Last updated: 26 September 2004

Subject:	Reports for late August and September 
Sent:	Friday, September 24, 2004 13:47:44
From:	Mark and Alison Kudlowski (
Report 1 of 8


Date :27 Aug 2004Lim. Mag. (zenithal):4.4 (Moon 11 d/o)
Time (UT) :2045-2230Lim. Mag. (low south) :3.8
Location : Bury, Lancashire, UK suburbanSeeing (out of 10) :7, with moments
up to 8
Weather :Clear spellsInstruments: Meade ETX-125EC

The viewing conditions were far from ideal for deep-sky objects due to the
waxing gibbous Moon, so it looked like double star time again, plus a look
at Luna.

I began with revisiting some doubles in Bootes at 73x, and noting any
colours this time. Pi appeared white / blue, and  Xi was a yellow / reddish
Serpens came next, where Theta was easily split as an all-white pair. I took
another look at a pair of IC open clusters. 4756 was better than last time
due to improved sky transparency, and 4665 was bright but coarse, better
seen at 48x. A short detour to Hercules allowed me to split (at 146x) Struve
2021, and Rho, an attractive yellowish / bluish pair. M13 was impressive,
but not quite as good as on the 23rd due to the Moon.

In Lyra, Struve 2351 appeared pale yellow / blue-white, whilst the 'other
Double-Double' (Struve 2470 / 2474)  showed subtle differences. The
southerly one (2474) was wider and its stars had a yellowish tinge, whilst
the northerly one (2470) was a white pair. Eta was another easy pair,
appearing white and lilac(?).

On to Aquila, and 15 Aquilae was another pretty yellow / blue pair, but I
then decided to try the rather barren constellation of Capricornus for the
first time. Alpha1 (Prima Gaedi) was a easy white pair at 73x, but Alpha2
(Secunda Gaedi) did not reveal its 10th mag companion - no doubt due to the
Moon. Omicron Capricorni was however an easy whitish / blue pair.

I concluded the session (2215 UT) with a final look at the Moon, not very
easy as the declination was -28, and there was only a brief 'viewing window'
where trees and houses did not block the view.  In spite of the low
altitude, I was able to use 73x and even 146x to study the terminator region
without too much grief. The craters Schickard and Herodotus were
particularly sharp and prominent, as was the winding valley near the latter.
I was still able to make out Clavius and Ptolemaeus despite their having
lost most of their shadow, and the Tycho rays had not yet fully taken over.
It is a pity that late summer and autumn are a bad time of year to view the
waxing lunar phases in the evenings, with the ecliptic tilted at such a
shallow angle to the horizon.

Report 2 of 8


Date :30 Aug 2004Lim. Mag. (zenithal):4.4 at start, then 4.0 (Full Moon !)
Time (UT) :2015-2300Lim. Mag. (low south) :3.9 at start, then 3.6
Location : Bury, Lancashire, UK suburbanSeeing (out of 10) :6-7, with
moments up to 8
Weather :Clear with variable cloudInstruments: Meade ETX-125EC

A clear case of Murphy's Law tonight. This would have been an ideal night
for deep-sky objects, but for one fly in the ointment - the Full Moon rising
half-an-hour after sunset !

My plan was to look at DSO's as the sky darkened, but before moonlight
blotted them out good and proper. This was to be followed by looking at more
doubles and the Moon itself.

1945 UT (2045 local) As soon as the sky darkened enough to see Beta Aquilae
(mag 3.9), I slewed the ETX to Sagittarius for an attempt at M22 and M28.
Both were clearly visible, but I could not see much in M22 at 146x - it was
just a blob. (I'm missing the Portuguese night skies of yesteryear, where
this area reaches 30 degrees up !). The Swan Nebula still put on a brave
show in the nebula filter, as did the Lagoon M8 and its cluster NGC6530.
Removing the filter still allowed me to see M23, 24, 25 and 21, but the sky
was rapidly brightening from the south-east. Slewing north to Scutum
revealed only about 15 stars in M11 - a far cry from the dozens and scores
seen on earlier nights. It's doubles from now, I thought.

