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Old 07-04-2011, 08:54 PM
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The_bluester (Paul)
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Observations, 7-04-11 Saturn, M42 and Eta Carinae

Well, I thought it was time to start putting some of my observations down in written form. Nothing too serious but still a bit of a kick to me.

I decided this evening that the sky was just too good to pass up so I pulled out the scope just on dusk with the intention to have a good look at Saturn, Eta Carinae and good old M42.

The equipment to begin with.

Celestron CPC925 on the alt-az goto mount (Yes, cheating, I know)
40mm Celestrom Plossl EP
25 and 15mm Televue Plossl EPs (did not use the 25mm tonight)
12mm Nagler T6
Televue X2 Barlow

No moon to speak of, a very slim waxing crescent so it was below the horizon before I got started. Seeing was about as good as I have had here in Kilmore in months, a touch of high haze affecting transparency just before I gave up and fairly steady seeing with no wind.

To begin with I will dispatch Eta Carinae: there was just too much light spilling from Melbourne (I live north of the city) to make observing it worthwhile. With the Nagler at about 210X magnification I could just make out a salmon coloured dumbbell shape around the core and that was about it, barlowed up for about 420X it simply broke up and with less power than the Nagler by itself it was just too small to see much detail, so I moved on.

Saturn: for my favorite planet I really did not spend much time observing as it was still a little too low and showing too much atmospheric turbulence, but I managed a glimpse of the Cassini division with the 15mm Plossl and barlow for about 300X magnification so I am pretty happy, only the second time I have made it out.

On to M42 and the sky was about as transparent and still as I have seen in a long time so I homed in on the Trapezium with the Nagler for about 210X magnification, I could make out A to D with ease and two others, one faint star near A and another near B, so I was pretty chuffed to come in and Google it to find that they are binaries. As well as that for the first time I started to notice a lot of granularity of the cloud structure in the FOV around the Trapezium. Calculating it out I had about 0.36 degrees true field so within about 0.15 of a degree of trapezium. There were several other very faint stars visible in the region, very occasionally directly but mostly with averted vision. One of these days I am going to have to try my hand at sketching what I see, but I was never the artistic sort so I am not sure that it would not just be a nice way to frustrate myself.


I actually wrote most of this while waiting for my wife to come out and have a look at Saturn and after finding that she too could make out six stars in Trapezium (Without me prompting her where to look for the fainter ones) I turned to Saturn and then the Tarantula nebula for her. She too reckoned she could just make out the Cassini division.

I decided after my wife went in to have one last look at Saturn before packing it up for the night and I am so glad I did. For about five minutes the conditions improved and the scope handled the Nagler plus barlow for about 400X magnification and the Cassini division really leapt out of the eyepiece at me and a cloud band was quite visible and for the first time it was obvious which part of the rings passed in front of the planet as which behind, previous nights I have never quite been able to pick which was a cloud band and which were the rings passing in front. I am pretty chuffed with that as a VERY amateur viewer and can't wait for a clear Friday or Saturday night so I can sit up until all hours and observe Saturn when it is decently high in the sky so I am not looking through so much soup to see it. I sat there and gawped at it until the conditions broke up again and then decided that as I have to work in the morning I had better head inside for the night.

Edited to clear up some inconsistency about what magnification the Nagler gives me. Mental gymnastics are not my forte just before bed!

Last edited by The_bluester; 10-04-2011 at 08:35 AM.
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Old 08-04-2011, 10:00 AM
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The_bluester (Paul)
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Well, I am going to need a huge amount of practice! drawn from memory in black pen (The only writing stick I have on hand) and inverted colours to make it white on black instead and showing an extra, very faint star off to the side that showed up visually after a few minutes at the EP. There were a couple of others visible but as with anything like this, the detail now eludes me! Better to not draw them than to put them in the wrong places. Obviously this would have been a lot better done at the time but apart from anything else the dew was pretty heavy last night, it would have been like trying to write on a crepe with a sharp stick!

No chance I was going to try to replicate the nebulous bits from memory with a BIC!
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Old 09-04-2011, 08:52 PM
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Paddy (Patrick)
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Congratulations on your first obs report, Paul. I hope it's the first of many. Seems a pretty good description of the Homunculus nebula to me for someone observing through light pollution. And lovely to hear of your experience with M42 and Saturn.

