Archive for October, 2013

A fine trio in Triangulum

Blog Wednesday October 23rd 2013
A clear evening yesterday albeit with quite a glow from a 77% Moon allowed me to go for a lovely trio in Triangulum, NGC 672, IC 1727 and PGC 1803573 far exceeded my expectations in terms of beauty and structural detail the 20″ mirror a Watec video camera yielded.
The observation and sketch was a follow up on an observation Adrian Orr and I shared with my at Kelling Heath using his 18″, on that occasion we had only observed the NGC and IC members, the far more distant mag 16.3 PGC edge on  galaxy with central bulge only became apparent to me after I researched the brighter duo. I stated to Adrian only yesterday that it was my desirve to catch this third galaxy but at that time it was by no means a foregone conclusion.

NGC672, IC1727 & PGC1803573

I hope that you find my sketch of interest? It is my intention to get back onto the ARP trail with the next clear sky.
Dale 🙂 

Ships in the night

Blog 9th October 2013


After Kelling Heath one is itching to continue observing, tonight I luckily grabbed a sketch through a gap in the scudding clouds, literally. Not only that I managed to deliver on some ‘homework’ that my deep sky video camera sharing pal & retailer Bern Kapinski (Modern Astronomy) set me. Let me explain, it was at least 12 months ago at Kelling Heath or maybe even 18 months ago that I bought a Starlight Express Lodestar auto-guiding camera from Bern, the plan being to use this camera on one of the scope piggy backed on the 20” to compensate for the mounts inaccuracies so that I could increase exposure time of the Watec video camera on the 20”, this should give me more detail on the monitor. Currently 20 seconds is about the best I can manage before I get drift and the camera gives a double or trailed image which is pretty useless. Now I struggle with electronics, gadgets and most new tech to be honest, so this piece of kit I hadn’t made use of despite the fact that it cost a good few 100 £’s.  Friends who video observe had set their scopes up with a Lodestar with considerable success, they had called around and helped me (Thanks Mike & David), Es had taken it away, tried it out and bought his own one, but mine still sat in the warm room, unused by me, shame! Bern asked how it was going, I told the above tale and he shook his head! Tut tut, he then set me the ‘homework’ this was the impetus I needed to push on and use it.

Bern Kapinski, the setter of homework

So my initial idea on this not so idea night was to see if I could set this guide camera up, locate and focus a star and lock onto it! I put the camera onto the Stellavue 80mm Nighthawk guide scope, hunted for the USB leads, poked them through the small hole in the warm room door that I had other cables running through and into the lap top. I fired up the scope and sent it to a bright star, Altair I think, and got it centred on the monitor using the 20” and Watec. I then opened up the software on the lap top (cor I sound like I know what I’m doing here!) and after a few clicks, I had a real time image on the screen with what I could recognise as a bloated out of focus star, I went into the observatory and with a little fiddling got the star on the lap top, as small as I could, in other words roughly focussed. As I was unable to see the lap top from the focuser there was a bit of back & forth before I was happy. I then sat back down and clicked on the star to lock the guider, or start it or both? Voila, it worked J easy or what, should have done this ages ago I thought, as you do!

The Lodestar is a small camera

OK let’s try this gismo out for real, I looked in my Arp Atlas of Peculiar galaxies and picked out ARP 278 in Pegasus just below the great square. I star hopped, re-syncing on each star until I was within accurate striking distance. When I was happy I was on the target I turned up the power on the video camera (actually increased the exposure time) and waited, hmmmm nice a pair of grey elongated galaxies showed up at angles to each other, different I thought, rather lovely. Right time to switch on the guider to see what this baby can do for me on faint stuff!  Things looked promising but every now and again cloud would white out the screen and I would have to wait for it to blow over. I would nip outside and see when the next hole was likely to be. During one clear patch I got the exposure or integration (not sure which term is correct?) up to 30 secs and the view was pretty incredible with striking, not just detectable dust lanes in each of the tiny interacting galaxies, I moved to hit the frame freeze button and as I did the screen went white, the button glowed red under my finger, I must have missed catching it by nano seconds! I walked outside and it wasn’t looking good L I left the set up running and could see stars faintly on the Watec monitor even though visually the sky was totally opaque with cloud cover to the unaided eye. After what seemed an age but was likely about 45 mins or so, it broke up a bit and I got the galaxies back, re-centred then and got the guider running again, but the breaks in the cloud were short and I didn’t match the exposure and view that I failed to freeze, in the end I settled for a decent view, froze it and made my sketch. I must say at this point that I only use the freeze facility if it is patchy cloud or the moon is rising or if I’m likely to lose the view for another reason, I tend to like the refresh as it gives the view life and also as with eyepiece visual occasionally it comes together and gives a “stonking” view.

