Nebula

So tonight I got the opportunity to take out my new scope again, to the same spot up in Masham where we went last time. Another night spent freezing my ass off, but well worth it. Once I got out there, I was amazed once again by the ease of carrying and setting up in the right spot. I was only out about a 100 yards or so in the field from the road, and 3 trips was all it took to get all my gear out there. The only two parts that are a bit more on the heavy side are the dobsonian mount and the bucket with the mirror. The secondary mirror assembly is light as a feather, as are the truss-tubes. As daylight faded, I installed the laser red-dot viewfinder (which I’m not really fond of) and had it aligned with the scope.

You can see I have the red dot centred on the top of a tree. I had already centred the top of the tree in the main eyepiece view. This made finding objects somewhat easier than on last Saturday, when I guess I hadn’t set up the red-dot finder properly. This time around I found my targets much more easily and quickly.

I started the evening off with Sirius. I wanted to test if the alignment of the red-dot finder was still good and I pointed it to the bright, white star. Before even approaching the eyepiece I could see brilliant light shining from it. Looking in, yes, there was Sirius. Now I wanted to put Stellarium to the test. With night mode on, I was able to look at the star charts on my phone without losing my light-adapted vision. From Canis Major I moved up into Orion and looked at M42- the Orion Nebula. Even though it wasn’t even quite dark out yet, the nebulosity was distinct and so was the Trapezium, the four stars that aren’t even a light-year apart. What did I look at next?

The Pleiades – what a sight! Followed by,

Mars! -dissapointing. Mars is now too distant to be really seen well, and sadly, I don’t have an eyepiece with the magnification to do it justice.

Then,

The Double-Cluster between Cassiopeia and Perseus. M103, NGC 436 and 457. Moving back West past Capella, M36 and M35. M67, the Golden Eye cluster in Cancer, and then the Beehive Cluster (Praesepe – Manger). The night was going great. The sky kept getting darker and more and more star-clusters began to appear. Looking east and I could see Arcturus rising. I kept looking at Leo and the Big Dipper, thinking about how I was going to star-hop to hunt for some galaxies. I started looking for Bodes Galaxy. I wanted to see it, as well as M82, the neighbouring Cigar Galaxy. Once again I ran into trouble with the finder-scope. No matter how much tried to line the red dot with where I thought Althiba V is, I couldn’t find the little triangle of stars that would guide me to VII and then M81. Couldn’t spot ’em.

Then I got a visit from the fox. He kept his distance from me but still sniffed at my backpack and telescope gear. Poor boy, I had no food with me to offer him, and he quickly left. A quick pause and I was back to it. I decided to leave my frustration with Bodes behind, and continued my stellar journey into Leo. Here I had better luck with the finder and lining up Chertan. Below Chertan is Theta Leo, Eta Leo, and HIP 55254, HIP 54688 and a line of fainter stars below that form a sort of kite shape. Just east of the kite’s tail is the Leo Triplet. And there it was. I was looking at three galaxies, M65, M66 and NGC 3628, the Hamburger Galaxy all between 35 to 45 million light-years away! Back to the Big Dipper, and this time it’s M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy. Absolutely beautiful.

I was starting to feel cold, but I kept going. Stellarium showed me that an asteroid, Pallas, a boulder 440 kilometres across was in the neighbourhood. I was able to star-hop from Arcturus, in Bootes, to the asteroid, quite a contrast – an object 238 million km away compared to the others – 35 million light-years that I had seen earlier. Higher up in the sky another quick search and M3, the great globular star cluster a mere 34 thousand light-years away appeared. Just on the very edge of vision I could make out the faint 500,000 or so stars it’s comprised of. This object really made an impression on me. I’m stoked to see what M13 will look like later in the year.

I was really starting to feel cold. I decided on one last look at Orion and then I’d pack it up. By now, the Orion Nebula was so bright against the dark sky that I decided to try it – to take a picture through the eyepiece with my phone. To my amazement, with multiple tries (I deleted a good number of shots that were no good) I got the pic at the top of this article. It’s not a great photo of the Orion Nebula, but it’s mine. And I took it with a cellphone camera (mind you I have a Galaxy S9+ 😉 ) through the eyepiece of my 10″ dobsonian reflector!

It was a good night. I got home by 10:45 and still had time to put things away, and write this article. I can’t wait to go out again, when I will have received my Nikon t-ring adapter for my DSLR camera as well as the remote shutter release device I’m getting from ebay. But that will be another post.

These were some more pics of tonights dark-sky site.

The New Telescope

I finally got a new telescope. I had been itching to buy one for a while now. About a year ago I got the idea that it would be great to reboot my old astronomy hobby. As a kid, I was the proud owner of a decent 70mm refractor on an equatorial mount and tripod. I had spent hundreds of hours probably, scanning the skies, even in minus 25 degree weather, looking at the moon, planets, star-clusters … I had always felt a bit of disappointment at not being able to see nebulae or galaxies. Nevertheless, seeing Jupiter and his moons, or Saturn and its rings provided views I will never forget. The scope even had lunar and solar eyepieces (I had no idea the risk I was taking by looking at the sun with that sketchy filter) – I can’t for the life of me remember the brand of the scope, but it was pretty good. I had gotten it at Christmas, a gift from my mother who was keenly aware of my interest in science and nature.

I don’t even know what it was that has recently re-awakened my interest in the night sky. I think it was always there, but recently, I began thinking about it more and more. I think I also became aware, about a year ago, about a shop in town where they sell all kinds of telescopes (Focus Scientific – https://focusscientific.com/) once I paid them a visit and saw all those telescopes, I knew what I had to do. Initially I had hoped to buy a big Newtonian on a Go-To equatorial mount such as the Celestron 8″ reflector on the Advanced VX mount, perhaps hook up my DSLR and do some astrophotography. However, I later decided to go with something a bit more affordable – for now, and settled for the Meade 10″ Lightbridge Plus Dobsonian. Astrophotography will have to wait a couple more years.

Setting up the scope took me about a half an hour. As luck would have it, the sky cleared, and I went out into the crisp March air for some views. Even though the moon was nearly full tonight, I still managed to see the Orion Nebula and The Pleiades. Of course, the moon stole the show.

I can’t wait for some clear dark skies, so that I can hunt for the Leo Triplet and the Whirlpool galaxy.

By the way, the moon photo was taken by carefully positioning the camera of my Samsung Galaxy S9+ against the eyepiece -the photo simply doesn’t do the live view justice, but it gives you an idea of the view.

Aquarium Snails

For her 6th birthday I got Sophia a 10 gallon tank and added 1 blue siamese fighting fish, 3 corydora and 4 neon tetras. Plus a couple of shrimp. And live plants.

And with the live plants, we later learned, came the progenitors of a vast, pesky population of snails – black bladder snails.

We’re not sure how the other fish feel about them either. Here are some pictures.

With some garlic, butter, and white wine perhaps?

Spike’s not impressed.