2015 UT (2115 local) I revisited Cygnus for a fresh look at some of its many
doubles, using 73x unless otherwise stated. Omicron1 was a very easy yellow
/ blue, if not as spectacular as Beta, whilst 61 Cyg was a very easy
all-yellow pair. 16 Cyg was wide and all-white, whereas 17 Cyg was a subtle
yellowish and lilac. I was unable to split either Upsilon or Gamma, due to
Moon and faintness of the companion. Struve 2578 was easy enough and
all-white, but O.Struve 394's companion was only visible with difficulty,
north of the primary at 146x. Struve 2486 was clear at 146x, but the same
power on 52 Cyg only barely revealed the companion at about E of the

I then revisited the toughish pairs Struve 2671 and 2762 in Lyra, and 146x
resolved them, the latter being yellowish and bluish.

Vulpecula's sole SAO double, Struve 2769, was easy at 73x, as were Theta and
Zeta Sagittae.  Theta was in a pretty L-shaped field. Zeta appeared white
and bluish.

I rounded off the evening with a tour of Cepheus, which was crossing the
zenith by then. I began with the single variable star Mu, Herschel's 'Garnet
Star'. This showed up as an orange-red beacon in a sea of white stars. In
all fairness, my 20 x 80 binoculars show the colour up even more
dramatically. The other famous variable, Delta, is of course the prototype
Cepheid. I could see it as an orange and blue pair at 73x, almost equal to
Albireo (Beta Cygni). Struve 2840 was all-white and easy, as was S405. Beta
was a white / blue pairing, whilst Xi appeared slightly yellowish and lilac.
Kappa was a white / blue pair, but needed 146x to show the companion, 4
magnitudes fainter. Omicron was gold and cyan, not unlike a fainter version
of Epsilon Bootis, again needing 146x.

2150 UT (2250 local) Band of cloud coming in from the NW - took a break.

2215 UT (2315 local) Cloud clearing from NW - as an experiment, I tried to
look at open cluster M52 in Cassiopeia. Only about 10 stars were visible in
a washed-out field - we do need to get rid of the Moon to see DSOs !

2230 UT (2330 local) The Moon was visible past a neighbouring roof, and I
decided to give it a brief visit. The image appeared to boil slightly at
146x as on the 27th, despite the higher altitude. This was due to slightly
poorer seeing,  and heat rays coming off the house. I was able to see some
foreshortened craters in shadow on the Crisium limb, particularly Humboldt,
and dark-floored ones like Plato, but the scene on the whole was a glaring
wash-out, dominated by the Tycho and Copernicus rays. The nebula (!) filters
helped a little at 73x. The last object of the night was Uranus, and it
showed a disk at 146x, but again the poorer seeing took its toll on the
image compared to previous nights

Ended 2300 UT (midnight local)

Report 3 of 8


Date :31 Aug 2004Lim. Mag. (zenithal):4.5 at start, then 4.1 (Moon !)
Time (UT) :2020-2210Lim. Mag. (low south) :4.1 at start, then 3.7
Location : Bury, Lancashire, UK suburbanSeeing (out of 10) :7-8, improving
to 9
Weather :Clear with variable cloudInstruments: Meade ETX-125EC


2020 UT (2120 local) Look at some DSO's as the sky darkened, but before
moonlight blotted them out good and proper. The Moon was starting to wane
and rising just a little later, so conditions were marginally better than
last night. Spent the next 30 minutes looking at the usual favourites.

2050 UT (2150 local) Mopped up two wide but faint-companioned doubles in
Hercules. Mu and Gamma both revealed their companions at 73x.

2100 UT (2200 local) Tried the ETX on some more neglected doubles in
Ophiuchus. 67 Oph was a pretty cream and lilac pair at 73x. The same power
also split 61 Oph and Struve 2276  as all-white pairs. I revisited the
yellow and magenta showpiece 70 Oph at 146x, and then tried the same power
on Tau, but could not split it. I then tried 253x on it, and was able to see
the yellowish primary with a bluish companion at about 9 o'clock of the
primary. Tougher still was Lambda, and I suspected a bluish 'bump' on the
yellow primary at about a 4 o'clock position.

2130 UT (2230 local) Another attempt at Secunda Gaedi in Capricornus. I
could see what looked like a very faint companion to the north of it at
146x, but the 'companion' disappeared at 253x. The 'companion' was seen
again in a different position at 146x, so I put it down to a stray 'ghost'
reflection in the 26mm EP / barlow combination, and accepted defeat again.
Pi Capricorni was resolved successfully, though, at the same power of 146x.
Tried to find M30, but a roof was in the way. At the same time I noticed
that the seeing had improved substantially over the last few minutes. Was it
the weather, or had the optics finally reached thermal equilibrium ?  I
tried Lambda Ophiuchi again, but it had disappeared behind a house - DAMMIT
! I then went for another faint pair, the optical Gamma Cygni. The Autostar
list gave a separation of 41 seconds, similar to that of Beta (Albireo), so
I went back to 73x, and saw a field full of faint stars around Gamma, but no
companion. The nearest star was a 9th (?) mag one about four
Albireo-separations away roughly south. I slewed to Albireo to visualise the
separation and then back to Gamma, not knowing what to make of it.

