Viewing Report 7th November 2018 – La Palma

Viewing time period – 23:25 – 03:45

(image taken by author from La Palma in 2015)

It should be noted that as a keen astrophotographer this trip has been really hard, I mean really hard. Under the majesty of the night sky at 4,333 ft with absolutely no light pollution whatsoever for 100s of miles and an SQM reading of nearly 22 and seeing of less about 1 arc minute, one wishes they had a camera and refractor to capture the moment forever……….

Well, it would seem that I was wrong. Although I dearly do wish I had a refractor and a camera, I have been hugely impressed with the awe I have felt looking up at the night sky through my 4″ giant binos and really seeing the night sky with the  MkI eyeball. There is nothing, no photos, no reading, no watching TV that can prepare you for the a personal connection with the universe, and that will stay with you forever.

So out I went under the ever so bright milky way, Cygnus overhead, Sagittarius setting and the ever present Great Square of Pegasus. But it was none of these I was interested in this evening, after reading an article in the US Astronomy magazine, it was Orion that would catch my eye and eleven thirty PM was just about when Betelgeuse was clearing the tree line to the East.

Collinder 65 – First it is useful to note that Collinder (Cr) is a catalogue of 471 open clusters by the Swedish astronomer Per Collinder. This particular entry is located above the head of Orion and is a vast 2 degrees across, so completely fills the FoV of my 100mm giant Altair binos. Whilst visible with the naked eye, the binos reveal a dispersed bunch of stars and double stars,  a very pretty cluster to start the evening with.

M1 –  Okay so the sharp ones amongst you will realise that both Cr 65 and the Crab Nebula are actually in Taurus which is adjacent to Orion so please excuse the diversion as we cross the board. At 00:35 I viewed this object after imaging many times in broadband and narrow band. I have also seen through a 24″ dob in the UK. However the detail seen at this elevation with the binos was quiet remarkable. I could make out with averted vision (AV) structure coming and going within this supernova remnant.

Collinder 69 – I had to pick an object to draw, so this was it for me. This beautiful naked eye cluster at the very head of Orion, seen @23:25 and drawn until 23:45. However I could not see the emission nebula surrounding it that is part of Sharpness catalogue through my binos.

NGC 1981 – This distinct cluster of 9-10 stars forms an open cluster next to Running Man nebula. Fairly bland but you can tell it is a cluster.

NGC 1980 – A small open cluster next to the back of M42 with 2 bright double stars and 2 dimmer double stars above and a single bright star near the centre The cluster is about 30 stars, some nebulosity can be seen surrounding it.

M42 – Whilst I have seen this on other nights, the clarity of seeing tonight as the slight claim has moved away has afforded me the ability to actually seen the structure granulation within M42 which I have never experienced. Had I practiced my drawing more I would have sketched it, it kept me captivate for a full 15mins.

M43 – In comparison to the Orion nebula this is not very bright and thus not very interesting and slightly overshadowed by the Great Orion Nebula.

Collinder 70 – At 23:54 I moved to observe the 3 main belt stars in Orion. Collectively you may be surprised to hear they are actually an open cluster and there are so many stars here it takes a while to sweep through even with my 1.7 degree FoV. In total there are over 100 stars that make up the cluster with the right most star seemingly a double. 

M78 – When I was panning around left star of belt I again fortuitously stumbled across what looked like 2 stars within a diffuse nebula to the south with a straight edge to the North. It was very prominent and grabbed my attention as did the next object in the FoV with it NGC 7071.

NGC 2071 – Being right next to M78 I could see a nebula surrounding it with AV but also with direct vision DV. Small but obvious in the FoV.

NGC 2024 – The Flame Nebula  looks like two bands of nebula with a gap in between through the binos, instantly obvious to me however Alan who had wondered over periodically throughout the night could not see it. Given again I have imaged it was fascination to see visually.

NGC 2023 – The nebula around a star next to main star Alnitak is diffuse and can be seen with AV.

