Damn, it’s cold. I’ve just been out to the White Ladies (a spot outside Wolverhampton where I go for small telescope/binocular observations), and it nearly froze my fingers off!
I managed some binocular observations with some Olympus 8X40 bins, and despite the 3/4 full Moon very high in the sky, M31 – The Andromeda Galaxy was found easily and appeared quite bright. The Square of Pegasus was below the horizon, so I had to look instinctively, as I find the Andromeda constellation a tough one to recognise.
Praesepe – M44 The Beehive Cluster is one of those objects that perhaps looks best in binoculars. The pretty swarm of stars sitting inside a triangle of brighter stars, I’ll try this in the 4″ reflector next time I’m out there. Tonight, it was minus 1.5 on the van thermostat, and I wasn’t hanging around.
But I did enjoy The Pleiades and Hyades, and with the belt of Orion in the same field of view as M42, the famous nebula was easily visible. I’m really trying to make the most of the clear evenings with these winter constellations. The best view of the great nebula in Orion this month, unsurprisingly, came from the 12″ Dobsonian mounted reflector I’m looking after. The structure on the outer edges of the nebula was more pronounced than I’d seen for years, and had I not been at a public viewing evening, I’d have liked to have made a sketch. I’ve also enjoyed views of M42 from my little 4″ Skywatcher, and from a refractor telescope (I think 3 or 4 inch) at a public observation session, where the gas cloud seemed surprisingly bright. I’m always interested in looking through a refractor whenever there as telescopes gathered together for asession, having never owned one myself.
As far as nebulae go, M42 is certainly the showpiece of the winter skies.
The 4″ Heritage Skywatcher has proved to be loads of fun. I set it up on a photography tripod on Friday, and found it very easy to use, and the red dot viewfinder I like too. The double cluster in Perseus looked very nice in the 4″. I do note that I’ve shown people this recently at Astronomy meetings and they’ve been a little underwhelmed, with some people unable to even see the two clusters. I wonder if this is an object that you can only appreciate with ‘astronomers eyes’? Tonight I looked through the 8X40’s all across the ‘river of stars’ (as I call it) that is Perseus, and thought again how it is one of the prettiest constellations, with the double cluster being the jewel in the crown, just before you reach Cassiopeia on your tour of the sky.
Why Messier didn’t give these two clusters an M number I don’t know. They’re classified NGC 869 and NGC 884.
I visited the Space Centre in Leicester this Thursday, and by 5pm the waxing Moon was fabulously high in the sky. I took this photo with the 4″ Skywatcher perched on the bonnet of the van in the car park.
I’m amazed – and pleased – with the clarity of the shots. I can’t say enough about that little 4″ scope. It really is a jewel.
I’ve been trying out some constellation photography with my Cannon. Last winter I used my little Fuji, which gave me some nice shots, but it’s got a recurring fault, so I’ve given up on that camera. I’ve been experimenting with my Cannon DSLR. I’m only using the lens it came with, and a larger aperture, wider lens would be much better. But as usual, I’m trying to do the best with what I’ve got, rather than spend any money.
Here’s Orion on the 13th February. Five second exposure, at a grainy 12800 ASA. I don’t actually mind the grain, and my next series of shots I’ll try a longer exposure time with the same ASA. I was doing 20 second shots with my Fuji, although the field of view was wider. I’ll keep trying.
I’ve got some lunar shots that I’ve not put up. I think these are from late 2017. The first is an over-exposed shot showing Earthshine, and the second is a composite of three nights photos through the little 4″.
As far as observations go, it’s been very cloudy since November. The Trysull sessions haven’t taken off like I’d hoped, but I’ve at least managed to do some binocular astronomy out in the sticks, and some telescopic stuff at Perton Library. They had an event last Friday and despite there being thin cloud, and street lighting, I got in some nice views of the Orion nebula, and some ‘averted vision only’ views of the Andromeda Galaxy. What else? M35 seems to have disappeared, I’ve been having trouble finding it to show people. I did manage to get a look at some of the open clusters in Auriga the other night. But the clouds have been merciless.
When I’m at Perton Library, there are several none-astronomers there, who aren’t used to telescopes. I’ve found the 4″ table-top dobsonian really useful for showing people things like the double cluster in Perseus. It’s very comfortable to use. It struck me last Friday, that I was using a £99 scope to show people stuff, rather than a much more expensive refractor, which people would have to get on their knees to use. There’s a good argument for usability with these things.
The big item of interest for me lately is this dobsonian reflector with a 12″ mirror. It belongs to the Wolverhampton Astronomy Society and I’ve taken charge of it. Here it is at Perton Library last Friday.
For the last few years it’s been in a member’s garage, largely unused. We’re hoping to collimate it tomorrow. I did take it outside at Perton on Friday, and despite the thin cloud, took in a marvellous sight of M42, with structure in the nebula I’ve not seen since the days of using my 10″ mirror on my old dob. The Pleiades looked nice and bright through a 32mm eyepiece. The 12″ mirror really has some serious light-gathering capacity. It has with it a really nice set of eyepieces too.
And while I’m talking about telescopes, here’s me and a few members of Wolverhampton Astronomy Society last month, when we were re-locating a historic telescope that belongs to the society.
I managed to get a decent picture of the two lovely open clusters in Taurus tonight. The Hyades, with the bright red star of Aldebaran on the left, and the famous ‘seven stars’ of the Pleiades on the right.