2145 UT (2245 local). While waiting for M30, I had a peek at M15 and M2, a
contrasting pair of globulars. The sky in the vicinity was too bright to
attempt resolution, but M15 definitely had the brighter core.

2150 UT (2250 local). Positively identified M30 in Capricornus, west of a
5th mag star. Moon nearby, and low altitude, but readily recognisable.

2155 UT (2255 local). A quick peek at NGC 7009, the Saturn Nebula, visible
despite the Moon nearby. I could make out the oval shape at 146x, but no
sign of the 'rings'.

2200 UT (2300 local). Slewed to Uranus, and the greenish disk was clearly
visible and stable. I cannot wait until winter, for Saturn to appear before
midnight from our back garden !

2205 UT (2305 local). The final double star of the night was Zeta Aquarii. I
could just split it cleanly at 146x, but 253x gave me a perfect textbook
view. The components were both yellowish-white, oriented just off
north-south, with sharp Airy disks and first diffraction rings forming a
symmetrical figure of eight around the stars. The stars were separated by
clear sky as wide as their Airy disks.

Ended 2210 UT (2310 local)

I then checked the double star measurements in StarList 2000.0 and Norton's
Star Atlas (1973) to try and make sense of the night's viewings.
Zeta Aquarii was given 2.1 sec separation and a P.A. of 192 in Starlist, so
I was accurate there. PASS

Tau Ophiuchi was given 1.7 sec and PA of 280, in StarList,  so the '9
o'clock' was correct.  PASS

Lambda Ophiuchi was given 1.3 sec (from  orbital diagram in StarList and a
P.A. of 035,  indicating that the companion should have been at about 1
o'clock of the primary. Was my recording of "4 o'clock" observational error,
eye fatigue, or less-than-ideal seeing ?  At least it wasn't faulty optics,
as Zeta Aquarii showed ! FAIL?

Secunda Gaedi was given P.A. 158 and a companion magnitude of 10.6, not 10
as on the Autostar list, so that image I saw north of the primary was almost
certainly a 'ghost', as the primary and nearby Moon would have drowned out
the companion. FAIL

Gamma Cygni was given a separation of 141, not 41, seconds in Norton's, and
a P.A. of 196. (The Autostar list entry was a misprint !) . What I described
as "The nearest star was a 9th (?) mag one about four Albireo-separations
away roughly south", was actually the companion of Gamma Cygni.  PASS

Report 4 of 8


Date :2 Sep 2004Lim. Mag. (zenithal):Didn't check
Time (UT) :0300 - 0330Lim. Mag. (low south) :Didn't check
Location : Bury, Lancashire, UK suburbanSeeing (out of 10) :7
Weather :Clear Instruments: Meade ETX-125EC



This was an unplanned session, as a car alarm from several streets away woke
me up at the ungodly hour of 3.45 AM and persisted for many minutes. The
silver lining was a clear eastern sky, with Venus, Saturn and Gemini all
visible through the open box bedroom window. It was just too good a chance
to miss, so I spent a few minutes getting my eyes and brain in gear, and
carried the ETX upstairs, placed it on the sill, and pointed it skyward.  As
the targets were so bright, I just loosened the drive locks and aimed the
ETX manually without any powered tracking.

Venus was first, and the ETX had no difficulty in revealing the phase. It
looked like the Moon a day before Last Quarter, at 73x. Higher power with
the barlow at 146x of course gave no additional detail, but showed the
'fogginess' of the terminator, implying  a very dense atmosphere. It was
disconcerting to see how rapidly the image drifted across the field without
electric tracking !

Next was Saturn. At 73x, the southern hemisphere of the globe, and the A and
B rings were clearly seen, as were about half-a-dozen (!) satellites, with
the brightest of them well to the south of the globe, presumably Titan. The
other 'satellites' were probably distant background stars in the
constellation of Gemini, but I cannot discount some of them being genuine.
Apologies for being too tired to draw a sketch !

