Category Archives: Nebulae

Observing 1st August: 8 inch Dob

The 8 inch got its first outing on 1st August, as it was clearer than forecast and I couldn’t be bothered to get the 18 inch out and assembled.

Apart from the substandard 1.25 inch focuser it’s a pretty good little scope. I used my 25mm and 15mm Plossls and my 9mm Nagler with it; I also tried the 22mm Panoptic, which wouldn’t quite come to focus because the travel of the draw tube isn’t enough, and the 12mm Nagler which seriously unbalanced the scope below a 45° angle. A friend of mine from VAS, Richard, has got a Crayford focuser which he will fit to the tube. The Crayford is a lot heavier than the 1.25 inch rack and pinion but we will do something about the balance, whether it’s moving the tube back on the rocker box or using counter weights.
I have already removed the finder, which was located in an awkward place below the focuser and added a Telrad base. The photo shows the base in position and tape put over the holes where I had taken off the finder bracket (to the lower right hand side of the focuser); as you can see, it was in a stupid and awkward place.

The stars are nice pin points, once the mirror has cooled, and there is no coma, as you’d expect in an f/6 mirror, totally unlike my 8 inch f/4.

I looked at NGC 6401, M107, NGC 6568, the Veil Nebula, N27 and M57 before it clouded over and thunderstorms moved in.

Back in the groove – observing on 18th and 19th February 2012



Jupiter (top left) and Venus, just after sunset. Canon EOS 7D with Canon EF-S 18-135mm IS lens

After a bit of a break (my last observing session had been on 27th November) I managed to get a bit of observing in, over the past two evenings (18th and 19th February). So far, 2012 has been very clear but what with work – my current temporary job means having to get up at 0615 – and temperatures often getting as low as -10°C/14°F, not conducive to wanting to get outside, I have been idle.

Rather than putting an observing session in each post, I’ll include the previous two in this one, starting with 18th February’s.

18th February 2012
Conditions: Chilly (2°C/35.6°F), slight breeze, no Moon, dew (torrential rain earlier in the afternoon had cleared away)
Transparency: III
Seeing: I-II
Equipment: 18″ f/4.3 Dob; 22mm Televue Panoptic (90x), 8mm Televue Radian (247x), UHC, OIII filters

NGC 1982 (=M43) – I started off with an easy object, some ‘low-hanging fruit’ to get back into the observing groove. NGC 1982, a.k.a. M43, is on the Herschel list. It’s something I’ve looked at hundreds of times before but it is easily overshadowed by its immediate neighbour, the spectacular M42 which lies to the south. M43 is part of the same nebulous complex as M42 but appears to be separated from it by a dark gulf. It is smaller and fainter than M42 but, if the big nebula wasn’t there M43 would be a showpiece in its own right.
Very bright and fits into the same field of view as M42 at 90x. It is bright, comma-shaped and has a greenish-grey colour. In the centre of the comma’s ‘body’ there is a bright star, with a couple of fainter stars in the rest of the nebula.
247x shows extensive nebulosity with a ‘lumpy’ effect with dark areas in among the bright nebulosity. 90x, 247x + UHC

N.B. M42 in the 18″ is nothing short of absolutely spectacular. This was the first time I’d managed to observe it properly this winter, apart from a quick look in November when it was low on the horizon, and without filtration the centre portion, around the Trapezium, is bright green with dark lanes criss-crossing it. Nebulosity extends everywhere and it completely fills the field of view at 90x. I will attempt a sketch of this before the winter is out.

NGC 1762, galaxy in Orion –  Easily found at 90x this is small, round and bright. There is a bright star superimposed on the foreground to the east. A fuzzy halo surrounds a bright stellar core. 90x, 247x

NGC 2023, nebula in Orion – Just S of NGC 2024, this is a bright reflection nebula around a star. 90x.

(Had a go at the IC434/B33 complex – the Horsehead Nebula – not seen as the transparency was not great).

NGC 1977, nebula in Orion –  This is a large, fairly bright reflection nebula surrounding three stars. It is elongated east to west. The view is enhanced with the UHC filter but not by the OIII. 90x.

