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Old 06-27-2010, 09:12 AM   #1

Default Observing reports

Hi everyone,

I don't know how many regular astronomers we have on here, but I think it would be nice to provide a place to post reports of what we have seen after a night outside. Even if you've just spent a couple of minutes looking at one object, I, for one, would be interested in hearing. Maybe we could get one or two read out on Orbiter Radio every night/week (depending on the frequency) to let everyone know what we are looking at. I'll start:

25th June 2010:


- M57
- M13 (First time)
- 'Double double'
- ISS through telescope

I started by waiting. Waiting for the clouds to clear, and for the Sun to slip far enough below the horizon. Luckily, these events occured in conjunction, and I was able to get outside by around 22:30. As I set the scope up, I decided to start with M57, the Ring Nebula, as it is something I have wanted to see more of. With a low Moon on the horizon, I aimed at M57 and tried differing magnification. I used between 36X and 90X to observe the fuzzy circle, and with averted vision, I was able to get the darker patch in the middle, making it very ring-like.

Then, I decided to flip to the 'double double' star, also in Lyra. Starting with 36X, I decided to see what it would take for me to split it. 36X didn't do it, so I used 90X, which showed a tiny amount of dark space between the stars, although 180X gave the best show.

After this, and as time went on, I went to find the globular cluster M13 - something I had never seen before. When I finally found the right square (it is confusing when there are no lines in the sky), I found the globular cluster with 36X magnification. What a treat it was! I have never seen anything like it - a glowing ball of pure awesomeness! I observed it at 90X, and with averted vision, I swear I saw some individual stars come out. Of the three globulars I have now seen, this was by far the best.

I finished the night with a suprise pass of the ISS close to M13, so I quickly turned my scope on it and watched it pass over - 90X magnification revealed the colours and shapes of the solar panels, and the trusses and modules. What a way to finish!


Last edited by george7378; 06-28-2010 at 08:07 PM.
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Old 06-27-2010, 05:06 PM   #2

Well, one night I saw M50. (I think it was that) It was almost directly above, and I could see all those faint (Because of the stupid street lights) stars in it...

I don't get to see much since there's two really tall trees in the backyard, and there aren't many interesting things north.
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Old 06-28-2010, 10:34 AM   #3


Originally Posted by bwog View Post
 Well, one night I saw M50. (I think it was that) It was almost directly above, and I could see all those faint (Because of the stupid street lights) stars in it...

I don't get to see much since there's two really tall trees in the backyard, and there aren't many interesting things north.
Nice - open clusters are beautiful. At the moment, I think an easy cluster is the Double Cluster close to the constellation of Cassiopeia. Thanks for the report!

Here is mine for the 27th June 2010:


- M13
- M92
- M57
- M27
- Some Milky Way open clusters in Cygnus
- Albireo and Mizar
- Saturn
- ISS (Twice)

The clouds were lining the sky from around 22:00, but they had cleared by around 22:30, when I started observing. The first observations I made were of double stars in Ursa Major and Cygnus. I started with a simple but interesting double - Mizar. It was easily split, and I had a go at photographing it. I also observed the colourful double Albireo for the first time. I could see the beautiful contrast between the blue and yellow stars in the system, and I can see why it is described as the best double in the sky. I also took a photograph of this one (see below).

As the night darkened, the first pass of the ISS came around. I saw Saturn low on the horizon, and calibrated the focus ready for the ISS by getting the rings and yellow orb into focus. Saturn is far from what it was earlier in the year, but it's still worth a look, as it is now moving away from us after its March opposition, so it may not look as good next year. I filmed the pass, and, although the film is a little noisy, it shows the station crossing the sky very nicely. Here is the film:

I observed the pass through my telescope and now that I am getting used to tracking, I could see the four individual solar arrays, and the structure of the complex in the middle. The colours contrasted nicely, and I (think) also caught a glimpse of the texture of the solar panels near the highest part of the pass.

