Friday, 25 April 2008

Capturing Saturn

After receiving all the bits and pieces for completing the webcam attachments, I was expecting bad weather. I was surprised to find that the sky was clear about 10pm last night. I grabbed all my gear and headed out. After the usual level, power up, I did a quick solar system align on Saturn and had a play with the webcam. Hmm, unable to focus it. I started playing around with various connections and diagonals all to no avail. I user the normal 30mm extension tube, I tired both with a standard mirror diagonal and a prism diagonal, with and without the barlow. I tried unscrewing one of the nose pieces from the diagonal and it wouldn't attach to the webcam nose piece. In the end, the only way I could achieve any form of focus was without the diagonal, using the 30mm extension tube and the 2x barlow without the lens element. This meant that the image was a wee bit tiny. Anyway, after some play with the settings in vlounge, I fired up k3ccdtools and played some more in there. After a couple of abortive attempts, I managed to get a 3 minute avi captured. After some trial and error, I managed to get Registax 4 to process it, and with some playing with the wavelets thingys ended up with this


Yes, it's very small, I need to work out a way of using the barlow properly and this is going to take some playing during the day when I can work out what tubes connect to what attachments to get focus. Ah well.

After capturing the AVI, I tested out the 24mm Hyperion. As usual, I got the normal Hyperion experience. Really wide views crisp and clear. I tested it out on M44 and not only could see the cluster, but the two stars in Cancer either side. This gives me higher Mag than bins, but the same FOV. Excellent. I then decided to try the Hyperion tuning rings on the 5mm and went back to Saturn. In theory the tuning rings will give me the same mag as the 5mm with x2 barlow. This did indeed seem to be the case, but as everything was misting up quite badly at this point, it was really hard to say for sure. In fact, I gave up at this point, I'd only been out for an hour, but as everything was misted over, including the tripod legs, I didn't see the point in struggling on. An enjoyable session even if somewhat short.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Some new bits and pieces

Well, Steve at FLO has done his usual superb job. I ordered a 24mm Hyperion, the fine tuning rings, and a UV/IR cut filter for the webcam yesterday mid morning, and they all arrived, well packed this morning. I've removed the lens from the SPC900, and fitted the nose piece and filter, so it's all ready to go. Two things to test it with. One, live viewing, hopefully it will be sensitive enough. Two, Planetary/Lunar imaging. I'll give Saturn a go if the weather ever clears up. In traditional fashion, now the new gear has arrived, we appear to have a storm rolling in, based on the grumbles from the sky heard not that long ago. I think I may have to become far more active in Photography, at least that way I'll get to use some of the gear I have for astronomy when the weather is like this.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Testing the Bressers

After I'd got everything completed that needed to be done this evening, it was already gone 10:30pm. Whilst the day had ended clear and the skies had been clear a couple of hours before, of course, the clouds had been drawn by the idea that I might get out. Still there were some gaps and I decided to try out the Bresser 10x50 bins from Lidl. I had a look around, took a look at Saturn and Mars. Was unable to find M44 or any other clusters, of course the patches of cloud parked themselves in just the wrong places, and I took a look at Mizar and Alcor. I must say, for the price, these are superb. The view is clear and sharp across the entire field, they are light enough to not be a problem handheld, yet provide the same light gathering and not a lot less magnification than my Celestron bins. Mechnically, they are also much better. The Celestrons have a habit of slipping focus as they are used, but the Bressers certainly don't and whilst the comparative lightness doesn't inspire for build, everything just fields more solidly put together. I can see these getting a lot more use and the Celestrons getting retired. Now, if only I had a local Lidl and could go grab some more. Ah well.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Cloudy Weather

The weather, since I got clouded out has not been kind. It's been cloudy ever since. Last night I saw the first stars and a planet since then. Arcturus, Regulus and Saturn where the only things bright enough to burn through the light cloud cover. Today has dawned bright and sunny so we shall have to see what comes. My new Bins (lidl/Breser 10x50's) are here and of course they arrived the day after the clouds set in, so I haven't had a chance to test them yet. Having said that, I've had a quick play during the day. I've found that they are clearer and much lighter than my Celestron 12x50's, so I reckon they'll get more use.

I've ordered up a Philips SPC900 from Maplin, and bought a 33p resistor so I could get the free shipping, that was a 33p well spent, as it saved me some £3. I already have a 1.25" Nose piece for a webcam, so I should be able to get that up and running easily. I'm also planning on getting a 24mm Hyperion and the tuning rings to round out my ep collection.

