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2009-02-07


Location: Woodland Waters (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2009-02-07 21:00 UT
To: 2009-02-07 23:34 UT
Equipment: Canon EOS 400D
Naked Eye
Notes:

Joined John at Woodland Waters for an observing session. Forecast suggested the night could go either so decided to take a chance. I decided not to bother taking a 'scope, assuming that cloud would be turning up. Instead I packed binoculars and my Canon EOS 400D.

This was never going to be a real observing session, more a case of standing in a field, chatting, and looking at stuff when it was available. I left home with clear skies and reached the site to find lots of scattered cloud so packing light turned out to be a good plan.

Random Moon shots

From: 2009-02-07 21:15 UT
To: 2009-02-07 21:30 UT

While standing around and chatting, during the gaps in the cloud, I took a number of hand-held shots of the Moon with my EOS 400D and the its 200mm Tamron lens. Nothing fancy but they turned out okay. Here's an example:

Moon

Clouded Out

From: 2009-02-07 21:41 UT
To: 2009-02-07 22:24 UT

The cloud got worse and by about 21:41 UT we were totally clouded out. This lasted until around 22:24 UT when it started to break up again.

Saturn

From: 2009-02-07 22:25 UT
To: 2009-02-07 22:30 UT

By 22:25 UT some reasonable gaps had started to appear in the cloud and John turned his 'scope on Saturn. I had a look and was immediately struck by how much the rings at closed up since the last view I had almost exactly a year ago. There was a hint of mottling on the disc of the planet but it was difficult to make out much in the way of detail due to cloud coming and going.

Titan was easily visible.

Meteor

Time: 2009-02-07 22:33 UT

While waiting for Saturn to appear from behind the clouds again I was looking in the general direction of Leo and saw a short but bright meteor head roughly west to east just below the constellation.

More Saturn

From: 2009-02-07 22:36 UT
To: 2009-02-07 22:50 UT

Cloud cleared again so back to Saturn.

John noticed what he thought was another moon or perhaps a background star near Titan. I had a look and confirmed that there was a pretty faint object in the position he'd mentioned. I made a simple sketch in my notebook with a view to checking what it was when I got home.

Checking later it would appear that the object we saw was Rhea.

John next spotted another, even fainter, object. This time around half way between Titan and Saturn's rings. Again I looked and managed to confirm the object in the position he'd been looking in. Again, I made a note on the simple sketch in my notebook so I could check what it was later.

Checking later it would appear that we'd seen either Dione or Enceladus. Starry Night suggests that Dione would have been the brighter of the two so I'm assuming that that's what we saw.

The other thing I noticed while observing Saturn, and John confirmed it, was that one side of the rings (the "right" side as seen via the view at that time in John's refractor, the opposite side to the side where Titan was) looked like they were detached from the planet's disk whereas the other side looked like they were attached. Despite the rings being very closed up now it seems that the planet's shadow on the rings was still very obvious.

Later checking confirms that this is where the shadow should have been.

Some photography

From: 2009-02-07 23:00 UT
To: 2009-02-07 23:30 UT

Did a bit of general skyscape/landscape photography, taking in Orion (including picking out M42).

End of Session

Time: 2009-02-07 23:34 UT

Even though the sky had cleared by now the Moon was whiting out the sky and, given that we'd seen most of what was worth seeing tonight, we decided to call and end to the session and pack up.


2008-02-09


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

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

Sun

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

No spots or other marks visible on the Sun.

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

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

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

Checking for Comet Holmes

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

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

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

Started a Star Trail

Time: 2008-02-09 20:33 UT

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

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

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

Saturn

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

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

Titan was nicely visible.

Mars

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

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

Stopped the Star Trail

Time: 2008-02-09 21:01 UT

Stopped the star tail I'd started earlier.

Taurus Star Trail

M1

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

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

M65 and M66

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

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

A break and a chat

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

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

M95 and M96

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

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

905 totally fogged up

Time: 2008-02-09 23:09 UT

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

Trying for the Eskimo Nebula

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

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

M3

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

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

End of session

Time: 2008-02-09 23:55 UT

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


2008-01-05


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

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

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

Mars

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

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

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

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

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

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

Started a Star Trail

Time: 2008-01-05 21:15 UT

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

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

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

M42

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

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

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

Stopped the Star Trail

Time: 2008-01-05 21:43 UT

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

Ursa Major Star Trail

Started a Star Trail

Time: 2008-01-05 21:49 UT

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

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

Saturn

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

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

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

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

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

Possibly Comet Holmes

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

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

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

Stopped a Star Trail

Time: 2008-01-05 22:25 UT

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

Leo Star Trail

Back to Comet Holmes

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

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

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

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

Started a Star Trail

Time: 2008-01-05 22:42 UT

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

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

M81 and M82

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

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

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

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

Back on Saturn

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

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

Stopped a Star Trail

Time: 2008-01-05 23:14 UT

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

Cassiopeia Star Trail

Started a Star Trail

Time: 2008-01-05 23:18 UT

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

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

Stopped a Star Trail

Time: 2008-01-05 23:45 UT

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

Orion Star Trail

End of Session

Time: 2008-01-05 23:46 UT

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


2007-05-22


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

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

Sun

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

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

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

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

Disappearance of Saturn

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

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

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

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

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

Waiting

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

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

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

Reappearance of Saturn

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

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

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


2007-05-19


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

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

Giving Guests a Tour

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

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

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

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

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

Another guest

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

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

Photographing Venus and the Moon

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

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

Venus and the Moon

Venus and the Moon

Venus, the Moon and Me

Stopping for Coffee

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

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

M51

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

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

M57

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

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

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

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

Antares 905 Fogging Up

Time: 2007-05-19 22:16 UT

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

M3

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

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

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

Jupiter via EXT125

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

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

Jupiter via 905

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

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

End of Session

Time: 2007-05-19 23:41 UT

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


2007-04-27


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2007-04-27 13:15 UT
To: 2007-04-27 13:25 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Canon EOS 400D
Temperature: 15.1C ...
Dew Point: 9.7C ...
Humidity: 70% ...
Wind Speed: 0.6mph ...
Wind Dir: East ...
Pressure: 1023.4hPa ...
Notes:

Mostly cloudy all morning but started to clear into the afternoon. Although it was still a little hazy I took the Solarscope out to do a quick sunspot count.