After the ISS passed at 23:24, I decided to go deep-sky observing. I picked out my favourite Summer deep-sky object - M57, to start. Despite the low, red Moon on the horizon, I was able to observe the circular structure of the ring, and, as the night moved on, I got my best views yet, with an evident change in brightness towards the centre, making very ring-like. I spent most time with this object tonight.

Another deep-sky object I saw (for the first time) this evening was the Dumbbell Nebula - M27. Although it is slightly brighter in magnitude than M57, it has a much larger surface area, so its brightness is lower. I observed it during the early hours of midnight, and was able to see the dumbbell/apple core shape with averted vision.

After M27, and before the next ISS pass at 01:00, I went hunting for globular clusters as the Moon rose higher. I found M13 easily enough, and observed the almost incongruous glowing ball of stars set against the black sky - it is magical to know what, and how far away, it is. After contemplating the 100-light-year-diameter M13, I went looking for other globulars, and found M92 almost instantly - luck was on my side. It is harder to find as there are few close pointers and it is dimmer and has a smaller angular size, but it was just as impressive - a dense sphere of glowing starlight in empty space.

As time ticked on, I went for some easy observing and explored the rich Milky-way regions of Cygnus. There are a number of open clusters to observe here, and they are not hard to find. Exploring the regions, I saw stars of all different magnitudes, colours and arities, finding some lovely doubles to split along the way. This filled up time until the next ISS pass.

The final telescopic sight of the evening was the ISS in its brightest pass yet - -3.6. I noticed it when it was right on the horizon, and I watched it get bigger and brighter through the telescope as it rose above my head. Once again, the details of structure and colour were visible. Nothing makes me feel closer to space.

Finally, since this was the darkest sky I have seen in months, I spent a little while just laying back and observing the stars and star fields look down at me - nothing is more relaxing than that, and I recommend it as an end to all observing sessions.




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Old 06-30-2010, 03:06 AM   #4
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I didn't have time to set up my telescope last night but your reports inspired me to still try and do a little observing regardless

We are having a cold snap (by Sydney standards anyway) so the sky was fairly clear. I started by picking out Venus, Mars and Saturn and moved on to trying to identify a couple of the southern-most constellations - Triangulum Australe and Carina (I must admit my knowledge of finding my way around the constellations is quite poor but the learning is fun ). Conditions in Sydney normally preclude viewing anything below about magnitude 3 with the naked eye making the southern part of Carina difficult.

I then decided to try and find the globular cluster Omega Centauri, which I did successfully by star hopping with my binoculars. It looked great, I can't wait to get the telescope on it.

I hadn't planned on looking for any satellites but by chance spotted one passing nearly directly overhead. It turned out to be SeaSat 1 at about mag 2.4. According to Stellarium, it passed within 10 arcminutes of directly overhead, about as direct overhead a pass as I have ever seen.

Heavens-Above tells me that a Cosmos rocket passed through the same area only 15 seconds later at mag 2.1 going in almost the opposite direction, but I somehow managed to miss that
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Old 06-30-2010, 12:42 PM   #5


Thanks for the report tbaxland - I would love to see some of the things the south has to offer - especially the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. I bet the sky looks completely different
Also, I agree that it is good to know the constellations - they are very useful for star-hopping. I also know what you mean about the light pollution - I remember being in London around Christmas, and I couldn't see any stars at all - just Jupiter on occasion. The brightest globular I have seen is M13 in Hercules - it looks spectacular through a scope. I think globular clusters are one of the most mysterious things we can see - I read an article about how about 25% of our clusters originated in other galaxies and, through galactic collisions, ended up orbiting us. Also, if you take a light-year cubed from the centre of a globular, you can expect to find around 100 stars, but there are no stars within a light year of us (apart from the Sun, of course)! They must have fantastic views of the Milky Way's spiral arms from up there too.
Nice satellite sightings too - I also often see random satellites when observing. I think most are Iridiums in polar orbits, but I have seen some strange red ones too, and some space debris that flashed and pulsed as it went over. Thanks again for the report!