Friday, 18 April 2008

A brief lunar tour - 17th April

Whilst it was a little windy with gusts, and the sky had a slight mistiness too it, I decided to set up and have a look at the moon again. So after the usual, level, solar system align on Saturn, I swung across to the moon.

I started out once again, with attempting a sketch, this time of Aristarchus and it's environs. This was quite tricky as the seeing was not good tonight. This might be because the moon was quite low to the roof line on the house, and I was being impacted by heat coming of the roof.


After completing the sketch, I had a good look around, as I'd been sketching in the area, there's Aristarchus, Herodotus and H, the Vallis Schroter, and nearby what looked like a small mountain range, but I can't find any reference to this. I also made a very rough sketch for ID purposes including up to Sinus Iridium, and using this and Copernicus as the referent points. Around sinus Iridium I found, Mairan & A, Sharp and A & B, Louville and Harpalus. I also looked in on Sinus Roris. Moving North I found Kepler, Marius and Reiner, but Reiner Gamma was hiding in the terminator. It was quite astonishing the difference that the change in contrast from the movement in the terminator and the seeing conditions make, I couldn't make out a lot of the craters I'd spotted in this region last night.

I moved on to the Gassendi region and had a look at the area that had moved out of shadow. Gassendi and A, Mersenius and A, Billy, Hansteen, Zupus and Cavendish, I carried on further and was able to pick out Schikard from the edge of the terminator, it was playing hide and seek, being half in shadow and half in light. Then, speaking of playing hide and seek, the Moon had a go as she ducked into a cloud bank. That put paid to any further observing, so I packed up. Went in, fired up VMA and worked out what I'd seen.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Clear night on the moon - 16th April

Another clear night, but too many things to do. I was really hoping that the clouds wouldn't roll in, and I was lucky and in the clear when I finally got everything finished just before 10pm. So I trundled everything out and setup. Leveled, powered up, a quick solar system align on Saturn, and then used the goto to get to the moon, just to see what happened. After all it's not as if the moon is hard to find. Interestingly the goto put Gassendi into the centre of the FOV of the 5mm Ortho I use for alignment. I swapped to the 5mm Hyperion and x2 barlow. Having had this pop up so spectacularly in the eyepiece, and as I'd been planning to try a proper sketch instead of the usual crater spotting ones I've been doing, I figured this would be an ideal starting point. As I was using the white light camping lantern, which does away with the need for the ND96 filter, seeing the paper was easy. I'm not sure how easy this would be under red light. Anyway, after studying and sketching as I went for a little under an hour, here's the result.

Gassendi and the Mare Humorum

It was quite tricky getting it onto the computer as it wouldn't scan and ended up taking a snap with the camera, then some fiddling with levels to get the paper a more normal colour.

Seeing was ok, but has been better and I went onto some crater spotting. As I was already there, I started in the same area with Gassnedi and A & B. Then around the rim of Mare Humorum. Opposite Gassendi, using my more accurate Sketch, I found Dopplemayr and M, Vitello and Lee. Nearby I also found Puiseux, this was quite tricky as it's quite faint. There's a line/wall of some sort running through the Mare from Puiseux, but I can't find any reference to it. Near Gassendi, on the end of the opposite wall, is Agatharchides.

From here I went and found Ramsden, and after another of my poor little sketches in my notebook and checking after on VMA, I found Capuanus, Mercator and A, Campanus and A, Konig, Kies and A, Wolf T (I think), Dunthorne and Darney. From this area, I moved a little way to Hainzel, where after looking around and another poor sketch found Hainzel B, L, R, J, O and W, there's a lot of little craters linked around this area. Then Mee and B, E & F. Epimenides and B & F, and Clausius and B & F. Then as it was near anyway, the elongated scar that is Schiller with N, Rost, Bayer and A, C & E.

I then went and had a look at Clavius, and it's getting harder to pick out as the terminator marches on, but I could still see the tracery of the curve of smaller craters, decreasing in size and arching North, and I think I managed to pick Moretus out of the flatness too. I also saw Longomontanus and probably a few others, but due to the lack of contrast, it's much harder to pick out. Then onto Tycho, this stands out anyway, despite the drop in contrast.