NGC 1682, galaxy in Orion – Fairly small, round and fairly bright. A diffuse halo surrounds a brighter core. 247x

NGC 1684, galaxy in Orion – Elongated 2:1 NNE-SSW, this is larger and brighter than 1682. It has a fuzzy halo surrounding a bright core. 90x, 247x.

Packed up at 2130. The good thing about this time of year is that you can have a reasonable session and still get indoors in time to watch Casualty and the Football League Show!

The following night, Sunday 19th, was even clearer, but cold, so I put the light screen up (I hadn’t bothered the previous evening) and wheeled the 18″ out for a short session. I had planned to observe H2500 objects in Monoceros but ended up losing my way a little and hopping around nearby constellations. I also spent some considerable time cruising the winter Milky Way and looking at IC434/B33

19th February 2012
Conditions:  Cold (-4°C/24.8°F), no breeze, no Moon. Dry, with slight frost.
Transparency: II
Seeing: II-III
NELM: 6.1
Equipment: 18″ f/4.3 Dob, 2mm Televue Panoptic (90x), 15mm Televue Plossl (132x), 8mm Televue Radian (247x), UHC, OIII and Hß filters.

I began with another piece of low-hanging fruit, the easy to find and bright NGC 2261, Hubble’s Variable Nebula.

NGC 2261 (=Hubble’s Variable Nebula), nebula in Monoceros – Very easy to find, this is bright and fan-shaped, with the variable star R Monocerotis – which is the star associated with the nebula and gives it its variability – at its apex (on the southern end). The nebula is very bright, especially around and to the north of R Mon but fades out at the broadest part. A UHC filter makes no difference at all while OIII, as expected (NGC 2261 is a reflection nebula) kills the view. 90x, 132x + UHC, OIII filters.

NGC 2402, galaxy in Canis Minor – Located at the southern end of a chain of 4 stars, this is small, round and fairly bright. It has a diffuse halo surrounding a bright, stellar core. 90x, 132x, 247x.

NGC 2508, galaxy in Canis Minor – This lies to the east of two stars and is small, round and fairly bright. A diffuse halo brightens to the core and a stellar nucleus. 90x, 132x, 247x

NGC 2513, galaxy in Cancer – Easy to find, just north of NGC 2508. A round, bright, diffuse hal0 surrounds a bright core and stellar nucleus. 90x, 247x.

As the transparency was much improved over the previous evening, I had another go at looking at IC434/B33, the Horsehead nebula area. I did see it this time, although it was very faint, even with the Hß filter. This was only my second view of it, the first having been with Owen Brazell’s 20″ Dob at the Isle of Wight Star Party in 2010.

I packed up after a fairly short session.

Thursday evening at the local astro society

The weather recently has been clear, but murky, and last night was no exception. I went to our local society’s observatory last night (every Thursday is the open evening and we usually get a mix of members and sometimes interested members of the public) and we took out some scopes, including a 10″ Orion Intelliscope.
Unfortunately the mist and murk were worse than the previous night and we only were able to look at the brightest Messiers. Galaxies, as expected, were worst hit and even normally good Messier galaxies were almost obliterated. We did look at M105, NGC 3384, M65 and M66 (NGC 3628, one of the Leo Triplet with M65 and 66, was utterly wiped out by the murk), M81, M82, open clusters M93 and M46 (not a bad view despite their low altitude in Puppis and the misty conditions), perennial faves M42 and M43, plus the attractive blue and yellow double star Iota Cancri and, later when it rose, Saturn, whose rings have opened up since I last saw it.

I have never used an Intelliscope before. The concept is similar to the Argo Navis system, a digital setting circle. You enter your wanted Messier or NGC number, the display shows some numbers, which are how far you need to push the scope in altitude and azimuth to get to where you are going, along with arrows showing which direction you need to push the scope. The numbers get lower the nearer you are and when you arrive at the location the display will read 0<>0 0<>0. The society’s Intelliscope was a little off, with the objects being just out of the field of view, but not by much. It’s a neat system and I’d like a similar thing for my scope, maybe an Argo Navis, one day.

Despite the crap conditions it was a nice evening and we also spent the time putting the world to rights as well as observing. It was disappointing though, that only a handful of us were outside, with most people choosing to sit inside the building and chat. It’s an astronomy society, so it would be nice if everyone was outside but that seems to be the difference betwen UK and US amateurs. Over there, it seems to be a more vibrant and active scene.

