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All observing logs tagged with Cassini Division

2007-05-19


Location: Woodland Waters (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2007-05-19 20:20 UT
To: 2007-05-19 23:41 UT
Equipment: Antares 905
Canon EOS 400D
Notes:

Joined John and Kevin at Woodland Waters for an observing session. The sky was still very light when we arrived, Venus and a crescent Moon hung over the western horizon. Some cloud scattered around but appearing to clear.

Giving Guests a Tour

From: 2007-05-19 20:40 UT
To: 2007-05-19 21:00 UT

A short while after we'd set the 'scopes up and left them to cool down we were joined by a young couple asking what we were looking at. We explained that we weren't looking at anything specific and asked them if they wanted to have a look through the 'scopes.

Over the next 20 minutes or so we gave them a tour of Venus, the Moon and Saturn. As usually happens Saturn seemed to go down a treat.

While showing them Saturn I noticed that the image wasn't too good this evening. It was possible to make out the planet's shadow on the rings but that was about all that could be seen. I couldn't make out the Cassini Division.

Venus was also a bit of a problem too. While it was possible to make out the phase (it was apparent that the phase was smaller than the last time I observed it) there was a lot of false colour (the contrast booster helped a little but not as much as it has in the past) and the image was very unsteady.

Another guest

From: 2007-05-19 21:01 UT
To: 2007-05-19 21:05 UT

Just after the first guests left we had another visit. This person didn't stay very long, just long enough to have a quick look at Saturn through Kevin's ETX125. That sight got a very obvious "wow!" (as it does with most people).

Photographing Venus and the Moon

From: 2007-05-19 21:10 UT
To: 2007-05-19 21:30 UT

I got the Canon EOS 400D out of the car, set it on the tripod, and took some wide angle views of Venus and the Moon together:

Venus and the Moon

Venus and the Moon

Venus, the Moon and Me

Stopping for Coffee

From: 2007-05-19 21:37 UT
To: 2007-05-19 21:47 UT

By 21:37 UT it was obvious that it was going to be a very damp observing session. I noticed that lots of dew was forming on everything. I covered up the log book and anything else that might suffer from getting wet and decided to stop for a short coffee break.

M51

From: 2007-05-19 21:47 UT
To: 2007-05-19 21:57 UT

John had got M51 in his 80mm 'scope and I had a look at it (I would have got it in the 905 too but it was in a position that I can't get that 'scope in to — it's not very good at pointing almost overhead). At first it was difficult to see but, slowly, a very faint ghostly patch came into view using averted vision. I was impressed that I could see anything given that the sky still wasn't anywhere near fully dark.

M57

From: 2007-05-19 22:00 UT
To: 2007-05-19 22:15 UT

Given that Lyra was at a reasonable hight I decided to see how M57 looked in the 905. I found it without too much trouble using the 25mm eyepiece (in that it simply looked like a slightly out-of-focus star) and I then switched to the 6mm eyepiece

With the 6mm it simply looked like a faint disc. There was no hint of the ring structure that I've seen before in the 130M.

Given that the sky still wasn't fully dark I decided to compare the view I had with the view using the Neodymium filter. It did appear to improve things slightly although I wouldn't have said that it brought out any more detail. While I wasn't really comparing like-for-like in terms of observing conditions I'm of the impression that this is an object better left to the 130M.

Antares 905 Fogging Up

Time: 2007-05-19 22:16 UT

By 22:16 UT I noticed that the 905 was starting to fog up. Because of this I decided to cover it up and see if it would clear.

M3

From: 2007-05-19 22:20 UT
To: 2007-05-19 22:30 UT

While the 905 was recovering I had a look at M3 thought Kevin's ETX125. For some reason I've never observed this cluster globular cluster before. I was surprised at how striking the view was.

Observing with a 15mm eyepiece, at first all I could see was a diffuse patch in the sky. As my eye adjusted, and especially when using averted vision, I started to see a mottled effect in the cluster and I soon had the first distinct impression that I was making out individual stars.

Jupiter via EXT125

From: 2007-05-19 23:10 UT
To: 2007-05-19 23:20 UT

After a short coffee break we noticed that Jupiter was visible between trees, low on the horizon. Kevin turned his ETX125 onto it and I spent a short while having a look. All four moons were visible, one to one side of the planet and three to the other side. The view, however, was terrible. It was impossible to make out any detail whatsoever on Jupiter. This wasn't really that surprising given that the planet was so low down and also given that we were observing it thought some thin (and apparently growing) cloud.

Jupiter via 905

From: 2007-05-19 23:23 UT
To: 2007-05-19 23:30 UT

I uncovered the 905 and turned that towards Jupiter. Using the 6mm eyepiece and the contrast booster the view was no better than it had been via the ETX125. I spent a short while just observing but the view never improved and I never saw any detail at all on the planet. At no point could I even make out the two main bands.

End of Session

Time: 2007-05-19 23:41 UT

Over the past hour or so more and more thin cloud had been forming over is and was starting to spread out more. By around 23:41 UT it was obvious that it wasn't going to get any better so we decided to call an end to the session.


2007-04-04


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2007-04-04 15:10 UT
To: 2007-04-04 15:15 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Temperature: 10.8C ...
Dew Point: 4.6C ...
Humidity: 66% ...
Wind Speed: 0.8mph ...
Wind Dir: North ...
Pressure: 1022.6hPa ...
Notes:

Mostly cloudy day. Started to clear some later into the afternoon so took the Solarscope out to do a quick sunspot count.

Sun

From: 2007-04-04 15:10 UT
To: 2007-04-04 15:15 UT

No spots or other marks visible on the Sun.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2007-04-04 19:19 UT
To: 2007-04-04 20:48 UT
Equipment: Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Temperature: 7.1C ...
Dew Point: 2.9C ...
Humidity: 75% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1022.2hPa ...
Notes:

The day cleared further and resulted in a pretty nice evening. I decided to get the 130M out and have a look at Venus with it.

Venus

From: 2007-04-04 19:19 UT
To: 2007-04-04 20:05 UT

I'd put the 130M outside about 20 minutes earlier in the hope that it would cool off enough. Having only used the 905 to observe Venus I was keen to have a go with the 130M.

I first lined the planet up with the 25mm eyepiece. The planet seemed very bright and I could see four huge diffraction spikes coming off it. It was almost impossible to see any shape to the planet itself.

Next I switched to the 10mm eyepiece. I could now see some hint of shape but the planet was still very bright and was still mostly obscured by spikes.

I then switched to the 6mm eyepiece. Despite it being too bright a view still, and despite it still being marred by spikes, I could now easily make out the phase. I was also very surprised at how large the planet looked (the 6mm in the 130M gives 150x magnification).

In an effort to improve the view I placed the end cap of the 'scope back in place and removed the cap from the small aperture. This made a huge difference. The view wasn't anywhere near as bright and I was no longer bothered by spikes (for obvious reasons). While the view wasn't crisp, there was a well defined gibbous phase visible.

Next I added the barlow. The view was very soft with some false colour, not the best view but pretty magnificent when compared to the view via the 905.

I did some more experimenting, adding filters and the like, and found that a good view could be obtained with the 6mm eyepiece (no barlow), the ND25 filter and the cap in place (with the smaller hole open, obviously). While the image was still a little soft around the edges, and gave the odd hint of a red and a blue from time to time, it was a very good view.

As a comparison I then tried the contrast booster and the #80A medium blue filters with the 6mm (still with the cap in place). This also worked well (as I've found on the 905).

