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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.


2006-06-08


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-06-08 14:05 UT
To: 2006-06-08 14:13 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Temperature: 23.2C ...
Dew Point: 14.1C ...
Humidity: 57% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1024.4hPa ...
Notes:

Very clear and calm day. Just the odd bit of very high-level cloud around, also a slight haze in the sky.Took the Solarscope out to do a quick sunspot count.

Sun

From: 2006-06-08 14:05 UT
To: 2006-06-08 14:13 UT

Area 892 looked a little less detailed when compared to yesterday with only 8 spots visible.

Area 893 also looked a little less complex too with just 2 spots visible (compared to yesterday's 3).

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-06-08 21:45 UT
To: 2006-06-08 22:55 UT
Equipment: Antares 905
Temperature: 16.5C ...
Dew Point: 11.2C ...
Humidity: 71% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1024.1hPa ...
Notes:

Mostly clear night with some thin cloud around (I could, for example, see a pretty nice halo around the Moon). The sky was still very light but given that Jupiter was in a position where I could see it from my back garden I decided to have a quick session looking at it with the 905.

Jupiter, including a shadow transit

From: 2006-06-08 21:45 UT
To: 2006-06-08 22:55 UT

I got Jupiter lined up in the 905 using a low-power eyepiece and then I dropped in the 6mm eyepiece. Initially the image was pretty poor, moving around quite a bit and the visible detail was much less than previous views of the planet with the same equipment. That said, the 'scope hadn't had any chance to cool down.

As usual the two main bands were easily visible and there was obvious variation on the rest of the disc. I could only make out three moons (later checking showed them to be Europa, Ganymede and Callisto). Europa and Callisto were some distance out, either side of the planet while Ganymede was quite close to the planet.

Around 21:58 UT, in very steady moments (the image was rapidly getting better), I started to notice a very clear, sharp, dark spot near the north pole of Jupiter. My initial impression was that I was seeing a shadow of one of the moons (presumably the Ganymede). To be sure that this wasn't just an artifact I tried changing eyes, rotating the eyepiece and shifting the 'scope about to place the planet in a different part of the field of view. Nothing I did changed the image.

After watching this a bit more I grabbed my sketching box and, between 22:10 UT and 22:15 UT, I made the following rough sketch so that I could compare the view I had with some other source later.

Rough sketch of my view of Jupiter

After doing the sketch I popped into the office and fired up Starry Night to check what I was seeing. It confirmed that I was seeing a shadow and that it was the shadow of Ganymede. My first ever Jovian shadow transit!

Around 22:30 UT some thin cloud moved in such that my view of Jupiter got a lot worse. The amount of visible detail was reduced and I could no longer see the shadow. By 22:39 UT the cloud was still hanging around and the image had deteriorated even more. I also noticed that the air suddenly felt quite damp and that a thin layer of dew was forming on everything.

By 22:50 UT the cloud had finally cleared and the view of Jupiter had improved again (although it didn't seem to be as crisp as it had earlier on) but I still couldn't make out the shadow any more. At 22:55 UT, given that I still couldn't make out the shadow and that I needed to get to bed soon, I called it a night on the session.

Checking the following day, using the "Jupiter's Moons" tool on the Sky & Telescope website, I've now further confirmed that it was Ganymede's shadow. The times given for the event are:

  • 21:18 UT Ganymede's shadow begins to cross Jupiter.
  • 23:08 UT Ganymede's shadow leaves Jupiter's disk.

This would explain why I was unable to see the shadow towards the end of the session: it would have been very close to the edge of the planet's disc and I would probably have been unable to resolve it that close with the equipment I was using.


2006-03-31


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-03-31 11:35 UT
To: 2006-03-31 12:00 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Solarscope
Temperature: 16.6C ...
Dew Point: 5.1C ...
Humidity: 47% ...
Wind Speed: 1.7mph ...
Wind Dir: West ...
Pressure: 1001.4hPa ...
Notes:

Breezy, partly cloudy day but with the Sun showing for long enough between clouds to make a sunspot count worthwhile.

Sun

From: 2006-03-31 11:35 UT
To: 2006-03-31 12:00 UT

With the Solarscope I could see that area 865 had developed a fair bit. The main spot now had a very obvious penumbra and I could count five other spots (making six in total for the active area).

Area 866 still only had the one spot and still had some brighter areas visible around the spot.

I had a quick look at the Sun through a pair of eclipse shades and was a little surprised to see that the main spot in area 865 was visible to the naked eye.

I then made a sketch of the Sun, as seen via the Solarscope. I finished it around 11:55 UT.

The Sun


2006-03-02


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-03-02 13:30 UT
To: 2006-03-02 13:35 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Temperature: 6.5C ...
Dew Point: -3.2C ...
Humidity: 50% ...
Wind Speed: 3.8mph ...
Wind Dir: North West ...
Pressure: 998hPa ...
Notes:

Cold, partly cloudy and a little hazy. A quick look at the Sun to check for sunspots.

Sunspot check

From: 2006-03-02 13:30 UT
To: 2006-03-02 13:35 UT

Quickly dragged the Solarscope outside to do a sunspot count. The Sun was totally blank, not even a hint of the markings that I saw yesterday.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-03-02 20:31 UT
To: 2006-03-02 21:46 UT
Equipment: Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Temperature: -2.2C ...
Dew Point: -5.8C ...
Humidity: 77% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 998hPa ...
Notes:

Cold, clear, but slightly hazy night. Decided to get the 130M out and have a look at M42 and Saturn.

M42 and M43

From: 2006-03-02 20:31 UT
To: 2006-03-02 21:05 UT

Set up the 130M with the 25mm eyepiece and pointed it at M42 and M43 in Orion. Despite having owned the 'scope for almost a year now this is the first time I've really had the chance to have a look at this famous object (mostly due to the nature of my horizon and how the weather has been for me).

Right off the classic "fan" shape was easily visible with an obvious separation between M42 and M43. Also, all four stars in the Trapezium were easily visible. There was no hint of colour other than a sort of silvery gray — no hint of the green that some people say they can see and I've seen myself in the past in a 10" Newtonian telescope (on a Dobsonian mount).

Switched to the 15mm eyepiece, this gave a view where the nebula was bigger than the field of view.

Using either eyepiece direct vision was all that was required to see the nebula, although averted vision suggested a greater extent and a little more detail.

I made the following very rough sketch as a reminder of what M42/M43 looked like in the 25mm (although I've drawn it a bit bigger than it appeared). Finished the sketch at 21:05 UT.

Rough sketch of M42

When I get the chance I aim to do a more complete sketch based on what I recorded in the above.

Saturn

From: 2006-03-02 21:17 UT
To: 2006-03-02 21:46 UT

Turned the 130M on Saturn. Found it with no problems using the 25mm eyepiece and then switched to the 6mm eyepiece.

