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2006-11-02


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-11-02 13:00 UT
To: 2006-11-02 13:05 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Temperature: 8.6C ...
Dew Point: 2.3C ...
Humidity: 65% ...
Wind Speed: 0.4mph ...
Wind Dir: North ...
Pressure: 1031.8hPa ...
Notes:

Very clear, cool and breezy day. Took the Solarscope out to do a quick sunspot count.

Sun

From: 2006-11-02 13:00 UT
To: 2006-11-02 13:05 UT

Active area 921 appears to have developed even more when compared to yesterday. Today I counted 11 spots of varying sizes. The spot that I saw yesterday, that appeared to be developing a penumbra, now appeared to be two spots sharing a common penumbra.

Active area 922 appeared to have developed a little more and now contained 3 spots.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-11-02 19:30 UT
To: 2006-11-02 21:00 UT
Equipment: 10x50 Binoculars
Antares 905
Temperature: 3.6C ...
Dew Point: -0.1C ...
Humidity: 77% ...
Wind Speed: 1.5mph ...
Wind Dir: West North West ...
Pressure: 1032.1hPa ...
Notes:

Another clear night with an 82% waxing Moon. Despite the extra moonlight the sky actually seemed slightly better than last night. Decided to head out and have another look for comet Swan.

Tracking down comet M4 Swan

From: 2006-11-02 19:30 UT
To: 2006-11-02 19:37 UT

First I stepped outside with my 10x50 binoculars to see if I could find comet Swan. It took a minute or two of sweeping around the right area but I finally managed to find the comet. It was quite hard to see, just a small, faint fuzzy patch. When compared to M13 it looked to me like the comet and the cluster were equally hard to see and both about the same brightness.

Comet M4 Swan with the 905

From: 2006-11-02 19:40 UT
To: 2006-11-02 20:02 UT

At 19:40 UT I took the Antares 905 out into the garden to let it cool off for a short while.

At 19:52 UT I found the comet using the 32mm eyepiece. As with the view by the binocular the comet looked small, faint and fuzzy. I also found that it was almost impossible to see with direct vision. There was no sign of a tail.

I next switched to the 15mm eyepiece and the view didn't seem any different. It was just visible with averted vision but generally disappeared when using direct vision. I could no longer make out the central brightness that I could easily see a few nights back.

I switched to the 10mm eyepiece and the view seemed much better (but sill nowhere near as good as the previous views). The comet now withstood direct vision although averted vision still gave the best view. The best description was still that of a "faint fuzzy patch".

Finally I used the 6mm eyepiece. The view was pretty much the same as that via the 10mm. In all the different eyepieces there was no hint of the tail at all.

Given that conditions were far from ideal for the comet I decided to give up on observing it for this session and to take a short break.

Attempt at imaging the Moon

From: 2006-11-02 20:32 UT
To: 2006-11-02 21:00 UT

After the short break I decided to have a go at imaging the Moon, via the 905, using a little digital camera I'd recently purchased (an Olympus FE-115). I wasn't expecting anything spectacular but I was interested to see how well it might work using afocal projection.

I spent the next 25 minutes or so trying different combinations of settings on the camera and different eyepieces in the 905 and found that the 32mm eyepiece along with maximum optical zoom on the camera gave the best results. Sadly even these results weren't terribly good.

The main problem seems to be with the fact that the camera is auto-focus and it was failing to get useful focus on the Moon. I could see, as it was seeking focus, a nice sharp image and then disappear as it finally settled in the wrong place. Ideally it would have a setting that would force it to focus on infinity. To the best of my knowledge it has no such setting (I'll have to go and read the manual again to double check).

Sadly even the best image acquired is pretty terrible so there's little point in including any of them in this log.


2006-11-01


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-11-01 12:40 UT
To: 2006-11-01 12:45 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Temperature: 9.1C ...
Dew Point: 2.6C ...
Humidity: 64% ...
Wind Speed: 5.2mph ...
Wind Dir: North West ...
Pressure: 1027.5hPa ...
Notes:

Very clear, cool and breezy day. Took the Solarscope out to do a quick sunspot count.

Sun

From: 2006-11-01 12:40 UT
To: 2006-11-01 12:45 UT

Active area 921 appears to have developed even more when compared to yesterday. Today I counted 9 spots of varying sizes, at least one of which seemed to be developing a penumbra.

Active area 922 was sill visible with a single small spot.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-11-01 19:15 UT
To: 2006-11-01 19:25 UT
Equipment: 7x50 Binoculars
Temperature: 4.9C ...
Dew Point: 1.1C ...
Humidity: 77% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1029.5hPa ...
Notes:

Clear night but the sky was washed out by the light of a 75% (approx) waxing Moon. Despite the conditions I decided to get the 7x50 binoculars out to have a quick look for comet Swan.

Comet M4 Swan

From: 2006-11-01 19:15 UT
To: 2006-11-01 19:25 UT

I swept around the general location of comet Swan with the 7x50 binoculars but failed to find it. This wasn't that surprising given how washed out the sky was. I struggled to see the Keystone in Her with the naked eye and, with the binoculars, M13 was almost impossible to see.


