First light in the observatory

The new observatory has now been used for the first time. We’re on a run of crap weather, very unsettled with showers, high winds, the odd sunny spell and almost totally cloudy nights, so observing opportunities this summer have been non-existent (typically, the best weather this summer was at the end of June when the summer twilight made serious deep sky observing impossible or, at least, very difficult). However, last night was an exception, although it wasn’t very clear and there was quite a lot of cloud about.
I’d already carried the scope up the garden and installed it in its new home so it was just a case of wheeling it out and then back in at the end of the sessions – it makes life so much easier and I very much doubt if I’d have even bothered last night if I’d have had to carry the scope from the house and set up.

Here’s the inside of the observatory shed, with the 12″ under tarpaulins (these will give it that little bit of extra protection *just in case*), folding chair, box containing star charts, atlases, gloves, hat, torches and sketchbooks, my dog’s basket for her to curl up in as she always comes with me when I observe and some pictures on the wall. I also have a couple of shelves for bits and pieces. However, anything of real value, apart from my cheap reflector which isn’t worth nicking, such as binoculars and eyepieces, are staying inside the house and any potential thief wanting to lug a large and very heavy scope down the garden, past some stranger-loathing dogs and out the gate is an idiot and deserves to be arrested on grounds of stupidity. The photo’s a bit distorted, that’s thanks to the 17mm end of my wideangle lens and not because of my construction abilities!

The day before yesterday, I fixed the casters to the blocks that I was going to use to attach the wheels to the base. I bolted the wheels to the blocks using bolts, unfortunately two of the bolts sheered off rendering them useless but the rest went on ok. I just hope they can stand up to being wheeled over rough ground every clear night, as the top lawn isn’t the smoothest, what with the mole hills and vole holes, etc.
I then fixed the blocks and wheels to the base using ‘No More Nails‘, which is a type of glue which is supposed to be strong – it’s the sort of thing you see the ads for where someone’s used this stuff to put shelves up and the ad shows a man sitting on the shelves to ‘prove’ that it’s strong and won’t come unbonded (in reality, it ain’t *that* good; if it was, the soap dish would stay fixed to the bathroom tiles). I let it set overnight, for the recommended 24 hours. However, as soon as I put the rocker box on top, the wheels promptly fell off it- just like they’d fallen off my clever idea – although, fortunately the scope itself was still sitting in my room and therefore didn’t come to grief. So it was time for a rethink, which didn’t take long as it was a case of having to screw the wheels to the base. We have electric drills but I couldn’t find the drill bits, so I went across the way and borrowed our neighbour and his battery-operated drill and, between us, we got the wheels (hopefully) securely fixed to the base. Quite why I thought ‘No More Nails‘ or any sort of glue was a good idea, especially in light of our laws-of-gravity-proving soap dish, I have no idea! I think I was trying to do it the easy way, or so I thought.

Back to the quick observing session, I wheeled the scope out, collimated it and got going. The beauty of the scope being out in a shed is that cool-down times are very short and, except on hot days/nights, practically non-existent. Because of the lousy conditions I didn’t do a lot, just poked around, looking at NGC 5653 in Bootes, M14 in Ophiuchus and NGC 7006 in Delphinus. I did find, however, that the addition of the wheels and blocks raised the height of the scope by several inches and that I, and I’m not short, have to stand on tiptoe to see anything at the zenith, which is not very comfortable for extended periods of time, making prolonged observations difficult. I need to get a short stepstool for that.
I also didn’t have an observing table for my charts, etc, so I had to use the floor and, with my dodgy knee that wasn’t comfortable. I have ordered a 4ft folding table from Amazon and that should turn up tomorrow. When I observed from the patio I used to use the kitchen extension as an observatory and the top of the small chest freezer as a chart table. That is no longer practical as I am so far from the house, so the folding table should do nicely.

Conditions: Cool, no dew.
Seeing: Very good, Ant II Transparency: poor, with high clouds
NELM: 6.0, falling to 5.8 when the last quarter Moon rose, washing out the sky.
Instrument: 12″ f/5 Dob, 22mm Panoptic and 15mm Plossl

NGC 5653, galaxy in Bootes – a poor view, due to lousy sky conditions. I could just make out a roundish smudge, not a lot brighter than the background sky. Haze was interfering with this quite badly, as was the low altitude of Bootes. 69x, 101x.

M14 (NGC 6402), globular cluster in Ophiuchus – very large and bright. Round. Some condensation towards the centre. Looks smooth when looked at with direct vision, but granular, with a few stars resolved, with averted vision. The scope was effectively reduced to 6″ by the hedge – I’d not set it up in my intended place. 69x, 101x

NGC 7006, globular cluster in Delphinus – small and bright. Round with bright core. 69x, 101x. I want to observe this, likewise NGC 5653 in Bootes, in more favourable conditions.

By this time, the clouds were worse and the rising last quarter Moon was interfering with observations, so I rolled the scope back in, put my charts away and locked it. It took me a fraction of the time it used to take to both set up and put away, before it would take me a good 20 minutes, maybe more to tear down and carry everything, including the scope, inside, now I’m indoors and heading for bed within 5 minutes! This will lead to many more observing sessions and, as I said at the beginning of this post, observing under less-than-favourable conditions and/or when tired will now happen far more often. Not only that, I have far more space inside my bedroom as the Dob occupied too much of the floor.