Archive for February, 2012

Something to Prove

Blog Sat 18th of Feb 2012

Recently Owen Brazell a well know figure in UK amateur Deep Sky Astronomy has been vocal in his doubts around others deep sky observation, one of those on the receiving end of Owen’s scepticism is my good friend Andrew Robertson. He had written an observation report and shared it with a small circle of enthusiasts saying that whilst observing planetary nebula Abell 12 in Orion that he had noted a “hole” in the nebula. To cut a long story short Owen pretty much rubbished this so I intended to make a follow up observation to see what my highly sensitive set up would show. Now Abell 12 sits right on bright star Mu Orionis which makes it very difficult to observe due to the contrast factor in smaller scopes. I’m pleased to say that my Watec video camera and 505mm mirror detected the nebula with ease and indeed did show up a darker thinning or hole in the nebulosity. See my sketch here, well done Andrew!

Pushing on into Cancer I picked up 3 more of the Hickson groups, the first was HCG 37 a compact quintet with 2 dominant members (a) NGC 2783 a face on spiral and (b) UGC 4856 and attractive edge on orientated E-W, see my sketch here

HCG36 a group listed as having 4 members was a more subtle ‘flea like’ affair close to a star bright enough to give diffraction spikes with my set up, (a) member the only member with any size has a designation of IC528, see my rendition here

The closing observation of HCG 38 just into Leo came just after midnight, a more spectacular group with structure being obvious in an interacting pair (b) UGC5044a & (c) UGC5044b, (a) member PGC2683 shows considerable N-S elongation with a strong hallo and even the faintest member (d) PGC2630 mag 17.1 shows a bright core in my set up. A very interesting group, especially by the standards of Hickson’s that I have observed to date. See my sketch here

Well that concluded a very pleasing and productive session, time for bed, Dale

28 is 28 & Cleopatra had her beautiful eye on me!

Blog Friday 10th February 2012

A bitterly cold night that saw the mercury drop to the lowest level I have ever known or recorded        -16?C. I wanted to get an early observation in before Moon rise; my primary objective was to add another Hickson group to my list. This I did successfully with very appropriately HCG 28, I say appropriate as this was the 28th that I have observed and sketched. Located in Eridanus there are 4 faint members in the group although my sketch actually includes a 5th galaxy which isn’t a member and is depicted as a faint star. All members have PGC listing the faintest & smallest (d) member is Mag 18, so serious stuff! The commanding member is a nice edge on PGC 15136 running N-S, see my sketch here

Quite how I came to observe the next object I’m not quite sure? I may have noticed it close by on my planetarium software, not that it matters, it was an interesting and valuable observation. Again in Eridanus, NGC 1535 is a lovely planetary nebula, named ‘Cleopatra’s eye’ by Greg  Crinklaw aka ‘The Skyhound’ a name that appears to have stuck and grown in popularity. I had observed this planetary back in 2010 with the old 350mm F5 and older first generation Watec camera, but this was my first visit with the 505mm mirror. It did show an improvement, despite the lower focal length employed on this occasion, I used a barlow lens previously to increase image scale and try and pull out more detail, I had failed to resolve a faint star on the very northern edge of the nebula, the central star was easy and steady as were internal annular ring structures rather like those in the ‘Eskimo’ nebula.

Here is my old sketch with the 350mm and here is the latest with the 505mm. At the time of writing I have asked Sue French if she would be so kind as to help assist me on finding the outer stars mag. 

Happy days, Dale

Got Ya

Blog Saturday 4th February 2012


I got it this morning, persistence paid off. I got to sketch Comet P1 2009 Garradd in the same field of view as Hercules number 2 chandelier M92, see my sketch here

In addition to mark the special event, I fiddled and fumbled and managed to grab a single video frame image which you can see here. Both the image & sketch were made using a budget sky watcher clone 80mm F5 achromat and Watec 120N+ video cam.

A ‘well’ pleased, Dale

Garradd & M92 elude me!

Blog Friday February 2012


After my disappointment in not getting a sketch of comet Garradd & M92 together I was determined to make the most of the closest pass on the next morning (Friday 3rd) so this evening I spent some time getting a Watec video camera to work with my 80mmF5 synta refractor, this would give me a nice wide field of view. I used dazzling Sirius to get focus, I had to add extension tubes to the back end of the little refractor to get focus. This was achieved, the image was rather ‘grey’ in comparison with the view through the 6” at F4.5 which is nice and dark and crisp on the monitor. Having said that there were bags of stars showing and resolution with the little 80mm even when the camera sensitivity was only turned up 25%. FOV I estimated at around 60’ but I’m not the best at these things!