2006-10-31


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-10-31 15:30 UT
To: 2006-10-31 15:35 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Temperature: 11.1C ...
Dew Point: 6.2C ...
Humidity: 72% ...
Wind Speed: 2.9mph ...
Wind Dir: North West ...
Pressure: 1005.5hPa ...
Notes:

Overcast and stormy for most of the day but started to clear a little into the late afternoon. While I had the chance I took the Solarscope out to do a quick sunspot count.

Sun

From: 2006-10-31 15:30 UT
To: 2006-10-31 15:35 UT

Active area 921 had developed quite a bit and looked a lot stronger than yesterday. I counted 5 sunspots, all quite small.

Close by I could also see another single spot but I wasn't sure if this was in a separate active area or was part of 921. Checking later it turned out that it was part of new active area 922.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-10-31 19:15 UT
To: 2006-10-31 19:20 UT
Equipment: 7x50 Binoculars
Temperature: 7.6C ...
Dew Point: 1.6C ...
Humidity: 66% ...
Wind Speed: 6.5mph ...
Wind Dir: North West ...
Pressure: 1012.5hPa ...
Notes:

Reasonably clear evening, if a little hazy. The view of the sky was made worse by a 61% waxing Moon.

Comet M4 Swan

From: 2006-10-31 19:15 UT
To: 2006-10-31 19:20 UT

Annoyingly I didn't have the available time to do a proper observation of comet Swan so I quickly grabbed by 7x50 binoculars and went outside for a few minutes to see if I could still find it.

I found it almost right away, a small fuzzy patch just off the bottom left hand corner of the Keystone in Her. I compared it with M13 and I would say that the comet still looks brighter.


2006-10-27


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-10-27 19:15 UT
To: 2006-10-27 20:35 UT
Equipment: 7x50 Binoculars
Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Antares 905
Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Temperature: 9.5C ...
Dew Point: 7.0C ...
Humidity: 85% ...
Wind Speed: 0.6mph ...
Wind Dir: South South West ...
Pressure: 1019.7hPa ...
Notes:

Another clear night. Headed out to have another look at comet Swan.

Comet M4 Swan

From: 2006-10-27 19:15 UT
To: 2006-10-27 20:35 UT

I first headed out with the 7x50 binoculars to see if I could find comet Swan again. As with my previous observation I managed to locate it with no trouble. Again, its appearance was that of a small fuzzy blob, not unlike a globular cluster. I was able to see it and M13 in the same binocular field and, as before, the comet looked brighter.

At 19:24 UT I put both the 905 and the 130M outside to cool off.

By 19:43 UT I was all set up outside with both 'scopes. I found the comet in the 130M using the 32mm eyepiece and also in the 905 using the 25mm eyepiece. In the 130M I found that the best view was with averted vision. The coma looked quite large with a distinct bright spot in the middle. There was a hint of a tail visible. I could also see a hint of colour too, I could see what appeared to be a blue/green tint (I would have said slightly more blue than green).

I then switched to the 15mm eyepiece in the 130M. The view of the head of the comet was even better. The side of the coma on the opposite side to the tail appeared to have a slightly "squashed" appearance to it. The sight withstood direct vision, although averted vision was still better.

By 19:54 UT I noticed that the view appeared to be getting a little worse as the comet got lower in the sky (it was starting to look a little misty). Not wanting to miss my chance I put the 25mm eyepiece back in the 130M, grabbed my A5 sketch book and, between around 19:55 UT and 20:05 UT, I made the following sketch:

Comet M4 Swan

I did notice that, during the sketching process, the image carried on getting a little worse.

In the time between starting and finishing the sketch I'm pretty certain that I managed to detect movement in the position of the comet. I couldn't detect any sort of movement as I was viewing it but I'm sure that, as time went on, I could see that the position had shifted a little.

At 20:16 UT I had a look, via the 130M, with the 10mm eyepiece. The nucleus seemed to be very bright and distinct within the coma. The while view nicely withstood direct vision.

By 20:21 UT I was sure that more movement was visible since finishing my sketch. Comparing what I could see now with what I had recorded with my sketch I was certain there was a difference.

At 20:24 UT I decided to take a short break to move some gear that I didn't need back into the office because everything was starting to get damp with dew. I came back at around 20:32 UT and noticed that the view of the comet had got even worse. At that point, having done everything I wanted to do, I called an end to the session.


2006-10-26


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-10-26 13:30 UT
To: 2006-10-26 13:35 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Temperature: 15.5C ...
Dew Point: 8.9C ...
Humidity: 67% ...
Wind Speed: 6.8mph ...
Wind Dir: West ...
Pressure: 996.5hPa ...
Notes:

Very clear afternoon, very breezy too. Took the Solarscope out to do a quick sunspot count.

Sun

From: 2006-10-26 13:30 UT
To: 2006-10-26 13:35 UT

No sunspots or other marks were visible on the Sun.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-10-26 18:10 UT
To: 2006-10-26 20:35 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
7x50 Binoculars
Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Antares 905
Temperature: 11.3C ...
Dew Point: 5.3C ...
Humidity: 67% ...
Wind Speed: 4.4mph ...
Wind Dir: West ...
Pressure: 1001.0hPa ...
Notes:

Pretty clear night but also very breezy. Seeing appeared to be quite unsteady. Decided to head out and see if I could find comet Swan.

