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2008-01-05


Location: Woodland Waters (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2008-01-05 20:00 UT
To: 2008-01-05 23:45 UT
Equipment: Antares 905
Lomo Lubitel 166B
Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Naked Eye
Notes:

Joined John Turner at Woodland Waters for an observing session. Dark and clear skies when we arrived. Also rather cold and windy.

I brought my Antares 905 and John brought his Evostar 150.

Mars

From: 2008-01-05 20:30 UT
To: 2008-01-05 21:10 UT

After a bit of time to get things set up we turned our telescopes on Mars. I first had a view, unfiltered, via John's Evostar. The image had quite a lot of fringing and was somewhat unsteady (probably partly due to the state of the atmosphere, but also down to the wind buffeting the 'scope). No detail could be seen. John then added a pale blue filter (#82A) and that improved things somewhat. While the image still seemed too bright it was then possible to see a hint of detail on the surface. At least two major darker areas were visible.

I then set up the 905 with the 6mm eyepiece and the 2x barlow. The planet presented a good sized disc although no surface detail was visible. The wind didn't help things either so periods of a steady image were few and far between. The view itself seemed pretty similar to previous views I've had via the 130M.

It seems that it's a struggle to get any detail out of Mars using either of my 'scopes.

I then tried the #21 Orange filter but that didn't make any noticeable difference.

I stuck with the planet a little more, waiting for steady moments, but never managed to get any hints of any detail via the 905.

Started a Star Trail

Time: 2008-01-05 21:15 UT

I set the Lomo Lubitel 166B up on a tripod and started a star trail.

This was nothing more than an experiment. The camera was loaded with Ilford FP4+ 125 (120 roll film), the aperture was set to f8 (the Lubitel is supposed to give sharper images when stopped down a little). While probably not the best setup (stopped down somewhat, slowish film) I was curious to see what would come out and I also wanted to finish the film (it already had 5 shots on it taken elsewhere).

The camera was roughly pointed at part of Ursa Major rising over some trees.

M42

From: 2008-01-05 21:20 UT
To: 2008-01-05 21:42 UT

Had a look at M42 using the 905 and the 32mm eyepiece. Noted that it was rather faint (almost to the point of not being visible) with direct vision but was easy enough to make out with averted vision. If the stars in the view were anything to go by the view was still very unsteady.

I then added the Neodymium filter and it appeared to make quite a difference. Probably the greatest difference I've seen it make so far. The background sky appeared darker and the nebula appeared to stand up to direct view a little more. With averted vision the view was obviously much better. Some actual "detail" was visible too.

Stopped the Star Trail

Time: 2008-01-05 21:43 UT

Stopped the star trail I'd started a little earlier. Here is the resulting image:

Ursa Major Star Trail

Started a Star Trail

Time: 2008-01-05 21:49 UT

I started a second star trail using the Lomo Lubitel 166B. Same as before: Ilford FP4+ 125 at f8.

The camera was roughly pointed at Leo rising from behind some trees.

Saturn

From: 2008-01-05 21:50 UT
To: 2008-01-05 22:10 UT

Took a look at Saturn with the 905 and 6mm eyepiece. Very soft/musy view. No detail visible at all. However, Saturn was still quite low down so that wouldn't have helped.

Noted that, especially when compared to my last view of it, the rings had closed up quite a bit.

The most interesting thing about the view was the way that the rings didn't appear to be "attached" to the planet. In other words, the rings appeared to be two objects, one either side of the planet, with a distinct gap between them and the planet. The view reminded me very much of some of the very early drawings of the planet that I've seen in books.

I added the 2x barlow but the view was very mushy to the point of being no good. That said, the "detached ring effect" was still there.

Possibly Comet Holmes

From: 2008-01-05 22:13 UT
To: 2008-01-05 22:24 UT

While stood looking at the Double Cluster with the naked eye I spotted something close by, near Algol, that appeared to be about the same size and of a similar brightness to it. Initially I was confused about what it was. I quickly grabbed my monocular and had a look and could see that it was a faint but noticeable misty patch. Given that I wasn't aware of any object in that location, and given that I couldn't find any such thing on my charts (not that I expected to — I'd have known about such an object if it were a "fixed" item in the sky), I suspected that it was comet Holmes.

