Monday, 7 March 2011

Oh happy day, well night!

When I left for work this morning I was greeted by the most fantastic clear blue sky, the first for a few weeks now. A few weeks ago it had been suggested that some mates and me got together and did a bit of observing from the cliff tops in the east of town. After waiting almost two weeks, stupid clouds, I sent a message to a couple of mates suggesting we go tonight. Manky bought himself a sexy new scope a month ago and hasn’t really had a chance to use it, so tonight would be a perfect opportunity. I also messaged a the members of AAS so that they would at least be aware that plans were afoot. A couple said that they would be along so the more the merrier.

The manky one arrived just after 6 and we collected our third and headed over to the East Cliff and set up scopes.

After aligning my scope I set it to The Great Nebula in Orion, it’s in his sword, I got a stunning view and through the 3x Barlow it was even better, Manky said that he’d found the same object and asked if we’d like to see, WOW! the field of view was narrow but the resolution was simply astounding, I could clearly see the nebulous cloud and some of the stars that my (Trudys) trusty Meade can’t quite get. It was definitely a sight to behold. I faffed about with a list that I’d compiled earlier today and have to admit that it was a 50/50 split between what I could see and what I couldn’t but worth it anyway. It is at this point I must sing the praises of GOTO scopes, with my Tasco, which has to be manually pointed at an object you really have to know exactly where the object you want to see is, with a GOTO, once it’s aligned you only have to press a few buttons and the on-board computer does all the hard work for you. So much of the things you wouldn’t be able to find or involve calculating angles are easily available to view.

Dave and I both agreed that both our scopes have strong points, whilst his, amazingly sexy, piece of kit pulled in nebulas in brilliant detail, it seems too powerful for some clusters like the Pleiades, it’s almost as though you’re seeing through the cluster. Don’t get me wrong, I’m in no way anti Daves scope, quite the opposite, it is a superb set up and I now know what I want by way of a new scope, I would be more than happy with one exactly the same as Daves. But my (Trudes) 70mm Meade gives a brilliant view of the whole cluster plus a bit more.

Anyway, back to this evenings observing, Dave was using his scope manually and after a bit of head scratching and fiddling we managed to get it aligned and the GOTO functioning, at this point he pointed his scope at the same object mine was aimed at, the remnant of a super nova known as the Crab Nebula. This has been something I’ve wanted to see through a scope since I got my Tasco almost ten years ago, the Meade just doesn’t have the power, through the Celestron it could be seen as a faint fuzzy blur. I must be honest and say that I found it hard to hide my excitement at this and I almost danced around the field with delight, thanks to a very good mate I have achieved an astronomical goal. As the evening went on and the stars traced their arc across the sky our number three suggested we have a go for Saturn. Once again we had stunning views and through the different scopes we had a good variety of magnification. I’ve seen Saturn a few times now and it never ceases to amaze me. To think that when you look at Saturn through a telescope you’re seeing another planet, but it’s huge, in comparison Earth is a tiny speck. Another object we saw tonight was M31, the Andromeda Galaxy, it’s over two and a half million light years away and contains more stars than our own galaxy. Just about this for a moment, our galaxy contains somewhere around 200 to 400 billion stars, the Andromeda Galaxy has around one trillion, that’s a lot. it’s possible that out of the 200 to 400 billion stars in our galaxy there’s about 500 million planets within the parent stars habitable zone, if M31 has one trillion stars, how many life bearing worlds are there?

So after a fantastic, if somewhat chilly, evenings astronomy with some brilliant mates I’m home and preparing to give the pups their last stroll for the evening I leave you to ponder the deepness of a question that when it gets answered will change the foundations of the human race.

For the astronomers out there here’s a list of the object we tried to observe, those marked * were also seen through Daves 5 inch F1.5 Cassegrain.

M66, M65, M67, M48, M50, M93*, NGC2362, M41*, M3*, M13*, M42* (the great nebula in Orion), M33*, M1* (Crab Nebula) M31* (Andromeda Galaxy) M44*, NGC2903* and last but by no means least, Saturn. We also had a beautiful waxing crescent moon with earth shine.

I can’t wait for another clear night, but in a few weeks when it’s a touch warmer, as I write this I’m shivering and I’ve been in for about an hour. Next time we’re going to head to Woodchurch, it’s a bit more central for AAS members who may want to join us.

One last thing I need to mention is poor Jason, who joined us at about 8ish and spent the entire time trying to align the scope he had bought down, so the only observing he managed to do was through everyone else's scopes, bless him!