Monday, October 15, 2007

Observing Report - 10/12/07

This past Friday night I headed out to the Canyon of the Eagles observatory site in rural Texas. SkyClock predicted a very good, steady night and I couldn't resist the urge to get out there, despite the long drive. I took both my 8" Lx200 and my 6" XT6. My Little Dob doesn't get out much, it's effectively my at-home "grab and go" scope for viewing from the front yard. But this time I thought I'd take it out and use it alongside my LX200 to learn more about finding deep sky objects manually.

The SkyClock was, thankfully, accurate. Not even an hour or so after the sun set and I was presented with a rather majestic view of the heavens. The Milky Way stretched high overhead from north-east to south-west, and the sky was very still. I could make out M31 with the naked eye! Conditions stayed like that until I left, around 1:30am. DSOs really just jumped out of you when looking at them through both scopes.

I targeted several objects that evening, using the LX200 to get me to the objects initially and then using my Dobsonian scope to manually locate them and compare them against the LX200:

M17: Omega/Swan Nebula. LX200 clearly showed the "swan's head". Also got a lovely, contrasty image in the XT6
M22: Lovely, bright globular cluster in Sagittarius. VERY bright in the LX200, not quite as bright in the XT6 but I could still get very good resolution
M13: Great Cluster in Hercules. Always a good site in the LX200. Just as lovely in the XT6.
M31: Andromeda Galaxy. Very bright tonight, central bulge looked exceptional and I could see the extension of the galaxy rather well in both scopes. M32 and M110 also very easily seen. XT6 offered a nice wider view of the system.
M81 & M82: A bit low in the horizon but still visible tonight.
NGC7009: "Saturn Nebula". I like this little planetary nebula. Definitely looks like Saturn in many ways. Obviously, easy to find with the LX200 but rather difficult with the XT6. Got there eventually though!
Uranus: Pretty good through the LX200! Definitely blue ball! Again, tricky to find with the XT6 but I got it, quite small though.

I also looked at various other objects, and had a lot of fun just scanning the Milky Way with the XT6. I have to say I was very impressed with the XT6 performance that night. I call it my "humbling telescope" because with it, I am forced to know where objects are without the aid of a computer. It offers very good views of DSOs and when combined with my premium eyepieces (22mm Panoptic and 10mm Radian) really outperformed itself!

All-in-all a good night with very pleasing results from both scopes. Quite a few large meteors also graced us throughout the evening, as well as a few dim satellites.

There was another chap at the site who had a 10" Meade SCT. His was mounted on the deluxe equatorial wedge, which I had not seen in person before. Talk about stable! The standard wedge was pretty ordinary and prone to vibration, which is why I sold it. The heavy duty wedge, however, is obviously so much better. It got me thinking about the astrophotography thing again. I'd like to get back into it, but with better gear. This kind of wedge, albeit rather expensive, might just do the trick.

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