Sun

From: 2007-04-27 13:15 UT
To: 2007-04-27 13:25 UT

New active area 953 visible with a single and reasonably large spot (this is the first sunspot I've seen since 2007-03-03). The umbra appeared quite dark and a large penumbra was visible too.

Given how large the spot was I decided to try and take a photograph with my Canon EOS 400D:

Active Area 953

Location: Woodland Waters (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2007-04-27 19:55 UT
To: 2007-04-27 22:48 UT
Equipment: Antares 905
Notes:

A clear night had been forecast so John Turner and myself met up at Woodland Waters for a joint observing session. I took my Antares 905.

When we arrived the sky was mostly overcast with a lot of cirrus. It started to look like we'd abandon the session. However, it started to thin out a little so we decided to stick with it and see how it went on — it did look like it would be a shorter session though.

Venus

From: 2007-04-27 19:55 UT
To: 2007-04-27 20:15 UT

Started out with a view of Venus, even though the sky was still quite light. Using the 905 and the 6mm eyepiece the view wasn't too bad. There was some false colour and some unsteadiness at times but it was easy enough to make out the planet's phase (which had obviously changed since the last time I observed it).

I then added the contrast booster and, as I've found before, the image improved some more.

Giving a Tour of the Sky

From: 2007-04-27 20:16 UT
To: 2007-04-27 20:54 UT

Around 20:16 UT we were approached by two blokes who were part of a group of people camping in the field. They asked what was happening (apparently assuming that we were watching an "event" in the sky) and, after telling them that we were simply observing what was available, we asked if they'd like a look through the 'scopes. They said they'd love to.

Neither of them had looked thought a telescope before so between us John and I showed them Venus, Saturn and various views of the Moon. Both were impressed and, as normally happens, Saturn was the real winner with the most "wow" factor.

We also had a good chat about various things astronomical and how we'd got into observing in the first place. I also spent some time trying to explain to them what they'd been seeing when viewing Venus (the significance of Venus' phase wasn't clear to either of them and it took a little explaining).

Since getting into observing this was the first chance I've had to do this sort of thing. While it wasn't exactly sidewalk astronomy it was nice to give people a view though my 'scope and to answer some of their questions.

The Moon

From: 2007-04-27 21:35 UT
To: 2007-04-27 22:48 UT

After our two guests headed back off to their tent I had a sit down and a coffee break. By 21:35 UT it was obvious that the sky wasn't going to improve at all. There was still a fair bit of haze around and the Moon had a pretty impressive halo around it. There was no chance of any deep sky observing.

Trying to make the most of the evening I decided to do some observing of the Moon. With the 6mm eyepiece in the 905 I had a quick scan along the terminator and could see that the view appeared somewhat flat and muted.

Around 21:50 UT I concentrated on a large highlighted "wall" some distance into the Moon's shadow. Using my Moon map I quickly figured out that what I was seeing was the eastern wall of Gassendi.

I spent some more time just wandering up and down the terminator and then, at around 22:19 UT, I noticed a very strange thing right in the terminator near Delisle. What I was seeing was a perfect triangle, bright corners and obvious sides. It looked very artificial. Realising that I must be seeing some sort of optical effect I had a look at my map to try and figure out what I was really looking at.

To the west of Delisle are some mountains (unnamed on my map) which appears (according to my map) to have three peaks in a rough triangular formation. Given that the terminator was running right through these three peaks it would seem that my brain was "filling in the blanks" and joining the dots to make a triangle with actual sides. Even though I now knew what I was looking at I couldn't stop seeing what I'd initially seen.

I got John to also have a look too and he confirmed the effect.

Also, close to Delisle, I could see Mons Delisle as an inverted Y.

By 22:26 UT the sky was getting somewhat worse although the halo around the Moon was becoming more impressive. For a short while it had quite a lot of colour to it. It appeared yellowish in the inside (the part touching the Moon) and appeared to get redder out towards the edge.

Because of the deteriorating conditions I had another short break to see if things might improve again. However, they didn't and at 22:48 UT John and I decided to call it a night.


2007-04-18


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2007-04-18 12:55 UT
To: 2007-04-18 13:00 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Temperature: 17.5C ...
Dew Point: 4.0C ...
Humidity: 41% ...
Wind Speed: 4.0mph ...
Wind Dir: North West ...
Pressure: 1022.8hPa ...
Notes:

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

Sun

From: 2007-04-18 12:55 UT
To: 2007-04-18 13:00 UT

No spots or other marks visible on the Sun.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2007-04-18 20:15 UT
To: 2007-04-18 20:40 UT
Equipment: Canon EOS 400D
Temperature: 11.1C ...
Dew Point: 3.6C ...
Humidity: 60% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1020.6hPa ...
Notes:

Saw earlier on in the day that the ISS would be making a good pass this evening so I decided to have a go at photographing it.

Leo, Saturn and the ISS

From: 2007-04-18 20:15 UT
To: 2007-04-18 20:40 UT

I went outside at around 20:15 UT and set the Canon EOS 400D on a tripod. I decided that the best place to photograph would be Leo. I took a couple of test shots and had a bit of trouble sorting out the focus but I more or less got it right in the end.

At around 20:30 UT (I wasn't making notes of exact times as I was too busy working with the camera) I saw the International Space Station slowly heading in from the west. A short while later, as it got close to Leo, I started the exposure. Annoyingly it's just a 30 second exposure because I'd forgot to put the camera on bulb (while I would have had time to do this I've also not used bulb mode with remote I use and wasn't sure how it works, rather than miss the pass I decided to go with 30 seconds).

As it was, despite the odd problem or two, the image seemed to turn out okay, it shows Leo, Saturn and the ISS:

Leo, Saturn and the ISS


2007-04-04


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

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

Sun

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

No spots or other marks visible on the Sun.

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

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

Venus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At 20:05 UT I finished with Venus.

Saturn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2007-03-27


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2007-03-27 12:35 UT
To: 2007-03-27 12:40 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Temperature: 13.8C ...
Dew Point: 9.6C ...
Humidity: 76% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1014.2hPa ...
Notes:

The day started out very foggy but cleared somewhat into the afternoon. When it was clear enough I took the Solarscope out to do a quick sunspot count.