Clocks go forward on Sunday morning. Yuck.

Observing 7th March 2011

Finally! After five months of endless cloud and the odd clear spell being around a gibbous or full Moon, I have actually managed to do some observing! It’s been a totally cloudless day, a rarity in itself over this winter (which has been the cloudiest winter for 50 years, as well as one of the coldest), and the clouds stayed away as it got dark so I opened the shed and pulled out the scope. Everything seemed fine, the collimation was not too far out and the shed and silica gel had done their job of keeping the scope protected during some fierce winter storms and snow and the mirrors mould-free.

Date: 7th March 2011
Conditions: Chilly, cloudless, slight breeze with one or two stronger gusts that banged shed doors, no dew, no frost. That horrible light mentioned in my previous post has now gone!
Seeing: I
Transparency: II-III
NELM: 5.8-6.0
Equipment: 12″ dob with 22mm Televue Panoptic (69x), 15mm Televue Plossl (101x), UHC, OIII filters.

I decided to knock off the remaining Herschel 400s I had left to do in Orion, left over from last year. The one failure was NGC 1788, no matter how much I searched, I couldn’t find this little bugger. I think it had got too low.

NGC 2169, open cluster in Orion – This is an interesting cluster which looks like the number 37, upside down. The ‘7’ is the westernmost part of the cluster. It has three bright stars and four fainter ones which make up the number 7.
The ‘3’ is slightly larger and brighter than the ‘7’, it also has three bright stars plus one slightly fainter one and six much fainter ones. There is a clear gap between the two components with no stars between them.. Very attractive. 69x, 101x

The sketch of 2169, below is not recent. It’s a sketch I did some years ago but I thought I’d add it in to give an idea of what it looks like.

NGC 2194, open cluster in Orion – Easy to find. Quite faint but rich. There are a few quite faint, but distinct, stars in front of many, many fainter ones. Partly resolved. Detached – stands out well despite faintness. 69x, 101x

NGC 2186, open cluster in Orion – Awkward to find, especially as it’s not shown on my Sky Atlas 2000.0 so I had to come back to the house and print off a MegaStar chart with telrad circles on it. Not easy with one eye tightly shut to preserve its night vision! Located within a triangle of bright stars, which points east. Faint. Poor. Not concentrated. 69x.

Hunted for NGC 1788. Got annoyed with it and gave up as I just could *not* locate the thing, so I moved on.

NGC 1999, reflection nebula in Orion – This was easy to find, as it is located just south of the Orion’s Sword complex. Small, round and bright. Fuzzy with brighter middle. UHC does not improve the view much if any while OIII is totally useless. 69x, 101x, UHC, OIII.

It was a short session, slightly under a couple of hours. I’d inevitably forgotten a few items, such as printing off MegaStar charts and other bits I had to return to the house for, but it was a good session and I’m pleased. It’s nice to be back, although I’d not been idle because I’d done a lot of birding (my other interest) over the winter. The Moon’s on the rise again so, after this coming weekend, it might be a while before my next session. And I managed to avoid trampling the daffodils too badly in my observing patch, there were casualties but only one or two.

This is the sort of weather we’ve had over the winter (observing shed is the grey one in the background). Cloud, cold and more snow than usual.

I never did get to the Isle of Wight Star Party this year. I intended to, but caught a bad cold so, deciding that I would not be thanked for sharing (as well as not feeling like standing around in the dark with it) I didn’t go.

Observing 10th October 2010

After seemingly endless clouds, gales, rain and murk for the past few weeks, the sky finally cleared and I was able to get out and knock off some Herschels last night, 10th October.
I decided to stay entirely within the borders of Cassiopeia and the list was mostly open clusters, apart from one galaxy. I’d already done some of the H400 objects within the constellation but still had a lot more to do. I also looked at non-NGC clusters that were nearby.

