Thursday, 18 July 2013

Noctilucent Cloud Display - July 17th

Thanks to a very excited phone call from a good friend of mine I was alerted to an NLC display. My eyes were stunned when I walked out my back door, for a moment a literally couldn't believe my eyes.
I didn't get my camera out straight away so the display had receded quite a bit by the time I did start imaging but NLC was almost covering Vega and extending as far out as Arcturus.
I've never seen NLC from my back garden before because of an hill obstructing my view so this was really intense.

I shall say no more and let the pictures do the rest:

Leave the best to last, so they say...

Monday, 10 June 2013

9th/10th June 2013 - Report

I had hoped last night would host more NLCs and it did. I am thankful too as we could have no clear nights for a while again.
Sadly I couldn't stay out for long. With work to be ready for today and the sheer fatigue of all the observing every night of the week for the past week I had to turn in at a sensible time.
I did get some nice images and I also thought I'd try my had at a time laps animation.

Here is the animation below:

My last picture of the night before leaving:

I really do hope at least one night this week will be clear but I really can't complain, the last two weeks have been fantastic.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

NLC Delights

I was actually contemplating about not going out last night, since I had been out every night this past week and thought I could do with the rest but I decided around sunset that I'd just drive up to Clabby Mountain and sit in the car to see what happens. Well, was I glad I did that...

The display is with out a doubt the best seen so far - this will be said a lot I think, over the coming weeks - and one of my favorite displays of all that I've observed over the last 10 years.
The intensity, speed and scale of how things were changing was that fast that I could actually see motion in real time with just my naked eyes.

It was about 23:40 when I stated to notice a thin streak of silvery light on the NNE horizon and extending out in a SE direction. It was so faint I couldn't be sure at the time but a few minutes later it was becoming more prominent so I got the camera set up and took my first picture and was greeted with this:

After seeing this on the camera screen I got very excited and sent a few text alerts to a fellow friend and club member. It was only about two minutes later when I saw another silvery streak appearing straight north so I got out of the car to take another shot and the camera showed what was to come:

I again went back to the car - the reason for this is because the midges were bad and biting me quite a bit now so it was my only way to escape the torture - and waited about five minutes until it got a little darker and took a series of images:

I got back in the car again and waited another 10 minutes or so before getting out and taking more shots. My session went on like this until I finished just about 00:30 when I felt too tired to stay out any longer and went home. I've no doubt this display carried on until sunrise and I wouldn't be surprised to find out it got better.
I'll just add the rest of the images below in sequence.

So, another fabulous night burned into my memory. I'll try again tonight and who knows, it could be another belter of a show.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

7th/8th June 2013 - Report

Where to even start...
I had a feeling in my water works since Thursday the 6th that Friday night would be a special one for NLCs but I also loaded my 14" Skywatcher into the car for some southern sky viewing and that turned out to be very special indeed. 

I went observing to Bragan which greeted me to stunning skies and almost no wind. The concrete floor of the picnic area was really warm to the touch and even when packing up at 02:30 in the morning is was still very warm to the touch, so as you could image it was a very comfortable night and I spent all of it with nothing more than a light pair of sports bottoms, a T-shirt and a light top on. 

I had a good friend of mine with me to share the event with so there was plenty of silly chatter while I got all the gear set up. Whilst setting up I noticed two missed calls from the Chairman. I returned the call and it wasn't long until he was on the road down to me. 
The southerns skies were the best it was ever going to be at this time of year so any chance of observing M6 and M7 was going to happen tonight, if it was possible at all. 

The session started off a little disappointing as NLCs were not making an appearance after sunset. I still took a few photos to see if there was any sign of faint NLC but none, though I did get a nice shot with Venus in it, which is my first image on the gallery for this report. 

I started the evening by looking at Saturn. The image was really crisp. I was a little worried that the heat from the concrete would cause a lot of turbulence in the the views but it seemed to have little or no effect as even at 175x Saturn looked really sharp with the Cassini division very obvious to see. To my added delight I could also see four of Saturn's moons, Titan being the obvious - of course - and referencing with Starry Night Pro I believe that I was also seeing Tethys, Rhea and Dione as the positions of them on the software match the positions of where the moons were when I observed them. 