IC434 – Better know as the Horse Head Nebula, it is visible next to the Flame above and can be seen with DV. Only the northern most portion can be seen but not the horse head with this small set of binos.

Sigma Orionis – To finish this evenings visual fest I took a look at a this multiple star system. I could split the 3 stars including HIP 26551 and HIP 1932very easily in the binos.

At this point my back was aching as it was now around 02:30. I decided to head inside for a break and then come back out with the Canon 6D MKII along with Alan’s 200mm lens and perform some more star tests. Some of the raw single images have been included above. Additionally I wanted to bag the comet I had seen a few nights ago visually, namely 38P/Stephan-Oterma. You can just make it out here and if you were to have the full resolution image you could see the Eskimo Nebula too. Alan’s photo using his 71mm Williams Optics refractor is far better as I only had the 200mm lens.

Last on my list for the night, rather opportunistically I took a quick image of M45 that again I viewed the other night. Here is a single 10s image.

At around 03:30 I was tired and Alan and I agreed we had achieved enough tonight and would retire the 10 feet to our respective beds, much better than driving 1 hour down a mountain I can assure you.

Viewing Report 6th November 2018 – La Palma

Viewing time period – 21:20 – 23:30

It should be noted that unlike previous trips where we observe all night long then drive down the mountain, we are afforded the luxury of observing from the villa. This means that not only we get some sleep, but also we get to partake in the other part of our trip, trekking through forests and across the mountain during the day.

M15 – At 21:23, I found this beautiful globular cluster, located in Pegasus both through the 100mm binos and the 10” dob.  In the dob you can see the many diamonds of stars, in the Binos you see a small fuzzy shape with direct vision (DV) and a larger fuzzy ball with averted vision (AV). Alan took a photo with the modified Canon 650D provided by member Paul Cabrelli with the 200mm lens. A single cropped image of 1min, 6400 ISO at f/4.5 with no processing can be seen below.

NGC 7217 – This tiny spiral galaxy in Pegasus is extremely small, at 4 arc minutes across it would prove a challenge both to find and to see. At 21:45 I managed to find it in the binos then shortly after, which much nudging of the dob, in the 10”. It should be noted that this is a very, very faint in both instruments at mag +10.1. There was really nothing to note on shape and only really seen with AV.

Stephan’s Quintet – NGC 7317/7318A/B/7319/7320  – I really tried hard to see this cluster of galaxies through the binos, however at 22:04 I gave up. It is not surprising since they are +13 magnitude and although my binocular guidebook says they can be glimpsed as did a recent article on binocular objects in the American Astronomy magazine, clearly they need to remember just how fine this cluster is.

NGC 7331 – On the plus side, whilst searching for Stephan’s Quintet I stumbled across this lovely galaxy which at 10×4 arc minutes was large enough and bright enough at +9.5 magnitude to see. You could tell it was an elliptical galaxy straight away and after the searching that went into the previous galaxy group I was happy to have found this by accident.

NGC 7457 – Another galaxy not too far away  from NGC 7331 and near the bright star Scheat (+2.47 mag) in Pegasus was found and could be seen with AV through the binos at 22:30.

NGC 7479 – Near the bright main star Markab in Pegasus I found this small 4×3 arc minute spiral galaxy but only seen with AV through the binos. Given the trouble with movement of the mount of the 10″ dob I did not try to find it through that.

On reflection, finding objects in the visual range of the binos, so up to +11.5 magnitude is relatively straight forwards. The APM wedge is a delight to use and the 4″ binos coupled with the 18mm eyepieces are divine. The 10″ Skywatcher on the other hand is stiff, jerky and provides a dim view even through the expensive and magnificent 24mm Panoptic eyepiece, which when coupled with my 12″ Officinal Stellare CDK back home provides a beautiful view. Tonights viewing came to end when Alan’s mount kept shorting out through water ingress into the EQ5 handset and my binos and the dob kept dewing up especially after all the rain we had during the day. Something to note when coming this time of year to the Canaries and this altitude.