Date: 10th October 2010
Conditions: Cloudless, cool (10C), no dew, a little mist
Seeing: I, excellent
Transparency: II-III
NELM: 6.2

Equipment: 12″ f/5 Dob, 22mm Televue Panoptic (69x), 15mm Televue Plossl (101x), UHC filter

NGC 129, open cluster in Cassiopeia – Large and fairly rich. Triangular with dark area cutting through it. 69x

NGC 136, open cluster in Cassiopeia – A bit of a bugger to locate as it’s faint. Round, nebulous background with a scattering of faint stars on top. Pretty boring. 69x

NGC 225, open cluster in Cassiopeia – A complete contrast to the previous cluster. Bright, large, irregular, loose cluster. 21 bright stars plus some fainter ones among the bright ones. 69x

NGC 381, open cluster in Cassiopeia – Faint, rich and round. Detached. A chain of stars goes north from the main body of the cluster. Nice. 69x

NGC 436, open cluster in Cassiopeia – In same field of view at 69x as NGC 457 (also on the H400 list, but I’d observed this at an earlier date) and they both make a lovely sight. 436 is a small knot of stars and is irregularly shaped. Fairly rich with half a dozen or so brighter stars and many more fainter ones resolved. 69x, 101x

NGC 559, open cluster in Cassiopeia – Quite rich but relatively faint. Compressed. Some brighter stars (around mag 12) superimposed on a hazy background. Nice. 69x

NGC 637, open cluster in Cassiopeia – Compact and fairly bright o.c. There are seven brighter stars, plus more in the background. Crescent shaped. There’s a double star just to the east. 69x, 101x

NGC 185, galaxy in Cassiopeia – Elongated glow, NE-SW with some concentration towards the centre. Core’s not stellar, more diffuse. Quite large. 69x, 101x

NGC 7789, open cluster in Cassiopeia – This one’s an absolute beauty. It’s very large and extremely rich in fairly faint stars. There are no bright stars anywhere in this cluster but it’s now definitely one of my favourites. The cluster is round, and the stars are all of the same, or similar, magnitudes and there’s a hazy background hinting at even more stars – there must be hundreds.
There are also dark areas, semi circular patterns and this makes the cluster look like a rose seen face on. 69x, 101x.

NGC 7790, open cluster in Cassiopeia – Small, compressed, quite faint, irregular open cluster. Extends east-west. 69x, 101x

NGC 7788, open cluster in Cassiopeia – Just north of 7790, this is a larger, looser, brighter, sparser cluster than 7790 is. Irregular. 69x, 101x

Frolov 1, open cluster in Cassiopeia – Not much to write home about! Very small and sparse. The stars are faint and scattered. 101x

Harvard 21, open cluster in Cassiopeia – A scattered faint group of 8 stars. Irregular. 69x, 101x

King 12, open cluster in Cassiopeia – A small, bright knot NW of H21. Two bright stars and a lot of fainter ones. Compressed, not rich. 69x, 101x

NGC 654, open cluster in Cassiopeia – Nice o.c. Not round but irregular. Compressed. Quite bright. Nice. 69x, 101x

NGC 1027, open cluster in Cassiopeia – Large, irregular, bright o.c. Rich. Identified by 7th magnitude star near the centre. Other stars and 5th and 6th magnitude plus many fainter ones. 69x

Melotte 15, o.c. with nebulosity in Cassiopeia – Large, irregular sparse cluster. The nebulosity is only visible with the UHC filter. 69x, UHC filter.

I packed up at 2215, after an excellent session.

Observing 1st September 2010

The long-term forecast is not looking too clever for the autumn (if it was the Mess Met Office I would not believe it, but it’s The Weather Outlook, who got this year’s dismal summer spot on) so I’m going to fit in as much observing as I can until the weather breaks up.
I am also doing the Herschel II at the same time as the H400 and, looking at the list of them, I have already seen quite a few. Inevitable really, as I’ve been doing deep sky observing since 1993. However, my observing sessions always previously took the form of ambling round whichever constellation caught my eye at the time and I never really did a structured observing program in the past, so my observations are scattered around various note books and sketch pads, so I need to hunt them out and see what I have and haven’t seen. Still, re-observing things is not going to be a chore – although quite a few Herschel II objects not being plotted on Sky Atlas 2000.0 is a nuisance.

