Old 09-10-2022, 11:40 PM
Dave882 (David)
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First dark light with the c14

Last week I had the pretty incredible opportunity to go dark, the first time for aaaaages and first time ever with my c14 travel scope . We travelled up to Coonabarabran with the family (what a beautiful part of the country!!) I managed 2 part-nights and one full night of observing - and since it's been raining every day since I thought I'd type up some of my observing notes from the full night and post in case anyone's interested...

All observations made with my c14 (non edge) on eq8-Pro, controlled via ASIAIR Pro via EQMOD using orion 50mm guidescope & asi290mm as main camera for platesolving. Using ASIAIR in this way allows me to pinpoint even the faintest objects to great accuracy (all night without fail) without any star alignment. It's been a massive win for my visual observing and my setup time from car-boot to eyes on first target was about 1hr on first night and 45min after that.

All observations made at native focal length (~3910mm) with ES82 30mm eyepiece, and some close-ups with ES82 24mm & Morpheus 17.5... I wasn't going to spend any time on the planets under this kind of sky so nothing else made it out of the bag.

m8 / m20 / m16: Milky way was dropping fast due to a rain-related late setup. m8 - bright and clear, with NGC6530 stunning and filling almost my whole view. Scrolling around the area revealed some amazing detail in the surrounding nebula. m20 showed the dark nebulous divisions clearly for which it is named, and there was a lovely contrast between the Hydrogen and reflection nebula surrounding the central stars. I was able to clearly discern 2 central stars, but couldn't really split them further. m16 was a bit of a disappointment (mainly because I left it out earlier and came back way too late and low to the horizon). Something for next time I guess.

Veil Nebula - Wow - just wow. I've never observed this visually before, but after imaging it recently, was keen to give it a good go. The nebulosity gained a bit of contrast with a UHC filter too. So much wispy detail everywhere. The western veil was probably the highlight, and although I needed to slew around ALOT to take it in, it didn't bother me too much as the detail revealed was incredible. I was able to follow both east/west veils from end to end and spent a bit of time zooming around in-between finding interesting little pockets here and there. Probably spent an hour here at least

47 Tuc - another truely spectacular highlight of the night. I must have had a period of very good seeing as the contrast and sharpness was amazing. I could easily pick out each pin-point star all the way into the very core, and back out again in seemingly endless streams and contours of beauty. Some star colour evident but primarily blue/white across the board unless I peered very closely to find some orange in the midst. Must have come back here at least 2- 3 times more- just couldn't get enough although the view was substantially softer later on.

Nudging through to the SMC revealed a number of interesting smaller objects. I wish I had brought a printed map so I could have identified and made more of this view - another thing for next time.

NGC2070 & LMC - yikes, wow. The density of the 'spider' of 2070 and its surrounding nebulosity took me back. I tried a UHC filter but although it may have increased contrast a tad, I didn't like the muted star colours. Without a filter, the central cluster R136? literally made me catch my breath, as well as many other small clusters and nebulous regions as I zoomed around the region.

A bit of galaxy hunting: NGC55 was big and quite bright with a discernable brightness (even glow perhaps) in its central bulge. NGC253 even brighter again, and able to resolve a couple of dust lanes. NGC6744 a bit fainter but displaying its beautiful arms. I kept thinking I could see NGC6744A with averted vision but really wish I had a second set of eyes to confirm this as it could have been my eyes playing tricks. NGC300 a lot fainter, but still able to spot portions of its spiral arms.

Some northern galaxies- Triangulum and Andromeda - although quite low I had hoped for a bit more than what I got here. Both showed up quite bright but without any real detail to speak of. Out of pure curiosity I took a 6x30sec shot of m31 with my guide scope (my first shot of this ever!!). Out of focus and terribly dewy, but lol it was framed perfectly! An EAA consolation...

It was well after midnight, but was really keen to grab Orion before I packed up. So using ASIAIR's 'tonights best' feature I rolled through a solid 10-15 smaller galaxies of mag 10-11. A few of interesting shape and a couple of interesting clusters but nothing to really write home about. Successfully filled in a good 30-45min to allow m42 to get up to about 20degrees.

m42 / m43 - Still low in the horizon but putting on a great show! Stunning detail in the surrounding nebula and dust regions. m43 was a real standout for me though - just incredible detail throughout. By the time I was done the trap was showing me 6 stars - I just love the contrast between the larger white and 2 smaller orange ones. A real treat!

My final mission of the night was an attempt on the Horsehead. I moved over to Alnitak (ouch there goes my eyesight) but recovered to take in the flame NGC2024. Gosh I forgot how big this thing was, it took up almost my entire view but showed some lovely dark nebulous features. NGC2023 was a beautiful sight as well, but alas, i just couldn't find the horsey . Might have had something to do with the elevation still quite low, but I probably spent a solid 30min and just couldn't nail it unfortunately.

It was incredibly dewy. Everything was drenched (including me), and by 2am the cold was really getting through the layers. Time to pack up - but wow what a night! Memories enough to get me through another La Nina!
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Old 10-10-2022, 07:30 AM
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GUS.K (Ivan)
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Nice report Dave, thanks for sharing. Coona is a top spot, my daughter lived there for a few years.
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Old 10-10-2022, 08:05 AM
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Nice report, enjoyed very much, transporting a c14 to a dark site. Wow. Great effort and well worth it, it would seem.
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Old 10-10-2022, 09:11 AM
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Tinderboxsky (Steve)
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Excellent report, David.

We’re you platesolving through the 50mm guide scope?

I am looking forward to the day we get our old orange tube C14 up and running at our club down here.
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Old 10-10-2022, 09:59 AM
EpickCrom (Joe)
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Thanks for the fantastic report David! A 14 inch scope plus dark skies is a match made in heaven
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Old 10-10-2022, 10:59 AM
Dave882 (David)
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Thanks guys. Yes big scopes + dark sky = happy place! Been doing mostly imaging from the suburbs lately but there’s just something about looking through an eyepiece…

Steve- yes I was platesolving through the 50mm at ~170mm fl. The eq8 hasn’t got the best GOTO accuracy (especially moving across the meridian) so I’ve found this method saves much time and frustration at longer fl. I started using it while imaging planets at ~8000fl or with binos at 400x + , instead of a flip mirror. I can usually get my target centred just needs a quick calibration at start of each session.
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