A first look for comet M4 Swan

From: 2006-10-26 18:10 UT
To: 2006-10-26 18:20 UT

I first headed out with the 7x50 binoculars to see if I could even find comet Swan. I managed to locate it with very little trouble. Its appearance was that of a small fuzzy blob, not unlike a globular cluster. In fact, when compared with M13, it appeared quite similar except that the comet seemed somewhat brighter.

Observing comet M4 Swan

From: 2006-10-26 18:25 UT
To: 2006-10-26 19:25 UT

After having located the comet without any problems I went and got the 905 out so I could have a proper look. Starting out with the 32mm eyepiece I found the comet without any problems. Just as it did in the binocular it simply looked a lot like a globular cluster. I could see no sign of a tail.

After a short while, as my eyes became more dark adapted, I found that I could see a hint of a tail — it was quite a bit longer than I would have expected. I then switched to the 10x50 binoculars and was surprised to see that the tail was very obvious. Using the binocular I again compared it with M13 and noted that the comet was quite a bit brighter.

I went back to the 905 and dropped in the 10mm eyepiece. I could see a very bright central spot, not sharp but it was quite distinct. Surrounding it was a fainter coma.

At this point I noted that this is probably the best comet I've seen since I got back into active observing.

After switching back to the 32mm eyepiece I noticed that the tail was even more obvious and that the head of the comet could easily withstand direct vision without any obvious loss of detail. Up to this point I still hadn't been able to spot the comet with the naked eye.

Around 19:03 UT I noticed that some thin cloud was moving in from the west and that it looked like it would interfere with observations. While it wasn't in the way just yet it did put me off doing a sketch I was planning to attempt as it appeared that it was cause problems during the sketching process.

Looking some more via the 32mm eyepiece I estimated that the tail that was visible to me extended about to ⅓ of the field of view of the eyepiece.

Around 19:10 UT was really looking like it was going to become a problem. As well as being annoying because I wanted to try a sketch it was also annoying because I'd been thinking about getting the 130M out to compare the view.

At 19:15 UT the cloud started to get in the way so I decided to have a break to see if it would pass. By 19:23 UT the worst of it seemed to have passed but the sky behind it seemed much more hazy (the tail of the comet wasn't anywhere near as visible in the 905 as it had been earlier). At 19:25 UT I decided to finish with the comet for the evening.

M31, M110 and a satellite

From: 2006-10-26 19:27 UT
To: 2006-10-26 19:38 UT

Because M31 was at a good height for the 905 (unlike the other night when it was too high) I decided to have a quick look. Using the 32mm eyepiece it wasn't quite as impressive as I'd hoped (or as impressive as the other night's view with the 10x50 binoculars). However, I thought I could just about make out M110 when using averted vision. Oddly I couldn't make out M32 at all.

At 19:36 UT a satellite passed right through the field of view (at the time I was using the 25mm eyepiece), only just missing M31 (as it appeared to me, with a bigger aperture the galaxy would look wider and it probably would have appeared to transit it).

Update 2006-10-27:According to stella, a poster on the SPA's BB, what I saw was "99-04C, Globalstar M036, catalog no. 25623. Orbiting at a height of 1413 kilometres".

With the 25mm eyepiece I could still see what I thought was M110. It was only visible with averted vision and seemed quite ghostly but there was little doubt that there was something there. Checking with a chart it appeared to be in the right place.

M33

From: 2006-10-26 19:40 UT
To: 2006-10-26 19:55 UT

Next I decided to have a look for M33. Using the 905 with the 32mm eyepiece I quickly found my way to the correct area of sky and was sure I could see it pretty much straight away. I could see a very ghostly patch that, while it wasn't that distinct from the surrounding sky, was obviously some sort of object.

Looking through the red-dot finder, and checking with my charts (in this case the Sky & Telescope Pocket Sky Atlas), I could see that I was lined up on exactly the right spot so I was very confident that I was seeing M33.

Back at the eyepiece, the more I looked the more I was sure there was something there. Given how indistinct it was it would have been pretty much impossible to actually sketch. I think this is probably a good object to go after with the 130M as the extra aperture would probably be a big help.

I then had a look at the same patch of sky with the 10x50 binoculars and could see the object through them too. There's no doubt that I was seeing M33.

M76

From: 2006-10-26 20:00 UT
To: 2006-10-26 20:17 UT

Decided to go hunting for M76 (the Little Dumbbell Nebula). I star hopped my way to the right location with the 905 and the 32mm eyepiece. I then switched to the 25mm eyepiece and had a sweep around the area for some time without seeing anything obvious.

Finally, after a short while, I noticed a faint, ghostly object in the right location (seems it was the night for this sort of observation). I could only see it with averted vision.

I then switched to the 10mm eyepiece and found that I still needed averted vision but that the object was still visible.

With the object centered in the field of view I then had a check through the red-dot finder and, when compared with my chart, I could see that I was lined up on the right spot in the sky. This would appear to be another good target for the 130M.

Quick look at Albireo

From: 2006-10-26 20:25 UT
To: 2006-10-26 20:35 UT

Before packing up for the night I decided to have a quick look at Albireo through the 905. I started out with the 25mm eyepiece, then moved on to the 10mm eyepiece and then, finally, the 6mm eyepiece.

