Archive for December, 2013

A friends picture of Jupiter

My good friend Simon Kidd recently moved from Welwyn to a new home much closer to me, he is now just a few minutes drive ‘down’ the road. Now Simon is a very good planetary imager and today I received the first image from his re-built and recommissioned observatory.

Jupiter 2013-12-29 00.46ut

A Christmas Bow Tie and the ‘Lynx Effect’


Blog for December 27th & 28th 2013

With two weeks off for Christmas and New Year I was hopeful that the telescopes would be seeing some action. However the weather here in the UK has been far from settled with squally storms seeming to blow up every couple of days. Just after Christmas things did settle on a couple of nights allowing me to get out and pick up a few new observations of some interesting deep sky objects J

December 27th

Top of my wanted list is Wolfgang’s Webb Society object of the season, bi-polar reflection nebula in Orion, NGC 2163, not even listed in the Kepple & Sanner Night Sky Observers Guides, the bible!


I went out into the observatory shortly after dark and opened up and got a star onto the monitor but the wind was so strong that the image was jumping half way across the screen, so I closed up and waited until after 22.00 until it abated somewhat. I soon picked the nebula that I was after in the higher reaches of Orion by star hoping to the target but had to keep the exposure time of the video camera shorter than usual due to the residual breeze.


I can see why this attractive little nebula is overlooked it is far away from the belt and sword regions where most observers flock during the winter months.

 I’m pleased with the result that I got; it is an interesting object and a first observation for me. Appearing as a celestial bow tie N-S in position there are a couple of dark notches visible and a short dust lane in the lower lobe in my sketch, feed back from the SPA Deep Sky section indicates this is only the 2nd observation of NGC 2163 that they have on record.


With the camera in its new position and orientation North is down and I have yet to work out where west is?

NGC 2163 'The Giants Bow tie'


December 28th


Another opportunity presented itself last night to get the observatory open. My targets were both in Lynx and came to my attention directly as a result of friend Andrew Robertson having observed them on a new moon in November with his 24″ Dobsonian from the Hinton dark site location in Suffolk.


Both were first observations for me although I had been aware of the ‘Bear Paw’ for a good while. NGC 2537, the bear paw which is actually a low surface brightness spiral galaxy with very unusual morphology is also listed as Arp 6, which is handy as that is another tick on that list 🙂 A small but relatively bright object which is absolutely fascinating, the 3 ‘fingers’ are each subtly different, the central one having a dark region towards the ‘palm’ region giving it the appearance of being detached, the right hand finger as portrayed in my sketch has a considerably brighter region towards the base and the left one as drawn has a diffuse tip with a slightly elongated and detached region in all an amazing spectacle.

The Bear Paw galaxy, NGC 2537 aka Arp 6


Close by we find IC 2233 an extremely svelte super thin galaxy orientated N-S a foreground star lies over the galaxy to the south and a brighter core can be seen running upwards from the star, extending to around 50% of the galaxy in total, a spectacular sight.

IC 2233 'a celestial tooth pick'


Last night my Sky Quality Meter was reading 20.70 which is as good as my home sky tends to get.


I hope you enjoy these two objects and feel inspired if you have not already seen them to have a go yourself, or if you have, to revisit 🙂


Carpe Noctrum, Dale

A bit of a clean up

Blog PM Sunday Dec 7th 2013

As it was such a beautiful day Aubrey and I gave the Fry observatory the houses the historic Calver Hay Stevenson Telescope (HST) a bit of a spruce up today. Could do with some Silica Gel is anyone reading this has a flower pot full spare:

A couple of pictures 🙂

Aubs giving the observatory an airing

A view through the door shows the scope still looks great 🙂



Cloudy woes

Blog Sunday 8th December 2013 (5am)

This is the second consecutive early morning that I have been out aiming to sketch comet Lovejoy only to be thwarted by cloud 🙁

This morning I was out by 4am but before I could get the roof open it clouded, have been sitting here listening to Jazz FM for a hour waiting for it to clear, at least I got a hazy binocular view yesterday!

Hey ho, that’s astronomy for you 😉

Dale feeling a little better now I have written this 🙂

A low galaxy and Cleopatra’s eye

                                       Blog Wednesday 4th December 2013

A few of us had anticipated in the SE of the UK we were due for some dark sky action last night. For me it really was a pretty fine looking sky with the milky way quite prominent.