Sun

From: 2007-03-27 12:35 UT
To: 2007-03-27 12:40 UT

No spots or other marks visible on the Sun.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2007-03-27 18:50 UT
To: 2007-03-27 19:45 UT
Equipment: Antares 905
Temperature: 9.8C ...
Dew Point: 5.5C ...
Humidity: 75% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1013.7hPa ...
Notes:

A reasonably clear but slightly damp and misty evening. Although I had to be elsewhere a little later on in the evening I decided to have a quick session observing Venus and, if there was time, a quick look at the Moon (especially given that Rupes Recta would be favourably lit).

Venus

From: 2007-03-27 18:50 UT
To: 2007-03-27 19:10 UT

I first lined Venus up in the 905 using the 25mm eyepiece and then swapped it for the 6mm eyepiece. The image was very indistinct and had lots of blue fringing. I then added the contrast booster and this gave an instant improvement (I can see this becoming a more or less permanent fixture on the 905) with Venus now obviously showing a gibbous phase. There was, however, still some red fringe.

As with my previous session observing Venus I added the #80A medium blue and this eliminated pretty much all of the fringing. Those two filters appear to be a winning combination, at least for something as low down and as high-contrast as Venus.

I then added the 2x barlow and even that wasn't a terrible view. While the image was a little soft there was pretty much no colour fringe to distract from the view. Once again it was very obvious that I was looking at a planet that was displaying a very distinct phase.

I kept observing Venus until around 19:10 UT and then, given that I obviously wasn't going to get anything extra out of the planet, I decided to move on to the Moon.

The Moon

From: 2007-03-27 19:15 UT
To: 2007-03-27 19:45 UT

While I had some time left I decided to have a quick look at the Moon and, in particular, Rupes Recta (something I used to observe a fair bit as a child, back when I was a member of the Lunar Section of the Junior Astronomical Society).

With the 6mm eyepiece (and keeping the contrast booster in place) Rupes Recta was immediately and obviously visible. Just as I remembered it gave the impression of being a large sharp cliff (something it really isn't). Close by I could see Brit and, in the wall of Brit, I could easily see Brit A.

I then added the 2x barlow and the view was still quite good.

Looking at the general area around Rupes Recta I noted that "wrinkles" to the West of Brit, along with other features in the area, give a very strong impression of the whole region being surrounded by the remains of a very circular ghost crater.

About way between Brit and the terminator I could see Nicollet. Further on in that general direction, more or less on the terminator, I could see Wolf.

Pretty much touching the south wall of Thebit I could see a very small crater which I could make out on my map but which didn't have a name marked.

At this point I removed the 2x barlow and carried on using just the 6mm eyepiece.

Further south Tycho looked fantastic with its floor in shadow and its central peak standing out in the sunlight. The shadow of the central peak was also very obvious.

Even further south I could see Clavius cutting into the terminator. Two very distinct craters were visible on its floor, one of which (the eastern most one) was throwing quite a long shadow. I could also make out Rutherfurd, just visible in the wall of Clavius.

Buried right in the terminator, down close to the south pole, I could just make out Newton.

At this point (19:45 UT) my time was up and I needed to call an early end to the session and pack up.


2007-03-25


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2007-03-25 13:20 UT
To: 2007-03-25 13:25 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Temperature: 11.5C ...
Dew Point: 6.6C ...
Humidity: 72% ...
Wind Speed: 2.2mph ...
Wind Dir: South East ...
Pressure: 1018.7hPa ...
Notes:

Clear but very hazy day. Took the Solarscope out to do a quick sunspot count.

Sun

From: 2007-03-25 13:20 UT
To: 2007-03-25 13:25 UT

No spots or other marks visible on the Sun.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2007-03-25 19:16 UT
To: 2007-03-25 20:12 UT
Equipment: Antares 905
Temperature: 6.6C ...
Dew Point: 4.2C ...
Humidity: 85% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1020.3hPa ...
Notes:

Reasonably clear evening, if a little damp and misty. Noticed that Venus was visible from the garden and would be for a while to come so decided to quickly get the 905 out to have a look.

Venus

From: 2007-03-25 19:16 UT
To: 2007-03-25 20:12 UT

I quickly got Venus lined up in the 905 with the 6mm eyepiece. Immediately I could see lots of false colour in the image. It was, however, obvious right away that I was looking at a gibbous disk.

To combat the false colour I added the contrast booster and this made quite a bit of difference. The image was quite unsteady, and I could still see a fair bit of red fringing, but the image was sharper than without the filter and the impression that I was looking at something that had a phase was increased.

Next I added the 2x barlow. The image wasn't too bad. There was an increased "rainbow" effect around the planet and the edges were noticeably softer but the overall shape was the same as without the barlow.

I noted at this point that there was no way I'd ever be able to use the 905 to look for the sort of terminator detail that avid Venus observers look for. Likewise I'd never be able to go looking for evidence of the ashen light. However, all that said, with the setup at hand it was obvious that I was looking at Venus (and, as far as I can remember, this was the first time I'd ever looked at Venus with a telescope).

I also noted that I should try observing Venus with the 130M at some point. I would have used it this evening but if I'd brought it out and given it enough time to cool down I'd have lost Venus as seen from the garden.

I removed the barlow and carried on observing with just the 6mm eyepiece. I could still see a fair bit of red fringe, this came and went over time. As an experiment I added #80A medium blue filter to the box (keeping the contrast booster in place) and this seemed to make quite a bit of difference. The view now appeared very crisp with little to no evidence of fringing. This was the best view I had all this session and the phase of the planet stood out very well.

By around 20:12 UT Venus was starting to get quite low for my position, the mist was starting to get thicker and to top it all off smoke from at least one fire in someone's house was starting to drift over my way so I decided to pack up.


2007-03-21


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

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

Sun

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

No spots or other marks visible on the Sun.

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

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

Photographing the Moon and Venus

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

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

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

Moon and Venus

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

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

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

Testing new barlow against Saturn

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

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

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

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

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

Testing With the 905

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

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

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

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

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


2007-03-03


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

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

Sun

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

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

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

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

Saturn

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

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

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

Total Lunar Eclipse

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

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

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

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

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

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

Total Lunar Eclipse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Total Lunar Eclipse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2007-01-23


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

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

Sun

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

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

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

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

The Moon

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturn

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

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

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

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

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

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

End of session

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

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


2007-01-11


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2007-01-11 17:00 UT
To: 2007-01-11 17:10 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Temperature: 9.3C ...
Dew Point: 3.4C ...
Humidity: 67% ...
Wind Speed: 5.5mph ...
Wind Dir: West ...
Pressure: 1000.9hPa ...
Notes:

Very windy evening, very murky sky too with quite a bit of cloud around. Despite this I decided to take another walk to the western edge of the village to try and catch a glimpse of comet McNaught.