I then hopped back to the Mare Nubium and Bulliadus fell under the eyepiece. I added it to my little sketch around Ramsden, and used this as a useful anchor point for VMA lookup later. Around Mare Nubium, I found Pitatus, Hesiodus and I think I also found Lubiniezky just to the southwest of Bulliadus, although these were all quite tricky due to the lack of contrast. Then I moved onto the divide between Mare Nubium and Mare Humorum and had a good long look for Hippalis and the rilles. This was really quite hard, as the seeing wasn't the best, I looked and looked, and then I guess I got a moment or two of good seeing, and could make out the delicate tracery of the three big rilles, phew.

Then back to near Gassendi and the other side of the wall, I found Herigonius and nearby Letronne. Then onto Lansberg and another quick sketch, netted me, the Montes Riphaeus at the end of which, in the direction of Lansberg is Euclides P. Around Lansberg I also found B, C and G. Expanding the sketch to include Copernicus and Keppler and the area in between, I found, Hortensius, Milichius, Rienhold, Kunowsky, Encke and Tobias Meyer with A & C. To the South of Copernicus I spotted the Montes Carpatus, not a difficult find really, it's quite a mountain chain in the middle of the flat areas. Moving on up South, looking around the Montes Apenninus and Montes Alpes area, I spotted Plato, then back to Archimedes nestled between them, and using Archimedes and Erosthenes as anchors it was time for another rough sketch. Which netted me, Euler, Lambert, Pytheus, Delisle, Diophantus, Brayley and B, and a couple of mountains, Mons Lahire and Mons Vinogradov.

Then into the Sinus Iridium, via taking a look at both capes, Heraclides and Laplace on the way in, another rough sketch got me, Bianchini, Sharp, Maupertius, Bouger and Foucault. Around here, I also saw Mons Gruithuisen. Then on up South past Plato and Mare Frigoris, I found Hershel, Phitlolaus, Fontenelle and Goldschmidt, another quick sketch here, found me, Scoresby M, Anazagoras and Barrow A.

As I was getting quite cold by now, I finished off with a view of Saturn. She was as pretty as ever. I'm not sure, but again I think perhaps I may have seen some banding, and I did see the planets shadow on the rear of the rings. I also think I saw three moons, Titan, Tethys and Rhea. I spend a good 15 minutes just staring at Saturn. Then packed up and went in.

It was only when I got back indoors and looked at the Lunar 100 list, I realised that over the past few nights, I've picked up a few more.

9th April - Mare Australe and Mare Smythii
10th April - Vallis Rheita
12th April - W Bond.

I was really pleased to have spotted those. A good week, my first proper attempt at sketching, and it looks as though I've got the idea across, another "impact" of craters (not sure what the collective noun for craters are, but impact works for me) and four for the Lunar 100, giving me 70.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Drawing the moon

I was finally able to digitise the picture. It wouldn't scan no matter what I did, so I ended up taking a picture of it with the camera. This worked, anyway, here it is:


Tuesday, 15 April 2008

A brief daylight moon - 14th April

I got out for about 45 minutes last night at about 7 pm with my youngest to take a look at the moon. After leveling, so much easier in daylight, I went to align the scope on the moon. This ought to be easy, but the RDF is about as much use as a chocolate fireguard during the day, and sighting by eye along the tube just doesn't work. In the end, after a rough along the tube align, I just took out the ep, and looked in the diagonal until the disk showed in the mirror, then popped the ep back in and used Solar System align to set the mount. This worked well and I'll use this again for daylight lunar observing.

I lined up the scope so that Montes Apenninus and Montes Caucsus were in view and pointed them out. Then pointed out Plato and Erosthenes. This was a little tricky as the mount was set for me sitting on a chair, and the ep was at just the wrong height, so with a little twist of the locking screw, I rotated the diagonal around so the ep was at about 45° and he could see in fine. He saw these things, but decided he'd rather look through bins, so I stopped viewing for a few minutes to go grab a tripod, bins and the adapter. Then set him up so he could look at the moon through them.

Once done, I went back to the scope, reset it for me and had a brief observing session. I started at the obvious feature being the mountains of the Apennines and Caucasus. I grabbed Plato and Erosthenes which anchor either end and made a rough sketch. I need to get better at drawing these things, at the moment they are pen and ink on lined paper that gives me a rough reference for using VMA to identify what I've seen using the Moon Atlas as a guide to the referent points. If I can improve I'm sure I can get some decent records and probably learn the features better. Something for another day, and I mean day, sketching at night is a real challenge.