Adding the barlow at 146x revealed banding on the globe, and the shadow cast
by the globe on the rings, but no Cassini Division. Fatigue and viewing from
inside the house did not help, but showed some of the ETX's abilities.  I
was not up to trying 253x tonight without tracking, but roll on December for
viewing sessions from the back garden at more convenient times !

The third and last target for the night was Castor, and the ETX did not
disappoint. I could just about separate it at 73x, but doubling with the
barlow to 146x split it beautifully with clear black space in between. The
components were brilliant white, with the fainter component about 3 o'clock
of the brighter one - consistent with the PA of 060 at this north-easterly
orientation. Several other field stars added to the grandeur of this classic

Report 5 of 8


Date :2 Sep 2004Lim. Mag. (zenithal):4.4 (Moon)
Time (UT) :1940 - 2200Lim. Mag. (low south) :3.9
Location : Bury, Lancashire, UK suburbanSeeing (out of 10) :8, momentarily 9
Weather :Clear spellsInstruments: Meade ETX-125EC, 26mm EP, 7.5mm EP, 2x



After the morning's sight of Saturn, and a couple of hours' evening nap, I
decided to try some tough doubles that I'd missed in previous sessions,
ramping up the power to 253x if necessary.

1940 UT(2040 local)

Upsilon Cygni had the faintest companion of the four, but 253x revealed the
companion, at about '6-7 o'clock' of the primary.

Pi Aquilae was a yellowish / bluish pair, suspectible at 146x, but 253x was
able to split it, with dark sky between the components. The companion was
about 3-4 o'clock of the primary.

Lambda Ophiuchi was again pale yellow and blue, but unlike previous
attempts, this one was a positive at 253x, with the fainter almost 12 noon
of the brighter.

Delta Cygni was again split at 253x, revealing a white / white pair, with
the fainter at 8-9 o'clock. The seeing appeared better than last time I
split the star.

2010 UT (2110 local)

As a change from the double-splitting of the early part, I looked at my
SkyMap printouts to start looking for some galactic clusters and nebulae in
Cygnus, using 73x throughout.

As it happened, I spent the next two hours trying to see the wood for the
trees. The Milky Way background was so crowded with stars, I had difficulty
in separating the clusters from the richness of the surroundings.

NGC 6826
I was able to notch up a success with the Blinking Planetary. Direct vision
revealed a faint starlike point, but it changed to a bluish disc with
averted vision. 146x showed the effect more clearly.

NGC 6866
A rather vague cruciform group, a sort of poor man's M38 in Auriga. Counted
about 10 stars.

NGC 6819
Although AutoStar referred to it as the 'Foxhead', this description must
have been coined by the user of an inverting (South at top) telescope, as I
could only make out a tight group of about 15 stars.

NGC 6811
Looked like two clusters, a bright loose one to the west and a slightly
richer and fainter one to the east. The brighter one was probably a chance
star field.

NGC 6871
A large and coarse cluster of dozens of stars of different magnitudes. I was
able to see two doubles inside it.

IC 4996
Could not identify it positively, but I did spot two interesting asterisms
in the area. One of them looked like a miniature of Corona Borealis with an
added  'handle', and another resembled a mini "upright Hercules" or
"Bootes", with a triple star to the top left.

NGC 6913 (M29)
A rather undistinguished Messier object, I counted some 20 stars in this

NGC 7027
This planetary was apparently little larger than Uranus-sized and only
betrayed itself by its bluish tint, as it formed a right-angled triangle
with two field stars below it.

NGC 7092 (M39)
Filled the field at 73x, but its 30-plus stars still gave the field a
pleasant 3D effect.

2210 UT (2310 local)

Moonlight increasing and I was getting tired - parked the scope and ended
the session.

Report 6 of 8


Date :7 Sep 2004Lim. Mag. (zenithal):4.9 (7* in UMi)
Time (UT) :2045 - midnightLim. Mag. (low south) :4.4
Location : Bury, Lancashire, UK suburbanSeeing (out of 10) :7
Weather :Clear;
Milky Way visible from  Perseus to Scutum Instruments: Meade ETX-125EC, 26mm
EP, 7.5mm EP, 2x barlow



The best night for DSOs since August 23, with no Moon until midnight local

2045 UT(2145 local)
Revisited the favourites of M22, M13, M15 and M11. The detail seen was at
least equal to the August 23 report, but with rather more scintillation. M22
was only about 10 degrees above the horizon but was clear at 73x - dare I
try a higher power ? Surprisingly, averted vision was able to distinguish
some outer stars at 146x !
M11 revealed some 60+ stars at 146x, but they 'blinked' in the seeing and
were not easy to enumerate.
I was able to resolve outer and 'middle-distance' stars of M13, and detected
'streaming' of star groups from the centre, but again, the centre of M15
remained nebulous at 146x.