I noticed that at this magnification the image was quite unsteady. This was probably in part down to the breeze moving the telescope about but there also seemed to be a component of bad seeing involved too.

The colour of both the starts was quite vivid.

Finally, at 20:35 UT, with conditions not being that great and with more cloud heading in I decided to pack up for the night.


2006-10-24


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-10-24 14:15 UT
To: 2006-10-24 14:20 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Temperature: 14.6C ...
Dew Point: 7.6C ...
Humidity: 63% ...
Wind Speed: 2.9mph ...
Wind Dir: West ...
Pressure: 996.8hPa ...
Notes:

Partly clear afternoon, quite cool and breezy too. Took the Solarscope out to do a quick sunspot count.

Sun

From: 2006-10-24 14:15 UT
To: 2006-10-24 14:20 UT

Active area 917 was still visible, now quite close to the limb of the Sun. I could see three small faint spots.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-10-24 20:30 UT
To: 2006-10-24 22:15 UT
Equipment: Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Antares 905
Temperature: 9.1C ...
Dew Point: 5.8C ...
Humidity: 80% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1002.1hPa ...
Notes:

Reasonably clear night but appearing a little unsteady at times. I was caught out by it, I wasn't expecting it to be clear. Having noticed in Starry Night that Uranus would be well placed for viewing from my garden I decided to pop out and see if I could view it.

Uranus

From: 2006-10-24 20:30 UT
To: 2006-10-24 21:20 UT

First off I used Starry Night to figure out exactly where Uranus was in relation to easily spotted star patterns. After I was happy that I'd be able to find it I went outside with the 10x50 binoculars and tried to track it down. I was surprised to find that I could see it with no problems whatsoever.

Uranus was near to, and down and to the right from, Lambda Aquarii. Lambda Aquarii was quite a fascinating object to see in itself given its vivid red colour. In relation to the surrounding stars Uranus, while obvious given that I knew where it should be, didn't stand out as being a planet. If I hadn't known what I was looking for and where I was looking for it I would simply have thought it was just another star.

Having seen it with the 10x50s I decided to get the Antares 905 out and have a look at it through that. After setting up the 905 I started out with the 25mm eyepiece and got Lambda Aquarii in the field and then centered on Uranus. I then worked my way up to the 6mm eyepiece, keeping Uranus in the center of the field of view as I went.

By about 20:50 UT I had Uranus and TYC5813-273-1 in the field of the 6mm. Even at this magnification I would have thought that I was looking at 2 stars if I hadn't already known one of them was a planet. Initially there was no hint of any kind of disc and I could detect no obvious colour.

The observation probably wasn't helped by the fact that, at the elevation of Uranus, the sky was a little murky and sometimes quite unsteady.

After some more viewing, especially when comparing it with TYC5813-273-1, I began to detect that Uranus wasn't a point-source but was actually a very small disc (at least I think I could see that, I don't think it was wishful thinking).

Around 21:08 UT, after scanning the area around Uranus and memorising some of the closer stars, I went back into the office to double-check what I'd seen with Starry Night. The main feature that stood out was two starts, sort of close together, just south of Uranus. I could see them in Starry Night (they were TYC5813-519-1 and TYC5813-814-1) and this confirmed that, without a doubt, I was looking at Uranus.

I also noticed in Starry Night that TYC5813-789-1 was very close to Uranus but I never did manage to see it through the 'scope.

After doing the above checking and after memorising the general pattern of starts around Uranus, at around 21:15 UT, I went back out and put the 10mm eyepiece in the 905 and checked everything again. Everything matched and there was no doubt that I'd found Uranus.

Random viewing

From: 2006-10-24 21:25 UT
To: 2006-10-24 22:15 UT

Given that I was out with the 905 and given that the sky wasn't too awful I decided to stay out a bit longer even though I managed to achieve my aim for this session. Because I didn't really have any other sort of plan I decided to just randomly sweep around the sky looking at whatever turned up or took my fancy.

First off I tried to have a look at M31 with the 905. Annoyingly, because it was so far overhead, I couldn't get the 905 in a position where I could view it, the mount kept getting in the way. So, instead, I turned it on the Double Cluster in Perseus (also known as Caldwell 14 or NGC 869 and NGC 884).

In the 32mm eyepiece it was a nice rich star field, just the sort of thing I'd purchased the 905 for. Both clusters stood out very well against the very starry background and the line of starts that runs away from the area of the cluster stood out really well.

At around 21:43 UT I noticed that the sky was looking quite nice now. Still a little hazy but it looked quite impressive. The Milky Way stood out really well — I think this is probably the best I've seen it for most of this year.

Given that I couldn't get the 905 trained on M31 I decided to have a quick look with the 10x50 binoculars instead. Even though I was only holding them with my hands it was a very impressive sight. The more I looked the wider it appeared to get. I think this was probably the best view I've had of that galaxy since I started observing again.

While I had the 10x50s to hand I next had a look at M45. It looked very clear, very bright and the "mini cascade" in it stood out really well. I think this was probably the best view I've had for a long time.

