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All observing logs tagged with Mars

2008-02-09


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2008-02-09 14:45 UT
To: 2008-02-09 14:50 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Temperature: 11.1C ...
Dew Point: 6.4C ...
Humidity: 73% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1026.8hPa ...
Notes:

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

Sun

From: 2008-02-09 14:45 UT
To: 2008-02-09 14:50 UT

No spots or other marks visible on the Sun.

Location: Woodland Waters (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2008-02-09 19:55 UT
To: 2008-02-09 23:55 UT
Equipment: Antares 905
Lomo Lubitel 166B
Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Naked Eye
Notes:

Joined John and Kevin at Woodland Waters for an observing session. Not the best of nights, some thin cloud and contrails sticking around, also quite damp and a little hazy at times.

I brought my Antares 905 and John brought his Evostar 150.

Checking for Comet Holmes

From: 2008-02-09 20:10 UT
To: 2008-02-09 20:20 UT

I started out the session by seeing if comet Holmes was still visible to the naked eye. Given that the last time I saw it it appeared to be about the same brightness as the Double Cluster, and given that I could see the Double Cluster, I guessed I stood a chance of it was still of similar brightness to the last time.

After looking carefully for a couple of minutes I decided that it must be even fainter than the last time. I then grabbed my 10x50 binoculars and had a look in the general area around Algol and I pretty much saw it right away. Very faint and very diffuse. Only just brighter than the background sky. If I wasn't looking for it I probably wouldn't even have noticed it.

Started a Star Trail

Time: 2008-02-09 20:33 UT

I set the Lomo Lubitel 166B up on a tripod and started a star trail.

The camera was loaded with Ilford FP5+ 400 (120 roll film), the aperture was set to f8. Like the last time I tried this this was an experiment. This time I was interested to see what results I'd get with a faster film.

The camera was roughly pointed in the general direction of the Pleiades (M45) and the Hyades in Taurus.

Saturn

From: 2008-02-09 20:35 UT
To: 2008-02-09 20:45 UT

Had a brief view of Saturn via John's 'scope. Much like my last observation the view was very "soft" with no real detail visible. No shadow of the rings on the planet could be seen although, once again, I did get the impression that the rings were two separate and detached objects either side of the planet.

Titan was nicely visible.

Mars

From: 2008-02-09 20:47 UT
To: 2008-02-09 21:00 UT

Had a look at Mars via the 905 with the 6mm eyepiece and the 2x barlow. Just like always, I couldn't get any detail out of the planet. One thing I did notice though was that there was a definite hint of a gibbous phase. The planet did seem to be "taller" than it was "wide".

Stopped the Star Trail

Time: 2008-02-09 21:01 UT

Stopped the star tail I'd started earlier.

Taurus Star Trail

M1

From: 2008-02-09 21:15 UT
To: 2008-02-09 21:40 UT

Decided to have a look at M1 given that I'd not taken a look in over a year. With the 905 and the 25mm eyepiece it was very easy to find and, unlike previous observations, seemed to stand out really well. Despite the conditions during the evening (which were less than ideal) I'm pretty sure it was a better view than the one I once had via the 130M. Although it was the usual indistinct light patch it appeared to contrast with the background sky better than I'm sure I've seen it before.

M65 and M66

From: 2008-02-09 21:55 UT
To: 2008-02-09 22:05 UT

Had a look at M65 and M66 via John's 'scope and his 42mm eyepiece. Just two very faint patches of light, mostly needing averted vision to see them. It was impossible to make out any distinct shame or to say what their relative orientations were.

A break and a chat

From: 2008-02-09 22:10 UT
To: 2008-02-09 22:45 UT

Had a coffee and food break and a chat. Given that it was getting very cold and damp this was needed.

M95 and M96

From: 2008-02-09 22:50 UT
To: 2008-02-09 23:00 UT

Had a look at M95 and M96 via John's 'scope and his 42mm eyepiece. Just as with the previous view of M65 and M66 they appeared as two very faint patches of light, mostly needing averted vision to see them.

905 totally fogged up

Time: 2008-02-09 23:09 UT

I went to use the 905 and noticed that it was dripping with dew and that the main lens was totally fogged up. Decided to call it a night as far as the 905 was concerned.

Trying for the Eskimo Nebula

From: 2008-02-09 23:15 UT
To: 2008-02-09 23:35 UT

We spent some time using John's 'scope to try and locate the Eskimo Nebula but never managed to locate it. I made a note to check in some of my books and see how easy it should be to locate.