Here's mine for the 29th June 2010:


- Sun and sunspots
- Vega
- ISS twice

My observing started after lunch, around 14:00. I got out the filter and turned to the Sun which was flicking on and off behind the clouds, to see what was happening with Sunspot 1084. Starting at 36X magnification, the sunspot was a defined black patch on the large solar disc, with the massive penumbra stretching out even further. This spot must be around twice the size of Earth. With the large and well-formed spots it is possible to watch minute changes throughout the day, and I observed a small 'peninsula' (I don't know what else to call it!) of brighter plasma from the penumbra pushing into the black umbra, which was fascinating. It had gone by the end of the day. My solar observing stopped around 17:00 as the clouds prevented my seeing any more. Sunspot 1084 is as strong as ever, and even though it has not got a complex magnetic field, it should stay for a long time.

In the evening, I also saw that the clouds were going to prevent any extended observing, but I noticed that the ISS was going over at 22:44GMT and once at 00:19GMT the next day. I almost forgot to watch the first pass, and I ran outside to set the scope up just as I saw it climbing over the trees. I missed the beginning of the pass, but caught up with it around maximum altitude where I noticed that it flashed between brightnesses as it passed through the clouds. Luckily, it was relatively clear at maximum altitude, so I got some nice steady views of the structure and colour of the station. ISS tracking never gets old! The situation was similar at midnight, when I went out to prepare for the next pass.

I started by focusing on Vega, the blue star in Lyra, which looked like it had a small halo around it through the thin cloud, but the blue colour was prominent as ever. I focused the scope for the ISS pass on Vega, and spent a little time watching it to pass the time. It's amazing to watch such a luminous and powerful star from such a distance - it is much larger and brighter than our Sun, and to sustain liquid water, a planet must be between 5.1 and 10.9 times further away from it than the Earth is from the Sun! I wonder what sunspots on Vega are like...

The clouds prevented seeing the ISS from the start, but I watched it traverse the horizon through my scope again, and the passes were very similar, as both of them were around magnitude -3.5. It gave more nice views at maximum altitude, and I watched it fade into the distance behind the clouds. It's amazing to think that there are people up there travelling at around 7.5KM/S as they constantly fall towards Earth. I am really looking forward to seeing the Shuttle through my scope too, and seeing the ISS when the Shuttle is connected.

That pretty much wrapped it up - a poor night for observing the sky, but the ISS made saying up worth it!

Here are the passes:


00:19 (The ISS is approaching the end of its time in constant sunlight):

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Old 07-03-2010, 10:22 PM   #6


I haven't necessarily finished observing for today, but here is what the daytime brought.

3rd July 2010:

I started today's solar observations with a simple look with the naked eye. The apparently small disc did not give any hints at the massive sunspot which has been boiling away on the Earth-facing side since the 26th July.

I then took the telescope out for a short viewing between the intermittent clouds. The sunspot has moved considerably and has now passed the central meridian, with little change to the shape of its large umbra and penumbra, which could consume Earth 2/3 times over combined. This is one of the largest sunspots this new solar cycle has seen in the last few months. Today wasn't ideal for watching the more subtle details of the Sun, as a thin film of cloud affected the seeing.

Most of today's solar viewing was done with a pair of fantastic 8X30 Russian binoculars borrowed from my Grandad - they gave fantastic, sharp views of the sun's disc, and its single massive sunspot at 8X magnification. Viewed at smaller magnifications, the sunspot looks rather incongruous - almost like an object passing in front of the otherwise smooth disk. I observed some clouds transit the front of the disc, and at lower magnifications, this looks fantastic - there is something about it that makes the Sun appear very distant - you can really see that it is far above the moving clouds.