At around 21:55 UT, while sweeping around Cassiopeia with the 10x50s, I saw a pretty obvious cluster of stars about way between Epsilon Cassiopeiae and Delta Cassiopeiae. Checking with my maps it turned out to be NGC 654 (also known as Caldwell 10). Checking back I have observed this before. It looked like a slightly fuzzy but loose collection of stars. Last time I observed I remember thinking that it looked more like a globular cluster but this time around it was obvious that it was an open cluster.

Starting around 22:05 UT I did a bit of aimless sweeping around with the binoculars, just taking in the beauty of the sky. However, it was starting to get colder and damper (dew was forming on everything) and given that I wasn't really dressed for the conditions (I had, after all, intended to just pop out for a quick look for Uranus) and that I really needed to get off to bed I decided to call an end to the session at 22:15 UT.


2006-05-05


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

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

Sun

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

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

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

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

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

Searching for Saturn in a light sky

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

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

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

Imaging the Moon with a mobile phone

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

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

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

Moon with mobile phone

Moon with mobile phone

The Moon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessing the viewing conditions

Time: 2006-05-05 21:10 UT

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

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

Brief look at Saturn

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

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

A quick hunt for Comet Schwassmann-Wachmann 3

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

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

Assessing the chances of observing Jupiter

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

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

Increasing cloud — end of session

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

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


2006-05-03


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

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

Sun

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturn

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

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

Noticed that Titan was obvious close by.

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

The Moon

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

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

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

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

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

A short break and a meteor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2006-05-01


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

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

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

The Moon

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

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

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

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

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

Saturn

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

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

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

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

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

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

International Space Station

Time: 2006-05-01 21:08 UT

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

Checking later, it was the ISS.

Haze starting to form

Time: 2006-05-01 21:12 UT

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

Satellite

Time: 2006-05-01 21:18 UT

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

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

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

Time: 2006-05-01 21:27 UT

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time: 2006-05-01 21:45 UT

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

Jupiter with the naked eye

Time: 2006-05-01 21:55 UT

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

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

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

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

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


2006-03-24


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

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

Quick Test of the Antares 905

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

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

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

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

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

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


2006-03-02


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

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

Sunspot check

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

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

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

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

M42 and M43

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rough sketch of M42

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

Saturn

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

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

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

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

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


2006-01-11


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

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

International Space Station

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

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

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

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

Saturn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A good view of the Cassini Division still eludes me.

Saturn and The Beehive

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

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

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

Moon and Elnath

Time: 2006-01-11 22:36 UT

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

One last view of Saturn

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

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

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


2005-11-09


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.


2005-10-09


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.


2005-08-16


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-08-16 21:16 UT
To: 2005-08-16 22:50 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Tento 10x50 Binoculars
Notes:

Decided to have a session just with deck-chair, binoculars and naked eye. I've yet to spend an hour or so just sweeping the skies for fun.

Waxing gibbous Moon which, although it was low to the horizon and obscured from view by my house, was obviously making the sky rather light. Sky seemed kind of "misty". Temperature seemed reasonably warm with a hint of dampness to the air.

Much of the observing done isn't noted here due to the general nature of the session and given that it was more for pure entertainment than anything else. I have noted the "exceptional" observations.

M29

Time: 2005-08-16 21:35 UT

After some time of just sitting and looking and sweeping around with the binocular I went to see if I could see M29 with them (having found but failed to identify it with the 'scope back on 2005-07-16). Found it with no trouble at all. It stood out as a reasonably bright fuzzy object with a hint of "grain" to it. Through the binocular I can see why Messier would have included it in the catalogue.

Satellite in Cygnus

Time: 2005-08-16 21:41 UT

Watched a satellite pass roughly South to North through Cygnus with the naked eye. It appeared to occult one of either 30 or 31 Cygni. It was hard to tell which, if either, it did occult but it came very close — so close that it looked like it occulted.

Flash near Vega

Time: 2005-08-16 21:55 UT

Saw a brief flash of light just near Vega in Lyra. The flash was less than a second long and was much brighter than Vega. Annoyingly I didn't note down where it was in relation to Vega.

Expecting it to be an aircraft I kept an eye on it for a couple of seconds to see if it happened again but didn't see anything. Had a sweep of the general area with binocular but couldn't see any evidence of a satellite either. I suspect that it probably was a satellite but failed to find it after the flash although I guess there's the possibility that it was a pinpoint meteor (a meteor that appeared to be heading right at me).

M103 plus something else

Time: 2005-08-16 22:17 UT

With binocular I think I've found M103 in Cassiopeia. Could see a faint, fuzzy object in what appeared to be the correct location but could generally only see it with averted vision (not surprising given how light the sky was and given the faint haze that seemed to be hanging around). It appeared to be within a shallow triangle of three faint stars.

Further checking with Starry Night confirmed that it was M103.

Also, about half way between δ and ε, I noticed what looks like another fuzzy object just "below" three stars in a line. Noted that I should check on some charts later to see what, if anything, it is.

Checking with Starry Night the three stars in a line were HIP8106, HIP8020 and HIP7939. The fuzzy object would appear to have been a collection of stars in the region of HIP8239. While this is a tight grouping of stars it doesn't appear that it is any sort of cluster.

