Things here in Australia's east coast have been very ordinary for a very long time around the new Moon period since October '11. Since then I've only had four hours dark sky time, back in April '12. If it wasn't for the Moon, I'd have nothing. Even the Moon has conspired with the clouds to stop things since Armstrong's passing.
The New Year has started in a more promising way. This last weekend I was finally able to blow out the encrusted cobwebs in my sketching kit. While just done from home, and in the middle of the Australian summer, conditions on this night were quite good.
M42 seemed to show even more nebulous extensions than I've previously seen im my 8" dobbie. The scallop shaped nebula is normally restricted to the brighter "hinge" half of the shape. This night the fainter top half was dimly visible.
I don't often sketch objects close to the celestial equator, so the speed at which M42 moved across the FOV surprised me for once. I found myself needing to nudge the scope along after just about every glimpse back to the sheet of paper.
It was also the first time I got to push my "modified" 13mm Hyperion. As an orthodox Hyperion, in my very fast Newtonians it show horrendous pincushion! A crazy thought occured to me to see what would happen if I replaced the EP's 1.25" Smythe field lens with a 2X barlow lens. WOW! What a difference! The previously unuseable EP has now become a very pleasent one to use. In my 8" f/4 dob not one bit of pincushion or field curvature is visible. Only the slightest amount of astigmatism along the very, very edge of the FOV. A very useful EP now.
M42 shows such lovely mottling close to the Trapisium. The shockwave ribbons that extend out from the Trap have such a subtle leading edge brightness, particularly the one on the bottom half of the sketch. M42 is a surprisingly difficult object to sketch. It has such a range of brightnesses, effects, and size that makes it quite a lovely challenge. I really want to be able to have a go of this DSO from a dark site.
I'm a bit rusty after such a long absence, so my apology for the quality of the sketch and image.
Object: M42 & M43
Scope: 8" f/4 push-pull dob
Gear: Modified 13mm Hyperion, 62X, OIII filter
Location: Sydney, Australia
Date: 5th Jan., '13
Media: white soft pastel, black charcoal & white ink on A4 size black paper