Wednesday, 30 September 2009
The collimator looks good and feels quality, although not as solid and as heavy as the sporadically defunct Revelation one is (I might keep the Revelation one - it might come in handy as a cosh if I decide to go observing along the Military Road one night and uninvited guests turn up!). It also has seven brightness settings. Sadly no instructions were with it, which would have been a bit of a bugger if I had been someone who didn't know how to use the thing!
Today, while I was in a local art shop I came across a handy-looking clip-on LED light. It looks just the job for observing, because 'juggling' torch, sketchbook, pencils, blending stump, etc AND keeping the object centered in the field of view becomes old very quickly! Making the white LED red might be a bit of a challenge but I bought some red acetate and some red tissue paper and this should make a handy sketching aid, particularly as there's no annoying 'bullseye' effect which you do get with some lights. It's also incredibly lightweight which is a big plus because you don't want a heavy object hanging from your sketchbook! However, as it is rather too lightweight, I hope it lasts, especially as it cost a rather extortionate £9.99.
Monday, 28 September 2009
Once Casualty had finished I finished gathering my stuff together and decided to look at Jupiter, as I had not tried out the 12 inch on any Solar System objects before now. I know the blog title says Visual Deep Sky Observing, but once in a while I like looking at shallow sky stuff. Jupiter, despite being at quite a low altitude, gave me one of the best views I have had of it in the Northern Hemisphere. Bands and festoons were obvious and I could see the Red Spot. Even sticking the magnification up to 300x didn't degrade it too much, although at that magnification the seeing, while pretty good wasn't perfect, meant the image was a little unsteady.
Jupiter was also handy for aligning the Telrad and 8x50 finder.
Ok, onto the 'serious stuff'. I planned to knock off some Herschels tonight, so that was to be the main part of the session.
Chilly: 8 degrees Celsius (later 6 degrees C) with 82% humidity - the dew became a nuisance later on. No wind, 1st quarter Moon set late PM. Seeing II, transparency II-III. Visual limiting magnitude with the unaided eye was around 6.2 to start with, increasing to 6.4, this is based on how many stars I can see in the Great Square of Pegasus. However skyglow, due to moisture in the atmosphere, was quite pronounced; on drier nights you hardly notice it.
Instrument: 12 inch Dobsonian
NGC 7619 and 7626, galaxies in Pegasus. I had to wait until Pegasus and Pisces were clear of the house roof before looking for these, which are part of the Pegasus 1 galaxy cluster. I saw NGC 7619 and NGC 7626 with no problem, although dew formation on my secondary wiped out the other, fainter, galaxies in the area. Dew is a major problem here in the UK and I am going to have to make a dew shield for both the scope itself and the Telrad (the latter being very prone to dewing up).
Both galaxies are oval, with brighter middles. NGC 7619 is the brighter of the two. Nothing else seen, due to the aforementioned dewing. 61x, 101x
NGC 7742, galaxy in Pegasus. Oval, fairly dim although easy to find and see. Slightly brighter middle. 101x.
NGC 205, galaxy in Andromeda. When I saw this on the Herschel 400 list I looked for it on the chart. I couldn't find it on the chart, which was odd, but there was a reason for this; that reason is that it is better known as M110, one of the companions of M31. As Homer Simpson would say 'D'oh!'. Large, oval, fairly bright. Brightens somewhat, gradually towards centre. In a nice starry field. Fainter than M31 although it would be a showpiece in its own right if it wasn't overshadowed by its bigger, brighter and more famous friend. 61x
Looked for NGC 891. I have observed this galaxy before, with my 8 inch scope, but completely failed to find it this time. 891 is noted as being hard to find, but after 40 minutes of searching I gave up. I think I was in the right place, but the dew was making life awkward and wiping this already quite faint galaxy out.
NGC 752, open cluster in Andromeda. Large, loose cluster which fits neatly into 1 degree field of 40mm Plossl eyepiece, with room to spare. I started a sketch of this (although I hate sketching open clusters!) but didn't finish it due to the secondary dewing up. 61x
NGC 1664, open cluster in Auriga. Small, triangular o.c. with a chain coming south-east from it, like a tail. In fact it does remind me of a cat, with two brighter stars as eyes. Not rich. Around 30 stars of uniform brightness. 101x
Because of the dewing, a bad back and cold feet, I packed up earlier than intended at 0230 BST. Not a bad session, and I managed to tick off some Herschels, but the dew was a major pain. I am going to have to fashion a dew shield for the OTA and one for the Telrad.
