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2007-05-22


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2007-05-22 16:00 UT
To: 2007-05-22 16:05 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Temperature: 20.4C ...
Dew Point: 10.2C ...
Humidity: 52% ...
Wind Speed: 1.1mph ...
Wind Dir: North North West ...
Pressure: 1018.4hPa ...
Notes:

Mostly cloudy afternoon. Finally started to break up late on so took the Solarscope out to do a quick sunspot count.

Sun

From: 2007-05-22 16:00 UT
To: 2007-05-22 16:05 UT

Active area 956 was visible with 2 spots. Both appeared to be very small and faint.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2007-05-22 18:47 UT
To: 2007-05-22 20:29 UT
Equipment: Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Temperature: 18.8C ...
Dew Point: 9.8C ...
Humidity: 57% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1018.5hPa ...
Notes:

The evening got more and more clear (slightly milky sky with a few bits of cirrus about) so I decided to set up the 130M and attempt to observe the daylight occultation of Saturn by the Moon.

Disappearance of Saturn

From: 2007-05-22 18:51 UT
To: 2007-05-22 19:07 UT

After letting the 'scope cool down a little (I was rushed getting set up) I used the 25mm eyepiece in the 130M to try and locate Saturn. With the "dark side" of the Moon in the field of view I moved around a little to try and find it and, initially, failed. Thinking that a higher power might help I switched to the 15mm eyepiece and scanned some more. After a short while (at 18:56 UT) I could finally make out the planet. It was very faint and, initially, kept popping in and out of view.

Having got it in the middle of the field of view I switched to the 10mm eyepiece. It was still hard to see most of the time. As an experiment I added the Neodymium filter and that appeared to improve things a bit. Now and again the view of the planet's shadow on the rings would pop into view.

I stayed glued to the eyepiece and then, between around 19:05 UT and 19:06 UT (I had no method of keeping accurate timing and, even if I had, it would have meant looking away from the eyepiece) I noticed that a bit of the rings was missing. Very quickly more and more of the planet disappeared until, some time around 19:06 UT, it had totally gone.

I was quite surprised at how quickly it happened. It felt like it took no more than 30 seconds although I've got no way of knowing how long it actually took. The "effort" of watching it probably made it feel faster than it actually was.

Waiting

From: 2007-05-22 19:08 UT
To: 2007-05-22 20:12 UT

I spent most of the next hour talking on the phone to a couple of fellow observers while also watching some cloud roll in from the west. By 20:00 UT the Moon had been totally lost behind cloud. Although I could see a gap off in the distance it didn't look as if it would make it over me in time.

By 20:12 UT the gap had got very close and, for a few seconds, the Moon reappeared but disappeared just as quickly. It looked as if I was going to miss the reappearance of Saturn.

Reappearance of Saturn

From: 2007-05-22 20:13 UT
To: 2007-05-22 20:29 UT

At 20:13 UT the Moon finally became visible again and I acquired it in the 'scope as quickly as possible. Most of Saturn was already visible, just part of the rings was still occulted. Very quickly the whole of the planet and the rings was free of the Moon, I timed last contact to be 20:14 UT.

I carried on observing, watching the gap widen, until the Moon was lost to cloud again at 20:19 UT. I had a few extra fleeting glimpses over the next couple of minutes and then the Moon totally lost again. By 20:29 UT the cloud was heavier and I decided to call an end to the session.


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.


2007-03-21


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2007-03-21 13:15 UT
To: 2007-03-21 13:20 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Temperature: 7.9C ...
Dew Point: 0.1C ...
Humidity: 58% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1017.3hPa ...
Notes:

Partly cloudy day. During a clear spell I took the Solarscope out to do a quick sunspot count.

Sun

From: 2007-03-21 13:15 UT
To: 2007-03-21 13:20 UT

No spots or other marks visible on the Sun.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2007-03-21 19:20 UT
To: 2007-03-21 19:30 UT
Equipment: Canon EOS 400D
Temperature: 4.5C ...
Dew Point: -1.6C ...
Humidity: 65% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1016.7hPa ...
Notes:

The Moon and Venus were very close to each other in the western sky this evening so I decided to have a go at photograping them with my Canon EOS 400D.