In all the experimenting I did none of the images I had appeared to be the sort of image that would allow me to do any sort of "serious" observation, I can't imagine managing to make the sorts of observations that avid Venus observers do. I will, with either 'scope, be able to follow the phase changes though.

At 20:05 UT I finished with Venus.

Saturn

From: 2007-04-04 20:10 UT
To: 2007-04-04 20:48 UT

Given that it was well placed and I had the 130M out I decided to move on to Saturn.

I first got the planet lined up in the 'scope with the 25mm eyepiece and I then switched to the 10mm eyepiece. The view was amazing! Easily as good as, if not better than, the best view I had last year. The Cassini Division stood out right away, there was no problem seeing it. I could also clearly see the shadow of the rings on the planet and the shadow of the planet on the rings. I could also see, without any real effort, some faint banding on the planet itself.

Keeping in mind all the problems I had in the past with the old barlow and the 10mm eyepiece I added the barlow to the mix and looked again. The view was stunning and there was no problem finding focus. There's little doubt that this barlow works far better with the 130M than the one that was supplied with the 'scope.

I then mixed the 6mm eyepiece with the barlow. The view was a little soft but I could see obvious variation in the rings, the Cassini Division stood out and the banding on the planet was still visible.

I noted that this must have been an exceptional sky tonight as I appeared to be getting better and more consistent views than I've ever had before.

Back on the 6mm with no barlow, I noticed to the left of the planet, about a ring diameter away, I could see a faint "star". Checking later with Starry Night is seems that this was Rhea. To the right of the planet, much further out, I could see Titan.

I spent more time just looking at Saturn, watching the really clear moments, the really steady moments, pop in and out of view (and there were many of them). Finally, at 2007-04-04T20:48Z, with some thin cloud starting to get in the way of the view, I decided to pack up for the night.


2007-03-03


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2007-03-03 13:00 UT
To: 2007-03-03 13:05 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Temperature: 11.1C ...
Dew Point: 5.8C ...
Humidity: 71% ...
Wind Speed: 3.3mph ...
Wind Dir: West ...
Pressure: 1003.9hPa ...
Notes:

Mostly clear day. Took the Solarscope out to do a quick sunspot count.

Sun

From: 2007-03-03 13:00 UT
To: 2007-03-03 13:05 UT

Active area 944 was still visible and looked more or less the same as it did yesterday.

Location: Woodland Waters (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2007-03-03 20:10 UT
To: 2007-03-04 01:12 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Antares 905
Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Notes:

Very clear and pretty cold night. Arranged to meet up with John Turner at Woodland Waters to observe the total lunar eclipse. I took along my Antares 905 and a pair of 10x50 binoculars and John brought his Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M mounted on an EQ5 mount.

Saturn

From: 2007-03-03 20:10 UT
To: 2007-03-03 20:50 UT

After setting up I started out with a brief look at Saturn (given that the umbral phase of the eclipse wouldn't be starting for a short while). The first thing I noticed was that seeing seemed to be very steady. The view of Saturn in the 905 with the 6mm eyepiece was nice and sharp.

The shadow of the rings on the planet seemed obvious and I kept getting a good hint of the Cassini Division. Titan was easily visible and, off to the other side of Saturn, closer than Titan, there appeared to be another moon visible. Checking with Starry Night I suspect it was Rhea.

Total Lunar Eclipse

From: 2007-03-03 21:00 UT
To: 2007-03-04 01:12 UT

Having observed Saturn for a while I turned to observing the lunar eclipse.

At 21:04 UT I had the impression that there was less visible contrast between the highland and lowland regions of the Moon. This was especially noticeable on the side of the Moon that was heading towards the Earth's umbra. By 21:24 UT this loss of contrast had become much more noticeable and there was obvious darkening of the part of the lunar surface that was deepest in the Earth's penumbra.

At 21:30 UT the umbral phase started and, very quickly, it was obvious where the umbra was. To the naked eye it looked like part of the Moon had gone missing. Via the 905 detail was still visible in the umbra, it looked like a very dark gray shadow.

I noticed that Tycho had been fully consumed by the shadow at around 21:48 UT. I noted at this point that the umbra seemed very dark (much darker than I remember it looking during last year's partial eclipse), dark gray to almost back looking in places. I also noted at this point that the sky was obviously getting darker and that my shadow was starting to fade.

Around this time I started to take a few afocal images, via the 905, with my mobile phone. Few turned out that well but the following is an example of one of the better ones:

Total Lunar Eclipse

By 22:05 UT we were about way towards totality and I was starting to notice a slight red/brown hint to the umbra. In the 905 the umbra showed no colour, still just a dark gray.

At 22:16 UT, via the 905 and with the 10mm eyepiece, I could see a star quite close to the Moon. This star hadn't been visible before so it seemed pretty clear that a lot of the Moon's glare had gone now. Checking with Starry Night it appears that it was 56Y Leonis (HIP53449, TYC261-384-1).

By 22:32 UT I was starting to see a hint of red/brown colour in the deepest part of the umbra when viewing via the 'scope. The redness was now very obvious to the naked eye. By this point it was looking like it was going to be a reasonably dark eclipse.

At 22:44 UT it was obvious that totality had begun. Although there was an obvious hint of redness to the Moon with the naked eye it wasn't that red. There was an obvious difference in brightness between the part of the Moon that was towards the edge of the umbra and the part that was deepest in the umbra. By now the sky was a lot darker — many more stars were visible, as were the more obvious deep sky objects such as the Double Cluster and M44. I could no longer see my own shadow and, unlike earlier in the evening, I now needed a light to be able to move around safely.

Mid totality was around 23:20 UT. On the Danjon scale I would estimate that the brightness of the eclipse was L2.

At 23:32 UT I observed a short and bright meteor head south of Auriga in the direction of Orion.

By 23:35 UT it was obvious that the brighter part of the shadow had "swung" around to the edge of the Moon that would exit the umbra.

By 23:58 UT the first bright patch was visible to the naked eye, totality had ended.

Around 00:09 UT I took a few more afocal shots of the Moon, via the 905, with my mobile phone. The best of the bunch is this one:

Total Lunar Eclipse

Around 00:17 UT it was obvious that the sky was starting to brighten again. M44 was still visible but much harder to see than it had been during totality. I could also see my own shadow again.

At 00:24 UT, with the Moon about way out of the umbra, some thin cloud started to move in front of the Moon. While it didn't put a stop to observing it was a cause for concern given that thicker could cloud be seen towards the west.

Around 00:36 UT I watched Tycho emerge from the umbra. Also, around this time, I noticed a star pretty close to the lit limb of the Moon (the limb that had already emerged from the umbra). By the looks of things it seemed like it might actually be occulted by the Moon before the Moon was clear of the umbra. I decided to stay at the eyepiece and see how long I could follow the star.

Later checking suggests that I was watching 59 Leonis (HIP53824, TYC268-1064-1). From my location this star would not be occulted by the Moon but would come very close. Western parts of the UK would see an occultation.

At 00:39 UT I noticed that the objective lens of the 905 was starting to badly mist up (this might have started happening some time ago but it was now very obvious due to the glare from the brightening Moon).

The star was still just visible at 00:49 UT, although I now struggling to see it in the glare of the Moon. I carried on watching it for as long as I could and I lost it, very close to the Moon's limb, at 01:01 UT. It appeared to have been occulted (but see the note above).

By 01:04 UT the sky was now very bright again, only the brightest of stars were visible and I could no longer see the naked-eye deep-sky objects I'd been able to see earlier. I could also now walk around without the aid of a torch without any danger of bumping into anything.

I started to pack up during the final moments of the Moon exiting umbra and, at 01:12 UT, I watched the Moon finally move out of the umbra. Now cold and tired we finished packing up and called it a night.