I have sent off to First Light Optics for a new laser collimator, hopefully that should arrive tomorrow, but with the Moon on the rise again and some more unsettled weather this week, I won't be doing much observing for a while. As a footnote, I woke up this morning to a weird red glow over on the computer desk. Yep, my collimator had come alive; I must have left it switched on. This isn't going to save it from the bin, though, its unreliability means that its fate is sealed!
Saturday, 26 September 2009
25-26 September 2009. Conditions: Chilly at 8 degrees C (later 6 degrees C), humidity 84%. Seeing Antoniadi scale II-III, transparency II-III. Limiting magnitude 6 to 6.2 later on.
Instruments: 12 inch f/5 Dobsonian and 8x42 binoculars
After the previous night's hassles I didn't bother collimating the scope and, as it turned out, it was slightly out (as expected) but otherwise not too bad.
After the requisite time spent getting dark adapted, I went for a bit of an ambitious first target: Pease 1, the planetary nebula in the Pegasus globular cluster M15. After locating the cluster itself, I put an OIII filter onto the eyepiece, the highest power I could get. I have to admit, that I am not sure if I saw Pease 1 or not. The OIII dims the cluster nicely, but the planetary is a teeny little thing and could have been any one of the stars not dimmed too much by the OIII. I am going to print some decent charts off and have another go at it next time (and when my scope is properly collimated - I have sent off for a new laser collimator today, my Revelation one is totally buggered and refuses to work at all now. I think my hurling it across the garden the other evening has completely finished it off!). Even blinking the filter in and out of the eyepiece didn't really make anything stand out.
M15 itself, as ever was a pleasant sight. Bright condensed core and with many stars resolved. 190x
I gave up on Pease 1 and moved onto brighter things.
NGC 6800 is a nice open cluster in Vulpecula, easy to locate. It is large, loose and irregular. Not bright, stars of uniform brightness. Some of the stars form a circle around the middle of the cluster, but the centre of this circle contains no stars. Nice with the 35mm TV Panoptic (43x). Sketched with the 25mm Plossl (61x).
Next was the Veil Nebula in Cygnus. This is one of my all time favourite objects and tonight I spent over an hour looking at, and sketching, the components NGC 6960, NGC 6992 and NGC 6995 (these last two form a large loop).
NGC 6960 is the western portion of the Veil and is visible without a filter but UHC brings it out nicely. However, OIII gives the best view and the nebulosity looks fatter and more detailed with the OIII. It looks like a witches broom (in fact I think 'Witches Broom' is a nickname for it) with a bright star where the handle meets the brush. The northern part of NGC 6960 is brighter than the southern part and reminds me of cigarette smoke as it leaves the cigarette. In the southern end, it widens and gradually fades out. 38x + OIII
NGC 6992 and NGC 6995 form the eastern portion of the Veil. This is huge and does not all fit into the 1 degree field of view of the 40mm TV Plossl (38x). it is very bright and I can see filaments, especially at the southern end. The eastern side is much brighter, while the western side is faintern and fades out. 38x + OIII
NGC 6826, the Blinking Planetary in Cygnus: Very small and bright. Obvious as an out-of-focus star. It's bright even unfiltered, but an OIII filter makes a big difference. This is visible with direct vision but averted vision makes it look twice as bright and twice as big. Blueish tinge without the filter. 101x + OIII
NGC 7008, planetary nebula in Cygnus: Small, bright pn located within irregularly-shaped dark nebula Le Gentil 3 - itself easily visible to the unaided eye. This is bright and triangular. There is a star at the apex of the triangle. It is brighter on the north eastern side. Only the brighter portions are immediately visible without a filter, but an OIII shows the whole object. 101x + OIII.
Le Gentil 3, dark nebula on border of Cepheus and Cygnus: large, irregular dark nebula. Visible to unaided eye. Also looked at through binoculars.
Sharpless 2-112, nebula in Cygnus: Easy to find. Faint. Small. Roundish. 101x + UHC.
NGC 1907, open cluster in Auriga. Auriga has some nice open clusters. NGC 1907 is one such, although a tad overlooked due to its close proximity to M38. Small, compressed and hazy looking at low powers. Increased magnification shows lots of foreground stars although the background stays nebulous. Rich. 101x.
