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All observing logs in category Comet

2009-03-01


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2009-03-01 20:10 UT
To: 2009-03-01 20:30 UT
Equipment: Monocular
Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Temperature: 5.6C ...
Dew Point: 2.0C ...
Humidity: 78% ...
Wind Speed: 1.7mph ...
Wind Dir: North North West ...
Pressure: 1007.0hPa ...
Notes:

After a week of cloud and other engagements I finally had some clear skies and a quick chance to have a look for Lulin. Slight hint of mist in the air and a waxing crescent Moon in the western sky.

Comet C/2007 N3 Lulin

From: 2009-03-01 20:10 UT
To: 2009-03-01 20:30 UT

Headed out with the 10x50 binoculars and started to sweep the general area that where Lulin should have been. At first I struggled to find it but, after a couple of minutes, I noticed a misty patch that was showing up with averted vision. I have my eyes a little more time to adapt and what I was seeing started to stand up to direct vision. It was obviously Lulin.

The view I had is best described as a large faint misty patch, elongated in one dimension, with no obvious "core" and with no sign of a tail. No sign of any colour was visible either (some people had been reporting that it looked green to the eye).

I grabbed my 20x60 monocular and had a look through that to see if there was any difference but it looked pretty much the same as above.


2008-02-09


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2008-02-09 14:45 UT
To: 2008-02-09 14:50 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Temperature: 11.1C ...
Dew Point: 6.4C ...
Humidity: 73% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1026.8hPa ...
Notes:

Very clear day. I took the Solarscope out to do a quick sunspot count.

Sun

From: 2008-02-09 14:45 UT
To: 2008-02-09 14:50 UT

No spots or other marks visible on the Sun.

Location: Woodland Waters (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2008-02-09 19:55 UT
To: 2008-02-09 23:55 UT
Equipment: Antares 905
Lomo Lubitel 166B
Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Naked Eye
Notes:

Joined John and Kevin at Woodland Waters for an observing session. Not the best of nights, some thin cloud and contrails sticking around, also quite damp and a little hazy at times.

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

Checking for Comet Holmes

From: 2008-02-09 20:10 UT
To: 2008-02-09 20:20 UT

I started out the session by seeing if comet Holmes was still visible to the naked eye. Given that the last time I saw it it appeared to be about the same brightness as the Double Cluster, and given that I could see the Double Cluster, I guessed I stood a chance of it was still of similar brightness to the last time.

After looking carefully for a couple of minutes I decided that it must be even fainter than the last time. I then grabbed my 10x50 binoculars and had a look in the general area around Algol and I pretty much saw it right away. Very faint and very diffuse. Only just brighter than the background sky. If I wasn't looking for it I probably wouldn't even have noticed it.

Started a Star Trail

Time: 2008-02-09 20:33 UT

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

The camera was loaded with Ilford FP5+ 400 (120 roll film), the aperture was set to f8. Like the last time I tried this this was an experiment. This time I was interested to see what results I'd get with a faster film.

The camera was roughly pointed in the general direction of the Pleiades (M45) and the Hyades in Taurus.

Saturn

From: 2008-02-09 20:35 UT
To: 2008-02-09 20:45 UT

Had a brief view of Saturn via John's 'scope. Much like my last observation the view was very "soft" with no real detail visible. No shadow of the rings on the planet could be seen although, once again, I did get the impression that the rings were two separate and detached objects either side of the planet.

Titan was nicely visible.

Mars

From: 2008-02-09 20:47 UT
To: 2008-02-09 21:00 UT

Had a look at Mars via the 905 with the 6mm eyepiece and the 2x barlow. Just like always, I couldn't get any detail out of the planet. One thing I did notice though was that there was a definite hint of a gibbous phase. The planet did seem to be "taller" than it was "wide".

Stopped the Star Trail

Time: 2008-02-09 21:01 UT

Stopped the star tail I'd started earlier.

Taurus Star Trail

M1

From: 2008-02-09 21:15 UT
To: 2008-02-09 21:40 UT

Decided to have a look at M1 given that I'd not taken a look in over a year. With the 905 and the 25mm eyepiece it was very easy to find and, unlike previous observations, seemed to stand out really well. Despite the conditions during the evening (which were less than ideal) I'm pretty sure it was a better view than the one I once had via the 130M. Although it was the usual indistinct light patch it appeared to contrast with the background sky better than I'm sure I've seen it before.

M65 and M66

From: 2008-02-09 21:55 UT
To: 2008-02-09 22:05 UT

Had a look at M65 and M66 via John's 'scope and his 42mm eyepiece. Just two very faint patches of light, mostly needing averted vision to see them. It was impossible to make out any distinct shame or to say what their relative orientations were.

A break and a chat

From: 2008-02-09 22:10 UT
To: 2008-02-09 22:45 UT

Had a coffee and food break and a chat. Given that it was getting very cold and damp this was needed.

M95 and M96

From: 2008-02-09 22:50 UT
To: 2008-02-09 23:00 UT

Had a look at M95 and M96 via John's 'scope and his 42mm eyepiece. Just as with the previous view of M65 and M66 they appeared as two very faint patches of light, mostly needing averted vision to see them.

905 totally fogged up

Time: 2008-02-09 23:09 UT

I went to use the 905 and noticed that it was dripping with dew and that the main lens was totally fogged up. Decided to call it a night as far as the 905 was concerned.

Trying for the Eskimo Nebula

From: 2008-02-09 23:15 UT
To: 2008-02-09 23:35 UT

We spent some time using John's 'scope to try and locate the Eskimo Nebula but never managed to locate it. I made a note to check in some of my books and see how easy it should be to locate.

M3

From: 2008-02-09 23:40 UT
To: 2008-02-09 23:52 UT

Given that Canes Venatici was quite high up now we decided to have a look at M3 with John's 'scope. I first found it with my monocular to be sure of the location and then we got it in John's 'scope. With his 42mm eyepiece it was obvious that it was a globular cluster although no detail could be seen. Switching to his 15mm eyepiece we could see a hint of mottling in it giving the impression of a collection of starts without resolving any actual stars.

End of session

Time: 2008-02-09 23:55 UT

By 23:55 UT everything was terribly damp so we decided that it was time to call an end to the session.


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.


2007-11-15


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2007-11-15 13:35 UT
To: 2007-11-15 13:40 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Temperature: 7.6C ...
Dew Point: 2.6C ...
Humidity: 70% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1024.9hPa ...
Notes:

Very clear day. Took the Solarscope out to do a quick sunspot count.

Sun

From: 2007-11-15 13:35 UT
To: 2007-11-15 13:40 UT

No spots or other marks visible on the Sun.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2007-11-15 19:19 UT
To: 2007-11-15 20:02 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Temperature: 1.5C ...
Dew Point: -1.6C ...
Humidity: 80% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1025.6hPa ...
Notes:

Mostly clear and cold evening, some cloud around and getting increasingly misty. Waxing crescent Moon very low in the south. Decided to get the 130M out to have a look at comet Holmes.

Comet 17P/Holmes

From: 2007-11-15 19:19 UT
To: 2007-11-15 20:02 UT

At first glance I struggled to see comet Holmes with the naked eye. Only after some effort, and using averted vision, could I see a faint fuzzy blob somewhere near Mirfak. By the looks of things the comet had faded quite a bit since my last observation a couple of nights ago.