Oh Wow! Every other time I've observed Saturn it's been a struggle to get a good view; it's always required patience and a lot of looking before any serious detail, especially the Cassini Division, has stood out. This view was totally different. From the very first moment the rings appeared nice and crisp, the planet's shadow on the rings stood out really well and the Cassini Division was immediately obvious.

I spent the next 20 minutes or so observing the planet and the quality of the image hardly ever changed. Without a doubt the best view I've ever had.

By 21:46 UT I was starting to get rather cold and dew/frost was starting to form on everything. With some reluctance I decided to pack up for the night.


2005-11-23


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-11-23 13:56 UT
To: 2005-11-23 14:09 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Solarscope
Temperature: 5.5C
Humidity: 74%
Notes:

Quite a hazy day. As with my last observation the haze seem to be subduing the sunlight. Decided to have another look at the Sun to see if I could still see sunspots 822 and 824.

Sunspot 822 with naked eye

Time: 2005-11-23 13:56 UT

For the first day since I started observing sunspot 822 I was unable to see it at all with the naked eye. This might have partly been down to the sky been so hazy.

Sun with Solarscope

From: 2005-11-23 14:00 UT
To: 2005-11-23 14:09 UT

With the Solarscope I could see sunspots 822 and 824 with no problems. 822 now looks mostly like just two spots, one large one that still has a very obvious penumbra and a smaller one with no visible penumbra. 824 appeared as two spots, one bigger than the other, both slightly "fuzzy", neither having a visible penumbra.

Did the following sketch of the whole of the Sun to show the positions of the spots as I could see them in the Solarscope. Note that the smudged area near 822 didn't look quite that obvious, it's there to mark an area where there was some faint mottling on the Sun's surface and where I thought I could see some very small, faint spots.

Sketch of the Sun


2005-11-21


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-11-21 13:52 UT
To: 2005-11-21 14:07 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Solarscope
Temperature: 5.1C
Humidity: 86%
Notes:

Another hazy day, the haze seemed to be subduing the sunlight. More checking of the Sun to follow the progress of sunspot 822 and to see if 823 and 824 are still visible.

Sunspot 822 with naked eye

Time: 2005-11-21 13:52 UT

Like yesterday, sunspot 822 was immediately visible. It did, however, seem a little smaller than previous observations. I'm guessing this is down to the fact that it's getting more and more foreshortened as it heads towards the Sun's limb.

Sun with Solarscope

From: 2005-11-21 13:57 UT
To: 2005-11-21 14:07 UT

With the Solarscope I could see sunspots 822 and 824 with no problems. However, I was unable to make out sunspot 823.

Did the following sketch of the whole of the Sun to show the positions of the spots as I could see them in the Solarscope:

Sketch of the Sun

Also did the following sketch of sunspot 822:

Sketch of sunspot 822


2005-11-20


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-11-20 11:44 UT
To: 2005-11-20 12:00 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Solarscope
Temperature: 4.6C
Humidity: 86%
Notes:

Quite a hazy day, some wispy cloud in the sky, some of it passing the Sun. Checking the Sun again to follow the progress of sunspot 822, to see if 823 was still visible and also to try to catch a glimpse of 824 — a new spot that was coming around the Sun's limb.

Sunspot 822 with naked eye

Time: 2005-11-20 11:44 UT

Like yesterday, sunspot 822 was immediately visible — no effort was required to find it. Still no obvious difference to the naked eye.

Sun with Solarscope

From: 2005-11-20 11:47 UT
To: 2005-11-20 12:00 UT

With the Solarscope, 822 looked more or less the same as yesterday. 823 seemed a little more obvious. I could also see 824 without any problems.

Did the following sketch of the whole of the Sun to show the positions of the spots as I could see them in the Solarscope:

Sketch of the Sun

Also did the following sketch of sunspot 822:

Sketch of sunspot 822


2005-11-19


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-11-19 12:28 UT
To: 2005-11-19 12:44 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Solarscope
Temperature: 4.0C
Humidity: 83%
Notes:

Cold, rather hazy day. No cloud visible. Decided to have a look at the Sun (5th day in a row) with the naked eye and with the Solarscope to see how sunspot 822 was progressing.

Sunspot 822 with naked eye

Time: 2005-11-19 12:28 UT

Like yesterday, sunspot 822 was immediately visible — no effort was required to find it. I've seen no obvious change in it, with the naked eye, over the past few days.

Sun with Solarscope

From: 2005-11-19 12:34 UT
To: 2005-11-19 12:44 UT

With the Solarscope I could see a new, small, pair of spots some distance from 822. I checked on SpaceWeather.com but couldn't see any mention of them (although the image being displayed at the time was from yesterday) so I don't know if they have an ID.

Subsequent checking showed that they'd been given the number 823.

Sunspot 822 hadn't greatly changed a whole lot from the previous day.

Did the following sketch:

Sketch of Sunspot 822


2005-11-18


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-11-18 14:04 UT
To: 2005-11-18 14:20 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Solarscope
Temperature: 5.0C
Humidity: 73%
Notes:

Like yesterday the sky was completely clear. Decided to have yet another quick look at the Sun (4th day in a row) with the naked eye and with the Solarscope to see how sunspot 822 had developed.

Sunspot 822 with naked eye

Time: 2005-11-18 14:04 UT

Like yesterday, sunspot 822 was immediately visible — no effort was required to find it. Still a very clear, dark spot.

Sunspot 822 with Solarscope

From: 2005-11-18 14:12 UT
To: 2005-11-18 14:20 UT

Set up the Solarscope for a better look at 822. Some changes were obvious when compared to yesterday's observation. The biggest pair of spots appeared to have fully merged into a single, large spot. The "tail" of smaller spots between the large pair and the smaller pair now appeared rather messy with some dark lines visible amongst them. The smaller pair of spots appear to have faded a fair bit.

Did the following sketch:

Sketch of Sunspot 822


2005-11-17


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-11-17 14:28 UT
To: 2005-11-17 14:40 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Solarscope
Temperature: 5.0C
Humidity: 60%
Notes:

A very clear day today, no visible clouds. Decided to have yet another quick look at the Sun with the naked eye and with the Solarscope to see how sunspot 822 was getting on.

Sunspot 822 with naked eye

Time: 2005-11-17 14:28 UT

Just like yesterday, sunspot 822 was immediately visible — no effort was required to find it. It was a very clear, dark spot.

Sunspot 822 with Solarscope

From: 2005-11-17 14:33 UT
To: 2005-11-17 14:40 UT

As seen in the Solarscope, 822 had more or less the same appearance as yesterday. However, the biggest pair of spots now looked like they had merged — I could see no gap between them. This made them look even more like a Mandelbrot set. There also appeared to be more small spots between the big pair and the smaller pair of spots (I first counted seven and then managed to make out eight while doing the sketch that follows).