Hmm, where was I. Ah yes, in between the arms of the mountains, I found the crater Archimedes. This I used in the sketch, with Erosthenes and Plato as the referent points. The sketch found me Aristillus, Autolycus, Bancroft, Theaetetus, Cassini and Wallace. I also spotted some mountain peaks near Plato, they looked like small Pyramids, and I think I saw Mons Piton and Mons Pico along with Montes Tenerife (not sure I'd want to go on holiday to this Tenerife though, maybe a little cold).

Moving on along the terminator, I then say Timocharis, Mosting, Lalande, Thebit and Tycho. I tried to see Fra Mauro, but this was hiding in shadow. I also had a look at Clavius. Whilst Clavius was still partly in the terminator, the main outer crater was visible and the rim of each interior crater was lit. Quite a spectacular way to see Clavius and I wish I had some way to capture this view. Ah well.

At this point, the moon was quickly covered in clouds, I was going to watch and see what happened as patchy clouds had been passing all day, but then I felt the first drops of rain. I quickly lowered the scope to a parked position (horizontal) it doesn't do any faster than quick (9x slew), unplugged everything, and moved it all indoors to avoid it getting overly wet. I kept checking throughout the evening, but whilst there were gaps and cloud banks, there never looked to be enough gap, so I didn't get out again. This is the drawback of the NexStar over the camera tripod. As it takes a few minutes to setup and align to get the tracking, if I only have a 10 minute or so window of opportunity, I don't setup anymore. The camera tripod would be up and running as soon as it was outside. I'd rather have the tracking though any day of the year.

After we'd come inside, my youngest drew a sketch of the moon as he saw it, I'll try and scan it later.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Yet more craters - 12th April

I got out again tonight, after a day of mixed not good to bad weather, the clouds all went away as the evening wore on. I got out quite late and made this a short session as I have to get up early tomorrow. I leveled the mount, and tried out a new function I'd read about and ignored in the manual. Solar System Align. Seems very easy. Pick an object in the solar system, align the scope on it and away you go. Seems to work very well to. Excellent. I used the 5mm Hyperion and 2x Barlow to give me 160x as usual. Firstly I noticed that the moon wasn't quite so sharp and crisp tonight as it has been on other nights. Poor seeing I guess.

Anyway, I target Mare Serenitatis as the stepping off point and went to find Posidinius. This was a bit harder to find as the terminator has moved quite some way in only two days. As I was there anyway, and the Hyperion gives me such a wide view, I grabbed Le Monnier. Then onto find Plinius and it's neighbour Dawes. Nearby I alo found, the Montes Haemas and Menelau nestled in the foothils, with Ross and Maclear heading out into the Mare Tranquilitatis. As I was in the sea anyway I went and had a look at Arago. From Arago, it was a short hop to Ritter and Sabine, although they weren't particularly clear compared to others, I guess they must be quite shallow, possibly filled in somewhat with lava. In the area I also found Delamba, Theon Senior and Theon Junior. Now I'm a little puzzled with these two. I definitely spotted the holes in the surface and marked them on my poor sketch, yet according to VMA I need a 100mm refractor to see these craters and yet mine is only 80mm. I guess this means that you need a 100mm to see details within the crater.

Nearby my eye was drawn to a particular bright looking crater, which according to VMA is Dionysius. This is quite near Cayley, and these two appear to bracket a mountain of some sort, but VMA isn't telling me anything about it. Then I went and had a look at Theophilius, Cyrillu and Catherina. It's a shame I didn't get to have a look at these craters yesterday. The terminator had moved on sufficiently to remove a lot of the contrast from this trio. From here I went onto Hipparchus and Albategnius. There's a lot in this area, and another poor sketch and VMA search later has turned up, Horrocks within the Hipparchus crater, Halley stuck between them, this leading into an arc with Hind and Hipparchus C. On the other side of Albategnius there's Vogel, and then away from the terminator, Albulfeda, Almanon, Geber and many many others. I didn't sketch them, so I'm not going to claim them. A little further down, or is that North, I get confused... I came to Apianus, Aliacensis, Goodacre and Gemma Frisius, Nonius,and then onto Maurolycus and Stofler which has Faraday cutting the wall towards Maurolycus.