The comet was easy enough to find with the 130M and the 32mm eyepiece. It appeared as a large, blueish, ghostly and distorted circle. While there was still no sign of any tail the impression I'd had from previous observations of it being an incomplete circle, with one part of the edge being much less brighter than the rest, was even more obvious.

I noticed that it appeared to be relatively bright in the middle, fading further out and then getting a little brighter again towards the edge (other than the faded edge I mention above).

The overall impression I got was of a large faint circle where most of one half had been smudged away (I'm guessing this is the side where any tail is/would be).

Switched to the 15mm eyepiece and noticed right away that the comet was pretty much too big to fit into the field of view. Moving the main part of the comet out of view, and looking backwards from the "faded" part of the edge of the comet, I did get the impression that there was "something" there. A very slight hint of blue, a hint of colour, or something, that was a little different from the background sky. Could have been a hint of the tail but couldn't say for sure.

Switched to the 25mm eyepiece and this gave a better view than with the 15mm but didn't show anything different from what I'd seen with the 32mm.

Switched back to the 32mm and added the Neodymium filter to see if it would have an effect. While it didn't reveal anything new it did remove the blueish colour (which is probably to be expected) but it also seemed to make the comet stand out from the background sky a little better.

I could get both the comet and Mirfak in the same field of view with the 32mm, a really nice sight that I'm sure would have made for a great bit of astrophotography.

The overall impression I got was that the "main event" was over. It seems, from the view I had, that not a lot is being given off by the comet now and that the main shell of debris is expanding to the point that it won't be visible to be pretty soon.

By 20:02 UT the sky was starting to get a little more hazy and it looked like it was only going to get more and more foggy so, having seen what I wanted to see, I packed up.


2007-11-13


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2007-11-13 14:15 UT
To: 2007-11-13 14:20 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Temperature: 9.4C ...
Dew Point: 5.3C ...
Humidity: 76% ...
Wind Speed: 8.1mph ...
Wind Dir: West South West ...
Pressure: 1006.9hPa ...
Notes:

Cloudy all morning but cleared into the afternoon so I took the Solarscope out to do a quick sunspot count.

Sun

From: 2007-11-13 14:15 UT
To: 2007-11-13 14:20 UT

No spots or other marks visible on the Sun.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2007-11-13 19:15 UT
To: 2007-11-13 19:38 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Temperature: 6.4C ...
Dew Point: 3.2C ...
Humidity: 80% ...
Wind Speed: 2.4mph ...
Wind Dir: North North West ...
Pressure: 1006.9hPa ...
Notes:

Moonless evening with some cloud rolling in from the west. Decided to head out with the Meade 10x50 binocular to have a quick look at comet Holmes while I had the chance.

Comet 17P/Holmes

From: 2007-11-13 19:15 UT
To: 2007-11-13 19:38 UT

Comet Holmes was still visible to the naked eye although, right away, I could see that it was more "fuzzy" and not quite so bright as the last time I observed it. It was also obvious that it had moved a fair bit since the last time I'd observed it. It was now fairly close to Mirfak.

It also looked a little different in the binocular too. While it was still circular looking, with no hint of a tail, it now appeared to have a bright "spot" in the middle of the circle and the brightness of the circle dropped off as you looked further out to the edge (the difference here being that the last time I observed it the edge of the circle appears to be quite bright compared to the rest).

I did notice that part of the edge still also less bright than the rest of the edge.

By 19:38 UT cloud had taken over so I packed up and headed back indoors.


2007-11-01


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2007-11-01 19:21 UT
To: 2007-11-01 20:09 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Antares 905
Temperature: 12.3C ...
Dew Point: 9.6C ...
Humidity: 84% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1028.6hPa ...
Notes:

Went out with the Antares 905 to get my first view of comet Holmes via a telescope.

Fairly clear night. No Moon. Bank of cloud visible to the west.

Comet 17P/Holmes

From: 2007-11-01 19:21 UT
To: 2007-11-01 20:09 UT

I quickly got comet Holmes in the 905 using the 32mm eyepiece. A very impressive sight. Large coma with an obvious bright patch in the middle, fading a little further out and then appearing brighter again towards the edge.

Despite some reports that I'd seen elsewhere I could see no hint of any sort of tail.

I added the Neodymium filter to see if it might help bring out any more detail in the comet. It did seem to reduce the "glow" of the background sky a little but I wouldn't have said I could see any more detail in the comet.

Next I switched to the 25mm eyepiece. The view didn't look that much different in terms of what I could see of the comet. The coma looked a little more "circular" with averted vision than without and I did get the impression that one side of the comet wasn't quite as bright as the other.

After a switch to the 10mm eyepiece the view was still good and it was now more obvious that the outer ring of the coma wasn't the same brightness, it was now very obvious that one side wasn't as bright as the other. This gave the impression that I was looking at something that had leading and trailing edges.

With the 6mm eyepiece (and with the Neodymium filter now removed) it was still a very impressive sight. The coma filled a large part of the field of view. The overall impression was still that there was a central bright era within a bright ring and the area between the two being less bright. I also started to notice that there was a hint of blue to the comet.

Even at this magnification, and also at the other magnifications mentioned above, there was no hint of a tail.

Looking at the comet with the naked eye I noticed that, compared to other recent views, the comet seemed a little more "fuzzy" than I'd noticed before. Also, once again, I estimated the brightness to be something close to Delta Persei.

Overall I felt that the best view was with the 32mm eyepiece. Via that there was a very definite sense of viewing a ghostly 3d ball of "smoke".

By 20:09 UT the sky was starting to get quite misty, it was obvious that the view was more "milky" as seen via the 'scope. So, given that things seemed to be going downhill and given that I'd have a good look at the comet I decided to call an end to the session.


2007-10-31


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2007-10-31 21:25 UT
To: 2007-10-31 21:45 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Temperature: 10.6C ...
Dew Point: 8.1C ...
Humidity: 85% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1025.1hPa ...
Notes:

Another evening where I was busy with other things while it was clear out. Given that I had a little bit of free time I wandered out with the Meade 10x50 binocular to have a look at comet Holmes.

Pretty fine night, a small hint of mist. No Moon.

Comet 17P/Holmes

From: 2007-10-31 21:25 UT
To: 2007-10-31 21:45 UT

With the naked eye comet Holmes looked more or less the same it did during my previous observation. At a rough guess I'd have said that the brightness was again similar to that of Delta Persei.

With the binocular the view was a little different to that of two nights ago. While the overall view was the same the variation in brightness that I'd noted seemed press pronounced, less obvious.


2007-10-29


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2007-10-29 20:50 UT
To: 2007-10-29 21:10 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Temperature: 7.4C ...
Dew Point: 4.3C ...
Humidity: 81% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1011.6hPa ...
Notes:

Since first hearing about its outburst I've been unable to observe comet Holmes. Tonight was quite clear but I was out for the early part of the evening. After I got home I headed out with the binocular to have a look.

Comet 17P/Holmes

From: 2007-10-29 20:50 UT
To: 2007-10-29 21:10 UT

When I got outside I noticed that there was a huge bank of cloud heading in from the west. By the looks of things I only had 15 or 20 minutes to observe before the cloud would be a problem.

Even to the naked eye it was obvious where the comet was. It was obvious that Perseus contained a (slightly fuzzy looking) star that shouldn't be there. I roughly estimated its magnitude to be around that of Delta Persei.

With the binocular the view was very different. The comet was a large, circular fuzzy patch, somewhat reminiscent of a planetary nebula (albeit brighter and bigger than any I've observed before).

