Sunday, 20 June 2010

Observing - in June!

I did some observing last night! Yes, observing in June! It can be done, provided you don't have to get up for work the following day because of the late hour, as you can't really begin before 0030 BST (2330 GMT/UT) due to the length of twilight at this time of year. The sky wasn't as dark as it normally is at other times of the year, with the Sun no more than 16 degrees below the horizon at 1am, and the Milky Way not as prominent as it is later in the summer and early autumn, but you can do something. I went out just before 1am BST with the 8x42 binoculars (I figured it wasn't worth taking out the 12 inch, just for a mere two or three hours), aiming to finish the AL Deep Sky Binocular Program; I had just four objects, all open clusters, left to find and these were in Cepheus and Lacerta with two in each constellation. These were NGC 7160 (Cep), NGC 7235 (Cep), NGC 7209 (Lac) and NGC 7243 (Lac).

Conditions: It was mostly clear, with some drifting cloud, although not enough to interfere with observing. It was also cold, the thermometer showing a dismal 7 degrees Celsius and the humidity was 72%.
Seeing: Very good, about II.
: Not so good, a little drifting cloud and hazy, around III
NELM: Didn't check, although I'd guess it was no more than 5.8 at best.
Instrument: 8x42 binoculars.

NGC 7160, open cluster in Cepheus - Faint, round misty patch, no individual stars seen. 8x42 binoculars. 0055 BST

NGC 7235, open cluster in Cepheus - Easy to find small, misty patch. No stars resolved and averted vision does not improve the view. 8x42 binoculars. 0102 BST

NGC 7243, open cluster in Lacerta - Large, irregularly-shaped oc. Rich-looking. Granular when looked at directly, but with averted vision 10-15 individual stars appear. Hard to count them with handheld binocs. 8x42 binoculars. 0108 BST

NGC 7209, open cluster in Lacerta - Large and round. Rich. Granular with averted vision but with a few superimposed (foreground?) stars. Just a round misty patch when you look at it directly. 8x42 binoculars. 0115 BST.

That's the end of the AL Deep Sky Binocular Program for me. It's taken me, I think, a couple of years - looking at the notebook I have scribbled all this down in, I began doing this on 24th October 2008 so it's just a few days short of 20 months. Now I have to find another binocular program to do! There's the AL's Southern Sky Binocular Club but there's one major flaw with that one - I live at 50 degrees North so nearly all the stuff on there is immediately ruled out as inaccessible.
Using binoculars to do astronomy with is great, as binocular observing in its own right is fun and rewarding. It is also ideal for those occasions when conditions aren't quite good enough to justify setting up a telescope, for when you want to do some observing but can't be bothered to set up the telescope, for those occasional times when your scope has broken, or if you don't have a scope - these things happen to everyone at some time or another and binoculars (a.k.a. bins, nockies, binos or binocs) are ideal.

Tomorrow morning, at 1129 UTC (1229 BST), is the Summer Solstice (Northern Hemisphere), so after tomorrow the Sun will start to move back south from the Tropic of Cancer and the nights will gradually begin to draw in again, although we won't notice too much of a difference until mid-July. Sunrise will start to get later after 22nd June (the earliest sunrise is at 0442), but sunset (the latest time of which is 2122 local time) won't get any earlier until after the 28th.
Far be it from me to wish the time away but I can't wait to see the back of June as observing's difficult. I am looking forward to later on next month and into August when the summer's well underway, the summer goodies are still accessible and it starts to get dark enough to enjoy them properly. Let's hope the weather co-operates!


  1. NGC 7243 is a neat OC, the two bright stars in the middle make it attractive. There is a pretty bright planetary nebula nearby, between Beta Lac, and 4 Lac, that I was observing not long ago, on a night of good seeing. IC 5217 is the name, it requires about 200-300x to even pick out though.

  2. Thanks for your comment.

    Once the nights get a bit darker, I will get the scope out and properly look at these objects. I have tended to overlook Lacerta and Cepheus in the past.


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