My final views of the Sun involved waching it pass low on the horizon where it takes on a glowing, firey orange tinge as the atmosphere gets thicker between you and it. This is also visible in the scattered light it throws into the sky to make the characteristic orange sunsets. The 'Moon illusion' is also visible with naked eye (filtered!) views of the Sun - you can see it grow larger and almost inflate as it sinks lower and takes on the 'orange lamp' appearance. I watched it through the binoculars as it sank below a nearby barn roof in a fabulous naked eye sunset. Watching a sunset unfiltered is one thing, but seeing details like sunspots and the sharp edge of the solar disc sink below the horizon adds an extra element to is - almost like a 'scientific' sunset!

If the sky stays clear, I'll look for the ISS at 22:54.

---------- Post added at 23:22 ---------- Previous post was at 21:54 ----------

I saw the ISS pass over at 22:52 - it had a slightly different configuration this time. It was almost side-on at the zenith. I also saw Progress completely by mistake after the pair had disappeared behind a cloud and I mistook the dimmer dot a few seconds ahead as the station when it emerged first. I could not pick out and specific details this time, but it had a definite shape to it. My first Progress sighting!
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Old 07-12-2010, 08:02 AM   #7


This evening, I saw my first display of NLCs. They were spellbinding - I saw them rippling across the sky in their electric-blue iridescence from 22:30 to midnight - truly fantastic! See this page for pictures and also this video:

I am definitely going to be searching the remaining summer months for more of this amazing phenomenon, and I recommend the same for anyone else - have a go at some easy observing! Later, I stretched out of my window to get the most fantastic views of the Milky Way I have seen to date. Looking up at the zenith, I saw a definite path of light crossing the constellation of Cygnus and arching over to the horizon. There were even darker areas which hinted at the dark nebulosity held within the Milky Way. It's not very often you get to see such an amazing sight from your home without taking a trip to a dark sky location, and I am truly grateful to be able to see it from my dark site. I watched a few satellites pass over, and picked out some familiar constellations and stars such as Lyra and Cygnus, plus Epsilon Lyrae and Vega, but this was definitely one of those 'sit and stare' nights which you remember for a long time!
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Old 07-12-2010, 01:12 PM   #8
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I have seen:

Venus: That was neat. It was in crescent phase: it looked like I was looking at the moon through the wrong end of the telescope

The moon: On a full moon night, that's pretty much all I can observe, but that terrain looks really cool: you really get that "big dead ball of rock" impression you just can't get with a naked eye view.


Jupiter: Including her moons. Couldn't make out the GRS though

Saturn: Now that is one heck of a sight I'm dying to see it again, but I don't make it outside much these days.

Neptune? I'm not sure if it was the planet or just a dim star, but according to Stellarium I was looking in the right place. I might be one of very few people to spot that one without a telescope

The Pleiades, the Orion Nebula (disappointing through my little 3-inch), Andromeda Galaxy (binoculars only, and hard as hell to find), the comet that went by a year or two ago in Perseus (can't remember the name), and many, many stars.
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Old 07-16-2010, 11:42 PM   #9


Just a short report for tonight.

17th July 2010:

With almost a week of horrid cloud, it was a godsend to see stars in tonight's sky. I quickly pulled the scope outside, and went outside with my dad.

After a bit of dark-adaptation, we centered on the Ring Nebula (I had trouble picking out Lyra in the starry sky!) and it revealed a bright circle with a ring in averted vision. I then showed him M13, and we looked at the amazingly bright core among the stars - the best I've seen it yet! Then, it was on to M31 for the first time in ages - we both saw it with the naked eye and it was an impressive scope sight, with a satellite galaxy showing too. Then it was Milky Way all round, with an amazing spill of light through Cygnus.

I also took some test exposures with my new camera. Here they are:

Star trails of Lyra and surrounding constellations (60 seconds):

Cassiopeia (60 seconds):

EDIT: Here's another 60-second exposure showing Jupiter and some other stars:


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Old 07-18-2010, 03:05 AM   #10


A good, early morning to you all, and, although I should be falling asleep on the floor at this time, I am alive as I've ever been, if not more.