Date: 1st September 2010
Conditions: Slightly chilly, no wind. Quite a lot of dew.
Transparency: III but better at zenith (II). Mostly clear except from some high cloud. Jupiter bloated with halo, however, the sky was good at zenith.
Seeing: I, very steady
NELM: 6.1 (a little skyglow reflecting from high clouds)
Instrument: 12″ f/5 dobsonian with 22mm Televue Panoptic (69x), 15mm Televue Plossl (101x), 11mm Televue Plossl (138x), 8mm Televue Radian (190x), UHC and OIII filters.

NGC 6800, open cluster in Vulpecula – Large, loose irregular group of stars forming a distorted loop. Moderately faint. 15 brighter stars plus a load of fainter stars. Not rich. 69x.

NGC 6723, open cluster in Vulpecula – Not plotted on my Pocket Sky Atlas or Sky Atlas 2000.0, so I used the Night Sky Observers’ Guide Vol 2 to find its position and plotted it myself on both atlases. I really need to start using my Uranometrias more – in fact I am planning to buy the second edition for use while observing and keeping the old ones on the book shelves.
It’s easy to find 6723 once you know where it is. It’s in a rich field, more or less halfway between α Vulpeculae and Cr 399. Faint and small. Not rich. Triangle of stars (10th/11th magnitude) at the centre help identify the cluster. 69x, 101x

At this point a neighbour across the way put his garden light on, so his dog could see while it was going about its ‘evening constitutional’. I’d not seen this light before, or not noticed it (the reason being, our garden’s very large and what happens the other end of it is not always noticed from the house or patio; the patio was my previous observing place), but it was badly aligned and blitzed my observing area. I think I’ll be asking him if he can adjust it in future, if it’s trespassing then it’s aligned incorrectly.. After 15 minutes, I was wondering just how long it takes for a dog to have a pee (our dogs are in and out in two minutes!) when the light, thankfully, went off. These are the same neighbours who don’t have curtains on their upstairs windows, no doubt believing themselves unseen (uh uh, no you’re not!). If ever I win the lottery, I’m moving somewhere where I don’t have neighbours! Why are the general public so obsessed with lighting everywhere up?

Ok, now the irritating light’s been turned off, back to the observing and it’s time for some faint nebulae.

Sh 2-101, nebula in Cygnus – near a double star, this is an area of faint nebulosity. I can’t see it very well without a filter, but the UHC brings it out nicely. It’s a large irregular patch with dark lanes in it. 69x, UHC

NGC 6888, emission nebula in Cygnus – Located among a conspicuous group of five stars, this can be seen without a filter, but only just. A UHC filter brings out the crescent shape nicely but an OIII isn’t much of an improvement. With each filter there are hints of more extensive nebulosity to the north east of the crescent. the SW portion of the nebula is the brightest and the SE portion of the crescent is a bit fainter. 69x, UHC, OIII

Minkowski 92 (M1-92), (planetary?) nebula in Cygnus – This looks like a faint double star at low power but is obviously non-stellar at higher power. One ‘star’ is larger and brighter than the other and they are very close together. 69x, 101x, 138x, 190x.

I packed up at midnight, as the high clouds were moving in and it was getting mistier.

Observing 30th August 2010

Only a short session this one, due in part to a bad shoulder. Again, because of the Moon, I stuck to open clusters and went to do an H400 clean up run round Vulpecula.

Conditions: Clear, chilly, waning gibbous moon (around 65% full)
Seeing: Excellent, A1
Transparency: II-III

NELM: Not checked.
Instrument: 12″ f/5 Dobsonian, 35mm Televue Panoptic (43x), 22mm Televue Panoptic (69x), 15mm Televue Plossl (101x), UHC filter.

NGC 6882 and 6885, open clusters in Vulpecula – Two for the price of one, in same field of view. Large, irregular pattern of stars with a conspicuous bright white one (20 Vulpeculae) off towards the edge. This is supposed to be two clusters but it’s not easy to distinguish one from another. 69x, 101x

NGC 6830, open cluster in Vulpecula – Easy to find as it’s fairly near M27. Irregular, compressed group of 20+ stars with many more, fainter, ones in the background. 69x, 101x

NGC 6823, open cluster with nebulosity in Vulpecula – Small, compressed cluster with three stars in a tight diagonal line in centre. Many more fainter stars in cluster. fairly rich.
No nebulosity seen without a filter, but with the UHC filter I can just see some faint nebulosity. One for when the moon’s gone. 69x, 101x, UHC filter.