OK let’s give it a try, M41 was an obvious choice being local and a real ‘bling’ open cluster, that looked very nice on both monitors, I looked at my Sky Map Soft ware and it showed an open cluster not far off, NGC2360, this turned out to be a real beauty so a test session turned into sketching, well I just can’t help myself. This lovely open cluster know as Caroline Herschel’s cluster as well as being designated Caldwell 58 a compact, relatively small 12.0’, mag 7.2 open cluster in Canis Major that Caroline discovered in February 1785. Have a look at the sketch I made of the view given me by the 80mm refractor and Watec camera.  Here

Brrrrrr it was cold, -5 deg c as I closed up! I got to bed around midnight so not the early night that I expected. I awoke groggily at 4am to the first call of the alarm; normally I awake before the alarm but not today. I could see as soon as my eyes focussed that it was cloudy to the west, not a star shone its light through the bedroom, pane! I moved all around the house quietly every horizon was the same, down stairs I went opened the back door and stepped out; the cold dug its talons into me, no still not a single point of light to be seen in the sky. What a disappointment. I returned to bed, not sleeping but keeping an eye on the sky, not a chance did I see, I rose a 5.45 to start my day.

When I left the house to let out the hens out and feed them my mobile phone went off indicating a text message, it doesn’t receive or send from inside the house, It Was Andrew Robertson in Norfolk, telling me that despite cloud he had managed to grab the briefest of glimpses just for a few seconds. I heard from Stewart Moore, Director of the BAA Deep Sky Section via email that observers in Devon and Scotland had managed to observe and image it, an hour or so later I got to see a stunning black and white shot from Richard Miles down in Devon, he has kindly allowed me to use it to illustrate the blog so you can see what I was so excited to see and sketch, see what I missed here


Comets, Clusters and distant Galaxies

Blog Thursday February 2nd

Alarm set for 4am on a very chilly -5 morning out into the observatory by 15minutes passed with hot tea 🙂 I had readied everything for a widefield session the evening before in preparation my aim was to capture a comet & a globular cluster on one of the monitors for sketching but this wasn’t possible as their separation was just short of 1 degree  and wouldn’t fit into the fov even when employing a 0.5x reducer n the 6″ refractor. I caught CP2009 Garradd  visually at low power in the same fov as M92 in Hercules easily in my 80mm finder at 19x with M92 just the slightly brighter of the 2. Visible again in the same FOV (only just) in my 153mm F9 triplet refractor at 70x. I got good views but not a conjunction sketch that I desired, what I did get was a sketch of the comet which you can see here and a sketch of M92 from an unusual perspective, I noted some faint PGC galaxies nearby and managed to catch the closest and the edge of dazzling M92 home to a million suns, in the same camera field of view, a rather nice consolation I thought….see my effort here.


I shall try again on the morn of the 3rd and 4th if clear to catch the canoodling coment and glitsy cluster together.




Amoungst the Craters

Blog Tuesday January 31st

A lovely clear evening allowed me to create a Lunar sketch, it was bitterly cold so I was pleased to be using the Watec camera to view the stunning Lunar surface from the warm comfort of my observatory office. So after dropping my son off at ‘cadets’ out came the pencils and I picked my ete catching target for the evening which later researched showed to be Pallas a heavily eroded lunar crater 50Km wide and 1.3Km deep, located to the north of the Sinus Medii. To the northwest is the smaller but less worn crater Bode. Pallas shares a low wall with the crater Murchison that is attached to the southeast, and there are two gaps in the shared rim. The outer wall of Pallas is worn, notched, and somewhat distorted in shape. The associated crater Pallas A lies across the northwest rim. The inner floor of Pallas has been flooded by lava, leaving a relatively flat surface. The crater possesses a central peak complex. Bode is a small crater located near the central region of the Moon, to the northwest of the joined craters Pallas and Murchison which is a lunar crater of 58Km width and 1.8Km depth named in honour of the geologist Sir Roderick Murchison. It shares a section of rim with the crater Pallas. To the southeast on the mare is the circular crater Chladni, and to the northeast is Ukert. I made this sketch (see it here) using pastel pencils, Conte sticks and acrylic paint at 21.30ut on Jan 31st 2012, I used a video camera and sketched the view from a b&w monitor.



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