I could make out that the brightness seemed to vary slightly over the diameter of the comet and that it looked a little denser out towards the edge.

Ideally I'd have liked to have gone on to get the 130M or the 905 out to have a better look but, sadly, by 21:10 UT the bank of cloud had moved in and I could no longer see the comet.


2007-01-11


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2007-01-11 17:00 UT
To: 2007-01-11 17:10 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Temperature: 9.3C ...
Dew Point: 3.4C ...
Humidity: 67% ...
Wind Speed: 5.5mph ...
Wind Dir: West ...
Pressure: 1000.9hPa ...
Notes:

Very windy evening, very murky sky too with quite a bit of cloud around. Despite this I decided to take another walk to the western edge of the village to try and catch a glimpse of comet McNaught.

Comet C/2006 P1 McNaught

From: 2007-01-11 17:00 UT
To: 2007-01-11 17:10 UT

Unlike yesterday evening, McNaught wasn't visible to me during the walk out to the observing spot. It wasn't until I got to the spot that I caught sight of it. It was much harder to find this evening. I doubt it was much, if anything, to do with the brightness of the comet itself, it was probably down to the fact that the atmosphere was horribly murky and there was quite a bit of cloud along the horizon.

The view to the naked eye was nowhere near as impressive as the last view, if anything I'd have said that the view in the binocular was closer to yesterday evening's naked eye view.

I managed to view the comet for getting on for 10 minutes but then totally lost it while I was looking away. Looking back again I failed to find the head or any hint of the tail (probably lost behind some cloud).

In comparison to yesterday's view I'd say this one was disappointing, but that's just because yesterday's view spoiled me. Had this been my first view of it I think I'd have been equally impressed.

Again, given how short a time I had to view it no real attempt was made to take any kind of "technical" notes.


2007-01-10


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2007-01-10 13:00 UT
To: 2007-01-10 13:05 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Naked Eye
Temperature: 8.4C ...
Dew Point: 4.0C ...
Humidity: 74% ...
Wind Speed: 8.8mph ...
Wind Dir: West ...
Pressure: 1004.1hPa ...
Notes:

Clear but windy day. Took the Solarscope out to do a quick sunspot count.

Sun

From: 2007-01-10 13:00 UT
To: 2007-01-10 13:05 UT

Three active areas visible today. Active area 933 had two visible spots (1 very small). Area 935 had 1 large spot. New area 937 also had 1 small spot visible.

The large spot in area 935 was just visible to the naked eye.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2007-01-10 17:00 UT
To: 2007-01-10 17:20 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Temperature: 6.4C ...
Dew Point: 2.2C ...
Humidity: 75% ...
Wind Speed: 0.8mph ...
Wind Dir: South West ...
Pressure: 1010.5hPa ...
Notes:

Clear but breezy evening. Decided to talk a walk to the western edge of the village to try and catch a glimpse of comet McNaught.

Comet C/2006 P1 McNaught

From: 2007-01-10 17:00 UT
To: 2007-01-10 17:20 UT

Joined by my wife and son, I took a walk out to the western edge of our village with a hope of catching a glimpse of comet McNaught. This was the first chance I'd had due to bad weather during previous mornings and evenings. Not being sure what to expect (I guess I was expecting something small and fuzzy, probably needing a binocular to find before seeing with the naked eye) I went armed with the Meade 10x50 binoculars.

As we were walking something caught my attention out of the corner of my eye. Through some trees I could see the comet. It was huge and bright! Much bigger and brighter than I'd expected. We carried on to the chosen viewing position (looking out over a field with a reasonably clear horizon).

By the time we got to the chosen location I'd say that the comet was about above the horizon (just a rough guess). The head was very bright and I estimated the tail to be about 1 to 2 widths of my thumb held at arms length. It's hard to estimate how bright the head was but, had it been higher, I'd have thought that (taking its diffuse nature into account) it would have been a reasonable rival to Venus (which was visible further to the south). That's not to say it was as bright, just that it probably would be almost as obvious. Some people have been estimating its magnitude as -2.

Beyond the above I didn't really make a note of any "technical" details, time was too short and the sight was just too breathtaking. This is the first big, bright comet I've seen in almost 10 years and it was hard not to just stand there and state and be amazed. My wife and son were both very excited by the view too (all the more special for my son given that this was his first ever view of a comet).

Sadly the view was all too short. Within about 10 minutes of us first seeing it the head had gone behind some trees on the horizon. I watched the tail (both naked eye and through the binocular) for a few minutes more until the view was lost to the thickness of the atmosphere so close to the horizon. It was all over by around 17:20 UT.


2006-11-02


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-11-02 13:00 UT
To: 2006-11-02 13:05 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Temperature: 8.6C ...
Dew Point: 2.3C ...
Humidity: 65% ...
Wind Speed: 0.4mph ...
Wind Dir: North ...
Pressure: 1031.8hPa ...
Notes:

Very clear, cool and breezy day. Took the Solarscope out to do a quick sunspot count.

Sun

From: 2006-11-02 13:00 UT
To: 2006-11-02 13:05 UT

Active area 921 appears to have developed even more when compared to yesterday. Today I counted 11 spots of varying sizes. The spot that I saw yesterday, that appeared to be developing a penumbra, now appeared to be two spots sharing a common penumbra.

Active area 922 appeared to have developed a little more and now contained 3 spots.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-11-02 19:30 UT
To: 2006-11-02 21:00 UT
Equipment: 10x50 Binoculars
Antares 905
Temperature: 3.6C ...
Dew Point: -0.1C ...
Humidity: 77% ...
Wind Speed: 1.5mph ...
Wind Dir: West North West ...
Pressure: 1032.1hPa ...
Notes:

Another clear night with an 82% waxing Moon. Despite the extra moonlight the sky actually seemed slightly better than last night. Decided to head out and have another look for comet Swan.

Tracking down comet M4 Swan

From: 2006-11-02 19:30 UT
To: 2006-11-02 19:37 UT

First I stepped outside with my 10x50 binoculars to see if I could find comet Swan. It took a minute or two of sweeping around the right area but I finally managed to find the comet. It was quite hard to see, just a small, faint fuzzy patch. When compared to M13 it looked to me like the comet and the cluster were equally hard to see and both about the same brightness.

Comet M4 Swan with the 905

From: 2006-11-02 19:40 UT
To: 2006-11-02 20:02 UT

At 19:40 UT I took the Antares 905 out into the garden to let it cool off for a short while.

At 19:52 UT I found the comet using the 32mm eyepiece. As with the view by the binocular the comet looked small, faint and fuzzy. I also found that it was almost impossible to see with direct vision. There was no sign of a tail.

I next switched to the 15mm eyepiece and the view didn't seem any different. It was just visible with averted vision but generally disappeared when using direct vision. I could no longer make out the central brightness that I could easily see a few nights back.

I switched to the 10mm eyepiece and the view seemed much better (but sill nowhere near as good as the previous views). The comet now withstood direct vision although averted vision still gave the best view. The best description was still that of a "faint fuzzy patch".

Finally I used the 6mm eyepiece. The view was pretty much the same as that via the 10mm. In all the different eyepieces there was no hint of the tail at all.

Given that conditions were far from ideal for the comet I decided to give up on observing it for this session and to take a short break.