ARP 278, 2 warships in Peg?


Anyhow I had my observation of a very nice ARP pair NGC 7253A & NGC 7353B at mags 13.6 & 14.4 respectively. At the point where they touch is a wonderful double star, with equal components of mag 14.5. To me the view looked like 2 battle ships on a radar screen, such was the shape of both galaxies, a lovely Pair well worth tracking down.

And so to bed, Dale.




Kelling Tale

Kelling Heath Blog Thursday 3rd Oct until Sunday 6th


I had a humdinger of a Kellers and will lay out the best bits bellow for you to pick over.

Got an early start on Thursday morning with Es, had the caravan hooked up onto the van to form the ‘Dale Farm pikey wagon’ and out onto the road at 10am sharp.  We arrived up at Kellers after a good run at 12.30.

On the way up the weather was lovely but it soon turned a bit grim. There were no clear skies on Thursday night although reports from Andrew Robertson told of a run of clear skies until we arrived! Hey ho, no worries personally, for me Kellers is about the social first and foremost, the chance to catch up with astro brothers and sisters from all over the UK. I do appreciate however others who live in cities and large towns rely on such events to get some observing or imaging in. On arrival we set up pretty quickly, well we should we are Kelling veterans by now. My big binoculars take only minutes to unload and set up, I put a big plastic heavy duty bin bag over them, secured with a bungee strap. Es set up his HEQ6 mount ready for solar observing but never actually used it once, too busy, yak yak rabbit rabbit ;¬)

That evening Andrew Robertson called over and we chatted and caught up on matters and put the world to rights which was most enjoyable.

Friday was a mixed bag of sunshine and showers with an increasing wind throughout the day. I trucked on down the coast on my own to visit favourite haunts along the coast, culminating with putting flowers on my grandparent’s grave at Thornham, which is just short of Hunstanton.

On returning to the caravan in the early afternoon I found that the fierce Kelling wind had half pulled of the porch awning from the side of the caravan! Using straps and bungees from the van I secured it in a temporary fashion. I had arranged to have an hours watercolour tuition with my lovely friend Sally Russell a most accomplished all round artist and of course astronomer. I had just recently started to experiment with watercolours and was acutely aware that I needed some pointers, Sally with her skill and patience soon had me making paint marks on my paper that I could scarcely believe I had made! A really enjoyable session, thanks so much Sal J

That evening my great friend Adrian Orr joined Es & I in the caravan and we talked on many cultural and astronomical topics until past 11 when we turned in. I don’t think my head had quite hit the pillow when Andrew impersonating the gong banger from Rank films started hammering on the caravan that it was clear! I got out as quickly as possible and spend a little over 30 minutes reacquainting myself with the delightful views delivered by my 6” binoculars, they really do give quite unbelievable and pretty unique low power views of the likes, of M45, the Perseus Double Cluster, the Andromeda galaxy, simply stunning views that telescopes just can’t match, that combination of a decent aperture, refractor black background and the stereo view. The clear sky only lasted the short while and clouded over, that clear spell turned out to be it for the night. With Kelling being so close to the close and so far east, the weather is unpredictable and often bucks the forecast, you have to grab observing when you can, it really can’t be planned.

For Saturday the forecast was more promising, I was up early looking after my rather defenceless guess Es Reid who for some strange reason found himself unable to make tea or get out of his bed! With the full English out of the way, it was time to get out and about, stroll along the traders row, catch up with friends and nose around the 100’s of astronomers pitches and all their gear. I remembered to take my camera to get a few shots in to illustrate this blog and to build up a Star Party file for autumn 2013 on my website.

Here is a link to Adrian’s Flicker page with a great selection of very good Kelling pictures which capture the mood nicely.

I didn’t make any purchases; I have little need of new equipment at the moment, I simply need the opportunity to use what I have.

