Once power was restored I could return to the task at hand. I crimped on a new connector to the wire I found hanging. Then while I had the cover off the main unit to check connections there, I noticed that a couple of wires that were twisted together and connected to the terminal strip had come loose. Just to make a better connection I twisted them back together and crimped on a spade lug to fit under the screw on the terminal strip. At this point I notice that the two safety sensors at the floor on either side of the door now appeared normal (one with green light and the other with red). So I crossed my fingers and hit the button on the wall unit and voila! It ran as it always had before. I did open and close it a few times to make certain everything was copacetic, and it ran like a champ. So with that my main mission was accomplished, albeit a little later than I had hoped.
I also wanted to try doing a little observing as well while I was here. However, I already decided not to try and deploy the big
My goals were modest this time out. It was more about getting out under a darker sky, and getting back in the grove of observing, star hopping and expending energy. When I went out around 2030 hours it was around 57°F (13.9°C). Cool weather has returned and I was happy to see the smoke we had endured for some months had finally abated. The forecast was for above average transparency and above average seeing as well. But when I went out, the sky was mostly cloudy, with only a few stars showing closer to the horizon. So I decided to wait for a while before calling it quits. While waiting I watched a string of Starlink satellites climbing into the sky from the west. I did not count how many there were, but I would guess around 10 to 12, give or take. It was a curious thing to see for sure and I watched them until they winked out of view. So I waited and waited, using 2200 hours as my calling it quits deadline. Then sometime around 2130 things started to improve, and I decided to put in a couple of hours, which is about all the energy I figured I had in me after the drive over and working on the garage door earlier.
So as the sky cleared, I settled down for a little observing. Like the last time at home with the 80mm, I planned to just look around the sky, revisit some old friends – many of the same objects from that outing. But also, I wanted to add in a little bit of galaxy hunting in Aquarius to see if I could pick up a handful of new ones to add to the log. So off I went into the night sky. Overall conditions were about average despite the forecast. Seeing was decent, but transparency was not what I would call “above average”. The Milky Way was very evident, but I’ve seen it much more robust. But that’s okay, as I was happy to have an opportunity to get back into some observing, even if in a more casual manner. But I sure do look forward to getting back to my hardcore galaxy hunting in the near future!
AT 28mm UWA (44x, 1.9° TFOV, 5.8mm exit pupil)
Ethos 13mm (96x, 1.0° TFOV, 2.6mm exit pupil)
XW 10mm (125x, 0.6° TFOV, 2.0mm exit pupil)
XW 7mm (178x, 0.4° TFOV, 1.4mm exit pupil)
XW 5mm (250x, 0.3° TFOV, 1.0mm exit pupil)
Saturn (Aquarius, planet, mag=0.5, size=43.0”x17.0”):
The ringed planet was beautiful this evening as my first object. It revealed some delicate banding, and the Cassini division was easily seen viewing at 125x. I then concentrated on what moons I could spot, having done a rough sketch of their positions prior to coming outside. The following moons were strung out to the west of the planetary disk in order of closeness to Saturn: Mimas (mag 13.0), Tethys (mag 10.3), Titan (mag 8.4), and Iapetus (mag 11.2). Mag 9.8 Rhea was the lone moon spotted east of Saturn. Dione (mag 10.5) was north of the planet while Enceladus (mag 11.8) lay northwest of its disk. Both were dim little diamonds.
Star hopping not quite 9° SSE from Saturn I located the field for the famous Helix Nebula. Centering the field just west of mag 5.2 Upsilon Aquarii, I moved to the eyepiece (96x). The
I now wanted to add just a few new galaxies into the log while I was in Aquarius to sort of get my juices flowing a bit despite being fairly tired. I swept up this barred spiral using 96x as a very fleeting small diffuse glow. Viewing at 178x, it remained a bit of a weak elongated glow that was evenly illuminated. Even at 250x it was not particularly bright, rather weak visually, and remained homogeneous to the eye. This galaxy was first observed by Francis Leavenworth in 1885. (New)
Next up was another barred spiral. Picked up using 96x, it was nonetheless quite weak as a small and dim diffuse oval. Taking a look at 178x it was more apparent, but remained a dim even oval disk. This galaxy was just about 2.5’ southeast of the double star HJ 5324 (mag 8.9 & 10.5), a pair of white stars (to my eye at least). This is another Francis Leavenworth discovery, in 1886. (New)
Moving onward, I located this spiral with 96x, though with a little difficulty. It presented a small and fairly dim round fuzzy disk that seemed to drift in and out as conditions shifted slightly. I also observed it at 125x to 250x, and though it was more apparent with each boost in magnification, it remained a dim homogeneous orb. This object was discovered in 1785 by William Herschel. (New)
This lenticular was also first spotted using 96x, though it was small and a little dim to my eye. Its disk was oval in shape and smoothly illuminated. It was more apparent at 125x and remained homogeneous in appearance. Then at 178x, it was an easy object within the field of view. It also was now sporting an intermitted stellar core at its center. William Herschel also discovered this galaxy in 1785. (New)
My final new galaxy of the outing was this barred lenticular, spotted using 96x. It appeared fairly dim, small and rounded in shape. I noticed a mag 13.2 field star just over an arc minute east of the galaxy’s disk. At 125x it was more noticeable, but remained a weak object that was smoothly illuminated. Finally at 178x, though still dim, it was easily apparent. It was just slightly out of round, with a very weak stellar core popping into view. This is an 1876 discovery made by Wilhelm Tempel.