I've just had the most fantastic, clear, choc-a-bloc, powerful observing night I have ever experienced - I talked about doing an all-nighter this weekend, and it couldn't have turned out any better.

I will start by adding the snippets of observing I did before it got dark. I aimed the scope at the low Moon to try and take some images with my new camera. I am pretty pleased at the results, considering they were afocal, and I have no idea of what I should do to edit planetary photos (plus it wasn't dark yet):

I then took a punt with Venus, which displayed a nice gibbous phase through the scope, and I think this photo may have picked up on that too:

It's always nice to do a little planetary work to warm up for the darker skies, and to get the scope ready for the big stuff. I couldn't ever have prepared for what I saw as the week's clouds blessed me by their absence.

The skies darkened to reveal a lovely starscape photography opportunity, with Ursa Major sitting atop the wall. I took a 15-second exposure to get this:

The evening closed in and when I finally got the opportunity to step outside, I really could not believe what I saw - I had stepped into an astro-photo; full of light, power and sheer beauty. The arms of the Milky Way just took my breath away as they embraced the entire night sky in a comforting and mystifying glow, which traversed the constellations in a way I had only previously thought possible in a photo. I walked out into the yard where I shut off the lights to gaze upon the heavenly structure. The detail was unbelievable - with a cloud-like stream of light passing from Cassiopeia to Cygnus, where it split into a fork where the dark deposits of the material of future solar systems, planets and people cut across the sky. It's this kind of experience that you can never appreciate while it's happening, and as I write, I can't get what I saw out of my head - to think that something as amazing as that is visible to a mere mortal like me, just sitting alone and staring up, really is humbling. Seeing the Milky Way makes me think of everything that has happened to give me the opportunity to look up from this yard, and makes me wonder what else life has in store, and just how many other countless lives are being lived out in the cosmos. It lets you know that no matter what happens, there is always a place to be alone with your thoughts.

I never really took my eyes off it, and the image which sticks in my mind most is seeing the oldest and most natural structure; the inside arms of a galaxy, stretch over my house - evidence of man's presence in nature. I can't really explain why that is so powerful - the scene just looked so peaceful, and it made me imagine what it would be like if the house was not there, and how solitary and wasted a scene it would be if no-one were there to see it, and just how lucky I was to have such an opportunity to glimpse it while most others were asleep.

The Milky Way's star fields stretched from horizon to horizon, with an immeasurable number of dots filling the dark night with what seemed to me like opportunity - a chance to think of just what's out there. Once again, seeing the house cut a shadow into the fields of dots, which seemed to be waiting for anyone who wanted to spend any time with them, was a very powerful image - it makes me wonder how many nights like these the land beneath my feet has existed through, and what I would see if I could look at the past, when no-one was around to appreciate the sky.

The telescopic sights for the evening included M57, which was nestled in its usual dense nest of young stars - a relic of times past among the next generation. I was able to spot the ring shape and contrasting brightnesses without even using averted vision, which really compared to the views I have previously seen, and made staying up late worth the reward.

I then flicked to M27, which was embedded among too many solar systems to be found on the first go. I pulled from star to star until I saw the fantastic apple-core shape of the large gas envelope. The scene was just so lively and rich that using averted vision to get the best out of the nebula revealed more clusters and stars to the side of it. I returned many a time to the nebula and couldn't get over the detail the scene held.

Moving on, I looked upon familiar M13, which was easy to find, and easy to get lost with. Seeing something so distant, and knowing where it is and what an amazing view of our galaxy the planets of the stars of the cluster must have really lets your imagination add to the out-of-place ball of light in the sky.