2115 UT(2215 local)
Began the Milky Way tour in Aquila and Scutum at 73x . NGC 6709 was a group
of about 30 stars shaped like a curiously skewed Orion. NGC 6755 was more
difficult, with only a few stars resolved against a faint glow. NGC 6664,
east of Alpha Scuti, was likewise a rather weak trapezium of some 15 stars.

I then slewed north to hunt out some open clusters in Vulpecula. NGC 6830
was a small tight V-shaped knot, and NGC 6823 was a 'T' (or 'Y') - shaped
grouping of about 10 stars, but NGC 6940 was rather more showy, with about
30 stars resolvable in an area half the size of the Full Moon.

2135 UT(2235 local)
Whilst still in Vulpecula, I went for the Dumbbell Nebula M27, and the
nebula filter showed a 'bowtie' shape very clearly at both 73x and 146x. The
Ring Nebula in Lyra, M57, showed its shape well at 146x  during a short
spell of better seeing. I then slewed northwest to M51, the Whirlpool
Galaxy, and could make out a round glow at 73x, confirmed by a slight
low-speed slew back and forth.

2150 UT(2250 local)
I went for another mini-marathon in Cygnus. The open clusters seen on the
2nd all benefited from the clearer sky and absent Moon. NGC 6819, 6871 and
6811 all showed rather more stars than before, and I was able to identify IC
4996 as a weak clump of about a dozen faint stars.

NGC 6834 - an arrowhead of half-a-dozen stars with a background glow.

NGC 6910 - about 10 brighter stars in the shape of a written 'lambda' with a
further dozen or so stars to the lower right.

NGC 7039 - a dim triangular group, hard to pick out from the rich Milky Way

NGC 7062 - a faint glow framed by a diamond-shaped group of faint stars

NGC 7063 - a dozen stars shaped like an upside-down standing stick man

NGC 7082 - a large and fairly bright grouping in a quadrilateral frame , but
again hard to pick out from the rich Milky Way field.

NGC 7086 - a disappointing haze with only a couple of points set inside.

2230 UT(2330 local)
I then went to take a break from open clusters, and with it being a clear
night, I decided to test the ETX on two tough globulars in Delphinus. I was
able to see NGC 6934 plainly and NGC 7006 with difficulty, using normal
vision. I sensed being on a roll, so I went south again for more globulars,
and a Messier 'error'. M30 in Capricornus was clearer than on 31 August - it
should have been, with the Moon a bit more out of the way! M2 in Aquarius
was bright but unresolved, but my target was M72, a much dimmer globular.
Despite the low altitude, I was able to identify it, along with the weak
clump of four stars nearby, namely M73. Diverting to the north, I identified
the largish but dim globulars NGC 6712 in Scutum (south of an obtuse-angled
triangle of stars) and NGC 6760 in Aquila (on the apex of a shallow
pentagon). My final faint globular was NGC 6229, the 'runt' of Hercules'
litter, but that too was plainly seen in the ETX.

2300 UT(0000 Sept 8 local)
I slewed the ETX sharply to the north again, past Cygnus, and into the Milky
Way fields of Cepheus and Lacerta. I started with a star cloud, IC 1396 in
Cepheus, and spent a few minutes enjoying the rich field. NGC 7160 was
smaller and more distinct - a dagger-like group of about 10 stars amid a
faint glow. NGC 7380 was loosely cruciform with about two dozen faint stars
resolved. From Cepheus, I went to Lacerta, and picked up two more open
clusters, NGC 7209 and NGC 7243. The former had 30 stars in a quadrilateral
frame, whereas the latter had a similar number of stars arranged in a
handwritten 'S' (or 'J').

2330 UT(0030 Sept 8 local)
By this time of night, Cassiopeia was approaching the zenith, and so it was
very difficult to slew much in azimuth, also the GOTO software accuracy was
tailing off, making positive identification of some targets difficult. The
two Messier objects were both easy but nondescript. M52 was a smattering of
two dozen faint stars, whereas M103 was small and fan-shaped with about
half-a-dozen brighter stars amid a glow of fainter members. NGC 129 was a
small kite-shaped group with a glow off-centre. NGC 457 was the best of the
bunch, with Phi Cassiopeiae acting as a beacon. It comprised of two bright
arcs of stars, and resembled a miniature Aquila, or an upside-down plane
with two very bright tail-lights. I missed NGC 7789, as it was difficult to
separate from the surrounding field.