M52

Time: 2005-08-16 22:33 UT

With binocular I think I've found M52 in Cassiopeia. Noticed what looked like a fuzzy star that was alongside a triangle of stars. One side of the triangle is cut by a curved line of five stars.

To aid in checking later on made the following sketch:

Sketch of M52

The "fuzzy" in the sketch wasn't as obvious to the eye as the sketch might suggest but it does give a good idea of the location and the suggested size is probably about right.

Checking with Starry Night: confirmed that it was M52.

End of session

Time: 2005-08-16 22:50 UT

The sky was getting more misty and lighter so decided to call an end to the session.


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.


2005-07-16


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-07-16 21:27 UT
To: 2005-07-17 00:15 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Notes:

Another reasonable night's observing. Sky seemed quite clear, I think I'd have rated the transparancy as "pretty good" and seeing seemed "very good". The temperature was cool but pleasant. Waxing gibbous Moon.

Moon

From: 2005-07-16 21:27 UT
To: 2005-07-16 21:40 UT

With the naked eye I noticed that on the terminator of the Moon there was an obvious and significant feature jutting into the night-side. For some reason I don't think I've ever really noticed something as obvious as this before.

Using the 130M and a 25mm eyepiece I could see that it was part of Montes Jura, which partly surrounds Sinus Iridum.

I was contemplating trying to make a sketch of the scene when I started to lose the Moon behind a neighbour's house.

Albireo

From: 2005-07-16 22:00 UT
To: 2005-07-16 22:24 UT

Turned the 130M on AlbireoCygnus) and companion. Started with the 25mm eyepiece. Reasonably wide pair. Noticed that there seems to be a faint difference in colour but I couldn't quite tell for sure exactly what it was. One of the pair seemed to be slightly more blue in appearance (the fainter of the pair) whereas the other seemed much more white.

Switched to the 15mm eyepiece. Now the brighter of the pair appeared to have a faint orange tint to it. The fainter of the pair had a slight blue tint.

With the 10mm eyepiece the effect was the same as with the 15mm but the colours were more pronounced.

With the 6mm eyepiece the colours were even more pronounced. My impression was that the brighter of the pair has an orange/white appearance to it and the fainter of the pair has a blue/white appearance.

Attempt to find M29

From: 2005-07-16 22:31 UT
To: 2005-07-16 22:52 UT

Decided to have a go at finding M29 in Cygnus. Pointed the 'scope in the general location of the cluster. Using the 25mm eyepiece I thought I'd found it after discounting a couple of candidates. I found this very hard-going given that this is a very star-rich part of the sky due to it lying in the "thicker" part of the Milky Way.

Finding it hard to tell if I'd got the right object or not I grabbed my copy of Neil Bone's Deep Sky Observer's Guide to see if that could help me check if I'd got the right object. Sadly there was no illustration for this object but the text described it as a "south-pointing triangle". The collection of stars that I'd finally settled on seemed to fit the bill but I was still unsure that I'd really found M29.

Made a sketch of what I'd found so I could check later against any images I could find:

Sketch of object

Checking afterwards with Starry Sky I found that what I'd sketched wasn't M29. Annoyingly, I had actually seen M29 but had discounted it as what I saw didn't seem to match the description I'd read. What I had drawn (ignoring the brighter star that I'd marked) was, from what I can tell, the following stars: TYC3152-1679-1, TYC3151-955-1, TYC3151-757-1, TYC3151-1782-1, TYC3151-1591-1, TYC3151-478-1, TYC3151-1573-1, TYC3151-1237-1 and TYC3151-550-1. The bright star I marked was 34 Cygni. Seems I was about 1 off.

It strikes me that there are two useful lessons here: the first is that I should do a little more preparation before going hunting for an object such as this (one that could be easily confused in a star-rich area); the second lesson is that when you're unsure about something you think you've found doing a sketch for later comparison is a good thing.

M31

From: 2005-07-16 23:10 UT
To: 2005-07-16 23:20 UT

Noticed that M31 had risen enough to clear the murk of the eastern horizon (not to mention the roofs of the houses near me). Couldn't quite see it with the naked eye (then again there is a street light in that direction and it was still reasonably low down) but found it very easily with 10x50 binoculars. Could see the central bulge rather well with a faint hint of the rest of the galaxy.

I would have turned the 130M on it but, annoyingly, it was obscured by my Pear Tree from where I was set up and I didn't want to get into moving the 'scope and realigning it and everything at that point. I'll save M31 and the 130M for another night when it's higher in the sky.

M51

From: 2005-07-16 23:25 UT
To: 2005-07-16 23:50 UT

Decided to have a go at M51. It wasn't very favourably placed given that it was off in the Western part of the sky and given that that part of the sky wasn't anywhere near fully dark. Using the 25mm eyepiece, after a little bit of effort, I found it. Although all I could see was two faint fuzzy blobs it seemed pretty obvious that it was M51. There was no hint that I was actually looking at a spiral galaxy. With averted vision the blobs did seem a little more extended.

Dropped the 15mm eyepiece into the 'scope and had another look. The impression I got was that it looked a little brighter and, with averted vision, there was the vague impression that the "extensions" to the blobs mentioned above appeared to overlap.