M31 was my last major DSO for the session, and I am very glad to be re-acquainting myself with this oldest of friends. Seeing the Milky Way with the naked-eye Andromeda Galaxy peeking through the stars - the tiniest and least significant point of light in the sky, allowed me to visualise just how amazingly large the space between us is, and just how tiny a blip my life will be in the billions of years it will take for the two galaxies to become one. I tried to imagine what we must look like from the massive star fields of M31, and just who would be looking at us, and what they are thinking. It is amazing how slowly time can pass - we are closing in at 130KM/S, but M31 has a permanent position on our star maps, and the Earth will no longer exist when they are even getting close to colliding.

With intermittent gazes at the Milky Way's arms, I watched Jupiter for the first time since early in the year. Watching it rise without its usual South Equatorial Belt brought home the knowledge that Earth is not the only planet in the solar system with weather systems and dynamic happenings and changes. I was also treated to a slow appearance of Io to join the other three moons as the night went on, and the calm and clear night showed me some of Jupiter's more subtle details. There's nothing like knowing how intricate and dynamic that little spot in the sky really is.

As I finally decided to re-enter the house, I took one last look up at the fleeting sight which would be replaced by reality the next morning, and I now know that it will last for a long time to come, and that the world would be a better place if we could all see how small we really are.

George Kristiansen.

Here are some more photos from tonight:

The star fields of Cygnus and Lyra:

The big and little dippers:

Jupiter rising:

Jupiter and three moons (just held up to eyepiece):

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Old 07-22-2010, 07:55 PM   #11
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A post earlier reminded me of something I saw a year or two ago. At that time, I watched the ISS at every opportunity. On this night, there was a bright pass straight over head. I go outside with my dad and my friend to watch. I watch it for a while, then put on my glasses for a clearer look. After watching for a while, I suddenly see something else moving in the sky. It moves in exactly the same path as the ISS but in a retrograde motion. The appear to overlap as they cross the sky. I checked Orbitron and find that it's SeaSat-1, literally following the exact path of the ISS but in opposite direction. It was a pretty cool sight, especially for an accident.

---------- Post added at 07:55 PM ---------- Previous post was at 07:53 PM ----------

I guess I have another really short story...
I went out in the country one time and took my telescope. I had a hard time finding anything but planets because there were so many stars. But, twice within minutes I accidentally saw satellites in my telescope while looking for other things. XD
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Old 08-12-2010, 04:27 PM   #12


28th July 2010 - 11th August 2010 - Turkey

Here are some reports of what I saw on holiday. I noticed that, although we were only just on the outskirts of the built-up areas, the skies were nicely dark, with naked-eye views of the Milky Way in some areas.

The first few nights of 8X30 observing were very pleasing, with M13 (Great Globular Cluster) showing up as a faint, bloated blob among the stars of Hercules. It's nice to see it in a wider field of view, and it lived up to the previous telescopic views I've had of it. I also saw M31 (Andromeda Galaxy) quite regularly, with this favourute of mine appearing as an elongated smudge quite low on the horizon - I will be looking again with binoculars under darker skies back here in the UK. Mainly, I just laid back in the warmth and looked at the sky framed by the top of the balcony. This also allowed me to do some nice exploring, and I found the 'Coathanger' asterism for the first time (by accident) while exploring the Milky Way. It really does look weird - it's a very improbable alignment of stars, and it's also improbable that all the stars are of similar brightness - it really looks out of place and artificial, and really looks like a stellar coathanger! I tried a few double stars, but the 8X30s couldn't make a discrenible split on any. It was still worth it, as Albireo is in such a fantastic area with so many stars to see.

I also got some nice views of flashing Perseids, with approx. 3/4 per night making some nice impressions on the evenings. There was one very bright Iridium flare above my head too, and many other satellite passes, including two of similar placement, speed and brightness which made for an interesting experience.

Venus was the predominant planet, with bright, white appearances every night (I usually watched it while out having a meal), and Jupiter was in a great place as it rose above a tree-lined hill (with the Moon in the earlier days). I didn't spot any moons though, probably because of the hazy horizon and low altitude.

