UT

Tried to see M71 in Sagitta with binocular. I think I could see it. In the correct location I got the vague impression of a faint misty patch, quite small, and only noticeable with averted vision. Seems like a good candidate to hunt down with the telescope.

The Coathanger

From: 2005-08-29 21:34 UT
To: 2005-08-29 21:47 UT

By pure chance, while sweeping the area around Sagitta and Vulpecula, I stumbled upon The Coathanger. I was aware of this asterism from books but hadn't recently taken note of its location was it was a delightful surprise to stumble on it by accident. While it does sound terribly obvious it really does look like a Coathanger.

Having located it once I was very easy to locate it again in the binocular. It really is a nice sight in the binocular.

At 21:45 UT, while looking at it in the binocular, a meteor went right through the middle of the field of view.

Finished off by making a rough sketch. Note that all I did was try and draw the stars of the Coathanger itself, I didn't bother to try and draw any of the other stars in the field.

Sketch of The Coathanger

Quick look at M13

Time: 2005-08-29 21:52 UT

Had a quick glance at M13. It appeared to be stunningly bright tonight. I wanted to make a sketch of it as it appears in the binocular but, as I was getting the drawing gear together, some cloud moved into the area making it less obvious. Decided to leave the sketch for another night.


Time: 2005-08-29 22:02 UT

Went hunting for and found M39 in Cygnus. Very obvious grouping of stars. Easy to find thanks to four stars, more or less in a line, close by. Best description I can give is that it looks like a loose collection of stars in a roughly triangular shape.

Double Cluster in Perseus

Time: 2005-08-29 22:19 UT

First noticed a "fuzzy patch" in the sky between Cassiopeia and Perseus with the naked eye. Check on charts what's there and realised that it's the double cluster of NGC 869 and NGC 884 in Perseus (also known as Caldwell 14).

Had a look with binocular. Excellent sight. The best description I can think of is that it's two star-rich groups of stars, close together, and made more spectacular by being in a pretty star-rich field anyway. Also noticed a really nice arc of stars heading away (roughly North I think) from the pair.

Mars, and end of session

Time: 2005-08-29 22:30 UT

By now more cloud was forming and rolling in. Decided to pack up. Just as I was packing up I noticed that Mars had risen some way above the houses to the East of me. Very bright and an obvious red tint to it. Nice to see that it's rising earlier and earlier. Just a couple of weeks back I didn't notice it until around 22:55 UT. It's starting to get to the point where there's no excuse for not getting the 'scope out and starting to observe it.


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: 2005-06-06 21:35 UT
To: 2005-06-06 23:00 UT (approximate)
Equipment: Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Naked Eye

No moon. The sky was still quite light when I first ventured out. Very clear sky and the atmosphere seemed quite steady.


Time: 2005-06-06 21:35 UT

Viewed Jupiter using the 10mm eyepiece. Image seemed very steady. All four moons were visible, two were very close together (Europa and Io), so much so that at first I thought I was seeing double.

The two main bands were very obvious and appeared to have a very mottled look to them. I also thought I could detect a very faint band towards the South of the planet. Made a sketch of what I saw.

The Summer Triangle

Time: 2005-06-06 22:10 UT

Still not very dark, it was only just obvious that Mizar is a double with the naked eye. The temperature was dropping quite a bit and my breath was misting things up quite a lot (spectecles, eyepieces, etc...).

I guess that the Summer Triangle doesn't get a mention in many logs (who does log constellations and large naked-eye asterisms?) but it seemed worth a note because it's really nice to see this asterism rising before midnight (local time, UT +1) again. Ok, so it does mean that darkness is almost non-existent for me, but it does give that nice feeling that summer is well on its way.

Izar Almost Occulted by Satellite

Time: 2005-06-06 22:20 UT

While scanning the sky with the naked eye I happened to notice a rather bright satellite. As I followed its path it was interesting to watch it almost occult Izar in Botes. I'm not sure that it actually did occult it from my position, it came so close that it was hard to tell.

Update: A poster called stella on the SPA 's forums, having read the above, was kind enough to figure out what I'd seen. Here's the detail:

I have identified the satellite that you saw on June 6.

It was the very large Chinese Long March rocket that was used to launch two satellites (Shiyan 1 and Naxing 1) on 2004 April 18.

At 22:18:50 U.T. it passed very close to Izar as seen from your site near Grantham. It is called 2004-12C and has catalog no. 28222, so you can predict future transits using "Heavens-above".


Time: 2005-06-06 22:47 UT onwards

Decided to have a go at looking at M13. Started out with the binoculars. Located a reasonably fuzzy looking star forming a shallow triangle shape with two other stars in about the right location. Working on the assumption that I'd found M13 I familiarised myself with the field in the binoculars and then moved onto the telescope.

Using the 25mm eyepiece I positioned the telescope on Eta Herculis and then slowly moved the field to the right location. This took a little time to get right, I'm still getting used to working out how "push" directions relate to what movement you see in the eyepiece and, for some reason, I find this even harder when the object you're looking for is near the Zenith.

Finally M13 came into the field. With the 25mm eyepiece the first impression I got was that I was looking at a faint but obvious "splodge", not unlike looking at a rather faint comet. There was no hint of any individual stars, just a large cloud-like structure.

Switched to the 10mm eyepiece. Initially it looked just like it did in the 25mm eyepiece, only bigger. However, after staring at it for some time, and using some averted vision, the image seemed to start to flit from being the cloud-like structure to one of a large structure made from 1,000s of tightly-packed stars. A really incredible sight!


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-05-04 20:50 UT
To: 2005-05-04 21:50 UT (approximate)
Equipment: Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Meade 10x50 Binoculars

Seeing seemed reasonable tonight. No moon.

Didn't get a chance to look at Jupiter as it was obscured by the house early on and by the time it cleared the house cloud had started to roll in from the south.


Time: 2005-05-04 20:50 UT

With the 10mm eyepiece on the 130M I thought I could see the faint hint of a band on the planet's disk. Not really sure if this really was there or if my eye/mind was playing tricks on me.

As with previous sessions I kept getting the odd hint of the Cassini Division.

At just before 21:00 UT, while looking at Saturn with the 10mm eyepiece and 2x Barlow, had a meteor pass right through the field!

Titan was obvious and, with the 10mm and 2x Barlow, I noticed another faint point quite close to the planet (I'd estimate a couple of Saturn diameters away in the field). Wasn't sure if I was seeing another moon or perhaps a background star. Checked the following day with Starry Night and it seems that what I was seeing was Saturn's moon Rhea.

The International Space Station

Time: 2005-05-04 21:15 UT (approximate)

Naked eye this time (obviously). While having a break from the telescope for a moment saw a very bright satellite moving West to East, easily as bright as Jupiter. Saw it pass within two or three degrees of Jupiter. As it headed East it dimmed and disappeared from view as it past into Earth's shadow. Suspected at the time that what I'd seen was the ISS.

Checked the following day with Starry Night: yes, it was the ISS .


Time: 2005-05-04 21:30 UT onwards

Had another look at M44 with the binoculars and then turned the 130M on it using 25mm eyepiece. Very impressive. More stars that I'd care to count.

Noticed with the binoculars, reasonably close to M44, there's an asterism of stars in a roughly straight line. Got to wondering if it's got a name.

Did some checking on the web the following day and couldn't find any mention of it. I guess it's not an asterism of note. Checking in Starry Night it seems what I was looking at is comprised of the following stars (plus some others):

If anyone reading this recognises this asterism and knows a name for it I'd love to hear about it.

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