M3

From: 2008-02-09 23:40 UT
To: 2008-02-09 23:52 UT

Given that Canes Venatici was quite high up now we decided to have a look at M3 with John's 'scope. I first found it with my monocular to be sure of the location and then we got it in John's 'scope. With his 42mm eyepiece it was obvious that it was a globular cluster although no detail could be seen. Switching to his 15mm eyepiece we could see a hint of mottling in it giving the impression of a collection of starts without resolving any actual stars.

End of session

Time: 2008-02-09 23:55 UT

By 23:55 UT everything was terribly damp so we decided that it was time to call an end to the session.


2008-01-05


Location: Woodland Waters (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2008-01-05 20:00 UT
To: 2008-01-05 23:45 UT
Equipment: Antares 905
Lomo Lubitel 166B
Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Naked Eye
Notes:

Joined John Turner at Woodland Waters for an observing session. Dark and clear skies when we arrived. Also rather cold and windy.

I brought my Antares 905 and John brought his Evostar 150.

Mars

From: 2008-01-05 20:30 UT
To: 2008-01-05 21:10 UT

After a bit of time to get things set up we turned our telescopes on Mars. I first had a view, unfiltered, via John's Evostar. The image had quite a lot of fringing and was somewhat unsteady (probably partly due to the state of the atmosphere, but also down to the wind buffeting the 'scope). No detail could be seen. John then added a pale blue filter (#82A) and that improved things somewhat. While the image still seemed too bright it was then possible to see a hint of detail on the surface. At least two major darker areas were visible.

I then set up the 905 with the 6mm eyepiece and the 2x barlow. The planet presented a good sized disc although no surface detail was visible. The wind didn't help things either so periods of a steady image were few and far between. The view itself seemed pretty similar to previous views I've had via the 130M.

It seems that it's a struggle to get any detail out of Mars using either of my 'scopes.

I then tried the #21 Orange filter but that didn't make any noticeable difference.

I stuck with the planet a little more, waiting for steady moments, but never managed to get any hints of any detail via the 905.

Started a Star Trail

Time: 2008-01-05 21:15 UT

I set the Lomo Lubitel 166B up on a tripod and started a star trail.

This was nothing more than an experiment. The camera was loaded with Ilford FP4+ 125 (120 roll film), the aperture was set to f8 (the Lubitel is supposed to give sharper images when stopped down a little). While probably not the best setup (stopped down somewhat, slowish film) I was curious to see what would come out and I also wanted to finish the film (it already had 5 shots on it taken elsewhere).

The camera was roughly pointed at part of Ursa Major rising over some trees.

M42

From: 2008-01-05 21:20 UT
To: 2008-01-05 21:42 UT

Had a look at M42 using the 905 and the 32mm eyepiece. Noted that it was rather faint (almost to the point of not being visible) with direct vision but was easy enough to make out with averted vision. If the stars in the view were anything to go by the view was still very unsteady.

I then added the Neodymium filter and it appeared to make quite a difference. Probably the greatest difference I've seen it make so far. The background sky appeared darker and the nebula appeared to stand up to direct view a little more. With averted vision the view was obviously much better. Some actual "detail" was visible too.

Stopped the Star Trail

Time: 2008-01-05 21:43 UT

Stopped the star trail I'd started a little earlier. Here is the resulting image:

Ursa Major Star Trail

Started a Star Trail

Time: 2008-01-05 21:49 UT

I started a second star trail using the Lomo Lubitel 166B. Same as before: Ilford FP4+ 125 at f8.

The camera was roughly pointed at Leo rising from behind some trees.

Saturn

From: 2008-01-05 21:50 UT
To: 2008-01-05 22:10 UT

Took a look at Saturn with the 905 and 6mm eyepiece. Very soft/musy view. No detail visible at all. However, Saturn was still quite low down so that wouldn't have helped.

Noted that, especially when compared to my last view of it, the rings had closed up quite a bit.

The most interesting thing about the view was the way that the rings didn't appear to be "attached" to the planet. In other words, the rings appeared to be two objects, one either side of the planet, with a distinct gap between them and the planet. The view reminded me very much of some of the very early drawings of the planet that I've seen in books.

I added the 2x barlow but the view was very mushy to the point of being no good. That said, the "detached ring effect" was still there.

