Tuesday, 16 March 2010

IWSP - observing

Here on the Isle of Wight we are fortunate in that we have a southerly aspect with unobstructed and un-lightpolluted views out over the English Channel, from the island's south coast where the star party is held. The only source of light pollution are passing ships and the light houses at St Catherines Point and Portland Bill (unlike the north east part of the island which is as light polluted as anywhere on the UK mainland).
This year's IW Star Party had a mix of cloud and clear spells, on the nights I was there, Friday and Saturday. Friday night was clear for an hour, then the weather closed in again and it rained for the rest of the night. Saturday was a lot better, giving us a good couple of hours and what I hear about Sunday was that it was clear for the most part, but I had to miss it because of having to be at work on Monday morning.

I was fortunate enough to share Owen Brazell's 20 inch Obsession, as well as take peeks though other people's scopes including a rather nice Orion Optics UK 14 inch Dob (which has a same length, but lighter, tube than my 12"), here are the observations all made with the 20 inch. These aren't in order, as I was scribbling the notes down on Post-it notes, a pad of which happened to be in my pocket - unlike a notebook - and they got mixed up.

Date: 13th March 2010
Conditions: chilly, cold breeze, some high cloud. No Moon.
NELM: 6.3
Seeing: Ant I-II
Instrument: 20 inch f5 Obsession Dobsonian, 21mm Televue Ethos, 13mm Televue Ethos, 8mm Televue Ethos and OIII filter.

M42 in Orion: I've seen this in every instrument I have looked through but this was the best view I have ever had. So much detail, wisps, tendrils, dark areas...and the Trapezium was as detailed as ever I've seen it. You could clearly see the hole, caused by the young stars blowing the gas away from their surroundings. The E and F components were easily seen, as were much fainter stars in the nebulosity immediately surrounding the Trapezium.

Jonckheere 900, planetary nebula in Gemini: Small, round and fuzzy. Quite bright. 318x + OIII

Jonckheere 320, planetary nebula in Orion: I have tried for this with my 12 inch from home without success. In the 20 inch it is small, not quite stellar, round and has a fuzzy appearance, this fuzziness preventing it appearing stellar. 318x + OIII

B33/IC 434 (Horsehead Nebula) in Orion: At last! I have made numerous attempts to see this, with no success. However, I suggested to Owen that we have a crack at this, so he put the 13mm Ethos and a HBeta filter in and we saw it comparatively easily. B33 (the Horsehead) stood out against IC434, as a large, dark, semicircular area cutting into the ribbon of IC434. With averted vision, we could just make out the horse's nose. For me, this was the observation - and the highlight - of the weekend. 120x

Abell 21 (aka Medusa Nebula) planetary nebula in Gemini: Eastern side is the brighter and is crescent shaped, in fact almost triangular. There is also some nebulosity on the western side. (Magnification unknown) + OIII

NGC 2022, planetary nebula in Orion: Oval, bright and slightly darker in middle. 318x + OIII.

NGC 2683, galaxy in Lynx: Large, bright edge-on spiral. Brightens beautifully towards centre.

NGC 2371-2, planetary nebula in Gemini. This is a very interesting planetary, consisting of two lobes, the western lobe being the brighter of the two. It does look like its nickname of the 'peanut' nebula, especially at low power. 318x + OIII

NGC 3242, (nickname Ghost of Jupiter) planetary nebula in Hydra: Very bright, oval with brighter middle. 318x + OIII

The clouds rolled in again just after midnight, so after a talk, I headed back to my tent (although I ended up abandoning it due to the cold!). It was a short, but good, session and the undoubted highlight was seeing the Horsehead Nebula for the first time as well as M42 in such incredible detail.

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