Comet C/2006 P1 McNaught

From: 2007-01-11 17:00 UT
To: 2007-01-11 17:10 UT

Unlike yesterday evening, McNaught wasn't visible to me during the walk out to the observing spot. It wasn't until I got to the spot that I caught sight of it. It was much harder to find this evening. I doubt it was much, if anything, to do with the brightness of the comet itself, it was probably down to the fact that the atmosphere was horribly murky and there was quite a bit of cloud along the horizon.

The view to the naked eye was nowhere near as impressive as the last view, if anything I'd have said that the view in the binocular was closer to yesterday evening's naked eye view.

I managed to view the comet for getting on for 10 minutes but then totally lost it while I was looking away. Looking back again I failed to find the head or any hint of the tail (probably lost behind some cloud).

In comparison to yesterday's view I'd say this one was disappointing, but that's just because yesterday's view spoiled me. Had this been my first view of it I think I'd have been equally impressed.

Again, given how short a time I had to view it no real attempt was made to take any kind of "technical" notes.


2007-01-10


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2007-01-10 13:00 UT
To: 2007-01-10 13:05 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Naked Eye
Temperature: 8.4C ...
Dew Point: 4.0C ...
Humidity: 74% ...
Wind Speed: 8.8mph ...
Wind Dir: West ...
Pressure: 1004.1hPa ...
Notes:

Clear but windy day. Took the Solarscope out to do a quick sunspot count.

Sun

From: 2007-01-10 13:00 UT
To: 2007-01-10 13:05 UT

Three active areas visible today. Active area 933 had two visible spots (1 very small). Area 935 had 1 large spot. New area 937 also had 1 small spot visible.

The large spot in area 935 was just visible to the naked eye.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2007-01-10 17:00 UT
To: 2007-01-10 17:20 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Temperature: 6.4C ...
Dew Point: 2.2C ...
Humidity: 75% ...
Wind Speed: 0.8mph ...
Wind Dir: South West ...
Pressure: 1010.5hPa ...
Notes:

Clear but breezy evening. Decided to talk a walk to the western edge of the village to try and catch a glimpse of comet McNaught.

Comet C/2006 P1 McNaught

From: 2007-01-10 17:00 UT
To: 2007-01-10 17:20 UT

Joined by my wife and son, I took a walk out to the western edge of our village with a hope of catching a glimpse of comet McNaught. This was the first chance I'd had due to bad weather during previous mornings and evenings. Not being sure what to expect (I guess I was expecting something small and fuzzy, probably needing a binocular to find before seeing with the naked eye) I went armed with the Meade 10x50 binoculars.

As we were walking something caught my attention out of the corner of my eye. Through some trees I could see the comet. It was huge and bright! Much bigger and brighter than I'd expected. We carried on to the chosen viewing position (looking out over a field with a reasonably clear horizon).

By the time we got to the chosen location I'd say that the comet was about above the horizon (just a rough guess). The head was very bright and I estimated the tail to be about 1 to 2 widths of my thumb held at arms length. It's hard to estimate how bright the head was but, had it been higher, I'd have thought that (taking its diffuse nature into account) it would have been a reasonable rival to Venus (which was visible further to the south). That's not to say it was as bright, just that it probably would be almost as obvious. Some people have been estimating its magnitude as -2.

Beyond the above I didn't really make a note of any "technical" details, time was too short and the sight was just too breathtaking. This is the first big, bright comet I've seen in almost 10 years and it was hard not to just stand there and state and be amazed. My wife and son were both very excited by the view too (all the more special for my son given that this was his first ever view of a comet).

Sadly the view was all too short. Within about 10 minutes of us first seeing it the head had gone behind some trees on the horizon. I watched the tail (both naked eye and through the binocular) for a few minutes more until the view was lost to the thickness of the atmosphere so close to the horizon. It was all over by around 17:20 UT.


2006-12-16


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

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

Sun

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

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

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

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

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

A Leisurely View of Various Objects

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2006-10-24


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.


2006-07-13


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

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

Sun

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

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

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

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

Bright satellite

Time: 2006-07-13 21:26 UT

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

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

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

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

Jupiter

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

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

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

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

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

Test of 7x50 binocular

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

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

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

Another bright satellite

Time: 2006-07-13 22:27 UT

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

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

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

End of session

Time: 2006-07-13 22:30 UT

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


2006-07-12


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-07-12 12:55 UT
To: 2006-07-12 13:00 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Temperature: 27.5C ...
Dew Point: 11.8C ...
Humidity: 38% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1021.1hPa ...
Notes:

Warm, clear and calm day. Took the Solarscope out to do a sunspot count.

Sun

From: 2006-07-12 12:55 UT
To: 2006-07-12 13:00 UT

No visible sign of active area 899 today. No markings of any kind were visible on the surface of the Sun.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-07-12 21:20 UT
To: 2006-07-12 22:25 UT
Equipment: Antares 905
Temperature: 21.4C ...
Dew Point: 12.2C ...
Humidity: 56% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1020.0hPa ...
Notes:

Clear night but with a good hint of haze about. Quite warm. The sky was still light but I decided to get the 905 out to have a look at Jupiter.

Jupiter

From: 2006-07-12 21:20 UT
To: 2006-07-12 21:56 UT

Using the 905 with the 6mm lens I had a pretty good view of Jupiter right away. All of the four main Jovian moons were visible, all on one side of the planet. Ganymede was furthest out and Io, Europa and Callisto were closer in to the planet, bunch up in a line that ran diagonal to the planet. Also close by, "above" Jupiter, I could see TYC5575-473-1.

Detail on the planet itself was pretty good with both the main bands showing some mottling and colour changes towards both the poles standing out.

I spent some time just observing, watching and waiting for very steady moments. At no time did the view get any better than my initial view but there were times when the image would deteriorate quite rapidly.

Starting at 21:43 UT, and given that the view was generally pretty good, I decided to test some of my filters to get a feel for what difference they made. The #15 yellow/orange didn't seem to given any improvement, neither did the #21 orange. In both cases they appeared to make it harder to make out any detail.

I next tried the #56 green filter and this appeared to give a slightly improvement. The contrast of the two main bands against the rest of the planet seemed to be improved.

