And the award for…

… ‘Fewest Objects Observed in One Session’ goes to me for last night’s pathetic effort. The forecast wasn’t promising although it was predicted to cloud over around midnight, which would have left me with best part of three hours observing time. Unfortunately things didn’t work out as intended. Firstly, for some reason, my collimation was way out, probably as a result of wheeling the scope across a rough part of the lawn, so it took me a few minutes to sort that out and secondly, I wasted ages – again – looking for the planetary nebula NGC 6772 in Aquila which, for some reason, I failed to find.
By the time I’d given up on NGC 6772, clouds were moving in, earlier than the forecasters predicted so there was nothing for it other than to wheel the scope back in and shut up shop. The upshot of all this was that I observed precisely zero objects in one hour, with the sole exception of a glance at Jupiter while aligning my finders. And a creepy-crawly fell on me! I hate creepy-crawlies, especially spiders, of which there are a lot around this autumn. All, with the backdrop of sounds coming down the valley from the 2010 Bestival. A cry of “Rock and f*cking roll!!” was heard at one point! At least, I think that’s what he said!

So, why have I failed, on two seperate occasions, to find NGC 6772? It’s in the Herschel II list so it’s not terribly easy but it shouldn’t be that hard either and, as someone who has plenty of experience, I would *expect* to be able to find it! NGC 6772 is not marked on Sky Atlas 2000.0 so I printed off a chart from Megastar 5, complete with Telrad circles, and used that. Despite this, I came up empty-handed. The Night Sky Observer’s Guide Vol II has descriptions of this from 8/10″ scopes so why was I failing to find the little bugger with a 12″ with decent, clean optics under dark skies?
I think the problem is that Aquila is getting low and its altitude isn’t favourable by the time its dark enough for observing at this time of the year and, as 6772 has quite a low surface brightness any little bit of murk would wipe it out and the past two observing sessions haven’t been the most transparent. I will have to wait until next year when Aquila is higher during darkness, or catch it during the early hours in spring.


My mum and stepfather moved house from Wootton to Niton last week, so my aunt and me went over to help mum with the last of the packing and the cleaning (steppy had already cleared off!) and it was the end of an era in some ways. We – myself, mum, my sister and stepfather – moved in during November 1984 (I was 14 at the time) and, in the early 1990s, the garden was my first ever observing site where I’d set up my tiny birding scope, my 10×50 binoculars sellotaped(!) to a tripod and, then, my first proper astronomical telescope which was a 6 inch reflector made from a gas pipe, some plywood and a mirror set purchased from David Hinds.
I took my compact camera with me and grabbed a few shots in between packing up and washing floors and walls.

My first ever observing site, looking east. My scope would go where the veg patch is (it was all lawn then)
Looking south (the trees have grown a lot since then)
Many a happy hour was spent in here (the conservatory) planning observing sessions and reading Sky and Telescope, Webb Society journals and astronomy books!

When we drove off, following the removal truck to their new place in Niton, I had mixed feelings. While my teenage years living there weren’t the best (an understatement as they absolutely sucked!), it was my first observing site and brought back memories of the excitement of my early years in astronomy. I also lived back there for a few months immediately prior to my 1997 observing trip to Australia and clearly remember the exciting times then when planning that trip. I love the memories of those times and it was nice to revisit them, albeit briefly.