2007-01-23


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2007-01-23 13:10 UT
To: 2007-01-23 13:15 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Temperature: 2.5C ...
Dew Point: -1.4C ...
Humidity: 76% ...
Wind Speed: 5.3mph ...
Wind Dir: West North West ...
Pressure: 1017.3hPa ...
Notes:

Partly cloudy and breezy day. Took the Solarscope out to do a quick sunspot count.

Sun

From: 2007-01-23 13:10 UT
To: 2007-01-23 13:15 UT

Active area 939 was still visible although, unlike yesterday, only two spots were visible.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2007-01-23 19:30 UT
To: 2007-01-23 20:37 UT
Equipment: Antares 905
Temperature: -0.6C ...
Dew Point: -3.8C ...
Humidity: 80% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1014.9hPa ...
Notes:

Clear, still and cold evening. Although cloud was expected later I decided to take the Antares 905 out so that I could test a couple of new filters I'd recently acquired (a Neodymium filter and a contrast booster).

The Moon

From: 2007-01-23 19:35 UT
To: 2007-01-23 20:05 UT

Decided to start by looking at the Moon. Viewed via the 905 with the 10mm eyepiece and no filter the usual flaring was obvious — depending on the location of my eye at the eyepiece or the location of parts of the Moon in the eyepiece the flaring would either appear bluish or yellowish.

Next I fitted the contrast booster to the diagonal of the 905 and viewed the Moon again. The first thing that was noticeable was the fact that the Moon now had a slight yellow/brown tint — not so bad as to be annoying but very noticeable. The filter did, however, appear to do a very good job of removing any fringing from the view. While it wasn't obvious that any more detail was visible on the Moon (I'd have needed a way of flipping the filter in and out of view to do that) it did seem to tidy up the view.

Next I dropped the 6mm eyepiece into the 'scope and had a quick look around. Given that this wasn't really intended to be a serious observing session (more of an equipment test) I wasn't really aiming for anything in particular. However, the crater Stiborius caught my eye. In the lighting conditions, with it being close to the terminator, I could see what appeared to be a raised terrace within the crater, close to the western edge. It was quite a striking sight and really stood out.

I also noticed, touching the northern edge of Piccolomini, what looked like a set of three small craters, touching each other, and all within another crater. While I could see this crater on my map it wasn't marked with a name so I'll need to find a more detailed map and work out what I was looking at.

At 20:05 UT I lost the Moon behind the house next to me so I decided to take a short break before moving on to something else.

Saturn

From: 2007-01-23 20:15 UT
To: 2007-01-23 20:35 UT

Next I decided to turn the 905 on Saturn. Using the 6mm eyepiece (without any filter in place) the view wasn't that good but the planet was still quite low in the sky and I was also viewing it above the roof of an adjacent house.

The rings were obvious although it was hard to tell if there was any sign of a shadow. I could not detect the Cassini Division. Close by I could see Titan.

I then added the contrast booster and looked again. My impression was that the view didn't really appear that much different, it was hard to tell if I could see more with or without the filter. The fact that Saturn was so low and in such a bad position probably meant that any shortcomings in the 905, that would be reduced by the filter, were masked by the general lack of detail that was available anyway.

At 20:28 UT I noticed that some of the forecast cloud was starting to show up to the west and to the north. Given that some snow was forecast too I got ready to pack up pretty soon.

With the filter still in place I carried on watching Saturn for some time with a hope to getting a few good steady moments. While the view did appear to slowly improve as the planet got higher I didn't see any extra detail. I switched back to the view without the filter and still couldn't see any obvious difference. About the nearest I could come to seeing any difference was that the view without the filter appeared slightly "softer" than with but, at the same time, in the odd very steady moment I also felt that there was little difference without or without the filter.

End of session

Time: 2007-01-23 20:37 UT
Temperature: -0.8C ...
Dew Point: -4.0C ...
Humidity: 79% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1013.5hPa ...

By now I could see even more cloud to the north and west and, overhead, it was starting to look rather hazy too. Having at least managed to test the contrast booster I decided it was time to pack up before it got really cloudy and there was a chance of snow starting to fall.


2006-12-16


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-12-16 12:20 UT
To: 2006-12-16 12:25 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Naked Eye
Temperature: 6.9C ...
Dew Point: 3.7C ...
Humidity: 80% ...
Wind Speed: 0.8mph ...
Wind Dir: West ...
Pressure: 1017.9hPa ...
Notes:

Very clear day. Took the Solarscope out to do a quick sunspot count.

Sun

From: 2006-12-16 12:20 UT
To: 2006-12-16 12:25 UT

Active area 930 was still visible although somewhat foreshortened due to getting closer to the limb of the Sun. Today I could only make out a single large spot. The penumbra around it was just about visible.

This was the first observation of 930 where I was unable to see it with the naked eye (via eclipse shades).

Location: Woodland Waters (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-12-16 19:00 UT
To: 2006-12-16 23:50 UT
Equipment: Antares 905
Naked Eye
Notes:

Very clear and cold night. Arranged to meet up with John Turner at Woodland Waters to try it out as an observing location. I took along my Antares 905 and John brought his Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M mounted on an EQ5 mount.

A Leisurely View of Various Objects

From: 2006-12-16 19:00 UT
To: 2006-12-16 23:50 UT

We got to the observing location at around 19:00 UT to find reasonable clear skies with no sign of any cloud anywhere. Some time was spent finding a location and setting up and then the rest of the evening was spent chatting and having a leisurely view of random sights in the sky.

I started with a quick view of M42. Orion was still quite low at the time and the view wasn't very impressive. With the 32mm eyepiece and the 905 I could only just make out the glow of the nebula with averted vision. I decided to come back to it when Orion was higher.

Next I had a quick look at M45. I noticed that the seeing seemed very steady.

I then went on to have a look at M1. This was the first time I'd had a look at it in over a year and it was also the first time I'd observed it with the 905. The view was more or less the same as I remember from the last time — an indistinct patch of glowing sky that was best noticed with averted vision.

At 20:30 UT I saw a very bright and fast meteor travel north to south just below Taurus.

I then had a quick look at M36, M37 and M38 via the 905. All looked very clear and very steady with many individual stars visible. It was quite a different view from that that I've previously had in a binocular. With a binocular I'd previously noted that the clusters had the appearance of globular clusters but via the 905 it was very obvious that I was looking at open clusters.

At around 21:15 UT I returned to M42. By now Orion was higher and the view was much better. With the 905 and the 32mm eyepiece the nebula easily withstood direct vision. Quite a bit of detail was visible, it had quite a mottled appearance. I then dropped the 6mm eyepiece in the 905 and could easily pick out the trapezium.

During the next hour I kept going back to M42 and noted that the view kept improving as it got higher in the sky. Had it not been for the dampness (quite a bit of dew was forming) I'd probably have had a go at producing a sketch.

At around 22:23 UT Saturn was starting to rise above some trees near us. I had a quick look with the 905 and the 6mm eyepiece. The view wasn't that good due to it still being quite low, being viewed amongst the top branches of the trees and also due to some thin cloud started to get in the way. I could, however, easily make out the rings and a hint of the shadow of the rings. There was no sign of the Cassini Division. Titan was easily visible too.

Around 23:19 UT John suggested that I try and locate M81 and M82 in the 905. Using the 32mm eyepiece I pointed the 'scope at about the right location (working off 24 Ursae Majoris) and found them right away. The sight was far more impressive than I thought it would be. M81 had an elliptical appearance, as if I was seeing a galaxy partially tilted towards me, whereas M82 looked more like it was edge on and appeared to have a kink in it. The following evening I did some checking in a couple of books and the impression I had of them appears to perfectly fit the images.