Photographing the Moon and Venus

From: 2007-03-21 19:20 UT
To: 2007-03-21 19:30 UT

I went out with my Canon EOS 400D and set it up on a tripod and ran off a series of shots. Given how bright the Moon and Venus were I didn't need to use very long expopsures. Annoyingly I appear to have got the focus slightly wrong (I do find it tricky to manually focus the kit lens for astrophotography work

I took 12 images in all but the best of the bunch appears to be this one:

Moon and Venus

While it gives a reasonable idea of how the Moon and Venus looked it's nowhere near as crisp as it should be. I can see I need to work some more on manual focusing for astronomical photography.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2007-03-21 21:25 UT
To: 2007-03-21 22:07 UT
Equipment: Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Antares 905
Temperature: 1.6C ...
Dew Point: -3.2C ...
Humidity: 71% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1016.6hPa ...
Notes:

Reasonably clear evening, slightly misty and looked like it might get a little foggy. Decided to take the 130M out for a quick test of a new 2x barlow that I'd purchased a couple of weeks ago at the 2007 Society for Popular Astronomy convention.

Testing new barlow against Saturn

From: 2007-03-21 21:25 UT
To: 2007-03-21 21:47 UT

I started out by getting Saturn lined up in the 130M using the 25mm eyepiece. I then switched to the 10mm eyepiece. The image wasn't too bad — a little unsteady and a little soft but it was possible to make out the shadow of the rings on the planet and also the shadow of the planet on the rings.

Next I added the Sky-Watcher supplied barlow lens and had a look at the image with that. As has always been the case I found it difficult to find good focus and the image was very soft to the point of being unusable. I then switched to the new barlow. Focus was a lot easier to find and, while the image wasn't fully crisp, it appeared to be a huge improvement over the Sky-Watcher barlow.

After comparing them a little more I came to the conclusion that the new barlow would, without a doubt, replace the old one in my lens box. It was a very obvious improvement.

I then tried the new barlow with the 6mm eyepiece. As I expected, the image was rather dull and rather soft but it was obviously much better than with the old barlow. I've seen worse views of Saturn at lower magnifications before now.

Testing With the 905

From: 2007-03-21 21:50 UT
To: 2007-03-21 22:07 UT

Having tested with the 130M I decided to give the new barlow lens a quick test when used in the 905. The main point of this test was to see how well it worked with the diagonal. The old barlow, which has quite a long barrel, didn't work too well as it tended to bang against the mirror. The new one is rather shorter and looked like it wouldn't suffer from this problem.

Got Saturn lined up in the 905 and then dropped the new barlow into the diagonal (and it was a perfect fit, didn't hit the mirror at all). Using the 10mm eyepiece Saturn looked pretty good. Again, it was a little soft (I suspect much of this was down to the state of the atmosphere this evening) but was very acceptable. I also tested with the 6mm eyepiece and, while the image was much darker and softer, it was still better than the worst views I've had in the 130M with the 10mm and the old barlow.

Under ideal conditions I imagine that this new barlow and either 'scope will make for a reasonable combination.

By 22:07 UT it was starting to get very misty and, to make matters worse, smoke from someone's fire was being blown over my garden so, having managed to conduct some quick tests, I decided to call it an evening.


2005-09-02


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-09-02 19:13 UT
To: 2005-09-02 23:25 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Notes:

Quite a long observing session — probably the longest I've done yet. The evening started with trying to track down Venus and Jupiter close to each other after sunset and then carried on with me getting the 130M out for a couple of hours.

Hunting for Venus and Jupiter

Time: 2005-09-02 19:13 UT

Venus and Jupiter were just past conjunction so I headed out to the West side of the village with a view to trying to catch them just before sunset. By the time I got set up the Sun had set and the Belt of Venus was visible. Hardly any cloud in the sky although a reasonable covering on the Western horizon.

Spent a short while scanning the horizon with the naked eye but couldn't see either of the planets.

More hunting for Venus and Jupiter

Time: 2005-09-02 19:23 UT

Spent a short while trying to find them with 10x50 binocular. Still couldn't see anything. With the binocular it was very obvious that there was quite a bit of cloud all along the part of the horizon I wanted to be watching.

Failed to find Venus and Jupiter

Time: 2005-09-02 19:50 UT

Having failed to see them (defeated by cloud on the horizon) I headed back to the house. I double checked everything with Starry Night to be sure that I'd been looking in the right place at the right time — I had. Venus would have set at around 19:37 UT so both planets would have been very close to the horizon while I was looking so they were obviously obscured by the cloud.

