On Saturday, 30th September, Don Utton, Paul Clark, Paul Brierley and myself went to observe at Lamaload reservoir. Driving there, I was a little daunted by the weather conditions and felt that this was perhaps going to be a waste of time due to the amount of cloud cover. Don and myself arrived at just after 7.30, and luckily, the cloud was beginning to break, although it was still spitting a little. the only obvious stars at this point were Arcturus, and the 3 members of the 'summer triangle'. After a few minutes' wait, we could see that the cloud really was dispersing, we decided to go ahead and set up. Paul B. and Paul C. arrived just as we had set up and I was in the process of alignment procedures for the Skysensor, and Don was aligning on Polaris. After getting a 2-point alignment using Arcturus and Mizar, I went to M13, out of habit, and as usual, it was bright and well resolved in the 10'' scope. Next up was NGC 5466, a mag. 9.2 globular in Bootes, but unfortunately this was obscured by one of the trees at the bottom of the car park. Paul C. had quickly set up his 140mm Maksutov, and below is a lising of his observations:
M 11 Open cluster 5.80 Still good at a low elevation. M 26 Open cluster 8.00 I didn't realise it was so faint. NGC 6572 Planetary nebula 9.00 A nice white planetary in Ophiuchus. IC 4665 Open cluster 4.20 A nice bright cluster in Ophiuchus. M 30 Globular cluster 7.50 Easy to find in Capricorn. Uranus Planet 5.73 A nice disc was visible. NGC 6543 Planetary nebula 8.30 The Cat's Eye is still open in Draco.. M 33 Galaxy 5.70 Tricky with the FOV. M 74 Galaxy 9.40 A pale face on spiral. Easy to find next to a hat asterism. NGC 404 Galaxy 10.30 Lovely contrast to nearby yellow beta Andromedae. M 52 Open cluster 6.90 I Always have trouble finding this easy Messier. M 103 Open cluster 7.40. M 2 Globular cluster 6.50 Looks better with time. M 15 Globular cluster 6.40 Looks better with time. NGC 7331 Galaxy 9.50 A pale streak on the way to an unseen Stephans' Quintet. M 56 Globular cluster 8.30 Always faint and diffuse. M 57 Planetary nebula 9.00 Good at x100.
After finding M57 and M56 myself, again a couple of favourites, it became apparent with these fainter objects, that the seeing conditions were not as good as our prevous visit to Gradbach Hill. This was confirmed when after going to NGC 7331, a mag. 9.5 Sb galaxy in Pegasus, that I used last time as a starting point to hop to Stephans' Quintet, which is almost in the same FOV at X80, was noticeably fainter. after a little guidance from Paul C., the correct FOV was obtained for Stephans' Quintet, and it was noticeably not there. It was at this point that I ran into problems with the Skysensor. I had omitted to take it out of 'Alt-Az' mode on starting up, and unfortunately on the next attempted slew, the scope ran into one of the tripod legs and I had to stop. When using a larger telescope on this setup, e.g. my 10'' F4.8 Newtonian, the Skysensor needs to be in 'Ra-Dec' mode, or 'X-Y' mode to function properly. (i.e. not running into the tripod when slewing to objects nearly overhead) After returning the scope to 'initial positon', (180deg. to the ground, and pointing approx. west) at switching on, a worrying noise came from the Dec.motor and the scope was not moving. Luckily, Paul B., who also uses a Skysensor was on the ball, and it was discovered the scope was out of balance on the Dec.axis, probably due to the scope mounting rings being insufficiently tight, over time the tube had slipped downwards,causing the imbalance. After rectifing this and using Paul B's suggested alignment stars, Schedar in Cassiopea (a new star name for me), Vega and Altair, I was up and running again, although for some reason the slewing accuracy was not quite as good. I put this down to 2 reasons: (1) As with other 'GOTO' equipment, the Skysensor needs to know where it is to perform well. I had not created a new location for Lamaload as I live within 20 miles, which can only amount to a few minutes' latitude and longitude difference.(Dave - checkout the Lamaload GPS lat/long from the Tegg's Nose page on the ADAS web site! Graham C). Objects were still being placed in the eyepiece most of the time, but not with the usual accuracy. (2) I had not been careful enough in lining up the bubble level on the equatorial mount, which I know was a little bit out - at home the flagstones in my back yard are about as perfectly flat as they could be and I have just taken this for granted. After getting a 3-point alignment and regrettably having wasted almost an hour, observing was resumed. Here is a list of some objects seen:
NGC 7662 'Blue Snowball' mag. 9.2 planetary nebula, very strikingly blue, even without any kind of filter NGC 7009 'The Saturn Nebula' mag. 8.3 planetary nebula, quite bright, but would need higher magnification than 80X to notice its shape. M15 Globular Cluster, mag. 6.35 , very bright core, many stars resolved in my 10'' M71 Globular Cluster, mag 8.3 , less dense core, again a lot of stars resolved. M103 Open Cluster, triangular shape, has 1 very noticeably red star that stands out well. Andromeda Galaxy, big and bright as usual. Uranus - faint, but a definite greenish-blue disc was seen, again I think I needed higher magnification. Omicron Cygni - Very nice triple star, 1 yellow, 1 blue, 1 white. the yellow and blue elements rival Albireo in noticeable contrast. I had also attempted to go for some dimmer globulars, Palomar 1 , NGC 6749, 6760 but by this time the cloud cover was coming in again. Don Utton observed Uranus, Neptune, M33 and M110 (NGC 205). He has remarked the latter of these 2 objects are not available to him from his garden due to light pollution - he felt that although we only had a short period (approx 2 hours) to observe, the trip was worthwhile because of this. After approx 2 hours the sky clouded over again just about completely. We waited a while to look for any likely change in the conditions but decided to call it a day. Personally, I found the evening a little disappointing(?), but it was a learning experience re. the Skysensor, and perhaps I will not be quite as absent minded when setting up next time!
by Dave Timperley