Attempt at imaging the Moon

From: 2006-11-02 20:32 UT
To: 2006-11-02 21:00 UT

After the short break I decided to have a go at imaging the Moon, via the 905, using a little digital camera I'd recently purchased (an Olympus FE-115). I wasn't expecting anything spectacular but I was interested to see how well it might work using afocal projection.

I spent the next 25 minutes or so trying different combinations of settings on the camera and different eyepieces in the 905 and found that the 32mm eyepiece along with maximum optical zoom on the camera gave the best results. Sadly even these results weren't terribly good.

The main problem seems to be with the fact that the camera is auto-focus and it was failing to get useful focus on the Moon. I could see, as it was seeking focus, a nice sharp image and then disappear as it finally settled in the wrong place. Ideally it would have a setting that would force it to focus on infinity. To the best of my knowledge it has no such setting (I'll have to go and read the manual again to double check).

Sadly even the best image acquired is pretty terrible so there's little point in including any of them in this log.


2006-11-01


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-11-01 12:40 UT
To: 2006-11-01 12:45 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Temperature: 9.1C ...
Dew Point: 2.6C ...
Humidity: 64% ...
Wind Speed: 5.2mph ...
Wind Dir: North West ...
Pressure: 1027.5hPa ...
Notes:

Very clear, cool and breezy day. Took the Solarscope out to do a quick sunspot count.

Sun

From: 2006-11-01 12:40 UT
To: 2006-11-01 12:45 UT

Active area 921 appears to have developed even more when compared to yesterday. Today I counted 9 spots of varying sizes, at least one of which seemed to be developing a penumbra.

Active area 922 was sill visible with a single small spot.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-11-01 19:15 UT
To: 2006-11-01 19:25 UT
Equipment: 7x50 Binoculars
Temperature: 4.9C ...
Dew Point: 1.1C ...
Humidity: 77% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1029.5hPa ...
Notes:

Clear night but the sky was washed out by the light of a 75% (approx) waxing Moon. Despite the conditions I decided to get the 7x50 binoculars out to have a quick look for comet Swan.

Comet M4 Swan

From: 2006-11-01 19:15 UT
To: 2006-11-01 19:25 UT

I swept around the general location of comet Swan with the 7x50 binoculars but failed to find it. This wasn't that surprising given how washed out the sky was. I struggled to see the Keystone in Her with the naked eye and, with the binoculars, M13 was almost impossible to see.


2006-10-31


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-10-31 15:30 UT
To: 2006-10-31 15:35 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Temperature: 11.1C ...
Dew Point: 6.2C ...
Humidity: 72% ...
Wind Speed: 2.9mph ...
Wind Dir: North West ...
Pressure: 1005.5hPa ...
Notes:

Overcast and stormy for most of the day but started to clear a little into the late afternoon. While I had the chance I took the Solarscope out to do a quick sunspot count.

Sun

From: 2006-10-31 15:30 UT
To: 2006-10-31 15:35 UT

Active area 921 had developed quite a bit and looked a lot stronger than yesterday. I counted 5 sunspots, all quite small.

Close by I could also see another single spot but I wasn't sure if this was in a separate active area or was part of 921. Checking later it turned out that it was part of new active area 922.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-10-31 19:15 UT
To: 2006-10-31 19:20 UT
Equipment: 7x50 Binoculars
Temperature: 7.6C ...
Dew Point: 1.6C ...
Humidity: 66% ...
Wind Speed: 6.5mph ...
Wind Dir: North West ...
Pressure: 1012.5hPa ...
Notes:

Reasonably clear evening, if a little hazy. The view of the sky was made worse by a 61% waxing Moon.

Comet M4 Swan

From: 2006-10-31 19:15 UT
To: 2006-10-31 19:20 UT

Annoyingly I didn't have the available time to do a proper observation of comet Swan so I quickly grabbed by 7x50 binoculars and went outside for a few minutes to see if I could still find it.

I found it almost right away, a small fuzzy patch just off the bottom left hand corner of the Keystone in Her. I compared it with M13 and I would say that the comet still looks brighter.


2006-10-27


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-10-27 19:15 UT
To: 2006-10-27 20:35 UT
Equipment: 7x50 Binoculars
Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Antares 905
Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Temperature: 9.5C ...
Dew Point: 7.0C ...
Humidity: 85% ...
Wind Speed: 0.6mph ...
Wind Dir: South South West ...
Pressure: 1019.7hPa ...
Notes:

Another clear night. Headed out to have another look at comet Swan.

Comet M4 Swan

From: 2006-10-27 19:15 UT
To: 2006-10-27 20:35 UT

I first headed out with the 7x50 binoculars to see if I could find comet Swan again. As with my previous observation I managed to locate it with no trouble. Again, its appearance was that of a small fuzzy blob, not unlike a globular cluster. I was able to see it and M13 in the same binocular field and, as before, the comet looked brighter.

At 19:24 UT I put both the 905 and the 130M outside to cool off.

By 19:43 UT I was all set up outside with both 'scopes. I found the comet in the 130M using the 32mm eyepiece and also in the 905 using the 25mm eyepiece. In the 130M I found that the best view was with averted vision. The coma looked quite large with a distinct bright spot in the middle. There was a hint of a tail visible. I could also see a hint of colour too, I could see what appeared to be a blue/green tint (I would have said slightly more blue than green).

I then switched to the 15mm eyepiece in the 130M. The view of the head of the comet was even better. The side of the coma on the opposite side to the tail appeared to have a slightly "squashed" appearance to it. The sight withstood direct vision, although averted vision was still better.

By 19:54 UT I noticed that the view appeared to be getting a little worse as the comet got lower in the sky (it was starting to look a little misty). Not wanting to miss my chance I put the 25mm eyepiece back in the 130M, grabbed my A5 sketch book and, between around 19:55 UT and 20:05 UT, I made the following sketch:

Comet M4 Swan

I did notice that, during the sketching process, the image carried on getting a little worse.

In the time between starting and finishing the sketch I'm pretty certain that I managed to detect movement in the position of the comet. I couldn't detect any sort of movement as I was viewing it but I'm sure that, as time went on, I could see that the position had shifted a little.

At 20:16 UT I had a look, via the 130M, with the 10mm eyepiece. The nucleus seemed to be very bright and distinct within the coma. The while view nicely withstood direct vision.

By 20:21 UT I was sure that more movement was visible since finishing my sketch. Comparing what I could see now with what I had recorded with my sketch I was certain there was a difference.

At 20:24 UT I decided to take a short break to move some gear that I didn't need back into the office because everything was starting to get damp with dew. I came back at around 20:32 UT and noticed that the view of the comet had got even worse. At that point, having done everything I wanted to do, I called an end to the session.


2006-10-26


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-10-26 13:30 UT
To: 2006-10-26 13:35 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Temperature: 15.5C ...
Dew Point: 8.9C ...
Humidity: 67% ...
Wind Speed: 6.8mph ...
Wind Dir: West ...
Pressure: 996.5hPa ...
Notes:

Very clear afternoon, very breezy too. Took the Solarscope out to do a quick sunspot count.

Sun

From: 2006-10-26 13:30 UT
To: 2006-10-26 13:35 UT

No sunspots or other marks were visible on the Sun.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-10-26 18:10 UT
To: 2006-10-26 20:35 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
7x50 Binoculars
Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Antares 905
Temperature: 11.3C ...
Dew Point: 5.3C ...
Humidity: 67% ...
Wind Speed: 4.4mph ...
Wind Dir: West ...
Pressure: 1001.0hPa ...
Notes:

Pretty clear night but also very breezy. Seeing appeared to be quite unsteady. Decided to head out and see if I could find comet Swan.