After a cup of coffee and a general poke around the sky, I packed up at 0330. By then my feet were cold (and the cold was getting into the ankle joints, too; standing on concrete is not good because it's hard and cold) and it was getting more of a chore looking for stuff.
A good session and made up for the previous night's aggravations! Although I still didn't find the Perseus Galaxy Cluster...
Friday, 25 September 2009
Unfortunately the session got off to a bad start when my watch broke (the pins that hold the strap in place). Then once I'd set the scope up and had left it to cool for an hour I then discovered that the collimation, for some reason, was miles out. Trying to sort out the collimation made it worse and things weren't helped when the batteries in the laser collimator died; naturally I didn't have any spares, so with the most taboo swear words I could think of I hurled the collimator across the garden in the dark. Not a good idea, as I then had to get a torch and hunt for it among the bushes, fortunately I found it after a brief search. Also not a good idea as the near neighbours across the way may well have heard some exclamations of 'for f**k's sake!', 's**t' and even worse!
I got my visual collimator out and tried to use that, but visually collimating the scope requires a second person to look through the eyepiece or twiddle the collimation knobs or one person doing it but needing the reach of a gibbon to do both at the same time. I had neither so I adjusted it as best I could and left it at that. I tried it on the Double Cluster and, fortunately, the view was reasonable, although high powers left a lot to be desired, so I decided to get on with the session. I do need some stiffer collimation springs, so I will send off for some from Bob's Knobs. These will improve the collimation no end, according to others who use the GSO/Revelation and Lightbridge scopes.
By this time I had wasted two hours sorting the bloody scope out, and therefore the observing session was shortened as a result. But I had all night...
Conditions: Chilly at 8 degrees C. Humidity was 82% so there was a fair bit of dew falling.
No wind. No Moon (waxing crescent had set earlier in evening). Limiting magnitude to the unaided eye was around 6.3 with seeing of II-III on the Antoniadi scale of seeing. Transparency, on a scale of I (excellent) to V (very poor) was III.
Instrument: 12 inch Dobsonian.
I began in Perseus, looking for the Perseus galaxy group, but failed to see it. This should not have been difficult, but the combination of hazy skies and less-than-perfect collimation probably conspired against me here.
Moving on to Pegasus, a rich galaxy hunting ground, brought some better luck. I quickly found NGC 7479. This galaxy looks, to direct vision, like it is an edge on; however averted vision shows it to be rounder and with the hint of spiral arms. The elongation seen with direct vision is the central bar of the galaxy. 101x
NGC 14, galaxy in Pegasus - small fairly bright. Oval. Elongated north-south. Slightly brighter middle. I thought I'd found NGC 7814, which is what I was looking for, but it looks nothing like it when compared to sketches and photos in books and on the net. It's definitely NGC 14. 101x
NGC 23, galaxy in Pegasus - small, very bright. Elongated north-south. There is a star superimposed on the northern end of the galaxy. 101x
I had planned an all night session but, just to round off an incredibly annoying and frustrating session, unforecast clouds built up at around 0200 BST. So much for the Mess Office and their forecasts. So I packed up at 0230, after waiting for the clouds to clear. They did eventually, but left in their wake terrible transparency so I called it a night. Not a great session, a paltry three sketches made and not much done.
As a little postscript, I went to a jewellers to get my watch fixed this afternoon, and while I was in there bought three button batteries for my laser collimator. Two small pins for my watch and three tiny batteries came to the princely sum of £13. Daylight robbery.
I have sent off to Bob's Knobs for some collimation springs and secondary knobs. I don't need new primary knobs as these are ok. Hopefully, these should enable the scope to remain aligned for longer.
Friday, 18 September 2009
How I heard about DS Magazine was through its mention in the Webb Society Deep Sky Observer and also through reading a few copies at someone's house during a visit to Australia in 1997, from then I wanted to get my hands on some copies of DSM.
I tried to track down copies of DSM via the net without much success, but got lucky when Dave Eicher himself had a load for sale. I have since completed my collection with a few more copies that I came by via the net and just recently, downloadable pdf copies available on Kalmbach Publishing's web site. The scans aren't great, but they only cost $3.95 a copy and are well worth getting hold of.
