Observing from Emma, 29-oct-2016

Observation Report – Emma Cemetery, 29 Oct 2016

Jerry Hatfield, birthday boy, Orion XT 10i, ES 16mm 100* and 30mm 82* eyepieces, amongst others

Gary Leiker, 8” Celestron HD on AVX mount

Scott Harris with Leslie, Orion XX 14i

Mark Smith 10” F/5.56 dob

Your humble narrator, 8” SkyWatcher dobsonian, 28mm Explore Scientific 68*

Our Saturday night pre-Halloween observing fest at the Emma Cemetery featured Gary’s Scarry Pumpkin and his brother, two Jack-o-laterns with variable LEDs, to help set the scary mood, observing at a cemetery. Unfortunately for me, I was the one to be haunted, by bad collimation issues relating to a “floppy” mirror. The previous weekend, I’d collimated my dobsonian with both lasers agreeing she was well collimated. Okay. So I haul it out to Emma, set it up, and check the collimation, and it’s in need of some adjustment. Well, about 30 minutes later I tried to see if my dob was collimated, getting conflicting results from my Far Point versus my Hotech collimating lasers. As Charlie Brown might say in the Great Pumpkin, “Oh brother”.

While I spun my fingertips on lock screws and adjusted with a Phillips head screwdriver, birthday boy Jerry Hatfield gave us NGC 253, the bespeckled Sculptor Galaxy. Jerry then showed us the Helix Nebula, NGC 7293, in Aquarius, followed by NGC 7009, the Saturn Nebula, also in Aquarius, but about where the belly button might be above the Capricornus bikini bottom.

But then Hatfield shows me his excellent 10” XTi’s beautiful, clean split of the Double Double through his dob with the ES 8.8mm 82* eyepiece at a mere 136 power. Through my own 7mm DeLite, an eyepiece which always splits them in my C102GT, they were fuzzy snowmen. It wasn’t really all that cold, so thermals weren’t likely to have been a big deal. Poor collimation only rendered double trouble. This set off a second round of collimation, which ended when I noticed my laser moving out of collimation as I changed the altitude of my dob. Something was wrong, and I wasn’t going to be able to fix it. I resigned myself to low power viewing, less sensitive to collimation errors, inserting the ES 28mm 82*, and began to pick out wide angle targets.

And M45, the Pleiades, looked pretty nice in the 8” dob. A bit crowded, but they all fit into the 1.58* true field of view, relatively well corrected at the edge, even at F/5.9 The Andromeda Galaxy family, M31, M32 & M110, all looked very nice in the 8”. The dust lane on the “bottom” looked quite nice, if a little less pronounced than Jerry and Scott’s larger aperture views. We picked up the Triangulum Galaxy next, M33, on the opposite side of Mirach. I did find Mirach’s Ghost, NGC 404, and that was a nice little treat.

Perhaps the most memorable target of the night was NGC 7331, along with the other members of the Deer Lick Group in Scott’s 14” dob. Jerry’s scope made a nice framing, itself, but Scott’s large aperture pulled in the most detail of this collection of galaxies in Pegasus.

Before we left, Gary put Uranus in his SCT with go-to. I really would have enjoyed that, but the collimation blues had sapped all the pleasure out of observing for me, and although the glory of Aquarius would have been easy enough to discern out there, I just didn’t feel like bothering, having been so bothered by my unsuccessful scope. I’ve been on Cloudy Nights and tried some more things to collimate it correctly. Maybe someday I’ll get it right and look back on these dark days as growing pains, but that’ll take more tweaking, and I’ve still got more of that to do.

As we stand poised for our November Club meeting, I want to thank Maurice Clark for sending us some astrophotos he nabbed in Australia just before our October meeting. Looks like he’s enjoying retirement northeast of Perth.

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