Possibly Comet Holmes

From: 2008-01-05 22:13 UT
To: 2008-01-05 22:24 UT

While stood looking at the Double Cluster with the naked eye I spotted something close by, near Algol, that appeared to be about the same size and of a similar brightness to it. Initially I was confused about what it was. I quickly grabbed my monocular and had a look and could see that it was a faint but noticeable misty patch. Given that I wasn't aware of any object in that location, and given that I couldn't find any such thing on my charts (not that I expected to — I'd have known about such an object if it were a "fixed" item in the sky), I suspected that it was comet Holmes.

This came as quite a surprise because I thought it had long faded from naked-eye view.

Stopped a Star Trail

Time: 2008-01-05 22:25 UT

Stopped the star trail I'd started a little earlier. Here is the resulting image:

Leo Star Trail

Back to Comet Holmes

From: 2008-01-05 22:27 UT
To: 2008-01-05 22:40 UT

Went back to looking at what I suspected was comet Holmes. This time I used the 905 and the 32mm eyepiece. There was something there, a faint brightening of the sky, but nothing distinct. I also had a look via John's Evostar with a 42mm eyepiece and the same thing could be seen: slightly indistinct brightening of the sky.

I then grabbed the 10x50 binoculars and had a look with them. Using averted vision the object looked very much like a comet so it seemed obvious that I really was looking at comet Holmes.

Since this observing session I've checked with a couple of charts that show Holme's position for that evening and it turns out that my suspicion was correct. I'm kind of surprised by this as I really didn't think that the comet would be a naked eye object any more.

Started a Star Trail

Time: 2008-01-05 22:42 UT

I started a third star trail using the Lomo Lubitel 166B. Same as before: Ilford FP4+ 125 at f8.

The camera was roughly pointed in the general direction of Cassiopeia.

M81 and M82

From: 2008-01-05 22:44 UT
To: 2008-01-05 22:55 UT

Had a brief view of M81 and M82 through John's Evostar via the 42mm eyepiece. Very impressive sight.

M81 looked very much like a (more or less) face-on galaxy. I couldn't make out any hint of any spiral structure, it looked more like an oval shaped misty patch with a bright and distinct concentration in the middle.

M82 was the most impressive of the two. It looked like a thin line and I could also see a hint of the dust lanes that it contains.

Back on Saturn

From: 2008-01-05 23:00 UT
To: 2008-01-05 23:13 UT

Now that it was higher in the sky I returned to Saturn with the 905 and 6mm eyepiece (with and without the 2x barlow). Still no detail of any kind visible although the image wasn't quite so soft this time. In both cases (with and without the barlow) I was still seeing the "detached ring effect".

Stopped a Star Trail

Time: 2008-01-05 23:14 UT

Stopped the star trail I'd started a little earlier. Here is the resulting image:

Cassiopeia Star Trail

Started a Star Trail

Time: 2008-01-05 23:18 UT

I started a fourth star trail using the Lomo Lubitel 166B. Same as before: Ilford FP4+ 125 at f8.

The camera was roughly pointed in the general direction of Orion.

Stopped a Star Trail

Time: 2008-01-05 23:45 UT

Stopped the star trail I'd started a little earlier. Here is the resulting image:

Orion Star Trail

End of Session

Time: 2008-01-05 23:46 UT

During the previous star trail exposure we started to pack up and we finally called an end to the session at 23:46 UT.


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.


2006-01-11


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.


2005-11-15


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-11-15 14:18 UT
To: 2005-11-15 14:36 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Solarscope
Temperature: 10.0C
Humidity: 68%
Notes:

Reasonably clear sky, some cloud about. Decided to have a quick look at the Sun with the naked eye and with the Solarscope because a new sunspot had come into view.

Sunspot 822 with naked eye

Time: 2005-11-15 14:18 UT

Before setting up the Solarscope I used a pair of eclipse shades to have a look at the Sun to see if sunspot 822 was visible with the naked eye. It wasn't obvious at first but with a little bit of effort I could clearly see a small, dark dot in the correct position on the face of the Sun.

I think this is the first naked eye sunspot we've had since sunspot 798.

Sunspot 822 with Solarscope

From: 2005-11-15 14:28 UT
To: 2005-11-15 14:36 UT

Set up the Solarscope for a better look at 822. I could see one very large spot which appeared to have a reasonably large companion, both of them were surrounded by a sizable penumbra. Next to that I could see three small spots. Next to them I could see two more spots, again, both surrounded by a penumbra.