Having completed the journey North ?? I think, I returned to the Mare and had a look at Montes Alpes and the Vallis Alpes, still partly in the terminator but just visible. Then I had a look for Eudoxus and Aristoteles. After another poor sketch I indetfied, Eudocus A, Mitchell, Galle, Egede. Calipus in the Montes Caucusus, Theaeteteus nearby next to Cassini. Then I shifted to right up South, or should that be down South, I think I'm beginning to get my directions sorted out even through a mirrior. Anyway, when I got to wherever it was I was going, I spotted W Bond which to my eyes looked almost diamond in shape. I had a good look around here and sketched again. This was tougher due to the curvature, but worth it, as I got to see, W Bond D, Archytas and D, Protagoras, Sheepshanks and what looked like a mountain in between them and C. Mayer. I then recentered again and had a look at the Monte Apenninus, the Hyginus rille was hiding in the terminator, but I could see the bumpy bit, low hills would be my guess, nearby.

I finished off with a look at Saturn as marvelous as ever.

Shortly after the clouds rolled in anyway, so I didn't miss out on much observing time. I don't believe I picked up any more of the Lunar 100.

Update on the bumps

Thanks very much to Talitha from SGL I have some more details on the bumps by Vitruvius that I spotted.

"There was also a cluster of bumps on the opposite side of Vitruvius from Gardner, I can't work out what they are, mountains of some sort, but I can't find a name."

They've always reminded me of gleaming pyramids. Only two them have names as far as I know: Mons Argaeus and Mons Vitruvius (Apollo 17 landed east of the pyramid above Mons Vitruvius).

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Here we go gathering craters in April - 10th

I really didn't think I was going to get out this evening. The day started cloudy, continued cloudy and threatening rain, then as the sun was beginning to set, the clouds just vanished. It was as if someone waved a magic wand, in just ten minutes. I'd like to apologise to all those who don't have said magic wand, unfortunately, nor do I or I'd happily share it around.

I headed out around 9pm, after dropping, well technically putting as I wouldn't really drop it, the scope outside about 10 minutes earlier, leveled the mount, and was just about to power up when I spotted a fast dot shooting overhead. I watched it pass under the dipper and fade out into the Earths shadow through Bootes. I checked on Heavens Above once I'd finished and this was the UARS satellite. After UARS had faded, I powered up and began the Align. Using the 5mm Ortho I picked Betelguese and Polaris as my alignment points, I don't recall the third reference star. Then checked alignment by slewing to Saturn. No problems, everything was spot on. Not sure what happened yesterday, ah well, can't complain. I set tracking to Lunar, swapped the Ortho for the 5mm Hyperion and x2 Barlow, inserted the ND96 filter, and away I went on another Lunar surface flyby at 160x.

Firstly, locating a reference point, hmm, Mare Tranquilitatis looked good for this tonight, so I set my sights, used the slow slew control and went from there. Using Macrobius to get my bearings and orientation, I looked for and found Romer and Vitruvius. I noticed that there were a lot of smaller craters nearby and made one of my not good sketches to use on VMA later. This way I found, Macrobius W and K, Carmichael, Hill, Gardner and Maraldi plus Maraldi D and E. There was also a cluster of bumps on the opposite side of Vitruvius from Gardner, I can't work out what they are, mountains of some sort, but I can't find a name.

From there I moved on to Posidinius, and again a carp little sketch helped me ID Posidinius B and J and Chacornac. Nearby, Le Monnier was just beginning to peek out of the terminator, where the Russian Luna 21 mission landed. Next Franklin came under scrutiny, followed by Atlas and Hercules, who tonight had come out of the terminator to play (now that's a scary thought). Another crummy little sketch also helped me ID Orsted, Cepheus, Hercules C and Mason C. Then I noticed, I can't find the reference now, that Lacus Somniorum and Lacus Mortis ought to be visible. They took a little hunting down as they are more featureless than features and quite small compared to the Mares, but I got them. Lacus Somniorum by Posidinius and Lacus Mortis near Hercules.

I then set my sights on Grove and made another little sketch that also found me Mason A, Plana, Burg, Mason C and Hercules C (again). Carrying on further along the crescent I next came to Gartner, another little sketch found me the name of Democritus for the crater nestled behind the rim. Then onto Arnold and Endymion, and there's a lot around this area I missed, but it's tough to sketch, so concluding my journey Northwards (I think) around the crescent, I retraced my steps back to Mare Tranquilitatis, pausing briefly in Mare Crisium for a dark patch was really obvious and caught my eye. Turns out it was Picard, quite astonishing how dark this looked against the backdrop of the Mare.

