Old 08-07-2015, 11:20 AM
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Benjamin (Ben)
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Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: Moorooka, Brisbane
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Lake Moogerah: Classic Hits (M83)

Location: Lake Moogerah, QLD, Australia
Time: 7:30 pm to 10:00pm, Tuesday July 7th
Seeing: Excellent (SMC clear)
Transparency: Excellent
Equipment: 12" Flextube Skywatcher Dob and Pentax PCF WPII 10x50 binoculars

I couldn't resist a final holiday excursion to a dark site with my scope before the weather turned. I grabbed my scope, gear and farther-in-law and made the hour and a quarter journey from my home to Lake Moogerah.

I didn't go with a plan but rather wanted to improvise a quick tour of my favourite DSOs that my father-in-law could follow in the binocs and with the naked eye. Also it was a chance to recap the previous evening with the binoculars.

While the scope cooled we had a quick look at NGC2070/Tarantula Nebula (133x) and noted how the waves of air washing over the mirror were distorting the image. Still it was a great object to catch before it dipped below the horizon and, despite cooling, many of its it twisted, spidery shapes (legs and loops) were clear. Also quickly located NGC104/47 Tuc (133x) as we confirmed the SMC and LMC, which later, as our eyes adapted (and the SMC rose and the LMC sank), were very easily visible angled patches on the south eastern horizon. We came back later in the night to NGC104 at 150x (10mm without Paracorr) and it was much more resolved and in the end we agreed that it was probably more interesting than NGC5139/Omega Centauri, which while immense and mind bogglingly detailed, didn't have that same lovely radiating shape. We then took in the Milky Way visually, pointing out the Lagoon Nebula (as an isolated patch of the Milky Way), M7, 47 Tuc, SMC, LMC, Coalsack, Omega Centauri, Eta Carina and others. Just amazing. We followed the visual tour with a bit of binocular viewing, honing in on the Coalsack, M7, and various bits in and around Scorpio.

Next, with a much cooled mirror we went to Eta Carina. At 86x through my ES 20mm 100 (with Paracorr) the nebula filled the entire view and was just astounding. Under these skies a UHC filter helped with contrast but really I preferred the unfiltered view. The three dimensional appearance of its various knots, lines and whispy extensions were on show, the highlight being one side of its bright V-shaped cloud. We also quickly looked at the large open cluster NGC3532 (86x) above the nebula and were immediately lost in its bright seemingly endless field of stars, with one notable bright one. It seemed like a very bright version of its very rich surroundings.

IC2602/Southern Pleiades were next, which just managed to fit in the FoV at 86x. Bright, clear white stars. We shifted our attention up to Omega Centauri and NGC5128/Centaurus A. Centaurus A we observed at both 133x and 150x. The later magnification I preferred and could see much with direct vision, although the averted view brought out much more character in the dark lane. Can't seem to escape wanting to see this, and, on this occasion, was rewarded with seeing more detail with much greater ease.

Being under a dark sky we felt Galaxies should be the main course. So, following NGC5128, we went to M83/Southern Pinwheel Galaxy. Hallelujah! At 150x a bright core and swirling arms greeted the view. It took a while to clarify the structure of the two main limbs but averted vision made this much easier. Direct vision made a bit of a muddle of the clearly visible surrounding gas. I've longed to see the spiral structure of galaxies so was VERY pleased to have finally timed a dark, still, clear sky and this objects good seeing position.

Given a short amount of time left before the cold got the better of us and moon rise we polished off our small collection of galaxies with M104/Sombrero Galaxy. Staying at 150x I've never seen this galaxy so clearly, with a strong black rim, bright center, and glowing outer reaches, mostly above the rim, but also below. It was my father-in-law's favourite object: "that's what I think galaxies should look like".

We had a quick tour of the nebula below Scorpio. M8 was much more extended than I'd previously seen it and much more smokey/watery (nothing like the edgier detail of Eta Carina). M20/Triffid Nebula was much clearer than I'd ever seen it with clear dark stems running through one side of it. M17/Omega/Swan Nebula was next. A lovely dark spot (much more prominent than I remembered it being) at the base of a giant tick. Lastly we took in M16/Eagle Nebula which had a nicely elongated shape, but we didn't really spend enough time here to pick out the central dark area.

Nearing the end of the end of the session we looked briefly at Saturn, again at 150x and got a lovely crisp image and noted 4 clear moons. We upped the magnification to 214x but we got a big washed out glow around the planet, rendering the moons less visible. We went back and forth between these magnifications and this issue lessened (eyes adjusting to the brightness I assume?). Can't say the view was vastly different to the back yard.

To finish we recapped Omega Centauri, Centaurus A, Southern Pinwheel (ah!), Sombrero, and 47 Tuc. Left the session a bit like the departing loved one on a train reaching out for those on the platform. We didn't want to leave :-( Great night nonetheless!!
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