Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Sky quality - the lack of quality

I have found over the past few years that observing in the UK is becoming more and more frustrating. It is not the lack of clear nights as the quality of clear nights, we still get as many (or as few!) as we ever did, but there seems to be a lot more haze about than there used to be. This is due to pollution in the atmosphere which is no great surprise bearing in mind that the UK is one of Europe's (even the world's perhaps) most densely populated countries (60+ million and rising all the time - ridiculous).
I brought back a stack of Larry Mitchell's Advanced Observing Lists from the TSP last year and, while a proportion of the objects are within my 12-inch Dob's capabilities (when I can get the mirror cell problem sorted), I have quickly come to the conclusion that I have no chance of doing the list, not from here.

About a week ago I emailed the Astronomy Society of New South Wales about observing but so far I have not received a reply. I hope it's because they've not received the mail, rather than forgetting about it or, worse, ignoring it. I did use their contact form, so there's no excuse for the mail having gone missing. I can't imagine them having ignored it, amateur astronomers are a decent bunch and do not tend to ignore people. So I am assuming that it's because these things are run on a voluntary basis that they haven't got round to it yet.
Still annoying though.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Scope bother

I had been keeping my 12 inch in the shed. The scope was well covered over and the shed is dry as far as I could make out - I certainly wouldn't keep an expensive mirror in a damp environment - but when I got it out yesterday the mirror was in a disgusting state, covered in dust and something that looked suspiciously like mould. I was not pleased but, following instructions I found on Cloudy Nights forum I decided to wash it. Anyway, I got it cleaned up okay, although there are still marks on the mirror but these are such that they won't degrade the image. I have moved the scope back indoors, although my aunt doesn't really want it in the house. I could take the mirror in and out of the scope but it is a time consuming operation and a huge pain in the arse to do.

Since getting the scope, collimation with it has always been a bother. As far as I'm concerned, collimation holds no fears, it's a piece of cake, but I don't want to be doing it five times in one observing session. The mirror moves around too much in the cell and the things that hold it in place are set too far apart. Also, I can never get it collimated perfectly, there's always a cometary look to stars at high powers, which is no good. I am going to ask my friend who built it to makes some adjustments to it. I won't need the scope for the next few months as I am going to be away in SE Asia and Australia (hoping for some southern sky observing - a small sky atlas, a printout of the AL's Southern Sky Binocular Observing list and my binoculars are coming along).

2nd Isle of Wight Star Party, 26-30th March 09

It was the second Isle of Wight Star party last week. I could only get there for the early part of Saturday night as I had to be up and out early Sunday morning, but the weather was great. It was mostly clear, if cold and windy. I spent my limited time there observing with Owen Brazell and his new 15" Obsession UC which is a super scope (I want one, I can't afford one, especially as the exchange rate is now so bad; thanks in part to the Americans, the banks and HM Government f***ing up the economy between them).
We observed (well, 'looked at' is probably a more accurate description) some bright lollipops: M42, M78, M43, M51, Thor's Helmet (which was partially obscured by cloud) and Hubble's Variable Nebula. HVN was incredibly bright through the 15" and one side the right side (as we were looking at it, with the 'head' at the top) much brighter than the left. Fan shaped. A fascinating object.
By this time I had to leave and get home as I had an early start Sunday and the clocks were going forward (why can't they leave them alone? There's nothing wrong with GMT that a little education of the thicker sections of the public who think that BST gets us, magically somehow, extra daylight, can't cure.)

The 2nd IW Star Party was an outstanding success, with all four nights being clear, unlike the washout of last year. Hopefully this bodes well for the future.