Did the following sketch:

Sketch of Sunspot 822

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-11-15 22:17 UT
To: 2005-11-15 23:32 UT
Equipment: Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Temperature: 4.8C
Humidity: 79%
Notes:

Cold and mostly clear night with some patches of thin cloud. Sky more or less washed out by a near-full Moon which was quite close to Mars.

Given that the Moon was washing out any chance of any DSO observing I decided to make the Moon and Mars the targets for this session.

The Moon

From: 2005-11-15 22:23 UT
To: 2005-11-15 22:51 UT

I initially lined the Moon up in the 25mm eyepiece and found that it was far too bright to look at. I could just see a hint of a terminator.

To combat the brightness I added an ND13 filter to the eyepiece. While the image was still quite bright it was far easier to look at for any period of time.

The surface of the Moon looked very two dimensional, the only features that stood out right away were the ray systems, the ray system of Tycho being the most striking.

After a short while I noticed what I'd describe as "dark patches" in and near Sinus Aestuum. They looked like large, more or less circular, darker patches when compared to the surrounding terrain. Initially I thought it might have been a problem with the filter, eyepiece or the 'scope itself but a simple tap on the 'scope (to make the image move) confirmed that what I was seeing was a lunar feature and not some effect brought on by a problem with my equipment.

Roving around a little more I noticed a reasonably prominent darker area towards the south eastern limb. Checking on a Lunar chart I'm pretty sure that what I was looking at was Mare Australe. I switched to the 15mm lens, with the ND13 filter attached, and carried on looking. The impression I got was that I was seeing part of a dark ring that surrounded a dark circular area (heavily foreshortened, obviously). It reminded me a little of images I've seen of Mare Orientale — it wasn't, I double checked.

At 22:51 UT an area of cloud moved in front of the Moon. One nice thing about this is that it was thin enough that you could still easily see the Moon and, better yet, it gave the Moon a double halo effect that had a hint of "rainbow" effect about it. The cloud cleared again at 23:04 UT

Mars

From: 2005-11-15 23:21 UT
To: 2005-11-15 23:32 UT
Temperature: 4.2C
Humidity: 80%

Decided to move on to Mars. Lined it up in the 130M with the 25mm eyepiece then quickly went to the 15mm and then 6mm eyepiece, centering as I went. There was no obvious detail visible and the image was very unsteady. What I could see right away is that the planet appeared much smaller than it had when I looked at it near the closest approach.

At 23:24 UT a load of cloud moved in. Decided to give it a short while to see if it would move away again.

End of session

Time: 2005-11-15 23:32 UT
Temperature: 4.4C
Humidity: 80%

Cloud was now more or less horizon to horizon so decided to call an end to the session.


2005-11-09


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-11-09 21:30 UT
To: 2005-11-09 23:30 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Temperature: 4.0C
Humidity: 75%
Notes:

Reasonably clear night, some haze obvious closer to the Moon (which was just past first ). Felt rather cold. Decided to have a session out with chair and binocular, mostly with a view to having a good look at the Moon and also hunt down the clusters in Auriga.

The Moon

From: 2005-11-09 21:35 UT
To: 2005-11-09 22:11 UT

Started out by having a look at the Moon with the binocular mounted on a tripod. Lots of very obvious features were visible on or close to the terminator.

Noted that the terminator was running more or less through the middle of Mare Imbrium and that the shadows of Montes Apenninus looked long and very obvious. Also noticed that Archimedes, Aristillus and Autolycus were standing out really well too. The terminator also seemed to be running pretty much through the middle of Plato.

Towards the Moon's North Pole I could see what appeared to be a rather deep looking crater, in the terminator, with the back wall (this being in relation to the direction of the Sun) brightly lit but with the floor in shadow. Looking at my Lunar map I got the impression that I was looking at Anaxagoras.

Noticed quite a striking ray running diagonally — from "top right" to "bottom left" — through Mare Serenitatis. I could see that it seemed to be heading away from (or towards) a crater which, after looking at my map, appeared to be Atlas.

By 22:11 UT the Moon was heading out of sight behind some trees and it was also being lost behind haze towards the horizon.

