Grand Tour

Seeing: 5/10 (at midnight) to 6.5/10 (at 3am)
Time: 00:00 – 03:00

Well, what a palaver. It was cloudy until just before midnight, but I had the scope out cooling down anyhow. Then, when it did clear up, for some reason I was having alignment trouble. I’d align with two stars (Arcturus and Vega, if memory serves), add a few calibration ones in, but the mount threw all sorts of tantrums, and when asked to go somewhere, wouldn’t even go in the right direction, ending up nowhere near.

So I muttered, and tried again with different stars. Still the same. Then I even resorted to re-polar aligning, and and…forgotten how lovely Polaris is, a fine double that is oft overlooked. Two-star align again, calibration stars again, and this time it did swing to the right area, in fact, rather close to the targets. Well. Most of the targets. A few, again, it just went bonkers. Quite odd. But I did get a fantastic view of some fantastic objects after that.

Alas, by the time I had gotten things aligned to my satisfaction, Valerie was in bed, too tired to stay up. But insomniac daughter was awake, so she shared the sights with me. And what sights they were.

Sure, M13 is always impressive, and I doubt I’ll ever get bored of it. (Before daughter came out, I did my double star hunt, this time just inside Lyra, as there are some lovely colour-contrasting doubles thereabouts. Yes, I know. But I love doubles.)

Bringing daughter out at 2am, though, I thought we’d do a Grand Tour, starting with M92. It is also very impressive, and just makes the nudge to M13 all the more impressive. I had a go at finding M31 too, and lo, there she was, Andromeda. Huge, too. Too much for the short eyepiece.

My one concession to doubles with her (yes, I showed her Ablireo, obvs) was to put the wider lens in, and go for ε Lyrae. Yeah, she says, a double, nice. Then flick to the closer lens, so it resolves into two pairs of binary. Cool stuff!

Swinging around to see NGC 869 and NGC 884, the ‘double cluster’, perfectly resolvable in the improving conditions. Quite stunning, actually, set in a fantastic starfield. ‘Tis pity it is a Caldwell listed object. Boo-hiss to the Caldwell catalogue. Then we dived across to M57, the Dumbbell nebula. Even in my 8inch SCT, this is a fine sight, taking up most of the eyepiece. A diffuse blue, which no doubt will benefit from a filter when I have cash again.

Daughter, like me, was loving this. Sure, obvious sights, but damn, they never, ever fail, to impress. And more impressive that I am seeing this from my back garden.

It has reinforced that I haven’t a burning desire to really get into serious astrophotography. Much as all the pictures you see are awesome, and within my ability and location, but _prefer_ visual observing. The hunt, the nudge, the reveal. So much so, that when I build my observatory, I’ll start to think about a huge light bucket, and a large aperture refractor.

I have also printed out some observing log pages, and am going to teach myself how to sketch at the eyepiece.

Looking upwards always…calmed me, and it does still. Calmness, and wonder. And a wonder I love to share, and I love to see the reaction mine have when they see these things too. They do seem to appreciate it, which is great. How can you not? And we are all learning the techniques of viewing, the averted vision and teasing of detail out. The dark adapted eye, which even afforded me to see the summer-spanning Milky Way with the naked eye. From here. Yes. And while the world wheeled, I started to spot more deep sky objects with my eye. Or the corner of my eye…

And when I have…options to do this more, to chase if not my total dream, at least enable it a bit more, get a bit closer to it, what do I do? I am thinking on it. Life is out there, and for me, up there.

On the plus side, I think I have settled on the objects I’ll use for visitors. Well, summer visitors. Winter is a whole different set of fish. And hunters. I amn’t even missing the southern horizon (that much), there is so much to see. More than my lifetime. Maybe I will start on the Hershel 400…

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