The really enjoyable part about seeing M51 was the realisation that I was looking back in time somewhere in the region of 30 million years or more.

M57

From: 2005-07-16 23:55 UT
To: 2005-07-17 00:15 UT

Decided to have another look at at M57. Given that Lyra was better positioned than the last time I observed it I wanted to see what would be visible with the 6mm eyepiece (I'd tried using it during the last observing session but couldn't see much at all). Also, the sky seemed a lot darker and clearer that the last time (for example, I could now easily see the Milky Way with the naked eye, something I couldn't do the other night).

First located M57 with the 25mm eyepiece, centered it in the field of view and then immediately switched to the 6mm. Noticed right away that the "hole" was very visible, I could more or less detect it with direct vision. Also noticed something that I'd not noticed in the previous observing session: a faint star just to the side of the nebula. I also thought I could detect a faint variation in brightness in the ring but it was hard to pin down exactly where this was and what form it took (this was only really noticeable with averted vision).

Made a sketch:

Sketch of M57

As an experiment I've taken the above, converted it into a gray-scale image and then inverted the colours. This is the result:

Inverted sketch of M57

At 00:15 UT I finished the session.


2005-07-12


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-07-12 20:17 UT
To: 2005-07-12 23:23 UT
Equipment: Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Notes:

Reasonable evening's observing. Started out while the sky was still very light (not even sure that the Sun had set when I first set up) because I wanted to align and test the new Red-Dot Finder that I'd purchased from Scopes'n'skies.

Also wanted to try the chance to test out a set of Lunar Filters that I'd recently purchased.

Despite there being a fair bit of high-level "misty" cloud kicking about I stayed out for quite a while with a view to trying to see M57.

Align and test Red-Dot Finder

Time: 2005-07-12 20:17 UT

It took a while to get the finder properly aligned — I originally made the mistake of trying to use a reasonably distant object on the horizon but when I then tried to use the finder to line up on the Moon I just wasn't getting it. Finally gave up on that I used the Moon as the alignment target. That worked a treat.

After the alignment I slewed the 'scope away from the Moon and used the finder to get me back on it. The Moon was in the eyepiece (25mm) first time.

Very impressed with the finder, it's so much easier to use than the finder that came with the 130M.

The Moon and aborted filter test

From: 2005-07-12 20:27 UT
To: 2005-07-12 20:42 UT

Started to have a proper look at the Moon with the 25mm eyepiece. Noted that the image was quite unsteady even at this low magnification. This probably had as much to do with tube-currents as anything else given that the telescope was still very warm and I'd not been out that long.

Around 20:42 UT, just as I'd attached the ND25 filter to the 25mm eyepiece and reinserted the eyepiece into the telescope, I started to lose the Moon behind the house nextdoor so I had to give up on that test.

Jupiter, testing new finder and ND25 filter

From: 2005-07-12 20:50 UT
To: 2005-07-12 21:11 UT

Noticed that I could now see Jupiter with the naked eye so decided to use this as a second target for testing the new finder. Lined up with the finder and then looked through the 25mm eyepiece. Almost spot on first time! Took the opportunity to fine-tune the alignment against Jupiter.

Switched to the 6mm eyepiece but found it hard to get reasonable focus and the image was very unsteady (again, probably tube-currents combined with unsteady air in general and seeing not being terribly good).

Added the ND25 filter to the 6mm eyepiece and, surprisingly, found that it seemed easier to pick out a good point of focus.

At 21:11 UT Jupiter was obscured by a cloud.

Summer Triangle

Time: 2005-07-12 21:12 UT

Noticed that, while the sky was still quite light, and while there was some thin cloud above me, I could now clearly see the Summer Triangle.

Also noted that Arcturus was easily visible.

Jupiter

From: 2005-07-12 21:20 UT
To: 2005-07-12 21:22 UT

Jupiter became visible again. Went back to it with the 10mm and 2x barlow. This time the image was reasonable. The two main belts were obvious and I also noticed a moon very close to the planet.

At 21:22 UT I started to make a sketch of Jupiter and its moons but I lost it behind the house nextdoor so the sketch didn't get finished.

Testing effect of filters on a star

From: 2005-07-12 21:37 UT
To: 2005-07-12 21:50 UT (approximate)

Decided to test the effect of the ND25 and ND13 filters on a bright star. Selected Deneb as a suitable target.

Using the 10mm eyepiece on its own the star seems to be "too bright" to see well. There is an obvious four-pointed flare caused by the spider in the scope.

With the addition of the ND25 filter things get a lot better. While I can still see the flare caused by the spider it is nowhere near as obvious as it is without the filter.

With the ND13 there is no flare at all. It is, however, obvious that I'm not seeing a pin-point of light. I suspect that this comes down to a number of things: collimation (still need to get around to making a habit of doing this), possible lingering tube currents, a general unsteadiness of the atmosphere and the fact that there is still a hint of high-level haze around.

Based on that little test I get the impression that the ND25 and ND13 filters might come in handy when trying to split a reasonably close and reasonably bright binary.