Out into the garden with 130M — M57

From: 2005-09-02 21:02 UT
To: 2005-09-02 21:23 UT

Now that darkness had really set in I set up the 130M in the garden and decided to check everything by having a quick look at M57.

Sky appeared slightly misty and dew was forming on everything very quickly. Quite a damp feel to the air.

Initially I found it very hard to find it. The problem seemed to be that the red-dot finder was way off and, even after taking some time to adjust it I was still having problems. It seems that, for some reason, the finder itself is now sat on the 'scope such that I don't have enough "slack" in the adjustment to get the 'scope and the dot lined up. I suspect I'm going to have to try and adjust how the finder sits on the 'scope so that the fine-tuning can be done with enough "slack" in the system.

Finally found M57 after a little effort and made a point of making a mental note of how far off the dot in the finder it was so finding other objects should be a little easier.

M56

From: 2005-09-02 21:29 UT
To: 2005-09-02 21:47 UT

Decided to hunt down M56 with the 130M. Started out with 25mm eyepiece. Found it with some trouble. It appeared to be a very small, faint, fuzzy patch. Switched to the 15mm eyepiece and it still appeared to be rather faint. Quite indistinct, no real hint of any actual shape to speak of. Couldn't resolve any stars at all.

Switched to 10mm eyepiece. Although appearing bigger it was still faint, fuzzy and indistinct. There was, however, a hint of a shape now. My best description would be that it seemed vaguely triangular.

With the 6mm eyepiece it was bigger still and the description of it with the 10mm seemed to hold true for the view with the 6mm. As globulars go M56 has to be the hardest target I've looked for yet. With some extra effort and generally with averted vision there did seem to be a slight grainy appearance to it giving a hint that I was looking at something that was composed of stars. That view came and went and was very fleeting.

Strange cloud moment

From: 2005-09-02 22:03 UT
To: 2005-09-02 22:07 UT

Decided to go for M27 next. Roughly lined up the 'scope on the right area and turned my back on the sky for a few moments to check a couple of charts. When I turned back the part of the sky I wanted to look at was now apparently obscured by a cloud. There was no warning of the cloud, I didn't see it coming in from any part of the sky, it just seemed to appear out of nowhere.

Then, almost as quickly as it had appeared, it disappeared. It wasn't that it moved away, it seemed to just disappear (again, while my back was turned). Also, at the same time, I noticed that the NW part of the sky had brightened compared to a little earlier (although, in this case, it didn't seem to be cloud as I could still see stars).

Most odd.

Meteor near Cygnus

Time: 2005-09-02 22:25 UT

While looking in that direction saw a rather bright meteor head roughly East to West just North of Cygnus.

M27

From: 2005-09-02 22:30 UT
To: 2005-09-02 22:50 UT

Back to hunting for M27. Took a little effort to locate — partly down to the issue with the finder and also partly down to the fact that I was looking for a small, faint fuzzy object so I was doing a very careful sweep of the general area. When it finally appeared in the field of view (initially using 25mm eyepiece) I was shocked and amazed at how large and bright it appeared!

The initial appearance was of a large, grey/blue misty patch with a very definite "dumbbell" appearance. Although the overall effect was that it was roughly circular I could see that two opposing sides of the nebula were much brighter and more obvious then the rest of the circumference.

A stunning sight!

Switched to the 15mm eyepiece. The view was even better. Slightly brighter and the "dumbbell" appearance was more pronounced. Made the following rough sketch:

Sketch of M27

Mars

From: 2005-09-02 22:58 UT
To: 2005-09-02 23:25 UT

Finally, a reasonable night out with the 'scope and Mars is getting into a position where I stand a chance of seeing it. That said, I was still observing with a sky that was getting more and more misty while looking in the general direction of a bright streetlight, through a fair bit of atmosphere and with eyepieces that were starting to fog up.

Started with the 25mm eyepiece. All I could see was a non-pin-point bright object that had a hint of orange colouring to it. Next switched to the 10mm eyepiece. Now it started to look like a planet. It had an obvious gibbous phase to it and in brief moments of steady seeing (the image was swimming around rather badly) I thought I could detect a variation in the shading of the surface.

