Archive for February, 2014

Messing about and missing out!

Blog for Feb 26th 2014

Andrew Robertson had inspired me with his fantastic early morning observation of  comet C/2012 X1 and Globular cluster NGC 6760 the previous day

Andrews sketch of Comet C-2012-X1 and NGC 6760 in Aquila

 So after a most excellent harmonica lesson, practicing numbers from the Beans and Biscuits set, mainly Hank Williams, I returned home to a fair sky, got the scope going, sync’d handset & software and started dabbling about in Puppis, Monocerotis, Hyra etc, low stuff in other words, looked at a couple of Arps down there, M93 (too big for the fov) reminds me I need to work with you on being able to change focal reducers/enhancers on the watec.


All was going well but clearly too murky for diffuse objects, but it was good being able to goto again, although I had to use star hoping for anything but the very shortest distance. Time was now moving on, so I decided I need tea but before break for this I went for a very interesting galaxy NGC2525, structure galore and failing arms, I soon had the location and matched surrounding star patterns readily but struggled to see any galaxy, strange I thought, mag 11.8 should be very easy…hmmmmm. Turned up the integration to 10 secs, and there was a haze, cranked it up to 20 secs and revealed the definite spiral structure albeit very faint! I froze the frame and went in to make tea, time now gone 2300 hrs, leaving the obsy made sense of the situation, the southern sky was completely lost to “CLAG”


I made a brew and said goodnight to Tracey on returning to the obsy, my thought was that maybe clouds were breaking up down south, so I removed the freeze frame and waited for the screen to refresh, bad move, I barely saw another star, waiting for over an hour until well past midnight I never saw NGC2525 again! 

Perhaps not a totally wasted session as I got to use the scope and confirmed its usability again, on the other hand, I should have worked higher in the sky were things were far more transparent and made a sketch earlier, or I should have observed and sketched Jupiter with the 6”!



Es to the rescue

Blog 9th & 10th Feb 2014


My good friend Es Reid contacted me offering to drop over and have another go at getting the AWR drive system on the 20” telescope sorted out so that the observatory was functional again. I had some writing to do for the Norwich society Cygnus newsletter and the SPA magazine, but this was completed before Es arrived late afternoon, I even got the observatory open and had a look at the ‘spotty’ sun in white light with the 6″ refractor, I made a rough sketch, which reminds me I need to tidy that up!

Ok so Es arrives, we have a brew and some banter, the sky is darkening but fine and clear so despite strong wind we could have the observatory open to work the scopes drive system. We spent an hour before dinner making little inroad into the tracking issues were every move of the scope was opposite to that required, and the fact the scope frequently indicated that it was in the southern hemisphere etc.

Es ran some reports or tests with the software and got me to note the code numbers down which I emailed to Alan Buckman at AWR after Es had departed, not this Earth just my location 😉

The Moon was well up in the SE so we were using it for ‘target practice’ running the Watec 120N+ video camera with everything turned right down the view on the monitor was stunning, Es & I ooh’d and arrh’d over the view. The drives were tracking well if nothing else. I decided that I had to make a sketch, it was too good to miss and I needed to capture this moment, both of the view and of the sharing it with my friend 🙂 Es was interested in a certain mountain that turned out to be Mons La Hire. I had just got the background over the A5 220gsm black art paper when we were called to dinner.

I got out pretty sharpish after din dins, leaving Es chatting away to the family; I wanted to get the sketch done. I kept the subject area small and did most of the work with my fingers rubbing out pastel to darken and adding more to lighten the terrain, underlining features gently with a darker grey pastel pencil to highlight, deep shadow & illuminated peaks are in acrylic. It was a fast and spontaneous drawing that I didn’t have time to get uptight about. Es returned and we debated a few features, in general Es thought it was pretty good so I got it scanned. It isn’t a picture that will keep well being so chalky, if I spray it well with fixer it will disappear 😉

Crater Lambert and Mons La Hire with some interesting Wrinkle ridges

Whilst I was scanning, Es got the scope onto Jupiter which was close to the Moon, he twiddled about with the monitor and camera controls until he got the maximum detail, he then went out into the obs and collimated the scope getting the moons sharp, good old boy that would have taken me ages! Despite the relatively small image scale and b&w rendition there was plenty of tiny detail visible, two strong festoons project away from an equatorial belt and stood out darkly. I have since noticed them in an image from the same night; I will share it here if I can get permission.

Chris Grimmers Jupiter image of Feb 9th showing the projecting dark festoons that we saw using the Watec camera

OK enough of that, Es always rather hyper active now wanted to view the Supernova SN2014J in M82, I wasn’t keen after all the agro my last visit there had caused the drive system! We steered the scope by driving the cursor on the Sky Map lap top to the galaxy. We got in close but as nothing was ‘syncd’ it took a while to get the galaxy onto the chips 12’ x 12’ fov! Es managed it in the end, it was a case of sweeping back and forth until it showed up.

By now cloud had built up and only the Moon, Jupiter and mag 1 stars shone out. The camera and big mirror however delivered a rather stunning image of M82 with its bright SN visitor, and it was bright! far brighter than at my previous visit. Es was very impressed; he took a few pictures of the screen with his camera phone, sending one off to Andrew Robertson.. Although this captured the view it also captured some of the monitor resolution lines, this resulted in strong dark bars showing on the picture that were invisible to the eye, that notwithstanding it was an impressive view especially as it was through considerable cloud cover.

Es's phone camera shot of the 'through cloud' image on the monitor screen

Monday evening and Es is back following some comments emailed through from Alan Buckman on our findings. Firstly we swapped back the handset to the original one; we had been using the handset that came with the loan Alter D6 mount from my dear friend Dr Paterson.

Es then went about reloading all the information into the handsets memory, location, cancelling meridian flip, we set a horizon and umpteen cases of logging in locations of where the scope was point etc, well roughly pointing as it was very cloudy. After a few hours Es was happy that the thing was, for now behaving as it should. He took his leave with the understanding that I must perform one last, sync with the handset uploading RA & DEC coordinates when the scope is pointed to a known star. I hope I can get this simple task right, the next clear night will tell.


Thanks Esmo 🙂 Dale

Nothing Doing

Dear visitor (s) maybe there might be more than one 😉

Things are a bit quiet around here! My main observatory is out of action due to “technical issues” basically I’m having trouble with my AWR goto and don’t have a clue to fix it, hope to be back in action soon having missed this last New Moon 🙁

Dale playing his harmonica, waaaaa whaaaaa


P.S….Just remembered I have done something, I made an oil painting of Copernicus from a previous live pastel sketch, a steep learning curve, 1 week on the paint still isn;t dry! Not easy.

Lunar Crater Copernicus painted in oils



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