At around 23:50 UT we started to pack up the equipment. All in all I'd say it was one of the best sessions I've had yet. While I didn't have any kind of observing plan, and while my notes weren't as detailed as they normally are when I observe alone, it was nice to share views and impressions with another observer. It was also nice to observe a largely unobstructed sky.


2006-05-11


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-05-11 13:00 UT
To: 2006-05-11 13:06 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Temperature: 21.6C ...
Dew Point: 7.4C ...
Humidity: 40% ...
Wind Speed: 3.5mph ...
Wind Dir: North North West ...
Pressure: 1017.2hPa ...
Notes:

Very warm, clear day. No real haze to speak of and no clouds visible. Did a quick sunspot count with the Solarscope.

Sun

From: 2006-05-11 13:00 UT
To: 2006-05-11 13:06 UT

With the Solarscope I could only see a single active area (880) which only contained a single spot.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-05-11 20:45 UT
To: 2006-05-11 22:51 UT
Equipment: Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Antares 905
Temperature: 14.1C ...
Dew Point: 5.7C ...
Humidity: 57% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1015.8hPa ...
Notes:

Reasonably clear evening, no cloud visible, although the sky did look a little murky towards the horizon. Moon close to full (about 95% waxing gibbous) so moonlight was bound to make for a pretty awful sky.

Having read in a couple of places that fragment B of 73P Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 was in outburst (even to the point of claiming that it was visible to the naked eye in moonlight) I decided to have a session to see if I could find it.

Saturn

From: 2006-05-11 20:50 UT
To: 2006-05-11 20:59 UT

Sky not quite properly dark yet so I decided to start with another look at Saturn. Using the 905 with the 6mm eyepiece I had a view that wasn't one of the best I'd ever had. The image wasn't very crisp and was often unsteady. Despite this most of the usual detail could still be seen. Both shadows were very obvious and there was a hint of banding on the planet itself. The Cassini Division kept popping in and out of view but was mostly hard to see.

Titan was visible although, with direct vision, would pop in and out of view (first time I've ever seen that happen). With averted vision I could see it with little problem.

State of the sky

Time: 2006-05-11 21:05 UT

By this point the sky was still very light, it was very hard to see all but the brightest of stars. Looking at Ursa Minor, for example, I could only easily see the three main stars (Polaris, Kochab and Pherkad).

Comet 73P Schwassmann-Wachmann 3

From: 2006-05-11 21:07 UT
To: 2006-05-11 22:35 UT

From 21:07 UT to around 21:18 UT I did an initial sweep for either fragment B or fragment C of 73P Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 with the binocular but failed to locate either of them. This seemed to confirm that the sky was pretty terrible.

After double checking the location of fragment B (it was located about way between Deneb and Sulafat) I did another sweep that ended around 21:34 UT but I'd still not found it.

Finally, after a third attempt, at around 21:45 UT I was sure I'd finally found fragment B. It was in exactly the right location but very hard to see. All I could detect was a faint, ghostly patch with no definition to it. It was right on the edge of my vision with direct vision and only a little better when using averted vision.

To be sure that I had located it I made a mental note of the pattern of stars close by and popped into the office to check the location with Starry Night. This check confirmed that I had located fragment B.

Between around 22:15 UT and 22:35 UT I made further observations, comparing the view in the binocular with the view in the 905 using the 32mm eyepiece. It appeared to be easier to see with the binocular than with the 905.

By the time I stopped attempting to observe fragment B the sky hadn't improved, if anything I'd have said that it had got a little worse. Even as late as 22:35 UT I could still only easily see the three main stars in Ursa Minor.

Jupiter

From: 2006-05-11 22:40 UT
To: 2006-05-11 22:51 UT

I noticed that it was now possible to have a look at Jupiter from round the side of the house so I moved the 905 into position, lined it up on the planet and dropped in the 6mm eyepiece. The view was very impressive, possibly the best view I've had yet (which is saying something considering how low down it is this apparition). Not only could I see the two main bands, they both had a very mottled appearance that was always visible. Also, the rest of the disc had very obvious variation with hints of detail to them. The polar regions were obviously very different in colour from the rest of the planet.

All four of the main moons were easily visible. When I had the planet in the middle of the field of view Callisto, which was furthest out, didn't actually fit in the field.

At 22:51 UT I decided to call an end to the session. Conditions were far from ideal and I needed to be up at a reasonable time the following morning.


2006-05-05


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-05-05 12:50 UT
To: 2006-05-05 12:54 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Temperature: 22.8C ...
Dew Point: 8.8C ...
Humidity: 41% ...
Wind Speed: 7mph ...
Wind Dir: South South West ...
Pressure: 1018.2hPa ...
Notes:

Mostly clear, just a few clouds about, slight breeze. Nice and warm. Did a quick sunspot count with the Solarscope.

Sun

From: 2006-05-05 12:50 UT
To: 2006-05-05 12:54 UT

With the Solarscope I could only see two active areas (as best as I can tell they were 878 and 880). Could only see a single spot in each area giving a total of two spots for today.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-05-05 19:34 UT
To: 2006-05-05 21:45 UT
Equipment: Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Antares 905
Temperature: 18.3C ...
Dew Point: 8.2C ...
Humidity: 52% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1019.1hPa ...
Notes:

A clear, warm and calm evening. The sky was still very light (the Sun hadn't long set). I decided to set up the 905 to have a session observing the Moon (which was just past first ). I also intended to observe Saturn and, if I was out late enough and the position was right, Jupiter.

All being well I also wanted to try and further observe 73P Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 although I didn't hold out too much hope given how bright the Moon was going to be.

Searching for Saturn in a light sky

From: 2006-05-05 19:34 UT
To: 2006-05-05 19:41 UT

Although the sky was still very light I did a quick sweep of the area to the west of the Moon with the binoculars to see if I could spot Saturn. Pretty quick I spotted it.

Having found it with the binoculars I tried to get it in the 905 but, even using the 32mm eyepiece to give me a fighting chance, I just couldn't track it down. I guess, if I'd persisted, I'd have got it in the end but I decided to give up and move on to the Moon.

Imaging the Moon with a mobile phone

From: 2006-05-05 19:51 UT
To: 2006-05-05 19:55 UT

I lined the Moon up in the 905 and, because I had my mobile phone in my pocket, I decided to try taking some shots. I knew they weren't going to be anything clever but I thought I'd have a try anyway. All attempts were using afocal projection while simply holding the phone in my hand.

I took a number of images but most of them were really terrible and were deleted on the spot. The following were the best of the bunch (which gives a good idea of how terrible the others were).

Moon with mobile phone

Moon with mobile phone

The Moon

From: 2006-05-05 20:14 UT
To: 2006-05-05 21:00 UT

After taking the images shown above, and after a short break from "proper" observing to show my wife the Moon via the 905, I stayed with the Moon to work my way along parts of the terminator and areas close to it.

The first features that really stood out were Ptolemaeus, Alphonsus and Arzachel. While Ptolemaeus was mostly fully lit by the sunlight (the floor looking very smooth except for a couple of small but obvious craters within it) Alphonsus and Arzachel both had their floors in shadow but with their central peaks lit.

Further south I could see (running east to west) Nasireddin, Huggins and Orontius. The latter was mostly in shade, in the night side of the terminator, but the "back" wall (in relation to the direction of the sunlight) was fully lit. I could also very clearly see a small crater in the wall (which is unnamed on the map I had with me).