This came as quite a surprise because I thought it had long faded from naked-eye view.

Stopped a Star Trail

Time: 2008-01-05 22:25 UT

Stopped the star trail I'd started a little earlier. Here is the resulting image:

Leo Star Trail

Back to Comet Holmes

From: 2008-01-05 22:27 UT
To: 2008-01-05 22:40 UT

Went back to looking at what I suspected was comet Holmes. This time I used the 905 and the 32mm eyepiece. There was something there, a faint brightening of the sky, but nothing distinct. I also had a look via John's Evostar with a 42mm eyepiece and the same thing could be seen: slightly indistinct brightening of the sky.

I then grabbed the 10x50 binoculars and had a look with them. Using averted vision the object looked very much like a comet so it seemed obvious that I really was looking at comet Holmes.

Since this observing session I've checked with a couple of charts that show Holme's position for that evening and it turns out that my suspicion was correct. I'm kind of surprised by this as I really didn't think that the comet would be a naked eye object any more.

Started a Star Trail

Time: 2008-01-05 22:42 UT

I started a third star trail using the Lomo Lubitel 166B. Same as before: Ilford FP4+ 125 at f8.

The camera was roughly pointed in the general direction of Cassiopeia.

M81 and M82

From: 2008-01-05 22:44 UT
To: 2008-01-05 22:55 UT

Had a brief view of M81 and M82 through John's Evostar via the 42mm eyepiece. Very impressive sight.

M81 looked very much like a (more or less) face-on galaxy. I couldn't make out any hint of any spiral structure, it looked more like an oval shaped misty patch with a bright and distinct concentration in the middle.

M82 was the most impressive of the two. It looked like a thin line and I could also see a hint of the dust lanes that it contains.

Back on Saturn

From: 2008-01-05 23:00 UT
To: 2008-01-05 23:13 UT

Now that it was higher in the sky I returned to Saturn with the 905 and 6mm eyepiece (with and without the 2x barlow). Still no detail of any kind visible although the image wasn't quite so soft this time. In both cases (with and without the barlow) I was still seeing the "detached ring effect".

Stopped a Star Trail

Time: 2008-01-05 23:14 UT

Stopped the star trail I'd started a little earlier. Here is the resulting image:

Cassiopeia Star Trail

Started a Star Trail

Time: 2008-01-05 23:18 UT

I started a fourth star trail using the Lomo Lubitel 166B. Same as before: Ilford FP4+ 125 at f8.

The camera was roughly pointed in the general direction of Orion.

Stopped a Star Trail

Time: 2008-01-05 23:45 UT

Stopped the star trail I'd started a little earlier. Here is the resulting image:

Orion Star Trail

End of Session

Time: 2008-01-05 23:46 UT

During the previous star trail exposure we started to pack up and we finally called an end to the session at 23:46 UT.


2006-10-24


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-10-24 14:15 UT
To: 2006-10-24 14:20 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Temperature: 14.6C ...
Dew Point: 7.6C ...
Humidity: 63% ...
Wind Speed: 2.9mph ...
Wind Dir: West ...
Pressure: 996.8hPa ...
Notes:

Partly clear afternoon, quite cool and breezy too. Took the Solarscope out to do a quick sunspot count.

Sun

From: 2006-10-24 14:15 UT
To: 2006-10-24 14:20 UT

Active area 917 was still visible, now quite close to the limb of the Sun. I could see three small faint spots.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-10-24 20:30 UT
To: 2006-10-24 22:15 UT
Equipment: Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Antares 905
Temperature: 9.1C ...
Dew Point: 5.8C ...
Humidity: 80% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1002.1hPa ...
Notes:

Reasonably clear night but appearing a little unsteady at times. I was caught out by it, I wasn't expecting it to be clear. Having noticed in Starry Night that Uranus would be well placed for viewing from my garden I decided to pop out and see if I could view it.