Did the following sketch:

Sketch of Sunspot 822

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-11-17 20:35 UT
To: 2005-11-17 22:53 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Temperature: 0.2C
Humidity: 64%
Notes:

Very cold, very clear night. The Moon was just past full. Given that it was washing out the sky I decided to carry on with getting to know the Moon with binoculars.

General observing of the Moon

From: 2005-11-17 20:35 UT
To: 2005-11-17 21:30 UT

The first feature that really stood out, just a little in from the terminator, was the crater Langrenus. I could actually see the central peak through the binocular.

The next thing I noticed, north and east of Mare Crisium, is what looked like some sort of "channel" running SW to NE. It appeared to be a "slot" of shadow that seemed to cut into the sunlit part of the Moon, coming out of the terminator. I checked on my Lunar map but couldn't be sure what was causing it. I suspect it might have been something to do with Mare Anguis.

I then noticed that I could still clearly see the dark patches that I noted a couple of nights ago. I could count five "patches", they appeared to run round the "headland" that contains the crater Schrter. The last of the patches (working counter-clockwise) seems to be near or in Sinus Medii.

Noticed another crater with a visible peak that stands out well: Petavius. Also very visible, near Petavius, due to their floors being in shadow, are Hase, Adams and Legendre. The latter seemed to be almost touching the terminator.

Went back to Langrenus in Mare Fecunditatis. Near it I could easily make out Barkla, Kapteyn, Lohse, Lam and Vendelinus.

Warm-up break

From: 2005-11-17 21:31 UT
To: 2005-11-17 22:01 UT
Temperature: 0.0C
Humidity: 64%

Getting bitterly cold. Decided to take a warm-up break.

More general observing of the Moon

From: 2005-11-17 22:02 UT
To: 2005-11-17 22:26 UT
Temperature: 0.0C
Humidity: 65%

Having warmed up a little I went back to viewing the Moon some more through the binocular. Spent some time working my way north from Mare Crisium. Cleomedes was very obvious, as was Geminus. I also thought I could make out Berosus, right in the terminator.

A quick warm-up break

From: 2005-11-17 22:27 UT
To: 2005-11-17 22:41 UT

Getting bitterly cold again — decided to take a short warm-up break.

Saturn, Procyon and end of session

From: 2005-11-17 22:42 UT
To: 2005-11-17 22:53 UT
Temperature: 0.0C
Humidity: 65%

Came back out again after having warmed up but it was feeling very cold now. To the east I noticed that Procyon, in Canis Minor had risen above the roofs and, to the north of it and about as bright, I could see Saturn. Not too long now and it should be high enough at a reasonable hour that I can get the telescope on it.

I had a quick look at Saturn with the binocular. I obviously couldn't see any actual detail but I could see that it was very elongated when compared with a star.

By 22:53 UT the cold was really starting to get to me so I decided to call an end to the session.


2005-11-16


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-11-16 13:33 UT
To: 2005-11-16 13:46 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Solarscope
Temperature: 5.9C
Humidity: 68%
Notes:

Like yesterday the sky was reasonably clear with cloud about. Decided to have another quick look at the Sun with the naked eye and with the Solarscope to see how sunspot 822 had developed.

Sunspot 822 with naked eye

Time: 2005-11-16 13:33 UT

Unlike yesterday, sunspot 822 was immediately visible — no effort was required to find it. It was a very clear, dark spot.

Sunspot 822 with Solarscope

From: 2005-11-16 13:40 UT
To: 2005-11-16 13:46 UT

Set up the Solarscope for a better look at 822. Some changes were obvious when compared to yesterday's observation. While the biggest pair of spots still appeared to be more or less the same (and also had a striking resemblance to a Mandelbrot set) the smaller spots that were visible between them and the smaller pair appear to have grown in number. However, the whole group appeared more spread out now due to their being less foreshortening now that the rotation of the Sun had carried them further away from the limb; it could be the case that there weren't more small spots, it could be that they were just easier for me to see.

Did the following sketch:

Sketch of Sunspot 822


2005-11-15


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-11-15 14:18 UT
To: 2005-11-15 14:36 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Solarscope
Temperature: 10.0C
Humidity: 68%
Notes:

Reasonably clear sky, some cloud about. Decided to have a quick look at the Sun with the naked eye and with the Solarscope because a new sunspot had come into view.

Sunspot 822 with naked eye

Time: 2005-11-15 14:18 UT

Before setting up the Solarscope I used a pair of eclipse shades to have a look at the Sun to see if sunspot 822 was visible with the naked eye. It wasn't obvious at first but with a little bit of effort I could clearly see a small, dark dot in the correct position on the face of the Sun.

I think this is the first naked eye sunspot we've had since sunspot 798.

Sunspot 822 with Solarscope

From: 2005-11-15 14:28 UT
To: 2005-11-15 14:36 UT

Set up the Solarscope for a better look at 822. I could see one very large spot which appeared to have a reasonably large companion, both of them were surrounded by a sizable penumbra. Next to that I could see three small spots. Next to them I could see two more spots, again, both surrounded by a penumbra.

Did the following sketch:

Sketch of Sunspot 822

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-11-15 22:17 UT
To: 2005-11-15 23:32 UT
Equipment: Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Temperature: 4.8C
Humidity: 79%
Notes:

Cold and mostly clear night with some patches of thin cloud. Sky more or less washed out by a near-full Moon which was quite close to Mars.

Given that the Moon was washing out any chance of any DSO observing I decided to make the Moon and Mars the targets for this session.

The Moon

From: 2005-11-15 22:23 UT
To: 2005-11-15 22:51 UT

I initially lined the Moon up in the 25mm eyepiece and found that it was far too bright to look at. I could just see a hint of a terminator.

To combat the brightness I added an ND13 filter to the eyepiece. While the image was still quite bright it was far easier to look at for any period of time.

The surface of the Moon looked very two dimensional, the only features that stood out right away were the ray systems, the ray system of Tycho being the most striking.

After a short while I noticed what I'd describe as "dark patches" in and near Sinus Aestuum. They looked like large, more or less circular, darker patches when compared to the surrounding terrain. Initially I thought it might have been a problem with the filter, eyepiece or the 'scope itself but a simple tap on the 'scope (to make the image move) confirmed that what I was seeing was a lunar feature and not some effect brought on by a problem with my equipment.

Roving around a little more I noticed a reasonably prominent darker area towards the south eastern limb. Checking on a Lunar chart I'm pretty sure that what I was looking at was Mare Australe. I switched to the 15mm lens, with the ND13 filter attached, and carried on looking. The impression I got was that I was seeing part of a dark ring that surrounded a dark circular area (heavily foreshortened, obviously). It reminded me a little of images I've seen of Mare Orientale — it wasn't, I double checked.