To the north, on the eastern side of Mare Imbrium, I could clearly see Mons Piton casting a very long shadow which seemed to have a conical shape about it.

Over in the night side I could clearly see the peak of Mons Pico. Near it, just to the south, I could see another sunlit peak. The mountain in question is on my map but isn't named (I can see I'm going to have to get a more detailed map of the Moon some time soon).

The next thing I saw, clearly cutting a path through Montes Alpes, was Vallis Alpes. Although I've seen plenty of images of this feature I was still quite taken by how striking it was. This is a good candidate for further observations and possibly a good candidate for a lunar sketch at some point in the future.

The shadows from Montes Alpes were very striking — I counted 6 distinct shadows stretching out into the floor of Mare Imbrium. One of them appeared much longer than the others and I took this to be the shadow of Mons Blanc.

Other mountain ranges that stood out were Montes Spitzbergen (which could be seen just north of Archimedes and more or less on the terminator) and Montes Archimedes (which was also more or less on the terminator, south of Archimedes).

The next thing I noticed, in the terminator, was the eastern wall of Plato. Above it, in Mare Frigoris, I then noticed what looked like some sort of ridge running more or less east to west. I could see a hint of the feature on my map but no name is given. While the impression on the map is that it isn't a very distinct feature the view I had was one of a feature that was very significant (not very surprising really given its proximity to the terminator — the western end of it seemed to disappear into the terminator). To some degree the view I had reminded me of Rupes Recta, except this feature more or less runs east/west (unlike Rupes Recta, which runs more or less north/south). The "higher" side (the side that appeared to be sunlit) was the north side — the south side seeming to be in shadow.

At 20:52 UT the seeing suddenly deteriorated and for the first time this session there seemed to be a breeze about. Given that the image in the 'scope seemed to be getting worse I finally decided, at 21:00 UT, that it would be a good time to take a short break.

Assessing the viewing conditions

Time: 2006-05-05 21:10 UT

By now the sky had got quite dark but the moonlight was visibly causing problems — making the sky look quite washed out. Conditions were so bad that I couldn't actually make out the Keystone. Conditions didn't look good for viewing the comet.

Although it was hard to tell at this point there was a hint of some cloud moving in on the eastern horizon.

Brief look at Saturn

From: 2006-05-05 21:15 UT
To: 2006-05-05 21:25 UT

Had a brief look at Saturn with the 905 and the 6mm eyepiece. It wasn't anywhere near the best view I've had of it this apparition but I was still able to make out both of the shadows, a hint of handing on the planet's surface and, from time to time, the Cassini Division would pop in and out of view.

A quick hunt for Comet Schwassmann-Wachmann 3

From: 2006-05-05 21:20 UT
To: 2006-05-05 21:30 UT

Used the binoculars quickly hunt for fragments B or C of 73P Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 but failed to find them. I did note that M13 was only just visible so it didn't come as any surprise that I failed.

Assessing the chances of observing Jupiter

From: 2006-05-05 21:33 UT
To: 2006-05-05 21:34 UT

Wandered around the house looking for a possible vantage point that would give me a good view of Jupiter but couldn't find a location that would give a clear view with the 905. I did have a quick look with the binoculars and could briefly see a hint of the Jovian moons but the eyepieces misted up and put a stop to that.

Increasing cloud — end of session

From: 2006-05-05 21:35 UT
To: 2006-05-05 21:45 UT

Just after checking on Jupiter I noticed that it was starting to fade and, shortly after that, it totally disappeared. I quickly became obvious that a bank of cloud was moving in from the east. Within a couple of minutes it was almost overhead and I could see no stars all the way down to the eastern horizon. Because it looked like there wasn't going to be a break in this (and the forecasts for the evening had it clouding up with a chance of rain) I called an end to the session.


2006-05-03


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-05-03 13:17 UT
To: 2006-05-03 13:24 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Solarscope
Temperature: 20.7C ...
Dew Point: 9.2C ...
Humidity: 49% ...
Wind Speed: 1.1mph ...
Wind Dir: East North East ...
Pressure: 1011.3hPa ...
Notes:

Breezy day with lots of broken cloud about — sunny intervals were more the exception than the rule but there was a short time when a sunspot count with the Solarscope was possible.

Sun

From: 2006-05-03 13:17 UT
To: 2006-05-03 13:24 UT

With the Solarscope I could still see active areas 875, 878 and 879. Between them I counted 7 sunspots.

Using eclipse shades I checked to see if it was still possible to see area 875 with the naked eye but I was unable to detect it.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-05-03 20:35 UT
To: 2006-05-03 22:45 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Antares 905
Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Temperature: 15.2C ...
Dew Point: 9.1C ...
Humidity: 68% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1013.8hPa ...
Notes:

Another calm, clear evening, similar to a couple of nights ago but also a lot warmer. It was still light when I first stepped out, I wanted to get things set up as soon as possible and give the 'scopes plenty of time to cool down. Waxing crescent Moon, getting close to first , was in the western sky.

The main plan for the evening was to try and observe comet 73P Schwassmann-Wachmann 3, with a view to trying to track down fragment B and, if possible, any other fragments. Because of this, as with a couple of nights back, I took both the 905 and the 130M out with me.

Saturn

From: 2006-05-03 20:40 UT
To: 2006-05-03 20:59 UT

While waiting for it to get dark (and while letting the 130M have plenty of time to cool down) I decided to start by viewing Saturn with the 905. After getting the planet lined up in the 'scope I switched to the 6mm eyepiece. The image was crisp and steady, much better than the last observation. Right away the shadow of the planet on the rings and the shadow of the rings on the planet stood out. The Cassini Division kept leaping in and out of view.

Noticed that Titan was obvious close by.

I also noticed that I was getting many fleeting hints of banding on the surface of the planet.

The Moon

From: 2006-05-03 21:00 UT
To: 2006-05-03 21:26 UT

To kill some more time I turned the 905 on the Moon. The first thing that stood out was, in Mare Serenitatis, Dorsa Smirnov. It stood out as a very obvious line, snaking its way up the eastern side of the mare.

Closer to the terminator from Dorsa Smirnov I could pick out a line of 5 small craters, each one casting a very long shadow. On my lunar map only the bottom two are named. The names given are (starting at the bottom of the line) Deseilligny and Sarabhai. I'll have to try and find a more detailed map to get the names for the others.

Further to the north, partly in the terminator, Montes Caucasus looked amazing in the low sunlight. It looked as if someone had thrown a huge pile of rubble onto the lunar surface — the whole thing having a very "bitty" appearance.

Even further to the north Aristoteles stood out really well. The eastern wall of the crater was nicely lit while the rest (floor and western wall) was in total darkness. Adjacent to it Mitchell could be seen with the tops of all of its walls lit but with the floor in total darkness. Close by I could also see Galle was casting a very long shadow.

A short break and a meteor

From: 2006-05-03 21:27 UT
To: 2006-05-03 21:44 UT

Noticed that the Keystone was now quite high and more or less in a good place to observe. Also noticed that the sky still looked quite bright due to the moonlight — I could easily see my shadow cast by the Moon.

Decided to have a short break for a drink before attempting to find and observe the comet.

At 21:37 UT I saw a meteor travel west through the "bowl" of the Plough in Ursa Major.

Comet 73P Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 (plus a meteor)

From: 2006-05-03 21:45 UT
To: 2006-05-03 22:44 UT

Started out with the 10x50 binocular and found what I thought was fragment C of Schwassmann-Wachmann 3. It was much harder to make out than a couple of nights ago — I suspect this was down to the increased interference from the Moon.