Uranus

From: 2006-10-24 20:30 UT
To: 2006-10-24 21:20 UT

First off I used Starry Night to figure out exactly where Uranus was in relation to easily spotted star patterns. After I was happy that I'd be able to find it I went outside with the 10x50 binoculars and tried to track it down. I was surprised to find that I could see it with no problems whatsoever.

Uranus was near to, and down and to the right from, Lambda Aquarii. Lambda Aquarii was quite a fascinating object to see in itself given its vivid red colour. In relation to the surrounding stars Uranus, while obvious given that I knew where it should be, didn't stand out as being a planet. If I hadn't known what I was looking for and where I was looking for it I would simply have thought it was just another star.

Having seen it with the 10x50s I decided to get the Antares 905 out and have a look at it through that. After setting up the 905 I started out with the 25mm eyepiece and got Lambda Aquarii in the field and then centered on Uranus. I then worked my way up to the 6mm eyepiece, keeping Uranus in the center of the field of view as I went.

By about 20:50 UT I had Uranus and TYC5813-273-1 in the field of the 6mm. Even at this magnification I would have thought that I was looking at 2 stars if I hadn't already known one of them was a planet. Initially there was no hint of any kind of disc and I could detect no obvious colour.

The observation probably wasn't helped by the fact that, at the elevation of Uranus, the sky was a little murky and sometimes quite unsteady.

After some more viewing, especially when comparing it with TYC5813-273-1, I began to detect that Uranus wasn't a point-source but was actually a very small disc (at least I think I could see that, I don't think it was wishful thinking).

Around 21:08 UT, after scanning the area around Uranus and memorising some of the closer stars, I went back into the office to double-check what I'd seen with Starry Night. The main feature that stood out was two starts, sort of close together, just south of Uranus. I could see them in Starry Night (they were TYC5813-519-1 and TYC5813-814-1) and this confirmed that, without a doubt, I was looking at Uranus.

I also noticed in Starry Night that TYC5813-789-1 was very close to Uranus but I never did manage to see it through the 'scope.

After doing the above checking and after memorising the general pattern of starts around Uranus, at around 21:15 UT, I went back out and put the 10mm eyepiece in the 905 and checked everything again. Everything matched and there was no doubt that I'd found Uranus.

Random viewing

From: 2006-10-24 21:25 UT
To: 2006-10-24 22:15 UT

Given that I was out with the 905 and given that the sky wasn't too awful I decided to stay out a bit longer even though I managed to achieve my aim for this session. Because I didn't really have any other sort of plan I decided to just randomly sweep around the sky looking at whatever turned up or took my fancy.

First off I tried to have a look at M31 with the 905. Annoyingly, because it was so far overhead, I couldn't get the 905 in a position where I could view it, the mount kept getting in the way. So, instead, I turned it on the Double Cluster in Perseus (also known as Caldwell 14 or NGC 869 and NGC 884).

In the 32mm eyepiece it was a nice rich star field, just the sort of thing I'd purchased the 905 for. Both clusters stood out very well against the very starry background and the line of starts that runs away from the area of the cluster stood out really well.

At around 21:43 UT I noticed that the sky was looking quite nice now. Still a little hazy but it looked quite impressive. The Milky Way stood out really well — I think this is probably the best I've seen it for most of this year.

Given that I couldn't get the 905 trained on M31 I decided to have a quick look with the 10x50 binoculars instead. Even though I was only holding them with my hands it was a very impressive sight. The more I looked the wider it appeared to get. I think this was probably the best view I've had of that galaxy since I started observing again.

While I had the 10x50s to hand I next had a look at M45. It looked very clear, very bright and the "mini cascade" in it stood out really well. I think this was probably the best view I've had for a long time.

At around 21:55 UT, while sweeping around Cassiopeia with the 10x50s, I saw a pretty obvious cluster of stars about way between Epsilon Cassiopeiae and Delta Cassiopeiae. Checking with my maps it turned out to be NGC 654 (also known as Caldwell 10). Checking back I have observed this before. It looked like a slightly fuzzy but loose collection of stars. Last time I observed I remember thinking that it looked more like a globular cluster but this time around it was obvious that it was an open cluster.