A first look for comet M4 Swan

From: 2006-10-26 18:10 UT
To: 2006-10-26 18:20 UT

I first headed out with the 7x50 binoculars to see if I could even find comet Swan. I managed to locate it with very little trouble. Its appearance was that of a small fuzzy blob, not unlike a globular cluster. In fact, when compared with M13, it appeared quite similar except that the comet seemed somewhat brighter.

Observing comet M4 Swan

From: 2006-10-26 18:25 UT
To: 2006-10-26 19:25 UT

After having located the comet without any problems I went and got the 905 out so I could have a proper look. Starting out with the 32mm eyepiece I found the comet without any problems. Just as it did in the binocular it simply looked a lot like a globular cluster. I could see no sign of a tail.

After a short while, as my eyes became more dark adapted, I found that I could see a hint of a tail — it was quite a bit longer than I would have expected. I then switched to the 10x50 binoculars and was surprised to see that the tail was very obvious. Using the binocular I again compared it with M13 and noted that the comet was quite a bit brighter.

I went back to the 905 and dropped in the 10mm eyepiece. I could see a very bright central spot, not sharp but it was quite distinct. Surrounding it was a fainter coma.

At this point I noted that this is probably the best comet I've seen since I got back into active observing.

After switching back to the 32mm eyepiece I noticed that the tail was even more obvious and that the head of the comet could easily withstand direct vision without any obvious loss of detail. Up to this point I still hadn't been able to spot the comet with the naked eye.

Around 19:03 UT I noticed that some thin cloud was moving in from the west and that it looked like it would interfere with observations. While it wasn't in the way just yet it did put me off doing a sketch I was planning to attempt as it appeared that it was cause problems during the sketching process.

Looking some more via the 32mm eyepiece I estimated that the tail that was visible to me extended about to ⅓ of the field of view of the eyepiece.

Around 19:10 UT was really looking like it was going to become a problem. As well as being annoying because I wanted to try a sketch it was also annoying because I'd been thinking about getting the 130M out to compare the view.

At 19:15 UT the cloud started to get in the way so I decided to have a break to see if it would pass. By 19:23 UT the worst of it seemed to have passed but the sky behind it seemed much more hazy (the tail of the comet wasn't anywhere near as visible in the 905 as it had been earlier). At 19:25 UT I decided to finish with the comet for the evening.

M31, M110 and a satellite

From: 2006-10-26 19:27 UT
To: 2006-10-26 19:38 UT

Because M31 was at a good height for the 905 (unlike the other night when it was too high) I decided to have a quick look. Using the 32mm eyepiece it wasn't quite as impressive as I'd hoped (or as impressive as the other night's view with the 10x50 binoculars). However, I thought I could just about make out M110 when using averted vision. Oddly I couldn't make out M32 at all.

At 19:36 UT a satellite passed right through the field of view (at the time I was using the 25mm eyepiece), only just missing M31 (as it appeared to me, with a bigger aperture the galaxy would look wider and it probably would have appeared to transit it).

Update 2006-10-27:According to stella, a poster on the SPA's BB, what I saw was "99-04C, Globalstar M036, catalog no. 25623. Orbiting at a height of 1413 kilometres".

With the 25mm eyepiece I could still see what I thought was M110. It was only visible with averted vision and seemed quite ghostly but there was little doubt that there was something there. Checking with a chart it appeared to be in the right place.

M33

From: 2006-10-26 19:40 UT
To: 2006-10-26 19:55 UT

Next I decided to have a look for M33. Using the 905 with the 32mm eyepiece I quickly found my way to the correct area of sky and was sure I could see it pretty much straight away. I could see a very ghostly patch that, while it wasn't that distinct from the surrounding sky, was obviously some sort of object.

Looking through the red-dot finder, and checking with my charts (in this case the Sky & Telescope Pocket Sky Atlas), I could see that I was lined up on exactly the right spot so I was very confident that I was seeing M33.

Back at the eyepiece, the more I looked the more I was sure there was something there. Given how indistinct it was it would have been pretty much impossible to actually sketch. I think this is probably a good object to go after with the 130M as the extra aperture would probably be a big help.

I then had a look at the same patch of sky with the 10x50 binoculars and could see the object through them too. There's no doubt that I was seeing M33.

M76

From: 2006-10-26 20:00 UT
To: 2006-10-26 20:17 UT

Decided to go hunting for M76 (the Little Dumbbell Nebula). I star hopped my way to the right location with the 905 and the 32mm eyepiece. I then switched to the 25mm eyepiece and had a sweep around the area for some time without seeing anything obvious.

Finally, after a short while, I noticed a faint, ghostly object in the right location (seems it was the night for this sort of observation). I could only see it with averted vision.

I then switched to the 10mm eyepiece and found that I still needed averted vision but that the object was still visible.

With the object centered in the field of view I then had a check through the red-dot finder and, when compared with my chart, I could see that I was lined up on the right spot in the sky. This would appear to be another good target for the 130M.

Quick look at Albireo

From: 2006-10-26 20:25 UT
To: 2006-10-26 20:35 UT

Before packing up for the night I decided to have a quick look at Albireo through the 905. I started out with the 25mm eyepiece, then moved on to the 10mm eyepiece and then, finally, the 6mm eyepiece.

I noticed that at this magnification the image was quite unsteady. This was probably in part down to the breeze moving the telescope about but there also seemed to be a component of bad seeing involved too.

The colour of both the starts was quite vivid.

Finally, at 20:35 UT, with conditions not being that great and with more cloud heading in I decided to pack up for the night.


2006-05-11


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-05-11 13:00 UT
To: 2006-05-11 13:06 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Temperature: 21.6C ...
Dew Point: 7.4C ...
Humidity: 40% ...
Wind Speed: 3.5mph ...
Wind Dir: North North West ...
Pressure: 1017.2hPa ...
Notes:

Very warm, clear day. No real haze to speak of and no clouds visible. Did a quick sunspot count with the Solarscope.

Sun

From: 2006-05-11 13:00 UT
To: 2006-05-11 13:06 UT

With the Solarscope I could only see a single active area (880) which only contained a single spot.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-05-11 20:45 UT
To: 2006-05-11 22:51 UT
Equipment: Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Antares 905
Temperature: 14.1C ...
Dew Point: 5.7C ...
Humidity: 57% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1015.8hPa ...
Notes:

Reasonably clear evening, no cloud visible, although the sky did look a little murky towards the horizon. Moon close to full (about 95% waxing gibbous) so moonlight was bound to make for a pretty awful sky.

Having read in a couple of places that fragment B of 73P Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 was in outburst (even to the point of claiming that it was visible to the naked eye in moonlight) I decided to have a session to see if I could find it.

Saturn

From: 2006-05-11 20:50 UT
To: 2006-05-11 20:59 UT

Sky not quite properly dark yet so I decided to start with another look at Saturn. Using the 905 with the 6mm eyepiece I had a view that wasn't one of the best I'd ever had. The image wasn't very crisp and was often unsteady. Despite this most of the usual detail could still be seen. Both shadows were very obvious and there was a hint of banding on the planet itself. The Cassini Division kept popping in and out of view but was mostly hard to see.

Titan was visible although, with direct vision, would pop in and out of view (first time I've ever seen that happen). With averted vision I could see it with little problem.

