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All observing logs tagged with Equipment Test

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.


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.


2006-07-13


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-07-13 13:00 UT
To: 2006-07-13 13:05 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Temperature: 24.6C ...
Dew Point: 7.6C ...
Humidity: 34% ...
Wind Speed: 0.4mph ...
Wind Dir: North West ...
Pressure: 1025.3hPa ...
Notes:

Another very clear and warm day. Not a single cloud in the sky. Took the Solarscope out to do a sunspot count.

Sun

From: 2006-07-13 13:00 UT
To: 2006-07-13 13:05 UT

Just as with yesterday, no marks of any sort were visible on the Sun.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-07-13 21:25 UT
To: 2006-07-13 22:30 UT
Equipment: Antares 905
7x50 Binoculars
Temperature: 15.4C ...
Dew Point: 7.7C ...
Humidity: 60% ...
Wind Speed: 0.8mph ...
Wind Dir: North North East ...
Pressure: 1029.2hPa ...
Notes:

Nice clear night, less haze than last night. Very slight breeze now and again. Also felt cooler than last night. Decided to get the 905 out to have another look at Jupiter.

Bright satellite

Time: 2006-07-13 21:26 UT

While setting up the 905 to look at Jupiter I noticed a very bright satellite in the same general part of the sky. It was "above" Jupiter and was heading south to north in the western part of the sky. When I first saw it I would have said it was at least as bright as Jupiter but as it headed further north it faded rapidly.

Sadly, as normally happens with these chance observations, I wasn't really in a position to make careful notes of exact location and path.

At the time I suspected that it might be an Iridium flare but, after checking later on Heavens Above, it would appear that there was no predicted flare around that time. I'm left wondering what it was.

Update 2006-07-17: According to stella, a poster on the SPA's BB, what I saw was "classified surveillance satellite, USA 186, 05-42A".

Jupiter

From: 2006-07-13 21:30 UT
To: 2006-07-13 21:57 UT

With the 905 and the 6mm eyepiece all four main moons were visible with Ganymede on its own on one side of the planet and Io, Callisto and Europa grouped in a nice, neat triangle on the other side. TYC5575-473-1 was still close by but its position in relation to Jupiter was obviously different from last night.

The image was pretty good from the start. The main northern band stood out very well and had very visible signs of mottling. Interestingly the main southern band didn't stand out anywhere near as much and, at times, it almost appeared to be lighter than the surrounding surface. I've never noticed or seen this before — they've always appeared to be about the same shade to me in the past.

Around 21:47 UT the image started to boil a little and some of the detail was lost. Out of curiosity I decided to try the ND25 filter. I don't know if it was just my mind or my eyes playing tricks on me but, with the reduced brightness, I was sure I could see a hint of brown in the colour of the planet — almost like you see in many pictures of Jupiter.

By 21:57 UT the image was getting really bad so I decided to take a short break and possibly come back to look at something else.

Test of 7x50 binocular

From: 2006-07-13 22:10 UT
To: 2006-07-13 22:25 UT

A couple of weeks back, while at the RAF Waddington airshow, I picked up a cheap and unnamed 7x50 binocular. I mostly got them so I could throw them in the car and take them anywhere (and, at the time, mostly because I forgot to take a binocular to the show). Given that the skies were still too light to get any "serious" observing done I decided to try them out at night.

They turned out to be less than brilliant for astronomical work in that, towards the edge of the field, stars would appear slightly out of focus. Towards the middle of the field everything seemed fine. That said, because they're quite small and light they did feel very comfortable for just lying back and sweeping the sky.

Another bright satellite

Time: 2006-07-13 22:27 UT

I noticed another bright satellite, this time in the western sky, not far "below" The Plough. I saw it brighten a bit and then fade. I wasn't paying a whole lot of attention but I would estimate that it got at least as bright as Alioth.

Checking later on Heavens Above I suspect that it might have been Iridium 81 as that was predicted to flare around 22:18 UT. I'm a little concerned that the times are so far apart (at worst I probably noted the time down as being a couple of minutes late) but the other details given for the flare seem to match.

Update 2006-07-17: According to stella, a poster on the SPA's BB, this wasn't Iridium 81 but was, instead, "Terra, 99-68A".

End of session

Time: 2006-07-13 22:30 UT

Sky was still quite light and I really need to be getting off to bed so decided to call it a night.


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.


2005-10-19


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

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

Test of telescope against the Moon

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

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

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

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

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


2005-07-09


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

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

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

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

Test of telescope against Jupiter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2005-05-02


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-05-02 20:30 UT
Equipment: Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Notes:

Having acquired a set of Meade 10x50 binoculars I thought I'd give them a quick try.

Various objects

Time: 2005-05-02 20:30 UT onwards

With binoculars mounted on a photographic tripod I decided to have a quick run around some obvious targets to give them a test.

First looked at Jupiter. All four moons were obvious and easy to see and it was obvious that Jupiter itself was a disk. With something as bright as Jupiter I can see that the binoculars produce a slight "flare" (can't complain, they only cost 14.99).

Turned them on Saturn next. Can't actually see the rings (no surprise there) but it's obvious that I'm not looking at a circular object — the planet is obviously elongated on one axis.

Also managed to get a really nice look at M44 (the Beehive Cluster, AKA Praesepe Cancri, AKA NGC 2632) and Melotte 111.


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