Very soon after I had let my friend have a look two cars pulled up. One presented a car load of fellas who seemed to be enjoying their Friday night and wondered what I was at. I presented them with a view of Saturn which seem to impresses them all. So much so it seems that they came back about 40 minutes later for a second look and also saw the ISS passing and tried to explain to them what the ISS was. It's always nice to be able to give an exciting first experience of observing the night sky and I can't think of a better way to do it than with Saturn. 
The second car was a gentleman with his son, whom I had also met at the Crom Castle event last year. It was nice meeting them again and I gave some a tiny tour of some of the best Messier objects to view. 
During all this excitement Stevie had arrived and soon after that everyone went back on their way and it was just me, my friend and Stevie so it was time to get the night started. 

It was about 01:00 when I thought I could see a bright glow behind the cloud to the NNE so I took a few images on the DSLR and WOW! Super bright NLC activity. The cloud started to break up and dissipate a bit allow me to see it visually and the intensity was seriously impressive. I just kept the camera going, taking images every few minutes. I couldn't seem to get decent focus on my images until near the end and I couldn't understand why. By 02:00 this display exploded into an awesome sight. Straight to the North I could see beautiful wave features and looking back to the NNE and NE I could see delicate wispy features around the edges of the intense brightness. 

During all this imaging there was Messier hunting going on too. My goal for tonight was to observe M6 and 7 for the first time through a scope. By about 01:30 am it was as high as they were going to get and the sky had cleaned up pretty well, well enough to give us a chance. At first I couldn't see anything but soon I realised that these are pretty wide angle open clusters so I converted my Hyperion to a 20mm and that did the tick.
M6 was well seen, the shape of the cluster was prominent and I could count something close to 30 stars. 
M7 was tricky at first but after getting it centered in the eyepiece I shared the view with Stevie who went silent and then pulled out a piece of paper and started to draw start positions. He then quickly went over to my copy of Sue French's "Deep Sky Wonders" to compare start positions with her images and it was bang out. We'd really have needed a 27 or 30mm eyepiece to fits this cluster all into the FOV but there was no doubt we saw it and it was a very exciting and reward observation. Spent a good time looking at it, mainly just enjoy it but also to try and memorize the sight. 

It was pushing on for 02:30 by this stage and the NE sky was getting very bright so it was time to call it a night and I really couldn't have ended a summer session on a better high, I really was buzzing and Stevie had a very obvious smile on his face too. 

Now the report is over, time for the images of the NLCs. 
The first image was taken and no NLCs were present but I did get Venus, which is on the lower left of the image. Shame I didn't have the camera moved more the West and I might have caught Mercury too.  

Thursday, 6 June 2013

ISS and Saturn.

To my disappointment there were no NLCs last night but that wasn't my only purpose of being out.
I took with me my EQ6 Pro and my rather shoddy 4" Refractor in the hopes to image Saturn. So with all that and my laptop and webcams in the boot of the car I got all set up and ready for a short imaging session.

I also had the DSLR setup on the tripod in case there were NLCs and even though there weren't having the camera on stand by allow me to get images of two ISS passes and some stunning twilight views.

I'd never imaged Saturn before but seeing was good but after getting all running and the planet focused on my laptop screen I realise now that I need to dump this scope and get something better.
I have a few options in mind but it will be a while before I make a purchase.

The midges were deadly. I wasn't being bitten much - thankfully - but I had to try and tolerate a huge cloud of them around my head. At times it was too much so quick runs back to the car for shelter saved me from going mad.
It did calm down as it got as dark as it could.

I am hoping tonight will reveal a NLC display. Thank goodness we've had clear skies all week and looks to be the same for the rest of the week.

ISS, second pass:

 North and North East sky in twilight:


Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Summer arrives.

It's been a long wait but as June came upon us the summer arrived too. What's even better is that it's NLC season again.
I have been out a number of times since my last post but I've been too lazy to update as there wasn't anything of great importance to report.

I was able to start the summer season with a great NLC display on May 30th/31st and another faint, photographic only, display last night.

I was also out on Friday the 31st with NIAAS at Bragan. We all had a good BBQ but sadly cloud lingered to the North and South skies so if there were any NLCs they were blocked from view and with all my observing plans being in the south sky that meant my night was a non productive one. I did get to see Saturn in good detail and a few other objects through the other scopes but I ended up just talking to everyone for a while and then laying down in the car to warm up and rest.

