As I mentioned earlier, I have my Celestron NexStar 8SE setup finally working (Finally learning with the Celestron NexStar 8SE). So last Friday, when the night was promising good seeing, I headed over to the local park that I frequently use for viewing. I’ll confess it isn’t a “great” location in terms of light pollution. It’s just off Knoxdale and you can see streetlights about half a block away, plus I’m in the middle of a suburb. It’s darker than most areas, and I have decent horizons, but that is in comparison to most suburban areas, not against a true dark sky site. But it’s close and I wanted to test the setup.
I did my new routine — vibration suppression pads, wifi link, app on phone, 17.3mm regular + 12 mm illuminated cross-hair reticle for centreing and aligning, stars far apart. When it finished, and the alignment was successful, I started with simply telling the scope to show me the moon. It was disappearing behind a streetlight and a couple of houses, but it was a few blocks away before the horizon interfered, so it worked well enough to show me the waxing 4 or 5 day old moon.
I tried Venus next, and the computer told me “no”, claiming it was below the horizon. It wasn’t easy to see but it was NOT below the horizon. I moved manually, saw it briefly, pretty close to horizon so as to be practically gone, but not completely. Good slew settings to protect scope from going too low, no complaints here. Tried Jupiter next and it was pretty accurate. However, while there was supposed to be way above average seeing for the night, the haze before Jupiter was preventing seeing the bands clearly for more than a few seconds before they would waver. I name-checked Saturn just for fun, but then it was time to move on to a real test of the new setup.
Arcturus was my first stop. One of the top ten brightest stars, and 100+ times as bright as our own sun, it was easy to see why it is a popular stop for sky tours. A red giant, it did appear orange/red although the brightness hides some of it.
Next up was Vega. Blue / white? Yep, no problem. Very tall in the sky, not surprising the science geeks calculated it as the former North star. With Vega already located, I hopped quickly over to nearby Altair to check it out. Not quite as bright, but still easily found. I added Tarazed to the mix, but mostly just saw it as white, not the reported orange-ish colour.
But stars have always been relatively easy to find and see. Time to up the ante. I went for Messier 27, aka NGC-6853, the Dumbbell Nebula. I was pleasantly surprised to find it. It may be one of the brightest, but other than the Ring Nebula, I have never really found ANYTHING of note with my old setup. I was, however, a little stretched to consider the blob to have a dumbbell shape. Looked more like a bowtie to me and kind of blobby in the middle too. But I saw it, yay!
My new best friend, Messier 57 aka NGC-6720, the Ring Nebula was my next stop. My view certainly wasn’t as detailed as the NASA image 😛 but it was definitely a doughnut/ring shape.
Next I went for NGC869 and NGC884, a double cluster. Unfortunately, I only found one of the clusters, and I’m not sure which one. No matter, moving on! I slid over to M81, Bode’s Nebula. Wasn’t in a good position with some hazing, and a stupid tree (!), so thought I would jump a bit. One of my favorite stars in the sky is Antares, mostly because it constantly seems to be twinkling and almost changing shades of red, orange and yellow. It’s easy to spot, and right now is hanging out near Saturn. I haven’t been able to resolve the light blue star next to it (Antares B), but the haze and neighbourhood light pollution might have something to do with that (or I just don’t know what I’m doing!).
Messier 23 and Messier 18, both double clusters, were easy to see when I slewed to them, which is nice for a change. I’ll have to go back to look at them again — one definitely seemed to have swirls in the patterns, I think 23, but my notes weren’t as detailed as they should have been. The Trifid Nebula and Lagoon Nebula were too low on the horizon and lost in ambient haze, but I thought I would try for Messier 17, the Omega Nebula to finish things off. I didn’t see much that looked like a nebula though, so those are going to take more work for me to figure out what I’m supposed to see. It’s supposed to be pretty bright, but can’t swear to it by me!
A highly enjoyable evening, although I need to do some better planning in the future with maybe 4-5 clear targets in mind to find and study. My app comes with info on all the objects, and some of the big ones have audio to listen to as well as a couple of screens of text. A great resource in lieu of taking a book with me.