As well as the lovely nights, every evening gave some amazing naked eye sunsets because of the haze. The Sun underwent a fantastic transformation into a large orange sphere hanging above the houses, and I even spotted some naked eye sunspots on the disk (see photos below). I have never seen anything like it, and the sunsets were definitely one of the highlights of the astronomy.

I also got some nice filtered views of the Sun, with various sunspots crossing the disk (the Sun is becoming very active now!) through the 8X30s. I watched them move from day to day, and sunbathing while sunwatching is a must-try for astronomers .

So, overall, it was well worth going to see some amazing new things, and the pleasant weather and general absence of intrusive cloud made for great nights every night.

Also, my first night home made me stay up later than I should, as I could see the naked eye Milky Way so clearly that I could pick out the shape of the Cygnus Rift, and I could visually trace the outlines of the blobs and streams of light - wow! You can imagine the stars that went with that, and I spent ages watching Perseids cut into the sky and satellites which I often lost among the vistas of stars. I'm so glad to have a dark sky at home, and I just love being able to have something like that to mull over when the house is quiet - I just feel so much passion when I am laying back looking at such a pure view of the sky. Maybe I had withdrawal symptoms from my scope while on holiday! I was lucky to get a photo of a satellite flare (Rosat, I think):


Here are some of the photos:


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Old 08-13-2010, 04:51 AM   #13
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Great report George. That last sunset shot with the crepuscular rays is awesome
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Old 08-20-2010, 01:20 PM   #14


Thanks tblaxland - they were amazing to see stretching from the horizon to well over my head.

Here's another report for the 18th August 2010:


- Gibbous moon and features including crater Clavius (and surroudning creaters) plus the Appenine mountains.
- Jupiter and its north equatorial belt, plus the north and south equatorial zones and some more subtle cloud details and all four moons.
- M57 - Ring nebula
- M27 - Dumbbell nebula
- M31 and satellite galaxies
- Albireo (yellow and blue double star)
- 'Coathanger' asterism
- Some satellites and a dim Iridium flare
- Bright Milky Way with Cygnus Rift

The night started with the Sun setting behind some light cloud to give way to the waning crescent of Venus on the horizon. I also tried to spot Mars and Saturn as they are close to conjunction, but it was too light and I couldn't see all the way down to the horizon for the best spotting opportunities. I was debating what the cloud would do, but the satellite images showed that it seemed to disappear as it came towards our region leaving a clear hole. I trusted this, and got the scope out for my first target - the low Moon.

The seeing was rather poor near the horizon, but that didn't stop me getting some great views of the shadowed cratered region around Clavius, which has always been a favourite of mine because it is easy to spot, and acts as a useful waypoint to others. The lunar disc was best viewed around 90X magnification, and this provided the right balance between detail and seeing to reveal the curve of the Appenines around the lunar sea they encircle. I tried to imagine the view from the top of one of those peaks which have a beautifully 3D appearance when the shadows fall on them, and watched as the Moon sank lower and got redder as the night came.

The first DSO I looked upon was M31 - the Andromeda Galaxy which turned out very nicely even in the half-light of the Moon and setting Sun - I could even spot one of the satellite galaxies close by before it got properly dark. As the night went on, the galaxy revealed more and more of its glowing disc until it stretched beyone the widefield view of the 36X magnification eyepiece. Also, the position of the satellite galaxies lets you imagine just how much of the galaxy you aren't seeing with the human eye - the photographs show the satellite embedded within the outer layers of Andromeda's haze, but there is a noticable separation between the two when you don't see the faintest outer regions. The oval glow extending out beyond the eyepiece and the two small satellite galaxies is enough for me though!

