Last updated: 24 August 2004
Subject: Observations from Northern England Sent: Saturday, August 21, 2004 11:51:51 From: Mark and Alison Kudlowski (firstname.lastname@example.org) Glad to have found your site. I live in a part of the world not noted for its sky conditions, 10 miles from Manchester (UK), with all the light pollution it brings. I have still managed to produce some reports for August, and I must say I'm impressed with the performance of the ETX 125 ! I have only experienced occasiona problems with Autostar, and one of them was my fault. I slewed the ETX to Arcturus, but when it looked for Altair, our house wall was in the way. It thus asked for Alioth, and Mizar and Alcor appeared in the finder. I'd forgotten that the finder reversed the image, and that I'd centred on Alkaid instead of Alioth ! I have put together four viewing reports for your interests: Date : 6 Aug 2004 Lim. Mag.(zenithal): 4.4 Time (UT) : 2045-2315 Location : Bury, Lancashire, UK suburban Seeing (out of 10) : 7 Weather : Clear spells, calm This being the first night of proper viewing with the scope, I decided to put it through its paces. After aligning Autostar, I decided to try out some Messier objects for first glancing at 73x power. M3 and M5 were both getting low in the light-polluted sky, so appeared only as misty patches, as did M10 and M12 in Ophiuchus. I then decided to try M13, and it began to show hints of resolution, or was it wishful thinking ? I then thought of trying some other Messier objects, so I went for the Ring Nebula M57. The GOTO worked well, as there was a faint ring-like object in the field, totally unlike any star, and doubling the power revealed the shape clearly. The dim M56 in Lyra was next, and the ETX had no difficulty finding it - it looked like M13 as seen in 7x50 binoculars. The galaxy pair M81 and M82 in Ursa Major were next on my hit list, and were both just about visible in the same field at 48x. Emboldened, I tried to find some objects in Sagittarius, but I drew a blank at both M17 and M22. Either the GOTO was inaccurate, or the light pollution / high cloud killed the images. I then went double star hunting, choosing some well-known textbook targets. Beta Cygni of course showed up beautifully at 48x, gold and cyan. Mizar was likewise easy at the same power. The Double-Double (epsilon Lyrae) was split into its four components at 146x, though with a little difficulty, as was Epsilon Bootis, where the companion appeared as a bump rather than being clearly split. Two other coloured doubles came out well at 146x: Alpha Herculis (orange / green) and 70 Ophiuchi (yellow / magenta). I tried to find Gamma Delphini, but the GOTO software went cuckoo and slewed randomly. I decided to call it a day at midnight, and try for more the following night. Date : 7 Aug 2004 Lim. Mag. (zenithal): 4.5 Time (UT) : 2100-0000 Lim. Mag. (low south) : 3.6 Location : Bury, UK suburban Seeing (out of 10) : 7 Weather : Clear spells Notes: Repeated most of the Messier observations of the previous night, but this time M3 and M5 showed up rather better and looked close to resolution at 146x. I was also able to see the cluster M16 though not the nebula, and could resolve parts of M11 into stars. M13 looked better than before, as I could get definite resolution at 146x with averted vision. Again, increasing haze from the south stopped me from looking at Sagittarius, so I tried some non-Messier objects out of curiosity. One such object was NGC6633 in Ophiuchus, a large and bright open cluster which showed up well at 48x. IC4756 in Serpens was more scattered and less impressive. As the sky started to haze up a bit more, I went for some more doubles in Bootes before they sank too low. Kappa, Xi and Pi were all easy at 73x, and Epsilon was definitely separated at 146x. The other 'double-double' (Struve 2470 / 2474) in Lyra was also attractive. At 2230 UT, the sky haze appeared to lessen a little, and so I went back on my Messier hunt. The two open clusters in Cygnus were next. M29 was rather obscure at 73x, drowned out by field stars, but M39 was very attractive at 48x - a triangular grouping of bright stars against the very rich Milky Way. Whilst in the Cygnus region, I looked at M27, and it really did look like a dumbbell at 73x. M71 was next, and easily visible, though not resolved, at the same power. By now, Pegasus and Aquarius had become visible past our wall, and so I pointed the ETX to M15 and M2. I could not resolve the latter, but I did spot some granulation in M15 at 146x with averted vision. By 2300, I thought that Uranus might be visible, but using GOTO only got a neighbour's roof into view, so I had to wait. I thought, let's try some non-Messier planetaries and see what the ETX could do. NGC6543, the Cat's Eye in Draco, was easily visible as a greenish disk with a