04 January 2011

Last night of astroholiday

The wind did not let up for our last night of our astroholiday, but we went out anyway. J had earlier set up the PST for a bit of solar viewing - and in order to do that, put the double plate on the Losmandy mount. Since it was on there anyway, we decided to try the double up: the 128 and the 90mm. Put the 10mm eyepiece in the 128 and 21mm in the other, with the idea that this would give quite a different view of various objects. It was good in theory, I think, and certainly did give different views. However, it was quite heavy, and seemed to have a bit of trouble moving via the hand controls; this was probably partly to do with the wind, but may als mean we didn't have it quite balanced right.

Anyway, I naturally started out with Jupiter, and it was actually good enough seeing that I put the 6mm in Keppler, and magnified it with the 5mm even. A couple of dark bands were obvious.

I decided to continue my little Messier marathon from last night, since I knew I'd missed a few by looking when they had gone behind the house. I caught M78 - which is a neat splodge of nebulosity with two stars seemingly embedded in it; and M37, which in the 10mm was large, faint, with many distinct stars; in the 21mm, more of a grey smudge, although some individual points were still distinct. M36 looked similar, with a shape I'm claiming as like a starfish. I missed M74, M38, and M34 by not being quick enough! So I went to some others: M48 is still a boring open cluster, but M79 is endearing itself by being such a cute little globular.

I was getting a bit put out by the wind by this stage, so J dragged me over to Copernicus and showed me the Grus quartet (which was actually a triplet at this stage, because it wasn't quite dark enough for the whole show), which is always cool: seeing three or four galaxies apparently so close together is breathtaking. He also showed me NGC246, which he is quite in love with: it's a planetary nebula, with three bright points within/to the side; I'm not sure whether they're physically associated with it or not.

We decided to call it an earlier night than normal, so to finish up I dialled up the Popular Deep Sky Objects tour and had a quick spin. I tried for the Witchhead Nebula, knowing it was going to be too big to see the whole thing in one eyepiece (3 degrees!), but hoping I would at least be able to see some nebulosity. I am dubious, although J claims it was obviously greyer in some sections. 47Tuc - such a bright core, so striking an object! - and, of course, the Orion Nebula finished the night off.

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