This was a great little publication and I don't believe it was adequately replaced, although the Webb Deep Sky Society's Deep Sky Observer and the excellent Amateur Astronomy Magazine come fairly close between them, although I don't think either are quite as good - AA is my favourite mag, but falls short a bit on deep sky observing articles although it's excellent for star party articles and the amateur scene and DSO is not quite as good as DSM was. Some DSM articles were published in David Eicher's Galaxies and the Universe, although for the whole DSM experience, getting hold of the magazine itself is well worth the cost.
Also the lack of music enables you to hear that (imagined) psychotic murderer or mugger creeping up on you; not likely in the fenced-in back garden, though - I hope!
However a nearby music festival the other night had me going indoors to fetch my iPod to listen to something I want to listen to and not some crap foisted on me by an event a couple of miles away.
You see threads on Cloudy Nights and other forums, asking what music people like to observe by and, for a lot of people, it tends to be classical music. Some people like the synthesiser 'space music', some like trance. I have to admit I don't like any of those forms of music; most classical music just does not 'do it' for me, it goes in one ear and out of the other, while I was put right off 'space music' when I worked in the local planetarium during the summer of 1999 (the job was great, but I got really sick during the course of that summer and ended up in hospital for two months and, even now, as a reminder of a really bad time in my life, space music makes me want to run a mile). Trance, drum 'n' bass and all that sort of stuff just makes me want to stick screwdrivers in my eardrums.
No, the music of choice for when I observe, and fancy a few toons as company, is metal and rock. Some metal and rock is very evocative and lends itself to scoping the cosmos. Not just any old rock and metal, as punk and thrash, much as I love these forms, don't quite cut it in an observing session. No, what you want is a good rocking tune, but coupled with a 'space vibe' to suit the magic of the cosmos.
Here are some of the tracks I like, which have a space or science fiction vibe to them, even the tracks listed that don't have a space or sci-fi vibe still lend themselves to observing. It's the feeling invoked by the music, rather than the content of the lyrics that matters.
Metallica - 'Orion'
Metallica - 'The Call of Ktulu'
Metallica - 'The Thing That Should Not Be'
VoiVod - 'Astronomy Domine' (cover of a Pink Floyd song)
VoiVod - 'Cosmic Drama'
VoiVod - 'Psychic Vacuum'
VoiVod - 'The Unknown Knows'
VoiVod - 'Panorama'
Muse - 'Starlight'
Muse - 'Supermassive Black Hole'
Muse - 'Plug in Baby'
Muse - 'Knights of Cydonia'
Muse - 'Space Dementia'
Muse - 'Dark Shines'
Muse - 'Dead Star'
Blue Oyster Cult - 'Astronomy' (also covered by Metallica)
Hawkwind - 'Silver Machine'
Accept - 'Midnight Highway'
Judas Priest - 'Blood Red Skies'
Motorhead - 'Capricorn'
Motorhead - 'Metropolis'
Rammstein - 'Spiel Mit Mir'
Manowar - 'Spirit Horse of the Cherokee'
...I could go on, there are so many good rock and metal tunes out there, but only some lend themselves to observing.
Obviously music for observing is entirely down to personal taste but it isn't just the realm of classical, trance, drum 'n' bass or synthesiser 'space music'.
Thursday, 17 September 2009
I have popped some sketches into this post, but they are rough as they are the original sketches and not redrawn ones.
I also found NGC 7662, the Blue Snowball, in Andromeda, easily enough this time. Heaven knows why I failed to find it the other evening, probably a combination of factors, not least the dew making life awkward. NGC 7662 is strikingly sky blue, and round with slightly fluffy-looking edges. Hint of darker centre. OIII makes little difference to the view, UHC even less so.
I had intended to make the pn blue in Photoshop, as it appeared in the scope, but having scanned it in greyscale this obviously wasn't going to work! The pic hasn't scanned very well, also I think I need to draw the eyepiece representation circle a bit darker in future.
I also spent quite a lot of time on M33, the big galaxy in Triangulum. Ok, it's a Messier lollipop, but I wasn't looking at the galaxy as a whole, I was looking for HII regions within the galaxy. Using a chart from the net I identified NGC 595 and NGC 604. I thought I saw more, but a larger scope and darker, more transparent skies would be a help. NGC 604 is easy to find, a triangle of stars pointing straight at it helps in locating it, it looked elongated, east to west, and showed a bit of brightening within. NGC 595 was much smaller, a roundish knot of light. It is always interesting to see 'objects within objects' particularly within external galaxies (M31 also contains 'objects within objects, as do the Magellanic Clouds, although these, sadly, are not visible from Europe or the United States).