2350 UT(0050 Sept 8 local)
A quick glance of M31, the Andromeda Galaxy, in the ETX for the first time -
it was a large glow several Moon-diameters across, with M32 clearly seen
below it. I could not see M110 - I was getting tired.

Switched off scope and packed up at midnight UT (0100 local)

Report 7 of 8


Date :9 Sep 2004Lim. Mag. (zenithal):Not applicable
Time (UT) :0350 - 0500Lim. Mag. (low south) :Not applicable
Location : Bury, Lancashire, UK suburbanSeeing (out of 10) :3 (!) - 6
Weather :Clear Instruments: Meade ETX-125EC



03.50 UT (04.50 local) I set up the ETX without Autostar to view through an
open bedroom window, which did not do much for the seeing, with thermally
schizophrenic optics !  My first target was Saturn, and this time I was able
to identify Titan in the same field as the planet using 73x, at about north
following. Three other 'satellites' were just background stars in Gemini, as
confirmed by software on and

Saturn was high enough in the sky to escape the worst of the seeing, and
remained stable enough to see the shadow of the planet on the rings and a
few vague bands on the globe at 146x. I'll probably have to wait for a
winter evening of good seeing to see Cassini's Division !

04.20 UT (05.20 local). I was able to see Mercury with the naked eye as the
sky was brightening to the east. The bad news was that the planet was
directly above a nearby roof and less than 5 degrees above the horizon. The
ETX revealed a seething non-starlike pinkish 'blob' at 73x, and 146x only
made matters worse, with hideous chromatic aberration, with a blue fringe
above and a red fringe below, no doubt due to atmospheric refraction. I had
no choice but to keep it manually tracked in the finder until it gained some

04.50 UT (05.50 local). Mercury was now getting hard to spot with the naked
eye, but it was still bright in the finder. Also in the finder I saw Regulus
about a quarter-radius (1 degree) following the planet, just too far away
for the planet and star to appear in the same field at 73x. By now, the
planet had risen above the worst of the seeing, and I was able to see a
bright half-disc at 73x, and doubling the power with the barlow confirmed
the phase (about 50 %) but no surface features, despite the still-irritating
colour fringes. I had no chance to track the planet any further, as I had to
go to work in a little over an hour !

Still, I can say I've observed Mercury in my ETX !

Report 8 of 8


Date :23-24 Sep 2004Lim. Mag. (zenithal):4.7 before moonset; 5.2 after
Time (UT) :2145 - 0220Lim. Mag. (low south) :4.0 - 4.7
Location : Bury, Lancashire, UK suburbanSeeing (out of 10) :6 - 7,
occasionally 8
Weather :Clear; Moon until 2340 UTInstruments: Meade ETX-125EC



This night was a most welcome break from the rain and wind we'd been having
for the last fortnight, and also the last one for DSOs for some time, with
Full Moon looming in a few days.

I had also received delivery of a TeleVue 11mm Plossl for medium-to-high
power work (173x), where 26mm + barlow (146x) is just not quite enough, and
the seeing precludes use of the 7.5 mm (253x). Of course, perfect seeing
could warrant 345x, with 11mm Plossl and barlow !

21.40 UT (22.40 local) Some last glances of summer Milky Way delights from
previous viewings, together with some missed doubles in Cygnus, Aquila and
Delphinus. Struve 2404 in Aquila was a yellow/orange pair split at 173x, and
Struve 2628 was yellow, but with a fainter reddish companion. Mu Cygni was a
difficult yellowish / reddish split at 173x, but Gamma Delphini was fine as
always, and I did spot Struve 2725 (yellowish and lilac ?) in the same field
at 73x. Struve 2735 was again yellow at 173x, but the reddish companion did
not look cleanly resolved - the seeing was not up to it.

22.10 UT (23.10 local) I bade farewell to the summer constellations, and
concentrated on doubles in the faint and rambling groups of Aquarius, just
west of south, and Pisces to the northeast of it.