Finally tried the #80A medium blue filter. This gave a very obvious improvement. The variation in the shades over the whole disc really stood out. Much better than with the other filters (or without a filter).

At 21:56 UT I decided to have a short break.

A Hedgehog, and end of session

From: 2006-07-12 22:10 UT
To: 2006-07-12 22:25 UT

During the break, while sitting with a drink and just admiring the sky, I kept hearing odd sounds on the lawn. While I'm used to hearing my cat playing in the garden while I observe, this was different. I kept listening and finally hunted down the source of the noises:

A Hedgehog

A hedgehog was having a wander around the lawn, probably on the hunt for something to eat. Sadly the only thing I had with me to take an image was my mobile phone, and it's not terribly good at taking pictures at night.

After being distracted by the visitor for some time I noticed that the sky seemed more hazy and was becoming quite washed out (probably due to the just-past-full Moon rising) so, given that and the fact that I needed to be up for work in the morning, I decided to call it a night.


2006-06-28


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-06-28 14:55 UT
To: 2006-06-28 15:00 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Temperature: 22.9C ...
Dew Point: 10.5C ...
Humidity: 47% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1018.7hPa ...
Notes:

Today has been similar to yesterday in that the day has mostly been overcast except for a brief spell of broken cloud in the afternoon. During this brief spell of sunshine I took the Solarscope out to do a sunspot count.

Sun

From: 2006-06-28 14:55 UT
To: 2006-06-28 15:00 UT

Area 897 was more spread out when compared to yesterday (hardly surprising given that it has rotated further into view) and I could count 5 spots in the region. The darkening I noted yesterday wasn't evident today.

New area 898 has come over the limb and comprises of a single, large, circular spot with quite a pronounced penumbra.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-06-28 21:35 UT
To: 2006-06-28 23:34 UT
Equipment: Antares 905
Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Temperature: 16.8C ...
Dew Point: 9.0C ...
Humidity: 60% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1019.1hPa ...
Notes:

Calm, clear evening with some thin cloud about. The sky wasn't very dark yet but given that I could see Jupiter from my usual observing spot I decided to get the 905 out and have a look.

Jupiter, including a transit event

From: 2006-06-28 21:35 UT
To: 2006-06-28 22:59 UT

Started out with the 905 and 6mm eyepiece. The image was awful. I could only just see the two main bands. The reason for this was probably down to the quality of the sky and also down to the fact that the 'scope hadn't had much time to cool down yet.

I could see all 4 Jovian moons (one of them was very close to the planet) and I could also see a reasonably bright background star that could have been mistaken for a 5th moon (later checking with Starry Night showed that it was HIP70714 ).

I then added the #80A Medium Blue filter to the 'scope and had another look. While this dulled the image a little it did also appear to improve the contrast. The two main bands stood out a little better, darkening towards the poles became obvious and in moments when the image was steady there was obvious mottling in the bands.

I'd say that tonight's view of Jupiter is the worst one I've had this apparition.

I've never compared the view of Jupiter in the 130M with that in the 905 so, at around 21:53 UT, I brought the 130M out and left it to cool off. A short while later (probably with too little cooling-off time) I lined Jupiter up in the 130M and used the 6mm eyepiece to have a look. The imagine was really terrible — much worse then the image in the 905. While the view was much brighter there was hardly any detail to speak of, almost as if it was impossible to get sharp focus.

I switched from the 6mm to the 10mm eyepiece and things looked a little better. This time the quality compared more favourably with that as seen in the 905+6mm but, even then, I'd say that the 905 won out in terms of detail that could be seen. It would appear that I need to give the 130M a good check-up at some point. While I did give the collimation a quick check when I brought the 130M out I guess I need to have it a really fine tweak some time soon.

I'm also seeing why planetary observers tend to prefer a refractor rather than a reflecting telescope.

Back at the 905 (with the 6mm), at around 22:19 UT, I noticed that the moon closest to Jupiter had apparently got even closer. Compared to when I started observing this evening it was harder to see it, the gap between it and the planet being obviously narrower. I stepped into the office to check what was going on and I confirmed that the moon was Europa and that it was due to start a transit of the planet at around 22:38 UT. My first ever transit of a Jovian moon! Annoyingly, when I came back out of the office, I noticed that some thin cloud had moved in the way and was dulling the view of Jupiter.

By 22:31 UT the image had improved again. I could just see Europa but it was impossible to see a gap between it and the planet — it looked more like a bump on the limb.

By 22:36 UT I had lost sight of Europa. From then until 22:59 UT I kept observing to see if I could detect Europa in front of the planet but I never got a hint of it. This was made harder by the fact that more thin cloud was moving in the way and significantly dulling the view.

Random sweeping of the Milky Way

From: 2006-06-28 23:00 UT
To: 2006-06-28 23:34 UT

To finish off the session I decided to use the 905 for one of the main purposes I intended: just sweeping around the sky and seeing what I can find. Using the 32mm eyepiece I started to have a random sweep and, almost right away, stumbled on The Coathanger (an asterism I first observed almost a year ago).

After spending some more time just sweeping around (mostly around The Milky Way in and around Cygnus) I decided to call it a night at 23:34 UT.


2006-06-08


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-06-08 14:05 UT
To: 2006-06-08 14:13 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Temperature: 23.2C ...
Dew Point: 14.1C ...
Humidity: 57% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1024.4hPa ...
Notes:

Very clear and calm day. Just the odd bit of very high-level cloud around, also a slight haze in the sky.Took the Solarscope out to do a quick sunspot count.

Sun

From: 2006-06-08 14:05 UT
To: 2006-06-08 14:13 UT

Area 892 looked a little less detailed when compared to yesterday with only 8 spots visible.

Area 893 also looked a little less complex too with just 2 spots visible (compared to yesterday's 3).

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-06-08 21:45 UT
To: 2006-06-08 22:55 UT
Equipment: Antares 905
Temperature: 16.5C ...
Dew Point: 11.2C ...
Humidity: 71% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1024.1hPa ...
Notes:

Mostly clear night with some thin cloud around (I could, for example, see a pretty nice halo around the Moon). The sky was still very light but given that Jupiter was in a position where I could see it from my back garden I decided to have a quick session looking at it with the 905.

Jupiter, including a shadow transit

From: 2006-06-08 21:45 UT
To: 2006-06-08 22:55 UT

I got Jupiter lined up in the 905 using a low-power eyepiece and then I dropped in the 6mm eyepiece. Initially the image was pretty poor, moving around quite a bit and the visible detail was much less than previous views of the planet with the same equipment. That said, the 'scope hadn't had any chance to cool down.