I'm also someone who's had a pretty poor history with a pencil, but have found sketching DSOs an excellent way to improve my observing powers, so I hope you follow up on your very accurate sketch of the trapezium with some more.

Looking forward to more!
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Old 09-04-2011, 09:55 PM
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michaellxv (Michael)
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Nice report Paul, I enjoyed reading it. Congratulations on your first sketch too, wasn't that hard now was it.
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Old 10-04-2011, 07:01 AM
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So what do people do for sketching materials in cooler weather or other times when dew would pose a problem?

It really would have been impossible to use paper and pencil while I was out observing as it would have been paper mache by the time I was finished, but the sketch would have been a lot more accurate and I might have been able to have a try at the nebulous bits too.
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Old 10-04-2011, 08:27 AM
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mental4astro (Alexander)
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A very emotive report, Paul. Your enthusiam certainly came through!

Mate, there is no cheating with what you've used! If you've got it, use it, .

Dew, dew, dew! I've been thinking about what I can do about it. My last sketch went for three hours, and I certainly had images of my pad turning into wet loo paper, .

What helped me first was holding the pad/clip-board you are sketcing on, as upright as possible. This helped me a lot.

I'm now considering how to fashion a little "sketching hood". I'll keep you posted on my progress.
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Old 10-04-2011, 08:39 AM
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I am seriously thinking of setting up a pier for my scope if I can decide on a good place to put it. Apart from anything else, with the tripod legs out of the picture I could sit close to the scope more easily but it would also let me set up an easel to mount a clipboard on for some sketching paper. It would also let me set it up to EQ mount it.

Strangely enough when I bought the scope I was thinking of purely visual observing for enjoyment, but I think I would like to try my hand at sketching as well.

Regards the cheats mount. My justification for the goto scope was that it is going to take me time to learn the sky in depth and while I am doing that, the goto means more time looking at it and less looking for it! The tracking function is also great, once properly aligned (Easy and quick) it tracks things rock solid for hours at a time, put Saturn in the middle of the FOV and go away for half an hour and there is is still well in the FOV when you come back. Love it.

I would admit though that I would learn more about finding things if I had a Dob. At some point my intention is to start nights by aligning the mount so it tracks and then ignore it and find things by manually slewing and starhopping.
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Old 10-04-2011, 09:25 AM
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Paddy (Patrick)
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Regarding dew and sketching, I haven't found it much of a problem around my part of central Victoria whilst making a sketch, but find this little dew hutch

http://www.iceinspace.com.au/63-446-0-0-1-0.html

very handy for keeping books charts and sketching gear dry during the session. Kilmore I imagine could be a bit different to our patch, though.
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Old 10-04-2011, 03:05 PM
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Enjoyed your report Paul especially your attention to detail in the trapezium
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Old 10-04-2011, 06:01 PM
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The_bluester (Paul)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paddy View Post
Regarding dew and sketching, I haven't found it much of a problem around my part of central Victoria whilst making a sketch, but find this little dew hutch

http://www.iceinspace.com.au/63-446-0-0-1-0.html

very handy for keeping books charts and sketching gear dry during the session. Kilmore I imagine could be a bit different to our patch, though.
That looks like exactly what I need. Yet another trip to Bunnings coming up! We have bought heaps of Coreflute recently, mainly to set up toy car tracks and similar things for our two and a half year old terror. I will have to buy another sheet as I doubt that there is any left. As soon as I saw that pic it was a no brainer that I need one, I even use what looks like the same Pelican case for my eyepieces and bits so something a similar size would work well. My table is about the same size too.

The Kilmore area gets pretty cold and dew is likely to be a big problem for me as the weather cools, on Thursday night only a hairdryer on an extension cord kept the corrector plate clear after about 9pm and the body of the scope was wet with dew by 10pm. A dewcap and heater will be needed pretty soon I think, maybe a dual channel controller and an eyepiece heater too. I actually had to bring the Nagler in and break it down into it's three discrete sections on Thursday night to let it warm up and dry out so I could keep using it as it fogged internally. Even the pluck out foam in the eyepiece case was wet at the end of the night. I left the case open in the house overnight to let everything dry out.

I did see someone at the ASV Messier star party with a heated eyepiece case. I thought it was an overkill at the time, maybe not so much as I thought. A little peltier effect panel to warm it up a few degrees from ambient might work wonders. But I would have to buy a new case, the wife is a photographer and would probably give me some significant looks for boring holes in a Pelican case.
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