Astronomical Observations #1: November 8, 2021
Updated: Nov 18, 2021
09/05/2016 Cherry Springs State Park Potter County, PA
This is the first of my blog posts containing a night of observations. I can hopefully give readers an idea of what it is like viewing with The Binotron 27 and the LOA 21 3D Eyepieces in various instruments under fairly dark skies. The Clear Sky Chart looked really good for this Monday evening. Transparency was indicated to be excellent under cloudless skies.
Location: Bivalve, MD
Bortle 4 rating
Scopes: Takahashi FS102, 20" F5 Dob
Observing partner: Dan Kennedy
Arriving, I set up the EM2s Mount and the Takahashi FS102 Fluorite Refractor. I mainly wanted to view the waxing crescent Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, and check tracking of the mount. I used the LOA 21 Neutrals and worked the Power Switch on The Binotron 27. Seeing was quite unsteady. One of Jupiter's moons was seen just emerging part of the way from the planet's right edge along with a shadow transit occurring on the planet's cloud tops. With the planets at rather low declinations this year and unsteady seeing, magnification increases were not very effective. Moving to The Moon, wow! I can say that the contrast that the Tak delivers is awesome. I mean the Moon was so sharp and the sky was inky black. Delicious view! While I m a big dob fan, I can see why many of us love our refractors.
The Big 20" F5 Dob
With the dob, my procedure is as follows; I roll it out from the small observatory building that houses it, but is not large enough to view from with the very tall dob. I push it using the wheel barrow handles to a flat spot on the grass and remove the handles, allowing free movement of the scope in azimuth. I use a Cheshire alignment tool to check collimation. I always need to make some adjustments to correct misalignment caused by the jarring that occurs when rolling out of the observatory. I should mention that I do this just before sunset. It makes things easier. I use a NexusII Wi-Fi encoder system that is picked up by my Ipad that I mounted on the rear mirror box of the dob. I have the Sky Safari Plus app installed on the Ipad. The app picks up the NexusII wifi signal once I connect the two and then I am ready to do a two star alignment once it gets darker. I have built an observing list of targets in the app. It helps to have some kind of plan to prevent that "what should we look at next?" lag. Oh, I nearly forgot! I hook into a 12v battery and heat the secondary mirror, the focuser, the Telrad. and the Binotron and eyepieces. I purchased some pretty nifty heating elements and wraps that keep these things free from dew. You get dew, you are done. Bivalve has humidity.
After aligning on Polaris and then Fomalhaut, we go to Jupiter to "test" alignment accuracy. It is usually fairly close. Tonight, Jupiter in the 20" is not very sharp due to poor seeing and the rather low declination from our 38 degree latitude this year. I am using the LOA 21 Neutrals (non 3D). Viewing planets in 3D is really neat as long as the magnification is low enough to keep the planet itself within one 3D Panel. If that is the case, a planet will appear at a different depth than the background stars depending on where you rotated the 3D Eyepiece. "N" for near means that the bubble on the LOA Eyepiece is facing down at 6 o'clock. Any object in the center (On Axis) will appear closer than everything else in the FOV. Generally, in refractors and at low power, planets at these small image scales fit well within the 3D Panel diameters and it is really beautiful to see them floating far in front of the background stars. In the 20" F5, planets are much larger and 3D is generally not particularly conducive for viewing them. OK, Dan Kennedy and I comment on the shadow transit and then I input the first object on the observing list that I had built in Sky Safari for this particular evening.
On My Observing List
Object: Uranus: Nice little bluish globe, definitely not star-like. We noted two moons, Umbriel and Ariel. Again, seeing was unsteady and the low declination did not allow observation of any other moons. We didn't spend much time trying. A very dim star was close to Umbriel, Since sky Safari did not show a moon or a star in that position, we determined it must be a star. I think I will upgrade to Sky Safari Pro rather than Plus. In a case like this, that particular star might have been shown in the program.
M74 in Pisces: Said to be have the lowest surface brightness of all the Messier Objects, it still showed the orientation of it's spiral arms though subtly. Dan and I agreed that we could detect the direction of those arms as if the galaxy was spinning clockwise with the arms trailing. The dob inverts images. Since the field did not have many stars to offset M74's central "forward" position in the field, the 3D effect was not particularly outstanding. The face on spiral structure though was evident.