M42

From: 2005-11-09 22:16 UT
To: 2005-11-09 22:23 UT
Temperature: 3.7C
Humidity: 77%

By now Orion had mostly risen and it was possible to see M42. Decided to have a look with the binocular mounted on the tripod. At first glance it simply looked like a sparse grouping of stars but, with averted vision, there was a definite hint of nebula. It might just have been my imagination but there did seem to be a hint of the "fan" shape that is so well known from drawings and photographs.

Clusters in Auriga

From: 2005-11-09 22:27 UT
To: 2005-11-09 22:37 UT
Temperature: 3.6C
Humidity: 77%

Swept Auriga for M36, M37 and M38. Found them all with no problems. Each one of them was a very obvious hazy patch — they all look like good targets for the telescope.

Given their appearance in the binocular, if I hadn't known they were all open clusters, I'd have assumed that they were actually globular clusters.

M35

From: 2005-11-09 22:38 UT
To: 2005-11-09 22:47 UT
Temperature: 3.4C
Humidity: 77%

While sweeping around the area near Auriga with the binocular I stumbled upon M35, another open cluster — this time in Gemini. This one looked very much like an open cluster. Again, this looks like it might make for an interesting telescope target.

M45

From: 2005-11-09 22:49 UT
To: 2005-11-09 22:56 UT
Temperature: 3.3C
Humidity: 77%

Given that they were now quite high in the sky I decided to have another look at M45 (AKA The Pleiades). They were too high up to comfortably view them with the binocular on the tripod (it's only a medium-height tripod) so I decided to try my monopod instead (it's actually taller than me when fully extended). This actually worked rather well.

The field looked very rich with stars, some seeming to pop in and out of view as I moved my eyes around. I also noticed something that I don't think I've noticed before: a striking line of stars that have a sort of "dog leg" look to them. For some reason they sort of reminded me of a small, bent version of Kemble's Cascade.

Mars

Time: 2005-11-09 22:59 UT

While taking a little break from the binocular I say and just looked at Mars with the naked eye. I realised that this must be the highest and brightest I've seen it in the sky for this apparition. I was tempted to go and get the telescope out to have a look but by the time it would have cooled down enough I'd probably be ready to call it a night. Also, the air wasn't terribly steady anyway so I wouldn't have expected a good view.

NGC 1528

From: 2005-11-09 23:11 UT
To: 2005-11-09 23:24 UT
Temperature: 3.6C
Humidity: 78%

Started sweeping around Perseus and stumbled on what seemed to be a small, tight, hazy cluster. It seemed similar in appearance to the views I'd had of M36, M37 and M38 earlier on in the session. I checked on my Messier and Caldwell charts and couldn't see anything close to the location of the object. I next checked with a more detailed chart and noted that there were a number of NGC objects in the general location. NGC 1444 seemed like the most likely candidate based on location alone.

Knowing that I'd need to do some checking later on I noted that the object was about two binocular field widths away from the "middle" of Perseus (taking the middle to be the area around Mirfak) and at a angle of around 8 o'clock if the general direction of the Double Cluster in Perseus is taken to be 12 o'clock.

Later on, I did some searching on the internet and found a couple of observation reports of NGC 1528, through binoculars, which seemed to have descriptions which matched what I'd seen. I did, however, also find a binocular observation report which suggested that NGC 1545 was a reasonable candidate too. Further checking with Starry Night, and looking at DSS images of the two clusters, suggested that NGC 1528 is the best fit for what I saw — both in its look and also in the look of the field of stars around it.

End of session

Time: 2005-11-09 23:30 UT
Temperature: 3.7C
Humidity: 78%

Cloud was starting to roll in so I decided to call an end to the session.


2005-10-29


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

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

Meteor

Time: 2005-10-29 20:51 UT

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

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

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

Mars

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

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

By 20:58 UT it had cleared again.

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

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

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

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

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

End of session due to cloud

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

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


2005-10-09


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

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

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

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

Mars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Double Cluster

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

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

M1

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

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

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

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


2005-10-04


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

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

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

Kemble's Cascade

Time: 2005-10-04 19:50 UT

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

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

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

Mars and M45

Time: 2005-10-04 20:17 UT

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

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

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

Mist and smoke

Time: 2005-10-04 20:27 UT

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

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

NGC 1502 and testing dark adaption

Time: 2005-10-04 20:56 UT

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

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

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

The Hyades

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

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

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

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


2005-09-27


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-09-27 14:39 UT
To: 2005-09-27 14:40 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Notes:

Decided to have a quick look at the Sun with the Solarscope.

