Last updated: 27 August 2004
Subject: Re: Observations from Northern England - you CAN see Sagittarius from there ! Sent: Wednesday, August 25, 2004 12:48:19 From: Mark and Alison Kudlowski (email@example.com) Thanks for the posting - the reports might give heart to observers in British suburban sites. The weather in Manchester (UK) has been particularly bad these last few days, but that did not stop me from taking two quick viewing sessions of Sagittarius, showing that, even in Northern England, it is possible to do useful observing of southern objects during short favourable breaks in the weather, usually before 11 PM local time, when the clouds seem to come over like clockwork. START OF REPORTS Report 1 ------------------ Date : 21 Aug 2004 Lim. Mag. (zenithal): 4.6 (low south) 4.0 Time: 2015-2150 UT (2115-2250 local) Location : Bury, Lancashire, UK suburban Seeing (out of 10) : 7-8 Weather : Clear spells in between showers Instruments: Meade ETX-125EC, with 26mm 4000 series Plossl and 2x Barlow A northerly wind following a cold front has blown away much of the urban smog from Manchester, 10 miles to the south-east, so I decided to try some low-altitude deep-sky objects in Sagittarius and its environs before the clouds and mists rolled in, as they seem to do later in the evening. (From our latitude, the Swan Nebula and the open clusters can reach an altitude of about 20 degrees, and the Trifid, Lagoon and M22 about 12 degrees.) The Milky Way was visible in Cygnus for the first time in weeks ! The first target was M17, the Swan Nebula. With the nebula filter, it looked like a square-root sign, with the 'horizontal bar' sloping downwards to the right in a '10 / 4' direction. Not too bad for a southerly object ! The Lagoon nebula, M8, was also revealed, but little structure was visible due to low altitude. The associated cluster stars were clearly visible, though. The Trifid, M20, only revealed a hint of haze around some cluster stars. Next I tried for the Eagle Nebula in Serpens, M16. The open cluster was easy, with many faint stars, but again, the nebula was elusive - I cannot say I saw it for definite. Finally, removing the nebula filter showed the globular cluster M22 well enough at 73x, but atmospheric dimming made it much inferior to M13. This is a pity, as we saw M22 as the brighter through 20 x 80 binoculars while on holiday in southern Portugal, at 37N. Slewed north to see the mediocre globular M14 in Ophiuchus before aiming for some more northerly objects. A quick peek at M13 resolved many outer stars at 146x with averted vision but the core remained granular. I was also able to resolve some stars in the outer parts of M3 at 146x, aided by neighbours who had gone on a short vacation and switched off their sodium security lights ! Slewing to the Ring Nebula M57 showed more detail at 146x than on previous nights, but the star of the night had to be the Wild Duck, M11. I could detect about 30 individual faint stars at 146x with averted vision, and could have watched it all night, but clouds were beginning to spread. I then tried but failed to see the Blinking Planetary in Cygnus (NGC 6826), as the cloud killed viewing that part of the sky, leaving only the low south and south-east clear - should I try Neptune ? Returning to the edge of the Sun's backyard, my final search was for Neptune, so I tried to slew the ETX to it, and to my surprise I spotted a bluish 'star' ('planet' ?) in the field at 73x. I checked in the finder to find a star lower right (SE) of the 'planet', an observation confirmed in the main scope after slight slewing. I confirmed the field star to be 4th-magnitude Theta Capricorni, and so I slewed back to the 'planet' and put the Barlow in. At 146x, the ETX revealed a barely distinct blue disk - SUCCESS ! Report 2 --------- Date : 23 Aug 2004 Lim. Mag. (zenithal): 4.9 (7 stars in Ursa Minor !) Low south 4.3 Time : 2105-2155 UT (2205 - 2255 local) Location : Bury, Lancashire, UK suburban Seeing (out of 10) : 6-7, with moments up to 8 Weather : A fleeting clear spell following heavy rain Instruments: Meade ETX-125EC, with 26mm 4000 series Plossl and 2x Barlow Notes: The Milky Way was visible through Cepheus, Cygnus and Aquila at the start of the session. Note: trees and houses limit my viewing declination to about 30-31 degrees South, making M69 and M70 unobservable and M54 and M55 borderline. (M6, M7 and M83 also suffer the same fate, with M7 barely rising even with a clear southern horizon). This was definitely a mini-sprint rather than a marathon. After a day of appalling rain, the low cloud broke just in time for another quick hop around Sagittarius. I also stuck to 73x throughout the sprint phase to save time. The main targets I had missed on the 20th were globular cluster M28 and the five Messier open clusters (23, 25, 21, 18, 24), so I went for those six objects. 2210 local: I decided to start on the small bright globular M28, which was picked up easily enough in the ETX, though with no details. 2213 local: The open clusters were next - M23 was a very pretty sight with dozens of stars resolved, with M25 even better, with a rich background. Both were about as large as the Full Moon in diameter, filling most of the field. (They might have looked better at 48x in the 40mm Plossl). 2220 local: M21 was smaller and tighter but still attractive, but M18 was a bit of a weak let-down. 2224 local: M24 was in a glorious region, worth a few minutes' sweeping, although I could not find the tight NGC 6603 inside it. The clouds were slowly beginning to creep up from the south, so I spent another few minutes for last looks at M23 and M25. Sagittarius clouded over by 2232. 2232 local: Slewing north to Scutum, I 'bagged' M26 as a hazy glow with about half-a-dozen stars. I needed to look at M11 again as a tonic, so I forgot about 73x power, and in went the Barlow. If anything, I resolved more stars at 146x than I did on Saturday. 2238 local: East to M15 in Pegasus, and the ETX picked out many outer stars at 146x with averted vision, though the bright centre remained unresolved. This cluster is definitely more condensed than M13 - might M13 look clearer tonight as well ? 2245 local: I just had to take another look at the Hercules globular M13, and this was the best view I've had of it so far. Despite wispy clouds coming in from the west, many outer stars were resolved at 146x, but several nearer the core made fleeting 'blinking' appearances with averted vision. The net effect was like watching fireflies ! 2252 local: M13 appeared to fade - the sky had changed from largely clear to overcast in a matter of a few minutes ! Strange how the clouds rolled in at the same time as on Saturday . Packed up the equipment at 2255 local. This session has proved a good showcase for GOTO telescopes. In 45 minutes, I have been able to observe ten deep-sky objects, despite the variable weather, light pollution, high southern declinations, and the fact that the optics probably never had a chance to reach thermal equilibrium. END OF REPORTS
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