Back at Mare Tranquilitatis, and I had a good look for Cauchy, I'm pretty sure I saw this little crater. Then I noticed a couple of craters on the divide between Mare Tranquilitatis and Mare Frigoris. Another sketch and they are Taruntius and Secchi. I've also just noticed on VMA that Secchi is set in the Montes Secchi range, so I can tick that box too, hmm not got a box for that, ah well. Then I went looking for Meskelyne, and picked up A and F by sketch also.

Then into the Mare Nectaris to have a look at Fracustorius and surrounds. On the way over I had a look at Capella and Isidorius. Then Fracustorius with D and B, I noticed a peculiar pattern along the edge of the terminator and it looks like the end of it nearest Fracustorius is Beaumont, the other end was the edge wall of Theophilus, but I can't work out what the wall/feature running between them is. Anyway, next to Theophilus was Madler, and on the opposite side of Mare Nectaris Bohnenberger and Bohnenberger A could clearly be seen.

I moved on to Piccolomini next and had a look around here, another sketch and I found Piccolomini M and C as well. Also Stiborius and Rothman. There was some form of line running between Stiborius and Piccolomini but again I can't work out what this was with VMA. Then I moved onto Janssen which had moved out of the terminator and was sitting there in full glory. Another sketch, there's a lot to this crater, got me Fabricius, Melius, Steinheil and Watt. I spent some time staring intently into the crater trying to see the Janssen rille, and whilst I thought I could see a curved shape running through the crater, this was just wishful viewing as my scope really isn't big enough to resolve it.

I then went onto Hommel and Pitiscus and another little sketch netter me a fair few extras. So with Hommel, Hommel C and D, Vlacq + D, Rosenberger + C, Nearch and Hagecius. There's quite a lot of cratering in this area, and my sketching isn't good enough to be able to get a proper list for all I saw, but I'll keep at it and I'm sure that with some effort I'll get a lot more of them.

As I'd completed the list of targets for the day listed in my Atlas, I took out all the filters and had a quick look through the scope again, just to see exactly what effect the Fringe Killer and the ND96 had. This was a mistake, and whilst the moon looked more clean and white, I had an interesting after image for a little while in front of one eye. Never mind.

I then used the Goto to try and see M57, the scope slewed around and pointed and I got a great closeup view at 160x of my Neighbours wall. Ah well. I had a quick look around the sky to the north, and noticed an odd line of stars running between Usra's major and minor. A quick look in Nightwatch revealed this to be Draco, another constellation. I had a good luck at Ursa minor, and I'm sure I could see 6 of the 7 stars in this constellation. I guess this means conditions last night were excellent, and the views of the moon support that, as I didn't find I was having to see between bouts of wobbles.

I swapped to the 17mm Hyperion (about 30x) and went to M44 to adjust focus next. Had a good look at the hive as I was there anyway and it's such a pleasure to see. Then thought, as I was getting cold, I'd see what the tour on the Nexstar would find for me. I started scrolling through the list. Hmm, Andromeda and M110, nope, that's behind the trees. Hmm, Christmas Tree cluster, hit Enter and away went the scope, finally settling onto a patch of sky. And there it was, a very delicate, but tastefully decorated Christmas tree (NGC 2264). A looked at this for a while, then had a go at M78, no, this was behind a tree. Then the number 3 cluster, hiding in the bushes. Ok, gotta be something that isn't in the plantlife. After all there's all that sky overhead. Finally found one, the crown cluster an interesting little pattern I thought. Then the Coma cluster, I thought this meant Mel111, but the star pattern didn't look quite right, although it was in the right ballpark. Having said that, checking this morning, the Coma cluster is a bunch of galaxies, that I wouldn't be able to see in my scope anyway, so I guess I must have been looking at Mel111 all along.

I finished off with a short study of our ringed friend Saturn. I was using the wrong ep really, I didn't swap the 17mm Hyperion, but could make out the rings. I noticed some CA, as I hadn't put the Fringe Killer back yet. This was making it hard to make out with the 17mm, so I popped the FK filter back in and this made focusing much easier.

