An observing session was held the previous night at Gradbach Hill, including: Richard Bullock, Paul Clark, Roger Livermore, Mike Cook from Mobberley A.S., and myself. This turned out to be an excellent night's observing, partly due to the mostly clear, dark skies, and the wide range of scopes that had been brought along, i.e. Paul C.'s 18'' Obsession Dobo, my Vixen open-tube 200mm Cassegrain, Richard B. brought his 8''LX90 SCT and Mike Cook with a 12'' LX200 SCT and a 4'' Takahashi fluorite apo refractor. Proceedings were proceeding pretty nicely by around 10.30, although it would be almost 2 hours before it would become fully dark.
I had a few problems getting a 3 point alignment out of the skysensor, which eventually cleared up; and to ease my frustration, I wandered around to check out what the others were observing. Mike had M17, the Swan Nebula in Sagittarius in the 12'', and the image was reasonable - ( Later on Mike and I spent some time accurately collimating our scopes and the improvement in both scopes was more than obvious. In particular, I had pointed my scope at mars before collimation, and was disappointed to see a featureless orange blob, my misery increased as I had just moments before had to tear myself away from seeing the planet through Mike's Takahashi, where I had enjoyed a razor-sharp view of both polar caps, and the dark 'canals' also. After an accurate collimation of my scope, I too could see fine details on the planet's surface, and the polar caps.) So after a fragmented start, I homed in on a few favourites, e.g. M13, 92, 56, 57, 15, 27, 71,also NGC 7662, the 'Blue Snowball' planetary nebula, NGC 7331, a mag. 9.5 semi-side-on spiral in Pegasus, seems to have quite a bright core, and is thought to be much like The milky Way. I also could just about make out Stephans' Quintet, a dim 5- component galaxy grouping very close to NGC 7331. This was a first observation of this object(s) in an 8'' scope for myself and Paul C, and proves to me it is possible. The best observation of the night for me was M57 in my scope, using Paul's 13mm Nagler eyepiece. For the first time , I could make out a hint of blue in the nebulosity within the ring itself. Very nice. Richard had pointed out a couple of bright Iridium flares for us to enjoy, and the last object for most of us was the new Supernova 2003GS in the galaxy NGC 936 in Cetus.
Some of Roger's comments: 'Mars was probably a revelation to all of us. Both it and the deep sky objects took me back to my first astronomical book, the Observers Book of Astronomy by Patrick Moore..its taken me this long to see these sights such as the Veil nebula and the globulars amazingly resolved, and did we see the canals on Mars? Now if I were to have trouble falling asleep I could call up the mental images of the nebulae, galaxies, clusters and Mars.'
Paul: 'Observing from Gradbach Mars was absolutely stunning through Mike's 4" APO! Both 8"s of Dave and Richard gave great views whilst the 18" provided a deep skyfest of the best and brightest (and was to say the least poor on Mars)! Richard highlighted -7 and -8 Iridium flares. I picked out the new supernova in NGC936. We packed up as dawn broke. What a night!'
by Various ADAS members