The Sun

From: 2005-09-27 14:39 UT
To: 2005-09-27 14:40 UT

The only feature I could see on the Sun was sunspot 810. There didn't appear to be an awful lot to it — just a small, dark, mostly circular umbra with a lighter penumbra just about visible all around it. The penumbra appeared to be as thick as the umbra was wide.

I also noticed some faint mottling on the surface of the Sun close to sunspot 810.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-09-27 20:00 UT
To: 2005-09-27 21:17 UT
Equipment: Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Notes:

Very good dark sky tonight. As soon as I stepped outside I could see the Milky Way. Temperature felt quite cold — I needed to wear a coat for observing for the first time in a long time.

Main aim for the night was to view Mars again.

General sweeping of Cassiopeia and Perseus

From: 2005-09-27 20:00 UT
To: 2005-09-27 20:35 UT

Given that Mars wasn't going to be visible for at least another hour I decided to spend a little bit of time in the chair sweeping the area around Cassiopeia and Perseus with a 10x50 binocular.

At around 20:10 UT I stumbled upon the open cluster NGC 663 (also known as Caldwell 10). Looked like a fuzzy but slightly mottled ball. It appeared more obvious to the eye and had more of a hint of detail with averted vision.

Also had a good look at the Double Cluster (also known as Caldwell 14 or NGC 869 and NGC 884). It appeared much brighter and richer than the last time I looked.

At around 20:32 UT, after more sweeping around, I stumbled upon M34 in Perseus. It looked like a widespread group of faint stars. Some were easy to see with direct vision while more came into view with averted vision.

M31 — The Andromeda Galaxy

From: 2005-09-27 20:39 UT
To: 2005-09-27 20:45 UT

Took a look at M31 (NGC 224) in Andromeda. It was almost impossible to see with any clarity with direct vision but, with averted vision, appeared as a large misty galaxy shaped object. As much as I tried I couldn't identify M32 through the binocular.

Had a quick go at making a rough estimate of the size of M31 as it was visible in the binocular. I'd roughly estimate that it was between and ⅓ of the field of view.

Cloud approaching

Time: 2005-09-27 20:46 UT

Noticed some thin cloud either forming in or approaching from the West.

Mars appears

Time: 2005-09-27 20:49 UT

Noticed that Mars was now clear of the roofs of the houses to the East of me — not as hight as I'd like but getting that way. Decided to give it a little more time so that it would be higher, would be more clear of the street light that is in that general direction and the extra time would hopefully give the approaching cloud some time to clear.

Mars

From: 2005-09-27 21:07 UT
To: 2005-09-27 21:17 UT

By now the cloud was starting to cover Mars. Also noticed that the temperature had dropped a fair bit in the previous 10 minutes. Because Mars was still visible through the cloud I dropped the 25mm eyepiece into the 130M and had a look.

I was initially surprised at how big it appeared given that I was using the 25mm eyepiece. It looked much bigger than the first time I looked at it with the 25mm.

With the 6mm eyepiece the image was terrible — most probably due to the cloud (which was still thin enough to see Mars through it). The phase was obvious (and obviously bigger than previous observations) but there was no hint at all of any surface features. There was lots of false colour and the image was quite unsteady.

At around 21:14 UT Mars was lost from view to the naked eye and in the 'scope due to the cloud. Checking the Western horizon it seemed obvious that the cloud had no useful breaks and was here for some time to come. Called an end to the session at 21:17 UT.


2005-09-13


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-09-13 10:20 UT
To: 2005-09-13 10:31 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Naked Eye
Notes:

Another look at sunspot 798 with the naked eye and with the Solarscope. Sky wasn't too bad again today — just a little hazy.

Sunspot 798

From: 2005-09-13 10:20 UT
To: 2005-09-13 10:31 UT

First looked for sunspot 798 with naked eye and eclipse shades. It was very easy to see as a rather large dark spot.

In the Solarscope it was obvious that the shape of the spot had changed a lot from yesterday. Although the following sketch gives the impression that it's smaller than yesterday it actually seemed to cover slightly more area than I remember from the previous observation.

Made the following sketch:

Sketch of Sunspot 798

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-09-13 21:55 UT
To: 2005-09-13 23:00 UT
Equipment: Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Notes:

Given that the sky was reasonably clear and that the forecast for the next few days didn't look too good I decided to have a quick session looking at Mars.

Conditions were slightly warm and breezy with the Moon just past 1st .

