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Observing report & sketches

28/02/2016 20.50 - 00.11

Paul Bertenshaw


  • EQ6 Pro mount with 10" Meade SN10 f4 scope.
  • Various eyepieces: 
  • Skywatcher Nirvana 28mm 82' FOV x36 mag TFOV 2.28'
  • TV Nagler T4 17mm 82' FOV x59 mag TFOV 1.39'
  • SMC Pentax XL 10.5mm 65' FOV x96 TFOV .65'
  • Fujiyama HD-OR Ortho 6mm 42' FOV x168 TFOV 0.25'
  • TV Barlow x2


I'd put my street light blocking screens and mount out earlier and after a quick polar align I was ready to go. 

Sky was fairly clear and with no Moon glare and I was optimistic about what I'd be able to view with a serious try for some targets I'd only briefly visited before. Plus I thought why not go for targets that Andy had recommended in his night sky talk at our last meeting on Friday night?

First off I did a 1 star alignment on Procyon (28mm then 10.5mm to fine tune the process) then back to the 28mm and Rigel and its faint companion. I swapped to the 10.5mm where after tweaking the focus I found its much dimmer companion. I tried the 6mm where the companion star was slightly more noticeable. Then back to the 28mm and onto M42. Swapped to the 10.5 where the nebula was larger and the Trap stars glowed brightly in the centre.

Once finished there I revisited some of the open clusters I'd observed with the 28mm. First off was M41, but it was just behind one of my street light blocking screens! DOH! Then onto M46, where I suddenly thought, why not try for one of the Leo triplets (in this case M65, M66 & NGC3628)? They would be above the house roof and the mount slewed to where they should be. However despite observing for several minutes, I couldn't be sure that I'd seen them. This wasn't surprising considering that the sky was not particularly dark, so I decided to move on and try later when Leo would be higher and the sky darker. Onto Cr69 (which forms a triangle with Betelgeuse and Bellatrix in Orion) which although classed as a triple has many fainter stars around them three main stars, so it could be classed as an open cluster (must sketch it one night!). Then onto open cluster M50 still with the 28mm, then M47, which I decided to sketch. This took about 15 mins with constant back and to sessions between the eyepiece and paper drawing (or dotting) each stars position and size (an indication of how relatively bright or dim they are). Then a quick look at the double cluster with the 28mm, where I was frustrated with focusing which was noticeably difficult. I think the 1 kilo weight of the eyepiece meant that the Crayford focuser was slipping slightly, so I'll need to adjust the tension. I swapped to the 17mm, where the stars were immediately much clearer and sharper. Then I decided to go for NGC2903 and the mount slewed round to where it should be. At first I couldn't find it, but then I suddenly became aware of a very faint grey smudge just to the left and moved it to the centre. Seconds later it became obvious that it was a galaxy and I decided to sketch it. However to make it larger I swapped to the 10.5mm eyepiece, then spent another 15mins or so sketching and noticing the very faint stars that eventually became visible and adding them. Not bad in Ashby for an object that has an apparent magnitude of 9.7! 

I tried for the Leo triplet again, but still wasn't sure I could see them and tried for the other triplet of M95, M96 & M105 also with no luck. Perhaps later still?

A trip to M51 and a hint of its presence then open clusters M44, M37 (always a delight now!) M36 and M35 (I forgot M38!) followed by another look at globular cluster M3. Swapping to the 10.5mm I became aware (with averted vision) of the slight glitter of individual stars (was I seeing things or were they actually there?)! I decided to experiment with different eyepieces and at first tried the 10.5mm, then the 6mm, but it was a little too big (my personal choice. I may try with it again another night to see how it turns out) and I eventually settled on the 10.5mm Barlowed, which gave a pleasing image with just a few faint stars visible below and to the right of it. The sketch took longer at 24mins as deciding how to represent the individual stars that I could see with averted vision proved difficult as I wanted to give a reasonably accurate view. When I'd finished and noticed that Leo was higher and the sky darker, decided to have another go at one of the Leo triplets (M65, M66 & NGC3628) again giving the 28mm another chance, but I still couldn't see them! Then I realised that the stars had a glow around them which meant only one thing, moisture had formed on the lens. So I put it back in the *case and used the 17mm instead. After a few seconds I became aware of a faint grey smudge and then the hint of another, so I centred them in the FOV and continued looking. At this point I thought why not have a go at another sketch? I quickly realised that the paper I was going to use had no circle on it, so had to quickly source a suitably sized (empty!) plant pot and draw around it. 

The sketch took about 16 mins and there were quite a few stars in the FOV which varied in brightness. I couldn't see NGC3628, but that could be because either I really couldn't see it, or more likely I'd forgotten about it! 

After finishing I tried again for the other triplet, but without any luck (by this time the frost was pretty thick and it was around midnight, so I didn't try for as long as I might have), but there's plenty of time to have another go providing the clouds keep away!

Finally I moved over to Jupiter and observed it for several minutes before packing up and away at approx 00.11.


*I usually leave all used eyepieces are left on our dining table with caps off (to each side to avoid them rolling off onto the floor!) to dry off after each session.

Paul Bertenshaw


M3 28.02.16
M47 28.02.16
M65 + M66 28.02.16
NGC2903 28.02.16


M3 inverted 28.02.16
M47 inverted 28.02.16
M65 + M66 inverted 28.02.16
NGC2903 inverted 28.02.16
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