At 22:51 UT an area of cloud moved in front of the Moon. One nice thing about this is that it was thin enough that you could still easily see the Moon and, better yet, it gave the Moon a double halo effect that had a hint of "rainbow" effect about it. The cloud cleared again at 23:04 UT

Mars

From: 2005-11-15 23:21 UT
To: 2005-11-15 23:32 UT
Temperature: 4.2C
Humidity: 80%

Decided to move on to Mars. Lined it up in the 130M with the 25mm eyepiece then quickly went to the 15mm and then 6mm eyepiece, centering as I went. There was no obvious detail visible and the image was very unsteady. What I could see right away is that the planet appeared much smaller than it had when I looked at it near the closest approach.

At 23:24 UT a load of cloud moved in. Decided to give it a short while to see if it would move away again.

End of session

Time: 2005-11-15 23:32 UT
Temperature: 4.4C
Humidity: 80%

Cloud was now more or less horizon to horizon so decided to call an end to the session.


2005-09-13


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-09-13 10:20 UT
To: 2005-09-13 10:31 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Naked Eye
Notes:

Another look at sunspot 798 with the naked eye and with the Solarscope. Sky wasn't too bad again today — just a little hazy.

Sunspot 798

From: 2005-09-13 10:20 UT
To: 2005-09-13 10:31 UT

First looked for sunspot 798 with naked eye and eclipse shades. It was very easy to see as a rather large dark spot.

In the Solarscope it was obvious that the shape of the spot had changed a lot from yesterday. Although the following sketch gives the impression that it's smaller than yesterday it actually seemed to cover slightly more area than I remember from the previous observation.

Made the following sketch:

Sketch of Sunspot 798

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-09-13 21:55 UT
To: 2005-09-13 23:00 UT
Equipment: Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Notes:

Given that the sky was reasonably clear and that the forecast for the next few days didn't look too good I decided to have a quick session looking at Mars.

Conditions were slightly warm and breezy with the Moon just past 1st .

Mars

From: 2005-09-13 21:55 UT
To: 2005-09-13 22:49 UT

Mars was still quite low. There was also a hint of haze in the air which seemed to dim it slightly. After first locating the planet with the 25mm eyepiece I switched to the 10mm eyepiece. The image was quite washed out and was dancing around quite a bit. Initially about all I could make out was that there was a visible phase.

The breeze calmed down for a moment so I switched to the 10mm with 2x Barlow. As normal I struggled to get useful focus with the Barlow and also noticed that there was some significant false colour around the image of Mars.

Switched to the 6mm (with no Barlow) and the image was much crisper. Mars appeared very bright, even to the point that I was getting four very obvious spikes off it. In steady moments there was a hint of surface markings visible. As with a few nights ago, these appeared as vague differences in colour.

Added the #21 Orange filter to the 6mm eyepiece. This reduced the glare of the image, the surface looking less washed-out. The hint of markings seemed to improve although they didn't improve to the point that I'd have been able to draw a reliable sketch. They were there, visible but also somewhat indistinct. The fact that the image wasn't terribly steady most of the time adding to the problems.

Next gave the #80A Medium Blue filter a go with the 6mm eyepiece. I don't know why but I was initially surprised to see that this made Mars look white, not blue. The markings mentioned above were still visible and, this time, appeared as darker gray areas.

Decided to experiment a little more by combining the #21 and #80A filters. The image looked more or less the same as it does with the #21 filter on its own although I'd be tempted to say that the darker areas appeared a little easier to notice — although still somewhat indistinct.

Also tried the #56 Green filter with the 6mm eyepiece. Other than making Mars look somewhat green this didn't seem to make an awful lot of difference to the image.

M45

From: 2005-09-13 22:57 UT
To: 2005-09-13 23:00 UT

Because it was close to Mars and is also an easy target I decided to have a quick look at M45 — The Pleiades. Had a look with the 25mm eyepiece. Quite a stunning sight through the 'scope. The main pattern of stars more or less filled the field of view.

By around 23:00 UT the breeze was picking up quite a bit and the sky was becoming more washed-out due to the Moon so decided to call an end to the session.


2005-09-12


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-09-12 12:21 UT
To: 2005-09-12 12:35 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Naked Eye
Notes:

First clear day since I last looked at sunspot 798. Took the Solarscope out to see how it looked now. Sky wasn't too bad although there was some whispy cloud about and some general thin haze.

Sunspot 798

From: 2005-09-12 12:21 UT
To: 2005-09-12 12:35 UT

Sunspot 798 looked much bigger and more spread out than my last look at it. The main change in its appearance is no doubt down to the fact that it's now more face-on than it was when I last observed it.

Made the following sketch:

Sketch of Sunspot 798

I also took the following image on the camera in my mobile phone to give an impression as to what my view looked like:

Image of Sunspot 798

Also noticed that Sunspot 809 was no longer visible.


2005-09-09


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-09-09 07:57 UT
To: 2005-09-09 09:10 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Naked Eye
Notes:

Read that sunspot 798 was coming back around the limb of the Sun so decided to view it with the Solarscope.

Sunspot 798

From: 2005-09-09 07:57 UT
To: 2005-09-09 08:25 UT

Sunspot 798 stood out the moment I got the Sun projected in the Solarscope. Quite close to the limb. It appeared to be made up of one large spot with at least five smaller spots around it.

Had a couple of goes at imaging what I was seeing with the camera in my mobile phone (sadly the only instant imaging device I've got to hand at the moment) but failed miserably.

Instead, decided to try and draw a sketch of what I was seeing:

Sketch of Sunspot 798

Sunspot 798 with naked eye

Time: 2005-09-09 08:51 UT

Using a pair of eclipse shades I noticed that sunspot 798 was just about visible to the naked eye. If I'd not known where to look I probably would have missed it due to it being so close to the limb.

Another Sunspot and some images

Time: 2005-09-09 09:10 UT

While having another look with the Solarscope I noticed that not too far from 798 there was another very small spot visible. At first I thought it might simply have been some dust on the lens or the mirror. I rotated both of them to be sure and it didn't move.

Subsequently found out that the sunspot mentioned above now has a number: sunspot 809.

Also had another go at taking some images with the mobile phone. This time they didn't come out too bad. While there's no real detail to them you can at least get an impression of what 798 looks like in the Solarscope:

Image 1 of Sunspot 798

Image 2 of Sunspot 798

Image 3 of Sunspot 798


2005-09-02


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-09-02 19:13 UT
To: 2005-09-02 23:25 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Notes:

Quite a long observing session — probably the longest I've done yet. The evening started with trying to track down Venus and Jupiter close to each other after sunset and then carried on with me getting the 130M out for a couple of hours.

Hunting for Venus and Jupiter

Time: 2005-09-02 19:13 UT

Venus and Jupiter were just past conjunction so I headed out to the West side of the village with a view to trying to catch them just before sunset. By the time I got set up the Sun had set and the Belt of Venus was visible. Hardly any cloud in the sky although a reasonable covering on the Western horizon.

