Imaged with the Sky-Watcher 80mm and Canon DSLR on the camera tripod around 9pm, December 23 (last night) before the clouds thickened.
Happy Winter Solstice to all HAA members and interested astronomers everywhere.
Today marks the longest night of the year. It was clear a good portion of last night and the CSC indicates we may get some clearing breaks tonight (but it won't last the whole night, sigh). I did some visual observing last night, enjoying some of the brighter constellations, a few visible clusters and of course, Mars.
Hopefully we'll get some clear skies over the next week or two so we can enjoy the long nights. They may be cold, but at least they are (usually) dry and steady. Just 6 months to the shortest night of the year so enjoy while you can.
Remember we're hoping to see members and public out on Fri Dec 28 on the grounds of the PCDC for Mars observing near opposition.
After much contemplation and procrastination I have finally joined the 'Dob People'. Although some say, "Kerry it's not just a dob it's a LIGHTBRIDGE" :). I was thinking of waiting till next year for this purchase but with the rebate offer and lower prices I figured now was my chance to make the leap and purchase my first 'Faint Fuzzy Interceptor (FFI)'. After a few set backs with a couple of missing attachment bolts and a red dot finder that didn't want to collimate (actually it's still not collimating properly but I know of a possible fix), I was finally able to get it all together.
The 12" LB collimation process was a little daunting for me and I kept thinking that I should have payed attention when Steve was collimating his 16"(aka the GWS). After a little under an hour of reading the manual, figuring out the laser collimator, installing Bob's Knobs and fiddling with lots of screws, I managed to collimate it well enough... I think. I took some advice about labelling the struts so that I didn't have to keep collimating everytime I had to reassemble the scope. Later in the evening I took a peek outside and noticed the viel of cirrus covering the entire sky. I could barely see the stars... but there was the moon. Yippee it was a go for a first light on the moon. I was surprisingly able to manage partially dissasembling the scope in the dining room, carrying it down to the driveway, and reassembling it all with not much time and effort. Once the scope was cooled down I was greated with an absolutely spectacular (but hazy) view of our nearest neighboor. No photograph to date has provided me with such detail. I popped in the 10mm plossl and WOW!!! The terminator especially was a sight to see. Afterwards I scooted over to the only other object that I could see through the clouds, Mars. That was another sight to behold. With just the provided Meade 4000 26mm 2" eyepiece I was able to see a hint of some dark features on the surface. Was I dreaming? With all my years in astronomy I have never seen any real details on the surface (pretty sad but true). When I magnified the view with my 10mm plossl I was able to confirm it. A little later the cirrus thinned out a bit more and I was able to scan around. I was very impressed with how sharp the star field looked even through the provided 2" eyepiece. The stars and clusters were lacking some luster through the clouds but they were still very nice to look at. I can't wait to take this scope out again, hopefully under better conditions.
Three images of Comet 17P/Holmes are now in my HAA Gallery.
Providing you c-c-can handle the c-c-cold, and know what to look for, Comet Holmes is still a naked eye object if you use averted vision.
The fact that my scope was already set up and at the ambient temperature in the d'observatory prompted me to take advantage of the brief advent of clear sky, last night.
In the 9x50 finderscope, Holmes appears somewhat similar to M33 in binoculars at a dark sky site. The telescopic view is, naturally, larger and brighter but the halo is now quite diffuse and I'm not sure if I saw the nucleus, off-center, or a star shining through.
Higher power may have provided the answer but that would have meant switching eyepieces which would have meant taking off my gloves and, well, you get the picture.
From Holmes, I wandered up to Cassiopeia to check out the colourful double Eta Cass., NGC 457 (the ET cluster), open cluster M103, and open clusters NGC 654 & 663 which, though I'm pretty sure I've seen before, I haven't previously logged.
At that point, my feet started to reach the ambient temperature so I packed up, but just having that hour under clear skies felt good. Apparently, the next clear sky opportunity will be the middle of next week, maybe, so get out when you can.
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