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Archive for November, 2009

Is an 80mm, richest field refractor really the Goldilocks scope?  Not too large, not too small – just right! If my four hours of observing last night is any indicator, the answer is “yes!”

I’ve owned two smaller scopes I thought were terrific – an Astro-tech 66 and a 60mm Televue. I really didn’t like parting with either, but priorities change and while I got some good millage out of them, I didn’t use them that often. Why? Certainly not for lack of portability because they are as portable as it gets. And the quality on both were stunning. And they always delivered more than I expected.  But, in the end for me using them was more a stunt – more an attempt to prove to myself how much I could do with how little. For someone else – especially someone who travels frequently – the portability may turn these two scopes into something much more practical than a stunt. But I rarely travel beyond my neighbor’s yard. My idea of portability is being able to move 10-feet to avoid a tree that’s blocking my view.   And I don’t really need  the quick-look capability of “grab and go” when the scope in my observatory can be operational in two minutes flat and the 15-inch in less than five minutes.

So when I say portable what I really mean is my aging muscles should be able to easily pick up the scope and tripod and move them 30-feet without any heavy breathing. In fact, I should be able to carry the scope, tripod, eyepieces, and my folding observing seat all on one trip. With the 80mm on a Voyager mount that’s possible – though I admit, it was certainly easier with the 60mm sitting on its Bogen tripod. OK, maybe it would be more sensible to make two trips sometimes 😉 But what I’m buying on the used market may fill that bill – along with what I have on hand now and what I learned from using a similar-sized scope last night.

Let’s start with the new – to me -scope. It’s known as a SV80S Stellarvue. It’s apochromatic triplet objective was made by Lomo, a Russian firm, and is legendary within the circle of small refractor fanatics. (I’m an apprentice member of that circle.)  Here are the highlights from Stellarvue’s Web site where they still offer a limited number of these for $1,795 new. (What I  assume is the Chinese version – probably as good – sells for $600 less.) I’m getting one that’s four years old and uses the Lomo objective and I’m paying $1,000 – far more than I ever thought I would dream of paying for an 80mm scope. Oh – those highlights are:

  • 80mm f-6 480 mm apochromatic triplet
  • Fully multicoated objective for both visual and ccd use
  • Stellarvue’s exclusive easy one touch cnc clamshell mounting ring with Vixen rail
  • Genuine Feather Touch 2″ dual speed focuser with compression ring 1.25″ adapter.
  • Retracting dew shield
  • Instrument White high temperature powder-coating
  • C7 side reinforced airline carry on case included (shown with optional accessories)
  • Each one is triple tested including a star test by Vic Maris

It’s about 16-inches long and 7-8 pounds with diagonal and finder – though I’m not at all sure I’ll use a finder on it. More on on that later.

Sounds great. And while mine will come with the original – smaller – case, I can purchase the case pictured here for it and that is a key to portability because of the great selection of eyepieces and accessories you can include.  So I’ll invest another $70 and get this case just to make  the whole observing set-up more portable. (Generous Astromarter who sold me this scope include the larger case, a televue 2-inch diagonal, a red dot finder, and a solar filter! Very nice package deal, all for theoriginal price!)

But is it really necessary to go to this extreme quality? Honestly, I have my doubts.   I mean I know color will not be an issue with this scope and the two-speed focuser is very helpful with any scope this fast where focus is more critical than with slow scopes.  But will this outperform a Short Tube 80, the ubiquitous little Orion that can do wonders and can be bought used for one tenth the price? Yes – absolutely. But how about a higher grade scope like Celestron’s Onyx 80? I have one, was planning to sell it, and that’s what I was using last night. The Onyx is one slick little scope and its optical performance is very nice. I’m going to hold on to it long enough so I can do some side-by-side testing. I hope the Stellarvue will have the edge, but at more than three times the cost of the Onyx it should.  (Update – never did the side-by-side. Sold it before the skies cleared.)  Yes, as you pay more the cost per unit of improvement goes up – I don’t expect to see anything but a slight improvement – but I hope I’ll see that. And there’s something more involved – the scope has a sort of history/personality built around its Lomo lens. And there’s a certain satisfaction in knowing that you are using the best, therefore if you are failing to see something you expect to see, the problem is either you or atmospheric conditions. You’ve pretty much eliminated your equipment as a potential source of problem.