NGC 404 (Mirach's Ghost) Andromeda: It had been a while since I had viewed this object and that was well before I had designed the 3D Eyepieces. Placed high up and with a dark background, NGC404 and Mirach made a beautiful pair. Don't pass this duo up. They are easy to find and worth observing. The 3D effect was remarkable. One certainly could move the galaxy to the distance and Mirach, a star in our own galaxy to the foreground!
M76 (Little Dumbell) Perseus: This was gorgeous in 3D. Floating in a starry field with an inky black sky full of stars, we viewed it in the Near setting and it's spindle shape floated far in front of those background stars. Using the filter switch, we moved in a Denk Hi Def UHC and then OIII. The nebula stood out with prominently with either filter. I preferred the non-filtered view for the 3D effect since more stars (which emit in a broad spectrum) were visible. When more stars populate a particular field, the 3D aspect becomes very intense. This was certainly the case here. Highly recommended!
What is a 3D View Of Space Through a Binotron 27 and LOA Eyepieces Really Like?
Note: This demonstrations is best seen using a larger screen such as an Ipad, laptop or desktop.
Stare at the center white line and slightly cross your eyes. As the white line splits and separates, a third image in the center will appear. Concentrate on this center image. In this center image, you will see a 3D View. During actual use of the Binotron 27 and LOA Eyepieces, you will not need to do this! The 3D view is natural, comfortable, and immediate and requires no such trickery. The above example will at least give you a general idea of what in reality, will be an effortless 3D view of the heavens through your telescope equipped with a Binotron 27 and LOA 3D Eyepieces.
NGC 7662 (Blue Snowball Nebula) Andromeda: Like M76, a high in the sky placement meant an inky black sky, lots of field stars, and a beautiful 3D view. This planetary appeared very bright and an amazing 3D sight as it floated far in front of numerous background stars.
NGC 6905 (Blue Flash Nebula) Delphinus: This was a real winner. I had never observed it in 3D. It has several very close stars "accompanying" it and was a beautiful 3D sight. Why is it called "The Blue Flash Nebula"? It offers a fascinating look into the effects of direct vs averted vision. Stare at it and the stars around it directly for 10 seconds, and the nebula itself seems to totally disappear! Look away and view it using averted vision and voila, it materializes once again. Aside from all that, it is an amazing sight viewed in 3D. We used the Power Switch to go from low, to mid 2.3X magnification. Now, detail was seen and the planetary morphology resembled the surface structure of a corona virus! Here is s perfect example of how the Power Switch enables instant magnification changes with one pair of eyepieces. How much easier is it to employ higher power with a single pair, rather than having to remove lower power eyepiece pairs and then inserting higher power pairs? We'd likely have never noticed the structure of this planetary without that higher power view. All in all, this was a really beautiful object to observe in 3D and at various magnifications. I highly recommend pulling this unique planetary in.
M27 (The Dumbell Nebula) Vulpecula: What can I say about this beauty? In 3D, it is awe inspiring and floats along with many glittering "embedded" stars, far in front of a busy background of field stars. All this is set against a dark sky background. Moving in the OIII and then the UHC, I preferred the UHC since it's 29nm bandpass allowed more broadband light in, retaining many field stars in the view. The OIII increases some nebula detail but also blocked out many stars. Having the ability to move filters in and out by way of the Filter Switch is really a must when you are perched high on a ladder. Once again, having the ability to switch filters instantly means that you will use them on all emission nebulae. The view of M27 with the LOA 21 3D Eyepieces is simply unforgettable.
M33 (Pinwheel Galaxy) Triangulum: In the 20" F5, this is really one large galaxy covering the whole FOV. A trace of spiral arms was noted though like M31, it's fairly bright integrated magnitude is spread over a wide area hence diminishing it's surface brightness to some degree. The 3D effect was limited due to the size and nature of this object. A side note about 3D: I personally find that smaller more compact objects in starry fields create the most dramatic 3D views. There are definitely exceptions though. The Lagoon Nebula, M42, and other large objects are spectacular and the nebulosity itself appears with dramatic depth. Always go forward without assumptions when viewing various objects in 3D. We observed the giant emission nebula NGC 588 within M33 both with and without the filters. If this was in our galaxy, it would dwarf M42 and be an amazing sight to see. Just knowing that made it interesting to observe this giant nebula in an external galaxy.