My anticipated target was to be Owen’s recently revealed galaxy of the month NGC 1300 a glorious looking galaxy in Eridanus, not too dissimilar in many respects to my last posting of NGC 266, again rather ‘Pretzel’ looking 🙂
I didn’t get out until past 10pm local time (a) because I was busy and (b) to give things a little time to rise! Despite this NGC 1300 was to prove tough for me, not to locate, but to extract detail from. It remained low even at 23.00 ut, I had to drop the observatory southern ‘flap’ to get full aperture to bear. Even then the image from the bright southern glow was washed out, lacking the ‘bite’ that I got with 266 in Pisces. So I drew what I saw and what I could knowing full well there was more that was invisible to me. My thoughts on the galaxy were that it was large with a very bright central region, the spiralling arms very attractive and graceful, in summary a stunner I would liked to have got more detail from.

NGC 1300 'a pretzel' galaxy low in Eridanus

OK that in the bag and still wide awake, despite the need to be up early for work, I looked around for something local to make another sketch of? NGC 1535 was close, I will take a look, I thought. At the time I wasn’t aware that it was the very well known beautiful planetary nebula Cleopatra’s eye. I spent some considerable time, adjusting monitors and cameras again, yes I was running video through both the 6″ refractor and 20″ mirror simultaneously, I finally got a ‘wow’ quality image from the big scope and camera. I must have spent 45 minutes trying to capture it in my sketch, so complex was the view, I would never be completely happy, but attached is my final result.
A couple of points I would like to draw your attention to are the small dark region a 5 o’clock in the outer shell, what we would call the ‘Parker hood’ in the Eskimo nebula, that is a star, I drew it as displayed, not knowing it was a star at the time, whether this lack of sharpness was down to poor focus or collimation or seeing, I don’t know? The new prime focus set up does not yet offer me remote focusing from the office and collimation is a 2 man job now, unlike before, so a work in progress.
Another feature is the faint loop out on the fringe around 2-3 o’clock, I moved the image about the monitor but this remained, coming and going in clarity with refreshes, but it was real. Subsequent study of CCD images via Google hasn’t really matched this up, so it maybe in a wave length that the Watec is sensitive to, I don’t know.

NGC 1535 'Cleopatra's eye' a planetary nebula as glamorous as it's name suggests

Anyhow I have gone on enough, I closed up the observatotry after scanning the sketches, it was 01.30, with the alarm clock set for just 4 hours time and me only just heading for bed!
Hope you like the sketches? Dale


Blog Sat 29th November 2013


As I showed in my earlier Blog, young Es had been designing and engineering a new spider for the 20” to allow the Watec to work from the prime focus position. This we had tested found that it worked well so it was sent to the coaters for a professional black finish.

It had been ready for a little while but we were waiting for a clear night to fit and test it, this came on Saturday. Es worked out the precise position for the new spider and it was soon in position on the tube after drilling and bolting. Collimation surprisingly was nearly there after the first try out a couple of weeks earlier; this enabled us to get onto a star fairly quickly. Es was delighted that all was working so well, he tested the camera field to ensure the baffle on the camera box was allowing it to see the entire mirror, which it was, so all was good. Cloud came and went but eventually it clear right out. We took a look at Uranus and noted a number of moons, stupidly I didn’t rough sketch for later identification!

Es was now intent on getting my Lodestar camera to auto guide so that I could let the video camera run longer on an object and go deeper, he was soon talking in a language which I neither understood nor wanted to learn to be honest, rather too much of an imagers pathway was being trodden and not for me. I have since discussed this conflict of interests with Es and we have agreed to use this camera to help improve mount alignment and reduce drive errors which in themselves are improvements that will improve my video image quality, thus letting me see and draw more. As for auto-guiding, no, it isn’t for me, I will either sell on that camera as they are very popular or use it as a near real time finder.

Before I share the observation of the evening, here are a couple of pictures showing the new finished spider mounted afocal camera in situ:

Spider with camera just protruding from the central box


Looking up the tube from the mirror at the camera chip




Es and I were flicking through a few books looking for suitable local targets settling on the rather wonderfully ‘Pretzel’ looking NGC 266 in Pisces. We soon had it on the monitor and very impressive it was to, Es tweaked and twiddled with gains, contrasts, brightness etc until we were happy that we had the best image, which I duly sketched in my customary manner, consulting Es to make sure that he also considered it to be a true representation. It is nice to have this kind of discussion in the observatory as usually this is a lone pursuit for me, with none to share the incredible magic moments with.

Es commented on just how “jolly civilised and amazing2 this kind of observing is, it is nice to hear that from others too, as you the reader already realise I’m a very strong advocate for deep sky video astronomy.

The delightful 'Pretzel' galaxy NGC 226


You will note in the above sketch a small fainter galaxy out at 2 o’clock from NGC 266, this is PGC 212604 at mag 16.4.

So a productive evening was concluded and Es left promising to return soon to address with me in his usual meticulous way the alignment of the mount and tracking.



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