NGC 6802, open cluster in Vulpecula – Easy to find, located immediately next to Cr399. Quite large, fairly rich but needs moderate power to resolve. Looks misty at 69x, but stars begin to appear at 101x. Irregular, elongated north-south. Faint. 69x, 101x.

That finishes off the H400s in Vulpecula – I’d already seen NGC 6940 a while back. It also takes me past the magical 100-object mark, meaning I am just over a quarter of the way through the H400, as I am on 103 objects as I found out last night after a quick count of the ticks on my list.

Harvard 20, open cluster in Sagitta – A scattered group of 20 to 30 stars just SW of M71. Not much to write home about. 43x.

Packed up at 2330 BST as the moon was rising higher and its light was being scattered around the sky more than the previous evening, despite the phase being less.

Perseids, 12th-13th August

After practically hopping with frustration during the earlier part of the evening, I was pleased to see the skies finally (partially) clear around midnight, so I pulled out the sun lounger, got a blanket to keep my legs warm (my knees don’t like being still and in the cold for very long) and my little dog (who went to sleep under the blanket and acted as a living hot water bottle!) and watched the show.
There wasn’t as much activity as I thought there would be but what there was was quite spectacular as a lot of the meteors were fast moving and left trails behind them. A lot of the trails were green, although there were a couple of yellow/orange ones as well. The meteors were, for the most part, bright although there were a few quite faint ones as well.
As well as watching the show, I also had a look round Cygnus, Cassiopeia and Cepheus with my 8.42 binoculars. NGC 7000, the North America Nebula, was bright and the nebulosity extensive. The fainter Pelican Nebula, IC 5067/5070, lies just to the south of 7000 and is, just, visible through the binoculars without the UHC filter. With the 2″ UHC filter it is much easier to see.
I also found the planet Uranus, which is close to Jupiter. It looked like a small blueish-white star.

We have had a few decent observing nights recently, despite the continuing unsettled weather. The long hot days of late June have long since gone, to be replaced by cool temperatures, showers, more prolonged spells of rain and some fairly strong winds, but, so far, out of 12 nights this month we’ve had three completely clear nights and five partly clear, observationally-usable nights and early mornings so it’s not all bad, although I am also a fan of hot sunshine, something we’re not getting (I know, it’s hard to please some people! 😉 ). I have a feeling that, now it’s mid August, we’ve probably seen the last of any decent hot summer sunshine.
The reason for yet another rubbish summer, for the fourth year in a row is, yet again, the jet stream is too far south. Because of this, Russia and most of Europe are incredibly hot (although I don’t envy the Russians their severe fires, the downside of prolonged hot weather) yet Britain is damp and horrible – again. Sometimes, I get the impression that the British climate is doing this to amateur astronomers and holidaymakers:

Actually, I think I’ll blame the water company who imposed a hose pipe ban in part of England back in July. It’s in the north west of England, so hundreds of miles from here, but as soon as the utility company in question imposed the ban, the weather over the entire country turned bad.


And finally

RIP Markus Liebherr and thank you for saving Southampton FC

Observing 7th-8th August 2010

The night of Saturday 7th August into Sunday was clear, although not as good as the previous Wednesday, so I pulled the scope out for a session looking for some summer Herschel 400 objects.

Clear, fairly warm, around 15C
NELM 6.0
Fairly humid with quite a lot of dew
Seeing II

Transparency II
Equipment: 12″ f5 Dob, 35mm Televue Panoptic (43x), 22mm Televue Panoptic (69x), 15mm Televue Plossl (101x), 11mm Televue Plossl (138x), OIII, UHC

NGC 6834, open cluster in Cygnus – irregular, attractive cluster made up of a line of 5 brighter stars crossing an elongated haze. At 138x, most of the haze resolves into faint stars.
There’s a separate clump to the immediate south of the main cluster, a knot of 10, or so, stars and another to the north, which has six stars.

NGC 6866, open cluster in Cygnus – Large, irregular cluster. Two chains of stars extend out from centre, one to the west and the other to the right. the western one is short and contains 7 brighter stars plus fainter ones. The eastern chain is longer and contains > 15 stars in a looping pattern.
There is a wide pair to the south.

