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All observing logs tagged with Ursa Major


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 ...

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


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

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.


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

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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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.


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.


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

No Moon. Very breezy and very cool night.


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.


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.


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.


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-04-16 20:20 UT
To: 2005-04-16 21:15 UT
Equipment: Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M

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.


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.


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.

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