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Sunday 5th session shared with an astro buddy!

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Sorry about the lateness of this report, I have been away since the morning after this observing session, but we are back home today!

It was 10.15 pm on Sunday the 5th August and the sky looked very promising! There were no clouds and the moon was well below the horizon... it was warm, which is something you don’t associate with British Night time observing!


A quick glance showed me Jupiter was sinking out of my range. Saturn was lying due south and Mars was rising and shining like a red beacon around 8 degrees above the horizon. The Summer Triangle was straight above and Cassiopeia and Perseus were rising in the east. This added up to lots of goodies to look at!


I phoned one of my astro buddies, Mike, and announced I was getting the 16” scope out! He was delighted and said he would be over in 15 mins! I then texted one of my neighbours and asked for their outside light to be switched off! We already have an arrangement in place and it was promptly extinguished ?


I trundled my modded Meade, 16” Lightbridge Dob out of the garage onto my back garden and started setting it up. Lenses, steps, iPads, torches etc. were made at the ready. 


Mike arrived and helped me finish setting up the scope etc. After a quick check with a collimating laser, we were ready to go...


I did not level the scope at first, because Mars was so low at only 8 degrees above the horizon and I had to temporarily back the scope up close to the house to enable the scope to line up with it over my fence!

Mars is 24 arc seconds diameter at the moment due to it being at its Perihelion and also at its closest to us for fifteen years. 24 arc seconds is roughly half the diameter of Jupiter at this time, so it appears quite large! We were looking through several hundred miles of warm atmosphere and this was causing turbulence and some fuzziness, but some faint detail could be seen. Hopefully this would improve as the night progressed so we decided to check out a few more objects, then return to Mars later...


Just a quick mention to those thinking of modding their scopes with an azimuth setting circle: This scope is a ‘push to’, but modded with an azimuth setting circle in the rocker box base and a ‘Wixey’ electronic inclinometer attached magnetically to the lower optical tube. It can be extremely difficult and frustrating trying to find faint obscure stuff without some kind of aid, so these devices, along with an app like SkySafari that displays current azimuth and declination positions for objects can prove invaluable, and save you a lot of time and angst!


We moved the scope to a better position in the garden, levelled it and aligned the scopes azimuth setting circle and Wixey using Altair in Aquila.


We looked up the coordinates of M57, the Ring Nebula, on SkySafari5, then swung the scope to the displayed azimuth and declination angle, and bingo, M57 was in view in my 40mm eyepiece. This only took seconds! We ramped up the magnification to increase its size and darken the background - just gorgeous!

Whilst admiring ‘The Ring Neb’, we had another bash at trying to see its 15th magnitude central star, going through several eyepieces to increase magnification and achieving fine focusing, but failed to discern it, (again!). We will persist another night!


We could not resist having a look at the great Andromeda spiral galaxy M31, and its companions M32 and M110. Wow, there they were! With M31 central in the 40mm eyepiece, M110 was wispy and faint but unmistakable at 7.00 o’clock and M32 was at 11.00 o’clock. Great stuff!


The Perseus double cluster was next up! NGC 884 and NGC 869 looked fabulously bright and pin sharp! What a beautiful sight! I have been looking at this object for 50 years, but never seen it looking so big, sharp and amazing as this!


Next was M13, the magnificent Hercules glob. This just got better the more we magnified it! We ended up on a Delos 10mm, at magnification 182x. Its stars looked like a firework display!


We looked at several other objects, among them the M52 open cluster in Cassiopeia and M39 in Cygnus, I had a quick bash at finding Minkowski 1-79 lying just one degree from M39 but could not discern it. If you have seen it, then please let me know! We enjoyed looking at parts of the Milky Way running through Cygnus and Cassiopeia etc. 


We then decided to have a crack at ‘The Veil Nebula’ in Cygnus. I had seen the Western limb, namely the ‘witches broom’ a few times, but had never seen the Eastern part. Mike had seen neither. So, we started with the Western side first, centering the scope on star 52 Cygni, a 4th magnitude star embedded in the limb. I looked through the eyepiece but could not really see any nebulosity. I then held a 2” OIII filter in front of the eyepiece. There was the ‘Witches Broom’! It was so obvious now! I let Mike have a look, WOW! He was amazed! Like I said, this was a first for him! It was quite an emotional moment! I then moved the scope in the direction of the Eastern Veil and again WOW, there it was, a first for us both! We took it in turns swinging the scope from one side of the veil to the other, marvelling at the tenuous filaments of nebulosity - this was the spectacle of the night for me, a moment that kept me buzzing for days! Mike was ecstatic about the whole session and in particular his first spectacular encounter with the veil!


We finished the session with Mars, it was about 00.45 am when started wrapping up. Just bog standard stuff, but all in all a brill night!


It was a pleasure to be outside seeing this stuff. Even better to share the joy with someone who enjoyed the session as much as me! And also to share it with you too!

cheers for reading! ??

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That must have been a great session, you obviously had a great night. Lovely report Steve. ?


I've tried and failed previously to see M 1-79. Like you say it should be easy to locate near M39. I knew exactly where it should be relative to the nearby stars as I'd studied the maps but no joy. I've read since that an OIII filter and 100x plus is supposed to do the trick.

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That's a pleasant read Steve, I am right with you on the setting circle and wixey, they save so much time and can confirm you are in the right area, but for what ever reason just can't see what you are looking for sometimes.

It's also nice seeing all the old favourites again as well, always time well spent in my humble opinion.

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