AQUARIUS: All except 91 and 94 Aqr were viewed at 173x

Struve 2745 was a toughish yellow/blue pair, and 41 Aqr was slightly easier,
if rather more affected by seeing, due to its more southerly position. For
the same reason I was able to split the yellowish components of Zeta
(exactly on celestial equator),  but not 53 Aqr (Dec -17, and slightly
closer). 29 Aqr was a matched yellow pair fainter but easier than Zeta, as
was Struve 2988. Another couple of yellow / blue pairs was Struve 2935 and
3008, the latter being the easier. 107 Aqr was bluish and white. I replaced
the eyepiece and viewed the wide orange pair 91 Aqr, and the fine yellow and
cyan 94 Aqr.

PISCES: Keeping the 73x eyepiece, I observed 35 Psc (yellow/blue), 51 Psc
(wide blue/green, faint companion), Psi Psc(evenly-matched, wide, blue) and
the white / yellow pair Zeta Psc. Another star of note was 19 or TX Psc;
although single, it is very red in colour, and a variable to boot. I then
used 173x to observe 38 Psc and 65 Psc, both all-yellow pairs, the latter
being the brighter. I ended this tour of doubles with 55 Psc, a fine yellow
/ blue pair.
(Alpha Psc was still hidden past a wall, and probably the seeing would not
have allowed the split).

23.30 UT (00.30 local) The sky has darkened in the last few minutes due to
neighbours switching off their indoor lights, coupled with the setting Moon.
The Andromeda Galaxy complex was making its appearance near the zenith, so I
pointed the ETX to it, having put the 73x eyepiece back in.
M31 was very bright, and M32 was readily visible  below and to the left of
the core of the main galaxy after a slight slew. M110 was just visible with
direct vision above M32, but slow slewing of the scope and averted vision
made it more obvious. I also found that 73x was better than 48x, as the
lower power led to a brighter sky background. Clay Sherrod's comments were
absolutely right ! My next galaxy was a non-Messier object in Pegasus, NGC
7331, and to my surprise, it was faint but stood out well against the
background. Then back to Pisces for arguably one of the toughest of Messier'
s objects - the spiral galaxy.M74. Slewing to it, I barely detected a round
glow using averted vision, but subsequent attempts to locate it yielded 'no
result', so I'll have to put this down as a 'suspected' rather than a
'definite' sighting.

00.15 UT (01.15 local) After this frustrated attempt to detect M74, I went
from the frying-pan into the fire in order to aim for another infamous
target, M33 in Triangulum. To my surprise, this ill-defined galaxy showed up
without too much trouble at 73x, a sighting confirmed by low-speeds slewing.
Staying in Triangulum, I slewed to Iota, a very pretty yellow/blue pair,
seen well at 173x. Another well-matched white pair was coming into view -
Gamma Arietis, and this did not disappoint at 173x. A few minutes later,
Gamma Andromedae came into view, and this was a splendid orange / blue
pairing  best seen at 73x. Another object in the vicinity was the bright but
rather loose open cluster NGC 752. It was still impressive at 48x, and I
counted some 50 stars in the field. This cluster, however, paled in
comparison to NGC 869 and 884, the Double Cluster in Perseus. The view at
48x was a jaw-dropper, with the centres of both clusters just within the
field. I could not count the stars in the field - there must have been at
least 200 there. Combined with the richness of the Milky Way, this must rank
among the finest deep-sky objects in the Northern Hemisphere.

After the Double Cluster, I made another detour into much deeper space, this
time to the Seyfert galaxy, M77 in Cetus. I was able to make out the bright
core at 73x surrounded by a fainter halo.

01.00 UT (02.00 local) Good God, is that the time - I'd just heard a church
clock in the distance strike two. I gave my eyes a rest and walked to the
other side of the garden, to obtain a good view of the eastern sky.

My thoughts wandered to my favourite passage from J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of
the Rings, the bit where the Hobbits meet the Elves passing through the
Shire on September 24-25, 1418, in the early hours:

"Away high in the east swung Remmirath, the Netted Stars, and slowly above
the mists, red Borgil rose, glowing like a jewel of fire. Then by some shift
of airs all the mist was drawn away like a veil, and there leaned up, as he
climbed above the rim of the world, the Swordsman of the Sky, Menelvagor
with his shining belt.  The Elves all burst into song....."
(Three is Company, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring)

Tolkien's stars were staring right at me in the sky !  Remmirath, the Netted
Stars were none other than the Pleiades, Borgil was Aldebaran, and
Menelvagor was unmistakeably the mighty hunter Orion, now climbing in the
south-east. I could see the Milky Way stretching from Auriga to Cygnus, and
the Perseus Double Cluster was visible with the naked eye .

