Observation Report 30/6/12
First Light with Berenice, my new 10" Saxon Dobsonian telescope
After putting together the mount, with the wonderful help from my partner, Jason, we finally headed outside to set up the tube and put on the finderscope. Luckily enough, my beautiful scope was collimated at Astro Pete's before I left! We headed out into the backyard, choosing a position with a good view to the East as I was really hoping to see some beauties in Scorpius and Sagittarius. The moon was high and bright, a waxing gibbous in the sky, so I wasn't hopeful for the greatest seeing but was certainly going to give it a shot.
I had a few issues with aligning the finderscope as where I had set up, there were only a handful of really bright stars visible. I tried using a street light but it was too bright to get proper focus, so I tried a few stars but couldn't even see them in the eyepiece even when they were in view in the finderscope. I was getting frustrated and trained it on the moon to try and get focus. Again it was too bright and blobby, so we put the main cap back onto the telescope and took off the smaller cap to minimise the light and Jason managed to get focus for me.
After that it gradually fell into place. I ended up just finding a small pair of stars in the 25mm eyepiece and getting them in the centre then finding them in the finderscope. Once I had them both roughly matched up, I could then point it at a bright star and align it more accurately. I was very excited when I finally figured it out, it had been awhile since I had to aligned a finderscope so I was a bit out of practise.
Now I could focus on actually finding some sky beauties!
Firstly, I turned the scope on M6 as even under the harsh moonlight, it was still visible as a fuzzy patch close by to Shaula and Lesath, the tail of Scorpius. The stars were crisp and white, speckled through the sky like a diamond butterfly. I am continually impressed by the Butterfly Cluster, it is so simple and yet so stunning, even with the waxing gibbous glaring overhead.
Secondly, we tried to work out where Saturn was. I remembered it was fairly close by to Spica, so it wasn't too hard to find. There seemed to be far more colour and definition in the rings through the 25mm than through the 10mm eyepiece, although Jason pointed out that if you pulled your eye back from the 10mm eyepiece just slightly, there was more colour visible and the rings seemed to pop out more.
Thirdly, as I was fumbling around, trying to find something amidst the washed out sea of stars from the moon glow, I had a quick look in StarMapsPro and found a cluster near Corona Australis I thought I'd have a go at finding. I ended up finding a faint looking globular cluster but later realised that I hadn't been looking at Corona Australis but an arc of stars that looks very similar close by.
I later found Corona Australis but couldn't find the original cluster I had been looking for. Looking in Stellarium now, I think I may have found either M22 or M55, though I cannot be sure which. I have a feeling it may have been M55, as the cluster I found wasn't very densely packed like M22 appears to be.
Mars was beginning to set in the West by this time, so I turned the scope around and had a quick look. It appeared as a small blob in the telescope but with a definite rusty tinge.
I decided I would try to split Alpha Centauri A and B, as the last time I managed to with my friend in her 10" scope was just after dusk when the sky was grey and both stars appeared less bright. I thought perhaps because the Moon was out, it would create similar conditions and I was right! Both stars were easily visible, appearing so close to one another that sometimes they would seem to smudge together in the eyepiece before appearing again as two sharp pin pricks of light. It was an amazing sight to behold! And not a bad effort considering I was trying to look at it through a gap in the trees!
I turned the scope toward the Lagoon Nebula, a familiar sight filling the finder. Through the 25mm eyepiece, it was still an amazing sight though the lanes of dust were quite washed out by the moon.
Jason and I then lifted and carried the scope to have a better view of the south west so we could just make out Crux above the trees and the triangle of stars that leads to Centaurus A. Of course, there was no way I could make out Centaurus A, the moon was so bright and the triangle was so close to the tree line that it may have been too low and faint to see. I gave it a try anyway but came up empty.
So instead I pointed toward some of the usual suspects. Omega Centauri always being my favourite! It was still stunning to behold in the 25mm eyepiece but in the 10mm where usually epic detail would pop out and sparkle, it was smudgy and very hard to make out.
NGC3918 was not happening either, as it dipped too low behind the trees and would probably have been washed out by the moon also. So we had a quick look at the Jewel Box Cluster, which is also one of my favourite clusters. Even with the sky so washed out by the moon, it still shone and sparkled brightly with the whiter stars surrounded by golden pin pricks of light. Definitely a beauty!
Lastly, we decided to look at the Moon again. I still had the 10mm eyepiece in but didn't realise but was blown away when I looked through the eyepiece at how much detail there was in the craters. It was mind blowing! I then changed to the 25mm eyepiece and had one final look at the moon's rugged surface before calling it a night.
And there you have it, first light with Berenice. Not a huge list and by no means a fantastic night of observations but I'm hoping to set up nice and early tonight and try for some different objects. The Moon, of course, was not on my side but I was just so happy it was clear enough to observe! I thought for sure I'd be surrounded by looming rain clouds after making my purchase last night.
Here's to a clear New Moon!