Spent a short while scanning the horizon with the naked eye but couldn't see either of the planets.

More hunting for Venus and Jupiter

Time: 2005-09-02 19:23 UT

Spent a short while trying to find them with 10x50 binocular. Still couldn't see anything. With the binocular it was very obvious that there was quite a bit of cloud all along the part of the horizon I wanted to be watching.

Failed to find Venus and Jupiter

Time: 2005-09-02 19:50 UT

Having failed to see them (defeated by cloud on the horizon) I headed back to the house. I double checked everything with Starry Night to be sure that I'd been looking in the right place at the right time — I had. Venus would have set at around 19:37 UT so both planets would have been very close to the horizon while I was looking so they were obviously obscured by the cloud.

Out into the garden with 130M — M57

From: 2005-09-02 21:02 UT
To: 2005-09-02 21:23 UT

Now that darkness had really set in I set up the 130M in the garden and decided to check everything by having a quick look at M57.

Sky appeared slightly misty and dew was forming on everything very quickly. Quite a damp feel to the air.

Initially I found it very hard to find it. The problem seemed to be that the red-dot finder was way off and, even after taking some time to adjust it I was still having problems. It seems that, for some reason, the finder itself is now sat on the 'scope such that I don't have enough "slack" in the adjustment to get the 'scope and the dot lined up. I suspect I'm going to have to try and adjust how the finder sits on the 'scope so that the fine-tuning can be done with enough "slack" in the system.

Finally found M57 after a little effort and made a point of making a mental note of how far off the dot in the finder it was so finding other objects should be a little easier.

M56

From: 2005-09-02 21:29 UT
To: 2005-09-02 21:47 UT

Decided to hunt down M56 with the 130M. Started out with 25mm eyepiece. Found it with some trouble. It appeared to be a very small, faint, fuzzy patch. Switched to the 15mm eyepiece and it still appeared to be rather faint. Quite indistinct, no real hint of any actual shape to speak of. Couldn't resolve any stars at all.

Switched to 10mm eyepiece. Although appearing bigger it was still faint, fuzzy and indistinct. There was, however, a hint of a shape now. My best description would be that it seemed vaguely triangular.

With the 6mm eyepiece it was bigger still and the description of it with the 10mm seemed to hold true for the view with the 6mm. As globulars go M56 has to be the hardest target I've looked for yet. With some extra effort and generally with averted vision there did seem to be a slight grainy appearance to it giving a hint that I was looking at something that was composed of stars. That view came and went and was very fleeting.

Strange cloud moment

From: 2005-09-02 22:03 UT
To: 2005-09-02 22:07 UT

Decided to go for M27 next. Roughly lined up the 'scope on the right area and turned my back on the sky for a few moments to check a couple of charts. When I turned back the part of the sky I wanted to look at was now apparently obscured by a cloud. There was no warning of the cloud, I didn't see it coming in from any part of the sky, it just seemed to appear out of nowhere.

Then, almost as quickly as it had appeared, it disappeared. It wasn't that it moved away, it seemed to just disappear (again, while my back was turned). Also, at the same time, I noticed that the NW part of the sky had brightened compared to a little earlier (although, in this case, it didn't seem to be cloud as I could still see stars).

Most odd.

Meteor near Cygnus

Time: 2005-09-02 22:25 UT

While looking in that direction saw a rather bright meteor head roughly East to West just North of Cygnus.

M27

From: 2005-09-02 22:30 UT
To: 2005-09-02 22:50 UT

Back to hunting for M27. Took a little effort to locate — partly down to the issue with the finder and also partly down to the fact that I was looking for a small, faint fuzzy object so I was doing a very careful sweep of the general area. When it finally appeared in the field of view (initially using 25mm eyepiece) I was shocked and amazed at how large and bright it appeared!

The initial appearance was of a large, grey/blue misty patch with a very definite "dumbbell" appearance. Although the overall effect was that it was roughly circular I could see that two opposing sides of the nebula were much brighter and more obvious then the rest of the circumference.

A stunning sight!

Switched to the 15mm eyepiece. The view was even better. Slightly brighter and the "dumbbell" appearance was more pronounced. Made the following rough sketch:

Sketch of M27

Mars

From: 2005-09-02 22:58 UT
To: 2005-09-02 23:25 UT

Finally, a reasonable night out with the 'scope and Mars is getting into a position where I stand a chance of seeing it. That said, I was still observing with a sky that was getting more and more misty while looking in the general direction of a bright streetlight, through a fair bit of atmosphere and with eyepieces that were starting to fog up.

Started with the 25mm eyepiece. All I could see was a non-pin-point bright object that had a hint of orange colouring to it. Next switched to the 10mm eyepiece. Now it started to look like a planet. It had an obvious gibbous phase to it and in brief moments of steady seeing (the image was swimming around rather badly) I thought I could detect a variation in the shading of the surface.

Added a #21 Orange filter to the 10mm eyepiece. Was impressed with how well it seemed to clear up the image. With the filter, in the moments if steady seeing, the variation in the colour of the surface was much more pronounced.

Next used the 6mm eyepiece with the #21 Orange filter. The "swimming" of the image was now much more pronounced so it was harder to get a handle on the image. However, on the odd occasion when the image did settle down the dark patch was very visible. It looked the same as with the 10mm eyepiece only more obvious.

By 23:25 the dew problem was starting to get pretty bad and more and more mist was forming at low level. Decided to call an end to the session.


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.


2005-08-16


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-08-16 21:16 UT
To: 2005-08-16 22:50 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Tento 10x50 Binoculars
Notes:

Decided to have a session just with deck-chair, binoculars and naked eye. I've yet to spend an hour or so just sweeping the skies for fun.

Waxing gibbous Moon which, although it was low to the horizon and obscured from view by my house, was obviously making the sky rather light. Sky seemed kind of "misty". Temperature seemed reasonably warm with a hint of dampness to the air.

Much of the observing done isn't noted here due to the general nature of the session and given that it was more for pure entertainment than anything else. I have noted the "exceptional" observations.

M29

Time: 2005-08-16 21:35 UT

After some time of just sitting and looking and sweeping around with the binocular I went to see if I could see M29 with them (having found but failed to identify it with the 'scope back on 2005-07-16). Found it with no trouble at all. It stood out as a reasonably bright fuzzy object with a hint of "grain" to it. Through the binocular I can see why Messier would have included it in the catalogue.

Satellite in Cygnus

Time: 2005-08-16 21:41 UT

Watched a satellite pass roughly South to North through Cygnus with the naked eye. It appeared to occult one of either 30 or 31 Cygni. It was hard to tell which, if either, it did occult but it came very close — so close that it looked like it occulted.