Mars

From: 2005-09-13 21:55 UT
To: 2005-09-13 22:49 UT

Mars was still quite low. There was also a hint of haze in the air which seemed to dim it slightly. After first locating the planet with the 25mm eyepiece I switched to the 10mm eyepiece. The image was quite washed out and was dancing around quite a bit. Initially about all I could make out was that there was a visible phase.

The breeze calmed down for a moment so I switched to the 10mm with 2x Barlow. As normal I struggled to get useful focus with the Barlow and also noticed that there was some significant false colour around the image of Mars.

Switched to the 6mm (with no Barlow) and the image was much crisper. Mars appeared very bright, even to the point that I was getting four very obvious spikes off it. In steady moments there was a hint of surface markings visible. As with a few nights ago, these appeared as vague differences in colour.

Added the #21 Orange filter to the 6mm eyepiece. This reduced the glare of the image, the surface looking less washed-out. The hint of markings seemed to improve although they didn't improve to the point that I'd have been able to draw a reliable sketch. They were there, visible but also somewhat indistinct. The fact that the image wasn't terribly steady most of the time adding to the problems.

Next gave the #80A Medium Blue filter a go with the 6mm eyepiece. I don't know why but I was initially surprised to see that this made Mars look white, not blue. The markings mentioned above were still visible and, this time, appeared as darker gray areas.

Decided to experiment a little more by combining the #21 and #80A filters. The image looked more or less the same as it does with the #21 filter on its own although I'd be tempted to say that the darker areas appeared a little easier to notice — although still somewhat indistinct.

Also tried the #56 Green filter with the 6mm eyepiece. Other than making Mars look somewhat green this didn't seem to make an awful lot of difference to the image.

M45

From: 2005-09-13 22:57 UT
To: 2005-09-13 23:00 UT

Because it was close to Mars and is also an easy target I decided to have a quick look at M45 — The Pleiades. Had a look with the 25mm eyepiece. Quite a stunning sight through the 'scope. The main pattern of stars more or less filled the field of view.

By around 23:00 UT the breeze was picking up quite a bit and the sky was becoming more washed-out due to the Moon so decided to call an end to the session.


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.


2005-08-29


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

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

Satellite in Cygnus

Time: 2005-08-29 21:15 UT

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

M71

Time: 2005-08-29 21:29 UT

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

The Coathanger

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

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

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

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

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

Sketch of The Coathanger

Quick look at M13

Time: 2005-08-29 21:52 UT

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

M39

Time: 2005-08-29 22:02 UT

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

Double Cluster in Perseus

Time: 2005-08-29 22:19 UT

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

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

Mars, and end of session

Time: 2005-08-29 22:30 UT

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


2005-08-15


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-08-15 20:24 UT
To: 2005-08-15 22:55 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Notes:

The main reason for venturing out was to give the 130M a proper "run under the stars" after center spotting the primary mirror on 2005-08-13. Also, before heading out, I use a laser collimator to try and improve the collimation. I didn't plan on doing any star-tests tonight — I just wanted to see how well I got on with the 'scope having actually had the mirror out of it.

Moon was a waxing gibbous quite low in the sky (not visible from my position). There was some thin haze in parts of the sky but no noticeable clouds. Temperature was cool but still warm enough to be out in a t-shirt.

When I started out the sky was still somewhat light.

General testing

From: 2005-08-15 20:24 UT
To: 2005-08-15 21:05 UT

Started out by pointing the 'scope at Mizar. With the 25mm eyepiece there was some obvious "flaring" of the brighter stars in the field. I could also see, from time to time, a faint "rainbow" effect in the flare. At this point I had trouble recalling exactly how bright stars used to look in the 'scope. I've always seen some flaring but — never having really made a point of noting exactly how it appeared — I didn't really have anything to compare. Lesson for the future: make notes about the really obvious things such as how stars look before you do some work on your 'scope.

With the 15mm eyepiece the flare (which, at times, looked like a very tight double image of each bright star) had a noticeable difference in appearance either side of best focus. When unfocused either side there was the impression of an oval effect to the unfocused stars. Either side of focus the orientation of the oval would rotate 90. As I understand it this is evidence of astigmatism in the primary or secondary mirror! I don't think I've ever noticed this before (not that I've ever really gone looking for it before).

I tried a few things to see if the oval effect would differ: I changed eyes (no difference), changed my orientation at the eyepiece (no difference) and rotated the eyepiece in the focuser (no difference).