Added a #21 Orange filter to the 10mm eyepiece. Was impressed with how well it seemed to clear up the image. With the filter, in the moments if steady seeing, the variation in the colour of the surface was much more pronounced.

Next used the 6mm eyepiece with the #21 Orange filter. The "swimming" of the image was now much more pronounced so it was harder to get a handle on the image. However, on the odd occasion when the image did settle down the dark patch was very visible. It looked the same as with the 10mm eyepiece only more obvious.

By 23:25 the dew problem was starting to get pretty bad and more and more mist was forming at low level. Decided to call an end to the session.


2005-06-27


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-06-27 20:17 UT
To: 2005-06-27 21:20 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Notes:

Made an attempt to see the conjunction of Mercury and Venus. Also wanted to try and see Saturn in the mix too. While I managed to see Mercury and Venus I never did manage to find Saturn.

All observations were made from the Western edge of the village.

Initial attempt at Venus and Mercury

Time: 2005-06-27 20:17 UT

Got set up on the Western edge of the village. Did an initial scout around the general location of Venus with the naked eye and then with the binoculars but couldn't find anything.

Sun still up.

Got something but not sure what

Time: 2005-06-27 20:23 UT

Sweeping around some more with the binoculars I finally found something. Wasn't sure if I was seeing Venus or Saturn. Was a lone planet so did wonder if it was Saturn but, at the same time, it seemed a little too bright.

Once I'd seen it with the binoculars I could just about find it with the naked eye.

By this point there appeared to be quite a bit of murk on the horizon and whatever I was seeing was just above it. The sky was very read in the general direction of Sunset.

Sun now set from my location.

Mercury and Venus

Time: 2005-06-27 20:27 UT

It was Venus I was looking at. How do I know? Because I could now see Mercury at the 7 O'Clock position to Venus with the binoculars! Let me say that again in big bold letters: I could see Mercury!

This is the first time in my life that I've ever knowingly seen Mercury!

While Venus was now obvious to the naked eye and very easy to find there was no hint of Mercury to the eye.

Venus now very obvious

Time: 2005-06-27 20:37 UT

Venus now a very obvious object to the naked eye but no hint of Mercury (wasn't at all sure if I should or could be able to see it with the naked eye at any point). Noted that there was lots of murk on the horizon now and it was starting to look like I might lose them into it.

Still no sign of Saturn.

Behind me, in the opposite direction from Sunset, I could see the Earth's shadow rising. This is the first time I've knowingly noticed this.

View of Mercury improving

Time: 2005-06-27 20:55 UT

Mercury now very obvious and easy to see in the binoculars. Still no hint of it with the naked eye.

Jupiter

Time: 2005-06-27 21:04 UT

While looking around the sky noticed that Jupiter had popped into view. Had a look at it with the binoculars but no sign of any of the moons yet. The planet itself was obviously a disc.

End of session

Time: 2005-06-27 21:20 UT

Still unable to see Mercury with the naked eye. Both Mercury and Venus starting to get very close to the trees on the horizon.

Could just about make out one of Jupiter's moons with the binoculars.

Decided to call it a day for this session and head back home.


2005-05-19


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-05-19 18:39 UT
To: 2005-05-19 19:06 UT
Equipment: Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Naked Eye
Notes:

Moon very close to Jupiter but cloud rolling in so decided to give it an early look while I had the chance.

Moon and Jupiter

Time: 2005-05-19 18:39 UT

Jupiter was about 1 degree from the Moon this evening. At the time of first viewing the sky was still very light. First looked to see if I could see Jupiter with the naked eye but couldn't make it out. Took a look with the 10x50 binoculars and saw it easily. Once I knew where it was I looked again with the naked eye and saw it with no problems.

With the binoculars I couldn't make out Jupiter's moons but the planet did have a very elongated look so I suspect I was seeing two or more moons but was failing to separate them.

Moon and Jupiter — Pictures via Mobile Phone

From: 2005-05-19 19:00 UT
To: 2005-05-19 19:06 UT

With the 10x50 binoculars mounted on a tripod I thought I'd try something silly and attempt to take some pictures via it with the camera in my mobile phone. No surprise that the pictures aren't very good but, at the same time, a couple of them turned out better than I'd expected. Here's one of the best:

Image of Jupiter and the Moon

Around this time the cloud started to really roll in so that was the end of the session.


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Dave Pearson <davep@davep.org>
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