Starting around 22:05 UT I did a bit of aimless sweeping around with the binoculars, just taking in the beauty of the sky. However, it was starting to get colder and damper (dew was forming on everything) and given that I wasn't really dressed for the conditions (I had, after all, intended to just pop out for a quick look for Uranus) and that I really needed to get off to bed I decided to call an end to the session at 22:15 UT.


2005-10-09


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-10-09 20:26 UT
To: 2005-10-09 22:40 UT
Equipment: Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Temperature: 8.8C
Humidity: 78%
Notes:

Reasonably clear night with some mist hanging around — mostly noticeable as I looked towards the horizon. The sky wasn't as dark as it can be but I could still clearly see the Milky Way.

The main aim for this session was to have a look at Mars. At the start of the session it had already cleared the roofs to the East of me and it was almost clear of the worst of the murk and mist.

I set the telescope up and opened it for cooling at the very start of the session and then spent some time preparing and letting my eyes dark adapt a little.

Mars

From: 2005-10-09 20:46 UT
To: 2005-10-09 22:05 UT

First located Mars with the 25mm eyepiece. Even with such a low power (x36 on the 130M) I could easily tell that I was looking at a disk that seemed to be displaying a bit of a phase. The image was bright and displayed spikes corresponding to the arms of the spider that hold the secondary mirror in the 'scope. The image seemed very steady.

Switched to the 6mm eyepiece. The image looked huge and rather unsteady. Quite a bit of false colour was visible around the edge of the planet. The image didn't look very crisp and was rather unsteady. Without any sort of filter in place the surface still seemed very bright and rather washed out. However, there did seem to be an obvious variation in the colour of the disk hinting at some sort of surface feature.

At first glance the feature had the appearance of a short, thick line across the face of the planet.

Added the #21 Orange filter to the 6mm eyepiece. The image now seemed a lot sharper and the false colour was gone. However, there did appear to be an occasional fringe to the edge of the planet. The "line" that I mention above now seemed a bit more obvious and, with the Orange filter, seemed to take on a more "arrowhead" appearance.

The sight of the marking seemed to come and go and was rather fleeting. One moment it seemed very obvious to the eye and then the next it was rather indistinct. While the shape didn't appear to change as the view came and went I noted that it would have been very difficult to sketch.

Next, I combined the #21 Orange filter with the #15 Yellow/Orange filter but I was unable to detect any difference in the image.

After that I tried the #56 Green filter with the 6mm eyepiece. No real detail of any sort was obvious with this combination. I'd have said that the image seemed about the same as with the unfiltered 6mm eyepiece — only greener.

Around this time (21:25 UT) the house below where Mars was positioned lit a fire and there was a fair bit of smoke coming from the chimney. None of the smoke appeared to be getting in the way of my view of the planet but I imagine that the warm air that was rising from the fire interfered with subsequent views.

Now switched to the 6mm with just the ND13 filter to see what effect it would have. The view didn't seem any different from the view without a filter expect that it was dimmer (which was pretty much what I expected to see).

Despite not being able to tease any extra obvious detail out of the image the thing that was most impressing me by this time was the difference in the size of the image of Mars when compared to the first time I looked at it in the 130M. Even though I knew this was going to happen (that the apparent diameter would increase over time) the difference was still quite striking.

Next I tried with the 6mm and the #11 Yellow/Green filter. For a few brief moments, when the image seemed very steady, I was sure I could see slightly more detail than I had earlier. This was, however, a very brief view. I wasn't sure if this was down to the choice of filter, a lucky moment of very steady seeing or simply that Mars was now higher in the sky than when I'd started the observation session. Could simply have been a combination of all of the above.

Finally I decided to try with the 10mm eyepiece and the 2x barlow plus the #21 Orange filter. This seemed to be a good combination. Now I could see what appeared to be two darker areas on the surface. One seemed to be a vaguely rounded but linear feature (sort of an elongated oval) and the other appeared circular and smaller. The contrast wasn't great and, as with other filter and eyepiece combinations, the view seemed to come and go but there was no doubt that I was seeing slightly more than I was before.

What was most surprising about this combination was that, in the past, I've had focus trouble with the barlow and had more or less given up on using it. However, this time, the image seemed to come to a pretty crisp focus.