There were a few other galaxies I tried and missed. I could tell things were not quite, shall we say, running smooth. I felt very tired and I felt like my mental focus was not all it could and should be. I noted there was a lot of humidity and dewing going on, which of course impacts transparency. While it was using much less
Looking at the big square of Pegasus I easily found M31 with the naked eye just northwest of mag 3.9 Mu Andromedae. Without optical aid I could see its extended glow, and it was easily found with the scope using only the unity finder. I had put the 28mm (44x) 82° eyepiece in the focuser as I wanted to frame the M31/32/110 trio in a single field of view. This eyepiece did not disappoint, putting up a fine image of the three galaxies in a dark field, with M31 stretching across the center of the view, M31 was so extended that the eyepiece could not contain its full extent. The dark lanes of the primary galaxy were evident as was its intense core.
M32 was a very bright compact round disk south of M31’s core. It exhibited a very bright compact core within its overall envelope, which was quite diffuse. M110, northwest of M31’s core was obvious as well, but of lower surface brightness. It was significantly larger than M32 and presented an elongated oval diffuse glow that was more or less evenly illuminated. The three presented an impressive view that lifted my spirits noticeably.
I also observed them at 96x with the 13mm eyepiece. M31 was excessively bright, its core an intense burning presence. The prominent star cloud
I now aimed the scope at mag 2.0 Beta Andromedae (Mirach). Almost 7’ northwest of this bright star I easily spotted this well known galaxy, it is informally known as Mirach’s Ghost due to its ghostly appearance near the star. At 48x it was a small diffuse round glow that was obvious near Mirach. Taking a look at 96x it revealed a bright non-stellar core, bright within its larger fuzzy halo. At 178x it was very bright and slightly large visually, with its strong core dominating the disk. I have always had an affinity for
I next aimed the scope about a third of the way from mag 3.4 Alpha Trianguli (Metallah) to Mirach. With the 8x50
Jupiter (Aries, planet, mag=-2.8, size=46.0”):
The gas giant Jupiter was gaining elevation so I stopped by briefly. The main equatorial bands were prominent, and some subtle shading of lesser bands was seen elusively at 125x. The Galilean moons were all accounted for, with Io (mag 4.9) close to the planet to its ENE. Mag 4.6 Ganymede was further out to the ENE while mag 5.6 Callisto was just a bit further in the same direction. Mag 5.2 Europa laid a ways off to the WSW of Jupiter.
The famous Double Cluster was bright to the naked eye, and the scope was easily aimed at it with the unity finder. Viewed only with 44x, the duo was well framed as a dizzying array of stars set against a black backdrop. The overall field was a stellar funfest, with stars all across the field. The clusters themselves both exhibited bright concentrations at their respective centers, with lines and arcs of stars going in all directions. While it was easy to discern them as two distinct objects, visually they seemed to overlap as the lines and curves of stars extended toward one another. This duo always provides an inspiring view.
My final object for the night was, as last time, the heaving observed Ring Nebula in the celestial lyre. Aiming the scope at mag 3.2 Beta Lyrae (Sheliak), I easily scooped up this
By this time it was approaching 2330 hours and I noted the temperature had cooled a little more to 49°F (9.3°C). Also, my dew heater power supply had run out of juice (I forgot to recharge it earlier), so my finders were starting to dew up on me. I was chilled, I was tired, and I was done! So I moved my stuff back into the garage through our now working garage door (yay!) and headed inside to have a snack and then some much wanted and needed rest.
As a shout out to Andrey's (Bigzmey) last report, he reached the outstanding plateau of 3,000
I appreciate you tagging along with me as I had my first real dark sky session in a while. Next time I will be back with the 17.5 inch and back into my typical serious galaxy hunting ways. I consider this a warm up for my return to normalcy, and am thankful for the opportunity. Keep looking up friends and I will indeed see you back out there.