I decided to use the Onyx last night because it was handy and because I wanted to see just how much I could expect from an 80mm scope, since I’ve been using either 60, 100, or 120mm lately. Here’s Celstron’s talking points on the slick little Onyx (no longer in production):

Onyx 80EDF – General Features

  • Premium 80 mm refractor
  • Celestron’s Starbright XLT high transmission coatings
  • Celestron combines a Fluorite based, low dispersion glass with high density crown glass for virtually color-free images across the visible spectrum
  • 2″ Crayford style focuser minimizes image shift
  • Rotatable focuser for easy framing of objects for photography
  • Extendable lens shade reduces glare and protects lens from moisture
  • Built-in sighting scope to help accurately locate objects
  • Integrated dovetail compatible with Celestron Computerized “GoTo”
  • Aluminum case for convenient storage and protection

The one worth singling out here is this one:

  • Built-in sighting scope to help accurately locate objects

This is a big mistake. It’s not a “sighting scope” at all – just a peep hole and as far as I can tell it does no good at all.  However, it is removable (one screw) and I’ve put a Rigel finder on there in its place. I also mounted a laser there. But I didn’t have either of these on it last night. Instead I simply used a 24mm Panoptic. (A 24mm Hyperion or 32mm Plossl would give the same field.) The result is a true field of view of about 3.2 degrees which is typical of the field for large astronomy binoculars. In fact many give even smaller fields.  I found the combination of the large field, plus 80mm of light-gathering power in the objective , makes it very easy to find everything from planets and bright stars, to very faint, low-surface brightness deep sky objects like  M33. What’s more, once you find them it’s a simple matter to boost the power. (I had tried a bargain-priced, 30mm eyepiece with an 82 degree apparent field of view. Works fine and delivers almost  five degrees true field. But I find it a bother going from this eyepiece – which is a 2-inch- to higher-powered 1.25 inch eyepieces. Hmmm. . . if I were using all Hyperions that wouldn’t be an issue. Anyway – little stuff like that can put me off sometimes. I don’t like fumbling with small parts and set screws in the dark any more than I have to. )

But this is “richest field” aspect is really one of the most impressive things about using an 80mm scope with a short focal ratio thus making the scope its own finder. I found deep sky objects in particular easier to track down with this scope than with  the typical finder, whether it be a Rigel, red dot,  or 8×50 optical finder. The key, of course, is the light grasp. Another key is being able to sit comfortably behind the scope, as opposed to using a Dob where you sit at the side. Sitting behind this scope I found I very quickly developed a pretty accurate sense of where it was pointing – a sort of shoot-from-the hip type of thing. I don’t know how to teach it or even explain it, but it just feels natural. Look at where your target is and while looking, point the scope. I think your eye-brain work to deliver a solution if you get out of the way!  If you’re off a little, start a systematic sweep and you should soon pick up your target – assuming, of course, you have some idea what your target should look like!

I reported on my evening targets earlier in this post. The most astonishing thing there for me was a very clean split of the triple, Iota Cassiopeia – not bad for an 80mm!  This morning my first targets with the same set up included M42, M50, the Christmas Tree Cluster,  M1, plus M35.  With M35 I could also see NGC 2158, which looked a tad like M1, only smaller, though of course they are much different objects. NGC 2158 is really a star cluster much more distant than M35. Seen together the two open clusters provide a wonderful sense of depth of field.

