After an awful winter with almost no time at the eyepiece, we were looking forward optimistically to the Kelling Heath star party. The only thing standing on our way was the weather ! The forecast wasn’t looking too promising, but a forecast is no more than an educated guess, so I decided to go… You have to be in it to win it
It turned out that Ade had a pool tournament double booked, and Mem was having trouble with work commitments. So on Thursday night I set out alone, with JonStarrySky to follow on Friday afternoon.
This trip was ‘first light’ for my new tent, a Vango Air Icarus 600. Being an air beam tent, I was able to erect it myself and peg it down in around 20 minutes. The scope gives us much more space, and I’m very happy with it.
Once I’d met the neighbours, I went off to some fish and chips, unsure what the night would bring. Around 10ish the sky did partially clear and I was able to complete around 2 hours observing. It was a case of cloud dodging, so my recent set of laminates outlining objects by constellation, type and magnitude came in very handy indeed !
It wasn’t the sort of night to go looking for many new target, the clouds were rolling over very quickly, and I didn’t manage extensive notes. M51 was the best I’ve ever seen, obvious spiral structure, a real wow moment ! I spent a lot of time surfing between Leo, UMa and Pegasus. It was a decent nights viewing.
Friday was unsettled and between showers, I went exploring. Wasn’t in the mood (or did I have the need to) make any purchases, but it’s always good to look at what’s on offer. I had an interesting chat with ScopeDrives about there Scope Dog product, http://www.scopedrives.com. I also spent some time talking Helix about her telescope, a 20″ f3.5 custom built dob, so we were able to compare notes. I was the first proper outing for her scope, and she was pleased with the comparison to my 20″ f4 obsession.
Caught up with Dale, Who seems to be settling into retirement nicely…lucky man !
Jon arrived, which was great. We didn’t waste much time going for something to eat, and we settled into a familiar pattern of waiting for cloud to dissipate. Jon managed around and hour in the small hours, but I elected to catch up on sleep as the forecast for Saturday night was looking very promising indeed….
Saturday during the day was a complete wash out. My tent had by now seem quite a bit of action and was holding up well ! The forecasts were agreeing, the sat24 satellite images concurred, that the early hours of Sunday morning were going to be clear. After eating, we hit the sack early and decided to keep a watch on conditions throughout the night. At 1am the clouds gave way and we managed 5 hours of quality observing. This was a special night ! Worth the wait. !! Most of the following observations were made with my 13mm Ethos
M104 – sombrero Galaxy – higher in the sky than the earlier session on Thursday had allowed. This galaxy gave out a lot of detail, a bright core with a dark dust lane bisecting the whole galaxy
M13 – the 13mm ethos seems to have been designed with m13 i mind. Wow, just wow, the cluster had a 3 dimension feel to it, as one of my neighbours said when he took a look, you felt like you could reach out and touch it !
M5, M3 – looked like m13 on a lesser night. Spectacular
M57 – the summer sky was rising and with it was the ring nebula in Lyra. Early on it glowed big and bright, and later on as it rose, there were definite hints of the elusive central star
M82 – always an easy target, but tonight the dust lanes crossing around the central core were very clear. Close by was
M81 – I’m used to seeing this from home and it looks small compared to images, but tonight it was enormous, the galaxies apparent extent almost filled the eyepiece. There was some hint of structure too which I’ve never seen before
NGC4565 – The needle galaxy was long and thin, with the dust lane in this side on Galaxy easily visible as was the companion Galaxy
NGC4631 – a bright Galaxy with a small companion, some mottled details around the core.
M64 – black eye Galaxy. The black eye was close to the core, with the Galaxy extending way beyond. The Galaxy was much larger than I’ve previously seen.
M106 – large, with large swirls visible
Leo triplet, as was the case on Thursdays the individual galaxies were all large, and therefore looked closer together than I’m used to. The NGC member was very clear with a dust lane visible
FIREBALL – not sure of the exact time, but a large fireball careered across the sky. At first, I thought it was a close by firework.
M51 – This was a stand out object. The structure was clear and detailed, I spent a good deal of time peering into this pair of colliding galaxies.
M101 – after a brief trip to Andrews 24″ to look at M101, I took a look in my little 20″ 😉 normally faint and ‘flat’, tonight there was clear structure, swirls and H2 star forming regions visible (I counted 3 in my scope). Another stand out object !
M10, 12, 14. – smaller lower GCs, pretty though !
Owl Nebula – two little eyes were peering back at me
NGC4490 – a pair of interacting galaxies were a lovely sight
So much to see !!!
Saturn – very low, and wibbly wobbly, but there was some detail in the rings with the Cassini division an easy spot .
Mars – again, low, but worth a look
Jupiter – I was having so much fun, I had forgotten to look at it ! Ah it would have ruined my night vision anyway !
I tried for the crescent nebula and the veil, but low in the sky, they weren’t at their best.
Comet 252P/Linear – currently working its way through ophicius
Well they were the observing highlights, we finished at 5 as the sun was on its way up and the sky was lightening rapidly. A stunning night, one of the best !
Was a great weekend, the only things.missing were Mem and Ade..next time boys !