Over a long weekend 14th-17th October, I travelled down to Devon along with Mike C, Peter H, Bill , and Nick W-V to stay with Graham G on his farm.
If I reel off the kit list that was available to us it will make you light headed...
Takahashi Mewlon 250, 105-TMB, 130-TMB, 7" AP Starfire, 18" Obsession, 100mm Miyauchi binoculars, Ha scope for daytime, AP 105 Traveller, 12" LX200 plus more! Along with a selection of binoviewers and eyepieces to die for. Makes my C9.25 & Megrez seem a bit outclassed.
The notes below are from a somewhat blurred memory, the events are OK, but I've started to get the nights mixed up!
The afternoon did not look promising, but after the evening meal the skies cleared somewhat and everyone set up. I spent some time aligning my mount and fine tuning the collimation of the C9.25. We had the odd shower of rain, so I wanted to make sure everything was right if I wanted to grab some imaging on subsequent nights.
The skies between the odd bank of cloud were amazing, the rich milky way around Cygnus and dark rifts were so so clear. The coat hanger, NA nebula and just about any Messier object I could name (which isn't many!) visible to the naked eye. Lovely.
The skies lasted until the early hours, finally clouding out completely around 1:00-1:30.
The skies were not promising that evening. We resigned ourselves to going to bed.
However we were woken by Graham at around 3:00 when he announced clear skies.
Memorable moments included the Horsehead with a Hydrogen Beta filter in the Obsession.
Again, we had patchy cloud and the odd shower to dodge. We went right through to day break.
During the day we had some stunning white light views of the Sun through Mikes 115 TMB and bino-viewers. The surface detail - granulation and faculae - were 'in your face'. It was easy to see the granulation change shape as it neared a Sun spot cluster. You could see the filamentary structure within the penumbra. The best white light views of the Sun I have seen.
The Ha kit on Mikes Tak FS60 provided fine views of the full disk. Winding up the power showed that the detail remained sharp, what initially looked like a blurred limb to the Sun actually resolved to be a view of the atmosphere boiling away.
Out after the evening meal, quite clear skies, but passing cloud banks and the ever present threat of a rain shower - spot a pattern here?
I started off with a quick tour of the fav. objects that would set later in the night: Ring, M13, M15, Dumbbell, Blinking - all very enjoyable in the C9.25
Great views of the milky way again. I tried to take an image of NGC7479, but gave up after the Red exposures - imaging in the 'field' is much harder than at home where you have everything setup as you want it. I took a peek at 7479 in the Obsession, whilst this showed the bar quite clearly I was struggling to see the arms. With hind-sight, I should have wound up the power and I think it would have been much easier.
I tried out the Megrez 80 on M81/82 (which also fit in the same field on the C9.25 with the Meade 40mm SWA). Again I was pretty pleased with the Megrez, it was outclassed in terms of colour fidelity by all the TMBs, APs, and Taks knocking around but it gave pleasing views none the less.
I also did some sweeping around with the Miyauchi 28x100 APO bins. M31, M45, Double Cluster - fantastic. M31 filling the fov with dark lanes and M32 engulfed, M45 steely blue stars, Double cluster living up to expectations.
The only view I had through Peters Mewlon was of M1. Structure was easily visible, and the field stars (which aren't that bright) showing clean airy disks and diffraction rings. Mind you my C9.25 was also showing clean disks and rings as well, something I never got with the old Lx200.
Retired for some coffee and biccies around 1:30, came back out later to completely overcast skies. This was followed by torrential rain around 3:00-3:20. Still we thought we would sit it out in the observatory and wait for Saturn to get higher and to see if the skies cleared.
They did clear of sorts, but it was a case of glimpses between the clouds. Still we had the 12" LX200, the 7" Starfire, and the 18" Obsession all pointed in the right direction. As we were looking through hazy cloud most of the time, the Obsession was giving the brightest, clearest views, the Starfire was giving fine views with the bino-viewers, and the Traveller was holding up remarkably - producing amazing image scale for its size with the Nagler 3-6mm zoom at 3mm (about 200x). Once the Lx200 was switched from a Nagler to a Monocentric ep its image improved markedly.
Finally packed up as the sky was brightening and retired to bed.
I travelled back on the Sunday along with Mike and Bill, so we missed the Sunday night, which apparently was the best night of all - typical. I'll repeat the account that Graham gave me...
We had a pretty decent night - we all turned in before midnight with the alarms set for 3:45.
Cracking sky and outstanding seeing for Saturn, on visual we had scalloping on the inner edge of crepe ring, fleeting Enke, frequent steady spokes in outer ring.
I got the 7 inch AP up to the 4mm monocentrics (780x) in the steadiest periods but the star (forgive the wrong pun) was that half an hour after dawn with the image finally washing out in the refractor, we had what was probably amongst the nicest possible of views through the 18" Obsession!! with the 3-6 zoom and that contrast booster filter!
Arghhh! Well done guys, shame I missed it.
I must congratulate Graham & Fran on their hospitality and especially Fran for the wonderful meals she provided.
by Mark Crossley