Castor, an easy triple star, split at 72X and was much better at 100X. I also looked at Saturn, rising in the east below Leo, and was able to see Titan and one other moon.  The Leo Triplet of galaxies, M65, M66 and NGC3628, was so simple to sweep up! I just pointed the scope at Chertan, one of the stars in the triangle that marks Leo’s haunches, then slowly swept south and a tad east. Bingo – it took about 15 seconds I think. A more challenging pair were the galaxies M81 and M82. But I just remembered that, as I think Sue French once wrote, “the Great Bear has ear mites.” So I pointed the scope in the direction of his ears and prowled around. Took longer this time, but boy do these two pop in this little scope at that power. What’s more, crank up the power a bit and you can easily see that M81 is a spiral and M82 is a “cigar” with dark diagonal cloud cutting through it.

So why am I seeing the short-focal length 80mm as the Goldilocks of scopes? To summarize:

1. Portability.

2. At low power you don’t need a finder because the field is both wide and bright, a great combination.

3. While it should be obvious that larger scopes will reveal more, you can get the essential astronomy experience – the feel for a galaxy, nebula, or star cluster – with an 80mm – certainly exhaust the Messier catalog and much more, as well as split many of the best double stars and do casual viewing of planets and Moon.

And one last point on the portability front – it is short enough so that a reasonable size and weight tripod and mount, such as you have with the AstroTech Voyager, will work.  Longer scopes on this mount can put you awfully close to the ground when you’re trying to look up. With the 80mm there are no acrobatics – and no acrobatics trying to orient your eye to a finder either, since you aren’t using one!

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I’m purchasing a legendary Stellarvue  80mm , f-6, 480 mm apochromatic triplet with Lomo objective – used, of course – and I took advantage of clear skies and no visitors tonight to establish a sort of baseline of what to expect from a good 80mm scope under good conditions, since I hope the Stellarvue will be a keeper. I plan to use it in my instruction as the primary refractor – a great starting point with its wide fields – and I plan to use it any time I want to observe any where other than the observatory.  Stellarvue makes a nice case for it that can hold all sorts of eyepieces and other goodies and combined with the Voyager, this should be real easy to transport. The question is, will it deliver enough to satisfy me.

Well, given that I can be quite happy using the 60mm televue APO – which has now been traded in partial payment for a Televue  Genesis – I think the answer is yes.  But I plan to be more dependendent upon this than I was on the TV60. I used it on a whim from time to time. The 80mm should get more use. So, I took the Celestron Onyx , which at 80mm and F6.25 is very close to the same thing, though there should be a significant gap in quality. (I’ll believe this last when I see it. ) The Onyx was really quite impressive. It’s biggest accomplishment came at the end of a two-and-a-half hour observing session when I checked out Iota Cassiopeia. Seeing two stars there is fairly easy, though the companion is quite close (7.2″) and about four magnitudes fainter than the primary. What really pleased me, though, was I could see the second companion – with dark skies between it and the primary – and it is just 2.3″ away and at magnitude 7 is better than two magnitudes fainter than the primary.

I used a 7mm Nagler and a Televue 2X barlow which gave me about 142X. I could have cranked the power up a bit more, but I was really captivated by what I could see with this combo.

I also tested the scope on M15 and M2 which were fairly low at about 45 degrees and 35 degrees. In any event, I could not resolve stars in either globular, even at 200X – though in both cases there was some hint at the clusters starting to resolve.

I looked at M110 and found it visible, but a challenge. However, M33 just popped. I simply used the 24mm Panoptic and swept down from M31 and there it was.  So that was very satisfying in terms of a low surface brightness object.

Bottom line – I think the new plan is going to work fine. I think I can have a lot of fun with this 80mm and while I can be happy with using nothing but it, I think it will make a great scout for the 10-inch Dob when I take them both on expeditions.

Now I wonder just how much better the Stellarvue is than the Onyx? Can’t wait to do a side-by-side.