Went after NGC 7044, but this was in the ‘dob hole’ and awkward to get at. One for another night, further into autumn when Cygnus is more to the west and that part’s easier to get at.

NGC 7027, planetary nebula in Cygnus – not on the H400 list but I was in the area. I am not sure why I found this easily and not 7044, but then a PNe’s easier to recognise than one of the myriad of open clusters and knots in the Milky Way in the Cygnus area.
7027 could easily be overlooked as just another star, as it is star like. However it isn’t stellar as at 69x it looks slightly fuzzy and an OIII filter makes it really jump out as a PNe.
At 138x its oval with no obvious darkening in the centre.

NGC 7296, open cluster in Lacerta – quite small, but conspicuous cluster near Beta Lacertae. Some stars resolved at 69, more resolved at 101x.

NGC 7243, open cluster in Lacerta – large, irregular cluster which fills the field of view of the 22mm Panoptic (69x). There are at least 23 brighter stars and many more fainter ones. Nice.

NGC 7209, open cluster in Lacerta – large and quite bright. Around 40 to 50 stars resolved. A very vague, rounded ‘m’ shape.

I finished up with a trip into the North America and Pelican nebulae, using my 35mm Panoptic and 2″ UHC filter. This was lovely, with wisps and and tendrils of subtle nebulosity everywhere. Here and there, hard edges were defined. Very nice indeed.

The next morning I found that, as the air heated up in the morning sunshine (Sunday was a hot day) my mirror had condensation on it. This is not good as repeated dewings up will cause the coating to deteriorate and fail and I don’t want to have to pay out for a recoating before I get my 20″. I opened up the scope and left it to dry out in the shed, with the shed doors open.
I posted on Cloudy Nights, asking how I can prevent this and most responses involved rigging up some kind of heating system. I am going to have to pay out for a car battery, an inverter and a lamp in the first instance and then, when I can afford it, a solar panel, at least 70w. However, a cheaper solution might be a large power pack with built-in inverter. That should run a low-watt lamp for a few hours to keep the mirror dry while the outside temps rise, although I am not sure exactly how long the charge would last, although some of these machines are pretty heavy-duty things. In the meantime, I have packed a couple of socks with silica gel and hung them inside the tube near, but not on, the mirror, then sealed the scope at both ends. I also went to Sainsbury’s and bought a bag of silica gel (not clay) cat litter which I’ll decant into socks and then hang inside the scope, tomorrow. Considering that quite a few of my socks have conspired to vanish, leaving only odd ones, they can do something useful! I blame the black hole that must be lurking somewere in the washing machine. The silica gel cat litter idea was also suggested on CN, stuffed socks and beanbags are the preferred method of holding them although, apparently someone once used a stuffed animal. WTF??!!

Observing 4th August 2010

A day of intermittent heavy rain and thunder gave way to clear skies during the evening, for once exactly as the forecast had predicted. The BBC and Metcheck’s forecasts both agreed, which seems to be a rare event in itself, so as it got dark I went and unlocked the observatory (I like the sound of that!) and pulled the scope out.
Earlier in the evening I had been in a pretty awful mood, no reason just a bad day, and felt more like saying ‘sod it’ and going to bed but I am very glad I didn’t as the sky turned out to be magnificent.
All too often when you step outside and look up, what looks promising at first often proves to be pretty average, even poor, but not last night. After getting dark adapted, I checked the naked eye limiting magnitude, using charts of Ursa Minor and Cygnus, and it was better than 6.5! We have pretty dark skies here, but better than 6.5 is fairly rare. Usually we get between 6.0 and 6.5 but last night was as good as 6.7! I would guess that the heavy rain and thunder had cleared the atmosphere of pollutants and dust. During my trips to the TSP, I’ve seen people using ‘iridescence’ in the Milky Way to gauge transparency – the more iridescent the MW, the more transparent the sky. The Milky Way was just like that here last night, iridescent, which we rarely see because of summer haze. Visible to the unaided eye were M13, M31 (later on when clear of the trees) and NGC 7000, the North America Nebula These were truly great summer observing conditions and well worth the long wait for.