Flash near Vega

Time: 2005-08-16 21:55 UT

Saw a brief flash of light just near Vega in Lyra. The flash was less than a second long and was much brighter than Vega. Annoyingly I didn't note down where it was in relation to Vega.

Expecting it to be an aircraft I kept an eye on it for a couple of seconds to see if it happened again but didn't see anything. Had a sweep of the general area with binocular but couldn't see any evidence of a satellite either. I suspect that it probably was a satellite but failed to find it after the flash although I guess there's the possibility that it was a pinpoint meteor (a meteor that appeared to be heading right at me).

M103 plus something else

Time: 2005-08-16 22:17 UT

With binocular I think I've found M103 in Cassiopeia. Could see a faint, fuzzy object in what appeared to be the correct location but could generally only see it with averted vision (not surprising given how light the sky was and given the faint haze that seemed to be hanging around). It appeared to be within a shallow triangle of three faint stars.

Further checking with Starry Night confirmed that it was M103.

Also, about half way between δ and ε, I noticed what looks like another fuzzy object just "below" three stars in a line. Noted that I should check on some charts later to see what, if anything, it is.

Checking with Starry Night the three stars in a line were HIP8106, HIP8020 and HIP7939. The fuzzy object would appear to have been a collection of stars in the region of HIP8239. While this is a tight grouping of stars it doesn't appear that it is any sort of cluster.

M52

Time: 2005-08-16 22:33 UT

With binocular I think I've found M52 in Cassiopeia. Noticed what looked like a fuzzy star that was alongside a triangle of stars. One side of the triangle is cut by a curved line of five stars.

To aid in checking later on made the following sketch:

Sketch of M52

The "fuzzy" in the sketch wasn't as obvious to the eye as the sketch might suggest but it does give a good idea of the location and the suggested size is probably about right.

Checking with Starry Night: confirmed that it was M52.

End of session

Time: 2005-08-16 22:50 UT

The sky was getting more misty and lighter so decided to call an end to the session.


2005-08-15


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-08-15 20:24 UT
To: 2005-08-15 22:55 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Notes:

The main reason for venturing out was to give the 130M a proper "run under the stars" after center spotting the primary mirror on 2005-08-13. Also, before heading out, I use a laser collimator to try and improve the collimation. I didn't plan on doing any star-tests tonight — I just wanted to see how well I got on with the 'scope having actually had the mirror out of it.

Moon was a waxing gibbous quite low in the sky (not visible from my position). There was some thin haze in parts of the sky but no noticeable clouds. Temperature was cool but still warm enough to be out in a t-shirt.

When I started out the sky was still somewhat light.

General testing

From: 2005-08-15 20:24 UT
To: 2005-08-15 21:05 UT

Started out by pointing the 'scope at Mizar. With the 25mm eyepiece there was some obvious "flaring" of the brighter stars in the field. I could also see, from time to time, a faint "rainbow" effect in the flare. At this point I had trouble recalling exactly how bright stars used to look in the 'scope. I've always seen some flaring but — never having really made a point of noting exactly how it appeared — I didn't really have anything to compare. Lesson for the future: make notes about the really obvious things such as how stars look before you do some work on your 'scope.

With the 15mm eyepiece the flare (which, at times, looked like a very tight double image of each bright star) had a noticeable difference in appearance either side of best focus. When unfocused either side there was the impression of an oval effect to the unfocused stars. Either side of focus the orientation of the oval would rotate 90. As I understand it this is evidence of astigmatism in the primary or secondary mirror! I don't think I've ever noticed this before (not that I've ever really gone looking for it before).

I tried a few things to see if the oval effect would differ: I changed eyes (no difference), changed my orientation at the eyepiece (no difference) and rotated the eyepiece in the focuser (no difference).

I then tested with the 10mm and then 6mm eyepieces and, as best as I could tell, the oval effect wasn't noticeable. Most confusing.

The more I thought about it the more I felt that what I was seeing actually wasn't any worse than the 'scope used to be. Also, there's the fact that I don't generally know what a bright star should look like through a smallish Newtonian Reflector.

I wished that I'd had Jupiter or Saturn around still so that I could compare how things looked with a more "substantial" target.

Meteor

Time: 2005-08-15 21:01 UT

Saw a reasonably bright meteor pass roughly North to South through Lyra.

Probable Iridium Flare

Time: 2005-08-15 21:10 UT

Saw a very bright Iridium Flare in Ursa Major — just below the "handle" of "The Plough". I got the impression that it was one of the brightest flares I've ever seen. It was a lot brighter than any of the stars in Ursa Major.

M13

From: 2005-08-15 21:25 UT
To: 2005-08-15 21:45 UT

After the slight annoyance and frustration early on in the session I decided to try the 'scope out on a DSO and opted for an easy target: M13. Initial impression with the 25mm eyepiece was that it looked magnificent! While it looked like a cometary-like "blob" (as I'd noted in a previous observing session) there was, this time, the occasional faint hint that it was comprised of lots of stars. It wasn't so much that I could see stars, it was more a case of it looking slightly "grainy" from time to time.

Made a sketch via the 25mm eyepiece:

Sketch of M13

Possible "late" Perseid

Time: 2005-08-15 21:49 UT

Saw a faint meteor pass through Andromeda. Was very quick (less than a second I'd have said) and, given the direction of travel, it looked like it might have been a "late" Perseid.

Satellite between Cygnus and Lyra

Time: 2005-08-15 21:52 UT

Watched a faint satellite go roughly North to South, more or less via the zenith, and pass between Cygnus and Lyra. It seemed to occult a faint (to the naked eye) star somewhere between the two constellations. Unfortunately, at the time, I wasn't in a position to note which one it was.

M13

From: 2005-08-15 21:53 UT
To: 2005-08-15 22:01 UT

Went back to M13, this time with the 15mm eyepiece. Appeared slightly brighter. There was now a hint that it's made of actual stars with the grainy appearance mentioned above being much more pronounced. While doing viewing a thin but obscuring line of cloud (might even have been a contrail) moved into the area and made observing rather hard. Somewhat annoying as I was about to start a sketch of what it looked like with the 15mm eyepiece.

M31 (and possibly M32)

From: 2005-08-15 22:12 UT
To: 2005-08-15 22:55 UT

M31 is now in a position where I can see it with the 'scope. First looked at it with the 25mm eyepiece. M31 itself was obvious but, at the same time, indistinct. There was an obvious brightness difference between what I assume is the central bulge and between the disk. There was no hint of any sort of structure and the whole thing had the appearance of a sort of light-gray "mist". The fact that I was looking in the direction of a street-light and that there was still a very faint haze in the sky probably wasn't helping matters.

After a short while I noticed that a star in the field was actually rather "fuzzy" when compared to all the other stars. Started to wonder if what I was seeing was M32. My initial impression was that it was further away from M31 than I'd imagined it would appear to be but, that said, that impression is formed from the photographs I've seen of M31 (which obviously show a lot more of the galaxy than I'd be seeing through my 'scope).