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Well, seven of us are pretty tired, but quite happy with the Leonid show as viewed from the Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary parking lot  this morning (Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2009) .  The beauty of the Allens Pond site are the 360-degree unobstructed  horizons and wonderfully dark skies – especially at 3 am.

The weather cooperated with the wind and temperatures reasonably mild for this time of year.  At different times we had some clouds drift through,  but always had plenty of clear sky as well.  I would guess we had between five and ten meteors that rated an involuntary “wow!” All together, counting all observers, we saw between 25 and 50  meteors – but I wasn’t counting, so I can’t be sure – and I personally missed a lot that others saw.  You do have to be constantly looking up and it has to be in the right place – so there’s a lot of luck involved.  Paul seemed to corral the  most. Others present included Joe, Karen, Sybil,  two folks I don’t know, and myself.

And yes, we did get to see Saturn, Mars, some star clusters and galaxies – but most observing was with the naked eye, not the telescopes. One bonus was using binoculars to look at the trails left by some of the brighter meteors. These stay visible for many seconds and you can see the upper level winds twisting them like something live.

For me, however, the meteor shower was just part of the story. I got to Allens Pond shortly after 1 am. It was kind of shocking to see how much traffic there was in that location at that hour and at this time of year. Three cars were direclty behind me as I passed Horseneck Beach and they all turned off towards Gooseberry. There were another dozen at East Beach and it actually looked like some folks were out of their cars looking for meteors. I had a different agenda.  I wanted to find a handful of clusters I had never seen – or don’t remember seeing – that are all too far south to be easily viewed from my yard.  I think of them as the Dog Clusters because they are all – well, clustered  – around Canis Major.

Click image for larger version.

(Click this link to download a printable, black on white version of this chart –  dogclusters.)

I was using 12X36 Canon IS binoculars and my 60mm Televue scope.  I parked my little Fuma chair near the car ( it served as a nice wind break and gave me a false sense of security) and settled in. (Yes, as I get older I get somewhat concerned about being in isolated spots like this alone at 1 am.)  Absolutely beautiful night. Nearly completely clear at this point and great winter Milky Way with Big Dog in full glory over Buzzards Bay, yapping at the hare and  nipping mighty hunter’s heels.   (And yes, you Latin scholars may scold me for identifying  three stars near the bottom left as the “pups” because they are part of the constellation “Puppis” which really means the “poop” of a ship. Well, I like pups better than poop, and this way I remember them better 😉

First on my list was M41,  the “Little Beehive,” which is pretty much naked eye and very easy in binoculars – just aim at Sirius, then drop down a tad so thi sbrilliant star is at the top of your field and the Little Beehive should start to come into view at the bottom of your field.   Very nice and apt name – especially since the real Beehive should be visible as well and you can check one against the other as I did. The big Beehive still wins, but  the Little Beehive was impressive and will always be on my list to chek whenever visible.

M41 also serves as a starting point for finding the next pair of clusters, a pair I really love.  They are on a line with it that roughly parallels a line fromthe Biog Dog’s eye (Sirius)  to his nose. Sweep eastward a couple of fields and there are a wonderful pair of clusters M47 and M46 – but only M47 is like to “pop” out at you. It’s much brighter. I really like this pair, though,  because M47 is at  about 1700 ly and M46 at 5,000 – and they look it. M46 is  much fainter – gives that “dust of snow” impression in good binoculars, or a small scope –  and  it conveys  a real sense of place – it’s like  taking a cluster like its companion M47 and moving it outward.

It’s easy enugh to find th egeneral region of M59, but a little hard to identify because it blend sin witht he Milky Way. To get in the right neighborhood just mentally draw aline connecting Sirius and Procyon.  (The chart indicates the general direction, but Procyon is out of the picture.)  To know how far to go use the length between the Big Dog’s  eye and nose  as a guide.This is around five degrees (roughly a binocular field) and M50 is almost 10 degrees from Sirius.