It was a wonderfully sociable day and carried on that way with fellow NAS member Graham ‘spadger’ Sparrow cooking us a veggie curry of considerable potency, complete with rice mixed with a freshly picked assortment of foraged mushrooms. Graham brought the curry up to the caravan along with a relatively new NAS (Norwich Astronomy Society) member Shaun Reynolds, we had also been joined by our pal Simon Kidd, so I knocked up an extra bit of tucker and we all dinned, drunk and laughed until the sky darkened and it was time to get down to the serious task of observing.

Again I worked with the binoculars, enjoying wonder views of the ‘Coat Hanger’ in Vulpecular, M33, which wasn’t naked eye on that night although it can be so at Kellers if transparency is good. M13 was readily naked eye however. I framed up M81 & M82 in the binoculars, such a joy, hanging surrounded by an expansive and dark field of view, I’m reminded of just why I love these binoculars so much. I was particularly pleased to pick out all regions of the Veil nebula in Cygnus including the more elusive ‘Pickering’s triangle’ which lies between the eastern and western regions. I had added a pair of Lumicon UHC filters to the eyepieces for this observation and as one would expect they made all the difference, making the nebula jump out. They did the same for M27 the Dumbbell, the North America nebula but failed to show me the wonderful Crescent nebula in Cygnus which looked so fine in Adrian’s 18” situated just a few dark yards away. Whilst I’m speaking of Adrian’s scope he showed me a very interesting pair of galaxies, pretty much end to end, I’m still chasing him on their designation so I can follow them up with a detailed observation.

A number of people stopped by and enjoyed the view from the binoculars; they are always popular and always impress people with their unique view. Well by around 1am the cloud coalesced once again, the forecast said that it would clear out in a while and indeed it did a couple of hours later giving a rather more transparent sky. There were a good number of us up, I used the binoculars to show the Orion nebula hanging like a spectral picture pinned onto the early morning sky, not the usual field over filler but framed with lots of sky, showing it in wonderful context, a stunning sight which passing observers who stopped to look agreed.

By this time in the morning, Jupiter and Mars where rising to a decent altitude in the east, we had some exceptionally good views in Simon’s F8 10” with its smoooooth David Sinden mirror, Adrian’s and Andrew’s 18”ers weren’t disappointing either, neither was Owen Brazell’s 22” Obsession, all giving amazing detail on Jupiter. Simon’s 10” showed Mars as a shimmering egg, with something going on, but not steady enough for the eye to get a handle on, occasionally the polar cap made itself known but apart from that little was discernible, this was on a night when we knew by the Jovian view that seeing was better than average and with a specialised scope pushing 330x. We as a group discussed that the increasingly prominent, Leicester Uni and BBC astronomer Dr Paul Abel had been using his F5 8” sky watcher a number of weeks earlier to draw Mars as a full disc showing considerable shading! I will leave that there ;¬)

As dawn approached Andrew and Owen were having a race to find comet ISON first, this is the comet tipped to be the best for years but was looking likely to be a let down. A shout went out from Andrew that he had it, a few of us formed a queue at his 18”, I was fourth or so, but unfortunately when it was my turn, I couldn’t make out the comet and Andrew was unable to re-locate it! Fortunately Owen found it with his 22” and I got to see it then, pretty faint, decent and obvious tail, estimates on magnitude were around the mag 11 region. It was close to a star, and to put it in basic terms was heading up in the eyepiece view. I made a memory sketch a couple of hours later which I showed to Es & Simon. Later at home I scanned and inverted this passing it onto Andrew who confirmed that it was a reasonable rendition. The sky was brightening rapidly when we observed the comet low in the west. A group of us kept observing Jupiter well into a light sky, when often the views are best, giving fine contrast on the brilliant Jupiter.

Comet ISON as seen through a 22" telescope & 13mm Ethos eyepiece

I cooked a breakfast and made a brew around 6ish, then cleared away in earnest, loaded the van , Adrian left I guess around 6am with his caravan, Es & I pulled out at 9am after saying a few goodbyes, I was certainly buzzing and sorry to be going I had really had a great time.

We made a detour on the way back as a section of the A11 was closed near Mildenhall/ Brandon way, Simon got caught in the effects coming up and it added nearly an hour to his journey. We avoided it by cutting across to pick up the A10 near Downham Market, this proved a good move as we got back to Chipping at 11.30, so exactly the same journey time as normal. We got the caravan unhitched and back in its parking spot and Es departed, leaving me to clear out all the kit, clean out the caravan, drain down for the winter and put a cover over it.

That’s it until the next camp in spring, but it had been a good one, I was happy J





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