State of the sky

Time: 2006-05-11 21:05 UT

By this point the sky was still very light, it was very hard to see all but the brightest of stars. Looking at Ursa Minor, for example, I could only easily see the three main stars (Polaris, Kochab and Pherkad).

Comet 73P Schwassmann-Wachmann 3

From: 2006-05-11 21:07 UT
To: 2006-05-11 22:35 UT

From 21:07 UT to around 21:18 UT I did an initial sweep for either fragment B or fragment C of 73P Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 with the binocular but failed to locate either of them. This seemed to confirm that the sky was pretty terrible.

After double checking the location of fragment B (it was located about way between Deneb and Sulafat) I did another sweep that ended around 21:34 UT but I'd still not found it.

Finally, after a third attempt, at around 21:45 UT I was sure I'd finally found fragment B. It was in exactly the right location but very hard to see. All I could detect was a faint, ghostly patch with no definition to it. It was right on the edge of my vision with direct vision and only a little better when using averted vision.

To be sure that I had located it I made a mental note of the pattern of stars close by and popped into the office to check the location with Starry Night. This check confirmed that I had located fragment B.

Between around 22:15 UT and 22:35 UT I made further observations, comparing the view in the binocular with the view in the 905 using the 32mm eyepiece. It appeared to be easier to see with the binocular than with the 905.

By the time I stopped attempting to observe fragment B the sky hadn't improved, if anything I'd have said that it had got a little worse. Even as late as 22:35 UT I could still only easily see the three main stars in Ursa Minor.

Jupiter

From: 2006-05-11 22:40 UT
To: 2006-05-11 22:51 UT

I noticed that it was now possible to have a look at Jupiter from round the side of the house so I moved the 905 into position, lined it up on the planet and dropped in the 6mm eyepiece. The view was very impressive, possibly the best view I've had yet (which is saying something considering how low down it is this apparition). Not only could I see the two main bands, they both had a very mottled appearance that was always visible. Also, the rest of the disc had very obvious variation with hints of detail to them. The polar regions were obviously very different in colour from the rest of the planet.

All four of the main moons were easily visible. When I had the planet in the middle of the field of view Callisto, which was furthest out, didn't actually fit in the field.

At 22:51 UT I decided to call an end to the session. Conditions were far from ideal and I needed to be up at a reasonable time the following morning.


2006-05-05


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-05-05 12:50 UT
To: 2006-05-05 12:54 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Temperature: 22.8C ...
Dew Point: 8.8C ...
Humidity: 41% ...
Wind Speed: 7mph ...
Wind Dir: South South West ...
Pressure: 1018.2hPa ...
Notes:

Mostly clear, just a few clouds about, slight breeze. Nice and warm. Did a quick sunspot count with the Solarscope.

Sun

From: 2006-05-05 12:50 UT
To: 2006-05-05 12:54 UT

With the Solarscope I could only see two active areas (as best as I can tell they were 878 and 880). Could only see a single spot in each area giving a total of two spots for today.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-05-05 19:34 UT
To: 2006-05-05 21:45 UT
Equipment: Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Antares 905
Temperature: 18.3C ...
Dew Point: 8.2C ...
Humidity: 52% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1019.1hPa ...
Notes:

A clear, warm and calm evening. The sky was still very light (the Sun hadn't long set). I decided to set up the 905 to have a session observing the Moon (which was just past first ). I also intended to observe Saturn and, if I was out late enough and the position was right, Jupiter.

All being well I also wanted to try and further observe 73P Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 although I didn't hold out too much hope given how bright the Moon was going to be.

Searching for Saturn in a light sky

From: 2006-05-05 19:34 UT
To: 2006-05-05 19:41 UT

Although the sky was still very light I did a quick sweep of the area to the west of the Moon with the binoculars to see if I could spot Saturn. Pretty quick I spotted it.

Having found it with the binoculars I tried to get it in the 905 but, even using the 32mm eyepiece to give me a fighting chance, I just couldn't track it down. I guess, if I'd persisted, I'd have got it in the end but I decided to give up and move on to the Moon.

Imaging the Moon with a mobile phone

From: 2006-05-05 19:51 UT
To: 2006-05-05 19:55 UT

I lined the Moon up in the 905 and, because I had my mobile phone in my pocket, I decided to try taking some shots. I knew they weren't going to be anything clever but I thought I'd have a try anyway. All attempts were using afocal projection while simply holding the phone in my hand.

I took a number of images but most of them were really terrible and were deleted on the spot. The following were the best of the bunch (which gives a good idea of how terrible the others were).

Moon with mobile phone

Moon with mobile phone

The Moon

From: 2006-05-05 20:14 UT
To: 2006-05-05 21:00 UT

After taking the images shown above, and after a short break from "proper" observing to show my wife the Moon via the 905, I stayed with the Moon to work my way along parts of the terminator and areas close to it.

The first features that really stood out were Ptolemaeus, Alphonsus and Arzachel. While Ptolemaeus was mostly fully lit by the sunlight (the floor looking very smooth except for a couple of small but obvious craters within it) Alphonsus and Arzachel both had their floors in shadow but with their central peaks lit.

Further south I could see (running east to west) Nasireddin, Huggins and Orontius. The latter was mostly in shade, in the night side of the terminator, but the "back" wall (in relation to the direction of the sunlight) was fully lit. I could also very clearly see a small crater in the wall (which is unnamed on the map I had with me).

To the north, on the eastern side of Mare Imbrium, I could clearly see Mons Piton casting a very long shadow which seemed to have a conical shape about it.

Over in the night side I could clearly see the peak of Mons Pico. Near it, just to the south, I could see another sunlit peak. The mountain in question is on my map but isn't named (I can see I'm going to have to get a more detailed map of the Moon some time soon).

The next thing I saw, clearly cutting a path through Montes Alpes, was Vallis Alpes. Although I've seen plenty of images of this feature I was still quite taken by how striking it was. This is a good candidate for further observations and possibly a good candidate for a lunar sketch at some point in the future.

The shadows from Montes Alpes were very striking — I counted 6 distinct shadows stretching out into the floor of Mare Imbrium. One of them appeared much longer than the others and I took this to be the shadow of Mons Blanc.

Other mountain ranges that stood out were Montes Spitzbergen (which could be seen just north of Archimedes and more or less on the terminator) and Montes Archimedes (which was also more or less on the terminator, south of Archimedes).

The next thing I noticed, in the terminator, was the eastern wall of Plato. Above it, in Mare Frigoris, I then noticed what looked like some sort of ridge running more or less east to west. I could see a hint of the feature on my map but no name is given. While the impression on the map is that it isn't a very distinct feature the view I had was one of a feature that was very significant (not very surprising really given its proximity to the terminator — the western end of it seemed to disappear into the terminator). To some degree the view I had reminded me of Rupes Recta, except this feature more or less runs east/west (unlike Rupes Recta, which runs more or less north/south). The "higher" side (the side that appeared to be sunlit) was the north side — the south side seeming to be in shadow.

At 20:52 UT the seeing suddenly deteriorated and for the first time this session there seemed to be a breeze about. Given that the image in the 'scope seemed to be getting worse I finally decided, at 21:00 UT, that it would be a good time to take a short break.

Assessing the viewing conditions

Time: 2006-05-05 21:10 UT

By now the sky had got quite dark but the moonlight was visibly causing problems — making the sky look quite washed out. Conditions were so bad that I couldn't actually make out the Keystone. Conditions didn't look good for viewing the comet.