Having found the right general area I switched to the 905 with the 32mm eyepiece and couldn't find it. I spent at least 5 minutes looking in what I thought was the right area but could not identify the comet.

At 21:57 UT I saw a meteor travel from the zenith to the eastern horizon, north of the Keystone. It was quite bright but I didn't manage to estimate the peak magnitude.

Finally, at 22:00 UT, I found fragment C of the comet in the 905. It was much less obvious than the last observation, less of a hint of a tail.

At 22:08 UT I switched to the 130M with the 32mm eyepiece and easily found fragment C. The view with the 130M was much better and brighter. The tail was much more obvious.

After some time looking at fragment C I went looking for fragment B with the 905 and the 32mm eyepiece. By 22:27 UT (after about 1 minute of looking) I was sure I'd found it. I had what appeared to be a faint, fuzzy patch, just outside the Keystone and in the same field of view as M13. Whatever it was I was looking at it was much fainter than M13.

At 22:29 UT I took a look at the same location with the 130M and the 25mm eyepiece and found the same object. It was much clearer and more obvious with the 130M and there was a hint of a tail visible. Given the location and the look there was little doubt that I'd located fragment B.

Around 22:36 UT I had a go at finding fragment B with the 10x50s but, due to the eyepieces constantly misting up, I failed and gave up. For a brief moment before they misted up badly I thought I saw C and possibly another fragment but that might have been wishful thinking on my part.

At 22:45 UT I noticed that there was quite a bit of cloud rolling in from the south west. Showers had been forecast for anything from 23:00 UT onwards so I decided to play it safe and call an end to the session so that I could get the 'scopes packed away.


2006-05-01


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-05-01 20:10 UT
To: 2006-05-01 22:17 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Antares 905
Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Temperature: 8.9C ...
Dew Point: 2.8C ...
Humidity: 66% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1003.3hPa ...
Notes:

Calm, clear evening. Still light when I first stepped out. Some high-level haze was visible but it seemed to be patchy and didn't look like it would cause much of a problem. Waxing crescent Moon (about 12% illuminated) in the western sky.

The main plan for the evening was to try and observe comet 73P-C Schwassmann-Wachmann 3. With this in mind I set up both the 905 and the 130M — the idea being that the former would be useful for locating the comet and the latter would be better for actual observing once I'd located it.

The Moon

From: 2006-05-01 20:14 UT
To: 2006-05-01 20:30 UT

While waiting for it to get dark (and while letting the 130M have plenty of time to cool down) I decided to turn the 905 on the Moon. I started with the 25mm eyepiece. Right away the earthshine looked very impressive, good enough to see plenty of features on the night side of the Moon.

Mare Crisium was fully illuminated with the terminator running through Mare Fecunditatis.

I spent a little time using different eyepieces and quickly running up and down the terminator, enjoying the sights of the various craters and mountains that could be picked out. I made no serious effort to do any real lunar observing as that wasn't the main point of the evening.

I then spent a bit of time trying to get a couple of images, through the 25mm eyepiece, using the camera in my mobile phone. Sadly the day-side of the Moon was always too washed out and none of the images were any good.

Saturn

From: 2006-05-01 20:37 UT
To: 2006-05-01 21:00 UT

Next, while waiting for it to get dark enough to look for the comet, I decided to have a look at Saturn. I started with the 905 and the 10mm eyepiece. Right off the planet's shadow on the rings was obvious. The image was sharp but often unsteady. There was no obvious hint of the Cassini Division.

Next I switched to the 6mm eyepiece and there was a good view of the shadow of the rings on the planet. There was also a faint suggestion of banding on the planet's surface. The image wasn't as steady as previous sessions but, with the 6mm, I did start to get the odd hint of the Cassini Division in steady moments.

One thing that was very obvious was, when compared to the last couple of views I've had of Saturn with the 905 (2006-03-24 and 2006-04-03), the planet was looking smaller than I recalled.

Next, as a comparison test, I turned the 130M on Saturn. Using the 6mm eyepiece the image was (obviously) much bigger than with the 905 but it was also much softer too. At no point could I get as sharp a focused image as I could with the 905. I'd say that the 130M didn't give me any more detail on Saturn than the 905 did, perhaps even a little less. The image was, obviously, much brighter with the 130M.

I find it hard to believe that there'd be that much difference between the two, this suggests to me that I really need to give the 130M a good check-up and redo the collimation (it has been a long time since I checked the collimation).

International Space Station

Time: 2006-05-01 21:08 UT

Noticed a very bright satellite heading west to east, just below Leo. Watched it head down into Virgo and then fade. Given the look, location and speed I suspected that it was the International Space Station.

Checking later, it was the ISS.

Haze starting to form

Time: 2006-05-01 21:12 UT

Noticed that some thicker high-level haze was starting to form. This was causing a slight halo around the Moon and, looking over to Hercules, I could see that it was difficult (but not impossible) to see the Keystone asterism.

Satellite

Time: 2006-05-01 21:18 UT

Watched a satellite pass south to north just west of Botes.

According to `stella' on the SPA BB what I saw was a rocket body called Resurs 1-4.

First look for Comet 73/P-C Schwassmann-Wachmann 3

Time: 2006-05-01 21:27 UT

Despite the fact that conditions were less than ideal I decided to have a first go at looking for Schwassmann-Wachmann 3. Using the 905 with the 25mm eyepiece I started out at Epsilon Herculis and worked my way to the general location of the comet (actually, fragment C of the comet — that's all I was concentrating on this evening — mostly because I ran out of time and good conditions). With no effort at all I found the comet.

The general impression was that it was faint, fuzzy and conical shaped. With direct vision it was almost impossible to see but with averted vision it was easy enough to detect. At times there was a hint of blue/white colour to it.

Next I dropped the 32mm eyepiece in the 130M and located the comet with that. This time I could see it with direct vision and there was a very obvious hint of a tail — even more so when averted vision was used.

Still on the 130M I then switched to the 25mm eyepiece and then the 15 mm eyepiece but found that, the shorter the focal length I used, the worse the image became. The 32mm eyepiece was easily giving the best view.

At this point, using the 130M and the 25mm eyepiece, I made a mental note of the location of the comet in relation to the stars close by with a view to seeing if I could detect movement with a later observation.

Comet 73/P-C Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 with 10x50 binocular

Time: 2006-05-01 21:45 UT

I grabbed my Meade 10x50 binocular and quickly located the comet without any effort. It was very obvious — impossible to miss. When compared with M13 the comet appeared bigger and more diffuse.

Jupiter with the naked eye

Time: 2006-05-01 21:55 UT

From the bottom of the garden I noticed, through some trees over the road from me, that Jupiter was up and looking very bright. Sadly, given the position, it was almost impossible to use either of the telescopes to have a look. Given that Jupiter is going to be rather low to the horizon for this apparition there's a good chance that I won't get to observe it (at least not from home) as it'll probably be obscured by the house most of the time.

Second look at Comet 73/P-C Schwassmann-Wachmann 3

From: 2006-05-01 22:10 UT
To: 2006-05-01 22:17 UT

After a short break I went back to the 130M with the 25mm eyepiece to see if I could detect any movement (based on the earlier mental note). It was instantly obvious that there had been movement in that time. Given the rate of movement I saw in such a short period of time I noted that it would be interesting to see how the location compared on subsequent nights (assuming, of course, that the weather plays ball and I get the chance to observe it again any time soon).

By 22:17 UT thicker haze had moved in from the west and it looked like it was more or less horizon to horizon. At this point I decided to call an end to the session.


