Tonight at first sight looked promising with stars out, but not very good transparency.
I started by setting up my 20×80 binos to try them out with the ScopeTeknix Zodiac ST90 counterbalance binocular mounting which I bought at the same time as the binos, but until now have not had the opportunity to use them. The counterbalance mount is very sturdy and heavy (needs to be to handle the 20×80 binos which themselves are quite hefty beasts). While they work quite well with my tripod, really the tripod itself which previously I had bought for use with my SLR camera, is not sturdy enough, and could ideally do with being a bit taller. Care is required when adjusting the tripod height, because the weight of the combined bino+tripod can overwhelm the height crank, and if you’re not careful the crank handle suddenly starts to spin, and bump, the binos and counterbalance drop down.
Of course quite typically within the time it took me to setup the binos for viewing, clouds moved in!
But since it was quite a pleasant dry evening, I thought I would push on and get the XT10 out too, in the hope that the clouds would clear later in the evening. One thing I wanted to do was have another go at configuring the Intelliscope Computer Object Locator to interface via RS232 thru USB port and an ASCOM driver, to work with Carte du Ciel on my laptop. With no stars visible I had to make do with guesswork alignment, i.e. point the scope at roughly where I knew a couple of alignment stars were. I knew this would be totally inaccurate, but all I wanted to do was understand what settings were required to make the software read from the Intelliscope, and be able to track movement of the OTA as I moved it, updating on screen to show where it was pointing. This task worked, and later on the clouds did indeed clear, and I was able to make a more accurate alignment, and check the software tracked what I was pointing at accurately too. The objective for tonight was more to re-familiarise myself with the Intelliscope plus tracking software, while some checking for certain problems I had noticed with losing the tracking connection if other Intelliscope buttons were pressed, would have to wait for another brighter stars night.
Next I wanted to try out my new Baader UHC-S Filter to see what effect this would have on observing things. It is designed to cut out light pollution from mercury and sodium based street lamps, so that the view has more contrast. First I sighted up with the binos to see if M31 The Andromeda Galaxy was visible, and eventually found it in the binos. I then manually located Andromeda in the XT10, and tried out the filter with a couple of different 1.25inch eyepieces which the filter would screw into. The filter didn’t seem to have much effect, but this could be for a couple of different reasons; a) its the first time I’ve used it so I don’t know exactly what to expect, b) this galaxy may not be quite the right thing to use the filter for viewing, c) the view may not have been bright enough, due to the poor transparency (while I was trying the filter out, more clouds came in and halted my comparisons). So I think more experimenting is required to see how effective the filter will be on a clearer brighter night.
Tonight has also been the first time I’ve used the scope properly since adding the “carpet brakes” to provide some stiction to the Lazy Susan bearing modification I recently did to the dobsonian base. The scope moves very freely now, but the carpet brakes appear to work well, providing about the right amount of stiction.
Finishing off before a swaith of clouds rolled in to put an end to my nights observations, I observed the Moon, very low down and red hued, and with the seeing playing its usual tricks to try and mar the view, and also explored around Cassiopeia for anything of interest, and came across M103 and NGC457, both open clusters.
So it was a bit of a mixed bag of things I did tonight, but mostly just for want of getting out there and trying something out despite the usual poor views and bad weather. I really hope that as September draws to a close, and the nights get longer and darker, that the skies will clear up and start to reveal their gems again.