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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


2006-11-19


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-11-19 04:29 UT
To: 2006-11-19 05:47 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Temperature: -0.1C ...
Dew Point: -2.2C ...
Humidity: 86% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1012.3hPa ...
Notes:

After getting my dates wrong yesterday, and having seen that the forecast was good again for this morning, I decided to have another go at getting up early and observing an outburst of Leonids activity that was predicted for around 04:45 UT.

The sky wasn't quite as clear as yesterday morning's session and, to start with, there was some thin cloud hanging around to the west but that cleared away during the session.

Leonids watch

From: 2006-11-19 04:29 UT
To: 2006-11-19 05:47 UT

I was set up in the garden, with chair and notebook, by 04:29 UT. I watched solidly from the chair for 1 hour. The following is a list of what I managed to catch along with the times that I saw them:

04:33 UT: Sporadic. West to east. Very short. Just south of Auriga.

04:36 UT: Leonid. Very short. Very fast. Through Auriga.

04:50 UT: Noticed the whole sky flash, just like I noted at 05:31 UT yesterday. Suspect it probably is a bird scarer in one of the fields around me.

04:55 UT: Leonid * 2. Almost together. Both short, fast and not very bright.

04:57 UT: Sporadic. North to south in Cancer. Short, fast and faint.

05:00 UT: Leonid. Short and fast. Through Auriga.

05:12 UT: Leonid. Short, fast and faint. Through Perseus.

05:13 UT: Leonid. Short, fast and bright. Left a visible trail that lasted a second or so. Just west of Leo.

05:14 UT: Leonid. Short and faint. Just south of Auriga.

05:18 UT: Satellite. Travelling roughly south/east to north/west through the zenith.

05:19 UT: Satellite. Travelling roughly south/west to north/east through the zenith. About the same speed and brightness as the previous one.

By 05:30 UT tiredness and the cold were really starting to get to me. Given that there'd been no obvious sign of the outburst I decided to pack up earlier than I'd planned and go and warm up. However, while packing up and moving things back into the office I managed to catch two more Leonids:

05:39 UT: Leonid. Short and very bright. Through Cassiopeia. Left a short wide trail that lasted a good couple of seconds.

05:47 UT: Leonid. Short and bright. Through Perseus.

If there was an outburst I didn't see any evidence of it. During this session I counted 9 Leonids — the same number as yesterday and over a similar period of time. I also counted 2 sporadics and noticed 2 satellites.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-11-19 12:40 UT
To: 2006-11-19 12:45 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Solarscope
Temperature: 8.2C ...
Dew Point: 4.4C ...
Humidity: 77% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1011.3hPa ...
Notes:

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

Sun

From: 2006-11-19 12:40 UT
To: 2006-11-19 12:45 UT

The single spot in active area 923 still looked quite impressive but also even more foreshortened due to it being much closer to the limb of the Sun. I also checked with the naked eye (via eclipse shades) and, for the first time since I first observed it I was unable to see it.

I could also see 1 spot in active area 924 and 1 in active area 925.


2006-11-18


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-11-18 04:39 UT
To: 2006-11-18 06:00 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Temperature: 3.9C ...
Dew Point: 1.4C ...
Humidity: 84% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1000.7hPa ...
Notes:

Got up early with a view to observing the Leonids meteor shower. I'd read recently that a possible outburst of activity was predicted for around 04:45 UT but, stupidly, I'd got the wrong day (the outburst was predicted for the morning of the 19th, not the 18th). I didn't realise this until the session had ended (not that it would have stopped me if I'd realised as it started).

The sky was amazingly clear.

Leonids watch

From: 2006-11-18 04:39 UT
To: 2006-11-18 06:00 UT

I was set up in the garden, with chair and notebook, by 04:39 UT. For almost the next hour and a I just watched the skies and noted what I saw. The following is a list of what I managed to catch along with the times that I saw them:

04:47 UT: Leonid. Close to Polaris. Very bright. Very fast. Caught out of the corner of my eye.

04:51 UT: Leonid. Short, bright and fast. More or less directly overhead. I could see the resulting trail for a couple of seconds.

04:58 UT: Leonid. Very short, very bright. Just west of Leo. Resulting trail visible for a good couple of seconds.

05:01 UT: Leonid. Very short, very bright. Just north of Auriga. Resulting trail visible for a good couple of seconds.

05:07 UT: Leonid. Very short, not so bright. Straight through Auriga. Resulting trail visible for less than a second.

