Saturday, 29 August 2009

Awesome night, 28/29 August 2009

I am back in business with a 12" scope so last night was its first time out. It took a while to set up as the tube is heavy, although more awkward than actually difficult trying to get it out of the house without knocking the tube. I had planned really to mess around with it, looking at 'lollipops' and getting it 'just so' but it turned into a full-on serious session.
The session didn't get off to a great start as firstly, my laser collimator started acting up, only intermittently working and a change of batteries made no difference (it's just over a year old, so I have emailed Telescope House about it), although I did manage to get the scope collimated very well in the end, and then a grasshopper jumped on my head. I hate bugs and when I felt this seemingly huge creepy crawly on my head and it's disgusting little legs walking on me I yelled, jumped six feet in the air and ran indoors in a totally girlie display of cowardice. Fortunately my aunt, who hadn't yet gone to bed, rescued me from this thing - or rescued it from me, depending on your point of view. I am an absolute coward about large insects, spiders and centipedes, etc, so I donned a baseball cap and a hooded top with the hood pulled over my head, to prevent any more unpleasant surprises. Yes, I looked like a complete chav but who cares in the dark? Better to look like a chav than be a convenient perch for various disgusting bugs!

Onto the session:
Conditions: Clear, the odd drifting cloud at first but then completely clear from around 10pm onwards. There was a waxing gibbous Moon at first but that set around midnight, so that did not interfere and it was very low in the sky.
Very breezy, around 20mph, did not die down all night. Humidity 68%; temp 12 degrees C (feels colder; very autumnal, due to the wind).

Seeing steady, transparency good with good contrast in the Milky Way once the waxing gibbous Moon had set. NELM 5.8 at first to 6.5 later on.
Instrument: 12 inch f5 Dobsonian.

NGC 6934, a globular cluster in Delphinus.
This was very bright and condensed. Slightly oval and brightens towards the core. It looks granular with direct vision and with averted vision some stars are resolved. 61x, 138x

NGC 6905, planetary nebula in Delphinus.
This took a bit of searching for but I eventually found it. Its located between Delphinus and the tip of Sagitta. Small, round and very bright. Slight 'fluffy' appearance. OIII brings it out well. In my notes I put 'Very slight hint of' and didn't finish the sentence for some reason. 'Very slight hint of...what' I wonder? I'll have to go back to that one I think. 190x

NGC 6207, galaxy in Hercules.
This galaxy is often overlooked as it is right next to the big showy globular M13. It is a nice edge-on galaxy, elongated NE-SW. It's easy to find, mainly because it is so close to M13 and is easy to see in the 12". It has a slightly mottled appearance with a brighter middle. I put it out of the field of view to observe it, but when it's in the same f.o.v. as M13 together they make a pretty sight. 61x, 190x

Hickson 92/Arp 319 - Stephan's Quintet, galaxy group in Pegasus.
Finally found Stephan's Quintet with my own scope (I have seen it through other scopes in the past, but not found it myself). I have looked for this in the past, probably over ambitiously, with my 8" from here and - maybe unsurprisingly - saw nothing, although I have read reports of people getting this group with scopes as small as six inches aperture (but they were under Arizona skies and not humid, particle laden UK ones). It is a short star hop just south west of NGC 7331.
Through the 12" the group was faint and I saw the five (if NGC 7318A and B are counted as two and not one) members with averted vision, two reasonably 'bright' and the others fainter. These were NGC 7317, NGC 7318 A/7318B, NGC 7319, NGC 7320. I put the magnification up to 190x to darken the sky and this paid off with a better view of the group.
The galaxies are interacting here, hence the Arp designation. 61x, 190x, 304x

NGC 7331, NGC 7335 and NGC 7337, galaxies in Pegasus.
NGC 7331 is a very bright, elongated galaxy. The middle is very bright and looks mottled. NGC 7335 and NGC 7337 which are in the same f.o.v. are much, much fainter. Both are oval glows showing no detail. NGC 7337 is smaller than 7335, but both are equally bright (or not!). 61x, 190x

NGC 404, galaxy in Andromeda.
This one is always a piece of cake to find because it is located next to Beta Andromedae. Once B And is out of the field (higher magnification is needed here) 404 is easy to see being quite bright. It's round with a brighter middle. I used a magnification of 304x which gave a nice view darkening the background and increasing contrast. 61x, 190x, 304x

NGC 278, galaxy in Cassiopeia.
Round glow with brighter middle. easy to see. 61x, 190x, 304x

NGC 672 and IC 1727, galaxies in Triangulum.
After the obligatory look at M31 (fantastic with the dust lane very prominent at 61x), M32, M33 and M110 it was back to the serious stuff. NGC 672 is very faint, nondescript bar of light elongated east to west. It's evenly bright. IC 1727 which is in the same field of view is an even fainter, more nondescript object, a mere elongated brightening of the back ground sky. 61x, 190x, 304x

By now it was 0320 and by the time I'd packed away my eyepieces, atlases and notes and lugged the scope back indoors I got to bed at 4 o'clock. It was a fantastic session of serious deep sky observing, the first in a long time. I have sketches, but I need to redo them onto another sheet and scan them in, so they'll appear later.
It was nice to see Orion rising in the east with the promise of long winter nights observing...

I'm very pleased with the 12 inch so far, it performs well at high magnifications and the contrast is good. The stars are pinpoints and the scope is easy to push round the sky.