M93, the last of this small circle of clusters, is very  easy if you can find the three stars I call “the pups.” The middle of these stars – which in small scopes is a nice double, incidentally – is your guide. M93 just north of it and a tad to the west.

I find these very quickly and looked at them in the TV60, but I had meteors on my mind and didn’t really take the time to study them in depth. I’ll leave that for another night and larger telescope.

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Sometimes it’s just feels betters than others – this morning was one of those times.

I’m talking about solitude. There’s a rough line between solitude and loneliness, a sort of no-man’s-land where it’s not good, but not bad. Loneliness is bad. But if you can make it across that line, you discover the wonder of solitude, and that’s where – through no particular effort of mine – I found myself this morning.

It was cool – 34 degrees – and it was clear, with a few high, thin clouds – and there was a pretty powerful Moon washing out large chunks of sky and making my backyard seem more like twilight than 4 am. I frequently retreat to the Observatory on such mornings – it has a feeling of security. but I’m discovering I feel just as  secure iu the open on the Observing Deck. So that’s where I went this morning, quickly attaching the Televue 60 mm scope to the large Universal Astronomics T-Mount.  This is much more mount than is needed for this scope, but it moves oh-so-smoothly and it means i can pull up a comfortable chair, sit in one place, and still reach about one third of the sky before I have to move the chair. And that’s what I did.

And almost immediately an incredibly deep serenity settled around me.  I had a few observing goals in mind – and as I was settling down I sought out Saturn, which is now chasing Leo up the eastern sky. But I didn’t linger. It was still low and the atmosphere was making it dance. Higher up, Mars was still flirting with the Beehive and was much steadier. It’s disc is still very small – it’s abut 100 million miles away right now – and I didn’t expect to see anything on it, but I was wrong. Using the 2.5 Nagler (144X) I actually could make out the features in the same gross way that you might look at a very blurry map of the Earth and be able to discern the continent of Africa. It looked like a faded red marble with some olive-green splotches and a hint of a polar cap on the north end. We never see Mars well – but right now it’s disc is only about 8.5 seconds of arc across. That’s roughly one third as large as it can get,  about one fifth of what Jupiter is right now, and about 1/200th the apparent diameter of the Moon. Mars will offer the best viewing this time around in February 2010 – but it still will be quite far awayand its disc will only get to be about 14-seconds in diamter.  On it’s closest approach, the Mars disc can be 24 seconds in diameter, but that happens rarely.

Right now the real fun of Mars is seeing it – 10 light minutes away – in the same field of view with the  Northern and Southern donkeys that bracket the Beehive cluster whose stars some 600 light years away.  I won’t belabor this. I was looking at it the other morning as well. But it’s one of those sites that illustrates so well how what we see tells us very little about what we are looking at.  That is, there are few or no clues here that Mars is 600 trillion times closer to us than the stars of the Beehive, but that’s  a valaid rough estimate.  Such thoughts meant more to me this morning because of the sense of solitude – they penetrated a little deeper because I was  not reaching hard for them. I was sitting, relaxed, sipping tea and letting them reach me.

After a while I turned to a new sector of the sky, the Northwest, and did a futile search for Kemble’s Cascade. Actually, I may have found it, but I’m not sure – the moonlight was really washing out this area of sky and I had no chart with me, so I let it drop in favor of marveling at the stars around Mirfak. Why don’t people rave about this “cluster?” I hardly ever see it mentioned. I thought of this a couple years ago when Comet Holmes was passing through it. What a wonderfully star-rich region. I put Mirfak to one edge of the field and with the 24mm Panoptic (15X, 4.5° fov) quickly counted more than 60 stars – and this with  the moon not that far away! If nothing else, this makes a great binocular field, but in the 60mm it was perfect.

Here’s how it shows up in  Starry Nights Pro with the field flipped the way my 60mm refractor flips it, horizontally.

mirfak

Click for larger image - Starry Nights Pro screen shot.