Below are my current photos of the NLCs I've observed and photographed.

NLCs May 30th/31st

NLCs June 4th/5th

ISS Pass during the NLC session

I was also out on May 29th and was able to photograph the Mercury, Venus and Jupiter conjunction. 

Saturday, 6 April 2013

5th/6th April 2013 - Report

It has been some time since my last report. I am glad to say that I have been out observing, quite simply I've been to lazy to write notes in the cold as I had enough of having my hands frozen. Now I have turned to trying out a dictation app on my smartphone. Even though I cannot stand the sound of my own voice I cannot deny the usefulness of it.

Was a super night with get viewing. Great group of people out at Bragan too as well as another person I invited along too.

Location = Bragan

Equipment = Skywatcher 14" GOTO

Start Time = 22:06

Comet PanSTARRS = Viewed in Stevie's 27mm Panoptic. Very bright core with the stunning tail filling the entire FOV. I wasn't expecting it to look this good and it now being circumpolar for us I was able to get a peak of it in the binoculars a few times during the night. What a great start to the night

M32, 33 & 110 = With the comet being so close I, of course, had a look at the galaxy group in both scope and binocular. View was rather impressing considering it was hugging the horizon at this point.

M65 & 66 = Very strong and bold with pleasing amounts of detail.

M81 & 82 = Quite superb tonight with M82 showing a lot of lovely details around the central areas of the disc.

M3 = Quite low in the sky at this stage but even so it didn't fail to impress. Fantastic sight with stars resolving really well.

M35 = Beautiful, as always, but even more so in the Panoptic as NGC2158 was sharing the FOV and looking quite stunning.

NGC2392 (Eskimo) = Very impressive again. Central star bright and dominant with great amounts to detail but not just quite as nice as my previous observation - which I may not have written notes on.

Jupiter = A stunning sight, as always, with one of the moon appear from behind the eastern side of the planets' disc.

M42 & 43 = The usual stunning I have come to expect with this telescope. Great detail and colour through out the nebula, with M43 well observed too.

M57 = Very low down at this point but well seen, sadly no sign of the central star tonight.

M104 = Surprisingly well seen with a bright central region and the dust lane very easy to observe, filling most of the FOV in the 8mm.

NGC4244 (Silver needle) = Not very bight but good amounts of details to be views with AV.

NGC4565 = A great view, with the central regions easily seen with great detail of the dust lane running through the FOV.

NGC4631 (Whale) = Well defined shape but average amounts of detail. The satellite galaxy was plain to see also.

NGC4056 = Very easily seen with the usual pleasant shape and mixed areas of brightness.

NGC4361 = This PN was somewhat faint but the central star was well seen with some faint knotted features along the nebula.

M68 = A rare view. Faint in the 8mm Hyperion but many of the start well resolved with AV, which was surprising.

NGC4039 (Antenna Galaxy) = Surprisingly good view. Irregular shape is easy observed with AV. I really enjoyed this moment.

M51 = Absolutely sensational! A close to photographic looking that I think you can possibly see. I haven't had the pleasure of such a fine observation of this galaxy in many years and I do honestly think this is the best I have observed it. I had to share this view with everyone else and I think they all enjoyed it too...
Brilliantly bright, with the core glowing. Spiral arms filling the FOV and packed with details of all kinds. You could even see the overlapping of one of arms that obscures part of the background galaxy NGC5195.

M101 = Another great view. Overall brightness was low but packed with detail. This time the galaxy looked just like it does in the images of the magazine I take out with me. Every spiral arm observable and delicious delicate details to take in. A very rare treat indeed.

M64 = Fine view with the black eye feature very prominent and the disc was the biggest I've ever observed filling almost the entire FOV.

M63 = Very bright but not a lot of detail.

Saturn = I almost overlooked this but it caught the corner of my why while I was just taking in the view of the  entire constellation of Virgo. It was very low but boy was it a delight to see those rings again. I also a total of three moons but I could only identify Titan.

M94 = Very, very bright. In fact it I found it so bright that it made it hard to pick out any details. It did fill the FOV rather nicely.

Finish Time = 01:14