Nov, 30, 2019 Clear skies 5/5, above average transparency 4/5, average seeing 3/5
Equipment used: AT92, Vixen Porta II on aluminum tripod, only 2 eyepieces, 31Nagler and 17 ES 92 deg, Baader BBSH
Yellow zone dark site, a ridiculously cold -19C but felt like -23C, session last just over an hour.
I will start this observing report with this important preamble. This kind of weather is typically binocular weather only! My camera wouldn't even turn on its flash for a picture at the beginning of my observing session.
At these temperatures, equipment tends to fail easily. Electronics dont work well (or at all). Even as I dressed in long johns, sweatpants, jeans, 2 pairs of socks in winter boots, a t-shirt, sweater and 3 jackets of varying width I couldn't stay out for longer than an hour or so. The outer jacket was a feather down large jacket. Gloves and toque required - but I forgot my scarf. Thankfully the wind wasnt too bad at the farm.
I thought long and hard about actually not going out at all. I was fairly tired from an extended family outing. I had to have a nap from 22:00 to 23:00 before even leaving the house.
What beckoned me were a few factors. I am a student and I don't have a lot of free time for observing sessions at a dark site, only if clear skies falls on a weekend. I wanted to get a glimpe of Orion constellation, as I have been seeing the Hunter rise high in the sky while its still dark on my way to school. The last factor of course was testing out the 92mm aperture with the epic wide field eyepieces.
I set up for a total of 5 mins approx and got to work. I don't use a finder scope with the two eyepieces, just starhop. The Nagler sports a 4.75 deg fov and the ES 3.1 deg.
The skies were absolutely stunning. I was pulling in 4 to an intermittent 5 stars naked eye of the Pleiades. More on this target later in this report.
First up, I observed Hyades. Putting Aldebaran on the outskirts I could barely frame the majority of the cluster. I was getting a tiny bit of heat plumes affecting focus but these went away after 5-10 mins, not bad from a warm car to -19C
Instead of going up to M45, I went south to find M1 the Crab nebula. I missed it on my first sweep, and realized I wasnt slightly off. So I just starhopped directly down from Elnath. There is a perfect little triangle that assists with starhopping in this area. These consist of Elnath, Betelgeuse and Aldebaran. I sweeped up M1. Nice glowing little patch of light. I put in my ES 17mm and the view was even better. I enjoyed this target, as I don't typically see this one much from light polluted skies.
Instead of sight-seeing in this area (I wanted to come to it later), I went far west. I noticed Cassiopeia in an area of sky I don't observe much. Seven star row was tilted vertically! This may not seem bizarre at first, but I am use to seeing it horizontally, and not this time of the year.
I visually got my bearings, and starhopped down from Almach to Mirach, to Mu Andromedae and found M31. It was spectacular. Huge glowing target. First time I saw so much size. It def look approaching 3 deg.
Even more special, M110 and M31 were popping right out. I rarely see M110. M31 is fairly easy in a lot of scopes even in town. I put in the ES 17 and it was one of the best views of this target I have ever had. Glowing nucleus, with a large diffuse patch of light to the left (in the EP) which was M110, and a small bright orb which was M32.
Knowing now that the transparency was very good, I went for M33. I starhopped the opposite direction and found it quickly. Again another target best for me. M33 is typically a binocular target only, best seen barely with a pair of Fuji's at a dark site, or the Canon IS, all previously owned binoculars I tried. Here it was slightly larger than the full moon, still diffuse, no spiral structure but definitively popping out.
I decided to surf around Cassiopeia, not looking for anything in particular. So many stars, just enjoying it all. I found one cluster, looked almost like a globular cluster, but with the 31N this was likely an open cluster like Stock 2 or something.. I didnt try to identify it but it was popping out as a dense congregation of stars lost in a field of stars everywhere.
I decided then to make my way back towards Orion. Here I stopped along the way at M45. Looked great as always. I switched it up to the ES 17 and was blown away. This was the perfect framing and aperture for this target. I could see the reflection nebula on Merope and Alycone easily, and saw it also around Electra a bit. I went back to the 31N and the nebula was actually harder to discern. I put back in the 17 and the added magnification/ reduced exit pupil helped pull it out. Seems backwards but its what I saw.
I found Orion easily. M42 was a naked eye target in the sword. I travelled down from the head of Orion, Meissa. I was tempted to split it, but the seeing was alternating between average and poor. I could see twinkling in brighter stars. My hands were getting very cold and didnt want to change out eyepieces and my 1.25 adapter. Also, the focuser was getting stiff to move in the cold.
I kept with the 2 x 2" mega glass EP's. Another stunning view was rewarded to me with Cr70, or the belt of Orion. Stars everywhere, best seen in the 31N.
I dropped down to Orion. I could encompass M42 with M43'S comma shape above, NGC 1980 with Nair al Saif below, and NGC 1981 the "bouncing ball" cluster, and could even snag Sigma Ori all in the same FOV. The nebula looked like a floating ghost almost with a jagged outline.
I put in the 17 ES and enjoyed it more. I also put in my UHC filter and felt it was the same more or less, just with green stars, so I took it off.
Here the focuser was getting stiff, and I my body was telling me to quit very soon.
I put in the 31N and starswept until I found NGC 2244. Here, I put in the UHC filter and pulled out faint wisps of Rosette nebula. I switched to the OIII filter and it came out a bit more. It is very large, but fairly faint.
I was going to try to split Sirius or go for some clusters there, but I could not take it anymore and I didnt want to break anything (like this very stiff focuser). Satisfied with an amazing evening, I packed up.
This report had given me my best view of M31 and galaxy group, M33 and especially M45. Generally I like M42 more with these winter sessions, but the right mix of aperture, transparency, and the perfect framing with the ES 17 92 deg made M45 the best, most memorable view of the night.
Seeing the reflection nebula off the 3 sisters, with the entire cluster in my face framed perfectly with dark black sky around them reminded me of proverbial bright white diamonds, but this time they were burning with so much intensity that icy blue smoke was seen emanating off them.
And to think, I was planing on staying inside this weekend. Grab and go session made entirely possibly only by a quick set up like the AT92 and Vixen Porta II.
Thanks for reading and clear skies!
Edited by Tyson M, 01 December 2019 - 01:51 PM.