(Hmmm . . . Burnham’s Celestial handbook does mention it and says about 120 stars here have been identified as all moving in the sam egeneral direction and presumed to be part of a cluster – but it still has no name.)

Also perfect was nearby M34. This is a long-time favorite because the brighter stars are in a pattern that always reminds me of a Klingon battle cruiser.  Really.  And again, even with the Moon, they looked great, especially with the 5mm at 72X. This is another object  I need to return to when there’s no interference from the Moon.

By this time I had been observing for more than an hour and my tea was getting cold, but I had a few more things in mind. I checked out Rigel very carefully, looking for its companion. I could not see it, though I did a few night ago, It was getting pretty low – about 22 degrees – so I was looking through alot of atmosphere. However, I did find W Orionis, the carbon star, very quickly – in less than 30 seconds, really, using the new technique of searching from the shield rather than the belt. Jumped rioght out at me – and looked redder than I remember. Maybe because I was less frustrated from searching too long 😉

I also just sat back and marvelled at the impresison made by Rogel 800 light years away, and Sirius, just at eight light years away and much brighter.  What I saw was two bookends of modern American political history. Thel ight from Sirius started its journey about the time of the 2001 terrorists attack on America – an event that I’m sure will shape us for years.  Rigel, on the other hand, brought to mind the roots of our democracy – the signing of the Magna Carta.  All of what we might think of as modern history takes place in the span of time it took the light to travel from Rogel to me.

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Boy, the carbon star W Orionis gave me more trouble finding it – and this isn’t the first time – than anything in recent memory. I’m not sure why, but I was trying to get there by starting with the belt stars in Orion and it should have been easy. It wasn’t. I finally gave up and started instead with the shield stars and found it immediately. Lesson learned – I hope.

Was it worth it? No – not with a nearly full moon a short distance away – this was about 4:50 am. It certainly is red, but not as dramatic in the TV 60mm scope as the carbon star in Draco is in the 15-inch. Now, that could be a difference in the stars, a difference in sky conditions, or most likely the simple fact that the 15-inch gathers a lot more light and so does a better job of revealing color.  In any event, I’ll have to check it again when there’s no moon nearby. (Hmmm… I guess why I didn’t start with the shield stars were they were nearly impossible to see with the naked eye in the moonlight, but the belt stars, of course, were easy to see.)

That said, the color in Algieba (Gamma Leonis)  was wonderful – gold and green and superb at 144X in the 2.5mm Nagler. It was OK at 72X. At 40X it was a figure 8 – no clear break. Both of these stars are giants, one a Class K, the other a Class G. They appear spearated by  about 4 seconds of arc.

I checked out my old favorite, Mizar, as well. It was very nice at 40X, fine at 28X, and I could not split it at 15X. If i were showing it to someone, I’d choose 40X.

Also looked at Mars and the Beehive again, this time making sure to note the “asses.” Fun. The Beehive is actually surrounded – caught in a triangle  – of three fairly bright stars, two of which are the asses. What do donkeys have to do with Beehives? Nothing. But one traditional name for this cluster is “Praesepe” which means “The Manger.” Now the asses makes sense! Actually, the Latin names for these stars are Asellus Australis and Asellus Borealis which translates into “southern donkey colt” amd “northern donkey colt.”

More important, however, my vision of Mars near the Beehive played right into an essay on the “timescape” I was preparing for my class tomorrow. Now that it’s done, I need to figure out how it fits into the Prime Time mix.

 

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Well, you could never have convinced me, even just a few years ago, that I could have a very satisfying observing experience with nothing but a 60mm telescope  – especially when there’s  a full moon with perhaps 70 % cover of drifting cirrus/stratus clouds! But I just observed for over an hour last night. And I followed up with two hours this morning – moon still full, but no obvious clouds, just some high haze. It was wonder full.

Major thing learned? In a word – context!