I then tested with the 10mm and then 6mm eyepieces and, as best as I could tell, the oval effect wasn't noticeable. Most confusing.

The more I thought about it the more I felt that what I was seeing actually wasn't any worse than the 'scope used to be. Also, there's the fact that I don't generally know what a bright star should look like through a smallish Newtonian Reflector.

I wished that I'd had Jupiter or Saturn around still so that I could compare how things looked with a more "substantial" target.

Meteor

Time: 2005-08-15 21:01 UT

Saw a reasonably bright meteor pass roughly North to South through Lyra.

Probable Iridium Flare

Time: 2005-08-15 21:10 UT

Saw a very bright Iridium Flare in Ursa Major — just below the "handle" of "The Plough". I got the impression that it was one of the brightest flares I've ever seen. It was a lot brighter than any of the stars in Ursa Major.

M13

From: 2005-08-15 21:25 UT
To: 2005-08-15 21:45 UT

After the slight annoyance and frustration early on in the session I decided to try the 'scope out on a DSO and opted for an easy target: M13. Initial impression with the 25mm eyepiece was that it looked magnificent! While it looked like a cometary-like "blob" (as I'd noted in a previous observing session) there was, this time, the occasional faint hint that it was comprised of lots of stars. It wasn't so much that I could see stars, it was more a case of it looking slightly "grainy" from time to time.

Made a sketch via the 25mm eyepiece:

Sketch of M13

Possible "late" Perseid

Time: 2005-08-15 21:49 UT

Saw a faint meteor pass through Andromeda. Was very quick (less than a second I'd have said) and, given the direction of travel, it looked like it might have been a "late" Perseid.

Satellite between Cygnus and Lyra

Time: 2005-08-15 21:52 UT

Watched a faint satellite go roughly North to South, more or less via the zenith, and pass between Cygnus and Lyra. It seemed to occult a faint (to the naked eye) star somewhere between the two constellations. Unfortunately, at the time, I wasn't in a position to note which one it was.

M13

From: 2005-08-15 21:53 UT
To: 2005-08-15 22:01 UT

Went back to M13, this time with the 15mm eyepiece. Appeared slightly brighter. There was now a hint that it's made of actual stars with the grainy appearance mentioned above being much more pronounced. While doing viewing a thin but obscuring line of cloud (might even have been a contrail) moved into the area and made observing rather hard. Somewhat annoying as I was about to start a sketch of what it looked like with the 15mm eyepiece.

M31 (and possibly M32)

From: 2005-08-15 22:12 UT
To: 2005-08-15 22:55 UT

M31 is now in a position where I can see it with the 'scope. First looked at it with the 25mm eyepiece. M31 itself was obvious but, at the same time, indistinct. There was an obvious brightness difference between what I assume is the central bulge and between the disk. There was no hint of any sort of structure and the whole thing had the appearance of a sort of light-gray "mist". The fact that I was looking in the direction of a street-light and that there was still a very faint haze in the sky probably wasn't helping matters.

After a short while I noticed that a star in the field was actually rather "fuzzy" when compared to all the other stars. Started to wonder if what I was seeing was M32. My initial impression was that it was further away from M31 than I'd imagined it would appear to be but, that said, that impression is formed from the photographs I've seen of M31 (which obviously show a lot more of the galaxy than I'd be seeing through my 'scope).

Checking with a chart I had to hand the fuzzy object did appear to be in about the right location for M32. To be sure I went and checked with my copy of Sky Atlas 2000 and, looking at that, I convinced myself that I wasn't seeing M32 (based on the pattern of stars near it which seemed to be in SA2000 but not in the correct position for M32). Lesson here: be sure of the width of the field of view of the eyepiece so you can make good estimates of separation of objects.

Switched to the 15mm eyepiece. The "fuzzy star" still had a fuzzy appearance and still looked quite different from all other stars in the field.

Switched back to the 25mm eyepiece and made the following sketch:

Sketch of M31

At 22:55 UT I finished the session.

Mars pops up

Time: 2005-08-15 22:55 UT

As I was starting to pack up I noticed that Mars had popped up over the roofs of the houses to the East of me. I did consider setting up the 'scope again to have a look at it but given that it was still low down and given that it was very close to a street-light I decided to save that for another night when conditions were a little more favourable.


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Dave Pearson <davep@davep.org>
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