2006-04-03


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-04-03 14:25 UT
To: 2006-04-03 14:30 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Solarscope
Temperature: 12.4C ...
Dew Point: 0.7C ...
Humidity: 45% ...
Wind Speed: 7.9mph ...
Wind Dir: West ...
Pressure: 1016.2hPa ...
Notes:

Partly cloudy, quite breezy afternoon. Some moments of clear sunshine between the clouds. Got the Solarscope out to have a quick look at the Sun. It was hard to make a really good observation as the wind kept blowing the Solarscope around.

Sun

From: 2006-04-03 14:25 UT
To: 2006-04-03 14:30 UT

With the Solarscope I could see that area 865 had developed some more on yesterday. I counted fewer obvious spots but cloud see significant dark lines.

Area 866 seemed a little more developed and area 867 seemed to have developed a second spot.

Using eclipse shades I was able to see the main spot in area 865 with the naked eye.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-04-03 19:05 UT
To: 2006-04-03 20:07 UT
Equipment: Antares 905
Temperature: 7.4C ...
Dew Point: -0.9C ...
Humidity: 56% ...
Wind Speed: 1.1mph ...
Wind Dir: West North West ...
Pressure: 1017.3hPa ...
Notes:

Reasonably clear night, just the odd cloud floating about, quite breezy with the occasional strong gust. Waxing crescent Moon. Although the Sun hadn't long set and the sky was still quite light I decided to take the 905 outside and set it up with a view to having a look at the Moon — this would also give me the chance to get the finder aligned.

Further testing of the Antares 905

From: 2006-04-03 19:05 UT
To: 2006-04-03 20:07 UT

Spent a little time setting up the 905 and aligning the finder using the Moon as the target. Once that was done I settled down to look at the Moon with the 6mm eyepiece (which I'd finished up with in the holder during the alignment process). The detail along the terminator was excellent, very sharp and no hint of any false colour. Along the limb facing the Sun a lot of violet flare was visible, not so much to be annoying or a problem but it was very noticeable.

Something I was starting to notice was that the gusts of wind were causing a fair bit of vibration in the 'scope. I don't know if it's the mount or the tripod that's the problem (possibly both) it's obvious that this is more of a fair-weather setup or, if it were to be used for critical observations in windy conditions something would have to be done to firm it all up.

Had a look at Saturn next. Even though conditions weren't ideal, seeing wasn't that good and vibrations in the 'scope weren't helping, banding could be seen on the planet and the Cassini Division kept popping in and out of view.

I spent a fair bit of time watching Saturn, it was quite something to see the detail pop in and out of view as conditions improved and then got worse.

Using the 32mm eyepiece I went back to have a nice, wide-field view of the Moon. The flare on the sunward limb was very obvious (but, again, not distracting) and I also noticed that as I moved my eye closer to the eyepiece the flare appeared violet yet when I moved further back from the eyepiece it became obviously yellow. I'm not surprised by any of this, it is to be expected. Like I say above, it isn't at all distracting and lunar observing isn't the main intended use for this 'scope — I purchased it more for cluster observing and things like that.

Couple of things of note during the evening (not via the 'scope): the Moon was very close to Mars and Elnath. In fact, when I first stepped out and the sky was still light enough that only the very brightest stars were visible I thought the Moon was close to Castor and Pollux. It was only as the sky got darker that I realised that I'd been a little disoriented due to Mars' position.

The other thing I noticed during the evening was how many satellites I saw. During most of the winter months (not that I've been out that much this last winter) I don't recall seeing many satellites at all (other than the ISS) — this makes sense of course and the fact that I saw so many during this little session shows that days are getting longer.

By 20:07 UT the sky was getting very hazy and the gusts of wind were making it harder to view much though the 'scope. That, and the fact that I had a streaming nose due to a cold, meant that I packed up. A short session, but a worthwhile one in that it was another useful test of the 905.

I'm still pleased with the purchase.


2006-03-24


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-03-24 20:24 UT
To: 2006-03-24 20:44 UT
Equipment: Antares 905
Temperature: 7.9C ...
Dew Point: 6.0C ...
Humidity: 88% ...
Wind Speed: 0.4mph ...
Wind Dir: South South West ...
Pressure: 991.4hPa ...
Notes:

Despite the weather being less than ideal I decided to use a break in the clouds to give my newly acquired Antares 905 a quick test. Conditions were quite misty with a warm dew forming on most surfaces.

Quick Test of the Antares 905

From: 2006-03-24 20:24 UT
To: 2006-03-24 20:44 UT

Quickly set up the 905 and roughly polar aligned the mount. Dropped in my new 32mm eyepiece and swung the 'scope around to M45. Despite not using the red-dot finder I'd ordered with the 'scope (it needed aligning and I suspected that I wouldn't have enough time to do that and to observe something too) I managed to get the cluster in the field of view with very little effort.

My initial impression was that the image was crisp and bright. There was no obvious false colour anywhere in the field. I then switch to the 25mm eyepiece and found that the quality of the image was just as good.

I then decided to try what might have been an unfair test: I pointed the 905 at Saturn. After finding it (with very little effort) in the 25mm eyepiece I switched to the 6mm eyepiece. I was delighted to note that the image appeared crisp and sharp, still with no obvious false colour.

Despite the conditions being less than ideal, and despite the fact that the 'scope had been given no cool-down time at all, I'd happily say that the view I had of Saturn was the 2nd or 3rd best view I've had since I got back into observing a year ago. The Cassini Division kept popping in and out of view, as did a hint of banding on the planet. If Saturn looks like this in the 905 in less-than-ideal conditions I'd be interested to see what it would look like in ideal conditions.

At this point I decided to give the 6mm eyepiece a go along with the 2x barlow but at that moment cloud rolled in and obscured Saturn (and, quickly, the rest of the sky). Given that rain had been forecast I decided to quickly pack up and call it a night.


2006-03-02


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-03-02 13:30 UT
To: 2006-03-02 13:35 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Temperature: 6.5C ...
Dew Point: -3.2C ...
Humidity: 50% ...
Wind Speed: 3.8mph ...
Wind Dir: North West ...
Pressure: 998hPa ...
Notes:

Cold, partly cloudy and a little hazy. A quick look at the Sun to check for sunspots.

Sunspot check

From: 2006-03-02 13:30 UT
To: 2006-03-02 13:35 UT

Quickly dragged the Solarscope outside to do a sunspot count. The Sun was totally blank, not even a hint of the markings that I saw yesterday.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-03-02 20:31 UT
To: 2006-03-02 21:46 UT
Equipment: Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Temperature: -2.2C ...
Dew Point: -5.8C ...
Humidity: 77% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 998hPa ...
Notes:

Cold, clear, but slightly hazy night. Decided to get the 130M out and have a look at M42 and Saturn.

M42 and M43

From: 2006-03-02 20:31 UT
To: 2006-03-02 21:05 UT

Set up the 130M with the 25mm eyepiece and pointed it at M42 and M43 in Orion. Despite having owned the 'scope for almost a year now this is the first time I've really had the chance to have a look at this famous object (mostly due to the nature of my horizon and how the weather has been for me).

Right off the classic "fan" shape was easily visible with an obvious separation between M42 and M43. Also, all four stars in the Trapezium were easily visible. There was no hint of colour other than a sort of silvery gray — no hint of the green that some people say they can see and I've seen myself in the past in a 10" Newtonian telescope (on a Dobsonian mount).

Switched to the 15mm eyepiece, this gave a view where the nebula was bigger than the field of view.

Using either eyepiece direct vision was all that was required to see the nebula, although averted vision suggested a greater extent and a little more detail.

I made the following very rough sketch as a reminder of what M42/M43 looked like in the 25mm (although I've drawn it a bit bigger than it appeared). Finished the sketch at 21:05 UT.