I attempted the Pegasus 1 galaxy cluster, which at mag 11.1 should be accessible to the 12 inch, but there was nothing doing on this front, due mainly to the fairly murky sky. The same went for the Perseus Cluster, with ranges of magnitudes between 11.6 and 12.5. I'll have another go at these, on a more transparent night sometime this autumn and, in the case of Perseus, when it rises a bit higher. By the time Pegasus was higher the galaxies were behind the garden shed and the 12 inch is not exactly portable so I didn't bother to try again.
The last object - or objects - was Stephan's Quintet (Hickson 92) again. The transparency had improved by this time and the part of the sky where this is located was high. The Quintet was easy to find, located at the end of a chain of stars just SW of the bright galaxy NGC 7331, although not so easy to see. I sketched them, although I couldn't finish the sketch due to the fact the transparency gave out again and the galaxies vanished like smoke. Btw, what looks like a galaxy to the bottom of NGC 7319 isn't, it's a smudge on the paper I forgot to rub out and which I failed to see in Photoshop.
The last object of the night was NGC 7000, the North America Nebula in Cygnus. This large nebula is naked eye in the right conditions. I could see it without the aid of scope or binoculars. OIII made it more obvious but UHC was even better, making it very obvious, and I could easily see the 'Gulf of Mexico' dark area.
Called it a night at just after 0210 as the transparency was giving out again and the clouds, formerly the odd one or two, were increasing.
Sunday, 13 September 2009
The dew was a nuisance, completely fogging the Telrad and finderscope meaning I had to keep wiping these off every few minutes. I need to buy a dew heater when I have some more money (unfortunately my car tax is due at the end of the month so I have to save for that).
Cool (11 C), 85% humidity, lots of dew. Limiting magnitude around 6.0 later on, due to rising last quarter Moonlight being scattered around the sky. No wind. Seeing steady but transparency not as good as recently (when clear!).
Instrument: 12 inch f/5 Dobsonian
Made a few sketches, of NGC 404, NGC 7332 and NGC 6910 before getting hacked off with the rubbish dewy conditions, light pollution from both the Moon and the pop festival and a bad arm (I have an infection in my left arm and hand) and packing my stuff away and going to bed at 1 am. I also spent far too much time looking for NGCs 147, 185, 7292, 7459 and 7662 but failed to see them. Given the conditions - constant dewing of Telrad and finderscope and the less-than-great transparency - it was not surprising I failed to see the galaxies (147, 185, 7292 and 7459) but failing to even find 7662, aka the Blue Snowball, a planetary nebula in Andromeda, was surprising.
NGC 7332, a galaxy in Pegasus, was easy to find. It is a bright, edge-on galaxy with a brighter core. 190x
NGC 6910, an open cluster in Cygnus, is a nice object. It is dominated by two bright orange-yellow stars and is shaped like a branch or crooked 'y'. There are nine or so other stars, which are fainter, white ones plus some even fainter ones. 138x.
It was annoying to make so few observations but, as I had spent (wasted!) a lot of time looking for other stuff and the conditions were a pain it was better than nothing.
Saturday, 12 September 2009
I had forgotten my circle template for sketches (a plastic thing off individual coffee filters) and used a salmon tin - Tesco own brand salmon tins, at two and a half inches, are just not big enough for sketches and sketches end up squashed.
Another problem was the crap transparency. It had been clear all day and, typically clouds rolled in just as I'd set the big scope up and although they cleared the transparency was crap throughout the session.
Observed NGC 457, an open cluster in Cassiopeia - known popularly as the ET cluster (it does look somewhat like the hideous little alien in that ghastly film), the Johnny 5 cluster (it looks more like that little robot in Short Circuit) or the Owl cluster.
Also observed NGC 663 and then sketched M103, as mentioned above. All in all, a bit of a disappointing session but better than nothing as it looked like being earlier in the session. Packed up and went to bed by 11pm, due to having to get up for work the next day.
Wednesday, 2 September 2009
Here's hoping this pattern carries on into September and beyond...