01.30 UT (02.30 local). After enjoying the naked-eye view, I moved the table
to the other end of the garden and set up the ETX there. Mindful of the
time, I ran the scope in manual mode and only used Autostar for tracking to
keep the noise right down, choosing to look only at targets which could be
seen in the finder.

First was Tolkien's 'Remmirath' - I was able to see seven naked-eye stars,
many more in the finder, and over a hundred in the main scope at 48x. It was
breathtaking despite the inability to cram the whole cluster into one field.
I thought I could see some nebulosity around the cluster stars, but it was
more likely condensation on the eyepiece.

Auriga was also high in the east, so I manually aimed the ETX south of the
star Theta, and picked up the best of the group's three Messier clusters in
the finder. In the main scope at 73x, M37 was a lovely oval carpet of about
50 stars of 10th - 11th magnitude amid the glow of fainter suns. Hopping
from Auriga to Taurus, I aimed for Zeta Tauri and slewed about a degree to
the north-east. There, in the field at 73x, was a faint and ill-defined,
bean-shaped glow. This glow was M1, the Crab Nebula, the wreckage of a star
which exploded as a supernova five millennia ago, although its light took
until AD 1054 to reach the Earth !

From Taurus to Gemini, I took another look at Castor, and again, the ETX
performed a clean split at 173x to reveal a brilliant white pair of suns,
with a 1-magnitude difference between them. The same TeleVue eyepiece and
power revealed Saturn and Titan with good sharpness, despite the planet's
rather low altitude. I could see the shadow of the globe on the rings, but
no Cassini Division. Still in Gemini, I picked up another of winter's
'must-see' clusters, M35, in the finder. In the main scope, I could count
about 60 stars of magnitudes 9 to 11 filling the field, and on its left edge
I could make out the faint glow of the unrelated NGC 2158 in the background.

02:00 UT (03:00 local)
Most of Orion had finally cleared the neighbours' roof, so I turned the ETX
to three double stars. The easiest was Delta (Mintaka), a very easy white /
bluish pair at 73x. Then, on to Beta (Rigel), said to be difficult due to
the vast  magnitude difference between the components.

Then, a minor hiccup !   I'd forgotten to cap the 11mm eyepiece whilst
waiting for Orion to rise, and it had dewed over ! I thus had to use 146x
with the barlow, and coupled with the low altitude, I was expecting a 'fail'. 
Imagine my surprise when I was able to see the companion during short
moments of better seeing, when the primary's diffraction ring arcs stopped
darting about.

The last double star in Orion was actually a multiple system, and its
surroundings were every bit as dramatic as the star itself. That was Theta
Orionis, the 'Trapezium', embedded inside the Great Orion Nebula, M42. The
four stars were all clearly separated at 73x, and the nebula was the second
jaw-dropper of the night - an intricately green cloud like a stellar
blowtorch flame. The Trapezium stars were formed out of this very mass of
gas. Raising the power to 146x  revealed even more detail - the area
surrounding the Trapezium was stunning. I could have spent all night
revelling in the sky views, but I was beginning to feel a little chilly and
too tired to take in any more viewing on such a productive night.

02.25 UT (03.25 local). Packed the scope up - amazingly, although the dew
shield was dripping wet, the corrector lens had remained dry throughout the


Tonight's viewing session has been a very valuable lesson in interpretation
of magnitudes, particularly for galaxies. In rank of ease of visibility in
the ETX, they were as follows:

M31, mag 3.5, size 180 x 60 arcmin
M32, mag 8.1, size 9 x 7 arcmin
M77, mag 8.9, size 7 x 6 arcmin
NGC 7331, mag 9.5, size 10 x 4 arcmin
M33, mag 5.5, size 70 x 40 arcmin
M110, mag 7.9, size 20 x 12 arcmin
M 74, mag 9.1, size 10 arcmin

A very different order from might have been expected from printed magnitudes!

A deep sky object's published magnitude is a measure of how bright it would
be if the brightness was concentrated into a stellar point. M32 is ranked
slightly fainter than M110, but its smaller apparent size makes it easier to
see. M 33 is four published magnitudes brighter than NGC 7331, but is harder
to see because of its very large apparent size of about four Full Moons in
area and the overall lack of contrast that entails.  Relative surface
brightness, size and magnitude all play their part in determining the ease
of being able to see an object.

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