As usual the two main bands were easily visible and there was obvious variation on the rest of the disc. I could only make out three moons (later checking showed them to be Europa, Ganymede and Callisto). Europa and Callisto were some distance out, either side of the planet while Ganymede was quite close to the planet.

Around 21:58 UT, in very steady moments (the image was rapidly getting better), I started to notice a very clear, sharp, dark spot near the north pole of Jupiter. My initial impression was that I was seeing a shadow of one of the moons (presumably the Ganymede). To be sure that this wasn't just an artifact I tried changing eyes, rotating the eyepiece and shifting the 'scope about to place the planet in a different part of the field of view. Nothing I did changed the image.

After watching this a bit more I grabbed my sketching box and, between 22:10 UT and 22:15 UT, I made the following rough sketch so that I could compare the view I had with some other source later.

Rough sketch of my view of Jupiter

After doing the sketch I popped into the office and fired up Starry Night to check what I was seeing. It confirmed that I was seeing a shadow and that it was the shadow of Ganymede. My first ever Jovian shadow transit!

Around 22:30 UT some thin cloud moved in such that my view of Jupiter got a lot worse. The amount of visible detail was reduced and I could no longer see the shadow. By 22:39 UT the cloud was still hanging around and the image had deteriorated even more. I also noticed that the air suddenly felt quite damp and that a thin layer of dew was forming on everything.

By 22:50 UT the cloud had finally cleared and the view of Jupiter had improved again (although it didn't seem to be as crisp as it had earlier on) but I still couldn't make out the shadow any more. At 22:55 UT, given that I still couldn't make out the shadow and that I needed to get to bed soon, I called it a night on the session.

Checking the following day, using the "Jupiter's Moons" tool on the Sky & Telescope website, I've now further confirmed that it was Ganymede's shadow. The times given for the event are:

  • 21:18 UT Ganymede's shadow begins to cross Jupiter.
  • 23:08 UT Ganymede's shadow leaves Jupiter's disk.

This would explain why I was unable to see the shadow towards the end of the session: it would have been very close to the edge of the planet's disc and I would probably have been unable to resolve it that close with the equipment I was using.


2006-05-11


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

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

Sun

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

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

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

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

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

Saturn

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

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

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

State of the sky

Time: 2006-05-11 21:05 UT

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

Comet 73P Schwassmann-Wachmann 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jupiter

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

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

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

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


2006-05-05


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

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

Sun

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

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

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

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

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

Searching for Saturn in a light sky

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

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

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

Imaging the Moon with a mobile phone

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

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

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

Moon with mobile phone

Moon with mobile phone

The Moon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessing the viewing conditions

Time: 2006-05-05 21:10 UT

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

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

Brief look at Saturn

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

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

A quick hunt for Comet Schwassmann-Wachmann 3

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

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

Assessing the chances of observing Jupiter

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

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

Increasing cloud — end of session

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

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


2006-05-03


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

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

Sun

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturn

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

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

Noticed that Titan was obvious close by.

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

The Moon

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

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

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

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

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

A short break and a meteor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2006-05-01


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

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

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

The Moon

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

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

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

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

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

Saturn

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

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

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

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

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

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

International Space Station

Time: 2006-05-01 21:08 UT

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

Checking later, it was the ISS.

Haze starting to form

Time: 2006-05-01 21:12 UT

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

Satellite

Time: 2006-05-01 21:18 UT

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

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

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

Time: 2006-05-01 21:27 UT

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time: 2006-05-01 21:45 UT

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

Jupiter with the naked eye

Time: 2006-05-01 21:55 UT

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

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

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

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

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


2006-04-03


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

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

Sun

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further testing of the Antares 905

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'm still pleased with the purchase.


2006-03-24


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

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

Quick Test of the Antares 905

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

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

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

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

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

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


2006-03-03


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-03-03 04:50 UT
To: 2006-03-03 05:40 UT
Equipment: Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Temperature: -6.5C ...
Dew Point: -9.0C ...
Humidity: 83% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 996.4hPa ...
Notes:

Woke up early and the sky was clear so I decided to head out with the 10x50 binoculars to see if I could spot Pojmanski (C/2006 A1).

Search for Comet Pojmanski (C/2006 A1), plus Venus and Jupiter

From: 2006-03-03 04:50 UT
To: 2006-03-03 05:40 UT

Using the Meade 10x50 binoculars I had an initial look for comet Pojmanski (C/2006 A1). Spent 5 or 10 minutes scanning the right area of the sky but failed to find it. This probably wasn't helped by the fact that the eastern horizon was rather murky (this was made obvious by the fact that Venus wasn't very clear when I looked at it).

I had a short break and then tried again but failed a second time.

Having failed to find the comet I had another quick look at Venus. Even in the binoculars I'm sure I could see a hint of a phase.

Before finishing I decided to have a quick look at Jupiter, currently in Libra. It was quite low to the south. In the binocular Europa, Io, Callisto and Ganymede all seemed to be visible. Also, just south of the planet, I could see Nu Librae.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-03-03 14:00 UT
To: 2006-03-03 14:05 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Temperature: 6.0C ...
Dew Point: -7.4C ...
Humidity: 38% ...
Wind Speed: 6.3mph ...
Wind Dir: North West ...
Pressure: 995.8hPa ...
Notes:

Quick check of the Sun with the Solarscope to see if there are any Sunspots.

Sunspot count

From: 2006-03-03 14:00 UT
To: 2006-03-03 14:05 UT

The Sun appeared totally unblemished, just like yesterday.


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.


2005-12-08


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-12-08 16:17 UT
To: 2005-12-08 16:24 UT
Equipment: Tento 10x50 Binoculars
Temperature: 4.1C
Humidity: 90%
Notes:

Quite a clear evening, hardly any cloud. Decided to have a quick look at Venus through a binocular to see if I could see any hint of a phase (I'd recently been reading other people's accounts of doing this and wanted to try for myself).

Venus

From: 2005-12-08 16:17 UT
To: 2005-12-08 16:24 UT

Quickly stepped outside with the Tento 10x50 binoculars (just hand-held, no monopod or tripod) to have a look at Venus. At first it was hard to be sure if I could see any sort of phase due to the image flaring quite a bit. After a little bit of effort, refocusing and eye-switching I was pretty sure that I could see a hint of the phase.