I’ve frequently pushed context as important, which is why I want folks to look through binoculars or a smaller telescope at low power before stepping up to the 15-inch. But what I have never encountered before is the context that can be provided by moonlight. This first hit me last night when I turned the little scope on Jupiter and at 40X found I had a nice view of the planet, it’s four bright moons, and the leaves of a foreground tree! It was the tree, of course, that provided a unique context. Sure, we’ve all seen Jupiter with our naked eye near some foreground object –  a building, or mountain, or whatever.  It was the impact of seeing it magnified with the foreground object clearly lit by the moonlight that gave me the unique experience. And yes, the fact that I was using a small scope at low power with a correspondingly wide field of view certainly helped.

That experience was repeated this morning when I looked at  the Pleiades at 15X as the branches of a nearby cedar reached up to enwrap them.  Tennyson’s fireflies became tiny Christmas tree lights, tangled in the branches. Context?  Yes – the branches were about 40 feet away, the Pleiades about 400 light years! Nice thought to tickle your mind.

mars_beehive

This is a simulation from Starry Nights Pro planetarium software - not a photo or drawing - but represents wel what I saw.

And  I had entirely forgotten about Mars and the Beehive. But near the end of the morning I turned the little scope towards Mars and here was a different sort of context, not aided by the moonlight, but not diminished by it either.  At 40X the planet revealed a small disc as it nibbled at the edges of the star cluster in which I quickly counted 60 stars visible under these conditions in this small scope. So now I had Mars, perhaps 10 light minutes away at that moment, playing dodge ball in a star cluster roughly 600 light years away. Nice!

All of which I think makes the point that you can not only have an essential astronomy experience with a small scope, but you can actually expand your experiences breaking new ground. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not recommending everyone switch to small scopes. And I’m not at all certain they’re a good idea for beginners. All I’m saying is that for me using a small scope offers some special advantages that move me closer to  my essential goal of experiencing the universe. Perhaps the key is it’s a machine that is of a size I can easily accept and incorporate as an extension of my eye. In any event, three hours of use were filled with several highlights, including, in chronological order:

  • Splitting the Double Double in Lyra at 144X using a 2.5mm Nagler eyepiece. The split was clean and steady, which also says something about the seeing last night and got me off to a great start.
  • Picking out the Ring Nebula – M57 – at 40X. Hard to believe this is larger than Jupiter in angular size, but I’ll leave careful examination for a darker night.
  • Splitting Albireo – easy, of course, even at 15X, but real nice at 40X.
  • Capturing the Coathanger cluster with plenty of room to spare using the 24mm Panoptic.
  • Splitting Almach – Gamma Andromeda – at 40X. The gold of th =e brighter star has more orange in it than the gold of Albireo’s primary.
  • Examining the full moon with plenty of space around it – again, the 9mm Nagler at 40X gave a real nice perspective,

And in the morning:

  • Splitting Castor, high overhead, with a 5mm Nagler delivering 72X. The fainter of the two companions was, well, quite faint.
  • Splitting Rigel about as well as I have ever seen it split in any scope – no kidding. This is a challenge star. Again, 5mm was used, as well as 2.5mm.
  • Context came into play again, this time all in the sky, as I took a wide field view of the Great Orion Nebula. The 13mm (28X) gave such a view, yet enough power to split the Trapezium – charming!
  • Mintaka split in the 24mm at 15X which gave a wonderful view of Orion’s Belt with plenty of breathing room around it.
  • Fainter star clusters like M35 did not fare as well, diminished by both the small objective and the moonlight. I look forward to seeing them under dark skies, though.
  • Only real frustration came in trying to track down W Orionis, a carbon star. I think I eventually did, but I need to go back and make my own charts so it isn’t such a challenge in the future.

Bottom line – wow! This was fun. Of course, being seated in a rolling office chair in the observatory while using the little scope on the massive (for it) Universal Astronomic T-Mount certainly helped!

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