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The 19th Nervous Breakdown


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They say everything comes to those who wait. Which is fair enough I reckon. I’ve waited since last September to start observing again. I have had a whole nineteen sessions since this September. Usually I’ve clocked over a hundred around this time of the year. Seventeen have been with my refractors, mainly the Titchy Sixty and 72ED (which are ‘neck a neck’ at eight sessions each) with one widefield session with the modified ST102. The scopes 72mm and under are the easiest for me to actually carry and use at the moment. When the Moon is bright however, the biggest reflector I can use relatively easily is the 127mm Maksutov aka the ‘Big Mak’. I have other Synta Gregory Spot-Maksutov scopes of 90 and 102mm respectively (Little Mak & Middle Mak).




Big Mak is a bit planetary specific and so doesn’t need to be moved on its mount axes much. I can also set it up so I can sit right behind it. I’m not over-keen on splitting doubles with Synta Mak’s either as they seem to have bright second diffraction rings. Although, this has always been a bit of a problem with reflectors as a whole IMO. This recent session was the nineteenth (nervous breakdown lol).




The downside of an enclosed instrument like the Big Mak is that its internal environment, dependent on ambient temperature, takes some time to achieve thermal equilibrium. So I ‘unleashed the beast’ and left BM out for an hour at about 19:00 GMT. At around 20:00 I went back down to the garden hide/observatory to put the dew shield on the OTA and the standard Baader prism was placed into the visual back. I fired up the reflex sight and aimed at a recently post-transit Saturn (Aquarius). I had taken five ortho’s and a Meade zoom with me.




The moons of Titan and Rhea were not far from each other and pretty easily visible at 123x (virtually a 1mm exit pupil) with a Fujiyama (Ohi) 12.5mm. Whether it was my imagination or not I was convinced I could occasionally see a bright point of light at Saturn’s northern pole. This may or may not have been Dione, which has an albedo of 0.998 ± 0.004. Dione is the fourth largest moon of Saturn and the fifteenth largest in the Solar System. It also has a pair of trojan moons (Helene & Polydeuces) situated in the Lagrangian points of L4 & L5. Of course, it may have just been as prosaic an explanation as a Zeta Reticulan scout ship hovering above Saturn’s pole, but I like to think I had a few momentary glimpses of Dione. Prove I didn’t! lol. I both increased and decreased the magnifications (10mm BCO, 18mm Astro-Hutech) for 154x & 85.5x respectively. The lower magnification produced a sharper image although 154x was a bit much with the jet stream’s current position. 




Meanwhile, Jupiter beckoned. I was tempted to scan for Uranus, but didn’t. The cold was probably starting to get to me. The four Galileans were easily observed with some colour definition, but anything over 100x for the Jovian surface was less defined. I could see some fair amount of detail in the equatorial belts regardless of the jet stream’s position. But it was the Moon, and particularly Schroter’s Valley and the Oceanus Procellarum area that I wanted to observe. There is effectively only a short terminator window for this region every month. I switched to the Baader Zeiss Amici as mirror reversed lunar features ‘does my head in’. The Gassendi impact crater, once considered as a potential Apollo landing site, was fairly clear and prominent. Schroter's Valley and the surrounding Montes Harbinger mountains were magnificent however. The Prinz ghost crater was quite easily perceived and the detail in the terraced walls of Aristarchus was phenomenal, considering the overall seeing.




I started off at 123x, went through 154x, 220x (7mm orthoscopic) and eventually achieved 257x using my faithful old 6mm Astro-Hutech (Ohi) orthoscopic. This tiny and reliable eyepiece has seen a lot of Moon over the years with a variety of telescopes. The only real problem is that with a tiny field stop and a 42° FOV the Moon really shifts at 257x! At around 21:00 I called it a night. It was either that or entering the Brass Monkey Zone (shock, horror). The only real problem I had was that at one stage Big Mak’s dew shield inexplicably fell off. I have no real explanation for this incident which was easily remedied.




I’m pretty sure it was those pesky Zeta Reticulans though! I’ll get even … eventually … if I don't have a 20th nervous breakdown ...




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