Next chance I get I'll try it using the monopod or the tripod.


2005-11-17


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-11-17 14:28 UT
To: 2005-11-17 14:40 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Solarscope
Temperature: 5.0C
Humidity: 60%
Notes:

A very clear day today, no visible clouds. Decided to have yet another quick look at the Sun with the naked eye and with the Solarscope to see how sunspot 822 was getting on.

Sunspot 822 with naked eye

Time: 2005-11-17 14:28 UT

Just like yesterday, sunspot 822 was immediately visible — no effort was required to find it. It was a very clear, dark spot.

Sunspot 822 with Solarscope

From: 2005-11-17 14:33 UT
To: 2005-11-17 14:40 UT

As seen in the Solarscope, 822 had more or less the same appearance as yesterday. However, the biggest pair of spots now looked like they had merged — I could see no gap between them. This made them look even more like a Mandelbrot set. There also appeared to be more small spots between the big pair and the smaller pair of spots (I first counted seven and then managed to make out eight while doing the sketch that follows).

Did the following sketch:

Sketch of Sunspot 822

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-11-17 20:35 UT
To: 2005-11-17 22:53 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Temperature: 0.2C
Humidity: 64%
Notes:

Very cold, very clear night. The Moon was just past full. Given that it was washing out the sky I decided to carry on with getting to know the Moon with binoculars.

General observing of the Moon

From: 2005-11-17 20:35 UT
To: 2005-11-17 21:30 UT

The first feature that really stood out, just a little in from the terminator, was the crater Langrenus. I could actually see the central peak through the binocular.

The next thing I noticed, north and east of Mare Crisium, is what looked like some sort of "channel" running SW to NE. It appeared to be a "slot" of shadow that seemed to cut into the sunlit part of the Moon, coming out of the terminator. I checked on my Lunar map but couldn't be sure what was causing it. I suspect it might have been something to do with Mare Anguis.

I then noticed that I could still clearly see the dark patches that I noted a couple of nights ago. I could count five "patches", they appeared to run round the "headland" that contains the crater Schrter. The last of the patches (working counter-clockwise) seems to be near or in Sinus Medii.

Noticed another crater with a visible peak that stands out well: Petavius. Also very visible, near Petavius, due to their floors being in shadow, are Hase, Adams and Legendre. The latter seemed to be almost touching the terminator.

Went back to Langrenus in Mare Fecunditatis. Near it I could easily make out Barkla, Kapteyn, Lohse, Lam and Vendelinus.

Warm-up break

From: 2005-11-17 21:31 UT
To: 2005-11-17 22:01 UT
Temperature: 0.0C
Humidity: 64%

Getting bitterly cold. Decided to take a warm-up break.

More general observing of the Moon

From: 2005-11-17 22:02 UT
To: 2005-11-17 22:26 UT
Temperature: 0.0C
Humidity: 65%

Having warmed up a little I went back to viewing the Moon some more through the binocular. Spent some time working my way north from Mare Crisium. Cleomedes was very obvious, as was Geminus. I also thought I could make out Berosus, right in the terminator.

A quick warm-up break

From: 2005-11-17 22:27 UT
To: 2005-11-17 22:41 UT

Getting bitterly cold again — decided to take a short warm-up break.

Saturn, Procyon and end of session

From: 2005-11-17 22:42 UT
To: 2005-11-17 22:53 UT
Temperature: 0.0C
Humidity: 65%

Came back out again after having warmed up but it was feeling very cold now. To the east I noticed that Procyon, in Canis Minor had risen above the roofs and, to the north of it and about as bright, I could see Saturn. Not too long now and it should be high enough at a reasonable hour that I can get the telescope on it.

I had a quick look at Saturn with the binocular. I obviously couldn't see any actual detail but I could see that it was very elongated when compared with a star.

By 22:53 UT the cold was really starting to get to me so I decided to call an end to the session.


2005-11-15


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

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

Sunspot 822 with naked eye

Time: 2005-11-15 14:18 UT

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

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

Sunspot 822 with Solarscope

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

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

Did the following sketch:

Sketch of Sunspot 822

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

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

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

The Moon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mars

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

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

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

End of session

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

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


2005-11-09


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

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

The Moon

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

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

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

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

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

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

M42

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

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

Clusters in Auriga

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

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

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

M35

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

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

M45

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

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

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

Mars

Time: 2005-11-09 22:59 UT

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

NGC 1528

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

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

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

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

End of session

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

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


2005-10-29


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

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

Meteor

Time: 2005-10-29 20:51 UT

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

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

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

Mars

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

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

By 20:58 UT it had cleared again.

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

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

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

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

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

End of session due to cloud

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

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


2005-10-09


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

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

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

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

Mars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Double Cluster

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

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

M1

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

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

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

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


2005-10-04


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

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

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

Kemble's Cascade

Time: 2005-10-04 19:50 UT

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

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

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

Mars and M45

Time: 2005-10-04 20:17 UT

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

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

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

Mist and smoke

Time: 2005-10-04 20:27 UT

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

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

NGC 1502 and testing dark adaption

Time: 2005-10-04 20:56 UT

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

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

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

The Hyades

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

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

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

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


2005-10-01


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-10-01 14:30 UT
To: 2005-10-01 14:46 UT
Equipment: Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Naked Eye
Notes:

Decided to have a go at looking for Venus during the day.

Venus

From: 2005-10-01 14:30 UT
To: 2005-10-01 14:46 UT

Decided to have a go at finding Venus during the day. Not the best of days to try given that there was a lot of cloud around — I'd estimate that at least 75% of the sky was covered with cloud.

I first checked the location of Venus with Starry Night to be sure of where I needed to look (roughly South and about 20 above the horizon). I positioned myself against the wall of our garage so that I was in its shadow — that way there was no chance of me accidently looking at the Sun while scanning with the binocular.

By about 14:33 UT I found Venus. I made sure that no cloud was going to get in the way for the next minute and then put the binocular down and looked with the naked eye. I could find Venus with no problem. I looked away for a few moments and looked back again and could still see it.

I popped indoors to make the above note and then popped back out again. This time I couldn't find the planet either with naked eye or with the binocular. I think this was probably because it was being obscured by cloud.

By 14:46 UT more cloud was moving in, some of which was looking like it might give rain, so I ended the session. Had the weather been more favourable I would have taken the 130M out into the garden and had a look though that.