Checking with a chart I had to hand the fuzzy object did appear to be in about the right location for M32. To be sure I went and checked with my copy of Sky Atlas 2000 and, looking at that, I convinced myself that I wasn't seeing M32 (based on the pattern of stars near it which seemed to be in SA2000 but not in the correct position for M32). Lesson here: be sure of the width of the field of view of the eyepiece so you can make good estimates of separation of objects.

Switched to the 15mm eyepiece. The "fuzzy star" still had a fuzzy appearance and still looked quite different from all other stars in the field.

Switched back to the 25mm eyepiece and made the following sketch:

Sketch of M31

At 22:55 UT I finished the session.

Mars pops up

Time: 2005-08-15 22:55 UT

As I was starting to pack up I noticed that Mars had popped up over the roofs of the houses to the East of me. I did consider setting up the 'scope again to have a look at it but given that it was still low down and given that it was very close to a street-light I decided to save that for another night when conditions were a little more favourable.


2005-07-16


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-07-16 21:27 UT
To: 2005-07-17 00:15 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Notes:

Another reasonable night's observing. Sky seemed quite clear, I think I'd have rated the transparancy as "pretty good" and seeing seemed "very good". The temperature was cool but pleasant. Waxing gibbous Moon.

Moon

From: 2005-07-16 21:27 UT
To: 2005-07-16 21:40 UT

With the naked eye I noticed that on the terminator of the Moon there was an obvious and significant feature jutting into the night-side. For some reason I don't think I've ever really noticed something as obvious as this before.

Using the 130M and a 25mm eyepiece I could see that it was part of Montes Jura, which partly surrounds Sinus Iridum.

I was contemplating trying to make a sketch of the scene when I started to lose the Moon behind a neighbour's house.

Albireo

From: 2005-07-16 22:00 UT
To: 2005-07-16 22:24 UT

Turned the 130M on AlbireoCygnus) and companion. Started with the 25mm eyepiece. Reasonably wide pair. Noticed that there seems to be a faint difference in colour but I couldn't quite tell for sure exactly what it was. One of the pair seemed to be slightly more blue in appearance (the fainter of the pair) whereas the other seemed much more white.

Switched to the 15mm eyepiece. Now the brighter of the pair appeared to have a faint orange tint to it. The fainter of the pair had a slight blue tint.

With the 10mm eyepiece the effect was the same as with the 15mm but the colours were more pronounced.

With the 6mm eyepiece the colours were even more pronounced. My impression was that the brighter of the pair has an orange/white appearance to it and the fainter of the pair has a blue/white appearance.

Attempt to find M29

From: 2005-07-16 22:31 UT
To: 2005-07-16 22:52 UT

Decided to have a go at finding M29 in Cygnus. Pointed the 'scope in the general location of the cluster. Using the 25mm eyepiece I thought I'd found it after discounting a couple of candidates. I found this very hard-going given that this is a very star-rich part of the sky due to it lying in the "thicker" part of the Milky Way.

Finding it hard to tell if I'd got the right object or not I grabbed my copy of Neil Bone's Deep Sky Observer's Guide to see if that could help me check if I'd got the right object. Sadly there was no illustration for this object but the text described it as a "south-pointing triangle". The collection of stars that I'd finally settled on seemed to fit the bill but I was still unsure that I'd really found M29.

Made a sketch of what I'd found so I could check later against any images I could find:

Sketch of object

Checking afterwards with Starry Sky I found that what I'd sketched wasn't M29. Annoyingly, I had actually seen M29 but had discounted it as what I saw didn't seem to match the description I'd read. What I had drawn (ignoring the brighter star that I'd marked) was, from what I can tell, the following stars: TYC3152-1679-1, TYC3151-955-1, TYC3151-757-1, TYC3151-1782-1, TYC3151-1591-1, TYC3151-478-1, TYC3151-1573-1, TYC3151-1237-1 and TYC3151-550-1. The bright star I marked was 34 Cygni. Seems I was about 1 off.

It strikes me that there are two useful lessons here: the first is that I should do a little more preparation before going hunting for an object such as this (one that could be easily confused in a star-rich area); the second lesson is that when you're unsure about something you think you've found doing a sketch for later comparison is a good thing.

M31

From: 2005-07-16 23:10 UT
To: 2005-07-16 23:20 UT

Noticed that M31 had risen enough to clear the murk of the eastern horizon (not to mention the roofs of the houses near me). Couldn't quite see it with the naked eye (then again there is a street light in that direction and it was still reasonably low down) but found it very easily with 10x50 binoculars. Could see the central bulge rather well with a faint hint of the rest of the galaxy.

I would have turned the 130M on it but, annoyingly, it was obscured by my Pear Tree from where I was set up and I didn't want to get into moving the 'scope and realigning it and everything at that point. I'll save M31 and the 130M for another night when it's higher in the sky.

M51

From: 2005-07-16 23:25 UT
To: 2005-07-16 23:50 UT

Decided to have a go at M51. It wasn't very favourably placed given that it was off in the Western part of the sky and given that that part of the sky wasn't anywhere near fully dark. Using the 25mm eyepiece, after a little bit of effort, I found it. Although all I could see was two faint fuzzy blobs it seemed pretty obvious that it was M51. There was no hint that I was actually looking at a spiral galaxy. With averted vision the blobs did seem a little more extended.

Dropped the 15mm eyepiece into the 'scope and had another look. The impression I got was that it looked a little brighter and, with averted vision, there was the vague impression that the "extensions" to the blobs mentioned above appeared to overlap.

The really enjoyable part about seeing M51 was the realisation that I was looking back in time somewhere in the region of 30 million years or more.

M57

From: 2005-07-16 23:55 UT
To: 2005-07-17 00:15 UT

Decided to have another look at at M57. Given that Lyra was better positioned than the last time I observed it I wanted to see what would be visible with the 6mm eyepiece (I'd tried using it during the last observing session but couldn't see much at all). Also, the sky seemed a lot darker and clearer that the last time (for example, I could now easily see the Milky Way with the naked eye, something I couldn't do the other night).

First located M57 with the 25mm eyepiece, centered it in the field of view and then immediately switched to the 6mm. Noticed right away that the "hole" was very visible, I could more or less detect it with direct vision. Also noticed something that I'd not noticed in the previous observing session: a faint star just to the side of the nebula. I also thought I could detect a faint variation in brightness in the ring but it was hard to pin down exactly where this was and what form it took (this was only really noticeable with averted vision).

Made a sketch:

Sketch of M57

As an experiment I've taken the above, converted it into a gray-scale image and then inverted the colours. This is the result:

Inverted sketch of M57

At 00:15 UT I finished the session.


