Today was a nice warm, spring day, and the evening was quite mild. Ideal to get the XT10 out for some viewing. Stars weren’t particularly bright tonight, but the scope soon revealed quite a reasonable amount of depth.
Tonight I wanted to focus on observing the Moon, which is 5 days into new moon, and also I wanted to get better acquainted with its features, in conjunction with the laptop running Virtual Moon Atlas which I downloaded and installed earlier this week.
I started with my 13mm Hyperion with both 14mm and 28mm fine tuning rings, plus 2xBarlow to give a good close view, and started to use VMA to show points of interest along the terminator.
VMA is quite neat in this respect. It highlights various locations, then you just double-click them for it to indicate where they are located, then you can zoom in to help you identify where on the map the point is exactly, then you can compare this in the scope view. VMA also allows setting up of Eyepieces, to show the corresponding view magnification, and it will automatically flip the view horizontally or vertically to mimick exactly what you are seeing in the eyepiece. Also it has an Information tab which provides some information and description of the feature you are looking at (crater, rille, volcano, etc). I like it!
After spending an hour or two looking at the moon, and learning some of the craters, I figured that I would still like a higher magnification eyepiece, so as to get really close - I’m thinking something like a 5mm? Also I started out using the 13% Moon filter, but due to haze and the eyepiece being used the view was quite dark, so I removed the Moon filter to get a brighter, more contrasty view. Like this was fairly comfortable tonight although on past occasions the full moon has been blinding bright!
Galaxies in Ursa Major
Finally I finished off the night determined to find some of the galaxies in Ursa Major, by myself, with reference only to my Collins Gem Pocket Star Atlas (i.e. NOT using the Intelliscope Computer Object Locator). This was partly for fun, and partly because my intentions tonight were getting some viewing done, without being bogged down aligning the scope (although alignment is fairly easy, I just wanted to get viewing!).
With the 13mm Hyperion (without the FTR’s) I searched around for quite a while using the 9×50 finder scope, but still couldn’t find anything. So I took a more careful look at the star atlas, then changed the finder for my ScopeTeknix Multi LED Reticule Reflex Finder (MRF) which I think is much easier for pointing the scope in the direction you know where the item you’re searching for should actually be. It’s just a bit difficult sometimes in the 9×50 to know what you’re looking at, but the LED Finder makes it very easy.
Now I started to find things! M101 was the first. Faint but definitely visible with distinctive eliptical shape but with it seemed two pints of brightness.
Next I searched for M81 and M82. These were difficult to find at first, but as soon as I came across one, finding the second definitely confirmed them, because M82 is thin and narrow (edge on), while M81 is more flat on. Both galaxies fit into the same field of view of the 13mm.
I also found another very faint galaxy in the same area, but I’m not sure which it was. I switched to my 38mm SWA Adler Optic Skarp and went back over the same galaxies again for another viewing. The Adler gives a brighter, sharper view of the stars and the galaxies are also a bit more bright.
So at last a good nights viewing now the rain and clouds gave me a break. I also found that my home-made counter balance weights on the OTA helped balance the scope better, meaning the CorrecTension adjuster on the Dobsonian base didn’t have to be so tight (in fact hardly done up at all), which in turn means much smoother altitude movements. Much better, and overall a fairly satisfying night.