Viewing Report 5th November 2018 – La Palma

Viewing time period – 18:31 – 22:06

Tonight I decided to setup next to the pool area due to its height and ability to look over the rest of the site, affording great visibility both South and East. I dragged out the 10″ Skywatcher dobsonian telescope from inside the pool building and placed my own 24mm Panoptic eyepiece in it.

M11 – The first object this evening as I was the Wild Duck Cluster in Scutum at 21:54. The central star was prominent along with 2 other stars to one side. There was a definite mass of stars packed in the centre, twinkling slightly as I gazed around.

M27 – Next up was the Dumbbell in Vulpecula. This was such a bright object that I decided to draw it. 5-6 brighter stars could be seen and the central portion of the nebula looked almost rectangular to me with the fainter outer edges showing. The drawing took around 30mins to complete due to the time it takes to look through the eyepiece, look at the paper, look again through the eyepiece, look back at the paper, draw a star, then look back in the eyepiece and check the position.

M31/M110/M32 – Another tour of these galaxies but this time with he 10″ since I had seen these through the 6″ Dob and 100mm binos recently. For M31 it was a very bright structure with a dark dust lane seen to one side. however no other detail was visible. M32 looked round and distinct.

NGC 404 – At 23:49 I moved the scope to Mirach, a bright star in Andromeda. Mirach’s Ghost is an elliptical galaxy right next to the main star Mirach. It tends to be called a ghost as it has been assumed to be a bright spot potentially bouncing off the optics of a telescope. However, even though it comes and goes there it was seen directly.

NGC 7640 – Alan and I both looked at this faint barred spiral just after midnight local time. Faint but definitely elliptical in shape, we both confirmed it’s existence however we could not see the magnitude +11 triangle of stars surrounding it.

M45 – By 00:11 I moved the scope to view the Pleiades open cluster. Instantly you could see a bright halo of blue gas around each star. It was fairly obviously the reflection nebula in front of this cluster as other stars of similar magnitude did not display the halo effect. Alan and I both confirmed the blue reflection nebula across most if not all of the brighter members of the cluster. I could also make out the chain of 7th and 8th Mag stars from Sigma 450 and I could see the triangle of stars just West of Mag +2.9 Alcyone.

M103 – Decided to take a look at M103, an open cluster in Cassiopeia at 00:47. Given the cluster has a visual magnitude of +7 it was in reality really dim, probably owing to the fact that it is only 16 arc minutes across.

NGC 663 – To cheer myself up I moved almost next door to view this lovely open cluster. It was bright and sparkled in the night sky.

NGC 654 – Next up was  NGC 654 seen with averted vision the single bright star making it easy to find from 663.

M42 / Running Man (NGC 1973-77-79) – By now it was 01:51 and I had setup the 100mm giant binoculars next to the 10″ Dob. Alan and I looked at M42 in the 10′ Dob and the trapezium was bright and clearly visible. The image was not the sharpest, maybe due to the optics of this reflector, maybe because we had the binos nearby which are a set of 4″ refractors. Through the binos the trapezium was smaller but sharper and the wider wings of M42 visible. The Running Man nebula adjacent to M42 was visible in the same field of view and looked like the photos we take. Through the 10″ is was much dimmer.

Comet 38P/Stephan-Oterma – Sitting in Gemini tonight, just NE of Pollux ( left most twin) the comet was found at 02:17 by myself, Alan could not confirm through the binos. I could only see with averted vision (AV).

So this evening was a good visual viewing for me and for Alan, incidentally Alan was off imaging too some of the time so I await his processed results with great excitement. There was a lot of dew around this evening and I should have bought a humidity sensor with me to record just how much.


Viewing Report 3rd November 2018 – La Palma

Viewing time period – 19:30 – 13:55

Tonight was the first night in La Palma for this expedition. Alan and I setup outside round the side of the property on the path. The weather was warm to start with at around 20 degrees celsius and then cooling later in the evening to around 17 degrees. Alan setup his EQ5, Williams Optics 71mm f/5.9 with his Canon 650D and started the process of polar alignment.

