Summer Viewing

Yesterday I had a pretty good night of viewing with my 6″ newtonian telescope. I managed to see many galaxies including M51 (the Whirlpool Galaxy), M101, M106, M31 (the Andromeda Galaxy) and a cool look at the pair of M81 and M82. The Ring Nebula (M57) wasn’t very clear but the Dumbbell Nebula (M27) was decent. M13, the fantastic globular cluster in Hercules was easy to find in the NW, and I think the highlight of the night was the double cluster NGC869 and NGC884.

NGC869
from http://www.perezmedia.net/beltofvenus/archives/000524.html

This was no doubt the most productive night of viewing I’ve had, with the reason being that I’ve gotten good at using my Telrad finder. Prior to this I used star hopping, which is difficult in light pollution areas, as well as using a “push-to” system. Push-to is a play on words with go-to. Go-to systems are electronic finder systems where a person keys in the desired coordinates of where they want to look, and the go-to moves the telescope there. With the push-to, I have a compass on the mount base and a protractor on the scope itself. I then look up the azimuth/altitude coordinates of what I want to see, and adjust the telescope accordingly. It works pretty good, but relies on real-time input of object coordinates and the mount base needs to be absolutely level.

Tonight I should have a good view of Jupiter from my back deck at around midnight, so I think I will check that out. I wonder what moons I will see?

New Objects

New objects that I saw two nights ago with my 6″ reflector…


NGC 6960, Veil Nebula


M101, Pinwheel Galaxy


M11, Wild Duck Cluster


M31, Andromeda Galaxy


M81, Bode’s Galaxy

Super Secret Site

Last night I ventured out to a secret site for viewing the night sky. Okay, I don’t know if it’s an actual secret, but it’s certainly out of the way. The site is maybe a 30min drive from my house and 1) there are no lights around to ruin night vision 2) the sky is noticeably darker than in the city. The Milky Way was easy to see whereas in the city a person would never see it. I’m not sure the viewing conditions were all that good last night, the transparency was supposedly quite poor (as forecast on Cleardarksky). I hope to go out there again tonight. Earlier today the forecast was for good transparency, but now it is predicting below average transparency again. It should be above average tomorrow but unfortunately I have to stay home tomorrow night.

First Night Observing

Last night was the first time in ages which I’ve had my telescope out and looking at the night sky. The conditions were pretty good for Vancouver and I had my dob set up on the back deck. From the deck I have a north-south corridor to view, and can point a little east as well. Without too much trouble I had a look at:
M13 (Hercules Cluster, a nice globular cluster)

M27 (Dumbell Nebula, a planetary nebula)

and M57 (Ring Nebula, another planetary nebula)
.
I also tried to find some clusters around Cassiopeia but didn’t have much luck. Things lower on the horizon get washed out in the light polluted skies.

Playing with my dob

So I carried my telescope down the porch and into the park a little while ago. Despite being in a light polluted city, the fact that we live 15′ from a park means that I can get fairly unobstructed views facing south and east. Anyways, I pointed it towards Jupiter, not expected much. As it turns out I had a really good look at it! This was my first time trying to see Jupiter and didn’t know what I’d see. To my amazement I could see some strips across the planet as well as what were obviously two moons. A little while later I could only see one moon (Ganymede) and thought the other one was behind the planet. I noticed a black dot on the planet too. Now that I’ve returned back inside the house and looking at cartes du ciel, I now realize that the other moon was Io, and that it moved in front of Jupiter and created the black spot. I think I also saw Europa, although I didn’t pay much attention to it. I used my 25mm elite plossl and 9mm star splitter, the SS (135x) worked really well. There was a “cross” of diffracted light on Jupiter, I think that was caused by the atmosphere / haze / seeing / whatever.

All in all, it was very cool

New Telescope

Just prior to leaving on a vacation to the interior, I bought a new telescope. I’ve wanted one for years and now seemed like a good time to get one since the star gazing in the interior is so much better than in Vancouver. I had researced telescopes a few years ago along with first learning about them in the late 80’s. I had pretty much decided on getting a 6″ Newtonian reflector because of it’s light gathering capabilities and lower cost.

When I looked into these scopes a few years ago, a 6″ reflector cost about $500. Now they sell for $325 and this made it seem like too good of a deal to pass up. I almost got a 8″ reflector, it was probably a better deal. The 8″ gathers about 2X more light as the 6″ and it was priced only $125 higher. Since I wasn’t sure how much use we would get out of the telescope, I decided to save the $125.

On the first couple nights of using the telescope I’ve managed to see a few binary stars (Albierto – one gold and one blue star), the Andromeda Galaxy, the Ring Nebula, and a few star clusters. I need to start a logbook where I record everything that I find. We also got to look at the moon, that was pretty interesting to see too.