Monday, 28 June 2010

Comet McNaught

Here's comet 2009 R1 McNaught looking rather lovely in the 20" in the early morning of June the 14th. I made it about 5.9 magnitude but that's with a lot of dawn twilight. I also snapped it with at least a degree long tail on the 22nd before midnight, and the 3 of us that observed it thought it looked greeny blue in the 8". This image, next to a bright star in Perseus, is probably the last image the 20" gave while using its old stepper motors with Scope software . It now has servo motors, digital encoders and new software/hardware in place (thanks to B.A.S.) and I can't wait to test it.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Outcast shockwave

In the deep blue summer midnight sky, we were panning around the Veil Nebula using the 20-inch, which is a superb telescope for this sort of visual application. Using my wide field 20 mm eyepiece and a Lumicon UHC (Ultra High Contrast) nebular filter, the strands of nebulosity from this supernova remnant were standing out from the twilight background. After looking at the weird ethereal strands around 52 Cygni, we moved across to NGC 6992 and 6995 on the opposite side and followed this arc as far as possible. I came across what I thought was a faint blob well separated from the rest and was curious to confirm whether this was real or just my imagination. So I stuck the Canon onto the scope. I keep the focuser locked in position for the Camera and slide the eyepiece in and out for visual focus, so this was very quick. I got a few 30” pics and stacked to reveal this lonely, outcast piece of supernova remnant.

The Sting of the Scorpion.

We’ve been blessed with clear weather recently. So I thought I would test the transparency of the atmosphere by trying to see how far south I can see. As it is June, the constellation of Scorpius rises after dark, with its many stars of low declinations. The South horizon of the observatory is pretty good despite the healthy hedge growth this year. From latitude 52º 32’ 17” I thought I wouldn’t have much of a chance of seeing the stars ε and λ Scorpii at declinations -37 6’ & -37 18’. The stars, called Shaula and Lesath, represent the sting of the scorpion. But I caught my first glimpse of Shaula from Norfolk in binoculars. I took 65 x 5" shots with a 135mm f/2.8 lens on the 350D in two bursts during moonrise. The stacking process has given the picture a strange looking blurry horizon. Perhaps an animation is in order. The clusters M7 and M6 (top) along with 'the hockey stick' on the right make a nice composition.