Double Cluster

From: 2005-10-09 22:11 UT
To: 2005-10-09 22:20 UT

Given that it was now very well positioned for me to view with the 'scope I pointed the 130M at the Double Cluster (AKA Caldwell 14 or NGC 869 and NGC 884) in Perseus. At first glance it looked like a rather sparse grouping of stars with two obvious areas of concentration. However, as my eyes adjusted both areas of concentration seemed to become richer and richer. I noted that both of the main concentrations fitted in the field of view of the 25mm eyepiece.

M1

From: 2005-10-09 22:26 UT
To: 2005-10-09 22:40 UT
Temperature: 7.9C
Humidity: 79%

Although it was still very low, just above the houses to the East of me and still in the thin mist, I couldn't resist trying to have a look for M1 (AKA The Crab Nebula or NGC 1952) in Taurus.

Using the 25mm eyepiece on the 130M I found it with little trouble. It was rather hard to make out (most probably due to the conditions under which I was trying to observe it). It had no real obvious shape to it, all I could see was an indistinct but visible "ghostly presence". Given that it was (just) visible in such bad conditions I image that it will make for a good target when it is higher in the sky.

By 22:40 UT I was starting to feel the cold and was also starting to feel tired so decided to call an end to the session.


2005-09-27


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-09-27 14:39 UT
To: 2005-09-27 14:40 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Notes:

Decided to have a quick look at the Sun with the Solarscope.

The Sun

From: 2005-09-27 14:39 UT
To: 2005-09-27 14:40 UT

The only feature I could see on the Sun was sunspot 810. There didn't appear to be an awful lot to it — just a small, dark, mostly circular umbra with a lighter penumbra just about visible all around it. The penumbra appeared to be as thick as the umbra was wide.

I also noticed some faint mottling on the surface of the Sun close to sunspot 810.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-09-27 20:00 UT
To: 2005-09-27 21:17 UT
Equipment: Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Notes:

Very good dark sky tonight. As soon as I stepped outside I could see the Milky Way. Temperature felt quite cold — I needed to wear a coat for observing for the first time in a long time.

Main aim for the night was to view Mars again.

General sweeping of Cassiopeia and Perseus

From: 2005-09-27 20:00 UT
To: 2005-09-27 20:35 UT

Given that Mars wasn't going to be visible for at least another hour I decided to spend a little bit of time in the chair sweeping the area around Cassiopeia and Perseus with a 10x50 binocular.

At around 20:10 UT I stumbled upon the open cluster NGC 663 (also known as Caldwell 10). Looked like a fuzzy but slightly mottled ball. It appeared more obvious to the eye and had more of a hint of detail with averted vision.

Also had a good look at the Double Cluster (also known as Caldwell 14 or NGC 869 and NGC 884). It appeared much brighter and richer than the last time I looked.

At around 20:32 UT, after more sweeping around, I stumbled upon M34 in Perseus. It looked like a widespread group of faint stars. Some were easy to see with direct vision while more came into view with averted vision.

M31 — The Andromeda Galaxy

From: 2005-09-27 20:39 UT
To: 2005-09-27 20:45 UT

Took a look at M31 (NGC 224) in Andromeda. It was almost impossible to see with any clarity with direct vision but, with averted vision, appeared as a large misty galaxy shaped object. As much as I tried I couldn't identify M32 through the binocular.

Had a quick go at making a rough estimate of the size of M31 as it was visible in the binocular. I'd roughly estimate that it was between and ⅓ of the field of view.

Cloud approaching

Time: 2005-09-27 20:46 UT

Noticed some thin cloud either forming in or approaching from the West.

Mars appears

Time: 2005-09-27 20:49 UT

Noticed that Mars was now clear of the roofs of the houses to the East of me — not as hight as I'd like but getting that way. Decided to give it a little more time so that it would be higher, would be more clear of the street light that is in that general direction and the extra time would hopefully give the approaching cloud some time to clear.

Mars

From: 2005-09-27 21:07 UT
To: 2005-09-27 21:17 UT

By now the cloud was starting to cover Mars. Also noticed that the temperature had dropped a fair bit in the previous 10 minutes. Because Mars was still visible through the cloud I dropped the 25mm eyepiece into the 130M and had a look.