Meanwhile I (Dave Shave-Wall) setup the giant binoculars from Altair, 100mm with the 18mm eyepieces giving a 1.7 degree FoV. I also put back together after the flight, the 6″ Skywatcher dobsonian (still unhappy that there was already a 10″ here) and placed this nearby. I then grabbed my new Canon 6D MkII camera with fellow expedition member (not with us this trip) Bob Trevan’s 17-40mm lens.

As the darkness settled in so the Milky Way came out in all it’s glory even though we are nearly half the height from our usual viewing both here and in Tenerife. I noted that the sky was indeed significantly darker than Tenerife and made a mental note to remind myself of that since our last visit to this island was 2015.

Alan continued to fight with his Polemaster whilst I cooked dinner, well we had Paella on the hob as the gas oven was not connected (still had the instruction manuals inside it) so instead I cooked the deep fat fry only chips Alan bought under the grill, which worked surprisingly well 🙂

By 22:21 I was ready to start observing. We had problems with the lights around the property not going off, finally by flicking all the trip switches off in the pool house I managed to get the lights off apart from the red glow next to the fountain. Tonight was looking really at binocular objects in Andromeda and working my way through those mentioned in the two great books I bought with me, namely The Night Sky Observers Guide Volume 1 and Touring the University through Binoculars.

Double Cluster – Looking at the Double cluster in Perseus and I can see colour in both clusters. Looking at chi Persei (the more Eastern of the two clusters) there is a variable star RS Persei which has orange hue to it as seen with 18mm lenses on the 100mm giant Binos.

M31 – In the binos this is very bright and stretches out across the field of view and beyond. Faint structure can be seen within the galaxy itself although I failed to be able to see any emission nebula within, which is not surprising given these are only 4″. Looking at M31 through the 6″ Dob with the 24mm Panoptic the view was dimmer, less contrast, the sky looked blacker but the stars and galaxy less pronounced. Clearly the FoV was smaller but the view through the Binos for this object wins hands down. The best view I had was several weeks ago through the 24″ Dob on Tenerife with Bob Trevan and I could make out the emission nebula easily.

M32 – Looked very dim through the binoculars but was there in it’s almost round form.

M110 – Very bright and stood out almost as much as M31. Elliptical in shape but showing no real detail.

NGC 752 This Open Cluster was seen @ 22:42 and again @ 23:15 and also seen through the the 6” Dob to compare. The cluster was easy to find star hoping from Almach the Mag 2.1 star also known as Gamma 1 Andromedae. The cluster nearly fills the filed of view on the Binos with various bright components. I could make out the trio of stars to the East and the string of stars underneath it. There were also a bright pair of stars to the North West. Through the 6″ Dob the cluster was dimmer and the outer edges of the cluster were outside the FoV.

NGC 891 – @23:46 with averted vision (AV) I could see NGC 891 a pencil thin edge on barred spiral galaxy. As expected it was barely visible through the Binos and I did not attempt to find in the 6″.  Below is a photo from Mike (Sky Badger) of this galaxy.

NGC 7686 – @00:02 I looked at NGC 7686 the tiny open cluster which you would not know even if you stumbled across it in the Binos. It took a while to find and I confirmed the cluster comparing the star pattern with a few choice bright stars with those in SkySafari Pro 4 on my iPhone.

Algol – At Alan’s request around 00:17 we checked Algol against gamma Andromeda, so Almach as both are indeed +2.1, this was in planning for the eclipse of the Algol binary system later next week that I wish to observe.

M42 – As Orion rose after 00:30 we observed the Great Orion nebula and the running man nebula through Binos and 6”. Spectacular through the binos for sure, and different details seen in the 6″. The running man could be seen in the same FoV through the Binos.

Overall a successful night, as we were very tired by 2am after being up some 24 hours we headed off to bed. For Alan the night was frustrating as his polar alignment never really worked and other equipment challenges forced him to give up and do visual with me. The Canon 6D MkII had a good run and included here are some initial photos straight of the camera.