Enjoyed a fantastic night’s observing and imaging last night… 🙂
The BBC Weather App had assured me all day that it would be clear up at Shap until at least 11.30pm, and it is usually very reliable, so up we went, Stella and I, with as many layers on as possible to protect us against the brutal cold, and while Stella kipped in the car I left the warmth of the car behind and went out under a magically starry sky (shame there was a 1st Qtr Moon blasting all the faint stars and fuzzy things, including Comet Lovejoy, out of it!) to FINALLY, after all the delays due to bad weather, set up The New Telescope properly for the first time, and gave it a good test flight.
And boy, did it perform! The Celestron “Sky Align” system turned out to be wonderfully simple and accurate, and after very quickly aligning on two stars and Jupiter the ‘scope was good to go, and faultlessly panned around to and gave me great views of M42 (gorgeous, what detail!), the Pleiades, M1 (visible even in moonlight, fantastic!) and Jupiter (bit wobbly in the ever-present Shap wind but very crisp view). I’m very impressed with the ‘scope on the strength of last night’s performance, and I’m already looking forward to getting it out under a dark, Moon-free sky later in the month.
Of course, I was really there to look for and photograph Comet Lovejoy, and even with the 1st Quarter Moon riding high in the sky it was obvious in my 10×50 binoculars, and was captured easily by my Canon 1100D DSLR with a 50mm lens and settings of 4s at f2.2 and 1600ISO.
I found it in the scope too, by entering “M79” and then just nudging it a bit, and there it was, glowing softly and serenely in the eyepiece, just beautiful, but would have been sooo much nicer without that Moon… never mind, it was a treat just to see it at all after the recent weather!
By eleven pm the temperature was dropping dramatically and the Moon was dropping towards the horizon too, darkening the sky considerably, so the comet stood out much more clearly in the binocs and telescope eyepiece. Definitely wasn’t a naked eye object, but with that Moon, no surprise there…
But by midnight the sky started to cloud over, just as the BBC Weather App had predicted, and as Lovejoy vanished behind a bank of curdled grey, with the telescope and car both covered with glistening frost, and with my hands and feet going quite numb despite gloves and several pairs of socks, I called it a night.
I took a lot of images of Lovejoy, and saw it through the telescope, so safe to say Mission Accomplished! Of course the Moon took away a lot of the comet’s subtle glow, but I’m not too bothered about that; it was just lovely to be out under a brittle, star-spattered sky, with a comet glowing softly above the snow-dusted fells.
And I can’t wait to get the new telescope out under a proper dark sky…!
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