2005-07-12


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-07-12 20:17 UT
To: 2005-07-12 23:23 UT
Equipment: Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Notes:

Reasonable evening's observing. Started out while the sky was still very light (not even sure that the Sun had set when I first set up) because I wanted to align and test the new Red-Dot Finder that I'd purchased from Scopes'n'skies.

Also wanted to try the chance to test out a set of Lunar Filters that I'd recently purchased.

Despite there being a fair bit of high-level "misty" cloud kicking about I stayed out for quite a while with a view to trying to see M57.

Align and test Red-Dot Finder

Time: 2005-07-12 20:17 UT

It took a while to get the finder properly aligned — I originally made the mistake of trying to use a reasonably distant object on the horizon but when I then tried to use the finder to line up on the Moon I just wasn't getting it. Finally gave up on that I used the Moon as the alignment target. That worked a treat.

After the alignment I slewed the 'scope away from the Moon and used the finder to get me back on it. The Moon was in the eyepiece (25mm) first time.

Very impressed with the finder, it's so much easier to use than the finder that came with the 130M.

The Moon and aborted filter test

From: 2005-07-12 20:27 UT
To: 2005-07-12 20:42 UT

Started to have a proper look at the Moon with the 25mm eyepiece. Noted that the image was quite unsteady even at this low magnification. This probably had as much to do with tube-currents as anything else given that the telescope was still very warm and I'd not been out that long.

Around 20:42 UT, just as I'd attached the ND25 filter to the 25mm eyepiece and reinserted the eyepiece into the telescope, I started to lose the Moon behind the house nextdoor so I had to give up on that test.

Jupiter, testing new finder and ND25 filter

From: 2005-07-12 20:50 UT
To: 2005-07-12 21:11 UT

Noticed that I could now see Jupiter with the naked eye so decided to use this as a second target for testing the new finder. Lined up with the finder and then looked through the 25mm eyepiece. Almost spot on first time! Took the opportunity to fine-tune the alignment against Jupiter.

Switched to the 6mm eyepiece but found it hard to get reasonable focus and the image was very unsteady (again, probably tube-currents combined with unsteady air in general and seeing not being terribly good).

Added the ND25 filter to the 6mm eyepiece and, surprisingly, found that it seemed easier to pick out a good point of focus.

At 21:11 UT Jupiter was obscured by a cloud.

Summer Triangle

Time: 2005-07-12 21:12 UT

Noticed that, while the sky was still quite light, and while there was some thin cloud above me, I could now clearly see the Summer Triangle.

Also noted that Arcturus was easily visible.

Jupiter

From: 2005-07-12 21:20 UT
To: 2005-07-12 21:22 UT

Jupiter became visible again. Went back to it with the 10mm and 2x barlow. This time the image was reasonable. The two main belts were obvious and I also noticed a moon very close to the planet.

At 21:22 UT I started to make a sketch of Jupiter and its moons but I lost it behind the house nextdoor so the sketch didn't get finished.

Testing effect of filters on a star

From: 2005-07-12 21:37 UT
To: 2005-07-12 21:50 UT (approximate)

Decided to test the effect of the ND25 and ND13 filters on a bright star. Selected Deneb as a suitable target.

Using the 10mm eyepiece on its own the star seems to be "too bright" to see well. There is an obvious four-pointed flare caused by the spider in the scope.

With the addition of the ND25 filter things get a lot better. While I can still see the flare caused by the spider it is nowhere near as obvious as it is without the filter.

With the ND13 there is no flare at all. It is, however, obvious that I'm not seeing a pin-point of light. I suspect that this comes down to a number of things: collimation (still need to get around to making a habit of doing this), possible lingering tube currents, a general unsteadiness of the atmosphere and the fact that there is still a hint of high-level haze around.

Based on that little test I get the impression that the ND25 and ND13 filters might come in handy when trying to split a reasonably close and reasonably bright binary.

Mizar in Ursa Major

From: 2005-07-12 22:00 UT
To: 2005-07-12 22:26 UT

Had another look at Mizar again. While doing so I noticed a 4th star very close that I'd not noticed last time. Checked with Starry Night it seems that it is TYC3850-257-1, a magnitude 7.56 star. I noted this down because it's interesting that I didn't seem to notice it last time

Did a rough sketch of what I saw:

Sketch of Mizar

Also note the faint star to the far right of the sketch. Not sure what that is; I need to check. It would estimate that it is somewhat fainter than TYC3850-257-1. Checking later with Starry Night it is TYC3853-654-1, a magnitude 9.56 star.

At 22:26 UT, just as I was finishing up the above and removing the 10mm eyepiece from the telescope, I managed to drop the eyepiece onto hard paving! Blast! As best as I could tell it didn't damage the eyepiece although it did leave a rather nasty looking scuff mark on the metal barrel.

Finding M57

From: 2005-07-12 22:31 UT
To: 2005-07-12 22:44 UT

Decided to go looking for M57 (the Ring Nebula) in Lyra. First lined up in the general area using the new Red-Dot finder then looked through the telescope itself with the 25mm eyepiece. Nothing immediately stood out. However, while initially looking, a satellite passed right through the field of view. I turned round to look with the naked eye but couldn't see it at all.

Back at the telescope, I moved the field of view around a little and almost immediately saw what I thought must be M57. My initial impression was that, in contrast to the stars in the field, there was a faint, ghostly gray "blob". Noted that I could only see it with averted vision. With the 25mm eyepiece there didn't appear to be any hint of it being an actual ring (this might not have been helped by the fact that the sky still wasn't fully dark and that there was still some high-level haze about).

Made a rough sketch of what I could see, marking some of the brighter stars I could see in the field. This was made a little difficult by the field being partially obscured from time to time by some of the cloud/mist:

Sketch of M57

M57 with 15mm eyepiece

From: 2005-07-12 22:52 UT
To: 2005-07-12 23:01 UT

Switched to the 15mm eyepiece. With averted vision a good hint of the ring structure could be seen. A couple of minutes into looking at it another satellite went through the field.

There's no obvious hint of any colour to the ring, although with the 15mm eyepiece (compared to the 25mm eyepiece) it did seem to be more of a faint "bluish gray" rather than just gray. Also noticed that the nebula seemed to be very elongated in one direction.

At around 23:01 UT I made the following sketch of what the nebula looked like with the 15mm eyepiece (note that, again, I simply marked some of the more obvious stars in the field for reference):

Sketch of M57

M57 with 10mm eyepiece

From: 2005-07-12 23:08 UT
To: 2005-07-12 23:23 UT

Switched to the 10mm eyepiece. The ring structure was now very obvious (again, with averted vision). It seemed much less "blueish". The center doesn't seem as dark as the background sky but it is obviously darker than the edge of the nebula.

Around 23:14 UT started the following rough sketch:

Sketch of M57

By 23:23 UT it was starting to get very misty so started to pack up for this session.


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