Mizar in Ursa Major

From: 2005-07-12 22:00 UT
To: 2005-07-12 22:26 UT

Had another look at Mizar again. While doing so I noticed a 4th star very close that I'd not noticed last time. Checked with Starry Night it seems that it is TYC3850-257-1, a magnitude 7.56 star. I noted this down because it's interesting that I didn't seem to notice it last time

Did a rough sketch of what I saw:

Sketch of Mizar

Also note the faint star to the far right of the sketch. Not sure what that is; I need to check. It would estimate that it is somewhat fainter than TYC3850-257-1. Checking later with Starry Night it is TYC3853-654-1, a magnitude 9.56 star.

At 22:26 UT, just as I was finishing up the above and removing the 10mm eyepiece from the telescope, I managed to drop the eyepiece onto hard paving! Blast! As best as I could tell it didn't damage the eyepiece although it did leave a rather nasty looking scuff mark on the metal barrel.

Finding M57

From: 2005-07-12 22:31 UT
To: 2005-07-12 22:44 UT

Decided to go looking for M57 (the Ring Nebula) in Lyra. First lined up in the general area using the new Red-Dot finder then looked through the telescope itself with the 25mm eyepiece. Nothing immediately stood out. However, while initially looking, a satellite passed right through the field of view. I turned round to look with the naked eye but couldn't see it at all.

Back at the telescope, I moved the field of view around a little and almost immediately saw what I thought must be M57. My initial impression was that, in contrast to the stars in the field, there was a faint, ghostly gray "blob". Noted that I could only see it with averted vision. With the 25mm eyepiece there didn't appear to be any hint of it being an actual ring (this might not have been helped by the fact that the sky still wasn't fully dark and that there was still some high-level haze about).

Made a rough sketch of what I could see, marking some of the brighter stars I could see in the field. This was made a little difficult by the field being partially obscured from time to time by some of the cloud/mist:

Sketch of M57

M57 with 15mm eyepiece

From: 2005-07-12 22:52 UT
To: 2005-07-12 23:01 UT

Switched to the 15mm eyepiece. With averted vision a good hint of the ring structure could be seen. A couple of minutes into looking at it another satellite went through the field.

There's no obvious hint of any colour to the ring, although with the 15mm eyepiece (compared to the 25mm eyepiece) it did seem to be more of a faint "bluish gray" rather than just gray. Also noticed that the nebula seemed to be very elongated in one direction.

At around 23:01 UT I made the following sketch of what the nebula looked like with the 15mm eyepiece (note that, again, I simply marked some of the more obvious stars in the field for reference):

Sketch of M57

M57 with 10mm eyepiece

From: 2005-07-12 23:08 UT
To: 2005-07-12 23:23 UT

Switched to the 10mm eyepiece. The ring structure was now very obvious (again, with averted vision). It seemed much less "blueish". The center doesn't seem as dark as the background sky but it is obviously darker than the edge of the nebula.

Around 23:14 UT started the following rough sketch:

Sketch of M57

By 23:23 UT it was starting to get very misty so started to pack up for this session.


2005-06-06


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-06-06 21:35 UT
To: 2005-06-06 23:00 UT (approximate)
Equipment: Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Naked Eye
Notes:

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

Jupiter

Time: 2005-06-06 21:35 UT

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

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

The Summer Triangle

Time: 2005-06-06 22:10 UT

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

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

Izar Almost Occulted by Satellite

Time: 2005-06-06 22:20 UT

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

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

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

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

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

M13

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

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

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

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

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


2005-05-07


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-05-07 21:31 UT
To: 2005-05-07 22:39 UT
Equipment: Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Notes:

No Moon. Very breezy and very cool night.

Saturn

Time: 2005-05-07 21:31 UT

Worked up from 25mm to 10mm with 2x. With 10mm + 2x Saturn was almost swimming around, the atmosphere seems very unsteady. Could just about make out the shadow on the rings but not much else was visible.

M97

Time: 2005-05-07 22:13 UT

Went star-hopping for M97 using the 25mm eyepiece. After not too much effort managed to find it. Made a rough sketch of its location to relation to surrounding stars so I could double-check with charts later on (that check confirmed that I'd managed to get M97).

With the 25mm eyepiece it was an obvious if faint circular "smudge". No trouble seeing it with direct vision.

Tried next with the 10mm eyepiece. I could only see it with averted vision. There were moments when I wasn't sure I was actually looking at anything at all and then it'd sort of fade into view again. Noted that I could see a very faint star very close to it.

At 22:32 I switched back to the 25mm eyepiece for a wider view and in the following three minutes saw a satellite and then a meteor pass through the field.

Jupiter

Time: 2005-05-07 22:39 UT

With the 25mm eyepiece all four moons were visible. Jupiter itself was almost too bright to look at. Noted that I was getting four "spikes" off the planet (presumably from the legs of the spider holding the secondary mirror).

The two main belts were only just visible, the brightness of the planet appeared to be making it very hard to see any detail at all. As noted in another log: I should probably think about looking into some filters.

Made a sketch of the position of the four main moons.


2005-05-04


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

Seeing seemed reasonable tonight. No moon.

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

Saturn

Time: 2005-05-04 20:50 UT

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

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

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

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

The International Space Station

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

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

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

M44

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

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

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

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

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


2005-05-02


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.


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Dave Pearson <davep@davep.org>
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