05:11 UT: Sporadic (I think). North to south, west of Leo. Looked just like most of the Leonids I'd seen so far.

05:13 UT: Leonid. Faint and short. West of Leo.

05:15 UT: Faint satellite seen going south to north through Auriga.

05:25 UT: Sporadic. Short and faint. No visible trail. South of Auriga going east to west.

05:31 UT: The whole sky lit up very briefly. The flash almost looked like lightening. Normally I might have thought it was a bird scarer but this was the only time I saw this happen during the whole session.

05:34 UT: Satellite. Very slow and very faint. Heading roughly south to north, just east of Auriga.

05:42 UT: Satellite. Heading roughly north to south through Auriga. Watched the brightness slowly decrease, until I could no longer see it, and then slowly increase again until it was reasonably bright. Watched it decrease in brightness again and then lost it behind the house.

05:46 UT: Leonid. Very short. Very faint. Just south of Auriga.

05:50 UT: Satellite. Faint and fast. Was going south to north and headed more or less directly overhead.

05:52 UT: Leonid. Reasonably long. Quite bright. Very fast. Seen out of the corner of my eye in the north east part of the sky.

05:55 UT: Leonid. Very faint, only just saw it. In the eastern part of the sky.

By 06:00 UT the sky was starting to noticeably brighten and the cold was starting to get to me so I decided to end the session. In total I noted 9 Leonids, 2 sporadics and noticed 3 satellites.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-11-18 12:50 UT
To: 2006-11-18 12:55 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Solarscope
Temperature: 8.8C ...
Dew Point: 2.7C ...
Humidity: 67% ...
Wind Speed: 2.9mph ...
Wind Dir: West South West ...
Pressure: 1006.8hPa ...
Notes:

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

Sun

From: 2006-11-18 12:50 UT
To: 2006-11-18 12:55 UT

The single spot in active area 923 was still huge and impressive, although obviously foreshortened by being much closer to the limb of the Sun. I also checked with the naked eye (via eclipse shades) and I could just about see it, although it did take more effort than previous observations.

I could also see 2 spots in active area 924 and 2 in active area 925.


2006-10-26


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

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

Sun

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

No sunspots or other marks were visible on the Sun.

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

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

A first look for comet M4 Swan

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

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

Observing comet M4 Swan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

M31, M110 and a satellite

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

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

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

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

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

M33

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

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

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

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

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

M76

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

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

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

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

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

Quick look at Albireo

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

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

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

The colour of both the starts was quite vivid.

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


2006-07-13


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.


2006-05-01


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.


2006-01-11


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.


2005-10-04


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.


2005-08-29


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

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

Satellite in Cygnus

Time: 2005-08-29 21:15 UT

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

M71

Time: 2005-08-29 21:29 UT

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

The Coathanger

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

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

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

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

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

Sketch of The Coathanger

Quick look at M13

Time: 2005-08-29 21:52 UT

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

M39

Time: 2005-08-29 22:02 UT

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

Double Cluster in Perseus

Time: 2005-08-29 22:19 UT

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

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

Mars, and end of session

Time: 2005-08-29 22:30 UT

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


2005-08-16


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

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

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

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

M29

Time: 2005-08-16 21:35 UT

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

Satellite in Cygnus

Time: 2005-08-16 21:41 UT

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

Flash near Vega

Time: 2005-08-16 21:55 UT

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

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

M103 plus something else

Time: 2005-08-16 22:17 UT

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

Further checking with Starry Night confirmed that it was M103.

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

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

M52

Time: 2005-08-16 22:33 UT

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

To aid in checking later on made the following sketch:

Sketch of M52

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

Checking with Starry Night: confirmed that it was M52.

End of session

Time: 2005-08-16 22:50 UT

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


2005-08-15


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

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

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

When I started out the sky was still somewhat light.

General testing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meteor

Time: 2005-08-15 21:01 UT

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

Probable Iridium Flare

Time: 2005-08-15 21:10 UT

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

M13

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

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

Made a sketch via the 25mm eyepiece:

Sketch of M13

Possible "late" Perseid

Time: 2005-08-15 21:49 UT

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

Satellite between Cygnus and Lyra

Time: 2005-08-15 21:52 UT

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

M13

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

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

M31 (and possibly M32)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sketch of M31

At 22:55 UT I finished the session.

Mars pops up

Time: 2005-08-15 22:55 UT

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


2005-07-12


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.


2005-06-18


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!


2005-05-07


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.


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Dave Pearson <davep@davep.org>
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