2005-09-27


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

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

The Sun

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

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

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

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

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

Main aim for the night was to view Mars again.

General sweeping of Cassiopeia and Perseus

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

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

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

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

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

M31 — The Andromeda Galaxy

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

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

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

Cloud approaching

Time: 2005-09-27 20:46 UT

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

Mars appears

Time: 2005-09-27 20:49 UT

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

Mars

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

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

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

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

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


2005-09-13


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

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

Sunspot 798

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

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

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

Made the following sketch:

Sketch of Sunspot 798

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

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

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

Mars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

M45

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

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

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


2005-09-02


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

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

Hunting for Venus and Jupiter

Time: 2005-09-02 19:13 UT

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

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

More hunting for Venus and Jupiter

Time: 2005-09-02 19:23 UT

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

Failed to find Venus and Jupiter

Time: 2005-09-02 19:50 UT

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

Out into the garden with 130M — M57

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

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

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

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

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

M56

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

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

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

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

Strange cloud moment

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

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

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

Most odd.

Meteor near Cygnus

Time: 2005-09-02 22:25 UT

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

M27

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

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

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

A stunning sight!

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

Sketch of M27

Mars

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

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

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

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

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

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


2005-08-29


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

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

Satellite in Cygnus

Time: 2005-08-29 21:15 UT

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

M71

Time: 2005-08-29 21:29 UT

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

The Coathanger

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

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

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

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

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

Sketch of The Coathanger

Quick look at M13

Time: 2005-08-29 21:52 UT

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

M39

Time: 2005-08-29 22:02 UT

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

Double Cluster in Perseus

Time: 2005-08-29 22:19 UT

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

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

Mars, and end of session

Time: 2005-08-29 22:30 UT

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


2005-08-15


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

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

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

When I started out the sky was still somewhat light.

General testing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meteor

Time: 2005-08-15 21:01 UT

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

Probable Iridium Flare

Time: 2005-08-15 21:10 UT

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

M13

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

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

Made a sketch via the 25mm eyepiece:

Sketch of M13

Possible "late" Perseid

Time: 2005-08-15 21:49 UT

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

Satellite between Cygnus and Lyra

Time: 2005-08-15 21:52 UT

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

M13

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

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

M31 (and possibly M32)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sketch of M31

At 22:55 UT I finished the session.

Mars pops up

Time: 2005-08-15 22:55 UT

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


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.


2005-06-27


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

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

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

Initial attempt at Venus and Mercury

Time: 2005-06-27 20:17 UT

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

Sun still up.

Got something but not sure what

Time: 2005-06-27 20:23 UT

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

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

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

Sun now set from my location.

Mercury and Venus

Time: 2005-06-27 20:27 UT

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

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

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

Venus now very obvious

Time: 2005-06-27 20:37 UT

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

Still no sign of Saturn.

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

View of Mercury improving

Time: 2005-06-27 20:55 UT

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

Jupiter

Time: 2005-06-27 21:04 UT

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

End of session

Time: 2005-06-27 21:20 UT

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

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

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


2005-06-18


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-06-18 21:25 UT
To: 2005-06-18 23:00 UT
Equipment: Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Notes:

Very light sky plus Moon just past first quarter. The reason for venturing out so early was that this was the first clear night I'd had for a while and I'd just acquired 6mm and 15mm eyepieces from Scopes'n'Skies and I wanted to give them a try out as soon as possible.

Jupiter & 6mm eyepiece

Time: 2005-06-18 21:25 UT

Tried the 6mm first. Jupiter showed up quite nicely. Based on first impressions and a quick at-the-'scope comparison I found that the 6mm gave a more pleasing image than the SkyWatcher-supplied 10mm with the supplied 2x barlow. Made a sketch of what I saw with the 6mm -- noted that I could see a faint star quite close to Jupiter (it obviously wasn't a Jovian moon as they were obvious and the star itself was in the wrong location for that).

Tried the 6mm with the 2x barlow. It was hard to get good focus with this combination. While the image was obviously bigger I couldn't see any obvious increase in detail on the planet -- but I was fighting a warm 'scope, a light sky and a lack of collimation (I must get round to this).

Jupiter & 15mm eyepiece

Time: 2005-06-18 22:16 UT

Jupiter looked excellent in the 15mm eyepiece. Although I could only see the two main bands (no hint of the mottling that I've seen on previous nights but see above regarding what I was working against) the image was bright, crisp and clear.

The Moon

Time: 2005-06-18 22:31 UT onwards

Finally got round to having a good look around the Moon for the first time since getting the telescope.

The first thing that really stood out was the top of the rim of the crater Reiner being highlighted even though the bulk of the crater itself was behind the terminator. Quite an amazing sight. I spent some time trying to have a go at sketching this but after a couple of false starts gave up. I need to do some more practice and, more to the point, I should probably plan my observing of the Moon ahead of time and make up a template or two of what I want to look at.

Spent some time taking in the ray systems of Copernicus, Kepler and Tycho.

With the 15mm eyepiece I got an excellent view of Aristarchus, Herodotus and Vallis Schrteri. With the 6mm the view was even better. Vallis Schrteri looked very detailed. I could also clearly see what appeared to be two small craters in what looked like higher ground to the North of Aristarchus. I noted that these craters appeared to be shown on my Moon map but they were not named.

Iridium Flare

Time: 2005-06-18 23:00 UT (approximate)

After packing up, while heading back into the house, noticed a rather bright Iridium flare high up and around due South.


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!


2005-05-19


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

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

Moon and Jupiter

Time: 2005-05-19 18:39 UT

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

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

Moon and Jupiter — Pictures via Mobile Phone

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

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

Image of Jupiter and the Moon

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


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.


2005-04-21


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

93% waxing Moon.

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

Jupiter

Time: 2005-04-21 20:00 UT

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

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

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

Saturn

Time: 2005-04-21 20:30 UT

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

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


2005-04-16


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

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

First quarter moon.

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

Jupiter

Time: 2005-04-16 20:20 UT

Viewed with 10mm eyepiece.

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

Io, Callisto, Europa and Ganymede all visible.

Saturn

Time: 2005-04-16 20:54 UT

Viewed with 10mm eyepiece plus 2x Barlow.

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

Mizar in Ursa Major

Time: 2005-04-16 21:15 UT

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


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Dave Pearson <davep@davep.org>
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