I really enjoyed seeing the moon last night, as I mentioned, the conditions were great and I think the seeing must have been near spot on, as there was very little wobble. I grabbed an extra constellation too.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Moon Child - 9 April

Finally, a clear night and I managed to get out with the scope. It's been clear here for the past few nights, but due to other commitments the opportunity just wasn't there. I got outside just after 9pm and started the setup. Leveled the mount, powered up and started the align. Only to discover that I'd previously knocked the Red Dot Finder out of alignment. Damn. OK. I couldn't find Polaris in the 5mm Ortho, so I manually slewed the scope to the moon, I figured I ought to be able to find this nice bright object and roughly aligned the RDF, then slewed back to Polaris to complete. Then finished the SkyAlign. Then back to the moon, for a look at this young 3/4 day old.

First off, I decided I'd do a comparison test between the Baader Fringe Killer and the Baader Contrast Booster filters. Apart from a stronger yellow cast from the contrast booster and a dimmer view, I was unable to detect any difference in the actual image. I then popped in the Lunar Filter (ND96) as even this thin sliver was hurting my eye. I then figured I'd have a go at a subjective test to put my mind at ease. Something that had been bugging me was whether there was any apparent perceived effect on the magnification from having a wider Field of View. I compared what was seen through the 5mm Ortho and Hyperion and there is no difference. My memory fooled me into thinking there might be some issue.

Having sorted that out, I dropped in my x2 barlow, taking the Magnification up to x160 and went looking for Craters. Hmm, there's lots of craters. I started out on Mare Crisium, nice and easy reference point and first up was Picard, an odd looking little crater with black surrounding it. I noticed 3 other craters in the Mare, one by Picard and the other two on the opposite side. Hmm, these are not listed in my atlas, so I made a very small and poor sketch, and looked them up on VMA (Virtual Moon Atlas) afterwards, they are, Yerkes, Peirce and Swift. It's nice to be able to put names to craters, those that I looked up after, I'll label as (VMA). On the opposite side of the Mare from these I also spotted Eimmart. Then I headed out around the limb. I haven't got my Lunar compass sorted out, or attached to the end of my scope yet, so I can't say if this is North or South, however, I went past Macrobius to Cleomedes. Then onto Geminus. Between Cleomedes and Geminus I found Burkhard, Trolles and Bernoulli (VMA).

From there, I continued on, finding, Messala, Franklin and Atlas. Hercules was playing hide and seek in the shadow of the Terminator, and didn't want to put his nose into the light tonight. Then onto Endymion. Behind Endymion, I think I was just about able to see Mare Humbodltianium.

Then back to Mare Crisium, and off in the other direction. My first stop was at Appolonius, then I spotted an odd triangular pattern of craters on the edge of Mare Fecunditatis. The biggest of the three is Bilharz, the other two are Atwood (VMA) and Naonobu (VMA). From here onto Langrenus and I was able to make out the central peak quite easily. I'd not noticed this before, so either the seeing was better tonight, or my eyes are getting better at spotting things. From there onto Vendilinus, which almost looks like a macro view of a Mandelbrot set with the way the nearby craters are aligned. They are Lane, Holden and Lohse (all 3 VMA). The other one on my little sketch, that I thought was part of Vendilinus, actually turned out to be Petavius B (VMA).

I believe I may have spotted Mare Smythii, lurking right on the edge, VMA seems to confirm this as possible tonight. If so, then that's another on for the Lunar 100.

From there to Petavius, where after a few moments study, I was able to work out where the Palitzch Valley is, although given the size of it, it really shouldn't have taken me that long. And just next door, the crater Wrottesly. I couldn't make out the rille in the floor of Petavius, but that's not really a big surprise with my little scope, although I thought I'd have a look anyway. From here to Snellius, Stevinus, Funeris and Funeris B (VMA). I also spotted Mare Australe. Then finally onto Janssen. This area looks like someone decided to have some fun with an industrial digger and rip out large chunks of the surface. It took me a little while to locate Janssen, but I did it by finding the odd camel hoof shaped double crater of Steinheil and Watt. I spent quite some time looking at Janssen, hoping that I might be able to pick up some detail on the floor but to no avail, my scope's just not big enough.

