Saturday, October 24, 2009

Observing Session & CGEM Review

Another clear night in Austin, Texas. That's two weekends in a row and a very welcome end to a long period of cloudy skies and social engagements. I took the kids out to the Mansfield Dam observing site for a few hours of fun and games. I took the 12" Lightbridge and the 6" Skyquest for the kids to look through.

There was a crescent moon up through around 11:30 or so, so deep sky faint and fuzzies were pretty hard to observe. Seeing was also around 3/5, so planets and double stars were not the best but viewable. Still, I got a fair few objects in my scope and they looked pretty decent. This included M27, M57, M31, Double Cluster and various open clusters that were part of my Caldwell Catalogue hunt. I also observed quite a few meteors which I guess were the tail-end of the Orionid shower, some of which were quite bright indeed.

One of the other chaps (Jared, who comments here occassionally) brought along his relatively new CGEM mount. I've been thinking about reconstructing an Astrophotography rig based on either the Orion Atlas or Celestron CGEM mount. He pleasantly showed me the set-up procedure which included the uncannily easy polar alignment method. It takes me about 30 minutes to perform this using my Milburn wedge on my LX200, and that is AFTER setting the scope up, balancing and leveling. He was done with the polar alignment procedure in about three minutes, and that's astrophoto ready! The mount looks great, too and the menu system on the computer (and options contained therein) are excellent. So, it's time to consider getting one of these beasts. I have an idea in my head of the overall setup I want, and the CGEM compliments it nicely.

I also spent some time with another chap looking at his C14 mounted on the CGE mount. That's a really heavy-duty mount and beyond my requirements at this point, but still a very impressive setup. The views through the C14 were outstanding. It was able to resolve quite a few faint galaxies, even with the moon out.

The dew kicked in with ferocity after the moon set, so I packed up and took the kids (now sound asleep in the back of the car) home. All-in-all an interesting night (oh, except for the part when my kids knocked my binoculars on the ground...) of observing and toy reviews!

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