Conditions: Clear, quite chilly
Seeing: Very good: Ant II

Transparency: Excellent – I, but a few odd bits of drifting cloud later on
NELM: 6.5-6.7, dropping slightly when the waning crescent Moon rose later on

First was Aquila and a hunt for the few Herschel 400 objects (three) that are here:

NGC 6781, planetary Nebula in Aquila – Set in nice starry field this is large and oval and quite bright. It’s easily seen without a filter but my OIII brings it out nicely. With the OIII, the pn looks slightly rounder with some darkening in the centre, without the filter I can’t see the darkening very well. Very nice object. 69x, 101x + OIII

NGC 6755, open cluster in Aquila – An attractive, small, compressed cluster set in a nice Milky Way field. Stars all white and evenly bright. Found at 69x as a misty knot, detached from MW star field.
101x shows a tiny, vaguely triangular clump of stars, with around a dozen or so on a hazy background and with a fainter patch next to it but at 138x, the cluster looks like a butterfly with the left wing richer than the right one. Very pretty! 69x, 101x, 138x

NGC 6756, open cluster in Aquila – Next to NGC 6755 in the field of view of the 22mm Panoptic (69x). It’s half a dozen stars on a misty background. Not as rich or as compressed as its neighbour. Framed by a bight star at either end. 69x, 101x, 138x

I saw on my star charts that the globular cluster Palomar 11, also in Aquila, was nearby, and given the excellent conditions I decided to have a crack at seeing it. After quite a few false starts I eventually found it. It’s in quite a rich area and nailing it down was a bit hard. It appears as a roundish brightening of the sky. Its low surface brightness and location in quite a rich part of the sky made finding it difficult but I caught it eventually. The observation of the night, I think. 69x, 101x, 138x, 190x

I also decided to see if I could see ICs 59 and 63 in Cassiopeia. Given the great night it would have been a shame not to go for the faint stuff.

IC 59, IC 63, diffuse nebulae in Cassiopeia – These faint little buggers are right next to Gamma Cas, so it’s necessary to put that out of the field of view before attempting to look for them. IC 59 is a faint fan-shaped patch while IC 63 is fainter still – in fact I barely saw 63, just a mere brightening in the area. 69x + UHC filter.

M31, galaxy in Andromeda – this lovely piece of eye candy is one of my favourites to look at and I always drop in to say ‘hi’ when I am observing and M31 is high enough. Last night’s conditions gave me the best telescopic view I have ever had of this galaxy. Under average skies usually only the bright central area is visible but last night, I could see (using my big 35mm Panoptic, at 43x) the galactic disk spreading out across and beyond the field of view, and the dust lanes. It was spectacular, to say the least.

NGC 6229, globular cluster in Hercules – Very bright and easy to find (made a nice change from Pal 11 and the faint nebulae in Cassiopeia!). Small and round with a dense core at 69x.
At 138x, it began to look granular with some stars resolved, especially the outer ones.
At 190x, individual stars can be seen and the halo and core are very bright, still looked granular across the face. 69x, 138x, 190x.

NGC 6207, galaxy in Hercules – bright and easily seen at 69x. It is completely overshadowed by its big and bright famous neighbour, M13. Oval, with a brighter core. Elongated northeast-southwest. 69x, 101x
I also popped over to see the big showy eye candy neighbour, which was absolutely superb as usual and in the same field they make a nice pair, with the galaxy being a hidden treasure.

Before packing in, I dropped in on Jupiter, which was shining like a big searchlight in the eastern sky, as the seeing was so good, and it looked decidedly odd without the South Equatorial Belt, which has totally faded away.

By 0200, the waning crescent Moon was substantially interfering with the sky conditions and there was more drifting cloud around so that, along with the fact my feet were by now very cold (I was wearing thin trainers) made packing up a Very Good Idea. So did the prospect of work in a few hours. So within five minutes, I’d pulled the scope back into the shed, chucked my charts back in their box, gathered up my eyepieces, locked up and headed back to the house.
As mentioned in my previous post, I’d found that the addition of wheels made my scope eyepiece higher off the ground. I knew it would be higher but not *how* higher. Consequently, viewing stuff at the zenith required standing on tiptoes. This was awkward and uncomfortable, as it hurt my calf muscles and toes, so some sort of small stool was a must. I found a little plastic step stool in Tesco this afternoon, for £2.50, which will fit the bill nicely.