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First Light - Paul Clark's First Observing Report with his 18 inch Dobsonian Reflector

The Monster, as my wife has christened the 18”, had brought on the ‘new scope’ curse with a vengeance.   Ten days of solid cloud cover had followed delivery (the 1 day old Monster is seen at the last General Meeting left with Bin Wu, Mark Adamson and Paul - GC).  The Sunday forecast suggested a brief interlude between two weather fronts.  A message on the Internet (to Adastra_ADAS) brought no replies.  Not surprising with the drizzling rain!  I set off at 16:30, the car full of telescope.  I arrived to hill fog at Llyn Brenig however 4 miles nearer the coast brought a good clear sky.

The mirror box is as heavy as I can lift out of the car.  Set up went OK apart from the laser collimator falling apart!

I started off using a 31 mm Type V Nagler eyepiece.  The view through this is like having a porthole on the Universe.  Stars galore spread across an 82 degree apparent field of view.  M42 was stupendous at only 20 degrees elevation., a maelstrom of swirling nebulosity.  Nearby nebulae gave up detail for the first time.  M35 was unrecognisable!

I moved over to Stephan’s Quintet in Pegasus.  All 5 components were revealed in a beautiful cluster of galaxies down to mag. 13.5.  Nearby Jones 1 is a huge annular planetary nebula.  Visible with the UHC filter this low surface brightness object was a treat. After an hour the hill fog started to intrude and I packed up to go home.  Heading directly towards the coast instead of the usual route via Denbigh resulted in the sky clearing again.  However, the limiting magnitude deteriorated to about 5.5 owing to the nearby lights of the coastal resorts.

Setting up on an unknown side road I found the wind had started to increase.  Freezing my hands and buffeting the telescope.  NGC 7789 competed with the Double Cluster for the title of best ‘open’ of the evening.  Observed on tiptoe, I’d forgotten to bring a step to reach the eyepiece!  Using the 32 mm Plossl with the UHC filter allowed me an excellent view of IC 443 a large, broad curving supernova remnant in Gemini.  Dropping down to Orion the long wide reef of IC 434 dropped down from Zeta Orionis.  A while later the dark notch of the Horsehead nebula became apparent.

The conditions were deteriorating and I loaded up to come home.  I’d had two quality hours with the new scope.  (To my surprise) I experienced quite a few teething problems and hopefully learnt a few lessons to make the next time even more successful.

New 18 inch Dobsonian Reflector
New 18 inch Dobsonian Reflector

by Paul Clark

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