brightening in the centre at 146x. The biggest surprise of the night was NGC7009, the Saturn Nebula in Aquarius, as it showed up as a bright greenish oval at 146x, despite its low altitude. By contrast, I could not locate M30 in Capricornus, even with the broadband filter. Evidently planetaries can 'stand' light pollution better than globulars. I tried again for Uranus at 2330 UT, and by then the ETX had slewed to an area of sky rather than a roof. When I looked in the scope at 48x, I spotted what looked like two stars, one above the other. Was one of them Uranus ? At 73x, the lower star remained pointlike but the upper star looked like a tiny green disk. Doubling with the Barlow revealed the Uranian disk without doubt. (The star below it, incidentally, was Sigma Aquarii). Next, I slewed the scope north to another double, Gamma Delphini. Very pretty at 73x - yellow and cyan. I would have packed up for the night, but for the appearance of Cassiopeia's W in a narrow gap between our wall and the neighbour's. I typed in NGC869, let the scope slew, and WOW! - it was pointing at clear sky, not brickwork ! The Perseus Double Cluster was a mega-hit at 48x - I could resolve innumerable stars against a glorious background. Sadly, this only lasted for another five minutes, as the Earth's rotation caused the clusters to go out of view behind our wall. Session ended at 0000UT Date : 10 Aug 2004 Lim. Mag. (zenithal): 4.2 (high cloud) Time (UT) : 2045-2230 Lim. Mag. (low south) : 3.2 Location : Bury, UK suburban Seeing (out of 10) : 7 Weather : Clear spells, but high cloud Notes: The high cloud kiboshed any chance of decent deep sky viewing, and so I decided to do an extensive double star hunt using SAO numbers on Bootes, Corona, Hercules, Aquila and Cygnus before conditions became really bad. As an aside, I prefer using SAO numbers, as scrolling through the the double star list on Autostar can be very tedious. In Bootes, I was able to split 39 Boo, Struve 1838, Struve 1835 and Struve 1850 at 146x, but 44 Boo remained indistinct. Zeta Coronae was easy at 73x. Touring Hercules, 95 Her split very colourfully at 73x (red/green), Kappa was very easy at 48x, 100 Her and Struve 2063 were clear at 146x, but I could not see the companion to Gamma, and that of Delta was difficult due to magnitude difference. Next I 'did' Aquila, and 57,15 and 5 Aql were all easy at 73x. Struve 2489 and Struve 2644 were separated at 146x. Cygnus was the final tour, again with very rich pickings. 61 Cyg was a very easy yellow pair at 48x, as were Struve 2578 and 2486. Struve 2671 and 2762, and Psi and 49 Cyg required higher power but revealed themselves at 146x. I was unable to see the companions to Gamma (too faint) or Delta (too close). I therefore looked at Beta again for feelgood reasons ! Before the clouds became any worse, I had another look at the disk of Uranus - it was clearly visible again. Date : 14 Aug 2004 Lim. Mag. (zenithal): 4.0 (low south) : 3.0 Time (UT) : 2100-2200 Location : Bury, Lancashire, UK suburban Seeing (out of 10) : 7-8, with moments up to 9 Weather : Clear spells, but high cloud and mist Notes: I'd received a high power (253x) inexpensive eyepiece (TAL 7.5 mm Super Plossl) in the post this morning. I figured that I would use the eyepiece very rarely, its magnification being bang on the recommended observing limit of 50x per inch (2x per mm) of aperture. I thought, let's try some tough doubles tonight. First was the celebrated Epsilon Lyrae. I had managed to split it easily enough at 146x, but at 253x, all four components showed distinct Airy disks and steady diffraction rings for short spells. I thought, so far so good, so I went for 44 Bootis. I was unable to split it the other night at 146x, but to my satisfaction I could see the components in the TAL. Epsilon Bootis was very fine indeed at 253x, with clear sky between the yellow and blue Airy disks - surprisingly good for the declining altitude. Struve 2052 Herculis was similarly successful. Finally, I went for Delta Cygni, known to be a tough test, where I had already tried and failed. At 253x, it showed a crisp Airy disk and diffraction rings, but no companion. I rested my eyes for a minute, and suddenly I saw what I thought was a faint companion outside the first diffraction ring for a second or two. I kept looking at the diffraction rings, and the companion reappeared for a few more seconds, nearly in the 9 o'clock position. I checked with my Norton's Star Atlas, which gave a position angle of 246 degrees, or WSW. I was worried for a while until I remembered that the ETX gives a mirror-reversed image ! I can honestly say that this was the first big test of the capabilities of my own eyes and the optical equipment, and that I passed it ! Mark Kudlowski email@example.com
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