Category Archives: Astronomy

Random musings on viewing the night sky

Waxing Moon, M44

After nearly a week of bad visibility at night, the weather cooperated for about two hours between sunset and 11pm. Three modifications to the 130N-EQ2:

1) Toothpick wedged in the RDF dovetail to offset the set-screw.
2) Filled tripod aluminum legs with sand to add weight and help dampen vibrations.
3) Made a Wilcox Ring to place after the front-most OTA clamp to allow for easier re-alignment of the OTA.

First view of the Moon through the scope, using 25mm & 12mm EP’s plus Barlow. Excellent views of the craters that were in light. Venus is still extremely bright in the west/north-west. Saturn is still riding high and can hit dead-on with little effort, as with Mars. Both appear smallish, with Mars being little more than a smudged ball. Saturn shows ring structure, although the rings are nearly edge-on and no real detail such as the Cassini division. Ordered a 6.5mm EP from SurplusShed to hopefully aid in bringing out detail. The Barlow is next, as the one supplied is usable but inferior. Using Stellarium, found M44 halfway between Pollux & Mars, slightly down from imaginary line between the two. With the 25mm, was able to see about 80% of the total cluster in the FOV, which is making me consider a 30mm EP as the next purchase.

“The Beehive Cluster (also known as Praesepe (Latin for “manger”), M44, NGC 2632, or Cr 189) is an open cluster in the constellation Cancer. It is one of the nearest open clusters to the Solar System, and it contains a larger star population than most other nearby clusters. Under dark skies the Beehive Cluster looks like a nebulous object to the naked eye; thus it has been known since ancient times. The classical astronomer Ptolemy called it “the nebulous mass in the breast of Cancer,” and it was among the first objects that Galileo studied with his telescope.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beehive_Cluster)

Below is an image taken with a Kodak 12MP held up to the telescope EP, and a sky map taken from Stellarium.

Skywatcher 130n-EQ2

   After some careful deliberation and much research, I decided to pay the princely sum of $99 for a telescope from Amazon.com. The model, a Skywatcher 130n-EQ2, is a 130mm aperature Newtonian reflector with a focal length of 900mm and a f/6.9 focal ratio. It arrived 3 days ago and I must admit, it’s a damn nice starter scope. Skywatcher is apparently closing this model out, as it is normally around $250. The sister model is still in that price range (short tube 650mm focal length). I suspect that the primary mirror is a spherical variety and not a parabolic, although the jury is still out on that point.
   The rig itself is pretty solid, and the German equatorial mount head weighs a ton. The GEM is Skywatcher’s EQ2 type, and has the slow motion cables. I havn’t bothered with a proper polar alignment just yet, although I did set the latitude and a geustimate of Polaris right before sundown.  The tripod is a bit flimsey in comparison (aluminum), but it may be possible to stiffen the legs or at the very least add some weight. The supplied eyepieces (12mm & 25mm Super Plossl) are pretty nice and they don’t have the ‘feel’ of crappy, less expensive EP’s. The barlow (2x) is on the cheaper side, but adequate until a replacement can be found. The finder, a red dot unit, was near worthless at first as i couldn’t get it lined up anywhere close to the scope’s sight. However, after wedging a toothpick in the dovetail mount to offset the locking screw pushing on it, it’s now aligned pretty well. The focuser isn’t bad and, like the rest of the rig, is actually metal.
 

  Last night was the first real viweing session (‘First Light’), and I managed to get Saturn into focus. Although the rings are only 1.8 degrees off axis, it was still cool. A tad tiny even with the 12mm barlowed, but its a $99 scope with 5.1″ aperature. I wasn’t expecting to see a lot of detail, and considering that the light pollution is pretty bad in town, I was surprised to get a couple of moons in the view as well. They appeared as little stars near the big planet, one slightly to the left and another about twice that distance to the right. At least, I think they were moons. Stellarium seems to confirm this.