Although it was hard to tell at this point there was a hint of some cloud moving in on the eastern horizon.

Brief look at Saturn

From: 2006-05-05 21:15 UT
To: 2006-05-05 21:25 UT

Had a brief look at Saturn with the 905 and the 6mm eyepiece. It wasn't anywhere near the best view I've had of it this apparition but I was still able to make out both of the shadows, a hint of handing on the planet's surface and, from time to time, the Cassini Division would pop in and out of view.

A quick hunt for Comet Schwassmann-Wachmann 3

From: 2006-05-05 21:20 UT
To: 2006-05-05 21:30 UT

Used the binoculars quickly hunt for fragments B or C of 73P Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 but failed to find them. I did note that M13 was only just visible so it didn't come as any surprise that I failed.

Assessing the chances of observing Jupiter

From: 2006-05-05 21:33 UT
To: 2006-05-05 21:34 UT

Wandered around the house looking for a possible vantage point that would give me a good view of Jupiter but couldn't find a location that would give a clear view with the 905. I did have a quick look with the binoculars and could briefly see a hint of the Jovian moons but the eyepieces misted up and put a stop to that.

Increasing cloud — end of session

From: 2006-05-05 21:35 UT
To: 2006-05-05 21:45 UT

Just after checking on Jupiter I noticed that it was starting to fade and, shortly after that, it totally disappeared. I quickly became obvious that a bank of cloud was moving in from the east. Within a couple of minutes it was almost overhead and I could see no stars all the way down to the eastern horizon. Because it looked like there wasn't going to be a break in this (and the forecasts for the evening had it clouding up with a chance of rain) I called an end to the session.


2006-05-03


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-05-03 13:17 UT
To: 2006-05-03 13:24 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Solarscope
Temperature: 20.7C ...
Dew Point: 9.2C ...
Humidity: 49% ...
Wind Speed: 1.1mph ...
Wind Dir: East North East ...
Pressure: 1011.3hPa ...
Notes:

Breezy day with lots of broken cloud about — sunny intervals were more the exception than the rule but there was a short time when a sunspot count with the Solarscope was possible.

Sun

From: 2006-05-03 13:17 UT
To: 2006-05-03 13:24 UT

With the Solarscope I could still see active areas 875, 878 and 879. Between them I counted 7 sunspots.

Using eclipse shades I checked to see if it was still possible to see area 875 with the naked eye but I was unable to detect it.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-05-03 20:35 UT
To: 2006-05-03 22:45 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Antares 905
Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Temperature: 15.2C ...
Dew Point: 9.1C ...
Humidity: 68% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1013.8hPa ...
Notes:

Another calm, clear evening, similar to a couple of nights ago but also a lot warmer. It was still light when I first stepped out, I wanted to get things set up as soon as possible and give the 'scopes plenty of time to cool down. Waxing crescent Moon, getting close to first , was in the western sky.

The main plan for the evening was to try and observe comet 73P Schwassmann-Wachmann 3, with a view to trying to track down fragment B and, if possible, any other fragments. Because of this, as with a couple of nights back, I took both the 905 and the 130M out with me.

Saturn

From: 2006-05-03 20:40 UT
To: 2006-05-03 20:59 UT

While waiting for it to get dark (and while letting the 130M have plenty of time to cool down) I decided to start by viewing Saturn with the 905. After getting the planet lined up in the 'scope I switched to the 6mm eyepiece. The image was crisp and steady, much better than the last observation. Right away the shadow of the planet on the rings and the shadow of the rings on the planet stood out. The Cassini Division kept leaping in and out of view.

Noticed that Titan was obvious close by.

I also noticed that I was getting many fleeting hints of banding on the surface of the planet.

The Moon

From: 2006-05-03 21:00 UT
To: 2006-05-03 21:26 UT

To kill some more time I turned the 905 on the Moon. The first thing that stood out was, in Mare Serenitatis, Dorsa Smirnov. It stood out as a very obvious line, snaking its way up the eastern side of the mare.

Closer to the terminator from Dorsa Smirnov I could pick out a line of 5 small craters, each one casting a very long shadow. On my lunar map only the bottom two are named. The names given are (starting at the bottom of the line) Deseilligny and Sarabhai. I'll have to try and find a more detailed map to get the names for the others.

Further to the north, partly in the terminator, Montes Caucasus looked amazing in the low sunlight. It looked as if someone had thrown a huge pile of rubble onto the lunar surface — the whole thing having a very "bitty" appearance.

Even further to the north Aristoteles stood out really well. The eastern wall of the crater was nicely lit while the rest (floor and western wall) was in total darkness. Adjacent to it Mitchell could be seen with the tops of all of its walls lit but with the floor in total darkness. Close by I could also see Galle was casting a very long shadow.

A short break and a meteor

From: 2006-05-03 21:27 UT
To: 2006-05-03 21:44 UT

Noticed that the Keystone was now quite high and more or less in a good place to observe. Also noticed that the sky still looked quite bright due to the moonlight — I could easily see my shadow cast by the Moon.

Decided to have a short break for a drink before attempting to find and observe the comet.

At 21:37 UT I saw a meteor travel west through the "bowl" of the Plough in Ursa Major.

Comet 73P Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 (plus a meteor)

From: 2006-05-03 21:45 UT
To: 2006-05-03 22:44 UT

Started out with the 10x50 binocular and found what I thought was fragment C of Schwassmann-Wachmann 3. It was much harder to make out than a couple of nights ago — I suspect this was down to the increased interference from the Moon.

Having found the right general area I switched to the 905 with the 32mm eyepiece and couldn't find it. I spent at least 5 minutes looking in what I thought was the right area but could not identify the comet.

At 21:57 UT I saw a meteor travel from the zenith to the eastern horizon, north of the Keystone. It was quite bright but I didn't manage to estimate the peak magnitude.

Finally, at 22:00 UT, I found fragment C of the comet in the 905. It was much less obvious than the last observation, less of a hint of a tail.

At 22:08 UT I switched to the 130M with the 32mm eyepiece and easily found fragment C. The view with the 130M was much better and brighter. The tail was much more obvious.

After some time looking at fragment C I went looking for fragment B with the 905 and the 32mm eyepiece. By 22:27 UT (after about 1 minute of looking) I was sure I'd found it. I had what appeared to be a faint, fuzzy patch, just outside the Keystone and in the same field of view as M13. Whatever it was I was looking at it was much fainter than M13.

At 22:29 UT I took a look at the same location with the 130M and the 25mm eyepiece and found the same object. It was much clearer and more obvious with the 130M and there was a hint of a tail visible. Given the location and the look there was little doubt that I'd located fragment B.

Around 22:36 UT I had a go at finding fragment B with the 10x50s but, due to the eyepieces constantly misting up, I failed and gave up. For a brief moment before they misted up badly I thought I saw C and possibly another fragment but that might have been wishful thinking on my part.

At 22:45 UT I noticed that there was quite a bit of cloud rolling in from the south west. Showers had been forecast for anything from 23:00 UT onwards so I decided to play it safe and call an end to the session so that I could get the 'scopes packed away.


2006-05-01


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-05-01 20:10 UT
To: 2006-05-01 22:17 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Antares 905
Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Temperature: 8.9C ...
Dew Point: 2.8C ...
Humidity: 66% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1003.3hPa ...
Notes:

Calm, clear evening. Still light when I first stepped out. Some high-level haze was visible but it seemed to be patchy and didn't look like it would cause much of a problem. Waxing crescent Moon (about 12% illuminated) in the western sky.