There's a lot of other craters I missed, but as I'd run out of targets in my book, I decided it was time to move on. I told the mount to Goto Saturn. It started to slew towards Saturn, then went straight past and carried on for a further 45 degrees. Hmm, thought I, what happened there. I manually bought the mount back to Saturn and told it to Align on Saturn. I got a message that the Align had failed. Odd. I powered it off and started from scratch. During the alignment, I caught sight of a streaker, dashing East to West, towards the moon. Bit of a wow there. Twice the Skyalign failed and I don't know why. I checked the level again, checked the powertank connections and charge, all good. Did the align again, this time it worked. Phew.

Anyway, used the Goto to get to Saturn, and there she was. I could only make out the one moon. My garden now has more lights being shown into it, as the Neighbours are now using the rear bedrooms more. Hope this is a one off. I swapped the Hyperion for the 17mm and as I was beginning to get cold, I used the Goto, as I have it, to grab me a few M's before going back inside. My little scope really struggled with a number of these, and even the Globular clusters were just grey blobs. Ah, well. Here's what I looked at, M13, which I only picked in case, I'd thought it was still below the house rooves, but that gives me Hercules for the constellation list to. M64, M3, M53, M94, M67, a sweet little cluster in the 17 mm Hyperion. And finished it all off with a Bee watch in M44.

A most enjoyable night under the stars, grabbing a number of craters, 1 for the Lunar 100, 1 new Constellation and 4 new Messiers.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Young Moon and Constellations

I had to go attend a meeting yesterday evening, so missed out on what is probably the best night in weeks. C'est la vie. However, on the way there I spotted this thin sliver of silver hanging in the evening sky. A quite spectacular lunar crescent. The sun had settled behind the houses and objects in the west, yet the sky was still too bright for the stars to have appeared. I just wish I'd had my camera with me to grab a shot or few.

On the way home, several hours later, the sky was still clear so I spent some time having a good look around at the spring constellations. I spotted, Leo, Cancer, Gemini, Auriga, Bootes, Ursa Major, Coma Berenices and others, that I didn't recognise, I'll have to have a look with my planisphere handy at some point soon. I was also quite surprised to still be able to see Perseus and Cassiopeia, but I think this is more down to my normal observing location, the back garden and they hide in the trees from there.

As it was already quite late, I've been working today, and I've not been well I decided not to get the scope out. It's a shame, but sometimes other things have to be done.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Not seeing the baby moon

After a day of snow and heavy cloud. They finally started to clear and gave me hope that I might be able to catch a glimpse of the really young moon. As the soon settled to the horizon, I was treated to a spectacular sunset through the trees on my western horizon. After the sun had sunk, I started searching with the bins, camera at the ready, but to no avail. There was too much cloud still, and the trees were in the way. Never mind. The clouds never really properly cleared, that I could tell, keeping a high level murk.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

A brief Eyeball View - 5 April

The clouds finally cleared yesterday evening about 8pm. After dinner, I'd worked out using Heavens Above that the ISS was due to pass about 2124. So I had a look around. I spotted The Pleaides, the Hyades, Taurus, Perseus, Cassiopeia, Orion and Sirius below, Gemini and Mars within, and Auriga. Then I spotted the clouds rolling back in. And just after the ISS. It started out as a race between the ISS and the clouds, but the ISS soon pulled into the lead. I watched it climb up through Gemini and pass behind the roofline of the house. It wasn't long before the clouds had once again covered the sky.

I'm hoping that the clouds today will clear in time for sundown as I'd like to see the very very young moon, but I don't think it's likely.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

The Great Space chase is on

Clouds during the morning, they cleared for the afternoon, clouds during the evening, they cleared astonishingly in time for the ATV/ISS pass, then came back for good. So I setup the camera on the tripod, in the hope of capturing the pair, grabbed the bins and went out a few minutes before the pass was due to take place. I had a look at M42 and M45 through the bins. Non dark adapted, they weren't spectacular, but M42 was a very pale fringe in Orions sword, M45 was still splendid. As I took my first alignment shot, I spotted the bright spot of the ISS lifting it's way heavenward, looking a little way ahead, I spotted the dimmer dot of the ATV. WOW, the sight of both was quite astonishing. Realising, that my alignment shot was wasted and this would now not work, once it had finished I moved the tripod and camera around to try again. I hit the button and hoped. Meanwhile, watching this man made game of cosmic cat and mouse. Once the ATV faded into shadow, I followed the ISS with the bins and again, there was definitely shape to it, although just below the level of seeing, almost a shadow. The image is a single 30 seconds frame at Iso200.