The dying light also gave way to clear views of the Ring Nebula, M57, which is probably my most viewed object of the Summer. I watched it get darker, and took my first view at 36X. The nebula immediately popped out from the very starry background and showed itself as a visibly circular blur which contrasted with the background stars. I could even see the central, darker region at this lower magnification, which gives the nebula its name. At 90X, the nebula was at its best, revealing this dimmer region without using averted vision, and taking on a very geometric shape. I still can't believe that tiny circle is 1.3 light years across!

Next came another favourite nebula of the Summer - M27. This one is slap-bang in the middle of the Milky Way, so the backdrop is breath-taking, with stars filling up the view, complemented by the shapely, bright glow of the nebula. The glow is pinched in at either side to give the impression of an apple-core shape with bites taken out of each side. It is very hard to miss, and lower magnifications embed it in a milky river of stars making it look just like an astro-photo.

While exploring the region, it is hard to miss the 'Coathanger' asterism - an improbable arrangement of stars of very similar brightness in a distinctive line, with three more making a hook shape above. It looks very artificial as the line is near perfectly straight, and the hook shape is beautifully aligned to make the shape. Although the view was great through the scope at 36X, I couldn't fit it all in. The best view comes with a pair of 8X30 binoculars.

Another object close to the region is the easy double star Albireo. The components looked amazing - the colours of the stars definite, with the primary a yellow colour and the secondary a bright blue. The separation is perfect for amateurs, and it is easy to split with just about any magnification.

Jupiter was the final telescopic target, and the first views at 36X showed the north belt, and all four moons. Io was close to the disk, but it visibly moved out as the night went on. I also got the best view of the cloudy details of the planet I have ever seen as it climbed higher, with detials like the NEB, the equatorial colour zones and more subtle cloud details briefly appearing when the low elevation seeing momentarily calmed down. I wish the great red spot was on show - it would have looked great. I experimented with the views and got some interesting pictures (see bottom) which were very pleasing, since all I was doing was holding my camera up to the eyepiece and shooting. I will hopefully get a bracket soon, so I can take proper pictures and the camera can focus and take pictures without my hand shaking and blurring the results.

Finally, I took some time to absorb the bigger picture. The Moon was low down now and the night was close to properly dark, allowing me to see the finer details of the 'light river' of the Milky Way. The main feature was the imposing Cygnus Rift - a vast dark space splitting the MW into a fork where the dark nebulae of our galaxy obscure the light. The shape of the light itself was interesting to trace, and it stretched all the way through Cygnus, and back to Cassiopeia. The best show is right at the zenith with the areas close to the galactic core shining through the constellation of Cygnus. A few satellites whizzed by in different directions, with the best giving a modest flare as it went from south to north - an Iridium no doubt.

Thanks for reading!


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Old 08-28-2010, 12:31 AM   #15
Survivor of 21/10/2011
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Yesterday, I saw the ISS in my telescope for the second time, but unlike the first, I actualy saw something today. I was only using a 12mm wich gives me 58x, and since I haven't got much practice tracking sattelites, I lost it a couple of times, and the only time I watched it for more than 20 seconds without loosing it, it was still very close to the horizon, and not very bright, but at one time, although only for 2-3 seconds, I saw some solar panels and I think I saw the modules and truss. Unfortunately, I lost the second pass at 22:53.

After some time waiting for it to descend a little in the sky, I tryed the M57, but it was the same as the day before, and couldn't see anything. I kept looking for the nebula, and also the inverted triangle, but didn't find neither of them. I will try again today, and I hope that I will find it now.

---------- Post added at 12:31 AM ---------- Previous post was at 12:24 AM ----------

Originally Posted by Quick_Nick View Post
 I accidentally saw satellites in my telescope while looking for other things. XD
To me happened something similar. I was watching the sky to see the Perseids, and decided to look at what I didn't now at the time was Vega. As I looked up, I saw a sattelite passing right below it. Two weeks later, I had just finished having dinner, and I went outside to see if I could see Saturn. As soon as I stepped out of the door, I looked up and, 45 above the horizon, I see another sattelite. Later I went to Stellarium, and found out it was the ISS.
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