Rough sketch of M42

When I get the chance I aim to do a more complete sketch based on what I recorded in the above.

Saturn

From: 2006-03-02 21:17 UT
To: 2006-03-02 21:46 UT

Turned the 130M on Saturn. Found it with no problems using the 25mm eyepiece and then switched to the 6mm eyepiece.

Oh Wow! Every other time I've observed Saturn it's been a struggle to get a good view; it's always required patience and a lot of looking before any serious detail, especially the Cassini Division, has stood out. This view was totally different. From the very first moment the rings appeared nice and crisp, the planet's shadow on the rings stood out really well and the Cassini Division was immediately obvious.

I spent the next 20 minutes or so observing the planet and the quality of the image hardly ever changed. Without a doubt the best view I've ever had.

By 21:46 UT I was starting to get rather cold and dew/frost was starting to form on everything. With some reluctance I decided to pack up for the night.


2006-01-11


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-01-11 16:51 UT
To: 2006-01-11 16:57 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Temperature: 5.5C ...
Dew Point: 1.5C ...
Humidity: 75% ...
Wind Speed: 2mph ...
Wind Dir: West ...
Pressure: 1021.8hPa ...
Notes:

Mark Smith alerted me to a pass of the ISS that was about to happen so I ventured outside to watch it go over.

International Space Station

From: 2006-01-11 16:51 UT
To: 2006-01-11 16:57 UT

The sky was still light, although the Sun had set. I managed to pick out the ISS when it was something like 20 above the horizon (perhaps a little more). At its maximum altitude (around 69) it was very bright, brighter than I've ever seen it before. I also watched it pass about way between Mars and M45.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-01-11 21:22 UT
To: 2006-01-11 23:00 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Temperature: 2.0C ...
Dew Point: -0.1C ...
Humidity: 86% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1024.8hPa ...
Notes:

First clear night this year and the first clear night I've had free to observe in a month. The Moon was quite high in the sky, phase was waxing gibbous (about 89% of full). The main aim for this session was to observe Saturn (this would be the first telescope observation of the planet since 2005-05-07.

Saturn

From: 2006-01-11 21:22 UT
To: 2006-01-11 22:10 UT

Got Saturn in the field of view of the 130M, using the 25mm eyepiece with no trouble. Even at such low power the rings were quite obvious. I could also easily see Titan and Rhea. The image was a little unsteady (with some blurring and false colour) but, at this point, the 'scope hadn't really had much time to cool down so I wasn't expecting too much.

Switched to the 6mm. The image wasn't very sharp and was mostly unsteady. However, in steady moments, I was sure I was getting a hint of the Cassini Division.

Decided to play with some of the filters and see what effect they had. Started with the #15 Yellow/Orange filter. With it I thought I could see a good hint of a couple of dark bands on the surface of the planet.

I next tried the #21 Orange and then the #56 Green filters. In both cases I didn't notice any obvious improvement over the view without any sort of filter.

Finally I tried the #80A Medium Blue filter. When using this I'm sure I got a better hint of the Cassini Division than I'd had with any other view.

As a quick test I tried the 6mm eyepiece with the 2x barlow. The view was terrible. This was to be expected as this provides slightly more magnification than the 130M can handle.

I next tried a view with the 10mm eyepiece and the 2x barlow. The view was reasonably good but didn't really seem to show any more detail than any other view I'd had.

A good view of the Cassini Division still eludes me.

Saturn and The Beehive

From: 2006-01-11 22:28 UT
To: 2006-01-11 22:35 UT
Temperature: 1.6C ...
Dew Point: -0.4C ...
Humidity: 87% ...
Wind Speed: 3.5mph ...
Wind Dir: West South West ...

Used the Meade 10x50 binocular to view Saturn and M44 in the same field of view. Looked fantastic! Having spent the best part of the previous hour observing Saturn through the 130M (where the planet was a significant feature in the field of view), this view, with M44 in the field, seemed to make Saturn look very small.

Also noticed that Asellus Australis was nicely framed in the field too. All in all an excellent sight and right in the middle of Cancer.

Moon and Elnath

Time: 2006-01-11 22:36 UT

While looking at the Moon with the naked eye I noticed a bright star close by (about 1 or so away). Against the Moon's brightness it was hard to make out but it was simple to see with the binocular. A quick checked showed that the star in question was Elnath in Taurus

One last view of Saturn

From: 2006-01-11 22:54 UT
To: 2006-01-11 23:00 UT

Decided to have one last look at Saturn before packing up. Used the 6mm eyepiece on the 130M. Had some very steady moments in which I thought I could see a very good hint of the Cassini Division. Also, in this view, the rings stood out really well against the planet.

Also experienced a couple of moments of really bad seeing. This little observation was a really nice example of the "watch and wait" approach to viewing planets. One moment the view was awful, the next it was the best I'd seen it all evening.


2005-05-04


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
Notes:

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.

Saturn

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 .

M44

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.


2005-04-21


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-04-21 20:00 UT
To: 2005-04-21 20:30 UT
Equipment: Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Notes:

93% waxing Moon.

My first observing session with the motor drive fitted to the EQ2 mount. What a difference it makes! No more need to play catch-up with anything that I'm viewing. It's so nice to view something, look away from the eyepiece to make notes, and then go back to the eyepiece to find that the object is still there.

Jupiter

Time: 2005-04-21 20:00 UT

Sky still reasonably light but needed to try and catch Jupiter before it disappeared behind the house (garden is on the North side of the house).

The two main equatorial bands were easily visible and, as noted in a previous observing log, in moments of very steady seeing they both seem to take on a faint mottled effect.

Callisto, Ganymede, Europa and Io all visible (made sketch of their positions).

Saturn

Time: 2005-04-21 20:30 UT

As with a previous observing session the shadows from the rings on the planet and from the planet on the rings are obvious -- this gives the planet a very 3D effect. Again, in moments of very steady seeing I thought I caught a glimpse of the Cassini Division.

There's a very obvious "smudging" effect that seems to go away if I use the 10mm with the 2x Barlow. I noticed this in a previous observing session too. I don't think it's a problem with the eyepiece or the 'scope. I'm wondering if it's down to Saturn being very bright in the eyepiece and my eye isn't coping too well with it. Might be time to look into a filter or two.


2005-04-16


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-04-16 20:20 UT
To: 2005-04-16 21:15 UT
Equipment: Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Notes:

After a couple of quick sessions with the 130M in the week or so prior this was my first "proper" observing session with the new scope (as in, I took the time to keep notes).

First quarter moon.

Atmosphere rather unsteady. Dew kept forming on everything and the eyepieces kept misting up whenever I went near them.

Jupiter

Time: 2005-04-16 20:20 UT

Viewed with 10mm eyepiece.

Both of the main bands were visible but rather faint. In moments of steady seeing the bands seemed to take on a faint "mottled" appearance.

Io, Callisto, Europa and Ganymede all visible.

Saturn

Time: 2005-04-16 20:54 UT

Viewed with 10mm eyepiece plus 2x Barlow.

Very obvious seperation between the rings and the planet. Saw a faint hint of the shadow of the rings on the planet and there was an obvious shadow of the planet on the rings. No obvious detail on the planet or in the rings although, in moments of very steady seeing (very rare), I thought I could see a hint of the Cassini Division (although this might have been wishful thinking).

Mizar in Ursa Major

Time: 2005-04-16 21:15 UT

With 10mm eyepiece it was very easy to split Mizar and Zeta Ursae Majoris.


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Dave Pearson <davep@davep.org>
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