Wednesday, October 18, 2006

October 17th Observing Log: Buzzards, Comet Swan, 1RPD Eyepiece Field Test

EVERYBODY said last night was going to be a nice clear night. The local SkyClock indicated clear skies with average seeing conditions. Other weather websites indicated good viewing was likely. Even the local news TV station website's forecast for the evening indicated "A great night for stargazing!". So, no real surprise that clouds rolled in at about 9PM and decided to stay. How bloody annoying!

I got to the local observing site pretty early, straight from the office. I had about an hour to kill before the sun went down and decided to take some photos of the buzzards that liked to nestle on the nearby powerline towers. Many of them swoop low over you as they make their way to to the towers, and it's pretty neat. I included the photos with this blog entry for your viewing pleasure, the closeup isn't great but it WAS taken through my astronomical telescope! Click on them for full size, as usual. Also, when the first bright star came out I recollimated my optics. Since the trip to California I had been unhappy with the scope's images, so went for a barlowed collimation. Behaved much better, optically, after doing this, and it only took about 10 minutes.

Another two folks turned up, and after about ten minutes of cursing from them as their scopes decided not to behave as desired, they eventually settled down and we got into some observing. We had about two hours of observing time before the clouds rolled in.

The first target I sought out was Comet Swan, an 8th magnitude comet currently visible towards the northwest. I punched its coordinates into the LX200, and the scope happily took me to the cosmic visitor. Looked like a fuzzy globular cluster, but you could definitely see the coma and brighter nucleus (?) spot on it. I could maybe discern a bit of a tail, but it could have been wishful thinking.

Other targets for the night included the Double Cluster, the Ring Nebula (M57), the Dumbell Nebula (M27), M17 (Dad had asked me to check this one out for him as he was viewing it in Australia and wanted me to confirm its lcoation for him), M31 galaxy, M15 globular cluster, M92 globular cluster and a few double stars.

Last night was also the first night I got to field test the 1RPD eyepiece I recently purchased. I liked it! The edge of the field of view wasn't perfect, a little bit of flaring occured there. But overall it performed admirably. I was worried because folks were saying it might not be too great on my F6.3 scope, but it was just fine. The Double Cluster sat nicely in the field of view, with a very nice sharp image of both clusters. M31 looked decent too, and the eyepiece was also useful in finding Comet Swan. Also, it should be noted that as far as eye relief is concerned, there's a bit of a sweet spot you have to find. Once you find it, it's easy to remember, but it may cause some frustration initially. For a two inch, 30mm eyepiece for only $95.00, I don't think you can go wrong with this eyepiece, even with its minor quirks.

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