Thursday, 3 December 2009

Observing by 97% moonlight

After what has seemed like an absolute eternity (in reality it was around two months - but that's plenty long enough), I finally managed an observing session. Sure it was a very short observing session of one hour, but it was an observing session nonetheless.
The reason for this was that not only has the UK been battered by a succession of Atlantic storms leaving half the country under water, work and illnesses (a succession of nasty abcsesses) have also interfered with any hope of getting outside on the rare clear occasions.

It was clear this evening, so I set up my 12 inch Dob, despite the rising Moon which was one day past full so, as you'd expect, it was washing out the sky quite badly, an effect exacerbated by mist and high thin cloud. Despite this I decided to try an experiment. I wanted to see if NGC 404 was visible. This is a galaxy in Andromeda, adjacent to Mirach (it has the nickname The Ghost of Mirach) and it was visible. It's not that faint anyway, but it's the sort of thing you'd expect the Moon to kill stone dead. It was, as you'd expect, fainter and harder to see than usual, but otherwise visible.

Cygnus was getting low in the west but I decided to poke round there for a bit partly because it will soon be gone until next summer but also it was in the part of the sky opposite the Moon. Obviously I wasn't going to be silly and hunt for nebulae that I had no chance of seeing in those conditions but I did seek out some clusters instead, open clusters are pretty immune to light pollution. One of the clusters observed was Collinder 419. To say that this was unspectacular is an understatement. 'Boring' is probably a more accurate description. It's composed of three or four brightish stars and a few more nondescript fainter ones.

The session was short, due to the conditions, only an hour but after two months without, even an hour in crap conditions is better than nothing! Roll on the next clear night that has no Moon in the way!

It was also my scope's first outing since I made the modifications to the mirror cell, with the new collimation springs from Bob's Knobs. When I took it outside and set it up the collimation was only slightly out and it took hardly any time at all to get it spot on, a major improvement on before. My new laser collimator also works nicely.

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