I’ve just come back from an 8 day trip to Argentina and Chile to see the recent total solar eclipse. The eclipse was awesome with fantastic blue skies from our viewing location in Bella Vista in Argentina.
However, this post is not about the eclipse.
I’ve never observed the Southern Hemisphere night skies with a scope before, so I couldn’t resist also taking my 95mm Baader refractor with me. Coming from Europe my pvs-14 is also itar-free so I also took along my Photonis 4g intens with me.
Unfortunately due to the trip scheduling, there was only one night I was able to observe which was the night of the actual eclipse itself - this turned into quite a long day! The skies were very dark at this pretty remote location in Argentina but unfortunately the hotel lights were quite bright bringing the sqm reading down to around 21.
Initially I just scanned with Milky Way at 1x with the nv, both unfiltered and with my 5nm ha chroma filter. The Milky Way was just stunning unfiltered, with the heart of our galaxy directly overhead. The detail and contrast of the dark lanes with the white fluffy bits was something to behold. By a large margin the best views I’ve ever had of the MW. I also scanned with the ha filter attached and a little surprisingly for me, there wasn’t massive amounts of emission nebulae visible in the south. But what there was did rather stand out (in particular eta carinae, of which more later).
I then set up the 95mm Baader. I had limited time since it was getting late and I had to catch an early coach in the morning. Therefore I decided to focus on a couple of showcase objects.
First up, using the 41mm panoptic, 0.75x reducer and 5nm chroma ha filter was eta carinae itself. The fov was around 3.5 degrees with a magnification of 10x. The object just fit into the fov but wow the view was just filled with nebulosity - one of my very best night vision views I’ve had, surpassing the vast majority of northern sky emission nebulae. The attached phone image is 15 seconds exposure.
Just above this was the so called ‘running chicken nebula’. Not as stunning or bright but still a lot of fun to observe. Phone image attached is again 15 seconds exposure.
I searched around for the LMC or SMC but unfortunately they were too low in the sky and obscured by some trees.
With it getting quite late, I went for my final showcase object, the Omega Centauri globular cluster. I decided to increase the magnification to 30x by using an 18.2mm delite (fov just over 1 degree). Even with the relatively low magnification, this globular looked incredible - like nothing else I have seen before. The image attached is an 8 second exposure, the eyepiece views were more impressive since the core didn’t blow out.
Coincidentally when I got home I stumbled upon an image I took of m13 using the exact same setup of 95mm Baader, 18.2 delite and nv monoculars. The side by side comparison (see final
image of m13, 10 second exposure with the phone) did make me gasp - I didn’t realise that omega centauri was so much bigger than m13. Just shows what us northerners are missing...
A great trip to see a fantastic total solar eclipse, topped off by a lovely few hours under the southern skies with nv. I don’t think I’m going to get another opportunity anytime soon but I certainly won’t forget the views I got.