Astronomy Log: 2019001

Date/Time: 2019/01/04 19:53 EST
Location: Barrie, Ont, CA
Temp: -1°C
Seeing: 3/5
Conditions: Hazy
Telescope: Meade 2080 LX6 Premier operating at f/6.3
Eyepieces: Meade 24.5mm SWA, Tele Vue 20mm, 15mm and 8mm Plössls
Filters: Astronomik UHC 1.25"

Prolog

This is my first log entry on my website - I hope to have many more in the future! Tonight was the first decently clear sky since the new year, and it was also my first opportunity to try out my Astronomik UHC filter that I got for Christmas. I decided that my best option would be to put the f/6.3 focal reducer on my 8" SCT and use my widest angle eyepiece (a Meade 24.5mm SWA that has a 65° field of view). I grabbed all my gear and shuffled out into our small backyard and set up out of the glare of the street lights, the neighbour’s lights and the lights from my own house.

Target: M42 | NGC 1976 | Orion Nebula

I started off looking at M42 with my SWA eyepiece (52x) and despite the hazy sky, the view was fantastic! I could easily make out a large extent of the nebula with some texture evident. I think I could see a greenish hue to it - not sure if that was just the seeing or if I was actually seeing it. The 4 brightest stars of the Trapezium were easy to see. I swapped in my UHC filter, and immediately I noticed the stars had a greenish tinge to them, and that one of the Trap stars was harder to see (sometimes not visible). However, the nebula itself was more resolved with finer detail visible. I am looking forward to using this UHC filter in a dark sky site to see what it can really do! I had hopes of looking at the Veil or Heart & Soul nebulae, but they were all obscured by thick haze and my neighbour’s house.

I removed the UHC filter and looked at the Trap with the 8mm Tele Vue Plössl (160x) and was treated to a nice, sharp view (although the E and F components were not evident due to the sky conditions). My SCT is equipped with ScopeStuff fine focus knob on top of the stock focuser which has been upgraded with a Peterson EZ-Focus kit. In addition to all of that, I have a helical focuser on the eyepiece side of my star diagonal. The focusing procedure is to get rough focus with the stock knob, then using the fine focus knob in a clock-wise motion, slightly go past best focus, then counter-clock wise back to focus. Finally, I use the helical focuser to fine-tune the focus. I find it easy to get “snap” focus with this setup, and although it sounds involved, it quickly becomes second nature.

Target: Sigma Orionis

Just south of the left-most star of Orion’s belt (Alnitak), this quintuple star system was simply fantastic in my 8mm eyepiece. The area around σ has a few other stars that form sort of a wedge shape, with HD 37525 at the pointy end, σ and V1030 Ori in the middle, and then HD 294271 / HD 294272 (double star) forming the big end of the wedge. At first σ (the brightest star in this grouping) clearly showed as a double with the primary being bright white and the dimmer companion showing blue. Suddenly I noticed (and I was quite audibly excited on my recording!) a 3rd, much dimmer star. Initially I thought it to be dark red (like a carbon star), but further study showed it to be a vivid blue, almost turquoise colour. After further reading in Burham’s Celestial Handbook as well as looking in SkySafari Pro, I can see that this cluster of stars is part of the Orion OB1 association that includes the belt stars.

Target: NGC 1662

This 6th magnitude cluster in Orion caught me by surprise. It looks like a small parrallelogram of 4 stars sitting in a box or bowl outlined by 6 other stars - all about the same brightness. The field is then scattered with dimmer stars. It was quite lovely in my 15mm (85x) with an interesting mix of white, blue and red stars in the field of view. At this point I removed the f/6.3 focal reducer to return my scope to f/10. I found it hard to get snap focus with the 15mm (now operating at 135x) so I moved to my 20mm (100x) and everything looked lovely again (the sky conditions were getting worse)! I will add this target to the list of objects to return to on a better night.

Epilog

As the sky conditions worsened and my rear started to get cold, I decided to pack it in. I spent an hour under the stars, and it was very enjoyable. I look forward to many more observing sessions this year!