I was initially surprised at how big it appeared given that I was using the 25mm eyepiece. It looked much bigger than the first time I looked at it with the 25mm.

With the 6mm eyepiece the image was terrible — most probably due to the cloud (which was still thin enough to see Mars through it). The phase was obvious (and obviously bigger than previous observations) but there was no hint at all of any surface features. There was lots of false colour and the image was quite unsteady.

At around 21:14 UT Mars was lost from view to the naked eye and in the 'scope due to the cloud. Checking the Western horizon it seemed obvious that the cloud had no useful breaks and was here for some time to come. Called an end to the session at 21:17 UT.


2005-08-29


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-08-29 21:07 UT
To: 2005-08-29 22:30 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Tento 10x50 Binoculars
Notes:

Decided to have another night out with a chair, binoculars and naked eye. Sky was nicely dark when I went out, the Milky Way was very obvious overhead. Some haze about in parts of the sky. Temperature was reasonably warm.

Satellite in Cygnus

Time: 2005-08-29 21:15 UT

Saw a satellite in Cygnus. Moved roughly South to North along and more or less parallel with the "body stars" of the Swan. First saw it in binocular while doing a general sweep of the Milky Way and then followed it with naked eye. Was easy to see and reasonably bright. I wouldn't have put it any brighter than any of the "body stars" but I wouldn't have put it much fainter than the faintest of them.

M71

Time: 2005-08-29 21:29 UT

Tried to see M71 in Sagitta with binocular. I think I could see it. In the correct location I got the vague impression of a faint misty patch, quite small, and only noticeable with averted vision. Seems like a good candidate to hunt down with the telescope.

The Coathanger

From: 2005-08-29 21:34 UT
To: 2005-08-29 21:47 UT

By pure chance, while sweeping the area around Sagitta and Vulpecula, I stumbled upon The Coathanger. I was aware of this asterism from books but hadn't recently taken note of its location was it was a delightful surprise to stumble on it by accident. While it does sound terribly obvious it really does look like a Coathanger.

Having located it once I was very easy to locate it again in the binocular. It really is a nice sight in the binocular.

At 21:45 UT, while looking at it in the binocular, a meteor went right through the middle of the field of view.

Finished off by making a rough sketch. Note that all I did was try and draw the stars of the Coathanger itself, I didn't bother to try and draw any of the other stars in the field.

Sketch of The Coathanger

Quick look at M13

Time: 2005-08-29 21:52 UT

Had a quick glance at M13. It appeared to be stunningly bright tonight. I wanted to make a sketch of it as it appears in the binocular but, as I was getting the drawing gear together, some cloud moved into the area making it less obvious. Decided to leave the sketch for another night.

M39

Time: 2005-08-29 22:02 UT

Went hunting for and found M39 in Cygnus. Very obvious grouping of stars. Easy to find thanks to four stars, more or less in a line, close by. Best description I can give is that it looks like a loose collection of stars in a roughly triangular shape.

Double Cluster in Perseus

Time: 2005-08-29 22:19 UT

First noticed a "fuzzy patch" in the sky between Cassiopeia and Perseus with the naked eye. Check on charts what's there and realised that it's the double cluster of NGC 869 and NGC 884 in Perseus (also known as Caldwell 14).

Had a look with binocular. Excellent sight. The best description I can think of is that it's two star-rich groups of stars, close together, and made more spectacular by being in a pretty star-rich field anyway. Also noticed a really nice arc of stars heading away (roughly North I think) from the pair.

Mars, and end of session

Time: 2005-08-29 22:30 UT

By now more cloud was forming and rolling in. Decided to pack up. Just as I was packing up I noticed that Mars had risen some way above the houses to the East of me. Very bright and an obvious red tint to it. Nice to see that it's rising earlier and earlier. Just a couple of weeks back I didn't notice it until around 22:55 UT. It's starting to get to the point where there's no excuse for not getting the 'scope out and starting to observe it.


Page last modified: 2013-04-09 09:19:19 UT
Dave Pearson <davep@davep.org>
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