NGC 891 Andromeda: By now the air had become damp and Jupiter showed a halo around it in the western sky. Since NGC 891 has a rather low surface brightness, haze from moisture in the air does not present an ideal situation for viewing this object. However, it was really interesting to move this edge on galaxy to the far background by rotating the LOA 21 eyepiece so that the bubble faced upward at 12 o'clock. There the galaxy resided, far in the distance from our Milky Way stars present within the field. The dark lane dividing this edge on was noted though I wouldn't say that it was well defined. This is a large edge on spiral galaxy and is definitely worth viewing. I remember observing this in 3D with Rob Teeter at the SSP in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts. It was super dramatic through his Denk Bino and LOA 21s and his 18" F3.75 dob when rotated the LOA 21 EP and moved this galaxy to the background of the field under quite dark skies. An Unforgettable view that I can see even now, when I close my eyes.
M31/M32/M110 Andromeda: Well, in 3D, this is a real showcase trio. Seeing M32 either in front of or in back of M32 is a sight to see! There are plenty of field stars seen at various depths as well. M110 standing alone is a really nice object in 3D. In the 20", one cannot capture them all in one field but still, you will spend a lot of time exploring each while changing the depths between them and all of the field stars.
The Double Cluster In Perseus: This is where to me, the 3D aspect falls short. With very bright and large open clusters (as few of them as there are), the view in 3D may look artificial. It is the structural property of such objects that don't lend themselves to the 3D effect. Still, smaller open clusters have proven to be absolutely spectacular in 3D and virtually all globular clusters are incredible. But this pair falls short. I'm being honest here. I'm not a fan of viewing this object in 3D with the 20" scope due to the very large image scale of either of these components that make up the Double Cluster. That said, in my giant 102mm binoculars and in my refractors, the 3D view of this pair is amazing! So, it comes down to the fact that one instrument may excel with it's view of a particular target and yet, fall short in presenting it using another. Since I do own many telescopes and binoculars, I have found this to be the case and the Double Cluster is a perfect example of what looks unbelievable in 3D in my refractors and 102mm binoculars, but unsatisfying in my 20" Dob!
NGC 6960 and 6995 (The Veil Nebulae): By now, the sky had an obvious presence of haze but I thought I'd give The Veil a shot as "the close" to a night's observations. Firstly, NGC 6960 which appears to "run through" the star 52 Cygni showed some nice detail. The OIII is an absolute must on The Veil. Dark twisting lanes though subtle, were visible. Yes, the nebula appeared forward and in 3D itself. I wish the night had the level of transparency predicted by the Clear Sky Chart but there was just too much moisture in the air to expect ultimate transparency for that location. Without dew heaters on everything, we'd have been out of commission within the first hour of observing! We moved to NGC 6995, the western arc of the Veil and areas of it showed finely twisted and knotted tendrils like a loosely constructed braid. Using the perfunctory OIII filter, it glowed a gentle grayish blue and stood out in front of the background stars. By now, it had sunk lower in the sky and had some degree of atmospheric extinction reducing it's brightness. This is another object that Rob Teeter and I viewed in 3D from the SSP mentioned earlier. I remember that particular view as being utterly spectacular. It was the first time I had seen The Veil Nebula in 3D, and I still remember it clearly as it was unexpectedly stunning considering it's rather low surface brightness and expansive size. The western arc of the Veil is so large that you must move the scope along it and stop here and there to take it all in. But certainly and much like viewing M31 in a big scope, a sense of it's wholeness can be derived from this method.
And we ended the Monday evening on that last set of objects known collectively as The Veil Nebula.
In the morning as I woke and went outside of my camper to look at the scopes, they were all covered with dew, a confirmation of just how moist the air had been last night. I relaxed, made coffee, cooked a bit of breakfast and waited for the Sun to dry off all of the equipment before I packed it all away. I hope that you enjoyed checking in here to read about the Monday night of observations mostly in 3D. I look forward to sharing more observations in a few weeks when the Moon's glow subsides as it wanes and the winter constellations make their way across the heavens.
Note: Of course, I observed many amazing 3D objects like Globular Clusters and other summer treasures like The Lagoon, Omega, and others this year with a variety of instruments including smaller refractors, Giant 102mm Achromat Binoculars and smaller newtonians. I just want to begin by blogging about a particular night's observations with details so that readers can plan a current session and track them down as well!