The main plan for the evening was to try and observe comet 73P-C Schwassmann-Wachmann 3. With this in mind I set up both the 905 and the 130M — the idea being that the former would be useful for locating the comet and the latter would be better for actual observing once I'd located it.

The Moon

From: 2006-05-01 20:14 UT
To: 2006-05-01 20:30 UT

While waiting for it to get dark (and while letting the 130M have plenty of time to cool down) I decided to turn the 905 on the Moon. I started with the 25mm eyepiece. Right away the earthshine looked very impressive, good enough to see plenty of features on the night side of the Moon.

Mare Crisium was fully illuminated with the terminator running through Mare Fecunditatis.

I spent a little time using different eyepieces and quickly running up and down the terminator, enjoying the sights of the various craters and mountains that could be picked out. I made no serious effort to do any real lunar observing as that wasn't the main point of the evening.

I then spent a bit of time trying to get a couple of images, through the 25mm eyepiece, using the camera in my mobile phone. Sadly the day-side of the Moon was always too washed out and none of the images were any good.

Saturn

From: 2006-05-01 20:37 UT
To: 2006-05-01 21:00 UT

Next, while waiting for it to get dark enough to look for the comet, I decided to have a look at Saturn. I started with the 905 and the 10mm eyepiece. Right off the planet's shadow on the rings was obvious. The image was sharp but often unsteady. There was no obvious hint of the Cassini Division.

Next I switched to the 6mm eyepiece and there was a good view of the shadow of the rings on the planet. There was also a faint suggestion of banding on the planet's surface. The image wasn't as steady as previous sessions but, with the 6mm, I did start to get the odd hint of the Cassini Division in steady moments.

One thing that was very obvious was, when compared to the last couple of views I've had of Saturn with the 905 (2006-03-24 and 2006-04-03), the planet was looking smaller than I recalled.

Next, as a comparison test, I turned the 130M on Saturn. Using the 6mm eyepiece the image was (obviously) much bigger than with the 905 but it was also much softer too. At no point could I get as sharp a focused image as I could with the 905. I'd say that the 130M didn't give me any more detail on Saturn than the 905 did, perhaps even a little less. The image was, obviously, much brighter with the 130M.

I find it hard to believe that there'd be that much difference between the two, this suggests to me that I really need to give the 130M a good check-up and redo the collimation (it has been a long time since I checked the collimation).

International Space Station

Time: 2006-05-01 21:08 UT

Noticed a very bright satellite heading west to east, just below Leo. Watched it head down into Virgo and then fade. Given the look, location and speed I suspected that it was the International Space Station.

Checking later, it was the ISS.

Haze starting to form

Time: 2006-05-01 21:12 UT

Noticed that some thicker high-level haze was starting to form. This was causing a slight halo around the Moon and, looking over to Hercules, I could see that it was difficult (but not impossible) to see the Keystone asterism.

Satellite

Time: 2006-05-01 21:18 UT

Watched a satellite pass south to north just west of Botes.

According to `stella' on the SPA BB what I saw was a rocket body called Resurs 1-4.

First look for Comet 73/P-C Schwassmann-Wachmann 3

Time: 2006-05-01 21:27 UT

Despite the fact that conditions were less than ideal I decided to have a first go at looking for Schwassmann-Wachmann 3. Using the 905 with the 25mm eyepiece I started out at Epsilon Herculis and worked my way to the general location of the comet (actually, fragment C of the comet — that's all I was concentrating on this evening — mostly because I ran out of time and good conditions). With no effort at all I found the comet.

The general impression was that it was faint, fuzzy and conical shaped. With direct vision it was almost impossible to see but with averted vision it was easy enough to detect. At times there was a hint of blue/white colour to it.

Next I dropped the 32mm eyepiece in the 130M and located the comet with that. This time I could see it with direct vision and there was a very obvious hint of a tail — even more so when averted vision was used.

Still on the 130M I then switched to the 25mm eyepiece and then the 15 mm eyepiece but found that, the shorter the focal length I used, the worse the image became. The 32mm eyepiece was easily giving the best view.

At this point, using the 130M and the 25mm eyepiece, I made a mental note of the location of the comet in relation to the stars close by with a view to seeing if I could detect movement with a later observation.

Comet 73/P-C Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 with 10x50 binocular

Time: 2006-05-01 21:45 UT

I grabbed my Meade 10x50 binocular and quickly located the comet without any effort. It was very obvious — impossible to miss. When compared with M13 the comet appeared bigger and more diffuse.

Jupiter with the naked eye

Time: 2006-05-01 21:55 UT

From the bottom of the garden I noticed, through some trees over the road from me, that Jupiter was up and looking very bright. Sadly, given the position, it was almost impossible to use either of the telescopes to have a look. Given that Jupiter is going to be rather low to the horizon for this apparition there's a good chance that I won't get to observe it (at least not from home) as it'll probably be obscured by the house most of the time.

Second look at Comet 73/P-C Schwassmann-Wachmann 3

From: 2006-05-01 22:10 UT
To: 2006-05-01 22:17 UT

After a short break I went back to the 130M with the 25mm eyepiece to see if I could detect any movement (based on the earlier mental note). It was instantly obvious that there had been movement in that time. Given the rate of movement I saw in such a short period of time I noted that it would be interesting to see how the location compared on subsequent nights (assuming, of course, that the weather plays ball and I get the chance to observe it again any time soon).

By 22:17 UT thicker haze had moved in from the west and it looked like it was more or less horizon to horizon. At this point I decided to call an end to the session.


2006-03-03


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-03-03 04:50 UT
To: 2006-03-03 05:40 UT
Equipment: Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Temperature: -6.5C ...
Dew Point: -9.0C ...
Humidity: 83% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 996.4hPa ...
Notes:

Woke up early and the sky was clear so I decided to head out with the 10x50 binoculars to see if I could spot Pojmanski (C/2006 A1).

Search for Comet Pojmanski (C/2006 A1), plus Venus and Jupiter

From: 2006-03-03 04:50 UT
To: 2006-03-03 05:40 UT

Using the Meade 10x50 binoculars I had an initial look for comet Pojmanski (C/2006 A1). Spent 5 or 10 minutes scanning the right area of the sky but failed to find it. This probably wasn't helped by the fact that the eastern horizon was rather murky (this was made obvious by the fact that Venus wasn't very clear when I looked at it).

I had a short break and then tried again but failed a second time.

Having failed to find the comet I had another quick look at Venus. Even in the binoculars I'm sure I could see a hint of a phase.

Before finishing I decided to have a quick look at Jupiter, currently in Libra. It was quite low to the south. In the binocular Europa, Io, Callisto and Ganymede all seemed to be visible. Also, just south of the planet, I could see Nu Librae.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-03-03 14:00 UT
To: 2006-03-03 14:05 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Temperature: 6.0C ...
Dew Point: -7.4C ...
Humidity: 38% ...
Wind Speed: 6.3mph ...
Wind Dir: North West ...
Pressure: 995.8hPa ...
Notes:

Quick check of the Sun with the Solarscope to see if there are any Sunspots.

Sunspot count

From: 2006-03-03 14:00 UT
To: 2006-03-03 14:05 UT

The Sun appeared totally unblemished, just like yesterday.


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